May brings two Bank Holidays and therefore more time to read! How about a children’s book to share with the kids? Or an audio book to listen to on a long drive? Whatever you’re looking for, our librarian Tamsyn offers up five more favourites to watch out for this month.
Top non-fiction: The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum
The Roaring Twenties was the era of jazz parties, Prohibition and poison. Toxic tonics, killer cocktails and poisonous pies go hand-in-hand with political corruption and economic depression.
This book follows the development of forensic toxicology from 1915 to 1935, led by New York’s first toxicologists, Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler, as they battle social and political pressures to bring forensic toxicology to the Jazz Age.
Deborah Blum’s narrative style turns every poison into a short murder mystery, making it an ideal book to dip in and out of. The book may be a little light on the science for some, but is engaging as a look into the development of public safety in the face of ignorance and political indifference.
Top fiction: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield
On the solstice, regulars gather in the inn upon the river to share their stories, to drink, to unwind and see out the longest night of the year.
Their merrymaking is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger, holding a dead child in his arms. Each person has a claim upon the child – is she a lost sister, daughter, grandchild or something else?
Tales nest within tales as the participants try to unravel the mystery of the dead child, each one at once dreamlike and yet real.
Setterfield’s novel is an ode to the art of storytelling itself, patiently drawing you into the magic of once upon a time.
Top audio book: Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe is a character often relegated to the background of other myths, a character overshadowed by a family of gods and Titans.
Miller’s Circe follows her life from naïve nymph to powerful witch, chronicling her journey through betrayal, motherhood, heartbreak and love, from imprisonment to freedom.
Miller’s rich, evocative language is all the better for being heard. An excellent audio book.
Top children’s book: The Buried Crown by Ally Sherrick
It’s World War 2 and George Penney has been evacuated to the countryside while his brother, a pilot, fights overseas. Bullied and unwanted, it’s just George and his dog Spud against the world.
At least until he meets German Kitty and her archaeologist grandfather and gets pulled into the search for a magical artefact with a mythical prophesy: whoever owns the dragon-headed crown, shall rule the Kingdom of England.
Myth or not, the Nazis are desperate to get their hands on it – now George and Kitty must find and protect the crown at all costs.
Librarian’s Choice: The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
“We cannot blame ourselves for the wars our parents start. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is walk away.”
Rosemary Harper is hiding – hiding from her family, from herself and from her past. What better place to hide than a ship tunnelling wormholes to a distant planet, on the very edges of known space?
The crew of the Wayfarer have taken on the biggest job of their lives, but first… they have to get there. Rosemary and the crew must begin to trust and accept each other on their journey, and learn that sometimes family is the one you find, not just the one you are born with.
For me this book is a comfort read, as cosy as well-worn slippers and hot tea. Science fiction is so often the genre of ideological battlegrounds, high stakes and galaxy-spanning political intrigues. Small Angry Planet brings the story closer – to the everyday joys and dramas of one ship, one crew.
A powerful reminder that sci-fi doesn’t have to be grim or gritty to have an impact.
Have you read any of the books featured this month? We’d love to hear what you thought! Leave your reviews in the comments below. Missed last month’s top five? Catch up on them here.
You can find out more about libraries in East Sussex by visiting the East Sussex County Council website.