Our library team have come up with the titles they deem must-read books for 2020 – all available to you as a member of East Sussex libraries! Not a member yet? Don’t worry! Make your New Year’s resolution a reality within a few minutes by becoming a library member here.
Chosen by: Clare
The Toy Makers by Robert Dinsdale
The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! Christmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat.
For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical.
This is a spellbinding story for adults that weaves themes of lost childhood innocence and escapism with darker themes of conflict and grief. The magical realism throughout the story sucks you in to a world and time that I was reluctant to leave.
Chosen by Rebecca
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
The (joint) winner of the 2019 Booker Prize ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ features twelve overlapping stories of mostly female, black and British characters, each with a dedicated chapter.
The author has made every character relatable and multifaceted in relatively few pages; they are sometimes pretentious or unlikeable but I still felt empathy for them. They all contribute to a beautifully nuanced portrait of topical issues around gender and race.
Life is messy for all of the characters but ultimately they are inspiring; the book is about people coming together and finding common ground. It made me laugh and cry on the bus!
Chosen by Michele
99 Nights In Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai
99 nights is a quirky coming-of-age story about one boy’s journey across contemporary Afghanistan to catch the family guard dog which has escaped out on to the trails of Logar. This ninety-nine-night quest sends Marwand and his cousins across the landscape of Logar. Moving between celebrations and tragedies, deeply humorous and surprisingly tender, 99 Nights in Logar is a vibrant exploration of the power of stories—the ones we tell each other, and the ones we find ourselves in.
This is a lovely insight into Afghan life seen through the eyes of a young teenager, woven around the country’s history and its’ traditional folk tales and legends.
Chosen by Sara
Sex, Power, Money by Sara Pascoe
I couldn’t wait to read this book as I really enjoyed Sara’s first book, Animal.
It didn’t disappoint. It’s a great mix of humour, facts and her own biased opinions, which she discusses honestly and openly. Only Sara could go from a very funny chapter, where she tears apart the Indecent Proposal plot line, to the serious subject of survival sex. She writes in such a way that you feel like she’s your friend who has just popped in for a cuppa and a chat. She definitely got me thinking about some taboo topics, and I’m still thinking about them now.
Chosen by Tamsyn
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
To be taught… is the story of a research vessel on a deep space mission. It’s a strange little book, satisfying yet unsettling. What could be a deeply claustrophobic narrative is instead fiercely optimistic, driven to find the best in humanity and its distant ambassadors. It has been many things, every time I’ve read it – a commentary on the fragility of human endeavours, an admonishment to adapt to our environment instead of demanding the reverse, but mostly it is an ode to our curiosity as a species and where it could propel us, beyond the limits of earth, space and our own bodies.
Chosen by Henry
My Year Of Rest And Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
After the death of her cold heartless parents and breaking up with cold heartless Trevor, a young woman decides to hibernate for a year, with the dubious help of her “irresponsible and weird” psychiatrist, Dr Tuttle. She dopes herself insensible with prescription drugs and binge watches Harrison Ford and Whoopi Goldberg movies. Her unconscious self has other ideas, and goes shopping, gets a full body wax and parties hard (she’s only aware when she discovers Polaroids documenting her sleeping life.)
It’s the year 2001 and her put-upon best friend Reva works in the terrorism risk unit in the World Trade Centre. What could possibly go wrong?
This book is morbidly funny, darkly sarcastic and chock-full of retro references: Frantic; Sister Act; Winona Ryder; canvas tote bags. It’s a somnambulist Jekyll And Hyde, a sedated Trainspotting, a lethargic Yellow Wallpaper and a searing indictment of America’s private Dr Feelgood healthcare system.
Chosen by Stephen
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Set during a summer in the late 1980s on the Ligurian coast of Italy, seventeen year old Elio spends his holidays immersed in books, practising the piano and transposing the works of Haydn. Introverted and unsure of himself, his life is turned upside down by the arrival of Oliver, one of his father’s summer students who will spend the next six weeks staying with the family.
Elio feigns disdain for Oliver’s apparent easy charm with the family and friends, but underneath a passion bordering on obsession is developing in Elio. Whilst they both fear acting on their desires, the charge between the two intensifies and sparks an intimate and powerful romance.
If you’ve ever experienced that coup de foudre (love at first sight) or felt the acute longing for someone so much that it physically hurts, you will, partly at least, already know this book.
Chosen by Joe
Feet Of Clay by Terry Pratchett
Can a tool commit murder? Is your computer alive? In Feet Of Clay, Terry Pratchett gives us his twist on the classic sci-fi topic of artificial intelligence.
In the city of Ankh-Morpork a series of bizarre killings are being blamed on a person made from clay. But how can a mindless golem be responsible for such violence? The City Watch untangles a curious conspiracy in this novel for the information age. Pratchett’s light touch explores what makes us human with humour and intrigue.
Have you read any of the books featured in this feature? If so we’d love to hear what you thought! Leave your reviews in the comments below. Missed December’s book reviews? Catch up on them here.
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