Summer is over. Booo! But thankfully it means there are adventures to be had with fewer tourists and expenses now it isn’t peak season, right? If you’re looking for a good book to accompany you on a journey or to chill out with on arrival, here are some of the best autumn books for 2016!
The pop world accelerated and broke through the sound barrier in 1966. In America, in London, in Amsterdam, in Paris, revolutionary ideas slow-cooking since the late ’50s reached boiling point. In the worlds of pop, pop art, fashion and radical politics — often fueled by perception-enhancing substances and literature — the ‘Sixties’, as we have come to know them, hit their Modernist peak.
A unique chemistry of ideas, substances, freedom of expression and dialogue across pop cultural continents created a landscape of immense and eventually shattering creativity. Jon Savage’s 1966 is a monument to the year that shaped the pop future of the balance of the century. Exploring canonical artists like The Beatles, The Byrds, Velvet Underground, The Who and The Kinks, 1966 also goes much deeper into the social and cultural heart of the decade through unique archival primary sources.
’66: the year of Black Panthers, Vietnam War protests, mini-skirts and, of course, England winning the World Cup. 50 years ago, the Western world changed dramatically in the space of 12 short months in ways that are too many for me to detail in a book review. Thankfully, the wonderful Jon Savage has put together an epic 672-page review of the year, structured around key moments in music and the social changes that influenced them.
This book was released in hardcover last year but Faber is doing a huge push now with the paperback. It’s a very detailed book, to say the least: if you’re going on an epic train journey and need something to accompany you on a long trip, then this book is your friend. I found it fascinating and wonderfully well-crafted, weaving events in and around iconic characters and songs of the 60s. If you’re interested in everyone from The Supremes to The Velvet Underground to The Kinks, then you will love this book.
Best friends Evie, Krista and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls with typical quarter-life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.
Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well …gorgeous. With a single drop, each young woman gets the gift of jaw-dropping beauty for one week, presenting them with unimaginable opportunities to make their biggest fantasies come true.
But there’s a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-day Cinderellas, there’s just one question left: what are they prepared to sacrifice?
The funny thing about the title is that this really isn’t your regular story. A feminist fairy tale that’s pitched somewhere between Death Becomes Her and Heathers (two of my all-time favourite films), it is one of those books that we really should see more of. Three average New York women in their 20s find themselves privy to untold opportunities when they are given access to a magical drug that will turn them into the most desirable form (according to social standards).
We’re talking perky tits, long legs, asymmetrical faces and long luscious hair. Suddenly they discover doors they have spent years trying to open in their work and love lives bursting free for them. But of course, they discover the dark side of the drug (and of life) and have to weigh up what they really want for themselves. Sound a little fat-free for your taste? Don’t worry: this author adds layers of substance underneath this predictable story structure and has you punching the air its fresh take on the fairytale ending.
On one side of the tracks are the rich, white neighbourhoods; on the other, Darktown, the African-American area guarded by the city’s first black police force of only eight men. These cops are kept near-powerless by the authorities: they can’t arrest white suspects; they can’t drive a squad car; they must operate out of a dingy basement.
When a poor black woman is killed in Darktown having been last seen in a car with a rich white man, no one seems to care except for Boggs and Smith, two black cops from vastly different backgrounds. Pressured from all sides, they will risk their jobs, the trust of their community and even their own lives to investigate her death.
Their efforts bring them up against a brutal old-school cop, Dunlow, who has long run Darktown as his own turf – but Dunlow’s idealistic young partner, Rakestraw, is a young progressive who may be willing to make allies across colour lines . . .
OK, so I am currently deep in this book but I couldn’t leave it until winter to include it in my books to read list! My original draw to this story was the fact that Jamie Foxx and Sony Pictures Television have optioned it to turn it into a major TV series, so make sure you get ahead of the game by reading it now. Set in Atlanta a few years after the end of WWII, this author pulls no punches when detailing the day-to-day experience of segregation in the Deep South. The appointment of the city’s first black police officers centres the focus of this awful period of history, highlighting how brutally slow (and brutally painful) progress has been. It’s a fascinating read – and a tense one. I’m literally gripping my eReader with concern every time the policeman start a new shift, mainly because their white colleagues are so horrific. This story is brilliantly paced. I can’t wait to finish it!
Being on the Dublin Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed. Her working life is a stream of thankless cases and harassment. Antoinette is tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.
The new case looks like a regular lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty and lying dead next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her – except that Antoinette has seen her somewhere before.
And her death won’t stay neat. Other detectives want her to arrest Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the simple woman she seemed to be.
Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this the case that will make her career – or break it?
Antoinette Conway is the only woman on the Dublin murder squad – and the only person of colour. She’s despised by the rest of the white male squad and, despite being tough as f**k, is plagued by the paranoia that comes from being targeted for being an outsider. So there’s an extreme sense of schadenfreude but also a whole load of uncertainty when all the evidence points to one of her awful colleagues when a young woman is found dead in her flat. The character’s struggle feels very real and I loved the unforgiving way French writes this character – she doesn’t give in to any need to provide some soft edges or an origin story for why Conway is so tough just because she is female. I haven’t read any of the five previous books in this series but this story stood completely on its own without the need for it. If you fancy a bit dark mystery thriller action on your next holiday, you should pick up a copy of this.
Charles Wang has just lost the cosmetics fortune he built up since emigrating to the US. Gone are the houses, the cars, and the incredible lifestyle. Faced with this loss, he decides to take his family on a trip to China and attempt to reclaim his ancestral lands.
But first, they must go on a cross-country journey from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the Upstate New York retreat of his eldest daughter, Saina. Charles takes his other two children out of schools that he can no longer afford and packs them into the only car that wasn’t repossessed – along with their wealth-addicted stepmother, Barbra.
But with his son waylaid by a much older temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally, finally fulfilling his dream of China.
Believe the hype: this book is fantastic. It’s a global financial crisis Little Miss Sunshine, with a Chinese-American family going on a cross-country road trip as the economy crumbles. Mr Wang has built his own American dream: a cosmetics company that is an industry giant and a household name. His children, softened by a privileged upbringing share none of his determined drive, but will have to find some once their cars are repossessed, their expensive college fees go unpaid and Mr Wang arrives to collect them as he flees Los Angeles with the intent of driving to New York state to bunk with the solvent eldest child.
The interactions between the family members are perfectly pitched: tense, touching and funny. I especially loved how the siblings communicate with one another and how strongly their position in the pecking order influences their behaviour: the eldest feels responsible for them all, the middle child just wants to opt-out of everything (but still have everyone’s approval) and the youngest is so needy for attention and love. I also loved Mr Wang and how his life is finally coming full circle as his children become adults and all his hard work crumbles. This book has such heart; it’s a story that everyone who is from their own funny little family can identify with.
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