As beach holiday season begins, Lambeth writers and book lovers recommend some good reads
Martin Nathan, London Underground design engineer and author
The Remainder, Tom McCarthy (Abacus Press)
The Remainder’s hero uses his compensation from an unexplained accident to reconstruct scenes from his past. As he builds a world of his unreliable memory of scenes around Brixton, he gradually draws you into the madness of his project.
Come Let Us Sing Anyway, Leone Ross (Peepal Tree Press, £9.99)
This collection of short stories cracks with an energy and charge that makes you keep reading. Each story, mainly London-based, finds new ways to startle and surprise.
Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor (Faber, £8.99)
I frequently return to this work of Southern Gothic. Hazel Motes encounters fake preachers in a Deep South town, and decides to found his own religion, ‘where lame don’t walk, the blind don’t see, and what’s dead stays that way’. He drives onward until it destroys him in its natural, grim conclusion.
The Smile Stealers, Richard Barnett (Thames and Hudson, £19.95)
This heavily illustrated history of dentistry reveals how decaying teeth dominated people’s lives until recently and uncover the surprising ambition of dental practitioners. Best avoided if you are facing root-canal treatment.
Rebecca Burn-Callander, journalist and author
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (HarperCollins, £8.99)
It would be unfair to give too much away about this fabulously weird yet heart-warming read. Suffice to say it is the loosely based on the theme of loneliness – something to which every human can relate. For anyone looking for an antidote to Instagram and Love Island, the author has somehow created a world that feels blissfully preserved since the mid-Nineties with the wistful air of a simpler time. The plot, in contrast, stabs like a knife.
Where The Missing Go by Emma Rowley (Orion, £7.99)
You can’t beat a gripping thriller and this is one of the best. In this debut novel, Rowley masterfully builds suspense and dread, while leading the reader effortlessly through the plot’s shocking twists and turns. It’s a powerful idea: what would you do if your daughter went missing, presumed a runaway, but you knew it must be something more sinister? Parents will cuddle their children closer at bedtimes.
The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (Canongate, £8.99)
Yet another debut, this novel feels fresh and original even 11 years after it was first published. Don’t be put off by the slightly hackneyed opening gambit: a man wakes up with no memory. This is part adventure story, part sci-fi, part thriller. Tip: avoid flicking through the pages before reading. The author employs some rather clever typographic devices later in the novel and you won’t want to stumble across them too early.
Sabrina Mahfouz – poet, playwright and screenwriter
Rita, Sue and Bob Too by Andrea Dunbar (Bloomsbury, £10.99) This classic play set on a Bradford estate, which was turned into a 1987 film, was revived this year at The Royal Court and republished by Methuen Bloomsbury. Even though it was over a decade old when I first experienced it, Dunbar’s work was the first time I heard dialogue that seemed real to me, with girls at the centre who were certainly victims of a misogynistic society but were explored far beyond just being victims. It is simultaneously an uncomfortable and joyous read.
The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton (Faber, £8.99)
One of my favourite books of last year and likely to end up in my top ten ever, The City Always Wins is a nuanced, poetical, absorbing read, a fictionalised account of the violent yet hopeful days of the Egyptian uprisings in 2011.
Songs My Enemy Taught Me by Joelle Taylor (Out-Spoken Press, £10)
I wrote the foreword for this incredible book and gush about it comprehensively there! This is no easy read, as it documents the author’s experience of childhood abuse alongside the assault on so many aspects of women’s lives across the globe, but it is an immensely moving and profound one.
Marc Tiley, producer and director
The Race to Save the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport (Cornerstone, £21.99 hardback) Helen Rappaport’s knack of story-telling is in full force here as she weaves out the events leading up the ‘ugly, crazed, botched murder’ of the Russian Imperial family in July, 1918. Escape plans were hatched by royal cousins across Europe but noone came to the family’s aid. They were, Rappaport reveals, ostensibly abandoned to their fate, although the finger is clearly pointed at Lenin, who wanted ‘no living banner’ to survive.
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (Simon & Schuster, £6.49)
Part history, part investigation, Grann handles both elements of his deep research into Native American oil wealth-related murders in the 1920s with a deft touch that make a complex journey rich with colour and character. It’s a shocking and readable account that keeps the emotional heart of the victims beating at all times.
The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb (Faber, £12.99)
The best beach book guaranteed to make you think twice about getting in to the water. This journal of the process of production of the world’s first summer blockbuster movie is as compelling and full of surprises as the movie itself. Not just for film buffs – but mainly for them.
Davis Mukasa, former political PR and writer
The Blunders of our Governments, Anthony King and Ivor Crewe (Oneworld, £9.99)
I like a bit of satire and good sketch writing. This is a contemporary classic: how recent governments have, often with the best of intentions, thrashed around in their attempts to implement messianic “new policies” and agendas drawn up on the back of a napkin, remorselessly dissected by the authors. Brilliant, shocking and hilarious.
Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies is Changing the World, Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott (Penguin, £9.99)
I found this book a very thought provoking and easy read. It asks how we should use new technology to better serve society in the future, rather than replace it.
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (HarperCollins, £8.99)
A very good deep holiday read if you didn’t catch it the first time around. Well-formed characters and superbly researched writing take you to a difficult time and place, Nigeria during the Biafran war in the late 1960s. I heard Adichie speak recently – I decided I’d be packing this book again for a trip to African mountains later this summer.
Charmian Kenner, campaigner and former lecturer
Orphan Sisters, Lola Jaye (Penguin, £5.99): A novel about the hardships encountered by a Nigerian family who move to London in the 1950s. Three children suffer the harsh realities of a children’s home, but ultimately it’s an uplifting story of sisterhood and survival.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt (Penguin, £10.99) : A psychologist explains why social groups develop particular political beliefs, and gives advice on how to talk to people who have different views from you. Very useful for finding ‘more in common’ with those who voted the other way on Brexit!
My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem (Oneworld, £9.99): Feminist icon Gloria Steinem has spent most of her life travelling around the United States and the world as a community organiser. She shares inspiring stories of working with women in different countries and learning from their struggles.
Jago Wynne, rector at Holy Trinity Clapham
Blue: Keeping the Peace and Falling to Pieces by John Sutherland (Orion, £8.99)
A Sunday Times top five bestseller, John is local to Lambeth and a personal friend. A police officer for 25 years, he rose to be Borough Commander of Southwark before suffering a major breakdown. With searing honesty, he gives a wonderful insight into what it is like to be a police officer today. His book also has much to teach us all about vulnerability, authenticity, leadership and holding on to hope.
William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner by William Hague (HarperCollins, £14.99) Wilberforce is one of my greatest heroes – for his character and attitude to life, as much as all he achieved in the abolition of the slave trade. He lived in Clapham, worshipped at the church where I now serve, and the contemporary political heavyweight, William Hague, does a fantastic job at bringing to life this remarkable man.
Making Sense of God: An invitation to the sceptical by Timothy Keller (Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99 hardback; £9.99 paperback forthcoming) Renowned for being a C.S. Lewis for the 21st century, Keller compares and contrasts how Christianity and secularism both look to provide meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity and a moral compass to life. I’ve found Keller’s writings to be a huge help in both challenging me and forming in me a worldview that makes sense. Why not get this book, and see what you think…