Lizzie Fry (Sphere)
The Handmaid’s Tale meets the Salem Witch Trials in this fantasy dystopian novel set in a version of our present day where witches are imprisoned, tortured and murdered by their governments – and all women are suspected witches.
In Texas, Adelita is a Legacy – the daughter of a witch with no magical gift of her own (or so she thought) – who has been broken out of prison by a sympathetic prison guard who has woken up to the oppressive regime he is a part of. Across the ocean, in Devon, Daniel returns home from work to find his house destroyed by his 20-year-old daughter, Chloe, who has come into her power as an Elemental witch and must flee before she is killed by the witch-hunting Sentinel.
While I imagine the villains spend their time off page twirling their moustaches, The Coven is still a pacey, bingeable book that will make you angry. Witches never go out of fashion because they always have something to say about the wider context in which they’ve been written, and so much of the politics within The Coven are clearly inspired by American politics over the past five years. If this book doesn’t inspire you to challenge the patriarchy, no book will.
Price: £7.99. Info: here
words JESS GOFTON
INTO THE WILD
Gemma Padley (Laurence King)
Billed as “the story of the world’s greatest wildlife photography”, Into The Wild is a stunner of a book. A large hardback with sumptuous glossy pages, it tells the tale of animal photography in chronological order, beginning with a photograph of rockhopper penguins taken on Antarctica’s wild and remote Inexpressible Island around 1872, and closing with the near-laughing face of a green vine snake in Pune, Maharashtra, India, snapped in 2019. Both images are incredible, and all inbetween are the same: groundbreaking, a fine example of a certain style or trend, a world ‘first’ or an impeccable image that’s as iconic as it is expertly made.
Biodiversity is a key theme in this collection, alongside the development of photography itself, and it’s the efforts of every photographer included that we are able to stand alongside our fellow creatures all around the planet and marvel. The inclusion of short biographies of photographers is interesting, and so the book works both as a kind of encyclopedia/biography/dictionary, as well as an impressive coffee table tome.
Those who take photos, love travel or history, or are interested in fauna and the beauty and ferocity of the animal kingdom, will love this book, which showcases 150 years of the very best wildlife photography. An exquisite collection, essentially, and an important one.
Price: £40. Info: here
words MAB JONES
THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE
Richard Osman (Viking)
Fans of Richard Osman’s first book The Thursday Murder Club will be pleased to hear that The Man Who Died Twice is even better than the first one: a follow up just as clever, witty and gripping. Its pace and plot is faster, with more danger and higher stakes, while the characters, a unique group of septuagenarians, demonstrate a fantastic bond.
The whole crazy adventure is written in such an entertaining and engaging way that it’s hard to put down once you start – exactly like the previous book. Osman’s wry, clever sense of humour is demonstrated throughout, and keeps things light. I think this quiz show favourite-turned-novelist has written another bestseller here, which would come as no surprise as Osman appears a natural at writing.
This is just the type of book we need right now: full of humour, well written, a great plot and is a joy to read. Indeed, you can tell how much Osman enjoyed writing it. Apparently a third book in this series is in the works, along with a film adaptation of the first; in the meantime, this comes highly recommended.
Price: £18.99. Info: here
words SARAH BOWDIDGE
A SHORT HISTORY OF SPAGHETTI WITH TOMATO SAUCE
Massimo Montanari (Europa Editions)
I initially put myself forward to review this book in the hope that I might be able to declare it to be long and dry (hilarious, right?); quite to the contrary, though, this delightful history of Italy’s signature dish is, as the name suggests, a brief and hugely entertaining read. Author Massimo Montanari is a Professor of Medieval History at Bologna University and an internationally renowned specialist in food history, and the book starts from a suitably academic perspective, mulling over not only what the origins of a foodstuff might be, but, philosophically, what those origins mean.
From this point, Montanari takes the reader onward through the history of pasta, stopping in various locations throughout the ancient world, dispelling myths unapologetically (Marco Polo’s role in proceedings is given particularly short shrift) and pulling out sources and stories that reveal in vivid colour the journey of this most iconic of plates of food.
Price: £10.99/£8.99 eBook. Info: here
words HUGH RUSSELL
Phil Wang (Hodder Studio)
Comedian Phil Wang contrasts his Malaysian and British roots on Sidesplitter, touching on subjects such as family, upbringing and the source of his funny bones. These comic studies of English and Malaysian humour – taking in linguistic differences, accents, and the challenge of speaking more than one language – make for an entertaining read.
Yet Wang’s insight goes that bit deeper. He ponders the question, “where am I really from?” and draws on his own roots and life experiences – of never feeling he fully fitted into either Malaysian or British society – with sensitivity. Venturing into standup, he says, gave him new-found confidence and belief he could transcend a stereotype.
The historical angle taken on many subjects adds a three-dimensional quality: drawing on the past to better understand the present. The role of the East Asian man in film makes for notable content in Sidesplitter, and Wang is strong on assumptions about height and attractiveness.
A relatable read in many ways, even if your heritage is unlike Phil Wang’s – who, as this book’s title references, has essentially learned to be from two worlds at once.
Price: £20. Info: here
words EMILY EDWARDS