The Exclusive Books Recommends July selection is definitely the best escape from the icy winter. The winter freeze means that the best place to be is indoors, preferably besides a fire with a mug of hot chocolate! These books will keep you going as they stoke the fire of your imagination and warm your heart: Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende, Confessions Of A Sociopath by M.E. Thomas, The Hope Factory by Lavanya Sankaran, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo and Big Brother by Lionel Shriver.
The July Book Of The Month is Maya’s Notebook, the latest must-read from one of the world’s most popular authors. The protagonist is a 19 year-old-girl who grows up in Berkeley, California and falls into a life of drug addiction and crime. To rescue Maya, and save her from the criminal types pursuing her, Maya’s Chilean grandmother sends her to a remote island off the southern coast of Chile. Here she lives among a traditional rural people, the Chilote, who speak an older form of Spanish and have remained largely isolated from the materialism, crime, and fast-paced contemporary way of life. The book alternates between the narrative in theUS and on the island, with the two strands of the story unfolding at the same time.
Confessions Of A Sociopath by M.E. Thomas is a fascinating look into sociopathic behaviour, as written by a sociopath. The author is a non-criminal sociopath – charismatic, ambitious and successful. She would probably charm you if you met her; she may even seduce you. You would not realise that she is studying you to find your flaws, that she is ruthlessly manipulative, has no empathy and does not feel guilt or remorse. However, she does like people – she likes to touch them, mould them and then ruin them. She could be your friend or your boss. Now she writes with breath-taking honesty about her life, from the confusion of trying to fit in as a child to her growing need for power over others, from her successful stratagems at work and in love to the disasters that brought her greater understanding of herself and the motivation to control her behaviour – most of the time. She draws on the latest research to explain why at least one in twenty-five of us are sociopaths – and shows why that’s not a bad thing.
The Hope Factory by Lavanya Sankaran is a remarkable first novel about modern India that weaves together a rich tapestry of expected social behaviour, ambition, greed and love. Anand appears to be a Bangalore success story: successful, well-married, rich. However he needs land and money to grow his business and in the New India neither of these are easy to find. Kamala, Anand’s family’s maid, lives perilously close to the edge of disaster. She and her clever teenage son have almost nothing, and their small hopes for self-betterment depend on the contentment of Anand’s unstable wife. But Kamala’s son keeps bad company and Anand’s marriage is in trouble. The murky world where crime, wealth and politics meet is a dangerous place for good men, and those who rely on them.
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo features a daring child narrator called Darling. She and her friends live in a shantytown in Zimbabwe known as Paradise, which of course is no such thing. It isn’t all bad though. There’s mischief and adventure, games of finding Bin Laden, stealing guavas, singing Lady Gaga at the tops of their voices. They dream of a life in one of the real paradises of the world: America, Dubai or Europe. For Darling, that dream will come true. But, like the thousands of people all over the world trying to forge new lives far from home, Darling finds this new paradise brings its own set of challenges – for her and also for those she’s left behind.
Lionel Shriver’s new book Big Brother characteristically tackles a controversial issue that is becoming the biggest health problem affecting Western society – excessive weight gain. When Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at her local Iowa airport, she literally doesn’t recognise him. In the four years since the grown siblings last saw one another, the once slim, hip New York jazz pianist has gained hundreds of pounds. Worse, Edison’s slovenly habits, appalling diet, and know-it-all monologues drive her health-and-fitness freak husband Fletcher insane. After the big blowhard of a brother-in- law has more than overstayed his welcome, Fletcher delivers his wife an ultimatum: it’s him or me. Putting her marriage and two adopted children on the line, Pandora chooses her brother— who, without her support in losing weight, will surely eat himself into an early grave. Big Brother tackles a constellation of issues surrounding obesity: why we overeat, whether extreme diets ever work in the long run, and how we treat fat people.