It's nearly January - 2019 is coming and so is the Indie Challenge! As part of it we're going to be posting at the end of every single month (I promise) about a selection of independently published books coming out the next month. These will just be ones that have caught our eye, and if they're particularly good for a certain square on the challenge bingo card we'll highlight that in the list. We suggest having your wishlist handy before you proceed...
Something Like Breathing by Angela Readman (And Other Stories)
It’s the 1950s, and Lorrie is unimpressed when her family moves to the remote Scottish island where her grandad runs a whisky distillery. She befriends Sylvie, the shy girl next door: ‘The slightest smile from Sylvie was a fluffy elephant at the fair. It had to be won with a clear aim,’ writes Lorrie. Yet fun-loving Lorrie isn’t sure Sylvie’s is the friendship she wants to win. As the adults around them struggle to keep their lives on an even keel, the two young women are drawn into a series of events that leave the small town wondering who exactly Sylvie is and what strange gift she is hiding.
Border Districts by Gerald Murname (And Other Stories)
A man moves from a capital city to a remote town in the border country, where he intends to spend the last years of his life. It is time, he thinks, to review the spoils of a lifetime of seeing, a lifetime of reading. Which sights, people, books, fictional characters, turns of phrase and lines of verse will survive into the twilight? Feeling an increasing urgency to put his mental landscape in order, the man sets to work cataloguing his memories, little knowing what secrets they will yield and where his ‘report’ will lead.
Bingo Squares: author from another country
Salt on Your Tongue: Women and the Sea by Charlotte Runcie (Canongate)
In Salt On Your Tongue Charlotte Runcie explores what the sea means to us, and particularly what it has meant to women through the ages. This book is a walk on the beach with Turner, with Shakespeare, with the Romantic Poets and shanty-singers. It’s an ode to our oceans – to the sailors who brave their treacherous waters, to the women who lost their loved ones to the waves, to the creatures that dwell in their depths, to beach combers, swimmers, seabirds and mermaids.
Bingo Squares: Non-Fiction
Godsend by John Wray (Canongate)
In California her name was Aden Grace Sawyer. In Pakistan she must choose a different name – Suleyman – and take on a new identity as a young man. She has travelled a long way to begin her new life, and she’ll travel further to protect her secret.
But once she is on the ground, Aden finds herself in more danger than she could have dreamed. Faced with violence and loss, she must make intense and unimaginable choices that will test not only her faith, but her understanding of who she is.
Quicksand Tales: the Misadventures of Keggie Carew by Keggie Carew (Canongate)
Ever been talked into buying a camel? Or become a burglar by mistake? Or accidentally drugged a friend on a blind date?Keggie Carew has an unerring instinct for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, of putting her foot in it, and making a hash of things. From the repercussions of a missing purse, to boiling a frog, or the holiday when the last thing you could possibly imagine happens, Keggie has been there. She also has an enviable talent for recycling awfulness and turning embarrassment into gold. In prose that will make you laugh, wince and curl your toes, Keggie Carew shares her most humiliating, awkward, uncomfortable, funny, true, terrible and all-too-relatable moments.You will be glad none of it happened to you.
The Gunners by Rebecca Kaufmann (Serpent's Tail)
The Gunners used to be inseparable. A gang of latchkey kids, they took their name from the doorbell of the abandoned house they played in as children - and drank in as teenagers. Together they navigated the difficult journey from childhood to adolescence and learnt their first vital lessons about becoming adults; Mikey, Sam, Lynn, Alice, Jimmy and Sally are more like a family than just friends. One day, Sally suddenly stopped speaking to them and wouldn't explain why. Years later, Sally's suicide forces the Gunners back together for her funeral. All of them have secrets they are reluctant to share, secrets which mean they must reassess their happy memories and finally be honest about the reasons Sally left. This is a generous and poignant novel about the difficulty - and the joy - of being a true friend.
Virtuoso by Yelena Moskovich (Serpent's Tail)
1980s Prague. For Jana, childhood means ration queues and the smell of boiled potatoes on the grey winter air. But just before Jana's seventh birthday, a new family moves in to their building: a bird-eyed mamka in a fox-fur coat, a stubble-faced papka - and a raven-haired girl named Zorka.
As the first cracks begin to appear in the communist regime, Zorka teaches Jana to look beyond their building, beyond Prague, beyond Czechoslovakia ... and then, Zorka just disappears. Jana, now an interpreter in Paris for a Czech medical supply company, hasn't seen her in a decade.
As Jana and Zorka's stories slowly circle across the surreal fluctuations of the past and present, the streets of 1980s Prague, the suburbs of 1990s Wisconsin and the lesbian bars of present-day Paris, they lead inexorably to a mysterious door on the Rue de Prague ...
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic Books)
When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…
Lab Rats by Dan Lyons (Atlantic Books)
Personality tests. Team-building exercises. Forced Fun. Desktop surveillance. Open-plan offices. Acronyms. Diminishing job security. Hot desking. Pointless perks. Hackathons.
If any of the above sound familiar, welcome to the modern economy. In this hilarious, but deadly serious book, bestselling author Dan Lyons looks at how the world of work has slowly morphed from one of unions and steady career progression to a dystopia made of bean bags and unpaid internships. And that’s the ‘good’ jobs…
With the same wit that made Disrupted an international bestseller, Lyons shows how the hypocrisy of Silicon Valley has now been exported globally to a job near you. Even low-grade employees are now expected to view their jobs with a cult-like fervour, despite diminishing prospects of promotion. From the gig economy to the new digital oligarchs, Lyons deliciously roasts the new work climate, while asking what can be done to recoup some sanity and dignity for the expanding class of middle-class serfs.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean (Atlantic Books)
After moving to Los Angeles, Susan Orlean became fascinated by a mysterious local crime that has gone unsolved since it was carried out on the morning of 29 April 1986: who set fire to the Los Angeles Public Library, ultimately destroying more than 400,000 books, and perhaps even more perplexing, why?
With her characteristic humour, insight and compassion, Orlean uses this terrible event as a lens through which to tell the story of all libraries – their history, their meaning and their uncertain future as they adapt and redefine themselves in a digital world.
Chasing the Sun: The New Science of Sunlight and How it Shapes Our Bodies and Minds by Linda Geddes (Profile Books)
Our ancestors constructed vast monuments like Stonehenge and Pyramids of Egypt and Central America to keep track of the sun and celebrate the annual cycle of death and rebirth.
The returning sun heralds new beginnings. Indeed, for most of mankind's history, the sun has dictated our daily patterns of eating, sleeping and activity. It has shaped our culture and belief systems. Without the sun, there would be no oxygen to breathe, no food to eat, and life on Earth never would have existed. The sun has also shaped human biology.
Bursting with original and cutting edge research, Chasing the Sun tells the full story of our long and complex relationship with the sun, from the emergence of life on earth, through to the modern day, and explores what it means to lose our connection with it. This book asks us to rethink the significance of the sun in our lives and to exploit our relationship to improve our health, sleep and productivity.
The Goodness Paradox: How Evolution Made Us Both More and Less Violent by Richard Wrangham (Profile Books)
It may not always seem so, but day-to-day interactions between individual humans are extraordinarily peaceful. That is not to say that we are perfect, just far less violent than most animals, especially our closest relatives, the chimpanzee and their legendarily docile cousins, the Bonobo. Perhaps surprisingly, we rape, maim, and kill many fewer of our neighbours than all other primates and almost all undomesticated animals. But there is one form of violence that humans exceed all other animals in by several degrees: organized proactive violence against other groups of humans. It seems, we are the only animal that goes to war.
In the Goodness Paradox, Richard Wrangham wrestles with this paradox at the heart of human behaviour. Drawing on new research by geneticists, neuroscientists, primatologists, and archaeologists, he shows that what domesticated our species was nothing less than the invention of capital punishment which eliminated the least cooperative and most aggressive among us. But that development is exactly what laid the groundwork for the worst of our atrocities.
The Lady Doctor by Ian Williams (Myriad Editions)
Dr Lois Pritchard is a salaried partner at Llangandida Health Centre with Drs Iwan James (subject of The Bad Doctor) and Robert Smith. She also works two days a week in the local Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) clinic. She is 40, currently single, despite the attentions of her many admirers, and is, by her own admission, ‘not very good with relationships’. When her estranged mother makes a dramatic appearance on the scene, demanding a liver transplant, Lois has to confront her loyalties and make some hard decisions.
Stroke by Ricky Monahan Brown (Sandstone Press)
Stroke is a survival memoir and love story set in a New York City about to be ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. The day after losing his job, hard-nosed financial lawyer Ricky suffers a catastrophic hemorrhagic stroke, and begins the struggle to return to love, fatherhood, and Scotland. He’s cajoled, bullied, supported and loved back to health by Beth, his then girl-friend, now his wife. Witty and utterly lacking in self pity, this is a young man’s return from the brink.
The Wolves of Leninsky Prospekt by Sarah Armstrong (Sandstone Press)
Escaping failure as an undergraduate and a daughter, not to mention bleak 1970s England, Martha marries Kit – who is gay. Having a wife could keep him safe in Moscow in his diplomatic post. As Martha tries to understand her new life and makes the wrong friends, she walks straight into an underground world of counter-espionage.
Out of her depth, Martha no longer knows who can be trusted.
What Hell is Not by Alessandro d'Avenia (Oneworld Publications)
Sicily, 1993. Fear rules the streets of Palermo. Teenage boys patrol the narrow streets armed with AK-47's, marking out the territory of their mafia bosses. This is what hell is. Federico, a privileged local boy, is asked by his teacher, Don Pino, to help out at the youth club he runs in one of the most destitute areas of the city. A tangle of alleys controlled by men with nicknames like the Hunter, it is also where kids like Francesco, Lucia, and Totò never give up hope for a different life. Over that long hot summer, far removed from his familiar surroundings, a new world opens up for Federico, but when Don Pino is murdered, the future of the kids is entrusted to his young hands. Based on real events, What Hell is Not is a heartrending story of deprivation and resilience that ultimately demonstrates the transformative power of small acts of love.
This list could go on forever, but we have to stop somewhere! We'd love to know if you're planning to read any of these titles, and if you know of any other great January titles feel free to add them in the comments. You can still sign up for the 2019 Indie Challenge here.