Some titles recommended by the staff and friends at Rossiter Books
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
This darkly humorous novel (shortlisted for the 2011 Booker Prize) follows the trials and tribulations of hired guns Eli and Charlie Sisters, as they track their next victim across the Old West. Set in 1851, this book is short on drawn out descriptions of the brothers’ surroundings, choosing instead to focus on the moral dilemma of their profession beginning to dawn on Eli in particular. DeWitt does this with his trademark snappy dialogue and keen eye for the almost absurd. Some readers are put off by the idea of Westerns, but this is a thoroughly modern take on the genre, not dissimilar to the Coen Brothers’ recent film remake of “True Grit”, only darker (and indeed funnier) in tone.
Read this before the inevitable film adaptation, and if you enjoy it as much as I did be sure also to check out the author’s latest release “Undermajordomo Minor”
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This debut novel, by a Swedish author, is a lovely, amusing, heart warming book which was a bestseller in Scandinavia before its publication here.
Our anti-hero, Ove, is a self-opinionated, friendless old curmudgeon, lonely, withdrawn and in dark despair……until the arrival of new neighbours.
A life-affirming story, with enjoyable characters in humorous situations. You may well have a tear in your eye or murmur ‘Ah’ by the end of the book.
For grumpy old men (and all who know them) everywhere.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
James Halliday is a computer designer that created a virtual reality gaming platform called OASIS. Not only is it highly addictive, but it is a haven for the majority of people who find themselves in a world they don’t want to be reminded that they live in. Halliday has no heir or successor to the company and so sets up a ‘Willy Wonka’ style competition, the winner of which receives full control of OASIS and inherits the entire fortune it has amassed. The story opens in 2044 and follows young Wade Watts as he journeys to attempt to complete the quest along with millions of others.
This book was recommended by a friend, who was surprised that I had not already picked it up, given that I am rather big into “geek” culture. He did me a big favour. The book is simply genius! Fast paced, full of energy and littered with 1980’s gaming/film/book references cleverly weaved into the story. For those who understand the pop references the book proves to be an enjoyable nostalgic stroll down memory lane. Those who don’t will find a fun, riveting and definitely rewarding science fiction adventure.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
Although the premise is a dystopian science fiction novel, Station Eleven is a character driven plot. The book switches back and forth between several narrators, both before and after society crumbles due to the onset of a massive flu epidemic. The characters’ lives all intertwine in some way or another, some straight away, others not until the climax of the book, but all their lives seem to have been affected by the movie star Arthur Leander, whose death marks the beginning of each of their journeys. The dystopian element of the book provides a background upon which each individual is shaped, rather than being the driving force of the plot, so if you’re not a fan of science fiction or dystopia you can still enjoy this, because this is a book about people and how their lives interconnect in a world without modern connections.
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, An American Wife is the character-driven story of Alice – a bookish young woman who is swept off her feet by an upcoming Republican hotshot who eventually becomes President of the United States. Sittenfeld’s writing is utterly compelling; I was taken in by the Alice right from the start, she became someone I felt I really knew. Following her journey to the White House, the book blends fact and fiction to draw an intimate portrait of a woman and of a marriage, and a provocative picture of the parallel worlds of private and public life. Above all though, it’s a brilliantly written novel that I couldn’t put down.
The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane
The idea of armchair travelling, it’s safe to agree, is a wonderful one. Who wouldn’t want to stroll across the South Downs, stride along Britains’s most dangerous path out across the sea, and explore the ancient crossing routes of the Alps, all between the comfort of two book covers? But Robert Macfarlane takes this concept to a sublime new level, dredging up the past to lay in front of the reader like a tapestry and tracing multiple paths across its threads, as he documents his walks along ancient ways around the world. From drover’s roads and fisherman’s sea paths in Northern Scotland to illegal tracks in war- torn Palestine and then back to a piece of scrub land just outside his native Cambridge, Macfarlane takes the reader on an inspiring and captivating journey around the globe, discovering ‘a landscape of the feet and the mind’. In a heady mixture of geography, history, science, literature and sensations, Macfarlane imbues in the reader a love the feel of the path beneath your feet.
The Old Ways is a wonderful book, at once lyrical and informative, startling and beautifully simple. It is perfect for anyone who loves walking and has a sense of adventure, and would make a brilliant present or holiday read for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. My only advice would be to purchase a pair of walking boots alongside it- you’ll want to get out there as soon as the last page is turned!
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Without a doubt this is my favourite book of at least the last ten years. Set in an American college, this is a coming of age story of tremendous warmth. The novel is hung around the sport of baseball, but it’s not a sports book – indeed the person at the publisher who introduced me to it said they didn’t like sport at all, let alone baseball! Instead it’s a fantastic demonstration of the power of the old-fashioned art of simply building up a strong, small, likeable yet flawed group of characters and sitting back to watch how their lives play out. Long after turning the last page you’ll be missing spending time with Henry, Pella, Schwartz & co.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
It is hard to sum up the complexity and shear wonder of the Pulitzer prize winning ‘Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’. The story follows two young Jewish cousins in New York during World War II, one of whom is a refugee from war-torn Prague, who together create a comic book centred around a superhero called The Escapist. Chabon merges the historic and personal experiences of life under the Nazis regime with the cousin’s vivid imagination of a different mystical world where they can actively resist the tyranny of Nazi ideology. There is everything you could ever want within these pages; history, magic, Jewish mysticism, epic battles, romance, superheroes and much more. The novel is long, just shy of 650 pages, but the reader is rewarded with a deep, moving, witty, entertaining and altogether beautiful literary work. Chabon’s research is extensive and his scope of vocabulary is vast. This book couldn’t come with a higher recommendation. Read it!!
Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly
First published in 2005 and reprinted regularly, this quirky, armchair travel book is a joy.
If, like me, you often listen, mesmerised, to the Radio 4 Shipping Forecast and ask yourself such questions as ‘Where exactly is South Utsire? … Whatever happened to Finisterre …and why is the 12.48 a.m. bulletin longer than the others?’, then this is the book for you.
The author visited most of the coastal stations, describing his many adventures along the way and adding fascinating bits about the Forecast’s history.
A fascinating, humorous and informative journey.
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet (Illustrator)
On the surface this book is beautiful; the illustration style is sweet and innocent, almost picture book-esque, but the story is far from it. Beautiful Darkness reveals the worst traits of humankind: the greed, selfishness & self absorption that is innate to all of us and is often only revealed when we have nothing left. It also shows how quickly kindness and selflessness can be stripped away.
Like a Lord of the Flies for the comic book world, Beautiful Darkness definitely lives up to it’s name.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
There are certain books, and certain characters, which stay with us forever after we have turned the final page, and who can be relied on to be there when turned to. This is one such book. Whatever may happen you can always bank (no pun intended) on the fact that Ratty is out rowing on the river, that badger is sleeping out in his underground home in the Wild Wood, and that Toad is hooked on yet another of his crazes. It is an idyllic, cosy image of the world that we can always return to, populated by animals whom we come to consider as friends.
For those who haven’t read The Wind in the Willows (a state which should be rectified as soon as possible), this timeless classic follows the adventures of the reckless and car-obsessed Toad as he wreaks havoc throughout the countryside, closely followed by his despairing friends Badger, Rat and Mole. Toad is eventually arrested, but when he escapes from jail he finds the Weasels have overtaken his home, Toad Hall. Can Toad and his friends win his house back- and, more importantly, can Ratty teach Mole to row before the summer ends?
This is a book for all ages, perfect for reading to younger children or simply to revisit those happy, summer days we spent when we first opened those pages, and spent time sitting with Rat on the riverbank, reveling in the peace and tranquility of the world.
Malice Aforethought by William Atkins
Unusually the murderer in the story is identified in the first sentence and the clever thing about this book is that it is all the more suspenseful and gripping as a result. Hen-pecked and unfulfilled, Dr Bickleigh wants rid of his over-powering wife…and then one thing leads to another. Light and witty, with brilliant depiction of characters mired in the secrets, gossip and recriminations of life in a small village, the book has a menacing undercurrent which builds as the plot progresses. A superb thriller!