Becoming by Michelle Obama
The most anticipated book of the year finally landed in November – and Michelle Obama’s new autobiography did not hold back. From her relationship with Donald Trump to her struggles to conceive naturally, no topic is off the table, but rather than being tacky, it makes for a truly inspirational read. In her memoir, Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago and her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work to her time spent at the world's most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms.
Crudo by Olivia Laing
Crudo documents what it was like to live and love in the summer of 2017 – one that was punctuated by rising fascism, global warming and political unrest. The book follows Kathy, who is about to get married. From a Tuscan hotel for the super-rich to a Brexit-paralysed UK, Kathy spends the first summer of her 40s trying to adjust to making a lifelong commitment just as Trump is tweeting the world into nuclear war. Known for her incisive, insightful non-fiction, Olivia Laing’s first foray into fiction radically rewires the novel in a brilliant, funny and emphatically raw account of love in the apocalypse.
Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh
After leaving the Great British Bake Off as a runner-up in 2013, Ruby Tandoh has gone on to become one of the show’s biggest success stories. Now a food writer, her first non-cookery book pulls the focus away from clean eating and towards the joy of food for nourishment, sustenance and – above all – pleasure. Alongside the recipes at the end of each chapter, the book tackles many issues around the way that women are conflicted when it comes to what we put in our mouths. From Sylvia Plath and Nora Ephron to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Tandoh weaves a rich tapestry of cultural voices to illustrate her journey to culinary acceptance. A must-read for anyone who’s ever felt guilt around food.
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her first books, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you've ever been able to rely on, and finding that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. It's a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you and you alone are enough. A firm favourite in the SL office, we’ll be surprised if you’ve not read this one. If you haven’t, it’ll be perfect for dipping into over the break.
How Do You Like Me Now? By Holly Bourne
This novel begins after the ‘happily ever after’. It follows Tori Bailey, a 31-year-old who gained fame in her twenties with her bestselling memoir, Who the F*** Am I? – a book about ignoring society’s expectations, and one that’s inspired millions of women to stick two fingers up at convention. But it seems Tori is living a lie. Six years later, the ethos of her book isn’t holding up – and neither is her ‘perfect’ boyfriend, Tom. Everyone around her is getting married and having babies, but Tom won’t even talk about getting engaged. Then, when Tori’s best friend Dee (the only person who understands her struggle) falls in love, she’s thrown into even more of a life crisis and grows terrified of being left behind. Turns out, it’s time for Tori to truly practice what she’s preached – but, the question is: will she be brave enough? The debut adult novel by bestselling YA author Holly Bourne is a blisteringly funny, honest and moving account of navigating the emotional rollercoaster that is your thirties. We absolutely loved it.
In Extremis: The Life Of A War Correspondent by Lindsey Hilsum
Marie Colvin was glamorous, hard-drinking and braver than the boys, with a troubled and rackety personal life. She reported from the most dangerous places in the world, going in further and staying longer than anyone else. Like her hero, the legendary reporter Martha Gellhorn, she sought to bear witness to the horrifying truths of war, to write ‘the first draft of history’ and to shine a light on the suffering of ordinary people. Colvin covered the major conflicts of our time: Israel and Palestine, Chechnya, East Timor, Sri Lanka – where she was hit by a grenade and lost sight in her left eye, resulting in her trademark eye-patch – Iraq and Afghanistan. She was much admired, and as famous for her wild parties as she was for the extraordinary lengths to which she went to tell the story, including being smuggled into Syria where she was killed in 2012. Written by fellow foreign correspondent Lindsey Hilsum, this is the story of the most daring war reporter of her time.
Lullaby by Leïla Slimani
When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family's chic apartment in Paris's upscale 10th arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties. The novel’s subject is something that sends chills through every working parent: how well do you really know the person taking care of your kids? And despite the shock factor – not many novels open with a double infanticide (not a spoiler – it says this on the cover!) – it’s inspired by a true story; the real-life murder of two children by their nanny in New York in 2012. Chilling stuff.
Milkman by Anna Burns
An experimental novel narrated by an unnamed 18-year-old girl known as “middle sister”, the 2018 Man Booker winner focuses on the wrongdoings of the eponymous Milkman, a much older paramilitary figure. Middle sister is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when “first brother-in-law” sniffs out her struggle and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’ – the last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous. Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences. A timely reminder of why the #MeToo movement is so important.
My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen
In 2018 award-winning singer Lily Allen returned, with her fourth album and her first book, My Thoughts Exactly in tow. A series of personal essays that see her tackle everything from tabloid tattle and parking ticket fines through to sexual abuse and the loss of a child, this book will rewrite everything you thought you knew about her. Like her lyrics, you’ll be caught off-guard with her honesty, and find yourself pulled into the narrative. Non-chronological essays titled simply, such as ‘Money’, ‘Voice’ and ‘Sex, Part 1’, allow you to dip in and out of Allen’s story. Once you’re a few essays in, you’ll find you want to race through to discover more, especially when there are certain revelations about a fumble with The Streets’ Mike Skinner, a mile-high dalliance with Liam Gallagher and tales of sex with female escorts. Throughout the reading experience, the tendency to think of Allen as a bit of a gobshite (Allen herself describes this fiery, outspoken persona as ‘Cartoon Lily’) dissolves. We closed the book feeling nothing but total respect for Allen.
My Year Of Rest And Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
This shocking, hilarious and strangely tender debut details a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by a horrendous psychiatrist. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, and an Upper East Side Manhattan apartment paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance – our narrator has everything she could ever need. But there’s a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. This story of a year spent under the influence shows us how reasonable, even necessary, alienation sometimes is.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
The follow-up to her super successful debut Conversations with Friends, Irish novelist Sally Rooney’s Normal People is the story of Connell and Marianne, who despite growing up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, are from very different worlds. Connell’s mother works as a cleaner in Marianne’s family home, a mansion in the nice part of Carricklea, where Marianne spends her summer sunning herself in the garden. Connell works in a garage at weekends while at school to help bolster his mother’s pay packet. Waterstone’s book of the year, Normal People speaks to anyone who’s grown up feeling unsure of themselves, capturing the sensations of conflicted morality, unrequited love and blurred consent with uneasy accuracy and maturity. Absent fathers, domestic abuse, suicide, submission – the novel isn’t afraid to explore a raft of taboo subjects throughout the course of its pages. Yet Rooney's skill lies in her ability to pull you back from the edge of these terrible events and bring the focus back onto Marianne and Connell and their unusual, yet deeply felt relationship.
Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay burst into public consciousness in 2014 with her bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist, which explored the internal conflicts of being a feminist in the 21st century. For her 2018 release Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, Gay took a step back from writing, instead providing a platform for 30 women to share their own experiences of sexual harassment and abuse. The personal testimonies in Not That Bad span the full continuum of aggressive sexual behaviour, from inappropriate comments to harrowing accounts of rape and child abuse, highlighting how we have consistently failed to reckon with the problem and the trauma it leaves. While many themes and thoughts recur, this happens across a diverse perspective: not all the victims are female or cisgender, and not all the rapists are men. It helps to remind us that rape culture can cross all boundaries. A relentless, troubling read, but the solidarity and understanding at the heart of this project can’t fail to uplift.
Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené
From education to work to dating, this inspirational, honest and provocative book recognises and celebrates the strides black women have already made while providing practical advice for those who want to do the same and forge a better, visible future. Illustrated with stories from best friends Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke’s own lives and using interviews with dozens of the most successful black women in Britain – including BAFTA Award-winning director Amma Asante, British Vogue publisher Vanessa Kingori and Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis – Slay In Your Lane is essential reading for a generation of black women inspired to find success in every area of their lives.
Social Creature by Tara Burton
This deliciously dark novel has been dubbed a ‘Ripley story for the Instagram age’. It follows Louise, struggling to survive in New York. Juggling a series of poorly paid jobs and renting a shabby flat, she dreams of being a writer. Then one day she meets Lavinia, who has everything – looks, money, clothes, friends, an amazing apartment… Soon, Louise gets sucked into her charmed circle, sharing her clothes, her drugs, her Uber account and her invites to underground parties – but it won’t last forever. So, just how far is she prepared to go to have Lavinia’s life?
Still Lives by Maria Hummel
Still Lives caused an absolute sensation when it was released in the US earlier this year. Everyone from TIME Magazine to the LA Review of Books raved about Maria Hummel’s new novel, and Hollywood actress Reese Witherspoon is a huge fan – she even handpicked it for her Hello Sunshine Book Club. It focuses on Maggie, a copyeditor with the Roque Museum in LA. It’s a Thursday night in 2003, the opening night of a new exhibition by the acclaimed artist, Kim Lord. Her exhibition, ‘Still Lives’, reimagines the real-life and particularly gruesome murders of women. Maggie is dreading Kim’s arrival as the artist is now seeing Maggie’s ex, Greg. The gallery staff are waiting for Kim to arrive. The paparazzi are waiting for Kim to arrive. Everyone is waiting. But she never turns up.
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Dubbed a “dark, gleaming noir gem” by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, New York Times-bestselling author Laura Lippman’s latest psychological suspense novel is a must-read. It centres on a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals – and cold-blooded murder.
Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
In the autumn of 1975, after two decades of intimate friendship, Truman Capote detonated a literary grenade, forever rupturing the elite circle he’d worked so hard to infiltrate. Nine years after achieving wild success with In Cold Blood, Capote committed an act of professional and social suicide with his most lethal of weapons – words. A page-turning debut about the line between gossip and slander, self-creation and self-preservation, Swan Song is the tragic story of the literary icon and the beautiful, wealthy, vulnerable women he called his ‘Swans’.
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Interestings and The Uncoupling. Her latest, The Female Persuasion, is a novel that focuses on Greer Kadetsky, a shy college freshman in a steady relationship with her boyfriend Cory. That is until she meets Faith Frank, a charismatic 63-year-old who’s a famous fighter of women’s rights. Gradually, Greer finds herself led down an ambitious new path that takes her away from the one she assumed was set in stone.
The Last Romeo by Justin Myers
From one anonymous blogger to another, The Last Romeo is the first novel from Justin Myers, a GQ and former Gay Times columnist who used to write under the moniker The Guyliner. We’ve always devoured his weekly takedowns of the Guardian’s blind date columns, and this confident story is no different – we demolished it in a day. It centres on newly single James, who begins blogging about his humdrum dates as a way to keep his friends entertained. However, he soon builds a hungry following, and desperate to keep them sated, posts a not-too-subtle exposé about a secretly-gay Olympian. Sharply narrated and packed with quotable one-liners, The Last Romeo explores consent, dating and our celebrity-obsessed world with a deft touch.
The Lido by Libby Page
The novel everyone was talking about this summer, The Lido centres on Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26, who come together to save their local outdoor swimming pool. Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but now everything she knows is changing: the library where she used to work has closed, the fruit and veg shop has become a bar, and her husband has died. Kate has just moved and feels alone in the city. At the bottom rung of her career as a journalist on a local paper, when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences, plus six years, at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility. Outside is the world from which she has been permanently severed: the San Francisco of her youth, changed almost beyond recognition. The Mars Room strip club where she once gave lap dances for a living. And her seven-year-old son, Jackson, now in the care of Romy’s estranged mother. Inside is a new reality to adapt to: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive. The deadpan absurdities of institutional living, daily acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike, allegiances formed over liquor brewed in socks and stories shared through sewage pipes. Romy sees the future stretch out ahead of her in a long, unwavering line — until news from outside brings a ferocious urgency to her existence, challenging her to escape her own destiny.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Modern, disturbing and darkly comic, The Pisces centres on Lucy, a heartbroken PhD student who falls in love with a merman following a devastating breakup and a luckless dabble with dating sites. Yes, you could draw comparisons to this year’s Oscar-winner The Shape of Water, but Melissa Broder’s novel is way more erotic, as her obsession pushes Lucy to question everything she thought she knew about love, lust, and the meaning of life. Deep.