The BookBrunch team reveal what's on their bedside tables
The TV adaptation of the His Dark Materials trilogy was a great incentive to catch up with what Lyra has been getting up to in Philip Pullman's latest Book of Dust, The Secret Commonwealth (David Fickling/Penguin). Maybe, as the second 700-page tome in a row for me, it seemed a tad lengthy, but it was as engrossing as ever, and the complexity of both the character of Lyra and the world Pullman has created remain convincing and gripping. No spoilers here, but this volume takes us to Lyra as a grown-up, and the conflicts that have developed with her.
I am the last person in the world to read Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens (Puffin). It's technically located in the 9-12 section of your local bookshop, but there was a lot more to this story about two girls at boarding school investigating the death of one of their teachers than I was expecting: it touched on race, sexuality, class, and the tricky dynamics of friendships between teenage girls. I am thrilled that this wonderful series is so popular and that Stevens is so lovingly careful and thoughtful about the messages she transmits to her young readers.
Marian Keyes' The Break seemed like an easy choice for an entertaining read over the Christmas festivities - but of course, as always with this author, it's much, much more than that. Amy's husband of 17 years is having a mid-life crisis and disappears off to the Far East for a six-month break. The story of how she copes in his absence, with the "support" of her extended and dysfunctional family, addresses issues such as unwanted pregnancy (illegal in Ireland when the novel is set), online trolling, unfaithfulness, and much, much more. Highly recommended.
I picked up a copy of Tim Marshall's Prisoners of Geography (Elliott & Thompson) over Christmas, a book I had been aware of for ages but had never got round to reading. Superb tour d'horizon stuff on the state of the world and the way geography underpins so much of what happens in international politics. A show-stopping fact on every page. Perfect for my "patronising uncle" routine over the turkey and sprouts.
Dickens for Christmas: Bleak House. My favourite. Among many riches, the scenes involving Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock and the sinister lawyer Tulkinghorne are extraordinarily compelling. In this world, the connections between a pompous baronet, his apparently chilly wife, an orphan, and an illiterate crossing-sweeper do not seem far-fetched, but necessary.