What We're Reading - 12 June 2020

Opinion - Books Friday, 12th June 2020

The BookBrunch team reveals what's on their bedside tables

Neill Denny
Normandy'44 (Bantam) is by James Holland, one of a new generation of British military historians snapping at Max Hastings and Antony Beevor's heels, and also well-known in the trade as the co-founder of the Chalke Valley history festival. Holland has previously written a strong history of The Battle of Britain, and his interest in the aerial warfare and how it affected the Normandy campaign is already evident, and I'm only just getting started on this 650-page hardback. More next week, and I'm already impressed by the quality of the maps, although Utah beach inexplicably not named in some of them...

David Roche
Looking at the bestseller charts, it would seem I am not alone in selecting Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury) by Reni Eddo-Lodge to read at the moment. How this can be the first non-fiction paperback number one by a Black British author is just astounding - in the same week as Bernadine Evaristo becomes the first Black female author to top the paperback fiction chart. Thanks to those who suggested this as a good place to look to become more educated - it is certainly delivering of that, and so much more. UK's publishing industry really needs to seek edification in what Banksy quite rightly identified as the white people's problem, and give real action, as well as thought, as to what we do about it.

Jo Henry
I've been very involved in reading the five books on the shortlist for the first US Selfies book awards, run jointly by BookBrunch and PW and with the winner to be announced on 24th June. But I have found time to read the newest Lee Child Jack Reacher novel, Blue Moon (Penguin), something I had been looking forward to since publication last October. I love this series - along with most of the rest of the world - but the body count seemed to be absurdly high in this latest outing. Normally Reacher gets his man by guile and cunning, employing brute force only when totally necessary - though given that he doesn't seem to work out at all, his continuing physical superiority is a complete mystery. However, verisimilitude is not what Child's audience is looking for, good snappy story telling is, and on that he never disappoints.

Nicholas Clee
I have found another writer of police procedurals to rank alongside Tana French, Susie Steiner (am looking forward eagerly to her new one) and Jane Casey. Nicola White, unlike most writers in the genre, seems to have set herself a limit, describing A Famished Heart (Viper) as the second part of a trilogy. Her protagonists are DI Vincent Swan and DC Gina Considine (whose sexuality is discreetly hinted at), and her mystery, taking place in Dublin in the early Eighties, involves a fading actress, a crisis-stricken priest and an embittered housekeeper, all of them connected with two sisters who appear to have starved themselves to death. Has a crime been committed, and if so, who is guilty of it? The thrills are packed into the last few chapters; before that, one may relish, as in all the best crime writing, the atmosphere and the truthful observation.

Lucy Nathan
This week, And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando (Simon & Schuster) has been breaking my heart. It's a YA novel about 15-year-old Nathan, whose brother Al has taken his own life, and Al's friend and classmate Megan, who is determined to keep his memory alive. It's a painful and truthful read about bullying, social media and suicide, written with a sort of blunt delicacy that's really effective.

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