November’s best reads
Attention book worms! Monocle on - here are this month's top tomes, especially for you.
Blanket, slippers, kettle and fire all on? Lovely, let’s proceed with this month’s top tomes, as curated by Muddy’s Books Editor, Kerry Potter.
Demi-Gods by Eliza Robertson
This is one of those evocative, sultry, slow-paced books that feels like it should’ve been published in the summer, but actually works equally well at this time of year, when it can transport you to a different place entirely. Whether you want to be in that place is a moot point. Willa is an impressionable, quiet young girl growing up in British Columbia in the 1950s, alongside her vivacious older sister, Joan. Their lives are turned upside down with the arrival one summer of her two new step-brothers, Kenneth and Patrick; the latter proving to be a truly malevolent presence in Willa’s life. This coming of age tale is as dark as its West Coast sun-drenched backdrop is bright. Gorgeously written and rich in retro detail, it reminded me of The Girls By Emma Cline and If You Knew by Judy Chicurel.
Who Can You Trust? by Rachel Botsman
OK, this actually came out last month but it’s taken me a while to digest its ideas. It’s not a light read but if you’re looking for something meaty, topical and absorbing, this one’s for you. Academic and TED Talk hotshot Botsman explores how our traditional trust in institutions, such as the government, banks and media, has been replaced by a new distributed trust model, driven by technology. She unpicks why we won’t trust MPs to tell us the truth, but we will open up our houses to total strangers via AirBnB. Taking in everything from self-driving cars to fake news, it whizzes along, peppered with lively personal anecdotes – the one about her trusted childhood nanny turning out to be an actual bank robber is doozie.
The Maid’s Room by Fiona Mitchell
Rarely-heard voices often have the most interesting stories to tell – we just need to make the effort to listen to them. Sisters Dolly and Tala are Filipina maids who work long, hard hours in Singapore, living in a tiny, sweaty box room, while their ex-pat employers reside in the air-conditioned of their luxury sprawling condo. Debut novelist Mitchell makes a serious point about the where the boundaries of modern slavery lie but it’s also a book suffused with joyful, lighter moments. Dolly and Tala are vibrantly drawn and it’s so evocative of the stifling humidity of the city, you’ll need a shower afterwards.
Diversify by June Sarpong
June Sarpong has sure come a long way since presenting T4 with Dermot O’Leary. Her thought-provoking book is about walking the walk rather than just talking the talk when it comes to diversity – you know how we like to think we’re very inclusive and right on…. but when we inspect our friendship group we see it consists of women who are exactly like us? That, basically. She argues that embracing greater diversity may mean a step outside of our comfort zone, but ultimately it will improve our personal relationships, workplaces, society and economy – and gives concrete tips on how to change behaviour. At a time when the world feels more divided than ever (have you noticed how Twitter is often just one giant argument these days?), it’s refreshing to hear a positive voice positing a new way forward.