Guardian First Book award longlist

Bricks and mortals: ten great buildings and the peoplethey madeWe love the Guardian First Book award as it throws up great new authors to try, both fiction and non fiction. Here’s the lists with some blurb about the books

Fiction
Young Skins by Colin Barrett

This collection takes us to Glanbeigh, a small town in rural Ireland – a town in which the youth have the run of the place. Boy racers speed down the back lanes; couples haunt the midnight woods; young skins huddle in the cold once The Peacock has closed its doors.

Here the young live hard and wear the scars. It matters whose sister you were seen with. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, it matters a very great deal

Young skins

 

In the Light of What we Know by Zia Haider Rahman

An investment banker approaching 40, in the midst of his career collapsing and marriage unravelling, receives a surprise visitor at his West London townhouse. Confronting the dishevelled figure of a South Asian male carrying a backpack, the banker recognises a long-lost college friend. From here, the novel takes us on a journey of exhilarating reach and scope

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

Ruth is widowed, her sons are grown, and she lives in an isolated beach house outside of town. One day a stranger arrives at her door, looking as if she has been blown in from the sea. She claims to be a care-worker and Ruth lets her in. But who exactly is she letting in?

After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry

One hot summer’s day, John Cole decides to leave his life behind. He shuts up the bookshop no one ever comes to and drives out of London. When his car breaks down and he becomes lost on an isolated road, he goes looking for help, and stumbles into the grounds of a grand but dilapidated house. Its residents welcome him with open arms – but there’s more to this strange community than meets the eye…a bit sinister.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Stunning, heartbreaking – the intimate story of a family and an epic of the American Century. The product of a stormy upbringing in an Irish Catholic enclave of New York City, Eileen craves stability. Coming of age in the early Sixties, she meets and marries a young scientist named Edmund Leary. But while Eileen wants more for her family, Ed won’t give up teaching for a better-paid job. Inadvertently Eileen starts to climb her own career ladder in nursing. She pushes Ed into finding a new home, but it becomes clear that his resistance is part of a deeply troubling psychological shift.

Non-fiction
Iceberg by Marion Coutts

In 2008, Marion Coutts’ husband, the art critic Tom Lubbock, was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and told that he had not more than two years to live. He was 53 when he died, leaving Marion and their son Eugene, just two, alone. In short bursts of beautiful, textured prose, Coutts describes the eighteen months leading up to her partner’s death; an account of a family unit under assault, and how the three of them fought to keep it intact
Bricks and Mortals by Tom Wilkinson

We don’t just look at buildings: their facades, beautiful or ugly, conceal the spaces we inhabit. We are born, work, love and die in architecture. We buy and sell it, rent it and squat in it, create and destroy it. These aspects of buildings – economic, erotic, political and psychological – are crucial if we are to understand architecture properly. And because architecture moulds us just as much as we mould it, understanding architecture helps us to understand our lives and our world. Ten great buildings reveal the powerful and intimate relationship between society and architecture and asks: can architecture change our lives for the better.
Do No Harm by Henry Marsh
What is it like to be a brain surgeon? How does it feel to hold someone’s life in your hands, to cut through the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason? How do you live with the consequences of performing a potentially life-saving operation when it all goes wrong? DO NO HARM is an unforgettable insight into the career of one of the country’s leading neurosurgeons, and into the countless human dramas that take place in a busy modern hospital.

Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos

First novels to savour – Costa award shortlist

image-medium (47)It’s lovely to have some new authors to try so here’s the Costa Awards shortlist for new novels featuring titles that are all in stock @leedslibraries. Anyone fancy posting a review?

Idiopathy by Sam Byers  Katherine has given up trying to be happy. Thirty, stuck in a job and a town she hates, her mounting cynicism and vicious wit repel the people she wants to attract, and attract the people she knows she should repel. Her ex Daniel, meanwhile, isn’t sure that he loves his new girlfriend Angelica. But somehow not telling her he loves her has become synonymous with telling her that he doesn’t love her, meaning that he has to tell her he loves her just to maintain the status quo. When their former friend Nathan returns from a stint in a psychiatric ward – to find that his mother has transformed herself into bestselling author and Twitter superstar ‘MotherCourage’ – Katherine, Daniel and Nathan decide to meet to heal old wounds and reaffirm their friendship. But will a reunion end well? Almost certainly not. 

Sam Byers was born in 1979. He is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing in the University of East Anglia. He has published fiction in Granta, Tank and Blank Pages and regularly reviews books for the TLS. Judges: “A hilarious and breathtakingly well-written satire from a major new talent.”

Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy  In 1989, the year of news, as London bakes through the hottest summer anyone can remember, one family is embroiled in its own private cataclysm. Phillip Prys has been silenced by a sudden, massive stroke. As his girlish third wife, Shirin, pads through their faded rooms, dignified in the face of bustling Myfanwy, back to manage her former husband’s care, their adolescent children, Jake and Celia, seek refuge in drugs and food. Enter Struan. Built like a heron, fresh from Scotland, he is thrust – quite literally – into the bosom of the family, as Phillip’s seventeen-year-old nurse. He’s had experience of death, but not of London. Hampstead is a foreign country, with foreign food and foreign customs. But he finds that it also has a strange kind of magic. Under the influence of each Prys in

turn, his life begins to alter in ways he could never have imagined. And so, in the meantime, do theirs . . . Kate Clanchy was born and grew up in Scotland but now lives in England. She is a popular poet: her collections, Slattern, Samark and Newborn have brought her many literary awards and an unusually wide audience. She is the author of the much acclaimed Antigona and Me, and was the 2009 winner of the BBC Short Story Award. She has also written extensively for Radio 4 and reviews and writes comment for the
Guardian. Judges: “A gorgeous slice of a 1980s summer, stuffed with unconventional characters who stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.”

The shock of the fall by Nathan Filer  The Shock of the Fall tells the story of Matthew and Simon, two brothers who are separated yet united by a tragic accident. Exploring themes of loss, grief and mental illness, this extraordinary novel transports the reader directly into the mind of Matthew and his slow descent into madness as he confronts his role in the boyhood death of his older brother ten years ago. Nathan Filer is a registered mental health nurse. He is also a performance poet, contributing regularly to literary events across the UK, including Latitude, Port Eliot and the Cheltenham Literature Festival. His work has been broadcast on television and radio including BBC 3, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live. His 2005 poetry short film Oedipus won the BBC Best New Filmmaker Award and numerous other accolades, including Berlin’s Zebra Poetry Film Award and the Audience Choice at Toronto’s World of Comedy Film Festival.  Judges: “An exhilarating journey into the human mind that will leave you uplifted and transformed.”

Marrigae Material by Sathnam Sanghera    To Arjan Banga, returning to the Black Country after the unexpected death of his father, his family’s corner shop represents everything he has tried to leave behind – a lethargic pace of life, insular rituals and ways of thinking. But when his mother insists on keeping the shop open, he finds himself being dragged back from London, forced into big decisions about his imminent marriage and uncovering the history of his broken family – the elopement and mixed-race marriage of his aunt Surinder, and the betrayals and loyalties, loves and regrets that have played out in the shop over more than fifty years. Sathnam Sanghera was born in 1976. He is an award-winning writer for The Times. His first book, The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton, was shortlisted for the 2008 Costa Biography Award and the 2009 PEN/Ackerley Prize and named 2009 Mind Book of the Year. Marriage Material has been picked by Waterstones as one of the fiction debuts of the year.  Judges: “Fresh, funny and thought-provoking – an epic tale of family life with characters that bounce off the page.”