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The 50 Best spring reads

Fed up of literary let-downs? From debut novels and political thrillers to delicious cookbooks and child-friendly histories, Sophie Morris and her panel of experts pick the season’s most brilliant new books

Sophie Morris
Wednesday 10 April 2013 11:34 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


The experts:

Rebecca Armstrong is the features editor of The Independent

Janine Cook is eBooks promotions manager at Waterstones,

Jonathan Ruppin is web editor for Foyles,

Louise Yates writes the prize-winning Dog Loves… series. ‘Dog Loves Counting’ was published last month, £11.99, Jonathan Cape,


Harvest by Jim Crace

Picador, £16.99

“My favourite writer has probably written his finest novel,” says Jonathan. “Crace captures a moment in history, as enclosure brings about the collapse of village life as an ancient community unravels.”

The Explorer by James Smythe

HarperVoyager, £12.99

“Science fiction for those who think they don’t like it,” says Jonathan, “written from the point of view of a journalist assigned to a groundbreaking space mission.”

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Tinder Press, £18.99

“Set in 1976, the disappearance of a dependable husband draws his children together as they unpick the shocking truth of his past life,” says Jonathan.

The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam

Faber, £18.99

“Two foster brothers offer their skills to the Taliban in Afghanistan, leaving behind a family scarred by their mistakes to the fanatics in power in Pakistan,” says Jonathan.

The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna

Peter Owen, £8.99

“A journalist rescues a hare he has hit with his car and abandons the frustrations of his career and marriage for an adventure with his new buddy,” says Jonathan.

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

Peirene Press, £10

“Stylishly translated by Jamie Bulloch, this is the first English translation of an East German novella written just before the Wall fell,” says Jonathan.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Doubleday, £18.99

“A new Kate Atkinson novel is always cause for celebration,” says Janine. “It examines the huge impact that seemingly small choices can make in life, and in history.”

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Fourth Estate, £20

“Two young Nigerian lovers start separate new lives in America and England before being drawn back together in Africa,” says Janine.

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel

Fourth Estate, £9.99

“Fans will have to wait for the final part of her double Man Booker Prize-winning trilogy,” says Janine. “But this masterpiece is set during the French Revolution and out now”.

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Harper Collins, £14.99

Historical novelist Chevalier turns her unflinching gaze on her own country, the US, to tell the tale of a Quaker community’s mission to help slaves flee to a new life in Canada.

New writers:

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

Viking, £14.99

“The writer mentored by Toni Morrison lives up to the hype with this stunning novel about a family drawn back to Ghana by the death of their father,” says Jonathan.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99

“This sparkling tragicomic novel is the story of an unlikely friendship between a reclusive Vietnam veteran and a teenager,” says Janine.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Michael Joseph, £12.99

“Funny, endearing, and pure, wonderful escapism, this debut tells the story of the logical Professor Don Tillman and his unscientific search for a wife,” says Janine.

Norwegian By Night by Derek B Miller

Faber and Faber, £12.99

“A superlative and multi-layered debut thriller,” says Janine. “Intelligent and powerful, gripping and emotive, and really funny, this is one not to miss.”

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Hogarth, £14.99

Set in the deeply unpleasant landscape of the Chechen conflict, experienced through three people in a desperately under-resourced hospital.


Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

Allen Lane, £20

Pollan wonders why we still seem reluctant to get our hands dirty in the kitchen.

Where Chefs Eat by Joe Warwick

Phaidon, £14.99

Top chefs divulge their favourite spots for a good feed – expect fewer frills and smaller bills than most expect us to swallow in their restaurants.

Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

WH Allen, £13.99

Moss finds new nadirs in the dark arts of science and marketing, which have us ‘hooked’ on these substances.

Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

Square Peg, £20

Perelman makes light work of creating great food from her tiny New York kitchen with no fancy equipment. Her bright outlook will inspire many.

Bread by Paul Hollywood

Bloomsbury, £20

Britain’s baking hero sets out to rehabilitate bread – showing us not just how to bake our own, but to integrate bread into different meals.


The Infatuations by Javier Marías

Hamish Hamilton, £18.99

“The antithesis of a corpse-strewn serial-killer blockbuster, The Infatuations is a cerebral take on a single crime,” says Rebecca.

Gone Again by Doug Johnstone

Faber and Faber, £12.99

“Mark gets a phone call one afternoon,” explains Rebecca. “No one has come to pick up his son from school. What’s happened to his wife Lauren?”

Red Joan by Jennie Rooney

Chatto & Windus, £12.99

Based on the true story of Melita Norwood, a British civil servant who helped the KGB for 40 years, for ideological rather than financial reasons.

Murder on the Home Front by Molly Lefebure

Little, Brown, £7.99

“This is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at mid-century crime-fighting, originally published in 1955,” explains Rebecca.

The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99

“A fraying family gets together for bonfire night. But a seemingly perfect girlfriend disappears with a young child. Dramatic,” says Rebecca.

Silent Saturday by Helen Grant

Bodley Head, £12.99

“Discontented 17-year-old Veerle joins a gang that breaks into empty houses for kicks. A murderous figure from her past resurfaces and the hunting begins,” says Rebecca.

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

Transworld, £14.99

“Bauer’s best book – an anatomy student with Asperger’s is driven to try to understand what happens to a person when they die after his father’s death,” says Janine.

Wool by Hugh Howey

Simon and Schuster, £8.99

“This dystopian thriller has bags of merit,” says Janine. “Thousands live in an underground silo after an environmental disaster. There are rules, secrets and consequences for disobeying them.”

The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

Corsair, £9.99

“A sharp alternative thriller with some sinister political overtones, this is the story of a pickpocket in Tokyo, drawn into a plot that spirals out of control,” explains Jonathan.

Under Your Skin by Sabine Durrant

Mulholland Books, £12.99

“Stumbling across a dead body, a TV presenter finds her previously comfortable life turned upside down as she is cast in the role of prime suspect,” says Jonathan.

Non fiction/memoir:

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz

Chatto and Windus, £14.99

“Grosz, a psychoanalyst, recounts fascinating meetings with patients,” says Janine.

Running with the Pack by Mark Rowlands

Granta, £12.99

“Rowlands argues running returns us to something we have lost as humans in our pursuit of goals, material or otherwise,” says Janine.

Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed

Atlantic Books, £12.99

“At rock-bottom, Cheryl decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail, and was healed by this wilderness,” says Janine.

She Left Me the Gun by Emma Brockes

Faber and Faber, £16.99

“After her mother’s death from cancer, Emma decides to unravel the mystery of her feisty, witty and incredibly strong mother,” says Janine.

Noise by David Hendy

Profile, £16.99

“This fascinating history of sound and listening, based on the BBC Radio 4 series, is studded with gem-like facts,” says Rebecca. “This is endlessly enlightening.”

The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey by Lawrence Osborne

Harvill Secker, £12.99

“A booze cruise through the Muslim world – a warning to anyone who loves the grog too much,” says Rebecca.

Burying the Typewriter by Carmen Bugan

Picador, £9.99

Rebecca says: “After Bugan’s father is jailed for protesting against the Ceausescu regime in Romania, the whole family is pushed to breaking point.”

Give Me Everything You Have by James Lasdun

Jonathan Cape, £14.99

“The years of harassment to which Lasdun was subjected by a former writing course pupil form the selling point of this memoir,” Jonathan says.

Ziggyology: The Birth of Ziggy Stardust by Simon Goddard

Ebury Press, £20

Jonathan says: “The return of David Bowie offers the perfect stage for Goddard’s glorious musical archaeology.”

The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon

Picador, £20

“An absorbing memoir,” says Jonathan. “Hemon celebrates his childhood, full of ethnically diverse friends, in the now divided city of Sarajevo.”


A House in the Woods by Inga Moore

Walker Books, £7.99

“This book reawakens the vivid pleasure of reading as a child,” says Louise. “The characters are as inviting as the woodland in which this enchanting story is set.”

Stanley’s Stick by John Hegley and Neal Layton

Hodder, £5.99

“I’m grateful to John Hegley for making poetry fun,” says Louise. “Here, refreshing as ever, his silly-sombre, nimble wordplay dances along with a life of its own.”

High Times: A History of Aviation by Golden Cosmos

Nobrow Press, £10

“This is a ‘Leporello’, or folding/concertina book, a 139cm panorama print on the history and mythology of flight,” says Louise.

Alphasaurs and other Prehistoric Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Nelson Forss

Blue Apple, £15.99

“This book cleverly combines the identification of dinosaur types with the learning of the shapes of letters,” says Louise.

UUGGHH! by Claudia Boldt

Childsplay International, £5.99

“A self-doubting slug is befriended by a self-confident spider: together they search for the meaning of beauty,” explains Louise.

Oh No George! by Chris Haughton

Walker Books, £6.99

“Haughton’s bold, graphic style conveys humour so tenderly,” says Louise. “His palette is select and vibrant and this is a visual romp.”

The Land of Neverbelieve by Norman Messenger

Walker Books, £12.05

“This book (about a fantastical island) is a privileged peek into a very unusual naturalist’s notebook,” says Louise.

The House Rabbit by Lesley White

David Fickling Books, £11.99

“Disturbed by a noise in the night, a rabbit spreads panic through the household before discovering that his fears are unfounded,” explains Louise.

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

Random House, £6.99

Charming, uplifting and perfect for any growing child who might be feeling a little ‘different’.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

The Folio Society, £24.95

The Folio Society creates beautiful editions of classic reads, including this, the first in the Dark is Rising sequence, with an author’s introduction.

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