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Our favourite reads in April 2016

A new feature for Just Write – find out what the team have been reading!


Being a budding writer doesn’t mean you shut out the writing of others. On the contrary, most advice given to those wanting to creatively write, says to creatively read.

Getting out of your comfort zone and trying a genre you’ve never read before can only help you to hone your technique and what it is you want to say.

Dip your toe into non-fiction once in a while: read about real-life situations, historical events, autobiographical accounts.

Read writing that plays with the written form: poetry, lyrics, experimental novels.

Every month we’ll reveal what it is we’ve been reading, and perhaps you might feel inspired to try something new.


Harmless Like You
Image: Sceptre Books

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

This is an absolutely stunning debut about identity, art, family and loss. Told from the points of view of Yuki, a budding artist, and Jay, the son she gives up for adoption, you’ll feel your sympathies to one character over another change within the page. And the writing itself is masterfully crafted – it’s a very playful writing style that I couldn’t get enough of. A very assured first novel, and I’m really excited to read more by this author.








Not Forgetting the Whale
Image: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Not Forgetting the Whale by John Ironmonger 
This completely absorbing novel takes you from the bankers of the City of London (with a smatter of algorithms for those geeks out there) to a collection of quirky characters in a seaside hamlet in Cornwall, addressing big issues in a manageable small scale setting. Humanity comes out well and on turning the final page the world seems a little less bleak.









The Fellowship
Image: Farrar, Straus and Giroux


The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski

As a card-carrying Tolkienite and devotee of all things story, my favourite book of the month has to be The Fellow Ship: Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski. A wonderful look at those remarkably fascinating and perennially absorbing group of writers called the Inklings.

The Inklings, for those of you who are unaware, were a literary discussion group whose members extoled Christian faith, as well as narrative and fantasy in writing. The Fellowship is a biography of this brotherhood, and focuses its attentions on the lives and work on the most famous of the group’s members: JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams

These were the men who propounded Christian faith, reopened the worlds of faerie and fantasy and revitalised our relationship with literature. As readers and writers today we can still feel the effects of the influence, Tolkien is one of the bestselling authors of the 20th Century, Lewis’ Narnia novels have become classics in their own right whilst the other members have helped to shape our contemporary views on religion, academic and literary study. Yet for me, most poignantly this is a book about stories and storytellers.

Post WWI in a world shadowed by loss these group of men revealed how important stories and myths are and how they can mediate the most important truths in life.

For those of you considering reading this book, beware this is a literary biography and as such can be at times become a little bit heavy and cloying in academic rhetoric but I would urge you to persevere for there are hidden gems of insight and creative process which will reinvigorate your world with words.



Look Who's Back
Image: Maclehose Press

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.
Timur Vermes’ electrifying novel was translated into English by Jamie Bulloch, published by Maclehose Press in 2015. The iconic cover of Look Who’s Back caught my eye numerous times, its controversial design strengthened by stark simplicity. It is the kind of book I am immediately drawn to, so it’s a mystery why it took me nearly a year to finally purchase it and get stuck in. Once started however, it is book that refuses to be put down. As a reader you’re immediately captured by its absurdity, pulled along for the ride much like the characters who believe Adolf is merely a talented impersonator and help him become an internet sensation.
Vermes fearlessly engages with his taboo subject matter, creating a character that is equal parts repellent and strangely sympathetic; Hitler amuses in his naïve attempts to interact with modern society and horrifies with his chilling belief system. His steadfast confidence regarding his own self-importance is hilarious in its megalomaniacal ridiculousness, but quickly grows terrifying as his influence flourishes throughout the book. Both funny and frightening, Vermes’ novel says much more about the state of contemporary society, obsessed with celebrity culture and youtube hits, than the leader of the third Reich.



The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Image: Orbit

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Harry August is born in 1919 and lives an uneventful life until his death, when he is born again to relive his life once more. In each subsequent life, loaded with the weight of knowledge of all the lives that came before, Harry must decide how to live again. Will he marry the same woman? Fight in the same war? Save the same people from an air strike? One day in his eleventh life he receives a message from the future that changes everything: the world is ending and you must stop it.
Claire North weaves a skilful tapestry of nuanced characters and striking twists to produce an unimaginably gripping plot. Be warned: if you start this book you will not escape until the very last page.






Red Rising trilogy
Image: Hodder & Stoughton

Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star by Pierce Brown

We’re not sure there’s anyone on the planet who wouldn’t want to read a series that follows an imperfect hero battling God-like futuristic humans to save his people from solar-system-wide oppression. But just so we’re sure please answer the following questions.

Which did you like better?
1. The Fifth Element 2. Titanic 3. Scooby-Doo 2
Which was more exciting?
1. Battle Royale 2. Hunger Games 3. Waiting on hold
Which leading characters did you most relate to?
1. Jean Grey/Phoenix 2. Percy Jackson 3. Hannibal Lecter

Mostly 1s
You’re kinda ace, just like these books. You’re going to love them. Let us know when that thing happens. We’ll be right here to share your pain 🙁
Mostly 2s
You should totally give these a go. You obviously like action, adventure and a good smattering of love story. You won’t be disappointed.
Mostly 3s
Sorry, these are not for you. We simply won’t allow you to read these. You don’t deserve them.



The Wall Creeper
Image: Karyn Bailey

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink is one of the most unusual books I’ve read for a long time. The more I read, the more nonplussed I felt about the plot (adulterous spouses, bird watching, river ecology, dubstep…), yet Nell Zink’s writing is truly captivating. I was hooked from the very first sentence: ‘I was looking at the map when Stephen swerved, hit the rock, and occasioned the miscarriage’.

This book is a volatile, off-beat kaleidoscope of humour, emotional monotone, wit, isolation and relationships. Utterly unique!



What have you been reading? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.