Two years ago, Kerry Hudson decided to retrace the journey she had taken from a poverty-stricken childhood to becoming a prizewinning novelist with an international reputation. The result is this startling memoir which tracks her life from early childhood days in Aberdeen, the daughter of a single mother who worked as a packer in the local fish factory.
As her mother’s life became increasingly chaotic, they moved from a tiny flat to the Women’s Refuge and then embarked on an odyssey that took them to Canterbury, Airdrie, North Shields and finally to Great Yarmouth. Always on the move, she attended nine different primary schools and five High Schools, living in grim and violent sink estates with little money and less hope.
From the start we know that her story has a happy ending – she escaped, and as she remembers her own past, she also realises what poverty really means in the world’s sixth richest country.
Vintage Hardback, £14.99
In the face of a global problem like climate change it is all too easy to feel helpless. Last August, school girl Greta Thunberg’s response was to skip school and stage a one-person protest outside the Swedish parliament. In a few months she has become a leading voice in the green movement. She has addressed the United Nations, met politicians and business leaders and inspired millions of people across the world to take action. Her message is simple. We face a global emergency and need to act collectively and decisively. It is her generation who must face the consequences of inaction. This is a collection of speeches she has made that spell out the essentials of climate change and what actions are needed. Now, at just 16, she has influenced governments, she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and she has demonstrated that no one is too small to make a difference.
Penguin paperback, £2.99
Whether you call it Britain’s oldest recorded town or its first city, there is no doubt that Colchester has a long and fascinating history and has enjoyed national and international prominence in many fields. Most well-known is probably its importance for the wool trade which dates right back to the thirteenth century when surnames like dyer, weaver and fuller became common.
In the eighteenth-century Colchester was one of the most important provincial clockmaking centres in the country with over a hundred watch and clockmakers working in the town. More recently in the mid 1860’s James Paxman set up an engineering works manufacturing steam engines and boilers which were delivered all over the world.
From the manufacture of pottery in the Iron Age and Roman periods to the closure of the Hythe as a port in 2001, here is a book that explores Colchester’s history through the occupations and industries that people have worked in through the years.
Amberley Publishing, paperback £14.99
Eleven-year old Aya is an asylum seeker. With her mother and little brother, Moosa she struggles to build a new life in Manchester. They have been in England just a few weeks when she hears the sound of a piano spilling over from the room above the community centre.
Aya cannot resist peeping round the door where she finds a ballet lesson in progress. Dancing had been her passion back home in Syria and when the kind-hearted teacher invites her to join the class, Aya begins to make friends.
As friendships bridge the cultural divides, so we discover the horrors she faced as war came to her home in Aleppo; the border guards, the refugee camp, the airless container, the boat across the sea.
For children 10+, this is a moving story of one young girl who follows her dream. It shows how the things we share are always more important than those that divide us.
Nosy Crow, paperback £6.99
It is often said that behind the jokes of comics and clowns stands a sensitive, tortured soul desperately seeking love and acceptance by making audiences laugh.
Award-winning stand up, Robin Ince begins by asking if there is any truth in this cliché. With the help of fellow comedians, he looks for parallels in upbringing or character to understand why some people feel compelled to lay their souls bare for a laugh.
He realises that comics aren’t so different from the rest of us, just more aware of their own absurdities and prepared to embarrass themselves in public.
He wonders what makes us the adults we become, asking psychologists and neurologists and even has his brain scanned to work out what part of the brain might help a comedian perform.
This book is both funny and wise as it looks at the place of humour in our lives, how it can help us through difficult times and sometimes even keep us sane.
Atlantic paperback, £8.99
Signed copies available
We bury treasure. We bury bodies. And deep within the earth we bury the radioactive waste from our nuclear power plants. Below the surface we keep safe things that we value and we hide things that we fear. Robert Macfarlane explores our relationship with what lies below the land we walk upon.
His travels take him to Paris where 200 miles of tunnels criss-cross beneath the streets and in them the bones and skulls of 6 million people are stored. He abseils into glacier and witnesses a vast cathedral of ice break away from the ice sheet in Finland. He examines prehistoric cave paintings and underground science laboratories where elusive dark matter is researched.
Closer to home he describes the enormous fungal networks that extend beneath the ground in Epping Forest linking the trees into one super organism.
Macfarlane is an exciting and stylish guide to the unusual worlds beneath us.
Penguin Hardback, £20.00 Our price £18.00