Join in Book Talk

Each month we add two new books, with accompanying resources, to Book Talk. Choose which title your group would like to read and then request up to 20 copies of the book from us via the email link below (or email Mima on

The books will be sent to you by post and you can hand out the books along with the resources sheet, which you can download below.

December 2023 The Judge’s List by John Grisham

Lacy Stoltz, a no-nonsense investigator of any accusations made of judge corruption, meets Jeri Crosby, a mysterious woman who is so frightened that she uses a number of aliases. Jeri’s father was murdered twenty years earlier in a case that remains unsolved and is a cold case. But Jeri has a suspect whom she has become obsessed with and has researched for two decades.

How will this thrilling story end?

Thank you to our volunteer Neville for choosing this title and creating the resource.

December 2023 The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

Mukesh is trying to navigate his new life without his beloved wife and learns about himself and how much his wife loved the library. This love was passed down to his granddaughter who like her grandmother loved books. Mukesh sees this as a way of connecting to his granddaughter and visits the library.

Aleisha works at the library and one day finds a crumpled piece of paper in the back of the book To Kill a Mockingbird, it is a list of books she has never heard of before and decides to read every book on the list. Aleisha and Mukesh meet at the library and Aleisha sees that he is unsure about what the library can offer. Aleisha passes him the Reading List.

A connection if forged between them as fiction helps them navigate their grief and everyday troubles in the hope that they can find joy again.

Thank you to our volunteer Sue for choosing this title and creating the resource.

Here are our previous Book Talk choices…

You are welcome to choose from any of these choice too.

November 2023 The Gritterman by Orlando Weeks

As the rest of the world sleeps, the Gritterman goes out to work. Through the wind and the snow. Through the blue-black hours when time slips away, he grits the paths and the pavements and the roads. For him, a life without gritting is no life at all…
A song for the unsung hero, this is a story about stoicism, dignity and a man leaving behind the work that he loves. It is accompanied by the author’s own illustrations.

Thank you to our volunteer Sophie for choosing this title and creating the resource.

November 2023 The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

Meet Adunni, a teenage girl born into a rural Nigerian village. Removed from school and sold as a third wife to an old man, Adunni’s life amounts to this: four goats, two bags of rice, some chickens, and a new TV. When a tragedy swiftly strikes in her new home, she is secretly sold to a household in the wealthy enclaves of Lagos where she becomes a house-servant to the cruel Big Madam and pray to Big Madam’s husband ‘Big Daddy’. No one will talk about the strange disappearance of her predecessor, Rebecca. No one but Adunni… 

Thank you to our volunteer Kimberley for choosing this title and creating the resource.

October 2023 West by Carys Davies

When Cy Bellman, American settler and widowed father of Bess, reads in the newspaper that huge ancient bones have been discovered in a Kentucky swamp, he leaves his small Pennsylvania farm and young daughter to find out if the rumours are true. West is the story of Bellman’s journey and of Bess, waiting at home for her father to return. It explores the courage of conviction, the transformative power of grief, the desire for knowledge and the pull of home.

Thank you to our volunteer Sophie for choosing this title and creating the resource.

October 2023 A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Dr Diana Bishop is a spellbound witch and scholar of 17th-century chemistry. When she calls a long-lost, enchanted manuscript from the Bodleian Library, she sets a mythical underworld stirring, and soon the library is overrun by daemons, witches, and vampires. Among the various creatures who desire the book are the centuries-old vampire Mathew Clairmont and the malevolent wizard Peter Knox. Diana, the only creature who can break the book’s spell, must embrace her magic to defeat Knox and protect those she loves, including her forbidden romance with Matthew.

Thank you to our volunteer Lauren for choosing this title and creating the resource.

September 2023 Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Sam and Sadie meet in a hospital in 1987. Playing together brings joy, escape, fierce competition – and a special friendship. Then, all too soon, that time is over and they must return to their normal lives. When the pair spot each other eight years later in a crowded train station the spark is immediate, and together they get to work on what they love – creating virtual worlds to delight, challenge and immerse.

Thank you to our volunteer Sophie for choosing this title and creating the resource.

September 2023 Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Set during the colonial era in 1960’s Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Young Tambu from the Shona tribe wants to be educated but it’s a preference for boys to be educated rather than girls. But tragedy strikes and Tambu is offered a place at a missionary school. Within her burns a desire for learning and independence.

This is Tambu telling us of her own challenges, her family’s struggles through various trials, and their tribal customs as impacted by colonial teachings.

Thank you to our volunteer Neville for choosing this title and creating the resource.

August 2023 Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

Tommo Peaceful is a young soldier reflecting on his life growing up and his eventual voluntary enrolment in the war effort. When Charlie (his brother) is forced to enlist to fight in the war, Tommo lies about his age to be with him. He recalls his wartime experiences, including his rigorous training, the brutal trench battles he endures in France and Charlie’s continued protection of him which has devastating consequences.

Morpurgo focuses on the harsh realities of World War One and the consequences of disobedience and mental breakdowns.

Thank you to our volunteer Lauren for choosing this title and creating the resource.

August 2023 The Half Life of Valery K by Natasha Pulley

In 1963, former nuclear specialist Valery Kolkanov has served six years of his ten-year sentence in a Siberian gulag. One day, Valery’s university mentor intervenes and has him transported to the mysterious City 40, where he is expected to serve the remainder of his sentence studying the effects of radiation on local animals.

What is being kept from the town’s thousands of residents? Why are radiation levels so high? And will he survive the remainder of his sentence if he keeps seeking the truth?

Thank you to our volunteer Lauren for choosing this title and creating the resource.

July 2023 My Pen is the Wing of a Bird by Afghan Women

My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a landmark collection: the first anthology of short fiction by Afghan women. Eighteen writers tell stories that are both unique and universal – stories of family, work, childhood, friendship, war, gender identity and cultural traditions.

A woman’s fortitude saves her village from disaster. A teenager explores their identity in a moment of quiet. A petition writer reflects on his life as a dog lies nursing her puppies. 

This collection introduces voices from the country’s two main linguistic groups (Pashto and Dari) with original, vital and unexpected stories to tell, developed over two years through UNTOLD‘s Write Afghanistan project. 

July 2023 The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

‘Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard. I am a lover of America . . . ‘

So speaks the mysterious stranger at a Lahore cafe as dusk settles. Invited to join him for tea, you learn his name and what led this speaker of immaculate English to seek you out. For he is more worldly than you might expect; better travelled and better educated. And as he tells you his story, of how he embraced the Western dream — and a Western woman — and how both betrayed him, so the night darkens.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007. Now a major film starring starring Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson and Kiefer Sutherland.

June 2023 Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Still in her teenage years, Nazneen finds herself in an arranged marriage with a disappointed older man. Away from her Bangladeshi village, home is now a cramped flat in a high-rise block in London’s East End. Confined in her tiny flat, Nazneen sews furiously for a living – until the radical Karim steps unexpectedly into her life. On a background of racial conflict and tension, they embark on a love affair that forces Nazneen finally to take control of her fate.

Thank you to our volunteer Helen for choosing this title and creating the resource.

June 2023 Bad Men by John Connolly

In 1693, the settlers on the small Maine island of Sanctuary were betrayed to their enemies and slaughtered. Since then, the island has known three hundred years of peace. Until now. For men are descending on Sanctuary, their purpose to hunt down and kill the wife of their leader and retrieve the money that she stole from him. All that stands in their way are a young rookie officer, Sharon Macy, and the island’s strange, troubled policeman, the giant known as Melancholy Joe Dupree.

Thank you to our volunteer Gemma for choosing this title and creating the resource.

May 2023 Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie

On an ordinary May morning in 1996, the residents of high-rise Nightingale Point in London, Mary, Malachi, Tristan, Elvis and Pamela wake up to their normal lives and worries. It’s a day like any other, until something terrible happens and their lives are changed completely.

The novel was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020 and chosen as one of the titles on offer for this year’s World Book Night. Thanks to The Reading Agency for their generous donation of books.


May 2023 Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

Former NYPD detective Charlie “Bird” Parker is on the verge of madness. Tortured by the unsolved slayings of his wife and young daughter, he is a man consumed by guilt, regret, and the desire for revenge. When his former partner asks him to help track down a missing girl, Parker finds himself drawn into a world beyond his imagining: a world where thirty-year-old killings remain shrouded in fear and lies, and the ghosts of the dead torment the living.

Aided by a beautiful psychologist, a Cajun Seer, and a pair of bickering career criminals, Parker becomes the bait in a trap set in the humid bayous of Louisiana, which threatens the lives of everyone in its reach.

Thank you to Gemma for choosing this title and creating the resource.

April 2023 True Biz by Sara Nović

True biz (adj./exclamation; American Sign Language): really, seriously, definitely, real-talk

This revelatory novel plunges readers into the halls of a residential school for the deaf, where they’ll meet Charlie, a rebellious transfer student who’s never met another deaf person before; Austin, the school’s golden boy and February, the headmistress, who is fighting to keep her school open. This is an unforgettable journey into the Deaf community and a universal celebration of human connection.

Thank you to Hannah for choosing this title and creating the resource.

April 2023 The Job by Douglas Kennedy

Ned Allen is young, smart, and upwardly mobile. Several years into his career as an ad salesman for a successful computer magazine, Ned’s finally left his small-town roots behind, and is certain that the sophisticated Manhattan world he covets is his forever.

But then what appeared to be a career break shows its true colours. Ned’s forced to make some tough calls, among them a question of ethics and the small matter of whether to lie to his wife.

Thank you to Claudia for choosing this title and creating the resource.

March 2023 The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

Osman’s beloved ageing investigators return in another captivating mystery that blends wry wit and deft characterisation with fast-paced, intricate plotting.A local news legend is on the hunt for a sensational headline, and soon the gang are hot on the trail of two murders, ten years apart.

To make matters worse, a new nemesis pays Elizabeth a visit, presenting her with a deadly mission: kill or be killed…While Elizabeth grapples with her conscience (and a gun), the gang and their unlikely new friends (including TV stars, money launderers and ex-KGB colonels) unravel a new mystery. But can they catch the culprit and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?

Thank you to Helen for choosing this title and creating the resource.

March 2023 Kololo Hill by Neema Shah

Set during the expulsion of Ugandan Asians by Idi Amin, Shah’s stunning debut tracks a fleeing family from Kampala to London in an emotionally acute exploration of the power of home and the fear of fresh starts.

From the green hilltops of Kampala, to the terraced houses of London, Neema Shah’s extraordinarily moving debut Kololo Hill explores what it means to leave your home behind, what it takes to start again, and the lengths some will go to protect their loved ones.

Thank you to Neville for choosing this title and creating the resource.

February 2023 The Whistleblower by Robert Peston

1997. A desperate government clings to power; a hungry opposition will do anything to win. Journalist Gil Peck thinks he knows how things work. But is his sister’s death an accident? Just what’s going on in this fast-moving world of politics and finance, and what can a journalist do about it?

Robert Peston has been a familiar figure on our TV screens for many years. These days he is Political Editor for ITV, and you’ll also find him hosting his own programme, Peston, on ITV. This is his first novel, a fast-paced thriller written with insider insight.

Thank you to Jenny for choosing this title and creating the resource.

February 2023 Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Marian Graves has been obsessed with flight since her girlhood. She becomes an accomplished aviator, and in 1950 she disappears in Antarctica whilst attempting to fly longitudinally round the world over the north and south poles – the Great Circle. 

Some 75 years later actor Hadley Baxter, is offered the part of Marian in a film exploring her disappearance. Hadley finds herself powerfully and unexpectedly drawn towards digging out the truth about Marian’s fate.

Great Circle was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2022.

Thank you to our volunteer Beth for choosing this title and creating the resource.

January 2023 The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, the sole inhabitant of Eel Marsh House. The house stands at the end of a causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but it is not until he glimpses a wasted young woman, dressed all in black, at the funeral, that a creeping sense of unease begins to take hold, a feeling deepened by the reluctance of the locals to talk of the woman in black – and her terrible purpose.

Thank you to our volunteer Helen for choosing this title and creating the resource.

January 2023 Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan

Everyone has a Tully Dawson; the friend who defines your life. 

Summer 1986 and a bunch of mates from Ayrshire, Scotland, take off to a music festival in Manchester for a riotous weekend of music, drugs and mayhem, a weekend that becomes part of the friends’ collective mythology.

But thirty years later Tully needs his mate Jimmy to perform a final request, something he can only ask of his very closest friend…

Thank you to our volunteer Maggie for choosing this title and creating the resource.

December 2022 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol is the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Scrooge is transformed after these visits. Through Ebenezer Scrooge’s moral journey, A Christmas Carol provides a feel-good festive tale of eternal popularity.

This month we’re offering 2 versions of A Christmas Carol for Book Talk.

  1. A Christmas Carol – the original
  2. A Christmas Carol – the Graphic Novel

Simon Callow’s one man adaptation of A Christmas Carol will be available to listen to on the 22nd December.

November 2022 Snow by John Banville

Detective Inspector St John Strafford is called in from Dublin to investigate a murder at Ballyglass House – the Co. Wexford family seat of the aristocratic, secretive Osborne family.

Facing obstruction from all angles, Strafford carries on determinedly in his pursuit of the murderer. However, as the snow continues to fall over this ever-expanding mystery, the people of Ballyglass are equally determined to keep their secrets.

Thank you to our volunteer Claudia for choosing this title and creating the resource.

November 2022 Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

It is 1985, in an Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, faces into his busiest season. As he does the rounds, he feels the past rising up to meet him – and encounters the complicit silences of a people controlled by the Church.

Winner of The Orwell Prize and The Kerry Group Novel of the Year award.

Shortlisted for The Rathbones Folio Prize and The Irish Novel of the Year at The Dalkey Literary awards.

‘Marvellous-exact and icy and loving all at once.’ – Sarah Moss

October 2022 The Lamplighters

In all my years I’ve realized there are two kinds of people. The ones who hear a creak in a dark, lonely house, and shut the windows because it must have been the wind. And the ones who hear a creak in a dark, lonely house, light a candle, and go to take a look.

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week. What happened to those three men, out on the tower? 

Thank you to our volunteer Becca for choosing this title and creating the resource.

October 2022 The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel

Liya Thakkar refuses to play by the rules. An Indian-American, MBA-toting biochemical engineer, Liya has always fought against the role of women in her culture. A laugh-out-loud debut about first impressions, second chances, and finding your soulmate in the most unexpected place.

Sajni Patel was born in vibrant India and raised in the heart of Texas, USA. Her books draw on her personal experiences growing up in Texas, cultural expectations, and with a flair to create worlds that centre on strong Indian women.

Thank you to our volunteer Neville for choosing this title and creating the resource.

September 2022 Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. 

Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel. 

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best First Book 

September 2022 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It is 1939. In Nazi Germany, the country is holding its breath. By her brother’s graveside, nine year old Liesel’s life is changed forever when she picks up a single object. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, and this is her first act of book thievery. Soon she is stealing from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library . . . wherever there are books to be found. 

But these are dangerous times, and when Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, nothing will ever be the same again. 

Now a major film from Twentieth-Century Fox starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.

August 2022 Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara is an ‘Artificial Friend’, a humanoid machine bought to act as a companion to 14-year old Josie and to help her navigate growing up through the tricky adolescent years

The novel explores the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence and the blurred boundaries between human and machine. Along the way it also asks questions about parents and children, privilege and inequality, and above all the meaning of love.

Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017.

August 2022 Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

One windy spring day in the Chilterns Joe Rose’s calm, organised life is shattered by a ballooning accident. The afternoon could have ended in mere tragedy, but for his brief meeting with Jed Parry. Unknown to Joe, something passes between them – something that gives birth in Parry to an obsession so powerful that it will test to the limits Joe’s beloved scientific rationalism, threaten the love of his wife Clarissa and drive him to the brink of murder and madness.

Enduring Love was featured on BBC2’s ‘Between the Covers’ hosted by Sara Cox.

July 2022 The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

In this psychological thriller, Tom Ripley is struggling to stay one step ahead of his creditors and the law, when an unexpected acquaintance offers him a free trip to Europe and a chance to start over. Ripley wants money, success and the good life and he’s willing to kill for it.

There have also been several films with Ripley played by actors including Alain Delon, John Malkovich, Dennis Hopper, Andrew Scott and – perhaps most famously – Matt Damon.

Liccle Bit by Alex Wheatle

Venetia King is the hottest girl at school. Too bad Lemar is the second shortest guy in his year. Everyone calls him Liccle Bit, and his two best friends, McKay and Jonah, never tire of telling him he has no chance with girls. When Venetia starts paying Liccle Bit attention, he secretly hopes he’s on a fast track to a first date. Unfortunately, as a new gang war breaks out, he finds himself on a fast track to something much more sinister. 

‘This is a book that sings with warmth, in spite of its tough setting – in the midst of a gang war – and contains lines that dance.’ Scotland Herald

June 2022

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body,

Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2021 and The British Book Awards 2022 Debut Book of the Year.

Thank you to Rayan for choosing this title and creating the resource.

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

Phil and George are brothers and joint owners of the biggest ranch in their Montana valley. They sleep in the room they shared as boys, and so it has been for forty years. When George unexpectedly marries a young widow and brings her to live at the ranch, Phil begins a relentless campaign to destroy his brother’s new wife. But he reckons without an unlikely protector.

The Power of the Dog was made into a Netflix film in 2021 starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

May 2022

Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh

Mikey was born into a Romany Gypsy family. They live in a closeted community, and little is known about their way of life. After centuries of persecution Gypsies are wary of outsiders and if you choose to leave you can never come back. But although Mikey inherited a vibrant and loyal culture his family’s legacy was bittersweet with a hidden history of grief and abuse.

Gypsy Boy was chosen by The Reading Agency as one of this years World Book Night titles.

It’s absolutely riveting, un-put-downable. Anne Lamott, The Miami Herald 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Noah was born a crime, son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away.

A collection of eighteen personal stories, Born a Crime tells the story of a mischievous young boy growing into a restless young man as he struggles to find his place in a world where he was never supposed to exist.

Thank you to Isobel for choosing this title and creating the resource.

April 2022

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Americanah is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today’s globalised world.

The tale of childhood sweethearts at school in Nigeria whose lives take different paths when they seek their fortunes in America and England.  

‘A delicious, important novel from a writer with a great deal to say.’ – The Times

Thank you to our volunteer Neville for choosing this title and creating the resource.

Almond by Won-Pyung Sohn

The Emissary meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime in this poignant and triumphant story about how love, friendship, and persistence can change a life forever.

Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. A shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own. Struggling to cope with his loss, Yunjae retreats into silent isolation, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school, and they develop a surprising bond.

Translated from the Korean by Sandy Joosun Lee.

Thank you to our volunteer Rayan for choosing this title and creating the resource.

March 2022

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafrón

Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘Cemetery of Lost Books’.’ To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax.’

What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Carax and to save those he left behind…

‘Shadow is the real deal, a novel full of cheesy splendour and creaking trapdoors, a novel where even the subplots have subplots. One gorgeous read.’ – Stephen King

Thank you to our volunteer Ella, for choosing this title and creating the resource.

Girl A by Abigail Dean

Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. But when her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer.

Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn her childhood House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared. Beautifully written and incredibly powerful, Girl A is a story of redemption, of horror, and of love.

Girl A was published in 2021 and became an instant Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, also topping the charts in Ireland and Australia. The novel has been acquired in 35 territories, and television/film rights have sold to Sony.  

Thank you to our Jenny for choosing this title and creating the resource.

February 2022

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Drifters in search of work, George and his childlike friend Lennie, have nothing in the world except the clothes on their back – and a dream that one day they will have some land of their own.

They find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are dashed as Lennie – struggling against extreme cruelty and misunderstanding becomes a victim of his own strength.

Of Mice and Men tackles universal themes of friendship and shared vision, and gives a voice to America’s lonely and dispossessed.

Thank you to our volunteer Maggie, for choosing this title and creating the resource.

The Offing by Benjamin Myers

One summer following the Second World War, Robert Appleyard leaves his Durham village. Sixteen and the son of a coal miner, he makes his way across the countryside until he reaches the former smuggling village of Robin Hood’s Bay.

The Offing is a story of love and friendship between a teenage miner and an eccentric older woman. Evoking the striking landscapes of the Durham Coast, Myer’s novel is an enthralling depiction of the journey from adolescence into adulthood.

‘Book by book, over the past decade, Ben Myers has proved himself to be one of the most singular, moving and crucial voices of our times.’ David Peace

Thank you to our volunteer Clare, for choosing this title and creating the resource.

January 2022

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a sudden fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? Neither parent knows that Hamnet will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright: a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

One of our greatest living novelists resurrects the short life of Hamnet Shakespeare, in a lyrically written and emotionally devastating account of the Bard’s only son.

Thank you to our volunteer Helen, for choosing this title and creating the resource.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.

‘The novel that made Afghanistan the talking point of every book group’ – Guardian, 50 Books that Defined the Decade

Thank you to our volunteer Lauren, for choosing this title and creating the resource.

December 2021

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

Into Papa Jack’s family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical…

‘What an extraordinary and wonderful achievement this novel is! I was completely swept into the magic of the book…’ – Adam Roberts 

Thank you to our volunteer Katy, for choosing this title and creating the resource.

Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

From the author of the highly acclaimed Kintu, this crisp collection of short fiction charts the experiences of Ugandan migrants in Britain in twelve exquisitely crafted vignettes. These vibrant stories re-imagine the journey of Ugandans who choose to make England their home, and then what happens when these people return to Uganda.

Weaving between Manchester and Kampala, the stories are the immigrant experience told in a way which leaves the reader wanting more.

Makumbi’s first novel, Kintu, won The Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013. She was awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Manchester Happened and in 2018 was awarded the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction.

Thank you to our volunteer Neville for choosing this title and creating the resource.

November 2021

Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle

Moa is fourteen. The only life he has ever known is toiling on the Frontier sugar cane plantation for endless hot days, fearing the vicious whips of the overseers. Then one night he learns of an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky. Moa is to be a cane warrior, and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in the nearby plantations. Time is ticking, and the day of the uprising approaches . . . 

Irresistible, gripping and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky’s War in Jamaica, 1760.

Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize, Diverse Book Award, Young Quills Historical Fiction Award and Iris Award Longlisted for the YA Jhalak Prize and the UKLA Book Award Nobody free till everybody free.

‘Alex Wheatle takes the truth, and creates fiction to illuminate that truth. He too is a warrior. A word warrior.’ Benjamin Zephaniah Thank you to Book Clubs in Schools, the charity of which Alex Wheatle is a patron, for choosing this title and creating the resource.

The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos

In the small town of Crozon in Brittany, a library houses manuscripts that were rejected for publication: the faded dreams of aspiring writers. Visiting while on holiday, young editor Delphine Despero is thrilled to discover a novel so powerful that she feels compelled to bring it back to Paris to publish it.

The book prompts fevered interest in the identity of its author – apparently one Henri Pick, a now-deceased pizza chef from Crozon. Sceptics cry that the whole thing is a hoax: how could this man have written such a masterpiece?

 The Mystery of Henri Pick is a fast-paced comic mystery enriched by a deep love of books – and of the authors who write them.

Thank you to our volunteer Ella for choosing this title and creating the resource.

October 2021

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of the American Dream. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. Until one day they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.

A tender and humane dissection of what happens to a relationship when unforeseen events conspire to sabotage it, Tayari Jones’ story subtly probes issues of race and justice with a piercing emotional intelligence and colossal heart.

Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019.

‘A moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple.’Barack Obama Thank you to our volunteer Katy for choosing this title and creating the resource.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive, and his fame spreads throughout West Africa like a bush-fire. But when he accidentally kills a clansman, things begin to fall apart. Then Okonkwo returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors have arrived in the village. With his road thrown radically off-balance, he can only hurtle towards tragedy.

Things Fall Apart is Achebe’s first novel. It has become a milestone book in schools throughout Africa as a study of African literature. It is also widely read and studied in English-speaking countries as a piece of work which shows the traditionally rich, pre-colonisation, African life.

‘The writer in whose company the prison walls fell down’Nelson Mandela

Thank you to our volunteer Neville for choosing this title and creating the resource.

September 2021

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

It’s 1981, a year of riots and royal weddings,and trying to find a place in it all is nine-year-old Leon. He and his little brother Jake have gone to live with Maureen. They’ve lost one home but have they found another?

Maureen feeds and looks after them. She claims everything will be okay. But will they ever see their mother again? Who are the couple who secretly visit Jake? Between the street violence and the street parties, Leon must find a way to reunite his family…

Shortlisted for the 2017 Desmond Elliot Prize and Costa First Novel Award.

My Name is Leon balances the gritty with the feel good. Thank you to our volunteer Katy for choosing this title and creating the resources.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Set in a near dystopian future, Uglies presents a world where everyone is considered unattractive until they are forced to perform extreme cosmetic surgery to turn them “pretty”. But Tally, just a few weeks from her surgery, decides to rebel against the standards society has set. The book shows the sinister side of material beauty.

Scott Westerfeld  is an American writer of young adult fiction. A major theme in his work is the idea of free thinking or questioning authority.

Thank you to our volunteer Kousiha for choosing Uglies and creating the resources.

August 2021

Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze

An urgent and electrifying work of autofiction: the first-hand account of a young man who has lived a life of violent crime, and who expresses it boldly, accurately, and at times even beautifully.

Gabriel Krauze came of age among the high rises and back streets of South Kilburn. He was not an observer on the periphery of violence. He was – personally – heavily involved in gangs, drugs, guns, stabbing and robbery – all while completing an English degree at Queen Mary’s University. 

Who They Was comes directly from that experience and as such it is confronting, exhilarating, morally complex, and utterly unique. 

House of Correction by Nicci French

She’s a murderer. Everyone knows she killed Stuart Rees-why else would his dead body be found in her shed? So now Tabitha is in prison, awaiting trial. Coming back to the remote coastal village where she grew up was a mistake.

That day is such a blur, she can’t remember clearly what happened. There is something she is missing, something important… She only knows one thing. She is not capable of murder. And the only one she can trust to help her out of this situation is herself.

Highly commended for The Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger Award 2021.

Thank you to our volunteer Cathy for choosing House of Correction and creating the resources:

July 2021

This month, we are delighted to have copies of The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed. Thanks to a kind member of the public, who ordered us copies of the book from Newham Bookshop – supporting an independent bookshop and PRG at the same time!

Thank you to Penguin Random House for organising this donation and providing resources below.

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed

Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, some-time petty thief. He is many things, in fact, but he is not a murderer.

So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn’t too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him. But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in a country where, he thinks, justice is served.

It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life – against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman’s noose, he begins to realise that the truth may not be enough to save him.

‘Chilling and utterly compelling, The Fortune Men shines an essential light on a much-neglected period of our national life’ Sathnam Sanghera, author of Empireland

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities.

Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?

Thank you to our volunteer Liz for creating resources for The Vanishing Half:

June 2021

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

A powerful story about hip hop, freedom of speech – and fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you.

Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But when her first song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, Bri finds herself at the centre of controversy and portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. And with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it – she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

By Angie Thomas, author of bestselling YA novel The Hate U Give.

Pompeii by Robert Harris

A sweltering week in late August. Where better to enjoy the last days of summer than on the beautiful Bay of Naples? But even as Rome’s richest citizens relax in their villas around Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are ominous warnings that something is going wrong. Wells and springs are failing, a man has disappeared, and now the greatest aqueduct in the world – the mighty Aqua Augusta – has suddenly ceased to flow.

Through the eyes of four characters – a young engineer, an adolescent girl, a corrupt millionaire and an elderly scientist – Robert Harris brilliantly recreates a luxurious world on the brink of destruction.

May 2021

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing book cover

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say.

Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

A thoughtful page-turner – at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder.

My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay

Book Cover

At the age of seventeen, after a childhood in a fostered family followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was not Norman. It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian. And he learned that his mother had been pleading for his safe return to her since his birth.

This is Lemn’s story; a story of neglect and determination, misfortune and hope, cruelty and triumph. Sissay reflects on a childhood in care, self-expression and Britishness, and in doing so explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home.

April 2021

For World Book Night….

Join in with the World Book Night experience by reading this Stephen King novella in April. We will share feedback from the groups on Twitter on World Book Night (23rd April).

Elevation, by Stephen King

In the small town of Castle Rock word gets around quickly. That’s why Scott Carey only confides in his friend Doctor Bob Ellis about his strange condition. Every day he’s losing weight – but without looking any different.

Meanwhile a new couple, Deirdre and Missy, owners of a ‘fine dining experience’ in town, have moved in next door. Scott is not happy that their dogs keep fouling on his lawn.

But as the town prepares for its annual Thanksgiving 12K run, Scott starts to understand the prejudices his neighbours face. Soon, they forge a friendship which may just help him through his mysterious affliction…

You can read an extract here. This book is perfect for less confident readers too.

Or join in the read-along book club!

Set up by one of our volunteers, a virtual public reading group has been set up to read books alongside our prison groups. We will share feedback anonymously between the groups.

Lanny by Max Porter

‘Longlisted for the Booker Prize, Porter’s second novel is a fable, a collage, a dramatic chorus, a joyously stirred cauldron of words.’ – The Guardian

A child, a family, a village; a community built on ancient soil, shelter to generations of lives and the tales they tell. For all time, Dead Papa Toothwort has forever walked amongst them all. Now, he is drawn again from his slumber, drawn to something new and precious. The boy. Lanny.

Fusing the modern with the mythic and the prosaic with the polyphonic, Porter’s spare, spectral novel mines folklore, fable and the deep-dug tendrils of village life for something both age-old and vibrantly alive.

March 2021

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Be transported to a place like no other: a tiny, man-made island in the bay of Nagasaki, for two hundred years the sole gateway between Japan and the West. Here, in the dying days of the 18th-century, a young Dutch clerk arrives to make his fortune. Instead he loses his heart.

Step onto the streets of Dejima and mingle with scheming traders, spies, interpreters, servants and concubines as two cultures converge. In a tale of integrity and corruption, passion and power, the key is control – of riches and minds, and over death itself.

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller, from the author of CLOUD ATLAS and THE BONE CLOCKS.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves the Thursday Murder Club.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

The debut novel from Richard Osman, presenter and producer of Pointless.

February 2021

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Set in the deep American South between the wars, The Color Purple is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation.

Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage.

But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

A great book to explore in LGBT+ History month.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

As smart and murderous as Killing EveMy Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in “self-defence” and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

January 2021

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die.

Across 1000 miles of Oregon desert his assassins, the notorious Eli and Charlies Sisters, ride – fighting, shooting, and drinking their way to Sacramento. But their prey isn’t an easy mark, the road is long and bloody, and somewhere along the path Eli begins to question what he does for a living – and whom he does it for.

“So good, so funny and so sad” Irish Times

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” and the complicated reality of being a grown up.

December 2020

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhikers Guide started as a BBC radio series in 1978. The first of the five novels was published in 1979 and there has also been a TV series and a 2005 feature film.

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a hyperspace
bypass, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For the last fifteen years, the alien Prefect has been posing as an out-of-work actor on earth.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Since it was first published in 1843 A Christmas Carol has had an enduring influence on the way we think about the traditions of Christmas.

One of Dicken’s most enduring and memorable characters, Ebenezer Scrooge is a miser, penny-pinching with no care for his own happiness or those of any others.

Then, one Christmas Eve, he is visited by three ghosts: the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. As they turn the clock back on Scrooge’s own life, it’s tragedies and misdemeanours, and reveal the shadow of the life that is yet to come, they reveal to him the true meaning of Christmas.

November 2020

Frank Sinatra Has a Cold by Gay Talese

A selection of witty and provocative essays from the father of New Journalism. Frank Sinatra in a pool hall, troubled by a cold, unable to sing and not in the best of moods; the boxer Floyd Patterson, gentle and dignified, haunted by the sense that he was always a loser; Fidel Castro being introduced to an ageing and infirm Muhammad Ali.

In these compulsively readable profiles one of America’s finest journalists lays bare the man behind the myth.

October 2020

Small Island by Andrea Levy

It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh’s neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn’t know when her husband will return, or if he will come back at all. What else can she do? Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. It’s desperation that makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door.

True Grit by Charles Portis

There is no knowing what lies in a man’s heart. On a trip to buy ponies, Frank Ross is killed by one of his own workers. Tom Chaney shoots him down in the street for a horse, $150 cash, and two Californian gold pieces. Ross’s unusually mature and single-minded fourteen-year-old daughter Mattie travels to claim his body, and finds that the authorities are doing nothing to find Chaney. Then she hears of Rooster – a man, she’s told, who has grit – and convinces him to join her in a quest into dark, dangerous Indian territory to hunt Chaney down and avenge her father’s murder.

September 2020 – You are welcome to pick from these choices too.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

In this latest novel, following the Pulitzer Prize -winning The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.
When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors.

Northern Lights Book cover

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

The first volume in Philip Pullman’s groundbreaking His Dark Materials trilogy, is a timeless and truly magical journey.

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford.

The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…

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