Five new books to read this week

Five New Books To Read This Week
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By Prudence Wade, PA

This week sees Dolly Alderton’s second foray into fiction…


1. Good Material by Dolly Alderton is published in hardback by Fig Tree. Available now



After the BBC TV adaptation of her bestselling memoir, Everything I Know About Love, Dolly Alderton is firmly back in the fiction camp. Her second novel, Good Material, is a funny and heart-wrenching exploration into a break-up from the viewpoint of D-list comedian Andy Dawson – who has as little clue as the reader about why his corporate high-flier ex, Jen, left him. It hooks you in and keeps you invested, and you’ll connect with the well-meaning and relatable characters. The real beauty of Alderton’s writing, however, is in her comic observations of 30-something modern life, including what we do in the face of hysteria and heartbreak (using a fake name and story to see your ex’s therapist, anyone?) and the stark realities of relationships ending in your mid-30s (like house-sharing with an eccentric elderly man). Its subtle comedy is weaved with ease into this warm and life-affirming tale of Andy’s misadventures amid his self-loathing, indignance and ultimate growth.
(Review by Lauren Taylor)

2. Christmas By Candlelight by Karen Swan is published in paperback by Pan. Available now



The title, cover design and blurb for this book suggest a cosy festive romance – and Christmas By Candlelight certainly delivers on that front, but with some dark and painful twists along the way. Told across two timeframes, we meet Libby as she heads for a pre-Christmas reunion with the university housemates she’s not seen for years. Now a successful city lawyer, with an equally high-flying new boyfriend in tow, flashbacks to the past give a glimpse to how the quiet, working-class Libby became friends with this wealthy, outgoing group – and how the seeds were planted for the tensions and mysteries that quickly arise when they reunite. When major snowfall and a power cut sees them stranded without electricity or Wi-Fi, things get very interesting indeed. Swan writes two books a year – one for summer and one for Christmas – and it’s easy to see why they’re so popular. Unpredictable yet comfortingly relatable, Christmas By Candlelight will have you tearing through the pages. An entertaining, easy read with enough meat on the bones to provoke thought along the way.
(Review by Abi Jackson)

3. This Plague Of Souls by Mike McCormack is published in hardback by Canongate Books. Available now

This Plague Of Souls by Mike McCormack – author of Booker-longlisted Solar Bones – depicts the mystery of a man returning to his former life, only to find it gone. Suspense fills the pages as protagonist Nealon finds his family home empty, with no word from his wife and child. His only contact is with an unknown caller who knows all about him and wants to meet. Set in rural Ireland, the vivid landscape captures the loneliness as Nealon grapples with loss and asks what matters most in life. This noir thriller picks up the pace to keep you gripped until the very last page.
(Review by Anahita Hossein-Pour)


4. Eyeliner: A Cultural History by Zahra Hankir is published in hardback by Harvill Secker. Available now

There are elements of Zahra Hankir’s study of eyeliner that take an interesting perspective on an often under-appreciated historical subject. The use of cosmetics by Iranian women, and how far it can be seen as a political act, along with the use of kohl by Jordanian men and the increase in eyeliner sales in the West inspired by the bust of Nefertiti are all thought-provoking chapters. However, at times the book veers from a history of eyeliner to a history of people who have worn eyeliner – but as part of a wider aesthetic. The chapters on drag queens and Amy Winehouse are interesting in their own right, but have little to say about the history of eyeliner itself, leaving the book feeling unfocused and perhaps a little thin.
(Review by Christopher McKeon)

Children’s book of the week

5. The Magic Faraway Tree: A Christmas Adventure by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Mark Beech, is published in hardback by Hodder Children’s Books. Available now

The Magic Faraway Tree: A Christmas Adventure by Jacqueline Wilson
(Hodder Children’s Books/PA)

The popular children’s author revisits Milo, Mia and Birdy as they return to the cottage by the Enchanted Wood for a festive holiday. The children first appeared in the 2022 reimagining of Enid Blyton’s classic stories which were among Wilson’s own childhood favourites. This lifelong affection means Wilson has preserved the simple delight of the magical tree, its eccentric inhabitants and the excitement of the different lands which appear at the top and then abruptly move on. There are occasional nods to modern life but nothing to spoil the wholesome adventure which transports the reader to a land where anything is possible, this time sprinkled with a little festive sparkle.
(Review by Beverley Rouse)


1. Prophet Song by Paul Lynch
2. The Making Of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks
3. The Secret by Lee Child & Andrew Child
4. The Last Devil To Die by Richard Osman
5. In Memoriam by Alice Winn,
6. A Stroke Of The Pen by Terry Pratchett
7. Gold by Raven Kennedy
8. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
9. The Running Grave by Robert Galbraith
10. The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett
(Compiled by Waterstones)

1. Private Eye Annual: 2023 by Ian Hislop
2. Politics On The Edge by Rory Stewart
3. Guinness World Records 2024
4. Rambling Man by Billy Connolly
5. The Woman In Me by Britney Spears
6. How They Broke Britain by James O’Brien
7. Friends, Lovers And The Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry
8. Unruly by David Mitchell
9. 5 Ingredients Mediterranean by Jamie Oliver
10. Shakespeare by Judi Dench
(Compiled by Waterstones)

1. The Woman In Me by Britney Spears
2. Loosely Based On A Made-Up Story by James Blunt
3. Unruly by David Mitchell
4. Friends, Lovers And The Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry
5. Be Useful by Arnold Schwarzenegger
6. Atomic Habits by James Clear
7. None Of This Is True by Lisa Jewell
8. The Twat Files by Dawn French
9. Ghost Stories: Stephen Fry’s Definitive Collection by Stephen Fry et al
10. The Last Devil To Die by Richard Osman
(Compiled by Audible)

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