by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (£14.99, Canongate) Reading like a thriller and moving at a breakneck speed, Adébáyò’s debut has been a huge breakout hit for understandable reasons. Straddling a politically charged Nigeria in the 80s, Yejide is desperate for a child – and so is her husband. To the extent that they cajole, lie and take extreme actions all in the pursuit of love for each other and this most-wanted baby. It’s devastating, and wonderful too.
by Megan Hunter (£9.99, Picador) For a book that’s 126 pages long, Hunter’s debut packs a hell of a punch. Set against a near-future Britain that’s been submerged in water, the narrator gives birth to a baby only to find her family lost and her partner, well, all at sea, for want of a better analogy (fortunately Hunter is far more articulate than we are). You’ll read it in a matter of hours and lose yourself in a deft dream of poetry.
by Jami Attenberg (£12.99, Profile) Andrea is a single and childless 39-year-old who may or may not hate her job. She’s not helping her brother and his wife with their very ill child and she’s got that terrible taste in men thing going on too. She’s also talented, funny, sexy as hell and isn’t about to capitulate to what society thinks she should be. Attenberg is a joyous writer who nails the contradictions of the modern world. Hallelujah.
by Jesmyn Ward (£16.99, Bloomsbury) We reviewed this slim piece of power a few weeks ago in Emerald Street and since then it’s gone on to win the US’s National Book Award. Telling the tale of JoJo and his family (his drug-addled mother, caring-but-poverty-stricken grandparents, incarcerated father, beloved little sister), it’s an exploration of what it means to be black in America and the violent ghosts that haunt the continent. It’s dynamite.
by Yaa Gyasi (£6.99, Penguin) One of the first books we read in 2017 and one which has remained in our minds since. Moving from the late 18th century to present day, Gyasi tells the tale of two sisters: Effia and Esi, and the generations who follow. One sister marries a slave trader, one becomes a slave, dramatically affecting their relationship with their homeland and their sense of identity.
by Cathy Rentzenbrink (£10, Picador) Rentzenbrink previously wrote a memoir called The Last Act Of Love (2016) about her brother’s vegetative state following a car accident in his teens. In this follow-up, she carefully and thoughtfully addresses how to take care of yourself when life kicks you in the teeth, either through circumstance or depression. It’s the most comforting port of call in any storm and also funny as hell.
by Sally Rooney (£14.99, Faber) A toe-curling exploration of the terrible mistakes we make in the name of love and “self-exploration”, at an age when we don’t know any better. Set in Dublin against a backdrop of jobbing creatives with big ambitions, Bobbi and Frances are best friends and ex-lovers when Frances starts an affair with an older, married actor and everything unravels.
by Kamila Shamsie (£12.74, Bloomsbury) Finish the last page of Home Fire and you’ll find yourself listlessly staring off into space, bereaved by the loss of its characters, writing and story. Inspired by the Greek tragedy, Antigone, Shamsie has transplanted the action into contemporary Britain and a Muslim family pulled in different directions by their own beliefs, passions and hopes.