A moving gif of the four best books released this week
A moving gif of the four best books released this week

Whether you’re tuning into Drag Race or sitting down to dig into a magnificent new novel, this week’s best books offer plenty of options for the young and old, TV fans and bookworms alike.

Out on 18 October

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

Five years after the release of his incredible bestselling novel A Gentleman in Moscow, author Amor Towles returns with The Lincoln Highway, an epic American yarn that begins in Nebraska in 1954. When young Emmett Watson is released from a juvenile work farm after serving 15 months for involuntary manslaughter, he seeks out his brother with a plan to start fresh in California – only to find that two fellow inmates from the farm have stowed away with him. Suddenly, he finds himself (and his three comrades) heading to New York City instead, in a classic-style journey across 1950s America, all told in Towles’ colourful, masterful prose.

Insider view: The Lincoln Highway is destined to be read for years to come. At the heart of it is a gorgeous sibling relationship, an exploration of what it means to be a good person and a road trip that will leave you fantasising about going on an adventure – pick up this book for the perfect escape. Towles writes out of time, calling to mind so many beloved and classic writers.”
Ailah Ahmed, Publishing Director, Hutchinson Heinemann

For fans of: Epic American fiction, John Steinbeck, the call of the open road.

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

There are few better world-builders in the realm of literature than Elizabeth Strout. The award-winning American author has shown her talent for exploring every fascinating corner of a book’s universe twice now: first in 2019 with Olive, Again, when she further detailed the life of the protagonist from her Pulitzer Prize-winning 2006 novel Olive Kitteridge; and now again, to magnificent effect, with Oh William!, a return to the world of My Name Is Lucy Barton in which she reconnects with her first husband in a tender and complex tale of growth, understanding, and resiliency.

Insider view: “You cannot read only one novel by Elizabeth Strout. Once you enter her world, you want to read every book she has ever written. She can reveal a whole character in a moment, a whole life in a scene. Oh William!, her latest novel, is the story of a relationship between two people who were once married long ago. It is about how people love and let go, it is about how we hold onto ideas, often wrong ones, about ourselves and others. It is a novel of contrasts: compassionate and sharply observed, deeply moving and very wry. Strout is a genius and Oh William! might be her finest novel yet.”
Mary Mount, Editor, Viking

For fans of: Emotionally complex love stories, My Name is Lucy Barton, Booker-nominated authors.

RuPaul’s Drag Race by Christian Guiltenane

After 10 seasons of the American original, RuPaul’s Drag Race finally came to the UK in 2019 – and promptly captured the hearts and imaginations of viewers. Following two smashingly entertaining series, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK has just returned for a new one, and this complete guide – including interviews with all of the Series 3 queens, the best moments of Series 1 and 2, mini challenges, trivia and more – has arrived just in time. As RuPaul says: reading is fundamental!

Insider view: “Full of humour, history, and heart, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is your perfect companion to the hit UK series. Learn more about the Series 3 queens in exclusive interviews, relive the best moments of Series 1 and 2, and compete in your own Drag Race mini challenges. This book is guaranteed to make your day MUCH BETTA!”
Daniel Sørensen, Assistant Editor, BBC Books

For fans of: RuPaul’s Drag Race UK; queer culture; charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.

D (A Tale of Two Worlds) by Michel Faber

Praised by the likes of Neil Gaiman, and compared to some of the most imaginative Young Adult novels of all time, books like Michel Faber’s D (A Tale of Two Worlds) don’t come along very often. In this clever new work from the Dutch-born author of Under the Skin, The Crimson Petal and the White and The Fire Gospel, a teenager must retrieve the letter D, which has disappeared from the English language – along with the local dentist, the neighbour’s Dalmatian, and more. Travelling between England and the world of Liminus, Dhikilo sets off in search of it…

Insider view: “Michel Faber’s bestselling The Crimson Petal and the White has become a classic. Here, Michel turns his hand to Young Adult fiction, creating a nuanced, charming and surprisingly dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Chronicles of Narnia in which a teenager is enlisted by her dead history teacher to retrieve the letter D – which has lately gone missing from the English language. Result: a powerful fable on inclusivity, bravery and friendship. This makes a great gift for a younger reader but will enchant Faber fans everywhere.” 
Jane Lawson, Editorial Director, Doubleday

For fans of: Thought-provoking YA, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, wit and cleverness.

Out on 11 October

Keisha the Sket by Jade LB

Sometimes, literary phenomena are born without a book in sight. In the early 00s, Keisha the Sket was just that: a pop cultural narrative that took hold on websites and the mobile phones of teenagers around the country, decolonising literature and depicting a culture that was too often overlooked by the publishing industry. Now, for the first time, the coming-of-age story is being released in print. For those in the know, it’s a moment. For those not, it’s a vital read. 

Insider view: Without a doubt Keisha the Sket is the original love letter to the ends. The rawest depiction of sex, relationships and coming of age in the inner-city. A thrilling tale of girlhood, friendship, choices and love. If you don’t know – get to know, because you’re not part of the cultural vanguard if you don’t know about Keisha.
Lemara Lindsay-Prince, Senior Commissioning Editor, Cornerstone

For fans of: Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners, mid-2000s British youth culture, Nokia 2210s.

Hill House Living by Paula Sutton 

A decade before the pandemic encouraged us to examine our lives a little more closely, former magazine editor Paula Sutton had learned how to make hers more joyful: uprooting herself from London to a beautiful (and remote) Norfolk home, separating her identity for her work and doing things that made her happy – from baking a cake to dressing in exactly what she wanted. Hill House Living tells her story, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Insider view: Whether you’re (re)decorating your flat or house, on a budget or splurging, in the city or country, or you simply want to get a slice of country life, this book is for you. Replete with practical advice on buying second-hand items, styling your indoor and outdoor spaces, going DIY, as well as exquisite comfort meals, Hill House Living is the ultimate cosy book, out just in time for the nesting season! Tailored for each season, Paula has packed in hundreds of tips, tutorials, recipes and stories that will inspire you to ‘practice joyfulness’ and treat yourself – without breaking the bank.
Marianne Tatepo, Commissioning Editor, Ebury

For fans of: Living more beautifully, interior design, country house chic.

Free by Lea Ypi

Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated corners of Stalinist Europe, and never knew anything different. Albania was all but cut off from outsiders, and very few residents were able to leave. To Ypi, it was home. But when the Berlin Wall fell, Albania changed, revealing Ypi’s family secrets in the process. 

Insider view: Deeply moving, witty and fiercely intelligent, this book has already resonated with so many readers. It’s that rare thing: a very specific story about growing up in Albania in the 1980s and 90s that is also truly universal. Reading it has transformed my understanding of the Cold War and my own upbringing.
Casiana Ionita, Publishing Director, Penguin Press

For fans of: Educated by Tara Westover, Cold War stories, humorous writing.

You’ve Got to Laugh by Alison Hammond 

Alison Hammond's enough of a national treasure for most daytime TV devotees to know something of her career: that brilliant debut on Big Brother 3 and I'm a Celebrity, the pitch-perfect presenting on This Morning. But there's still plenty of Hammond's life to fill her sparkling memoir – not to mention showbiz gossip.  

Insider view: Alison loves to laugh. And the nation laughs with her. It’s impossible to watch her onscreen and not to feel buoyed up by her infectious joy and energy – and what a joy it is to publish You’ve Got To Laugh! For fans desperate to know more about the woman behind the laugh, this will provide a glorious, effervescent look at the moments that made Alison who she is today.
Frankie Gray, Publishing Director, Commercial Fiction, Transworld

For fans of: Laugh-out-loud writing, big-hearted stories, disruptive daytime television.

Out on 4 October

Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet by Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s easy, particularly in despairing moments, to look at the state of the world and think, ‘But I’m just one person!’. Yet, argues Thich Nhat Hanh, there is one thing we always have the power to change: our mind. In Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk also known as ‘Thay’ outlines the incredible potential we each hold when it comes to shaping the world around us, and does so in a way that’s both accessible and pragmatic.

Insider view: “Thay is one of the most influential spiritual leaders of our time, and his soothing words of wisdom have helped millions of readers around the world. In Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet, he offers a vital message to facing the climate crisis: in these uncertain and challenging times, our mindset can make all the difference. This is an essential read and we are so proud to be publishing it.”
Bianca Bexton, Editor at Ebury

For fans of: Making a better world, self-care, the writings of the Dalai Lama.

Nests by Susan Ogilvy

Forget smelling the roses; have you ever stopped to admire a bird’s nest? That’s exactly what Susan Ogilvy did one day after stumbling upon a chaffinch nest blown onto the ground, and it kickstarted a new project: to closely examine the stunning architecture and ingenuity of bird’s nests and then paint them. The result is Nests, a book of life-sized paintings that reveal the genius and detail – every twig, root, reed, leaf, hair, feather, every bit of moss, lichen, cobwebs, stuffing and string – hidden in the homes of the avian world.

Insider view: “This wondrous book – quite possibly the most beautiful I’ve had the pleasure of publishing – is a unique celebration of birds’ nests and the genius of their creation. These nest portraits – which have been reproduced in all their twiggy detail, at exact life size, on creamy art paper – should open readers’ eyes to the wonders of avian architecture, and engender a renewed respect for birds of all feathers.”
Richard Atkinson, Publishing Director at Penguin Press

For fans of: Nature, bird-watching, David Attenborough, the detail of everyday things.

Taste by Stanley Tucci

Whether you ascribe it to Stanley Tucci’s seemingly endless charisma or lockdown boredom – we’re calling it an 80/20, realistically – the beloved actor nearly destroyed the entire internet in April of 2020, when a video of him making a negroni with such nonchalant charm and sprezzatura that numerous publications referred to it as ASMR. This week, Tucci is finally capitalising on his obvious affinity for food-related content by publishing My Life Through Food, a witty and delightful memoir that views his relationships, family, career and more through the prism of that most delicious conversation-starter: food.

Insider view: “Stanley Tucci’s Taste is a funny, intimate, warm and enormously entertaining memoir, ranging across decades, countries (and filmsets) and rich with a love of family, culinary history and tradition. It’s a book with a big heart – and a big stomach – and is an absolute delight”
Helen Garnons-Williams, Publishing Director at Fig Tree

For fans of: Nigella Lawson, good food, witty memoirs.

Spider Woman by Lady Hale

Though the pinnacle of Lady Hale’s exalted career arguably came in 2019 when, as President of the Supreme Court, she found prorogation of Parliament to be unlawful, her new memoir Spider Woman, which follows Hale’s extraordinary life – from being raised in a “a little village in North Yorkshire” to her ascension to the British House of Lords and, in 2009, to the newly founded Supreme Court, where her rulings in domestic violence, divorce, mental health, equality and elsewhere changed the world for the better – demonstrates just why she’s become such a respected figure in the UK. Fascinating and inspirating in equal measure, Spider Woman is a captivating account of an incredible life.

Insider view: “Lady Hale is a hero and inspiration to many people – for her achievements and for the causes she has backed. She’s a trailblazer and serial smasher of glass ceilings. Spider Woman gives us the law’s most charismatic communicator, but also an inspiring story about overcoming the odds in life.”
Stuart Williams, Publishing Director at Bodley Head

For fans of: Feminist history, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, inspiring memoirs.

Manifesto by Bernardine Evaristo 

Since she became the first Black woman to win the Booker Prize in 2019, Bernardine Evaristo has felt ever-present in the world of books, whether she’s being interviewed or helping to shine a light on Black British voices. But her story began many years earlier; a veteran novelist, Evaristo has written a combined dozens of novels, plays and short stories. Here, in what she’s titled her Manifesto, Evaristo tells the story of her life, from her “childhood steeped in racism” to her trailblazing successes as a writer, activist and vital member of Britain’s artistic community.

Insider view: “Bernardine’s Booker win in November 2019 still feels like a revolutionary moment, and this magnificent memoir, told in her unique style, charts how she got there. It is endlessly interesting – honest, funny, eye-opening, engaged and above all inspiring: an exemplary account of creative unstoppability, from birth to Booker.”
Simon Prosser, Publishing Director at Hamish Hamilton

For fans of: Girl, Woman, Other, writing about writing, intersectional feminism.

Out in September

Rationality by Steven Pinker

Bestselling author Steven Pinker’s book is named after the concept it champions: the notion of injecting logic, reason and rationality into an increasingly complex world. With fake news, increasing distrust of the structures in place and a world adjusting to life with a pandemic, there has never been a greater need for rationality, and an explanation as to how it can offer a solution to the problems we face today.

For fans of: big thinking, social science, new ideas.

Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad

Behind every great cookery book lies a test kitchen. Yotam Ottolenghi has changed the way a nation cooks, introducing flavours and ingredients that have made our tables – and plates – more vibrant, healthy and delicious. Now, with Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, the team who appear on the pages of books such as FLAVOUR and SIMPLE are stepping into the spotlight, focusing on encouraging the reader’s creativity and confidence to make the most of your dinner.

Insider view: “Our first book, Shelf Love, strips back your cooking by celebrating items already in your fridge, cupboard or freezer so you can build culinary confidence and, if you wish, make any dish your own.” Lizzy Gray

For fans of: Life-changing cookery books, mixing it up in the kitchen, delicious food.

Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang 

To move to another country, leaving behind everything you know and starting anew, is one thing. To live in that new country as an undocumented – “illegal” – immigrant is another. Qian Julie Wang tells the remarkable story of her life and family, uprooted from China during her childhood to live in Brooklyn without documentation, grappling for survival with every passing day. In the process, she sheds much-needed insight on a narrative that is known all too well by millions around the world. Wang will be speaking about Beautiful Country at her Penguin Live event; ticket information here.

Insider view: “Occasionally a memoir comes along that truly shifts the way you understand the world around you. This is one of those memoirs. Searing in its honesty, beautifully written and tremendously moving I want to press it into the hands of everyone I know.” Mary Mount

For fans of: Educated by Tara Westover, memoirs, true stories.

The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo

A former footballer and popstar, novelist Jo Nesbo has succeeded at more than enough careers for one lifetime. Still, he’s added another string to his bow with The Jealousy Man, his first collection of short stories. After selling more than 50 million copies of novels, many of which featuring Harry Hole, his problematic detective, Nesbo has divided The Jealousy Man by the themes that have dominated his gritty novels: Power and Jealousy. Within these two, the author has contained a number of delectable tales displaying the grimness of humankind’s urges. 

Insider view: “All the best-loved hallmarks of Nesbo’s novels are here – dark and complex protagonists, unexpected twists and nailbiting plotlines - but in short, sharp, perfectly formed stories which conjure whole worlds of threat and explore the dark side of human psychology. Completely gripping.’ Elizabeth Foley                  

For fans of: Harry Hole, short stories, an air of looming suspense

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

There have been a spell of novels inspired by witchcraft, its history and the women who were subjugated within it in recent years. But Alexis Henderson’s debut is a novel take on the genre. Immanuelle has been born and raised in a religious cult named Bethel, but when she discovers the diary of her late mother she uncovers the dark history at the only world she’s ever known – and why her mother consorted with witches. Powers she never knew she had enable Immanuelle to affect fundamental change, making The Year of the Witching a potent novel for our times.

Insider view: It’s a thrilling and at times chilling read. Indeed, it’s rare that I agree with the Daily Mail but for me, when it called Alexis Henderson’s debut ‘a magnificent, raw slice of folk horror, dark with threat and clenched with suspense’, it was bang on! Simon Taylor, editor at Transworld

For fans of: Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Southern Noir.

Change Sings by Amanda Gorman & Loren Long 

Amanda Gorman inspired the world when she delivered a poetry reading at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden in January 2021. She spoke of hope and progress overtime for a better and fairer world. And her new picture book Change Sings encapsulates that same message for children. Gorman’s lyrical text alongside Loren Long’s stunning illustrations, tells the story of a young girl who leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, teaching them that they all have the power to make big and small changes. 

Insider view: “Amanda Gorman’s work is rich, powerful, a beacon of hope; to publish this truly remarkable poet through her passionate picture-book writing is a real privilege.” Andrea MacDonald, Puffin Picture Books Editorial Director   

For fans of: poetry and uplifting, life-affirming picture books. 

Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Clocking up a Booker Prize shortlisting before release is something many authors dream of, but Richard Powers is no stranger to accolades: his previous novel, The Overstory, won the 2018 Pulitzer prize. Where that novel explored the environmental crisis, Bewilderment broadens Powers' scope to the entire cosmos, explored through a father-son relationship left vulnerable by the death of a wife and mother. Astrobiologist Theo Byrne must handle his own grief while navigating that of his troubled nine-year-old son, and their joint exploration of the universe results in poignant resolution. The Guardian calls Bewilderment “a ghostly and affecting love story”.

For fans of: the cosmos, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, stories about loss.

Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury

There is considerable buzz around the world about this new book which follows an unlikely pair of friends as they contemplate the meaning of love, friendship and life itself. Inspired by self-taught artist James Norbury's time volunteering for the Samaritans, its blend of ancient proverbs and beautiful illustrations is just the uplifting tonic we need after a tough 18 months. A lovely Christmas gift, too.  

For fans of: philosophy, spirtuality, Winnie-the-Pooh. 

Not Without a Fight by Ramla Ali

A Somali refugee raised on an East London council estate, Ramla Ali became the first Somali boxer to compete in the Olympics earlier this year in Tokyo – an athlete who Anthony Joshua says he’s inspired by. But that’s not all: Ali’s also a humanitarian and model – and now, she’s an author. Not Without A Fight: 10 Steps to Becoming Your Own Champion is a galvanizing guide to encouraging anyone – no matter their background – to connect with their wellbeing, improve their self-development and examine their relationship to health and fitness.

Insider view: “It’s a powerful and practical knockout of a book from a real inspiring voice and force for change. Each page is full of honesty and urgency, empowering the reader to become their own champion.” Lemara Lindsay-Prince, Editor at Cornerstone

For fans of: motivational reads, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, polymaths.

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Over the course of her novels and short story collections, Lauren Groff has twisted time, stretching from Ancient myth and local folk legend to communes in the 1970s. For her latest novel, though, Groff’s firmly turns the clock back by a matter of millennia: Matrix is set in a medieval nunnery and fictionalises the life of 12th-century poet Marie de France, broadly considered the first woman to write verse. Groff’s version of her is 17, in a secret lesbian tryst and a fierce pioneer for women’s rights.

Insider view: “All women will see something of themselves in Marie de France and her struggle for power and influence. This is a truly dazzling and ambitious new novel by Groff” Ailah Ahmed, Publishing Director for Hutchingson Heinemann

For fans of: historical fiction, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, mystical visions.

The Story of the World in 100 Moments by Neil Oliver

It sounds ambitious but if anyone can tell the history of the planet on an engrossing and entertaining whistle-stop tour, it’s esteemed broadcaster and historian Neil Oliver. A follow-up to his exemplary 2020 bestseller The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places, this collection of micro-essays allows us to put history’s pivotal moments in context to better understand how we got to where we are today. 

Insider view: "The book is a brilliant achievement. The breadth of Neil’s knowledge is awe-inspiring, he writes evocatively and movingly, and both individually and read as a piece, reading these moments is massively rewarding." Susanna Wadeson, Editor at Transworld

For fans of: trivia, history documentaries, pub quizzes,

Eating to Extinction by Dan Saladino

We’ve perhaps never, in recent times, been more conscious of what’s on our plate. In the midst of climate catastrophe and a global obsession with wellbeing, what we eat reflects how we live. Which is why Dan Saladino’s in-depth guide to the thousands of foods that we risk losing to extinction is so pertinent. From pistachios to pears, the history of how and what we eat touches everyone from farmers to food producers.

Insider view: “This is a truly eye-opening and inspiring book about food, environment and global loss of biodiversity. These stories of nearly extinct foods are the hidden stories of who we are – our past, present and future. It’s a book I’ve been pressing into the hands of everyone I know, and a call to arms for all of us who love food and care about the future of our planet.” ” Bea Hemming, Deputy Publishing Director at Jonathan Cape

For fans of: cooking, English Pastoral by James Rebanks, knowing where your food comes from

Which book are you most excited about? Let us know at editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk.

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