Foyles bookshop’s Charlotte Pope on her favourite books of the year so far…
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
After fleeing the horrors of the Irish potato famine, Thomas McNulty escapes to a new life in America where he meets fellow outcast John Cole. Together, they enlist in the army and fight in the Indian Wars and the Civil War, enduring bloodshed, hunger and the brutal slaughter of the battlefield. They are two halves of the same whole: John is Thomas’s best friend, his comrade in arms and the love of his life. In a time where a romantic relationship between two men could barely be fathomed, let alone approved of, Thomas and John forge a life together, even adopting a Sioux child and forming their own little family. This is a beautiful story with Barry’s excellent prose vividly bringing the United States of the 19th century to life. The winner of this year’s Costa Prize, Days Without End is a worthy champion.
Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot
A beloved fairytale, Barbot’s Beauty and the Beast has been captivating generations since its original publication in 1740. With the new live-action film recently released in cinemas, the classic novel has had a sudden boost in popularity, driving many to want to seek out the original story for themselves. Look no further than this gorgeous interactive edition by MinaLima – the graphic design team behind some of the stunning artwork and design work of the Harry Potter film franchise. A charming hardback, complete with a fold-out of the Beast’s palace, a spinning dial to reveal Belle’s various dresses, and lush colour illustrations, this is a lavish book that both adults and children can treasure.
The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea by Bandi
Written by an anonymous author known only by the pseudonym ‘Bandi’, The Accusation was smuggled out of North Korea, hidden among propaganda leaflets, by a relative of the author. Believed to be the first work of its kind by a living dissident writer, the book is a collection of seven short stories documenting the lives of ordinary people living under the Kim regime: a mother anxiously trying to protect her young son from the constant propaganda; a wife struggling to feed her husband during the great famine; the people living day-to-day in a nation where their every movement is watched.
Each story offers a snapshot of life in the ‘hermit kingdom’ where even a minor misconstrued act of disobedience can have severe consequences. Already translated into 18 languages, The Accusation is an incredibly important manuscript that is a testament to the value of human rights and freedoms.
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli
An inspiring bedtime book for every little feminist. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls rejects pink princesses and instead tells the stories of 100 incredible and heroic women. Documenting the work and lives of writers, artists, athletes and heroes alike, this is a tome for a reinvented fairy-post-millennial generation. Beautifully illustrated by 60 female artists from around the globe, this crowd-funded book will get your little girl or boy believing they can achieve anything. These empowering and moving tales feature the kind of princesses who definitely don’t need a prince to come and rescue them. Including such trailblazing heroes as Amelia Earhart, Ada Lovelace, Jane Austen, Malala Yousafzai and more, this is a book I wish I’d had when I was growing up.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
When gunshots are fired at a party she is attending, 16-year-old Starr flees to apparent safety with her friend Khalil. Shortly after, their car is stopped by a police officer. Khalil, a young, unarmed, black teenager, is shot and killed at point-blank range. Starr is the only witness to the crime, and suddenly a teenage girl has to bear the horrified and ferocious outrage of her race and community.
She becomes overwhelmed with the pressure to testify before a grand jury, and her duty to protect Khalil’s memory: what she says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. This is an important and incredibly relevant work of young adult fiction dealing with questions of police brutality, race and activism. It is also Angie Thomas’ first novel and it has already topped the New York Times bestseller list – she’s definitely an author to watch.