1) Noughties, by Ben Masters
This is how it begins. This is how it always begins. Four flat characters sitting round a table, with our pints of snakebite, our pints of diesel.
We contort our faces into gruesome grandeur, turning with eloquence and verve: Scott with his question-mark nose, Jack with his inverted-comma eyebrows, Sanjay with his square-bracket ears. Nodding and grunting and twitching our legs, we clutch our carbonated weapons of mass destruction.
On the last night of his university experience and through a series of flashbacks, a student relives his days spent at Oxford, while freely mixing alcohol, literature, friends, growth and love. Through an escalation of drinking leading Eliot through a Pub, a Bar, a Club, and some more, we’re left to wonder about the search for meaning in the life that follows graduation day.
2) The Bellwether Revivals, by Benjamin Wood
They heard the caterwaul of sirens, and saw the dust rising underneath the ambulance wheels at the far end of the driveway, and soon the darkening garden was a wash of flashing blue lights.
Genius, it’s said, is close to madness, and never more better embodied than as by Eden Bellwether who holds the firm belief that music can cure. Can this belief be real or is he delusional? Oscar and Iris just can’t be sure. The novel begins with a mystery surrounding bodies. Whose bodies? What story lies beneath their presence on the lawn? What precisely are ‘revivals’? A beautifully written story, profuse in introspection material, and with impeccable prose.
3) The Art of Conversation, by Catherine Blyth
We need to talk.
When did this become a threat rather than a statement of fact?
Please pick up this guide. If only we still knew how to have conversations.
4) Essays in Love, by Alain de Botton
The longing for a destiny is nowhere stronger than in our romantic life. All too often forced to share a bed with those who cannot fathom our soul, can we not be excused for believing…. Can we not be allowed a certain superstitious faith that we will ultimately locate a creature who can appease all our painful yearnings?
For those who have wondered about the meaning of love or simply about whether they’re the only one with weird quirks and thoughts.
5) The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius, by Kristine Barnett
I am sitting at the back of a university physics class while the students cluster in small groups around the whiteboards lining the lecture hall, ready to tackle the day’s equation.
Work proceeds in fits and starts. There’s a great deal of erasing. As the teams of students begin to bicker, I catch a glimpse of my nine-year-old son at the front of the room, chatting easily with the professor. The frustration level in the room mounts. Finally, my son pulls a chair over to a whiteboard and steps up on it. Even so, he must stand on his tiptoes, straining his arms as high as it can go.
If experts on the matter told you that your child recently diagnosed with autism would never be able to learn the alphabet, would you listen to them… or would you trust your mother’s instincts instead and choose to fight conventions?