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What we’re reading: writers and readers on the books they enjoyed in April | Books

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In this series we ask authors, Guardian writers and readers to share what they’ve been reading recently. This month, recommendations include women’s prize shortlisted novels, a thrillingly-paced account of financial corruption and a 1980 Booker prize finalist. Tell us what you’ve been reading in the comments.


Lorraine Candy, author and podcaster

As a kid I used to spend Saturday mornings in the local library. I grew up in a tiny Cornish village and we never travelled abroad so reading books was how I went on adventures. I still look for that wanderlust in literature today, which is why I was drawn to Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead.

The book is about the life of female pilot Marian, who is rescued as a baby from a sinking ship in the early part of the century. It is a novel of breathtaking scope, flitting from the US to London to Antarctica and Canada. I was swept along by Marian’s love story and missed her when it finished. Right now I’m immersed in the stories of women by women because I am one of the judges of the 2022 Women’s prize for fiction and Great Circle is on the shortlist.

Travis Alabanza. Photograph: Sarah Lee/the Guardian

Judging has brought two new authors into my life: Louise Erdrich, whose thought-provoking book The Sentence is a masterfully written ghost story about a haunted library (among other things) and Lisa Allen-Agostini, who introduced me to the vibrant Althea, the protagonist of The Bread The Devil Knead. Both books tackle serious subject matter but also deliver witty writing that makes you laugh out loud.

And two books I have found helpful this month are Travis Alabanza’s None of the Above and therapist Julia Samuel’s Every Family Has a Story. I wrote a book on parenting teens last year and since then I am regularly asked for advice. I feel these two thoughtful books are helpful for worried mums and dads.

Alabanza’s experience as a mixed race trans person offers some insights into developing identities that many parents would benefit hugely from reading (it is out in August) and Julia Samuel’s book is a wise, informative guide on the tangle of family relationships.

Mum, What’s Wrong with You? by Lorraine Candy (HarperCollins £9.99) is available in paperback now. To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

The winner of the 2022 Women’s prize will be announced on 15 June.


Kate, Guardian reader

I don’t normally read political or economic books but Kleptopia by Tom Burgis was a wild ride of a read – better than any spy novel. It’s about “dirty money” and the trail it leaves across the world. The sheer deviousness of the people involved beggars belief, as does the way eye-watering sums of money are filtered through them to become “clean”. I honestly can’t recommend this book enough, it was a real eye-opener.


Sarah Shaffi, freelance journalist

On a recent trip away I took Farah Heron’s Kamila Knows Best, a delightful, modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, set among a Canadian Muslim community. The other book I read on holiday couldn’t have been more different: Mary Jean Chan’s incredible Costa Poetry award-winning collection Flèche, which examines everything from the poet’s relationship with her mother to multilingualism.

Flèche is a book I’ve had unread on my shelf for a long time, as were my next two reads: Joya Goffney’s very cute YA novel Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, and Cho Nam-Joo’s incredible Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, which is translated by Jamie Chang. I’m still thinking about the latter book, even though it’s been a while since I finished it.

But to-read piles wait for no woman, and I’m already on to my next read: Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day which, despite being published in 1980 and set before, during and after Partition, still feels very relevant today.

Mary Jean Chan at the 2o20 Costa Book Awards.
Mary Jean Chan at the 2020 Costa Book awards. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

Saffron, Guardian reader

This month I’ve loved The Trip to Echo Spring and The Lonely City, both by Olivia Laing. I only recently discovered Laing, whose books have since had me completely engrossed. I started with Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency and went from there. I love the way she combines memoir with critical analysis and research. The Lonely City, about New York, is beautifully constructed and was a pleasure to read. I was more reluctant to read The Trip to Echo Spring, as I recognised some of my own experiences in its description and it seemed too close to home. The subject matter (why alcoholics, specifically alcoholic writers, drink) is close to home for Laing, too, and I welcomed her honesty. I didn’t get the same sense of urgency from it that drives her other works; it’s a more reflective, meandering narrative, filled with compassion, honesty and courage. Memoir, research paper and travel diary merged into one, The Trip to Echo Spring is a wonderful, dreamlike, yet startlingly real piece of writing.


In this series we ask authors, Guardian writers and readers to share what they’ve been reading recently. This month, recommendations include women’s prize shortlisted novels, a thrillingly-paced account of financial corruption and a 1980 Booker prize finalist. Tell us what you’ve been reading in the comments.


Lorraine Candy, author and podcaster

As a kid I used to spend Saturday mornings in the local library. I grew up in a tiny Cornish village and we never travelled abroad so reading books was how I went on adventures. I still look for that wanderlust in literature today, which is why I was drawn to Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead.

The book is about the life of female pilot Marian, who is rescued as a baby from a sinking ship in the early part of the century. It is a novel of breathtaking scope, flitting from the US to London to Antarctica and Canada. I was swept along by Marian’s love story and missed her when it finished. Right now I’m immersed in the stories of women by women because I am one of the judges of the 2022 Women’s prize for fiction and Great Circle is on the shortlist.

Travis Alabanza.
Travis Alabanza. Photograph: Sarah Lee/the Guardian

Judging has brought two new authors into my life: Louise Erdrich, whose thought-provoking book The Sentence is a masterfully written ghost story about a haunted library (among other things) and Lisa Allen-Agostini, who introduced me to the vibrant Althea, the protagonist of The Bread The Devil Knead. Both books tackle serious subject matter but also deliver witty writing that makes you laugh out loud.

And two books I have found helpful this month are Travis Alabanza’s None of the Above and therapist Julia Samuel’s Every Family Has a Story. I wrote a book on parenting teens last year and since then I am regularly asked for advice. I feel these two thoughtful books are helpful for worried mums and dads.

Alabanza’s experience as a mixed race trans person offers some insights into developing identities that many parents would benefit hugely from reading (it is out in August) and Julia Samuel’s book is a wise, informative guide on the tangle of family relationships.

Mum, What’s Wrong with You? by Lorraine Candy (HarperCollins £9.99) is available in paperback now. To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

The winner of the 2022 Women’s prize will be announced on 15 June.


Kate, Guardian reader

I don’t normally read political or economic books but Kleptopia by Tom Burgis was a wild ride of a read – better than any spy novel. It’s about “dirty money” and the trail it leaves across the world. The sheer deviousness of the people involved beggars belief, as does the way eye-watering sums of money are filtered through them to become “clean”. I honestly can’t recommend this book enough, it was a real eye-opener.


Sarah Shaffi, freelance journalist

On a recent trip away I took Farah Heron’s Kamila Knows Best, a delightful, modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, set among a Canadian Muslim community. The other book I read on holiday couldn’t have been more different: Mary Jean Chan’s incredible Costa Poetry award-winning collection Flèche, which examines everything from the poet’s relationship with her mother to multilingualism.

Flèche is a book I’ve had unread on my shelf for a long time, as were my next two reads: Joya Goffney’s very cute YA novel Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, and Cho Nam-Joo’s incredible Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, which is translated by Jamie Chang. I’m still thinking about the latter book, even though it’s been a while since I finished it.

But to-read piles wait for no woman, and I’m already on to my next read: Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day which, despite being published in 1980 and set before, during and after Partition, still feels very relevant today.

Mary Jean Chan at the 2o20 Costa Book Awards.
Mary Jean Chan at the 2020 Costa Book awards. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

Saffron, Guardian reader

This month I’ve loved The Trip to Echo Spring and The Lonely City, both by Olivia Laing. I only recently discovered Laing, whose books have since had me completely engrossed. I started with Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency and went from there. I love the way she combines memoir with critical analysis and research. The Lonely City, about New York, is beautifully constructed and was a pleasure to read. I was more reluctant to read The Trip to Echo Spring, as I recognised some of my own experiences in its description and it seemed too close to home. The subject matter (why alcoholics, specifically alcoholic writers, drink) is close to home for Laing, too, and I welcomed her honesty. I didn’t get the same sense of urgency from it that drives her other works; it’s a more reflective, meandering narrative, filled with compassion, honesty and courage. Memoir, research paper and travel diary merged into one, The Trip to Echo Spring is a wonderful, dreamlike, yet startlingly real piece of writing.

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