Immerse yourself in our BorrowBox picks for August.
The Lost Pianos of Siberia - Sophy Roberts
Dotted throughout this remote land are pianos – grand instruments created during the boom years of the nineteenth century, and humble, Soviet-made uprights that found their way into equally modest homes. They tell the story of how, ever since entering Russian culture under the influence of Catherine the Great, piano music has run through the country like blood.
How these pianos travelled into this snow-bound wilderness in the first place is testament to noble acts of fortitude by governors, adventurers and exiles. That stately instruments might still exist in such a hostile landscape is remarkable. That they are still capable of making music in far-flung villages is nothing less than a miracle.
But this is Siberia, where people can endure the worst of the world — and where music reveals a deep humanity in the last place on earth you would expect to find it.
The Nanny State Made Me - Stuart Maconie
It was the spirit of our finest hour, the backbone of our post-war greatness, and it promoted some of the boldest and most brilliant schemes this isle has ever produced: it was the Welfare State, and it made you and I. But now it's under threat, and we need to save it.
In this timely and provocative book, Stuart Maconie tells Britain’s Welfare State story through his own history of growing up as a northern working class boy. What was so bad about properly funded hospitals, decent working conditions and affordable houses? And what was so wrong about student grants, free eye tests and council houses? And where did it all go so wrong? Stuart looks toward Britain’s future, making an emotional case for believing in more than profit and loss; and championing a just, fairer society.
Riding the Waves - Jane McDonald
Jane McDonald may be a BAFTA-winning TV star and platinum-selling artist, but she'll never forget her Northern roots, and she's as much known for her Yorkshire charm and humour as for her showbiz accolades.
The nation first fell in love with Jane twenty years ago, as the break-out star of BBC reality TV show The Cruise. She was catapulted to dizzying overnight success, but since then, she has navigated some stormy waters. Her dreams hit the rocks as TV and music execs, 'the London lot', swooped in and tried to morph her into a generic international diva. Her fans lost their connection with her, and melted away. Her marriage, began with a fairytale Caribbean wedding watched by a television audience of 13.5m, ended. Jane lost her confidence, and hid from the world.
But Jane's unsinkable and now she's back on the crest of a wave. In her uplifting autobiography she shares her incredible story with heart and humour. It hasn't always been plain sailing, but now she's enjoying more success than she's ever had before, and her fans love her all the more for it.
How to Build a Girl - Caitlin Moran
It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde – fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer – like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontes - but without the dying young bit.
By 16, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.
But what happens when Johanna realises she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?
Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease, with a soundtrack by My Bloody Valentine and Happy Mondays. As beautiful as it is funny, How To Build a Girl is a brilliant coming-of-age novel in DMs and ripped tights, that captures perfectly the terror and joy of trying to discover exactly who it is you are going to be.
Real Life - Brandon Taylor
A novel of rare emotional power that excavates the social intricacies of a late-summer weekend--and a lifetime of buried pain. Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends--some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with a young straight man, conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.
The Shadow King - Maaza Mengiste
With the threat of Mussolini's army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid. Her new employer, Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie's army, rushes to mobilise his strongest men before the Italians invade.
Hirut and the other women long to do more than care for the wounded and bury the dead. When Emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile and Ethiopia quickly loses hope, it is Hirut who offers a plan to maintain morale. But how could she have predicted her own personal war, still to come, as a prisoner of one of Italy's most vicious officers?
Shuggie Bain - Douglas Stuart
A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of Édouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.
Afropean - Johny Pitts
In the face of growing racial discrimination, anti-immigrant sentiment and the spectre of terrorism looming large over an economically stricken continent, Afropean is an on-the-ground documentary of areas where Europeans of African descent are juggling their multiple allegiances and forging new identities: too indelibly woven into Europe to identify with Africa and yet struggling with outdated ideas of what it means to be European.
Afropean will plot an alternative map of the continent, taking the reader to places like Cova Da Moura, the Cape Verdean shantytown on the outskirts of Lisbon with its own underground economy, and Rinkeby, the area of Stockholm that is eighty per cent Muslim. The author visits the former Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, where West African students are still making the most of Cold War ties with the USSR, and Clichy Sous Bois in Paris, which gave birth to the 2005 riots.
How to Go to Work - Steven Haines, Lucy Clayton
The world of work is changing faster than ever before and it can feel overwhelmingly competitive out there.
That's why Lucy Clayton, a founding CEO, and Steve Haines, an education policy advisor, have compiled and distilled the most valuable advice you can get on how to jumpstart your career and shortcut the competition.
How to go to Work will equip you with the skills you need to thrive in whatever job or career you choose.
Last Chance To See - Douglas Adams, Mark Carwardine
Join Douglas Adams, bestselling and beloved author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and zoologist Mark Carwardine on an adventure in search of the world’s most endangered and exotic creatures.
In this book, Adams’ self-proclaimed favourite of his own works, the pair encounter animals in imminent peril: the giant Komodo dragon of Indonesia, the lovable kakapo of New Zealand, the blind river dolphins of China, the white rhinos of Zaire, the rare birds of Mauritius island in the Indian Ocean and the alien-like aye-aye of Madagascar. Inimitably witty and poignant, Last Chance to See is both a celebration of our most extraordinary creatures and a warning about what we have to lose if we do not act soon.
Featuring a fantastic new foreword by the authors' long-time friend Stephen Fry, and an afterword from Mark Carwardine that considers what has changed since the book was first published, Last Chance to See feels more urgent than ever before.