See also: recommended new physical audiobooks
“Noah is only days away from his first trip back to Nice since he was a child when a social worker calls looking for a temporary home for Michael, his eleven-year-old great-nephew. Though he has never met the boy, he gets talked into taking him along to France.
“This odd couple, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, argue about everything from steak haché to screen time, and the trip is looking like a disaster. But as Michael’s sharp eye and ease with tech help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past, both come to grasp the risks that loved ones take for one another, and find they are more akin than they knew.”
“Cilka was only sixteen-years-old when she was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, noticed her long beautiful hair, and forced her separation from the other women prisoners.
“Cilka did what she had to in order to survive Auschwitz. And yet after Russian soldiers liberated Auschwitz in 1945, Cilka was charged as a collaborator and sentenced to serve a fifteen-year sentence for ‘sleeping with the enemy’. Once again, she found herself on a brutal train journey, crammed into a carriage with many desperate women and children. This time, her destination was Siberia. She was by then only eighteen years old.
“So began a new life of horror and brutality in a prison camp close to the Arctic Circle. But in this unimaginable darkness, this terror beyond terror, Cilka found endless resources within herself, her profound humanity and determination helping her to survive against all odds.”
“At the age of seventeen, after a childhood in an fostered family followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was not Norman. It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian. And he learned that his mother had been pleading for his safe return to her since his birth.
“Here Sissay recounts his life story. It is a story of neglect and determination. Misfortune and hope. Cruelty and triumph.
“Sissay reflects on a childhood in care, self-expression and Britishness, and in doing so explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home. Written with all the lyricism and power you would expect from one of the nation’s best-loved poets, this moving, frank and timely memoir is the result of a life spent asking questions, and a celebration of the redemptive power of creativity.”
“In 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he broke with the American intelligence establishment and revealed that the United States government was secretly pursuing the means to collect every single phone call, text message, and email. The result would be an unprecedented system of mass surveillance with the ability to pry into the private lives of every person on earth. Six years later, Snowden reveals for the very first time how he helped to build this system and why he was moved to expose it.
“Spanning the bucolic Beltway suburbs of his childhood and the clandestine CIA and NSA postings of his adulthood, Permanent Record is the extraordinary account of a bright young man who grew up online – a man who became a spy, a whistleblower, and, in exile, the Internet’s conscience. Written with wit, grace, passion, and an unflinching candour, Permanent Record is a crucial memoir of our digital age and destined to be a classic.”
“Dr Shepherd has faced serial killers, natural disaster, ‘perfect murders’ and freak accidents, all in the pursuit of the truth. And while he’s been involved in some of the most high-profile cases of recent times, it’s often the less well-known encounters that prove the most perplexing, intriguing and even bizarre.
“In or out of the public eye, his evidence has put killers behind bars, freed the innocent and turned open-and-shut cases on their heads. But a life in death, bearing witness to some of humanity’s darkest corners, exacts a price and Shepherd doesn’t flinch from counting the cost to him and his family.
“Unnatural Causes is an unputdownable record of an extraordinary life, a unique insight into a remarkable profession, and above all a powerful and reassuring testament to lives cut short.”
“Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.
“But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.
“Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
“Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.”
“One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of strange dreams and swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people.
“But whilst Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of this new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever.
“Three decades later, Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession…”
“Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
“But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly-imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…”
“In 1994 fledgling journalist Louis Theroux was given a one-off gig on Michael Moore’s TV Nation, presenting a segment on apocalyptic religious sects. Gawky, socially awkward and totally unqualified, his first reaction to this exciting opportunity was panic. But he’d always been drawn to off-beat characters, so maybe his enthusiasm would carry the day. Or, you know, maybe it wouldn’t…
“In Gotta Get Theroux This, Louis takes the reader on a joyous journey from his anxiety-prone childhood to his unexpectedly successful career. Nervously accepting the BBC’s offer of his own series, he went on to create an award-winning documentary style that has seen him immersed in the weird worlds of paranoid US militias and secretive pro-wrestlers, get under the skin of celebrities like Max Clifford and Chris Eubank and tackle gang culture in San Quentin prison, all the time wondering whether the same qualities that make him good at documentaries might also make him bad at life.
“As Louis woos his beautiful wife Nancy and learns how to be a father, he also dares to take on the powerful Church of Scientology. Just as challenging is the revelation that one of his old subjects, Jimmy Savile, was a secret sexual predator, prompting him to question our understanding of how evil takes place. Filled with wry observation and self-deprecating humour, this is Louis at his most insightful and honest best.”
“Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, and England is in the grip of civil war between renegade King and rebellious Parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands – the marshy landscape of the south coast.
“Alinor, a descendant of wise women, crushed by poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.
“Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbours. This is the time of witch-mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.”
“It is 1932, and the losses of the First World War are still keenly felt. Violet Speedwell, mourning for both her fiancé and her brother and regarded by society as a ‘surplus woman’ unlikely to marry, resolves to escape her suffocating mother and strike out alone.
“A new life awaits her in Winchester. Yes, it is one of draughty boarding-houses and sidelong glances at her naked ring finger from younger colleagues; but it is also a life gleaming with independence and opportunity. Violet falls in with the broderers, a disparate group of women charged with embroidering kneelers for the Cathedral, and is soon entwined in their lives and their secrets. As the almost unthinkable threat of a second Great War appears on the horizon Violet collects a few secrets of her own that could just change everything…”
“Myth-debunking and taboo-busting, this is going to be the book that everyone is talking about. Period.
“At a time when women around the world are raising their voices in the fight for equality, there is still one taboo where there remains a deafening silence: periods. This book is an agenda-setting manifesto to remove the stigma and myths continuing to surround the female body. Bold, unapologetic, and a crusade to ignite conversation, this is a book for every woman - and man - everywhere.”
“Revellers are flocking into Greenborough for the yearly Dark Greenborough Festival, a three-day event celebrating local folklore, superstition and the darker side of life. What the public doesn’t know is that there has been a warning sent to the police, saying that Greenborough will be a very dangerous place this year. The anonymous letter ends with the Latin phrase, Mors certa, hora incerta: Death is certain, the hour uncertain.
“DI Nikki Galena and her team soon discover this is no hoax, as people start dying from what appears to be alcohol poisoning. Things rapidly escalate, and as the deaths get more horrific, Nikki realises they have a serial killer in their midst.”
The Heat of the Moment: life and death decision-making from a firefighter, written and read by Sabrina Cohen-Hatton
“In the face of urgency and uncertainty, would you respond analytically or trust your instincts? How would you decide who lives and who dies?
“Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton has been a firefighter for eighteen years. She decides which of her colleagues rush into a burning building and how they confront the blaze. She makes the call to evacuate if she believes the options have been exhausted or that the situation has escalated beyond hope. This is her astonishing account of a profession defined by the most difficult decisions imaginable.
“Taking us to the very heart of firefighting, Sabrina uses her award-winning research to reveal the skills that are essential to surviving – and even thriving – in such a fast-paced and emotionally-charged environment. And she immerses us in this extraordinary world; from scenes of devastation and crisis, through triumphs of bravery, to the quieter moments when she questions herself and the decisions made in the most unforgiving circumstances.
“Here is the truth about how we respond in our most extreme moments.”
“Fresh out of Police College, 18-year-old WPC Helen Grace is the first to arrive on the scene of a fatal collision. Her colleagues see nothing amiss, convinced that the young man’s death was a tragic accident. But Helen is not so sure. Who is their mystery victim? Why would he risk life and limb running across a busy highway? And what might he have been running from? There’s a dark secret lurking amid the quiet fields of Hampshire, one that Helen is determined to uncover.”
A Bad Birdwatcher’s Companion: or a personal introduction to Britain’s 50 most obvious birds, written and read by Simon Barnes
“Simon Barnes is one of Britain’s leading bird writers and humorists. His weekly column in The Times, his essays for the RSPB magazine and his two books on bad bird-watching have made him one of the characters of the bird world. Here he reads his own illuminating introductions to the 50 main birds of Britain, supported by the distinguishing bird song of each species. He not only gives helpful identifying features, but enriches them with whimsical observations on their characters and tendencies. It is a delightful text, superbly presented by the author himself.”
“One of the nation’s most popular presenters examines twenty marvels of the natural world from his extraordinary and pioneering experiences. How did Sir David track down a giant earthworm? Why does he respect rats? What was the first bribe in nature? Why do well known foods often have two names? And where can you see evidence of the earliest life on Earth?
“His enthusiasm is as infectious as ever, and conveys a unique fascination on topics as diverse as the kiwi, hummingbirds, monsters, butterflies, chimps, cuckoos, fireflies and Elsa, the famous lioness. So listen to these stories to find out why rats should be respected and which insects emerge from the ground only once every 17 years.”
“On the morning of 26 April 1986 Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Soviet Ukraine. The outburst put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation. In the end, less than five percent of the reactor’s fuel escaped, but that was enough to contaminate over half of Europe with radioactive fallout.
“In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy recreates these events in all of their drama, telling the stories of the firefighters, scientists, engineers, workers, soldiers, and policemen who found themselves caught in a nuclear Armageddon and succeeded in doing the seemingly impossible: extinguishing the nuclear inferno and putting the reactor to sleep.
“While it is clear that the immediate cause of the accident was a turbine test gone wrong, Plokhy shows how the deeper roots of Chernobyl lay in the nature of the Soviet political system and the flaws of its nuclear industry. A little more than five years later, the Soviet Union would fall apart, destroyed from within by its unsustainable communist ideology and the dysfunctional managerial and economic systems laid bare in the wake of the disaster.
“A poignant, fast paced account of the drama of heroes, perpetrators, and victims, Chernobyl is the definitive history of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.”
“My name is Amrou Al-Kadhi – by day. By night, I am Glamrou, an empowered, fearless and acerbic drag queen who wears seven-inch heels and says the things that nobody else dares to.
“Growing up in a strict Iraqi Muslim household, it didn’t take long for me to realise I was different. When I was ten years old, I announced to my family that I was in love with Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. The resultant fallout might best be described as something like the Iraqi version of Jerry Springer: The Opera. And that was just the beginning.
“This is the story of how I got from there to here: about my teenage obsession with marine biology, and how fluid aquatic life helped me understand my non-binary gender identity; about my two-year scholarship at Eton college, during which I wondered if I could forge a new identity as a British aristocrat (spoiler alert: it didn’t work); about discovering the transformative powers of drag while at university (and how I very nearly lost my mind after I left); and about how, after years of rage towards it, I finally began to understand Islam in a new, queer way.
“Most of all, this is a book about my mother. It’s the journey of how we lost and found each other, about forgiveness, understanding, hope – and the life-long search for belonging.”
“Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them; a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua…”