From modern ghost stories to the history of grime: July 2017 reads

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Sarah Shaffi
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Summer is here, and July brings books suitable for every type of holiday, be it a beach in the Bahamas, or enjoying the sunshine in the local park or back garden.

For those who like a tense read, there’s Kate Murray-Browne’s very modern ghost story The Upstairs Room and Riley Sager’s serial killer thriller Final Girls. For something a little lighter, there is actor Diksha Basu's debut novel The Windfall.

Olumide Popoola’s unusual and lyrical When We Speak of Nothing is one of three very different picks that explore what it means to be black in the 21st century – there is also poetry collection There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker, and Jeffrey Boakye’s study of grime, Hold Tight.

Lauren Berry’s Living the Dream is a fun, relatable look at work life and wanting to do more and better, while Sarah Winman’s third novel Tin Man is a heartrending tale of love and friendship.

And in non-fiction there is Ruth Fitzmaurice’s life-affirming I Found My Tribe, and Laurie Penny’s fiery Bitch Doctrine.

Happy reading.

  • The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

    Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters move into their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in east London. But Eleanor, and the couple’s lodger Zoe, are both unnerved by the house, especially the room upstairs which contains the name Emily written on the walls over and over. A modern-day ghost story, where fears of the supernatural battle with fears about London’s housing market.

    Picador, RRP £12.99, buy it here

  • Living the Dream by Lauren Berry

    Novels about women finding themselves in their late 20s/early 30s are a trend at the moment, but Living the Dream sets itself apart by its humour and its lack of self indulgence. Emma is an assistant at an advertising agency in London, and best friend Clementine is doing bar work while she waits for her screenplay to be picked up. Living the Dream is honest in its depiction of office life and the desire to do something more.

    Virago, RRP £13.99, buy it here

  • Final Girls by Riley Sager

    Quincy is a Final Girl – alongside Lisa and Sam she is one of three women who survived separate killing sprees. When Lisa dies, Sam comes into Quincy’s life. Is she just looking for a friend, or does she have more sinister motives? And what really happened to Quincy? Moving back and forth between the present day and the killing spree Quincy’s friends were victims of, this is a tense thriller you won’t want to put down until you find out what’s really going on.

    Ebury Press, RRP £12.99, buy it here

  • There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker

    This collection of poetry by Parker is slim, but it packs a huge punch. Parker explores black womanhood in the 21st century (a standout poem is 13 Ways of Looking at a Black Girl), politics (The President Has Never Said the Word Black), and of course Beyoncé. There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé is vulnerable and bolshy, feminist and fierce – and essential reading. (And the fab title is the subheading of one of the poems contained within.)

    Corsair, RRP £9.99, buy it here

  • When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Popoola

    It’s 2011 and best friends Karl and Abu live near King’s Cross. Abu is infatuated with classmate Nalini, while Karl is the target of college bullies because he’s different. When Karl finds out his father lives in Nigeria, he heads to Port Harcourt, while in London riots are on the horizon. This is a story about what it means to be young, black and queer in London, and a story about friendship and family. Narrated by Esu, the Yoryba trickster figure, When We Speak of Nothing is layered, absorbing storytelling.

    Cassava Republic, RRP £9.99, buy it here

  • Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults by Laurie Penny

    I first started reading Penny’s writing on a regular basis in the run-up to the US election, when she produced unflinching reports on the far right, sometimes putting her own safety at risk. This collection of her work covers Trump’s election, online harassment, rape culture, the transgender rights movement and more. Penny’s writing is always engaging, and this collection is brave and bold and for anyone interested in many of the major social issues of our time.

    Bloomsbury, RRP £12.99, buy it here

  • I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice

    Fitzmaurice’s two tribes are her family – husband Simon, who has motor neurone disease, and their five children – and the women she swims in the sea off the east coast of Ireland with, and who she fondly nicknames The Tragic Wives Swimming Club. I Found My Tribe is Fitzmaurice and Simon’s love story, told non-chronologically through a series of anecdotes, objects and themes, and the story of Fitzmaurice’s love affair with the water. Uplifting and life-affirming, this is a manifesto to live as hard and as well as you can.

    Chatto & Windus, RRP £14.99, buy it here

  • The Windfall by Diksha Basu

    Basu is a writer and actor, and the humorous The Windfall is her debut novel. The Jhas – Anil, Bindu and their son Rupak – have spent 30 years in a modest flat in a close knit community. But now they're moving to a bungalow in Gurgaon, one of Delhi's richest areas. It should be the chance to live well and peacefully, but, as well as keeping a few secrets, the family is drawn into a game of one-upmanship with their new neighbours, the Chopras. A touching comedy of manners.

    Bloomsbury, RRP £16.99, buy it here

  • Tin Man by Sarah Winman

    Don’t be fooled by this short novel, it’s full of emotion. Beginning with a painting won in a raffle, this takes in the friendship of Ellis and Michael, who meet as young boys and whose relationship survives into adulthood. But then Annie appears, and everything changes, and nothing changes. Guaranteed to break your heart, Tin Man is a tender and beautiful tale of love and loss.

    Tinder Press, RRP £12.99, buy it here

  • Hold Tight by Jeffrey Boakye

    Through 50 grime tracks, Boakye explores the history of the genre, the meaning of music and why it has such resonance in the UK. He also looks at being black, British and born after 1980, and studies the representation of masculinity in music. Tracks studied include So Solid Crew’s 21 Seconds and the 2004 version of Do They Know It’s Christmas: “The Band Aid charity supergroup project has been repeated three times since its 1984 inception…[which] means that we have been asking Africans if they know it’s Christmas for over 30 years.”

    Influx Press, RRP £9.99, buy it here


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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.