Justine Solomons' six books of the year
Justine Solomons is the founder of Byte the Book, a membership organisation for authors, agents, publishers and those connected with the book industry. The network is focused on helping its members meet each other, connect with other industries and learn about the latest developments in technology. Justine is also a valued part of the Lounge Books advisory board.
Discover Justine's favourite books and audiobooks of 2017.
Three I enjoyed reading
Eily is eighteen and arrives from Ireland to study drama in London. Determined to lose her virginity as quickly as possible she hooks up with a thirty-eight year old actor, who is still living a young bohemian life. The language and scenes are heady and discombobulated with some of the best writing about sex I've ever read. It reminded me just how passionate, exciting and painful first love can be.
Eleanor holds down a mundane job and keeps her life small, with odd eccentric behaviours that allow her to be safe but make her lonely. She then falls in love with a terrible pop star and pushes herself out of her limited life causing others around her to start to notice and care about her. I loved how Eleanor's oddness was celebrated in this book and also enjoyed the clever reveal about her past.
Daniel and Cathy live with their Daddy, John, in a house he built in the woods on land without any deeds. A gargantuan man with gentle old fashioned ways, John occasionally goes away to bare-knuckle fight in order to bring in money for the family but always returns to be soothed and cared for by his children. When their sanctuary's fragile foundations are threatened we see how all three must fight to survive. I loved the visceral writing and the clash of new and old England.
Three I enjoyed listening to:
An amazing book about an Irish boy Thomas McNulty who crosses the Atlantic in the 1850s to make his way in the US. He teams up with John Cole: initially the two wear women's clothes to entertain the local miners starved of female company, then they don army fatigues to fight and survive the horrors of war. The love and the family they build is beautiful and the scenes of war, gut wrenching, though for all the atrocities they endure ultimately this is an uplifting and life-affirming read. I listened to this book on audio and loved Aiden Kelly's wonderful accent which made the story sound even more authentic.
This is a collection of essays from fifteen writers exploring what it means to be black, Asian and minority ethnic in Britain today. Not only is the writing brilliant, the stories they tell are astonishing. This felt like an important book, one that everyone should know about it. I would really recommend the audio version of the book as well as each of the writers read their own essay and so you get to hear their diverse voices which enrich British culture today.
Four different paths are traced from one central starting point - the life of Ferguson, a boy growing up in New York. While all four stories start with the same basic facts, each differ slightly as a result of an inciting event. 4321 is a novel about novel writing and the decisions an author makes when telling a story. I listened to this rather than read it, and Paul Auster reading it quadrupled my joy!