My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
Back in the 90s, Joanna (Jo) spent around a year working for the literary agency which represented J.D. Salinger. At the same time, she was living in a pretty awful apartment with... well... a pretty awful boyfriend. This is her memoir of that year. I've got to be honest: memoirs often make me feel uncomfortable, given how much of other people's lives they share. This one, which talks a lot about some very private people, was no different. But it's beautifully written, has the pace and structure of fiction, and felt so very, very 90s that it made me a bit nostalgic.
The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin*
I really enjoyed this one. A single mum is trying to cope with a four year old who is terrified of water and keeps calling for his "other" mother; a scientist who has spent years researching reincarnation is gradually losing his ability to communicate. Together, they try to get to the bottom of what's causing the little boy so much distress. I was so drawn in I felt stressed on the mother's behalf and, rather than spending Matilda's naps mindlessly scrolling Twitter, I raced through this book as fast as I could. I do think the ending went on a bit but the journey to get there was great.
The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After by Jenny Colgan*
When a librarian is made redundant, she buys a van, sets it up as a bookshop and starts a new life in the Highlands. There's a romantic train driver and a surly farmer. You know that, like the book's title, there is going to be a happy ending - but that doesn't matter. This is an unashamedly happy-ever-after tale brimming with love for books, small businesses, the wilderness and Scotland. Thoroughly enjoyable and almost guaranteed to make you want to jack it all in, move somewhere remote and set up a travelling bookshop.
How to Have a Baby and Not Lose Your Shit by Kirsty Smith
I loved this. Loved it. It's supposed to be aimed at women who are, or are considering becoming, pregnant but I'm not so sure - I think having had a few months of alternately beaming at your baby and being baffled by them will make you laugh at Kirsty's jokes so much more. There's no advice in this book - nothing about how to change a nappy or approach weaning or get a baby to sleep - just a hilarious look at what parenting is like when you're not that sure you're a baby person but find yourself totally smitten with your own (gorgeous, unpredictable, mind-blowing) kid.
Going Out by Scarlett Thomas
The first of the books I plan to re-read this year. I loved Going Out in my twenties; I read it three or four times so I was surprised by how little of the detail I remembered. I also noticed a lot of subtext which I'm pretty sure I was oblivious to in the past. So, in brief: Luke can't leave his house because he's allergic to all sorts of things; his best friend, Julie, wouldn't mind being stuck in a house because she finds the world overwhelming; when a healer contacts Luke, offering to cure him, the two of them and some of their friends have to find a way of getting to Wales despite Luke's allergies and Julie's phobias. I was worried this wouldn't be as clever as I remembered; in fact, re-reading it now, I think it's cleverer than I ever realised. It's got a lot of pop culture references which are dated now - if you didn't grow up in the 90s, a lot of them will go over your head - but the plot stands up well and I still love the straightforward writing style. Still recommended.
*Provided by publisher or agent for review