Written by Rowan Whiteside


Brave new reads

A book club that expands your social and political awareness? Rowan Whiteside’s got her reading glasses on.

Brave New Reads six book coversBrave New Reads is kind of like a book club, except it’s better.

It’s better for a lot of reasons: because these six books have been chosen by a panel of more than 100 readers from a longlist of more than 120 books – so you know they’re brilliant reads.

Because (if you live in the East of England), you can actually get to meet some of the authors, and ask them what inspired their writing. (If you don’t live in the East of England, you can catch up with podcasts and blogs and plenty more.)

These books tackle important issues, like domestic abuse, grief, illegal immigration, and injustice. And they don’t do it in a preachy way, or in a way that seems dull and uninspired. They do it in a mind-blowing, totally thrilling, incredibly gutsy way. Trust me, I read a lot. And I never recommend bad books. I couldn’t have that on my conscience.*

Brave New Reads promotes authors who are just beginning their careers, or who have not yet received the attention their writing deserves. It also highlights the work of independent publishers, who publish exciting leftfield work.

Moreover, you can chat to other readers online using #BraveNewReads. You can even find some of the authors on Twitter too. Now, the books.

The six 2016 Brave New Reads books are:

The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume
The Secret to Not Drowning by Colette Snowden
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman
The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

These six books have nothing in common, apart from the fact they’re all stunning. They’re set in different places around the world (including Mexico, France, Ireland, America), and they’re written in very different styles (from the poetic to the pared-down, Hemingway-esque). But they’re not difficult to get into. They’re so very readable.

The Last Pilot is set in America during the early days of the space race, and it follows the life of Jim Harrison as he trains to break the sound barrier in the dry-boned Mojave Desert. He could become one of the world’s first astronauts, but tragedy strikes. This elegant, economic and hugely powerful book will transport you to a different time; almost to another world.

quote from The Last PilotSpill Simmer Falter Wither tells the tale of a lonely man and the one-eyed dog he adopts. The owner has always been an outcast, until he finds his canine friend. A deeply compassionate story, which might leave you in tears.

The Secret to Not Drowning gives an intimate glimpse into the life of Marion; a beleaguered woman whose husband treats her with total contempt. A compelling look at emotional abuse, this quietly wonderful book is sure to stay with you.

Just Mercy is a gripping non-fiction book, which looks at prejudice in the US justice system. It shows the heartbreaking world of death row, of institutionalised inequality and ingrained poverty, and is utterly brilliant. Sure to leave you gasping.

quote from Signs Preceding the End of the WorldSigns Preceding the End of the World follows Makina as she searches for her brother, crossing from Mexico to America illegally. Short, but intensely impactful, this book demonstrates the space between countries in lucid prose.

The Illusion of Separateness is a tale of interconnection; throwing together seemingly individual narratives and gradually revealing the links between them. Poetic, tender, and haunting, you’ll finish this book with a new respect for humanity.

Brave New Reads logoQuick – to the bookshop (or the library) post haste! You won’t regret it, honest.

Find out more about Brave New Reads at www.bravenewreads.org.uk

Brave New Reads is brought to you by Writers’ Centre Norwich and the library services in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

*If you hate it, send me a tweet and the reason why, and I promise to recommend an alternative, which you’ll definitely like.


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Written by Rowan Whiteside

Rowan Whiteside is a writer, reader, and consummate gin-drinker. She is never without a book and sheds to-do-lists wherever she goes. Like everyone else, she is currently working on her first novel.