Gray's Sports Almanac

The almanac. Son of a bitch stole my idea!

Ok, this isn’t about a sports almanac. Rather, it’s a list of the books that the BBC (Biggleswade Book Club) have currently read, reviewed and raved about; along with a quick synopsis and a link if you fancy making a purchase:

Nick Hornby – Juliet, Naked
An apathetic love story about a woman named Annie, who appears stuck in a loveless relationship with Duncan, a pompous music fan who is obsessed with a reclusive singer-songwriter named Tucker Crowe. Trademark Hornby humour in places, fairly sarcastic and cutting, with nearly all the characters being portrayed as quite selfish in some respects. A fairly lazy read that isn’t without its charm.

Chuck Palahniuk – Haunted
23 short stories told by 19 characters that are locked in an abandoned theatre for 3 months and instructed to each write a story by a wheelchair-bound old man. Fairly explicit horror, mixed with black comedy, packed with plot twists and a general fear for the human mind and the actions people will go to in order to obtain fame.

Robert Harris – Lustrum
Battle-for-power struggle between Cicero, Caesar, Crassus and a whole host of unsavoury and unsympathetic characters who would probably sell their own mothers to get what they want. Part-thriller, part-political drama about how intoxicating the lust for power can be, told from the point of view of Tiro, a slave secretary to Cicero.

Cormac McCarthy – The Road

Post-apocalyptic tale of a nameless man and his son trying to survive in a completely gutted universe after an unknown event leaves the land blackened and useless. Bleak doesn't even begin to describe it - absolutely heart-wrenching at times comes close. This was an early favourite for nearly all of us in book club.

Sarah Waters – The Night Watch

Drama set around the Second World War told backwards (1947-1941), following the lives of four women (three of which are lesbians) and a man who's lives are all tenuously connected. As each section passes, their stories unwind, with their secret pasts explaining how they became what they were at the beginning of the book.

Richard Stark – Point Blank

Point Blank is a simple, yet fast-paced noir-ish thriller about revenge over a robbery that ends in treachery and a long, long trail of dead bodies. The main character, Parker; is a monstrous anti-hero (those that read the works of Lee Child, think an anti-Jack Reacher) who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Clive Barker – Weaveworld

700 page high octane nightmare-fuel about a world inside a carpet that spills into our reality, featuring some absolute monsters (Shadwell the Salesman, The Scourge, Immacolata), alongside the heroes in the form of everyman, Calhoun Mooney and Seerkind, Susan Parish. Not for the faint-hearted - one novel that divided opinion.
Michael Grant – Gone

Super-natural young adult book set in the town of Perdido Beach. Everyone over the age of 15 vanishes and an impenetrable barrier drops around the town, closing it off. The remaining inhabitants (all teenagers) come to terms with their disappearing parents, as well as the chaos that ensues and the battle for control of what is now called 'The FAYZ'. Lord of the Flies by way of Stephen King.

Gary Shteyngart – Super Sad True Love Story

A love story set in the future where the world is dominated by social media and reeks of hipsterish tendencies. The main protagonist Lenny, is a downtrodden middle-aged Russian, who falls for Eunice Park, a Korean girl. Most of the story is told as diary extracts, as well as through e-mails and messaging services. The love story between Lenny and Eunice overshadows a potential war and economic crisis in America as well as political corruption.

Sebastian Faulks – A Week In December

Multiple characters are touched upon in this book, bookended by a seating plan at a dinner and its eventual climax. A foul-mouthed hedge fund trader, a Polish footballer, a stoner, a young female tube driver, a poor barrister, a Scottish Muslim who belongs to a radical group, an elitist book critic and a pickle millionaire. All the characters are somehow linked to each other, though not all appear at the dinner party.

Judy Blume – Forever

A coming-of-age romance dealing with teenage sexuality. Apparently cited a fair bit of controversy at the time of its release due to the somewhat explicit language and the depiction of sexual intercourse. We found it was a book that a grown man couldn't read on public transport.

China Miéville– Kraken

Insanely complex sci-fi fantasy about a giant squid that gets stolen from a museum and the quest by several warring factions (the police, cultists - known as The Church of the Kraken, criminals and supernatural beings) in obtaining the mythical beast for their own purposes - mostly bringing the end of the world. Heavily character driven and with some excellent twists, this was a favourite by many BC members.

Louisa May Alcott – Little Women

Based on Louisa May Alcott's childhood experiences with her three sisters; Little Women is set in New England during the Civil War and touches upon issues such as poverty, charity, theatrics, friendships, loss and love. There's a wonderful warming sense of family life and community in this novel.