Book Stack: 10 reads to wrap up August with

PHOTOS: KNOPF, JONATHAN CAPE

In this monthly feature, The Sunday Times picks out 10 books from around the world that have just hit shelves

Top Of The Stack

1. Crying In H Mart

By Michelle Zauner
Non-fiction/Picador/Paperback/241 pages/$34.24/Available here
4 out of 5

Death is the central subject of Zauner's memoir Crying In H Mart, but the book brims with life.

Zauner, who is better known as the head of indie rock band Japanese Breakfast, centres her literary debut on her Korean mother's death from cancer, but looks at it all lightly through the lens of food and its preparation.

Crying In H Mart was developed from a viral piece of the same name which first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 2018.

It begins and ends with the making of Korean food, the H Mart of the title being a Korean supermarket popular in Western countries where Zauner often buys ingredients.

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2. 12 Bytes

By Jeanette Winterson
Non-fiction/Jonathan Cape/Paperback/275 pages/$29.95/Available here

British author Winterson is best known for her debut novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (1985), but here, she delves into hard science with 12 essays on artificial intelligence (AI).

She continues her exploration of AI after doing so in her Booker Prize-longlisted novel Frankissstein (2019). She debates transhumanism and highlights the oft-overlooked women of scientific history, like 19th-century mathematician and computing pioneer Ada Lovelace, in a chapter niftily titled Love(Lace) Actually.

3. The Sex Lives Of African Women


PHOTO: DIALOGUE BOOKS

By Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah
Non-fiction/Dialogue Books/Paperback/292 pages/$34.82/Available here

Ghanaian activist Sekyiamah collects accounts drawn from six years of interviews on her blog, Adventures From The Bedrooms Of African Women.

More than 30 contributors open up about their sex lives: a Kenyan woman who shares her husband with multiple sister-wives, a 60-year-old polyamorous woman in Senegal, a Somali single mother who underwent female genital mutilation as a child and more.

4. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood


PHOTO: HARPER PERENNIAL

By Quentin Tarantino
Fiction/Harper Perennial/ Paperback/406 pages/$18.32/Available here

Award-winning film-maker Tarantino makes his fiction debut with this pulpy novelisation of his 2019 film of the same name, which harks back to 1969 Hollywood.

The characters are the same - Rick Dalton, an action star whose career is in the doldrums; his friend, stuntman Cliff Booth; and Dalton's neighbours, director Roman Polanski and actress Sharon Tate, who in Tarantino's universe will never know how close they came to catastrophe on the night Charles Manson's cult came knocking.

But Tarantino makes several changes. The climactic showdown gets a mere mention in the middle. He also introduces new insights into the interior thoughts and backstories of characters like Booth and precocious child star Trudi Frazer.

5. The Startup Wife


PHOTO: CANONGATE

By Tahmima Anam
Fiction/Canongate/Paperback/296 pages/$29.95/Available here

Computer scientist Asha creates the algorithm for a social networking app that customises rituals for non-religious people, which could revolutionise the lives of millions. But it is her charismatic husband Cyrus who gets the limelight - and the credit.

Bangladesh-born British writer Anam is herself a "start-up wife" - she is married to American inventor Roland Lamb - and, here, she archly satirises tech culture and the industry's sexism.

6. The Mad Women's Ball


PHOTO: DOUBLEDAY

By Victoria Mas, translated by Frank Wynne
Fiction/Doubleday/Paperback/215 pages/$28.89/Available here

This French bestseller, now translated into English and adapted for film next month, is set in the 19th century in La Salpetriere, a Parisian aslyum filled with women and girls whose male relatives have committed them for hysteria.

The hospital holds an annual costume ball, where the bourgeoisie can indulge its fascination with the inmates.

The novel follows the points of view of three women: Louise, who dreams of fame as the patient of the hypnotic Dr Charcot; Eugenie, the 19-year-old daughter of a wealthy family who claims to see the dead; and Genevieve, a senior nurse whose faith in her employers is tested.

7. Filthy Animals


PHOTO: RIVERHEAD BOOKS

By Brandon Taylor
Fiction/Riverhead Books/ Paperback/277 pages/$21.40/Available here

Taylor's campus novel Real Life was one of last year's breakout literary debuts, making the Booker Prize shortlist.

He returns with this series of linked stories about young people in the American Midwest, from a man who has sexual encounters with two dancers in an open relationship to a pair of women who muse on which of English king Henry VIII's wives they most identify with.

8. Nightb***h


PHOTO: HARVILL SECKER

By Rachel Yoder
Fiction/Harvill Secker/Paperback/236 pages/$29.95/Available here

In Yoder's debut on the feral feminine, a middle-class stay-at-home mother in an American town finds a patch of coarse hair sprouting on the nape of her neck. Her teeth grow sharper.

"I think I'm turning into a dog," she says to her husband. He laughs. She does not.

Soon, the unnamed narrator has transformed into Nightb***h, prowling outside after dark and committing primal acts of violence.

9. Falling


PHOTO: SIMON & SCHUSTER

By T.J. Newman
Thriller/Simon & Schuster/Paperback/290 pages/$29.95/Available here

"When the shoe dropped into her lap the foot was still in it." So begins this high-octane thrill ride on board a plane to New York. Its pilot has been instructed by terrorists to crash it or his family will be killed.

Newman, a former flight attendant, keeps the adrenaline pumping in her suspenseful debut.

10. Billy Summers


PHOTO: HODDER & STOUGHTON

By Stephen King
Thriller/Hodder & Stoughton/Hardcover/439 pages/$44.95/Available here

Horror maestro King tries his hand at the "one last job" novel. His eponymous protagonist is an Iraq war veteran turned sniper-for-hire who wants to leave the assassin's life, but is offered a final hit too lucrative to refuse.

Set up in the town of Red Bluff, in an office overlooking the courthouse steps where his target will someday walk, Billy constructs a cover as a writer.

He does, in fact, start telling his story in a memoir, even as the days count down to the hit and he begins to think something about the job is wrong.

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