Book Stack: 10 reads to wrap up May

Companion Piece by Ali Smith (left) and When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley. PHOTO: HAMISH HAMILTON, DUTTON

1. Lucky Breaks


By Yevgenia Belorusets, translated by Eugene Ostashevsky
Fiction/Pushkin Press/Paperback/196 pages/$21.95/Buy here
4 out of 5 stars

Ukrainian photographer Yevgenia Belorusets draws on the stories of women affected by the war in East Ukraine in a haunting, evocative collection.

Lucky Breaks was first published in Russian in 2018 - four years after the Russia-Ukraine conflict began - and blends fiction with factual record, shedding light on the toll of the conflict on women such as a florist, a manicurist and a cleaning lady through the lens of the mundane, surreal and absurd.


2. Companion Piece


By Ali Smith
Fiction/Hamish Hamilton/Paperback/229 pages/$34.24/Buy here

Ali Smith, the author of How To Be Both (2014), has released a coda to her Seasonal Quartet series (2016 to 2020) - a novel narrated by a woman whose father is hospitalised during the Covid-19 pandemic. Smith, as usual, revels in wordplay - darting from curlew to curfew; multi-headed Cerberus to the father's dog - and evokes a sense of interconnectedness in an age of isolation.

3. Young Mungo


By Douglas Stuart
Fiction/Picador/ Hardcover/400 pages/$36.23/Buy here

Two men meet and fall in love. But James is Catholic, Mungo is Protestant, and they come from the hyper-masculine, sectarian world of Glasgow's housing estates. This lyrical novel is Douglas Stuart's follow-up to Shuggie Bain, which won the 2020 Booker prize.

4. When We Fell Apart


By Soon Wiley
Fiction/Dutton/ Hardcover/368 pages/$29.96/Buy here

A Korean-American man in Seoul sets out to unravel the mystery behind his girlfriend's death and finds how complicated her life was. Half the chapters are told from girlfriend Yu-jin's perspective: "Focused, driven, ambitious, obsessed: I was all those things in high school. None of this set me apart from my classmates. It didn't make me special. We knew what was at stake. Our eyes were on the prize, unflinching: gaining admittance to a university in Seoul." Family expectations, selfhood and cultural identity are some themes in this compelling debut.

5. Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?


By Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
Fiction/Penguin Books/ Paperback/352 pages/ $29.96/Buy here

Yinka - a 31-year-old, Oxfordeducated, British-Nigerian woman - is in want of a husband. So when her cousin Rachel gets engaged, she goes on a mission to find herself a date for the wedding. What ensues is a refreshing tale of romance and comedy.

6. The Bangalore Detectives Club


By Harini Nagendra
Fiction/Little, Brown Book Group/Paperback/304 pages/$19.94/Buy here

In 1920s Bangalore, a party at the Century Club turns into a scene of murder. Party guest Kaveri, an intelligent woman who moved to the city to marry a young doctor, assumes the role of investigator. She gets on the killer's trail, which leads her from a brothel to an Englishman's mansion.

This is the first book in a new crime series by Indian professor of sustainability Harini Nagendra.

7. The Dance Tree


By Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Fiction/Picador/Paperback/304 pages/$32.95/Buy here…

In 1518, the city of Strasbourg, Alsace (modern-day France), was beset by a dancing plague. It all began, so historical sources say, when a woman started dancing. Then more and more people joined in and they reportedly danced for days. British writer Kiran Millwood Hargrave has spun a tale of clandestine passion inspired by these events.

8. Bittersweet: How Sorrow And Longing Make Us Whole


By Susan Cain
Non-fiction/Viking/Paperback/310 pages/$34.24/Buy here

The best-selling author of Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking (2012) explores how a bittersweet state of mind can help people transcend pain. In this mix of research and memoir, she defines bittersweet as "a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world."

It is, she adds, "also about the recognition that light and dark, birth and death - bitter and sweet - are forever paired".

9. Freezing Order: A True Story Of Russian Money Laundering, Murder And Surviving Vladimir Putin's Wrath


By Bill Browder
Non-fiction/Simon & Schuster/Paperback/336 pages/$29.95/Buy here/Borrow here

Bill Browder is the United States-born British founder of Hermitage Capital Management, once the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia. This is his follow-up to Red Notice (2015), written after his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison after accusing Russian officials of large-scale tax fraud.

10. After Steve: How Apple Became A Trillion-Dollar Company And Lost Its Soul


By Tripp Mickle
Non-fiction/William Morrow/Hardcover/495 pages/$35.26/Buy here

After Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011, two contrasting individuals - designer Jony Ive and chief executive Tim Cook - helped take it to new heights. Reporter Tripp Mickle looks at how it transformed under the new leadership and suggests its success came at a cost.

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