Books to fall for

There's something to capture everyone’s imagination in these recommended reads from authors visiting literature festivals this autumn

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Val McDermid

The great Ruth Rendell’s No Night Is Too Long is a novel set appropriately for the coming winter in Alaska and on the Suffolk coast. This book, which Rendell wrote as Barbara Vine, is a complex story of love and obsession that raises unexpected questions and ratchets up the suspense to the very last page.

Val McDermid appears at Manchester Literature Festival, 14 Oct, where she will be introducing her new book Splinter The Silence (Little Brown, £18.99).

Rachel Holmes

It’s the season for cups of tea and transporting armchair travel. Get your hands on a copy of Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year Of The Runaways, a superb novel about migrant workers in Sheffield that gets to the guts of the politics by telling the deep human story. Alternatively, Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap Of Time is a spellbinding journey through universal themes. A black man in New Bohemia, America, finds an abandoned white baby in a storm in this modern take on Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Or embark on a fascinating and hilarious adventure with champion tea-drinker Bee Rowlatt in In Search Of Mary: The Mother Of All Journeys. On her quest, toddler in tow, she searches for the celebrity feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.

Rachel Holmes will be in conversation with writer and journalist Anita Sethi about her new biography, Eleanor Marx: A Life (Bloomsbury, £25), at Manchester Literature Festival, 15 Oct.

Dave Haslam
Carol Morley grew up in Stockport and has made a name for herself as a filmmaker (Dreams Of A Life, The Falling), but 7 Miles Out is her fiction debut. It’s closely autobiographical – Carol’s father killed himself when she was 11 and that trauma and her adolescent life provide the raw material for the book. The Carol character is Ann and her mother is Brynn, and the novel is written from both points of view. There’s humour, and a very wonderful sense of Stockport in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Ann’s emotional struggles to deal with her father’s death are central to the novel, which is honestly rendered and very deeply affecting.

Dave Haslam appears at Manchester Literature Festival, 20 Oct, to discuss his favourite songs, chosen to illuminate material from his new book Life After Dark (Simon & Schuster, £20). 

Read our Q&A with Dave Haslam

Danny Dorling
I would recommend Carl Lee’s new book, Everything Is Connected To Everything Else. For a start, you can access it for free: the ebook appears at as a PDF and a series of animations. The .io address is in the British Indian Ocean Territory, but the acronym also stands for input-output. The book is about everything that comes in and out of everywhere. You can also get a hard copy designed by Human Studio, which is based in the Park Hill flats above Sheffield train station. The hard copy is part printed on a 3D printer. It’s either a gimmick or the shape of things to come. And it’s not ‘made in London’.

Big Issue North is proudly sponsoring Danny Dorling’s talk at Ilkley Literature Festival, 17 Oct. His book Inequality And The 1% (Verso, £8.99) is out now. 

Rosemary Hill
Angela Carter’s last novel Wise Children is one of her best. Set in Brixton in the 1950s, it tells the story of two sisters, Dora and Nora Chance, once dancers in the music halls. The halls are now, like Dora and Nora, in decline. The novel is part fantasy – we’re never sure how real the sisters are. Is this their story, or the story of chance in general, the randomness of life? But the background in the streets of south London, where Carter herself lived, is pin sharp. Like the re-imagined fairytales in her best-known book The Bloody Chamber, Wise Children has an ending that is more haunting than happy, but it stays in the mind.

Rosemary Hill will give a talk on Angela Carter at Ilkley Literature Festival, 11 Oct. In Unicorn (Profile Books, £9.99), the critic and historian brings together some of Carter’s poems with essays about them.  

Petina Gappah
A prolific author of novels, stories and plays, W Somerset Maugham is a writer who is not as widely read now as he was in his lifetime. I love his work, and consider Of Human Bondage to be his masterpiece. It is the story of Philip Carey, a club-footed and painfully self-conscious orphan who is raised by his unintentionally unkind uncle and his well-meaning but ineffectual aunt. The novel follows Philip as he struggles to find meaning in his life. Among his misadventures is his failure as an artist in Paris and a damaging relationship with the ghastly Mildred, a waitress turned hooker. I love novels about work, which are extremely uncommon – there are far more novels about love than about work – and so I love this book because it is ultimately about how a young man finds himself through his work.

Petina Gappah appears at Ilkley Literature Festival, 17 Oct, to talk about her debut novel, A Book of Memory (Faber & Faber, £14.99). 

Read our Q&A with Petina Gappah

Jami Attenberg
Chinelo Okparanta’s Under The Udala Trees is a stunning debut novel set in Nigeria in the 60s and 70s. It’s about a young lesbian trying to survive in a country not only in political turmoil, but where being gay is punishable by death. Okparanta has a great gift for intimacy in her writing and I felt so deeply connected to these characters. I won’t soon forget them.

Jami Attenberg discusses writing historical fiction at Ilkley Literature Festival, 11 Oct. Her new novel Saint Mazie (Serpant’s Tail, £12.99) is out now. 

Now it’s your turn… Comment here and tell us what your recommended reads are this autumn 

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