Welcome to our weekly Books Digest where we round up the new books you should and shouldn’t, be reading. This week features Milk Teeth by Jessica Andrews, Lighting Often Strikes Twice: The 50 biggest misconceptions in Science by Brian Clegg and Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou.
For more books, take a look through our Books Digest Archive
Milk Teeth by Jessica Andrews (Hodder & Stoughton, £13.09)
Milk Teeth, Portico Prize winner Jessica Andrews’ second novel, is an intimate love story that takes the reader across London, Paris and Barcelona as the unnamed female narrator’s troubled past is interweaved into the progression of her current relationship.
Born in the North of England amid scarcity and toxic diet culture, Andrews’ 28-year-old protagonist’s life is defined by her belief that the only way to find your place in the world is to take up as little space as possible. When she unexpectedly falls in love, the rules and constraints she has built around her world become harder to maintain and she is forced to choose between control and freedom.
From the cold and lonely streets of London to the humid heat of Barcelona, the narrator moves from place to place, desperately seeking somewhere to call home. Little does she know that her unhappiness stems from within and will follow her wherever she goes.
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Lazy comparisons to Sally Rooney don’t do Andrews’ unique writing style justice. Milk Teeth is a must-read.
Lighting Often Strikes Twice: The 50 Biggest Misconceptions in Science by Brian Clegg (Michael O’Mara Books Ltd, £10.75)
Whether by word of mouth, through myths read online or misremembering facts from our school years, we are constantly bombarded by mountains of misinformation that, to this day, remain incorrectly lurking in the backs of our memories. In his latest book Lighting Often Strikes Twice, Brian Clegg offers a peek behind the curtain of science — leading us through fifty of science’s most common misconceptions and, in the process, inviting us to reassess and reinvent what we think we know about the world around us.
Across 50 short, succinct and digestible chapters, Clegg offers a fun and fresh perspective on a range of topics, from the brightness of the North Star to the extinction of dinosaurs.
Welcoming in tone and rich with insight, Clegg strikes a balance between brevity and depth whilst fascinating the reader. Clegg avoids a common pitfall of much commercial science-based literature — inundating the reader with too much information — each chapter holds its own, allowing readers to dip in and out of the book as they please.
A fun and light read, Lightning Often Strikes Twice is a pleasant pocket-sized guide for those who want to separate scientific fact from fiction.
Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou (Panmacmillan, £11.39)
Disorientation is a brutal yet brilliant dissection of US campus culture which offers a nuanced and considered exploration of some of the most contentious issues of today: why is it weird for a white man to exclusively date Asian women but not an Asian woman to exclusively date white men (or does that have its own problems too)? When does appreciation for a culture verge into fetishisation?
Ingrid Yang is in the eighth year of her PhD studying the work of the late Chinese-American poet Xiao-Wen Chou (“The Chinese Robert Frost”) at the fictional Banes University. While enthused by the work of the likes of Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot during her undergraduate, she has reached a total academic paralysis when writing her thesis. After hours in the archives, her mental health and grasp on reality is totally spiralling in a way that’s as concerning as it is hilarious — rather than doing research she spends hours writing fan-fic erotic literature starring the two university librarians. Then, suddenly, she uncovers a clue that will lead her down a path of discovery which effectively throws an atom bomb into Chou’s legacy and the reputation of the entire university.
The book is really very funny and discusses hot topic issues in a way that avoids lecturing the reader, pointing fingers and simplistic moralising. Ingrid is a charming and convincing protagonist and the cast academics, family, friends and boyfriends surrounding her are unnervingly well-observed archetypes of modern America. The plot can get a little silly but it’s best to consider the piece as a sort of novelisation of a mid-budget TV show: fun, pacy and studded with moments which hold a mirror up to society.