Welcome to our weekly Books Digest where we round up the new books you should and shouldn’t, be reading. This week features Takeaway: Stories from a Childhood Behind the Counter by Angela Hui, Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews by Sam McAlister and The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays by Christina Joyce Hauser.

For more books, take a look through our Books Digest Archive.

Takeaway: Stories from a Childhood Behind the Counter by Angela Hui (Orion Publishing, £13.09)

Alice Crossley

In 1985, writer Angela Hui’s parents left post-war Hong Kong in search of a better quality of life in Great Britain. With little money or education to fall back on they searched for work and live-in accommodation, eventually settling in rural Wales. Three years later, they opened a Chinese takeaway called Lucky Star, which would become the place they worked, lived and raised their family over the next 30 years. 

Angela Hui grew up in the takeaway, working alongside her parents and two brothers from a young age, whilst her peers played and did homework. Being a takeaway child was a bittersweet experience that dominated the first quarter of their life, as they balanced being teenagers with being back at the takeaway for service each evening. This memoir tells the story of those years, Hui’s struggle to blend her Welsh and Chinese heritage, the racism her family experienced and the intensity of living where you work.

Most will have, at one point or another, ordered a Chinese takeaway but perhaps given little thought to the people behind the counter and the work that goes into creating each temptatious silver foil container. Interspersed with recipes from her family’s takeaway, Take Away provides a heartfelt insight into the world of takeaway shops and the legacy of the Lucky Star.

Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews by Sam McAlister (Oneworld Publications, £12.09)

Lily Pagano

Described by former BBC colleagues as interview “booker extraordinaire”, Sam McAlister is the powerhouse behind some of British journalism’s most unforgettable moments. 

A former barrister, McAllister has been a producer at BBC Newsnight for 12 years. Securing interviews with Hollywood stars, Silicon Valley CEOs and world leaders – including the ground-breaking interview with Prince Andrew – McAllister has made a career by undertaking the delicate negotiations that underpin broadcast journalism.

In her latest book Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews, the author provides insight into some of these unforgettable moments. Reflecting on her experience, McAllister not only shares the secrets of how the best news gets made but tackles the question of the future of mainstream media — its trajectory in an age of fake news and clickbait — as well as the role that power and privilege play in the shaping of the media landscape. A gripping read, Scoops offers a peak behind the curtain of some of the most significant journalism of our times.

The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays by Christina Joyce Hauser (Penguin Books, £12.49)

Saffron Swire

There is a story from Japanese folklore called The Crane Wife in which a crane tricks a man into thinking she is a woman so she can marry him. She stays awake each night, plucking out her feathers with her beak so that he will not see her for who she truly is.

Like this crane, the author and creative writing professor CJ Hauser felt as if she had to pluck out her feathers and become “low-maintenance” in order to please her fiancée. It didn’t matter if he was unfaithful to her, made snarky comments or gave half-hearted birthday cards, because she, like the crane, was used to self-erasing her own desires to please another.

Eventually, CJ Hauser had a revelation that this nonchalant persona was no longer sustainable and so she called off the wedding. In the summer of 2019, Hauser released a short essay The Crane Wife in The Paris Review detailing her decision to terminate the relationship and how she spent the aftermath on an ornithological field trip to study the whooping crane on the gulf of Texas. The essay, which was as raw as it was wry, became a viral sensation.

In The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays, Hauser uses this viral essay as a springboard to offer a tapestry of thoughts on matters of the self, friendship, marriage, sexuality and motherhood. As well as unearthing her past loves and losses — from being in the throes of love with her high-school boyfriend to a divorcé with baggage and dating a man from Tinder who eventually abandons her on a desert island — the author also covers her ancestor’s pasts as well as the narratives we are taught and tell ourselves when it comes to the multiplicity of love.

Collectively, The Crane Wife is a self-portrait with many shades and bears prose that is poignant, self-deprecating and refreshingly frank. Most importantly, the compendium of essays is a case for protecting your feathers and never settling for any less than you deserve.