January Books of the Month

If you’re looking for a good book to get your head into on the dark nights on winter weekends then take your pick from this diverse selection of books at Waterstones.

From fiction to history and a little bit of thriller there is something for everyone in these picks so take a minute and pick out something you know you will love or be daring and try something new you never know you could ignite a love for a new genre.

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes £7.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)

ALL HE KNEW was that this was the worst time

He had been standing by the lift for three hours. He was on his fifth cigarette, and his mind was skittering. Faces, names, memories. Cut peat weighing down his hand. Fields of sunflowers. The smell of carnation oil… The faces and names of the dead, too.

In May 1937 a man in his early thirties waits by the lift of a Leningrad apartment block. He waits all through the night, expecting to be taken away to the Big House. Any celebrity he has known in the previous decade is no use to him now. And few who are taken to the Big House ever return.

So begins Julian Barnes' first novel since his Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending. A story about the collision of art and power, about human compromise, human cowardice and human courage, Justifiably described as Barnes’ masterpiece, The Noise of Time is part fictionalised biography and displays again Barnes’s seemingly effortless ability to make the personal universal and to do so with brevity, precision and conscience. Encountering the same man at three stages in his life, the power and impact of the individual takes on a larger significance, widened into a contemplation of personal responsibility and the limits of human endurance under the influence of power.

It is a book in dialogue; with the past, with the legacy of totalitarianism and more directly with Frank Kermode’s 1967 work of the same name and with the book both works originate from, the original Noise of Time, memoirs that contain an account of a life of tragic genius, that of Dmitri Shostakovich. The Noise of Time is the work of a true master and a book that has lasting resonance for the age we find ourselves in and how we consider our own role within it.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi £10.49 (Shop Now)

An intimate and exquisitely written meditation on the meaning of life by a young neurosurgeon facing terminal cancer. Dr. Paul Kalanithi wrote When Breath Becomes Air in the last 22 months of his life.The result is an inspirational account of family, medicine and literature, on publication swiftly finding an audience of booksellers moved by its gradual shift from hope to Kalanithi’s dignified acceptance of life’s end. We strongly recommend the emotional investment to read it.

THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER. At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity - the brain - and finally into a patient and a new father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away? Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor £8.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)

From the No.1 bestselling author of The American Boy comes a brand new historical thriller set during the time of the Great Fire of London. The noise was the worst. Not the crackling of the flames, not the explosions and the clatter of falling buildings, not the shouting and the endless beating of drums and the groans and cries of the crowd: it was the howling of the fire. It was the voice of The Great Beast itself.

London, 1666: a city in flames… As the Great Fire consumes everything in its path, even the great cathedral and as the embers smoulder, the body of a man is found in the ruins of St Paul's - stabbed in the neck, thumbs tied behind his back.

A woman on the run…The son of a traitor, James Marwood is a reluctant government informer, forced to hunt the killer through the city's devastated streets. There he encounters a determined young woman who will stop at nothing to secure her freedom.

A killer seeking revenge… When a second murder victim is discovered in the Fleet Ditch, Marwood is drawn into the political and religious intrigue of Westminster. At a time of dangerous internal dissent, Marwood’s investigation will lead him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined and vengeful woman.

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan £10.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)

The halfway point between east and west… While such countries may seem wild to us, these are no backwaters, no obscure wastelands. In fact the bridge between east and west is the very crossroads of civilisation. Far from being on the fringe of global affairs, these countries lie at its very centre – as they have done since the beginning of history.

How is it that the places that in the earliest cartography were placed at the centre of the world are now almost impossible to locate on modern maps? Peter Frankopan considers how as western readers of history, our understanding of the world is shaped by the narrow focus on western Europe and the United States and accounts of history that preferences ‘the winners of recent history.’

Thoroughly researched and gracefully written, The Silk Roads is an antidote to these Eurocentric accounts, examining several continents and centuries and the factors that influenced the flow of ideas and goods.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari £9.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)

Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?

Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. In just a fraction of that time, one species among countless others has conquered it- us. We are the most advanced and most destructive animals ever to have lived. What makes us brilliant? What makes us deadly? What makes us Sapiens?

In this bold and provocative book, Yuval Noah Harari explores who we are, how we got here and where we're going. Sapiens is a thrilling account of humankind's extraordinary history - from the Stone Age to the Silicon Age - and our journey from insignificant apes to rulers of the world.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter £7.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)

One shiny jet-black eye as big as my face, blinking slowly, in a leathery wrinkled socket…

And this is what he said:

I won’t leave until you don’t need me any more.

In the midst of grief he comes. He comes with a crackling of feathers and a smell of decay. He comes like the worst thing you could ever imagine, like something you should never have to imagine, he comes when you need him. He is a reminder, a companion, a harbinger, a scruffy homeless layabout, a friend. He is Crow.

In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother's sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness. In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow - antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family becoming the mouthpiece for their sorrow, an echo of what cannot be said. Slowly, as the months pass, they become familiar with Crow and his odd companionship and almost imperceptibly, they begin to heal.

This extraordinary debut, partly based on Ted Hughes' Crow collection, is a deft feat of linguistic playfulness and daring, full of unexpected humour and emotional truth. It marks the arrival of a thrilling and significant new literary talent.

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O'Brien £7.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)

This is a spectacular piece of work, massive and ferocious and far-reaching, yet also at times excruciatingly, almost unbearably, intimate,’ writes novelist Julie Myserson, in her review of The Little Red Chairs for the Guardian. O’Brien was 85 when this novel was published, and had been writing books for 50 years, yet as Myerson marvels, ‘this is absolutely the work of a writer in her prime and at the very height of her phenomenal powers.’ Its title derives from the 2012 installation in Sarajevo of 11,541 red chairs to represent the victims of the siege that took place there – the smaller 600 of which stood for those children who perished – although the book’s key victim, Fidelma, suffers in subtler ways than they. O’Brien’s tale was inspired by Radovan Kardzic (and was published just as he was condemned to 40 years’ incarceration for genocide), and the book opens with the arrival in a small Irish town of handsome ‘holistic healer’ (or, rather, sex therapist) Dr. Vladimir Dragan. What seems at first a sort of charming BBC village comedy then reveals itself, piecemeal, to be a tale of horror, as glimpses of the monster that Vlad truly is are revealed through his affair with lonely, childless Fidelma.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard £9.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)

Roman history is always being rewritten, and always has been; in some ways we know more about ancient Rome than the Romans themselves did. Roman history, in other words, is a work in progress. This book is my contribution to that bigger project; it offers my version of why it matters.

Ancient Rome matters. Its history of empire, conquest, cruelty and excess is something against which we still judge ourselves. Its myths and stories - from Romulus and Remus to the Rape of Lucretia - still strike a chord with us. And its debates about citizenship, security and the rights of the individual still influence our own debates on civil liberty today.

SPQR is a new look at Roman history from one of the world's foremost classicists. It explores not only how Rome grew from an insignificant village in central Italy to a power that controlled territory from Spain to Syria, but also how the Romans thought about themselves and their achievements, and why they are still important to us.

SPQR is the Romans' own abbreviation for their state: Senatus Populusque Romanus, 'the Senate and People of Rome'. Covering 1,000 years of history, and casting fresh light on the basics of Roman culture from slavery to running water, as well as exploring democracy, migration, religious controversy, social mobility and exploitation in the larger context of the empire, this is a definitive history of ancient Rome.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot £8.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)

At the age of thirty, Amy Liptrot finds herself washed up back home on Orkney. Standing unstable on the island, she tries to come to terms with the addiction that has swallowed the last decade of her life. As she spends her mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, her days tracking Orkney's wildlife, and her nights searching the sky for the Merry Dancers, Amy discovers how the wild can restore life and renew hope.

Disclaimer by Renee Knight £7.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)

Any resemblance to persons living or dead... The disclaimer has a neat, red line through it... She thought she had laid it to rest. That it was finished. But now it has resurfaced. In her bedroom. In her head.

Welcome to the dark and unexpected world of Renee Knight’s Disclaimer, a fiendishly-twisting tale of a woman sickened to discover that a novel (entitled The Perfect Stranger) is not just about her, but lays bare a terrible secret she has kept buried for 20 years. As the questions and sense of growing menace mount, Knight’s deft switches in perspective really force us to doubt everyone we meet: Disclaimer is a striking study in paranoia and deception, and all of us finding ourselves desperately turning the pages had to keep checking that this was Renee Knight’s debut. It is that assured
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