Andrew Sean Greer (Abacus, £8.99)

Arthur Less, a gay novelist notorious for giving his gay characters unhappy endings, is about to turn 50. Worse still, his ex-boyfriend’s wedding is taking place around the same time. To get out of attending, Arthur accepts every invitation sent to a middle-ranking author like himself and lines up a trip around the world. Numerous adventures ensue, from a romantic encounter in Paris to nearly falling to his death in Berlin, from becoming writer in residence at a Christian retreat to an improbable encounter on a desert island. When he has time to catch his breath, this odyssey is a chance for Arthur to face up to himself and contemplate the question of whether he’s too old ever to meet anyone special again. Comic novels rarely if ever get awarded the Pulitzer Prize, so it’s a testament to Greer’s deft command over the form that this picaresque but poignant romp broke through that particular ceiling.


Maria Alyokhina (Penguin, £8.99)

In 2012, Pussy Riot made headlines across the world, staging a protest at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral which resulted in them being prosecuted for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in an absurdly over-the-top media circus of a trial. Here, Maria Alyokhina tells her inside story, describing the preparations for the protest, the event itself and the aftermath, which left Alyokhina, the mother of a kindergarten-age son, in a penal colony in the Urals. She focuses on the most dehumanising aspects of the Russian prison system, highlighting the abuse dismissed as routine procedure by those in charge, and on how she improvised a resistance on behalf of other prisoners who didn’t have the benefit of her international celebrity. Like a punk rock set, it’s short, terse, defiant, not pretty and not a little self-mythologising, and can be taken as not just an illuminating prison memoir but a piece of Pussy Riot art in its own right.


Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press, £8.99)

For most of us, a single brush with death would be a story to be dined out on for years. Maggie O’Farrell has had 17 at various points throughout her life, some closer than others, but all documented here. Taking her title from Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar”, O’Farrell was moved to write her first autobiographical book to give comfort to her daughter, who has serious allergies and is such a frequent visitor to the local hospital that she’s greeted by her first name. Dividing her non-chronological accounts into chapters named after parts of the body, O’Farrell terrifies with tales of childhood encephalitis, haemorrhage during childbirth, a plane which suddenly starts plummeting, a mugger holding a machete to her throat and an encounter with a strange man who appears to have been using her to rehearse a murder he would commit the following week. A gripping and sometimes disturbing reminder of how precious and fragile life is.