The Binding

Bridget Collins

Borough Press, £8.99

Agricultural worker Emmett Farmer’s parents are superstitiously fearful of books, so to be apprenticed to a bookbinder isn’t the kind of future he had in mind. Sent to learn from the cantankerous Seredith, who lives out in the marshes, Emmett discovers that if a customer has a memory they want to forget, or a secret to hide, Seredith will bind it into a book for them. They’re stored in a vault beneath the workshop, and one day Emmett discovers that one of the books has his name on it. What has he forgotten, and is it connected to the fits of screaming and hallucinations from which he’s recovering? Set in an alternative version of Castleford in West Yorkshire, it’s Collins’ first book for adults, and a somewhat simplistic approach does carry over from YA fantasy. But the concept is enthralling and so brimming with possibilities that one can’t help but race through to see where she’s going to take it.

The Reality Bubble

Ziya Tong

Canongate, £14.99

Our senses only give us a partial account of the world. How can we know what it’s like, for example, for a dolphin to “see” using sonar, or a bird to navigate using the earth’s magnetic field? The early chapters of The Reality Bubble abound with animal wonders that drive home how limited our perception actually is. Then, having hooked us, Ziya Tong moves into far less comfortable areas: the blind spots which are not the result of biological constraints but things we choose not to acknowledge, like the horrors of factory farming, the plastic in our diet, the titanic amount of waste we produce and the conditions endured by workers across the world. Her point, that “humans are no longer in touch with the basics of their own survival”, is made with devastating force, her argument that we’re being doomed by our perception of reality a clever and effective way to jolt readers out of their indifference.


Ted Lewis

No Exit, £9.99

Ted Lewis wrote the novel on which the classic film Get Carter was based, but connoisseurs of the genre believe that his final novel, GBH, published in 1980 and out of print for many years, is actually his best. Written as alcoholism was driving him to an early grave, it follows George Fowler, a gangster in the porn trade, who has gone to ground on the Lincolnshire coast to reflect on the events that have forced him into hiding. With money going missing from the operation, he set about uncovering who was ripping him off, becoming increasingly paranoid and brutal. But there are twists galore in store. It’s a dark and sombre book with a cold, unsympathetic protagonist losing his control, reflecting what the author was going through at the time, but that bleakness makes it a particularly powerful and compelling example of the British gangster novel.