Phew, Eh Readers?, Tom Hibbert, Nine Eight Books, £22, out now

THERE are some opinions - prejudices you might prefer to call them and I will not argue with you - that I’m prepared to take to the grave. Opinions utterly inviolate because I know them to be true. Like never trust a Tory (goes without saying). Like Brussels Sprouts are the devil’s vegetables. Like Jaime Hernandez’s Maggie and Hopey comic strips are one of the greatest works of art of the late 20th century. Like the monarchy as an institution infantilises British society and is a gilded cage for those who are locked within it.

And then there are the opinions that I find I have to revise from time to time due to experience or even just exposure. Such as maybe the cult film classic The Wicker Man isn’t the pile of badly-made overrated tosh I’ve always assumed, and that Q Magazine in its pomp in the 1980s and 1990s wasn’t quite the worst music magazine of all time.

That’s what I get for reading Phew, Eh Readers? The book is a compilation of - and a tribute to - the late music journalist Tom Hibbert, much beloved of Smash Hits and, yes, Q readers.

I always hated Q. Both the indie music snob and the full-on pop kid inside me saw Q as the place to read about Elton and Macca and Freddie and all those pop stars who bored up the 1980s by not getting out of the way. The kind of magazine that Alan Partridge would read.

And yet I’ve spent the last few days chuckling and guffawing reading Hibbert’s Who The Hell interviews with the likes of Ringo Starr, Roger Waters and Tom Jones as gathered up in Phew, Eh Readers? They are glorious, funny, revealing reads. A little snarky, but joyously puncturing the pomposity of their subjects. Now I’m worried that the rest of Q was just as good and I can’t really hate it any more. And where would we be without our pointless, irrelevant prejudices?

The Herald: Elton JohnElton John (Image: free)

Clairmont, Lesley McDowell, Wildfire, £16.99, February 29

Another must-read. Herald contributor Lesley McDowell’s third novel revisits that infamous summer of 1816 when Percy Byshe Shelley and Mary Shelley visited Lord Byron’s villa on Lake Geneva. During that visit Shelley started writing her classic novel Frankenstein. But McDowell’s real interest here is in Shelley’s 18-year-old stepsister Claire Clairmont, Byron’s lover. This bravura historical novel tells the story of Clairmont’s life in a set of vibrant, thrilling snapshots that jump back and forth in time. McDowell brings Claire to vivid, embodied life; a flirtatious, flawed woman fighting for her place in a man’s world.

The horror here isn’t galvanism or corpses sewn together and given life. It’s the cold, hard horror of arrogant, uncaring masculinity. Should be a mini TV series this time next year if the world was fair.

Steeple Chasing, Peter Ross, Headline, £10.99, out now

Last year I sat in Sacred Heart Church in Cumbernauld, one of the most beautiful but little known religious spaces in Scotland discussing the past, present and future of churches with Ross for The Herald Magazine. Sacred Heart was, he said, typical of a central idea for his book Steeple Chasing: that churches are treasure houses of architecture and story. Now out in paperback with an additional chapter on Westminster Abbey, Ross’s book is a reliquary of fine writing that will make you want to visit your local church again, whether you’re a believer or not.

The Herald: Peter Ross. Picture: Colin MearnsPeter Ross. Picture: Colin Mearns (Image: free)

After A Dance, Bridget O’Connor, Picador, £16.99, February 15

As in poetry, everything is at play in a short story. Language, rhythm, narrative. That is never more evident than in these mostly brief, sometimes brutal, always funny vignettes gathered together in After A Dance. Author Bridget O’Connor, who passed away in 2010 at the age of just 49, was London-Irish and was perhaps best known for her writing for stage and screen. But, as this gather-up of her best short stories reminds us, she was a master of the form. The results are both vivacious and vicious. But even at their most painful, they sing.

Barking, Lucy Sullivan, Avery Hill, £16.99, February 27

There are graphic novels that read like storyboards for the movies its creators hope will follow. Better are those that see the comic form as the ultimate means of expression. Lucy Sullivan’s Barking does exactly that. An account of life within the UK’s mental health system, it draws on her own experience of depression and anxiety in the wake of her father’s death. Sullivan’s bold monochrome depiction of the black dog that haunted her (literally in the pages of Barking) uses texture, framing, text and blocks of solid black ink to immerse the reader inside her own sense of disorientation. There’s a queasy exhilaration to how well she does this. The visuals are thrilling, the mood dark and oppressive. It’s a powerful, painful piece of work. Originally released (and maybe rather lost) in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, this new edition gives it another much deserved chance to find an audience.

The Herald: John Cooper ClarkeJohn Cooper Clarke (Image: free)

WHAT, John Cooper Clarke, Picador, £16.99, out now

The punk poet John Cooper Clarke is 75 years young and this latest collection suggests his poetic voice has not lost any of its vim or vigour.

I See Buildings Fall Like Lightning, Keiran Goddard, Abacus, £16.99, out now

A novel of working-class lives, friendship, family, addiction, masculinity, dreams and the boundaries of hope, Goddard’s second novel comes with a great title and praise from the likes of Lemn Sissay and Hollie McNish.

Frank & Red, Matt Coyne, Wildfire Books, £18.99, out now

Matt Coyne’s novel of an unlikely friendship between a grieving widower and a six-year-old boy has already garnered a heap of five-star reviews for its humour and its warmth.

Philip Hughes/Notebooks, Thames & Hudson, £40, February 29

For the last 25 years the artist Philip Hughes has been sketching the landscapes he visits in his notebooks. The precise yet painterly results are dream visions of place and time, ranging from northern Europe to Antarctica. His drawings of Orkney simultaneously feel like topological diagrams and fever dreams.

A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks, David Gibbins, W&N, £25, out now

From the Bronze Age to World War Two, via a Viking warship, the Mary Rose and HMS Terror, David Gibbins’s book explores the story of humanity as told through the ships and the people who sailed on them.