September 24, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books Worth Staring At

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

 Only the very best books get the ‘Books Worth Staring At’ sticker, and here’s the latest to achieve this…

The book: The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Published: September 2015, by Faber & Faber

Why we loved it: A man and a woman meet in an airport bar and get chatting. After a few martinis, home truths are revealed, and by the end of the conversation she has agreed to help him murder his adulterous wife. Sound a bit preposterous? Sure. But will this edge-of-your-seat thriller keep you turning the pages and second-guessing every character? You’re damn right it will.

Post-Gone Girl, you tend to get a lot of him vs. her psychological thrillers about broken marriage, but this is easily one of the best I’ve read. Packed full of twists and a healthy amount of clichés (meetings in a graveyard, a dodgy builder, an even dodgier chicken korma), it’s no surprise that a big screen adaptation looks to be on the cards. We won’t say too much as we don’t want to spoil anything, except that this is a classy thriller that’s both easy to read and will keep you in suspense. Basically, the kind worth reading.

The Kind Worth Killing is out now

The Kind Worth Killing

The Nan Booker Prize

July 29, 2015, Posted by Beau Merchant in Books, Books Worth Staring At, Uncategorized

The Nan Booker Prize 2015

Inspired by the 2015 Man Booker Prize longlist announcement, we asked our own Nan Who Stares at Books (Beau’s Nan) to pick her favourite books of the last year. So, slightly missing the point, she sent us a list of books and her (unedited) opinion on them, dating back to 1947. Bless ‘er, you legend Nan!

So, without further ado, we present you with the shortlist for the inaugural Nan Booker Prize:

     Alone in Berlin

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

“How lives change overnight, how through fear friends become enemies.yet kindness is amongst it also. Excellent reading.”


That Woman

That Women (she meant Woman) by Anna Sebba (she meant Anne)

“First book on Wallis, that l felt told whole story.”

 American Devil

American Devil by Oliver Stark

“Gripping, makes one think, how these peoples minds work, 3/4 way through.”



Toast by Nigel Slater

“Oh yes! The joys of yester-years. Curly Wurleys, Merrymaids choclate toffees. Junket. Kathy kirby,the memories came flooding back. Laughed, cried. ‘Oh happy days’ brought back by a book.”


Joe and Marilyn by Roger Kahn

“A love story of passion, despair, friendship. An actress and Baseball star. Magic.”


Waiting for Doggo

Waiting for Doggo by Mark Mills

“Very different from his others. But so bloody ennoyable. Xxxx Cup of tea then back to Doggo xxxx Enjoyable I mean actually xxxx”

See you again same time next year, Nan.

July 22, 2015, Posted by Beau Merchant in Books Worth Staring At

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

The book: The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

Published: August 2015, by John Murray

Why we loved it: A devout church group from London take a pilgrimage to an isolated coastal village in the North West of England in the hope of curing one of their mute children. They stay in an old cottage called The Moorings, which definitely wouldn’t be getting a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor.

The rain falls and tensions rise as the group are forced to question how far to go in the name of faith, face some truths from the past, and deal with the unwanted attention of some creepy locals. To say any more would spoil this confident and beautifully written debut, but as the story unfolds and sub-plots are introduced the novel moves from the strange to the downright scary.

Comparisons to The Wicker Man will no doubt be made, but there are also elements of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, and the bleakness and youthful innocence of Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory.

As soon as I’d finished the book I started over and re-read it. It was that good.

THE LONEYThe Loney is out in hardback on 27th August



June 24, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books Worth Staring At

Walking Away by Simon Armitage

The book: Walking Away by Simon Armitage

Published: 2015, by Faber & Faber

Why we loved it: A few years ago, Simon Armitage, the new Professor of Poetry at Oxford, walked the Pennine Way. Backwards. And with no money. This challenging 250-plus mile trek took him from the Peak District back towards his home town of Marsden in West Yorkshire, stopping each night in various towns, villages and hamlets to give poetry readings, and handing round an old sock so that punters could contribute however much they felt his performance was worth. The account of that journey, Walking Home, was a beautiful piece of travel writing. Nice cover too.

Although that walk sounded, quite frankly, knackering, Simon has repeated the trick in Walking Away, although this time he’s left his home patch and instead tackles the South West Coast Path, busking his way through Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. It’s very much a companion piece to the first book, and, although there are no great surprises, if you’ve ever been taken in by Armitage’s droll turns of phrase and witty, self-depreciating asides, you’ll find much to enjoy here. The rugged coastal landscape he is traversing, and the gradual middle-aged breakdown of his knees, feet and, ahem, groin are described vividly, and the passage where he learns of the sad passing of his good friend Seamus Heaney is also very tender.

If you were to criticize, then perhaps Walking Away could do with a few more poems. But overall this is just as engaging, enlightening and charming as its predecessor.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 12.07.55

June 3, 2015, Posted by Richard in Books Worth Staring At

Love, Sex and Other Foreign Policy Goals

Only the very best books get the ‘Books Worth Staring At’ sticker, and here’s the latest to achieve this…

The bookLove, Sex and Other Foreign Policy Goals by Jesse Armstrong

Published: 2015, by Jonathan Cape

Why we loved it: Most of have done stupid things whilst trying to impress someone of the opposite sex, but not all of us would travel to war-torn Bosnia to put on a ‘peace play’. That is the conceit of Jesse ‘Peep Show’ Armstrong’s brilliant debut novel as Andrew, deeply smitten with posh Penny (but not so much her posh friends), leaves it all behind to travel into the unknown in the pursuit of love.

As with Mark from Peep Show, Andrew is often crippled with self-loathing and the inability to know how to act around people, and some of the funniest moments in the book come from his panicked monologues. When he does interact with the rest of the play gang and the various mercenaries they encounter along the way, the dialogue sparks, and this is just crying out for a feature film with Chris Morris or Armando Iannucci at the helm. Highly recommended.

love sex and other foreign policy goals

May 22, 2015, Posted by Beau Merchant in Books Worth Staring At

A Year of Marvellous Ways

Only the very best books get the ‘Books Worth Staring At’ sticker, and here’s the latest to achieve this…

The book: A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

Published: June 2015, by Tinder Press

Why we loved it: Pure poetry. I really wasn’t expecting to be as moved and captivated as I was by Sarah Winman’s second novel, but every paragraph is full of the most exquisite detail and the characters are beautifully realised.

It’s a book about love, friendship, memory and regret. Sarah’s debut, When God Was A Rabbit, was a very unique piece of writing, and this follow-up is just as special. It’s hard to try and sum up the plot in just a few lines, but elderly Marvellous Ways and a young soldier meet in strange circumstances, and affect each other in ways neither expected.

Maybe being a new Dad has made me soft, but I could’ve easily spent well over a year in the company of Marvellous Ways. Genuinely stunning.


3D Marve

April 29, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books Worth Staring At

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Only the very best books get the ‘Books Worth Staring At’ sticker, and here’s the latest to achieve this…

The book: The Circle by Dave Eggers

Published: 2012, by Penguin

Why we loved it: We use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. every day. We’re even members of Google+, apparently. But imagine if there was one social network that controlled everything. Literally everything. In this superb and quite chilling novel, what starts as a satirical look at today’s social media-reliant culture soon becomes a dystopian nightmare.

Arriving at ‘The Circle’ campus, new recruit Mae is looking to make her mark with the world’s leading technologically innovative company. As she starts to rise through the ranks, the tasks that are expected of her become increasingly sinister, and, more troublingly, her resistance to them becomes less and less. As the company expands its reach into surveillance, ecommerce and democracy, Mae’s life is increasingly played out for all to see, with her actions judged by ‘smiles’ and ‘frowns’. As the company leaders come closer and closer to ‘completing The Circle’, it raises questions about our reliance on technology in modern life, and how private our lives can ever be when lived out on social media.

Dave Eggers is a top quality writer, and he proves that once again with The Circle. Give it a read. And then make sure you tweet about it, before ‘The Circle’ hunt you down…


April 14, 2015, Posted by Beau Merchant in Books Worth Staring At

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

 Only the very best books get the ‘Books Worth Staring At’ sticker, and here’s the latest to achieve this…

The book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Published: 2012, by Arrow

Why we loved it: Ernest Cline’s epic love letter to all things pop culture is set in the year 2044, where the planet earth has gone to the dogs. To escape the famine and poverty, most of humanity spend their time in the OASIS, a vast virtual reality world where you can be who who you want and interact with other players all over the world. When the inventor of OASIS dies, it is revealed that he has left a series of riddles in his creation that, if solved, will give the winner control of OASIS – along with all his dosh.

The book is so rich in detail, with references to everything from video games, music, film, TV, food, comics. It’s hard to put down in words how well thought out Cline’s novel is. It’s gripping, funny, clever and rewards re-reading. Steven Spielberg is the current director linked with the film version, so it’s hopefully in safe hands, although when Spielberg was in line to direct the first Harry Potter film he wanted to do it all computer animated, set in America with the little kid from the Sixth Sense as Harry. Hmmmm. Read the book instead.