Discovering Books Again
You've exhausted Netflix and thrashed out to many sessions on Disney+. Now it's time to delve back into a damn good read and forget about all of the worries of the world.
HOW TO FAIL
£12.99, 4th Estate
Failure is a funny thing. Not funny-LOL, but funny-weird - because it means different things to different people. For instance, I had a sobering brush with what I would class as failure recently. I applied for a job I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted. I promise you I'm not pride-saving; I properly wasn’t sure. But it paid a magic-money-tree salary for limited output. I was qualified and told I stood a good chance. Then, you've guessed it, I didn’t. Cue deep embarrassment and general feelings of being a total loser. If you’ve never felt any of those things, then this isn’t the book for you. Or maybe it is? Part-memoir, part-manifesto, HowTo Fail documents the downs of Elizabeth Day, a much-lauded journalist with a lucrative book deal. Consequently, the concept of failure in this context becomes a tad come-again?-tricky, but it’s testament to Day’s talent as a writer that she manages to mine her own seemingly sorted life for universally-relatable rites of cringeworthy passage. So we get family fallouts, career car crashes, friendship fails and dating disasters all with the message that failing is good because trying is good, something we often (always?) lose sight of. Sounds self-help saccharine and more than a bit Oprah, but it’s actually a pretty sound design for life. After all, Oprah isn’t a multi-billionaire for no reason. Thank God, I didn’t get that job.
£14.99, Jonathan Cape
Born during the greed-guzzling, success-is-everything80s, a privately-educated but directionless American teen signs up to the military – ‘cherry’ is army slang for rookie recruits. He becomes a decorated veteran, returns to civvie street with acute PTSD, self-medicates with heroin and ends up robbing banks to fund his habit. This plot arc could easily fall into the you-couldn’t-make-it-up category, but actually, its author didn’t. This novel is heavily autobiographical and was written from prison where Nico Walker is serving an 11-year stretch for the aforementioned heists. A publicity tour was a no-can-do, then. The publishers needn't worry, though, because, coupled with the true-story buzz, this is one of the most astonishing, grab-the-jugular first forays into fiction in years. That’s because Walter speaks for his generation. Lost, frustrated, entitled, confused, and craving elusive professional and personal fulfillment, he chronicles the complex workings of the minds of millennials who don’t have the certainties of previous generations to signpost their lives. It’s not done in a finger-wagging moralising way, though, and that’s down to Walker’s voice, which is sincere without being smug. Plenty of novelists cannibalise their own lives for copy, but few do it with such a sucker-punch. Walker writes as if his life depends on it, which in lots of ways it does. Now all he needs to do is get parole and flog those bank-manager-friendly film rights