Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000-Mile Adventure, by Monisha Rajesh

When British journalist Monisha Rajesh announced her plan to travel around the globe on 80 trains, it seemed like a crazy idea. But with much organisation and planning, it wasn’t long before she had plotted a journey of 45,000 miles, nearly twice the circumference of the world. This route would take her on some of the most famous and infamous trains in the world.
From the vastness of the Trans-Mongolian railway to the cloud-skimming heights of the Qinghai-Tibet railway and the luxurious Simplon Orient Express. With many other less salubrious and diverse trains as well. With just a backpack and her fiancé Jem in tow, Monisha spent seven months hopping on and off trains and meeting some truly remarkable characters along the way. Read More »

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for a Chicago art gallery, is about the pull off the coup of his career. The collection of extraordinary 1920s paintings will not only secure his career but make a name for the gallery. But as his professional life is soaring, the world around him is crumbling. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, his friends are dying one by one. After his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles ever closer and soon the only person Yale has left is Nico’s younger sister Fiona.
Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris trying to reconnect with her estranged daughter Claire. Staying with a friend from Chicago, a famous photographer who captured the AIDS crisis in all of its raw details, Fiona can finally start to explore how much the epidemic affected her life. Read More »

City of the Beasts, by Isabel Allende

When his mother is taken seriously ill, fifteen-year-old Alexander Cold is sent to live with his forbidding grandmother. Kate is not your typical warm and cuddly grandmother, rather she is brusque, adventurous and no-nonsense. Kate is preparing to embark on an expedition into the Amazonian rainforest and, rather than change her plans, she takes Alexander along with her.
They set off with their team, including a local guide and his young daughter Nadia, deep into the rainforest. Their aim is to locate an isolated and potentially headhunting tribe, as well as a legendary marauding creature known only as “The Beast”. As they get further from civilisation, and expedition members start disappearing, they will discover much more than they bargained for about the mysteries of the jungle and its inhabitants. Read More »

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield

From a very young age, Chris Hadfield wanted nothing more than to become an astronaut. But at a time when very few Canadians went to space, this was bound to be a difficult task. Through years of hard work and dedication, Chris finally realised his dream and has logged nearly 4000 hours in space.
During this time, he was the first Canadian to be Commander of the International Space Station, where he also recorded a music video to David Bowie’s Space Oddity. He also broke into a Space Station with a Swiss army knife and was temporarily blinded whilst clinging to the outside of an orbiting spacecraft. He has overcome many obstacles thanks to an unconventional philosophy learned at NASA: prepare for the worst, and enjoy every moment of it. Read More »

Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi

Three sisters, Mayya, Asma and Khawla live in the small Omani village of al-Awafi. Life is harsh in this tight-knit community, ruled by powerful slave-owning Shayks and centuries of tradition and superstitions. A young girl’s aspiration and purpose in life are only to get married and have children.
Mayya marries Abdallah after a heartbreak. Asma marries from a sense of duty and the desire to experience motherhood. And Khawla daringly refuses all marriage proposals, determined to wait for her beloved who has emigrated to Canada. The three young women and their families stand witnesses to the coming-of-age of Oman to its complex present. Read More »

Songbirds, by Christy Lefteri

Petra, newly widowed and struggling, hires Nisha to care for her daughter. Nisha left her own daughter behind in Sri Lanka to find work in Cyprus and has not seen her for many years. Yiannis rents the upstairs apartment in Petra’s house, has a secret relationship with Nisha and another secret: he is a poacher, hunting the tiny songbirds which migrate past the island each year.
When Nisha suddenly vanishes, nobody cares, she is only a domestic worker after all. The only people desperate to find her are Petra and Yiannis, although for different reasons. As they search for Nisha, both realise how little they actually knew her and what they uncover will change them all. Read More »