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The HERO 2024 Summer reading list – ft. Pedro Almodóvar, Sally Rooney and Julia Armfield
By Barry Pierce | Books | 12 June 2024

Whether the sun makes an appearance or not, it’s spritz season in London and we’re going to make the most of it. But, I know you’re asking, what is a Campari Spritz outside Bar Italia without a good book? This summer is looking particularly stacked for releases, whether your tastes are for fiction or non-fiction, poetry or essays, we’ve got you covered.


These Heavy Black Bones by Rebecca Achieng Ajulu-Bushell (out now)
When she was fifteen years old, Rebecca Achieng Ajulu-Bushell was world number one in the 50m breaststroke. Over the next three years, she would go on to become a double British champion, sports personality of the year in Kenya and make the GBR Olympic team. She was the first Black woman to do so. These Heavy Black Bones is an eye-opening memoir of the gruelling reality of being a teenage athlete with all eyes on you, and how all of this scrutiny is only increased tenfold as a Black woman.

The Secret Public: How LGBTQ Performers Shaped Popular Culture (1955–1979) by Jon Savage (out now)
The author of the definitive book on punk and the Sex Pistols, England’s Dreaming, as well as the definitive book on Joy Division, This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else, Jon Savage has now turned his critical eye to the influence that queer performers had on popular culture throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s. From the ambiguous sexuality of stars such as Little Richard in the 1950s through to David Bowie, glam rock and Sylvester’s You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), The Secret Public shines a light on the often overlooked queer history of pop.

Private Rites by Julia Armfield (out now)
Set in a world where it has been raining for so long that the lands have reshaped themselves, Isla, Irene and Agnes are estranged sisters who must come together after the death of their father. A famous architect revered for making the new world navigable, he had long cut himself off from public life. The sisters now find themselves uncertain of how to grieve his passing when everything around them seems to be ending anyway. The second novel from the author of Our Wives Under the Sea, Private Rites is an unmissable new work from one of the country’s most original minds.

The North Road Songbook by Verity Spott (27/06)
Richard Porter’s Pilot Press has become one of the most essential indie presses to pop up in the last decade and its summer roster is looking unmissable. The latest collection by poet Verity Spott, The North Road Songbook, brings together eight sequences of poems, most of which were composed between 2019 and 2024. The title sequence is a set of lyrics written around North Road in Brighton, originally a medieval field boundary, now a chaotic thoroughfare filled with ghosts, sirens and songs.


The Last Sane Woman by Hannah Regel (02/07)
The debut novel from the poet Hannah Regel, The Last Sane Woman follows Nicola Long, a few years out of a fine arts degree, listless and unenthusiastically employed in London. She begins to spend her hours at a small underfunded archive dedicated to women’s art. There she discovers one side of a correspondence beginning in 1976 and spanning a dozen years, written from one woman – a ceramics graduate, uncannily like Nicola – to a friend living a contrasting and conventionally moored life.

Corpses, Fools and Monsters: The History and Future of Transness in Cinema by Caden Gardner and Willow Maclay (09/07)
In the history of cinema, trans people are usually murdered, made into a joke, or viewed as threats to the normal order – relegated to a lost highway of corpses, fools, and monsters. In this book, trans film critics Caden Gardner and Willow Maclay take the reader on a drive down this lost highway, exploring the way that trans people and transness have evolved on-screen. Starting from the very earliest representations of transness in silent film, through to the multiplex-conquering Matrix franchise and on to the emergence of a true trans-authored cinema.

The Light Room by Kate Zambreno (18/07)
One of the great uncategorisable writers of our time, Kate Zambreno’s work has never been fully available in the UK until now. The Light Room, Zambreno’s latest work, is a memoir of those early days of lockdown. Zambreno captures the isolation and exhaustion of being home with her baby and a small child, as well as the small and transcendent moments of beauty and joy. Excitingly, Zambreno’s classic text Heroines from 2012 will also be published here in the UK on the same day.

Strange Relations: Masculinity, Sexuality and Art in Mid-Century America by Ralf Webb (25/07)
Strange Relations, the non-fiction debut by poet Ralf Webb, explores the crisis in mid-century American masculinity and the lives and works of four bisexual writers who fought to express and embody alternate possibilities. Building on Walt Whitman’s philosophy of the love between men, Webb considers how Tennessee Williams and Carson McCullers, as well as John Cheever and James Baldwin, resisted in their art, as well as in their relationships, the damaging expectations of contemporary gender and sexuality.


No Name in the Street by James Baldwin (01/08)
Published for the first time in the UK, James Baldwin’s 1972 book No Name in the Street sees the writer reflecting on the experiences that shaped him as a writer and activist: from his childhood in Harlem to the deaths of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Exploring the visceral reality of life in the American South as well as Baldwin’s impressions of London, Paris and Hamburg, No Name in the Street grapples with the failed promises of global liberation movements in fearless, candid prose.

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham (15/08)
From the author of the brilliant Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta, James Hannaham’s Delicious Food is about Darlene, once an exemplary wife and a loving mother, who finds herself devastated by the unforeseen death of her husband. Unable to cope with her grief, she turns to drugs. Unbeknownst to her eleven-year-old son Eddie, Darlene has been lured away to a remote farm with false promises of a good job by a shady company named Delicious Foods, where she is held captive while she works the land to pay off alleged debts.

Yr Dead by Sam Sax (15/08)
It is 2016 and Ezra has just lit themself on fire outside Trump Tower. Their life suddenly flashes across time and geography, leaping from memories of childhood to the inherited memory and historical movements of their family: smoking Winstons aged twelve, after Hebrew School; their mother disappearing without a trace; visiting a temple in Tel Aviv; a college reunion filled with ghosts. Memories culminate to create a work that revels in estrangement, in feeling queer and at home, or queer and out of place; in feeling alive.

The Edge of the Alphabet by Janet Frame (29/08)
One of New Zealand’s greatest writers, Janet Frame’s vast body of work covers novels, short fiction and several volumes of autobiography. Her most famous work, An Angel at My Table, became the basis for the film of the same name that launched Jane Campion’s career internationally. Now, as part of Fitzcarraldo Edition’s recent foray into reissues, Frame’s third novel The Edge of the Alphabet, originally published in 1962, is donning the famous blue jacket. Centring on the struggles of several dislocated people and their largely futile efforts to connect with society, this lesser-known novel will be published on the very day of Frame’s centenary.


Intermezzo by Sally Rooney (24/09)
Aside from the fact that they are brothers, Peter and Ivan Koubek seem to have little in common. Peter is a Dublin lawyer in his thirties – successful, competent and apparently unassailable. Ivan is a twenty-two-year-old competitive chess player. He has always seen himself as socially awkward, a loner, the antithesis of his glib elder brother. In the wake of their father’s death, the brothers are thrown into a period of desire, despair and possibility – a chance to find out how much one life might hold inside itself without breaking.

The Empusium: A Health Resort Horror Story by Olga Tokarczuk (26/09)
The latest work by Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk, a novel that walks in the footsteps of Thomas Mann up his magic mountain. In September 1913, Mieczysław Wojnicz, a student suffering from tuberculosis, arrives at Wilhelm Opitz’s Guesthouse for Gentlemen, a health resort in what is now western Poland. Every day, its residents gather in the dining room to imbibe the hallucinogenic local liqueur, to obsess over money and status, and to discuss the great issues of the day. But outside the resort, something seems to be watching the patients and attempting to infiltrate their world.

The Last Dream by Pedro Almodóvar (26/09)
The Last Dream brings together for the first time twelve unpublished stories from the legendary Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, written between the late sixties and the present day. Both a tantalising glimpse into Almodóvar’s creative mind and a masterclass in how to tell a story, this intimate and mischievous collection reflects Almodóvar’s obsessions and many of the themes of his cinematic work, spanning genres from autofiction to comedy, parody, pastiche and gothic.


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