Book Stack: 10 reads to wrap up October with

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(Clockwise from top left) The Right To Sex, Velvet Was The Night, The Women Of Troy, The Sisters Mao, Lean Fall Stand and Never Saw Me Coming.

SINGAPORE – In this monthly feature, The Sunday Times picks out 10 books from around the world that have just hit shelves.

Top Of The Stack

1. The Right To Sex

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By Amia Srinivasan
Non-fiction/Bloomsbury/Paperback/268 pages/$32.95/Available here
5 out of 5

The direct, attention-grabbing title – which turns out to be much more complicated than it first appears – sets the tone for this necessary treatise of modern age.

Oxford professor Amia Srinivasan trots out six essays on gender and sex of the highest quality – each one a joy to read and informed by the latest ideas.

From the dangers of pornography to interracial dating, she manages to capture in easy- flowing and concise prose the issues of the day.

Her fearlessness in engaging with touchy topics, usually avoided by progressives – including whether all people, no matter their sexuality, have a duty to examine whom they sleep with – makes her voice a real standout in a time of popular reckoning for gender relations not seen since the 1960s and 1970s.


2. Velvet Was The Night

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By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Fiction/Jo Fletcher Books/Paperback/295 pages/$32.95/Available here

In this noirish tale set in 1970s Mexico City, Maite, a daydreaming, unfulfilled secretary, loses herself in pulp romances and envies her beautiful neighbour, art student Leonora.

When Leonora goes missing, Maite starts looking for her and is drawn into a complex web of student radicals and shadowy government agents. She crosses paths with Elvis, a reluctant criminal who loves old movies and rock ‘n’ rol

3. The Women Of Troy

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By Pat Barker
Fiction/Hamish Hamilton/Paperback/307 pages/$29.96/Available here

In 2018, Booker Prize-winning author Barker published the harrowing The Silence Of The Girls, which recounts the events of the Trojan War from the point of view of Briseis, a queen enslaved by Greek warrior Achilles.

Barker returns to this milieu in The Women Of Troy, set in the aftermath of Troy’s fall as the Greeks divide the spoils and wait for a wind to carry them home at long last.

Briseis is now carrying Achilles’ child and protected only by an arranged marriage with one of his warriors. She observes Achilles’ hot-headed son Pyrrhus, who lives in his dead father’s shadow.

4. The Sisters Mao

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By Gavin McCrea
Fiction/Scribe/Paperback/560 pages/$32.95/Available here

Three women prepare for two revolutionary performances on either side of the world. In London, sisters Iris and Eva, members of a Maoist performance collective, plot an attack on the West End theatre where their mother is playing the title role in August Strindberg’s play Miss Julie.

In Beijing, Jiang Qing, wife of Chairman Mao Zedong, rehearses a gala performance of her ballet, The Red Detachment Of Women, which she intends as a sally against her enemies in the Chinese Communist Party.

Irish novelist McCrea weaves together the stories of these three women in this tale of art and communism.

5. Lean Fall Stand

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By Jon McGregor
Fiction/4th Estate/Paperback/288 pages/$27.82 /Available here

Robert “Doc” Wright, a veteran of Antarctic field work, has a stroke while on duty at a remote research station, which has fatal consequences for someone else. In the aftermath, he tries to recover while his wife Anna is thrust into the role of reluctant caregiver.

McGregor, who has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize three times, weaves a quiet mystery of survival and sacrifice.

6. Never Saw Me Coming

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By Vera Kurian
Harvill Secker/Paperback/400 pages/$29.95/Available here

College freshman Chloe Sevre seems like your average girl next door – fun, flirty, cool to hang out with.

But she is in fact a highly intelligent psychopath who has manipulated her way into John Adams University, for the sole purpose of killing frat boy Will Bachman for a terrible thing he did during their childhood.

The problem is, she got a free ride at the college by agreeing to be part of its psychology department’s secret clinical study of young psychopaths. Someone on campus is now killing off the people in this programme and Chloe needs to figure out how to get away with murder without becoming a victim herself.

7. There’s A War Going On But No One Can See It

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By Huib Modderkolk
Non-fiction/Bloomsbury/Paperback/288 pages/$32.95/Available here

This Dutch bestseller, now translated into English, takes readers through the clandestine underworld of digital espionage. Journalist Modderkolk examines the key players of this invisible war, from whistle-blower Edward Snowden to Russian hacking group Cozy Bear to Evgeniy Bogachev, one of the most wanted cyber criminals in the world.

8. Sidesplitter

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By Phil Wang
Memoir/Hodder Studio/Paperback/257 pages/$32.95/Available here

Wang, a British comedian who was born in Stoke-on-Trent, England, and raised in Malaysia, recounts his experience of growing up mixed-race in this book that is part comic memoir, part-reflective essay.

9. The Silence Of Scheherazade

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By Defne Suman, translated by Betsy Goksel
Fiction/Head Of Zeus/Paperback/502 pages/$32.95/Available here

On an orange-tinted evening in September 1905, Scheherazade is born to an opium-dazed mother in the ancient port city of Smyrna, gem of the Ottoman Empire. At the same moment, the dashing Indian spy Avinash Pillai arrives in the harbour with a secret mission from the British. When he leaves 17 years later, the city will be in flames.

Turkish author Suman’s lush saga intertwines the fates of four families – Greek, Levantine, Turkish and Armenian – in a city now lost.

10. Poison For Breakfast

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By Lemony Snicket
Fiction/Liveright/Hardcover/168 pages/$22.42/Available here

Snicket, author of A Series Of Unfortunate Events (1999 to 2006), has eaten his breakfast – “tea/with honey,/a piece of toast/with cheese,/one sliced pear,/and an egg perfectly prepared” – when he receives a note under the door. It reads: “You had poison for breakfast.” So he embarks on a strange journey of philosophy and bewilderment to solve his own impending death.

This is, of course, a metafictional discursion by Daniel Handler, the American author behind the Snicket persona.

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