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MUST READS

AMERICAN DIRT

by Jeanine Cummins (Tinder £8.99, 480 pp)

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Tinder £8.99, 480 pp)

A determination to expose the corruption of society is a noble ambition — but what are the consequences?

At a Saturday barbecue in Acapulco, eight-year-old Luca Perez is about to find out. 

His father, Sebastian, has just published an expose of ‘The Owl’ — the brutal leader of a vicious narcotics cartel — when the family gathering is interrupted by gunfire that leaves 16 people dead.

Only Luca and his mother, Lydia, survive.

Jeanine Cummins’s worldwide bestseller tells the wrenching story of Luca and Lydia’s desperate flight from Mexico, where they can trust no one — especially not the police — to America, where a distant cousin offers hope of sanctuary.

All her life, Lydia has wondered what drives people to leave their beloved homes. Now she knows: they have no other option.

BIG GIRL, SMALL TOWN

by Michelle Gallen (John Murray £8.99, 320 pp)

Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen (John Murray £8.99, 320 pp)

Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen (John Murray £8.99, 320 pp)

Majella keeps ‘a list of stuff in her head that she wasn’t keen on’. Sometimes she thinks it could be reduced to a single item: ‘Other People’.

A shorter list of things she likes includes cleaning and eating — which is lucky, because she works in a chippy in the fictional Northern Irish border town of Aghybogey. 

Aged 27, Majella has ‘never tasted a Protestant chip’ from the other chippy there.

The effect of the Troubles has been devastating: her father vanished when she was a child, her uncle accidentally blew himself up and now her beloved grandmother has been murdered.

Gallen’s darkly comic debut is an unforgettable portrait of a young woman whose rich internal life offers a brilliantly observed commentary on her bleak surroundings.

THE CHANGING MIND

by Daniel Levitin (Penguin Life £9.99, 528 pp)

The Changing Mind by Daniel Levitin (Penguin Life £9.99, 528 pp)

The Changing Mind by Daniel Levitin (Penguin Life £9.99, 528 pp)

As a young man, reading the lines by Dylan Thomas in which he insists that ‘Old age should . . . rage against the dying of the light’, neuroscientist Daniel Levitin felt the poet’s words were futile.

Now, however, he has seen a different side of ageing. His parents, in their mid-80s, ‘look old, but they feel like the same people’.

How might we all achieve the same active, happy and productive old age as Levitin’s parents?

In his fascinating and readable guide to ageing well, Levitin considers the attributes of people across the world who live in ‘blue zones’ — places with a high number of active centenarians.

Their secret? Sleep, exercise, good food, friendship — and, Levitin adds, ‘allow yourself to have fun now and then.’

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