The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah

This radical and humbling story is about many personal transformations; from a borstal to becoming a university chairman of creative writing.

Zephaniah charts painful family memories, gang pressure, petty crime and a glorious emergence against, a backdrop of reggae, ska and punk, as a performance poet in the early 1980s.

A poet in residence at the chambers of Michael Mansfield QC at the time of the Stephen Lawrence case, he also befriends Nelson Mandela, pushes political boundaries and turns down an OBE; this book is about the redemptive power of poetry.

Bookworm, by Lucy Mangan

Bookworm is a celebration of childhood reading and recreates that magical feeling, when as a child, you read a book by a new author for the first time.

Told with Lucy Mangan’s warmth and humour, she shares an impressive reading list, from her toddler years to adolescence.

Full of nostalgia, Bookworm explains the historical context of the cornerstones of children’s literature and interweaves entertaining author biographies. By the end, you’ll be seeking out old favourites to re-read.

The Valley at the Centre of the World, by Malachy Tallack

Beautifully perceptive, this accomplished debut novel vividly describes the rhythms of life in a crofting community on Shetland.

This is not a plot driven read, but rather a subtler meditation reflecting the nuances and layers of the characters’ relationships with one another.

The treatment of time is particularly fascinating – how it alters our visions and interpretations, and shapes peoples’ lives.

Frieda, by Annabel Abbs

In this beautifully crafted novel, Annabel Abbs reveals the ‘real Lady Chatterley’, Frieda von Richtofen, whose scandalous affair with a young D H Lawrence was the inspiration for many of his most famous works.

Frieda’s complex character is brought vividly to life, while the underlying debates about feminism and the nature of emancipation still resonate today.

Nine Pints, by Rose George

This is the absorbing, fascinating story of blood – the science, the myth, the cultural significance, the economics, and yes, the leeches.

Rose George has travelled the world, from London to Cape Town, from Nepal to Canada, to uncover the good, the bad and the ugly about the substance that we all rely on to keep us alive, but which is still taboo in many societies.

McMafia, by Misha Glenny

Seriously ambitious in scope – “a journey through the world of international organised crime” – McMafia nonetheless delivers as promised, providing a view of crime on a mind-blowing scale, often with truly frightening state and institutional collusion.

Despite the brutality of the topic, Glenny’s journalistic writing and the numerous first-hand insights add a light air that keep you reading at a lively rate. Shocking, but fascinating.

A Thousand Ships, by Natalie Haynes

This is a majestic re-imagining of the untold stories of Homer’s Iliad; Natalie Haynes soars and swoops over the epic poem, teasing out the stories of its female characters, both human and divine.

We hear the poignant stories of the last of the Trojan royal family, we read Penelope’s often angry missives to her errant husband Odysseus, and we learn about the toll exacted by warfare.

The Accident on the A35, by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Pushing the bounds of crime fiction, this beautifully written book is as much about emotional engagement with the characters as the ‘accident’ of the title.