Here at Booka, we believe in the power and joy of books. Our aim with Booka Book of the Month is to read eclectically, unconstrained by genre. Our selection is made up of exciting storytelling from writers we want to shout about. It is a mix of dazzling debuts, tales with local links, and fantastic fiction flying under the radar – something you might not otherwise encounter to enrich your reading life!
This month’s selection – Sea of Tranquillity by Emily St. John Mandel – is no exception. (Review below)
But during Mindful May, we want to go one step further, by introducing a Non-fiction Book of the Month.
We believe that books help us all feel better, allow us to be better and encourage us to do better. From memoir to travel and nature writing, through science and history to poetry at beyond, non-fiction books can educate and inform, inspire and reenergise us.
This month we want to shout about a title which does all these things. Breadsong by Kitty and Al Tait is both a heartwarming and inspirational memoir – focusing on one family’s experience of their daughter’s mental health crisis and journey to find her own path – and also an amazing baking book filled with brilliant recipes from the Orange Bakery – founded by this daughter and father baking team. We adore this book and cannot recommend it highly enough.
Fiction: Sea of Tranquillity by Emily St. John Mandel
Sea of Tranquillity is Emily St. John Mandel’s sixth novel. The Canadian novelist and essayist’s previous titles include The Glass Hotel and Station Eleven, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award (2015) and has been adapted into an HBO series.
Mandel’s writing is beautifully nuanced and understated, combined with effortless world-building and characterisation. The simplicity of her storytelling concealing the richness of ideas and themes. Already a firm Booka favourite, we had high expectations, however Sea of Tranquillity completely surpassed them.
Investigating the idea of time, alternate timelines, and the inconsistencies, possibilities and connections between them. This is the quiet story of an author, an investigator, and a young man travelling far from home. Three characters spread across different time periods, separated by almost 500 years, yet connected by a strange anomaly.
What follows is a brilliantly strange and captivating mystery, musing on the way we each face life’s hardships and troubles – which touch us all wherever we are in time – and the universal need for love, family, connection and peace, which remains.
With hints of David Mitchell and Megan Hunter, this is gorgeously restrained and moving, a melancholy masterpiece. I loved it – Ruth, Bookshop Manager
Her perspective is so wise, so graceful, so rich and – despite everything – comforting. I loved Sea of Tranquillity – Naomi Alderman, Women’s Prize-winning author of ‘The Power‘
A spiralling, transportive triumph of storytelling – sci-fi with soul – Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of ‘The Mercies’
Non-Fiction: Breadsong by Kitty and Al Tait
‘Breadsong’ is the story of how baking changed the Tait family’s lives. Aged 14, Kitty’s life had been derailed by anxiety and depression, until her Dad tried bread-making as a distraction for her spiralling mind. Something about baking made sense and gave her a pathway to a place of healing and hope; it also led them to found the Orange Bakery, which father and daughter now run together, and oh my goodness the descriptions of their bakes had me drooling!
Told with humour, and grounded in a love of community, (Kitty’s Dad) Al’s understated accounts of the enormity of seeing your child struggle with mental health issues and the quiet grace of the whole family’s adjustments were really moving. Kitty herself is a force of nature, her passion for all things bread infectious. Her story is one of tenacity and hope, and testament to the importance of finding your own path. She, and this book, deserve to go far.
“If you had told me at 14 when I couldn’t even get out of bed with depression and anxiety that three years later I would have written a book I would never have believed you. But here it is – the story of the Orange Bakery. How I went from bed to bread and how my Dad went from being a teacher to a baker. You reading it means everything to me” – Kitty Tait
Breadsong is also a cookbook full of Kitty’s favourite recipes, including the Comfort loaf – made with Marmite, and with a crust that tastes like Twiglets – bitesize queue nibbles and doughnuts with an ever-changing filling to keep the bakery queue happy.
For every instore purchase of Sea of Tranquillity or Breadsong you will get a free regular drink.