Books in brief: Wit and wisdom from Mark Radcliffe, and a glorious coming-out novel

Plus: A volume that criss-crosses perspectives and periods of Dublin

Mark Radcliffe. Photograph: Steve Thorne/Redferns via Getty

Mark Radcliffe. Photograph: Steve Thorne/Redferns via Getty



Mark Radcliffe
Canongate, 304pp, £16.99
The subtitle “In search of moments that changed music” is a misnomer – this memoir is really about the moments in music that changed Mark Radcliffe. The Lancashire-based broadcaster is known for a wry, witty presenting style as well as his love of music, and Crossroads blends these with an undertone of sadness. Pivotal events in his life that prompted him to write Crossroads include the death of his father and treatment for head and neck cancer; Radcliffe subtly references these incidents with chapters on standard musical figures (including Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Woody Guthrie and Bob Marley) and topics (concept albums, singer-songwriters) but replaces history lessons with self-effacing, wilfully meandering and Spotify-friendly commentary. Tony Clayton-Lea

Don’t Burn This Book

Dave Rubin
Constable, £18.99
This is Dave Rubin’s story of why he left the left and why the reader should too, offering a 10-step guide to doing so. He castigates the left for its intolerance but, curiously, quotes no left-wing thinkers of substance. Seeking to offer disillusioned left-wing readers “classically liberal principles that stand the test of time”, he is, at best, vague about what they are. He portrays himself as a staunch defender of fact but asserting that the Nazis were socialists somewhat undermines that stance, as do his “climate scepticism” and his belief that the US cannot be imperialist because the desire to break away from an empire led to its founding. Don’t just listen to him but decide for yourselves, he tells us – good advice as there isn’t really much worth listening to. Brian Maye

A Respectable Occupation

Julia Kerninon; translated by Ruth Driver
Les Fugitives, £8.99
This 60-page slip of a book holds more inspiration than its page count would suggest. French author Julia Kerninon is the bibliophile many writers should aspire to be; she writes exactingly of a childhood imbued with literature and an adolescence spent mentored by poets in Paris. Aged 20, she moved to Budapest for a year where she could, “just read and write all day for months, with no interruptions”. The result? She wrote two books. Translated from the original French, this is a female manifesto for a writer’s life. It is a lyrical reminder of the hard (and indeed often unrelated) work it takes to be a wordsmith, which is justified daily in the joy of putting pen to paper and writing book after book. Mia Colleran

A Man’s Place

Annie Ernaux; translated by Tanya Leslie
Fitzcarraldo Editions, £8.99
Not simply a short biography of man manacled to class assumptions, this is also, ironically, an exercise in the art of unsentimental writing. Annie Ernaux promises the reader “no lyrical reminiscences” when writing about her father’s life running a grocery store and cafe in rural France and she is meticulous in her descriptions of her own childhood. The biography is also self-reflexive in its inquiry and suggests the question: what does it mean to contain a life within a number of pages? Memory blots and “it is far more difficult to dig up forgotten memories than it is to invent them”, as Ernaux concludes. The original French edition, La Place, won the Prix Renaudot in 1984, and in 2008 she won the prestigious Prix de la Langue Française for her oeuvre. Mia Colleran

The Magnificent Sons

Justin Myers
Piatkus, £16.99
Jake is on the brink of his 30th birthday, of moving in with his girlfriend, of following a path that many of his friends are already halfway down. But Jake has been keeping the truth about himself hidden, not just from his eccentric family, but from himself. When his teenage brother, Trick, comes out as gay with characteristic panache, Jake realises he can no longer keep his bisexuality a secret. There should be a German word for a coming-out novel, as The Magnificent Sons is a wonderful example, touching on all the psychological intricacies, and the ripples of social and family consequences. But it’s just as much a book about sibling love and the value of friendship. Populated with a likeable, diverse and witty cast of characters, it’s a sure-footed narrative about finding your feet. Ruth McKee

The Globe and Scales: An Anthology of New Writing

Marrowbone Books, €15
“It is dusk, probably winter and I’m sitting on the crossbar of my father’s bike, a big black Raleigh.” Opening this collection is an essay by Michael O’Loughlin that takes us on a cycle across Dublin city in a poignant evocation of the author’s father, merging past and present. It serves as a foreword to the volume, which criss-crosses perspectives and periods of Dublin, featuring short fiction, essays and occasional poetry from the likes of Alicia Byrne Keane, Emer Martin, Dermot Bolger, Mia Gallagher and June Caldwell. From Louise Nealon’s deft touch in Commuter, a story about starting Trinity, to The Idea of Order at Keywaste by Anthony Colclough, a bleak, clever and artfully composed story about a refuse collector, this is a pocket-sized, elegantly designed book, with small and beautiful things inside. Ruth McKee

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