Staff Picks

Looking for ways to travel without leaving the house, the perfect book for the beginning of rainy days, to explore art galleries from your desk, and be reminded that stories beyond your four walls exist? Check out these picks from our wonderful staff members or get in touch for a personalised recommendation. Follow us on Instagram or Facebook (@DillonsNorwoodBookshop) to find out what we’re reading now.
Click on a genre below to take you straight there, or keep scrolling to read them all!

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

A fantastic work of historical fiction based on the real life espionage network of female spies called ‘The Alice Network’ during WWI. The book boasts a duel narrative, on set during WWI about Eve Gardner – an allied spy working in German occupied France – and the other set in 1947, depicting 19-year-old Charlie, an American searching for her cousin who disappeared at the end of 1945. The two stories weave together in an intriguing and unexpected way, making for an enjoyable and also enlightening read.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Murata is a Japanese, award-winning author. This is her tenth novel, and the first to be translated into English. The two main characters Keiko and Shiraha are both unapologetically unconventional. Murata does not judge her characters, she lets them speak for themselves. Her writing style is succinct, beautiful and has great clarity. This is a book that will stay with you for a long time. A truly enjoyable read.
– Kathy

Dig by A.S. King

What a sprawling, important book this is. It’s an uncomfortable read about multi-generational racism, poverty and family trauma, but it’s meant to make you feel that way – that’s why it’s so powerful. It also features an extensive cast of vibrant, interesting characters, and it’s mind-bending and weird, but in the absolute best way. You won’t regret reading it.

Making Friends with Alice Dyson by Poppy Nurosu

Hands down – best rom-com I’ve read in the YA section. Ever. Honestly. Ever. This contemporary fiction is set in Port Adelaide, written by an Adelaidian, and is possibly the most accurate depiction of life in Year 12. Alice is a studier. That’s all she has really done for a long time. But then Teddy seems to be everywhere. Teddy is a great character – he’s so beautiful inside and out and so misunderstood that you yearn for him. This book is brilliant, lifelike and so incredibly honest. The inner drive of Alice whilst struggling with unknown feelings of love and hurt but needing to reach the expectations set by her unyielding mother was just captivating. I stayed up far too late to read this. Then woke up at like 5am to finish it. Yes, it is that good.
Ages: 14-18
– Sas

The Only Story by Julian Barnes

This is a love story; not in the sense of one that just scratches the surface of romantic love, but a deep love story told in hindsight with the acuity that only maturity and time can give it. Exquisitely narrated it delves into the darker connotations of love and the hold it has on the novel’s protagonist. Feelings of passion, regret, shame, consequence, sadness, obligation and responsibility are all featured in Paul’s recollection of the one great love of his life. But it’s also about memories and our ability at recollection to distort the truth. That only with time and maturity comes a sense of clarity and the ability to compartmentalise and yet still question those experiences and the inevitability of how they shape who we are.
It’s hard to tell whether the cover art is streaked with Paul’s tears or that of the reader having finished, such is the novel’s poignant narrative. So beautiful and pained.
– Marnie

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

An interesting read which takes you through the past, present and future of the survival of bees and the part humans play in their survival or demise. Maja’s story follows William the biologist and seed merchant in 1851, George, a bee keeper and farmer in 2007, and Tao, a human pollinator in 2098. A great read which gets you thinking about the importance of bees in our farming and food production.
– Amanda

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I would say Michelle for 2020, if not for the fact that Michelle herself would intensely dislike any suggestion of her going back into politics. (I will hereby continue calling her Michelle as I would like to imagine us to be on a first name basis). After reading this book I’m of the opinion that Michelle deserves all the ‘most supportive wife’ trophies one could give. A trailblazer in her own right as a lawyer and first-generation college graduate, Michelle never saw a future in politics and frankly was not initially keen on her husband embarking on that journey either. This autobiography details the ups and downs of a life in politics and gives readers a fresh insight into both the Obama White House and the hurdles that had to be overcome to get there. As someone who does not often delve into biographies this one kept me engaged throughout, and I cannot recommend it enough.
– Emily

Finch by Penny Matthews

This is incredible. The blurb does not give this novel justice; it is about so much more than Finch, Audrey and her move to the country. This environmentally thoughtful creation was a joy to read. Audrey and her obsession with birds is refreshing and has a great innocence to it. Our story line is beautiful, you expect it to become a bit ghostly but instead it explores a wonderful kind of bend in time. Finch is not who he seems, yet his friendship allows Audrey in blossom.
With environmental messages throughout of global warming, human interference with the land and the devastation of endangered species, this novel packs a punch in a way that you don’t expect. It encourages girls to explore science and maths and get outside into the world. An amazing read with a mystery to boot. I loved it to pieces.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Evelyn Hugo is an enigma, a larger than life Hollywood beauty who entrances audiences on and off screen. This novel follows her interactions with Monique, a small-time journalist who Hugo handpicks to write her tell-all biography. This story spun a captivating tale about the ugly truths behind the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and showed just how much orchestration it takes to create a movie star.
This book was so immersive I felt as if Evelyn was a real person and that I was reading the tell-all biography of someone like Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn. An excellent and witty character-driven story about discovering what is truly important in life.
– Emily

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

The first in his “Dark Star Trilogy”, this book is certainly a change of pace for the author of the Man Booker Prize-winning “A Brief History of Seven Killings”. It’s been touted as the “African ‘Game of Thrones'”, and it certainly lives up to the hype; the story traverses an enormous, complex, and beautiful world brimming with fantastical creatures, monsters, evil dictators, and violent, troubled characters. I think Neil Gaiman put it best in his description: ‘a dangerous, hallucinatory Africa, which becomes a fantasy world as well realised as anything Tolkien made”. I can’t wait for the next instalment!

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

This is a lovely read! Pearce transports you to London in the 1940s, where Emmeline Lake wants to do her part for the war effort. She volunteers at the Auxiliary Fire Service, and her dream is to be a War Correspondent – but life doesn’t always take us on the path we imagine.
This is a moving, but surprisingly funny novel that brilliantly displays the effects of war on the perhaps unassuming victims – those on the Home Front. Filled with heart and charm, this book shows the power of love, kindness, and friendship.

Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan

This is now my favourite short story collection. Gritty, clever, surprising; May-Lan Tan does not waste a single word in this book. Her stories are thought-provoking and her prose is rhythmic. Her characters are incredibly honest, and there were phrases and sentences in this book that so perfectly summarised or evoked an emotion or experience that I felt as if I’d had the breath knocked out of me. This is a collection that I will treasure: annotate and underline, read again and again.

Educated by Tara Westover

This book was incredibly difficult to read, but I struggled to put it down. The beliefs held by Tara’s family – about women, about education, about the world at large – frustrated me in their irrationality, and made me incredibly angry at times, but reading this book was worth the struggle; Tara’s eventual liberation from her family and her outstanding educational triumphs in a world where the odds were stacked against her was incredibly rewarding to read. I certainly won’t take my education – or the very fact of my identity – for granted anymore.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

This novel is a delightfully unique fantasy set in the Middle East with the flavour of an old western. Amani is a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, who resides in the small, end-of-the-line town of Dustwalk. Magic and mystics once ruled her world but have been forced to the dark corners of the desert nation of Miraji by a vicious political regime. This novel is a completely fresh and unique entry into the YA fantasy genre, unlike anything I’ve ever read. Full of djinn, magic and mythical horses, it’s a page turner at the very least!
Ages 14+

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

A deadly virus has swept through the child population of the United States. The children who survive it are forever changed. Ruby wakes on her tenth birthday to discover something is very different about her, something so alarming that her parents lock her away and call the police. Children everywhere start demonstrating abilities they didn’t have before – Greens are super smart, Blues are telekinetic, Yellows can manipulate electricity, Reds can manipulate fire and Oranges… well you’ll just have to read to find out. The adults are scared of what they can’t control. Ruby, now sixteen and imprisoned with other kids like her, must escape before it’s too late. Join Ruby and her band of fugitives as they flee from their government and for their lives. An excellent, fast paced read!
Ages 13+                               

The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag

Pick this up. Pick it up now. The artwork is stunning, breathtaking, things you want to have on your wall so you can look at it daily. Now read it, read what’s happened to America, how people have become obsessed with technology and it’s ruined almost everything. Follow Michelle and her robot as they travel across the country in search of… what? What could possibly be so important? You’ll know.
Ages 16+            
– Sas

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos

This first instalment of a four-part series is extremely exciting. It has the magic of Alice in Wonderland blended with the Victorian world of Dickens. It is full of intrigue, subterfuge and surprise. The characters that Dabos creates will stay with you for a long time. This new voice in the steampunk genre will not disappoint. For lovers of Philip Reeve and Philip Pullman.
– Kathy

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

This book will break you apart and put you back together again… in a good way. A deeply thought provoking and imaginative read which explores the complications that come with growing up amidst an ill-fated mixture of family conflict, loss and first love. Twins Jude and Noah were once inseparable but now they barely speak after an unexpected tragedy. This novel details the journey of Jude and Noah finding their way back to each other, but it’s so much more than that – it would take too long to summarise! Nelson has crafted a beautiful book. I guarantee the poetic – almost lyrical nature of her prose will stay with you months after turning the final page.
Ages: 14+
– Emily

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This pertinent book confronts and explores the issues that we are constantly bombarded with today: police brutality, racism, drug abuse and domestic violence. But it also considers the everyday problems of the world’s teenagers- young love, fitting in at school and navigating friendships with family and friends. This novel invites teenagers to consider both their own immediate problems and those of the wider world, and it is this blending of near and far that makes this such an important book, and an invaluable lesson too.