Welcome to Service95 Book Club’s edit of the best books to add to your to-be-read pile. We are thrilled to have a space where we can share the titles that mean the most to us and our newsletter and podcast guests. All these recommendations tell powerful stories across genres including fiction, memoir and manifesto, from recent releases to literary classics. Choose your next favourite book below…
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Becoming CliterateLaurie Mintz
What We Say: Discover the exploration of the pleasure gap in Becoming Cliterate by Dr Laurie Mintz, a renowned psychology professor and human sexuality expert. Unveiling the underlying cultural issues that contribute to this disparity between men and women, Dr Mintz offers insightful solutions for bridging the gap and transforming our sexual experiences.
What They Say: ”An excellent, thorough, inspiring and much needed guide to the source of our deepest energy, pleasure, and power-the clitoris. Everyone needs to read this book and become CLITERATE” – Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues
Klara And The Sun
Klara And The SunKazuo Ishiguro
What We Say: Experience the brilliance of Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, known for Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, with Klara And The Sun. This novel ventures into the unknown territory of AI's impact on human connections, delving into the profound question of the true nature of love.
What They Say: ”A delicate, haunting story, steeped in sorrow and hope” –The Washington Post
People PersonCandice Carty-Williams
What We Say: From the author of the beloved and bestselling Queenie comes another captivating blend of humour and character-driven drama. Join Dimple Pennington as she embarks on a journey to connect with her group of half-siblings in People Person.
What They Say: “People Person is a triumph. I was so moved by this tender, often humorous, portrait of these five siblings, their burgeoning relationships and all their complexities. I loved every one of these beautifully rendered characters and I'm sure the world will too. I couldn't put it down” – Caleb Azumah Nelson
How To Change Your Mind
How To Change Your MindMichael Pollan
What We Say: Pollan takes us on a mind-altering journey to the frontlines of human consciousness, exploring whether psychedelic drugs change our worldview and writes a gripping depiction of new-gen scientists fascinated by the effects of these drugs.
What They Say: “'His approach is steeped in honesty and self-awareness. His cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling” – The Washington Post
Read More: Monica Lewinsky’s Best Books On How The Mind Works
Young MungoDouglas Stuart
What We Say: The acclaimed follow-up to Service95 Book Club’s first Book of the Month, Shuggie Bain, Stuart’s second offering is a revisitation of his urban Glasgow origins. This time, through the lens of a queer romance story, shrouded in a landscape of violence and hypermasculinity. As gripping as ever, this is not to be missed.
What They Say: “Few novels are as gutsy and gut-wrenching as Young Mungo in its depiction of a teenage boy who finds love amid family dysfunction, community conflict and the truly terrible predations of adults. Vividly realised and emotionally intense, this scorching novel is an urgent addition to the new canon of unsung stories” – Bernardine Evaristo
Widow BasquiatJennifer Clement
What We Say: A love story for the ages, Widow Basquiat is an unorthodox dissection of one of modern history’s greatest artists, Jean-Michel Basquiat, as recounted by his muse, Suzanne Mallouk. Bound to tug at your heartstrings, this book paints a vivid portrait of the trials and tribulations of an artist like no other.
What They Say: “A compelling book that leaves a giant-sized lump in the throat… A vivid portrait of Basquiat, powerfully evoking his inventiveness as an artist” – Independent On Sunday
What We Say: A refreshing addition to the archives of queer literature, activist-turned-author Munroe Bergdorf bares all and owns her identity through unapologetic storytelling and entertaining anecdotes in this no-holds-barred memoir.
What They Say: “Bergdorf puts herself on the firing line to make the world more tolerant for us all” – Time
Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow
Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And TomorrowGabrielle Zevin
What We Say: When Sadie and Sam meet at a hospital as children, they bond over their love of video games. Their passion will bring them fame and success in their adult lives, but this sweeping story isn’t about gaming – but rather the joys, frustrations, heartbreak and beauty of a lifelong friendship.
What They Say: “Despite having an engrossing plot, the book reminds you that plot is never really the point of a great novel, and this is a great novel” – Financial Times
Time Is A Mother
Time Is A Mother
What We Say: Compassionate and affecting, Vuong’s masterful poems explore grief, the determination to survive beyond it and the meaning of family with the same poise as his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.
What They Say: “Vuong's poems passionately and inventively articulate the difficulties of understanding and accepting selfhood alongside the varieties of life beyond it” – Times Literary Supplement
Three WomenLisa Taddeo
What We Say: Lisa Taddeo spent eight years researching and interviewing hundreds of men and women before settling on her final three women. The result is an astonishingly honest and raw exploration of female desire and sexuality, imbued with empathy.
What They Say: “Three Women is an astonishing act of imaginative empathy and a gift to women around the world who feel like their desires are ignored and their voices aren't heard. This is a book that blazes, glitters and cuts to the heart of who we are. I'm not sure that a book can do much more” – Sunday Times
Read More: Lisa Taddeo’s Top 5 Books Of All Time
The Wild Womanʼs Way
The Wild Womanʼs WayMichaela Boehm
What We Say: This book will change your life. Intimacy expert Michaela Boehm shares an accessible roadmap to build a pleasure-filled and meaningful existence by revolutionising your connection to yourself and your relationships.
What They Say: “Wise, warm, and wonderful, like sitting around the fire, listening to stories from a brave adventurer in the inner worlds” – Lorin Roche, PhD, author of The Radiance Sutras
The Visiting Privilege
The Visiting PrivilegeJoy Williams
What We Say: These distinctively devastating depictions of modern life are desolate but droll, real but surreal, and reveal the loneliness of human life.
What They Say: “Williams is a flawless writer, and The Visiting Privilege is a perfect book” – NPR
The Vanishing Half
The Vanishing HalfBrit Bennett
What We Say: A beautifully written study of race, identity and gender told through the experiences of twin sisters leading very different lives – to the extent of adopting different racial identities. You will be gripped to the very last page.
What They Say: “Stunning… Bennett pulls it off brilliantly… Few novels manage to remain interesting from start to finish, even – maybe especially – the brilliant ones. But… Bennett locks readers in and never lets them go” – Los Angeles Times
The Untethered Soul
The Untethered SoulMichael A Singer
What We Say: In this forthright and friendly discussion of consciousness and how we can develop it, spiritual teacher Michael Singer explores the question of who we are. It’s life changing.
What They Say: “Read this book carefully and you will get more than a glimpse of eternity” – Deepak Chopra
Read More: Monica Lewinsky’s Best Books On How The Mind Works
The Unbearable Lightness Of Being
The Unbearable Lightness Of BeingMilan Kundera
What We Say: With the backdrop of the Prague Spring, this mighty novel encompasses passion, philosophy, politics, and tragedy, asking universal questions of love and fidelity that remain both unorthodox and entirely relatable.
What They Say: “A modern classic… As relevant now as when it was first published” – John Banville
The RoadCormac McCarthy
What We Say: A harrowing post-apocalyptic odyssey that examines the best and worst of humankind. The tenderness in the father and son relationship forms the true heart of this astonishing novel.
What They Say: “One of the most shocking and harrowing but ultimately redemptive books I have read. It is an intensely intimate story. It is also a warning” – Kirsty Wark, Observer Books of the Year
The Little Virtues
The Little VirtuesNatalia Ginzburg
What We Say: Written between 1944 and 1960, The Little Virtues is a collection of 11 vivid portraits of life – from recounting the Italian countryside, where she lived in exile under fascist rule, to the streets of 1960s London – exploring solitude and belonging against the backdrop of post-war Europe.
What They Say: “A profound commentary on Italian life” – Tim Parks, London Review Of Books
The Last Girl
The Last GirlNadia Murad
What We Say: Nadia Murad’s searing account of her kidnapping by Islamic State in northern Iraq in 2014, her horrifying time held in captivity as a sex slave and her daring escape into Kurdistan. Murad’s incredible bravery and subsequent fight for the rights of survivors of genocide worldwide is a powerful reminder of one woman’s strength in the face of unbearable cruelty.
What They Say: “Offers powerful insight into the barbarity the Yazidi suffered alongside glimpses into their mystical culture … this is an important book by a brave woman, fresh testament to humankind’s potential for chilling and inexplicable evil” – The Times
Read More: Nadia Murad: An Advocate For Sexual Violence Survivors
The Kite Runner
The Kite RunnerKhaled Hosseini
What We Say: Set against the backdrop of his native Kabul, Afghanistan, Hosseini’s smash-hit debut novel has solidified its place as a bonafide contemporary lit classic. A heartbreaking tale, yet equally as stunning, The Kite Runner is a fascinating examination of the human condition in times of conflict through the eyes of a little boy named Amir.
What They Say: “A devastating, masterful and painfully honest story of a life crippled by an act of childhood and cowardice and cruelty ... It speaks the harrowing truth about the power of evil, personal and political, and intoxicates, like a high-flying kite, with the power of hope” – Daily Telegraph
The Days Of Abandonment
The Days Of AbandonmentElena Ferrante
What We Say: Her Neapolitan series showcased Elena Ferrante’s skill in portraying the rawness of the female experience; this novel about a new mother in torment after her husband leaves her proves her absolute mastery of the genre.
What They Say: “Stunning... the raging, torrential voice of the author is something rare” – The New York Times
Swimming In The Dark
Swimming In The DarkTomasz Jedrowski
What We Say: This sensual, poignant novel follows two young Polish Party workers who spend a heavenly summer swimming in secluded lakes and falling in love before they face political conformity when they return to real life.
What They Say: “Elegant, compelling and full of melancholy beauty… I will keep it on my shelves alongside novels by Alan Hollinghurst, Edmund White and other classics in the gay canon” – Evening Standard
Shuggie BainDouglas Stuart
What We Say: Our Service95 Book Club’s first Book of the Month, prepare to be transported to the brutal reality of the Thatcher years in a working-class Glasgow community. It’s also an intimate study of the tenderness that survives the ravages of alcoholism in a mother-son relationship.
What They Say: “A debut novel that reads like a masterpiece, Shuggie Bain gives voice to the kind of helpless, hopeless love that children can feel toward broken parents” – Washington Post
Read More: Douglas Stuart On The Powerful Images That Inspired Shuggie Bain
PachinkoMin Jin Lee
What We Say: Vivid and deeply moving, this powerful multigenerational story about a Korean immigrant family’s life in Japan is a saga of endurance, love, and sorrow. It’s unforgettable.
What They Say: “Gripping… a stunning achievement, full of heart, full of grace, full of truth” – Erica Wagner
Read More: Dua Lipa On Her Top Book Recommendations
On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous
On Earth We Are Briefly GorgeousOcean Vuong
What We Say: This semi-autobiographical novel speaks solemnly of Vuong’s experiences as an immigrant and a gay man and is written as a beautifully honest open letter to his mother who can’t read.
What They Say: “Everything is beautiful in this debut… Vuong has originality running through his veins, and a good deal of humour and impish charm… This impressive debut hints at even greater things to come” – The Times
Oh William!Elizabeth Strout
What We Say: The Pulitzer Prize-winning, Booker-longlisted, bestselling author brings us back to the captivating world of Lucy Barton in a luminous new novel. Oh William! delves into themes of love, loss, and unexpected family secrets that can unsettle and confound us at any stage of life.
What They Say: “A superbly gifted storyteller and a craftswoman in a league of her own” – Hilary Mantel
Noughts And Crosses
Noughts And CrossesMalorie Blackman
What We Say: Thrilling and dangerous, breathtaking and heartbreaking, this novel explores race and equality through a dystopian Romeo and Juliet for modern times. It’s a fine example of just how powerful young adult fiction can be.
What They Say: “Packs some powerful political punches… But Blackman never compromises the story, which is dramatic, moving and brave” –Guardian
Norwegian WoodHaruki Murakami
What We Say: A tale of depression, suicide and trauma, Norwegian Wood takes a deep dive into mental illness and leaves you with a message of hope: to keep living and rebuilding after loss.
What They Say: “This book is undeniably hip, full of student uprisings, free love, booze and 1960s pop, it’s also genuinely emotionally engaging, and describes the highs of adolescence as well as the lows” – Independent On Sunday
Kink: StoriesRO Kwon & Garth Greenwell
What We Say: A revolutionary anthology of short fiction edited by acclaimed writers RO Kwon and Garth Greenwell, this brilliant collection delves into themes of love, desire, BDSM, and diverse sexual interests. The lineup of contributors includes Alexander Chee, Roxane Gay, Carmen Maria Machado, and many others!
What They Say: “A reflective and must-read collection” - Stylist
Just MercyBryan Stevenson
What We Say: As profiled in series 2, episode 4 of our At Your Service podcast, this New York Times No.1 bestseller chronicles the trajectory of a lawyer’s pursuit for racial justice in America’s prison system. A call to action featuring compelling tales of those he has defended over the years, Just Mercy is as powerful and poignant as one can expect.
What They Say: “This is so important. Stevenson explains how deep-rooted racism is, while giving hope that it doesn’t have to exist” – Gloria Steinem
Read More: Bryan Stevenson’s Four Ways To Change The World
Just KidsPatti Smith
What We Say: One of our favourite books of all time, Just Kids begins as a love story, recounting Smith’s life and friendship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe and their pursuit of art, and ends as a beautiful elegy. Just stunning.
What They Say: “The most beautiful, incredible autobiography – it will make you ache for a time and a place that you probably never knew, New York in the 1970s” – Nick Hornby
What We Say: Jez Butterworth’s masterpiece on Englishness stands up as well as on the page as it does on stage. Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron dazzlingly holds court while the scene of his small world transforms into an epic state-of-the-nation play.
What They Say: “Tender, touching, and blessed with both a ribald humour and a haunting sense of the mystery of things…” – Telegraph
Half Of A Yellow Sun
Half Of A Yellow SunChimamanda Ngozi Adichie
What We Say: In this epic following the lives of Ugwu, Olanna, Odenigbo, Kainene and Richard throughout the horrors of the Biafran War, Ngozi Adichie is operating at the peak of her powers. Gripping, devastating and unputdownable.
What They Say: “I look with awe and envy at this young woman from Africa who is recording the history of her country. She is fortunate – and we, her readers, are even luckier” – Edmund White
Read More: Solange Azagury-Partridge On How Chimamanda Has Inspired Her Work
Girl, Woman, Other
Girl, Woman, OtherBernardine Evaristo
What We Say: An essential, vivid, nuanced picture of life as a Black woman in modern Britain, told through the interlinked stories of 12 diverse characters – ranging from a teenage student to a 93-year-old farmer.
What They Say: “If you don’t yet know her work, you should – she says things about modern Britain that no one else does” – Maggie Gee, The Guardian
Fever DreamSamanta Schweblin
What We Say: Part modern horror, part love story, this nightmarish novel about a young woman recounting her astonishing story from her death bed covers themes of maternal anxiety and ecological disaster. It will grip and haunt you in equal measure.
What They Say: “Samanta Schweblin’s novella is a skilfully paced and intricate omen that tears not just at ecological anxieties but at the core of maternal love.” – The Times Literary Supplement
Born A Crime
Born A CrimeTrevor Noah
What We Say: A chronology of his time growing up under South Africa’s apartheid regime, this recent memoir offering, helmed by At Your Service S2 EP5 guest Trevor Noah, is both a comic and compelling read. Touching on the politics of race and identity, Noah invites you on a captivating, introspective journey of self with a collection of personal stories and anecdotes.
What They Say: “A soul-nourishing pleasure, even with all its darker edges and perilous turns, reading Noah recount in brisk, warmly conversational prose how he learned to negotiate his way through the bullying and ostracism . . . is an enormous gift” – USA Today
Blue NightsJoan Didion
What We Say: Blue Nights is a poignant memoir about the death of Didion’s only daughter Quintana, aged 39. Interspersed with vibrant snapshots of her own childhood and laced with the tragedy of a mother’s loss, it’s incredibly honest, moving and ultimately life-affirming.
What They Say: “This is a beautiful and devastating book by one of the finest writers we have. Didion has always been a precise, humane and meticulously truthful writer, but on the subject of death she becomes essential” – Zadie Smith
Bless the Daughter Raised By A Voice in Her Head
Bless the Daughter Raised By A Voice in Her HeadWarsan Shire
What We Say: Essential and intrepid, this collection of poems exploring migration, trauma, resilience and womanhood from the award-winning Somali British poet Warsan Shire (and collaborator on Beyoncé's Lemonade and Black Is King) is a triumph.
What They Say: "It is absolutely astonishing how much emotion, intelligence, imagination, and truth Warsan Shire can get into one collection. She is a poet of the highest order, with a compassionate heart, and a limitless mind” – Benjamin Zephaniah
Read More: Warsan Shire On Her Responsibility As A Black Artist To ‘Bear Witness’ To Forgotten Stories
Bad FeministRoxane Gay
What We Say: Reading cultural critic, novelist and professor Roxane Gay is like listening to a trusted and hilarious friend. This collection of essays examines race, gender and feminism and the way media, politics and pop culture shape society’s views.
What They Say: “A strikingly fresh cultural critic” – Ron Charles, Washington Post
Read More: Dua Lipa’s Other Pieces Of Pop Culture Presenting Norm-Defying Views On Womanhood
What We Say: The stories in this collection are a vivid celebration of the new American South – of high-school band contests where boys from Vicksburg are reunited in Vietnam and the pain of thwarted love abounds. This is a remarkable demonstration of Hannah’s established and unique genius.
What They Say: “Barry Hannah is an original, and one of the most consistently exciting writers of the post-Faulkner generation. The stories in Airships are fiercely imagined fables in which hilarity and pain achieve a remarkable equipoise; sometimes funny, often terrifying, they are told in a captivating and unforgettable voice” – William Styron, Salon
A Thousand Splendid Suns
A Thousand Splendid SunsA Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
What We Say: A beloved modern-day classic and the follow-up to breakthrough debut The Kite Runner, Hosseini offers another heart-warming tale centring familial dynamics amid a contemporary backdrop of his native Kabul, Afghanistan.
What They Say: “Hosseini has done it again… A Thousand Splendid Suns is a triumph. In Khaled Hosseini, Afghanistan has at last found a voice” – The Financial Times
Read More: Dua Lipa Reads A Thousand Splendid Suns On A Solo Date
A Little Life
A Little LifeHanya Yanagihara
What We Say: Exquisitely written, A Little Life will challenge everything you thought you knew about friendship. Yes, the trauma is harrowing, but at its heart, this is a story about a love that knows no bounds – the love we find in friendship.
What They Say: “The triumph of A Little Life’s many pages is significant: It wraps us so thoroughly in a character's life that his trauma, his struggles, his griefs come to seem as familiar and inescapable as our own. There’s no one way to experience loss, abuse, or the effects of trauma, of course, but the vividness of Jude's character and experiences makes the pain almost tangible, the fall-out more comprehensible. It’s a monument of empathy, and that alone makes this novel wondrous” – Huffington Post
Read More: Dua Lipa On A Little Life
A Fine Balance
A Fine BalanceRohinton Mistry
What We Say: Mistry’s talent lies in creating characters you think you know. Delving into their past to explain their present, he addresses how caste, social expectation and political corruption in India shape the fortunes of his four central characters.
What They Say: “A towering masterpiece by a writer of genius” – Independent India
100 Years Of Solitude
100 Years Of SolitudeGabriel García Márquez
What We Say: An epic tale spanning seven generations of the Buendía family in the fictional town of Macondo in Colombia from the GOAT of Latin American literature and magic realism. One of the world’s most famous books and deservedly so.
What They Say: “With a single bound Gabriel García Márquez leaps on the stage with Gunter Grass and Vladimir Nabokov… dazzling” – The New York Times