The Friend: Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction and a New York Times bestseller My Life in Sea Creatures: A young queer science writer’s reflections on identity and the ocean Bestiary: The blazing debut novel about queer desire and buried secrets The Memory of Animals: From the Costa Novel Award-winning author of Unsettled Ground
Mostly Dead Things Grief Is the Thing with Feathers H is for Hawk: The Sunday Times bestseller and Costa and Samuel Johnson Prize Winner The Friend: Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction and a New York Times bestseller
My Life in Sea Creatures: A young queer science writer’s reflections on identity and the ocean Bestiary: The blazing debut novel about queer desire and buried secrets The Memory of Animals: From the Costa Novel Award-winning author of Unsettled Ground Mostly Dead Things
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers H is for Hawk: The Sunday Times bestseller and Costa and Samuel Johnson Prize Winner The Friend: Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction and a New York Times bestseller My Life in Sea Creatures: A young queer science writer’s reflections on identity and the ocean

Gina Chung: On Animals, Loss, and Change

By Picador

Gina Chung: On Animals, Loss, and Change

By Picador

I’m drawn to animals, both in real life and in literature, because I think they keep us honest. An

animal cannot lie or pretend to be something that it isn’t, at least not in the way human beings

can.

Examining the way animals live can also provide comfort or understanding during hard times. I

wrote my novel Sea Change during the early part of the pandemic, and I found great solace

during that time in thinking and writing about the sea creatures that my protagonist Ro interacts

with at her aquarium job. Among them is Dolores, a giant Pacific octopus who also happens to

be Ro’s one last point of connection with her father, a marine biologist who went missing at sea

years ago.

Reading or writing about animals grounds me, and reminds me that we, too, for all our

complexities, are animals and a part of (rather than apart from) nature. I’m a big fan of books

that explore animals and how our relationships with them can help us process life’s upheavals.

Here are seven books that do just that.

The Friend: Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction and a New York Times bestseller

The Friend: Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction and a New York Times bestseller

Sigrid Nunez

£9.99 £9.49

Nunez’s The Friend is the story of a woman who finds herself taking care of her deceased best friend and mentor’s dog, a huge Great Dane named Apollo who is in deep mourning for his owner. Further complicating matters is the fact that dogs are not permitted in our main character’s apartment building. While initially the woman only takes in Apollo out of obligation and loyalty to her friend, she becomes increasingly devoted to the dog as time goes on, and the two of them bond over their shared grief. A beautiful, gutting novel on the tender complications of loss and friendship.

My Life in Sea Creatures: A young queer science writer’s reflections on identity and the ocean

My Life in Sea Creatures: A young queer science writer’s reflections on identity and the ocean

Sabrina Imbler

£16.99 £16.14

This gorgeously written and meticulously researched collection of essays delves into Imbler’s lifelong fascination with sea creatures, particularly those found in remote or hostile environments of the ocean. With each essay, Imbler examines a creature and its behavioral quirks in exquisite detail (you’ll learn about the dancing yeti crab, immortal jellyfish, sea salps, and more) while also weaving in stories of growing up as a mixed-race, queer, non-binary person, along with the many selves they have come to inhabit along the way. It’s a stunning, searing, and often joyous read.

Bestiary: The blazing debut novel about queer desire and buried secrets

Bestiary: The blazing debut novel about queer desire and buried secrets

K-Ming Chang

£9.99 £9.49

This novel tells the story of three generations of Taiwanese American women, and much of the book unfolds through tales within tales, as the characters of Daughter, Mother, and Grandmother grapple with the myths of their homeland and the losses and trauma they have each endured. The animals featured in Bestiary are as blazingly mythic as Chang’s lyrical and ferocious prose style. Haunted by the story of Hu Gu Po, a tiger spirit who possessed a human woman and caused her to hunger after children, Daughter wakes one day with a tiger tail herself, while the family’s backyard becomes littered with sentient, hungry holes.

The Memory of Animals: From the Costa Novel Award-winning author of Unsettled Ground

The Memory of Animals: From the Costa Novel Award-winning author of Unsettled Ground

Claire Fuller

£16.99 £16.14

Claire Fuller’s haunting latest novel takes place during a devastating global pandemic, and centers a disgraced marine biologist named Neffy who signs up for an experimental vaccine trial in an attempt to atone for the mistakes she’s made, including one that has cost her her career. But when the virus mutates, with catastrophic results, Neffy is trapped, and she must come to terms with her past and find a way forward. Isolated inside a medical unit along with the other trial volunteers, Neffy loses herself in memories of the past, including her reminiscences of a beloved octopus she encountered as a child that sparked her interest in sea life.

Mostly Dead Things

Mostly Dead Things

Kristen Arnett

£9.99 £9.49

While most of the animals in Kristen Arnett’s debut novel are, as might be surmised by the title, dead (in fact, stuffed and mounted, at protagonist Jessa-Lynn’s family’s failing taxidermy business), they’re a powerful presence throughout the book. In the wake of her father’s suicide, Jessa-Lynn is struggling to keep the business afloat, while also trying to keep her mother from sneaking into the shop after hours to create strange, titillating tableaus with the taxidermied animals. Jessa-Lynn is also nursing a broken heart; her brother Milo’s wife Brynn, whom she has been in love with since they were kids, has abruptly left the family. Arnett’s sense of humor gleams throughout the novel, and her lovingly rendered details of how Jessa-Lynn prepares, stuffs, and mounts the animals provide a vivid metaphor for how life and meaning can still be gleaned from death and profound loss.

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

Max (Author) Porter

£9.99 £9.49

Another bird-centric story, this one is about a pair of boys mourning the loss of their mother. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar, is adrift without his wife, unsure of how to parent his sons alone. Enter Crow—a larger than life figure who embodies all of the archetypical associations of crows (trickster, guardian, spiritual guide, sage) and announces, Nanny McPhee-like, that he will stay with the family until he is no longer needed. Told in an evocative, fabulistic style, this slim novel is full of humor, insight, and tenderness.

H is for Hawk: The Sunday Times bestseller and Costa and Samuel Johnson Prize Winner

H is for Hawk: The Sunday Times bestseller and Costa and Samuel Johnson Prize Winner

Helen MacDonald

£10.99 £10.44

A classic of the genre, MacDonald’s H Is For Hawk is a stirring and deeply moving exploration of the depths of grief and the joys and pains of being alive. It’s the story of how MacDonald processed the untimely loss of her father by adopting and raising a goshawk, a raptor whose ferocity comforted her during a time when she felt divorced from her own humanity.

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