Best Book Subscriptions for Adults!*


*Or anyone who doesn’t want a YA box, or anyone in the UK!

Sometime in 2015 I got very jealous of all of the book subscription boxes that seemed to be in the US. I loved the idea of getting surprise book post, but didn’t like the idea of paying ridiculous postage costs only to get a YA fantasy book I probably wouldn’t read (it’s the one genre I just can’t abide, with very limited exceptions.) Those boxes are great, but they aren’t designed for my kind of reading, which is fine, but I wanted a similar experience too! So I went on the hunt for UK based subscriptions that would be geared towards adult readers. Here are some of my favourites from along the way, and a couple that I am desperate to try!

Book and A Brew


This was the first subscription I ever signed up for, back in October 2015. Since then I’ve had every box (Including their one-off Halloween special!) and I absolutely love them. I’ve blogged about them a few times already but the premise is quite simple; every month they’ll send you a hardback book and a box of tea to complement it. As someone who drinks tea like it”s going out of fashion it’s perfect! The price is well worth it too; most of the tea they’ve sent I’ve later seen in the supermarket for upwards of £5 a box, so £12.99 for that and a hardback is a bargain!

Subscribe here.

Book Voyage UK.


As part of my ongoing Read the World Project I’m constantly on the look out for recommendations for books from different countries so when I found out about this subscription I was so excited! I think I ended up getting the very first box and again I’ve subscribed ever since. Similar to Book and A Brew, there is tea (or often coffee) involved, but with a twist. Each month they’ll send you a book from a country in the world (in translation), a snack from that country and a box of tea or coffee from the country too. Again, it’s well worth it price-wise, at £14.99 you get a monthly surprise and treats!

Subscribe here.

Ninja Book Box


This is another favourite that I’ve subscribed to since the beginning- when I joined the Kickstarter back last year. Bex puts together a fantastic box each quarter; each with an independently published book and gifts that fit around a theme. Gifts are handmade, specially made for the box or from small businesses so it’s truly a celebration of small-businesses and small press! The theme each time is unique and well thought-out so I’d thoroughly recommend subscribing!

Subscribe here.

Persephone Books


Now for something slightly different- publisher subscriptions! Persephone Books is a small, independent publisher in London that are always worth a visit. They publish mainly out of print female writers, but each book is produced so beautifully- with an endpaper based on a fabric produced at the time the book was originally published. They also offer a subscription service, either as a gift or for yourself, whereby they’ll send you a book from their catalogue a month for 6 or 12 months.

Subscribe here.

Tilted Axis Press


Another publisher-based subscription! I met some representatives of Tilted Axis at Bare-Lit festival this year and fell in love with the idea of a small press publishing books in translation. I purchased their 2017 print subscription when I got home and so far have received two of their 2017 releases on release day! The subscription includes all of their 2017 releases, straight to your door (as well as any that have been published already this year) and they’ve got a fantastic catalogue!

Subscribe here.

The next two are subscriptions that I haven’t tried out yet, but I am absolutely desperate to because they look so good!

Moth Box Books



Moth Box Books is another independent publisher inspired postal service that’s still very unique. On alternative months they’ll send out a box with two independently published novels or two independently published short story collections. They’re not technically a subscription service- you have to purchase one-off boxes that sell out very quickly- but I’ve got my thumb poised for 1st June when the next Short Story edition goes on sale!

Buy here from 1st of each month.

And Other Stories


And Other Stories is a publisher that I’ve actually read a few times (One of my- many -current reads was published by them) but I’ve had my eye on their subscription for ages. It’s more of a reciprocal agreement; being a small press they rely on support from readers to source, translate and publish a wide range of international titles so your subscription directly supports individual books. They’ll print subscriber names at the back of each book they publish and send copies to you too so you get a real sense of involvement!

Subscribe here.

Books in the cover photo of this post all came from subscriptions:
The Impossible Fairytale: Tilted Axis Press 2017 print subscription.
Dragon’s Green: Ninja Book Box ‘Magical Lands’ box.
Raised From the Ground: Book Voyage UK ‘Portugal’ box.
Songs of Willow Frost: Book and a Brew Feb ’17 box.
NOS-4R2: Book and a Brew Halloween ’16 special box.

The Hunger Angel by Herta Müller

The second book I finished for Read the World Project this week was one for Romania; The Hunger Angel by Herta Müller. Herta Müller writes a lot about the German minority in Romania and the corruption of the Communist Romanian government so she seemed like a good choice!

The Hunger Angel revolves around Leo, a seventeen year old German boy in Romania who is found having sex with married men in his local park. His family seem to make no objection to his consequent deportation to a Russian forced labour camp- under the guise of ‘reparations’ to Russia for the war. Over the next four or five years he faces starvation alongside other workers, as well the cruelty of the Russian guards.

I’ve seen The Hunger Angel called a prose poem and I would agree; it’s beautifully lyrical and really focuses on snippets of emotions, feelings and moments of humanity over a prolonged plot. It makes sense, seeing as Herta Müller sought inspiration from her mother’s experiences, as well as those of the late poet Oskar Pastior, with whom she originally planned to write the novel. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, poetic; think a lyrical One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

I have another of Müller’s books to read soon, a dystopian critique of Ceaușescu’s Romania. She’s become an automatic favourite of mine!

The Ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

It’s been a while since I talked on here about my Read the World Project but I have been making some progress. I finished two books this week (and have another two, I believe, I’ve yet to review) and have another two on the go for this week. I turn 26 in five days, which means I’ll have four years left to finish (if I’m going by my arbitrary 30 deadline.)

I was really chuffed to find The Ultimate Tragedy. Someone I follow on twitter mentioned it and I immediately pre-ordered it with the knowledge that, as it stands, it is the only book to have ever been translated in to English from Guinea-Bissau. When I looked in to it further I found out that Abdulai Sila actually published the first novel in Guinea-Bissau (not this one, his first novel- Eterna Paixão.) So I was excited to start! I was also really drawn to the starkness of the cover; I love the artwork Dedalus Africa chose for it.

The Ultimate Tragedy revolves around Ndani- a poor, young black girl coming to Bissau in the hopes of finding employment in a white household at the suggestion of her closest friend, her stepmother. Her home village rumours her to be cursed and the white family who employ her treat her cruelly. As the story progresses Ndani is cast out and then taken as the wife of a local leader in her home village, who hopes to humiliate the Portuguese administrator with a show of his wealth. Over time she falls for an educated teacher at the local school but the Portuguese colonisers seek to quash any hope in the black locals.

It’s a surprisingly short book for one that takes place over such a long period of time, it’s only 187 pages in total, but Abdulai Sila fits in a lot of plot. His first novel, I believe, criticised the government of the newly formed Guinea-Bissau, whereas The Ultimate Tragedy shows the growing challenge towards Portuguese colonial rule as well as the corruption and racism inherent in the political system. 

I absolutely loved this book. I’m so glad that it was translated (recently- my paperback edition was published in early April of this year) because it gave me a great- but brief- insight in to a country that I know very little about. It also didn’t hold back- this isn’t a book written with a European or US publisher in mind- it’s rightly harshly critical of European colonial rule and the hypocrisy of white colonisers treating native black African people like the ignorant. There’s love here, but also political commentary and, surprisingly, humour. Less humourous, and I will provide a TW here, is the inclusion of a rape scene that takes place- literally- behind closed doors, so please be aware of that.

So, yes, go read this powerful insight in to Guinea-Bissau!

(I also found my book for Equatorial Guinea thanks to the translator of this one! It’s on its way!)

Bare Lit 2017

Today I spent the day at Bare Lit festival 2017 with my friend Bex, of Ninja Book Box/London Bookshop Crawl fame, and it was the most incredible day! We decided a while ago that we would only be able to go to one day and I’m so glad we chose the Sunday!

Our first panel was From Real to Unreal and Back, a talk about the use of fantastic storytelling elements to reflect the real world. I was super excited to hear Ali Bader read one of his short stories from the Iraq + 100 anthology, which was incidentally my favourite in the whole collection! Also on the panel were Irfan Master, who read two excerpts from his new novel, and Inua Ellams who chaired and read a new poem.

It was an interesting mix of opinions! With such a diverse set of backgrounds it was great to hear debate rather than bland agreement and I found the incite of Ali Bader, whose prominence as an Iraqi writer gave him a different perspective to authors living in Britain.

The next panel, When Bad Things Happen, was my favourite and I was hooked every second. The five panelists discussed the responsibility involved in writing about trauma, as well as ways to protect yourself as a writer looking to put personal experience on the page and the important of writing about traumatic events without sensationalism. 

Guilaine Kinouani, a therapist and writer for The Independent, was a passionate but measured chair and I found her thoughts to be fascinating. Nasrin Parvaz spoke about her time being tortured in an Iranian prison and how writing her prison memoirs brought emotions back to the surface. Robyn Travis talked passionately about the process of writing his book Prisoner to the Streets and the responsibility he felt to young black readers not to glorify his past violence. Olumide Popoola provided a powerful incite in to writing as a queer author of colour and finally Stephen Thompson talked about writing his book, No More Heroes, and the process of drawing on other people’s experiences.

Honestly one of the most inspiring group of people I have ever had the privilege of listening to.

Next was How to Judge a Book Prize where Sunny Singh, Yvette Edwards and Catherine Johnson discussed the absence of writers of colour on larger prizes’ long lists and the systematic problems faced by authors of colour in the publishing industry. They also talked about judging the Jhalak Prize For Book Of The Year By A Writer Of Colour and some of the challenges (predominantly by one disgrace of an MP) that the prize has faced in its first year.

Finally, Kerry Young gave the keynote speech on the social, political and personal responsibility writers have. The speech was sponsored by The Royal Literary Fund and was the perfect close to the day.

I came away with a modest book haul of four books (pictured at the top) and a very long ‘to buy’ list! It was a surprisingly tiring day and I definitely needed the wind down time on the train home (in which I read a third of the two anthologies I got!).

If anyone if debating going next year then I would say it’s a definite must!

Human Acts by Han Kang 

I read Han Kang’s debut The Vegetarian last year and one of the things I loved about it was the feel that it was actually a series of novellas stitched together to create a greater whole. In Human Acts she achieves that to even greater effect; the story combines different narratives, points of view and perspectives on the 1980 Gwanju uprising.

One of the things I found most striking about Human Acts is the voice Han Kang gives to the dead; either through narration or giving even the most fleeting character- shot down in the uprising- a backstory. The other; the fact that she doesn’t shy away from the gruesome details of what goes on behind the scenes of a popular uprising. There’s no romanticisation (a warning for graphic descriptions of torture) and it feels like an important story to tell and an important voice to give. 

Again I liked the feel that the story was actually a collection of interlocking vignettes. It wasn’t a group of short stories as such, but an overlapping and interwoven peaks in to the lives of a group affected by political turmoil. It’s beautifully written and translated (again, Han Kang and Deborah Smith work fantastically together) and it reads like being immersed in the fear, pain and uncertainty of political oppression.

I will warn, again, that are some very painful sequences in the book; if you don’t feel comfortable reading about torture and death then I would steer clear. However, for me, this is flawless storytelling. 

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

The Bone Sparrow was one of the first books I read in 2017 and I’m ashamed to admit that I was shamefully ignorant of the refugee crisis in Australia beforehand. My knowledge is very Euro-centric and it’s something I need to work on. This book highlighted the human rights abuses towards Rohingya refugees from Mayanmar in Australia detention camps.

The narrator, a boy born in such a camp,  navigates the cruelty of the camp guards, the quiet depression of his mother, the fleeting safety of his best friend and the cynicism of his sister in a lyrical, child-like way. He reads to a local girl who sneaks in at night and watches as tensions rise within the camp with devastating consequences.

It’s a tragic story because it’s grounded in such a horrific reality. Endorsed by Amnesty International, Subhi’s story is one of millions of Muslim refugees around the world who are treated with cruelty and suspicion and are vilified by mainstream medias.

Of course, it’s also a story that needs to be told by refugees in their own words, and I’m seeking more and more diaspora stories written by people with that experience (if anyone has any recommendations then please let me know!) because it’s important that they tell their own stories.

Nina Is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi

I was given this book on the London Bookshop Crawl by my friend Bex with very little idea of what to expect. I love Shappi Khorsandi’s comedy so the fact that she’d written it was a big selling point for me. Despite me having no idea of expectations this book still managed to surpass them.

Nina Is Not OK is about seventeen year old Nina, whose dad drinks himself to death when she’s nine, shortly after her boyfriend moves to Hong Kong. Her drunken exploits are notorious at college, she’s drinking more and more and insists she doesn’t have a problem. But she can’t remember one night in particular and the situations she’s getting herself in to are becoming far more dangerous.

I cried a lot reading this book. Personally, Nina’s path is one I narrowly escaped; my dad didn’t die of alcoholism until I was twenty, so I grew up very aware of the dangers of alcohol and skipped that whole teenage-rebellion-drinking-until-you-puke stage until I was a lot older than Nina and was angry enough to lash out at everything and everyone. I could have very easily been her.

The bits that got me in the story, though, were Nina’s thoughts on what might have happened if her dad had lived long enough to get help. It’s something that occurs to you daily when you lose someone to addiction and Shappi Khorsandi writes it very very well, as well as that weird juxtaposition between life then and now, and how hard it is to feel like you fit in to a life without that chaos and worry daily.

It was a much harder read than I was expecting, and is warn heavily for sexual assault, rape and talk of addiction and death from it. But it’s also very hopeful. Nina is not OK, but you feel like she will be.