FAT COW, FAT CHANCE by Jenni Murray (Penguin £9.99, 272 pp)


by Jenni Murray (Penguin £9.99, 272 pp)

If the book title seems shocking, it is with good reason. For most of her adult life Jenni Murray has been substantially overweight, and ‘fat cow’ is one of the more repeatable insults that strangers yell at her in the street.

At 64, Jenni weighed 24 stone and was suffering from severe obesity-related health problems when she decided to have gastric sleeve surgery to radically reduce the capacity of her stomach.

Four years on she has lost 10 st, and has finally learned to ‘eat only when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full’. Her memoir combines a painfully honest account of her lifelong battle to lose weight with an investigation into the physical and psychological causes of obesity.


by Merlin Sheldrake (Vintage £10.99, 368 pp)

‘Fungi are everywhere,’ writes Merlin Sheldrake, ‘but they are easy to miss. Neither plants nor animals, they live mysterious, hidden lives around us — and inside us.’

They come in every shape and size, from microscopic yeasts to an ancient honey fungus in Oregon that covers 10 sq km.

Fungi thrive in habitats too extreme for most other life forms (radiation-resistant species grow at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor), yet more than 90 per cent of their species remain undocumented.

Sheldrake has been fascinated by fungi since childhood, and the more he studies, the more extraordinary he finds them, including their ability to ‘communicate’, ‘learn’ and ‘make decisions’.

In this captivating and very personal guide, Sheldrake even plans to grow edible mushrooms on a copy of his own best-selling book.


PIRANESI by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury £8.99, 272 pp)

by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury £8.99, 272 pp)

Susanna Clarke’s first novel, the award-winning Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, is a historical fantasy of an uneasy friendship between two magicians in an alternative Regency Britain.

Her long-awaited second novel is set in a similarly fantastical world.

Her solitary hero, Piranesi (who shares his name with the 18th-century Italian artist, famous for his prints of imaginary prisons) lives in a house so immense that clouds gather in its upper chambers, and the sea sweeps through its lower floors.

He lives on fish and seaweed, keeping a meticulous journal of his lonely existence. He has a sinister occasional visitor known as The Other, who sometimes brings small useful gifts, but also seems to hold the key to the mystery of Piranesi’s presence in the house.

Haunting and beautiful, with echoes of Narnia and Gormenghast, this will delight Clarke’s many fans.

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