Book of the month 2018

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore's Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain

Book of the Year 2018 – Sarah-Jayne Blakemore's Inventing Ourselves

For the second year in a row we asked you to tell us your favourite book of the year. After hundreds had their say, we're delighted to reveal our Hay Festival Book of the Year 2018 is... Inventing Ourselves by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore.

Why does an easy child become a challenging teenager?
Why do teenagers struggle to get up in the morning?
Why do they often take excessive risks?

We often joke that teenagers don’t have brains. For some reason, it’s socially acceptable to mock people in this stage of their lives. The need for intense friendships, the excessive risk taking and the development of many mental illnesses – depression, addiction, schizophrenia – begin during these formative years, so what makes the adolescent brain different?

Winner of the 2018 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2018, Inventing Ourselves sees neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore draw upon her cutting-edge research in her London laboratory to explain what happens inside the adolescent brain, what her team’s experiments have revealed about our behaviour, and how we relate to each other and our environment as we go through this period of our lives. She shows that while adolescence is a period of vulnerability, it is also a time of enormous creativity – one that should be acknowledged, nurtured and celebrated.

A must read for parents, teachers and teenagers (past and present) everywhere.

About the author

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. She has published over 120 papers in scientific journals, and won multiple major awards for her research, including the British Psychological Society Spearman Medal 2006, the Turin Young Mind & Brain Prize 2013, the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award 2013 and the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2015. She was named in The Times Young Female Power List 2014 and was one of only four scientists on the Sunday Times 100 Makers of the 21st Century 2014. Inventing Ourselves is her first solo book.

Watch again on Hay Player

Horatio Clare's Something of His Art

December 2018 – Horatio Clare's Something of His Art

Something of his Art is Horatio Clare’s recreation of the walk that J. S. Bach took in the depths of winter in 1705 – his long walk to Lübeck across northern Germany.

In the depths of the winter of 1705, the Johann Sebastian Bach, then unknown as a composer and earning a modest living as a teacher and organist, set off on a long journey by foot to visit the composer Dieterich Buxtehude, a distance of more than 250 miles. This journey and its destination were a pivotal point in his life. Lübeck was Bach’s moment, when a young teacher with a reputation for intolerance of his pupils’ failings began his journey towards becoming the master of the Baroque.

More than three hundred years later, Horatio Clare sets off to recreate this walk. The result of this journey is an imaginative evocation of what the twenty-year-old composer would have seen and felt on his long journey, a sustained visualisation of the landscape, light and wildlife of early eighteenth century Germany. Bach becomes Clare’s walking companion, a vestigial, but real presence as he acutely observes the season and places he passes through.

About the author

Travel writer, memoirist and children’s author Horatio Clare was born in London in 1973. He read English at the University of York and later worked as a BBC radio producer on cultural programmes ‘Front Row’, ‘Nightwaves’ and ‘The Verb’. As a freelance journalist he has contributed numerous travel pieces to newspapers and magazines, as well as to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on BBC Radio Four.

His books include A Single SwallowDown to the Sea in ShipsRunning for the Hills (which won the Somerset Maughan Award), Orison for a CurlewIcebreakerand his latest: The Light in the Dark and Something of his Art, both out now.

Listen again on Hay Player
Rose Tremain's The Road Home


Lev is on his way from Eastern Europe to Britain, seeking work. Behind him loom the figures of his dead wife, his beloved young daugher and his outrageous friend Rudi. Ahead of Lev lies the deep strangeness of the British: their hostile streets, their clannish pubs, their obsession with celebrity. London holds out the alluring possibility of friendship, sex, money and a new career and, if Lev is lucky, a new sense of belonging...

First published in 2007, just three years after Poland and nine other countries joined the EU, The Road Home offers a view of the UK through a migrant's eyes: inequality looms large as the stresses of chasing status and success in a new country settles on Lev's shoulders. Comic turns and the tug of his homeland drive the novel to a moving and satisfying close, but its rich cast of characters live on beyond the page.

Revisiting the novel in 2018, with migration and the EU at the centre of political debate, The Road Home offers a human perspective often missing from the conversation.

About the author

Rose Tremain’s novels and short stories have been published in thirty countries and have won several awards, including the Orange Prize (The Road Home), the Dylan Thomas Award (The Colonel's Daughter and Other Stories), the Whitbread Novel of the Year (Music & Silence) and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (Sacred Country). Her most recent novel, The Gustav Sonata, was a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller. It won the National Jewish Book Award in the US, the South Bank Sky Arts Award in the UK and was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award. Rose Tremain was made a CBE in 2007. Her autobiography, Rosie, is out now.

Watch again on Hay Player
Tishani Doshi's Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods


Girls are coming out of the woods,
wrapped in cloaks and hoods,
carrying iron bars and candles
and a multitude of scars, collected
on acres of premature grass and city
buses, in temples and bars...

Girls Are Coming Out Of The Woods is an unflinching collection of poems that weave between topics from violence against women to time and memory. Tishani Doshi's third full collection in English blends visceral power with artistic elegance, re-imagining form as it sifts through detail and emotion.

"It's very much a collection for this moment in history, but one that will endure long past it" – Kamila Shamsie, The Guardian (Best Summer Books 2018).

About the author

Poet, writer, and dancer Tishani Doshi was born in Madras, India, to Welsh and Gujarati parents. Her first book of poetry, Countries of the Body (2006), won a Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Her subsequent collections include Everything Begins Elsewhere (2013) and Dolce Marcescenza (Sweet Decay). Doshi’s first novel, The Pleasure Seekers (2010), was shortlisted for the Hindu Best Fiction Award and has been translated into several languages. She is also the author of Fountainville: New Stories from the Mabinogion (2013), a retelling of the Mabinogion myth, as well as two books about place and home, Madras Then Chennai Now (2013) and The Adulterous Citizen (2015). Her honors and awards include an Eric Gregory Award and an All-India Poetry Prize. She lives in Tamil Nadu, India. Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods is her fourth collection.

Watch again on Hay Player



It is the mid-1800s and as slavery looks to be coming to an end, Sethe is haunted by the violent trauma it wrought on her former enslaved life at Sweet Home, Kentucky. Her dead baby daughter, whose tombstone bears the single word, Beloved, returns as a spectre to punish her mother, but also to elicit her love. First published in 1987, Beloved is Toni Morrison’s enduring masterpiece, told with heart-stopping clarity, melding horror and beauty.

About the author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. She is the author of many novels, including The Bluest EyeBeloved (made into a major film), Paradise and Love. She has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize for her fiction.

Watch again on Hay Player

House of Names by Colm Tóibín

August 2018 – Colm Tóibín's House of Names

First published in 2017, House of Names retells the classic Greek tales of the house of Atreus, the stories of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, their son Orestes and daughters Iphigenia and Electra.

On the day of his daughter's wedding, Agamemnon orders her sacrifice. His daughter is led to her death, and Agamemnon leads his army into battle, where he is rewarded with glorious victory.

Three years later, he returns home and his murderous action has set the entire family – mother, brother, sister – on a path of intimate violence, as they enter a world of hushed commands and soundless journeys through the palace's dungeons and bedchambers. As his wife seeks his death, his daughter, Electra, is the silent observer to the family's game of innocence while his son, Orestes, is sent into bewildering, frightening exile where survival is far from certain. Out of their desolating loss, Electra and Orestes must find a way to right these wrongs of the past even if it means committing themselves to a terrible, barbarous act.

About the author

Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. He is the author of nine novels including The MasterBrooklynThe Testament of Mary and Nora Webster. His work has been shortlisted for the Booker three times, and has won the Costa Novel Award and the Impac Award. His most recent novel is House of Names. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. He lives in Dublin.

Read our Q&A with Colm

Watch again on Hay Player

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we love and think holds particular resonance today. This is our chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HBOTM and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please share on social media using #HBOTM.

Happy reading!