Why be Happy When You Could be Normal by Jeanette Winterson

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It was Jeanette's version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson. It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted. It was a story of survival. This book is that story's the silent twin. It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life. It is about the pursuit of happiness, about lessons in love, the search for a mother and a journey into madness and out again. It is generous, honest and true.

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Jennifer Worth came from a sheltered background when she became a midwife in the Docklands in the 1950s. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying, not only because of their grimly impoverished surroundings, but also because of what they were expected to endure. But while Jennifer witnessed brutality and tragedy, she also met with amazing kindness and understanding, tempered by a great deal of Cockney humour. She also earned the confidences of some whose lives were truly stranger, more poignant and more terrifying than could ever be recounted in fiction. Attached to an order of nuns who had been working in the slums since the 1870s, Jennifer tells the story not only of the women she treated, but also of the community of nuns (including one who was accused of stealing jewels from Hatton Garden) and the camaraderie of the midwives with whom she trained. Funny, disturbing and incredibly moving, Jennifer's stories bring to life the colourful world of the East End in the 1950s.

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend

The day her twins leave home, Eva climbs into bed and stays there. For seventeen years she's wanted to yell at the world, 'Stop! I want to get off'. Finally, this is her chance. Her husband Brian, an astronomer having an unsatisfactory affair, is upset. Who will cook his dinner? Eva, he complains, is attention seeking. But word of Eva's defiance spreads. Legions of fans, believing she is protesting, gather in the street. While Alexander the white van man brings tea, toast and sympathy. And from this odd but comforting place Eva begins to see both herself and the world very, very differently. .

Mr Golightly’s Holiday by Salley Vickers

Many years ago Mr Golightly wrote a work of dramatic fiction which grew to be an international best-seller. But his reputation is on the decline and he finds himself out of touch with the modern world. He decides to take a holiday and comes to the ancient village of Great Calne, hoping to use the opportunity to bring his great work up to date. But he soon finds that events take over his plans and that the themes he has written on are being strangely replicated in the lives of the villagers he is staying among. He meets Ellen Thomas, a reclusive artist, young Johnny Spence, an absconding school boy, and the tough-minded Paula who works at the local pub. As he comes to know his neighbours better, Mr Golightly begins to examine his attitude to love, and to ponder the terrible catastrophe of his son's death. And as the drama unfolds we begin to learn the true and extraordinary identity of Mr Golightly and the nature of the secret sorrow which haunts him links him to his new friends. Mysterious, light of touch, witty and profound, ‘Mr Golightly's Holiday’ confirms Salley Vickers's reputation as one of our most original and engaging novelists.

Balthasar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo by Julia Stuart

Meet Balthazar Jones, Beefeater at the Tower of London. Married to Hebe, he lives and works in the Tower, as he struggles to cope with the tragic death of his son Milo, three years ago. The Tower of London is its own magical world; a maze of ancient buildings, it is home to a weird and wonderful cast of characters - the Jones's of course, as well as Reverend Septimus Drew, the Ravenmaster, and Ruby Dore, landlady of the Tower's very own tavern, the Rack & Ruin. And, after an announcement from Buckingham Palace that the Queen's exotic animals are to be moved from London Zoo to the Tower's grounds, things are about to become a whole lot more interesting… Komodo dragons, marmosets, and even zorillas ('a highly revered yet uniquely odorous skunk-like animal from Africa') fill the Tower's menagerie – and it is Balthazar Jones's job to take care of them. Things run far from smoothly, though – missing penguins and stolen giraffes are just two of his worries! A touching, magical and entirely original debut.

The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society by Chris Stewart

The Good Life goes on at El Valero. Find yourself laughing out loud as Chris is instructed by his daughter on local teenage mores; bluffs his way in art history to millionaire Bostonians; is rescued off a snowy peak by the Guardia Civil; and joins an Almond Blossom Appreciation Society. You'll cringe with Chris as he tries his hand at office work in an immigrants' advice centre in Granada, spurred into action by the arrival of four destitute young Moroccans at El Valero. And you'll never see olive oil in quite the same way again... In this sequel to 'Lemons' and 'Parrot', Chris Stewart's optimism and zest for life is as infectious as ever.

Dear Lupin….Letters to a Wayward Son by Charlie & Roger Mortimer

Nostalgic, witty and filled with characters and situations that people of all ages will recognise, Dear Lupin is the entire correspondence of a Father to his only son, spanning nearly 25 years. Roger Mortimer's sometimes hilarious, sometimes touching, always generous letters to his son are packed with anecdotes and sharp observations, with a unique analogy for each and every scrape Charlie Mortimer got himself into. The trials and tribulations of his youth and early adulthood are received by his father with humour, understanding and a touch of resignation, making them the perfect reminder of when letters were common, but always special.

I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron returns with her first book since the astounding success of I Feel Bad About My Neck, taking a cold, hard, hilarious look at the past, the present, and the future, bemoaning the vicissitudes of modern life, and recalling with her signature clarity and wisdom everything she hasn't (yet) forgotten. Even as she's listing 'What I Won't Miss' and 'What I Will Miss' - making the final tally - Ephron reaches back to recount falling hard for a way of life ('Journalism: A Love Story' ) and breaking up even harder with the men in her life ('The D Word' ), a long- anticipated inheritance with entirely unanticipated results ('My Life as an Heiress' ), and the evolution, a decade after she wrote and directed You've Got Mail, of her relationship with her in-box ('The Six Stages of E- mail' ). All the while, she gives candid, charming voice to everything women who have reached a certain age have been thinking . . . but have rarely acknowledged. Filled with insights and observations that instantly ring true - and could have come only from Nora Ephron - I Remember Nothing is a pure delight.

The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

Nombeko Mayeki is on the run from the world’s most ruthless secret service – with three Chinese sisters, twins who are officially one person and an elderly potato farmer. Oh, and the fate of the King of Sweden – and the world – rests on her shoulders. Born in a Soweto shack in 1961, Nombeko was destined for a short, hard life. When she was run over by a drunken engineer her luck changed. Alive, but blamed for the accident, she was made to work for the engineer – who happened to be in charge of a project vital to South Africa’s security. Nombeko was good at cleaning, but brilliant at understanding numbers. The drunk engineer wasn’t – and made a big mistake. And now only Nombeko knows about it …

Diary of a Nobody by George & Weedon Grossmith

The Diary of a Nobody is so unassuming a work that even its author, George Grossmith, seemed unaware that he had produced a masterpiece. For more than a century this wonderfully comic portrayal of suburban life and values has remained in print, a source of delight to generations of readers, and a major literary influence, much imitated but never equalled. If you don’t recognise yourself at some point in The Diary you are probably less than human. If you can read it without laughing aloud you have no sense of humour.