Sweet Home by Wendy Erskine is published in hardback by Picador, £12.99 (ebook £7.99).

This is one where you feel faintly exasperated at yourself for not entirely enjoying a selection of short stories, even if you can totally appreciate how well structured and written they are. And these are brilliantly composed. Each piercing tale is set in Wendy Erskine's hometown of Belfast, swerving between themes of uneasiness, loneliness, boredom, intrigue and restlessness. A woman reluctantly prepares for her mum to get out prison; a man whose daughter died takes an interest in his gardener's child; a grouchy teacher obsesses over a Gaelic football volunteer - on the surface, the narratives are somewhat mundane, but Erskine infuses them with multiplicity, and twists them with darkness. The dialogue is bruising and feels ripped straight from mouths, while the sparse description makes everything feel a little stark and rundown. Impressive and bold, even if it leaves you a little cold. 8/10

The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan is published in hardback by Serpent's Tail, £12.99 (ebook £6.83).

Based on a single short entry in The Annual Register of 1797, Alix Nathan has devised a dark tale of obsession, solitude and the human mind. Herbert Powyss, country squire and amateur scientist, advertises for a volunteer to live without human contact in his cellar for seven years. Only John Warlow, a simple labourer, comes forward, but soon proves a less predictable subject of investigation than the plants in Powyss' hothouse. Through their diverse voices, Nathan compellingly draws the increasing psychological toll on Warlow, Powyss and the other inhabitants of Moreham House, while the Revolutionary Wars with France rumble in the background. Nathan has already garnered praise from leading lights of historical fiction such as Hilary Mantel and CJ Sansom and this, her third novel, brings together a vivid cast of characters for an exploration of the vulnerable foundations of sanity, rationality and civilisation. 8/10

Live A Little by Howard Jacobson is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, £18.99 (ebook £9.99).

Howard Jacobson is a giant in modern British literature, having written scores of influential books including The Finkler Question, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2010. For Live A Little, Jacobson is in familiar territory, dealing with the lives of British Jews, and the sadness and comedy that comes with it. Beryl Dusinbery, in her 90s forgets everything, other than the odd tidbit about past lovers, and Shimi Carmelli, one of the last eligible bachelors in Finchley who is plagued with insecurities. Jacobson deftly balances humour with ageing and the inevitability of death, but there's not enough of a plot to entirely sustain it. And although seemingly done to poke fun, and make a point, some of the archaic views expressed by the elderly characters are hard to laugh off at the expense of another generation, and can feel unnecessary. 6/10


Walks In The Wild by Peter Wohlleben is published in hardback by Rider Books, £14.99 (ebook £7.99).

Reading Walks In The Wild feels a bit like taking a leisurely stroll in the woods, Wohlleben at your side pointing out paw prints and obscure plants, regaling you with mini nature lectures, anecdotes of past adventures and wildlife sightings as you go. The book may call itself a 'guide' - and it is, essentially - but with its charming storytelling tone, expect an absorbing narrative to get lost in, rather than a reference-style guide book. Wohlleben has more than 20 years' experience working for Germany's forestry commission and now runs an environmentally-friendly woodland. He'd liked the idea of writing about the topic but had little expectation of success - then 2015's The Secret Life Of Trees (his first book translated to English) became an international bestseller. It's not just the fascinating depth of his topics, but the gentle authenticity of his voice that makes Wohllebehn's writing such a joy. His prose has that natural-born-teacher quality - capturing your curiosity and making you want to soak it up all up and learn. In Walks In The Wild, he's picked a series of forest-walking subjects to focus on (there are chapters on insects, wild animals, rules around the right to roam and foraging, what you need to know about the weather, navigating and suitable clothing), bringing them to life with his own observations, science and facts, all told within a context of sustainability and love for nature. It'll make you want to pull on those boots and channel your inner Red Riding Hood and hit the trails (except you won't be scared of wolves - you'll be secretly hoping to spot one!). 8/10

Children's book

The Runaway Pea by Kjartan Poskitt and Alex Willmore is published in paperback by Simon & Schuster UK, £6.99 (ebook £4.99). Available July 11

Kjartan Poskitt is known for his Killer Puzzles, Murderous Maths and the Agatha Parrot book series and Alex Willmore has illustrated books including It's My Sausage, Stop, Fox! and Adorabull, but this book is their first venture together. It's time for tea and a runaway pea has bounced off the plate and plans to have fun. The pea PINGS, SPLATS and TWANGS from one sticky kitchen situation to another until he begins to wonder if he has made a mistake leaving the plate. Simple, funny rhyming text, graphic sound effects and vibrant illustrations make this story a pleasure to read aloud. 9/10