In short: am I normal? ; Orwell’s Roses; Milk teeth – reviews | Books

Sarah Chaney
Profile, £16.99, pp370

Chaney’s compelling and highly readable debut dives into the story of normality. It wasn’t until 200 years ago that the word “normal” was even applied to humans: before that, it was a purely mathematical term. But 19th century scientific developments and the growing popularity of statistics prompted a search for averages – and subsequently standards – in human health, experience and behavior. Encompassing everything from gender surveys to baby weights, beauty standards to sexuality, this is a brilliantly engaging work of popular science.

Rebecca Solnit
Granta, £9.99, pp320 (paperback)

When Solnit visited Orwell’s home in Hertfordshire, she discovered roses she believed to be descendants of flowers Orwell himself had planted in the mid-1930s. has been the catalyst for an eclectic series of observations on his life and work. Solnit goes to great lengths to emphasize that the book is not intended to be a biography, but it nevertheless illuminates Orwell’s essays, his political passions, and his highly sensitive engagement with the natural world.

Jessica Andrews
Scepter, £16.99, pp256

The anonymous narrator of Deciduous teeth, plagued by body shame, leaves his toxic family in Durham and travels to London, Paris and Barcelona, ​​unable to escape his emotional demons. Told in short vignettes that oscillate between the present and the past, the tale can feel shocking, and there’s a tendency towards self-indulgence that hampers the potential for emotional insight, but Andrews explores some important questions nonetheless.

Colin L. Johnson