Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind – a detailed history and movingly personal exploration of the medical and spiritual uses of psychedelics in treating mental disorders – could not be more timely, given the current epidemic of depression and anxiety. At once spellbinding and deeply frustrating. Another mind-expander was Susanne Röckel’s The Bird God. A fantastical and eerily Gothic family portrait, this genre-bending novel follows three siblings who fall under the cultish sway of an enigmatic power – the bird god of the title. Then, because you can never get enough of the strange and unsettling, my last pick is probably also my least original: this year’s Man Booker Prize-winning Milkman by Anna Burns. A grimly funny, sad and creepy tale of suspicion and self-policing set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, its distinctive voice grips you from the very first sentence. She had me at ‘The day Somebody McSomebody put a gun to my breast and called me a cat and threatened to shoot me was the same day the milkman died.’
Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind (Allen Lane, 2018)
Susanne Röckel, Der Vogelgott (‘The Bird God’) (Jung und Jung, 2018, see http://www.new-books-in-german.com/bird-god)
Anna Burns, Milkman (Faber & Faber, 2018)
Caroline Waight is a translator from German and Danish.