Well, what with this welcome warm spell that most of us are enjoying, I suppose it won’t be long before all the newspapers start publishing their lists of their best holiday reading suggestions. According to journalist Robert McCrum, you might well be better off choosing one of the classics instead of something new. He has spent two years two years selecting his top 100 books, and the result are covered in his new book The 100 Best Novels in English (pb, 978 1903385470, £9.99) which is published by Galileo in June. You can read an interesting article here with McCrum explaining why he made the choices he did – and why he believes that “reading really does liberate you.” Everybody loves a list but this is a list of major ambition which has been built up week by week in the Observer since September 2013. The chosen books are published from the late 17th century to the present day and there is a short critique accompanying each novel. The novelist, critic and literary editor of the Observer, Robert McCrum is uniquely well-placed to make this selection and the result is a complete delight. This collection takes the full text of each individual piece (the published versions in the Observer had been cut by about half) and also adds a graphic of the original jacket or title page. McCrum has written a brilliant and hugely readable introduction to the book, which contextualises and examines the evolution of the novels that he has selected. This is a good gift book for a tricky-to-buy-for friend I feel – and also would make a fun choice for a book group to discuss and debate – if you have a “Reading Groups” table put this on it! You can find out more here.
A couple of Carcanet authors have been in the media recently. Listen out for an interview with the wonderful Ian McMillan on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row on Friday 13th May from 7.15pm. This is great publicity for his New and Selected Poems – To Fold The Evening Star (£10.99, pb 978 1784101909). Alison Brackenbury’s Skies (pb, £9.99 978 1784101800) got a glowing review in the Guardian last weekend: which you can read here. Some great quotable endorsements in it, including this: “Peelings is the most sympathetic poem about parsnips you are ever likely to read.” – love it!
Since its publication in February, the graphic novel In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way published by Gallic has received much coverage in national newspapers and magazines – so don’t forget to keep it on display! The New Statesman ran a review saying: “If you have felt intimidated by Proust, seize him now in this accessible form. If you love Proust and have read every word a hundred times, get hold of this book and you will experience the memory of reading him for the first time.” You can read that whole piece here. The Financial Times also reviewed the title saying “Heuet has certainly succeeded in conveying the ‘flavour’ of Proust's novel” and the Guardian published a very positive review describing it as: “Sumptuous, elegant and beautifully paced, it is completely absorbing” - read that here. The Economist said that the book: “Captures the essence of Proust beautifully.” And the Independent felt that “Heuet’s love of Proust shines through in his inventive drawings.” In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way (hb, 978 1908313904 £19.99) is available now.
The Infinite Air by Fiona Kidman (pb, £9.99, 978 1910709085) has had some good publicity – you will remember this is the enthralling story of the rise and fall of one of the world's greatest aviators, the glamorous, daring and mysterious Jean Batten – often referred to as ‘the Garbo of the skies’. After breaking records and becoming an international icon in the 1930s, Batten suddenly slipped out of view, disappearing to the Caribbean with her mother and eventually dying in obscurity in Majorca, buried in a pauper's grave. This compelling behind-the-scenes story is a fascinating insight into the early days of flying, of mothers and daughters, fame and secrecy – and would be a great summer read, so do keep it on display! The Big Issue ran a feature article by Fiona Kidman talking about Jean Batten which you can read here ; the Lady Magazine said “Kidman has triumphantly brought this inspirational heroine to life”; Red Magazine featured The Infinite Air as one of their monthly must reads for April, describing it as “A fascinating read”. The Infinite Air by Fiona Kidman (pb, £9.99, 978 1910709085) is published by Aardvark Bureau and you can find out more here
Many congratulations to Raba'i al-Madhoun, who has just won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2016 (sometimes referred to as the Arabic Booker.) You can read the full announcement here, and there has been coverage for it in the Guardian, and the Bookseller. Raba'i al-Madhoun’s earlier novel (published in 2013) The Lady from Tel Aviv also won many awards and is available from Telegram. This compelling human story, regarded as one of the great achievements of modern Arabic literature begins in the economy class of a plane where the lives of two passengers intersect. Walid Dahman, a Palestinian writer, is returning to his family in Gaza and Dana Ahova, an Israeli actress, is on her way back to Tel Aviv. As the night sky hurtles past, what each confides and conceals exposes the chasm between them in the land they both call home. The Lady from Tel Aviv is an incisive exploration of the effects of occupation and what it is to be a Palestinian. Al-Madhoun’s precise, poetic use of language and sardonic humour bring home political realities and how people live them. The Lady from Tel Aviv by Raba'i al-Madhoun (978 1846590917, £8.99, pb) is available now.
Talking of people all trying to co-exist on our somewhat crowded planet – I think this short film makes interesting watching – and maybe challenges some of our preconceived ideas about race and culture.
We’ve still got a couple of early reading copies available of I’ll Sell You a Dog by Juan Pablo Villalobos; if you email firstname.lastname@example.org with Please Send Me A Dog in the subject line, we will pop one in the post to you! The Compass MD has just started reading this one and has already pronounced it absolutely brilliant! I’ll Sell you a Dog (pb, £10.00, 978 1908276742) is published by And Other Stories in August and you can find out more here.
A great review for Patricia and Malise by Susanna Johnston (which has just been published by Gibson Square) in The Oldie this week. “Witty, wonderful… a story so compelling and strange … there should be a warning on the cover: Open with Caution. Eccentric, funny and deeply disturbing… an acute understanding of human nature and a remarkable visual sense.’” said Selina Hastings, and Anne Robinson has also praised it as “Wicked, great comic characters.” This is a Roman à clef about an affair the author had as a married woman in Italy which revolves around the interactions of five main characters. There is Patricia, a young English woman who lives in Lucca and is married with a cerebral Italian academic Andrea. She has a young child and a deep longing for home. Then there are polar opposites Malise, smart, aloof and cruel and Christian his younger brother who has never been able to let go of his adoration for Malise. They are bound together by a grossly immoral secret and meeting Patricia in Italy changes both of them forever, unleashing emotions neither knew existed. Sensuous, darkly funny bordering on demonic; the Spectator called her writing “utterly charming, totally bonkers”. The Daily Mail picked her last novel as one of their top summer reads calling it “a passport to paradise” and I predict this one (a very striking cover) should do well. Patricia and Malise by Susanna Johnston (hb, 978 1783340880, £12.99) is available now and you can find out more here.
And finally something funny to set us up for the weekend! Tom and Jerry have today been blamed for ISIS. The Head of Egypt's Information Service has blamed the cartoon characters for teaching children that you can blow people up and encouraging extremism. You can read that story in the Daily Mail (where else) here! So let's watch a bit of vintage (1951) Tom and Jerry – I do hope it doesn’t turn all of you peace-loving booksellers into terrorists…
Compass is on Twitter! Follow us @CompassIPS. Today we’re loving #BoatyMcBoatface...
10TV@10TV #BoatyMcBoatface not chosen for name of British boat; internet weeps
Kalon Rae @kalon_rae #BoatyMcBoatface is my new spirit animal.
Salomé Jones @call_me_salome To be fair, the ship looks a lot more like #boatymcboatface than the RSS Sir David Attenborough.
isabelle tracy @hullfair I propose that we now, with the utmost affection, start addressing Sir David Attenborough as Boaty.
The Poke @ThePoke A Daily Mail reader comments on the #BoatyMcBoatface saga: I hope Isis sink this and then kidnap Daniel Attingborough
HuffPost @HuffPostUK A petition is calling on Sir David Attenborough to stand up for democracy by renaming himself #BoatyMcBoatface
Rebecca Mascull @rebeccamascull Before anyone else nabs it, I've decided to call my next book Novel McNovelface...
Nathalie Gordon @awlilnatty Democracy: Vote for whatever you want. Establishment: No, not that.
MixtLupus @mixtlupus So they decided #BoatyMcBoatface will now be called RSS Sir David Attenborough, but RSS sounds like ARSE and is against the #democratic vote
General Boles @GeneralBoles Crowds are gathering in Trafalgar Square to protest the #BoatyMcBoatface decision
Old Holborn @Holbornlolz Thatcher brought down by Poll Tax; Brown brought down by bankers crash; Cameron brought down by #BoatyMcBoatface. LET'S DO IT!
That’s all for now folks! More next week!
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