Friday 28 July 2017

Compass Points 224

Congratulations to Birlinn on their 25th anniversary, and a great piece in the Bookseller today to celebrate! You can read the whole thing on their website but here are some highlights!

"Scottish independent publisher Birlinn is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Established in 1992, the publisher has sought to create a “truly national cultural conversation”. And with a publishing programme that crosses five imprints, it also has UK-wide and international reach, publishing both new and established writers. The company was founded by managing director Hugh Andrew, then a freelance sales rep who was keen to try his hand at publishing. “As a rep, much of my travel took me to places and people who kept telling me that if only they had a reprint of ‘x’ or ‘y’, they could sell it,” Andrew says. “I tried to interest the publishers [I represented] in the titles mentioned but did not get very far. So, I decided to publish them myself.” Starting off with four books (two which are still in print), the publisher now has some 800-900 titles in print, and publishes 160 titles a year. With 24 part-time and full-time staff, Andrew says: “I don’t think we can be beaten for quality, reach and market knowledge, particularly in Scottish non-fiction.”

Last year, Birlinn sold 234,180 books for £2.54m, according to Nielsen BookScan, with its bestselling title, 101 Gins to Try Before You Die by Ian Buxton, shifting 20,954 copies. Among the highlights forthcoming from the publisher this year are new books from international bestseller Alexander McCall Smith and the “new Scottish master of crime”, Denzil Meyrick. Birlinn really prides itself on its relationships with booksellers across the country, and we will be working closely with them, as ever, on promotional tables, displays, windows and events”, Andrew adds. Discussing the biggest challenges the publisher has weathered in its 25 years, Andrew says the “steady erosion” of independent booksellers and suppliers, as well as Amazon and price predation, have been big concerns. Despite this, he is pleased to have seen the Birlinn team grow and evolve, adding: “Today the entire Birlinn family is justifiably proud of what has been achieved.”

Great to see a bookseller on the longlist for this year’s £50,000 Man Booker Prize! Fiona Mozley, aged 29, who works at the Little Apple Bookshop in York, has been longlisted for her novel Elmet (published by John Murray), a book about family as well as a meditation on landscape in South Yorkshire. The bookshop, whose staff didn't know her title had been put forward for the prize, called it "fantastic news" and we totally agree! You can see the full list of thirteen titles in the Bookseller here. Congrats Fiona!

Last week we mentioned one of Galileo’s new Rucksack Editions featuring Wordsworth’s poetry, and this week it is the turn of Edward Thomas. A Miscellany edited by Anna Stenning (pb, £9.99, 978 1903385609) which has just had an excellent review in the Sunday Express who called it: "a superb anthology … Thomas was an observant traveller through the countryside of Edwardian England, and with its deep tranquillity and birdsong, the England Thomas explored was another country. This is a proper travel book, complete with rounded corners to fit in pocket or rucksack." Readers are also extremely enthusiastic online about this lovely edition saying “really interesting – and a most readable selection from both his prose and poetry. An attractive design (also with some nice illustrations), obviously intended to stand up to the rigours of being taken with the reader into the great outdoors. Much recommended.” And bestselling author John Lewis-Stempel called it: "An utterly brilliant anthology (and brilliant anthologies are rare things)".

And here is Richard Burton reading what is one of Thomas’s most famous nature poems, Adlestrop.

A fabulous review for Arena Sport’s The European Game: The Secrets of European Football Success (£14.99, pb, 978 1909715486) which you can read here on the popular footie website ESDF Analysis. “As we all know, it can be extremely hard for any form of media to live up to expectations when you have been looking forward to something for a long time. This book not only met my expectations, it far surpassed them … I have read a lot of football books over the years but this one is now firmly entrenched as my favourite, I have no doubt that I will return to read again and again. If you have not yet then I would strongly urge you to purchase this book confident that you will not regret the decision. Well written and fantastically well researched the level of insight in to each club is superb.”

Happy Birthday to John Ashbery who celebrates his 90th birthday! To congratulate him, the Guardian Poem of the Week is one of his early translations of Jean Baptiste-Chassignet's six sonnets, included in Carcanet’s Collected French Poetry (pb, £19.95, 978 1 847772 34 3) which reflects both a long and rich life, and John Ashbery’s lifelong engagement with French poetry. John Ashbery is recognized as one of the greatest twentieth-century American poets. He has won nearly every major American award for poetry, including the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the Yale Younger Poets Prize, the Bollingen Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Griffin International Award, and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant.  Ashbery's poetry challenges its readers to discard all presumptions about the aims, themes, and style of verse in favour of a literature that reflects upon the limits of language and the volatility of consciousness. Writing in the TLS, Stephen Burt declared: “Ashbery seems more contemporary, more topical, now than when he started writing, though the culture has changed around him more than he has changed: he has become the poet of our multi-tasking, interruption-filled, and entertainment-seeking days.” John Ashbery: Collected Poems 1990 - 2000 (£20, pb, 978 1784105259) will be published by Carcanet in January 2018.

Here is Ashbery reading his best-known poem, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (pb, £9.95, 978 1857549065). One of the most significant poetic achievements of our time, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics' Circle Award upon its publication in 1976. 

And here he is talking to Time magazine about fame, poverty, art criticism and why he hates the sound of his own voice.

Whether it's an unforeseen financial crash, a shock election result or a washout summer that threatens to ruin a holiday in the sun, forecasts are part and parcel of our everyday lives. We rely wholeheartedly on them, and become outraged when things don't go exactly to plan. But should we really put so much trust in predictions? Perhaps gut instincts can trump years of methodically compiled expert knowledge? And when exactly is a forecast not a forecast? A new myth-busting guide to prediction just out from Biteback, answers all of these questions, and many more. Packed with fun anecdotes and startling facts; Forewarned: A Sceptics Guide to Prediction by Paul Goodwin (pb, £12.99, 978 1785902222) is based on the latest scientific research and lays out the many ways forecasting can help us make better decisions in an unpredictable modern world. It reveals when forecasts can be a reliable guide to the uncertainties of the future and when they are definitely best ignored!

Here's a most amusing compilation of predictions from some of the world's most successful, intelligent people – all of which turned out to be spectacularly, categorically, 100% wrong!

I love it when authors make little promo videos for their books, and here's a lovely one for Joyride to Jupiter (pb, £9.99 978 1848406155) a new short story collection from award-winning author Nuala O'Connor. With prose both lyrical and profound, the these are urgent and humane stories of ill-advised couplings, loneliness and burgeoning hope, full of O’ Connor’s trademark humour and sensuality, and the quest for longed-for truths. A truly stunning collection by one of Ireland’s finest writers, it’s just been published by New Island.

As you may have spotted in the Bookseller, the "revealing" political autobiography of Wales' First Minister Rhodri Morgan is set to be released by University of Wales Press in September, following his sad and sudden death aged 77 this spring while cycling in the lanes near his home. The book promises to recount Morgan's turbulent relationship with Tony Blair and those running the New Labour project, along with the party establishment’s campaign to prevent him becoming Labour leader in Wales, despite being the choice of party members and union members. The open and honest memoir also features stories on Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson, Neil Kinnock, John Prescott, Margaret Thatcher, Jeremy Paxman, and Jilly Cooper, among many others. Its publisher said: "From the master of the colourful soundbite, this is the fast-paced, highly amusing, inside story of the decade leading up to the creation of the Welsh Assembly and the first ten years of that institution’s history. The book is an entertaining and candid account of Morgan's sometimes turbulent, often controversial, but never boring, political life. Rhodri’s warmth, wit and down to earth manner was unusual for the straight-talking and politically gifted mind behind it – something that colleagues at the Press greatly enjoyed and admired him for. Rhodri’s character shines through in his writing, providing a stimulating narrative through the fascinating and eye-opening stories he shares of his experiences and run-ins throughout his political career. The University of Wales Press is both proud and grateful to have captured Rhodri’s legacy, and this unique book is tribute and testament to Wales’s first First Minister, the father of Welsh devolution." Rhodri: A Political Life in Wales and Westminster (hb, £24.99, 978 1786831477) will be published on 24th September to coincide with Labour’s Annual Conference in Brighton. There’s certain to be more publicity to come for this one!

The latest episode of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature Podcast is available to download here and in this month’s episode, Vikki and Kristian are talking myths and fairy tales, with special reference to Naomi Mitchison’s Travel Light. The podcast also includes an interview with Joan Lennon reading the opening of her new YA novel Walking Mountain (pb, £6.99, 9781780274560) which has just been published by Birlinn. Undiscovered Scotland said of it that “it is perhaps inevitable that any book that can be described by the phrase "epic quest" evokes comparisons with The Hobbit, and it's a comparison which is entirely justified in terms of the way the world Joan Lennon has created draws the reader in and keeps you completely enthralled. This is a great book we'd strongly recommend to the young reader or readers in your life” while the Herald wrote: “Another compelling futuristic story, fantastic and baroque. Lennon's world is laced with captivating detail, from the strange animals, gows and marmoldes, to the extraordinary figure at the heart of the story, The Meteor Driver.”

John Fleming and Hugh Honour: Remembered by Susanna Johnston (hb, £20, 978 1783341115) is the first memoir on these bestselling giants of art history, who died last year and has just been published by Gibson Square. This candid and funny memoir seasoned with their eccentricities and humour, is full of delightful gossipy detail about these great English aesthetes and eccentrics who lived in Tuscany. They were the last living giants of art history known to all students and lovers of art, sculpture and architecture through their authoritative and bestselling books, in particular A World History of Art. There was a Country Life review on 19 Jul, and there have also been pieces in the Oldie, Literary Review, the Spectator, The Lady and the Daily Mail.

Who doesn’t love a literary cartoon! I  love this  from the Guardian’s fab Tom Gauld on the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death!

In between dodging the showers and beating off the wasps, lots of us will be trying to eat outside in our gardens as much as possible this summer! In recent years, one of the biggest trends in al fresco dining has been the rise of the outdoor oven – and sales of the excellent Lorenz title Wood-Fired Oven Cookbook by Holly and David Jones (hb, £9.99, 978 1903141946) have also risen accordingly! This bestselling cookbook contains 70 recipes for incredible stone-baked pizzas and breads, roasts, cakes and desserts, all specially devised for the outdoor oven and illustrated in over 400 photographs. It offers everything you need to know about cooking in a wood-fired oven, from lighting a fire to recipes, menu suggestions and timing guides. Whether you want your oven to become a pizza party sensation, the centre of cookout weekends or your new outdoor kitchen, this book is an inspiration. There was a great blog piece on it on the popular food blog Eating Covent Garden which you can see here – lots of delectable pics from the book are featured!

A sobering piece on the BBC website here as Detroit recalls the five days of violent unrest fifty years ago that left twenty-four people dead and more than a thousand injured. As the director of the Detroit Historical Museum says: "Detroit's story is America's story" – don’t forget about the superb Birlinn title on this subject Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul by Stuart Cosgrove (pb, £9.99, 978 1846973666). This title is the second in a “Soul Trilogy” from Stuart that started with Young Soul Rebels: A Personal History of Northern Soul (pb, £9.99, 978 1846973932) and will culminate in Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul (hb, £16.99, 978 1846973734) which is published in October. 
The book opens with the death of the city's most famous recording artist, Otis Redding, who died in a plane crash in the final days of 1967, and then follows the fortunes of Redding's label, Stax Records, as its fortunes fall and rise again. But, as the tense year unfolds, the city dominates world headlines for the worst of reasons: the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this book in future Compass Points for sure – but for now let’s end by watching a live recording of the great man himself, from that pivotal year in soul music history.

Compass Points is away next week! Next newsletter and blog post out on 11 August!

This blog is taken from an e-newsletter which is sent weekly to over 700 booksellers as well as publishers and publicists. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please talk to your Compass Sales Manager, or call the office on 020 8326 5696.

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