Friday 26 January 2018

Compass Points 247

Getting more wildness into our lives is a huge trend at present – whether it’s camping in ever more exotic locations, trekking off to new horizons, or simply being mindful in a forest – and Wild Things Publishing have been right at the forefront of this movement! The Scottish Bothy Bible was a particular success story last year, but the whole list has had a stonking 2017 as you may have read in the Bookseller recently. You can remind yourself of all the titles on their website here. We can’t wait for the Wild Guide to Wales and Marches (978 1910636145, £16.99, pb) which promises to reveal the hidden places, great adventures and the good life in Wales, Herefordshire and Shropshire. It’s out on 1 May and this new compendium of adventures will guide the discerning explorer or adventurous family to over 800 wild swims, ancient forests, lost ruins and hidden beaches. As always, there’s plenty of mesmerising photography and its packed with practical information including GPX co-ordinates and 25 maps. Wales and the Welsh Marches is one of Europe's fastest growing adventure holiday destinations and I think this super-inspiring publisher is going to have another bestseller on their hands with this new title. Wild Things – we think we love you! 

Talking of which, have a read here to find out more about the story behind the simple lyrics and immediately recognisable guitar riff of one of the most memorable songs ever – written in 1965 and most famously performed by the Troggs a year later.

Can you imagine sitting down with your husband and the father of your two small children and telling him “The idea of having sex just with you for the next 40 years – I can’t do it” Author Anita Cassidy did just that when she realised her life was built around something she didn’t believe in: monogamy. Read this fascinating piece  in the Guardian on Discovering my true sexual self: Why I Embraced Polyamory – ideas which are explored in Anita’s debut novel Appetite (£8.99, 978-1910453476, pb) which you see here looking mighty fine on the shelves of WHS Victoria! Anita says “I’m a writer, a relationship radical, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt and a friend. I am also a lover of old books, new music and (mostly) clean food. Whilst I understand the limitations of labels, I do identify as bi-sexual, polyamorous, kinky. Above all else, I am curious about everything: about life, about learning and about love.” Appetite is published by Red Door.

2018 was meant to be the “year of publishing women”, after the novelist Kamila Shamsie challenged the books industry to publish no new titles by men for a year, in order to “redress the inequality” of the literary world. In the end, our wonderful friends at And Other Stories were the only ones to rise to her challenge – you can read the whole story in the Guardian here.

What’s your favourite tree? I think most of us have one – the one we go out of our way to look at when it’s in blossom or the one that looks especially stunning on a bright autumnal morning. Have a look here in Time Out to see the picks of author Paul Wood – and you can see more in his brilliant book London’s Street Trees: A Field Guide to the Urban Forest (£12.99, pb, 978 0993291135). Loads more stuff on this over on Twitter @The StreetTree and Paul posts daily pics on Instagram too! It’s published by Safe Haven.

“Destined to become one of the greats...This is not hyperbole: it's a masterpiece” and “I have never read a novel about Kenya that's so funny, perceptive, subversive and sly.” are just two of the rave US reviews for Dance of the Jakaranda (978 184659209, £8.99, pb) by Peter Kimani which will be published by Telegram in the UK on 5 March. Dance of the Jakaranda is set in Kenya against a backdrop of British colonisation and I’m pleased to tell you that here is an extensive publicity campaign planned for this important and award-winning author. Peter Kimani will be in the UK from 10-17 March 2018 for events, radio and print interviews; so far a feature in the Guardian, an interview on BBC World Service and also an interview on BBC Radio 4 Open Book are confirmed. There’s also been great feedback from theTLS and other media, so we’re expecting strong review coverage. The novel opens in 1963 when Kenya is on the verge of independence from British colonial rule. In the Great Rift Valley, Kenyans of all backgrounds come together in the previously white-only establishment of the Jakaranda Hotel. The resident musician is Rajan Salim, who charms visitors with songs inspired by his grandfather’s noble stories of the railway construction that spawned the Kenya they now know. If any bookseller would like a readying copy then please contact – or if you’d be interested in book signings – Peter is already going to London, Cambridge and Bristol. There are some promotional bookmarks up for grabs too!

Whew, there’s quite the spat developing in the poetry world this week! Carcanet poet Rebecca Watts took to the pages of PN Review to lay out her disdain for “the cult of the noble amateur”, and her despair at the effect of social media on poetry. It is a stinging critique of the “rise of a cohort of young female poets” led by the likes of Kate Tempest, Hollie McNish and Rupi Kaur, describing their work as characterised by “the open denigration of intellectual engagement and rejection of craft”. The essay has split the poetry establishment, with some praising it as “stonking stuff” and “brilliant”. PN Review editor and Carcanet publisher Michael Schmidt said that “many of our readers seem relieved that literary criticism is at last being applied to writing that has, hitherto, been welcomed with open arms by journalists because it is easy to read, and contains few challenges.” You can read the original piece together with Hollie McNish’s reponse to it here. Over on Twitter it all kicked off big time, with many slamming Rebecca for what they perceive as “elitist” and “snobbish” attitudes. The response on Facebook was a little more measured; with poet Lemn Sissay saying for example: “There’s room for all forms of poetry. And whichever side you’re on, it’s foolish to say there isn’t.” Here's an article about it in the Guardian, and Rebecca was on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme last night, talking about the controversy – you can listen to that on the iPlayer here.  Whatever your opinion, it’s certainly provided some terrific publicity for both poetry, and Carcanet – and since the since the hullabaloo, both PN Review’s and Carcanet’s Twitter followers have increased – Jenny Éclair tweeted yesterday “Whoa that was intense #poetry.” 
Rebecca Watts debut collection The Met Office Advises Caution (pb, £9.99, 978 1784102722) was published by Carcanet in 2016. It is a witty, warm-hearted guide to the English landscape, and a fresh, assured take on nature poetry. With an original point of view and an openness to the possibilities of form, Rebecca retunes the genre for modern ears.

Teaching Creative Thinking (£16.99, pb, 978 1785832369) by Bill Lucas and Ellen Spencer is currently a Staff Pick in Foyles, and as they say is “incredibly clear and practical … a treasure trove for those who want children to think creatively and appreciate that this is a skill that can be taught.” I’m sure Bill and Ellen’s new book in this series coming in April should do equally well. Developing Tenacity: Creating Learners who Persevere in the Face of Difficulty is a both a powerful call to action and a practical handbook. The UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility recently proposed the adoption by schools of specific interventions in the areas of resilience and character; meanwhile, across in the US, an end-of-high-school ‘score’ for grit is also being considered. In line with this growing consensus, an increasing body of evidence suggests that cultivating these competencies is key to success both in school and in later life. Developing Tenacity (pb, £16.99, 978 1785833038) defines and demystifies the essence of resolve and persistence, and offers action-oriented and research-informed suggestions as to how it can best be developed in learners. Both titles are published by Crown House.

It often feels that our society views human beings as either useful or not and, once we have outlived our usefulness, we become a burden. All too often, the elderly are left to stagnate, their minds fading away from boredom and repetition. This is the theme of A Rock and a High Place (£8.99, pb, 978 1787198852) from dark comedy novelist Dan Mooney (whose debut title Me, Myself and Them was published last year). The novel begins with our widowed hero Joel bored and depressed with his lot, in both life and his nursing home. To bring agency into his life, he decides to kill himself. He shares his plans with the newest resident, a retired flamboyant soap actor called Frank, and the two of them embark on a mission to find the perfect suicide. Along the way, they discover the strength within themselves and the power of friendship. The book has recently been reviewed by The Bookbag who called it “a brilliant rallying cry to society filled with wonderful characters and a brilliant British humour”; you can read the full review here. It’s out from Legend Press in April.

Vegan cooking is all set to be one of THE major trends for 2018 – and there will no doubt be loads of vegan cookbooks out their vying for your attention. However, Cooking for the Senses: Vegan Neurogastronomy (hb, £25.00, 978 1848193000) by Jennifer Peace Rhind and Gregor Law does something slightly different. An alternative way of looking at food, this fully illustrated hardback introduces neurogastronomy and explains how understanding smell, taste and our other senses can be the key to making tasty, healthy food in your own kitchen. The authors explain the science of flavour and provide guidance on how to train your palate and be more mindful in the kitchen. This cookbook will inspire you with a practical flavour guide to a wide range of plant ingredients, and over 100 delicious vegan recipes for everyone that reflect neurogastronomy in action. Seasoned with tales of the authors' own culinary experiences, this first book on neurogastronomy for the home cook is bursting with flavour. And having seen a finished copy recently I can tell you it looks absolutely gorgeous! Wake up to creamy avocado with fragrant orange pepper seasoning and green Tabasco dressing, snack on sweet and citrusy carrot and lime leaf kebabs and curl up with a warming bowl of butternut squash and spinach curry! It’s published by Jessica Kingsley on 21 February.

Some wonderful reviews for Nicola Pugliese’s Malacqua (978 1911508069, £10, pb) which was published by And Other Stories at the end of last year. The Financial Times called it “a beautiful and haunting exploration of life at a meteorological extreme” while the New Statesman wrote “Malacqua is a brooding novel, with flashes of brilliance … Pugliese’s narrative is epic in intent, [combining] reportage with nightmarish indications of the insidiousness of the new waterscape, absurdism and phantasmagoria.” And Boyd Tonkinsaid “This rediscovered classic has a back-story almost as uncanny as its mood. The skies clear, but the mystery lingers in this clammily unsettling tale.”
Brexit and Beyond: Rethinking the Futures of Europe (pb, 978 1787352766, £15) by Benjamin Martill and Uta Staiger was praised in the Telegraph this week. Most of the discussion of Brexit in the UK has focused on the causes of the vote and on its consequences for the future of British politics, but this book examines the consequences of Brexit for the future of Europe and the EU. Drawing on the expertise of leading scholars from a range of disciplines, Brexit and Beyond charts the likely effects of Brexit across a range of areas, including institutional relations, political economy, law and justice, foreign affairs, democratic governance, and the idea of Europe itself. It has been widely praised, with academics calling it a “must read” and a “much needed scholarly guidepost”. The LSE said “This book explores wonderfully well the bombshell of Brexit: …this collection of essays by leading scholars will prove a very valuable reference for their depth of analysis, their lucidity, and their outlining of future options.” It’s just been published by UCL Press.

The Irish Times recently asked a selection of indie publishers to choose one of their top 2018 titles, and New Island Books Editorial Director Daniel Bolger chose Heartland (pb, 978 1848406605) by Patrick McCabe which he described as “a mad, brilliant, fun book – a bloody, boozy Irish western – that doesn’t have a predecessor I know of. A man hiding in the rafters of a dive bar in Glasson County watches a local gang of heavies beat his friend (and accomplice in the ripping-off of Roy Munro). While waiting for their superior to come and finish him off, the story of how he got there and where he ends up slowly comes to light. A bit of a departure, it has Patrick’s trademark dark psychology, simmering violence and emotional torment. This book is a triumph, a redneck sinfonia of rough poetry, humour and humanity by one of Ireland’s greatest and most original writers.” I don’t know about you, but that definitely makes me want to read it! It’s out in April.

On Tuesday, came the sad news that beloved SF writer Ursula Le Guin had died aged 88. Many writers took to Twitter to express their grief and admiration for Le Guin and the ways in which she and her writing changed their lives. Neil Gaiman said that her words are written on his soul and Margaret Atwood praised her "immense imagination, what a strong and trenchant mind."  You can read a summary of the all the acclaim over on Buzzfeed here.

There is absolutely loads in the news at the moment about cyber-attacks – with security chiefs warning that a “major UK cyber-attack is a ‘when, not if' scenario” – you can read about that on the BBC here and also in the Guardian here where they report on the shocking fact that “£130bn was stolen from consumers in 2017.” It sounds like we all definitely need to read Cyber Wars: Hacks That Shocked the Business World by Charles Arthur (978 0749482008, £14.99, pb) which details the dramatic inside stories of some of the world's biggest cyber-attacks as well as advice on how to avoid it happening to you. These are the game changing hacks that make organizations around the world tremble and leaders stop and consider just how safe they really are. Charles Arthur provides a gripping account of why each hack happened, what techniques were used, what the consequences were and how they could have been prevented. This book provides a deep insight into understanding how hackers think as well as giving invaluable advice on staying vigilant and avoiding the security mistakes and oversights that can lead to downfall. A sophisticated malware attack on Sony, a phishing attack on the Clinton campaign and the Talk Talk data leak are all covered here in engrossing and entertaining style – it’s out from Kogan Page on 3 May.

Top Ten Movie Hackers anyone? Have a watch here !

This weekly blog is written for the UK book trade. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please talk to your Compass Sales Manager, or call the Compass office on 020 8326 5696. Every Friday an e-newsletter containing highlights from the blog is sent out to over 700 booksellers – and if you’d like to receive this then please contact

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