Friday 4 May 2018

Compass Points 259

May the force be with you and all that – and did you know that May 4th is the day that Margaret Thatcher came to power – thirty-nine years ago! That makes today the ideal moment tell you about the terrific publicity for People Like Us: Margaret Thatcher and Me (£20, hb, 978 1785902246) by Caroline Slocock. Originally serialised in the Times (part 1, part 2 & interview), it has now featured in the Mail on Sunday and formed the basis for news stories in the Daily Express and Daily Mirror. Comment pieces by Caroline have appeared on the Independent and Huffington Post and the book was the focus of Charles Moore’s latest column in the Telegraph. Caroline has also been busy speaking about her time working with Margaret Thatcher on Start the Week with Andrew Marr, the Today Programme and The Westminster Hour on BBC Radio 4, as well on LBC, Sky News and BBC Daily Politics. It’s been the Daily Mail’s Book of the Week and Caroline appeared on The World Tonight, alongside fellow Biteback writer Barbara Hosking author of Exceeding My Brief: Memoirs of a Disobedient Civil Servant (hb, £25, 978 1785903557), to discuss working with ministers and Civil Service leaks. Divulging what life is really like behind the famous No 10 door, Caroline appeared on this week’s much-shared and praised edition of the Times Red Box podcast with Matt Chorley and today Caroline was on a dedicated edition of BBC World Service’s programme Witness: When Margaret Thatcher Came to Power, and also on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

From Darth Vader to Margaret Thatcher, rolling through those maniacal despots reminds me that Donald Trump is due to come to the UK for a one-day visit on Friday 13 July. I’m sure you’ll want to mark the occasion with a Trump tower of books in your shops (see what I did there) – so here’s a few suggestions. You can see a larger selection pictured – but titles you’ll definitely need are Game of Thorns by Doug Wear (Biteback, £12.99, pb, 9781785902260) which was first authoritative account of the precipitous fall of Hillary and the rise of Donald and In Trump We Trust (Biteback, pb, £9.99, 9781785901416) where Ann Coulter explains how Trump came to power by addressing the pain of the silent majority and saying things the PC Thought Police considered unspeakable. What Kind of Democracy is This? (Policy Press, pb, £9.99, 978 1447337621) covers politics and society, in a collection of sixty short pieces or 'postcards' from Matthew Flinders’ popular Political Spike blog. Digital Demagogue: Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Trump and Twitter (Pluto, pb, £17.99, 978 0745337968) delves into new political-economic structures as expressed through political communication; from ‘Covfefe’ to #FakeNews, Donald Trump’s tweets have caused an international frenzy! This book explores how he uses digital and entertainment culture as an ideological weapon and an expression of his authoritarianism. The Trump Phenomenon (Emerald, 978 1787143685, £14.99, pb) is a short book, in the Society Now series, which focusses on who Trump is, the narratives about him and his candidacy that evolved during the campaign, who his supporters are and what their worldview is, and the role of the media, right-wing Christians, and the Republican Party in making Trump’s victory possible. And don’t forget The Wit and Wisdom of Donald Trump (Skyscaper ,978 1911072157, pb, £5.00) which consists largely of blank pages, divided into sections under headings such as: How I will bring peace to the world; How I will protect the rights of women and How I will demonstrate restraint, civilised behavior, and compassion.

n November 2013 two mass burials were discovered unexpectedly on a construction site in the city of Durham in north-east England. Over the next 2 years, a complex jigsaw of evidence was pieced together by a team of archaeologists to establish the identity of the human remains. Today we know them to be some of the Scottish prisoners who died in the autumn of 1650 in Durham cathedral and castle following the battle of Dunbar on the south-east coast of Scotland. Fought between the English and the Scots, this was one of the key engagements of the War of the Three Kingdoms. Using the latest techniques of skeleton science, a fascinating new book; Lost Lives New Voices (pb, £20, 978 1785708473) gives back to the men a voice through an understanding of their childhood and later lives. This is a really absorbing story, and unsurprisingly is attracting a lot of attention. The exhibition linked to the book (which has been recognised as an official event for the European Year of Culture) will be attended by Dan Snow who will cover it, and the book, on his immensely popular History Hit podcast. There will also be a talk from the authors at Durham Book Festival. Lots of press coverage to come – here's a good piece about it in the Herald and there will be lots more. On Monday 21st May is a special Celebrity Who Do You Think You Are? episode, which will feature one of the descendants of the Scottish soldiers. The identity of the descendant is embargoed until the episode airs, but the preview for the season can be seen here.  Britain’s Greatest Cathedrals last week focused on Durham and included the results of this enthralling project – you can watch that here.  Lost Lives, New Voices: Unlocking the Stories of the Scottish Soldiers at the Battle of Dunbar 1650 is published by Oxbow, on 16 May.

Happy Restoration of Independence Day to all our Latvian writers, friends and colleagues! On this day 28 years ago, Latvia proclaimed its independence from the USSR, and the restoration of the Republic of Latvia. So what better time to tell you that The Book of Riga (pb, £9.99, 978 1910974384) is the May reading pick for the Air Baltic in-flight magazine, calling it “perfect”! There’s also a great review of it from blogger Jackie Law which you can see here.  "The city shines through as a beguiling survivor of its history, adapting whilst retaining its hold on certain citizens and visitors. I had never before considered visiting Riga. After reading this collection, I am tempted."  It’s published by Comma.

While we’re on the subject on anniversaries, let’s mention May Made Me: An Oral History of the 1968 Uprising in France (pb, £12.99, 9780745336947 £12.99) by Mitchell Abidor. The mass protests that shook France in May 1968 were exciting, dangerous, creative and influential, changing European politics to this day. Students demonstrated, workers went on general strike, factories and universities were occupied. At the height of its fervour, it brought the entire national economy to a halt. The protests reached such a point that political leaders feared civil war or revolution. Fifty years later, here are the eye-opening oral testimonies of those young rebels. By listening to the voices of students and workers, as opposed to that of their leaders, May ’68 appears not just as a mass event, but rather as an event driven by millions of individuals, achieving a mosaic human portrait of France at the time. This book reveals the legacy of the uprising and how those explosive experiences changed those who took part, and the course of history. There has been quite a bit of publicity around the fiftieth anniversary of the riots – here's  a feature on the BBC website for example – and this book (which is published by Pluto) is both powerful and moving. There will be an interview with Mitchell on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week and reviews in London Review of Books, the TLS and Literary Review.

Austrian poet Evelyn Schlag will receive the Medal for Poetry at the Hay Festival for her contribution to the festival’s upcoming Armistice anthology. Carcanet are publishing the latest collection of her work All Under One Roof (pb, £12.99, 978 1 784102 24 1) in June. Once more, Karen Leeder’s brilliant translations render Schlag’s poems wonderfully into English and there is also a new essay by the author in which she discusses the sources, politics and strategies of her writing. Love remains a central theme for Schlag, and Leeder’s selection traces a uniquely Austrian imagination at the heart of contemporary European poetry. You can read more about the Hay Medals in the Bookseller here.

Universal Basic Income is a welfare concept where all citizens receive an unconditional sum of money from the government. It is hailed as a progressive system and its proponents include billionaires Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Richard Branson. Others believe it to be a dead-end utopian ideal that distracts from more practical and cost-effective solutions. The idea is being increasingly debated – and Policy Press have an excellent book on the subject: It’s Basic Income: The Global Debate (978 144734390 5, pb, £14.99). Its author Stewart Lansley was on Radio 4 this week discussing it – and you can hear that interesting programme here. This is an engaging and indispensable guide to this innovative policy idea, which contributes to wider conversations about the future of work and the role of welfare. It features contributors from a wide variety of fields, political stand-points and geographical locations and covers a very broad range of themes, relevant to audiences of all backgrounds and concerns. It offers a mixture of long and short pieces with appeal to readers with varying amounts of time – and also includes international case studies.

Very pleased to hear that Michael Pedersen’s Hello I Am Scotland from his latest collection, Oyster, has been chosen as one of the best Scottish poems of 2017 for the Scottish Poetry Library's By Leaves We Live anthology! From Grez-sur-Loing and festive nights to sizzling summers, Michael Pedersen’s unique brand of poetry captures a debauchery and a disputation of characters, narrated with an intense honesty and a love of language that is playful, powerful and penetrative. Oyster also features wonderful bespoke illustrations from Frightened Rabbit lead singer and songwriter Scott Hutchison – what’s not to love! You can see Michael reading his work here.  

You may not yet have heard about Egress, a new biannual literary magazine devoted to showcasing the most innovative writers on both sides of the Atlantic today? The first edition (which is published by Little Island Press) is available now, and features, among others, Gordon Lish, Diane Williams, Sam Lipsyte, Kathryn Scanlan, David Hayden and Kimberly King Parsons. You can read a terrific interview with its editors David Winters and Andrew Latimer here and if you’d like to order Egress (£12 per issue, ISSN 2515-2491) for your bookshop, then please talk to your Compass account manager or find out more here.

25% of people with eating disorders are men, but the stigma attached to male eating disorders means that this growing issue often slips under the radar. In Weight Expectations (978 1785923586, pb, £9.99) which is published by Jessica Kingsley on 21 June; stand-up comedian Dave Chawner provides a uniquely honest insight into living with anorexia. Part memoir, part self-help guide, this witty book explains how an ordinary teenage boy became anorexic, how his obsession with controlled eating and weight loss ruled his life for years, and how he started his journey to recovery. There’s going to be plenty of publicity for this brave and open book – including a piece in The Metro on how his anorexia negatively affected Dave’s sex drive, and interviews in the Daily Star and Independent. It's frank, funny and honest with lots of practical and achievable tips for anyone in a similar situation – and reading it could change the life of someone struggling with mental health issues.

The majority of people in the UK still identify as working class, yet no political party today can confidently articulate their interests. So, who exactly IS working class and how do political parties gain their support? Based on the opinions and voices of lower and middle-income voters, The New Working Class: How to Win Hearts, Minds and Votes (978 1447344186, pb, £12.99)  by Claire Ainsley proposes what needs to be done to address the issues of the 'new working class'. This insightful book has just been published by Policy Press, and you can read some interesting interview with Claire on the Conservative Home website here and in the Mirror here. This is the first book based on the opinions and voices of low income voters which offers evidence-based policy suggestions based on robust attitudinal data.

Pride and Prejudice is consistently rated as one of readers all time faves – and what happens to the five Bennet sisters is a perennial source of fascination to many, so I am sure that What Kitty Did Next (978 1910453612, £8.99, pb) by Carrie Kablean is going to be very popular! Published on 28 June by Red Door, it is set in 1813 when nineteen-year-old Kitty is left at home in rural Hertfordshire with her neurotic and nagging mother, and a father who derides her as silly and ignorant. Kitty is lonely, and at a loss as to how to improve her situation. But when her world unexpectedly expands to London and the Darcys' magnificent country estate in Derbyshire, things start to change… And for those who need an introduction to the Bennet girls – I think this is still pretty perfect!

There have been two lovely pieces featuring Wild Guide Wales (pb, £16.99, 978-1910636145) recently in the Sunday Times travel sections and also the Saturday Guardian which you can see here . As per with this series, the stunning photos and the engaging travel writing makes you want to head off there right now – especially on this sunny Bank Holiday weekend! Published this month, with over 600 secret adventures and 500 places to eat and sleep; the Wild Guide to Wales and the Herefordshire and Shropshire Marches. takes you to places no other guidebook reaches and is the perfect guide for a wild exploration or the ultimate weekend escape.

The 2018 Roehampton Poetry Prize shortlist has just been announced, and we’re very happy to see that On Balance by Sinead Morrissey is on it! You can find the whole shortlist of six here. The prize is given for the best poetry collection of the year written by a poet of any nationality who is currently living in the UK. The prize is valued at £5,000 and the winner will be announced later this month. The judges said “the collections we finally selected are outstanding: each, in its own way, sure in its skill and compelling in its vision.” On Balance won the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Collection; and was also shortlisted for the 2017 Costa Book Awards and the 2018 Piggott Poetry Prize. The Independent called Sinead “the outstanding poet of her generation” and in this collection she considers great feats of human engineering – ships, planes, robots – as we struggle for balance and poise in a world full of ecological and economic instability.

Talking of balance and poise, whose mood isn’t improved by watching this
tortoise on a skateboard.

That’s all for now folks! Enjoy the sunshine!

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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