Friday 18 May 2018

Compass Points 261

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and model and journalist Lily Bailey appeared on Channel 5’s series Me and My Mental Illness on Thursday (17th May) talking about her struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Her authentic and compelling memoir Because We are Bad has just been published by Canbury Press and lights up the workings of the mind in a way reminiscent of Mark Haddon or Matt Haig – although the Huffington Post also remarked that it was “full of so much inner and external turbulence that it reminded me at times of The Bourne Identity and Memento and is often as chilling as Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.” The Guardian said “I laughed, I cried. I could not put this book down. Intensely moving with flashes of black humour” and Lily has also written a big piece this week sharing her tips on beating OCD in the Mail – which you can see here. OCD is one of the top ten most serious illnesses, according to the World Health Organisation and with all the publicity there has been for this powerful title, it should sell through really well.

In all the excitement of weddings, cup finals and May mayhem in general, what better time to enjoy a short moment of calm by reading the Guardian’s Poem of the Week by Harry Gilonis – which includes this beautifully delicate stanza:

white the moon
white the wine
white the light
white the leaf
white the rock
white the bark
white the stone
white the dawn

You can read the full feature here which includes a lovely exploration of the poem. It is taken from Gilonis’s Rough Breathing: Selected Poems (pb, £16.99, 978 1784103729) which has just been published by Carcanet and covers three decades of his work – meticulous, beautifully poised among many traditions with a light and lucid beauty all of its own.

Zimbabwean writer Ian Holding’s new novel What Happened To Us (hb, £14.99, 978 1999854904) is getting some fantastic reviews – it was featured on a Literary Postcard on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book (first played on Sunday 13 May and then repeated); you can listen to it here. There was also a great review by Jackie Law on Follow the Hens describing it as a “slow burner building to an intensity that lingers beyond the final page” – that one’s here. BookBlast said "the deceptively simple storytelling narrates a disturbing and layered tale with admirable grace. The author’s sensory detail, imagery, and strong descriptions build up tension and a textured impressionistic feel of domestic life that is destroyed by a random and traumatic act of violence coming in from the outside" – that’s here and you can see an Author of the Week feature and interview with Ian here. In lean, lyrical prose, reminiscent of the work of J.M. Coetzee and Cormac McCarthy this is a mesmerising coming-of-age tale of guilt and responsibility set within the fault-lines of modern Africa and if you’d like to read an excerpt, then you can find that on the Little Island Press website here.

Prime Minister's Questions is the bear pit of British politics. Watched and admired around the world, it is often hated at home for bringing out the worst in our politicians. Yet despite successive leaders trying to get away from this style of politics, it’s here to stay. Biteback have just published Punch and Judy Politics by Ayesha Hazarika and Tom Hamilton (£20, hb, 978 1785901843) and as you’d expect, the authors have been much in demand! Ayesha and Tom talked about the book on The Westminster Hour, which aired a special PMQs segment (click here for the full interview or short clip), BBC News Channel, Beyond 100 Days [00:16:30], a PMQs special edition of the Times, Red Box Podcast with Matt Chorley (good fun and well worth a listen), and today's BBC Daily Politics, where Ayesha appeared as Guest of the Day alongside Canadian controversialist Jordan Peterson (short clip).  They've also penned pieces, revealing the secrets to PMQs success, and why it's still such a must-watch, in the Huffington Post, Scotsman and Evening Standard. There's plenty more to come next week, with interviews on the BBC's BOOKtalk Talk Radio, BBC Radio 5 Live's Afternoon Edition, the Telegraph's Chopper's Podcast with Chris Hope, Sky News and much more! With their unique knowledge plus personal recollections from key players from both sides, including Tony Blair, David Cameron, William Hague, Ed Miliband, George Osborne, Vince Cable, Harriet Harman and Neil Kinnock, this is an insightful and often hilarious book.

Do you ever feel like something's missing in your life – but you just can't put your finger on what? Do you ever experience cravings so strong you feel like something's possessing you? In Hungry for More (£12.99, pb, 978-1788170215) the UK’s leading eating psychology coach Mel Wells helps you dive deeper into your food and body psychology, to help you understand how your unwanted eating patterns and cravings might not be due to a lack of will power but a lack of fulfilment. What's more, if you pay attention to them, they might actually point you in the direction of your soul's true calling. and unlock a gateway to limitless spiritual and personal growth. Hungry for More is published by Hay House on 10 July, and there’s lots of publicity coming up, including extracts and features in The Lifestyle Library, Alt Healthy Magazine and Psychologies.

And if you’d like to find out what your food habits really say about you – then you can take the quiz on Mel’s own website here!

A really fascinating interview  here on the PaperTrail Podcast with Martyn Bedford, the author of Letters Home. Interesting stuff on writing for adults versus writing for young adults, and the licence that writing gives you to assume a variety of personas, voices and perspectives. Letters Home (978 1905583751, £9.99, pb) has just been published by Comma and is an extremely powerful and affecting collection of short stories. Jeremy Dyson called them “haunting and intimate portraits of vividly different lives that get under your skin and stay there” and the New York Times said of Martyn that he was “the genuine article, a writer of unmistakable flair and accomplishment.”

5 May was the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth. Arcturus have three editions of The Communist Manifesto available; a hardback, (978 1848375925, £6.99) a paperback (978 1784286989, £6.99) and a deluxe hardback with a silk cover (£14.99, 978 1 788287494). Tony Benn, writing in the New Statesman said this was “the best possible explanation of what the world was about that I had ever read. It pointed out that the real conflicts in the world were not between black and white, men and women, Muslims, Christians and Jews, Americans, Russians and Chinese; it was about the conflict of economic interest between 95 per cent of the population of the world, who create the world’s wealth, and the 5 per cent who own it. I think of Marx as a prophet: the last of the Old Testament prophets. And we should think of him as a teacher ... " The Guardian wrote “As a force for change, its influence has been surpassed only by the Bible. As a piece of writing, it is a masterpiece.” Marx and Engels's revolutionary summons to the working classes is one of the most important and influential political theories ever formulated – and certainly should be stocked by every bookshop!

The health – and especially deaths – of composers excite controversy. Was Mozart an alcoholic and was he really poisoned? Did Tchaikovsky commit suicide? How did Beethoven lose his hearing? Many reputations have been sullied by unsubstantiated views, and scandalous commentary, often involving alcoholism or syphilis. A new book, That Jealous Demon, My Wretched Health (£25, 9781783272587, hb) by a retired surgeon, charts the disturbed physical and mental health of seventy great composers and attempts to unpick the evidence forensically as well as considering the balance of probabilities. What a fascinating idea for a book – clearly a slightly niche subject, but nonetheless one which I feel many readers would be interested in – and this handsome 400-page hardback would make a terrific gift for any classical musical lover. Its author Jonathan Noble, has been interviewed this week by the Guardian which you can read here and the Telegraph which is here. It’s just been published by Boydell Press.

Analysis was presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference last week, addressing gender stereotypes in children’s books, which perhaps unsurprisingly, came to the conclusion that the Mr Men Books are sexist. This story was picked up by lots of the media; Good Morning Britain pitting Piers Morgan against Labour MP Emily Thornberry who correctly pointed out that it is absolutely outrageous the way the male characters get to be just plain “Mr” while the female ones are always the demeaning and diminutive “Little Miss” You can read more on that entertaining story here.

Two new Brexit books to bring to your attention! With peers unexpectedly slapping down the Government’s plans, MPs will not have a chance to decide whether Britain should leave the European single market, making it decision time for the anti-Brexiteers. Who knows what will happen next? Well Canbury Press claim to, in their compact guide Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? (pb, £8.99, 978-0995497856) by Ian Dunt which reckons to be the only book your customers will need to tell their EU from their EEA. This 2018 edition comes highly endorsed: Prospect Magazine said “I would strongly recommend this excellent guide. Dunt has taken the extraordinary step of asking a set of experts what they think. I learnt a lot.” And Caroline Lucas said she would “encourage anyone who is confused, fascinated or frustrated by Brexit to read this book. You will be far wiser by the end of it.” Then there’s also Squaring the Circle on Brexit: Could the Norway Model Work? (pb, £12.99, 978-1529200300) by John Erik Fossum and Hans Petter Graver from Bristol University Press which sets out what Britain can learn from Norway's experience and how transferable these lessons are. There’s a great blog piece on this one examining 10 popular myths about the Norway experience here which was then reposted on the UK in a Changing Europe blog here: here and then linked to in the FT Brexit Briefing here. Super publicity!

As you currently flick through this newsletter on your computer or phone, pretending to be working hard – do you sense that someone may be watching you? You may well be right; managers are increasingly monitoring computers, toilet breaks – even emotions. From microchip implants to wristband trackers and sensors that can detect fatigue and depression, new technology is enabling employers to watch staff in more and more intrusive ways. Is your boss secretly watching you? asks a frankly scary article in the Guardian here which includes a discussion with Jamie Woodcock author of Working the Phones (pb, 978 0745399065, £17.99) – a brilliant and revealing insider account of life in a British call centre which is published by Pluto.

No better opportunity I feel than to end with this absolute banger from 1984; way ahead of its time in more ways than one!

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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