Friday 15 February 2019

Compass Points 293

Surprisingly, given how important it is to daily life and the fate of governments, food hardly featured in discussions about Brexit before or immediately after the vote. That was one of Charlie Clutterbuck’s reasons for writing Bittersweet Brexit: The Future of Food, Farming, Land and Labour (978 0745337708, pb, £19.99) as he wanted to stimulate debate about “the sort of food and farming we want for our future.” Since then, “Food Brexit” has slowly made its way up the agenda, and this thought provoking and important book is published by Pluto Press. You can read a really interesting review of it here in Europe Now which calls it “informed, compassionate and exuberant.”

All that lovely golden wheat on the cover of this book takes me back to a time when food production was much less complicated. An era when all that was needed was a bit simple scything!

Exciting news from Comma, who are launching their very own podcast! Series One is looking in more depth at their Protest: Stories of Resistance anthology (£12.99, pb, 978 1910974438) and the first episode drops next Wednesday (20th February) to coincide with the 31st anniversary of Manchester's Section 28 demo of 1988, when the community marched against the legislation which prohibited local authorities to 'promote' homosexuality. The episode will discuss author Juliet Jacques' story Never Going Underground from the anthology, which is set at the time of the march, with Juliet herself, sociology lecturer Em Temple-Malt, and poet and playwright Louise Wallwein. It’s hosted by Comma's CEO Ra Page – I can’t wait to listen, and I’ll give you the link next week! 

How much of your working week are you spending time on things you think you should be doing, and doing them well? This is the question Michael Brown asks at the start of an intriguing article on Manager Magazine, which you can read here. The answer, he says is “I kid you not, a mere 40%. That means that most people reckon they spend three days per week doing things they shouldn’t be doing or doing things they should be doing, but doing them badly.” Michael’s book My Job Isn’t Working! (£14.99, pb, 978 1788600224) summarises what he has learned from working with nearly 10,000 people around the world over 20 years as a business coach, and shares ten proven ways of boosting career mojo. It’s published by Practical Inspiration.

A British author has condemned Amazon for selling books that promote gay “cures”. Damian Barr told BuzzFeed News that the online bookseller is promoting hatred, abuse, and self-harm by featuring guides for the “treatment” of homosexuality. There are numerous examples of such books on Amazon that advocate so-called reparative therapy, including A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality and How a Gay Boy Became a Straight Man despite the fact that every mental health organisation in Britain and the USA condemns such practises as dangerous, harmful, and ineffective. Barr is not advocating that this book, or any such book, should be banned, but believes strongly that the world’s biggest bookseller should not bring it into the homes of its customers. You can read the whole feature here.

We LOVE a bookseller’s Staff Pick – so thanks very much to Foyles for these two! Firstly, for the duo from Australian master Gerald Murnane whose newly published titles Border Districts and Tamarisk Row have had such rave reviews here in the UK; the New Statesman saying that “Murnane’s books are expeditions that encompass a territory unlike any other.” And also I spy the brilliant Crown House title Making Every Lesson Count (978 1845909734, hb, £20) which as Foyles says is “suitable for all teachers who want quick and easy ways to enhance their practice.” There are now a whole series of books based on this award-winning title, which you can find out more about on the Crown House website.

A good review for Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners: The British Soldiers Deceived in the Russian Civil War (978 1612007533, hb, £20) by Rupert Wieloch in War History Online which is out from Casemate next month, calling it “a genuinely interesting history that provides a useful entry point into the confusion of the Russian Civil War. The futility of what they were trying to achieve in Russia seems obvious a century on, but they were crazy times and the spirit of the chaos is alive and well in this entertaining and quite intriguing read.”

The Irish Times' round-up of 50 Books to Keep You Reading All Year Long showcased forthcoming 2019 titles from the UK and Ireland’s indie presses. We were pleased to see Compass publishers with such a fab showing! Comma's Palestine +100 and The Dressing-up Box were included as well The Polyglot Lovers and Berg from And Other Stories. Also The Killing of Thomas Niedermayer and The Cruelty of the Gods: Aesop’s Fables for Our Times from New Island and Tales of Independence and Belonging and Exiles from Parthian. You can see the whole feature here.

You are no doubt aware of Maggie Gee’s latest novel, Blood which was published last week by Fentum Press and is receiving excellent coverage. A good opportunity to remind you of the Maggie Gee backlist, which is all available from Telegram, and comprises My Driver (978 1846590795), My Cleaner (978 1846590085), The Blue (978 1846590139), The White Family (978 1846590436), Where are the Snows? (978 1846590016), My Animal Life (978 1846590900) and Virginia Woolf in Manhattan (978 1846591990) As the Observer commented, “Much of the joy of reading Maggie Gee derives from her ability to take control of a complex and multi-layered narrative and render it as accessible and satisfying as a television soap. Her prose is rich and gossipy; it mixes the highbrow with the vernacular, and is, at times, shockingly cynical.”

There’s a really great interview here with Fred D’Aguiar on the Poetry London website, discussing his new book, Translations from Memory (978 1784106065, pb, £12.99) which has just been published by Carcanet. Boix calls D’Aguiar “one of the most important Guyanese writers of the twentieth century.” This collection focuses on memory and the cultural and racial differences the poet experienced growing up in Guyana as a child and then in 70s Britain as a teenager.

Feminist Book Fortnight 2019 will run from Saturday 4th to Saturday 18th May. Over fifty bookshops took part in the first ever Feminist Book Fortnight last year, with independent bookshops around the country highlighting the diversity of feminist books over the two weeks with displays and lots of events. Participating shops reported lots of full houses and a “thirst” for discussion of feminist issues as well as a celebration of feminist achievements. If you are planning activities for your own bookshop then you can find out loads more on the FBF website. See below for a full list of the many brilliant feminist titles available from Compass publishers. Pictured here are A Suffragette in America, a collection of Sylvia Pankhurst’s writing on her visits to North America in 1911; Emily Wilding Davison: The Martyr Suffragette; The Right Amount of Panic by Fiona Vera-Gray which is based on real-life accounts revealing the sheer volume of work undertaken by millions of women and girls every day just to feel safe in public; and for children aged 7+ there’s 101 Awesome Women Who Changed Our World which is a fully illustrated guide to inspiring women from a wide range of nationalities and fields spanning from science and arts to exploration and activism.

It's a while since we’ve ended with some music, so in anticipation of Feminist Book Fortnight, let’s all sing along to this rousing belter from Mary Poppins! All together now… “though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they’re rather stupid…”

That’s all for now folks! More next week!

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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