Friday 7 February 2020

Compass Points 336

Based in Sheffield, on the doorstep of the Peak District, Vertebrate have access to world-class hillwalking, running, mountain biking and climbing and this provides the ongoing inspiration for their ever-expanding award-winning range of books. They’re driven by their own passion for exploration and the natural world and aim to inspire everyone to get out there. In the picture you can see Vertebrate owner Jon Barton climbing at Curbar Edge. Their mission is to connect readers – young and old – with the outdoors and the positive impact it can have on well-being. I’ll be telling you lots more about their titles in the coming months, in the meantime have a look here at their website and forthcoming publishing programme.

Who’s watching Sex Education? Isn’t it brilliant? The UK government has introduced new guidelines for sex and relationship education in schools and this legislation has been hitting headlines here in the Independent and here in the Welsh Metro. Luckily, Critical have two essential titles tackling sex education provision at both primary and secondary age which are coming out in June. There’s Relationships Education for Primary Schools (978 1913063610, £15.99, pb) and Relationships and Sex Education for Secondary Schools (978 1913063658, £15.99, pb). These practical toolkits provide clear and practical advice for teaching the topics of the new framework, including controversial issues such as parental right to withdraw and how to tackle relationships and sex education in faith schools. There is an emphasis throughout on pupil well-being and on the importance of partnerships with parents. And for a wider readership, there’s also What Every Parent Should Know About Education (978 1913063139, £14.99, pb) also out in June. This book takes the reader through all the most important issues in education, comparing commonly-held beliefs with simple summaries of the evidence, providing you with clear, jargon-free information. It covers topics including school choice, testing and assessment, homework and revision, primary- and secondary-specific topics, stress and mental health, and special needs.

As American Dirt zooms to number one in the bestseller lists, at the same time as polarizing opinion for reportedly perpetuating stereotypes about Mexicans, the phrase ‘writing my Latino novel’ has started trending on Twitter. Here are some of the funniest…

It’s the season when students are starting to crank up their revision in earnest, so may I draw your attention to the excellent Connell Guides. In 2010 Jolyon Connell, founder of popular current affairs magazines The Week tried to help his daughter Flora with her A-level English and was astonished by the lack of accessible, up-to-date guides that would help them understand the finer points of the play. Jolyon commissioned experts in various literary fields to write guide books to the great novels, poems and plays on the main English syllabuses. There are now 57 books on English texts and 27 on history topics (which were launched in 2016). These books are more than just study guides; they are brilliant reads in themselves, scholarly, yet approachable and entertaining. Have a look at the website to find out a bit more. They’ve had plenty of celeb support, ‘What fantastic guides these are – I wish I’d had them when I was eighteen’ said Emma Thompson while Julian Fellows enthused ‘Connell Guides should be required reading in every school in the country.’ Rupert Everett said ‘if you want to understand great literature, these guides are perfect’ and Phillip Pullman called them ‘subtle and intelligent.’ Here's a 50 second film of the fabulous Helena Bonham Carter talking about why she loves them!

Talking of celebs, who watched the Baftas on Sunday? Rebel Wilson was undoubtedly the star and as she badmouths her own film, I very much enjoyed this short history of felines on film!

Great big double spread the Mail last Saturday, which you can see online here for Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away with War Crimes (978 0745340791, £12.99, pb) which has just been published by Pluto. Lots of other publicity too, the author Phil Miller was interviewed on the BBC Asian Networks Big Debate this week and Novara Media's TyskySour too, that’s here. It’s already been in the Observer, that’s here, on two Open Democracy blog posts here and here and Yardstick Films have just released a trailer for the documentary based on the book you can view here. It’s also in Forces Watch, The Daily Maverick, The Week, and there’s likely to be more, including the Times.
Lovely to see  In the Rose Garden by Helen Tookey as Poem of the Week here in the Guardian! It’s taken from City of Departures (978 1784107598, pb, £8.99) which is Helen’s second collection published by Carcanet. It mixes prose and verse, and a multitude of voices and structures mingle on its pages. The poems connect through repeated images, themes and tones, which echo and re-echo; neglected houses and gardens, canals, wrecked boats... liminal worlds where absence has a presence of its own, fertile ground for ghosts, fantasies, memories, and dreams.  

Compass author Katie Hopkins has been back in the news with a bang this week, thanks to entertaining YouTuber Josh Pieters, who managed to fool her into accepting an entirely fake award. Most amusing – you can read the whole hilarious story in the Metro here and watch the prank itself on YouTube here. Rude (£9.99, pb, 978 1785902468), Katie’s book which Biteback describe as ‘part memoir, part handbook for the modern woman’ is available in paperback now.

I’m very much looking forward to reading Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown (978 1789559798, £8.99, pb) which is just out from Legend. This is the number one bestselling novel in Canada this week, was one of She Reads Most Anticipated Books by Women in 2020 and a New York Post Best Book of the Week. In this dual narrative novel, a modern-day woman finds inspiration in hidden notes left by her home’s previous owner, a quintessential 1950s housewife. As she discovers remarkable parallels between this woman’s life and her own, it causes her to question the foundation of her own relationship and what it means to be a wife fighting for her place in a patriarchal society. Reviews have called this a ‘brilliant, brooding, timely novel, fraught with tension, that packs a punch. Brown knows how to keep readers riveted until the very last page.'

A publishing initiative to celebrate Black History Month in the US by putting cartoon black and brown protagonists on the covers of classics written by white people has been scrapped after a backlash saying it was disrespectful, with one author calling it ‘literary blackface.’ Dubbed ‘Diverse Editions’ the covers included Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a black man with an afro, Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz holding a pair of red sneakers instead of ruby slippers and Juliet, from Romeo and Juliet, wearing a hijab. The project was created by Penguin Random House, Barnes and Noble, and an advertising agency; you can read more about that here.

A great review in the New York Journal for a gorgeous new Lorenz cookbook, China: A Cookbook, 300 recipes from Beijing and Canton to Shanghai and Sichuan (978 0754831006, £25, hb) saying  ‘Historically, it’s been a ticklish problem for Chinese food writers to put together comprehensive primers of dishes that Westerners can relate to and want to cook. Tan’s latest effort beautifully meets this challenge. Absorbing, readable, uncomplicated, and delicious, China, A Cookbook, can easily fill the needs of the typical home cook yearning to dabble in Chinese.’ You can read the whole thing here.

Are you getting excited about the footie World Cup yet? A great blog review recently for Simon Hart’s seminal biog of Italia 90, World In Motion which you can read here saying ‘the access he has to the faces of Italia ’90 is astounding. Seemingly every name that resonates from that World Cup, was interviewed for the book which is excellently written; Hart’s prose is often beautifully evocative,' World in Motion (978 1916278431, pb, £12.99) is out in paperback on 20 April from DeCoubertin.

And if you fancy yourself as a bit of an expert on footie trivia, then try this quiz! Can you match the famous footballer to the famous car?!

And in this week’s Hot Topics, here's the latest on Phillip Schofield, here's a short debate on Question Time about the appropriateness or otherwise of off-the-shoulder dressing and here's a five-minute film about the history of dancing teenagers in 80’s films – because why not, it’s Friday! Yaay!

That’s all 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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