Friday 24 November 2017

Compass Points 240

Who enjoys the “The Books That Made Me….” feature in the Guardian? Last weekend it was the turn of Essex Serpent author Sarah Perry to discuss her favourites and she chose Dan Rhodes’ When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow (£8.99, pb, 978 1910709016), published by the fabulous Aardvark Bureau as The Book I Think is Most Underrated. She called it “a comic masterpiece to rival Jerome K Jerome or PG Wodehouse. Like the best comedy, it’s also deeply serious. I am astonished that Rhodes wasn’t crowned with an entire hedge worth of laurel wreaths.” You can read the whole piece here. Hear hear Sarah – and this is the ideal book to have in a winter books display – in fact it could be a snowy books table where you could include a top ten of books about the white stuff – which for me would have to include Snow Falling on Cedars, Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow, Dr Zhivago, The Call of the Wild, The Long Winter, The Snow Queen, The Snow Goose, The Snowman (both Nesbø and Briggs)…. Any more? You could maybe include Robert Sabbag’s Snowblind too – or would that really not be appropriate?

And here you go – just to get you in the wintery mood – the Top Ten Snow films!

We were all thrilled at the news this week that Sinéad Morrissey’s On Balance published by Carcanet has been shortlisted for the poetry category in the Costa Book Awards – the news was announced at 7.30pm on Radio 4’s Front Row on Tuesday. The full shortlist is on the Costa Books website here. And I found this ten-minute film on YouTube where one of the judges, Simon Savidge (@savidgereads on Twitter) discusses all the books an excellent way to find out a little bit more about all of the titles! In total, 620 books were entered for this year’s awards, and the winners of each category, who will take home £5,000 each, will be announced on 2 January. They will then go on to compete for the £30,000 Costa Book of the Year prize which will be announced on 30 January. Running since 1971, when they were established by Whitbread, the Costa prizes are the only major UK book prize open to authors resident in the UK and Ireland. There’s been plenty of press coverage for the awards already – here's  a good piece in the Guardian. On Balance has also been has been selected as a Book of the Year in the New Statesman by both Sebastian Barry and Andrew Marr who said “I can’t not mention Sinéad Morrissey – a wide-ranging, capacious, brilliant and entirely satisfying collection of poems that will be read many decades hence.” Hilary Mantel also selected it as her Book of the Year in the TLS saying “Sinéad Morrissey gains power with each collection. She’s one of those generous writers whose images and structures open so invitingly that your response is to grab a pen and write back to her: in other words, an inspiration.”

Charlotte Peacock will be on Woman’s Hour on Thursday December 14th talking about her wonderful biography of Nan Shepherd; Into the Mountain (hb, £20, 978 1903385562) which has just been published by Galileo. There has already been a great review in the Observer and there’s an article in Country Life coming up, as well as pieces in The Literary Review and the Spectator. And I’m happy to tell you that Charlotte will be on the BBC 4 programme Open Country, on December 28th. Here you can see a really lovely window display at Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh where it is currently their Book of the Month. This beautifully written book unravels the mysteries, dispels some of the rumours and gives insight into the life and work of this extraordinary writer.

Talking of Scotland, I found this both funny and true – top tips to help you survive a winter north of the border!

The Supermum Myth (£12.99, pb, 978 1910336342) had a splendid launch event in Leeds yesterday and continues to get lots of publicity with a feature in the Daily Mail plus a lot of regional coverage for its authors Dr Rachel Andrew and Anya Hayes. The two authors are booked onto the Scummy Mummies podcast which will be aired in December – this is an influential podcast so should give a boost to sales! You can read a brilliant review of the title here on the MuffinTopMummy blog (love that name!) which says “I’ve read plenty of ‘not-so-supermum’ blogs to know that a lot of mothers aren’t breezing through life in an Instagram-filtered world. But that’s not what I took away from this book. It isn’t simply another regurgitation of ‘we don’t all have this motherhood thing nailed’. It’s both a deeper dive into WHY Supermum doesn’t exist and, crucially, how we can deal with our feelings. Real, practical advice and exercises. Yes, I did say exercises. Because this is a book that you can use, not just read.”

I was very pleased to see this story in the Guardian, bringing us the welcome news that many small indie publishers are reporting booming sales. Some of the big boys may be struggling, but hurrah, figures for sixty of the smallest players in the UK industry show that sales were up 79% in the last year.

You booksellers have more power than you may believe! I loved this story here from the Bookseller all about how Nic Bottomley, owner of Mr B's Emporium in Bath, persuaded our favourite Welsh indie Parthian to reprint a title by promising to buy half its print run! Hummingbird (£10, pb, 978 1910901908) by Tristan Hughes was recommended to Bottomley by a colleague and when he heard the title was going out of print, he persuaded Parthian to reprint by promising to buy half its second print run of 400. "We enjoy practicing a very opinionated form of bookselling at Mr B’s - hand-selling and recommending books at every opportunity", Bottomley said. "And we love nothing more than finding a book, like Hummingbird, that we believe is brilliantly written and that will appeal to many different types of readers – particularly when it’s published by an indie press like Parthian." He added: “My colleague Tom has been going on about Hummingbird non-stop since May and when I finally read it last month I understood why. It has the perfect blend of plot, oddball characters and a superb sense of place. It’s been selling well throughout the summer and we’ve been getting incredible feedback on it from the customers who’ve read it. With three more months of customer conversations, our Christmas catalogue and an event at Mr B’s with the author between now and Christmas, we’re going to need a LOT of copies. I really hope other bookshops give it the reading-time and display it deserves too”. We hope so too – it truly is a lovely book! The Daily Mail called it “Lean and lyrical...beautifully nuanced and utterly touching” and it has a truly gorgeous cover!

As many of you will be aware, exactly where you live in the UK can have a starting effect on your health. A new title from Policy Press, entitled Health Divides: Where You Live Can Kill You by Clare Bambra (pb, 978 1447330356, £12.99) was recently Highly Commended at the 2017 BMA awards and explores this subject fully. Although this subject area is already in the public consciousness, it has largely been absent from publications. Health Divides uses extensive maps and visualisations to communicate the subject matter and the judges for the BMA awards said it was “very accessible and engaging to a wide variety of audiences. It is an exceptional book; I found it to be the best I have reviewed by some margin. It is an important subject, elegantly presented in an easy and engaging fashion. Health inequalities should not be tolerated as normal or inevitable and this book adds greatly to that end.” Health Divides examines the social, environmental, economic and political causes of health inequalities, how they have evolved over time and what they are like today, revealing gaps in life expectancy of up to 25 years between places just a few miles apart.

I do appreciate that your bookshops are groaning under the weight of treats from celeb chefs right now; but cookbooks don’t come much more gorgeous and genuine than The Italian Regional Cookbook (hb, 978 0754832409, £25.00) by Italian-cooking expert Valentina Harris. Each area of Italy is examined in turn, with a carefully curated selection of recipes, and detailed instructions and photographs to help you achieve an authentic, and completely delicious, end result. This 624-page comprehensive book is a must-have reference for anyone who is passionate about cooking authentic Italian food.  It’s published by Lorenz and you can see some spreads from it and find out a bit more here.
Betting the House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election (£14.99, pb, 978 1785902956) which has just been published by Biteback is getting loads of press coverage with articles in the Mail on Sunday, The Sun, the Independent, the Guardian, The Mirror and an interview on LBC plus many more. Through new interviews and candid private accounts from key players, political journalists Tim Ross and Tom McTague have pieced together the inside story of one of the most dramatic and important of elections in recent years – and there are loads of juicy titbits within its pages! I particularly enjoyed the account mentioned in the Guardian slagging off Teresa May’s culinary know-how, saying “Chicken lasagne and boiled potatoes??! As Lynton Crosby apparently quipped, it is possible to tell a lot about a leader from the menus they serve. In this case, it is clear that Theresa May cares as little about respecting the culinary traditions of fellow Europeans.” It sounds Theresa needs a copy of the aforementioned Valentina Harris cookbook pronto! The Mail called Betting the House “the political book of the year … gripping” and there will be more coverage for this one to come I’m sure.

Queen are playing all round the UK during December – they are in Liverpool on 28 Nov, Birmingham on 30 Nov, Newcastle on 1 Dec, Glasgow on 3 Dec, Nottingham on 5 Dec, Leeds on 6 Dec, Manchester on 9 Dec, London on 12,13 and 15 Dec then finally Birmingham on 16 December; so please do make sure that you have lots of copies of Queen in 3D (978 0957424685, hb, £50.00) on display if you have a bookshop in one of these cities! Brian May has been known to pop in unannounced to bookshops while he’s in town and start signing copies for delighted fans – so do make sure you’re prepared for the Santa Claus of rock to call in on you! Here you can see an excellent window display from Waterstones’s in Liverpool which is where the Queen tour kicks off next Tuesday – nice one guys, thanks very much! There was an excellent piece on Queen in 3D in Saga magazine this month – which you can read here and the Scotsman will run a big spread on the book on 1st Dec, including lots of extracts and images from the book. It is published by the London Stereoscopic Company.

There’s never been a better time to be a woman. Thanks to those feminists who fought for liberation, young women today have freedom and opportunities their grandmothers could barely have imagined. Girls do better at school than boys and are more likely to go to university. Yet Dr Joanna Williams argues that rather than encouraging women to seize the new possibilities open to them, contemporary feminism insists on telling them that they are still oppressed. Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars (pb, £14.99, 978 1787144767) has just been published by Emerald, and unsurprisingly is generating a lot of media coverage! The book was launched at a debate; The Battle of Ideas discussing the many issues the book raises which you can watch on YouTube here . And here is Joanna Williams talking on the Channel 4 news about the book in the light of the Sexminster scandal and #Me Too. You can also listen to a podcast by Joanna on Spiked Online here. Clare Fox, from the Institute of Ideas said “For those of us who’ve been involved in fighting for women’s liberation for years, it has been tragic to watch contemporary feminism become the enemy of freedom. Do not despair. Joanna Williams’s wonderful book not only uses erudition, philosophy and polemics to explain how on earth this betrayal has happened but more importantly it is a bravura clarion call urging women to throw off the shackles of hapless victimhood and instead take control of their destiny. I loved every word.” It has a punchy eye-catching cover – and is available now!

And while we’re on the thorny subject of #MeToo and sexual harassment allegations, can I recommend Helen De Witt's brilliant novel Lightning Rods (£7.99, pb, 978 1908276292) from And Other Stories. This is a fantastic backlist title (published in 2013) that seems to have foreseen recent events, a sharp, uproarious satire on sex, work and corporate culture. The Independent on Sunday wrote “Nasty idea; very funny book. Helen DeWitt maintains a strong, clear, narrative voice throughout, pitch-perfectly parodying management speak, corporate culture and self-help bibles” while the Telegraph wrote that this novel by “Helen DeWitt [will be] recognised in the future as one of the most interesting of its time.” Here's  a review from the New York Times calling it a “funny, filthy book” which gives you a good feel for it (as it were!).

Tis the season where we start to eat our own weight in festive treats every day – but of course it IS possible to eat fat and not GET fat – by eating the RIGHT fats (and I don’t think that means pigs in blankets). The Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook by Dr Joseph Mercola and Pete Evans (978 1401955410, hb, £23.99) which has just been published by Hay House will be featured in January’s What Doctors Don’t Tell You and an exclusive recipe and a Q&A with Dr Joseph Mercola will also be featured in NOW Magazine in January. This new volume is a companion to Dr Mercola's best-selling Fat for Fuel, and is an impeccably researched, beautifully illustrated, comprehensive guide to eating the ketogenic way in epicurean style. In its pages, you'll find a clear explanation of what ketogenic eating is and how it can transform your health together with nearly 100 delicious ketogenic recipes, from basics like Beef Bone Broth, to showstopper entrées like Crispy Duck Confit, to irresistible treats like a Chocolate Fat Bomb!

While most children are thinking about Christmas in an entirely straightforward “Hmm, will-Santa-be-able-to-fit-all-my-presents-down-the chimney-I-wonder” sort of way, sadly for some, the strong emotions involved at this time of year makes it not quite so simple. Jessica Kingsley are the masters of titles helping children deal with worries of all kinds; and My Secret Dog (hb, £9.99, 978 1785924866) by Tom Alexander is a new, beautifully understated hardback which depicts a child's sense of slowly discovering that getting what they want is not as straightforward as it might first appear. 
JKP’s top selling therapeutic children’s title this year has been the fabulous All Birds Have Anxiety (hb, £9.99, 978 1785921827) which humorously explores the symptoms of anxiety disorder and its impact on day-to-day life through colourful images of life as a bird. Kathy Hoopmamn’s previous titles All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome (978-1843104810) and All Dogs Have ADHD (978 1843106517) are also huge bestsellers for the publisher. Other current top titles for the publisher are: The Princess and the Fog (hb, £10.99) which is designed to be read with children aged 5-7 who are suffering from depression. Using metaphor and full of humour, it is a relatable, enjoyable and positive read for all – and also includes a guide for parents and carers by two clinical paediatric psychologists. Big Tree is Sick (hb, £11.99, 978 1785922268) is a warm and comforting picture book portraying the anger and emotion that many children encounter when a close relative or friend is diagnosed with a long-term illness, such as cancer. The story of Big Tree depicts how things are often out of your control and sets out effective strategies for dealing with these emotions in times of illness and loss. Minnie and Max are OK (hb, £10.99, 978 1785922336) is a great confidence builder, to help kids develop a positive body image – an increasingly important issue for young children. And You Make Your Parents Super Happy (£8.99, hb, 978 1785924149) explains why parents decide to separate in simple, understandable language; this candid and reassuring story with its relatable fun characters, can be a lifeline during a confusing time. If you’d like to have a browse through the entire Jessica Kingsley Children’s Catalogue, then it's here!

Good to see Lost Lanes: 36 Glorious Bike Rides in Southern England by Jack Thurston (pb, £14.99, 978 0957157316) from Wild Things in amongst a lovely Christmas Picks display at Foyles this week which you can see here. I’m loving the retro cover look working so well together from many different publishers – all these books look like highly tempting gifts!

We're thrilled to see stories by two New Island authors, June Caldwell and Nuala O’Connor (which are included in their collections in Room Little Darker (pb, £9.99, 978 1848406094) and Joyride to Jupiter £9.99, pb, 9781848406155)) nominated for the Short Story of the Year in the 2017 BGE Irish Book Awards. The winners will be announced at the Gala Dinner and Awards ceremony on 28th November which will be televised on RTE 1. Voting has now closed, but you can read the stories and find out more about these fantastic writers on the Awards website here.

I love this fantastic initiative from Book Trust who suggest you can brighten up Christmas by sending a book gift to a child in care. Through their Letterbox Club, they send book parcels out during the year and for many children, it may be the first time they have had a letter or parcel through the post – and for some, these may be the first books they’ve owned. This Christmas, they want to surprise these children by sending each child a special book gift. Go to the website to find out how you can donate.

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