Friday 1 December 2017

Compass Points 241

So excited and pleased for all of our friends and colleagues at Birlinn, who last night won Publisher of the Year at the Saltire Awards in Edinburgh. The judges said “Over 25 years Birlinn has consistently published interesting important and quality books with high production values. Their development in recent years and work to increase their public engagement has shown them to be a publisher evolving with the industry and their audience.” Alexander McCall Smith said that “nobody could deserve this honour more than Birlinn. This team of energetic and highly creative people has achieved wonders over the last few years, proving that Scottish publishing, once the envy of the world, can do it again. Not only are their books fascinating and useful – they are beautifully designed and printed. I am delighted with their success.” You can find out more here .Hip Hip Hooray for Birlinn!

Staying in northern climes; every year, during Book Week, Scottish Book Trust ask members of the public to take part in some sort of vote. For this year they asked people to vote on their favourite song inspired by a book, poem or piece of writing. And the results are in! Go here to listen to the Top Ten Book-inspired Songs of All Time as voted for by book lovers in over 60 countries!

Lots more great endorsements for Carcanet’s On Balance (£9.99, pb, 978 1784103606) this week: Sinead Morrissey's On Balance was a worthy winner of the 2017 Forward Prize. A celebration of resourcefulness, from motherhood to the first woman to build an aeroplane, its language is as poised as the acrobats it catches” said the Sunday Times in their Books of the Year feature. It was also chosen as one of the Guardian’s Books of the Year who said: “The poem Nativity, if it stood alone, makes Sinead Morrissey's On Balance a sweet Christmas choice, but it is only one of a number of thought-provoking poems in her sixth, prize-winning collection. Morrissey floats the reader glimpses of desires unmet, memories still fluid; the stories swim beyond the edge of the page, buoyed up by possibility.” And the TLS Books of the Year feature said: “Poet 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.”

Anyone looking for some extra gift ideas for their bookshop could do a lot worse than having a quick read through the Oberon Christmas newsletter which you can read here and gives you some ideal presents for lovers of musical there, dance enthusiasts, SF fans and more. For the theatre fan they recommend Gielgoodies: The Wit, Wisdom and Gaffes of John Gielgud (978 1783190072, £9.99, pb) compiled by Gielgud’s biographer Jonathan Croall with a prologue by Simon Callow. This is a glorious compendium which brings this merry and much‐loved man vividly to life: his lightning wit, his love of scandal and gossip, his wicked delight in putting down his fellow‐artists, his relish of bawdy humour. “What a lovely idea, and such fun to dip into.... a wonderful theatrical stocking filler for Christmas” said Dame Eileen Atkins.

It's the 1st December – who’s got their tree up yet? And does the way you decorate your tree say something about your personality? Obviously yes – but can it actually determine which Hogwarts house you’re in? Take this BuzzFeed quiz to find out!

Many congratulations to New Island, who won an award at the Irish Book Awards this week. Best Crime Fiction Book was won by Julie Parsons’ gripping novel The Therapy House (pb, £11.99, 978 1848405776). I really really recommend this author; the New York Times said of her that “Julie Parsons takes the psychological suspense thriller to places it rarely dares to go” and the Irish Times said Julie Parsons was Irish Crime Fiction before there was Irish Crime Fiction. Before domestic suspense was a thing, before Girls had Gone on Trains or anywhere else, Parsons was writing intelligent, nuanced psychological thrillers under the spell of the two weird sisters of mystery, Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell... Quite simply, if I read a better book this year, I will be astonished.” It has a great cover – and you can see Julie Parsons talking about it on YouTube here.

A super review in the Spectator this week for Malacqua (£10, pb, 978 1911508069) which has just been published by And Other Stories saying “Pugliese’s novel has its own compelling voice, filled with the sound of water rushing, gushing, flowing, hammering on rooftops, falling in threads from the sky.” You can read that piece here. The publication of Malacqua in English marks the fortieth anniversary of its original Italian publication, when despite phenomenal initial success, the novel was withdrawn from publication at the author’s request, and not reissued until after his death in 2012. Now translated into English for the first time, Malacqua remains a timely critique and a richly peopled portrait of a much-mythologised city – Naples.

Have you ever felt that reading a good book makes you better able to connect with your fellow human beings? If so, the results of a new scientific study back you up, but only if your reading material is literary fiction – pulp fiction or non-fiction won’t do! New research shows works by writers such as Charles Dickens and Téa Obreht sharpen our ability to understand others' emotions – more than thrillers or romance novels – have a look at this fascinating piece of research as reported in the Guardian here. 

A couple of weeks ago there was an excellent BBC programme about Ovid which you can see on the iPlayer here. In it, Michael Wood explores the life, works and influence of one of the world's greatest storytellers who died 2,000 years ago. When an Elizabethan literary critic said that the witty soul of Ovid lived on in ‘honey tongued Shakespeare' they were just stating the obvious. Ovid, everyone knew, was simply the most clever, sexy and funny poet in the western tradition. His Metamorphoses (translated by Arthur Golding, 978 185754776 4, pb, £9.95) is often called the most influential secular book in European literature. It’s published by Carcanet, as is Amores (pb, £7.95, 978 1857546897); the work that first made Ovid famous, and infamous. A scandal in its day, and probably in part responsible for Ovid's banishment from Rome, Amores lays bare the intrigues and appetites of high society in the imperial capital at the time of Caesar Augustus. Clandestine sex, orgies and entertainments, fashion and violence, are among the subjects Ovid explores: the surface dazzle and hidden depths, secret liaisons and their public postures. This Carcanet translation by Tom Bishop closely follows the movement and metre of the original verse, rendering his world of love, licentiousness and conspiracy so as to catch Ovid's raciness!

Every year Rough Trade (bookshops in Bristol, London, Nottingham and New York) pick their Top 20 Books of The Year; a reflection of the Rough Trade team's favourite reads, what their customers talk about and what’s been in most demand across their shops. How delighted were we to find THREE Compass titles on the list! Sound System: The Political Power of Music by guitarist Dave Randall (£12.99, pb, 978 0745399300) which is published by Pluto; examines the power of music from Glastonbury to the Arab Spring and is a staggering and gripping insight into commodity and culture and music’s power to manipulate.
Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul by Stuart Cosgrove
(978 1846973734, hb, £16.99) from Polygon is a powerful, moving account of a turbulent America and the music at its heart. Intertwining politics and pop culture, Cosgrove writes the realities of segregation and soul. Grant and I: Inside and Outside the Go-betweens (978 1785585845, pb, £16.99) which is published by Omnibus Press, is a rock memoir akin to no other. Part music industry exposé, part buddy-book, this is a delicate and perceptive celebration of creative endeavour as Robert Forster pays tribute to a band who found huge success in the margins, who boldly pursued a creative vision, and whose beating heart was the band’s friendship. You can find the whole list here. 

The Times made Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar (978 1910709412, £14.99, hb) one of their Best Books of the Year describing it as “an excellent debut.” This brilliant and absorbing historical novel exploring the Australian pioneer experience comes very highly recommended – the Mail called it “empathetic and beautifully written, the story drives deep into the pioneering experience with the confidence of a writer perfectly at ease with her subject” while Good Housekeeping said it was “a historical novel in its grittiest, most real form.” It’s published by Aardvark Bureau.

Good news from Waterstones this week, as Managing Director James Daunt announces that they are to open five new bookshops in the run-up to Christmas and plan up to fifteen more for 2018. The new stores, in St Neots, Deal, Weybridge, Epsom and Blackheath in London mean that Waterstones will have opened 20 new shops since 2015 – the chain was sold by HMV to Russian billionaire owner Alexander Mamut in 2011 for £53m. You can read more about that story here.

This week saw the publication of M. John Harrison's new collection You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of Ghosts (£9.99, pb, 978 1910974346) published by Comma, which has already garnered praise from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Robert Macfarlane and Olivia Laing. This week, M. John answered Twenty Questions in the TLS, which you can read here and they also featured a story from the collection, The Crisis which you can read here. M. John was also on the Guardian Books podcast this week, which you can listen to here and Ursula K Le Guin writing in the Guardian said “The wit and effortless elegance of the writing are impeccable.” The White Review also reviewed the book this week, saying: “Harrison’s most interesting work picks and chooses multiple genres, mixing them into fictional brews of dreamlike intensity that can haunt your mind for days after reading them” – you can read that here. It is a strange beast, but definitely one for literary fiction enthusiasts, and lovers of all things peculiar. Weird stories for our weird times perhaps. If you would like a reading copy them please contact Sarah Cleave at

A quick reminder that Charlotte Peacock will be featured on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour on December 14th, and Radio 4’s Open Country on December 28th talking about Into the Mountain: A Life of Nan Shepherd (hb, £20, 978 1903385562). This first ever biography of the enigmatic writer whose image now appears on the Scottish £5 note has had some great press coverage – the Observer called it “engrossing.” It’s published by Galileo.

Well done to Neil Powell’s Was and Is: Collected Poems (pb, £14.99, 978 178410 2326) which is the winner of the 2017 East Anglian Book Awards for Poetry. This anthology of playful and elegiac poems by the celebrated biographer of Amis and Britten includes published and uncollected poems from the past fifty years and explores landscape and seascape, music and poetry, friendship and memory They are all inspired by jazz, one of Powell’s favourite subjects, and it’s published by Carcanet.

Here you see an amusing giant “Welsh books” display at the newly refurbished St David's Centre in Cardiff sent in by Compass’s man in the west – featuring titles such as Robinson Croeso and the Dai Vinci Coed – well I thought it was funny anyway! Rather ironically, the one thing the St David’s Centre doesn’t boast is… a bookshop!

Compass is on Twitter! Follow us @CompassIPS. Here are our favourite tweets from the week!
WaterstonesLiverpool‏ @waterstonesl1 WOW!! This very much just happened! @DrBrianMay called in to the store to say hi! Thanks so much! @londonstereo @compass_david @QueenWillRock
Compass Academic‏@CompassAcademic Chuffed to be at the launch of @JKPBooks’ #ToMyTransSisters down at @WaterstonesTCR. It’s great to be part of it!
#Readwomen‏@Read_Women For #smallpressweek a shout out to all those small, independent publishers bringing us exciting women's writing! To name just a few: @LinenPressBooks; @andothertweets (#YPW2018); @TiltedAxisPress @DeepVellum
Waterstones Glasgow‏@WaterstonesGla @QueenWillRock & @adamlambert in Glasgow this weekend, thought we’d celebrate with @DrBrianMay book #Queenin3d @londonstereo @compass_david
Alison Hennessey‏@Alison_Edits Walked past @Foyles earlier and was admiring their window display for 'Book Friday' rather than 'Black Friday.' Can we all make that a thing?
Waterstones‏V@Waterstones 'Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.' - George Eliot, born #OTD in 1819 #WednesdayWisdom
RedDoor Publishing‏@RedDoorBooks Writing's a beach... Or next to one on the #RedDoor #weekend #retreat! Visit  for more details #amwriting
Sam Read Bookseller‏@SReadBooks Light up your dull days with a good book... #Grasmere #BookshopWindows
Kerrie O' Brien‏@kerriepoetry Support your independent bookshops this Christmas @BooksUpstairs @gutterbookshop @DubrayBooks @ravenbooks
Sue Flint‏@tweetsue13 Tea & Chemo (Urbane) is a 'must read' for anyone fighting breast cancer. I have written a review on  - do have a browse @jaxbees and my twitterpals who are fighting the good fight.
The Refugee Tales‏@RefugeeTales Great to meet @vincecable with @Shokap and hear @LibDems support #Time4aTimeLimit - cross party support growing for end to indefinite detention. @GatDetainees @DetentionForum @commapress
That’s all for now folks! More next week!
This newsletter is sent weekly to over 700 booksellers as well as publishers and publicists. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please talk to your Compass Sales Manager, or call the office on 020 8326 5696.

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