Friday 23 February 2018

Compass Points 250

With Jacob Zuma’s recent resignation from his post as President of South Africa, author Robin Renwick, former ambassador to South Africa, will be in much demand by both broadcast and print media for comment. His book How to Steal a Country (hb, 978 1785903618, £17.99) which is published by Biteback on 27 March, maps out the growing scandal around Zuma and his relationship with the powerful Gupta family. There is an election in South Africa coming up and any legal action against the former president or members of the Gupta family (two were arrested this week) will ensure that the story stays in the news. The book describes the vertiginous decline in political leadership in South Africa from Mandela to Zuma and its terrible consequences. It reads in parts like a crime novel in terms of the audacity and sheer scale of the looting of the public purse, let alone the impunity with which it has been accomplished. Based on Renwick s personal experiences of the main protagonists, it describes the extraordinary influence achieved by the Gupta family and the massive amounts earned by Gupta related companies from their associations with them. But Robin Renwick believes that South Africa has succeeded in establishing a genuinely non-racial society full of determined and enterprising people, offering genuine hope for the future. The book concludes that change will come, either by the ruling party reverting to the values of Mandela and Archbishop Tutu, or by the reckoning it otherwise will face one day.

What an excellent piece in the Bookseller last week on the wonderful Wild Things, whose sales surged 129% through Nielsen in 2017, recording their first £1m-plus year through the TCM and having by far the greatest percentage growth of the top 20 publishers in the sector. They explain that Wild Things will aim to expand its range but the content will always remain true to the founding principles. Publisher Daniel Start said: “We’re just looking for subjects that are localised, inspiring and that everyone in Britain would be able to get out and do. We’re pretty niche, but it’s a good niche to be in.” They also gave us a nice shout-out saying “hiring Compass was a definite help” when they founded the business back in 2012 – thanks guys, we love you too! You can read the whole piece here.

Congratulations to the four Compass client publishers who have been shortlisted for the IPG Independent Publisher Awards! Kogan Page are up for both Academic and Professional Publisher of the Year; as are Emerald; and also, the Bookseller International Achievement of the Year. Pluto are shortlisted for the Nielsen Digital Marketing Award and Carcanet are in the running for the Alison Morrison Diversity Award. You can find the full shortlists here. Good luck all! The winners of the 12 awards will be revealed at a Gala Dinner during the IPG’s Annual Spring Conference on Thursday 8 March 2018. IPG chief executive Bridget Shine said: “Each year we say it: competition for the IPG Independent Publishing Awards is tougher than ever. We were blown away by the quantity and quality of the entries from IPG members, which gave our judges an extraordinarily tough job. The shortlists they have produced reveal the incredible diversity and dynamism of independent publishing in 2018, and our only regret is that many more superb entrants could not be included.”

Carcanet poetry collections often feature some pretty stunning artwork – but it’s rare for the artist to have also designed an award-winning album cover. Step forward Dan Hillier whose work is on the cover of Unearthly Toys: Poems and Masks (978 1784105389, £12.99, pb) by Ned Denny and who also designed the Royal Blood debut album – which won the 2014 NME Best Art Vinyl Award. (You can see that here. ) Unearthly Toys is a David Lynch-esque debut which taps into the ethereal, transcendental and engages with widespread popular topics such as alien intelligence and abduction, conspiracy theories, legend and spirituality, and parallel realms. The melodiousness, formal rigor and rhyme-schemes of the poems will appeal to those who tend not to read or like contempo­rary poetry! It was published this week.

The Romantic Novelists Association Shortlists for 2018 are announced featuring the best in romantic fiction from big publishers, small presses and self-published authors, and hurrah, Choc Lit author Jane Lovering is nominated for two awards! Firstly, for Christmas at the Little Village School which is up for the RONA Rose which is for shorter romantic novels. And she’s also up for the Romantic Comedy Novel Award with Little Teashop of Horrors (pb, £7.99, 978 1781894200) which is published on 8 May. You can see the full shortlist here. Jane won the Romantic Novel of the Year in 2012 with Please Don’t Stop the Music (978 1906931278, £7.99, pb) and this new title looks equally engaging. Set in a Yorkshire tearoom, Little Teashop of Horrors is choc-a-bloc (see what I did there) full of Lovering’s very special sense of humour and offers the reader an emotional roller coaster ride blending sadness, deep emotion and joy, with cakes, a gorgeous stately home, birds of prey and a deliciously dreadful bad guy.

Ooh, who doesn’t love a book set in a café? Chocolat and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe spring to mind for starters. Of course JK Rowling famously penned her best-selling books in a coffee shop – have a look here to see the UK’s most inspiring literary cafes! Plenty of our favourite booksellers are included we’re pleased to see!

Talking of books about cake, great piece here in the Guardian about the Archers Academic Conference (yes really) last weekend in the British Library at which Custard, Culverts and Cake (£14.99, pb, 978 1787432864) was on sale. This paperback from Emerald was rather a hit when it came out last year – so I’d urge you to stock it if you don’t already as there are millions of listeners to the Radio 4 show who would love it! By Doctors Cara Courage and Nicola Headlam, it is a sometimes serious, but most often wry look at the people of Ambridge and takes on subjects such as food, geography, social media and faith. With contributions from members of the Academic Archers network, the book blurs the line between fact and fiction - each chapter is ‘peer reviewed’ by a different Ambridge inhabitant. It gives the reader a deeper understanding of the real-life issues covered in the programme and validation that hours of listening to The Archers is, in fact, academic research. And if you didn’t make it to the British Library conference, but would like to join this community of Archers fans with an academic interest in the show, then have a look on their website, where there are YouTube films and podcasts from previous conferences.

Four Crown House titles are named in the 2018 Education Resources Awards' Educational Book Awards shortlist! The ERA aims to encourage the raising of educational services and product standards throughout the industry and is recognised throughout the sector as the accolade of excellence. The titles are: Messy Maths by Juliet Robertson (978 1781352663, £18.99) which is a rich resource of ideas that will inspire teachers to tap into the endless supply of patterns, textures, colours and quantities to be found in the great outdoors and deepen children’s understanding of maths through hands-on experience. The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook by Jim Smith (978 1781352687, £18.99) is Jim's latest thinking on how to be the best lazy, but outstanding, teacher you can be. Every chapter has been revised and some significantly expanded, particularly those on planning, conducting and reviewing lazy lessons. Puffed Out by Will Hussey and Barry Hymer (978 1785831171, £14.99) is a comprehensive catalyst for cultivating a growth mindset. Schools increasingly value grit, determination, resilience and adaptability as being key to deep learning. But how do you put these values into practice? This innovative approach starts by getting learners to think about a seemingly familiar story in a radically different and creative way. And finally, The Teacher's Guide to SEN by Natalie Packer (978 1785830259, £18.99) outlines what all teachers need to know about SEN, and provides a range of practical tips and ideas that can be applied in the classroom. A full listing of the awards' shortlists can be found here.  The winners will be announced at a gala event to be held at in Birmingham on the second evening of The Education Show on Friday 16th March 2018.

Lots and lots of publicity still coming in for And Other Stories on their Year of Publishing Women. There’s an interview on the BBC here, and publisher Stefan Tobler has also been interviewed on BBC Radio Wales, on the Drive Time show Good Evening Wales and on BBC Derby.

Fancy a book quiz? This one from our pals at Buzzfeed gives you a quote from a popular novel on top of an extreme close-up of that novel's cover. Your job is to guess which they belong to by typing the title of the novel into the box. Play here.  

I’m pleased to report another excellent week of publicity for the inspiring Barbara Hosking talking about her enthralling memoir Exceeding My Brief: Memoirs of a Disobedient Civil Servant (£25, hb, 978 1785903557). Barbara made quite the splash as she appeared on the BBC Radio 5 Live Emma Barnett Show, to discuss it, receiving a rapturous response on Twitter. BBC News Online covered the story, which went on to become one of the BBC website’s Top 10 Most Read articles of the day, which in turn was picked up by many other outlets. Following interviews in The Observer, New Statesman, and Daily Mail, Barbara appears in this month’s feature ‘Lunch with…’ slot in Civil Service World Magazine – a really interesting interview, definitely worth a read!

Gringa by Joe Thomas (978 1911350248, £14.99, hb) is the second thriller in the series that began with Paradise City (978 1911350163, £8.99, pb) featuring detective Mario Leme. Set in the harsh metropolis of São Paolo, in the build up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Leme investigates the curious disappearance of a young English journalist that leads him into the murky depths of the city’s political underworld.GQ said of it “Great crime fiction hinges on a sense of place, and after his sophisticated debut, Thomas proves an adroit guide to a city that has developed at dizzying speed.” Pacy and giving the reader a completely authentic picture of life in this most exciting of great world cities it would be an excellent read to whet the appetite of anyone thinking of visiting Brazil. And indeed, a feature on The Culture Trip website entitled What Our Literary Editor Thinks You Should be Reading This February suggested exactly that – you can read that here.  There’s also a good piece in Bookanista by Joe Thomas which you can see here and there are lots of other reviews coming in the Crime mags. Gringa has just been published by Arcadia.

There’s a bit of a buzz building for Fire on the Mountain, (pb, £8.99, 978 1785078996) a complex, and emotional read that doesn’t fully uncover itself until the very last word with a structure and themes as intricate as the political Africa of its setting. It was launched this week at the Book Hive in Norwich – a great evening with John Boyne, Caryl Phillips and Margaret Atwood among the guests attending. But the star of the night was the author Jean McNeil who gave a short talk and answered many questions. Reviewers and bloggers are enthusiastic saying “Right from the first page I was overwhelmed by a feeling of dread and discomfort, that something extraordinarily awful was going to happen to Nicklaas, a young man who has, inexplicably, run away from his work in overseas disaster relief. The book is set somewhere in southern Africa, where there is social menace on the streets and natural perils in the undergrowth.”Burns with a fierce intensity. Passions are ignited and family dynamics laid bare. A triumph." It’s just been published by Legend.

Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars (£14.99, pb, 978 1787144767) was chosen by Dame Helen Morrisey in Stella magazine last week as the “last book I loved”. This title challenges the stance of some contemporary feminists that women are still oppressed, and unpicks the statistics from the horror stories to explore the reality of women’s lives. It argues that today’s feminism is obsessed with trivial issues – skinny models, badly phrased jokes and misplaced compliments – and focuses on the regulation of male behaviour, rather than female empowerment, pitching men and women against each other in a never-ending gender war that benefits no-one. It’s published by Emerald.

Darker With the Lights On by David Hayden sold out in hardback and the surreal short story collection got absolutely stunning reviews with the Guardian saying “once in a blue moon, a book comes along that really is like nothing you’ve ever read before. The 20 stories in this debut are strange, uncomfortable fables: hard to fathom, but impossible to ignore ... with a blunt impact that reverberates long after the final page.” And Eimear McBride wrote "It's an open secret that David Hayden is one of the most interesting short story writers around. Why it's taken this long for his first collection to be published is beyond me but I, along with anyone with even the vaguest interest in looking at modernism anew, will be queuing up for a copy." It’s shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, and one of the stories from it will be aired on BBC Radio 4 in April. The paperback (978 0995705296, pb, £9.99) is published on 1 May by Little Island Press – definitely one to order plenty of methinks!

Do you see unicorns everywhere? Have you noticed that unicorns are appearing more and more in modern culture? Scottish born healer Calista believes that is because the unicorn energy is coming through right now to help those who are ready to raise their vibration and start living a life that is true to them. Unicorn Rising (978 1788170918, £12.99, hb) explains what the energy of the unicorns symbolises, why it is appearing strongly at this time in history and what the unicorns can help you with. Fun and original, Unicorn Rising: Live Your Truth and Unleash Your Magic weaves relatable stories of breakthrough, with transformational exercises. This compassionate and empowering book aims to help the reader experience deeper levels of freedom, joy, play and love to help them follow their path with power and purpose. This book will be in a summer issue of Fate magazine and Calista will also be speaking on Talk Radio. You can see an interview with Calista talking about her book on YouTube here.  It’s published by Hay House on 29 May.

I love this thoughtful piece by Neil Gaiman explaining why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming. You can read it here in the Guardian explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens.

On a cold February day, who wouldn’t want to be transported to the sunny Caribbean. So Many Islands (pb, £8.99, 978 1846592072) does just that, bringing together stories from the distant shores of the island communities in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Giving voice to their challenges and triumphs, these writers paint a vibrant portrait of what it is like to live, love and lose the things most precious to them on the small islands they call home. Just published by Telegram in partnership with the Commonwealth Foundation, this enchanting collection will transport you to Marakei, ‘the women’s island’, where a female statue stands guard at each compass point, and introduce you to colourful characters like Leno Humphrey, a small-time cricketer from St. Vincent who buys his own trophies to take back to his wife. Voicing global issues such as nuclear testing in the Pacific and climate change to petty politics and the gaps between generations; readers everywhere will find universal connections with these words and worlds. As Booker Prize winner Marlon James says in his introduction to this lovely collection: “This is the real globalism, a glorious cacophony that seeks no common ground other than attitude.”

And just to get you in the mood – here are the top 21 songs with that Caribbean vibe – as chosen by Beachbox TV! Reggae, salsa, calypso and sweet soca music, this playlist will transport you straight to those sun-kissed, tropical beaches!

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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