Friday 21 September 2018

Compass Points 275

A wonderful launch at the V&A this week for Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places by Philip Wilkinson (£20, hb, 978 1848025097). Guided by public nominations and a panel of expert judges, including Professor Robert Winston, Mary Beard, George Clarke, David Olusoga, Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson and Bettany Hughes; Historic England have compiled a list of 100 places where remarkable things have happened and shaped our collective identity. The book is divided into ten categories ranging from Music & Literature, through Science & Discovery to Power, Protest & Progress. The result is a gloriously illustrated and unique history of England chosen and told by the people who live here. From the observatory in Greenwich where the modern measurement of time began, to a hut in Bletchley Park where modern computing evolved, to England's oldest inn carved into the sandstone in Nottingham, the choices are surprising, intriguing and enlightening. This is a fantastic book – you can find out lots more on the Historic England website and even better,  there’s a podcast series where you can listen to hosts Suzannah Lipscomb and Emma Barnett travelling across England visiting all the places; that’s here. This would be a brilliant Christmas present – I know that applies to loads of books published this month – but this one really would – and it’s a very good price too!

Big congratulations to Comma who have been twice shortlisted in the Manchester Culture Awards 2018 in the Inspiring Innovation and the Outstanding Contribution categories. Nominations were received for people, groups and organisations who made culture buzz in Manchester during April 2017 to April 2018 and the competition was fierce, with over 300 entries. Comma will now go through to the final judging panel, who will decide if they are a finalist in either category and all finalists will be invited to the awards ceremony on November 14th.

I love this display of Propaganda Blitz: How the Corporate Media Distort Reality by David Edwards and David Cromwell (978 0745338118, £14.99, pb) with its very own table at the front of the shop in Foyles Charing Cross – thanks guys! Just published by Pluto, this devastating title shows that the corporate media does not just 'spin' the news - it fundamentally distorts everything it touches, hiding the real issues from public view, and often completely reversing the truth. This book uncovers a storm of top-down campaigns behind war reporting and exposes propagandists at the top levels of the BBC, as well as their reporting on the Scottish independence referendum, the dismantling of the NHS and looming climate chaos. Propaganda Blitz explains the real meaning of 'objective' journalism, exposes the fake news about 'fake news' and changes the way you view the world, revealing that far from being our ally, the liberal media is actually our enemy.

How evocative and romantic is the letter that doesn’t arrive? What a Hazard a Letter Is: The Strange Destiny of the Unsent Letter (£14.99, hb, 978 0993291173) explores all those that never quite reached their intended destination, from both literature and history. From the ones that were posted on board the Titanic and intercepted by that iceberg, to the love letter in One Day that Dexter forgets to post to Emma, Caroline Atkins discovers the reasons why they weren’t sent, and how the consequences were sometimes farcical, sometimes agonisingly poignant, and sometimes actually changing the course of history. Here, are authors from Ian McEwan to Iris Murdoch, Abraham Lincoln to Ernest Hemingway, and Virginia Woolf to Van Gogh: magnificent tirades written in the red mist of rage, delicious to read but all a little more eloquent for being unsent. There was a brilliant review for this one in the Mail on Sunday's You Magazine’s Five Cosy Autumn Reads article last weekend, which you can see here, calling it “an irresistibly readable collection of letters … and a perfect Christmas present, too.” There will also be a review shortly in Country Life. It’s published by Safe Haven.

I have very much been enjoying listening to the shortlisted stories for the BBC National Short Story Award which have been read on BBC Radio 4 and are available on the BBC Radio iPlayer here. And of course, you can find them all in Comma’s The BBC National Short Story Award Anthology (978 1910974414, £7.99, pb). The winner will be announced during a live ceremony broadcast on Radio 4, on the 2nd October. The award is one of the most prestigious awards for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000, and four further shortlisted authors £600 each. This year sees an all-female shortlist and the stories in this year’s anthology pivot around the theme of loss, and the different ways that individuals, and communities, respond to it. From the son caring for his estranged father, to the widow going out for her first meal alone, the characters in these stories are trying to find ways to repair themselves, looking ahead to a time when their grief will eventually soften and sooth. Above all, these stories explore the importance of human connection, and the salutary effect of companionship and friendship.

Great news! Andy Grant’s book, You’ll Never Walk (£15.99, hb, 978 1909245709) has been long listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award! The prize is now in its 30th year, and is dedicated to rewarding excellence in sports writing, with the winner receiving £30,000. When Andy Grant's eyes blinked open from a 10-day coma in February 2009, he was alone in a hospital bed in Birmingham. He had a broken sternum, a broken leg, a broken elbow and shrapnel lodged in both forearms. He had a severed femoral artery, nerve damage to his hands and feet as well as deep gaping wounds in both of his cheeks. He had been blown up during a routine foot patrol in Afghanistan. Within days of coming to his senses, a doctor told Andy that because of the blast he would no longer be able to have children. You'll Never Walk is his story, and it’s published by De Coubertin. The shortlist will be announced on 27th October and you can find out more about this year’s award here.  

Government ministers announced a massive increase to the badger cull last week. An estimated 41,000 badgers will be shot in the English countryside in the next few weeks, but according to the Wildlife Trust, it costs £496.52 to kill a badger compared to £82 to vaccinate one against bovine TB. Badgered to Death: The People and Politics of the Badger Cull by Dominic Dyer and Chris Packham (£8.99, pb, 978 0993040757) and published by Canbury Press is the only book on Britain's biggest wildlife controversy. It argues that the cull is scientifically foolish and a giant waste of money.

A major art exhibition has just opened at the Courtauld Gallery in London; Impressionists: From Manet to Cézanne. It’s been much reviewed and runs until January, so it’s worth reminding you about the many Lorenz titles which reference these artists. You can see the top three here. Manet: His Life and Work in 500 Images by Nigel Rodgers (978 0754828945, £16.99, hb), Degas His Life and Works in 500 Images by Jon Kear (978 0754823889, £16.99, hb) and Cezanne His Life and Work in 500 Images by Susie Hodge (978 0754823131, £16.99, hb) are all comprehensive and well-written accounts of these artists, and feature a wealth of wonderful illustrations of their greatest work.

Advice That Sticks: How to Give Financial Advice that People will Follow by Moira Summers guides those who give financial advice for a living in learning how to close the gap between good intentions and actions. It is written by an expert in the field of financial psychology and delivers humility, humour and wisdom, and has recently had some excellent publicity. There was an interview with the author on Moneywise Interactive Investor, which is the UK’s number one investment programme; it was included in Michael Kitces (who is the most influential financial blogger in the USA with a reach of over 250,000 followers) Top Picks for Financial Advisors 2018 – you can see that here and there was also an interview on Ember TV here.  Advice That Sticks is published by Practical Inspiration

We’re thrilled that Phoebe Power’s Shrines of Upper Austria (£9.99, pb, 978 1784105341) has won the 2018 Forward Prize for Best First Collection! This is the first full debut from this promising young poet (2009 Foyle Young Poet of the Year, winner of a 2012 Eric Gregory Award and a 2014 Northern Writers’ Award) and is a celebration of creativity in unlikely places. A young woman searching for love and understanding in 21st century Britain finds herself in rural Austria, where she observes and records a landscape of mountains, folk culture and uneasy histories. It’s published by Carcanet and there are more details about the prize here.

Staying Power (pb, £16.99, 978 0745338309) is a panoramic history of black Britons. Stretching back to the Roman conquest, encompassing the court of Henry VIII, and following a host of characters from Mary Seacole to the abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, Peter Fryer paints a picture of two thousand years of Black presence in Britain. First published in the 80s, amidst race riots and police brutality, Fryer's history performed a deeply political act; revealing how Africans, Asians and their descendants had long been erased from British history. By rewriting black Britons into the British story, showing where they influenced political traditions, social institutions and cultural life, was – and is – a deeply effective counter to a racist and nationalist agenda. Pluto have just published a new edition of this seminal title, which includes the classic introduction by Paul Gilroy, author of There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack, in addition to a brand-new foreword by Guardian journalist Gary Younge, which examines the book's continued significance today as we face Brexit and a revival of right-wing nationalism.

A great early review for Gaia Holmes' newest poetry collection, Where the Road Runs Out (£9.99, pb, 978 1910974452) on Word Mothers, who said "There’s a meditative quality to Holmes’s work which provides the perfect antidote to the frenzy of modern life;" you can read the full piece  here. Three poems from the collection are also featured on And Other which will give you a good taster of Gaia's fantastic work if you’re not already familiar with it. Gaia's launch event at Book Corner Halifax was a huge success and the collection is their bestseller of the week, and there are more events with Gaia coming up at will be reading at more events in Halifax, Hebden Bridge and Hull. It’s published by Comma.

Rather than being evil doom-laden machines that take our jobs and take over our world, robots may actually create jobs, according to new study released this week. A report for the World Economic Foundation said that although robots would displace jobs doing an estimated 75 million of them in the next decade — they could lead to new ways of working that would add an extra 133 million jobs in the same period. The research chimes with Hallo Robot (£14.99, pb, 978 1912454051) published next month by Canbury Press, which paints a optimistic view of the impact robots will have on our lives. Instead of posing a threat to the human race, Bennie Mols and Nieske Vergunst argue that robots could significantly improve our lives. They can do dull and dangerous tasks, help us walk again after accidents, rescue people from collapsed buildings, and take a starring role in the fight against hunger and pollution. With sixty colour photos, this is realistic and vivid view of our robot future.

So, let’s finish with the Top Ten Good Movie Robots – and also the Top Ten Evil Movie Robots!

Hasta la vista, baby!

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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