Friday 10 May 2019

Compass Points 304

We were thrilled to see When Footballers Were Skint: A Journey in Search of the Soul of Football by Jon Henderson (pb, 978 1785904660) shortlisted in the football category of The Telegraph Sports Book Awards 2019. You can see the shortlists in full here. It was published in paperback by Biteback in March and the Guardian said of it "Henderson has spent four years interviewing former players who are now in their 80s and whose stories were in danger of being forgotten. Time colours everything, but while there is something undeniably attractive about footballers being rooted in their communities, travelling to games by public transport and earning a similar amount to the fans who came to watch them - if the game did ever have a soul, this might have been that era - Henderson is too astute an observer to let the romance ever slide into sentimentality." You can read a great piece here on the Biteback blog by Jon on why he found writing the book such a rewarding experience.

Sustainability is undoubtably one of today’s hot topics, along with packaging, waste, recycling, obesity, deforestation, and animal welfare. One company has been smack bang in the middle of pretty much all of these contentious matters ever since the 1980’s, and that’s McDonalds. The Battle To Do Good: Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey by Bob Langert (978 1787568167, £16.99, hb) is an absolutely riveting behind-the-scenes eye witness account of the mega brand's battle to address numerous societal issues. Packed with first-hand anecdotes, interviews with key McDonald's executives and scores of lessons learned, The Battle to Do Good provides unique insights and guidance on how to successfully navigate and manage today's societal issues to make the business stronger, more relevant, and more profitable. It’s just been published by Emerald. I think this is very funny – Eddie Murphy talking about mothers who insist on making their own delicious healthy burgers, when all you want is a Maccy Ds!

Hurrah, the brilliant Ironopolis by Glenn James Brown (pb, £9.99, 978 1912681099) has just been longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, you can see the full list here. This is a terrific achievement for this title which is published by Welsh indie Parthian as it is up against some very big names! The Orwell Prize aims to encourage excellence in writing and thinking about politics and the judges said of this year’s list that it “acknowledges that the politics in a book can often be found between the lines, rather than on them, and that making your voice heard can sometimes be the most political act of all.” The shortlists will be revealed later in the month, with the winner of the £3,000 prize announced at a ceremony on Tuesday 25th June.

Kay Hutchison had a successful career, a beautiful home, and a loving husband until the day she walked away from it all and turned to a host of weird and wonderful treatments in search of answers to a question she couldn't even articulate. My Life in 37 Therapies: From Yoga to Hypnosis and why Voodoo is Never the Answer (pb, £9.99, 978 1910453773) is the frank, funny, moving and ultimately uplifting story of one woman's pursuit of happiness and inner peace. It’s published on 4 July by Red Door and there will be lots of publicity to come for this one with features and/or reviews in Good Housekeeping, Saga, Spirit and Destiny, the Scotsman, the Daily Mail, the Sunday Express and Best magazine.

The Wales Book of the Year Award is an annual prize celebrating outstanding literary talent from Wales across many genres and in both English and Welsh. There are three categories in each language –Poetry, Fiction and Creative Non-fiction, with one of the three category winners announced as the overall Award Winner at an award ceremony on 20 June. We are very pleased to see two titles from Parthian and one from the University of Wales Press on the shortlist! Arrest Me, for I Have Run Away (£pb, £10, 978 1910901809 ) by Stevie Davies is a stunning short story collection on human nature and identity and Salacia (£8.00, pb, 978-1912109258) by Mari Ellis Dunning is a collection of unique and lyrical poems where women raise their voices and subvert the age-old tales told on their behalf. Having a Go at the Kaiser: A Welsh Family at War by Gethin Matthews (pb, £14.99, 978 1786833471) is based on more than a hundred letters sent home by three Swansea brothers during the First World War, The letters written to different members of the family allow us to build a picture of what the brothers thought about a range of different issues as the war was being waged, and of how their beliefs and ideas evolved as situations changed. You can find out more about the Wales Book of the Year Awards here.

It was fab to hear Zoe Ball giving the most colossal plug to Mission Moon in 3D: Reliving the Great Space Race (£30, hb, 978 1999667405) on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show this week. She mentioned the “incredible” book just before the 8am news and then chatted to Brian May for almost a full hour afterwards, enthusing to the nation about the title! You can listen to the whole thing here. It’s published of course by London Stereoscopic.

You see here Pluto’s awesome Rebel Footprints (pb, £12.99, 978 0745338552) looking mighty fine in the fabulous Newham Bookshop, and they’ve got a launch with its author David Rosenberg, coming up on May 29th which promises to be an excellent event. Rebel Footprints tells the story of protest and struggle in London from the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. From the suffragettes to the socialists, from the Chartists to the trade unionists, the book invites us to step into the footprints of a diverse cast of dedicated fighters for social justice. Self-directed walks and beautifully illustrated maps seamlessly blend history, politics and geography, immersing the reader in the story of the city.

Thirteen Months of Sunrise (pb, £9.99, 978 1910974391) is out this week from Comma and the reviews have been great for this his powerful, debut collection which creates a rich and moving portrait of contemporary Sudan. Books and Bao said of the collection that it “will have you witnessing everything from fleeting love, bonded by shared knowledge and culture, to death and those things left unsaid. Like these stories, life, and that of those around you, is fleeting and must be cherished” you can read that here and Translating Women said “Rania Mamoun writes with a sparse clarity, eschewing melodrama: if her narrator here lives a lifetime in a moment, so Mamoun herself writes a life in just a few pages... and offers a rich fresco of life that is at once deeply embedded in her culture and universally recognisable”; that’s here.

Tatenda Taibu's autobiography Keeper of Faith (£12.99, hb, 978 1909245860) is his complete life story: from his uncompromising upbringing in Harare, to becoming the youngest international cricket captain in history, to quitting the game that made him at the age of 29 to pursue his faith. In this revealing tome, Taibu lifts the lid on the challenges of representing Zimbabwe in the era of Robert Mugabe, and details how constant controversy and conflict ultimately restrict meaningful progress. There will be a major press tour for this title, starting with an interview with Taibu on the BBC World Service’s cricket show on 18th May. It’s published on 23 May by DeCoubertin.

We are so pleased to see that Ken Cockburn has been shortlisted for his English translations in the Carcanet dual-language book Heroines from Abroad (pb, £12.99, 978 1784106300) by Christine Marendon. You can read more about that here. Carol Rumens, writing in the Guardian said “the voice and the language in Cockburn’s translations feel freshly rinsed” and these poems transmute elements of everyday experiences making unexpected juxtapositions in a meditative flow of thoughts. The shortlist contains translations from eight languages and the winner will be announced at the prizegiving and dinner in Oxford on Saturday 15 June.

There was a terrific review of Words in Pain: Letters on Life and Death by Olga Jacoby (978 1911072355, hb, £15) in The British Journal of General Practice, calling it “a book to read time and time again.” Have a look here at a short promotional video for the book on YouTube featuring extracts read by actor Beth Eyre, to give you a flavour of the book. Sandi Toksvig said “These wonderful letters prove that true immortality lies in what we leave behind. For those of us who cannot accept the consolation of religion, they provide a sane and comforting view of how to live and, more importantly, die. They bear reading and re-reading and teach us how to live even when in the shadow of death. A feminist, rational and heartening voice about the big stuff-life and death." It’s just been published by Skyscaper.

Some good reviews coming in notably in the Wall Street Journal for The Polyglot Lovers (£10, pb, 978 1911508441) by Lina Wolff, which has just been published both here and in the US. The Star Tribune said “Wolff upsets the applecart, mercilessly mocking male hegemony and skewering literary pretensions. What could have been angry and strident is instead caustic and mischievous: both a bracing wind and a breath of fresh air. Wolff’s constant supply of fire, bite and wit are compelling forces.” The Complete Review wrote: “The Polyglot Lovers is an amusing take on modern life (literary and otherwise) and relationships between the sexes. All in all, it makes for an interesting polychromatic fiction, a surprisingly ebullient story—carried along nicely by Wolff's entertaining and easygoing presentation—in a cleverly structured novel, its three separate parts neatly coming together by the end." Publishers Weekly said "The edifice of male genius is annihilated in this galvanizing novel from Wolff. [...] Wolff orchestrates her divergent plots into riveting harmony, but more striking is the audacity with which she reveals Max and Ruben’s reckless egoism. 'I’m an autodidact in male devastation,' Claudia declares before sticking the final pin in Max’s inflated persona. Wolff’s novel proves the necessity of cultivating such a specialty. Firing on all cylinders from beginning to end, this story pulses with intellect and vitality unmatched by the literary barons it deposes." while Kirkus called it “whip-smart and deliciously cynical ... smart, funny, and sad in turns.” You can read an extract from it here in the Literary Hub who said “Fabulously quirky characters, strange and surprising turns of events, and an ill-fated book manuscript at the heart of it all. What’s wonderful about Lina Wolff’s The Polyglot Lovers is the way that it stretches the bounds of the novel form itself."

I very much enjoyed hearing Carcanet’s Michael Schmidt, on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb last Friday talking about the great Australian poet Les Murray who died recently – you can hear that one here. Les Murray wrote frequently about the natural world he encountered on the farm at Bunyah where he lived, and on the programme, Michael reads a poem from Murray’s Presence sequence called Shellback Tick and explores his faith in language and the poem - as a way of understanding what it means to be another creature.

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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