Friday 4 October 2019

Compass Points 322

The longlist for The Portico Prize for Literature – the UK’s only award for outstanding literature that best evokes the spirit of the North – has just been announced and hurrah, Glen James Brown remarkable novel, Ironopolis (pb, £9.99, 978 1912681099) is on it! Once described as ‘the Booker of the North’, the £10,000 award is open to literature across the formats of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The longlist of seventeen books explores the myriad themes of identity, belonging, gender, class and you can see the full list here. Ironopolis was selected in The Guardian’s Best Summer Books of 2018, and they called it ‘nothing short of a triumph’ saying ‘Clearly a labour of love, this hugely ambitious debut weaves not only six narratives but multiple timelines, narrative voices and forms.’ Having recently been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, this is another brilliant achievement for this terrific title!

Hype Yourself (pb, £14,99, 978 1788601238) is an invaluable toolkit for anyone looking for help to build their brand. Crammed full of insider advice, it includes expert tips from journalists and industry specialists and is supported by a stack of online resources. Lucy Werner has over fifteen years of publicity experience, including running her own specialist consultancy focused on start-ups and entrepreneurs. She getting mega amount of publicity for her book, and it’s already at number 3 in ‘hot new releases’ for sales and marketing on Amazon. Lucy has secured a book reviews in Courier, The Homeworker and Everywoman Entrepreneurs and has lined up multiple podcast slots (Greater Than 11%, Women Who Create, Another Brand, Ready for More, The Future is Female, Tobacco & Lemonade, Couple of Co-Founders and Home Business) Q&A interviews, guest posts and speaking events (Cass Business School, Courier Live event, & Shoot, Edit, Chat, Repeat conference, judge at the Hustle Awards and Start Ups). She’s also raised an Insta army for launch week (9 January 2020) with a reach of at least 170k; you can find her @wernchat and there’s lots more information on’s published by Practical Inspiration.

This awe-inspiring piece of art is in Kassel in Germany, and was created by the 74-year-old Argentinian artist Marta Minujín. He is highlighting the topic of political oppression by making a full-size replica of the Greek Parthenon using 100,000 copies of banned books. Part of the Documenta 14 art festival, the massive structure represents the resistance to political repression by taking the symbol of democracy and coating it with the countless written evidence of oppression. Minujín relied on the help of students from Kassel university who together identified over 170 titles that were, or still are, banned in different countries around the world and used the donated physical copies to build the temple. You can see more about it here.

And talking of banned books, in fact there is no such thing as a list of illegal publications in the UK. However, as George Orwell wrote at the end of the Second World War, the ‘sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary’. Here is a very good article in the Bookseller on the subject, which points out that ‘increasingly booksellers, already under assault on many fronts, are becoming the target of more and more censorious attention. Where once demands for books to be removed from the public’s hands were due to fears of sedition, subsequently obscenity, today’s reason is "offence". The chance that someone will be offended by a book’s content—or worse, the author’s own behaviour—has become almost commonplace. While publishers and their authors may rise above such criticism, booksellers are all too often on the frontline.’

The serialisation in the Daily Mail for The Hockneys (£25, hb, 978 1789550733) ran yesterday (3 October) and you can view it here.  It’s just been published by Legend. The headline reads ‘Portrait of a very eccentric father who shaped our greatest living artist: He's made millions from his paintings, but as his brother's new memoir reveals, David Hockney's genius was forged in poverty... and neighbours' cruel abuse’. The Mail has a big readership, and according to The Art Newspaper, more than one million people saw the Hockney landscapes show at the RA in 2012 and his retrospective at Tate Britain in 2017 making these the two most popular ticketed exhibitions by a contemporary artist this century. There will undoubtably be a big market for this Legend title.

Here are two Comma colleagues Becca and Zoe discussing gender bias in literary translation on the Translating Women blog, well worth a read!

Congratulations to Rebecca Goss who has been shortlisted in the East Anglian Book Awards with Girl (£9.99, pb, 978 1784107239) This is the much-anticipated follow up collection to acclaimed and prize-winning Her Birth and traces the story of the poet’s recovery since losing her baby daughter. These poems about female identity and female experience, are inspired by pop culture and the artworld (specifically artist Alison Watt), resulting in a fearless exploration of the female body and female desire.  Clare Pollard said of it ‘Rebecca Goss captures both the pleasure and the pain. Girl is a quivering, kicking reminder of what it is to be alive.’

It was great to see Resist: Stories of Uprising (£14.99, hb, 978 1912697076 ) included in The i Newspaper’s roundup of '30 books for Autumn 2019' alongside the likes of Jessie Burton and Philip Pullman, you can read that here. It’s out on 17 October from Comma.

Parthian have for a long time been firm believers in the sharing of literature across borders and cultures and are delighted to be taking part in Raising the Velvet Curtain which is a series of events presenting a vibrant new generation of Slovak writers and artists to mark 30 years since the Velvet Revolution of 1989. As part of the programme, Uršuľa Kovalyk, author of The Night Circus and Other Stories (pb, £8.99, 978 1912681044) will be taking part in a writer’s tour along with award-winning author and translator Ivana Dobrakovová and the hugely popular contemporary author Balla. The tour will begin in Manchester (22 Oct 7pm, Blackwells) with an event presented by Julia Sherwood and bestselling author Glen James Brown before going on to Oxford 23 Oct, 5pm, St Antony’s College) Cambridge (24 Oct 6:30pm, Heffers) and finally London (25 Oct 7:15pm, British Library). Blending the naturalistic and the fabulistic, the elusive, delicate stories in The Night Circus and Other Stories fold fable and fairy tale into the everyday, domestic settings of kitchen, garden, car. Seemingly quotidian routines and unremarkable lives are pierced by Kovalyk’s precise, sensual prose, to reveal the magic lurking just beneath the surface of the daily skin of existence.

When her identical twin Laurel dies, seventeen-year-old Willow’s life falls apart. With her parents’ marriage faltering, she finds escape at her uncle’s cottage which is idyllic, but the forest is filled with secrets. What is Joe hiding from her? And who is the Slaughter Man who steals through Willow’s sleep? The Slaughter Man by Cassandra Parkin is a disturbing and beautifully written novel, dealing with themes of grief, sanity and fear. This is an emotionally challenging book redolent with darkness but also hope. Cassandra is doing a month-long Insta tour for this Legend title – full details below.

If you want to take part in this year's Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, or urge your customers to do so, then the vote is open now! This year's awards, now in their fourth year, include seven shortlists chosen by booksellers across the UK and Ireland, while the Readers' Choice Award – nominated and voted for entirely by booklovers – completes the set. They're the only book awards curated by bookshops and voted for by booklovers and you can find out more here.

Jo Lloyd won the BBC National Short Story Award 2019 for her story The Invisible, as covered by The Guardian, The Bookseller and Lithub. Jo's story along with the rest of the shortlisted stories can still be listened to on BBC Sounds and read in the Comma anthology (£7.99, pb, 978 1912697229) of course!

Lots of publicity coming up for Mindfulness at Work and Home: A Simple Guide (£9.99, pb, 978-1910453803) There will be pieces in the Daily Telegraph Weekend as well as features in Ni4kids, Families, Forbes online, Northern Woman, Parent Talk, People Management, Tatler and HR Review. There have also been features on BBC Surrey & Sussex and articles in Fly Be and BA’s in-flight magazines, which have huge readerships!  This book is a highly practical guide to practising mindfulness, packed with hints, tips, quotes and answers to frequently asked questions. Written by a barrister who uses mindfulness everywhere and referencing the latest scientific research, Gillian Higgins shares its simplicity, how to practice and explains why it's good for us. She also tackles some of the bigger issues such as how mindfulness can help us to reduce stress, tame our self-critical voice, overcome fear, improve sleep and reduce anxiety. It’s just been published by Red Door.

Terrific reviews for two Comma titles giving varied perspectives on Palestine this week. Gal-dem gave a stellar review of Nayrouz Qarmout's The Sea Cloak (£9.99, pb, 978 1905583782) here, as did the Mancunion here and The National reviewed Palestine +100 (£9.99, pb, 978 1910974445) alongside interviews with contributors Mazen Maarouf, Selma Dabbagh and Basma Ghalayini here.

Got a bit of time on your hands? Well, according to Buzzfeed, only true book lovers will make it past level twenty on this never-ending literary quiz!

And in this week’s Hot Topics, here's  the trailer for the new BBC adaptation of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, here's  the latest on the most eagerly awaited game of the year, the dystopian Death Stranding and finally, when this school orchestra’s rendition of the theme from Space Odyssey was played on Radio 2, record numbers of listeners phoned in to say it was the funniest thing they’d ever heard! Have a listen – it will cheer up your Friday no end!

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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