Thursday 19 December 2019

Compass Points 331

A very Happy Christmas to all you lovely booksellers – we hope you have a prosperous and peaceful festive period and a thoroughly jolly new Year! Lots of silly merriment for you this week along with 2019’s final round-up of latest publicity and PR 

The Portico Prize Shortlist has been announced and hurrah, Glen James Brown’s Ironopolis (pb, £9.99, 978 1912681099) published by Parthian is on it! The six books explore Northern lives and landscape across fiction and non-fiction and Simon Savidge, chair of judges, commented: ‘This list defies the rumour that it’s grim up North. Yes, it can be gritty up North; yes, it can be gothic up North; but more than anything it’s glorious and great up North.’ Once described as ‘the Booker of the North’, The Portico Prize awards £10,000 to the winner, which will be announced on 23rd January. You can see the full shortlist and find out more here.

Nothing screams Christmas like burglars and booby-traps, so here are the top ten moments from Home Alone!

We are delighted to share the news with you that The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry 2019 is to be awarded to Lorna Goodison, poet laureate of Jamaica. Collected Poems (9781784106386, pb, £19.99) is of course published by Carcanet. Derek Walcott said of her poetry, ‘What is the rare quality that has gone out of poetry that these marvellous poems restore? Joy’ and I think we could all do with a bit of that right now – especially at this time of year! and you can find out more on the Carcanet website here.

This letter that Iain Dale, presenter and former publisher at Biteback put onto Twitter recently, headed ‘Fan Mail’ really made me laugh!

I’m very much looking forward to another of the titles in Comma’s City Lit anthology series The Book of Newcastle (£8.99, pb, 978 1905583102) which is out in January and you can read an interview with its editor, award-winning author Angela Readman in this month's Northern Fiction Alliance column in The State of the Arts here.

We do love a seasonal silly story – and they don’t get much dafter than the news that California’s beaches have been piled high with penises! Read all about it here.

Two great pieces on First Aid for Your Child’s Mind (978 1788601177, £12.99, pb) have just been published in the Sunday Times magazine and the Christmas double issue of Women’s Weekly.

As our Account Manager Sophie pointed out, any mention of Women’s Weekly immediately brings to mind the fabulous Victoria Wood sketch – so here it is!

So pleased to see our good friend Michael Schmidt included in The Bookseller 150 last Friday, where Tom Tivnan wrote: ‘In the long-overdue department is Carcanet’s Michael Schmidt, who in 2019 celebrated 50 years as being arguably Britain’s most important poetry publisher’ You can see all 150 people on this annual list of the most influential people in UK publishing here. And we were also very pleased indeed to see the big half page article a couple of weeks ago in the Telegraph, headlined ‘Meet Michael Schmidt: the quirkiest man in publishing who reads every submission and rejected Leonard Cohen’. It went on to talk glowingly about both Michael and our friends at Carcanet saying ‘Punching above its weight for a tiny firm that employs just five full-time staff, Carcanet should be famous as one of the jewels of British publishing.’ You can find that article here. And of course, the feature was also great promotion for Fifty Fifty: Carcanet’s Jubilee in Letters (£14.99, 978 1784108786, pb) which has just been published. This is a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a small, ambitious press over a period of radical transformation in publishing. Each of Carcanet's fifty years is marked by an exchange of letters, beginning in 1969 with the response to an invitation to subscribe to Carcanet for two guineas, and the book traces the publisher’s progress with the relationship of author, editor and reader at its heart.

I loved this story about the first recorded evidence of a British child’s letter to Santa Claus, showing that the Post Office was able to “communicate” with Father Christmas in 1895 on behalf of a little girl who had asked for a box of paints.

Excited to see an article in the Bookseller last week with the news that Kogan Page will be publishing a book in April 2020 by entrepreneur and public intellectual Julia Hobsbawm on how to keep things simple in a complex world. The Simplicity Principle: Six Steps Towards Clarity in a Complex World (£14.99, hb, 978 1789663556), shows you that it's easy to streamline and simplify both your professional and personal lives with lessons based on the natural world. It challenges the assumption that all things that are complex must stay that way. You can read that article here.

Floods, flyovers and a photobombing dolphin all feature in selection of best news pictures from 2019, which you can see here.

Nice to hear on Comma author Helen Mort on BBC Woman's Hour last week, discussing the effects that weaning a child can have on a mother, as written about in her story, Weaning in The Book of Sheffield (£9.99, pb, 978 1912697137). You can listen to that here.

Plenty of ongoing promotion recently by the irrepressible and seemingly tireless Brian May for his range of 3D titles – you can find out all the details here.

Lucy Werner’s book Hype Yourself (£14.99, pb, 978 1788601238) which is coming from Practical Inspiration in January 2020, received some brilliant coverage in the latest Stylist magazine where it was included in ’11 books to help kick-start your career in 2020’ roundup, you can see that here. Stylist has a circulation of over 400,000 and is available in six cities – London, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds and Birmingham.

OMG, OMG whose heart wasn’t beating just a little bit faster with the news that Olivia Newton John and John Travolta were back together as Sandy and Danny! You can see some pics and video from their reunion at the fabulously titled ‘Meet n Grease’ event here.

And alright then, who doesn’t want to see the original and possibly best make-over scene ever!

That’s all for 2019 folks, more in the New Year!

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

Friday 6 December 2019

Compass Points 330

Last week we talked about the sad death of Clive James, and of course on the same day, theatre and opera director, television presenter, comedian, writer, and neurologist Jonathan Miller also passed away. Oberon publish two great books on him, a biography and a selected writings collection.

One Thing and Another: Selected Writings 1954-2016 (£20.00, pb, 9781783197453) is a fully-authorized comprehensive collection of Miller’s best-known writing. It contains previously lost and undiscovered material, with extensive meditations on the arts, philosophy, medicine, technology, opera, Shakespeare and the philosophy of science and contains interviews with Richard Dawkins, Arthur Miller, Dick Cavett and Susan Sontag. In keeping with Miller’s grasshopper mind, One Thing and Another leaps from discussions of human behaviour, atheism, satire, cinema and television, to analysis of the work of M. R. James, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens and Truman Capote, by way of reflections on directing Shakespeare, Chekhov, Olivier and opera.

In Two Minds by Kate Bassett (£12.99, pb, 9781783190898) is a bestselling biography which was critically-acclaimed, received blanket review coverage and was shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize, the Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography and the HW Fisher Prize for Best First Biography. The Telegraph called it ‘a remarkable portrait of a complex and Coleridgean figure’ Descended from immigrants who fled Tsarist anti‐Semitism to become shopkeepers in Ireland and London’s East End, Miller was born into an intellectual milieu, between Bloomsbury and Harley Street – the son of a novelist and a leading child psychiatrist. Miller trained as a doctor but then forged a career as a stellar comedian and as a world‐renowned theatre and opera director. He was without doubt one of post‐war Britain’s most intriguing polymaths.

Really great to see that Lorenz have FOUR winners in the just-announced and very prestigious Gourmand International Cookbook Awards 2020. All have been chosen as best in UK in their categories which means they are all now shortlisted for the best in the world which will be judged next June! My Bangladesh Kitchen by Saira Hamilton (£20, hb, 978 0754834502) won Best Asian Cookbook, Fermentation by Asa Simonsson (£15, hb, 978 0754834649) won Best Fermentation Cookbook, Ramen by Heather Whinney (978 0754834366) won Best Japanese Cookbook and The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book by Antony Wild and Carol Pastor (£15, hb, 978 0754834519) won Best Pastry and Desserts Cookbook. You can see all the details here.

Duncan Hamilton has won the 31st William Hill Sports Book of the Year, making him the only author in the award’s history to have won three times. The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus is published by Hodder & Stoughton, but this is undoubtably a good opportunity to promote the ideal companion volume of Cardus's writings on cricket; Safe Haven's A Field of Tents and Waving Colours (£14.99, hb, 978 1916045309) This is the perfect Christmas present for any for every lover of fine writing on cricket and this handsome volume includes Cardus on Don Bradman, Denis Compton and Richie Benaud, as well as new talents like Garry Sobers and Clive Lloyd, at the arcadian cricket festival at Dover beneath Shakespeare Cliff, seeing the Australians defeated at Eastbourne, and of course at the home of cricket, Lord's. In The Great Romantic, Duncan Hamilton demonstrates how Cardus changed sports journalism for ever and in A Field of Tents and Waving Colours, readers can see how! As the Guardian said, it ‘nicely complements’ the biography.

Mark Hodkinson, publisher at Pomona and author of That Summer Feeling, ponders the nature of our personal book collections, why and how we gather books, what it says about us, and how we ever expect to find time to read them all, on a super little documentary on Radio 4 on Thursday last week which you can listen to here. I would highly recommend it – there’s been lots discussions about it on Twitter etc. That Summer Feeling, which one reviewer described as ‘an absolute belter of a book’ will appeal to fans of Nick Hornby or Tony Parsons (although, as the reviewer says, it’s much better!) Mark’s radio programme, So Many Books, So Little Time, is repeated on Saturday 28 December at 2pm.

The River of Angry Dogs (£16.99, pb, 978 0745340296) by Mira Hamermesh, has been adapted for a Radio 4 dramatization that will be broadcast next week. This is, as Elaine Feinstein said 'the story of a teenager crossing Hitler's Europe with only her own courage and luck to sustain her. ... Stunning.' It has just been published by Pluto in paperback and I think there will be a lot of interest following the Radio 4 drama – so do order it! Mira Hamermesh is an award-winning film maker, painter and writer, and the theme of political conflict, so often explored in her films, is brought to life here in an intimate account that will live long in the memory. As a young Jewish teenager she escaped the horrors of German occupied Poland and was spared the experience of the ghetto and the concentration camp that claimed most of her family. The journey led her across Europe and eventually to Palestine in 1941; her account of that region, before the establishment of Israel, provides a fascinating insight into the historical setting for today's conflict. Having settled in London where she studied art and married, she then won a place at the celebrated Polish Film School in Lodz. At the height of the Cold War Mira Hamermesh commuted across the Iron Curtain and her experience of a divided Europe offers many insights into the political factors that affected people's everyday lives. The 45-minute play, will be broadcast on Monday 9 December at 2:15pm and will remain available on BBC Sounds for 30 days after the broadcast.

An interesting article here where the editor of The Book of Sheffield (pb, £9.99, 978-1912697137) Catherine Taylor, spoke to the website in Minor Literatures about her influences, putting together the collection and the vibrant literary scene in the city. The Book of Sheffield is part of Comma’s popular Reading the City series and from the aspirations of young creatives, ultimately driven to leave, to the more immediate demands of refugees, scrap metal collectors, and student radicals, these stories offer ten different look-out points from which to gaze down on the ever-changing face of the 'Steel City'.

‘No Regrets’ was the name given to Welsh rugby's three-year masterplan to give the national team the best possible chance of success at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. In No Regrets: Welsh Rugby's Plan to Conquer the World (£13.99, pb, 978 1902719818) acclaimed rugby correspondent Matthew Southcombe reveals how the masterplan led to the 2017 tour success in Argentina, a clean sweep in the 2018 autumn internationals and, in 2019, a Six Nations Grand Slam, a record 14-game unbeaten run and a World Rugby #1 ranking. Hopes were high, amongst the squad and the nation, as the team headed to Japan with a genuine expectation winning the tournament. Essential reading for all Welsh rugby supporters, Southcombe also recalls the highs and lows of Wales at the previous eight World Cups and asks what is required for this rugby-obsessed nation to reach the World Cup final, and finally lift the Webb Ellis Trophy. It’s published on 20 December by St David’s Press.

Great to see Comma’s Europa 20: Women on the Future of Europe (£12.99, pb, 978-1912697298) was previewed in today’s Bookseller under Literary Short Stories for March. With so many flare-ups of nationalism and isolationism in recent years, there is a sense that Europe needs to be fixed, or, at the very least, profoundly reconfigured; whether it is to address the grievances of those feeling disenfranchised from it, or to improve social cohesion. Bringing together 28 acclaimed women writers, artists, scientists and entrepreneurs from across Europe, this powerful and timely anthology looks at an ever-changing Europe from a variety of different perspectives and offers hope and insight into how we might begin to rebuild.

Lots of Carcanet titles have featured on the Books of the Year lists we’re pleased to see! The Telegraph included In Nearby Bushes by Kei Miller, Significant Other by Isabel Galleymore and Skin Can Hold by Vahni Capildeo that’s here, and Significant Other was also on their list of the best new poetry books to buy for Christmas, that’s here. Fifty Fifty, edited by Robyn Marsack was chosen as the best of 2019 poetry in the Morning Star that’s here and the Times Literary Supplement included Blazons by Marilyn Hacker, Douglas Crase’s The Revisionist and The Astropastorals: Collected Poems in their Books of the Year, that’s here. And finally, the Sunday Times chose Mimi Khalvati’s Afterwardness and that’s here.

As the festive food and drink begin to take their toll on the nation, don’t forget to display plenty of copies of Liver Rescue (£26, hb, 978 1401954406). It’s been a big bestseller this year for Hay House and in it Anthony William, the Medical Medium, shares unparalleled insights into undiscovered functions of our life-saving livers. Learn how to sleep well, balance blood sugar, lower blood pressure, lose weight, and look and feel younger. A healthy liver is the ultimate de-stressor, anti-aging ally, and safeguard against a threatening world, if we give it the right support.

Overdrawn (£8.99, pb, 978 1789550221) has been featured in WI Life magazine (220k circulation) where it is listed as the Best Contemporary Fiction novel in their Christmas Edition Book Gift Guide calling it ‘a powerful and tender book, with even more emotional punch than Crosskey’s debut.' This is a gripping and highly topical novel, inspired by the rise of racism and nationalism, which will appeal to all fans of dystopian fiction and political thrillers. The Daily Mail said 'This compelling page-turner is so disturbingly real; I can't stop thinking about it.'

Following Clive James’s death last week, there there’s been huge media interest in his work, especially in his poetry, so do make sure you keep So Brightly at the Last (£18.99, hb, 978 1913062071) which Clive read and called ‘energetic, informal and beautifully written’, on the tables with his last  book, Somewhere Becoming Rain, his recent volumes of poetry (Sentenced to Life and Injury Time) and his perennial bestsellers, such as Unreliable Memoirs and Cultural Amnesia. There has been tremendous press and broadcast coverage and a vast amount of praise and discussion about Clive and his poetry on social media and there will be more to come. The BBC News Channel interviewed Ian Shircore on 27 November as did Iain Dale on LBC. Reviews and/or coverage for the book are now confirmed in the Times, the New Statesman, the Spectator and Prospect and there will be more to come.

Known as The Singing Winger (hb, £20, 9781909245952) for his ability both out wide on a football field and centre stage at a concert hall, Colin Grainger had the privilege of sharing a changing room with Duncan Edwards and Stanley Matthews and a bill with The Beatles. Starting out in 1950, Grainger’s professional football career spanned sixteen years, taking in all four divisions, and after Nat Lofthouse persuaded him to perform while on England duty, a successful singing career was born. Grainger continued to marry his passions in the years to come, and this tale tells the story of life on the road as a professional in two industries and the joy of forging friendships with icons of a bygone era. This book is perfect Christmas present material for dads and grandpas methinks, and it was reviewed on Football last week who said it was ‘an intriguing look at a unique career that simply wouldn’t be possible in the modern era.’ You can read that here. It’s new from De Coubertin.

The next #Carcanet50 symposium and evening reading is on Saturday 25th January at the National Centre for Writing in Norwich. There’s lots more information about it on Facebook here and tickets are available from the National Centre for Writing’s website – for the full day here and just the evening here. The day promises to be a fantastic occasion, with presentations, discussions and poetry readings, designed to explore the relationship between publisher and poet over the years, the development of an indie poetry press that has survived half a century, and the state of indie poetry publishing today. Speakers include Caroline Bird, Mimi Khalvati, Peter Scupham, Neil Astley, Jane Commane and Anthony Anaxagorou. Poets include: Laura Scott, Mimi Khalvati, Caroline Bird, Alison Brackenbury, Philip Terry, Rory Waterman, Peter Scupham, Sasha Dugdale, Julia Blackburn, Sophie Hannah and Miles Burrows. This is an essential day of events for anyone interested in poetry and publishing.

Twenty Years of TalkSPORT (pb, £12,99, 978 0956328410) is selling at the speed of MbappĂ© – if you haven’t got it front of store then you’re missing out! Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the launch of the UK's favourite sports radio station, it gives us an amazing behind the scenes, warts and all, look at the station and its presenters capturing the funniest stories from the early days right through the World Cups and European Championships to its move into plush new studios in 2019. It is a hilarious and highly entertaining read.

And in this week’s Hot Topics, here's YouTube’s five minute take on what we watched most in 2019, here's the trailer for No Time To Die, and the here's the brand new Taylor Swift Christmas single!

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