Tell Me a Story
Plugged by Eoin Colfer
Dan, an Irishman who has ended up in New Jersey, works as a bouncer in a seedy club, half in love with hostess Connie. When Connie is murdered on the premises, a vengeful Dan finds himself embroiled in an increasingly deadly sequence of events in which his doctor friend Zeb goes mysteriously missing, a cop-killing female cop becomes his only ally, and he makes an enemy of ruthless drug-dealer Mike Madden. Written with the warmth and wit that make the Artemis Fowl novels so irresistible, though with additional torture and violence, Plugged is a lively and intriguing crime debut from a gifted writer with a huge fanbase.
“I loved the voice. I loved the dark streets. I love the story.” Harlan Coben
“Eoin Colfer…is hugely inventive and intelligent and an instinctive storyteller, who happens to write beautifully and elegantly as well.” Michael Morpurgo
“Colfer is an engaging and inventive writer with a strong sense of the rhythm of a story . . . always entertaining page by page.” Guardian
Man of Parts by David Lodge
“The mind is a time machine that travels backwards in memory and forwards in prophecy, but he has done with prophecy now…”
Sequestered in his blitz-battered Regent’s Park house in 1944, the ailing Herbert George Wells, ‘H.G.’ to his family and friends, looks back on a life crowded with incident, books, and women. Has it been a success or a failure? Once he was the most famous writer in the world, ‘the man who invented tomorrow'; now he feels like yesterday’s man, deserted by readers and depressed by the collapse of his utopian dreams.
He recalls his unpromising start, and early struggles to acquire an education and make a living as a teacher; his rapid rise to fame as a writer with a prophetic imagination and a comic common touch which brought him into contact with most of the important literary, intellectual, and political figures of his time; his plunge into socialist politics; his belief in free love, and energetic practice of it. Arguing with himself about his conduct, he relives his relationships with two wives and many mistresses, especially the brilliant student Amber Reeves and the gifted writer Rebecca West, both of whom bore him children, with dramatic and long-lasting consequences.
Unfolding this intimate story, David Lodge depicts a man as contradictory as he was talented: a socialist who enjoyed his affluence, an acclaimed novelist who turned against the literary novel; a feminist womaniser, sensual yet incurably romantic, irresistible and exasperating by turns, but always vitally human.
“…curiously engrossing. Its power is cumulative: there are no flashes of startling moments, just a slow unfolding of friendships and feuds, plots and counter plots.” Daily Telegraph
“a clever kind of half-genre, somewhere between fiction and fact, very much back in vogue with British writers…funny and powerful.” GQ
“The artistry is considerable…the style is clear, light and graceful (Wellsian, even); yet there is often a great deal of spade work behind the scenes…he invents entire scenes very believably.” Times Literary Review
The Mall by S.L Grey
Dan works at a bookstore in a deadly dull shopping mall where nothing ever happens. He’s an angsty emo-kid who sells mid-list books to mid-list people for the minimum wage. He hates his job. Rhoda has dragged her babysitting charge to the mall so she can meet her dealer and score some coke. Now the kid’s run off, and she has two hours to find him. She hates her life. Rhoda bullies Dan into helping her search, but as they explore the neon-lit corridors behind the mall, disturbing text messages lure them into the bowels of the building, where old mannequins are stored in grave-like piles and raw sewage drips off the ceiling. The only escape is down, and before long Dan and Rhoda are trapped in a service lift listening to head-splitting musak. Worst of all, the lift’s not stopping at the bottom floor. Plummeting into the earth, Dan and Rhoda enter a sinister underworld that mirrors their worst fears. Forced to complete a series of twisted tasks to find their way out, they finally emerge into the brightly lit food court, sick with relief at the banal sight of people shopping and eating. But something feels different. Why are the shoppers all pumped full of silicone? Why are the shop assistants chained to their counters? And why is a cafe called McColon’s selling lumps of bleeding meat? Just when they think they’ve made it back to the mall, they realise their nightmare has only just begun…
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Oregon,1851. Eli and Charlie Sisters, notorious professional killers, are on their way to California to kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm. On the way, the brothers have a series of unsettling and violent experiences in the Darwinian landscape of Gold Rush America. Charlie makes money and kills anyone who stands in his way; Eli doubts his vocation and falls in love. And they bicker a lot. Then they get to California, and discover that Warm is an inventor who has come up with a magical formula, which could make all of them very rich. What happens next is utterly gripping, strange and sad. Told in deWitt’s darkly comic and arresting style, The Sisters Brothers is the kind of Western the Coen Brothers might write – stark, unsettling and with a keen eye for the perversity of human motivation. Like his debut novel Ablutions, The Sisters Brothers is a novel about the things you tell yourself in order to be able to continue to live the life you find yourself in, and what happens when those stories no longer work. It is an inventive and strange and beautifully controlled piece of fiction, which shows an exciting expansion of deWitt’s range.
The Echo Chamber by Luke Williams
Enter the world of Evie Steppman, born into the dying days of the British Empire in Nigeria. It’s loud and cacophonous. Why? Because Evie can hear things no one else can. Although she’s too young to understand all the sounds she takes in, she hoards them in a vast internal sonic archive.
Today, alone in an attic in Scotland, Evie’s powers of hearing are starting to fade, and she must write her story before it disintegrates into a meaningless din. But the attic itself is not as quiet as she hoped. The scratching of mice, the hum of traffic, the tic-toc of a pocket watch and countless other sounds merge with the noises of Evie’s past: her time in the womb, her childhood in Nigeria, her travels across America with her lover…
Impressive in its scope and ambition, this first novel is at once a family saga, a book that reimagines the myth of the empire, and a history of objects. Tales of the twelfth-century mapmaker in Palermo, stories whispered by embittered expatriates, and eyewitness accounts from Nigeria’s civil war mingle with Evie’s memories of her childhood, of her grandfather, a watchmaker who attempted to forge a mechanical likeness of his dead wife, and of her travels across America. Williams’s interest in history and storytelling and his talent for evoking multiple voices will remind readers of the work of David Mitchell, Peter Carey, and Jonathan Safran Foer.
Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
The Forgotten Waltz is a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing. In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009, it has snowed. Gina Moynihan, girl about town, recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for ‘the love of her life’, Seán Vallely. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, Gina waits the arrival on her doorstep of Seán’s fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie – the complication, and gravity, of this second life.
With The Forgotten Waltz Enright turns her attention fully to love – you might even call it romance – as she follows another flawed and unforgettable heroine on a journey of the heart. Writing at the height of her powers, this is a novel of intelligence, passion and real distinction.
“Then along comes a novel such as The Forgotten Waltz that blows the whole game right open again. Anne Enright picks up those bright, real-life splinters and blinds you with them. The Forgotten Waltz is an achingly brilliant piece of writing on passion and delusion. Comparisons to Madame Bovary are not overblown, not because it is a wry, clever, philosophical take on adultery – although it is – but because it makes you re-evaluate everything a novel can be…the garrulous narratorial voice is a joy: funny, companionable…this book is enough to restore your faith in the power of fiction.” Independent
Bundu by Chris Barnard
In a place near Mozambique where no one knows the boundary, drought is changing everything. Tens, then hundreds of people seek refuge in a forgotten outpost where a clinic is run by lonely souls of uncertain training, nuns staunchly determined to serve. But the inundation soon becomes too much for them, and there is no help from outside. Within the small community of outcasts a plan takes shape that is as outrageous as it is inspired. The illegal adventure that follows is a humanitarian act of heroic proportions, yet unsung in the greater world. And in its wake unanswered questions remain: what is it that lies just beyond our reach; why can we not take the final step towards each other?
Bundu is about the people and the animals of Africa at the height of their beauty and the depth of their despair. It is a love story and a meditation on the mystery of our powers and the limitations that we share with our brothers, the animals.
The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes
Augusten is a young man from an aristocratic family, struggling to make sense of a world devastated by the Great War. The enemy abroad may have been defeated, but when he finds himself implicated in the death of a young girl, he becomes targeted as the enemy within. Fleeing Britain, Augusten seeks refuge and solace in the remote castle of Bavarian relatives; but what he finds is a hinterland of fierce lust and terrible darkness; a paradigm of the hunger and the hatred that promises to resuscitate a ruined Germany. The Fox in the Attic is both a haunting tale of unrequited love, and a remarkable crystallisation of a singular moment in history. Recording the moment when Germany teetered on the brink of Nazism – the pause before the thunderous fall – Hughes’ prose captures both the full weight of inevitability, and the full weight of first love.
Richard Hughes (1900-1976) published his first novel, A High Wind in Jamaica, in 1926. It became a bestseller in England and America, won the Prix Femina in France, and has since established itself as a modern classic.
“Electrifying…Hughes has Tolstoy’s vision and an imaginative reach of his own, combined with an informed, analytical intelligence; the result is historical fiction of rare integrity and distinction.” Hilary Mantel
“Magnificent, authoritative, compassionate, ironic, funny, and tragic…The Fox in the Attic has the universal authenticity that is the hallmark of great writing.” Times Literary Supplement
“A masterpiece…exceptionally powerful.” Anthony Burgess
The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud
Haunted by the horrific events he witnessed during the Vietnam War, Napoleon Haskell is exhausted from years spent battling his memories. As his health ultimately declines, his two daughters move him from his trailer in North Dakota to Casablanca, Ontario, to live with the father of Napoleon’s friend who was killed in action. It is to Casablanca, on the shores of a man-made lake beneath which lie the remains of the former town, that Napoleon’s youngest daughter also retreats when her own life comes unhinged. Living with the two old men, she finds her father in the twilight of his life and rapidly slipping into senility. With love and insatiable curiosity, she devotes herself to learning the truth about him; and through the fog, Napoleon’s past begins to emerge.
Beautiful, taut and riveting, The Sentimentalists is a story of what lies beneath the surface of the everyday, and of the commanding power of the past. Drawing on her own experience as a war veteran’s daughter, Skibsrud’s novel captures the rich complexities encountered by a woman seeking to comprehend and frankly express the truth – in all its fragility – about her life and her family.
“Johanna Skibsrud’s remarkable debut is a novel at once lyrical and frank, the resonantly layered portrait of a man, a family and a place that will stay with you long after you read the last page.” Claire Messud
“It was with no small surge of recognition that I read Johanna Skibsrud’s deeply moving The Sentimentalists. A brief, subtly written story of a grown daughter’s investigation into her father’s Vietnam war memories…It reminded me of Per Petterson’s extraordinary novel Out Stealing Horses, both in its careful tone concealing harrowing depths of feeling and its exploration of the mystery that is one’s father. The Sentimentalists was the surprise winner of last year’s Giller prize, the Canadian Booker, and it’s easy to see why. As an objective reader, I was engrossed by the elegant plotting and intelligent writing, by the questing after a truth that would never be found. As the adult son of a Vietnam veteran, I was, simply, moved to tears.” Patrick Ness, Guardian
Patchwork by Ellen Banda-Aaku
Lusaka. 1978. Pumpkin is nine years old. Her fashionable mother is the queen of Tudu Court, but underneath the veneer of respectability that her father’s money provides lies a secret that threatens their whole world – the tall, elegant Totela Ponga is a drunk. And when Pumpkin’s father – the wealthy businessman JS – discovers her mother’s alcoholism it sets in motion a chain of events that come to define the rest of her life.
‘1978 became “that year”. The year I lived at the farm. The year the Rhodesians bombed the camp. The year Ma stopped drinking and got married. The year Tata dumped Mama T and moved in with Gloria. 1978 was also the year I met and lost Sissy.’
Destined from birth to inhabit two very different worlds – that of her father, the wealthy Joseph Sakavungo, and that of her mother, his mistress – this emotive tale takes us to the heart of a young girl’s attempts to come to terms with her own identity and fashion a future for herself from the patchwork of the life she was born into. Beautifully constructed, warm and wise, this is a novel that will transport the reader to a world in which we can all become more of the sum of our parts.
Embassytown by China Meiville
Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.
Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts – who cannot lie.
Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.
Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts.
And that is impossible.
Fiction….or is it?
The Autobiography of Fidel Castro: A Novel by Norberto Fuentes
Norberto Fuentes is not only one of the most highly-regarded Cuba (and Latin American) novelists, but was himself present at the Cuban Revolution, and once one of Fidel Castro’s intimate friends, before falling from favour. There is thus no-one better placed to write this “autobiography” of Cuba’s legendary leader. This is a book which not only gives the fullest account yet available of a charismatic but hugely-flawed, larger than life character, but is a stunning work of literature, which has been widely-praised in the Spanish speaking world as a contemporary literary classic. The ventriloquist’s picture of Fidel which emerges, is that of a egocentric and extraordinary man – it is also an extremely funny, wicked, outrageous and ultimately deeply moving account of the Cuban Revolution and its successes and failures as seen through the eyes of its leader. It covers everything from Castro’s early sexual experiences to his feelings about Che Guevara, to his philosophy on all kinds of political matters. An engrossing and very entertaining read.
Combined and Uneven Apocalypse: Luciferian Marxism by Evan Calder Williams
From the repurposed rubble of salvagepunk to undead hordes banging on shopping mall doors, from empty waste zones to teeming plagued cities, Combined and Uneven Apocalypse grapples with the apocalyptic fantasies of our collapsing era. Moving through the films, political tendencies, and recurrent crises of late capitalism, Evan Calder Williams paints a black toned portrait of the dream and nightmare images of a global order gone very, very wrong. Situating itself in the defaulting financial markets of the present, Combined and Uneven Apocalypse glances back toward a messy history of zombies, car wrecks, tidal waves, extinction, trash heaps, labour, pandemics, wolves, cannibalism, and general nastiness that populate the underside of our cultural imagination. Every age may dream the end of the world to follow, but these scattered nightmare figures are a skewed refraction of the normal hell of capitalism. The apocalypse isn’t something that will happen one day: it’s just the slow unveiling of the catastrophe we’ve been living through for centuries. Against any fantasies of progress, return, or reconciliation, Williams launches a loathing critique of the bleak present and offers a graveside smile for our necessary battles to come.
“Yes, another book about zombies and the end of the world. But this is not just another book about zombies and the end of the world. Like one of the junk-suturing recusants whose philosophy he has been central to constructing, Evan Calder Williams builds something rageful and compelling and quite new out of all this f*****g wreckage.” China Miéville
The Wonders and Peculiarities of our World
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
This is a story about madness. It all starts when brilliant and engaging journalist Jon Ronson is contacted by a leading neurologist. She and several colleagues have recently received a cryptically puzzling book in the mail, and Jon is challenged to solve the mystery behind it. As he searches for the answer, Jon soon finds himself, unexpectedly, on an utterly compelling and often unbelievable adventure into the world of madness.
Jon meets a Broadmoor inmate who swears he faked a mental disorder to get a lighter sentence but is now stuck there, with nobody believing he’s sane. He meets some of the people who catalogue mental illness, and those who vehemently oppose them. He meets the influential psychologist who developed the industry standard Psychopath Test and who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are in fact psychopaths. Jon learns from him how to ferret out these high-flying psychopaths and, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, heads into the corridors of power…
Combining Jon’s trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, The Psychopath Test is a deeply honest book unearthing dangerous truths and asking serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges.
Butterfly Isles: A Summer in Search of our Emperors and Admirals by Patrick Barkham
Butterflies animate the summer, but the 59 butterfly species of the British Isles can be surprisingly elusive. Some bask unseen at the top of trees in London parks; others lurk at the bottom of damp bogs in Scotland. A few survive for months while other ephemeral creatures only fly for three days. Several are virtually extinct. This wonderful book charts Patrick Barkham’s quest to find all 59 – from the Adonis Blue to the Dingy Skipper – in one unforgettable summer. Barkham brings alive the extraordinary physical beauty and amusingly diverse character of our butterflies. He witnesses a swarming invasion of Painted Ladies, experiences the curse of the Purple Emperor, makes a euphoric sighting of an exceedingly rare migrant and as summer draws to a close, suffers from butterfly burnout. He meets some deeply knowledgeable and eccentric butterfly obsessives, and reconnects with overlooked corners of the countryside. As he goes, he looks back at the butterfly collectors of the past and ahead to a future in which many of our butterflies will struggle to survive. Wry, attentive, full of infectious delight and curiosity.
“Engaging and idiosyncratic…Readers will be astonished by details of the teeming natural world that we so blindly inhabit.” Margaret Drabble, Daily Telegraph
“A beguiling book … in a vivid, adept, unapologetic voice, Barkham wonderfully catches the spirit of these ethereal creatures.” Richard Mabey, Guardian
“A charming book…The Butterfly Isles goes a long way to explain the delights of obsessive natural history.” Richard Fortey, Financial Times
The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death – edited by David Shields & Bradford Morrow
Life, as David Shields points out in his introduction to this collection of stories and essays, is not inevitable, but – given life – death certainly is. How then, when all certainties about an afterlife have been eroded, do we face this brute fact of existence? This is the question he proposed to 20 contemporary authors, including the likes of Jonathan Safran Foer, Joyce Carol Oates, Geoff Dyer, Mark Doty and Annie Dillard. As one might expect, all of them take different approaches, but what they all have in common is a steadfast, unflinching honesty in facing this question and this dread. It is Shields’ contention – following his idol David Foster Wallace – that is only by facing up foursquare to death and the effects which fearing it has upon us, that we can honestly seek to redeem life. This is what each writer here does, in their own inimitable way.
Fair Trade Revolution by J Bowes
Fair Trade has come such a long way in the last 20 years. The Fair Trade Revolution celebrates the movement’s achievement and takes up the challenge of improving more lives through fair dealing with producers. Fair Trade is now mainstream, with large companies like Cadbury’s and supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s producing and stocking many Fair Trade products. The authors of this collection, many of whom were responsible for the initial success of Fair Trade, emphasise the importance of ensuring that farmers and other producers remain the main beneficiaries. Punchy chapters, illustrated with many real-world examples, cover all the important issues including the tensions between large and small operators, the impact of recession, environmental policy and the danger of large operators embracing Fair Trade more in word than in practice. Written by the leading lights of the Fair Trade movement, including Harriet Lamb (Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation) and Bruce Crowther (Establisher of the world’s first Fair Trade Town) this book will inspire activists and consumers to keep making the right choices.
Diplomatic Incidents: Memoirs of an (Un)diplomatic Wife by Cherry Denman
Cherry Denman has spent her life trailing husband Charlie round some of the world’s most remote outposts and can ask for the lavatory in eleven languages. While some aspects of living abroad will always puzzle her – saunas, tofu and circumcision, to name just three – she wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Lessons learnt range from the practical (possessions belong either in the suitcase or the skip: storage is for wimps), to the truly useful (how to avoid the drinks party bore) and the truly bizarre (the episode with the goat…). Charming and witty, these hilarious tales of global misunderstanding are illustrated with over seventy original line drawings.
“Charming…delightful, a collection of lively, jolly anecdotes [which] can be dipped into as and when you fancy. Cherry is smashing, high-spirited, fond of a good joke, and she can be blissfully rude.” Daily Mail
“Deliciously rude, scandalously funny and crammed with quite interesting bits.” John Lloyd
“Denman’s accuracy and effusive wit…had me cheering out loud.” The Times
“I can honestly say it’s funniest book that I’ve read for a long time…Cherry has obviously revelled in her life abroad, diplomatic or not. Read the book and enjoy.” Oxford
Siberian Education by Nicolai Lilin
This is a harrowing account of a life, born and raised among the Siberian criminal caste, the Urkas. Set in the tight-knit community of Low River, Transnistria, it reads as a cross between a “Brothers Grimm” story and “Eastern Promises”. From an early age, Nikolai Lilin’s life is governed by a ruthless blend of bandit-law, Christianity and paganism, all passed on by an extended family of hard-core criminals who live according to the strictest codes of conduct.
His first arrest for attempted murder comes at the tender age of twelve, and as his skills as a “Kolshik” (tattoo artist) increase, we are drawn deeper into a world where nothing is as it seems, where every action has a hidden meaning known only to members of the Urkas and the Russian criminal underworld. Reading more like a collection of strange and troubled folk tales than the average egotistical gansgter memoir, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject looking for something different.
The Dead Hand: Reagan, Gorbachev and the Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race by David Hoffman
This book, which won the the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, is the first full account of how the Cold War arms race finally came to a close. A riveting narrative history, it sheds new light on the people who struggled to end this era of massive overkill, and examines the legacy of the nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that remain a threat today. Drawing on memoirs, interviews in both Russia and the US, and classified documents from deep inside the Kremlin, David Hoffman examines the inner motives and secret decisions of each side and details the deadly stockpiles that remained unsecured as the Soviet Union collapsed. This is the fascinating story of how Reagan, Gorbachev, and a previously unheralded collection of scientists, soldiers, diplomats, and spies changed the course of history.
“A stunning feat of research and narrative. Terrifying.” John le Carre
“Authoritative and chilling…a readable, many-tentacled account of the decades-long military standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union…The Dead Hand is deadly serious, but this story can verge on pitch-black comedy – Dr. Strangelove as updated by the Coen Brothers.” New York Times
AA Gill is Further Away
From the moment he joined The Sunday Times, A.A. Gill has wanted to interview places – to discover the personality of a place as if it were a person, to listen and talk to it. A selection of the very best pieces that Gill has written over the past five years, A.A. Gill Is Further Away is an insightful and funny compendium of travel writing taken from The Sunday Times, GQ, Tatler and Conde Nast Traveller. Gill writes with a clarity and acerbity that conveys the intensity of his experiences in his travels around the world. His book includes essays on Sudan, India, Cuba, Germany and California. In each piece, there is a central image A.A. Gill uses as the key to unlocking the personality of a place. A must for all AA Gill fans
The Reason Why by John Gribbin
Does one planet really matter among the immensity of the Cosmos? John Gribbin is here to persuade us that it does. In this ground-breaking and provocative new book Gribbin argues that we owe our existence to the impact of a ‘supercomet’ with Venus 600 million years ago. But this is only part of the story, just one of the astronomical and geophysical reasons why the Earth is special. For the first time, he makes the link between the whole series of cosmic events that have affected the Earth and given rise to our intelligent civilisation – a civilisation, Gribbin argues, that is unique within our Milky Way Galaxy. Even if other Earths are common, and life itself may be common, the kind of intelligent, technological civilisation that has emerged on Earth occurs only here. If humankind can survive the present environmental crises, the whole of the galaxy may become our home. And if not, our demise may be an event of literally universal significance.
John Gribbin is one of today’s greatest writers of popular science and the author of bestselling books, including In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat,Stardust, Science: A History and Deep Simplicity. He is famous to his many fans for making complex ideas simple, and says that his aim in his writing – much of it done with his wife, Mary Gribbin – is to share with his readers his sense of wonder at the strangeness of the universe.
The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser
Imagine a world where all the news you see is defined by your salary, where you live, and who your friends are. Imagine a world where you never discover new ideas. And where you can’t have secrets.
Welcome to 2011.
Google and Facebook are already feeding you what they think you want to see. Advertisers are following your every click. Your computer monitor is becoming a one-way mirror, reflecting your interests and reinforcing your prejudices.
The internet is no longer a free, independent space. It is commercially controlled and ever more personalised. The Filter Bubble reveals how this hidden web is starting to control our lives – and shows what we can do about it.
“Anyone who cares about the future of [humanity] in a digital landscape should read this book – especially if it is not showing up in your recommended reads on Amazon.” Douglas Rushkoff, author of Life Inc
“If you feel that the Web is your wide open window on the world, you need to read this book to understand what you aren’t seeing.” Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget
“Internet firms increasingly show us less of the wide world, locating us in the neighborhood of the familiar. The risk, as Eli Pariser shows, is that each of us may unwittingly come to inhabit a ghetto of one.” Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus
Life by Keith Richards
His prose is like his guitar playing, soulful, elementally intense and shot through with the blues, as the intimate details of a life lived on the edge and beyond are revealed. The Rolling Stones in their heyday during the 60’s and 70’s operated as an independent pirate nation, complete with limitless cash, guns, private plane, an army of touring lawyers and Captain Keith at the wheel, sometimes slumped over it but at the wheel nonetheless.
The real joy in reading Life though is not the shock value of drug-busts, rented castles and wretched excess. It is the chance to peer through the steamed up windows of a vanished world. Into the black Motown and Blues juke joints of the 1960’s American south, where Richards and the Stones were made to feel more welcome than on the white side of town. Into night shifts in the studio with Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, as the Stones turned white America onto the blues again and revitalised the careers of their heroes. And into the mind of the man who heard the riff to Satisfaction in his sleep, and will live on forever in our cultural imagination as the human embodiment of Rock n Roll.
Books about Books
This is Not the End of the Book: A Conversation Curated by Jean-Philippe De Tonnac by Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carriere
“The book is like the spoon: once invented, it cannot be bettered.” Umberto Eco
These days it is almost impossible to get away from discussions of whether the ‘book’ will survive the digital revolution. Blogs, tweets and newspaper articles on the subject appear daily, many of them repetitive, most of them admitting they don’t know what will happen. Amidst the twittering, the thoughts of Jean-Claude Carrière and Umberto Eco come as a breath of fresh air.
There are few people better placed to discuss the past, present and future of the book. Both avid book collectors with a deep understanding of history, they have explored through their work the many and varied ways ideas have been represented through the ages. This thought-provoking book takes the form of a long conversation in which Carrière and Eco discuss everything from what can be defined as the first book to what is happening to knowledge now that infinite amounts of information are available at the click of a mouse. En route there are delightful digressions into personal anecdote. We find out about Eco’s first computer and the book Carrière is most sad to have sold.
Readers will close this entertaining book feeling they have had the privilege of eavesdropping on an intimate discussion between two great minds. And while, as Carrière says, the one certain thing about the future is that it is unpredictable, it is clear from this conversation that, in some form or other, the book will survive.
“A storming book. The next best thing to sitting in Umberto Eco’s living room after dinner; a dream collection of lucid and fascinating discussions.” Nick Harkaway
“Hurrah for philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco and playwright and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, who have come together to praise the medium…Fans of Eco and Carrière will be charmed.” Time Out
Big Bookshelf by Sunil Sethi
Famous writers are often reticent about how and why they write, how their ideas and themes develop or how their characters and plots emerge. They can be equally reserved about their personal histories. But in the hands of seasoned journalist and interviewer Sunil Sethi, they open up in unexpected and fascinating ways. In this selection of thirty of his best interviews from his programme Just Books, they speak freely and frankly about their craft, their life stories and the nature of their creative impulse. Featured here are literary giants, Nobel laureates and Booker Prize winners; internationally acclaimed historians, biographers and philosophers; authors of best-selling thrillers, novels and travel books; and brilliant young trendsetters. Their conversations with Sethi are, in turn, reflective and incisive, witty and poignant, but always candid and intimate, as they provide rare insights into their inner lives and engagement with the world they inhabit. Each voice in this diverse collection is original, distinctive and revealing, as they cover the wide terrain of life and literature. This volume vividly brings alive each author’s personality and work, bridging the gap between reader and writer.
How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche
Shakespeare is all around us. From nightclubs to Broadway musicals, in voting booths in the American South and the trees of Central Park – William Shakespeare’s literary power is so intense and widespread that it intrudes into the material world. Esquire columnist Stephen Marche takes us on a delightful tour through the continuous stream of Shakespeare’s influence, summoning up the Bard in the most unexpected places: In 1890, as part of a plan to introduce every bird mentioned by Shakespeare to North America, Eugene Schieffelin imported and released a bunch of pesky Starlings into New York’s Central Park. The Nazi Party issued a pamphlet entitled Shakespeare – a Germanic Writer, and in 1936 there were more productions of Shakespeare in Germany than in the rest of the world combined. Shakespeare coined approximately 1,700 words, including lackluster, fashionable, auspicious, bandit, glow, hush, dawn, gnarled, hobnob, traditional, and the name Jessica. In 1930, Paul Robeson became the first black actor to play the part of Othello in England after being rejected for the role in the U.S. Robeson famously said of his performance, “Othello has made me free”. Packed with fun and fascinating tidbits, How Shakespeare Changed Everything offers a deep look at how the world as we know it could not exist without the great Bard.
Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life by Martin Meredith
Africa does not give up its secrets easily. Buried here lie answers about the origins of humankind and the dawn of civilisation. Through a century of archaeological investigation, scientists have transformed our understanding of the beginnings of human life, although vital clues still remain hidden. In Born in Africa, Martin Meredith follows the trail of discoveries about our human origins made by scientists over the last hundred years, as well as describing the history of scholarship in this extraordinary field. He relates the intense rivalries, personal feuds and fierce controversies that shaped the study and perception of Africa, and recounts the feats of skill and endurance that have illuminated thousands of years of human evolution. The results have been momentous. Scientists have identified more than twenty species of extinct humans and firmly established Africa as the birthplace not only of humankind, but also of our own species: homo sapiens, the modern human. Scientific study has revealed how early technology, language ability and artistic endeavour all originated in Africa, and scientists have shown how, in an exodus sixty thousand years ago, small groups of Africans left their birthplace to populate the rest of the world. We all have an African legacy, and in this fascinating and informative book Martin Meredith leads us back to the place where we have rediscovered our common human heritage.
Advocates for Change: How to overcome Africa’s Challenges by Moletsi Mbeki
In his candid, insightful bestseller, Architects of Poverty: Why African Capitalism Needs Changing, Moeletsi Mbeki examined why Africans comprise the majority of the world’s bottom billion, illustrating concisely how Africa’s political elite are to blame. In Advocates for Change, Mbeki brings together experts from across the continent, who believe there are solutions to Africa’s challenges in the broad areas of political stability, economic progress as well as social development. This accessible and highly informative collection showcases fields as diverse as agriculture, education, entrepreneurship, politics, reindustrialisation and beyond to reveal in thought-provoking chapters how Africa can once more be set on the road to development.
The First President: A Life of John L. Dube by Heather Hughes
John Dube is a revered and important figure in the history of South Africa. He was a leading member of the educated African elite in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a clergyman and teacher, the founder of Ohlange Institute near Durban (where Nelson Mandela cast his vote in the first democratic elections of 1994) and the first president of the ANC. In this biography, Heather Hughes traces the story of his life, uncovers much about the man and his world that has been either hidden or forgotten, and restores him to his rightful place. As the centenary of the ANC’s existence approaches, the life of the first president becomes even more relevant.
Don’t Listen to what I’m about to say: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives edited by Peter Orner and Annie Holmes
The situation in Zimbabwe represents one of the worst humanitarian emergencies today. This book asks the question: How did a country with so much promise – a stellar education system, a growing middle class, a sophisticated economic infrastructure, a liberal constitution, an independent judiciary, and many of the trappings of western democracy – go so wrong? We ask the people who know this complicated story best – the Zimbabwean people who have endured (and hoped) across the decades to tell their side of this story.
In their own words, they recount their experiences of losing their homes, land, livelihoods, and families as a direct result of political violence. They describe being tortured in detention, firebombed at work, or beaten up or raped to ‘punish’ votes for the opposition. Those forced to flee to neighboring countries recount their escapes: cutting through fences, swimming across crocodile-infested rivers, and entrusting themselves to human smugglers. This book includes Zimbabweans of every age, class and political conviction, from farm laborers to academics, doctors to artists, opposition leaders to ordinary Zimbabweans; men and women simply trying to survive as a once-thriving nation heads for collapse.
You’re Not a Country Africa by Pius Adesanmi
In this wide-ranging collection of essays, Pius Adesanmi explores what Africa means to him as an African, and as a citizen of the world. Examining the personal and the political, tradition and modernity, custom and culture, Adesanmi grapples with the complexity and contradictions of this vast continent, zooming in most closely on Nigeria, the country of his birth. The inspiration for the title of the collection, You’re Not a Country, Africa, comes from a line of poetry: ‘You are not a country Africa, you are a concept, fashioned in our minds, each to each‘.
Through narratives and political and cultural reflections, Pius Adesanmi approaches the meaning of Africa from the perspective that you never actually define Africa: rather, it defines you, in various contexts and for various people. Originally from Nigeria and now working as a Professor of English in Canada, Adesanmi is well placed to engage with the issues of identity and otherness; Western influences on Africa; representations of Africa by the Western world, and specific issues affecting his home country Nigeria – the most populous country on the continent. In the best tradition of African thinking, Adesanmi’s writings challenge the way we think about ourselves and others.
Old Treacheries, New Deceits by Stephan Chan
In this timely and essential book, Stephen Chan explores the political landscape of southern Africa, examining how it is poised to change and what the repercussions are likely to be across the continent. The author focuses on three countries in particular: South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia, all of which have remained interconnected since the end of colonialism and the overthrow of apartheid.
Chan draws on his extensive and intimate experience to provide the definitive inside guide to this complex region and offer an insight on how the near future is likely to be a litmus test not just for this trio of countries but for all of Africa.
“If there is any book that ‘explains’ the tumultuous recent history of southern Africa, this is surely it: a sweeping overview that is a combination of academic detachment and an insider’s account, peppered with first-hand experiences and personal knowledge of many of the region’s players. For the best part of his career, Professor Chan has been in the front line, literally as well as metaphorically, of a conflict rooted in race and moulded by imperialism. Its malign legacy lives on; but the analysis and the insights in this riveting account will surely add to the understanding so essential to that legacy’s resolution.” Michael Holman, former Africa editor for the Financial Times
Arabic Graffiti by Don M Zaza Pascal Zoqhbi and Street Fonts: Graffiti Alphabets from Around the World by Claudia Walde
Without regional borders or constraints, Arabic Graffiti is a beautiful collection of urban Arabic Script, showcasing artists, graffiti writers and typographers from the Middle East and around the world who merge Arabic script and calligraphy styles with the art of graffiti writing, street art and urban culture. This is a rare addition to the canon of graffiti publishing, and a welcome one.
Claudia Walde spent over two years collecting alphabets by 154 artists from 30 countries. Each artist received the same brief: to design all 26 letters of the Latin alphabet within the limits of a single page of the book. The result is a unique and beautiful typographical sourcebook featuring over 150 specially designed, original alphabets exclusive to this book..
Indie Rock Poster Book: Yellow Bird Project
Not only a gorgeous book about indie rock music, it’s also a guide to some of the coolest illustrators around, and it’s for charity! From the authors of the successful Indie Rock Coloring Book, this for-charity poster book includes 30 (removeable and frameable) prints featuring artwork by 30 different indie illustrators. Each poster design is inspired by an all-time favourite indie rock song/band.
Yellow Bird Project is a Montreal-based, non-profit organization dedicated to bringing musicians, charities, and T-shirts together. Seeking to raise awareness and make money for charities, YBP collaborates with musicians to create unique t-shirts which they print and sell on their Web site (www.yellowbirdproject.com). All proceeds go to a charity of the musician’s choice.
Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes & Other Ways to Start the Day – Diane Ackerman
Dawn, as Diane Ackerman richly shows in this deeply lyrical set of poetic essays, has been infused with a range of symbolic meanings for humanity since, well, the dawn of time. It is redolent of awakening, safety after the terrors of the dark, coming to consciousness, new beginnings… It is the time when we start to become ourselves, or at least the best of ourselves, and is the most positively loaded moment in our daily cycle. For Ackerman, the idea of cycles are important, and she uses this moment of awakening to great effect in this series of personal meditations, which she divides further into 4 sections based on the seasons. She uses a number of locations ranging across the world to talk about everything from beekeeping to whooping cranes, the planets to music, classical mythology to modern physics – everything large and everything small in nature. Her imagination and erudition is both deep and wide-ranging, but it is the richness of her language which is striking. Every chapter is like a little tone-poem – a wonderfully wide-eyed appreciation of hope and possibility.
This latest volume of the Society of Illustrators annual is a gorgeous collection of the year’s best illustrations derived from books, advertising, comics, and uncommissioned illustrations. Designed by D.J. Stout of the prestigious Pentagram Design firm, this massive volume presents not only the year’s finest illustrative work, but also delves into the ideas behind the art as stated by the artists themselves. Each artist discusses the how to and why of their art, marking this annual as both a visually stunning art book, and an enlightening insight into the creative process of today’s top working illustrators.
Light and Emotions: Exploring Lighting by Vincent Laganier and Jasmine van der Pol
In addition to its practical functions, such as helping to optimise safety and security, lighting also has another principal task creating emotions. Light and color can be used to achieve the most varied and astonishing effects. These effects are dependent on the project and spatial environment, but they also depend in large measure on cultural context. This study is based on forty-seven interviews with leading lighting designers from North and South America, Europe, and Asia. For the first time, it explores in a systematic fashion what aesthetic, emotional,and atmospheric tasks a good lighting design can accomplish. The international diversity of the interviewed designers makes for surprising insights – universal constants are pointed out, but so are the remarkable differences in reception and effect that are occasioned by different societies and cultures.
Daai Ding Loop in Jou Bloed: Op Reis deur die Namahartland – Lené Malan & Aneta Shaw
Die Nama is ‘n groep afstammelinge van die Khoi-Khoi wat in die onherbergsame, woestynagtige Noord-Kaap rondom Eksteenfontein en Steinkopf hulle hartland bevind. Hulle s’n is ‘n tradisie wat honderde jare terugstrek, tot nog voor die kolonialisering van die Kaap; tog is weinig van hierdie tradisie en geskiedenis opgeteken of buite hulle eie kringe bekend. Lené Malan en Aneta Shaw gaan op reis deur hulle wêreld om te probeer verstaan waar hulle vandaan kom, en wie hulle is. Aangesien daar weinig opgeteken is oor hulle geskiedenis en gebruike, gaan die skrywers vir hulleself sien – hulle doen mee aan die kulturele aktiwiteite van die gemeenskap, en gesels doodgewoon met die mense. So skets hulle ‘n portret van ‘n trotse gemeenskap met ‘n diepgewortelde verbintenis aan mekaar en hulle gedeelde geskiedenis. Hierdie is geskiedenis en etnografie met deernis en ‘n warm hart.
Die Verste Uur deur Steve Hofmeyr
Die jong fisika student Jamie van der Merwe kom op Professor Arnold du Plessis se notas en navorsing af wanneer hy die professor se studeerkamer regpak. Prof du Plessis word vermis. Dit blyk uit die dokumente, briewe en boeke waarop Jamie afkom dat Prof du Plessis, deur die hipnotiese effek van ‘n vergete stuk musiek van die Barok-komponis Jean-Philippe Rameau, op ‘n tipe genetiese ‘time travel’ afgekom het. En wanneer Jamie se ma sterf besluit Jamie om dit ook te probeer, en te sien of hy sy familie geskiedenis kan beinvloed. As gevolg bevind hy homself as bode in die Anglo-Boereoorlog. En wanneer hy versuim om Genl. Cronje se hensop-bevel uit te voer wen die boere die oorlog. In sommige kringe is Die Verste Uur afgemaak as ‘n Regse fantasievlug, maar die boek lees oortuigend en daar is intrige wat mens aangryp. Hofmeyr sal nog verbeter as skrywer, maar Die Verste Uur is verbasend goed en subtiel in plekke. En as dit benader word as Afrikaanse Wetenskapsfiksie is Deon Meyer se mening dat “Hofmeyr is ‘n maestro” glad nie verregaande nie.
For the Young At Heart
As jy ‘n ster sien verskiet deur Maya Fowler
Hier is nou ‘n briljante nuwe stem in Afrikaanse jeugfiksie: Maya Fowler het in 2009 met Elephant in the Room bewys dat sy die warboel van tienerwees goed kan verwoord en met haar eerste Afrikaanse werk, stel sy nie teleur.
Riekie Taylor is ‘n tiener wat probeer om sin te maak van haar lewe wat stadig uitmekaar val. Op 14 is haar pa glad nie in die prentjie nie, haar ma ‘n alkolis en haar broer besig om die stryd teen Vigs te verloor. Wanneer Riekie geskors word uit skool, voel sy dat wegloop al uitweg is. Tog snaaks hoe die lewe werk, soms is die laaste plek wat jy dink jy wil wees, juis waar jy opeindig. In ‘n vulstasie in Laingsburg word Riekie gedwing om haar lewe in oenskou te neem en besef sy dat grootword onvermydelik is en families nie almal perfek is nie. ‘n Vat-aan-die-hartsnare leesboek vir tieners, maar ook vir ma’s wat die angs van grootword sal verstaan.
Nicholas by Goscinny and Sempé
Nicholas has for many years been the most loved French school boy, not only in Europe but across the world. His adventures and exploits are brought to life by Goscinny (Asterix author) with charming line drawings by Jean-Jacques Sempé. They were republished by art publishers Phaidon and are now for the first time available in a very affordable (R100) paperback.
Nicholas, Geoffrey (who turns up for school in his Martian suit), Eddie (who often wants to fight) and Cuthbert (who is good at Maths), get into hilarious situations that drive their teachers and parents up the wall. Although they were written over 50 years ago, they are as funny as ever, especially when read aloud to children.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
For all the fans of Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) and Matched (Ally Condie) there is a new series out that will keep you reading until you’ve chewed off all your nails! Divergent by Veronica Roth is set in a dystopian, post-war world where everyone is divided up into five factions. On your 16th-birthday you can decide if you want to stay with your family or if you feel drawn to a different group.
On her Choosing Day, Beatrice (our heroine) renames herself Tris, rejects her family’s group, and chooses another faction, The Dauntless. After surviving a brutal initiation, Tris discovers unrest and growing conflict in their seemingly “perfect society”. Her brother has also chosen a different faction and when they make contact again, she realises that the problems are far bigger than they seemed. To survive and save those they love, they must use their strengths to uncover the truths about their identities, their families, and the order of their society itself. And for those beating hearts, yes, there is a good dose of romance along the way!
Open Book Author of the Month: Jane Bussmann
Jane Bussmann rocks! She has written for numerous comedy shows including South Park, Brass Eye (the most complained about TV show in UK TV history) and Smack the Pony (twice winner of an Emmy Award). What we’re really interested in though is her book, The Worst Date Ever, and how she has managed to write a laugh-out-loud book that exposes war crimes in Uganda. This is a stunningly original piece of writing that manages to inform, engage and entertain in equal measure. Bussmann will of course be talking about The Worst Date Ever at Open Book in September. As well as participating in other events, she will also be presenting her award winning one person show, Bussmann’s Holiday, based on the experiences she wrote about in the book. Her other talents include grudge holding and insulting celebrities. For more information, visit her website, www.janebussmann.com.