A lovely big stack of fiction
Philida by André Brink
Soon there must come a day when I can say for myself: This and that I shall do, this and that I shall not.
Philida is the mother of four children by Francois Brink, the son of her master. The year is 1832 and the Cape is rife with rumours about the liberation of the slaves. Philida decides to risk her whole life by lodging a complaint against Francois, who has reneged on his promise to set her free.
His father has ordered him to marry a white woman from a prominent Cape Town family, and Philida will be sold on to owners in the harsh country up north. Unwilling to accept this fate, Philida continues to test the limits of her freedom, and with the Muslim slave Labyn she sets off on a journey across the great wilderness on the banks of the Gariep River, to the far north of Cape Town. Philida is an unforgettable story of one woman’s determination to survive and be free.
Don’t miss André Brink at this year’s Open Book Festival!
Canada by Richard Ford
First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders, which happened later.
In 1956, Dell Parsons’ family came to a stop in Great Falls, Montana, the way many military families did following the war. His father, Bev, was a talkative, plank-shouldered man, an airman from Alabama with an optimistic and easy-scheming nature. Dell and his twin sister, Berner, could easily see why their mother might have been attracted to him. But their mother Neeva – from an educated, immigrant, Jewish family – was shy, artistic and alienated from their father’s small-town world of money scrapes and living on the fly. It was more bad instincts and bad luck that Dell’s parents decided to rob the bank. They weren’t reckless people.
In the days following the arrest, Dell is saved by a family friend before the authorities think to arrive. Driving across the Montana border into Saskatchewan his life hurtles towards the unknown, towards a hotel in a deserted town, towards the violent and enigmatic American Arthur Remlinger, and towards Canada itself – a landscape of rescue and abandonment. But as Dell discovers, in this new world of secrets and upheaval, he is not the only one whose own past lies on the other side of a border.
In Canada, Richard Ford has created a masterpiece. A visionary novel of vast landscapes, complex identities and fragile humanity. It questions the fine line between the normal and the extraordinary, and the moments that haunt our settled view of the world.
Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis
Lionel Asbo, a terrifying yet weirdly loyal thug (self-named after England’s notorious Anti-Social Behaviour Order), has always looked out for his ward and nephew, the orphaned Desmond Pepperdine. He provides him with fatherly career advice (always carry a knife, for example) and is determined they should share the joys of pit bulls (fed with lots of Tabasco sauce), Internet porn, and all manner of more serious criminality. Des, on the other hand, desires nothing more than books to read and a girl to love (and to protect a family secret that could be the death of him). But just as he begins to lead a gentler, healthier life, his uncle—once again in a London prison—wins £140 million in the lottery and upon his release hires a public relations firm and begins dating a cannily ambitious topless model and “poet.” Strangely, however, Lionel’s true nature remains uncompromised while his problems, and therefore also Desmond’s, seem only to multiply.
“It’s a Big Mac made from filet mignon…the biggest joy is that Amis seems to find himself (and finds us, by extension) loving the thing he loathes. It is a great big confidence trick of a novel an attack that turns into an embrace a book that looks at us, laughs at us, looks at us harder, closer, and laughs at us harder and still more savagely. It is every inch the novel that we all deserve. So let’s give thanks that Martin Amis was bad enough and brave enough to write it.” Nicola Barker,Observer
“The novel is something of a joy and strangely life-affirming…it certainly has much of the dazzling prose that made his earlier works so stand-out. As ever he makes the dreadful funny, the grotesque poetic.” The Times
“…a Martin Amis novel, full of tense, fugitive moments…had me roaring with laughter.” Independent
Home by Toni Morrison
An angry and self-loathing veteran of the Korean War, Frank Money finds himself back in racist America after enduring trauma on the front lines that left him with more than just physical scars. His home — and himself in it — may no longer be as he remembers it, but Frank is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from, which he’s hated all his life.
As Frank revisits the memories from childhood and the war that leave him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he thought he could never possess again. Toni Morrison’s deeply moving novel reveals an apparently defeated man finding his manhood — and, finally, his home. This is a stunning new novel, by the author of Beloved.
Capture by Roger Smith
In a city where the lines between rich and poor are drawn in blood, the truth is just the lie you believe the most…Capture tells the stories of three desperate people. A father who is broken by grief and guilt. A son still haunted by the ghosts of his past. And a mother, desperate to save her child. In Cape Town, these three are drawn into a spiral of manipulation and murder that leaves them fighting for their sanity and their lives. Remember: the truth will not set you free…
“Roger Smith’s books have convinced me that Cape Town may be one of the scariest places in the world today, and Capture is no exception. It’s filled with dangerous, flawed people and you care about even the worst of them. He’s a writer’s writer, master of the telling, cutting detail – and he juggles inevitability and the utterly unexpected with a sure and steady hand, guiding you through his city of dark delights.” Jack Ketchum
“Roger Smith writes with the brutal beauty of an Elmore Leonard in a very bad mood.” Washington Post
Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussmann
Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summers at Tiger House, the glorious old family estate on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. As World War II ends they are on the cusp of adulthood, the world seeming to offer itself up to them. Helena is leaving for Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is to be reunited with her young husband Hughes, due to return from London and the war. Everything is about to change. Neither quite finds the life she had imagined, and as the years pass, the trips to Tiger House take on a new complexity. Then, on the brink of the 1960s, Nick’s daughter Daisy and Helena’s son Ed make a sinister discovery. It plunges the island’s bright heat into private shadow and sends a depth-charge to the heart of the family. Summer seemed to arrive at that moment, with its mysterious mixture of salt, cold flesh and fuel. Magnificently told from five perspectives, Tigers in Red Weather is an unforgettable debut: a simmering novel of passion, betrayal and secret violence beneath a polished and fragile facade.
“It’s hard to know where to start a review of this startling debut novel because Tigers in Red Weather is absolutely packed with plot…anybody who enjoys Mad Men will almost certainly like this book…heady, page-turning stuff — the intelligent beach read of the summer.” Sunday Times
“Postwar America, beautiful and damaged people, secrets and lies and passions and martinis and the smell of something rotting beneath the fragrance of summer…an immensely gripping and well-told tale of two generations…It is part of the considerable pleasure of this novel that much of it reminds you of other stories, in prose and film. You are on familiar but never stale territory, and you read on with the growing conviction that a nasty surprise lies around the corner.” Guardian
“What an unexpectedly brilliant read this is. It starts off all Stepford Wives and Valley of the Dolls and ends up somewhere in the territory of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides or Donna Tartt’s The Secret History…This is an ambitious undertaking for a first novel but Klaussmann really pulls it off, turning an elegant period piece into a creepy psychological thriller…A wonderfully clever, chilling summer read.” Independent on Sunday
“Summers are made for novels like Liza Klaussmann’s debut, a sophisticated page-turner, where danger and pain throb in every tight-lipped silence, every casually cruel remark, every misinterpreted gesture…Hemingway['s] influence is apparent in the simplicity of her language and observations…I read it the first time in one sitting, and envy anyone about to start it, with that delicious pleasure ahead of them.” Sunday Telegraph
Broken Harbour by Tana French
In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin – half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned – two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.
Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk. Very highly recommended.
“I’ve been enthusiastically telling everyone who will listen to read Tana French. She is, without a doubt, my favourite new mystery writer. Her novels are poignant, compelling, beautifully written and wonderfully atmospheric. Just start reading the first page. You’ll see what I mean.” Harlan Coben
“Enticing, threatening, atmospheric prose…Broken Harbour is a tale about the different facets of obsession and insanity, and it winds up to a finale that is almost too distressing. The best yet of French’s four excellent thrillers, it leaves its readers – just like the Spains – ‘throat-deep in terror’.” Observer
“A gripping story in an atmospheric setting by an author who knows how to grab a reader’s interest and never let it go…not a word of this densely written, long novel was superfluous – I would have been happy for it to be longer still.” Literary Review
“Tana French is one of those rare novelists who combine a gift for dialogue and characterisation, with suspense, intrigue and fabulous plotting. And she’s a beautiful writer, to boot. A real treat.” Kate Mosse
“Nothing short of a masterpiece. French’s first three thrillers were all brilliant but this is by far her best and reaches a level of spine-chilling, gripping moreishness that will leave readers open-mouthed with admiration.” Sophie Hannah, Daily Express
“French is on finest spine-chilling form in her fourth crime thriller…subtlety of plot, language and tone…makes this one of the must-read-page-turners.” Sunday Times
“Creepy, compelling and uncomfortably believable, this is not just a story about solving a crime, but about the destruction of a generation’s hopes and dreams.” Independent
New Republic by Lionel Shriver
A scalpel-sharp political satire from the Orange Prize winning writer of We Need to Talk about Kevin.
Ostracised as a kid, Edgar Kellogg has always yearned to be popular. A disgruntled corporate lawyer, he’s more than ready to leave his lucrative career for the excitement and uncertainty of journalism. When he’s offered the post of foreign correspondent in a Portuguese backwater that has sprouted a home-grown terrorist movement, Edgar recognizes the disappeared larger-than-life reporter he’s been sent to replace, Barrington Saddler, as exactly the outsize character he longs to emulate. Infuriatingly, all his fellow journalists cannot stop talking about their beloved “Bear,” who is no longer lighting up their work lives.
Yet all is not as it appears. OsSoldadosOusados De Barba – “The Daring Soldiers of Barba”- have been blowing up the rest of the world for years in order to win independence for a province so dismal, backward and windblown that you couldn’t give the rat hole away. So why, with Barrington vanished, do terrorist incidents claimed by the “SOB” suddenly dry up?
A droll, playful novel, The New Republic addresses weighty issues like terrorism with the deft, tongue-in-cheek touch that is vintage Shriver. It also presses the more intimate question: What makes particular people so magnetic, while the rest of us inspire a shrug? What’s their secret? And in the end, who has the better life – the admired, or the admirer?
Don’t miss Lionel Shriver at this year’s Open Book Festival!
Billy Lyn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Nineteen-year-old Billy Lynn is home from war. Back in Texas, he has become a national celebrity. A Fox News crew filmed Billy and the rest of Bravo squad defeating Iraqi insurgents in a ferocious firefight. Now Billy is a decorated soldier and Bravo’s three minutes of extreme bravery under fire are a YouTube sensation. Seizing on this PR gift, The Bush administration has sent the surviving members of Bravo on a nationwide ‘Victory Tour’ to reassure the homeland. Today, during the final hours of the tour, they arrive at Texas Stadium, guests of honour in a nationally broadcast Thanksgiving Day game. The story follows Billy and his fellow Bravos through a climactic afternoon, as they mix with the rich and powerful, endure the politics and affections of their fellow citizens, aspire to sex and marriage with the famous Cowboys cheerleaders, share centre stage with Destiny’s Child and attempt to close a movie deal. They will learn hard truths about love and death, family and friendship, duty and honour. Tomorrow, they must go back to war. Tender and full of humanity, this is a wickedly funny, powerfully contemporary novel about a young man, the citizens who sent him to war, the family he left behind and the era that let it happen. In Billy Lynn, Ben Fountain has created a new American hero for our times.
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is not merely good; it’s Pulitzer Prize-quality good …A bracing, fearless and uproarious satire of how contemporary war is waged and sold to the American public.” San Francisco Chronicle
“[An] inspired, blistering war novel…Though it covers only a few hours, the book is a gripping, eloquent provocation. Class, privilege, power, politics, sex, commerce and the life-or-death dynamics of battle all figure in Billy Lynn’s surreal game day experience…Brilliantly done…grand, intimate, and joyous.”New York Times
“A masterful echo of ‘Catch-22,’ with war in Iraq at the center…a gut-punch of a debut novel…There’s hardly a false note, or even a slightly off-pitch one, in Fountain’s sympathetic, damning and structurally ambitious novel.” Washington Post
“Ben Fountain combines blistering, beautiful language with razor-sharp insight…and has written a funny novel that provides skewering critiques of America’s obsession with sports, spectacle, and war.” Huffington Post
I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
Sisters Atara and Mila were bornat the onset of the Second World War into a deeply insular, ultra-orthodox Jewish sect. As the girls grow up, Mila finds she is content to live within the constraints and familiarity of the world she’s always known, but Atara is consumed by questions – about arranged marriage, the education of girls, the circumstances surrounding the escape of the sect’s leader during the war.
Finally forced apart by the rules of the community, the two women are brought together again when a family secret threatens to make pariahs of them all.
I Am Forbidden is a powerful portrayal of sisters, family, faith and history which sweeps the reader from pre-war Transylvania to present-day New York, via Paris and England. Immersive, beautiful, moving, it exposes in devastating detail what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law and centuries of tradition collide.
Ancient Light by John Banville
A story of obsessive young love and the power of grief from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea.
‘Billy Gray was my best friend and I fell in love with his mother.’
Alexander Cleave, an actor who thinks his best days are behind him, remembers his first unlikely affair as a teenage boy in a small town in 1950s Ireland: the illicit meetings in a rundown cottage outside town; assignations in the back of his lover’s car on sunny morningsandrain-soaked afternoons. And with these early memories comes something sharper and much darker – the more recent recollection of the actor’s own daughter’s suicide ten years before.
‘I should like to be in love again, I should like to fall in love again, just once more.’
Ancient Light is the story of a life rendered brilliantly vivid: the obsession and selfishness of young love and the terrifying shock of grief. It is a dazzling novel, funny, utterly pleasurable and devastatingly moving in the same moment.
“He is a master, and his prose gives continuous, sensual delight.” Martin Amis
Skios by Michael Frayn
On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation’s annual lecture is to be given by Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. He turns out to be surprisingly young and charming — not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting. The Foundation’s guests are soon eating out of his hand. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the attractive and efficient organiser.
Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki’s old school-friend Georgie waits for the notorious chancer she has rashly agreed to go on holiday with, and who has only too characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped in the villa with her, by an unfortunate chain of misadventure, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and increasingly all normal sense of reality — everything he possesses apart from the flyblown text of a well-travelled lecture on the scientific organisation of science…
Longlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize.
A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel by Tom Phillips
In the mid-1960s, Tom Phillips took a forgotten nineteenth-century novel, W. H. MallocksA Human Document, and began cutting and pasting the extant text to create something new. This new fifth edition of Tom Phillipss perennially popular book follows its predecessors by incorporating revisions and re-workings – over half the pages in the 1980 edition are replaced by new versions and celebrates an artistic enterprise that is over 45 years old and still actively a work in progress.
“Utterly original, delightful and idiosyncratic.” David Lodge
“Sly, humorous, erotic and endlessly fascinating.” Edward Lucie Smith, The Sunday Times
“Turns a forgotten work into a thing of rare beauty.” Bernard Levin, The Sunday Times
People Like Us…
Horror of Love by Lisa Hilton
“I’ve given up everything – my friends, my family, my country, & he simply roared with laughter, and then of course so did I.” – Nancy Mitford.
The Horror Of Loveis a story about two people – Nancy Mitford and the Free French commander Gaston Palewski – who conducted a less than ideal love affair in post-war France. She was one of the twentieth century’s most glamorous and popular authors, he was one of the most significant European politicians of the period. He inspired and encouraged her to write one of the funniest, most painfully poignant and best-loved novels of its time, The Pursuit of Love, and she supported him through a tumultuous political career. Their mutual life was spent amongst some of the most exciting, powerful and controversial figures of their times in the reawakening centre of European civilisation. By modern standards, their relationship was sometimes a disaster. But the result is Lisa Hilton’s provocative, emotionally challenging book about a very different way of conducting an affair of the heart. With discipline, gentleness and a great deal of elegance, Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski achieved a very adult ideal, whose story will test the reader as much as it charms. A feast for Mitford fans, The Horror of Love will generate a fascinating debate about how far we all might go in pursuit of love.
“Hilton has no truck with those who claim that Nancy died of a broken heart; her crisply written book is instead something of a manifesto for a more pragmatic, Gallic approach to human relations.” Sunday Times
“An extraordinary, yet also typical, love affair told with sympathy and intelligence.” Sunday Herald
My First New York: Early Adventures in the Big City by New Yorker Magazine
A book as effervescent and alive as the city itself, “My First New York” features candid accounts of coming to New York by more than fifty remarkable people who have called the city home. The contributors – a mix of actors, artists, comedians, entrepreneurs, musicians, politicians, sports stars, writers, and others – reflect an enormous variety of experiences. Few have arrived with less than filmmaker Jonas Mekas, a concentration-camp survivor on a UN refugee ship; few have swanned in with more than designer Diane von Furstenberg, a princess. And an extraordinary number managed to land in New York just as something historic was happening – the artist Cindy Sherman arrived in the middle of the Summer of Sam; restaurateur Danny Meyer came on the day John Lennon was shot. Arranged chronologically, these moving and memorable true stories combine to form an impressionistic history of New York since the Great Depression. Taken together, their stories are testaments to a larger revelation, one that new arrivals of all stripes and all eras have experienced again and again in New York, regardless of how the city proceeds to treat them: what the songwriter Rufus Wainwright calls having cracked the code of living life to the fullest.
Let’s Pretend this Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
Every teenager wants to fit in and be just like everybody else. So imagine how hard that is when your father runs a taxidermy business out of the family home, your mother runs the student cafeteria, and your sister has just been elected high school mascot, which means she walks the halls in a giant bird costume. But as Jenny Lawson grows up, falls in love, gets engaged – in a way that is as disastrous as it is romantic – and starts a family of her own, she learns that life’s most absurd and humiliating moments, the ones we wish we could pretend had never happened, are the very same moments that make us who we are. This is an often poignant, sometimes disturbing, but always hilarious book from a writer that dares to say your deepest and strangest thoughts out loud. Like laughter at a funeral, it is both highly irreverent and impossible to stop once you’ve started . . .
“Even when I was funny, I wasn’t this funny.” Augusten Burroughs
“There’s something wrong with Jenny Lawson–magnificently wrong. I defy you to read her work and not hurt yourself laughing.” Jen Lancaster
“Frankly, it would be hard to grow up free of eccentricities if one s strongest memories of childhood involved a taxidermist father bringing home all manner of fierce creatures, alive and dead…The best and funniest parts of this memoir are the childhood reminiscences…but Lawson also wrings much amusement from the challenge of balancing her eccentricities with the demands of being grown up and having a family of her own.” Herald
The Spy Who Loved: The secrets and lives of Christine Granville, Britain’s first female special agent of WWII by Clare Mulley
In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessed colleague in a hotel in South Kensington. Her name was Christine Granville. That she died young was perhaps unsurprising, but that she had survived the Second World War was remarkable. The daughter of a feckless Polish aristocrat and his wealthy Jewish wife, she would become one of Britain’s most daring and highly decorated special agents. Having fled to Britain on the outbreak of war, she was recruited by the intelligence services long before the establishment of the SOE, and took on mission after mission. She skied into occupied Poland, served in Egypt and was later parachuted into occupied France. Her quick wit, courage and determination won her release from arrest more than once, and saved the lives of several fellow officers, including one of her many lovers just hours before he was due to be executed by the Gestapo. More importantly, perhaps, the intelligence she smuggled to the British hidden inside her gloves was a significant contribution to the Allied war effort and in recognition of her success she was awarded the George Medal, the OBE and the Croix de Guerre. Charismatic, difficult and fearless, Christine was an extraordinary woman, and exercised a mesmeric power of those who knew her.
“Compulsively readable…Clare Mulley has done a dogged piece of detective work piecing together Christine s ultimately tragic life. Understandably obsessed by her charismatic subject, she has written a thrilling book, and paid overdue homage to a difficult woman who seized life with both hands.” Sunday Telegraph
“Clare Mulley brings to life a glamorous, swashbuckling heroine…” Sunday Times
“…splendid…Happily with biographers like Mulley, the latest in a line of talented writers to seize on a splendid subject, Christine Granville remains as alive, well and compelling as ever; a figure of radiant magnetism, ruthless determination and a courage that as several of them attested could make a strong man shudder.” Miranda Seymour, Daily Telegraph
Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man by Mark Kurlansky
Wherever he went, be it Montana, Peru, or remotest Newfoundland, Clarence Birdseye sampled the fare at hand. There were few limits to what he would eat—porcupine, the front half of a skunk, and “a lynx that had marinated for over a month in sherry and was then stewed and served with a sauce made from the marinade.” Although described in Mark Kurlansky’s new biography as a “nineteenth century man,” Birdseye was, in his tastes, surprisingly in sync with today’s ethos of locavorism and nose-to-tail eating. Delectably ironic, then, that his name is associated with the product that most symbolizes the homogeneity of the suburban dinner table: frozen peas.
Birdseye led a peripatetic early life, including stints at Amherst College, assessing the economic opportunities around coyote fur in New Mexico, and researching ticks in the Montana wilderness. In 1912 Birdseye ended up in Labrador—then, even more than now, a forbidding place to live—where he worked on a strategy for breeding foxes for their pelts. He had modest success in this endeavor, but it was there that he found the inspiration for his true life’s work. After his wife joined him in 1916 and the two had a child, Birdseye envisioned making fresh-tasting food available in places it otherwise wouldn’t be. His instinct was that freezing was the answer.
Birdseye did not invent frozen food. It already existed, but it was abhorred for its poor taste and poorer texture. It was so bad that in New York State it was deemed unsuitable for prisoners. Yet up north in Labrador, Birdseye noticed, “The Inuit traditionally enjoyed high-quality frozen food. They fished in holes in the ice and pulled out a trout, and it instantly froze in the 30-below air. When they cooked it, it tasted like fresh fish. In fact, sometimes the Inuit would put the frozen fish in water and thaw it, and the fish would start swimming … still live.” Now there’s an advertising campaign.
Although he became a multimillionaire, Birds-eye continued to tinker until his death in 1956, securing patents for everything from light bulbs to a harpoon designed for tagging whales, but it was at the dinner table where he made his monumental impact. “Frozen peas,” Kurlansky writes, “became one of the most successful Bird’s Eye frosted foods because they were such a brilliant green.” Which may be part of the appeal. However, to British chef Fergus Henderson, the flavor of the peas is superior because they are frozen so quickly after harvesting. “A wise old chef once told me,” Henderson quipped, “Wait till peas are in season, then use frozen.”
Don’t miss Mark Kurlansky at this year’s Open Book Festival!
The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China by Julia Lovell
“On the outside, [the foreigners] seem intractable, but inside they are cowardly…Although there have been a few ups-and-downs, the situation as a whole is under control.”
In October 1839, a few months after the Chinese Imperial Commissioner, Lin Zexu, dispatched these confident words to his emperor, a cabinet meeting in Windsor voted to fight Britain’s first Opium War (1839-42) with China. The conflict turned out to be rich in tragicomedy: in bureaucratic fumblings, military missteps, political opportunism and collaboration. Yet over the past 170 years, this strange tale of misunderstanding, incompetence and compromise has become the founding myth of modern Chinese nationalism: the start of China’s heroic struggle against a Western conspiracy to destroy the country with opium and gunboat diplomacy. Beginning with the dramas of the war itself, Julia Lovell explores its causes and consequences and, through this larger narrative, interweaves the curious stories of opium’s promoters and attackers. The Opium War is both the story of modern China – starting from this first conflict with the West – and an analysis of the country’s contemporary self-image. It explores how China’s national myths mould its interactions with the outside world, how public memory is spun to serve the present; and how delusion and prejudice have bedevilled its relationship with the modern West.
The Price of Inequality: The Avoidable Causes and Invisible Costs of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz
The top 1 percenthave the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn – too late.
In this timely book, Joseph Stiglitz identifies three major causes of our predicament: that markets don’t work the way they are supposed to (being neither efficient nor stable); how political systems fail to correct the shortcomings of the market; and how our current economic and political systems are fundamentally unfair. He focuses chiefly on the gross inequality to which these systems give rise, but also explains how inextricably interlinked they are. Providing evidence that investment – not austerity – is vital for productivity, and offering realistic solutions for levelling the playing field and increasing social mobility, Stiglitz argues that reform of our economic and political systems is not just fairer, but is the only way to make markets work as they really should.
Winner Takes All by Dambisa Moyo
Our planet’s resources are running out. The media bombards us with constant warnings of impending shortages of fossil fuels, minerals, arable land, and water and the political Armageddon that will result as insatiable global demand far outstrips supply. But how true is this picture?
In Winner Take All, DambisaMoyo cuts through the misconceptions and noise surrounding resource scarcity with a penetrating analysis of what really is at stake. Examining the operations of commodity markets and the geopolitical shifts they have triggered, she reveals the hard facts behind the insatiable global demand for economic growth. In this race for global resources, China is way out in front.
China, Moyo reveals, has embarked on one of the greatest commodity rushes in history. Tracing its breathtaking quest for resources – from Africa to Latin America, North America to Europe – she examines the impact it is having on us all, and its profound implications for our future. What, Moyo asks, will be the financial and human effects of all this – and is large-scale resource conflict inevitable or avoidable?
Instead of another polemic, Winner Take All is a clear-eyed look at the realities we all need to face if we want a just, balanced and peaceful global economy for the 21st century.
Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything by Philip Ball
There was a time when curiosity was condemned. To be curious was to delve into matters that didn’t concern you – after all, the original sin stemmed from a desire for forbidden knowledge. Through curiosity our innocence was lost.
Yet this hasn’t deterred us. Today we spend vast sums trying to recreate the first instants of creation in particle accelerators, out of pure desire to know. There seems now to be no question too vast or too trivial to be ruled out of bounds: Why can fleas jump so high? What is gravity? What shape are clouds? Today curiosity is no longer reviled, but celebrated.
Examining how our inquisitive impulse first became sanctioned, changing from a vice to a virtue, Curiosity begins with the age when modern science began, a time that spans the lives of Galileo and Isaac Newton. It reveals a complex story, in which the liberation – and the taming – of curiosity was linked to magic, religion, literature, travel, trade and empire.
By examining the rise of curiosity, we can ask what has become of it today: how it functions in science, how it is spun and packaged and sold, how well it is being sustained and honoured, and how the changing shape of science influences the kinds of questions it may ask.
Under African Skies
Africa’s Third Liberation: The New Search for Prosperity and Jobs by Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst
Between 2000 and 2010, six of the ten fastest-growing economies worldwide were African. In this favourable environment, how do we make sure jobs and poverty reduction follow? Now is the time for African countries to consider how economic growth and political liberalisation should reinforce each other. In Africa’s Third Liberation: The New Search for Prosperity and Jobs, Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst show how Africa has experienced two liberations: the first from colonial and racist regimes and the second from the autocrats who often followed foreign rule. At the end of the 1970s, just three African countries regularly held multiparty elections; more than 40 do today.
Africa’s political evolution points to a third liberation, one from political economies characterised by graft, crony capitalism, rent-seeking, elitism and social inequality. This liberation will open up the economic space in which business can compete, a necessary condition for expanding employment. The debate is about how Africa can realise its economic potential and avoid the disappointments of the first 50 years of independence. The international economy beckons, but Africa needs to take positive steps to follow in the poverty reduction steps of others.
Africa’s Third Liberation: The New Search for Prosperity and Jobs asks how Africa’s political leaders and interest groups can promote economic growth in their countries. Using examples from Central and South America, South-East and South Asia, and the Middle East, Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst examine what means are best to match political liberalisation with growth. They suggest a way forward for higher-growth and job absorption strategies in Africa in the context of liberalised political systems. notes that economic growth, environmental conditions and income equality are positive functions of the degree of economic freedom – important for sub-Saharan Africa, where employment is low and inequality high.
The Hungry Season: Feeding Southern Africa’s Cities by Leonie Joubert and Eric Miller
The food we eat is as diverse as the cultures and lifestyles of the people consuming it. But the issues underlying food run much deeper than the whims of our cultures or palates. Until now, the subject of food security has mostly been viewed as a rural issue, with research and development work honing in on subsistence farming. But with the massive influx into cities, the focus needs to shift to the metropolis.
The Hungry Season takes science writer Leonie Joubert and photographer Eric Miller to eight different cities and towns around southern Africa as they explore the complex issues around food security, including:
- Childhood stunting and malnutrition;
- The transition from traditional ‘African’ to ‘Western’ diets;
- Chronic lifestyle-related illnesses associated with a modern diet;
- Nutritional literacy, behaviour and choices;
- Large-scale food production and urban food gardens;
- Poverty, joblessness and the geography of the city;
- Urban planning, supermarkets and the full food value chain; and
- Food wastage.
Ultimately, The Hungry Season looks at the crisis of hunger and malnutrition surrounding us in the city, hidden behind layers of affluence and comfort. It tackles the fundamental question: Why is it that in southern Africa we produce enough calories and nutrients to keep the region full, satisfied and well nourished, and yet we still have such high levels of hunger and malnutrition?
Spanner in the Works by Patricia Fahrenfort
Pat Fahrenfort knows about hard work. Her background meant factory floors from age fifteen in a country where jobs were still advertised for “Fair-Skinned Coloureds”. But young Pat had other plans. Whether she was in overalls gluing spines to books in an assembly line, or in high heels dancing as a cabaret artist, she was determined to set her own course, and put herself through university.Involving herself in the struggle for democracy, Pat moves from faculty officer at the University of the Western Cape to being part of the country’s first post-apartheid administration – the Constitutional Assembly set up to deliberate and write South Africa’s new Constitution. Later she is appointed to a deputy directorship in the Ministry of Labour.Spanner in the Works provides a unique view of the triumphs and challenges leading up to democratisation. Resisting harassment and discrimination throughout her career, and describing her frustrations in working for the new government, Pat’s story is an unflinchingly frank account of one woman’s resolve to speak truth to power, irrespective of where she discovers it.
Searching African Skies: The Square Kilometre Array and South Africa’s Quest to Hear the Songs of the Stars by Sarah Wild
In the era of technological advancement astronomers want to build the most powerful telescope ever, to see back to before the first stars and galaxies formed. The SKA will be a radio telescope – instead of seeing light waves, it will make pictures from radio waves.
Sarah Wild’s Searching African Skies is the story of South African radio astronomy and the quest to hear the songs of the stars. What exactly is the Square Kilometre Array? How did South Africa end up bidding against Australia to host the largest scientific instrument on Earth? What does it hope to find in outer space? Are we alone in the universe? Will we be able to see as far back as the big bang? And can a developing country justify building a massive radio telescope at the expense of housing, healthcare and meeting basic needs? This book aims to answer all these questions and more.
The Founders by André Odendaal
The African National Congress was founded a hundred years ago, in January 1912. But the roots of the ANC run even deeper in South African history. In fact, the ANC’s founding was the culmination of more than sixty years of organisation by a new class of African modernisers. These were men and women educated in local mission schools and in universities abroad, who sought a place for themselves in the new South Africa emerging at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.
Much of their history is unknown but their story has been painstakingly recovered by André Odendaal, who has pieced together the astonishing achievements of this new class and the broad vision they proposed for a new society. Today, only a few of the founders of the ANC are still well known – John Dube and Sol Plaatje among them. But they were only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, for, across the length and breadth of the country, educated Africans were emerging in numbers and claiming their rightful place in the new South Africa. This is the epic story of that development. Many of the individuals and families who were prominent at that time are the forebears of leading African politicians and political families today. This is their story too.
When the Union of South Africa was finally formed in 1910, Africans found themselves largely excluded from the new society. In protest, Africans from throughout the country came together in Bloemfontein in 1912 and formed their own organisation to represent their interests and advance their claims. It would take another eighty years before they achieved their aims. When he cast his vote in 1994, Nelson Mandela is reported as saying at the nearby memorial to John Dube, first ANC president: “Mission accomplished, Mr President.”
And finally…for fun
The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt through the Lost Words of the English Language by Mark Forsyth
The Horologicon – which means ‘a book of things appropriate to each hour – follows a day in the life of unusual, beautiful and forgotten English words. From the moment you wake to the second your head hits the pillow, there’s a cornucopia of hidden words ready for every aspect of your day. Do you tend to lie in bed before dawn worrying? Then you have the Old English ailment of uhtceare. Uhtceare can lead on to dysania (inability to get out of bed) and other zwoddery problems, which many have suffered but few can name. From encounters with office ultracrepidarians, lunchtime scamblers and six o’clock sturmovschinas to the post-work joys of thelyphthoricgrinagogs and nimtopsicalnympholepsy, Mark Forsyth, author of the Sunday Times Number One bestseller The Etymologicon, unearths words that you didn’t even know you needed. From antejentacular to bedward by way of nuncheon, at last you can say, with utter accuracy, exactly what you mean.
Don’t miss Mark Forsyth at this year’s Open Book Festival!
Evita’s Bossie Sikelela by Evita Bezuidenhout
Evita – acclaimed chef and gorgeous icon of the nation – presents her recipes for delicious dishes gathered on travels in South Africa and around the world.
From the Cape to Limpopo, the West Coast to our president’s home province, come divine platefuls: guineafowl with prunes, potroasted quail, quince bredie and orange duck. Pofadders, oxtail and even sweet and sour warthog.Evita reinvents old favourites, and deliciously prepares veldkos – who would have thought of waterblommetjie chicken or dandelion salad for the dinner table? Each recipe has been tested and vetted, and they’re all ridiculously easy to make. My lieweaarde, just paging through the book is a mouth-watering experience, with all these pictures taken on her visits.
First there was Kossie Sikelela, now there is Bossie. A new culinary front hits your table!
Collected Poems by Vladimir Nabokov
This landmark new collection brings together the best of the poetry of Vladimir Nabokov, one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers and author of Lolita and Pale Fire. It includes an extensive number of poems that have never appeared in English before, newly translated from the Russian by his son Dmitri Nabokov.
These masterly poems span the decades of Nabokov’s career, from ‘Music’, written in 1914 and probably Nabokov’s first recorded poem, to the short, playful ‘To Vera’, composed in 1974. ‘The University Poem’, one of Nabokov’s major poetic works, is here in English for the first time: an extraordinary autobiographical poem looking back at his time at Cambridge, with its dinners, games, girls and memories, it is suffused with rich description, wit and verbal dexterity. Included too are the surreally comic ‘A Literary Dinner’, the enchanting, lyrical ‘Eve’, the wryly humorous ‘An Evening of Russian Poetry’ and a meditation on the act of creation, ‘Tolstoy’, as well as verse written on America, lepidoptery, sport, love and Nabokov’s Russian homeland.