Follow @book_lounge
Subscribe here to receive invitations to our events and our monthly Newsletter
* = required field

March 2016

Tuesday, March 1st 2016

Non-fiction

Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velazquez by Laura Cumming

 

In 1845, a Reading bookseller named John Snare came across the dirt-blackened portrait of a prince at a country house auction. Suspecting that it might be a long-lost Velázquez, he bought the picture and set out to discover its strange history. When Laura Cumming stumbled on a startling trial involving John Snare, it sent her on a search of her own. At first she was pursuing the picture, and the life and work of the elusive painter, but then she found herself following the bookseller’s fortunes too – from London to Edinburgh to nineteenth-century New York, from fame to ruin and exile.

An innovative fusion of detection and biography, this book shows how and why great works of art can affect us, even to the point of mania. And on the trail of John Snare, Cumming makes a surprising discovery of her own. But most movingly, The Vanishing Man is an eloquent and passionate homage to the Spanish master Velázquez, bringing us closer to the creation and appreciation of his works than ever before.

“The Vanishing Man is a riveting detective story and a brilliant reconstruction of an art controversy, but it is also a homage to the art of Velázquez, written by a critic who remains spellbound by his genius, as readers will be spellbound by this book.”                  Colm Tóibín

An extraordinary story … This terrific book is many things, a study in obsession, a paean of praise to an artist of genius, a detective story and, for the author, an exorcism of grief. Writing like Helen Macdonald in H is for Hawk, in the wake of the death of her father, Cumming pours heart and soul in The Vanishing Man and she has produced something of which her artist father, James Cumming, would be more than proud.”                        The Spectator

Having persuasively sustained the connection between Snare and Velázquez, Cumming constructs a narrative that plays on their startling contrasts … It seems extraordinary that these two worlds should ever have touched. But Cumming brings them together with exactly the kind of ease that made Velázquez the subject of such envy in his own time, indeed in all times … In the same way, you put down The Vanishing Man not quite sure how Cumming has been able to bring off this particular magic trick, but happy and grateful that she has.”                      Kathryn Hughes, Guardian

In this superb and original book, Cumming interweaves the gripping […] story of Snare with that of Diego Velázquez himself, painting at the court in Madrid in the 17th century. Sometimes, dual biographies can be a contrivance, but here the two stories enhance each other. Like Donna Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch, this is about the particular forms of obsession that only art can generate. Cumming uses Snare’s story as a way to explore the extraordinary personal connection Velázquez’s art creates with its audience … This enthralling book is about what it means to create art so luminous that others would fight just to get close to it.”                         Bee Wilson, The Sunday Times

A real-life detective story involving an Old Master portrait of an ill-fated English king and an art obsession that would lead to the ruin of one of the book’s two mysterious protagonists: one a humble 19th-century printer and bookseller from Reading, John Snare; the other the great 17th-century Spanish court painter named in the title … Interwoven into the narrative of Snare’s tribulations, and of beautifully compelling accounts of Velázquez’s paintings, are moving snippets of biography that reveal Cumming’s own relationship to the great Spanish master.”                             Independent

Ingenious … intriguing … [Cumming] subtly interweaves the two narratives – that of Snare and that of Velázquez – so that they illuminate each other in surprising ways.”                   Mark Hudson, Daily Telegraph

This is an absorbing dual biography inspired by the author’s passion for Velázquez … Cumming brings her subject alive and writes with empathy and insight.”                  Tatler

The painter, writes Cumming, allowed every sitter ‘his privacy, his secrecy, his full mystery’ even when revealing them for all to see and in this accomplished and touching book she allows her two subjects theirs”                              Michael Prodger, Evening Standard

The book is so carefully made that each part seems to reflect and light up the rest … This is a cultural whodunnit, and the skill is in making the pursuit as engaging as the dénouement.”                   The Oldie

 

 

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: Extraordinary Journeys into the Human Brain by Dr Allan Ropper

 

What is it like to try to heal the body when the mind is under attack? In this gripping and illuminating book, Dr Allan Ropper reveals the extraordinary stories behind some of the life-altering afflictions that he and his staff are confronted with at the Neurology Unit of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Neurologists diagnose and treat serious illnesses of the brain by combining the hard science of medical knowledge with the art of intuitive reasoning. The unique challenge they face is that their primary sources of information – the patients’ brains – are quite often altered, sometimes bizarrely, as a result of disease. Like Alice in Wonderland, Dr Ropper inhabits a place where absurdities abound: a sportsman who starts spouting gibberish; an undergraduate who suddenly becomes psychotic; a salesman who drives around and around a roundabout, unable to get off; a mother who has to decide whether a life locked inside her own head is worth living. How does one begin to treat such cases, to counsel people whose lives may be changed forever? How does one train the next generation of clinicians to deal with the moral and medical aspects of brain disease? Dr Ropper answers these questions by taking the reader into a world where lives and minds hang in the balance.

 

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole tells it like it is on the front line of clinical neurology. Engagingly written, informative, often funny, it also manages to be moving without slipping into the sentimentality that too often infests medical writing… If ever anything goes wrong with my brain, I’d like a doctor like Ropper to help sort me out.”                     Daily Telegraph

Ropper charts his 40-year career using dozens of case histories: think Oliver Sacks meets Gregory House, with a sprinkling of a hypochondriac’s worst nightmare. Each tale illuminates the remarkable way, not just in which the brain works, but how Ropper diagnoses what is going on. “                           Sunday Times

Told in a breezy style through a series of real-life case studies, Ropper’s book offers a fascinating glimpse of the ways in which our brain can go wrong.”                                Financial Times

Allan Ropper’s new memoir, Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole, has the hard-boiled style of a Raymond Chandler novel. Like a real-life Dr House, Ropper follows hunches and has sudden startling insights.”                                The Times

Peppered with insights into the scientific method, emphasizing that it’s not the cold, rational, Sherlock Holmes-like deductive process it’s often portrayed to be. Medical writing at its best.”                               V. S. Ramachandran, bestselling author of The Tell-Tale Brain

An in-the-trenches exploration of the challenging world of the clinical neurologist. From the quotidian to the exotic, from the heart-breaking to the humorous, the authors present an honest and compelling look at one of medicine’s most fascinating specialties. “                               Dr Michael Collins, author of Hot Lights, Cold Steel

 

 

The Point of Vanishing: A Memoir of Two Years of Solitude by Howard Axelrod

 

Named one of the best books of the year by Slate, Chicago Tribune, Entropy Magazine, and named one of the top 10 memoirs by Library Journal

Into the Wild meets Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man a lyrical memoir of a life changed in an instant and of the perilous beauty of searching for identity in solitude
 
On a clear May afternoon at the end of his junior year at Harvard, Howard Axelrod played a pick-up game of basketball. In a skirmish for a loose ball, a boy s finger hooked behind Axelrod s eyeball and left him permanently blinded in his right eye. A week later, he returned to the same dorm room, but to a different world. A world where nothing looked solid, where the distance between how people saw him and how he saw had widened into a gulf. Desperate for a sense of orientation he could trust, he retreated to a jerry-rigged house in the Vermont woods, where he lived without a computer or television, and largely without human contact, for two years. He needed to find, away from society’s pressures and rush, a sense of meaning that couldn t be changed in an instant.

 

Axelrod lyrically captures the essence of nature as he ponders his own self-worth and purpose in life. . . . In his first book, the author pushes beyond the boundaries and safety nets of the modern world and opens a doorway to feelings and experiences many long for but never encounter. His writing is a balm for world-weary souls. A vibrant, honest, and poetic account of how two years of solitude surrounded by nature changed a man forever.”                    Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

This elegant, questioning memoir details that moment and events prior to it, but mostly it achingly limns Axelrod’s two years living alone in a ramshackle cabin in the Vermont woods. His writing—whether describing an aspect of the wilderness around him or noting the “first lesson of solitude: everything really is your fault”—is lush and savory, exact in its intent to document just how Axelrod regained the ability to feel “that quiet of already belonging.” That he allows the reader to participate in this journey, from whatever distance, is more than a pleasure—it’s an honor. . . . Axelrod so adroitly and wisely re-creates the youngster he was that readers forget the passing of time, hearing only the voice of sorrow, longing, and determination. This memoir is a keeper, touching and eloquent, full of hard lessons learned. Readers will hope for more from first-time-author Axelrod.”                               Booklist, Starred Review

A deeply felt and moving journey into no longer taking life, or the world around us, for granted.”                           Library Journal

Mr. Axelrod is clearly a gifted writer…The best thing about Mr. Axelrod’s frequently absorbing book is how idiosyncratic it feels; he is a unique presence on the page.”                         New York Times Daily Review

What makes his book completely mesmerizing—besides his lovely prose, that is—is how exquisitely it balances between the poles of revelation and disintegration. Yet, refreshingly, he never repudiates the extremity of what he’s done. He’s come in from the woods with a strange tale to tell, but what makes you want to stop whatever you’re doing and listen to him is the frosty breath of the wild that still clings to his coat.”                                Slate Book Review

Axelrod is a master of metaphor, presenting familiar sights and sounds in unforgettable new ways. His writing is propulsive, unabashedly visionary, and strikingly fresh. This book will have you turning down pages, returning to sentences just to savor them, and reading passages aloud to anyone who will listen…The Point of Vanishing is a profoundly immersive narrative. One is struck again and again by the quality of the writing: by the vividness of its characters, by the accomplished lyricism of its language, by the brilliant acuity of its observations, and by the wisdom and humor that permeate its pages. What lingers most of all are Axelrod’s sharply wrought landscape descriptions. Setting is definitely an active character in this story…This memoir feels like a gift in a way that few books do…If you read it with an open heart, it has the power to change your life.”                         The Rumpus

Beautiful in its intensity, searing in its pain. It’s a breathtaking read.”                    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Deeply alive and exciting and nuanced . . . all about what it means to see, and how we might ask ourselves to see differently—to live differently in our own bodies, and in the world . . . Powerful and ineffable, it feels like a blessing.”                      Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams

A sensitive and sensual book about seeing and feeling deeply; witty, wise, and beautifully written from beginning to end.”                                Geraldine Brooks, author of March

Out of sudden and profound loss, Axelrod has drawn a haunting, tender memoir that grips like an emotional thriller. The Point of Vanishing is raw, exquisitely written, and full of poetic insights. This is a big book about big truths that matter to us all. It delivers a message of hope and strength, and reveals what is most human in our most unspoken yearning for something real, something true. In its subtle, deeply moving way, it will have you peering beneath the various faces you present to the world and encourage you to ask the most fundamental of questions: who am I alone?”                   Bella Pollen, author of The Summer of the Bear

 

 

Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere by Zach Klein

 

Rural escapes for those yearning for a simpler existence, by the creators of the wildly popular tumblr Cabin Porn.

 

Created by a group of friends who preserve 55 acres of hidden forest in Upstate New York-Cabin Porn began as a scrapbook to collect inspiration for their building projects. As the collection grew, the site attracted a following, which is now a huge and obsessive audience.

The site features photos of the most remarkable handmade homes in the backcountry of America and all over the world. It has had over 10 million unique visitors, with 350,000 followers on Tumblr. Now Zach Klein, the creator of the site (and a co-founder of Vimeo) goes further into the most alluring images from the site and new getaways, including more interior photography and how-to advice for setting up a quiet place somewhere.

With their idyllic settings, unique architecture and cozy interiors, the Cabin Porn photographs, are an invitation to slow down, take a deep breath, and feel the beauty and serenity that nature and simple construction can create.

 

The greatest collection of cabin inspiration ever assembled.”                     Outside

The world-weary urbanite not quite ready to leave civilization behind can live vicariously through these sumptuous photos of simple structures from around the globe that prove small is beautiful.”                             O, The Oprah Magazine

 

 

Usakos: Photographs Beyond Ruins – The Old Location Albums 1920s-1960s by Paul Grendon, Giorgio Miescher, Lorena Rizzo, Tina Smith

 

The book Usakos: Photographs Beyond Ruins focuses on a central Namibian town, Usakos. The town’s history is linked to the development of the South African railway system in Namibia, which brought remarkable prosperity to Usakos in the 1940s and 1950s but which caused a major socio-economic decline in the early 1960s. During this time, the South African apartheid administration decided to transform the town according to racial segregation and apartheid urban planning by moving the African population out of their residential area into newly built, racially and ethnically segregated townships which were situated on the town’s outskirts.

The book chooses a particular point in the history of colonialism and apartheid and of community building and forced removals. It places at its centre stage three private archives of photographic collections assembled over several decades by four women residents of Usakos. These photographs constitute personal albums, subjective narratives and aesthetic interventions in the course of a history that denied them visibility and voice as women, residents, citizens and human beings.
Representing the social, cultural and aesthetic variety of life in the ‘old location’ (‘ou lokasie’), the photographs inform the ways in which people relate to them today: with pride and a deep sense of nostalgia and loss. It is this reflection of the past in the present that characterises Paul Grendon’s photographs and which complements the display of the Usakos old location albums. Here, Usakos’ landscape emerges as a palimpsest of scar tissue: a place and space of colonial ruination, interwoven with histories and memories, silences and voices, absences and presences of those who lived and those who continue to make a living there.

 

 

 

The Innocent Killer: A True Story of a Wrongful Conviction and its Astonishing Aftermath by Michael Griesbach

 

The story of one of America’s most notorious wrongful convictions, that of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who spent eighteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit and now the subject of the hit series Making a Murderer. But two years after he was exonerated of that crime and poised to reap millions in his wrongful conviction lawsuit, Steven Avery was arrested for the exceptionally brutal murder of Teresa Halbach, a freelance photographer who had gone missing several days earlier. The “Innocent Man” had turned into a cold blooded killer. Or had he? This is narrative non-fiction at its finest and the perfect companion read for fans of Making a Murderer.

 

An instant true-crime classic.”                  Burl Barer, Edgar Award winning true crime author

A shocking example of what can happen when our justice system fails.”                             Barry Scheck, Co-founder of the National Innocence Project

 

 

Riddledom: 101 Riddles and Their Stories by David Astle

 

Why are ladies like arrows?

When is a bird not a bird?

What do you call a nun with a washing machine on her head?

Welcome to the weird new word adventure from David Astle, plunging into the realm of riddles, chasing down and prising open 101 curious questions from around the planet. A mindtrip across time and place, Riddledom uncovers relics from over 50 cultures, delving into language and deception, sampling Pompeii walls and Dothraki warriors. Readers can unravel each mini-chapter, wrestling with riddles from Wonderland or Zanzibar, Oedipus Rex or Harry Potter. Come meet French acrobats, coffee slaves, lusty maids and many more along the way. Riddledom is your chance to roam Tasmania and Mongolia, Fiji and Peru, seeking riddles on clay tablets and Popsicle sticks.

As David opens Riddledom: ‘If you think riddles are solely the stuff of schoolyards and Christmas crackers, you’re about to have your head refurbished.’

 

 

Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship by Anjan Sundaram

 

Hearing a blast, journalist Anjan Sundaram headed uphill towards the sound. Grenade explosions are not entirely unusual in the city of Kigali; dissidents throw them in public areas to try and destabilise the government and, since moving to Rwanda, he had observed an increasing number of them.

What was unusual about this one, however, was that when Sundaram arrived, it was as though nothing had happened. Traffic circulated as normal, there was no debris on the streets and the policeman on duty denied any event whatsoever. This was evidence of a clean-up, a cloaking of the discontent in Rwanda and a desire to silence the media in a country most of whose citizens were without internet. This was the first of many ominous events.

Bad News is the extraordinary account of the battle for free speech in modern-day Rwanda. Following not only those journalists who stayed, despite fearing torture or even death from a ruthless government, but also those reporting from exile, it is the story of papers being shut down, of lies told to please foreign delegates, of the unshakeable loyalty that can be bred by terror, of history being retold, of constant surveillance, of corrupted elections and of great courage.

It tells the true narrative of Rwandan society today and, in the face of powerful forces, of the fight to make explosions heard.

 

“Few people have suffered the hideous fate of Rwandans in the modern era. It is shocking, painful beyond words, to see the darkness settling again in a dystopia that is crushing free expression and individual lives. This searing, evocative account provides insights about the human condition that reach far beyond the tragic story of Rwanda.”                            Noam Chomsky

Here is a commanding new writer who comes to us with the honesty, the intensity, and the discerning curiosity of the young Naipaul.”                               Pico Iyer

A sensitive writer. He feels deeply and expresses himself richly … a powerful evocation of the foreign correspondent’s experience.”                       The Times

In this thoughtful and evocative book, Anjan Sundaram takes us into the lives of those living under a dictatorship. He chronicles the sacrifices of the brave journalists who try to speak the truth about their own country, the damage those truths inflict on those who bear witness, and the horrors of silence for those who cannot speak. His clipped and lucid prose offers an illuminating look into a place too often ignored by the rest of the world.”                           Graeme Smith, author of The Dogs Are Eating Them Now

Anjan Sundaram is a keen observer and a fine writer. In Bad News, he has rendered a chilling chronicle of the creeping totalitarianism taking hold in Rwanda that is as disturbing as it is unforgettable.”                            Jon Lee Anderson

Required reading . A superb exposé of a dictatorship as he observes how the tentacles of totalitarianism squeeze the life from a society. Bad News is an important book that should shatter any lingering faith people might hold in Kagame’s hideous regime . This is a desolate work, taut prose describing the stifling atmosphere of a nation trapped in fear.”                         Guardian

Powerful and shocking.”                            Sunday Times

 

 

 

Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books by Tim Parks

 

Should you finish every book you start?

How has your family influenced the way you read?

What is literary style?

How is the Nobel Prize like the World Cup?

Why do you hate the book your friend likes?

Is writing really just like any other job?

What happens to your brain when you read a good book?

As a novelist, translator and critic, Tim Parks is well-placed to investigate any questions we have about books and reading. In this collection of lively and provocative pieces he talks about what readers want from books and how to look at the literature we encounter in a new light.

 

A book about reading that only makes you want to read more and a book about writing that needs to be read.”                            Tim Adams, Observer

Long overdue, challenging and absorbing.”                       Alan Taylor, Herald

Parks has the ability to make other writers seem not just enriching but exciting as well.”                              Independent

Insightful, provocative, funny and frightening, this wry, fast-paced and passionate series of essays encourages us to re-evaluate our perception of reading and books.”                                Good Book Guide

 

 

 

From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations by Allan Metcalf

 

From baby boomers with ‘groovy’ and ‘yuppie’ to Generation X with ‘whatever’ and ‘like,’ each generation inevitably generates original words that come out of its social and historical context. Those words not only tell us a great deal about the people in those generations, but also highlight the differences between them and other generations.

In this book, Allan Metcalf, author of OK, uses a special framework of defining American generations to show that each generation of those born within a particular 20-year time period can be identified and characterized by words it chooses to use. By sampling from as far back as the American Revolution, Metcalf carefully constructs a comprehensive account of the history and usage of words associated with each generation in the American language. With special attention to the differences in vocabulary among the generations currently living-the sometimes awkward Millennials, the grunge music of Generation X, hippies among the Boomers, and bobbysoxers among the Silents – From Skeddadle to Selfie compiles dozens of words we have come to recognize or use and tells the unheard stories of each in its role of accompanying its generation through the times.

 

A fun-sized contribution to the pop-etymology shelves.”                             Sam Leith, Guardian

A sprightly history of American slang.”                                Sam Kitchener, Sunday Telegraph

 

Fiction

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth Mckenzie

 

A riotously funny and deeply insightful adventure through capitalism, the medical industry, family, love, war and wedding-planning – from an electrically entertaining new voice

Meet Veblen: a passionate defender of the anti-consumerist views of her name-sake, the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen. She’s an experienced cheerer-upper (mainly of her narcissistic, hypochondriac, controlling mother), an amateur translator of Norwegian, and a firm believer in the distinct possibility that the plucky grey squirrel following her around can understand more than it lets on.

Meet her fiancé, Paul: the son of good hippies who were bad parents, a no-nonsense, high-flying neuroscientist with no time for squirrels. His recent work on a device to minimize battlefield trauma has led him dangerously close to the seductive Cloris Hutmacher, heiress to a pharmaceuticals empire, who is promising him fame and fortune through a shady-sounding deal with the Department of Defence.

What could possibly go wrong?

 

The squirreliest novel I ever read. I enjoyed it completely.”                          Ursula K. Le Guin

 

Raw and weird and hilarious . . . very entertaining.”                      Scarlett Thomas, Guardian

 

Ambitious, spirited, funny, daring.” Financial Times

 

Man oh man, do I love this book! Audacious, imaginative and totally wonderful.”                          Karen Joy Fowler

 

A touching, wildly funny and peculiarly elegant look at the travails of love of all kinds.”                                Sunday Express

 

Utterly charming. A true joy of a book.”                              Irish Examiner

 

Full of life and humour and compassion.”                           Times Literary Supplement

 

Witty and sharp.”                          Irish Times

 

Offbeat, thoughtful, mischievous . . . McKenzie [has] a pin-sharp eye for the tragic-comic, and for dialogue.”                  Herald

 

McKenzie has a wonderful eye – and a relishing appetite – for the craziness that is everywhere in ordinary life if you know how to look.”                     Tessa Hadley

 

A novel of festive originality.”                   New York Times

 

Unforgettable. A wild ride that you will not want to miss.”                         San Francisco Chronicle

 

Oddball characters and plot turns abound, including talking squirrels and bureaucratic ironies worthy of Catch-22. But a sober question occupies its core: Do our parents’ best intentions do us harm?”                   Minneapolis Star Tribune

 

“Accurately and funnily capture[s] the complexities of modern families . . . The Corrections meets The Wallcreeper.”                    Huffington Post

 

 

 

 

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

 

A heart-stopping debut about protest and riot . . .

  1. Victor, homeless after a family tragedy, finds himself pounding the streets of Seattle with little meaning or purpose. He is the estranged son of the police chief of the city, and today his father is in charge of one of the largest protests in the history of Western democracy.

But in a matter of hours reality will become a nightmare. Hordes of protesters – from all sections of society – will test the patience of the city’s police force, and lives will be altered forever: two armed police officers will struggle to keep calm amid the threat of violence; a protester with a murderous past will make an unforgivable mistake; and a delegate from Sri Lanka will do whatever it takes to make it through the crowd to a meeting – a meeting that could dramatically change the fate of his country. In amongst the fray, Victor and his father are heading for a collision too.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, set during the World Trade Organization protests, is a deeply charged novel showcasing a distinct and exciting new literary voice.

 

Huge ambition . . . impressive.”                               Sunday Times

Yapa shines in the thickness of the here-and-now, amid the gas, fear, courage and flawed humanity of the street battle, in passages that are cinematic . . . moving.”                             New York Times

Fast-paced and unflinching . . . As these characters encounter one another in a fog of tear gas and pepper spray, Yapa vividly evokes rage and compassion.”                    New Yorker

A vital, powerful read, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is an absorbing, multifaceted, acutely hopeful novel.”                     Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

A symphony of a novel. In the contemporary tradition of Aleksandar Hemon and Philipp Meyer, with echoes of Michael Ondaatje and Arundhati Roy, Yapa strides forward with a literary molotov cocktail to light up the dark.”                              Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin

“Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is a stunningly orchestrated work of narrative power. This novel marshals all the vital forces of our existence – from the domestic to the political – and offers them to the reader with equal doses of compassion and beauty.”                            Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names

Chilling . . . A memorable, pulse-pounding literary experience.”                                Publisher’s Weekly

A fantastic debut novel . . . What is so enthralling about this novel is its syncopated riff of empathy as the perspective jumps around these participants – some peaceful, some violent, some determined, some incredulous . . . Yapa creates a fluid sense of the riot as it washes over the city. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist ultimately does for WTO protests what Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night did for the 1967 March on the Pentagon, gathering that confrontation in competing visions of what happened and what it meant.”                           Ron Charles, Washington Post

In this beautifully written, kaleidoscopically shifting novel . . . Yapa penetrates to the human connections and disconnections at play between the lines of history in the era of the global village.”                          Chicago Tribune

It’s not often that a novel takes a fraught event from the recent past, one that most of us only experienced in the flash of the cable news cycle or the static of print headlines, and imbues it with so much heart and soul that we do something we almost never do in the constant crush forward and faster – we pause and reconsider. That is the power of literature. Sunil Yapa’s Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist does just this for the momentous protests of the 1999 World Trade Organization’s (WTO) . . . Yapa does a heroic job of journeying into the heart of this complex set of events, illustrating how they grow out of and impact the character’s lives. And while the heart may be the size of a fist, here it paradoxically seems to encompass the whole world and all of its citizens, who pulse with its every beat.”                        The Rumpus

 

 

 

Traveler’s Rest by Keith Lee Morris

 

The Addisons – Julia and Tonio, ten-year-old Dewey, and Uncle Robbie – are driving home after collecting Robbie from yet another trip to rehab. When a terrifying blizzard strikes outside the town of Good Night, Idaho, they seek refuge at the Travelers Rest, a formerly opulent but now crumbling hotel.
With nowhere else to go, they decide to stay the night. But once inside, the family becomes separated and the hotel begins to work its eerie magic. As Julia and Tonio drift through the maze of the hotel’s spectral interiors, Dewey ventures outside. Meanwhile, a desperate Robbie quickly succumbs to his old vices. As they desperately try to reach each other, they relive the same day over and over again. The mother, Julia, holds the key to their release – but can she save her family from the fate of becoming Souvenirs – those citizens trapped forever in Good Night – or, worse, from disappearing entirely?

 

Echoing the fantastic work of Shirley Jackson and Stephen King, Travelers Rest is both fiercely gripping and deeply unsettling, a perfect mixture of horror and fairy tale held together by Keith Lee Morris’s unique ability to look beyond the imposing hotel and take us inside the hearts and minds of this trapped family, a feat that makes this story all the more frightening and moving. This is a novel that pulls you in immediately and refuses to let you go.”                                Kevin Wilson, author of the New York Times bestseller The Family Fang

It won’t take long – a page, maybe two – before you feel wondrously disquieted by Keith Lee Morris’s Travelers Rest. The novel traps its characters in the town of Good Night, Idaho, and the reader in its shaken snow globe of a world. The language dazzles and the circumstances chill and put this story in the good company of Stephen King’s The Shining, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. This book will earn Morris the wide readership he richly deserves.”                           Benjamin Percy, author of The Dead Lands and Red Moon

Morris handles the spooky materials deftly but his writing is what makes the story really scary: quiet and languorous, sweeping steadily and inexorably along like a curtain of drifting snow identified too late as an avalanche.”                          Publishers Weekly

Alice in Wonderland meets The Shiningweighty, suspenseful, and even wistful .”                         Kirkus Reviews

A fine addition to the creepy hotel thriller genre…It says much of Morris’s skill that he’s able to keep us bewitched and beguiled in a topsy-turvy world with endless corridors, twisting stairs and Esher-like surroundings. The novel culminates in an almost operatic grand finale where past and present meet in a satisfying conclusion.”                             Independent

A subtle, meticulous examination of strained relationships, the effects of isolation on the mind, and the persistent hold memory has over us…it exerts a powerful hold.”                               Financial Times

 

 

Kizumonogatari: Wound Tale by Nishio Ishin

 

A stand-alone prequel to the leading Monogatari (Kodansha) series by the 33-year-old novelist whose first printings are now second only to Haruki Murakami’s, this story about a blond female vampire on a ‘tourist visit’ to the country is being adapted into an animated feature for Japanese theatrical release in late 2015/early 2016. High schooler Koyomi, encountering a dying vampire on his way home from purchasing age-restricted magazines, offers his blood and must face the three vampire hunters who have stolen his mistress’s limbs.

Around midnight, under a lonely street lamp in a provincial town in Japan, lies a white woman, a blonde, alone, robbed of all four limbs, yet undead. Indeed, a rumor’s been circulating among the local girls that a vampire has come to their backwater, of all places.
Koyomi Araragi, who prefers to avoid having friends because they’d lower his “intensity as a human,” is naturally skeptical. Yet it is to him that the bloodsucking demon, a concept “dated twice over,” beckons on the first day of spring break as he makes his way home with a fresh loot of morally compromising periodicals.

 

 

Automobile Club of Egypt by Alaa Al Aswany

 

Inside the walls of the Automobile Club of Egypt two very different worlds collide – Cairo’s European elite and the Egyptian staff who wait on them.

The servants, a squabbling, humorous and deeply human group, live in a perpetual state of fear under the tyrannical rule of Alku. When Abd el-Aziz Gaafar becomes the target of Alku’s cruelty and his pride gets the better of him, a devastating act sends ripples through his family. Soon, the Gaafars are drawn into the turbulent politics of the club – both public and private – and servants and masters are subsumed by Egypt’s social upheaval.

Egyptians both inside and outside the Automobile Club will all face a stark choice: to live safely without dignity, or to fight for their rights and risk everything. From the author of The Yacoubian Building.

 

 

From the Kitchen

The Story of a House: Fables and Feasts from La Creuzette by Louis Jansen van Vuuren and Hardy Oliver

 

It took 15 years to fully restore the impressive Château de la Creuzette to her former glory. She continues to rest in her shaded park, surrounded by centuries-old trees, and welcomes her expectant guests with open arms.

The highly successful Festive France caused great excitement among Francophiles, who loved the stories and delicious recipes from the French countryside. Now, the wealth of culinary delights that emerge from the new summer kitchen at La Creuzette are enough to make any gourmand’s mouth water. Apart from the almost 90 new recipes, which the authors have categorised according to five (yes, five!) seasons, there is an additional Crookbook in which the two hosts share their easy shortcut recipes and tips – how to conjure and connive when immediate action is needed. Here, every meal is transformed into a feast. Take a seat a beautifully set table and drink from fine crystal.

The Story of a House is not only two cookbooks in one, but also a richly adorned reading book that traces the history of a manor house and follows the story of its people. Come inside, the doors are open…

 

 

Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets by Joanna Blythman

 

From the author of What to Eat and Shopped, a revelatory investigation into what really goes into the food we eat.

Even with 25 years experience as a journalist and investigator of the food chain, Joanna Blythman still felt she had unanswered questions about the food we consume every day. How ‘natural’ is the process for making a ‘natural’ flavouring? What, exactly, is modified starch, and why is it an ingredient in so many foods? What is done to pitta bread to make it stay ‘fresh’ for six months? And why, when you eat a supermarket salad, does the taste linger in your mouth for several hours after?

Swallow This is a fascinating exploration of the food processing industry and its products – not just the more obvious ready meals, chicken nuggets and tinned soups, but the less overtly industrial – washed salads, smoothies, yoghurts, cereal bars, bread, fruit juice, prepared vegetables. Forget illegal, horse-meat-scandal processes, every step in the production of these is legal, but practised by a strange and inaccessible industry, with methods a world-away from our idea of domestic food preparation, and obscured by technical speak, unintelligible ingredients manuals, and clever labelling practices.

Determined to get to the bottom of the impact the industry has on our food, Joanna Blythman has gained unprecedented access to factories, suppliers and industry insiders, to give an utterly eye-opening account of what we’re really swallowing.

 

In this fine book, Blythman uses a long spoon to sup with the devils of our daily diet.”                   The Times

 

Outstanding … Blythman is never holier than thou – she recognises that people, herself included, need and want convenience food. Her argument is simply that we have a right to know what’s really in it, right down to the minor chemical processes that have known toxic properties … Food for thought.”                             Observer

 

I whole-heartedly applaud her achievement. This is an important book which should be required reading for anyone who eats processed food, whether that’s organic pork chops or sausage rolls from the petrol station.”                            Literary Review

 

Riveting.”                          Daily Telegraph

 

 

 

 

 

For younger readers

Marais & Kie deur Annemarie van der Walt

 

Hierdie humoristiese spanningsvolle stories kop af met die wetenskaptaak wat die Graad vyvs moet doen oor sonsverduistering. Marais en Riaan is boesemvriende and doen alles saam. Marias is die leier van die twee. Hy oortuig dan ook vir Riaan dat hulle in die rivier moet gaan swem eerder as ome die wetensaptaak to doen. Daar maak hulle kennis met pers gedrogtes wat ook in die rivier swem en moontlik in ‘n ondergrondse skip woon. Die gegrogtes het met hulle fiets gepeuter en nou kan die fiets soms self ry met pers wiele.

Marais en sy vriende slag daarin om deur die tonnel te ontsnap. Gelukkig vir hulle kan nou net skoolgaan en hoef hulle nie ondergrondse kabels vir die gedrogtes te gaan lê nie.

 

 

Madame Eiffel: The Love Story of the Eiffel Tower by Alice Brière Haquet & Csil

 

Mr. and Mrs. Eiffel are a happy couple enjoying living in the most romantic city in the world, Paris. Until one day, Mrs. Eiffel begins to feel desperately unwell. The experts are unanimous: the only thing that can save her is fresh air. Her husband, a bright engineer, decides he will take matters into his own hands and build a tower that will reach the clouds in an attempt to restore her health. Csil s poetically minimal illustrations in black, white, and pink are incredibly evocative, and Alice Brière-Haquet s words are a delight to read aloud.

 

 

Arthur by Rhoda Levine

 

A wonderful holiday story about a small bird named Arthur, who lives in New York City.

After a fine, green summer in Central Park, all the birds are preparing to fly south. Except for Arthur, that is. Arthur is off playing, gazing into a lake, dreaming of wider seas. And so Arthur is left behind. It begins to get cold. The trees are losing their leaves. Arthur feels uneasy and lonely, especially after his nest is scattered to the winds. Arthur must find a new home, and after he does—he settles down in a statue’s open book—he discovers a new city, where he can play hide-and-seek in the steam from a manhole cover and feast with the pigeons on crumbs, and which soon brings other delightful surprises (and challenges): icicles, a great big sweet-smelling evergreen tree that is all lit up with people gathered around it to sing “Gloria” in the cold night, and snow—a whole winter wonderland! And then the trees begin to bud; the birds come back….

With Arthur as their guide through the city, children will find new poetry and beauty on every corner.

 

 

Hilda & the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson

 

Hilda is a little girl with the uncanny ability to befriend even the most peculiar of house guests. But when an army of little creatures bombard her living room with stones and eviction notices, she has to think twice before making the acquaintance of these diminutive creatures. After sunset, even stranger things start happening. Who is this giant who only appears at midnight, and why is Hilda the only person who can see him? Under duress and in growing fear of losing her beloved family home, Hilda sets off an adventure to secure her birth right and find out who, if he even exists, is the mysterious Midnight Giant.

 

“[Hilda’s world] is… a glorious, exciting if also rather menacing place one children will be eager to enter. It’s also visually arresting: exuberant and lively and faintly Miyazakian.”                               New York Times

For adults … Pearson’s measured storytelling … and detailed, imaginative artwork make Hilda and the Midnight Garden an absolute treat to dive into. It’s hard to imagine a better all-ages comic will be published this year.”                     Slate

 

 

Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess

 

Enormous Smallness is a nonfiction picture book about the poet E.E. cummings. Here E.E.’s life is presented in a way that will make children curious about him and will lead them to play with words and ask plenty of questions as well. Lively and informative, the book also presents some of Cummings’s most wonderful poems, integrating them seamlessly into the story to give the reader the music of his voice and a spirited, sensitive introduction to his poetry.

In keeping with the epigraph of the book — “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are,” Matthew Burgess’s narrative emphasizes the bravery it takes to follow one’s own vision and the encouragement E.E. received to do just that.

 

The title of this book (Enormous Smallness) is perfect. Many of us think of poems as small things, but as much as anyone, E. E. Cummings showed us that even the smallest stanza could hold enormous meaning. Lovingly written (Burgess is himself a poet) and ingeniously illustrated, this book is a treasure for both fans of Cummings, as well as those discovering his poetry for the first time.”                       Huffington Post

Di Giacomo’s capricious collages create a lively interplay between pictures and words, and visual motifs such as birds and elephants intermingle with samples of Cummings’s work. Burgess delivers a thorough and lovingly crafted homage to a writer whose poems ‘were alive with experimentation and surprise.'”                      Publishers Weekly

The author includes major life events and poems, always circling back to a playfulness born in the poet’s childhood and carried through his entire life, nurtured by parents and teachers. What makes this such a successful children’s book is the author and artist’s focus on Cummings’s ability to channel and hold onto the inventiveness of childhood.”                           Shelf Awareness

Plus it’s beautiful. Each page is a collage of words and visual elements that work in the manner of a Cummings poem. Letters fall from his mouth during graduation, and the more he writes, the more letters make up parts of the background colors of the pages.”                      Unshelved

An uncommonly delightful picture-book celebration of Cummings’s life.”                            Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson

 

Do you dream of seeing some real, live bears? Then this essential guide to bear spotting, filled with offbeat humor and quirky illustrations, is for you!

In this perfect read-aloud, sure to delight kids and parents alike, a young aspiring bear spotter ventures into bear country . . . But coming face-to-face with the furry creatures themselves, whether black or brown, can be dangerous, and our protagonist–accompanied by a trusty teddy bear–might need to use some unconventional means to stay out of trouble and avoid being (gulp!) eaten.

This laugh-out-loud, how-to guide–brilliantly brought to life by New York Times bestselling illustrator David Roberts’ expressive art–is a must-read for fans of I Want My Hat Back and Secret Pizza Party.

 

Roberts’s . . . artwork is exquisitely inked and textured, and there’s subversive comedy on every page.”                               Publishers Weekly

 

Robinson’s chatty, conspiratorial style addresses the reader directly . . . Roberts enhances the text with whimsy . . . The British duo’s clever creation travels well across the pond and will produce plenty of raucous laughter.”                   Booklist

 

Happy Reading!