Friday 1 September 2017

These interesting books seek shelf-space in your home.

These Possible Lives by Fleur Jaeggy           $21
Jaeggy, whose brief fictions, such as those in I am the Brother of XX, remain as pleasant burrs in the mind long after the short time spent reading them, has here written three brief biographies, of Thomas De Quincey, John Keats and Marcel Schwob, each as brief and effective as a lightning strike and as memorable. Jaeggy is interested in discovering what it was about these figures that made them them and not someone else. By assembling details, quotes, sketches of situations, pin-sharp portraits of contemporaries, some of which, in a few words, will change the way you remember them, Jaeggy takes us close to the membrane, so to call it, that surrounds the known, the membrane that these writers were intent on stretching, or constitutionally unable not to stretch, beyond which lay and lies madness and death, the constant themes of all Jaeggy’s attentions, and, for Jaeggy, the backdrop to, if not the object of, all creative striving. >> Read Thomas's review
Belladonna by Daša Drndić      $38
The life and health of a retired psychologist have declined to the extent that he gains insight into the disadvantaged of society and into the forces that oppress them, and also into the faculty of memory that can either liberate or condemn the one who remembers. A novel of Sebaldean scope and resonance. 
>>"There are no small fascisms."  

My Dad Used to Be So Cool by Keith Negley       $28
Why doesn't Dad do all those cool things he used to do? Why did he stop? (Could it be because having a child was somehow cooler?) From the author/illustrator of Tough Guys Have Feelings Too

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent         $35
Turtle lives with her father, Martin - her mother disappeared when she was very little. She struggles at school yet in her internal world she is intelligent - knowledgeable and philosophical. Her home life is controlled and confined by a set of predetermined rules and expectations laid down by her disturbed father: a father who believes that the apocalypse is upon them, a paranoid survivalist who insists he is training his daughter to exist against all odds. "This is a tough, but an incredible, novel that reveals the internal world of damage and explores the psyche of Turtle humanely and honestly. With a remarkable character, a plot that keeps you wired, lyrical writing about relationships and nature, My Absolute Darling is compelling and unsettling." - Stella

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba        $28
A girl arrives at an orphanage after the deaths of her parents in a car accident. Her presence is a wound to the orphans' idea of themselves, and they also begin to have a disturbing effect upon the incomer. What role does the girl's doll play in the hazards that soon beset the inmates of the orphanage? 
"Barba inhabits the minds of children with an exactitude that seems to me so uncanny as to be almost sinister. Lying behind the shocks is a meditation on language and its power to bind or loosen thought and behaviour. It is about language, wounding, wickedness; but it is also about how fleeting and how vulnerable is the state of childhood innocence – that 'nothing which we are to perceive in this world/equals the power of its intense fragility'." - Sarah Perry, Guardian
>> "All writers have a corpse in their closet."
Paintings in Proust: A visual companion to In Search of Lost Time by Eric Karpeles       $45
A beautifully presented survey of all the artworks mentioned in In Search of Lost Time, with quotes and contextual notes. 
Franklin's Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell and Katie Harnett        $28
Franklin loves books and he loves reading to children, but people tend to be scared of him because he is a dragon. Fortunately, Luna knows all about dragons from reading many books about them, and the two spend many hours together discussing the books they have read. To share their love of books with others, they decide to open a flying bookshop (good idea). 
Beg, Steal and Borrow: Artists against originality by Robert Shore       $28
If "all art is theft" (Picasso), what can we make of art that deliberately appropriates, subsumes, samples or reconfigures other art? Interesting. 

The Seabird's Cry: The lives and loves of puffins, gannets and other ocean voyagers by Adam Nicolson        $40
At the heart of the book are the Shiant Isles, a cluster of Hebridean islands in the Minch but Nicolson has pursued the birds much further-across the Atlantic, up the west coast of Ireland, to St Kilda, Orkney, Shetland, the Faeroes, Iceland and Norway; to the eastern seaboard of Maine and to Newfoundland, to the Falklands, South Georgia, the Canaries and the Azores - reaching out across the widths of the world ocean which is the seabirds' home. 
"I was entranced - my mind thrilling to the veers and lifts of thought, to the beautiful deftness of the prose. This marvellous book inhabits with graceful ease both the mythic and the scientific, and remains alert to the vulnerability of these birds as well as to their wonder. It is a work that takes wing in the mind." - Robert Macfarlane
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie         $27
Family, society, love and religion clash in this modern reworking of the themes of Antigone. Long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. 
"Home Fire left me awestruck, shaken, on the edge of my chair, filled with admiration for her courage and ambition. Recommended reading for prime ministers and presidents everywhere." - Peter Carey 

Ostro by Julia Busuttil Nishimura         $50
"My approach to food favours intuition over strict rules and is about using your hands, rushing a little less and savouring the details. It's not food that needs to be placed on a pedestal or admired from afar; it is food that slowly weaves its way into the fabric of your daily life - food for living and sharing."
The online slow food phenomenon has now produced this very beautiful cookbook. Very satisfying - even just to look through. 

Petite Fleur by Ioso Havilio         $30
When a young father kills his over-friendly neighbour and discovers that he is alive again the next day, he repeats the experiment on a regular basis and begins to wonder if he is exempt from the laws of causality. What effect does this have on his relationship with his wife and daughter?
"As vertiginous, airtight and intense as a dream." - Yuri Herrera
The Grammar of Spice by Caz Hildebrand         $45
Explains not only the history of every imaginable sort of spice, but imparts an understanding that enables the reader to use and combine them effectively when cooking. Wonderful illuminated illustrations throughout. 

Aukati by Michalia Arathimos         $38
Alexia is a law student escaping the Greek family that stifles her, and Isaiah is a young Maori returning home to find the family he's lost. Cut loose from their own cultures, they have volunteered to help Isaiah's Taranaki iwi get rid of the fracking that's devastating their land and water. The deeper Alexia and Isaiah go into the fight, the closer they get to understanding the different worlds they inhabit.

The Epic City: The world on the streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury           $37
Everything that could possibly be wrong with a city was wrong with Calcutta. When Choudhury returned to the city as an adult he found it much unchanged from his childhood, a city of intense localism, very different from the new age of consumption that was revolutionising other Indian cities. Why?
"Beautifully observed and even more beautifully written, The Epic City marks the arrival of a major new talent." - William Dalrymple

The Greedy Queen: Eating with Victoria by Annie Gray        $40
Victoria's appetite for life was expressed in her appetite for food: the queen consistently over-ate all her life. Her appetites presided over a revolution in English cuisine. 
"Had me at the first sentence." - Nigel Slater 
"Zingy, fresh, and unexpected: Annie Gray, the queen of food historians, finds her perfect subject." - Lucy Worsley 
>> Gray on the importance of dinner to the British Empire
Firecrackers: Female photographers now by Fiona Rogers and Max Houghton         $66
Features 30 cutting-edge women photographers from around the world.
Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing: Encounters with the mysteries and meanings of language by Daniel Tammet        $37
Interesting and eclectic set of essays about the diverse characteristics of various languages, and of humans' instinct to communicate.

 The King's Assassin: The fatal affair of George Villiers and James I by Benjamin Woolley       $50
Following the death of James I in 1625, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham and the king's 'wife' for ten years, was accused of poisoning him. A parliamentary enquiry found cleared him and the circumstance was relegated to the sidelines of history, but Woolley in this groundbreaking book suggests the allegations were in fact true.
 White Bicycles: Making music in the 1960s by Joe Boyd        $25
When Muddy Waters came to London at the start of the '60s, a kid from Boston called Joe Boyd was his tour manager; when Dylan went electric at the Newport Festival, Joe Boyd was plugging in his guitar; when the summer of love got going, Joe Boyd was running the coolest club in London, the UFO; when a bunch of club regulars called Pink Floyd recorded their first single, Joe Boyd was the producer; when a young songwriter named Nick Drake wanted to give his demo tape to someone, he chose Joe Boyd. Who better to give a deep insight into the creative maelstrom of the '60s music scene than Joe Boyd? 
The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton         $33
"Omar Robert Hamilton brings vividly to life the failed revolution of 2011 on the streets of Cairo, in all its youthful bravery and naive utopianism." - J.M. Coetzee
"I finished this novel with fascination and admiration. It gives a picture of the inside of a popular movement that we all saw from the outside, in countless news broadcasts and foreign-correspondent reports, a picture so vivid and powerful that it gives a passionate life and reality to what might have been perceived only as abstract principles. A thousand vivid details print themselves on the reader's memory: it will be a long time before we read anything so skilfully brought to life." - Philip Pullman
"Few writers could capture the frenetic speed of an Internet-fuelled uprising alongside the time-stopping corporeal reality of bullet-ridden bodies, all while never losing sight of the love that powered Egypt's revolutionary moment. Omar Robert Hamilton can do all that and more. Crossing borders and generations, he brings us into the movement's effervescent hope and its crushing heartbreak, probing timeless questions about what the living owe to the dead. Unbearable. Unmissable. A dazzling debut." - Naomi Klein
On a Magical, Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna        $28
A beautifully illustrated invocation of the wonders to be found outside on a rainy day. 

Every Third Thought: On life, death and the endgame by Robert McCrum        $38
"A brilliant, wise, compassionate and consoling account of death and dying in a secular age. McCrum moves seamlessly from personal testimonies to medical case studies to recent developments in neuroscience. He asks profound philosophical questions about mortality, finitude and the unknown. A uniquely beautiful and significant book." - Joanna Kavenna
"Thoughtful, subtle, elegantly clever and oddly joyous, Every Third Thought is beautiful and - most of all - true." - Kate Mosse
The London Jungle Book by Bhajju Shyam        $30
Bhajju Shyam, an artist from the Gond tribe in central India, was commissioned to paint the walls of an Indian restaurant in London, and spent two months in the city. The book that emerged from the journey is a visual travelogue of his first encounter with a western metropolis. Bhajju brings the signs of the Gond forest to bear on the city, turning London into an exotic jungle.

That Was a Shiver by James Kelman         $33
Short stories written with great precision and sympathy for the emotional depths below the surfaces of everyday life. 
"Kelman brings alive a human consciousness like no other writer can." - Alan Warner
"What Kelman creates here and elsewhere in this collection is an atmosphere of Kafka-esque anxiety and menace, of things falling apart, of centres unable to hold. Like the best short story writers – James Joyce, Kafka, John Cheever, Alice Munro – he has reinvented the form through his audacity not to conform to the expectations of those who underestimate the intelligence and perceptiveness of the reading public. His stories may concern dossers and delusionists, no-hopers and chancers, petty criminals and serial gamblers, but each one is an individual who has been dealt a hand that he must learn to play or lose his lot. What he is offering are slices of lives that most western literature ignores." - Herald Scotland 
Catching Breath: The making and unmaking of tuberculosis by Kathryn Lougheed         $28
For forty thousand years, TB has accompanied humans in all their migrations and endeavours, keeping pace even with medical attempts to eradicate it. As TB is developing antibiotic resistance worldwide - has humanity met its match? 
The Cocktail Garden: Botanical cocktails for every season by Adriana Picker and Ed Loveday          $30
A beautifully illustrated guide to making the most mouthwatering cocktails from fruits and herbs that might be in your own garden.

The Pursuit of Power: Europe, 1815-1916 by Richard J. Evans         $38
A period in which what was seen as modern with amazing speed appeared old-fashioned, in which huge cities sprang up in a generation, new European countries were created and in which, for the first time, humans could communicate almost instantly over thousands of miles. Evans accounts for revolutions, empire-building and wars that marked the nineteenth century, but also treats illness, serfdom, religion or philosophy, and a host of other things.
Dr James Barry: A woman ahead of her time by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield         $22
Dr James Barry: Inspector General of Hospitals, army surgeon, duellist, reformer, ladykiller, eccentric. He performed the first successful Caesarean in the British Empire, outraged the military establishment and gave Florence Nightingale a dressing down at Scutari. At home he was surrounded by a menagerie of animals, including a cat, a goat, a parrot and a terrier. Long ago in Cork, Ireland, he had also been a mother. This is the amazing tale of Margaret Anne Bulkley, the young woman who broke the rules of Georgian society to become one of the most respected surgeons of the century.
Play With Me: Dolls, women, art by Grace Banks         $55
The inanimate female form has often been used by artists to make statements about the objectification of women and to explore the frontiers of individual identity and the replicability of experience. Banks surveys how artificial women can generate political and ethical debate. 
Psychedelia, And other colours by Rob Chapman         $40
The discovery of the psychoactive consequences of LSD was soon followed by its cultural manifestations. These, however took on quite different characteristics depending on their host culture: the psychedelia of the west coast of the US differed in texture from that of the UK. Chapman's fascinating book explores the territory.
 >> Chapman's playlist to accompany the book
Tin Man by Sarah Winman        $30
From the author of When God Was a Rabbit
"Tin Man is Winman's best novel yet. The playful subversiveness still bubbles away but there's a new candour there, an acceptance of needs and flaws that proves deeply touching. This is storytelling as cruelly kind as fate itself." - Patrick Gale

The Children of Willesden Lane: A true story of hope and survival during World War II by Mona Gobalek and Lee Cohen        $19
Jewish musical prodigy Lisa Jura Gobalek escaped Vienna to London on the Kindertransport, where she eventually studies at the Royal Academy. How can she learn the fates of her sisters and the rest of her family she left behind?

The Broken Ladder: How inequality changes the way we think, live and die by Keith Payne         $38
Regardless of their average incomes, countries or states with greater levels of income inequality have much higher rates of all the social maladies we generally associate with poverty: lower than average life expectancies, mental illness and crime. 

Bitch Doctrine: Essays for dissenting adults by Laurie Penny        $27
Penny is ready to confront injustice wherever she finds it.
"I can't really think of another writer who so consistently and bravely keeps thinking and talking and learning and trying to make the world better." - Caitlin Moran
>> A manifesto for change

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