Saturday 26 January 2019

BOOKS @ VOLUME  #112 (26.1.19)

Read our latest newsletter and find out what we've been reading and recommending, about the latest new releases and our Book of the Week, and about upcoming events and writing courses. 

Not us! Our Book of the Week this week is The Snooty Bookshop by Tom Gauld.
This book is comprised of 50 'literary' postcards, drawn from Gauld's book-related contributions to The Guardian over the last decade. Funny, serious, and often poignant, Gauld's cartoons are endlessly inventive and thoughtful. 
>> We will be posting a daily image this week our instagram page
>> Preview here
>> Tom Gauld's website
>> Drawing as language
>> Other books by Tom Gauld.

Kingdom by Jon McNaught 
Heading away for a family holiday is a recipe for both anticipation and disappointment. In Jon McNaught’s Kingdom, Suzie, Andy and Mum are driving to the summer holiday caravan park on the English coast. Mum’s excited - she remembers it from her own childhood and has fond memories of it being the best place ever. Filled with memories of discovering mermaids’ caves, giant sand dunes and crashing waves, she can’t wait to share it with her children. In this graphic novel, we start en route, GPS on, traffic jams and boredom. With Suzie’s keen eye, we are given the view from the back seat. Each frame is a blink of the eye, like viewing the world through the shutter of an old-fashioned Viewfinder. It’s eerily reminiscent of your own memories of long-distance car trips, - an ever changing view as you move  towards your destination, but where, because you are sitting still and not moving actively through the landscape, you slow down in your observations. McNaught gives us half-views of signs, the backs of vehicles, trucks with advertising, birds whirling overhead, sounds that infiltrate the capsule of the car, the inane conversation and the games, both verbal and visual, that attempt to speed up the journey. On the way, there’s the traditional stop for junk food and the anticipation of arriving, but the slightly uncomfortable sense of being nowhere - in limbo - where you are strangely anonymous and self-contained but a unit outside of itself and its familiar stomping ground. And finally, you arrive, all the necessary unpacking is done, yet you are not quite there yet - your emotional self is still somewhere in the ‘old world’, trying to find the internet reception above one bar. As Suzie heads off for walks to the caves with her mother, Andy fools around on his laptop until he is bored and wanders through the caravan park and up the hill. And here the story starts to hum - being alone has its upside: no tales of yesteryear, no-one telling you what to do. Yet there’s also the tedium of rain, of the rundown museum (which has its own charm, but maybe not to two bored children more accustomed to digital overload), of a parent reminding you about school, and a kid sister who is always tagging along. When Suzie and Mum go to visit Aunt Lizzie, Andy refuses to go along, preferring to be left alone. This is a story of discovery, of starting to see and sense how a place makes one behave differently. In this very subtly illustrated graphic novel, McNaught captures the mundane and the exceptional without any change in palette, tone or texture - images of the landscape, of the natural world and the strangely prescribed human world - the manicured caravan park and the images on the digital devices that are ever present - are juxtaposed playfully. The sense of doing something, but also very little - that ‘holiday feeling’ - creates a meditative quality and as a reader you too slow down, sharpen your senses (re-read and look more closely) and engage in the quiet, yet profound moments that make us look at the world, ourselves and our place in that world anew - experiences that change us incrementally. 

All the Devils are Here by David Seabrook  (Reviewed by THOMAS}
Kent juts out from the rest of England like an elbow. In David Seabrook’s stumbling psychogeographic tour of this elbow’s tip (Margate, Broadstairs, Deal), he portrays it as teeming (although ‘teeming’ seems perhaps too energetic a word) with people elbowed to the margins of English society, margins at which, paradoxically, this sense of Englishness is most defined: mad persons, alcoholics, louche millionaires, well-connected fascists, octogenarian ex-rentboys, spent eccentrics, writers either unacknowledged or forgotten. “Hell is empty and all the devils are here,” wrote Shakespeare in The Tempest of (ostensibly) another haunted paradise and ‘isle of noises’, and Seabrook is at his best when nailing a persistent cultural misery in a single sentence: “Staccato laughter strafing the Casino Rooms just off the High Street, where audiences are entertained by comedians such as ‘X-Rated’ Jimmy Jones or Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown, big men who tour England ceaselessly like lardy takes on the Ancient Mariner, bringing none of the poetry and all of the guilt.” Seabrook’s position is not lofty, however: he lived almost all his life on this elbow, never more than an hour’s bus-ride from the locations mentioned, an outsider himself, culturally irritable, full of sympathies but excluded from involvement by his own uncertainty of motive and by his insecure role as second-hand witness to pasts of which only decrepit and partial residues remain. Although Seabrook ostensibly seeks and relays facts, albeit fragmented second-hand facts, these facts seldom reach any conclusion other than their enervation. Knowledge will not save us from that which we do not understand. “I can connect / Nothing with nothing,” wrote T.S. Eliot in ‘The Waste Land’ while recuperating from a mental breakdown in Margate. On visiting Chatham, Seabrook gives a discursive account of the painter Richard Dadd, his experiences accompanying Sir Thomas Phillips on the “cultural commando course” of a Grand Tour, his murder of his father and subsequent confinement to Bedlam, concluding his account of a visit to the now-neglected park in which the murder took place with the observation that “it’s a place that won’t quite fit on the heritage map. Kent police exercise their dogs here.” Seabrook is to Sebald what a queasy stomach is to a headache. Whether analysing literature or exposing the private lives of third-rung celebrities, Seabrook is always an intruder, his observations always gossip, with the ambivalences of fascination and repulsion always inherent in gossip. Seabrook’s mind is desperate to make connections between the details he observes, but he seems aware all along that there will be no overall shape to, or conclusion to be drawn from, these details. Towards the end of the book he spends an uncomfortable number of pages recounting the details in an unsolved series of murders with which he has evidently become obsessed before returning to his interview with the faded rent-boy which forms the connecting thread of the final part of the book, entitled ‘Tombatism’, a word coined by a character in Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood from a combination of ‘tomb’ and ‘rheumatism’. Edwin Drood was never finished, its mysteries irresolvable, inevitable consequences, in Seabrook’s cosmology, of being set and written in the elbow of Kent. David Seabrook was found dead in his flat in Kent in 2009. Most of his writings are lost. 

Friday 25 January 2019


Dirt by Gemma Walsh, Katie Kerr, et al             $38
Dirt is an experimental cookbook that digs into the relationship between food and words. Twelve earthy recipes from chef Gemma Walsh are accompanied by a collection of stories, poems and conversations from some of New Zealand’s contemporary writers. Contributors include Courtney Sina Meredith, Lana Lopesi, Rosabel Tan, Dominic Huey, Vanessa Crofskey, Natasha Matila-Smith, Owen Connors, Liam Jacobson, Amy Weng, Reem Musa, Gabi Lardies and Sam Walsh.
>>Preview here. 

SPRAWL by Danielle Dutton         $38
Inspired by a series of domestic still lifes by photographer Laura Letinsky, Dutton (author of Margaret the First and Dorothy Project publisher) creates her own trenchant series of tableaux, attentive to the surfaces of the suburbs and the ways in which life there is willfully, almost desperately, on display. In locating the language of sprawl itself—engrossing, unremitting, ever expansive—Dutton has written a work of fiction that takes us deep into the familiar and to its very edge: nothing is ever the same under such close inspection.
"Reads as if Gertrude Stein channelled Alice B. Toklas writing an Arcades Project set in contemporary suburbia." - The Believer
Doppelgänger by Daša Drndić       $32
Two novellas that revisit the question of "doubles" (famously explored by Stevenson, Dostoyevsky and others), and how an individual is perpetually caught between their own beliefs and those imposed on them by society. `Arthur and Isabella' is a story of the relationship between two elderly people who meet on New Year's Eve - a romantic encounter which turns into a grotesque portrayal of the loneliness of old age. The second story, `Pupi' - a strange mirror of the first - centres on the life of a man who ends up on the street.
"The capacity to see the bricolage of a reticent, morally compromised, elegiac past - and, more unsettlingly, how that past might see us - is a central feature of the work of the Croatian writer Dasa Drndic." - Paris Review
Listed for the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize.
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez        $28
When a friend dies, a woman inherits his Great Dane. As she gets to know this dog, so large, so inconvenient, so representative of her grief, she comes to understand the dog's grief, too, and their lives begin to change in subtle ways.
 "Nunez's prose itself comforts us. Her confident and direct style uplifts--the music in her sentences, her deep and varied intelligence." - The New York Times 
2018 (US) National Book Award winner.
>> Also available as a lovely hardback
Toddler Hunting by Taeko Kono           $38
Ten stories from this unsparing and deeply perceptive Japanese author whose characters are moved by unacknowledgeable but wholly convincing desires. 
"Disturbing and exceptional." - Publishers Weekly
"A completely individual writer, who described the intricacies of sexual relationships boldly, committedly, utterly fearlessly. And yet her writing is writing that doesn't actually 'bare all', but rather hints at what lies underneath - at things deep, quiet, and mysterious." - Yoko Tawada
"Kono should be an electrifying discovery for English-speaking lovers of short fiction. Each story unburies something that feels both thrillingly specific and surprisingly contemporary." Kirkus
The Melancholy of Anatomy by Shelley Jackson         $30
Here is the body turned inside out, its members set free, its humours released upon the world. Hearts bigger than planets devour light and warp the space around them. The city of London has a menstrual flow that gushes through its underground pipes. Gobs of phlegm cement friendships and sexual relationships. A floating fetus larger than a human becomes the new town pastor. In these stories, Shelley Jackson rewrites our private passages and translates the dumb show of the body into prose as gorgeous as it is unhygienic.

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson        $34
“Wilson’s Odyssey feels like a restoration of an old, familiar building that had over the years been encrusted with too much gilt. She scrapes away at old encrusted layers, until she exposes what lies beneath.” - Financial Times
"This translation will change the way the poem is read in English." - The Guardian
"Wilson's project is basically a progressive one: to scrape away all the centuries of verbal and ideological buildup — the Christianising (Homer predates Christianity), the nostalgia, the added sexism (the epics are sexist enough as they are), and the Victorian euphemisms — to reveal something fresh and clean." - NPR
The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán       $32
Zeran uses the three characters in her novel to demonstrate the way in which the trauma of the Pinochet regime continues to distort the lives and memories of a second generation of Chileans. 
"The Remainder controls a remarkable range of registers (it is, by turns, lyrical, elegiac, sensual, funny, tragic). The author, like her characters, is obsessed with words, those`cracks in language' that house our particular ways of understanding things. Thanks, among other things, to the meticulous, obsessive attention to detail of her language, this novel is sure to endure." - Edmundo Paz Soldan
Katalin Street by Magda Szabó         $35
In prewar Budapest three families live side by side on gracious Katalin Street, their lives closely intertwined. A game is played by the four children in which Bálint, the promising son of the Major, invariably chooses Irén Elekes, the headmaster's dutiful elder daughter, over her younger sister, the scatterbrained Blanka, and little Henriette Held, the daughter of the Jewish dentist. Their lives are torn apart in 1944 by the German occupation, which only the Elekes family survives intact. The postwar regime relocates them to a cramped Soviet-style apartment and they struggle to come to terms with social and political change, personal loss, and unstated feelings of guilt over the deportation of the Held parents and the death of little Henriette, who had been left in their protection. 
Winner of the 2018 Pen Translation Prize. 
Mothers by Chris Power       $23
"To read Power's stories is to take a journey through a landscape familiar enough to console, yet strange enough to unsettle. The thrills and dangers of such a journey lie with the unexpectedness of life's undercurrents and our uncertain, unknowable selves. Chris Power's quiet yet compelling touch is reminiscent of Alice Munro and Peter Stamm." - Yiyun Li
Theory of Shadows by Paolo Maurensig        $30
In 1946, one-time world chess champion Alexander Alekhine was found dead in his hotel room in Portugal. His death is usually explained as a heart attack or from choking on poorly-chewed meat, but speculation abounds that his collaboration with the Nazis during World War 2 made him a target for the Soviet or French secret services. With the pace of a thriller and the acuity of a chess match, this novel brings to life this 'sadist of the chess world', both on the board and in the most unusual circumstances of his life. 
>> Ruthless Alekhine dispatched the elegant Capablanca to become World Chess Champion in 1927
Fruit of Knowledge by Liv Strömquist      $38
A funny and sharp graphic novel about how women's bodies have been a battleground for power throughout history.
"How I loved reading Liv Strömquist’s Fruit of Knowledge. Mostly, this was down to its sheer, punchy brilliance. Strömquist’s strips are clever, angry, funny and righteous, they’re also informative to an eye-popping degree. Every page is fantastically acute." - Rachel Cooke, The Guardian
The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova       $34
As surreal and "beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella" (to use words written in anticipation by le Comte de Lautréamont (with particular emphasis with reference to this collection upon the sewing machine)), Grodova's stories, full of baroque detail worn via patina to a thinness that makes them dangerously sharp to handle, take place in a world governed by strange customs, where significance is found in odd conjunctions, where obsessions assume the fatal ordinariness of custom, where only misfits approach normal, and where childhood is the conduit of immense threat, to children, parents and to wider society. All that is riven will henceforth continue to diverge, but Grodova's stories, lying on an axis of mitteleuropean flavour somewhere between Grimm's tales and accounts of Soviet privations, and on another axis somewhere between the stories of Angela Carter (pleasantly close to these) and  those of Ben Marcus, have as much delight (and even hope) in them as they do despair, for, after all, with an imagination as fertile (and a hand as steady) as Grudova's, anything could happen (not only the dreadful).
"That I cannot say what all these stories are about is a testament to their worth. They have been haunting me for days now. They have their own, highly distinct flavour, and the inevitability of uncomfortable dreams." — Nicholas Lezard, Guardian
>> Read 'Unstitching'.
>> The author's playlist for the book.
>> Posing.

>> An interview with Grudova
The Library of Ice: Readings from a cold climate by Nancy Campbell         $45
A beautifully written journey through the phenomena (both objective and subjective) and frozen histories of the Arctic an the Antarctic via the holdings of remarkable museums (including the world's northernmost museum at Upernavik in Greenland). A subtle exploration of the relationship between humans and habitats that are both harsh and fragile. 
"A wonderful book. Glaciers, Arctic floe, verglas, frost and snow - I can think of no better or warmer guide to the icy ends of the Earth. " - Dan Richards (author of Climbing Days)
Eggshells by Caitriona Lally          $23
As Vivian, a self-described 'changeling', travels around Dublin, following her very own brand of logic, the reader is invited to reconsider their own attitudes towards 'misfits' and to broaden their acceptance of human individuality. 
"Inventive, funny and, ultimately, moving." - Guardian
"Wildly funny." - The New York Times 

A Revolution in Feeling: The decade that forged the modern mind by Rachel Hewitt       $28
In the 1790s, Britain underwent what the politician Edmund Burke called 'the most important of all revolutions ... a revolution in sentiments'. Inspired by the French Revolution, British radicals concocted new political worlds to enshrine healthier, more productive, human emotions and relationships. The Enlightenment's wildest hopes crested in the utopian projects of such optimists - including the young poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the philosophers William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, the physician Thomas Beddoes and the first photographer Thomas Wedgwood - who sought to reform sex, education, commerce, politics and medicine by freeing desire from repressive constraints. But by the middle of the decade, the wind had changed. The French Revolution descended into bloody Terror and the British government quashed radical political activities. In the space of one decade, feverish optimism gave way to bleak disappointment, and changed the way we think about human need and longing. 
Unquiet Women: From the dusk of the Roman empire to the dawn of the Enlightenment by Max Adam          $45
Wynflæd was an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who owned male slaves and badger-skin gowns; Egeria a Gaulish nun who toured the Holy Land as the Roman Empire was collapsing; Gudrid an Icelandic explorer and the first woman to give birth to a European child on American soil; Mary Astell a philosopher who out-thought John Locke. Max Adam gives considerable breadth to our understanding of women's lives in the so-called Dark and so-called Middle Ages. 

Imagined Communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism by Benedict Anderson         $28
Required reading for understanding the relationship between identity politics and the sort of group identity that can either justify atrocity or throw off oppression. How can the will of the people blur into unthinking populism? 

Our Universe: An astronomer's guide by Jo Dunkley         $55
A leading astrophysicist clearly and entertainingly discusses the universe, and our place in it, from the basics to the latest research. Does the universe get stranger the more me know about it? 

>>Reach for the stars

Island on the Edge of the World: The story of St Kilda by Charles Maclean        $25
For more than two thousand years the people of St Kilda remained remote from the world. Their Hebridean society was viable, utopian even; but in the nineteenth century the islands were discovered by missionaries, do-gooders and tourists, who brought with them money, disease and despotism. In 1930, the few remaining islanders were evacuated, no longer able to support themselves.
Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau      $28
Ari has left school and wants to move to another city with his band. Among the applicants to take his place in the family bakery is Hector, who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. The two grow closer, but will their love bloom or be derailed? YA graphic novel. 

The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave      $22
Mila and her sisters live with their brother Oskar in a small forest cabin in the snow. One night, a fur-clad stranger arrives seeking shelter for himself and his men. But by the next morning, they've gone - taking Oskar with them. Fearful for his safety, Mila and her sisters set out to bring Oskar back - even it means going north, crossing frozen wild-lands to find a way past an eternal winter.

Jackfruit and Blue Ginger: Asian favourites made vegan by Sasha Gill        $45
90 plant-based, veganised versions of traditional Asian recipes inspired by the cuisine of India, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and China.
The Atlas of Heroes by Sandra Lawrence and Stuart Hill        $37
A attractively presented guide to heroes and heroines of world mythology. 
Chinatown Girl by Eva Wong Ng          $18
Set in Auckland in 1942, in an area of the city known as Chinatown where the descendants of the Chinese miners and market gardeners gathered together to maintain their culture and provide a sense of community. New Zealand is at war when Silvey starts her diary, but for Silvey this is just a backdrop to the main issues of her world: the closure of her school and the arrival of Chinese-American soldiers.

Kingdom by Jon McNaught        $30
The ordinary becomes extraordinary in this graphic novel of a journey through the in-between places of the landscape to the bleak coast. Kingdom follows a family on their holiday to a small caravan park, where teenager Andrew explores the dunes, and half-remembered stories from the past are shared. 

P is for Pterodactyl: The worst alphabet book ever by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter      $30
An alphabet book comprised entirely of words that don't sound as if they start with their initial letter. English is a confusing language - this book celebrates that confusion.
>> Whacky

Saturday 19 January 2019

BOOKS @ VOLUME #111 (19.1.19)

Our latest (and, notably, 111th) NEWSLETTER.


Days of Awe by A.M. Homes 
A.M.Homes is an acerbic and confident writer. A sharp stylist, her award-winning novel May We Be Forgiven (2012) remains memorable for its dark humour and shocking clarity. Homes has said of her writing: “What I'm doing, which sometimes makes people uncomfortable, is saying the things we don't want to say out loud." In her latest short story collection, Days of Awe, she holds nothing back in damning uber-wealthy American society, and the emotional and intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary life is played out through the characters across the stories. No one is exempt from Homes’s razor-sharp knife, a knife with tearing teeth. In these LA-set tales the extreme is the norm - therapy, plastic surgery (for dogs as well as humans), ever-so-perfect apartments where not-so-perfect lives play out, boredom and disappointment dressed up as gossip and intrigue, superficiality with a capital S - while the real issues, problems and heartaches are cordoned off, ignored, or laughed at. The characters, like players in a grand soap opera, are absurd in their normality - some stories become almost surreal - in their complete conviction that what they do is right even when it is obviously immoral or obscene. A.M. Homes captures these absurdities with witty dialogue and sharp observation. In 'Brother on Sunday' the competitive sibling scenario is played out to brilliant effect, with tight dialogue and sharp satire. In 'The National Caged Bird Show', all set within an online chat room about parakeets, the conversations going backwards and forwards with the usual interjections and exclamations, two of the seven attendees reveal traumatic experiences - a young girl is abused and a soldier reveals his disturbing incidents - while the others chat about feed, bird depression and health concerns and the habits of their beloved keets. Homes writes from the perspective of the old, the young, and the middle-aged, from the egotistical, the confident, the insecure, the oblivious and the damaged, showing how each is tangled up in their own lies, fantasies and obsessions. The stories make you laugh, despair and squirm, and will leave you observing society with just a little more clarity. They provide a critique of society that isn’t shy and isn’t afraid to be both absurd and truthful.   

The Essential Schopenhauer: Key selections from The World as Will and Representation and other writings by Arthur Schopenhauer , edited by Wolfgang Schirmacher  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“Life is a business that fails to meet its costs,” declares Schopenhauer (1788-1860), setting off to demonstrate that we live in the worst of all possible worlds. The human condition is that of “a pendulum between suffering and boredom”, and yet we persist, drawn into and through existence by an unsuppressable and unsatisfiable “will-to-live”, a malignant innate force against we must struggle to escape. Life should consist of a constant (paradoxical) struggle against one’s own willing, which “springs from want, and hence from suffering” which in turn is “simply nothing but unfulfilled and thwarted willing”. Schopenhauer’s strident pessimism and his investigations into individual motivation introduced Eastern philosophies into European thought, and underlie the work of Nietzsche, Freud, Wittgenstein, Tolstoy, Mann, Borges, Beckett and many others. How then to go on? Society, and indeed all functional existence, is predicated on collective and individual self-deception. Thomas Bernhard puts it well in Walking: “There is no doubt that the art lies in bearing what is unbearable and in not feeling that what is horrible is something horrible. Of course we have to label this art the most difficult of all. The art of existing against the facts.”

This week's Book of the Week has been a huge success in France and is now casting its spell over English-language readers. Christelle Dabos's exciting YA fantasy, A Winter's Promise, takes the reader into the world of the Arks, floating celestial islands between and within which a range of remarkable characters vie for power. Will plain-spoken, headstrong Ophelia find a way through the intrigues that surround her when she follows her fiancé to the capital of a cold, icy ark known as the Pole? 
>> Read Stella's review
>> Read an excerpt
>> Step through the mirror
>> The book is translated by Hildegarde Serle.
>> A brief teaser
>> Someone has made an animated trailer
>> Le Petit Monde de la Passe-Miroir
>> FB!
>> Teaching notes.
>> Read an excerpt from the yet-to-be-published-in-English The Missing of Clairdelune (the second book in 'The Mirror Visitor' series)
>> The third book will be called The Memory of Babel

Friday 18 January 2019


James K. Baxter: Letters of a Poet     $100
James K. Baxter was not a man of few words, and his private correspondence was no exception. Letters of a Poet, edited by his friend and frequent correspondent John Weir, contains almost 900 of Baxter's letters from 1939 to 1972, covering his teenage years and entire adult life. Frank, funny, generous, sometimes filthy, packed with poems and musings on love, the Catholic faith, and how to live well and write well, they provide remarkable new insights into his life and work. The two slip-cased volumes include letters to his parents, Archibald and Millicent Baxter, the conscientious objector Noel Ginn, and many of the leading literary figures of the time, including Charles Brasch, Allen Curnow, Frank Sargeson, Fleur Adcock, Lawrence Baigent, Barry Crump, Maurice Shadbolt, W. H. Oliver, Robin Dudding and many more.
The Blue Flowers by Raymond Queneau       $34
Which of the narrators in this twin-stranded novel is dreaming the other? The man who alternates between drinking and napping on the banks of the Seine in the 1960s, or the madcap Duke who gallops through some 700 years of French history? 
"Queneau is a unique example of a wise and intelligent writer who always goes against the grain of the dominant terndencies of his age and of French culture in particular - and he combines this with an endless need to invent and test possibilities. The Blue Flowers makes fun of history , denying its progress and reducing it to the substance of daily existence." - Italo Calvino
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado         $23
Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women's lives and the violence visited upon their bodies. A wife refuses her husband's entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A sales assistant makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the dresses she sells. A woman's surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. Now in paperback.
"Carmen Maria Machado is the best writer of cognitive dysphoria I’ve read in years. " - Tor
"Life is too short to be afraid of nothing." - Machado
Dreamers: When the writers took power, Germany, 1919 by Volker Weidermann        $40
 At the end of the First World War in Germany, the journalist and theatre critic Kurt Eisner organised a revolution which overthrew the monarchy, and declared a Free State of Bavaria. In February 1919, he was assassinated, and the revolution failed. But while the dream lived, it was the writers, the poets, the playwrights and the intellectuals who led the way. As well as Eisner, Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, and many other prominent figures in German cultural history were involved.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn           $45
What shapes our ideas of home and homelessness? Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall. Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. This account is an astounding piece of nature writing, revealing the immense restorative power of the natural world in times of grief and stress. 
>>"The wildness of nature became the reason to go on." 
The Anarchist Who Shared My Name by Pablo Martín Sánchez     $35
When author Pablo Martín Sánchez decides to search himself on the internet, he discovers that he shares his name with an anarchist who, in November 1924, was part of an attempt to overthrow Spanish dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera. Intrigued, Martín Sánchez sets out to learn more about the life of the man who shares his namesake. What he uncovers is the fascinating account of an unintentional revolutionary, swept up in a campaign he isn’t sure he believes in—one that leads, ultimately, to a tragic fate.
An interestingly structured mixture of fiction and fact, from the first Spanish member of the OuLiPo. 
>> Read an excerpt
Salt of the Earth by Józef Wittlin         $33
An excellent new translation of Wittlin's classic antiwar novel. When the First World War comes to the Carpathian mountains, Piotr is drafted into the army. Unwilling, uncomprehending, the bewildered man is forced to fight a war he does not understand - against his national as well as his personal interests.
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday         $23
A tripartite story of relationships across boundaries of age, gender, politics and nationality.
“Asymmetry is extraordinary. Halliday has written, somehow all at once, a transgressive roman a clef, a novel of ideas and a politically engaged work of metafiction.” — The New York Times Book Review

"A scorchingly intelligent first novel...Asymmetry will make you a better reader, a more active noticer. It hones your senses." - The New York Times
"A book unlike any you've read." - Chuck Harbach
The Key to Flambards by Linda Newbery        $22
Grace Russell, at fourteen, has already had to adjust to a devastating accident from which she'll never recover. Now she and her newly-single mother are leaving their suburban home for Flambards house, out in the Essex countryside. The house has a long history, and Grace's mother is to work there for the summer - an exciting new opportunity. But, for Grace, everything feels wrong. She doesn't want yet another change. However, in spite of herself, she find herself becoming involved with two boys: Jamie, who leads her down a path of thrilling freedom, and the deeply troubled Marcus, who is dealing with his difficult, potentially violent father. Over time, Grace discovers her own links to the house and landscape she has just arrived in, and in turn, her own place in the world.
The Unhappiness of Being a Single Man: Essential stories by Franz Kafka      $25
A new selection newly translated by Alexander Starritt, and an excellent introduction to Kafka. 
>> Another excellent introduction to Kafka

Darwin's Most Wonderful Plants: Darwin's botany today by Ken Thompson      $28
Re-establishes Darwin as a pioneering botanist, whose close observations of plants were crucial to his theories of evolution.
Liquid: The delightful and dangerous substances that flow through our lives by Mark Miodownik        $40
Mark Miodownik takes us on a tour of the world of the droplets, heartbeats and ocean waves that we come across every day. Structured around a plane journey which sees encounters with substances from water and glue to coffee and wine, he shows how these liquids can bring death and destruction as well as wonder and fascination. From László Bíró's revolutionary pen and Abraham Gesner's kerosene to cutting-edge research on self-repairing roads and liquid computers, Miodownik brings the everyday to life. He reveals why liquids can flow up a tree but down a hill, why oil is sticky, and how waves can travel so far.
"Exciting, anarchic and surprising." - The Guardian
Recitation by Bae Suah       $30
The meeting between a group of emigrants and a mysterious, wandering actress in an empty train station sets the stage for this fragmentary yet lyrical meditation on language, travel, and memory. As the actress recounts the story of her stateless existence, an unreliable narrator and the interruptions of her audience challenge traditional notions of storytelling and identity.

The Legend of Sally Jones by Jakob Wegelius         $28
This is the story of a gorilla like no other. This is the story of a fantastic voyage across the world, from the Congolese rainforest to the grand bazaar of Istanbul, from Borneo to London, Singapore and beyond. The story of a mysterious jewel thief and a sad sailor with a heart of gold.  A story of friendship and adventure on the high seas. A wonderful graphic novel prequel to The Murderer's Ape

Sonam and the Silence by Ronak Taher and Eddie Ayers       $28
Why can't a young girl play music in public in Afghanistan? Beautifully drawn and affirming. 
Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher        $23
"Consider the Oyster marks M. F. K. Fisher's emergence as a storyteller so confident that she can manoeuver a reader through a narrative in which recipes enhance instead of interrupt the reader's attention to the tales. She approaches a recipe as a published dream or wish, and the stories she tells here are also stories of the pleasures and disillusionments of dreams fulfilled." - The New York Review of Books
"Since Lewis Carroll no one had written charmingly about that indecisively sexed bivalve until Mrs. Fisher came along with her Consider the Oyster. Surely this will stand for some time as the most judicious treatment in English." - Cliffton Fadiman
Dark Banquet: Blood and the curious lives of blood-feeding creatures by Bill Schutt        $35
 Sanguivores, hematophages, &c. Fascinating. 
Where Dani Goes, Happy Follows ('Dani' #6) by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson        $20
What do you do if your best friend lives in another city and the adults  can’t keep their promises about when you’ll see her? You have to sort it out for yourself!
Another book in this lovely series
The Moon in a Bowl of Water by Michael Harlow       $28
The poems are consciously rooted in Greek mythology and in the idea of storytelling as a continuous river, flowing from the ancients to the present, telling one story on the surface, but carrying in its depths the glints of ancient archetypes, symbols and myths.
The Beauty of Everyday Things by Soetsu Yanagi          $26
The daily lives of ordinary people are replete with objects, common things used in commonplace settings. These objects are our constant companions in life. As such, writes Soetsu Yanagi, they should be made with care and built to last, treated with respect and even affection. They should be natural and simple, sturdy and safe - the aesthetic result of wholeheartedly fulfilling utilitarian needs. 
The Balfour Declaration: Empire, the Mandate and resistance in Palestine by Bernard Rehan        $25
The Balfour Declaration was a statement issued by the British government in 1917 during World War I announcing support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a small minority Jewish population. Regan offers new insights into the imperial rivalries between Britain, Germany and the Ottomans, and exposes British policy in the region as part of a larger geopolitical game. Yet the course of events was not straightforward, and Regan charts the ongoing debates within the British government, the Zionist movement, and the Palestinian groups struggling for self-determination.
Leaving the Lyrebird Forest by Gary Crew, illustrated by Julian Laffin        $20
A beautiful story about friendship, change and our place in nature. Beautiful woodcuts, too. 

The Only Girl: My life and times on the masthead of Rolling Stone by Robin Green          $35

Green was the only women staff writer for Rolling Stone in the early 1970s. Her perspective on the scene and on the times is compelling.
Influenza: The quest to cure the deadliest disease in history by Jeremy Brown         $38
Will genetic sequencing help us to overcome the deadly shape-shifting virus? Are there other possible approaches?
>> See also Flu Hunter: Unlocking the secrets of a virus by New Zealand flu hunter Robert Webster. 

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt        $30
What does the centuries-long fascination with these legendary figures tell us about our history, and about the relationship between ethics and biology? 

Economics for the Many edited by John McDonnell       $35
After the collapse of the neoliberal experiment, will it be possible to rebuild an economy, and a society, along more egalitarian lines? 
Tirzah and the Prince of Crows by Deborah Kay Davies       $33
Brought up by a staunchly religious family, Tirzah has always lived quite a sheltered life in the Welsh Valleys. As she reaches her teenage years, she begins to question her upbringing and her values, moving for the first time beyond the narrow confines of the world she knows.

Only the Ocean by Natasha Carthew        $25
The two girls sat at opposite ends of the boat and Kel dug and stretched the oars into the ocean like her life depended upon it because it did. 'Just so you know,' said Rose, 'everything, and I mean everything, is your fault. 
Kel Crow lives in a dead-end swamp with her deadbeat family and a damaged heart. But she has a plan to escape. It's a one-two-three fortune story that goes: stow away on the ship, kidnap the girl, swap the girl to pay for passage to America and a life-saving operation.