Saturday 27 August 2022

BOOKS @ VOLUME #293 (26.8.22)

Read our latest newsletter (the 'Poetry Day' issue)!


>> Read all Stella's reviews.


Worn: A people's history of clothing by Sofi Thanhauser   {Reviewed by STELLA}
Worn is a wide-ranging and compelling look at clothing and textiles through the lens of five fabrics: linen, cotton, silk, synthetics and wool. Thanhasuer explores the social, economic, and environmental impacts of one of our most intimate possessions. A material culture history that reveals global links, as well as personal stories and our desire for clothes from ancient to contemporary times. As a maker of objects and a lover of clothes and their construction, with a good dose of interest in history and the social fabric that binds people and things, I loved this book. Each page revealed another fascinating detail in the history of clothing and the people who were engaged in the planting and harvesting of plants, in the processes — natural or chemical — and manufacture of fibre and the twisting, weaving or whatever other method imaginable to make fabric and then those textiles into the clothes we wore (and wear), through necessity and desire. Whether it is the arrival of the ‘season’ as denoted by the French court of Loius XIV or the rise of the factory workers in New York city fueled by the influence of young educated Jewish migrant women or the appalling treatment of workers in the American South, historically (slave and cheap labour) and today (illegal migrants) or the environmental impact of over-production of cotton in both America and China to the detriment of the land, the people and water reserves, you will find something in Thanhuaser's explorations that will surprise, intrigue and pique your curiosity about our relationship with what we wear and the origins of this relationship. The crafting of this book makes the vessel filled with so many facts, geopolitical analysis, fine details, expansive timeframes, technological advances, rich personal stories and empathetic observation, a pleasure to read. The decision by Thanhauser to tell this story through the lens of the five fabrics and the focus on particular (historical as well as contemporary) individuals — its people — makes Worn a lively, empathetic and engaging cultural history. 


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 

Autoportrait by Édouard Levé   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“I am inexhaustible on the subject of myself,” states Édouard Levé in this book which is nothing less than an attempt to exhaust everything that he can think of to say about himself, no matter how banal or embarrassing, with relentless objectivity. In one long string of seemingly random declarative statements without style or development or form (other than the form of the list, if a list can be said to be a form), the details accumulate with very fine grain, but the effect is disconcerting: the author comes no closer to exhausting his observations, and the idea that there is such a thing as a 'person' beyond the details seems more and more implausible. The list is not so much an accumulation as an obliteration: facts obscure that which they purport to represent. “I dream of an objective prose, but there is no such thing.” Levé’s style is deliberately and perfectly and admirably flat throughout (all perfect things should be admired (whatever that means)), like that of a police report. “I try to write prose that will be changed neither by translation nor by the passage of time.” The constructions often feel aphoristic but eschew the pretension of aphorisms to refer to anything other than the particulars of which they are constructed. There is no lens formed by these sentences to ‘see through’, no insight, no intimation of personality other than the jumbled bundling of details and tendencies assembled under the author’s name, no ‘self’ that expresses itself through these details or is approachable through these details, because we are none of us persons other than what we for convenience or comfort (or, rather, out of frustration and fear) bundle conceptually, mostly haphazardly, and treat as an entity or ‘person’. The more fact is compounded (or, rather, facts are compounded), the stronger the intimation that any attempt to exhaust the description of a person will never be approach we usually think of as a person. “If I look in mirrors for long enough, a moment comes when my face stops meaning anything.” As well as demonstrating the impossibility of the task which it attempts, description also cancels itself by implying for each positive statement a complementary negative statement. Each statement of the self-description of Édouard Levé functions to include those of us among his readers who are similar and to exclude those who are dissimilar. We find each statement either in accord or in disagreement with a statement we could similarly (or dissimilarly) make about ourselves. The reader is charted in the text as much as the author. The reader is continually comparing themselves to the author, finding accord or otherwise, exercising the kind of judgement concealed beneath all social interaction but typically hidden by content and mutuality. In Autoportrait, the author’s self-obsession is matched by our fascination with him, with the kinds of details that may or may not come to light in social interchange. Because the author is not aware of us and is not reciprocally interested in us, or feigning reciprocal interest in us, as would be the case in ‘real life’ social interaction, we feel no shame in our fascination, our fascination is dispassionate, clinical. He is likewise unaffected by our interest or otherwise in him. But as well as bundling together an open set of details that we may conveniently think of as facts (“Everything I write is true, but so what?”) about Édouard Levé (or ‘Édouard Levé’), the text also conjures an inverse Édouard Levé (or ‘Édouard Levé’) who is the opposite to him in every way, the person who nullifies him (in the way that all statements call into being their simple or compound opposites, their nullifiers). Levé’s obsession with identity, facsimile and the corrosive effects of representation reappear throughout the book, and towards the end he mentions the suicide of a friend from adolescence, which would form the basis for Levé’s final book, Suicide (after which Levé himself committed suicide). Édouard Levé was born on the same day as me, but on the other side of the planet. In Autoportrait he writes, “As a child I was convinced that I had a double on this earth, he and I were born on the same day, he had the same body, the same feelings I did, but not the same parents or the same background, for he lived on the other side of the planet, I knew that there was very little chance that I would meet him, but still I believed that this miracle would occur.” We never met. 


The Wall by Marlen Haushofer (translated by Shaun Whiteside)           $40

A woman goes to the Austrian mountains to spend a few days in a hunting lodge with her cousin and his wife. When the couple fail to return from a walk, the woman tries to go into the village to look for them. Instead she comes across a transparent wall behind which there seems to be no life. Trapped behind the wall, a result of a too successful military experiment, she begins the arduous work of not only survival but self-renewal. The Wall is at once a simple document of potatoes and beans, of hoping for a calf, of counting matches, of forgetting the taste of sugar and the use of one's name, and simultaneously a disturbing meditation on our place in the natural world.
"The Wall is a novel that contrives to be, by turns, utopian and dystopian, an idyll and a nightmare. In her isolation behind the wall, together with her animals, the woman discovers a new life, in comparison with which her existence before she came to the mountains seems trivial and pointless. The natural world which it describes with such rapt attention is cupped in the larger receptacle of a vivid and sinister dream, a dream we seem to have had many times before and which on each retelling leads to the same scene of horror at its climax." —Nicholas Spice, London Review of Books
"It is about our reasons for living, self-sufficiency, solitude, men, women, war, and love, and the problem of other minds. And the animals in this book-oh! I don't understand why this book is not considered one of the most important books of the twentieth century. I have been anxiously pushing it on everyone I know, and now I push it on you." —Sheila Heti, The Paris Review
>>Claire Louise Bennett on The Wall.
>>Read Thomas's review

Down with the Poor! by Shumona Sinha (translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan)            $34
Over the course of a night in police custody, a young woman tries to understand the rage that led her to assault a refugee on the Paris metro. She too is a foreigner, now earning a living as an interpreter for asylum seekers in the outskirts of the city. Translating the stories of men and women who come from her country of birth, into the language of her country of citizenship, Sinha’s narrator finds herself caught up in a tangle of lies and truths. 
"A provocative and visceral book about class, caste, fear and self-loathing, exposing the real generational damage Imperialism wreaks on brown minds. Shumona Sinha gets inside the skin of an everyday woman turned monster by the system: her voice grips the imagination and does not let go." —Preti Taneja

Jumping Sundays: The rise and fall of the counterculture in Aotearoa New  Zealand by Nick Bollinger          $50
What transformation was wrought upon society by the counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s? Bollinger tells the story of beards and bombs, freaks and firebrands, self-destruction and self-realisation, during a turbulent period.
"A compelling and important history of the counterculture in Aotearoa New Zealand. Meticulously researched and full of vivid details and memorable photographs, this book is an immensely readable and absorbing account of an important era in our recent history." —Sue Kedgley
"Jumping Sundays is a fluent, vivid, coherent and succinct account of a period of turmoil during which major changes took place in New Zealand society, and of the ways we understood what that society was, what it had been, and what it could yet become." —Martin Edmond
"An absorbing and serious account that is also terrific fun. Deft interviews and personal letters provide rollicking recollections together with many amazing new photographs and images. Bollinger puts a personal and personable stamp on this critical decade with words, sights and sounds that surprise and delight." —Bronwyn Labrum
>>The liberation of Albert Park
Autoportrait by Jesse Ball          $48
Taking as its model Édouard Levé's Autoportrait, and written in a single day, Jesse Ball's book is a remarkable memoir in which the important and unimportant details of his life are shown to be equally revelatory not only of the thinking and experiences of one of America's most interesting and nuanced writers, but of life itself (so to call it). How does memory work? What do we think is important to us? Why do we spend so much time and effort on other things? Ball brings focus,, insight and humane curiosity to the circumstances of being alive. 
"The pleasure, here, is in errancy and velocity. Ball's text leans into cold wonder, flirting with a Francis Ponge-like poetry of the mundane and highlighting his predilection for the absurd, the diffuse, the simply odd. Much of the strange delight of reading this book is found in teasing out the precise nature of Ball's writerly persona, variously warm and cold, aloof and sincere." —Bailey Trela, Frieze
"Both Ball and Levé are working in a tradition that falls under the rubric of 'life writing,' encompassing both memoir and the stranger territory known as autofiction. At the heart of each is the tension between experience and memory, or objectivity and subjectivity. These two Autoportraits push back against the familiar narrative arc in favor of something more conditional and authentic. More than merely an act of solipsism or ego, these works attempt to record nothing less than the operation of consciousness itself." —David L. Ulin, The Wall Street Journal
>>Read Thomas's review of Édouard Levé's Autoportrait
The Opposite of a Person by Lieke Marsman (translated by Sophie Collins)           $23
 When Ida, a Dutch climatologist, accepts an internship at a climate research institute in the Italian Alps, it means leaving her girlfriend Robin behind in Amsterdam. As she and her new colleagues prepare to demolish a decommissioned hydropower dam, Ida finds herself grappling with love, loneliness and her place in a society unwilling to confront global warming.
"Stunning. An existentialist, essential story about the world we live in." —Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
"The Opposite of a Person channels its forked curiosity into asking not only how a person should be, what a society should do, but also what a book can and should accomplish. A novel for the end-times, in the best possible way." —Polly Barton

>>The essay, the object, and the re-mix

The Dangerous Journey by Tove Jansson (translated by Sophie Hannah)          $29

A little girl is transported with the help of magic glasses from the tedium of a summer afternoon into an exciting world of mangrove swamps, spluttering volcanoes and sea where birds fly upside down and wild things threaten to pounce. But she is not alone. Old friends from Moomin Valley — Hemulen, Sniff, Snufkin, Thingummy & Bob — have joined her in her journey, and Moomintroll too, who rides to their rescue in a stripy balloon.

>>Have a look inside the book!

Bear Woman by Karolina Ramqvist (translated by Saskia Vogel)          $37
1542. A French noblewoman is left abandoned on a small island north of Nova Scotia. She has a crossbow, arquebuses and gunpowder. The island is populated only by wild beasts. She may be pregnant at this time. Centuries later, whilst mothering her young children, a woman begins writing what she believes to be a television script about the life of Marguerite de la Rocque and her incredible story of survival against the odds. As she draws closer to the nature of Marguerite, the woman begins to question her ability to tell this story, or that of any woman in history, and in so doing exposes a fundamental truth about what it is to be both a writer and mother. This fascinating book combinines historical text, autofiction and essay with the uncertainty of memory. Perfect if you loved A Ghost in the Throat
>>Navigating the silences of women's history.
House Arrest: Pandemic diaries by Alan Bennett           $17
Reflections on Covid and confinement from the humane and perceptive pen of Alan Bennett.
4 March. HMQ pictured in the paper at an investiture wearing gloves, presumably as a precaution against Coronavirus. But not just gloves; these are almost gauntlets. I hope they're not the thin end of a precautionary wedge lest Her Majesty end up swathed in protective get-up such as is worn at the average crime scene.
20 March. With Rupert now working from home my life is much easier, as I get regular cups of tea and a lovely hot lunch.
Shadowlands: A journey through lost Britain by Matthew Green            $45
Britain's landscape is scarred with haunting and romantic remains; these shadowlands that were once filled with life are now just spectral echoes. Peering through the cracks of history, we find Dunwich, a medieval city plunged off a Suffolk cliff by sea storms; the lost city of Trellech unearthed by moles in the Welsh Marches; and the ghostly reservoir that is Capel Celyn, one of the few remaining solely Welsh-speaking villages, drowned by Liverpool City Council. Historian Matthew Green tells the extraordinary stories of how these places met their fate and probes the disappearances to explain why Britain looks the way it does today. Travelling across Britain, Green transports the reader to these places as they teeter on the brink of oblivion, vividly capturing the sounds of the sea clawing away row upon row of houses, the taste of medieval wine, or the sights of puffin hunting on the tallest cliffs in the country. We experience them in their prime, look on at their destruction and revisit their lingering remains later as they are mourned by evictees and reimagined by artists, writers and mavericks.
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka         $40
Colombo, 1990. Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet queen, has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira lake and he has no idea who killed him. At a time where scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long, as the ghouls and ghosts with grudges who cluster round can attest. But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has seven moons to try and contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos that will rock Sri Lanka. A searing satire of contemporary Sri Lanka. 
>>Long-listed for the 2022 Booker Prize
The Shadow Drawing: How science taught Leonardo how to paint by Francesca Fiorani          $43
What was the connection between Leonardo the painter and Leonardo the scientist? And what can a mysterious, long-lost book teach us about how Leonardo truly conceived his art? Shortly after Leonardo’s death, his peers and rivals created the myth of the two Leonardos: there was Leonardo the artist and then, later in life, Leonardo the scientist. In this pathbreaking biographical interpretation, the art historian Francesca Fiorani tells a very different and much more interesting story. Taking a fresh look at Leonardo’s celebrated but challenging notebooks as well as other, often obscure sources, Fiorani shows that Leonardo became fluent in science when he was still a young man. As an apprentice in a Florence studio, he was especially interested in the science of optics, which tells us how we see what we see. For the rest of his life he remained, according to a close observer, obsessed with optics, believing that his art would grow only as his knowledge of light and shadow deepened. 
Exiles: Three island journeys by William Atkins       $45
This is the story of three unheralded nineteenth-century dissidents, whose lives were profoundly shaped by the winds of empire, nationalism and autocracy that continue to blow strongly today: Louise Michel, a leader of the radical socialist government known as the Paris Commune; Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo, an enemy of British colonialism in Zululand; and Lev Shternberg, a militant campaigner against Russian tsarism. In Exiles, William Atkins travels to their islands of banishment — Michel's New Caledonia in the South Pacific, Dinuzulu's St Helena in the South Atlantic, and Shternberg's Sakhalin off the Siberian coast — in a bid to understand how exile shaped them and the people among whom they were exiled. In doing so he illuminates the solidarities that emerged between the exiled subject, on the one hand, and the colonised subject, on the other. Rendering these figures and the places they were forced to occupy in shimmering detail, Atkins reveals deeply human truths about displacement, colonialism and what it means to have and to lose a home.
"One of the best makers of sentences around." —Olivia Lang
Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks            $23
Maud Martha Brown is a little girl growing up on the South Side of 1940s Chicago. Amidst the crumbling taverns and overgrown yards, she dreams: of New York, romance, her future. She admires dandelions, learns to drink coffee, falls in love, decorates her kitchenette, visits the Jungly Hovel, guts a chicken, buys hats, gives birth. But her lighter-skinned husband has dreams too: of the Foxy Cats Club, other women, war. And the 'scraps of baffled hate' — a certain word from a saleswoman; that visit to the cinema; the cruelty of a department store Santa Claus — are always there. Written in 1953, Maud Martha is a poetic collage of happenings that forms an extraordinary portrait of an ordinary life: one lived with wisdom, humour, protest, rage, dignity, and joy.
"Such a wonderful book. Utterly unique, exquisitely crafted and quietly powerful. I loved it and want everyone to read this lost literary treasure." —Bernardine Evaristo
Grumpy Pants by Clare Messer           $17
Have you ever had a grumpy day and not known why? Penguin is having a grumpy day like that. No matter what he does, he just can't shake it! Sometimes the only thing left to do is wash the grumpy day away and start over. The simple text and lively illustrations are the perfect cure for even the grumpiest of days.
Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson            $33
The author of Negroland fuses cultural analysis and memoir to probe race, class, family and art. Taking in the jazz and blues icons whom Jefferson idolised as a child in the 1950s, ideas of what the female body could be — as incarnated by trailblazing Black dancers and athletes — Harriet Beecher Stowe's Topsy reimagined in the artworks of Kara Walker, white supremacy in the novels of Willa Cather, and more, this account is both a critique and a vindication of the constructed self.
"Jefferson takes vital risks, tosses away rungs of the ladder as it climbs, and offers an indispensable, rollicking account of the enchantments, pleasures, costs, and complexities of 'imagining and interpreting what had not imagined you'." —Maggie Nelson
"She knows everything and has felt it all deeply. If you want to know who we are and where we've been, read Margo Jefferson." —Edmund White
"This is one of the most imaginative—and therefore moving—memoirs I have ever read." —Vivian Gornick
Persiana Everyday by Sabrina Ghayour              $50
Ghayour follows her first hugely popular Persiana cookbook with another 100 superb recipes designed to ensure maximum flavour with the greatest of ease. Try Small Plates Including My Muhammara; Fried feta parcels with honey; My flavour bomb beans on toast Salads for All Seasons Including Chicken & cucumber salad with pul biber & tahini lime dressing; Courgette, apple, peanut & feta salad with basil and pul biber; Jewelled tomato salad Poultry & Meat Including Bloody Mary spatchcocked chicken; Halloumi fatteh; Speedy lamb shawarma Fish & Seafood Including Fragrant roasted haddock; Spicy orange & harissa-glazed cod; Marmalade prawns with barberry, chilli & chive butter Vegetable Love Including Ash-e-Reshteh; Pomegranate & harissa roasted aubergine steak; Sticky tamarind, garlic & tomato green beans Carbs of All Kinds Including Super-quick smoky tomato couscous; Lazy Mantí; Tangy bulgur wheat bake with roasted onions Something Sweet Including Rhubarb, rose & pistachio trifle pots; Orange & dark chocolate rubble cake; Cardamom & mocha rice pudding.

Friday 26 August 2022


Whether we read poetry or write it, our Book of the Week is the perfect inducement to both broaden and deepen our engagement. In Actions & Travels: How poetry works, Anna Jackson leads us to consider simplicity and resonance, imagery and form, letters and odes — and much more — and provides insightful readings of 100 poems of all sorts and all eras to show us how to get the most out of words — our own or someone else's. 
>>Openings rather than closures
>>Read an extract
>>You don't need research to read poetry
>>Beyond a joke
>>Anna Jackson's reading lists
>>Your Actions & Travels
>>Browse our poetry section
(order 2 or more poetry books and get free delivery (offer ends 29.18)).

The Nelson Poetry Map records and shares connections between poetry and places. Contribute poems to our open-access map, tagged to the locations you associate with those poems. Visit the locations and read the poems on your mobile device (or take a virtual tour without leaving home). 

Celebrate National Poetry Day
with new books for your shelf.
Buy any two or more
and we'll oblige
with free delivery to your door.
Free delivery offer extends from National Poetry Day (Friday 26 August) to Monday 29 August.


Friday 19 August 2022


BOOKS @ VOLUME #292 (19.8.22)

Read our latest newsletter!


>> Read all Stella's reviews.


Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi (translated by Lucy North and David Boyd)  {Reviewed by STELLA}
A charming if somewhat absurd novel about office life and maternity expectations in contemporary Japan. Ms Shibata, a thirty-something office worker, is tired of working for a manufacturer of cardboard cores (yes, really!) for paper products. Mostly she’s fed up with the expectation from her predominantly male colleagues that she will empty the rubbish bins, fill the photocopier with paper, empty the ashtrays and wash the coffee cups. So one day she feigns pregnancy to get out of cleaning up after a meeting. Claiming it’s making her feel nauseous, she suddenly finds herself off the hook from these menial tasks, which now fall to the male office junior who has recently started at the company. There’s a problem though — she has to keep up the pretence. And so she does. This is a hilarious tale of subterfuge, interspersed with a surprisingly sharp analysis of impending motherhood, as well as the interest (sometimes intrusive) that being pregnant in the workplace, and, by extension, society, garners for women. Even though she will be a single mother, there is no stigma — more a sense of concern and care. The drawback to pretending to be pregnant is the attention, a different set of expectations, she draws from her office colleagues — some of them, well, one, in particular, are too keen on advice and suggestions of names. On the other hand, she now gets to knock off at 5 pm — a big advantage in the 'long-hours office' world she inhabits: others do the extra tasks and she gets to go to free aerobic classes. There’s a special tag for her bag indicating her status to the world at large, which entitles her to a seat on the train and more consideration as now she’s contributing to the future generation. And, if she pulls it off, there’s a year’s maternity leave — without the overtime: it will be a bit tight but a good budget will ensure it’s enough. Though this is hardly Ms Shibata’s game — there’s no intention of swindling. There’s no plan. In fact, you get the distinct impression that this woman is adrift in a large city, anonymous and ground down by a dull job with few prospects. She’s lonely. The expectant mothers’ fitness class gives her a sense of community, but, of course, she’s also adrift here — not really one of the clan. As she reaches ‘full term’ — she’s been eating for two and stuffing her clothes — there are small moments where she’s so convincing that she’s almost convinced herself. Ms Shibata is in phantom pregnancy territory — it has her slightly derailed, and for a moment the reader worries for her sanity. Emi Yagi's Diary of a Void cleverly takes the concept of time and recording a pregnancy (every expectant mother in Japan is given a government-regulation handbook similar to our Plunket book) to an extreme level — a diary of nothing — in an attempt to highlight the double standards of office culture and the role of motherhood in Japan. Entertaining, ironic and surprisingly endearing. 


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra (translated by Megan McDowell)   {Reviewed by THOMAS}

If texts are not completed until they are read, and if the realisation of those texts is largely dependent upon the contexts in which they are read, each reading becomes a test, both of the text and of the reader (the author by this time having taken refuge in the past (a state indistinguishable from death)). In Zambra's clever, ironic and poignant book, a series of increasingly lengthy texts are presented with accompanying multi-choice questions (modelled on the Chilean Academic Aptitude test, a multi-choice university entrance examination [!]) which demand that the reader insert, exclude, suppress, complete or 'interpret' elements of the text. Any provision of choice combined with the restriction to set choices and the impulsion to choose is not only a way of assessing an aspirant but a way of moulding that aspirant's thinking into categories set by whatever is the relevant authority. This thought-moulding, the reader's constant awareness while reading that they will be judged and categorised but not knowing for what, the constant possibility that one's experience may have aspects of it erased or re-ordered by agents of authority (with whom even the reader may be complicit under unforeseen circumstances) but not knowing in advance which aspects these may be have especial resonance with the Chilean dictatorship in which Zambra grew up, but are always all about us for, after all, is not the erasure or addition of detail concerning the past (and these stories are all written in the past tense) an inescapable part of the tussle for reality that takes place constantly all around us at all levels, personal, interpersonal, historical, political? The book is also 'about' writing stories: how does the inclusion, exclusion and ordering of detail affect the reader's understanding of and response to a text? These are considerations a writer is constantly, dauntingly faced with and which they usually in the first instance answer from their own experience as a reader (in this case the author is incapable of benefitting from criticism by being embedded in the past (a state indistinguishable from death) but has made himself immune to judgement by allowing for all possibilities and committing himself to none (or at least seemingly: is this political prevarication or subversive smokescreen?). As well as being 'about' all these sorts of things, the book is fun and funny, and it can also be read with enjoyment on the level of the spectacle.


Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi (translated by Lucy North and David Boyd)            $35
Thirty-four-year-old Ms Shibata works for a company manufacturing cardboard tubes and paper cores in Tokyo. Her job is relatively secure: she's a full-time employee, and the company has a better reputation than her previous workplace, where she was subject to sexual harassment by clients and colleagues. But the job requires working overtime almost every day. Most frustratingly, as the only woman, there's the unspoken expectation that Ms Shibata will handle all the menial chores: serving coffee during meetings, cleaning the kitchenette, coordinating all the gifts sent to the company, emptying the bins. One day, exasperated and fed up, Ms Shibata announces that she can't clear away her colleagues' dirty cups, because she's pregnant. She isn't. But her 'news' brings results: a sudden change in the way she's treated. Immediately a new life begins. How long can she sustain this deception? 
"Diary of a Void advances one of the most passionate cases I've ever read for female interiority, for women's creative pulse and rich inner life." —The New Yorker
>>Read Stella's review
Marble by Amalie Smith (translated by Jennifer Russell)           $38
Recently unearthed from the ground, Marble leaves her new lover in Copenhagen and travels to Athens. The city is overflowing with colour, steam and fragrance, cats cry like babies at night, the economic crisis is raging. In this volatile landscape, Marble grasps the world by exploring its immediate surfaces. Capturing specks of colour on ancient sculptures in the Acropolis Museum with an infrared camera, she simultaneously traces the pioneering sculptor Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen, who spent several months in the same place 110 years earlier. Far away from her husband and children, Carl-Nielsen showed that Archaic sculptures were originally painted in bright colours — a feat which meant defying Victorian gender roles and jeopardising her marriage. Marble is a galvanizing novel about the materials life is made of, about korai and sponge diving, about looking and looking again.
"A novel that, by virtue of its mix of literary suggestion, aesthetic experience and art historical insight, makes something that is simultaneously straightforwardly concrete and almost incomprehensibly abstract come alive." —Jyllands-Posten
Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra (translated by Megan McDowell)               $23
Reader, your life is full of choices. Some will bring you joy and others will bring you heartache. Will you choose to cheat (in life, the examination that follows) or will you choose to copy? Will you fall in love? If so, will you remember her name and the number of freckles on her back? Will you marry, divorce, annul? Will you leave your run-down neighbourhood, your long-suffering country and your family? Will you honour your dead, those you loved and those you didn't? Will you have a child, will you regret it? Will you tell them you regret it? Will you, when all's said and done, deserve a kick in the balls? Will you find, here, in this slender book, fictions that entertain and puzzle you? Fictions that reflect yourself back to you? Will you find yourself? Relax, concentrate, dispel any anxious thoughts. Let the world around you settle and fade. Are you ready? Now turn over your papers, and begin.
>>Read Thomas's review
Concerning My Daughter by Kim Hye-jin (translated by Jamie Chang)            $38
When a mother allows her thirty-something daughter to move into her apartment, she wants for her what many mothers might say they want for their child: a steady income, and, even better, a good husband with a good job with whom to start a family. But when Green turns up with her girlfriend, Lane, in tow, her mother is unprepared and unwilling to welcome Lane into her home. In fact, she can barely bring herself to be civil. Having centred her life on her husband and child, her daughter’s definition of family is not one she can accept. Her daughter’s involvement in a case of unfair dismissal involving gay colleagues from the university where she works is similarly strange to her. And yet when the care home where she works insists that she lower her standard of care for an elderly dementia patient who has no family, who travelled the world as a successful diplomat, who chose not to have children, Green’s mother cannot accept it. Why should not having chosen a traditional life mean that your life is worth nothing at all? 
"I can't help but be moved by a story about women meeting, fighting, helping each other, looking after one another, and raising their voices against the prejudice and criticism they are subject to." —Cho Nam-joo, author of Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982
Dinner with Joseph Johnson: Books and friendship in a revolutionary age by Daisy Hay           $48
Joseph Johnson became a bookseller and a maker of books in an age when books appeared to have the potential to change the world. Between 1760 and 1809, the years of Johnson's adulthood, Britain experienced a period of political, social, scientific, cultural, religious and scientific change during which nothing was certain and everything seemed possible. On paper Johnson's dinner guests charted the evolution of Britain's relationship first with America and then with Europe- several were intimately involved in the struggles that reformed the world order. They pioneered revolutions in medical treatment and scientific enquiry and they proclaimed the rights of women and children. The men and women who gathered around Johnson had no communal name and they never moved as a single group. Some, like Wollstonecraft, Fuseli, Bonnycastle and Lindsey, frequented his shop and his dining room without waiting to be invited, treating his home as an extension of their own. Others, like Priestley and Barbauld, viewed St Paul's Churchyard as their pole star. Paine, Trimmer and Darwin left fewer textual traces of their physical presence in Johnson's house. One man, Johnson's engraver William Blake, came to dinner only rarely. The poet William Cowper never visited London but he made his presence felt in the dining room just as surely as did those who came to Johnson's shop and home. Johnson turned his home into a place where writers of contrasting politics and personalities could come together. The dining room provided space for thinking and talking but it also symbolised and served as a sanctuary at times of crisis. Johnson's guests had to contend with events that threatened their physical security as well as their intellectual liberty. In the tumultuous years either side of the French Revolution they faced riots, fire, exile and prison, alongside the more quotidian but no less serious threats of homelessness, mental collapse, poverty and the exigencies of childbirth. Throughout Johnson's house provided a refuge, and his labours allowed his visitors to make their voices heard even when external forces conspired to silence them.
I'll Keep You Close by Jeska Verstegen             $19
A young girl comes to understand why her mother is so fearful and overprotective when her class starts studying the Holocaust. Jeska doesn't know why her mother keeps the curtains drawn so tightly every day. And what exactly is she trying to drown out when she floods the house with Mozart? What are they hiding from? When Jeska's grandmother accidentally calls her by a stranger's name, she seizes her first clue to uncovering her family's past, and hopefully to all that's gone unsaid. With the help of an old family photo album, her father's encyclopedia collection, and the unquestioning friendship of a stray cat, the silence begins to melt into frightening clarity: Jeska's family survived a terror that they've worked hard to keep secret all her life. And somehow, it has both nothing and everything to do with her, all at once. A true story of navigating generational trauma as a child, I'll Keep You Close is about what comes after disaster: how survivors move forward, what they bring with them when they do, and the promise of beginning again while always keeping the past close.
My Own Worst Enemy: Scenes of a childhood by Robert Edric            $40
An honest and moving memoir of a working-class childhood in 1960s Sheffield, and the relationship between a touchy, overbearing bully of a father and a son whose acceptance to grammar school puts him on another track entirely. With a novelist's eye, Robert Edric vividly depicts a now-vanished era: of working-men's clubs; of tight-knit communities in factory towns; and of a time when a woman's place was in the home. And he brings to colourful life his family, both close and extended - though over all of it hovers the vanity and barely-suppressed anger of his own father.
This Is Not My Memoir by André Gregory and Todd London          $40
This Is Not My Memoir tells the life story of André Gregory, iconic theater director, writer, and actor. For the first time, André shares memories from a life lived for art, including stories from the making of My Dinner with André. Taking on the dizzying, wondrous nature of a fever dream, This Is Not My Memoir includes fantastic and fantastical stories that take the reader from wartime Paris to golden-age Hollywood, from avant-garde theaters to monasteries in India. Along the way we meet Jerzy Grotowski, Helene Weigel, Gregory Peck, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, Wallace Shawn, and many other larger-than-life personalities.
>>My Dinner with André.
>>Wallace Shawn's Night Thoughts
Motherlands: In search of our inherited cities by Amaryllis Gacioppo         $33
Our creation stories begin with the notion of expulsion from our 'original' home. We spend our lives struggling to return to the place we fit in, the body we belong in, the people that understand us, the life we were meant for. But the places we remember are ever-changing, and ever since we left, they continue to alter themselves, betraying the deal made when leaving. Australian writer Amaryllis Gacioppo has been raised on stories of original homes, on the Palermo of her mother, the Benghazi of her grandmother and the Turin of her great-grandmother. But what does belonging mean when you're not sure of where home is? Is the modern nation state defined by those who flourish there or by those who aren't welcome? Is visiting the land of one's ancestors a return, a chance to feel complete, or a fantasy?
A Little Devil in America: In praise of Black performance by Hanif Abdurraqib          $26
"Hanif Abdurraqib's genius is in pinpointing those moments in American cultural history when Black people made lightning strike. But Black performance, Black artistry, Black freedom too often came at devastating price. The real devil in America is America itself, the one who stole the soul that he, through open eyes and fearless prose, snatches back. This is searing, revelatory, filled with utter heartbreak, and unstoppable joy." —Marlon James
Conquered: The last children of Anglo-Saxon England by Eleanor Parker            $44
The Battle of Hastings and its aftermath nearly wiped out the leading families of Anglo-Saxon England. What happened to the children this conflict left behind?Conquered offers a fresh take on the Norman Conquest by exploring the lives of those children, who found themselves uprooted by the dramatic events of 1066. Among them were the children of Harold Godwineson and his brothers, survivors of a family shattered by violence who were led by their courageous grandmother Gytha to start again elsewhere. Then there were the last remaining heirs of the Anglo-Saxon royal line - Edgar Ætheling, Margaret, and Christina - who sought refuge in Scotland, where Margaret became a beloved queen and saint. Other survivors, such as Waltheof of Northumbria and Fenland hero Hereward, became legendary for rebelling against the Norman conquerors. And then there were some, like Eadmer of Canterbury, who chose to influence history by recording their own memories of the pre-conquest world. From sagas and saints' lives to chronicles and romances, Parker draws on a wide range of medieval sources to tell the stories of these young men and women and highlight the role they played in developing a new Anglo-Norman society. 
Birdgirl by Mya-Rose Craig            $40
"Birdwatching has never felt like a hobby, or a pastime I can pick up and put down, but a thread running through the pattern of my life, so tightly woven in that there's no way of pulling it free and leaving the rest of my life intact."
Meet Mya-Rose — otherwise known as 'Birdgirl'. Birder, environmentalist, diversity activist. To date she has seen over five thousand different types of bird- half the world's species. Every single bird a treasure. Each sighting a small step in her family journey — a collective moment of joy and stillness amidst her mother's deepening mental health crisis. And each helping her to find her voice.
"Lyrical, poignant and insightful." —Margaret Atwood
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin          $37
Two kids meet in a hospital gaming room in 1987. One is visiting her sister, the other is recovering from a car crash. The days and months are long there. Their love of video games becomes a shared world — of joy, escape and fierce competition. But all too soon that time is over, fades from view. When the pair spot each other eight years later in a crowded train station, they are catapulted back to that moment. The spark is immediate, and together they get to work on what they love — making games to delight, challenge and immerse players, finding an intimacy in digital worlds that eludes them in their real lives. Their collaborations make them superstars. This is the story of the perfect worlds Sadie and Sam build, the imperfect world they live in, and of everything that comes after success: Money. Fame. Duplicity. Tragedy.
"Utterly brilliant. In this sweeping, gorgeously written novel, Gabrielle Zevin charts the beauty, tenacity, and fragility of human love and creativity." —John Green
Atoms by John Devolle                $25
What is an atom? Where did they come from? Were dinosaurs made of atoms too? Atoms combines bold, colourful illustrations with jokes and incredible facts to explain some amazing scientific concepts in terms that a four-year-old can understand-from atomic theory to the Big Bang, evolution and the fact that you, your dog and everyone you know are all actually made of stardust!
Ways of Being: Beyond human intelligence by James Bridle           $50
What does it mean to be intelligent? Is it something unique to humans — or do we share it with other beings? Recent years have seen rapid advances in 'artificial' intelligence, which increasingly appears to be something stranger than we ever imagined. At the same time, we are becoming more aware of the other intelligences which have been with us all along, unrecognised. These other beings are the animals, plants, and natural systems that surround us, and are slowly revealing their complexity and knowledge — just as the new technologies we've built are threatening to cause their extinction, and ours. In Ways of Being, writer and artist James Bridle considers the fascinating, uncanny and multiple ways of existing on earth. What can we learn from these other forms of intelligence and personhood, and how can we change our societies to live more equitably with one another and the non-human world?
The human movement of diseases and pests has affected every corner of the globe, even Antarctica. We need effective management approaches that cause the least possible harm, especially as our population grows and we become increasingly connected. Lester explores the problems of international movement, methodologies designed to limit the unintentional introduction of species across borders, New Zealand’s biosecurity legislation, the limits and possibilities of eradication as a goal, the means of population control, and the management of pathogens in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Illuminating this discussion are stories of cats on parachutes, angry hippos, cannibalistic cane toads, and a cook who unwittingly gave typhoid to at least 51 other people. 
Men to Avoid in Art and Life by Nicole Tersigni          $30
Uses captioned artworks from the Old Masters and others to highlight common instances of presumption, mansplaining, insensitivity, gaslighting, and gross sexism.