Something a bit different?

The Emperor's Babe
by Bernardine Evaristo

We think: this really is a bit different!

If you enjoyed the Booker Prize winning Girl, Woman, Other (and if you haven't yet read it, you're missing out), why not try one of Bernardine Evaristo's earlier novels? We recommend the Emperor's Babe as a fun, escapist and provocative read. Evaristo's verse fiction will take you back to Gracechurch Street, Londinium AD 211 where Zuleika, a reluctant teenage bride, catches the eye of the most powerful man on earth, the Emperor Septimus and the trouble really starts...

 

Humankind
by Rutger Bregman

We think: much needed positivity

Humankind makes a new argument: that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary, to assume that people are good.

In this major book, internationally bestselling author Rutger Bregman takes some of the world's most famous studies and events and reframes them, providing a new perspective on the last 200,000 years of human history. From the real-life Lord of the Flies to the Blitz, a Siberian fox farm to an infamous New York murder, Stanley Milgram's Yale shock machine to the Stanford prison experiment, Bregman shows how believing in human kindness and altruism can be a new way to think – and act as the foundation for achieving true change in our society.
 

Winter in Sokcho
by Elisa Shua Dusapin

We think: wonderfully whimsical and atmospheric

A wonderfully whimsical evocation of time and place, romance and emotional brutality, set in an out-of-season seaside town on the border between North Korea and South Korea. The small cast of characters weave seamlessly about the central protagonist without ever interacting, yet, while sparsely-drawn, the depth of their impact in establishing the human contradictions that run through this book is impressive in a first novel. Even the extensive white space on the page between vignettes of action is atmospheric, while the denouement leaves the reader with a platform to develop the story in her own way. Undoubtedly, for Shua Dusapin, “less is more” but the relative brevity and slow pace of this non-narrative provide an entry into another world, where the reader can pause, observe, think, feel and forget.

A Little History of Poetry
by John Carey

We think: informative and fast-moving

An engaging, and hugely enjoyable guide to poetry by one of our greatest champions of literature.

What is poetry? If music is sound organised in a particular way, poetry is a way of organising language. It is language made special so that it will be remembered and valued.
John Carey tells the stories behind the world's greatest poems, from the oldest surviving one written nearly four thousand years ago to those being written today. Carey looks at poets whose works shape our view of the world - such as Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Whitman, and Yeats.
He looks too at more recent poets, including Derek Walcott, Marianne Moore, and Maya Angelou, who have started to question what makes a poem "great" in the first place.

This little history shines a light on the richness and variation of the world's poems-and the elusive quality that makes them all the more enticing.

The Lost Pianos of Siberia
by Sophy Roberts

We think: unusual and absorbing

Siberia's story is traditionally one of exiles, penal colonies and unmarked graves. Yet there is another tale to tell...

Dotted throughout this remote land are pianos - grand instruments created during the boom years of the nineteenth century, and humble, Soviet-made uprights that found their way into equally modest homes. They tell the story of how, ever since entering Russian culture under the influence of Catherine the Great, piano music has run through the country like blood. How these pianos travelled into this snow-bound wilderness in the first place is testament to noble acts of fortitude by governors, adventurers and exiles.

That stately instruments might still exist in such a hostile landscape is remarkable. That they are still capable of making music in far-flung villages is nothing less than a miracle. But this is Siberia, where people can endure the worst of the world - and where music reveals a deep humanity in the last place on earth you would expect to find it.

Paper Aeroplane
by Simon Armitage

We think: dip into this and be instantly diverted!

In the context of the current corona virus outbreak, poet laureate Simon Armitage reminds us that poetry can be consoling in times of crisis because it 'asks us just to focus, and think, and be contemplative'. 

Paper Aeroplane: Poems 1989-2014 is the author's own selection from across a quarter-century of work, drawing upon all of his award-winning poetry collections.

You can also read his new poem Lockdown, penned to address the coronavirus here

A Woman in the Polar Night
by Christiane Ritter

We think: a rediscovered classic - thanks to the customer who recommended it

In 1934, the painter Christiane Ritter leaves her comfortable life in Austria and travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, to spend a year there with her husband. She thinks it will be a relaxing trip, a chance to “read thick books in the remote quiet and, not least, sleep to my heart’s content”, but when Christiane arrives she is shocked to realize that they are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, battling the elements every day, just to survive.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies… But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic’s harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

The Green Roasting Tin 
by Rukmini Iyer

We think: easy veg-based meals 

75 one tin vegetarian/vegan recipes. Simply pop all the ingredients into a roasting tin and let the oven do the work. 

The recipes are organised by speed, depending on whether you want to eat in 30 minutes, up to 45 minutes or an hour - so there's something for busy week nights or more leisurely weekend cooking.

Why not try Three Bean Chilli with Avocado Salsa, Carrot Tarte Tatin or Spicy Harissa Sprouts & Broccoli with Halloumi and Spinach?

Brilliant Maps: An Atlas for Curious Minds 
by Ian Wright

We think: thought-provoking and fun 

Have you ever wondered which countries have North Korean embassies or considered the historic vs present geographical distribution of lions? How about the 22 countries that the UK has not invaded or what the map of Europe would look like if borders were drawn by DNA? 

In Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds, you’ll learn all this and much more. One hundred visually arresting maps strike a balance between sobering analysis (number of executions by state) and whimsical insight (the countries of the world where there aren’t any McDonald’s). This unusual atlas will make you see the world in a different light.

The Life and Legend of The Sultan Saladin 
by Jonathan Phillips

We think: biography at its best - gripping and impressively researched

Renowned for his epic and mythologised rivalry with Richard the Lionheart, Saladin is one of history's most venerated religious and military heroes.  Drawing on a rich blend of Arabic and European sources, this is a comprehensive account of both the man and the legend to which he gave birth, describing vividly the relentless action of his life and then tracing its aftermath through culture and politics all the way to the present day. 

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

We think: entertaining, thought-provoking and impressively researched

'Seeing men as the human default is fundamental to the structure of human society' but, as Caroline Criado Perez persuasively argues in her award-winning book, this leads to a gender data gap which impacts on the health and well-being of women. From government policy and medical research, to technology and workplaces, Invisible Women reveals the biased data that excludes women.

This hugely readable book leads us to question so many aspects of life that we take for granted.

Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise by Katherine Rundell

We think: a persuasive and thought-provoking essay

Prize-winning children's author and Oxford don Katherine Rundell urges adults to revisit old childhood favourites and to try new children's authors so as not to miss a 'wealth of treasures ... go to children's fiction to see the world with double eyes: your own and those of your childhood self.' You won't be alone - a third of all children's fiction purchased last year was for adults to read themselves!

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

We think: so glad one of our regular customers told us about this one!

An early morning adventure out stealing horses leaves Trond confused when his friend Jon suffers a nervous breakdown: the first incident in the gradual destruction of the two boys' families. As an old man, Trond chances upon a character from that fateful summer who forces him to look back at his past ... a poignant and moving tale of a changing perspective on the world.

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, transl by Marilyn Booth

We think: an elegant and fascinating novel

The 2019 International Man Booker winner centres on the lives of three sisters and their families coming to terms with social change in Oman. Described by judges as 'a richly imagined, engaging and poetic insight', the novel opens a window to Arabic culture through the universal values of love and freedom.

Reunion by Fred Uhlman

We think: an acquaintance you won't regret

Set in 1930s Germany, this is a simple story of friendship in not so simple times. First published in 1971, this beautifully crafted yet little-known novella deserves far wider readership. Enjoy it and spread the word.

Cherry by Nico Walker

We think: bracingly different debut novel

Penned from a prison cell, this powerful, semi-autobiographical novel assaults the reader with a tale of love, war and addiction. In his uncompromising treatment of an Iraq war survivor battling PTSD and opiod addiction, Walker's debut is hard-hitting and supremely relevant.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

We think: the new wave of Nippon noir

Keiko's ambitions amount to being the best shop assistant the chain has ever known. But society says she should marry, so she feels obliged to comply...

Described as "quirky, deadpan, poignant, and quietly profound...", this novella is part of a wave of Japanese fiction coming to the UK - including as part of a British Library-sponsored roadshow

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov

We think: a darkly comical novel from this Ukrainian author

Viktor is an aspiring writer with only Misha, his pet penguin. for company. Although he would prefer to write short stories, he earns a living composing obituaries for a newspaper. He longs to see his work in print... until he works out why he can!

The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard

We think: brilliant fictionalisation of pivotal historical events

Winner of the 2017 Prix Goncourt, The Order of the Day tells the story of the pivotal meetings which took place between the European powers in the run up to the Second World War.

'A profoundly important book, simple, beautiful, deeply disturbing'.
(Philippe Sands, author of East West Street)

The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning

We think: Who knew the Eurovision Song contest could be so explosive?

Croatian hitman Tom Boksic slips up in New York - and finds himself riding it out in a suburban family home in Iceland. His new-found enjoyment in the little things in life is cut short when the mob find him - on Eurovision night...

Sevens Heaven by Ben Ryan

We think: A real feel-good story for even the non-rugby fan

Englishman Ben Ryan coached the Fiji Rugby Sevens team to the country's first ever Olympic medal - a gold in Rio. In this book, he tells the story of how he learnt to adapt to island culture and absorb the richness of the Fijian people on the way to honing a world-beating team. By no means just a "rugby book"!

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