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.
We think: a rediscovered classic - thanks to the customer who recommended it
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.
We think: thought-provoking and fun
Brilliant Maps: An Atlas for Curious Minds
by Ian Wright
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.
We think: biography at its best - gripping and impressively researched
The Life and Legend of The Sultan Saladin
by Jonathan Phillips
'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.
We think: entertaining, thought-provoking and impressively researched
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!
We think: a persuasive and thought-provoking essay
Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise by Katherine Rundell
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.
We think: so glad one of our regular customers told us about this one!
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.
We think: an elegant and fascinating novel
Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, transl by Marilyn Booth
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.
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.
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!
We think: a darkly comical novel from this Ukrainian author
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...
We think: Who knew the Eurovision Song contest could be so explosive?
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"!
We think: A real feel-good story for even the non-rugby fan