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Newsletter #23

Hello lovely people! We're as disappointed as you that it's somehow already September, a mere few weeks after May began (or so it feels). It's getting darker outside, but the future is bright on the book front, as we await an autumn of blockbuster releases — Sally Rooney! Bob Mortimer! Colson Whitehead! Before that, we've got some brill new paperbacks, an eccentric memoir from a Bad Seed, and a trio of food-related picks as shelter from the storm this week.

New this week


Zalika Reid-Bena's Frying Plantain sold like...well, like fried plantain in hardback, so we've got high hopes for the newly-released paperback edition! It's an intelligent and enriching look at the conflicting demands of being a second-generation immigrant attempting to belong while holding onto your heritage. Told in twelve chapters, it follows young as Kara Davis moves from kindergarten to the threshold of adulthood in Toronto's Little Jamaica.

It's not everyday you get a new Simone de Beauvoir novel, so we're savouring the miracle that is
The Inseparables, inspired by the existentialist's intense childhood friendship with a schoolfriend and newly translated by Flâneuse author Lauren Elkin. Susanna Clarke's Piranesi, her long-awaited follow-up to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, is new in paperback: a spellbinding fantasy-mystery, following the inhabitant of a mysterious labyrinth who keeps stumbling across skeletons...

A novel worth judging by its cover, Venetia Welby's sci-fi thriller Dreamtime is a near-future fantasia bringing together climate change, virtual reality and the history of American imperialism. Fresh out of rehab and with her lovesick friend Kit at her side, Sol attempts to traverse the globe to confront her US marine father on the Japanese island of Okinawa — a reunion hampered significantly in an world where aviation has been banned in the face of climate catastrophe.

Following the bestselling Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker continues her epic retelling of Greek myth in The Women of Troy. Stealing focus from the victorious Greek warriors, it instead follows the women whose uneasy company they share while awaiting the winds which will carry their ships home. Another big name weaves an epic historical drama in Sebastian Faulks's Snow Country, which chronicles a fraught romance across the First World War and its aftermath, told with the author's customary eye for emotional detail and intelligence.
The surprise smash of last Christmas, Merlin Sheldrake's effervescent Entangled Life is now out in paperback, all the better to peruse while foraging. Written with an uncommon clarity and insight into the ecology, history and nutritional (let alone psychedelic) effects of fungi upon our environments and our selves, we've a sneaking suspicion this will find its way into a few stockings this year, too.

A cultural icon (and Stokey resident), arguably responsible for inventing the modern detective story and parodied in The Simpsons; it's hard to find something new to say about Edgar Allan Poe, but John Tresch has somehow managed it. In The Reason for the Darkness of the Night, he compellingly lays out Poe's fascination with scientific developments. Speaking of off-beat biographies, musician Warren Ellis (long-time collaborator of Nick Cave) spins tall tales and shaggy dog stories in Nina Simone's Gum — a hunk of Wrigley's which Ellis stole from the iconic singer's piano being the starting point.
A New York legend who made her name writing for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine and recently starred alongside Martin Scorsese in Netflix documentary series Pretend It's A City, Fran Lebowitz's reputation somewhat precedes her. Don't know where to start with such an intimidating legacy? Allow us to suggest The Fran Lebowitz Reader, a collection of essays which showcase her particular gifts — think the insight of Didion combined with the caustic wit of Ephron — on topics including children, landlords and novelty ice cubes.

A significantly slower-paced, but not less rich, life is depicted in Steve Haywood's Tales From The Tillerman. Where his previous books followed particular journeys down Britain's waterways, his latest takes in the totality of his five decades (!) as a narrowboat man, packed with colourful anecdotes and characters. New in paperback, poet Claudia Rankine brings her scalpel-sharp analysis to bear on American race relations with even greater acuity in Just Us, which brings together free verse, photography and essays.
You may have noticed a foodie streak in us, between our well-stocked recipe books and bevvy of exotic snacks behind the counter. In this edition of the newsletter we want to highlight some of the wonderful new food-related books, starting with Claudia Roden's Med, a collection of delicious everyday recipes from the inarguable master of Mediterranean cooking.

Rukmini Iyer's books are a favourite of shop and customers alike, and we can't wait to dig into The Sweet Roasting Tin, which applies the inspirational home cook's "minimum effort, maximum flavour" approach to one-tin baking. Finally, Pen Volger's Scoff is new in paperback, and offers a unique and witty look at the development of British class relations: through the food we cook, serve and aspire to eat, from 10th century cookbooks through to avocado toast.
A longtime superstar of our picture book section, the always-hilarious Nadia Shireen makes the leap to chapter book format in Grimwood, the gloriously anarchic and laugh-out-loud funny story of fox cub siblings Ted and Nancy. On the run from Princess Buttons, the city's scariest street cat, they retreat to the countryside expecting peace and tranquillity...and finding anything but.

Elsewhere, Jasbinder Bilan's
Aarti & The Blue Gods is a magically mesmerising coming-of-age story: the arrival of a half-drowned boy gives Aarti cause to seek out the truth about her quiet life off the coast of Island, and she may not like what she finds... It's always bittersweet to say goodbye to a favourite series, but we're glad to see Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder go out on a high with The Midnight Hunt. Can Emily save the secret world of the Midnight Hour, a magically-frozen Victorian London, from the nefarious forces aiming to Make Britain Dark Again?
It's a banner week of new releases for our younger readers as well! Friend of the shop Fiona Lumbers teams up once more with Joseph Coelho for Luna Loves Dance, a charming and colourful celebration of self-expression. James Turner and Yasmin Sheikh's Star Cat is another fantastically comic collection from the pages of The Phoenix, following the space-faring adventures of Captain Spaceington aboard his half-cat, half-spaceship.

Worlds collide as Misadventures of Frederick author Ben Manley and Kate on the Case illustrator Hannah Peck team up for fantastic new picture book Vampire Peter! He dresses strangely, eats weird food and acts like, well, a bloodsucker: everyone knows that Peter is a vampire. So when the class gerbil goes missing, he inevitably takes the blame, but this pint-sized Dracula is innocent. Can he clear his name?
For our jigsaw recommendation this edition we return to the woman-owned, sustainably sourced eeBoo and their characteristically colourful depiction of Venice's Open Market. This 1,000 piece puzzle is packed with details, character, and fruit that looks good enough to eat (or that might just be us; at time of press, lunch is still a couple of hours away).

What we're reading

  • Tom is making headway with Roisin Kiberd's The Disconnect, a series of personal essays about living with the modern internet which has so far documented a social media-induced breakdown and compared Mark Zuckerberg to a Lovecraftian horror. Great stuff!
  • Sarah loved Charlie Porter's What Artists Wear, an illustrated guide to the clothes which made artists from a wide range of disciplines and professions, offering potted biographies and a rare seriousness to the creativity that comes from dressing yourself
  • Paul has been reading Being a Human by Charles Foster. Equal parts bonkers and brilliant, it attempts to corral some 40,000 years of evolution of human consciousness into one eminently readable and brain-bending book!
We're hoping that's enough to tide you over until the likes of the new Maggie Nelson hits our shelves in a couple of weeks (should pair well with Vampire Peter, no?). Of course, if you're still stuck for ideas, you can come visit in person, peruse our shop and ask for expert advice from our wonderful booksellers; full details available below. In the meantime, take care of yourselves, and we'll be back in your inboxes in a fortnight!
We are open for browsing 10-6 Monday to Saturday, and 11-5 on Sunday. You can also email or call (020 7249 2808) to place an order, then pick up your items from the shop. If you're unable to get to the shop for any reason, you can order books to be delivered to you through our friends at Bookshop.org (and we receive a decent commission!)
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