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Newsletter #22

Hello lovely people! We're well into the dog days of summer, hiding from the rain beneath copies of the Evening Standard and spending so long indoors the prospect of a rebooted Changing Rooms is semi-appealing. Thankfully we've got some major news from the publishing world to drag us back to the land of the literary: no, not Fergie's Mills and Boon novel, the Booker Longlist!

There are some hidden gems in there, and some bookshop favourites as well (we're not saying Patricia Lockwood is on there entirely because we've been recommending her, but....) Could a candidate for next year's prize be nestled in this very newsletter? Only one way to find out! By reading it!

New this week

A trio of new short story collections lead off our fiction picks for this week! As we continue to reorient ourselves in a city we're actually allowed to explore again, Gemma Seltzer's Ways of Living offers ten vividly realised stories of young women doing much the same in the Big Smoke: navigating relationships, eating bagels in the street, weighing up friendships and befriending ventriloquist dummies (that last one may be slightly less relatable).

Pushkin have brought together stories from across the long and varied career of mononymous
Russian satirist Teffi in Other Worlds, running the gamut of folk tales pulling from Slavic gods and superstitions to a penetrating analysis of antisemitism in revolution-era Moscow. Even were she not late of this parish, we'd recommend Lucy Sweeney Byrne's debut collection Paris Syndrome on its own merits, her stories of fraught relationships and adrift artists being full of biting humour and incisive observations.

It's always a blessed day when a new Elly Griffiths novel graces our shelves; doubly so when it's the latest entry in her series about forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. In The Night Hawks, Galloway and partner Nelson are called out when a group of metal detectorists find a body on the beach in North Norfolk. Before long there's another death, and the investigation leads them to a sinister farm in the middle of nowhere, haunted by a local legend of the Baskerville variety...

A doctor abandons a life of quiet solitude when he unexpectedly becomes the carer for a Haitian orphan in Maryse Condé's Waiting For The Waters To Rise, a hopeful novel of displacement, family and creating a home in a hostile world. Checkout 19 is the latest from Claire-Louise Bennett, a literary coming-of-age novel as a woman looks back at her life, not only at the decisions and experiences but also the books that shaped her.
Now out in paperback is Munkey Diaries, the first volume of Jane Birkin's journals, which contain enough experiences for a lifetime. Covering her childhood in Marleybone, breakthrough as a musician and actor, romances with composer John Barry and musical bon vivant Serge Gainsbourg, this is a a frank, fragmentary initial instalment of a fascinating life story.

Rebecca Birrell blends art criticism with collective biography in This Dark Country, an assessment of women artists in the early twentieth century including Vanessa Bell, Nina Hamnett, Vanessa Bell and Dora Carrington. In doing so she highlights not just their lives and work, but how for women at the time the two are inextricable. James Crowden distils the history of scrumpy in Cider Country, a witty and wide-ranging investigation which begins with the with the apple’s birth (!) to the advent of large-scale cidermaking in the late 19th century. 
Innumerable events of the past year/decade/century have given cause to reassess Britain's colonial history, a subject overwhelming in its enormity and complexity. Fatima Manji's Hidden Heritage offers a solid jumping off point, a journey through Britain's heritage sites which dares to trace the origins of relics scattered throughout galleries and museums, civic buildings and stately homes, to the dubious legacy of empire.

Former MP, ballroom dancer, noted tweeter and Stokey local Ed Balls adds another string to his bow with Appetite, a memoir in food and recipes which promises to be full of the amiable warmth of his public appearances. New in paperback and a neat companion to Hidden Heritage, Sujit Sivasundaram's Waves Across The South flips the script by viewing the Age of Revolutions from the perspective of the colonised, rather than the colonisers, grounding a monumental era and sweeping scope in a cast of colourful characters.
Julian Gough and Jim Field's Rabbit & Bear series is a bonafide modern classic of children's literature, and this fifth instalment further cements this roly-poly twosome's place in our hearts and bookcases. A Bad King is a Sad Thing sees the pair dealing with Icebear, a new, stubborn addition to the valley, resistant to the kindness of its existing inhabitants and insisting he rule it. Will they manage to talk this wannabe-despot down?

Anemone is Not the Enemy by Anna McGregor is a sweet, effective little parable about fitting in and finding your people, a colourful tale about the difficulty of making friends when you keep accidentally stinging anyone who comes near you. This month also saw the publication of the second in Alex English's crackerjack Sky Pirates series, The Dragon's Gold, a rollicking high-flying adventure with bags of character and brilliant illustrations by Mark Chambers.
Travel rules mean that a visit to the actual museum is either impossible, tricky or ill-advised (depending on changing guidance between when we write and send this), so My Met Sticker Collection by illustrator Liz Kay is the next best thing! Everything from mummies to modern art are encompassed by the museum's holdings; it's up to your fledgling curator to decide where they should be displayed.

It's a Met double-bill as the iconic institution's hallowed halls also make up the seek-and-find adventure Lost in the Museum, an activity book with a side helping of history and culture from Will Mabbitt and Aaron Cushley. The guiding hand of Dave Eggers' eccentric literary imprint McSweeney's ensures The Goods is more than your average activity book,  a collection of puzzles, creative prompts and the like with accompaniment from the cream of children's illustrators (including Oliver Jeffers and Jon Klassen!).
We've two for the price of one with our jigsaw recommendations this time! Which is to say, the recommendation is free, but the puzzles remain full price. Not that you'll have cause to balk, since both of these New Yorker jigsaws are blooming marvellous: a 500 piece Tropical Holiday design from a 1955 edition by Ilonka Karasz, and the 1000 piece Main Street cityscape drawn by Beatrice Tobias for the November 18, 1939 cover. 

What we're reading

  • Tom's spooking himself with A Natural History of Ghosts by Roger Clarke, which sets aside the perennial unanswerable question of whether spectres are "real" and instead explores the implications of our varying beliefs across the centuries, from Lazarus to the Enfield Haunting
  • Anya is making her way through The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, a melancholic dystopia that promises existential depth
  • Paul recommends The Unreality of Memory by Elisa Gabbert, a series of lyrical and prophetic essays about our current culture of catastrophe
We reckon it's Rabbit & Bear's prize to lose next year, and if we're wrong, more fool the Booker committee. They don't know what they're missing! That's our letter for this fortnight, we'll be back in another couple of weeks. In the meantime, please keep coming to see us – all the details about opening hours and ordering are below – take care of yourselves, and we'll be back in your inbox again soon!
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 (and we receive a decent commission!)
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