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Newsletter #26

Hello lovely people! October is nearly halfway over, and we're really starting to hunker down and get some serious reading done. Now is the time for lots of hearty meals, cups of tea, and evenings spent beneath a heavy blanket with an equally weighty tome (and perhaps a puzzle or two to keep the blood flowing). In this instalment, we have recommendations aplenty along these lines, from eccentric Japanese fiction to a trio of beautiful children's picture books.

A barnstormer of a debut novel, Leonara Nattrass's Black Drop grabs you from the first page and doesn't let go. A murder mystery in the C.J. Sansom mould, it follows a conspiracy in 18th century London, as foreign office clerk Laurence Jago tracks down a leak that could lead to the destruction of the British Army — and for which he has been blamed for. A twisty, turny, expertly-written piece of historical fiction!

A fitting capstone to a career rife with masterpieces, John le Carre's posthumous
Silverview combines a familiar milieu for the author — a retiree in a seaside town gets dragged into the world of espionage — with a tinge of late-age melancholy. Meanwhile, Kikuko Tsumura's There's No Such Thing As An Easy Job is a deadpan satire of the modern world of work. A shiftless young woman searches for meaning in a series of surreal temp jobs, from writing bus adverts for shops that mysteriously disappear to composing advice for rice cracker wrappers.

Christine Smallwood's The Life of the Mind is a deliciously dark debut, a work of what Jia Tolentino has termed "depressive realism." Protagonist Dorothy is an adjunct instructor of English who has just suffered a miscarriage. She appears alienated from the facts of her life, watching it slowly slip by. It's a blackly comic existential novel, one for fans of Ottessa Moshfegh, unravelling the psychology of its lead character with wit and intelligence.

Now in paperback, Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future is a thrilling, terrifying, yet ultimately hopeful sci-fi novel about a team of scientists tasked with saving the world from a (at times uncomfortably close to home) raging climate crisis. Burntcoat is the latest from the consistently dazzling Sarah Hall, the mysterious and mesmerising story of a sculptor's dying days, and final love affair, during lockdown.
Following the success of his Forager's Calendar, John Wright again invites us to look a little closer at the natural world in A Spotter's Guide to Countryside Mysteries, full of insightful and practical tips on identifying such oddities as Witch's broom, dew ponds and Hollow Ways. Arch essayist David Sedaris gives us another peek behind the curtain with A Carnival of Snackery. His second collection of diaries, covering 2003-2020, is full of his customary dry wit.

There's a lot to love in
An Editor's Burial, a collection of New Yorker articles which inspired Wes Anderson's forthcoming film The French Dispatch. For the faithful it's an enticing preview, and even Anderson sceptics will find plenty to entertain them in this eclectic anthology, from a 1928 profile of Edith Wharton to a long report on egg-stealing rats to a potted history of the periodical itself. 
Marcin Wicha's mother Joanna was a hoarder. When she died, Wicha was tasked with sorting through an apartment stuffed with ephemera of a storied life, providing the framework for Things I Didn't Throw Out. A Polish Jew, Joanna weathered the Second World War and ensuing communist regime; through clearing out her belongings, Marcin uncovers their shared history, resulting in a vivid portrait of woman and country.

Fresh off her history-making Booker win, Bernardine Evaristo returns to our shelves with her
Manifesto, the inside story of how she did it, with characteristically intelligent insight on overcoming adversity, commitment to a creative life and never giving up. New in paperback, Bill Buford's Dirt is a rollicking read, as the writer chronicles his sudden shift from author to chef as he attempts master French cooking during a five-year spell in Lyon.
Run, don't walk, to come and buy the latest in Jamie Smart's ever-popular Flember series! The third volume, The Glowing Skull, sees child prodigy Dev and his giant robot bear, Boja doing battle in a high-tech city. As usual with Smart, it's packed with inventive gags, fantastically kinetic illustrations, and a cast of colourful characters both new and returning.

New in hardback, Michael Mann's Ghostcloud is a riveting magical adventure set underneath a fantastical London. Kidnapped and forced to work in a coal mine, twelve-year-old Luke discovers he can see ghosts — and his spooky new friend Alma may be his ticket to freedom. Jo recommends The Lion Above the Door: Onjali Q. Raúf's latest is a timely and sensitive story of lost histories. On a school trip, Leo sees his name on a list of war heroes, and sets out to discover the forgotten story of his namesake.
Acclaimed poet and novelist Ben Okri turns his considerable talents to children's fiction for the first time with the beguiling gift book Every Leaf a Hallelujah. Beautifully illustrated by Diana Ejaita, it's a fable for our current age of environmental upheaval, following one young African girl's search for a rare flower which she hopes will cure her ailing mother — and possibly her entire village.

All Through the Night is a typically gorgeous picture book from Nosy Crow, wherein writer Polly Faber and artist Harriet Hobday shine the spotlight on the people that work to keep a city running while the rest of us sleep. Rounding off our selections this issue is booksop favourite Júlia Sardà's wonderful The Queen in the Cave, an atmospheric and evocative fairy tale following a trio of sisters who strike out in search of a magical kingdom glimpsed in their dreams.
From the makers of the fantastic 299 Cats and a Dog: A Feline Cluster Puzzle comes the much-anticipated sequel: yes, it's 299 Dogs and a Cat! As with the original, our jigsaw recommendation this week consists of an ingeniously-shaped set of colourful dog pieces which snap together to create one huge canine tableaux.

What we're reading

  • Anya is making her way through Finding the Mother Tree, pioneering ecologist Suzanne Simard's alternately inspiring and maddening memoir of having her work on the communicative abilities of trees being dismissed and then accepted by the academy
  • Tom raced through Nina Simone's Gum, musician Warren Ellis's eccentric memoir as seen through the ephemera he has collected during his career, with a special focus on the titular chewed bit of Spearmint which has taken on a totemic significance for him
And we're out! As usual, please take care of yourselves — remember to wrap up warm, but also don't leave your coat and gloves on indoors or you won't feel the benefit when you head out to face the plunging temperatures. All the information you need about our opening times and ordering are below this very paragraph, and we'll see you back here in a fortnight for a Halloween spooktacular!
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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