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Weekly lockdown newsletter #16

Hello lovely people! As we were putting together this edition of the newsletter, the news broke that Eric Carle had passed away at the age of 91. The author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar — along with more than 75 other books! — has had an impact on innumerable readers, young and old, and we'd be remiss not to mention the loss here.

Soldiering on, we have recommendations for great children's books from a new generation of writers who no doubt bear Carle's influence, as well as the usual roundup of fantastic new fiction, non-fiction, and another of our award-winning* puzzle picks!

*Joint winner of the 2021 Stoke Newington Bookshop Award for "Best Newsletter Section," shared with all other sections

New this week

Originally published in 1933 and back in the spotlight thanks to a new edition from Pushkin Press, Ivy Compton-Burnett's More Women Than Men is a forgotten classic of English modernism. It chronicles a battle of the sexes, upon the arrival of a new male teacher at an all-girl's school, with the wit of Wilde and the literary invention of Woolf!

New in paperback is Gabriel Krauze's Booker-nominated Who They Was, an authentically-rendered and knotty work of autofiction following the life of a young London drug dealer. Taylor Jenkins Reid's Malibu Rising sees the Daisy Jones author turning her attention to a privileged family of surfers whose long-simmering tensions threaten to boil over during an annual beach party. You can read the first chapter online for free!

Originally written in Italian and translated by the author herself, anticipation has long been building for Namesake author Jhumpa Lahiri's new novel Whereabouts. Combining her customary direct prose style with a greater emphasis on interiority, it follows the narrator's journey around an unnamed European city, contemplating her lonely life with Cusk-esque candour.

Rivers Solomon's Sorrowland sounds fantastically odd, a genre-bending gothic thriller of motherhood and metamorphosis, as a young woman on the run seeks answers from the secluded religious compound she escaped from. Are You Enjoying? is the debut short story collection from Mira Sethi, a series of amusing, provocative slices-of-life of modern Pakistani society.
We kick off our new non-fiction picks with Nick Hunt's Outlandish, an unconventional travel book chronicling the author's journeys to places that "shouldn't exist": arctic tundra in Scotland, the primeval forests of Poland, and other natural — or man-made — wonders, as well as the wildlife and traces of ancient civilisations that can be found there.

In need of a good swoon? Love in the Blitz is a remarkable collection of correspondence written by Eileen Alexander, a Cambridge graduate and poetry obsessive, chronicling the Second World War with wit and sincerity. For the more visual readers, Hokusai: A Graphic Biography is a stunningly-rendered recounting of the iconic artist's life from Francesco Matteuzzi and Giuseppe Lantazi.
A BBC Radio 4 book of the week (not to mention a bestseller for us in hardback), Broken Greek is career music critic Pete Paphides' hilarious and tender autobiography, tracing his path from introverted child of Cypriot immigrants in seventies Birmingham to his whole-hearted embrace of British pop music.

Finding the Mother Tree is the gripping memoir of Suzanne Simard, professor in forest sciences, who had to fight for her now-accepted discovery, of how trees communicate underground, to be taken seriously by the scientific community. Charlie Porter's What Artists Wear is a photo-packed guide to the fashion choices of luminaries from Yves Klein to Yayoi Kusama, making the very convincing argument that our outfits are as legitimate a form of self-expression as artwork.
Children's non-fiction is in similarly rude health this week! The Encyclopedia of Unbelievable Facts is Jane Wilsher and Louise Lockhart's wonderfully illustrated compendium of 500 pieces of trivia, organised into themed chapters covering the human body, space, history, animals, and much, much more.

For those young folks with a more monomaniacal focus,
The Dinosaur Awards is Barbara Taylor and Guardian cartoonist par excellence Stephen Collins's wonderful collection of Jurassic-era factoids and bold illustrations. New in the search-and-find section is David Long and Andy Rowland's Ancient World Magnified, a series of large-scale depictions of vanished civilisations packed with facts to find.
For the young fiction readers in the audience (or those who provide their pocket money), we kick off with Rainbow Grey, the first in a new series from Amelia Fang author Laura Ellen Anderson. Ray Grey lives amongst the clouds, where everyone has the power to control the elements...except for her! That all changes when she's literally brought down to Earth...

The latest from local author and bookshop favourite Fiona Lumbers, Grandpa's Gift is an uplifting picture book about a young boy whose grandfather helps him find the beauty in his drab new hometown. Fiona's artwork (as seen in the Luna Loves... series written by Joseph Coelho) is gorgeous, and we've a handful of signed copies! The Adventures of Team Pom: Squid Happens is the debut graphic novel from award-winning illustrator Isabel Roxas, a rollicking yarn about a group of synchronised swimmers befriending a lonely cephalopod.
Sure to make a strong impression (sorry), this week's jigsaw pick is the 1,000 piece The Story of Impressionism! As you put it together you can play spot-the-artist, as the illustration of Belle Époque is populated with everyone from Henri de Toulouse Lautrec at the Moulin Rogue to Edgar Degas sketching ballerinas at the Paris opera.

What we're reading

  • Tom is working his way through Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Martin Beck books, a series of ten novels packed with gallows humour, fiendish murder-mysteries and slow-burn Marxist analysis of contemporary Swedish society (yes, really!)
  • Sam recommends Nina Bouraoui's All Men Want To Know About, a limpid work of queer Algerian autofiction touching on immigration and misogyny, for fans of Garth Greenwell
  • Mark is reading The Address Book by Deidre Mask. They might seem ubiquitous and mundane, but it turns out that addresses, street names and house numbers, have a tumultuous history with social and political consequences. A fascinating read on a subject he hadn’t thought twice about before!
Here endeth another newsletter. As always, we welcome any feedback, so long as it's nice. You can reply to this email, or contact us on our Twitter and Instagram. Our current opening hours and ordering info is below, and we'll see you in a couple of weeks if not before! Take care of yourselves!
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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