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Weekly lockdown newsletter #11

Hello lovely people! Spring has sprung, the clocks have gone forward, and it's almost beginning to feel like something approaching "warm." It's high time we swapped out reading in bed to reading in the park, so this week we have a great selection of new titles that pair brilliantly with a 99, takeaway coffee, and/or cucumber sandwiches carried in tupperware. We'll be closed over the Bank Holiday, so Saturday is your only day to make collections before everything goes back to (new) normal on Tuesday. Now without further ado, let's get onto the books!

New this week

We'll kick off our fiction picks with Peace Adzo Medie's His Only Wife, which follows the travails of a young Ghanian women whose marriage into a rich family turns out to be less of a fairytale ending, more a modern comedy-of-manners. In paperback we have Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet, the Women's Prize-winning story of Shakespeare's son, who died at a young age, and the effect it had on the playwright's family. The follow-up to short story collection Mothers, A Lonely Man is Chris Power's take on the cat-and-mouse thriller, as a writer becomes enmeshed in the dangerous life of a a ghostwriter for a Russian oligarch.

Another hotly-anticipated paperback release this week is Redhead By The Side of the Road, Anne Tyler's latest deceptively cosy family drama, about an uptight man whose life is turned upside down with the arrival of a teenage son he didn't know existed. Gill Hornby's Miss Austen is an imaginative work of historical fiction, speculating as to why Jane Austen's sister Cassandra burned a cache of family letters upon the author's death. Speaking of historical fiction with a feminist bent, A.K. Blakemore's The Manningtree Witches is a fresh take on the witch trials which followed the English Civil War and easily our favourite cover of the week (although we know you shouldn't judge a book based on that...)
Joan Didion's career as an essayist par excellence has spanned a staggering six decades. With a new generation discovering her incisive, stylish evocations of places and people, Let Me Tell You What I Mean is a timely collection of some of her early observations on everything from Gamblers Anonymous to Robert Mapplethorpe. Didion also appears in Paulina Bren's The Barbizon as one of the many figures -- along with Sylvia Plath and Grace Kelly -- whose time in the women-only New York hotel was instrumental in forming their iconic work. Our third non-fiction pick is Undreamed Shores, Frances Larson's group biography of the first five women from Oxford's Masters in Anthropology, and the very different paths they took through the early 20th century.
But wait, there's more! Produced for International Women’s Day 2021, Women from Hackney's History is a fantastic collection of potted biographies of women who lived or worked, were born or buried in the borough. Sylvana Tomaselli's biography Wollstonecraft analyses the life of the women's rights pioneer with a broader appreciation of her philosophies and artistic endeavours in a series of thematic essays. Meanwhile, Anna Malaika Tubbs takes a similarly fresh approach to the Civil Rights movement in the US with a biography of Three Mothers: those of Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and James Baldwin.
We have a good selection of children's titles to recommend this week as well! Rumaysa is Radiya Hafiza's imaginative, playful take on Rapunzel, where a Muslim princess escapes her imprisonment using her hijab! The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne is the latest from Lockwood & Co writer — and ampersand enthusiast — Jonathan Stroud, the story of two teenagers weathering a post-apocalyptic Britain ravaged by climate catastrophe. Finally, we have the concluding part of one of our favourite series in The Storm Keepers' Battle by Catherine Doyle, which sees young Fionn using her command over the elements to defend her island home from the terrifying sorceress Morrigan.
Our picture book section has some wonderful new additions this week. Benjamin Zephaniah and Nila Aye's Nature Trail is a wonderful rhyming guide to all the creepy crawlies, flora and fauna to be found if you know where to look! We love the design of Dr Jess Wade and illustrator Melissa Castrillón's Nano, a child-friendly introduction to the burgeoning (and very cool) field of nanotechnology. Last but by no means least is the paperback edition of Luna Loves Art, from Joseph Coelho and shop favourite Fiona Lumbers, a beautifully drawn adventure through art history.
Since we've started to see a little more life and colour beginning to bloom around and about this week, our jigsaw pick reflects that: a 1,000 piece puzzle from award-winning illustrator Michael Storrings, depicting a panoramic view of New York's Central Park in all its springtime splendour! Call or email to reserve your copy.

What we're reading

  • Josh's pick for summer fantasy read is The Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon's feminist retelling of George and the Dragon
  • On the back of yesterday's Trans Day of Visibility, Lauren recommends the sweet, heart-warming picture book My Rainbow by Deshanna Neal
  • Anya loved Andrew Smith's Moondust, the author's non-fiction account of tracking down all the living members of the Apollo space missions to talk about life after the moon landings
  • Sam and Paul co-sign Carmen Maria Machado's inventive, weird short story collection Her Body and Other Parties
That'll do, we reckon. Another week of great releases, all available to order and collect from the newly-renovated shop! We're closed today, April 1st, for a stock check, and will be busy scoffing chocolate by the eggful Friday and Monday. That means Saturday is the only day we're open over the Bank Holiday, then back again Tuesday. Details on how our click-and-collect service works are below. Remember the sun cream — you need more on your nose than you think — and we'll see you again next week!
We are currently open for click-and-collect orders only under current lockdown restrictions. This means you can email or call (020 7249 2808) to place an order, then pick up your items from the shop 10-4, Monday through Saturday. 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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