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Newsletter #17

Hello lovely people! Today would've been Saul Bellow's 106th birthday, Maurice Sendak's 93rd, and is apparently also something called World Art Nouveau Day. Regardless of what the Google Doodle would have you believe, though, the most important milestone is that it's newsletter day, and we've a terrific tranche of new titles to share with you.

There are fresh releases from bookshop favourites Mieko Kawakami and M.G. Leonard, some sure to be bestselling memoirs, hidden gems and our always on-point staff recommendations. As usual, we love any feedback you have, either by replying to this newsletter or contacting us on Twitter or Instagram. Let's have at it!

New this week

Now in paperback, winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2020 and recommended by Bernardine Evaristo (and staff member Josh!); The Mermaid of Black Conch's reputation rather precedes it. Monique Roffey's novel follows a fairytale romance — between a Caribbean fisherman and a woman cursed to live as a mermaid — in conflict with real-world pressures, from sex to tourists who see their fortune in selling the story of the relationship to the tabloids.

Originally published in 1950 and recently rediscovered, Margaret Kennedy's The Feast is a nostalgic and devilishly devised mystery, exploring the deaths of seven seemingly unrelated individuals in a Cornish hotel destroyed in a landslide with a Christie-like vigour. Meiko Kawakami's follow-up to Breasts and Eggs, Heaven is a similarly sharp tale of a bullied schoolboy finding solace with another tormented classmate, surveyed with psychological acuity.

New in hardback is Sankofa, the latest from award-winning author Chibundu Onuzo, a gripping novel exploring cultural identity and complicated family relationships. As she hits middle age, grieving for her mother and facing a divorce from her husband, Anna goes off in search of her absentee West African father, guided by his diaries. A real page-turner packed with colourful characters and heady themes handled deftly!

Zen Cho's Black Water Sister takes an all-too-familiar initial premise — a recent graduate struggles with life, love and work — and spins it off into a wildly different direction with the introduction of her grandma's ghost guiding her to get revenge on a heretical business magnate. The grind of everyday life for Black women is the central concern of Assembly by Natasha Brown, a small but perfectly formed novella whose protagonist has a hard-won ideal life which is nonetheless constantly assailed by institutional racism.

In the non-fiction stakes we have Ed Caesar's The Moth and the Mountain, a stunning biography about a metaphorical insect (in fact a small aeroplane) and a very real summit. It retraces the steps of Maurice Wilson who in 1934, despite his lack of flying or mountaineering experience, attempted to scale Everest by air and by foot, as a test of his faith in God. A truly gob-smacking story, told with warmth and wonder.

David Kynaston knows what many of us do:  football is not a matter of life and death, it's much more important than that. Shots in the Dark is the football obsessive's diary of the 2016/17 season, mulling over not just the beautiful game but the significant social upheavals of that year of which impacted politics, economics and the transfer window. With a foreword by Stokey locals Cornershop, London's Record Shops by Garth Cartwright and Quintina Valero will surely appeal to many of you, surveying as it does the city's vinyl boutiques through interviews, essays and photos.

Drawing on published writing, correspondence and diaries for her raw materials, Gail Crowther's Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz breathes vivid life into her dual biography of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. The parallels between the two poets' lives — beginning with their meeting as students as Boston University — is uncanny, the trials and tribulations of each further illuminating those of the other. A remarkable, perceptive book about the tension between creativity and womanhood in the 20th century.

Best known for her Guardian restaurant reviews, Grace Dent's Hungry is similarly raucous and rambunctious as she tells her life story through what she ate. On the way we follow not just her journey, but also the evolution of British culinary life alongside it. You no doubt know something of the very public life Sinead O'Connor recounts in Rememberings, but to read it from the woman herself (still as artistically engaged and unapologetic after three decades in the public eye) is a rare treat you shouldn't pass up.
We kick off our children's book recommendations with The Astonishing Future of Alex Nobody by Kate Gilby Smith: our titular hero has been followed by fans and celebrated by strangers since birth...but she has no idea why. Inventive and gripping, it's a brilliant adventure about friendship and time travel. Jo recommends, and we have signed copies!  Antigua De Fortune of the High Seas, from Anna Rainbow and Oli Hyatt, is a thrilling high seas adventure about Tiggy, who escapes her dull landlubber life when the Pirate King kidnaps all the boys on her island (including her little brother).

M.G. Leonard is a bookshop favourite, her Adventures on Trains and Beetle Books series counting amongst our go-to recommendations. So, naturally, we're loving Twitch, her latest ornithological mystery. The eponymous birdwatcher has an enviably quiet life...until an escaped convict is loosed in his stomping grounds, and he turns his talent for twitching to tracking him down.
We're back on the water for the first of our picture book picks: The Pirate Mums, from Jodie Lancet-Grant and Lydia Corry, tells the real story of being the child of buccaneers. Billy is sick and tired of only ever hearing shanties, dancing jigs and putting up with the mouthy family parrot, until a swashbuckling adventure turns him around! Loads of fun, with wonderfully colourful illustrations by Corry.

Teresa Bellón and Barbara Taylor's Spider is the latest in the My Green World series of baby books, introducing young children to the natural world with fun facts, interactive elements and cartoon artwork, all printed using eco-friendly materials. I Am a Sensible Gibbon by Will Mabbitt and Claudia Boldt may not share that fidelity to zoological reality, but makes up for it in silliness familiar to those who've read Mabbit's I Can Only Draw Worms.
A perennial favourite amongst the puzzles we stock are those based on classic artworks, offering a chance to assess them for a period and with a depth that seeing them in a tourist-filled gallery rarely offers. That's why this time we're singling out this 1,000 word jigsaw depicting Claude Monet's "Sailboats on the Seine," the impressionist's vivid en plein air painting filled with colour and light dancing on the water. Très magnifique!

What we're reading

  • Sarah just started AJ Pearce's Yours Cheerfully, the follow up to shop favourite Dear Mrs Bird, finding it to share the same wit and charm (as well as the same characters!) as the first instalment
  • Josh is stumping for the aforementioned Mermaid of Black Conch, a "weirdly lovely" story about the ocean, being trapped by your environment, and the price of freedom!
  • Anya recommends How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan's intriguing exploration of new scientific research into psychedelics, as her summer read
That'll do, we think. There are still a couple of pub gardens we've yet to bless with our presence. If you'd like to line our coffers so we can afford another packet of crisps to tear open and share at the table, all the information about our opening hours, ordering and the like is below. We'll speak to you again in a fortnight and, in the meantime, 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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