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Newsletter #25

Hello lovely people! We start today with a solemn vow: unlike other shops we shan't name to spare their dignity, we won't be busting out the Christmas decorations just yet. It's not even October! We need time to accumulate enough boxes of Quality Street! What we can offer you is a veritable treasure trove of fantastic new books which have come out over the past couple of weeks, from lost works of great literature to enlightening biographies to adorable sunbears.

Chronicles From The Land Of The Happiest People On Earth is only Wole Soyinka's third novel; his last came out 48 years ago. It's a work of vivid, bleakly comic satire from a man who's spent much of his career campaigning against state corruption in his native Nigeria. In it, four friends try to escape a society where the shaky status quo is maintained through secret human sacrifices, approved and abetted by the powers-that-be. Remarkable, discomforting, and impossible to put down.

Lauren Groff returns from the success of Fates and Furies with Matrix, where her shrewd observations of human behaviour and relationships are brought to bear on the unusual life of 12th-century poet Marie de France. Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats was a slow-burn success here at the bookshop, but we expect The Book of Form and Emptiness to be a more immediate hit: a peculiar, poignant parable about a 14-year-old who begins having conversations with inanimate objects following the untimely death of his musician father.

Sigrid Nunez has the uncommon ability to turn even the most strange and morbid of subjects into compelling, human novels, neither mawkish nor overly intellectual. What Are You Going Through, now in paperback, follows two old friends, one of whom is terminally ill; the story follows a final holiday for her, before the other helps her take her own life. Its characters have every right to be pessimistic about their lot in life, and the state of the world (and often are!), yet the overall effect is one of peaceful acceptance.

Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land is a sprawling, hearty epic: it takes place over three time periods, from the 1453 Fall of Constantinople to a interstellar spaceship in the far future, all linked by their pursuit of a fictional lost Diogenes text. Newly reprinted by Pushkin is Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz's The Passenger, a tense thriller about a Jewish man fleeing Germany, written during the pogroms of 1938. Prophetic both in its modern pace and the history which followed in its wake.
Clare Jackson's Devil-Land takes its name from the unflattering sobriquet England was known by during the seventeenth-century: a time of civil war, a contested throne and religious extremism. She dramatises this particularly contentious time in our nation's history with aplomb, drawing on eyewitness accounts from outsiders flabbergasted by the near-collapse of a civilisation in the face of invasions, the Gunpowder Plot and the Great Fire of London.

New in paperback, 
Black Spartacus is Sudhir Hazareesingh's definitive biography of Toussaint Louverture, who lead the slave rebellions of the late 18th century in Haiti, before becoming governor of the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue and facing Napoleon himself. Brexit chronicler par excellance Fintan O'Toole looks further back for We Don't Know Ourselves, his clear-eyed and rightly angry history of Ireland from 1958 to now, taking in the corruption of the church and the chaos of the Troubles.
Everyone's favourite literary oversharer returns in Karl Ove Knausgaard's Autumn, the first of a new quartet from the writer. The My Struggle series which made his name used his life story as grist for the narrative mill, hidden behind a sheer film of fiction. In Autumn he drops any such pretence, penning acutely-observed and tender letters to his unborn daughter, telling her what she can expect of the world. 

The Female Chef is of particular interest to the foodies among us: it sees Clare Finney interview 31 female pioneers in the British food scene, accompanied by portraits and recipes. IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain, reissued for its 20th anniversary with a new introduction by editors Kadija Sesay and Courttia Newland, is a wide-ranging and rightfully influential selection of essays, poetry and prose from such luminaries as Bernardine Evaristo, Benjamin Zephaniah, and Diana Evans.
With spooky season approaching, the timing of The Monsters of Rookhaven, from Padraig Kenny and illustrator Edward Bettison, couldn't be better. Settle down for scares and thrills aplenty with this thought-provoking story of a monster who befriends an orphaned brother and sister, only for their tentative bond to be threatened by a far more sinister threat. A timely story of accepting differences and making friends — with claws.

David Farr's The Book of Stolen Dreams a rollicking adventure following the children of a librarian on the run with a stolen book and some very dangerous people on their tail. Mention the newsletter and you can buy one of our limited number of very special gold editions! One of our favourite series reaches its third and final instalment with Frostheart: Rise of the World Eater, which sees the ice-faring crew of the titular sleigh facing off against an ancient evil. Jamie Littler's wonderful illustrations and eye for character shine through once more.
The Planet in a Pickle Jar, author and illustrator Martin Stanev's debut picture book, is a wonderful, warm and witty exploration of family bonds and working together to save the planet. Visits to grandma are woefully quotidian for her two restless grandchildren, until they pop round one day to find her missing and wild animals popping up in her stead around the house. A lovely little story with delightful illustrations to boot!

Another unique, endlessly inventive lift-the-flap book from Clotilde Perrin, Inside the Suitcase is less gothic than her other work but no less magical. There's even a trailer showing a sneak peek of what's inside! Last but not least, Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear is a fantastic graphic novel for young readers by artist Jeet Zdung and environmentalist Trang Nguyen. Based on the true story of a young conservationist rescuing and befriending a sun bear, it's full of wonderful visuals and facts!
We've something a little different for you with this edition's puzzle pick: an Escher-indebted pop art 1,000 piece tableaux called In The Museum. From a design by illustrator Tomi Um, it's full of vibrant colours, quirky characters and eccentric little details wherever you look!

What we're reading

  • Jo has nearly finished Elizabeth Anionwu's Dreams From My Mother, the fascinating autobiography of a child of a catholic Irish mother and Nigerian father who became the UK's first sickle cell specialist nurse
  • Sarah has fallen down the rabbit hole of the Theranos case, currently being tried in the US, and recommends Bad Blood by John Carreyrou for a comprehensive dismantling of the company and Elizabeth Holmes
Just like that, the newsletter is done, and so nearly is the month of September! The season for getting cosy indoors, doing jigsaws and reading a lot is right around the corner, so we're not complaining. As usual, opening hours and details about ordering are below, and we'll see you next time. Take care!
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!)
Copyright © 2021 Stoke Newington Bookshop, All rights reserved.

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