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Newsletter #29

Hello lovely people! As we gear up for the festive season, we're once again launching our twin annual appeals: the Lemn Sissay-supported Hackney Christmas Dinner for care leavers, and in our neighbouring toyshop, the Winter Toy Appeal for children living in extreme poverty. For those who are unfamiliar, it's very simple. For the Hackney Christmas Dinner we ask you buy an appropriate book in the shop which will be donated; for the Winter Toy Appeal, the same applies for items at the toy shop, plus you can buy and donate through our online shop

We offer a 20% contribution to the price of any book or toy you buy to donate, which are then delivered to the appropriate charity. They're both fantastic causes we're proud to contribute to every year. Enquire within either shop to make a donation, or for more info!

Also, there have been some books released this past fortnight! Shall we select some of the best and wryly synopsise them for you? Ooo, go on then.

New this week

Noble Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa returns to grace our shelves with Harsh Times, a globe-spanning satire of Latin American politics beginning with the CIA-supported coup against Guatemala's communist regime in the 50s. That initial "lie" then radiates out, with its ensemble cast — from journalists to fruit sellers — struggling against a web of invisible corruption.

You wait ages for a new Giordano Bruno story, then three come along at once. The star of SJ Parris's historical crime novels returns in
The Dead of Winter, a trilogy of gripping short mysteries in one volume. Sally Vickers's The Gardener deals with mysteries of a more personal nature, as artist Hattie unpicks a painful personal history and finding salvation in the renovation of an old house and its grounds.

There aren't many writers — especially those specialising in mysteries — whose can claim their lives are as exciting as those of their books. Patricia Highsmith is the rare exception, as Her Diaries and Notebooks can attest. This edited volume lays out the Highsmith glimpsed through her books: an often cruel and selfish woman, with a keen eye for the social structures of her day, restless and fiercely intelligent. A riveting peek behind the curtain.

As lockdown restrictions lift and Ryanair sales gear up, Granta 157 offers an alternative selection of travel writing than the usual, from a tour around Brazil with Clarice Lispector to a profile of a Russian whale-hunting station. In Will She Do? Dame Eileen Atkins shows a knack for storytelling and frank honesty as she guides us from a childhood in a Tottenham council estate to Broadway and beyond.
We've had so many fantastic (and fantastically-designed) cookbooks come in recently, we felt moved to highlight some of our favourites. Vina Patel's From Gujarat With Love features over a hundred veggie and vegan recipes from the Indian region. Hisham Assad's Bayrūt combines a history of the Lebanese capital with delicious recipes, informed by the city's unique position between Middle East and the Mediterranean.

In the UK drinking and dining often means a disappointing burger that comes with a cheap lager. In Japan, it's a little classier, as Tim Anderson explains in Your Home Izakaya. The equivalent of a tapas bar, Izakaya began as sake bars that served food, but became much more. Anderson offers up a platter of after-work treats to try at home — including ramen, salads, and udon carbonara — along with some complementary cocktails.
As sleigh bells start ringing in the distance, we've started bolstering our stock of oversized gift books, too. Nests is a collection of Susan Ogilvy's gorgeous series of bird nest paintings, all produced from life with specimens found near her homes in Somerset and the Isle of Arran. Renegades is the spin-off book from the incredibly successful podcast hosted by Bruce Springsteen (The Boss) and Barack Obama (America's old boss), continuing their conversation about American identity, culture, and more, bolstered by hand-written and annotated lyrics and speeches.

Roy Reed and former Stokey local Sam Roberts team up for Ghost Signs, a comprehensive and wonderfully-produced photo essay of the titular phenomena: the hand-painted relics of London's advertising past, faded murals offering motor oil and butchering services on buildings which have long since been turned into flats, cafes and estate agents.
Veteran music journo Paul Morley returns to his specialist subject in From Manchester With Love, a biography of Factory Records boss Tony Wilson. Already immortalised in the biopic and his memoir, both titled 24 Hour Party People, Wilson was a self-made myth who nonetheless insisted he was but a conduit for the label which gave us Joy Division, the Hacienda, New Order and the Happy Mondays. Morley successfully memorialises this mercurial figure, as much as he does the city that made them both.

Daniel de Vise steps back further into rock history with King of the Blues, a new biography of B.B. King which draws on interviews from almost every surviving member of his inner circle to tell his thrilling life story from orphan to icon. Kelefa Sanneh takes a wider view in Major Labels, an ambitious tome which attempts to assess the development of entire genres, and how they as much unite their listeners as reflect societal divides along the lines of race, class, and taste.
It seems an impossibility, and yet we've held it in our own hands: a Moomin book available in English for the first time! Tove Jansson's Moominland Midwinter is an adaptation of an existing story, produced in the sixties at her publisher's behest, and features the first ever full-colour Moomin illustrations. It's also, obviously, a beautiful and idiosyncratic story, as Moomintroll wakes up early from hibernation and tries to find shelter in an icy world unfamiliar to his kind.

David Roberts and Andrea Beatty's series of collaborations have never been anything less than charming, inspiring and wonderfully illustrated; Aaron Slater, Illustrator is no exception, the story of a young boy who struggles to articulate himself with words but draws spectacular stories. Einstein the Penguin is the latest from Iona Rangeley, with illustrations by David Tazzyman, a fantastically funny story of a flightless fowl from London Zoo taken in by a visiting family...and who turns their life upside down.
Often the jigsaws we feature depict glamorous locales, abstract or impossible spaces, things of that nature. This issue, we've gone for something more familiar. This 1,000 piece puzzle is of a dog walker, albeit one with a menagerie far more varied and colourful than we've seen even the most daring owner tote around Clissold Park, a design strikingly modern with a hint of old children's book illustration. Make sure you clean it up when you're finished.

What we're reading

  • Sam is eagerly recommending O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker, a coming of age novel he describes alternately as a "dark I Capture the Castle" and "gothic My Family And Other Animals"
  • Paul finished finished Mark Boyle's The Way Home and now wants to hitchhike to the west of Ireland in search of the hostel and (free) pub Boyle hand built with friends and visitors
  • Tom is enjoying the reliably weird Samuel R Delaney's Driftglass, a collection of sci-fi short stories, featuring neutered far-space explorers and cosmic Hell's Angels
A bumper crop this edition, and it's only to become more so the closer we get to Christmas. Make sure you wrap up warm before this cold snap the weather people are reliably predicting (when are they ever wrong?), and come see us to get a head start on the present-buying. You can even get a sneak peek of the Selfridges of Stoke Newington: our world-famous Christmas window! All the details about opening hours and ordering are below, take care, and we'll see you soon!
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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