Saturday Summary #4

If anything, the last week has been mostly dominated by one book, and a book not yet even released. One thing's for sure: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee will be the biggest release of the year on Tuesday. No surprise then that Foyles has a 'midnight event' planned (see you there?).

Blackwell's Oxford is offering - to us - a slightly less enticing "first person in the queue gets a free copy" set-up, but then we're more London night-owls than Oxford early birds perhaps.

Keeping with fiction, and Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train saw it's 20th week at number one in the Original Fiction charts, topping 800,000 units in all formats in UK and Ireland and besting the 19 of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol.

A good week too for Carys Davies, who won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She took home €25,000  for  The Redemption of Galen Pike. Everyone, including Davies publishers, was happy for her...!

One award changed for the better, we'd say, with the new Man Booker International Prize, and Namwali Serpell showed wonderful generosity in winning the Caine Prize and sharing her winnings (bravo!).

Far less lovely, the revelations of Joanne Harris (sexism) and Nikesh Shukla (book world diversity ignorance) but necessary revelations and fully supported by us.

On a musical note, this week we've seen Johnny Marr and Sir Paul McCartney book details revealed. Plus news Tom Delonge, of Blink 182 front-man notoriety, is seeing his sci-fi novel Poet Anderson… Of Nightmares released on October 6th by Simon & Schuster.

What else? A new app in the works to help find your next read, and a tasty 10% discount on books? See here (at the bottom).

A very happy, well-read, Saturday!

Saturday Summary #3

A hopefully wholesome Saturday Summary for you today as - by the time you read this - we'll be somewhere on the Ceredigion coast seeking stories and bookish respite. Mixed news on Monday. The fallout from Independent Bookshop Week was thankfully positive indeed. Meryl Halls of the Booksellers Association said the event was now what was "always envisioned", this years was the biggest yet, and a "wonderful spectacle" was produced.

This came alongside news from the Read On. Get On coalition that 40% of boys on free school meals lacked language skills when compared to those better off (by the age of five). For girls the figure is 27%.

Chris Riddell, Children's Laureate shared this post on his Facebook page this week. It may or may not be related to the Read On. Get On report, but any parent reading to any child is, in our opinion, awesome.

Tuesday, the news that Dr. Henry Marsh picked up the PEN Ackerley Prize found us very happy indeed. It's a top title.

Apple, it seems, lost its appeal to challenge the claim that it fixed prices of ebooks, and Amazon - the company Apple's ebook approach no doubt targets - launched one day deliveries for those in certain parts of London. The service will reach other cities at later dates, but only for Prime members.

Annnd finally, the author of The Tree Climber's Guide to London has agreed a deal with Harper Colling's non-fiction department. The deal will see the tantalising title out in Spring next year. But, more importantly, author Jack Cooke wants to arrange a business meeting with our Kevin Pocock mid-canopy.

Exciting times!

Saturday Summary #2

Welcome to the second Saturday Summary, a bit later than would usually be scheduled. Sort of, but not completely because we're deciding which day to go and visit our local indie bookshop... A week for memoirs fictitious and non this week. First, news that Sir Ian McKellen has reached a deal with Hachette - rumoured to be worth around £1 million - for an as-yet unwritten title about his life. Thought to cover topics including his incredible work in theatre and film, his decision to come out as gay, and his co-founding of a gay rights group (Stonewall)...we'll bring you more when it's confirmed.

Originally reported by The Sunday Times, the full article sits behind a paywall. But if you wish to read more, Pink News adds flesh to the bones.

Rugby fans, or just fans of World Cup winner Ben Cohen MBE, might be interested to know he too is planning a book. Tuesday brought that news, but there are little details as of yet.

Wednesday taught us that Spaced, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead and The World's End star (plus comedian, writer and actor) Nick Frost, has a confirmed release date for his 'movingly honest' memoirs, Truths, Half Truths And Utter Bullsh*t [our asterisk]. The book is due out on October 8th from Hodder and Stoughton, and in Frost's own words:

'I'm writing everything down. The sh*t, the death, fun, naughtiness, addiction, laughter, laughter, laughter, some tears and lots of love and happiness. That to me is a better reflection of a human's life.'

We also found out that Neil Gaiman's American Gods is being put into production as a TV series. There's a book to be read if you've yet to do so (and we mean us too!). The usual thoughts about adaptations run amok in our grey matter.

Thursday was the birthday of E.L James' Christian Grey - he of the Fifty Shades. And so the release of the author's latest title came about; but by Friday it was clear that Grey had provoked a mixed response.

Friday also brought news that former Welsh international rugby player, Gareth Thomas, had his autobiography Proud named Sports Book of the Year in the CROSS British Sports Book Awards. Proud had already been named CROSS Autobiography of the Year at an event earlier this month. Good going for the former player affectionately referred to as "Alfie".

Today is Saturday. And that...that means it's the start of Independent Bookshop Week 2015.

Go indies!

Saturday Summary #1

Hi, and welcome to the first Saturday Summary. Not ever anywhere, probably, but the only one that matters...err. Anyway, brief news about the book-week gone here follows!

David Nicholls' Us, is undergoing the adaptation process to a BBC drama. Us was longlisted for last year's Man Booker Prize. If you've read the book and you're looking forward to the adaptation...maybe don't. We're kidding, but adaptations are a tricky art. You could always read the book again. And if you've not read it at all, check it out.

Tuesday was Doodle day. Not only did Chris Riddell become the ninth Children's Laureate, he also unveiled his alter-ego, 'Doodle', turning each of the previous children's laureates into super/heroic authors as well. The sheer power of that man's pencil case; and he wants everyone else to enjoy drawing and doodling too - very good luck to him

Midweek came with the line-up announcement for this August's Edinburgh International Book Festival. We're making plans to attend, and think everyone who possibly can should too. Festival director, Nick Barley, told The Guardian he thinks the UK's reading habits are "an embarrassment". Oof, should we make it up, we hope to help to report on the variety being showcased.

One thing's for sure: people definitely need to give A Song of Ice and Fire author, George R.R Martin, some space!

And finally, please watch this. We think it's wonderful.

Have a good weekend, and see you next week. Perhaps we'll have a logo for this little bit.

Chris Riddell, children's laureate - and why it matters

Tuesday saw the crowning of a new Children's Laureate. The position, which we think deserves our capitalisation (others seem to disagree), is one worth highlighting. Equally so too is the new holder of the role.

What is the children's laureate?

Of course the poet laureate comes to mind, and it's not far off. It's similar, except with a brief for promoting excellence in writing or illustration of children's books. Illustration is particularly significant this time around.

The role was conjured up by former poet laureaute Ted Hughes and children's writer Michael Morpurgo. The aim was to honour and highlight excellence in the field, inspire others, and is managed by the Book Trust, with support (mainly) from Waterstones.

Who is it?

The Doodler! Or perhaps, illustrator and writer Chris Riddell. Whoever is the true recipient of the honour, they receive £20,000 and an inscribed medal as they take over from Malorie Blackman. The Doodler/Chris is the ninth children's laureate, and is already scribbling about his experiences on his Facebook page.

Should you know him?

Probably moreso if you've children - or you're a child yourself. Chris is behind the much-loved Goth Girl series of books, which are well worth a look. He holds the the British librarians' annual award for the best-illustrated children's book, and has won two Kate Greenaway medals for "distinguished illustration".

So there you have it - the new Children's Laureate is a man who wields his pen and pencils wonderfully. The Doodler! Chris Riddell! For the good of children's books.

Good luck to him. For his two year tenure and beyond.

Busting boundaries: English Pen's World Bookshelf


Being that W&M is relatively new in the world of books, we thought we'd get out from behind our desk and be active. So, because we like shifting our horizons (and because we were thankfully allowed to attend), we were at the launch at English PEN's 'World Bookshelf'. held at Foyle's on Charing Cross Road.

For the uninitiated, English Pen is the founding member of the Free Word Centre, and the founding centre of the international association of writers. If that means little, it is a charity set up to support the rights of readers and writers both in the UK and internationally. To give a small hint of its beliefs, it's actively fighting for a reversal of the UK's prison book ban.

Needless to say then that English PEN's belief in literary freedom is plastered all over its bookshelf.

Happy to be in like-minded (if far superior) company, we arrived in Foyle's 'gallery' area and took a seat surrounded by book lovers and industry professionals. We then moved seat; not wanting our mind to be the only thing able to stretch. Frankly, we weren't disappointed, as what was to follow was enlightening, enjoyable and highly interesting.

Harriet Gilbert of BBC Radio 4's 'A Good Read' and the World Service's 'The World Book Club' led things. Joined by novelists Nikita Lalwani, Elif Shafak and the translator Frank Wynne, the evening was relaxed, welcoming and genuinely revealing.

Each of the guests talked openly about their experience of writing in (and having text ported to) different languages. With the guests reading excerpts from personally chosen titles, we were treated to books in translation which inspired, intrigued or challenged them. All the while Gilbert listened avid as the rest of us, yet guiding the evening with insight and purpose as needed.

For those, like us, who read very little translated material, it was dazzling to be made aware of the artistry that goes in to making a book region-suitable. Titles, phrases, indeed whole passages of text have to be considered for suitability.

Elif Shafak recounted that one of her books Iskender, was translated to English (Honour) and Italian (House of Four winds) with changed titles. In English, Iskender (Alexander) may be taken as a history of Alexander the Great. In Italian, Honour (Honore) might be taken as a mafia-themed title.

Such considerations were alien to us. And we likely weren't alone: With English-writing authors works dominating British bookshelves, much of the magic of translation - and of the rhythm, themes and stories skilfully carried from other languages - are missed by many of us.

And so 'The World Bookshelf'.

Not content with letting readers miss out on international literature, English PEN has opened and committed to an "online gateway" showcasing the works of international writers - all made accessible through translation.

A portal full of author, book and translator info, complete with a blog and the possibility of future events. Meanwhile, a PEN Atlas section allows exploration and discovery of literature and by the continent.

We'd be stunned if we weren't so impressed by the portal. More importantly though, we're now struck by a daring feeling: the feeling that we may hold truly dear a book not native in English, but powerfully adopted.

What that book might be we're not yet sure. But we know who might help.


A podcast of the evening should shortly be available; we'll be sure to link to it here when it is!

Chris Hadfield: an author with global vision

Stephen King has written that books are a "uniquely portable magic". Yet some books force us to redefine the type and level of the magic which lay within their pages. Broadening horizons, educating and entertaining, the very best books bring us something unique. A magic to be taken with us, and a glow to last long after.

Ordinarily, perhaps historically, the news that the former Commander of the International Space Station was to publish a second book might excite a decent amount of people. It might not necessarily grab the attention some would feel such news deserves.

Yet the announcement that the former Commander Chris Hadfield is to publish his second book is most certainly attracting attention.

Hatfield, now retired, achieved his dreams and probably more than he ever dreamed about. As a boy he watched the moon landing and wanted nothing more than to following in the footsteps of his heroes. He joined the Canadian astronaut program in 1992 and flew into space aboard the STS-75 shuttle three years later.

In April 2001 he first visited the International Space Station, embarking on a space-walk to help install the 'Canadarm2' - a crucial bit of equipment for logistical and maintenance operations, otherwise known as the Mobile Servicing System.

As if to better enhance and brighten his later glorious views of Earth and space from orbit, he suffered a problem. While working to attach the Canadarm2 Hadfield went temporarily blind. In both eyes. Due to an anti-fogging agent Hadfield temporarily lost his sight while on a space-walk. It sounds absolutely terrifying, although he has recently said such issues are prepared for in training.

Twelve years later Hadfield would see beauty and capture imaginations on a global scale, sharing pictures of his views from space with us on Earth. Having joined the ISS on expedition 34 in December 2012, he became Commander of the Station in March 2013.

Clearly things are just a bit more eye-catching from space, and Hadfield made full artistic use of his time:

Naturally, space provides a simply astounding view on things; something the former Commander has conveyed wonderfully since his return to Earth:

"It's an entirely different perspective, you're not looking up at the and the Earth are going through the universe together.

And you're holding on with one hand, looking at the world turn beside you.

It's...roaring silently with colour and texture as it pours by just mesmersingly next to you."

It's that colour and texture, shown through the many beautiful images posted to his Twitter profile, which have captured the attention of millions. Pictures of deserts, lakes, cities and fault lines shown as only an astronaut sees them. Yes, space is different. "You see a sunrise or a sunset every 45 minutes", Hadfield told the audience at a TedX talk.

Some of what he's seen - in many photos the world has yet to - will make it into his second book, You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes. The title will be the follow up to 2013's An Astronaut's Guide To Life.

Pan Macmillan's Jon Butler imprint has acquired UK and commonwealth rights and, just as King wrote, we can expect some "uniquely portable magic". Perhaps magic like no other. The book will feature stunning images, as well as engaging and - hopefully - captivating commentary.

Now unfortunately Chris Hadfield was unavailable for comment for this feature. Because we didn't even try to get hold of him.

We know he's busy in any case. After all, he has a lot of exquisite and awe-inspiring images to work through.

Unpublished Garcia Marquez manuscript revealed

The late Gabriel Garcia Marquez left an unpublished novel featuring themes not dissimilar to his most-loved works, it has been revealed. The Colombian writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature died on the 17th of April. He stopped writing in 2004, and the unpublished manuscript, En Agosto Nos Vemos ("We'll See Each Other in August"), was completed around that time.

Garcia Marquez biographer, Gerald Martin, says the new work isn't wholly unexpected, but has changed quite a bit since he was made aware of it:

"The last time I talked to Gabo about this story it was a stand-alone which he was going to include in a book with three similar but independent stories. Now they're talking about a series of episodes in which the woman turns up and has a different adventure each year."

It really does seems the writer was busier in his final writing years than most had thought, shaping We'll See Each Other in August into a fuller body of work - and one which ponders the themes of secret lives, love and eroticism which Garcia Marquez' so masterfully handled.

It would of course be wonderful to have another of the writer's works available, but whether we'll get to see the novel in print is currently undecided.

The decision to not publish it was made by Garcia Marquez himself, and any decision to make it available would now be one for the writer's family. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Cristobal Pera of Penguin Random House Mexico's said such a decision was yet to be made.

For now then, we only have an excerpt from the manuscript - printed in Spain's La Vanguardia newspaper.

It introduces us to a woman in her 50s. The lady makes annual visits to her mother's grave on a tropical island where, each year she has adventures. In the excerpt, which may be the first chapter, the lady has an affair with a man of similar age at the hotel in which she is staying.

Unfortunately, the chapter is only published in Spanish (found here). Non-Spanish speakers might get a functional sense of the story with in-browser translation. But who wants functional? We'd rather (hopefully) wait for an full English language version.

Books Afloat - The Book Barge


We've probably all considered it. To hell with the consequences, let's do something daring. Let's...go travelling or move home. For Sarah Henshaw, the idea was this: let's buy a barge and travel that nation's canals.

Yet Sarah had an even more unique take on things. Bored and uninspired with life as an entertainment journalist, she considered that a barge might be the perfect place for a shop.  A bookshop.

That was five years ago. Sarah's idea has long since been a reality; one which has taken her on a journey of five years, over 1,000 miles and through 707 locks. In that time she's sold 1,395 books.

The shop has graced the canals of London, Bristol, Oxford, Brimingham, Llangollen Leeds, Manchester. It has also doubled as a home for Sarah and mascots, including the current resident: Napoleon Bunnyparte.

It all sounds a bit like the introduction to a book, doesn't it? Well that's exactly what it's become. A story to tug at all the hearts of all those seeking A change, The Bookshop That Floats is available now., published by Constable.

Honestly though, the captivating introduction to Sarah's journey is far better read than described. So here it is:

In early 2009 a strange sort of business plan landed on the desk of a pinstriped bank manager. It had pictures of rats and moles in rowing boats and archaic quotes about Cleopatra's barge. It asked for a £30,000 loan to buy a black-and-cream narrowboat and a small hoard of books.

The manager said no, and so did others, but...well Sarah made it work anyway. And still, through tough times, it works. Sometimes books were used to barter for goods and services. Sometimes a barge-based disaster occurred. But Sarah kept on. And it gladdens the heart, she did.

The Bookshop that Floats  currently sits 6th in Amazon's 'Biography > Business & Finance' section. It also sits among the top ten of 'Travel & Holiday > Travel Writing', and 'Business, Finance & Law > Biographies and Histories' (imagine that!).

Happily, Sarah is still running the shop - apparently moored near Broadway Market, Hackney over Easter. She's still selling others' books as well; although now she has her own to add to her story.


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Appreciating... Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Over the Easter holiday, or some time in the near future, you may be in need of a new book to read. Something offering escape, but at once engaging attachment and truth. If that book should also contain masterfully crafted escapism heavy with wisdom, then the late Garcia Marquez' bibliography may provide.

The 87 year-old Columbian author sadly passed away yesterday, but there is little doubt his works will live on for generations. There is little doubt, not because he was awarded the Nobel prize in literature, but because of his skill at guiding wisdom, insight and a personal fascination to his works.

Barack Obama yesterday said the world mourned "one of its greatest visionary writers". Juan Manuel Santos, president of the author's native Columbia gave a hint of the loss his country  feels:

 "A thousand years of solitude and sadness at the death of the greatest Colombian of all time. Solidarity and condolences to his wife and family ... Such giants never die."

Garcia Marquez was, and will remain a Columbian hero, and a global literary icon. But for all those who have yet to experience the author's works, what examples can be offered to convey the quality of his talents?

Well, the height of the acclaim for his works may be enough, yet - though to do so is to pick morsels from what many millions would consider a feast - a look at some of the writer's extracts sheds light. Familiarisation through The Guardian, or even Goodreads, the result will be largely the same.

Among the many perfectly pitched lines, is the often misquoted, perhaps impossible, yet strikingly perfect phrase, "Nobody deserves your tears, but whoever deserves them will not make you cry.” Alongside may be placed, “A lie is more comfortable than doubt, more useful than love, more lasting than truth.”

Such semantic elegance might be the hallmark of a brilliant writer, but also of a person who knows something of life and so-called 'universal truths'. Garcia Marquez may not have claimed such a lofty perch.

Born in Aracataca, a place which would inspire his own fictional village of Macondo, he was raised from a young age by his grandparents. A young Columbian, inspired by his liberal grandfather, he would later attend law-school but opt for journalism.

He was a brother, a husband, and father to two sons. He was an observer of life and he felt the lives of individual were fascinating: "All human beings have three lives", he once noted, "public, private, and secret".

It was secret lives which helped produce Love in the Time of Cholera. Concerned with the love of elderly people, the title was inspired by a couple in their late 70s who met every year. One tragic year the couple were murdered onboard a boat by their boatman. Garcia Marquez noted:

"Through their death, the story of their secret romance became known. I was fascinated by them. They were each married to other people."

Of Garcia Marquez' own life we know a fair bit. Perhaps not of any of the 'secret', although a fair portion of the 'private' - such information a by-product of fame and renown. Mostly, we have known of his public life. Yet should we wish to have a hint of the others, his works could at best provide clues.

At worst, they may delight and enrich and inspire our own lives.