We are coming to the end of Independent Bookshop Week. I haven’t completed the cryptic crossword yet. Several customers find themselves in the same position. None of us are talking to the crossword setter. Awkward when one is married to him. Especially on our wedding anniversary. Nonetheless it has been a fun week, celebrating independent bookshops, independent publishing houses and independent-supporting customers.
We are closing the week with a poetry event which I am so excited about. Tom Sastry’s collection, You Have No Normal Country to Return to is an incisive examination of English identity today, of the history that has brought us here and no less than a response to Francis Fukuyama. Taran Spalding-Jenkin’s Health Hireth is a lyrical cry for home and exploration of chronic illness. Also a lesson in the Cornish language. (Fortunately parallel text provided for those of us not yet versed in Kernewek, though it looks beautiful on the page.) I look forward to seeing lots of you at 5pm in the shop today.
There are 2n + 1 (where n = pick what you consider to be a ridiculously high number) books published each week. A small number of them have deservedly super advertising campaigns. Many, undeservedly, enter the world of print quietly.
Which means that you may not have heard of The Unbroken Beauty of Rosalind Bone by Alex McCarthy. Fortunately, someone came in to describe it as Small Things Like These meets Under Milk Wood and I felt my stomach flip. It’s a novella set in a quiet Welsh village, its many characters harbouring secrets, shame, and darker pasts than the stunning landscape might suggest.
That’s just one title I’d like to add to the equation. Here are a few more:
Brian by Jeremy Cooper
Brian leads a solitary life with a fixed routine, avoiding change. Yet one day, he does find something new: visits to the BFI. Through the works of Yasujiro Ozu, Federico Fellini, Agnes Varda, Yilmaz Guney, he begins to discover a community.
What I’d rather not think about by Jente Posthuma
Told in short vignettes, the narrator of this novel explores her resentment and love for her twin brother, asking how she can live without him after his suicide; an atmospheric and compelling portrait of grief and survival.
Briefly, A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens (just out in paperback)
George Sand and Frederic Chopin arrive in Mallorca in 1838 to stay at a house haunted by a teenage ghost, Blanca. Seeing this woman, dressed in man’s clothes and unlike anyone she has ever encountered, Blanca falls in love with George.
More Fiya ed. Kayo Chingonyi
Following in the footsteps of The Fire People, edited by Lemn Sissay, Chingonyi has curated a fresh mixtape, bringing together exceptional Black British poets such as Eric Ngalle Charles, Warsan Shire and Yomi Sode, and many more in a collection that reaches out to all.
Surreal Spaces: The Life and Art of Leonora Carrington by Joanna Moorhead
If, like me, you’re obsessed with surrealism, women artists, nuns, wolves, and painting yourself green, then you will delight in this stunning illustrated biography of the great Leonora Carrington.
This is Europe: The Way We Live Now by Ben Judah
Ben Judah draws a series of vivid portraits which ask what it means to call yourself European. Talking to long-distance lorry drivers, shelf-stackers, fishermen, olive-packers, those working at ports, entrepreneurial refugees, Judah offers not a broad picture of the continent but an intimate consideration of feeling European.
This is Not America: Why Black Lives in Britain Matter by Tomiwa Owolade
Addressing racial inequalities in society has become one of the most urgent questions of the age on movements and thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic have provided one another with a great deal of solidarity and support. However, in this book, journalist Tomiwa Owolade argues that the theory and practice of combatting structural racism has focused too little on the specific nature of British society and culture, and seeks to formulate what an anti-racist agenda for modern Britain would look like.
A Hero Like Me by Angela Joy & Jen Reid
Everyday a little girl walks past the towering statue of a man who is labelled a “hero”. But he was no such thing. A story that empowers children and people of all ages to stand up for peace and be true heroes.
Speak Up by Nathan Bryon
Rocket loves her local library and is heartbroken to hear it is closing down. Inspired by the people she read about in library books, including Rosa Parks, she begins a protest to try to save it. A book that inspires young people to lead and to read.