Deliciously Quirky Children’s Book

The Strange Birds of Flannery O'Connor

The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor

In honour of unfettered imagination and the right to be odd

Uncle Andy's by James Warhola

Uncle Andy’s

‘A great adventure to a very exotic land’

The I Wonder Bookstoker by Shinsuke Yoshitake

The I Wonder Bookstore

Quirky and charming Japanese bestseller

A Visit to William Blake's Inn by Nancy Willard

A Visit to William Blake’s Inn

A delightfully quirky book for delightfully quirky children

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Damon Galgut wins 2021 Booker Prize for The Promise

Can’t tell you how excited I am about the choice of Damon Galgut’s The Promise as this year’s Booker Prize winner. It’s an exceptional book, written by a hugely talented author. The story of the disintegration of the South-African Swart family will stay with you for a long time. Read our review here.

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Letters Live at Royal Albert Hall

On the week Mark Zuckerberg announced his plan for a metaverse, attending the deliciously analog Letters Live at Royal Albert Hall was like balm to the soul. Letters Live, inspired by the best-selling book series Letters of Note, is a live, bi-annual (more or less) event in which famous actors read letters dealing with anything from a customer complaint to Virgin Airlines (which made it all the way to Richard Branson for its hilarity), a sublime love letter, to a heart-wrenching post-humous letter written by a 19 year-old soldier killed in Afghanistan and many more. A packed Royal Albert Hall (with an encouraging number of 20yr olds!) was treated to readings by Benedict Cumberbatch, Gillian Anderson, Toby Jones, Matt Lucas and many more, interspersed by music performances. Exquisite!

While you wait for the next one, visit the Letters Live archive.

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Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett

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Checkout 19

‘The pages you read bring you to life.’

A curious and exhilarating affair, Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett is my stand-out read of the year to date. In this extraordinary novel, Bennett takes the voice of an unnamed female narrator, leading the reader on a stream of consciousness trip from her school days to the present. The twist is that her life is viewed through the prism of the books she’s read and how they have informed her as a woman, a reader and ultimately a writer. It’s intense as hell but the reward is a read touched with brilliance and originality.

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Matrix by Lauren Groff

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The Original Girl Power

At seventeen, Marie is kicked out of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine’s court in France and exiled to a godforsaken abbey in the English countryside. Deemed too ugly to marry, Marie, an orphaned ‘bastard’ with royal blood, is stowed away for life. There’s far more to Marie than meets the eye, however, and soon enough, she has turned the poverty-stricken abbey into a powerhouse. The question is: how does Eleanor feel about that?  And, anyway, are women really meant to achieve this much? If a story about nuns in a 12th century abbey sounds dull to you, think again; Matrix by Lauren Groff is an absolutely riveting read.

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Last Summer in the City by Gianfranco Calligarich

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Last Summer in the City

Cinematic novel captures the essence of Rome’s glamour years

Leo Gazzara is hovering on the brink of both turning thirty and plunging into an existential crisis. Keen to avoid respectability, his days are spent avoiding hard work, his nights indulging in the hedonistic thrills of city life. Originally published in 1970, Last Summer in the City by Gianfranco Calligarich is an Italian cult classic. Here translated into English for the first time, it captures those heady days when Rome was the capital of glamour. A boozy, smoky and  intoxicating novel, it tells the story of the year Leo’s dolce vita turned sour.

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Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

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Year of Wonders

A vivid evocation of a village struck by plague

It is 1666 and the plague reaches a remote Derbyshire village of some 360 souls. They decide to cut themselves off from the outside world in order to protect the surrounding villages. Based on a true story, Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks  is a haunting and poignant novel told through the voice of an 18-year-old village girl. Although published twenty years ago it has, of course, extra resonance for our times.

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The Promise by Damon Galgut

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The Promise

A must-read

It’s been a while since I read a novel this good. The Promise by Damon Galgut is the work of an author at the top of his game, in complete control of the narrative and the language. This multi-layered story is both gripping and quietly devastating. The crumbling of the Afrikaner Swart family, living in the shadows of South-Africa’s brutal history, deals with the personal and the political, in perfect balance. I haven’t read all the books on the Booker short-list yet, but this, for sure, is one that deserves to win.

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Poison for Breakfast by Lemony Snicket

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Poison for Breakfast

Philosophy as the fourth emergency service

Imagine this: You’re enjoying your breakfast as usual, tea and toast with delectable honey, some cheese, a pear, perhaps an egg. While musing on the day ahead, you notice that a tiny scrap of paper has been pushed under your door. It reads ‘you had poison for breakfast.’ A potential murder is under way and it’s your own! In Poison for Breakfast by Lemony Snicket, the legendary narrator reveals how he employed both investigative expertise and philosophy when landed with this very dilemma.

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