Monday, November 24, 2014

Christmas Books 2014: best fiction to read

Forget Amis, McEwan and the Booker winner — these are the best novels of 2014

Christmas Books 2014
Christmas Books 2014 Photo: Charlotte Runcie

Somewhere in the middle of Ali Smith’s delightfully fizzy novel How To Be Both (Hamish Hamilton, £16.99), the teenage protagonist interrupts her viewing of a film to “howl out loud like a wolf at its crapness”. I’ve identified strongly with this passage while compiling this list of 2014’s fiction, particularly when it came to some of the bigger names. I yelped at the Dickens-aping opening to Ian McEwan’s The Children Act (Cape, £16.99): “London. Trinity term one week old. Implacable June weather.” 
I yodelled at Richard Flanagan’s fervently written Booker winner The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto, £16), especially when a sex scene in the dunes was cut short by this Yeatsian apparition of a dog: “Above blood-jagged drool, its slobbery mouth clutched a twitching fairy penguin.” I moaned throughout David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks (Sceptre, £20), in which Matrix-esque immortal warriors take over the bodies of a Seventies schoolgirl and a yah on a skiing holiday, crescendoing at lines like: “Incorporeally, I pour psychovoltage into a neurobolas and kinetic it through the hole.” 
By the time I got to Martin Amis’s The Zone of Interest (Cape, £18.99), a Nazi bureaucratic satire apparently convinced that what the concentration camp novel needed was more camp (“I mean, a lorry full of starved corpses. All a bit gauche and provincial, don’t you think?”) I could only manage quiet despairing yowls. All these bestselling novels got five-star reviews elsewhere. Consider this a warning. 

Books in the Sydney Morning Herald

THUY ON The story of sexual disease in World War 1 Australian troops is told in The Secrets of the Anzacs, reviewed in brief by Thuy On.

Review: Outline by Rachel Cusk

Rachel Cusk: Characters emerge slowly.ROSS SOUTHERNWOOD Athens is the setting for Rachel Cusk's impressive latest novel.

Books that changed me: Fiona McIntosh

Adventurer: Fiona McIntosh credits author Bryce Courtenay with inspiring her to travel and later to become a novelist.
Fiona McIntosh was born in England, spent her childhood in West Africa and lives in Adelaide but prefers to write in the solitude of southern Tasmania. After a career in the travel industry, she writes full-time. Nightingale, her 28th novel for adults, is published by Michael Joseph.

Wychwood: one of the world's most magical gardens in Tasmania


Book reviews: The Beat Goes On, Poisoned Ground, Missing

Take Three dinkus
REVIEWER: JEFF POPPLE Jeff Popple searches out three of the latest and best crime fiction.

Matthew Reilly back to his best with The Great Zoo of China

Animal fever: Matthew Reilly says zoos have fascinated him since he was a small boy.KAREN HARDY A book about a zoo has long been simmering in the fertile mind of Australia's high-octane action writer.

Stella Young: The assumption is that people like us die young.Stella Young's letter to herself at 80 years old

STELLA YOUNG I learned the truth at 17. That I was not wrong for the world I live in.
Final tribute: <i>The Book of Strange Things</i>, by Michel Faber.

Michel Faber on the writing of his final novel

ALEXANDRA ALTER Michael Faber's new novel, which he says will be his last, was informed by the knowledge that his partner Eva was dying.

Oscar Pistorius trial books review – the case that mesmerised the world

The Observer,
Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius in court in Pretoria: ‘What really charged our imaginations was that Pistorius alone knew whether he actually meant to kill Steenkamp.’ Photograph: Herman Verwey/AP
There has never been a criminal trial like it. From the moment Oscar Pistorius, the sci-fi athlete, shot and killed his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on the morning of Valentine’s Day in 2013, it became irresistible rolling news. For the first time in South African history, a trial would be shown, from opening statements to verdict, on live TV. A cable channel soon offered 24-hour coverage and analysis. And, unlike the OJ Simpson case in 1995, social media stepped in with round-the-clock bloviating by everyone from experts to Donald Trump. June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, remembers that as Pistorius took the witness stand there was rapt silence in the courtroom; the only sound was journalists tapping on their screens.Tim Lewis weighs up the evidence from three accounts of a gripping trial

The hidden messages in children’s books

About the author
Hephzibah Anderson is a freelance journalist and critic who contributes to Prospect, the New Statesman, the Guardian and Haaretz, among other publications..
(Philomel/Macmillan/Harry N Abrams/Harper Collins)
(Philomel/Macmillan/Harry N Abrams/Harper Collins)

Adults often find surprising subtexts in children’s literature – but are they really there? Hephzibah Anderson delves into the world of Freud and fairy tales.
Long after losing track of the book and forgetting its title, I found myself in Edinburgh to interview Alexander McCall Smith. He was already the mega-selling author of The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, but years earlier, he had published a few children’s books. There among them on a shelf was The Perfect Hamburger.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Trade News from The Bookseller

Penguin Random House will “nurture, protect and champion” Sue Townsend’s work for years to come, c.e.o. Tom Weldon has said.
Speaking at an event to celebrate the late writer’s life and work at The British Library, Weldon made the promise to Townsend’s family, who were in attendance.
He also said Townsend would “be seen as one of the great comic writers this country has produced”.
“Sue was a passionate egalitarian,” Weldon said, “and she believed everyone had an equal right to an education and access to books and reading.”
Penguin Random House’s Ladybird imprint will no longer publish books labelled “for boys” and “for girls”, in response to a campaign by Let Toys Be Toys.
Ladybird has previously published books such as Ladybird Favourite Fairy Tales for Girls and Ladybird Favourite Stories for Boys.
The Let Toys Be Toys campaign launched Let Books Be Books earlier this year to encourage publishers to stop labelling books for a certain gender.
A parliamentary debate on libraries descended into "personal attacks" between libraries minister Ed Vaizey and shadow communities and local government minister Lyn Brown.
Speaking at a Westminster Hall debate on public libraries yesterday (19th December), Brown, a Labour MP for West Ham, questioned Vaizey's lack of intervention into local councils' plans to close multiple libraries across the UK.
Bloomsbury UK and Walker Books are among the 20 most influential international children's publishers in China, according to data released at the Shanghai Children’s Book Fair (CCBF).
According to book data company Bookdao, which compiled the ranking, Scholastic USA is the most influential foreign publisher, followed by Penguin Random House USA in second position and Casterman, the Belgian publisher of Tintin, in third. Bloomsbury UK was the highest ranking UK-based publisher, coming in at fourth position, and Walker Books UK came in at number 19.
Penguin Random House Children’s is to create a new PR director role for the whole division, following the departure of Adele Minchin.
The PR director will oversee PR across the division, which was created earlier this year, leading campaigns across both Penguin and Random House.
Graham Sim, Penguin Random House’s brand director, said: “Our wonderful children’s authors and brands face increasing competition from general media and entertainment brands, so we are looking for a PR expert to guide our brilliant teams and continue to grow our unrivalled portfolio.

Poetry NZ and Aotearoa Creative Writing Research Network (ACWRN) Launch

Unity Books Wellington, Australian Association of Writing Programs & Massey University warmly invite you to

Poetry NZ and Aotearoa Creative Writing Research Network (ACWRN) Launch

The AAWP was established in 1996 holding annual
conferences at campuses around Australia and
New Zealand. It is now the most important forum in
Australasia for discussing all aspects of teaching creative
and professional writing and for debating current theories
on creativity and writing.

Minding The Gap is only the second AAWP conference to
be held in New Zealand.

Unity Books will be selling copies of Poetry NZ [Issue #49] Yearbook 1 edited by Jack Ross at the launch

Monday December 1st
6.00 – 7.30pm
Meow Café
9 Edward St, Te Aro

All Welcome

The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak – old Istanbul brought to life

A tale of Ottoman intrigue, youthful curiosity – and a boy’s love for an elephant

Blue mosque during sunset Istanbul Turkey
The Blue Mosque at sunset, Istanbul. Photograph: Murat Taner/Corbis
Elif Shafak’s novels resemble maps that use detailed keys to help readers to journey through them, so it’s not surprising that her latest book is about the building of an ancient city. The Architect’s Apprentice describes how Istanbul blossomed in the 16th century under its most revered architect, Mimar Sinan, who served three Ottoman emperors over 50 years. Each Sultan’s reign produced a cluster of mosques envisioned and executed by Sinan, many of which still exist today. Narrated by Sinan’s fictional disciple, this is, at its core, a story about a master and his student.

Shafak recreates ancient Turkey with practised flair. Her 2010 novel The Forty Rules of Love is set partially in 13th century Konya, and her 2007 novel The Bastard of Istanbul mourns the victims of the Armenian genocide of 1915. This time she blends historical fiction, urban politics and youthful curiosity in an elaborate map of Turkey whose key is the book itself.

Kiwi book wins major award in South Africa

 A book published to acclaim in New Zealand ten years ago has just won a major award abroad.

The Afrikaans translation of New Zealand/South African author Zirk van den Berg’s Nobody Dies has won the film category of the inaugural kykNET-Rapport book awards in South Africa. This prize is given to the novel or non-fiction work with the best film potential that appeared in Afrikaans in the preceding year.

Winners were announced at an awards ceremony in Cape Town on 21 November 2014.

The kykNET-Rapport book awards are the premier book awards in Afrikaans, the native language of more than 7 million people, who live mainly in South Africa. (New Zealand has some 27,000 Afrikaans speakers.) The competition offers a total prize money of 500,000 rand ($57,000) in three categories: literary fiction, non-fiction and book with most film potential. The Afrikaans language pay TV channel kykNET is one of the principal sponsors, along with the market-leading Afrikaans Sunday newspaper, Rapport.

When Nobody Dies was published by Random House NZ in 2004, the book attracted positive reviews, with The New Zealand Herald naming it one of the top five thrillers of the year, while the New Zealand Listener headlined their review “Is Zirk van den Berg the best thriller writer in New Zealand?” Zirk now owns the rights and it has been published as an ebook through Say Books.

Then two years ago, a South African publisher who had read the book approached the author with the suggestion to translate it into Afrikaans. Van den Berg, who wrote his first two books in Afrikaans, translated his own novel and Nobody Dies was published in South Africa last year under the title ’n Ander Mens – meaning “another human” or “a different person”.

“Having the book published again was a real surprise,” said Van den Berg. “And it was a massive surprise and honour when I heard I was a finalist in this competition, especially given the reputation of other authors on the list. To then hear that the book has won is just wonderful.”

* The English version of Nobody Dies is currently available as an ebook through online bookstores and from the Say Books website.

** Van den Berg’s latest novel Half of One Thing, about a Kiwi soldier in the Boer War, was published by Penguin South Africa earlier this year, and has just become available in New Zealand bookshops.

Ladybird drops branding books ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’

Much-loved publisher of books for youngsters says it does not want ‘to be seen to be limiting children in any way’

Ladybird book
Old ideas … an illustration from a 1960s Ladybird children’s book. Illustration: © Penguin
Ladybird, the iconic publisher of children’s books including the classic Peter and Jane reading scheme, has vowed to remove any “boy” or “girl” labels from its books because it doesn’t want “to be seen to be limiting children in any way”.
The publisher, which is due to celebrate its centenary next year, is the latest to sign up to the Let Books be Books campaign, which argues that labelling books with titles like The Beautiful Girls’ Book of Colouring or Illustrated Classics for Boys sends the message “that certain books are off-limits for girls or for boys, and promotes limiting gender stereotypes”.

The New York Times Book reviews

Philip Larkin

'Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love'

Reviewed by CLIVE JAMES
James Booth's new biography of Philip Larkin demonstrates why the poet's work is great.

Penelope Fitzgerald'Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life'

Reviewed by STACY SCHIFF
Hermione Lee's latest biography is of the English novelist Penelope Fitzgerald, a late bloomer who published her first book at 58 and became famous at 80.

Gabrielle Hamilton

Gabrielle Hamilton: By the Book

The chef and author of "Prune" and "Blood, Bones and Butter": "The perfectness of reading is when a book hits you and you hit it and . . . you are completed in a way you have never been before."
·         By the Book: Archive

Nuruddin Farah'Hiding in Plain Sight'

Reviewed by LAILA LALAMI
The terrorist killing of a Somali U.N. official brings strife to his family in Nuruddin Farah's novel.
Jefferson Davis

'Embattled Rebel'

Reviewed by STEVEN HAHN
James M. McPherson reconsiders Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president and military commander.

Pablo Rojas in 2011, a year after he was trapped for 69 days in a collapsed mine in Chile.'Deep Down Dark'

Reviewed by MAC McCLELLAND
In 2010, the world was riveted by the struggle of 33 Chilean miners entombed nearly half a mile underground.


'Fahrenheit 451'

Reviewed by DAVE ITZKOFF
Is "Fahrenheit 451" a parable about censorship or an indictment of the cultural distraction of technology?

Dan Stevens Reads Homer Translations

Dan Stevens reads Robert Fitzgerald's classic translations of Homer.

'Gravity's Rainbow'

Reviewed by TOM McCARTHY
A skilled audiobook performance brings new life to "Gravity's Rainbow" at age 41.
Jason Segel


Reviewed by RENEE DALE
Twelve-year-old Charlie must confront his own fears to save his brother from the netherworld.

'The Port Chicago 50' and 'The Family Romanov'


Two audiobooks for young readers tell stories about the past.