September's Afternoon Bookclub is now online on the BBC iPlayer - here's the link. You'll need to fast-forward to about 1 hour 7 minutes to listen to my over-caffeinated ramblings - but here's what Jo and I reviewed on today's show:
"A Dodo at Oxford" - Philip Atkins and Michael Johnson (Oxgarth Press, HB, £12.99)
Philip Atkins and Michael Johnson have produced that rare thing - a genuinely original book, and one with its heart and soul firmly in Oxford. Based on a supposed 17th century diary 'discovered' in the Oxfam bookshop on St Giles, the authors - unsure of its provenance and authenticity - have decided to reproduce it in facimile form - with annotations to let the reader decide. Along the way, apart from learning about what may have been the last Dodo to have lived, we discover all kinds of historical facts, Oxford folklore, etymologies of words - and even popular culture references from 'items' found in the book by previous owners. An early Christmas gift - and one slightly more cerebral than the usual Christmas fodder! More about the book can be found here.
"Our Kind of Traitor" - John Le Carré (HB, Penguin, £18.99)
When a young Oxford academic and his barrister girlfriend by chance meet a Russian millionaire in Antigua, it's the start of a nightmarish yet gripping adventure which couldn't be more relevant to the way we live now. Involving Russian organised crime, the murky London bankers (and the book poses the question: "are there any other kind?"), and various national intelligence services (notably the British), this is a bang up-to-date literate thriller from an author who - amazingly, given his status as one of our finest thriller writers for over *five decades* - continues to write at the top of his game. This is an author who refuses to rest on his laurels or go quietly into the night, yet his tone is never angry, it is an abject lesson in how 'power' operates; the players may change subtly, the games are often the same. Le Carré is a true legend - and this is a legend worthy of his status.
"Rose and The Magician's Mask" - Holly Webb (Orchard Books, PB, £5.99)
This is the third in the series of Holly Webb's Rose books, which belie their sparkly, very girly cover design to tell a dark tale of fantasy, magic and some seriously twisted villains. In previous books Rose (an orphan) was taken in to work as a servant by Mr Fountain, the chief magical advisor to the King. Having saved a lost much-loved princess in book two, she now has to travel to Venice to prevent a catastrophe, following the theft of a powerful magical mask. Cue lots of sightseeing and masked balls in the magically-evoked Italian city. Perfect reading for girls who want exciting, well-written books that the boys definitely won't want to read!
(You can also come and meet Holly Webb at Mostly Books on Oct 6th as part of National Children's Book Week)
Running Wild - Michael Morpurgo (HarperCollins, PB, £6.99)
Like John Le Carré, Michael Morpurgo is an author who seems to get better with age. Already well-loved by children the world over, this book won the Oxfordshire Book Award for Primary School category - a book voted for by children in schools across Oxfordshire. The book starts in the company of Will and his Mum, on holiday in Indonesia and recovering after the death of Will's father. But this is Boxing Day 2004, and when the elephant Will is riding along the beach suddenly goes crazy and crashes off into the undergrowth, it's not just Will's world that is about to turn upside down...
How To Store Your Home Grown Produce - John & Val Harrison (Right Way Publications, PB, £6.99)
Apparently this Autumn we are looking at a bumper harvest - so what do you do when you've got a glut of plums, courgettes or other fruits and vegetables all ripening at once? Why not get yourself a copy of "How To Store Your Home-grown Produce" and learn about harvesting, storing and preserving your bumper crop through the Winter. This is a handy, competitively-priced handbook that will show you how to make chutneys and jams, and how to bottle, dry, freeze or simply store what you grow to feel you and family in the cold months ahead...