Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fluorescent jelly, vengeful angels and a new world history: BBC Oxford Afternoon Bookclub October 2010

Sadly, we're well into Christmas present territory now, but I was really pleased with the selection of books on today's show. Click to listen on iPlayer, then forward to about 1 hour 11 minutes into the show.

Here are the books reviewed:

Who’s Hiding – Satoru Onishi (Gecko Press, PB, £5.99)This is a simple idea ingeniously delivered. On every page an assortment of different animals, of different colours, appear – but with the judicious use of colour, the question is “Who’s Hiding?”. Other subtle (and increasingly complex) changes happen as the book progresses. And pre-schoolers absolutely love it. Great for an older sibling to read to a younger one too...

Angel – LA Weatherly (Usborne, PB, £7.99)This is the first in a brilliant new series of books – published by Usborne, who have moved into the young adult fiction market for the first time. It’s a superbly conceived world in which people see angels – but they are most definitely *not* what they seem. As the book progresses we follow Willow, a young girl who seems to have special powers, and a boy named Alex (an angel-hunter) who initially wants to harm Willow, but eventually is forced to join her as they face a threat which has huge ramifications for the entire world. A stunning book and a natural successor to the ‘Twilight’ world. Angels are the new vampires!

Mirrors – Eduardo Galeano (Portobello Books, PB, £9.99)This is one of the most addictive books I’ve read in a long time, so be warned if you think you’ll just have a few minutes to ‘dip in’ (particularly at night, and I speak from experience) as you may be some time. At its simplest, ‘Mirrors’ is a history of the world written in a thousand short ‘pieces’, in the form of an anecdote, event, biography or some other interesting story which makes this book one that can be dipped into at almost any point. But when read together, they form a genuinely original history of the world, often with key moments told from very different vantage points – and with connections and themes strung together. By the end of the book your view of the world – and the human experience – is subtly, but radically transformed.

The Extraordinary Cookbook: Make Meals Your Friends Will Never Forget – Stefan Gates (Kyle Cathie, HB, £19.99)Cookbooks are a staple of the Christmas publishing 'fayre' (no pun intended), but this year, forget Nigella, Jamie and Hugh, and instead plump for this, one of the most unusual and, yes, extraordinary cookbooks to have been published in recent years. Stefan Gates is best known for presenting Gastronuts, and he has brought out books in the past on eating unusual food. But here, he collects together 'real' recipes for you to cook extraordinary meals for friends which will "flatter their intelligence and feed their appetite for adventure". From flourescent jellies and roasted fish heads, to inviting your friends to make sushi and roasting fish heads, this is a cook book like no other...

Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will - Judith Schalansky (HB, Penguin Books, £25.00)This is one of those wonderful books that is beautifully conceived and executed, making both a lovely gift and genuinely useful in terms of a reference book. The collected stories which serve to illustrate each island are by turns funny, gripping...but often poignant, rooted as many of them are in the history of discovery and colonisation. One of my big Christmas recommends this year for difficult-to-buy-for men, particularly those with an interest in maps! But it will appeal to a far wider readership than that...

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