Friday, September 04, 2015

3 4 Friday - Here be wolves and dragons...and a woman's maximum security prison

There is a seasonality to bookselling. The quiet, early part of the year gives way to Easter, then the shop blooms into the Summer reading season and the end of the school year, then Summer visitors - and finally September arrives.

This is the signal to don your bookselling goggles, tie yourself to the nearest lamppost and strap in for the storm of new publications arriving in the shop. It's an exhilarating and nerve-wracking time. Amongst the Christmas heavyweights, superstar authors and multiple 'super Thursdays', you definitely want to apply the filters, curating the pick of the best books for your readers, but equally you don't want to miss the slam-dunk hit of the year whilst you were fending off the slew of hardbacks...

Over the next few weeks we'll feature some of our favourite titles on the blog - some of our very favourite authors are publishing some sublime books. But which books are worth your time and effort?

Goggles ready? Then let's begin...

There's a bit of an end-of-days feeling around at the moment, what with the last ever Discworld novel from the much-missed Terry Pratchett (who had a special connection to Abingdon). But another long-running and much-loved series also reaches its climax with the publications of the final book in the 'How To Train Your Dragon' series by Cressida Cowell.

'How to Fight a Dragon's Fury' sees an epic, apocalyptic battle between Dragons and Humans, with Hiccup on the verge of being crowned King of the Westerlands. But Alvin the Treacherous ('there's a clue in the name') has swiped the 'Ten Lost Things', and will be crowned king instead - with plans to destroy the dragons forever.

It's exciting, funny and a fantastic finale to one of the most original series in modern children's fiction - and quite frankly it's a relief to be able to now talk now about some of the secrets Cressida revealed when she visited Kennington library in 2012...

Another author we've been privileged to do events with is Katherine Rundell. Her debut 'Girl Savage' marked the arrival of a new and blistering children's writing talent on the scene, and we'd already been telling everyone how utterly marvellous her follow-up 'Rooftoppers' was when it only went and won the Blue Peter and Waterstone Children's Book Prize.

Having now joined publisher Bloomsbury, her latest book 'The Wolf Wilder' is possibly her best yet - and that's saying something...

Feodora and her mother live surrounded by the snowbound woods of Russia and with only wolves for company. In a world where there is a huge divide between rich and poor, the rich have taken to taking wild wolves as pets. But if they turn savage, they are brought to Feo and her mother - wolf wilders. But with such a divide between rich and poor, revolution is brewing and when Feo is unwittingly caught up in the fight, suddenly, having wolves on your side can make you very sought after – for good reasons and by bad people.

In Katherine's trademark style, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run, finding friends and fighting foes, finding out what her skills and her strengths really are. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back, rich in language and lore and with a spirited protagonist you will be rooting for all the way.

Published as a gorgeous hardback edition, complete with atmospheric illustrations, this is a book to treasure in every way. It deserves to be on every children's book prize list going, and cements Katherine's position in the premier league of contemporary children's authors.


Finally, there is an embarrassment of riches at the moment on the fiction tables, with some of our biggest authors publishing shiny new hardbacks. Both William Boyd and Jonathan Franzen hold up mirrors in their latest books, one to the 20th century century in 'Sweet Caress', the other to our social media-soaked ephemeral world in 'Purity'. And the eagerly-awaited third novel from Sisters Brothers' author Patrick DeWitt plays fast and loose with fairy tale settings in the blackly humorous 'Undermajordomo Minor'. Take a look at each of these when you next come in.


But we are going to be championing 'The Book of Memory', a gem of a novel from Zimbabwean-born writer Petina Gappah.

On the face of it, this story of a young woman, languishing on death row in Zimbabwe's notorious Chikurubi maximum security prison, and chock full of Shona-dialect language and cultural references might not seem an obvious choice for a wide readership. But like the very best storytellers, Gappah tells one of the brightest, freshest, most surprising and above all witty tales we've read in a long, long time. We're always wary of mash-up comparisons, but think Chimamande Adichie crossed with Kate Atkinson and a little bit of Nina Stibbe thrown in. Bookgroups should be queuing up to read this, as should anyone - male or female - who is up for discovering a new favourite author. One of our favourite books of the year - read it!

No comments:

Post a Comment