Friday, June 19, 2015

Independent Bookshop Week 2015 - Laura Barnett, Sally Nicholls, Father's Day and Bookgroups

You know the one about the Texan who goes into the airport, right?

"Give me a ticket!" he demands.
"Where to?" answers the agent.
"Anywhere, I've got business all over!"

Well, that's how we feel during #IBW2015 - so much love around for indies, so many opportunities, authors, events and offers - and all in celebration of the wonderful, the quirky, the unique and diverse world that is independent bookshops.

We've got a whole heap of things going on this week that should give just a glimmer of the amazing range of activities that keeps us viable, relevant and part of our community. But ultimately we couldn't do any of it without your support - so this is also our chance to say THANK YOU for coming to us and entrusting us with choosing those books that will amaze, enthuse and delight.

It's a big responsibility - and we don't take it lightly...


On Saturday, June 20 we have a special Father's Day Storytime taking place - and we'll be unveiling a few surprises as well. Join Nicki and Maddy at 2pm - no need to book, just drop in (and bring little ones!).

We have a rather impressive display of Father's Day book recommendations as part of our 'Buy Dad A Real Book' campaign now in its fifth year. Find out about our dozen choices here.


Who hasn’t wondered ‘What if?’ about their own life? What if you’d taken a particular job, taken that path instead of this one, or that one chance – said ‘yes’ one time instead of ‘no’? The random nature of chance is the subject of Laura Barnett’s ‘The Versions of Us’ – a thought-provoking story about the complexities of human nature and the essentially random nature of life. Laura will be at Mostly Books on Thursday, June 25 at 7.30pm - learn more about this appealing, surprising and fabulously written exploration of fate and destiny here.

(And listen to Laura interviewed on this week's Open Book here)

On Tuesday morning, we have a local school bringing students in to choose prizes - and we'll be on hand to advise and choose the perfect book. This is the first in a series of schools visiting - and is something that creates a fantastic buzz in the shop (in past year, other customers have got themselves involved in some ad hoc recommending!)


Bookgroups are a hugely important part of the bookshop scene, and on Wednesday, the morning bookgroup will be meeting to discuss 'I Let You Go' by Clare Mackintosh. Recent books discussed have included 'All My Puny Sorrows' by Miriam Toews at the Wednesday evening bookgroup (which Nicki describes as 'A small miracle of a book') and 'The Children Act' by Ian McEwan at the Thursday evening bookgroup. Sign up to our newsletter (right hand side of this blog) to find out when spaces become available on any of our groups...

This year, Mostly Books bookseller (and young bookseller of the year shortlistee!) Imogen Hargreaves founded a brand new bookgroup, the YA bookgroup - and on June 27 we are holding a taster session for anyone wanting to come along and discover more about it.

Imogen is keen to make it much more than just a read-and-discuss group - we're choosing the newest and best YA fiction to discuss - but on June 27, we are very excited to be welcoming award-winning author Sally Nicholls, who is coming along to the group to talk about her books, why and how she writes - and what exactly books for teens are.

Sally is the winner of the #IBW2015 Children's Book Award for her latest book 'An Island of Our Own' - so it's doubly fitting that she will be coming along - and as she has offered to even serve behind the till, we are encouraging as many people as possible to come along and meet her!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Father's Day Books 2015: Fleming's Jamaica, Engel's England and the Tsunami Terror's Hollywood...


It's now five years since we launched our 'Buy Dad a Real Book' campaign back in 2011, and this year we're back with our Father's Day XII. All of us in the shop have picked, lobbied, argued and helped put together our list of Father's Day books for 2015.

As always, we've tried to come up with different books - and also a few children's books as we encourage Dads everywhere to start a Family Reading Group at home.


As always, our suggestions are to give you some inspiration and whet your appetite, but we're ready and raring to recommend the perfect book if you are looking for a special gift with extra Dad-appeal. Just pop into the shop.



Nothing says Father's Day like James Bond, and in 'Goldeneye', author (and Bond fanatic) Matthew Parker has written the story of Fleming and his relationship with the island of Jamaica, which infuses almost all of Fleming's books.

Starting with Fleming's arrival on the Island in 1943 (ostensibly to investigate a sinister Nazi establishing a secret U-Boat base in the Caribbean - sound familiar?) it tells the story of the intelligence officer-turned author, the twilight of the British Empire, and the home he built for himself on the island: Goldeneye.



If reading about Fleming's exploits in Jamaica makes you want to rush back to England, then we heartily recommend 'Engel's England'. Humorous writing about England - mixing anecdote, fact and impression - is a tough act to follow after writers as legendary as Bill Bryson, Harry Mount and even Alan Titchmarsh.

Author, newspaper columnist and former Wisden editor Matthew Engel decided to do things properly and spent three years travelling around England's historic counties (and its 41 cathedrals incidentally). They appear in Engel's England in the order in which they were visited. There is a real talent to the writing: you feel that you know each county and with a deceptively easy to read prose, it is a great book for a train journey or to keep by the bed.



In a world of increasing information, the ability to select (or curate) is becoming increasingly more valuable, but if you had to pick the most important ideas and events from the entire 20th century, could you do it?

Inspirational Boston University Professor Jonathan Reynolds has pulled off this feat in the mind-boggling brilliant '30-Second Twentieth Century' (in which 50 of the finest events and ideas are presented in digestible chunks that form a whistlestop tour through the most bloody yet brilliant century in human history. Covering everything from The Theory of Relativity to the devastating consequences caused by the bombing of Hiroshima and the art of Pablo Picasso to the fall of the Berlin Wall, this is a fantastic gift for anyone interested in world events.


Author don't come more heavyweight than Antony Beevor - his histories of key moments and battles of the Second World War, including Stalingrad and Berlin - and are some of the most critically-acclaimed history books that we have of any era.

In 'Ardennes 1944: Hitler's Last Gamble' he examines the Ardennes offensive, which caught the Americans by surprise, and was - at least for a time - as savage and desperate as the battles on the Eastern front. Beevor's background as a soldier gives him an uncanny ability to empathise with soldiers on both sides of the war as he tells the story of the battle that broke the Wehrmacht.



"You know how, because of the Internet, you can't say 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet' because everyone's seen everything by, like, age 12?"

Meet Aldo: philosopher, misanthrope, serial (failed) entrepreneur and unluckiest man alive. Now meet his long-suffering friend (and failed writer) Liam. He decides that writing about Aldo and his breathtakingly disastrous life will be his route to his writing salvation. It's a match made in hell, so what can possibly go wrong?


Very dark, very funny, this book from Booker-shortlistee Steve Toltz examines the flipside of friendship, and explores some very dark corners of life in the 21st century.



There's a lot going on in the world of space at the moment - and if Dad fancies himself as an astronaut then we have two books to recommend to him. Usborne's Astronaut Handbook should tell him everything he needs to know about life in space, and Neal Stephenson's 'Seveneves' is epic science fiction at its most world-ending best, as humanity scramble to turn the ISS into a lifeboat to escape a dying Earth. That should get any work-related worries into perspective. Go see our blog post from a few weeks ago to get your space reading fix.

(And if there is anyone out there who we haven't yet recommended 'The Martian' by Andy Weir to - read it before the film comes out this Autumn!) 



We've two excellent children's books to recommend as well - each with a novel twist on the 'my dad is a hero' theme. The first is 'Superhero Dad' by Timothy Knapman and Joe Berger. It's is all about the way a son sees his father. No matter what it is, from telling a joke to scaring the monsters under his bad, the father is a superhero. But what about what the child is in the fathers eyes? A great fun, heartwarming books for Dads to share with their children (to remind them how all Dads are heroes!)


For Jake Biggs, his Dad George is a genuine superhero - well, of the wrestling type anyway. George Biggs demolishes buildings by day, but by night he dons his spandex (and knee supports) and becomes...'Demolition Dad', the master of disaster. But when Jake enters his Dad secretly into a competition to take on the 'Tsunami Terror' in Hollywood, disaster might really be the outcome. Author Phil Earle is one of our most talented storytellers, and Phil has channelled the memory of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki in reliving the glory days of British wrestling. This is top fun for bedtime reading.


'Mr Holmes' by Mitch Cullin (originally published as 'A Slight Trick of the Mind') imagines Holmes, in extreme old age, as witness to the birth of our own era.

Three stories, intertwined: Holmes begins to develop a close relationship with a young man who assists him with his bees, his memories of a visit to postwar Japan, including Hiroshima and the elaborate lie he told to a man who thinks the detective may know the truth about his missing father. To be released as a film next week starring Ian McKellen.



If it's a twisty, turny whodunit that Dad is after, we recommend 'The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair' by Joël Dicker, which features a young novelist as the main protagonist.

When acclaimed writer Marcus Goldman’s old friend and mentor is arrested for murder, Goldman is the only one who believes in his innocence. Can he clear his friend's name, save his reputation in the small town where he has lived - and possibly write his greatest ever book? This is a book that truly gets under your skin, and we defy anyone to guess the ending...


Is Dad normal? Difficult questions to ask perhaps, but in 'How to be Normal' writer Guy Browning (author of 'Never Hit A Jellyfish with a Spade') provides a comprehensive guide to the perplexed.

Packed full of impractical advice, from how to spectate at sports events, to the correct etiquette for pushing a supermarket trolley around a supermarket, a book definitely not to be read in public places, particularly if you are not normal in any way.



And finally - we definitely had to find a cycling book to place on our recommendations. In 'The Monuments' by Peter Cossins is an epic look at those cycling events that endure, that bring out the most heroic efforts from the greatest cyclists in history.

These events are known in the cycling community as 'The Monuments' and include the spine-shattering Paris-Roubaix and the aristocractic Tour of Lombardy. Packed full of facts, anecdotes and stories this is a book to inspire - even on the commute to work.


We appreciate not everyone has a Dad to buy for, and sometimes this is for sad reasons. So we'll just pass on a suggestion made by a customer last year (who we won't name) but who always reads a favourite book that her father used to enjoy. We think that's a lovely idea...

Friday, June 05, 2015

The Versions of Us: An Evening with Laura Barnett

One of the hottest debut novelists of the year, Laura Barnett, will be coming to Mostly Books on Thurs June 25, when she will be talking about her hugely anticipated debut novel that poses the question ‘what if?’ in a truly original way.

Laura Barnett’s ‘The Versions of Us’ presents us with three people, and three different scenarios. Creative yet sensible Eva either meets troubled, artistic Jim – or doesn’t. Or possibly they meet, but Eva is already involved with rising actor, David.

Three scenarios. Three strands. Three versions of life. Each version plays out, keeping everyone guessing as to which will leave our protagonists leading happy and fulfilled lives. Or will any of them?

It's anything but a straightforward study of relationships as the book follows Eva, Jim and David from their first meeting at Cambridge, throughout their lives, forever in a dance whether they are aware of each other or not.

The subtlety of how the characters change, yet remain true, is one of the many skills of the author. No matter which of their alternative lives they are living, it’s a playful book, but also a thought-provoking one.


It’s been compared with David Nicholls’ ‘One Day,’ asking questions such as: How much does marrying the right person first time around affect everything else in our lives? And if a quirk of fate means we miss that chance – if the connection is strong enough, will we get that chance again?

Tickets are £5, to include wine, and redeemable against a purchase of the book on the night. Come along and meet Laura – and learn more about the authors and 'The Versions of Us' here.