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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

3-4-Friday Out Of This Word: Exploding Moons, Astronaut handbooks and post-apocalyptic Shakespeare

(c) Daniel Bursch / NASA
"The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program" - Larry Niven

Abingdon sits at the heart of a lot of science - and increasingly that includes Space Exploration. Whether it's next generation spaceplanes at Culham, space test facilities at the Rutherford Appleton Labs or the new European Centre for Space Applications at Harwell, it seems like dozens of new space organisations and companies are springing up all over the place.

So no apologies if today’s 3-4-Friday has a slightly out-of-this-word, sorry, world feel to it.

This November, astronaut Tim Peake will be the first British astronaut to be launched into space on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS), and he’s written the forward for Louie Stowell's ‘The Usborne Official Astronaut's Handbook’. It's a funny and fascinating how-to guide for budding astronauts, and Usborne says it provides a 'crash course' on what it takes to travel into space (but hopefully not that sort of crash).

Given that it costs about £300 million per ISS mission, we reckon £6.99 is a highly cost-effective way of learning how to train for, get to and live in space for kids – without actually going there.

Of course, if we don’t learn how to live in space, we’re sitting ducks for any rogue asteroid, nearby supernova explosion – or just wandering exo-planet that might stray too close. And that is the starting point for Neal Stephenson’s epic new science fiction novel ‘Seveneves’, published yesterday. 

When something (or someone) blows up the Moon, humans are forced to evacuate the Earth – and we follow the survivors over the next several hundred years as they evolve in space. As with all Stephenson’s novels, the science is merciless, the scale is epic, and you have to be up for the ride. But the result is a blistering, catch-your-breath, against-the-odds tale that might just serve as an emergency handbook in case we ever have to leave Earth in a hurry.

And if you’ve ever wondered what a post-apocalyptic life on Earth might actually be like, then ‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St John Mandel won this year’s Arthur C Clarke award for the best science fiction novel of the year (it was also longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize for women’s fiction).

It’s the elegiac story of Kirsten, who, part of a touring theatre group, performs Shakespeare to settlements that have grown up in the aftermath of society’s collapse. Haunting, yet strangely reassuring, it reminds us of what we can be thankful about in the absence of flu epidemics (or any other world-ending scenario).

For whilst we may strive to go off into space, we can't ignore what we have to protect here on Earth. If only there were a way of linking the two?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Could you write the next chapter for Mostly Books?

It is with excited anticipation, mixed obviously with sadness, that we would like to announce that Mostly Books is looking for a new owner.

In the last year we’ve hosted our biggest-ever event with David Mitchell, we’ve been recognised as one of the top three bookshops in the south-east of England by the Bookseller Industry Awards, and we’ve implemented our biggest ever initiative to support literacy in schools.

All of this has been achieved while never losing sight of that fact that we are first and foremost a community bookshop – serving both our local customers and visitors to the town with experienced bookseller knowledge, our hugely popular next-day ordering service, as well as providing a community notice-board and box office for events in the town.

As next year we will go into our tenth year we have started to think ‘what next for Mostly Books?’

No business can ever afford to stand still – and in the rapidly changing world of High Street bookselling, we reckon there needs to be a constant stream of new ideas. We feel that a new owner of the bookshop would come in with a host of new ideas – just as we did nearly ten years ago.

We feel that the best way we can ensure Mostly Books moves forwards, evolving and offering those robust services that people have come to expect is to find someone who will bring in fresh ideas, new creativity and an ability to ensure Mostly Books is still here, serving its community, another ten years from now.

The shop is now officially for sale.

We could not do what we do - nor have achieved the success that we have – without truly incredible support. We hope everyone will continue to support us through the transition and offer the same enthusiastic welcome we have received in our ten-year tenure, to the new owners.

We very much look forward to ushering in this new chapter and feel it is the way to ensure that the future will continue to bring excitement and enthusiasm, and continue to grow what is a very special cultural hub for books in Abingdon.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

John Henry Brookes: The man who inspired a university

On Wednesday, May 20 at 7.30pm we will be celebrating the life of John Henry Brookes, educationalist and founder of Oxford Brookes University, with Abingdon-based designer and author Bryan Brown, to coincide with the launch of his ground-breaking biography ‘John Henry Brookes: The man who inspired a university’.

When John Henry Brookes (JHB) became head teacher at the Oxford School of Art in 1928, there were just two members of staff teaching 90 students. By the time he retired in 1956, the institution had grown significantly and was by then called the Oxford College of Technology. He had set the foundations and ideas enabling it to grow into the internationally recognised university of today. 

During his 28 year career, Brookes, believing that education should be available to all, also helped to create two other schools; Oxford Spires Academy and Cheney School, as well as the Oxford College of Further Education, now known as the City of Oxford College.

"A goal of all formal education should be to graduate students to lead lives of consequence" - JH Brookes

This was a truly remarkable achievement during one of the most challenging periods in British history, including the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 30s, World War 2 and its deprived aftermath.

With photography dating back from the early years of the 20th century, and beautiful colour reproductions of artwork produced by Brookes, the biography will provide a compelling insight into the life of a man who was determined to change education for young people in Oxford. 

As well as an insight into one of the most influential educational leaders of the 20th century, the book explores how the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement influenced the development of education in Oxford. 

Bryan Brown is closely associated with John Henry Brookes. He was born in Oxford, attended Cheney School (founded by Brookes), and similarly trained as a designer. In 1992 when Oxford Polytechnic became a university, he recommended the name and developed the brand identity for Oxford Brookes University.

In 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the University and in recent years has led a campaign to reassert John Henry Brookes’ fading legacy. 

The event takes place at Mostly Books on Wednesday, May 20 at 7.30pm. Bryan will be discussing the man, his legacy and how what he did and achieved hold lessons for today's educationalists.

Tickets are £4, including a glass of wine, and redeemable against a purchase of the book on the night, which will be on offer at a special price.

We hope you can join us. Email us to reserve a place.

(Keen to learn more about JHB? Visit his page on the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques website)

Friday, May 01, 2015

Super Thursday indie-style: is that the sound of Summer Reading we hear?

Sometimes in the Autumn, it seems like every Thursday is "super-Thursday", a day when huge numbers of books are published, and bookshops up and down the land struggle to cope with the number of boxes coming in.

Generally speaking the book trade loves these events - it generates huge interest in books, and creates a real buzz about the big-hitters that are going to bring customers into the shop in the crucial Christmas period.

Independent bookshops tend to have a more mixed feeling about these days (particularly those checking books into stock!). We are much simpler folk, tending to mistrust the pile 'em high philosophy of traditional retail, and prefer instead a steadier stream of great titles that we can sort through, curate, and introduce to readers by placing a book into someone's hands.

But here's the curious thing. Inevitably, about six months later, many of these big titles get published in paperback. On the same day. Along with quite a few big-hitting new titles. And yet - not a peep it seems from the publishing world?

Now there may or may not be a few other things happening next Thursday, but - in the spirit of independent retail, and on the basis that the majority of readers prefer paperbacks and wait for them eagerly to be published as paperback (particularly fiction, particularly bookgroup books, particularly as the holiday reading season approaches) we're having our own 'Super Thursday' in the bookshop next week.

We can't promise scantily-clad publicity assistants (of either gender). Or features on Start The Week. Although Mark may bare his knees if you are unlucky...

But we can promise some great reading to fire the gun on some of favourite reads ahead of Summer...

Kate Atkinson's dazzling 'Life After Life', explored the possibility of infinite chances, as Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In 'A God in Ruins', Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula's beloved younger brother RAF bomber pilot Teddy.

This is a highly engrossing and often heartbreaking journey though post-war Britain from the point of view of someone who witnessed so much death in his young life, his greatest challenge becomes to face living in a future he never expected to have. It manages to be a story about death, about life and also about narrative and story itself and certainly deserves to be considered a masterpiece and to be treasured as such.

One of our favourite books when it was published back in the Autumn (and with a much friendlier picture of Alan for the paperback cover!) 'Not My Father's Son' by Alan Cumming is part memoir, part family-history mystery, and part whodunnit as an appearance on Who Do You Think You Are sets off a landslide of family secrets and half-truths that make for a genuine page-turning read with a hugely satisfying ending.

You cannot help but get sucked into the entwined tale of two strands of Alan's family and the revelations at times are jaw-dropping. An uplifting, effortless read that's also an unexpected meditation on the shadows - and light - cast on us by our ancestors. 

We love Louise Levene - her debut 'A Vision of Loveliness' brilliantly evoked the dark-edged realities and possibilities of being a young woman in 60s London. So it's appropriate the we've moved into the 1970s with 'The Following Girls' (and we love that cover!)

Amanda Baker is part of a school gang 'the four Mandies', girls who are constantly in trouble at school. Stuck in the 1970s, where there is still a fight over woman having jobs and not being bound to the house all day, they have the teenage mindset of hating everything; from school to their parents rules. A funny, sharp story about growing up, life and friendship that could be more dangerous than good. This is one of Imogen's picks for the Summer.

One of Mark's favourites from last year is 'The Axeman's Jazz' by Ray CelestinA killer is on the loose in New Orleans at the end of World War. A letter to the police promises to kill on a specific date, but also to spare anyone in whose house ‘a jazz band is in full swing’. Thus starts a frenetic jazz-fuelled race against the clock in the sultry, swampy, racially-charged state of post-war Louisiana. Corruption is rife, but it’s in everyone’s interest – politicians, police and Mafiosi – to catch the killer. But just who is responsible for the Axeman’s Jazz? Original, suspenseful and based on true events, this is cracking entertainment.

The death of Terry Pratchett was widely - and fittingly - mourned throughout the reading world, so it's very appropriate that Julia has voted for 'A Slip of the Keyboard', published in paperback on May 7. This collection of the best of Terry Pratchett's includes observations on subjects as diverse as animal rights, Gandalf's love life, banana daiquiris - and the disease that eventually killed him. With a forward by Neil Gaiman (with who he collaborated on the book 'Good Omens') this is a fine way to honour one of our greatest writers. 

A few times a year, a book is published that isn't just a bestseller, but a literary phenomenon. David Nicholls' book 'One Day' certainly fell into that category, but the tone is altogether darker in 'Us' which arrives in paperback ready for one of our big Summer reading picks.

With their teenage son all grown up, is there any reason for Connie and Douglas to stay together? Unwisely they plan an elaborate last family holiday – taking in the whole of Europe. What follows is a well-observed, sometimes hilarious, often painful bittersweet story of a marriage.

A new No 1 Ladies Detective Agency novel from Alexander McCall Smith is a cause for shouting for huge numbers of readers (and a celebratory pot of redbush tea), so we're delighted that 'The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe' arrives in paperback on May 7. 

This is Mma Ramotswe's fifteenth adventure (can you believe that?) and this time the focus is fully on Mma Makutsi, Ramotswe's enthusiastic, ambitious business partner (although officially she's only 'an assistant full partner' of course). Launching her own new enterprise, the 'Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe' ("only for the fashionable people") she's soon up to her neck in grumpy chefs, drunken waiters. So who's she gonna call? Mma Ramotswe, of course.

One of our favourite children's authors, Frances Hardinge, is riding high at the moment with her novel 'Cuckoo Song' being read across the country by children shadowing the Carnegie Award. And 'The Lie Tree' is another blistering original piece of storytelling that seems destined for awards.

In Victorian England, Faith knows she has no future as a scientist like her father. But when he is murdered she discovers women can be good at influencing and manipulating behind the scenes and she sets about trying to uncover the truth, even though no-one will believe it. Another thought-provoking, imaginative tale that weaves science and fantasy - Frances Hardinge is definitely at the cutting edge of YA writing.

(Frances had some cracking writing tips for aspiring authors when she came to Abingdon a few years ago - if you are interested about her writing process, our interview with her is well worth reading)

Back to non-fiction, and this was a giant of a book last Autumn - and a book we recommended a lot (and even spoke about on the radio). As far as themes go, they don’t get much bigger than the entire history of our species. Yuval Harari’s ‘Sapiens’ is one of those monumental works that gives a dizzying perspective on how we came to rule – and threaten – the entire planet. It starts with changes in our brain that allowed us to tell stories, imagine alternative scenarios, and out-manoeuvre other species (notably Neanderthals). From there we became farmers, developed religion, invented money, harnessed technology and threatened widespread extinction.

The writing is superb – fresh, brazen – and never afraid to come off the fence in areas that are controversial: did we domesticate wheat, or did it domesticate us? Did stockpiling food lay the psychological seeds for consumerism? Are we happier now than *any* of our ancestors? And what is going to replace our species, as surely as we replaced earlier species?

Another incredible book from one of Imogen's favourite authors - particularly relevant because two of our staff (no names!) will be travelling down to London later in May to a big event with author Sarah J Maas...

'A Court of Thorns and Roses' is a unique retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Follow Feyre as she is dragged from her home to live in a world dangous for Mortals. Filled with fey and magic, nothing is ever as it seems, and as the time she spends there lengths, she realises that the fey she lives with are hiding more than just their faces under the masks that they wear. Perfect for any fairytale loved, the magic of this book will not leave you even after finishing the last page...

With a highly prolific career - including a fictional retelling of the battle of Waterloo - it may surprise you to learn that 'Waterloo : The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles' is Bernard Cornwell's first ever non-fiction title.

Cornwell combines his storytelling skills with a meticulously researched history to give a riveting account of every dramatic moment of the battle of Waterloo, from Napoleon's escape from Elba to the smoke and gore of the battlefields. Through letters and diaries he also sheds new light on the private thoughts of Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, as well as the ordinary officers and soldiers. Published to coincide with the bicentenary this year, Waterloo is a tense and gripping story of heroism and tragedy - and of the final battle that determined the fate of Europe...

Finally, mystery stories are big at the moment for children, and we are big fans of Lauren Child and her undercover, wisecracking, teen sleuth Ruby Redfort. With funky new jackets for the whole series, book 3 arrives in paperback on Thursday: 'Catch You Death'. Ruby finds herself in a survival situation, with tigers and other wild animals on the loose. But if anyone can solve the mystery, it's going to be Ruby...

So - twelve of the best for Super Thursday. The odd one not (strictly speaking) published on that day, but near enough. And with other hardback titles from Mostly Books favourite Jeffery Deaver (Solitude Creek, the new Kathryn Dance novel), Kathy Reich's latest on paperback ('Bones Never Lie') and Wilbur Smith's 'Desert God' there will be a lot of activity in the shop next Thursday...