Lumber on an epic scale

cover of BarkskinsI discovered at the weekend with a rapidly beating heart, that one of my all time favourite writers,  Annie Proulx, has released a new novel.

Thirteen years since her last novel, Barkskins is, by all accounts, a rip snorter. According to what I can glean from good old Mr Google, it is 736 pages long, spanning 3 centuries, and tells the story of two French immigrants in the new land of America. They are bound to a feudal lord for three years and are sent to work in the dense and remote forests of the New World in exchange for a promise of land. The book follows them and their descendants from 1693 through to the 21st century and various family members travel all over the world, including to little old New Zealand.

Annie Proulx first caught my eye when I read The Shipping News, another great story of families, set in Newfoundland. I have never forgotten the ways she described snow and ice and barren landscapes and the families and eccentrics who lived amongst it.

Cover of The shipping news

Accordion Crimes was also a favourite, charting the lives of immigrants settling in America through the life of an accordion that is handed down through families; Jewish, Irish, Italian and many others.

Both The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain (a short story originally), were also made into movies, both well worth watching.

Ms Proulx, now in her eighties, was a bit of a late bloomer, with her first short stories published in her 50s and her first novel in 1992. She has gone onto to publish 13 works and win over twenty literary prizes, including a Pulitzer prize for The Shipping News.

Her novels and short storys are filled with hard bitten complex characters and landscapes that are wonderful described, I find I get immersed in her stories and I think this is because she herself has led a full and intense life, always on her own terms. She has been married and divorced three times and has raised three sons alone. She worked as postal worker and a waitress, and early on a writer of magazine articles on everything from chilli growers to canoeing.

She has two history degrees, drifted the countryside in her pickup truck, can fly fish, fiddle, and hunt game birds. But for all her life experience, she has said that she likes to write about what she doesn’t know, rather than draw on what she has already experienced. If you haven’t read her books, I strongly recommend them.

So, I’m on the library waiting list, hoping the book arrives quickly so I can again revel in her wondrous prose!

Sick bags and bedspreads: New titles from our Literature Selector

The Bloomsbury set just keep on delivering. Hard on the heels of the TV series (yet to be seen here) about the sexy carryings on of the Bloomsbury set comes a new biography of David Garnett called Bloomsbury’s Outsider. Garnett – scientist, writer, free love enthusiast, conscientious objector in WW1 and spy in WW2 – certainly had an interesting life which is covered in this new book.

Cover Cover Cover Cover

Some centuries back and we are in the world of Ancient Rome and Daisy Dunn, in a new biography, Catullus’ bedspread : the life of Rome’s most erotic poet, which looks at the life and poetry of the Catullus who put it about more than a bit.

More contemporary, but still not one for being prim, is Nick Cave whose new book The Sick Bag Song is described as a narrative song and poetry. It started its literary life being scribbled on airplane sick bags during a tour of America.

And the master of all writers, Mr Shakespeare himself, is covered in  a new biography called Worlds Elsewhere which has had enthusiastic pre-publicity from the likes of Anthony Holden and Margaret Drabble.

See more of our new titles.

Philip Tew
Fiction selector

The (very) long list

Cover of Every Time a Friend Succeeds Something Inside Me DiesBooks I couldn’t resist adding to the For Later shelf this week.

Every Time a Friend Succeeds Something Inside Me Dies: The Life of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini
Because the title is a deathless quote, because the cover features Gore Vidal with a cat on his shoulder, because the author has written a biography of William Faulkner.

Cover of Vintage Paua Shell JewelleryVintage Paua Shell Jewellery: Art Souvenir, Tourist Kitsch, Kiwi Icon by Elly van de Wijdeven
Because the words vintage, paua shell, art, souvenir, tourist, kitsch and kiwi are irrestistible. Icon is overused. Now where did I store all those collectible fern leaf brooches?

4 Real & True 2: Landscapes, Photographs by Wim Wenders
The great German director turned 70 in August. What better way to celebrate his birthday than by looking at some of the landscapes and images he has chosen to record with his analog camera?

Cover of The Memory of TimeThe Memory of Time: Contemporary Photographs at the National Gallery of Art by Sarah Greenough
Photography’s relationship to time, memory and history investigated by contemporary photographers. The main attraction is Sally Mann, whose Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs is one of my reads of 2015.

Cover of Diversity in Disney FilmsDiversity in Disney Films: Critical Essays on Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality and Disability
This should be interesting: Disney films explored with perspectives from critical whiteness studies and masculinity studies as well as old style race and gender.

Read my previous posts about the comings and goings on my For Later shelf.

Kids’ Books – picks from our November newsletter

Some great new titles and staff picks in our November Kids’ Books newsletter, including When Lunch Fights Back – “An awesomely gross book about weird wildlife”.

Cover of When Lunch Fights Back Cover of Dragons at Crumnling Castle Cover of The Iron Trial Cover of Colour Illusions Cover of How They Choked Cover of Space Case Cover of Teddy One-Eye Cover of Out of My Mind Cover of El Deafo

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight to your inbox.

For more great reads for kids, check out our Fun to Read page – it links you to reading lists, if you likes, interactive quizzes and lots more.

Biography and Memoir: picks from our November newsletter

Our November Biography and Memoir newsletter brings you a bumper crop of biographies and memoirs for your reading delectation.

Cover of Fatherland Cover of Born into The Children of God Cover of Daring Cover of Henare Wiremu Taratoa Cover of Carsick Cover of Love My Rifle More Than You Cover of Duchamp Cover of My Grandfather's Gallery Cover of Wild Westie

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight in your inbox.

For more great biographies and memoirs, check out our lists of winners of  the Costa Biography Award.

Fiction A to Z: picks from our November newsletter

What’s your pick from our November Fiction A to Z newsletter?

I am particularly intrigued by A Bad Character, which, as the title indicates, promises to be a departure from the cosier novels set in India which I have enjoyed in the past. The Telegraph describes it as a “a poignant and impressionistic portrait of the end of adolescence and a changing world”.

Cover of Henna House Cover of Full Measure Cover of The Zone of Interest Cover of Bathing the Lion Cover of The Ghost Apple Cover of We Are Called to Rise Cover of The Lost Art of Mixing Cover of Wide on the Run Cover of A Bad Character

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight from your inbox.

Thrillers and Suspense: picks from our November newsletter

In our November Thrillers and Suspense newsletter : Agent Scully from the X-Files debuts as an author and Sophie Hannah brings Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot back to life in a brand-new mystery.

Cover of Bitter Remedy Cover of The Day of Atonement Cover of A Vision of Fire Cover of The Golden Hour Cover of The Monogram Murders Cover of Hostage Cover of A Demon Summer Cover of The Prophet Cover of Trust Your Eyes

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight from your inbox.

For more great crime and thriller reads, check out our lists of winners of  the Crime Writers’ Association Awards and of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel.

“For Later” lately (4)

In an attempt to tame her ever-growing For Later list,  Robyn has decided to share with us on a regular basis the titles that she has recently added to her list. The theory being that, even if she doesn’t ever get round to reading them, she can perhaps do so vicariously through you… So please do share your opinions of her picks – are they worthy, do you think, of inclusion in that lofty list?

Cover: Anger Is An EnergyAnger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored by John Lydon.
He should know; he must be one of the angriest men ever.

The Queen’s Houses by Alan Titchmarsh.
How would John Lydon feel about sharing a shelf with Her Majesty the Queen? Angry probably.

The Unexpected Professor by John Carey.
This has had great reviews and I love a book about Oxford.

Cover: As You WishPeter Levi: Oxford Romantic by Brigid Allen. As above.

Londonopolis: A Curious History of London by Martin Latham.
I also love a book about London.

As You Wish by Cary Elwes.
Let’s face it, I pretty much love a book about anything. This one is about one of my favourite films, The Princess Bride. I’m hoping to add to the three things I know about one of its stars, Andre the Giant: he was a giant, he was a wrestler and Samuel Beckett used to drive him to school.

“For Later” lately (3)

In an attempt to tame her ever-growing For Later list,  Robyn has decided to share with us on a regular basis the titles that she has recently added to her list. The theory being that, even if she doesn’t ever get round to reading them, she can perhaps do so vicariously through you… So please do share your opinions of her picks – are they worthy, do you think, of inclusion in that lofty list?

Some things I have put on my For Later list recently:

Cover: Virginia Woolf's GardenAltman by Kathryn Altman because Robert Altman made some of the most interesting films of the 20th century.

Nora Webster because it’s by Colm Toibin and a new book by Colm Toibin is a major event.

Virginia Woolf’s Garden because it’s fascinating how the last drop is being squeezed out of the Bloomsberries.

The First World War Galleries by Paul Cornish because it has a picture of a uniform with one sleeve missing on the cover.

History of 20th Century Fashion by Elizabeth Ewing because no fashion book can be allowed to escape my attention.

Secrets of the National Archives because archives are anything but dusty.

The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert because I’m hoping it will have some real scraps featured.

The book trade is already thinking Christmas!

It is about this time of year that the Selection Team starts getting notification of what items are coming out for the Christmas market. Recently we attended an evening where publishers presented their choices for Christmas high flyers.

Cover of Leaving TImeJodi Picoult was top of the list with her new title Leaving Time. It was billed as one of Jodi’s most powerful and affecting novels yet… This seems to the general hype for all her books so it will be interesting to see what she comes up with in this tale of a daughter searching for her missing mother.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly sees the return of Harry Bosch. We were informed as an aside  that Michael Connelly is the nicest man you could ever meet!  I’m not sure what this has to do with the quality of his writing, but it was oddly nice to know.

Russell Brand, famous for his quick wit and even quicker marriage to Katy Perry, has produced a children’s book called Trickster Tales: The Pied Piper of Hamelin. I thought it looked great and will probably be buying this for someone – if not for myself.

Cover of Working StiffThe festive season always requires an uplifting tale of  triumph against the odds. Long Shots is a New Zealand title of inspiring sporting heroes and Love Without Limits follows on with the story of Nick Vujicic as he meets and marries his soulmate. “If you can’t get a miracle become one – no arms no legs, no limits”.

Two doctor stories feature this year: Working Stiff, the memoir of a young forensic pathologist, and Being Mortal, a doctor looking at death, dying and medicine. Not my idea of a light Christmas read, but there you go.

Cover of River Cottage Light & EasyChristmas reading wouldn’t be the same without the obligatory cooking books. River Cottage Light & Easy features a slim line Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on the front cover. I think I prefer him hairy and chubby. There are also two expensive titles, Sepia and Organum, that were presented as “cookery books that you would never cook anything from”. Seems to defeat the purpose of a cooking book, however they did look pretty.

For the history buffs amongst us, Queen Victoria features in The Queen, Her Lover and the Most Notorious Spy in History – “an unbuttoned history of Queen Victoria’s loves and intrigues” – and in the less salacious Victoria: A Life by the respected historian A. N. Wilson.

Two of my favourite children’s authors feature this year.  Libby Gleeson with The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and the Present and Alison Lester with Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach. Both look great.

Which of these titles would you like to find in your Christmas stocking?