The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
If you haven't yet read this modern classic, perhaps now's the time, recommends our team member Cui:“
Perhaps it’s true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house… must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.”
A heartrending novel about life, love, and loss in the lives of fraternal twins Estha and Rahel, who grew up in a little town in Kerala, India. As children, they saw firsthand how life and society punished the people they loved for breaking the Love Laws, the ones that lay down “who must be loved, and how, and how much”.
Roy is a masterful storyteller, weaving layers and layers of poignant narratives in which her characters are inextricably bound, then irrevocably broken, by the Great Stories, Love Laws and the Small Things that are the bleached bones of life. A well-deserved Booker Prize winner, this book will indubitably change your life as it did mine. - CuiFor more recommended reads, click here.
John Dies at the End by David Wong
Think Stephen King meets Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers
and you'll understand why this work of fiction will soon hit the big screens. It's billed as a horror story - and there are enough creepy bits in it to warrant that - but on many levels it reads a bit like a satire of the blood-spattering, OTT B-grade horror flicks where the actors know they're in a horror film (think Scream
), know what I mean? Author David Wong is the protagonist in the book, which is why David Wong isn't really the author actually; it's Jason Pargin
writing as David Wong the protagonist in the book. David and best friend John (yes, the one that's supposed to die at the end) have a special gift for the undead and all things paranormal, on account of a substance (which they call 'soy sauce') they ingested, which was doled out by a Jamaican druggie aptly named Robert Marley, mon, ya feel me? This leads them on a very very strange journey which is told retrospectively, zipping between events that after a while, you feel as disoriented as the heroes themselves. All by way of saying, I couldn't put the book down because Pargon does a great job of keeping the reader guessing. He's got a wicked sense of humour and even grisly stuff feel tongue in cheek. Given, some scenes are a bit cliched, but then Pargon throws in a twist here and there that you didn't see coming. A great fun read, an enjoyable roller coaster ride. Welcome to the dark side hehehehehehehe (evil laugh) :) - FranFor more recommended reads, click here.
The Book of My Lives – Aleksandar Hemon
In this moving memoir Aleksandar Hemon combines humour, compassion and a deeply felt humanity to create what is ultimately a lovesong to his native Sarajevo and equally to his adopted city of Chicago. It recaptures the exploits of a young boy growing up amid football, books, and an annoying younger sister. But this is no simple memoir. In the end, this book is a heart-breaking portrait of a city under siege and an entire world lost to one of history darkest and most bitter conflicts. For those who have enjoyed Hemon’s fiction, this offers a deeper insight into the man, the writer and the world from which he comes. For those yet to discover him, this is a timely, and intimate introduction. - ShivaunFor more recommended reads, click here.
So what do Banksiders like to read? Since we opened in mid-April, these are the Top 10 bestsellers at W&T:
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking - Susan Cain
- NW - Zadie Smith
- To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
- Middlemarch - George Eliot
- Man Who Planted Trees - Jean Giono
- And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos - John Berger
- Snowdrops - A.D. Miller
- This Is How You Lose Her - Junot Diaz
- The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves - Stephen Grosz
- Levels of Life - Julian Barnes
Capital - John Lanchester
Bankside: London's Original District of Sin - David Brandon
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls - David Sedaris
A Place in the Country - W.G. Sebald
Children of the Days by Eduardo Galeano
Eduardo Galeano is perhaps best known for eschewing a prevailing Eurocentric perspective of the world. It is unsurprising then that his latest work, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History
, is an attempt to rescue 'human history' beyond well-known global milestones. Within this book's pages, you will find events and incidents that have long been forgotten, in places dotted across the globe that don't often make the front pages of a broadsheet. Written in sparse, yet beautiful prose -- one entry for each calendar day; Galeano's recounting of history reads almost like poetry. Highly recommended :) - FranFor more recommended reads, click here.
So anyway, I decided to have a look at what titles were popular at W&T over the last 12 months - after all, it is November and another calendar year is coming to pass...Quite an ecclectic mix, though it's clear that when it comes to adult titles, there's a fascination for the local as well as all things London :)W&T's Top 25 Adult Titles
W&T's Top 10 Kids Titles
- Bermondsey & Rotherhithe Through Time - Debra Gossling
- Flavour Thesaurus - Niki Segnit
- Watching the English - Kate Fox
- Snowdrops - A.D. Miller
- Tired of London, Tired of Life: One Thing a Day to Do in London - Tom Jones
- Xenophobe's Guide to the English - Antony Miall
- Hare with Amber Eyes - Edmund De Waal
- Tea and Cake London - Zena Alkayat
- Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
- London's Lost Rivers - Paul Talling
- Man Who Planted Trees - Jean Giono
- Here Is Where We Meet - John Berger
- Secret Bankside - John Constable
- London Street Photography 1860-2010 - Mike Seaborn
- The Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats - T.S. Eliot
- Stasiland - Anna Funder
- The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach
- Sorry, I'm British! - Ben Crystal
- Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman
- Stuff Parisians Like - Olivier Magny
- How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran
- The Rough Guide to Walks in London and Southeast England - Helena Smith
- Rumi Poems - Peter Washington
- Veggiestan - Sally Butcher
- Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire - Iain Sinclair
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle
- The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson
- Pop-up Peekaboo! Farm
- Dear Zoo - Rod Campbell
- A Bit Lost - Chris Haughton
- This is London - Miroslav Sasek
- Baby Touch! Peepo Teddy
- Pop Up London - Jennie Maizels
- Mister Magnolia - Quentin Blake
I start a lot of books. My bedside table is an overcrowded space and my unread, half-read pile now extends onto my dressing table, down the hall, into my study and out into the lounge. It's the repeating motif of our flat; every single room/living space has its selection of books- novels in the bedroom, Vanity Fair in the toilet, life writing/creative writing texts in the hallway, Shiv's phd-related stuff in my office, Fran's phd-related stuff in her office, a mix of literature, art, photography, non-fiction, Yiddish writings, and lots more besides in the living room. In the shop, I get excited when new orders come in, tear open the boxes, pull out the contents, pore over a few pages...take the 'worthy' ones home and add to the pile. Those that command my attention from start to finish are few. When I happen upon one that I really can't put down, I read through the night, every night until it's finished and when I turn the last page I feel saddened, like I'm losing a good friend. I can think of several books that have stayed with me, lingered on, long after I turned that last page: The Camerons by Robert Crichton, The Furies by Janet Hobhouse, The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir- and now I add a new best read: You Are Not Like Other Mothers by Angelika Schrobsdorff. The subject - - an assimilated German Jewish family's struggles during the Holocaust- is a familiar one. My phd, which I am now finally in the stages of writing up, focuses on Holocaust memory in elderly Lithuanian survivors. I am all Holocausted out... and yet... this book re-awakened the 'reader' in me. Is it because the mother of the title is like my own, who also was not like other mothers, or because it is written so beautifully, so lyrically and yet captures fear, anguish, guilt in such an agonizingly truthful way? Because its approach is unique? It vacillates between first and third peson. Because it has a lovely cover? Yes, I can be swayed by style over substance. Because it landed in my lap at the right time? Possibly all of these. What I can say is that I loved, loved, loved it. And that is all too rare.
My all time favourite!
It's Saturday evening. Really I should be lying on the couch, catching up with my SKY box, watching recorded episodes of The Good Wife, Britain's Got Talent, or even Randy Jackson: America's Best Dance Crew... there's only 3% space left for recording, so I have a lot of viewing to do. Instead, I am sitting in front of my PC, pouring through publishers' back lists and trawling through my memory for favourite books to put on our international list of must-have books.
Shivaun and I have decided we should each focus on our repective strengths. She's great at American, European, African and Middle Eastern authors. I, on the other hand, have a little more knowledge about Chinese and Japanese authors. This is because, in my younger days, I went through a Sino and Japanese phase.
I remember how it all began. I was in the library and the cover of Yukio Mishima's Sound of Waves had caught my eye. I was 13. From then on, until about 21, I read works by quite a number of Japanese authors - Tanizaki, Kawabata, Akutagawa, even the really old classics - Murasaki's Tale of Genji and also the lesser known Tale of Heike. (I must say I actually liked Heike more than Genji. While the former dwells on the intricacies of court life, I enjoyed the historical sweep of Heike; it's an epic tome involving clan rivalry, samurai battles, honour and betrayal.)
I even remember the first time I read Haruki Murakami's Pinball, 1973 and Norwegian Wood. I think this was in 1988 or 1989. A Japanese friend had bought them for me. They were English translations but unlike usual paperbacks had soft paper covers, and inside, neat, small print on soft, smooth yellow paper, typical of Japanese novels and manga, measuring only about 3.5 inches wide and 5 inches long. These stories blew me away.
And so, here I am, 20 years later, asking myself, what books will I select for the international selection bookshelves in our store? What would best represent a good cross-section of Japanese and Chinese literature? As a rule of thumb, I think they have to be pretty memorable. For example, I found myself searching for Ryunosuke Akutagawa's story The Dragon. I remember it almost as if I had read it yesterday. So surely that's got to be on the shelves. Then there's the heartwarming, heartbreaking autobiography Six Records of A Floating Life by Shen Fu, which was originally published in the 1870s. This book taught me that lesbianism was pretty common and accepted among the gentry, and dispelled for me the general notion that historically Chinese men perceived their wives as chattel. Instead (yes!) love was alive and kicking, and Shen Fu's outpouring of love for his wife is an amazing testament to read.
What can I say? I hope some of the books I select will warm the hearts and stir the curiosity of others as they have done me. Now it's off to the back lists I go, or maybe, just maybe I should nick downstairs and reacquaint myself with my SKY box. - Fran
Thus far I've left all the blogging to Fran. Let's face it, she's far better equipped for the task than I will ever be. She carries her camera with her as a matter of habit, ever ready to whip it out and capture aspects of the world around her which link to her current passions. Besides she usually manages to get the object of her attentions within the frame, whereas I invariably focus on legs or ceilings. She's an old hand at Twitter and Facebook and actually remembers all the relevant passcodes and how to navigate between sites. For some time now she's been saying, 'You know you can add a blog if you like.'
So here it is:
This morning I awoke early to the sound of rain (in June!) and couldn't get back to sleep. I glanced over at my nightstand and realised I had no less than twenty-eight books sitting there gathering dust. I am actually reading about four of them. I then looked over at the dresser and saw another thirty or so volumes; the bedroom, much like every other space in our home is beginning to resemble a makeshift bookshop, one good reason to own one I guess. Another rationale for our latest venture is that I can't actually pass a bookshop without entering... and purchasing.
I tend to judge the ciites I visit and remember them by their bookshops. Shakespeare and Co in Paris, Books and Books in Miami, The Book Lounge in Cape Town and Daunt in London are among my favourites. It is exciting to think that we might create a similar space of our own. When I enter bookshops, subconsciously perhaps, I am looking for the theme or the essence of the place. This is written not only into the selection on offer, but also into the decor, the ambience and, of course, the people who own and run it. I want to know what they like, in effect, who they are. Just as clothes, cars, homes reveal the identities of their owners, so too with books. For what's it's worth, following are a selection of books that have moved or struck me over the past few months.
An Unfinished Business by Boualem Sansal, banned in his native Algeria for his criticizing the government. This book is about two Algerian brothers living in Paris who discover some disturbing truths about their father's Nazi past and undertake a foreboding journey home. I read it in two sittings.
Everything is Connected, a memoir on the power of music to speak to all aspects of the human being: the animal, the emotional, the intellectual and the spiritual by conductor Daniel Barenboim.
Love Begins in Winter, heartbreaking stories about people for whom chance meetings with strangers force them to face responsibility for lives they believed had continued on without them, by Simon Van Booy.
The Armies, about the violent life of a small, fictional Columbian town by Evelio Rosero
Last Night on Earth, a chronicle of the life and experiences of choreographer Bill T. Jones
and my favourite -- Wandering Star, the moving story of two women, one Jewish, one Palestianian, caught up in the turmoil of the Middle East, but who aspire for peace by J.M.G. Le Clezio.
Reading through these I am aware that they are all by male writers. Not intentional, I promise. - Shivaun