December 2, 2013
Collected Stories also available – £18.99 hardback
After a 34-year break from the novel form, 88 year-old former US fighter pilot/Hollywood screenwriter/living legend James Salter made a triumphant return this year with All That Is. Much touted by the press here as “the greatest American novelist you’ve never heard of,” Salter’s ‘final’ book is a breathtaking masterclass in gleaming-perfect sentences and beautifully controlled, utterly heartbreaking drama.
It traces the adult life of ‘Philip Bowman’, from his harrowing experiences in the navy in WWII, through his long and complicated love life and career in the bygone glory days of New York publishing. Births, marriages and deaths come and go, and not only is there loads of sex; it’s also some of the best we’ve ever seen in print. What’s not to like? All That Is is a perfect panacea of a Christmas present: if you know anyone who likes good fiction, this is for them.
January 1, 2013
Now in paperback – £8.99
Laurent Binet’s debut was one of the hottest books of 2012. A genre-bending piece of ‘fictionless’ historical fiction, it’s a novel about mind-bendingly chilling facts: those surrounding the awe-inspiring story of the 1942 assassination of Gestapo honcho Reinhard ‘The Blonde Beast’ Heydrich. On the first page Binet claims that Heydrich’s British-trained Czech assassins are “the authors of one of the greatest acts of resistance in human history, and without doubt the greatest of the Second World War.” By the last page you’ll be in total and permanent agreement. Obsessed with the past but gleaming with radical innovation, HHhH is urgent and new and terrifying and beautiful and pretty much the best thing that’s happened in literary fiction for ages.
November 21, 2011
Our favourite Canadian in London Craig Taylor has spent the last five years interviewing a massive ragtag army of Londoners, and this gorgeously produced, splendidly jacketed paperback is the glorious upshot of it all. The transcribed oral testimonies of cabbie, currency trader, dominatrix, street cleaner, beekeeper, commuter, squatter, property developer, barrister, hedge fund manager, market trader, funeral director and loads and loads more all rub shoulders in an immensely readable cacophony that’s as close to a microcosm of the unreal city as it’s possible to find in book form. This is already one of our favourite books of the year: a teeming bustle of real London voices that educates and entertains in equal measure. Every home in this town should have one.
July 29, 2011
All of the American legend Lydia Davis’ amazing short stories in one particularly beautiful bright orange paperback. There’s plenty of longer ones in here, but Davis is a real master of the particularly short short story: there are some beauties in here that are only one line long. And still brilliant!
July 23, 2011
London’s Helen Simpson is one of our best living writers of short stories and this, her fifth collection, is another tour de force that you’ll end up pressing on everyone you know. Underpinned by a burning anxiety about the looming threat of climate change, the stories in In-Flight Entertainment do more in a few pages than most novels do in hundreds. Flick to ‘Diary of an Interesting Year’ (page 116) and you’ll start to get the picture. Set in a cholera-and-typhoid-ravaged apocalyptic England in 2040, it’s like The Road in twelve pages, only better. Utterly unlike anything Simpson has tried before, it’s well worth the price of the whole book on its own.
July 23, 2011
Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize-winning titan of contemporary literature, and her masterful debut novel is an American classic. Short, sharply-observed, shocking and painfully moving, The Bluest Eye is a gorgeously lyrical page-turner that explores a legacy of race and abuse. It’s a really accessible quick read that’s as riveting as it is tear-jerking, and it out high-brows Kathryn Stockett’s The Help any day.
June 9, 2011
This gloriously unusual and dazzlingly smart new book is a conversation between notorious bibliophile cleverclogs Jean-Claude Carrière and Umberto Eco, all about the rich history of the book, and its grim prospects in our digital age. It’s a truly idiosyncratic and gleefully digressive dialogue, educational and engaging on literally every page, and it even features a surprisingly high instance of laugh-out-loud funny bits. We’ve always been fond of these kinds of ‘books about books,’ and this absolute gem is a brilliant and urgent new addition to the genre.
April 23, 2011
This is the second short story collection from the bus-driving author of The Restraint of Beasts and recent ‘Best-Novel-About-A-Bus-System-Ever-Written’ The Maintenance of Headway. Not much happens in a lot of these, but workaday absurdity and Mills’ deadpan style are irresistibly funny.
April 4, 2011
The notorious American Psycho author returns with a sequel to Less Than Zero: the debut novel he wrote when he was just nineteen. Imperial Bedrooms revisits the lives of Ellis’ young and drugged-up LA social elite, only now it’s 2010, so they’ve all grown up into the middle-aged and drugged-up LA social elite. It features some stomach-churning violence that’s right up there with American Psycho, and I think it’s one of Ellis’ best.
October 25, 2010
Martin Gayford’s quietly brilliant new book is a diary of the year and a half he spent sitting to have his portrait painted and etched by the great Lucian Freud. It’s a mesmeric account of these months; overflowing with valuable fragments of Freud’s lively conversation, and plenty of Gayford’s fond and astute critical musings. It’s a gorgeously put-together hardback; illustrated throughout with some of the best paintings going, and featuring some of David Dawson’s amazing photographs of Freud at work in the studio. This is my new favourite book in the Art section, and a perfect gift for anyone who has ever given two hoots about painting.
October 4, 2010
This is hands-down my favourite novel of 2010. It’s narrated by Milo Burke; failed painter, struggling toddler-dad and troubled employee in the fundraising department of a New York University. The Ask is a proper Great American Novel, about all the stuff that really matters now, and it made me laugh out loud more times than any novel I think I’ve ever read.
October 4, 2010
This is the brilliant second novel from the dead Chilean genius who went on to write the celebrated and bogglingly long 2666. It’s a weird Borgesian compendium of short biographical sketches of made-up Nazi-sympathising writers, and it is way, way funnier than it sounds.
October 4, 2010
This glorious big yellow hardback is a sort of greatest hits collection of the brilliantly cack-handed drawings and writings of our Funniest Living Artist. It would make a nice Christmas present for anyone you know with working eyes.