January 31, 2017
Hardback, £12.99 – Out Now
The fifth novel from the woefully underappreciated young British genius Gwendoline Riley might be her best one yet. First Love is narrated by Neve, a thirty-something writer who lives in London with her older husband Edwyn. As she combs over her past – friendships, courtships, hateships, love – and the choices that have borne her here, Neve paints a sentence-perfect picture of a testing literary life and a relationship that lurches queasily from cloying tenderness to wince-inducing cruelty. It’s a short but perfectly measured book in which every line pops and buzzes and sings. “Considering one’s life requires a horribly delicate determination, doesn’t it?” begins the novel’s blistering third and final act; “To get to the truth, the heart of the trouble.” This is urgent, gorgeously stylish, devastating new fiction that does just that: gets to the truth, and cuts to the heart. It’s a masterpiece.
Review by Stuart
August 1, 2015
Bloomsbury Circus, out now
Katharine Norbury was abandoned as a baby in a Liverpool convent, raised by caring adoptive parents, and then had a family of her own. The book opens as she starts a series of British nature journeys with her young daughter, prompted by bereavement following a miscarriage.
In this nature memoir, Norbury describes her life and her relationship with nature with candour and flair. She is compelled to trace her biological mother, and takes us to the end of this difficult journey.
She heads off alone to remote spots: as a woman who often walks out alone, it pleased me to have another woman walker describe her own experiences so effectively. “The more space I put between myself and the wakeful inhabitants of the mainland, the better I felt. The sea shone pearl-grey, opaque, and the sky lightened above it with a bloom as soft as a plum”.
Mixed in are stories from Celtic mythology, and thoughts about adoptive families (and non-adoptive ones). The theme of those who are grieving finding some solace, distraction or balm from the natural world has been covered in much recent writing, perhaps most famously in H for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. If you liked that, this will appeal. But it is also very readable for anyone thinking about what family means, how marriages can work, and how nature can be a part of our everyday lives.
April 11, 2015
If you’re in need of literary inspiration, here’s a snapshot of our bestselling novels and non-fiction (including the 80 titles in the Penguin Little Black Classics series) this spring…
Top 10 Fiction
1 Penguin Little Black Classics (80th anniversary)
2 The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan
3 How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran
4 The Children Act – Ian McEwan
5 The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
6 The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide
7 Family Life – Akhil Sharma
8 The Secret Place – Tana French
9 Look Who’s Back – Timur Vermes
10 We Are Not Ourselves – Matthew Thomas
Bubbling under: All My Puny Sorrows – Miriam Toews
Top 10 Non-Fiction
1 Penguin Little Black Classics (80th anniversary)
2 Flash Boys – Michael Lewis
3 The Establishment – Owen Jones
4 Rebel Footprints – David Rosenberg
5 This Changes Everything – Naomi Klein
6 The Utopia of Rules – David Graeber
7 H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald
8 So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson
9 The Moth – various
10 The Shepherd’s Life – James Rebanks
Bubbling under: Napoleon the Great – Andrew Roberts
March 21, 2015
Paperback now available – £12.99
365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals and Letters – compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison
“With Thelma to the George Inn, Southwark, for a lunch of steak-and-kidney pie, cherry pie and beer. Expected hordes of American tourists but found only English, including three young men with posh accents who went through a repertoire of advert slogans, radio catchphrases and anecdotes about cricket, bloodsports and motors, even calling beer ‘ale’.” – Peter Nichols, Diary, 16 June, 1971
Part of the pleasure of this anthology of diary entries (one or more for each day of the year) is discovering the familiar from a distance. So for Southwark residents like us, there’s playwright Peter Nichols on a certain type of tourist in Borough High Street 44 years ago. Or how about the Quaker merchant Peter Briggins on the retail opportunities of the frozen Thames during the Great Freeze (21 January, 1716):
“Afternoon I went to London Bridge & saw booths & shops as farr as the Temple but they say there is booths to Chelsey, & below Bridge from about the Tower booths & many huts & people crossed over. There was they say 2 oxes roasted.”
With the capital as the changing backdrop, this is a remarkable portrait of London penned by more than 200 diarists, including Samuel Pepys, Kenneth Williams, Alan Bennett, Mary Shelley, James Boswell, Virginia Woolf and George Gissing. From the 16th century to the 21st, it’s an eyewitness account of everyday life that takes in grisly deaths in Tudor times, Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, anti-Vietnam war protests, World War I Zeppelin raids and Derek Jarman’s night out in Soho.
February 20, 2014
40th anniversary – spring 2014
The nation’s bookshops have been infested with literary rodents for four decades. The Rats was a horrible hit for James Herbert (read our tribute to the master of modern British horror here) in 1974 and beyond. The book has remained in print and publisher Pan Macmillian will issue a 40th anniversary edition in the spring.
When Herbert’s story about giant, murderous rodents with razor-sharp teeth first appeared, its detractors included a young Martin Amis, who reviewed it for The Observer. Admittedly, The Rats is a fundamentally silly and under-developed novel, but when you read it today its anger at complacent authority feels genuine. Herbert was an East End boy made good (he became the art director of an advertising agency), so he knew the appalling post-war conditions that had never really been addressed: poor housing, dystopian tower blocks, casual violence – and vermin.
Herbert’s horror was a gory rejection of the ghost story and the snobbish novels of satanic terror by Dennis Wheatley, as well as being admirably unsentimental: his rodents nibbled at everyone regardless of class, gender, age or colour. (Stephen King also shook up the genre with his debut, Carrie, in 1974). The popularity of The Rats dovetailed with the rise of punk and they both provided a small shock to the establishment. There’s a strong sense of discontent, industrial unrest and government incompetence in Herbert’s depiction of the Seventies. He went on to write better books (Fluke, The Magic Cottage, Sepulchre), but The Rats still packs a punch. Once you’ve read the horrific scene in the Underground, you won’t be able to descend into London Bridge again without looking out for a dirty rat.
August 4, 2013
We’re used to book tie-ins for films, TV shows and grasping celebrities but fiction inspired by an exhibition is a more engaging combination. Alongside Hari Kunzru’s dystopian Memory Palace, written as part of a new V&A exhibition, there’s The Lowest Heaven, a science fiction anthology to coincide with Visions of the Universe at the National Maritime Museum (until 15 September).
If you’re enraptured by photographs of nebulae and Martian landscapes, it’s well worth a trip to Greenwich. And the collection of stories, each themed around a body in the Solar System with an accompanying image from the Royal Observatory collection, is a rich assortment of contemporary SF set in our little corner of the universe. The Lowest Heaven ranges in style and subject from space colonising and voyaging to more psychological and fantastical treatments, taking in obvious planetary neighbours as well as dwarf planet Ceres (Saga’s Children by E.J. Swift), the Voyager 1 explorer (James Smythe’s The Grand Tour) and Jupiter’s moon Europa (imagined as the plaything of an oligarch obsessed with Roman antiquity in the epic escapism of Magnus Lucretius, by Mark Charan Newton).
Golden Apple by Sophia McDougall contains the majesty of the Sun within a devastating, domestic drama; Jon Courtenay Grimwood riffs on the paranoia of Philip K. Dick in The Jupiter Files; and Adam Roberts essays a proto-Wellsian lunar adventure of derring-do in the 18th century that demonstrates a facility for amusing, gentlemanly dialogue. Even the more ‘traditional’ SF spacefaring has a dizzying quality, from Alastair Reynolds’s cyborg artist colony on Mercury to WWBD by Simon Morden, a murky mission to Mars that’s haunted by the ghost of Ray Bradbury. It’s a story that makes you want to seek out more of Morden’s work; in fact, that’s an imperative that might apply to several authors in The Lowest Heaven (edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin). Only a few irritating typos intrude on the wonderment experienced on this absorbing literary journey through our Solar System.
July 27, 2013
This debut novel by Robert Galbraith was published in the spring and attracted admiring notices from fellow crime writers Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. It’s since emerged that it’s J.K. Rowling using a pseudonym and there are certainly plenty of clues this is an author who might not be a fan of the tabloids (Rowling was a witness at the Leveson Inquiry). Her crime novel about the death of a supermodel begins with sardonic description of the media feeding frenzy in the days after Lulu Landry falls from her Mayfair balcony. Yet Rowling avoids striking a high moral tone by virtue of being wickedly funny. “So many columnists made allusion to Icarus that Private Eye ran a special column,” she writes of the coverage of the suspected suicide.
The first book in a new series introduces the gruff, ale-drinking, ex-army private detective Cormoran Strike and his young temp Robin, whose nascent ability for investigation contrasts with the burden of sensible career expectations she expects will consign her to an office “full of gossipy women… all engaged in activities that meant nothing to her”. But I suspect we’ll see more of this double act.
The Cuckoo’s Calling is an ingenious, evocative mystery that takes in London high-life and low-life and Rowling tackles celebrity and wealth with a sly wit. Her insight into football and media rights shows a less sure touch: somehow Strike manages to watch Spurs v Arsenal live on a Saturday afternoon on a portable TV he’s just installed in the Soho office where he’s been camping out since splitting with his girlfriend. And I’m almost pedantic enough to investigate the appearance of handstraps on the Bakerloo Line in Rowling’s novel, though it is set in 2010. A braver editor might have cut some of the descriptive passages but this is still a stylish reinvention of the classic whodunit and a gripping read that will keep you guessing until the end.
June 16, 2013
This first book in an edgy new US crime series introduces us to burnt-out punk photographer Cass Neary. Cass is a mess but at least she hasn’t sold out: she’s hooking up with younger men (and sometimes women) in gnarly New York clubs, still listening to Patti Smith and refusing to ditch her ancient Konica for digital. We’re soon rooting for Cass – though we’re also a bit scared of this hard-drinking, tattooed kleptomaniac and her steel-tipped cowboy boots.
Granted a rare journalistic assignment to interview an influential, reclusive photographer, Cass takes a drug-fuelled drive to Maine where she finds a desolate coastal town dotted with posters of missing teenagers. After reaching the photographer’s isolated island (‘what you’d imagine a fairytale would look like if you fell into one’), the interview doesn’t go to plan; now she’s stuck there. So she drinks, hangs out with the more arty locals and picks up on dark hints about an abandoned commune. Cass can’t help stirring up old secrets, though as one character says it’s more that she makes things weird not worse.
This is a story where the crime is revealed, like death-fixated Cass’s creepy photos in the darkroom, slowly and with a sense of dread. Hand also follows Stephen King’s dictum that readers love the intricacies of work by rubbing our noses in the chemical smells and processes of pre-digital photography. Generation Loss is an eerily atmospheric crime novel with an unrepentant bad girl snarling acerbic one-liners between swigs of Jack Daniel’s. Yet Hand’s prose, preoccupied with creative power and its decline, gleams with a luminous beauty even as it’s pulling the reader to an explosive finale. A Sequel, Available Dark, is out on August and Hand’s next book will take Cass on a trip to London – a terrifying but thrilling prospect.
April 14, 2013
It’s set to be a thrilling summer of cricket with Test matches against New Zealand, the ICC Champions Trophy and the Ashes Test series against Australia. There’s also a publishing landmark with the 150th edition of Wisden, the cricketers’ almanack, available now priced £50. The annual reference book was first published in 1864 by John Wisden, the 5ft 4ins Sussex fast bowler known as the ‘Little Wonder’, at the price of a shilling for 112 pages (the latest edition weighs in at 1,584 pages).
In 1889, it began compiling what would become its famous cricketers of the year list, so by 2000 it was well placed to come up with five cricketers of the century, headed by Don Bradman. Even though it’s a venerable volume, Wisden’s never been too fusty: it made Claire Taylor one of its cricketers of the year in 2009, while the latest issue considers Kevin Pietersen and Twitter and features Steve Davies on being the first openly gay international cricketer. It even broke with tradition in 2003 and put a photograph on the front – Michael Vaughan was the cover star – but the Eric Ravilious woodcut of Victorian gentlemen was soon back where it belonged, having graced the cover since the 75th edition in 1938 (that was also the year it became bright yellow).
Wisden readers will also be fascinated by The Little Wonder: The Remarkable History of Wisden by Robert Winder, as well as a host of new cricketing volumes including The Promise of Endless Summer, a book of cricket lives from the Daily Telegraph; 80 Not Out: My Favourite Cricket Memories by Dickie Bird; and We’ll Get ‘Em in Sequins by Max Davidson, a unique look at the changing nature of masculinity, told through the lens of a series of Yorkshire County Cricket Club player portraits through the ages.
March 28, 2013
Since 1863, vast, silent crowds of people have been heading underground every day to read a book (and maybe go to work). So the 150th anniversary of the London Underground – and the 80th anniversary of Harry Beck’s iconic map – is a good opportunity to pick up some top Tube books here at the Riverside for your Jubilee or Northern Line journey over the road. The Penguin Underground Lines series deserves its own platform announcement: 12 short books for each Underground line from authors ranging from John O’Farrell to John Lanchester, Lucy Wadham to Peter York. They’re just £4.99 each and there’s also a box set for real Tube buffs. We’ve also got new books about the history and the design of London Underground, as well as the poems and 150 years of odd facts. Click on the images above for our gallery of Tube-related titles for the birthday celebrations.
November 5, 2012
If you devoured the works of Dickens with an eye on the seasons, you wouldn’t necessarily single out a festive theme. The Old Curiosity Shop opens with the narrator describing early morning summer roaming through fields and lanes; the journey that begins The Pickwick Papers starts quite specifically at sunrise on 13 May; Dickens’s Night Walks describe his insomnia-induced roaming of London in damp March.
Yet it is Christmas that has partly defined Dickens, not least because many believe he invented our modern idea of the festive season, whether depicting the gleaming shop windows, piles of food and notions of charity and goodwill, or inflicting a ghostly tale on readers on a wintry night.
This handsome Vintage Classics edition (price £15.00) is a perfect festive treat, including ‘The Christmas Books’ – A Christmas Carol, The Chimes and The Haunted Man and The Ghost’s Bargain – as well as several other seasonal tales. It begins with The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton, a magical, creepy tale originally published as part of The Pickwick Papers in serial form.
October 27, 2012
Special Price: £35
THIS time last year we began excitedly exploring Panoramas of Lost London (still available at the special discount price of £25) and now we’re revelling in London Hidden Interiors. This sumptuous volume will appeal to anyone who loves London and feels a frisson of excitement at the idea of entering a hidden door and marvelling at the conserved architectural heritage inside.
Historian and heritage expert Philip Davies invites you on a tour of 180 of the capital’s best conserved interiors that are either rarely seen or little known. Unusual, odd and eccentric locations are featured in a stunning collection of 1,700 contemporary colour photographs that capture both the architectural detail and the unique sense of each of these conserved interiors. They range from the Speaker’s House and Lord Chancellor’s Residence, Lambeth Palace and 10 Downing Street to the Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, Aldwych Underground Station (closed in 1994) and the Sherlock Holmes pub. Of course, architect Sir John Soane has a number of impressive Georgian interiors in this volume, including his maze of a home (now a marvellous museum) in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
London Hidden Interiors is available at the special price of £35 – £5 off the RRP. Click below for a gallery of pages from the book.
May 4, 2012
Or 2000 years of architectural achievement in smart paperback format for £12.99.
Metro Guides have been sending out their compact guides to all things London for quite some time now – cemeteries, gardens, hidden walks, bookshops, markets – seemingly aimed at tourists but perfect for Londoners too. Architecture, a past bestseller, has been recently reissued. It’s not a coffee table book but a guide, with just enough information (location, brief history, how to get there) to send you on your way and see for yourself why its been featured. As well as the obvious there’s a plethora of the less obvious, the things we walk past every single day and sometimes notice (but mostly don’t), making it an ideal and accessible gateway to explore the wealth two millennia of putting buildings next to each other will give you.
December 9, 2011
Special Price: £25
The clue, of course, is in the title. In a similar vein to Lost London, Philip Davies has put together another coffee table tome packed with photographs from the London County Council archive. This, however, is more of a high definition model, with over 180 photos from the first book blown up and rendered in quite stunning detail alongside over 100 unseen exquisite beauties. Take a closer look at the thumbnails to see for yourself.
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.
October 6, 2011
Matteo Pericoli spent two years travelling along the Thames from Hammersmith Bridge to the [former] Millennium Dome and committing both sides of the riverbank to paper, and this is the result: two 37 foot long pen and ink drawings (a total of over 22 metres for the metrically minded), one for the north bank and another for the south, both beautifully detailed and wondrously simple, printed back to back and all slipcased- up. This is no mere London souvenir book but a genuine work of art. For an actual look, check out the artists’ site for it here.
May 6, 2011
Paul Talling, £9.99
The man behind Derelict London has been at it again, putting together another pocket sized tour to the bits of London you never knew existed; wet bits, to be specific – rivers, canals, ditches, brooks – long since drained, built over or otherwise consigned to the vagaries of history. A handsome little book and most illuminating.
January 13, 2011
Paul Talling, £9.99
An alternative London that eschews the sights and locales we’re all familiar with in favour of the derelict and forgotten landmarks slowly rotting away in front of us.
January 12, 2011
Ed Glinert. £12.99
The tales of hidden London, area by area, street by street, building by building, comprehensively catalogued by a man that has walked them all; riots, murders, rock & roll, espionage, gangs, the lot.
January 11, 2011
Peter Ackroyd, £16.99 (London), £14.99 (Thames)
The book of London (the clue is in the title) and the book of the River Thames (from sea to source and everything in-between). Both bestsellers since the day they were published and neither – rightly – looking like losing that crown anytime soon.
January 9, 2011
Jenny Linford, £14.99
Food writer Jenny Linford combines her own recipes with those of other food-loving Londoners -delicatessan owners, market stall owners, chefs and restaurateurs – in this celebration of London’s food culture.
January 9, 2011
Russ Willey, £15.99
The essential London reference book you did not know you needed; a heady, witty and surprising mixture of the people , places, events, myths, anecdotes and slang.
January 9, 2011
Ben Weinreb, £30
The most comprehensive book on London ever published, revised and updated with over 6000 entries and 500 drawings, prints and photographs covering all that is relevant to the city’s culture, economy, government and history. The definitive London reference work.
January 6, 2011
A pack of pocket-sized cards to help recognise and learn all about 50 of London’s famous landmarks. Each card has a detailed illustration, with information, facts and statistics on reverse.
January 3, 2011
Special Price: £19.99
A spectacular collection of more than 500 of the best images from the former London County Council archive of photographs, held by English Heritage for 25 years, but by no means a nostalgic lament for the city.
November 4, 2010
Christopher Winn, £9.99
Southend pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world
Christopher Winn, author of a whole host of I Never Knew That About… titles turns his attention this time to the Thames – all of it, not just the bit in the middle – in another fascinating and thorough excursion through the trivia and minutiae of history.