Philippe Sands – East West Street
Alexandra Shulman – Inside Vogue
Alan Johnson – The Long and Winding Road
Sebastian Barry – Days Without End
Yuval Noah Hariri – Homo Deus
Thomas Hocknell – Life Assistance Agency
The Riverside Bookshop blog
We are delighted with our new mural by the excellent Matt Sewell – our top floor is now graced by four gorgeous goldfinches.
Thanks to Matt, and good luck to him for his new book A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Collective Nouns (https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/matt-sewell/1069476/).
This Booker-longlisted novel is the story of a 17 year old boy facing the death penalty for a triple murder committed in a remote village in the Scottish highlands. It is 1869, and Roderick Macrae is the son of a crofter who is living in a feudal society. His Bloody Project is presented like a true crime story, with an account by the killer of what happened and documents from other parties involved. The novel is introduced by the author, in his own name, suggesting that Roderick Macrae was a relative of his. You have to bring your brain to this collection of purported primary sources, and the main question you have to answer is not whether Macrae committed the crime, which he admits, but whether he was mad at the time. If it could be proved that he was insane, he might avoid the otherwise inevitable death penalty.
What has happened to Macrae that may have led to this point? Through his partial account we hear of brutality, unfairness, bereavement and extreme poverty. As a study in the abuse of power, and the impunity that goes with it, the book is excellent (to be more specific would be to risk spoilers). The language used by every character in the documents is evocative and convincing – for example, Macrae calls winter in the village the ‘black months’ and summer the ‘yellow months’.
His Bloody Project grips tighter and tighter as the pages run out. As we find out more about the murders and the killer, we inevitably think more about how we test whether a defendant was insane or not, an issue as present today as in 1869. Equally relevant now, is the question – when you are subject to the law but the law does not protect you when you need it, can the society you live in really be said to be based on the rule of law?
Review by Bethan
Paperback, Vintage, 7.99
Ashamed of not having read anything by Anne Bronte but only her sisters I recently began reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and was astonished (though perhaps should not have been) firstly by how psychologically convincing the characters are, and secondly by the strangely addictive quality the writing possesses; considering its length (it is nearly 600 pages in the recent, extremely beautiful Vintage editions illustrated by the gifted Sarah Gillespie) I was amazed at how quickly I was half, then three-quarters, then all of the way through it, and wishing it was not over and that I could read more.
The main reason to recommend The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, however, is that Anne Bronte has created a strongly – even radically – feminist heroine in Helen Huntingdon; one who shuns the institution of marriage when circumstances call for it (an act most nineteenth century novelists – especially early nineteenth century novelists like Anne – shied away from; as they shied away from depictions of male depravity that Anne is utterly fearless in recounting) despite paying a price that at some points seems impossibly high, refusing to be swayed from following a path her own integrity marks out for her. This strength of character is common to all the Bronte’s work, of course, but Anne’s portrayals of women are by far the most revolutionary and only recently beginning to attract the recognition they deserve. It is also worth noting that her male characters possess a far more convincing inner terrain than either Emily or Charlotte’s; Heathcliff may be iconic and overwhelming, but iconic and overwhelming characters are not usually noted for their plausibility, relatability or tendency to inspire empathy. All these aspects make it both extremely sad and surprising that Charlotte Bronte herself dismissed her younger sister’s literary efforts and had so little insight into just how progressive they were.
For all these reasons, I would encourage anyone whose interest in the Brontes has been sparked by the recent TV program or who is simply wishing to embark upon a worthy, provoking and highly enjoyable Victorian novel, to invest their time in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; high-quality literature and effortlessly involving, it is the perfect marriage on many fronts.
Review by Emily
Hardback, Profile Books, £14.99, out now
If the belated but welcome Spring sunshine has you feeling newly mindful of our wildlife and hankering for all things natural then I couldn’t recommend anything better than Charles Foster’s latest book, Being a Beast ( – short of actually departing for the country and taking up residence in a badger set, that is; which Foster has helpfully done for us), which is a breath of fresh, heady – and slightly crazed – air. Foster, amongst many other things (he is a vet, philosopher, anthropologist, acupuncturist, academic, Oxford Fellow…the list apparently continues), is an ardent natural historian; he used to hunt animals for sport, he confesses, but is now intent on hunting them in an entirely different way: placing himself, as much as a human being can, in their skins in an attempt to know what it is like to ‘be’ them. To that end, and for prolonged periods, he lived in their physical environments, deprived of human comforts, reporting his intimate and thought-provoking experiences back to us. In Being a Beast he takes on the challenge of finding out what it is like to be a badger, an otter, a city fox, red deer and swift, combining neuroscience, psychology, natural history and memoir in a quest which takes him the length, breadth and depth of the British Isles.
As well as being a dauntless explorer (could you lie in a freezing highland stream for hours or sit in a river in Namibia watching leeches looping up your ankles en route to your groin?) Foster is also an erudite, witty, humble and entertaining writer. Take this passage, for instance, in which he reminisces about the days when shamanic ritual could transport performers into other states of consciousness:
‘You had to dance to the drum around a fire until you were so dehydrated that blood spouted out of your ruptured nasal capillaries, or stand in an icy river and chant until you could feel your soul rising like vomit into your mouth, or eat fly agaric mushrooms and watch yourself floating into the forest canopy. Then you could pass through the thin membrane that separates this world from others, and your species from other species. As you pushed through, in an epiphanic labour, the membrane enveloped you, like the amniotic sac in which you issued from your mother.’
Foster’s attempts to experience animals’ consciousness by immersing himself in their phenomenal worlds stem from a similarly impassioned desire to ‘be’ a beast (apparently he has been obsessed with birds and animals since he was a child), involves a similarly intense ‘labour’, as well as the odd moment or two that really could be described as epiphanic.
Even for those usually uninterested in nature writing Being a Beast is a winner: who can resist discovering what earthworms taste like, for instance (the terroir varies, apparently, according to region, like wine)? This is vital, dynamic, exhilarating writing that uncovers deadened senses, invokes empathy, fosters compassion and the all-important feeling of oneness. In delving into the ‘being’ of various ‘beasts’, Foster does something else too: he allows us to see ourselves more clearly – human or otherwise.
Review by Emily
Sort your Christmas book presents with a signed copy of one of the following – all of these are now in store:
Buy while stocks last – when they’re gone they’re gone!
There are foxes with scarves on and cats fighting fairy lights, polar bears snowboarding and badgers sledging. In between we have all the traditional scenes you could wish for and we can sort you out for winter landscapes and robins as well. We also have rude funny ones. There are extra special individual cards, and packs of charity cards. Come and peruse at your leisure.
Monday – Friday 9am till 6.30pm
Saturday 10am till 6pm
Sunday 11am till 6pm
From 14 December to 24 December, our opening hours are:
Monday – Friday 9am till 7pm
Saturday 10am till 6pm
Sunday 11am till 6pm
On Christmas Eve we will close at 4pm. The shop will be closed 25-28 December and will reopen on Tuesday 29 December.
Thank you to our friends at Divine chocolate for providing heavenly free chocolate bars to everyone buying a book in our shop today!
This celebration of National Chocolate Week has been very popular with our customers as you can see… It turns out there is a big crossover between booklovers and chocolate fans.
It would seem that London Bridge’s favourite chocolate is Milk Chocolate and Orange (this was entirely gone by 2.30pm).
For excellent chocolate recipes, we can sell you a copy of the Divine Chocolate Cookbook – or you can visit http://www.divinechocolate.com/uk/recipes
To mark the publication of Go Set a Watchman this summer, we’re giving away a free cloth bag (while stocks last) with every purchase of Harper Lee’s new novel! We won’t be doing any of that midnight opening that some shops think is a good idea. But we will be selling this much-anticipated sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird (although it was written before the first book) on publication day – Tuesday, 14 July. These totes are exclusive to independent booksellers. So if you want to carry this hardback home in its own book bag, head to the Riverside without delay.
Hoping to read Tenth of December by George Saunders in a handy paperback format on 10 December, 2013? Well, if you call at the Riverside you can indeed enjoy this moment of literary synchronicity; or at the very least get hold of this acclaimed collection before all your well-read friends. We’re happy to report that the publisher has supplied us with the paperback edition ahead of its official January 2014 release date. Given the half-dozen mentions for Tenth of December in the end-of-year newspaper round-ups, it means we can satisfy the many curious readers who’ll be seeking out George Saunders this month. The hardback has slipped out of print and a certain retailer, perhaps distracted by developing its drone technology, is still listing the Tenth of December paperback as being on sale on 2 January, 2014.
Frankly, you can’t wait until then for this book, which has cemented Saunders’s reputation as the finest American writer of short stories at work today. Saunders can be funny, surreal, bleak and humane on the same page. Take his 1998 story Sea Oak which features a male stripper who’s working in an aviation-themed restaurant, while also trying to deal with the reanimated corpse of his Aunt Bernie and her concerted efforts to restore the American Dream for her penurious family.
Saunders’s Royal Festival Hall event this summer ended up being a master class about one particular story he read from (Victory Lap, which opens the new collection) that had nascent authors in the audience scribbling away feverishly. George made it look easy, but it’s really not. As Zadie Smith puts it on the cover of the paperback edition – did we mention it’s already on our shelves? – of Tenth of December: “Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny with a prose style this fine.”
We can help with all your summer reading requirements – and we’ve got £2 off dozens of selected paperback titles in fiction and non-fiction including novels by Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel and A.M. Homes. The £2 discount applies while stocks last – and we’ll be adding new titles to our Summer Reading so come and have a browse. Click on the book covers below to view a gallery of just some of the books on offer.
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.
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.
We’ve still got a few signed copies of the New York author’s latest non-fiction work in hardback (£17.99) – a perfect gift for Auster aficionados. Thirty years after The Invention of Solitude, the 65-year-old has written another memoir, this time examining life through the history of his body – pleasure, pain, eating, sleeping and the ‘scalding, epiphanic moment of clarity’ in 1978 that set him on new course as a writer. It’s an intriguing concept from this prolific author as he enters the winter of his writing life.
£3 Special Discount
Something special from our favourite local culinary genius: book of delicious recipes comes with a delicious discount of £3, whilst stock lasts! For details about the restaurant visit: http://www.josepizarro.com/
It has been said here before and it will doubtless be said again, but it is nice when books look nice, when a real effort is made with their appearance. Penguin, who like their reissues, seem to be keen on this idea too (also as we have said here before), and have of late been sending out to bookshops everywhere some rather smart and dinky Puffin Classics. Its all the old standards – Little Princess, Huckleberry Finn, etc – but beautifully packaged, all pocket-sized and cloth-bound. So far there 12 in the series priced £12.99.
Not that it is acceptable to judge a book by its cover (although in the literal sense it is, because that is kind of the point of book jackets), but it helps. Especially if the cover is nice. And Penguin, who are reissuing some of their classics (not for the first time), are taking thorough advantage of this with their rather splendid Penguin English Library,
There will be one hundred titles in total, released in batches for the next six months, drawn from their extensive list of classics, all originally published in English, all issued and reissued many times over (and not just by Penguin), and yet somehow made all the more pleasing merely by a splash of colour, a move away from drab spines and resetting the type. As well as that matte, rubbery finish that is cropping up on more and more books these days (which probably has a technical term and also a good reason other than it feels pleasant) So, cosmetic, yes. But then there’s the price – £5.99, except because we are nice you can get them from us at £3.99 – and the simple fact that it makes them all look far more interesting and covetable and necessary. It even makes Thomas Hardy appear enjoyable to read, which is surely an achievement.
One Hundred Writers in One Box and Vintage Postcards from Vanity Fair are the latest in Penguin Books’ ever growing line of nice things in boxes, hot on the heels of Postcards from Ladybird, and last years Postcards from Puffin and Postcards from Penguin. Needless to say, with an 80 year legacy of smart design and damned good authors, these are handsome things indeed and not at all your cheap everyday postcards, which probably means – what with some things being too nice to share – you’ll much rather keep them all to yourself than deface them with bland platitudes, stick them in a postbox and hope for the best. Now, see if you can get these on your e-reader…
Hardly a hot new release, and certainly not something that could have been easily missed in the last 15 or so years, but attention must be drawn to an all new Everyman Classic Library edition of everyone’s favourite bestselling atheist-minded fantasy kids epic.
Like everything produced by the Everyman Classic Library it’s a handsome, perfectly proportioned thing, with stitched binding and sewn in bookmark, a special introduction and all the other lovely touches that Everyman do to make their books so covetable. But more exciting than any of that is the price: The Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, all wrapped up nicely, for the ludicrously low price of £15. Too shocking.
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.