Sure, sex is great, but have you ever cracked open a new notebook and written something on the first page with a really nice pen? The story behind Notebook starts with a minor crime: the theft of Tom Cox’s rucksack from a Bristol pub in 2018. In that rucksack was a journal containing ten months worth of notes, one of the many Tom has used to record his thoughts and observations over the past twelve years. It wasn’t the best he had ever kept – his handwriting was messier than in his previous notebook, his entries more sporadic – but he still grieved for every one of the hundred or so lost pages. This incident made Tom appreciate how much notebook-keeping means to him: the act of putting pen to paper has always led him to write with an unvarnished, spur-of-the-moment honesty that he wouldn’t achieve on-screen. Here, Tom has assembled his favourite stories, fragments, moments and ideas from those notebooks, ranging from memories of his childhood to the revelation that ‘There are two types of people in the world. People who f*cking love maps, and people who don’t.’ The result is a book redolent of the real stuff of life, shot through with Cox’s trademark warmth and wit.
Notebooks, I must admit I love them. I have so many of them and I would never get rid of any of them, and I have to use a good quality fountain pen. I would be out of my mind if I ever lost one or had one stolen. But that is exactly what happened to Tom Cox as he explains at the start of his new book that is called appropriately Notebook (Unbound) and it is out now.
Tom Cox loves his notebooks and in these he writes his thoughts and observations on life and the places he visits. Until back in 2018 when he visited a pub in Bristol, and someone walked off with his rucksack that contained his precious notebook while he was strutting his stuff to Michael Jackson. I would be mortified. All Tom’s work had been stolen and this is how Notebook became a book.
I loved Tom’s previous books, and Notebook is just the perfect read, it has moments where you cannot help but laugh. Here are his thoughts from his collection of notebooks that Tom has kept. These are random thoughts on almost anything in life. Trips to various locations and places he has lived, even woodpigeons manage to get into his notebooks as does his love of vinyl records and cats and nature.
Every page is trademark Tom Cox, his warmth and his humour are a real joy to read. Tom’s parents Mick and Jo contribute illustrations throughout the book. At only 144 pages this a tonic to dip in and out of and then there is the stunning cover design by Clare Melinsky. Notebook by Tom Cox is a fabulous read. Be prepared to laugh out loud.
My thanks to both Unbound and to Anne at Random Things Tours for the review copy of Notebook by Tom Cox.
Notebook by Tom Cox is published by Unbound and was published on 18 March 2021 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org
From Field & Forest: An Artist’s Year in Paint and Pen by Anna Koska
Highly respected illustrator Anna Koska is best known for her drawings of fish and fruit and is widely celebrated by food journalists and restaurateurs. In this mindful, artistic journal, Anna celebrates the natural world; the changing of the seasons, the blossoming of flowers and the ripening of fruit.
Working in watercolour, pen and ink, oils and luscious egg tempera, Anna’s illustrations are reproduced in beautiful detail and they are accompanied by her musings and observations of objects, engaging us in the everyday realities of her artistic practice.
Anna sources inspiration from the flora and fauna in the fields and forests surrounding her home in East Sussex. Her illustrations root us in nature, allowing us to pause to admire and appreciate the beauty and significance of everyday occurrences – whether she is drawing wasps feasting on apples fallen in the orchard, or trying to capture the cerulean blue of a winter sky. \
In this book, image and narrative text are wedded to create a beautiful journey through the seasons, taking time to appreciate our surroundings.
Anna Koska is a celebrated illustrator of around 25 years over the years she has illustrated fruit, vegetables and nature, Anna’s work has featured in over 100 books but just published is Anna Koska’s first book, From Field & Forest:An Artist’s Year in Paint and Pen (Pavilion Books) that looks at the seasons and nature that surround her home and it really is an incredibly beautiful book.
Beginning in autumn and working through the seasons Anna celebrates the natural world that surrounds us. The beauty of From Field & Forest is that it is like being out in nature in that it makes you stop and wonder of the beauty that we have in front of us, and Anna captures this in both words and through her stunning illustrations. As the seasons change so does the natural world from autumn to the dark winter months and walking through a muddy landscape or hearing the gentle crunch of a frost covered field listening to the winter birdsong. As natural world awakes from its winter sleep, and life begins again Anna captures this beautifully within the landscape that surrounds her Sussex home.
Finally, Summer has arrived, and the hives are busy, and flowers are plentiful, there is something about standing in your garden at first light of a Summer’s day, the grass damp with early morning dew, listening to the birdsong. Anna describes these moments, and it is like you turn a page and you are there. Anna Koska has written and illustrated the most beautiful book in From Field &Forest that anyone who loves the natural world will enjoy through the seasons.
You can follow Anna Koska on Twitter: @GremKoska and also via her stunning Instagram account: @gremkoska
For mor information of books available via Pavilion Books: Pavilion Books
My thanks to Komal Patel for the review copy of From Field & Forest by Anna Koska.
From Field & Forest by Anna Koska published by Pavilion Books on 4th March 2021 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org
Covid Thoughts created and Photographed by Gemma Levine
This book is a thought-provoking exploration of the challenges, lessons learnt, and personal experiences of the global pandemic communicated through the eyes of some of the influential public figures in society.
It features contributions from 30 personalities and politicians including the UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel, Bryan Robson, Prue Leith, Sir David Suchet, Joanna Lumley, William Boyd, Dame Maureen Lipman, and Terry Waite.
As well as raising funds for Lymphoedema research, Covid Thoughts is a compelling collection of the real accounts of people from across a diverse range of backgrounds offering a humbling and insightful glimpse into their Covid journeys.
Foreword by PROFESSOR PETER MORTIMER MD FRCP Preface by DAME JUDI DENCH CH DBE FRSA Introduction by GEMMA LEVINE FRSA Afterword by PROFESSOR JAMES A. LEVINE MD PhD
Gemma Levine is a well-known photographer and has published 20 books of photographs, she began her career back in 1975 and she is especially known for her stunning black & white photographs and since the 1980’s the list of names that she has photographed from British society are Politicians, sportsmen and women, many from stage and screen, writers, six Prime Ministers and royalty.
As the pandemic struck here in the UK Gemma Levine asked 40 people to pen their ‘Covid Thoughts’ and to go alongside this Gemma photographed each. And the photographs are amazing and so natural. Each contributor gives thought provoking and personal experiences of the pandemic as it took hold in each of our lives. For everyone, The Covid-19 pandemic has been a journey where all of us have experienced loss and grief and a journey through the course of the past 12 months.
Reading the words of famous names and those working on the front line and in care homes and from all walks of life their own words strike a chord as they describe their own personal journey.
Many famous people have supported this project by Gemma Levine in support of Lymphoedema research at St George’s Hospital in London. Names such as: Dame Judi Dench, Baroness Joan Bakewell, William Boyd, Simon Callow, Dame Joan Collins, Sir Karl Jenkins, Prue Leith, Joanna Lumley, Priti Patel, Dame Esther Ranzen, Dr Miriam Stoppard, Sir David Suchet, Terry Waite, The Lord Mayor, plus those who work on the front line: A Covid ITU nurse, also there are contributors from the Arts, Care Homes, Hospitality, Medicine, Music, Media, Politics, Sports, School and University students. etc.
*Lymphoedema is a long term-cronic condition that causes the swelling of the body’s tissues. It can affect any part of the body but usually develops in the arms and legs. If not identified and treated early it can get worse.
World Lymphoedema Day on Saturday 6 March 2021.
Copies of Covid Thoughts by Gemma Levine can be purchased Here
My thanks to Grace Pilkington for the review copy of Covid Thoughts by Gemma Levine.
Covid Thoughts by Gemma Levinewas published on 6th March 2021 and is available to order through via: Covid Thoughts Proceeds from sales will go to Lymphoedema Research Charity, at St George’s Hospital.
Two Summers: Nixon and Trump by Greyhound Bus by Tim Albert
In 1969 the 22-year-old Tim Albert spent three happy months on a 12,000 mile road trip around the United States on Greyhound buses. Half a century later – to the day – he set out to revisit his trip, armed with his original 30,000-word diary. Would he find the America of President Donald Trump much altered from the America of President Richard Nixon? How would Greyhound bus travel have changed in a world flooded by motor cars and electronic devices? And would his 72-year-old body last the course?
In this funny and finely observed account, our game hero tours New York with a 50-year-old Michelin Guide; discovers that bus passengers speak into their phones and not to each other; celebrates the golden jubilees of the moon landings, the gay rights movement and Kermit the Frog; declines the offer of a mail-order AK-47; and is told by half the people he meets that the President is a dangerous embarrassment and by the other half that he is a saviour who never lies. When two older ladies assume our scruffy traveller is homeless and reach into their handbags to give him money for food, he realises that one thing hasn’t changed – the generosity of Americans.
The year was 1969 and Tim Albert (aged 22) travelled to the USA and spent three months travelling 12,000 miles across the country via the famous Greyhound buses. This was the time of President Nixon. After this mammoth adventure Tim became a journalist both local and national and for medical publications. 50 years later in 2019 Tim decided that it was time to recreate the trip across the USA.
This time it was the era of Trump in the Whitehouse, so setting off on his adventure 50 years later together with the original diary and his old guidebook and a 12,000-mile adventure awaits. But just how has the USA changed in the 50 years since his last trip? I have to say after swapping many emails with Tim about this, just what a fantastic idea to recreate his original trip really was. Exciting and brave at the same time.
Just stop and think for a moment, 50 years ago, there was no mobile phone, no internet let alone email! You not just Google when you needed information, you had to go and find it yourself. But now times have really moved on. People on buses not communicating with each other but would rather communicate via mobile phones. But not everyone is Google happy and have the latest smartphones.
To get to know the USA of today you must really speak to people on the street and this is what Tim does, and gets a real feel for how people think of Trump and their homeland of today. Tim writes superbly and has lost none of the journalist. Yes, you can of course read this as a travelogue but one thing his trip across the USA did prove was that just how divided the country had become under Donald Trump as President.
From July 2019 and arriving in New York to September Tim travelled across country, I loved the humour and how despite the hiccups Tim faces and sometimes asking for help you find out just how kind people really are. There are conversations with many people from all walks of life and these really are interesting. Across the bus rides visiting cities and towns Tim Albert takes the reader on a Greyhound adventure. An excellent read and Tim’s love for the USA really shines through.
My thanks to Tim Albert for the copy of Two Summers: Nixon and Trump by Greyhound Bus by Tim Albert.
Two Summers: Nixon and Trump by Greyhound Bus by Tim Albert was published by Elbow Publishing on 26th June 2020 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org
As we start the New Year this is my opportunity to look back at my favourite books that got me through that awful year of 2020. For all of us who love books they really got us through that difficult year. We could lose ourselves in stories and head of on adventures or we could read some non-fiction and learn from history or read books on natural history. How would we have got through 2020 without books.
This is also my opportunity to thank all the authors and publishers who have trusted me with their books. To each and everyone one of you all I can do is thank you. It is also a chance to mention bookshops. All have struggled through the lockdowns and have had to adapt. All are still struggling and need our support through the months ahead. Bookshops are vital for every community just like libraries. We would be poorer without them. They have managed to adapt by click and collect or many delivering free to people living local and who have been isolating. It has been inspiring to hear and read their stories.
Without further ado here are my ten shortlisted fiction and ten non-fiction books of 2020 and at the end I have chosen my fiction and non-fiction books of the year.
MY TEN SHORTLISTED FICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR
The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
Published by Fourth Estate.
Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020
Longlisted for the Booker Prize
The long-awaited sequel to Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and the conclusion to the fabulous trilogy. I have to admit this was my tip to win the Booker Prize and make it a hat-trick of wins. I still think this is just some of the best writing in many years.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
Published by Doubleday
I have been a fan of Rachel Joyce’s writing for some years now and Miss Benson’s Beetle is set in 1950 a story of adventure and friendship.
Summer by Ali Smith
Published by Hamish Hamilton
Longlisted for the Highland Book Prize
The finale to the seasonal quartet. Like each season the quartet seems to have gone so fast. All four to cherish in the years to come.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Published by Tinder Press
Winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction
Waterstones Book of the Year 2020
This is one book I have been speaking about since I was lucky enough to receive a review copy and was one of the first books of 2020 that I read. Instantly I knew this was something incredible and without doubt Maggie’s finest hour in writing.
A story based on the story of Shakespeares wife Agnes (Anne Hathaway) and their young son Hamnet. It will break your heart but stunningly beautiful. Deserved of all the plaudits.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Published by Viking Books
This is just a brilliant debut from the TV quiz master Richard Osman. It has gone on to become one the biggest selling books of 2020. A novel set in a quiet retirement village. Readers will love the characters involved. Warm and very funny.
Winterkill by Ragnar Jónasson
Published by Orenda Books
Sadly, the finale in the Dark Iceland series. As chilling as an Icelandic winter this is gripping finale as Ari Thor returns to solve the death of a young woman found dead beneath a balcony. Suicide or something much more sinister?
Shuggie Baine by Douglas Stuart
Published by Picador Books
Winner of the Booker Prize 2020
The Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year 2020
Shortlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction 2020
Bleak and heartbreaking. A story set in Glasgow in the early 1980’s of young Shuggie Baine and Agnes his mother. Even now I keep thinking of this story.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Published by Orion Books
Selling well over one million copies the international bestseller. A heart stopping thriller that had me guessing until the very end. Why did Alicia Berenson who had a perfect life and marriage suddenly shoot her husband dead five times in the head. Six years later and incarcerated she has not spoken a word.
Three – Fifths by John Vercher
Published by Pushkin Vertigo
Set in 1995 in Pittsburgh and a story of race, class and violence. A powerful novel, that is so brilliantly written. Nominated for many literary awards.
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
Published by Raven Books
The Year is 1634 and Samuael Pipps the great detective is being transported to Amsterdam from the Dutch East Indies to stand trial for a crime he says he did not commit. He could face the death penalty. But as the ship sets sail things begin to happen on board.
MY TEN SHORTLISTED NON-FICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR
The Ratline by Philippe Sands
Published by W&N
A breathtaking account of the life of SS Brigadeführer Otto Freiherr von Wächter. Painstakingly researched. Otto managed to escape justice as he was indicted for mass murder. Escaping via the Austrian Alps and then to Rome where he was helped by a Vatican Bishop. Powerful and reads like a thriller.
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
Published by Little Toller
Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing
This is Dara’s diary from Spring to Winter looking at the natural world and his own life at school as well as being an environmentalist and conservationist. Beautifully written.
Rootbound by Alice Vincent
Published by Canongate
Longlisted for the Wainwright Prize
Part memoir, botanical history and biography. This is just a beautiful book about what the outside world can do even by bringing it indoors. Insightful and beautifully written.
The Lost Spells by Jackie Morris and Robert Mcfarlane
Published by Hamish Hamilton
If you loved The Lost Words then you will automatically know and love the follow up or the kindred spirit to The Lost Words. Breataking in its beauty in both words (Spells) by Robert Mcfarlane and the artwork by Jackie Morris. It is never too far away and how it has helped during periods of lockdown and being isolated. It is just georgeous!
The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts
Published by Doubleday
I was just blown away by this incredible book. Across the landscape that is Siberia are the lost pianos that were created during the boom years of the nineteenth century. Sophy Roberts travelled this land in search of the pianos. This remarkable book is her story.
Jeoffrey: The Poet’s Cat – A Biography
Published by The History Press
Jeoffrey was a cat that lived over 250 years ago and with the poet Christopher Smart were confined in an asylum. This is the story of Jeoffrey the cat and how it came to be in one of the greatest poems of all time’Jubilate Agno’.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Published by Viking Books
Barack Obama started to write his memoir as he boarded Air Force One as he left the White House as President of America. This is the first part of what will become one of the great political memoirs. Obama writes with the calmness and assurance and with humour that we came to know and love. It is just a fabulous read.
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
Published by William Collins
What was it like to be around Churchill and his family through the countries darkest period, the blitz? This is the book to read. It is a gripping and page turning read that was painstakingly researched by Larson.
Beethoven: A Life in Nine pieces by Laura Tunbridge.
Published by Viking Books
In 2020 we celebrated the birth of truly one of the greatest composers the world had ever seen. Ludwig van Beethoven. Yet there are so many myths. Here Laura Tunbridge looks at parts of his life in each chapter and a piece of music. Not to be missed if you love Beethoven.
The Boundless Sea by David Abulafia
Published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)
Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2020
Some books just leave me speechless. The Boundless Sea by David Abulafia was one of those books. A stunning book that looks at the Oceans and the need to trade goods but in the end not only goods but culture. Not a small book in over a thousand pages but a book that will stand the test of time. A masterpiece and a deserving winner of the Wolfson History Prize.
And so now I have to find my fiction and non-fiction book of the year. There have been so many incredible books this year and selection ten fiction and ten non-fiction was hard enough. So hear are my two books of 2020.
My Fiction Book of 2020
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Published by Tinder Press
It had to be Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. This story of grief and loss has staye with me throughout this year and I cheered the when Maggie O’Farrell won the Women’s Prize for Fiction. How on earth does Maggie follow up on Hamnet. If you have not read Hamnet yet then this is one book that you must read. So much is weaved into the storyline about Agnes and Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, about a Kestrel and then there is the flea that finds its way aboard ship in Alexandria and the time of the plague that shut the playhouses in London and the devastation it would cause. Maggie’s writing is just dazzling.
My Non-Fiction Book of 2020
The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia
Published by Allen Lane (Penguin)
A difficult decision to find my favourite non-fiction book of 2020, but ultamately The Boundless Sea by David Abulafia won through because it is a remarkable piece of writing. One of the greatest books on world history. I read The Boundless Sea through part of the Summer and just became lost in the book. Inside there are pages of maps and colour photographs that go to make up one book that takes pride of place among my non-fiction books. To even begin to think about writing a history of the oceans is heartstopping to produce a work that is a masterpiece. From pirates to kings to sailors and slave ships to conquerers they are all here. One day I will re-read and travel the worlds oceans through time again. Worthy winner of the 2020 Wolfson History Prize.
So there we are my books of 2020. A year that books got us through the worst year we have ever known. We will need books just as much in 2021. So here’s to all the writers and publishers and bookshops across the UK.
A compelling hybrid of novel and biography, Life of David Hockney offers an accessible overview of the painter who shook the world of art with a vitality and freedom that neither heartbreak nor illness nor loss could corrode. Born in 1937 in Bradford, David Hockney had to fight to become an artist. After leaving for the Royal College of Art in London, his career flourished, but he continued to struggle with a sense of not belonging, because of his homosexuality, which had yet to be decriminalised, and his inclination for a figurative style of art not sufficiently ‘contemporary’ to be valued. Trips to New York and California – where he would live for many years and paint his iconic swimming pools – introduced him to new scenes and new loves, beginning a journey that would take him through the fraught years of the AIDS epidemic.
One of the most famous painters from these shores is one I have come to admire through many years. David Hockney: A Life (Arcadia Books) by Catherine Cusset is a fascinating and interesting ‘novel’ about the man himself and written before the author meeting David Hockney.
This was one of those books that I really was not sure about before I started reading as this is a novel about the man himself not a biography. But in the end I was actually really pleased that I did. Hockney was born in Bradford in July 1937 and later studied at the local School of Art before heading to London to study at the Royal College of Art.
What Cusset does in her novel is to write a fictional account of the painter’s life from his humble start from a family with little money to his determination to focus on his love of art and to achieve his goal. Using a mix of fact and fiction Cusset tells her story of Hockney’s life through the decades, the success and awards that followed but also the tragedies in his life. What I enjoyed reading about the paintings and making a note of them and later just spending time looking them up.
It is a brave step to write a novel about someone who is still alive and then later meeting them in person. I did wonder how that meeting went. But credit to Cusset as I found her writing to be vivid and shows a love for David Hockney from his days on both sides of the Atlantic. Not a man who paints to a trend but one who follows his own unique style and this is what made him one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. Now in his early 80’s David Hockney keeps fit by swimming for half an hour each morning and can stand at his easel for more than six hours a day painting. An enjoyable read.
Thank you Anna Zanetti (Midas PR) for the review copy of David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset
David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset was published by Arcadia Publishing and was published on 12th November 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshops. UK Bookshop.org
Snow. Every language has its own words for the feather-like flakes that come from the sky. In Japanese we find Yuki-onna – a ‘snow woman’ who drifts through the frosted land. In Icelandic falls Hundslappadrifa – ‘big as a dog’s paw’. And in Maori we meet Huka-rere – ‘one of the children of rain and wind’.
From mountain tops and frozen seas to city parks and desert hills, writer and Arctic traveller Nancy Campbell digs deep into the meanings of fifty words for snow. Under her gaze, each of these linguistic snow crystals offers a whole world of myth and story.
What do you associate with snow? Childhood memories of snowball fights perhaps? The cold air as it catches your breath after a snowfall? But look closely and there is so much more to just the word ‘snow’. Fifty Words for Snow (Elliott & Thompson) by Nancy Campbell has just been released and it is a beautifully presented book from start to finish.
We are off on an international trek looking at what snow means as far as myth and culture but also this is a timely look at the current ecological crisis. Nancy Campbell was a Writer in Residence at the most northern museum in the world which was on the northwest coast of Greenland when she was looking at ice and the changing language and landscape of the Arctic. Now Nancy turns her attention to snow.
If you love the winter and snow, then this is a book that you will want to find under the Christmas tree this year. Nancy’s writing is just sparkling like freshly fallen snow. We travel around the globe looking at new words and meanings, some of the words you may struggle to pronounce but these are real and many will be new to many readers. Short essays follow that take the reader to new worlds even to places where you would not think of it ever seeing snow. From the ice roads on frozen lakes in Estonia to the Scottish borders across to read about Mongolian and the Kurdish word for Snowdrops.
Fifty Words for Snow is just a magical read and as Nancy explains that she started to write this in September 2019 and finished six months later. The world suddenly in the grip of a pandemic at the same time a climate crisis which means we would lose a lot of what Nancy talks about in this beautiful book that deserves so much praise and deserves to read.
Thank you Alison Menzies and Elliott & Thompson for the review copy of Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell
Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell was published by Elliott & Thompson and was published on 5th November 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org
A Year of Living Simply: The Joys of a Life Less Complicated by Kate Humble
If there is one thing that most of us aspire to, it is, simply, to be happy. And yet attaining happiness has become, it appears, anything but simple. Having stuff – The Latest, The Newest, The Best Yet – is all too often peddled as the sure fire route to happiness. So why then, in our consumer-driven society, is depression, stress and anxiety ever more common, affecting every strata of society and every age, even, worryingly, the very young? Why is it, when we have so much, that many of us still feel we are missing something and the rush of pleasure when we buy something new turns so quickly into a feeling of emptiness, or purposelessness, or guilt?
So what is the route to real, deep, long lasting happiness? Could it be that our lives have just become overly crowded, that we’ve lost sight of the things – the simple things – that give a sense of achievement, a feeling of joy or excitement? That make us happy. Do we need to take a step back, reprioritise? Do we need to make our lives more simple?
Kate Humble’s fresh and frank exploration of a stripped-back approach to life is uplifting, engaging and inspiring – and will help us all find balance and happiness every day.
In this year of years that many of us having been struggling through, looking for happiness and something to sooth the soul. Here it is in the new book released this month by Kate Humble. A Year of Living Simply: The Joys of a Life Less Complicated (Aster) and I have to admit here and now I am a bit of a fan of Kate Humble.
Have you noticed how our lives are dictated by lots of gadgets and how we feel the need to upgrade to the latest model, car, mobile, computer. It is never ending. Sometimes the pressure of modern day living can really be too much. I read Kate’s last book Thinking on My Feet which ended up being shortlisted for two major literary prizes and I just really loved the way Kate was talking to you and just you. It was both calming and reassuring.
The real beauty of A Year of Living Simply I found was that I did not have to read from cover to cover but come back to it by dipping in and out and it felt reassuring to read about the people Kate met who have changed their lives and decluttering. If there has been the most perfect year for this to happen it is definitely 2020.
Kate Humble one of the country’s most popular tv presenters has a wonderful writing style that makes this such a personal book and she also shares a few recipes and the recipe for chilli jam caught my attention. I could not imagine a book from Kate Humble that did not include nature, and there is nature here but also gardening.
At a time when we are really concerned for our planet and its future, Kate shares her ideas that can make all of our lives easier and simple and doing something to help the future of our only home. Earth.
Follow Kate Humble on Twitter: @katehumble
Follow Octopus Books on Twitter: @Octopus_Books
Thank you to Aster (Octopus Books) and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of A Year of Living Simply by Kate Humble.
A Year of Living Simply by Kate Humble was published by Aster (Octopus Books) and was published on 17th September 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Follow A Year of Living Simply by Kate Humble Blog Tour
Delighted today to begin my journey in showcasing the UK’s Independent Publishers, it has been a project that I have been really looking forward in putting together. Across the country I will aim to bring highlight the books being published by an important part of the publishing industry.
The UK’s independent publishers have a vital role in book publishing, they will bring to our attention some fresh new writers from all forms of genres. As you will see over the weeks and months as I journey the length of the country just how vibrant these small publishers really are, and each with their own unique voice.
For my first stop I would like to introduce Neem Tree Press based in London, they are a young publisher with the sole aim of producing books that will broaden and change perspectives.
It was while I was researching the name of the publisher that I discovered the name: The Neem is a hardy and drought resistant tree that thrives in poor conditions. It has many uses such as medicinal. The United Nations declared it a ‘tree for the 21st Century’
Neem Tree Press have become a global when it comes to securing writers, not just here in the UK but contracts from as far as Germany to the Middle East, Spain and Turkey.
Under the umbrella of Seven Seas they release both MG & YA titles, all their fiction and non-fiction titles will be released through Neem Tree Press.
A selection of the fiction titles currently released through Neem Tree Press:
Children of War: A Novel by Ahmet Yorulmaz
Translated from Turkish by Paula Darwish
Released 26 March 2020
Hassanakis is a young Muslim boy of Turkish descent growing up on Crete during WWI. Fifteen generations of his family have lived on the island and until now he has never had any reason not to think he is a Cretan. But with the Great Powers tussling over the collapsing Ottoman Empire and the island’s Christians in rebellion, an outbreak of ethnic violence forces his family to flee to the Cretan City of Chania. He begins to lay down roots and his snappy dress earns him the nickname of Hassan ‘the mirror’. As WWI draws to a close and the Turkish War of Independence rages, he begins a heady romance with the elegant Hüsniye. There are rumors that the Cretan Muslims will be sent to Turkey but Hassanakis can’t believe he will be sent to a country whose language he barely knows and where he knows no-one. This powerful novel drawn from the diary of a refugee family evokes the beauty, complexity and trauma of Crete’s past and weaves it into a moving tale of an ordinary man living through extraordinary times.
About the Author:
Ahmet Yorulmaz (1932- 31March 2014)
Ahmet Yorulmaz was a Turkish a journalist, author and translator. He was born in Ayvalik to a family of Cretan Turks deported to mainland Turkey as part of the Greek/Turkish population exchange decreed in the Treaty of Lausanne. He was fluent in modern Greek and translated novels and poems from contemporary Greek literature to Turkish. Most of his original works were written with the aim of making people learn about Ayvalık, the city where he grew up. He dedicated himself to Greek-Turkish friendship and rapprochement.
The Umbrella Man by Keith Carter
Released: 3 October 2019
A witty and acerbic novel for our times about corporate greed, the hubris of bankers, contradictions of the clean energy economy and their unintended consequences on everyday people.
Finance, environmentalism, rare-earth mining and human frailties collide in a complex of flawed motives. We follow Peter Mount, the self-made Chief Executive of a London-based rare-earth mining company as he and his business are buffeted by crisis-torn Royal Bank of Scotland and by his own actions, real and imagined. Meanwhile in Oregon, Amy Tate and her group of local environmental activists do their contradictory part to undermine a component of the green economy, unwittingly super-charged by the Chinese state. The repercussions of events in pristine Oregon are felt in the corporate and financial corridors of New York and London with drastic consequences. This is a deeply involving novel about the current workings of capitalism, miscommunication, causes and unexpected effects, love and survival.
About the Author:
Born in Scotland, he read Economics at Cambridge, taking a First in 1981 when he was elected a Scholar. He worked as an investment banker before going straight and running a small pharmaceutical company. Now a writer and business consultant he enjoys travel, politics and economics, reading and writing, languages, music and meals with family and friends. Keith suffered a spinal cord injury in March 2018 and since rides a wheelchair.
Distant Signs by Anne Richter
Released: 7 November 2019
Distant Signs the debut novel by Anne Richter is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall.
In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in the Thuringian forest. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families’ hidden truths are quietly revealed. An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall.
About the Author:
Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. In 2011, Anne was nominated for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, a highly regarded German-language literary award. Her debut novel, Distant Signs, was published in Germany in 2013. Anne is currently writing her second novel.
Modesty: A Fashion Paradox by Hafsa Lodi
Released: 19 March 2020
Modest fashion has been gaining momentum in the mainstream global fashion industry over the past half-decade and is now a multi-billion-dollar retail sector. Its growing and now consistent appearance on high-profile fashion runways, on celebrities and in the headlines of fashion publications and news outlets, has shown that the modest fashion movement is hugely relevant to consumers. This is particularly true for millennials who are attracted to the feminist influences behind concealing your body, follow faith-based dress codes, or are attuned to social media, where more and more modest fashion bloggers are using imagery to inspire their followers. While the movement can credit European high fashion houses, like Gucci, for making conservative dresses and layering “in style” and “on trend,” and subsequent Western labels like DKNY, H&M and Mango for dabbling in the realm of modest wear, it is the newly emerging group of faith-influenced fashion brands who are driving the revolution, along with a new crop of Muslim fashion bloggers. These have helped catapult demure dressing trends globally. This book speaks to the various personalities and companies who have helped shape the modest fashion industry into such a significant retail sector, while also exploring the controversies that lie at the heart of the movement, such as one pressing question: even if it covers the skin but is flamboyant, modeled with the purpose of attracting attention, and publicly promoted on social media, can fashion truly be modest?
About the Author:
Hafsa Lodi is an American journalist who has been covering fashion in the Middle East for the past decade. She was born in New York City, and at the age of 14 relocated to the United Arab Emirates with her family, where she attended Dubai American Academy while interning after school with one of the region’s leading publishing houses, ITP.
After completing her undergraduate studies at the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto, Hafsa moved to London for a year, where she earned her master’s degree in Islamic Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies. The relationships between religion, culture and modernity have always fascinated Hafsa, who covered topics like honour killings in Canada’s South Asian communities, the use of DNA evidence in rape cases in Pakistan and the industrialization of the Holy city of Makkah, before turning to the fashion journalism beat. While living in Dubai, Hafsa has written for The National newspaper, Luxury Magazine, Mojeh Magazine, Velvet Magazine, Savoir Flair and Vogue India, in addition to working as an online fashion editor for one of the Middle East’s largest luxury retailers, Boutique 1. She is a freelance stylist, and also has a part-time clothing line, creating whimsical maxi-cardigans and kaftans during Ramadan, and statement hand-embellished sweatshirts for the winter seasons. You can find Hafsa on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hafsalodi/
My grateful thanks to Dr Archna Sharma for review copies of copies of their recent releases.
Visit the Neem Tree Website for information on all their books and you can also find a manuscript submission page: Neem Tree Press
You can also find them on Twitter: @NeemTreePress
Look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962