Lockdown Reading: The Long & the Short of It
In the immortal words of Lizzo:
We like BIG BOOKS, itty-bitty books
which are also the two modes of lockdown reading. So here's some short n' sweet pocket pals whose small size can't hide their huge ideas on the one hand, and some see-you-through-to-December (or at least a few sleepless nights) chonky new titles that also harbour small explosions.
If you're looking instead for a book that will take you on a journey, then like Lizzo we can also recommend a Mississippi book – Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward – & an inner-city book – Scar City by Joel Lane.
As for a pretty book with a bow tie and its nails did, it has to be Jake Hall's The Art of Drag: history to absorb + looks to rehearse during the long days ahead…
Click on the titles to get copies of your very own.
2020 BIG BOOKS: Fiction
Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James
Book 2 of this delirious fantasy series is on its way, so get stuck in to this rich feast of family vengeance, evil leaders, spirit violence, hot sex, uncanny landscapes, and slippery, seductive storytelling.
Hamnet, Maggie O'Farrell
Plague, loss, betrayal, absent husbands, distant rulers, hints of myth and posterity… and through it all strides Agnes, herbalist and enchanter, with a kestrel on her wrist and a huge story to tell. An absolute rush of a novel from O'Farrell.
A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine
A galactic empire that controls everything wants the one impossible thing: immortality. When a young, inexperienced ambassador from an independent planet with a special technology arrives in the capital, she faces overwhelming (and often indistinguishable) promises and threats. But Mahit is not, ever, alone…
The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel
Corrupt, conniving, back-stabbing, hypocritical, murderous, woman-hating government machinations. But make it Tudor. If you haven't done, or finished, the trilogy yet, now may be the time.
The Old Drift, Namwali Serpell
Arthur C. Clarke-winning novel narrated by a swarm of mosquitoes that go AI. From a damning account of the damming of Victoria Falls via the Afrofuturist dreams of the Zambian space programme to a slightly future-present cure for HIV, Serpell gives us, gorgeously, everything in this waterfall of a book.
2020 BIG BOOKS: Non-Fiction
With the added incentive that some of these are anthologies: big book + short read from many sources = genius combination!
Falastin: A Cookbook, Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley
Weighing in at 1.5kg, this book absolutely makes its mark as a history, a travelogue, a portrait of a vibrant, determined nation, and (most importantly) a compendium of delicious food that mixes tradition and the contemporary.
Passengers: True Stories of the Underground Railroad, ed. William Still
Vital voices, recorded first-hand in their moment by William Still, and edited into this new collection by Qunicy T. Mills with an introduction by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A powerful people's history of America before the Civil War, whose legacy continues.
Shaping the World: Sculpture from Prehistory to Now, Martin Gayford and Antony Gormley
OK so this isn't strictly an anthology but it packs in 50,000 years of plastic arts, humans relating to landscape and materials and each other, from standing stones to kinetic sculpture, in beautifully browsable informative form.
Staying Human: New Poems for Staying Alive, ed. Neil Astley
Possibly the most popular series of poetry anthologies, and definitely one of the most sustaining and wide-ranging. This year couldn't have been a more perfect time for the publication of "new poems for staying alive."
… nevertheless, she persisted, for four millennia. Jessie Kindig brings together voices from across generations and continents to speak in concert and dissent, always for resistance and change. Magic.
itty bitty books
Four publishers smashing it in the small-is-beautiful format: fiction & non-fiction
A gorgeous way to read some of the best short story writers in these singles with their Bauhaus-harking design. How to choose? Don't, get a selection. Here's our starters for six.
Come Rain or Come Shine, Kazuo Ishiguro
Cosmopolitan, Akhil Sharma
An Elegy for Easterly, Petina Gappah
The Lydia Steptoe Stories, Djuna Barnes
Mostly Hero, Anna Burns
Mr Salary, Sally Rooney
Merky How To
Tools for learning during lockdown and beyond: this great series of short, sharp guides offers non-stop inspiration. Why not be like #Merky director Stormzy and master all three disciplines?
How to Write It: Work With Words, Anthony Anaxagorou
How To Change It: Make a Difference, Joshua Virasami
How to Build It: Grow Your Brand, Niran Vinod and Damola Timeyin
Open Pen Novelettes
Launching Sarah Manvel's new title in November, this is a consistently brilliant, provocative series of unusual fictions at an unusual length: longer than a short story, shorter than a novella, just write to pack an unsettling punch.
In Lieu of a Memoir, Tadhg Miller
Never Seen the Sea, Holly Watson
One Thing, Xanthi Barker
The Prick, Mazin Saleem
Shitstorm, Fernando Sdrigotti
You Ruin It When You Talk, Sarah Manvel
Peninsula Press Pocket Essays
Five gems in three years, six quid a pop. Each genuinely pocket-sized paperback is bursting with thoughts about how we live now – racialisation, gender, social media, anxiety, power, queerness, art – expressed in language that's *chef's kiss*.
Mixed Race Superman, Will Harris
Exposure, Olivia Sudjic
Daddy Issues, Katherine Angel
Radical Attention, Julia Bell
A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing, So Mayer