Non-stop October: Staff Picks, Big & Small

Whether you want to go big, with over 3000 pages between three of our titles, or go pocket-sized with an essay or a zine, we've got you covered. We have dreams of the open road, republican revelations, untrustworthy narrators and tens of thousands of years into the future. Plus, 10% off these titles, all through October.

So recommends…

The Glass Pearls, Emeric Pressburger

Karl Braun lodges in a shared house in Pimlico and works as a piano tuner. He always logs his telephone calls, and is always on time for his clients. He remembers the death of his wife during the Second World War. He buys discount tickets for classical concerts, and steps out with the young woman who found him his rented room, and is attracted to his melancholy secretiveness. His neighbour assumes that Karl is a Jewish emigré, like him. His English colleagues and customers, incurious, never imagine that he is a Nazi surgeon hiding from a war crimes trial, wrapped in a tissue of lies.

Emeric Pressburger's second novel is a psychological tour-de-force about complicity, a ferociously ironic novel that satirises the genteel style of English literary fiction to tear into the notion of a European civilisation. As atmospheric and haunting as you'd expect from one of the greatest ever screenwriters, especially in its observation of shabby, narrow-minded, pretentious pre-Swinging Sixties' London, it's a brutal and brilliant page-turner about everyday fascism and the refusal to see that makes it possible. 

Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver

Damon Copperhead’s mom is a survivor and addict living in a trailer on her friend the Peggots’ property. His Melungeon dad, drowned in the Devil’s Bathtub, was the son of a strict man-hating Christian over in Tennessee. Yes, she’s called Betsy. Demon, as he gets nicknamed, gets thrown into foster carelessness, inspired by a teacher, pulled into opioid addiction through his love for the grief-stricken Dori, and – in a heart-stopping set piece as jittery as anything in Breaking Bad – very nearly shot during a flood. In one small Appalachian community, the failures of the American corporate state play out, just as the brutalities of Victorian paternalism do in David Copperfield. Kingsolver’s novel is a furious, breathtaking work of art that takes on not only Dickens’ characters, narrative webs, and themes but also the humanist breadth and wit of his language, made fresh for the twenty-first century, listening to how resourceful, abandoned people tell their own and each other's stories.  

Sam recommends

A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel's epic novel about the first French Revolution was her first (though not the first to be published), and took 20 years to write. I picked it up on a whim in the weeks after my mum died (on the promise of the title) and the escape it offered makes the experience of reading it indelible. It swirls around Danton, Robespierre and Camile Desmoulins, sweeping from cafés and drawing rooms to desperate streetlights and bloody executions. What makes it so unforgettable (and so full of solace) is how, among the stampede of events that shaped the coming centuries, she never loses the gossamer threads that tie these three figures at the centre together: the moments where they break bread together are as memorable as the storming of the Bastille. That was Mantel's gift – she was a great humanist (and republican), we're going to miss her voice, I'll always be grateful for this book and the place it provided!

The Three Body Problem Trilogy, Liu Cixin (trans. Ken Liu and Joel Martinson)

I know I'm a little late to this but, wow. First contact writing like you've never read before. Starting during the cultural revolution and ending tens of thousands of years into the future Liu manages to blend game theory, string theory, quantum theory and just about every theory you can think of at the forefront of theoretical physical and social anthropology. Being so used to reading science theory that's underpinned by Western imperialism and manifest destiny, this was a breath of fresh air. And the fact that it has made it to us in translation suggests that it is, at least to some extent, state approved, so it's also a fascinating insight into how China wants its past present and possible future to be seen. Perfect escapism for the autumn… 2000 pages of it!

Ant recommends

Trust, Hernan Diaz

Hernan Diaz is officially two for two. His first book In the Distance published by Daunt Books was a revelation. Trust sees Diaz write continue a theme of the foundations of America with similar aplomb and originality that sets him apart from his contemporaries. 

Trust leads the reader through a sequence of mirages made up of various versions of the life of Andrew Bevel, a New York business tycoon who rises to glory in the wake of the 1929 crash. The novel’s genius lies in its gradual revealing of the central protagonist — Bevel’s wife Mildred. Mildred has been forced into the shadows of her own life by her husband’s success, a lot of which actually is her doing. Diaz brings Mildred to the fore and in doing so forces the reader to assess the accounts they’ve been told, and fallen for, throughout the book. TRUST has many guises and demonstrates how storytelling can corrupt as well as reveal the truth in family, business and one’s imagination. 

The Agony of Eros, Byung-Chul Han, translated by Erik Butler

In a society where everyone is an entrepreneur of the self, the economy of survival reigns. It stands diametrically opposed to the non-economy of Eros and death. Neoliberalism, with its uninhibited ego- and achievement- impulses, constitutes a social order from which Eros has vanished completely.

Just fallen head over heels? Got the capitalist blues? If you want to go deeper into the darkness on your winter commute look no further than The Agony of Eros. Byung-Chul Han analyses the principles of Hagel, Foucault and Barthes as he argues that love has eroded away into the shadows of our society and social interaction. Han discusses ideas around the obsession with health and performance, sex and pornography, science and big data on his quest to demonstrate loves failings in  our increasingly demanding world. A thought-provoking pinger!!

Emma recommends

Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, Tom Robbins

An assistant commonwealth attorney, encouraged by the policewoman who had driven Sissy home, was pulling strings to have her shipped to reform school. The public defender was using those terms “incorrigible,” “wayward,” “curfew breaker” and “beyond parental control,” that, when applied to a young girl, mean simply “She fucks.”

Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get The Blues loosely follows the roadtrip coming-of-age of Sissy Hankshaw, a girl from the tobacco manufacturing town of Richmond, Virginia, who was born with abnormally large thumbs. Perhaps because of these mutant extremities, Sissy decides that she was born to hitchhike. She finds herself in the Rubber Rose, an all-female ranch owned by a feminine hygiene company that is using the ranch as a spa retreat. Sissy arrives as the cowgirls are in revolt. A perverted fairytale of state-side proportions. Cute as a hot fudge taco and camp as grass. Narrated with affectionate absurdism and voyeuristic abandon. To be read while in motion.

Gob Fauna, Tom Dowse [available in-store only!]

Gob Fauna, a zine by Tom Dowse, consists of 5 short stories on the subject of working in customer service. Hellish fables of horrible bosses, spiteful colleagues and inhabitable work environments come together to create a comically absurd world of self-degradation, contracted torment and unwanted responsibility. ‘Deep Freezer’ sees an overenthusiastic employee rewarded with unpaid overtime to clean the Arctic-tundra-adjacent deep freezer. ‘Pipe (Part I and II)’ follows an art gallery invigilator’s haunting memories of being at the mercy of a labyrinthine installation. These stories are not a fantasy escape but a surreal refraction of the dreary reality of hospitality work. A product of fugue state daydreams tending to insanity while behind the counter or in the kitchen. Designed by P.G. Howlin’, complete with hieroglyphic linocuts. Published by Koroula SF and Studio Operative.

Finger Food Magazine: Issue 1, ed. Barney Pau and Kit Jury Morgan [available in-store only!]

Finger Food is a space for artwork and writing exploring craft, cooking and creation. Articles, poetry, prose, recipes and incredible photography grace the pages of this mag, with topics ranging from family eating rituals to industrial pig slaughter to edible flowers. An attention to ecology, farming and foraging practice and sensory experience can be felt throughout this publication.

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