This week is Indie Bookshop Week, where book lovers across the UK & Ireland celebrate their love for independent bookshops. It’s especially important this year as most indies have been forced to close their doors, losing out of months of business due to the pandemic. During that time books kept being published, but without the attention and audience they are used to.
We’ve put together a list of the unmissable books our publishers have been putting out during lockdown, so give it a look and consider putting in an order at your local indie – you can find yours here.
Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak, 9781922268860, Text Publishing, £10.99
Stella and Violet are best friends, and from the moment they met in college, they knew their roles. Beautiful, privileged, and reckless Stella lives in the spotlight. Hardworking, laser-focused Violet stays behind the scenes, always ready to clean up the mess that Stella inevitably leaves in her wake. After graduation, Violet moves to New York and lands a job in cable news, where she works her way up from intern to assistant to producer, and to a life where she’s finally free from Stella’s shadow. In this fast-paced world, Violet thrives, and her ambitions grow – but everything is jeopardized when Stella, envious of Violet’s new life, uses her connections, beauty, and charisma to get hired at the same network. Stella soon moves in front of the camera, becoming the public face of the stories that Violet has worked tirelessly to produce – and taking all the credit.
A Life Without End by Anna Pitoniak, 9781922268860, Text Publishing, £10.99
Determined to shake off the threat of death, Frederic examines every possible procedure, legal and illegal, to turn him into a member of a post-human species. Accompanied by his ten-year-old daughter and her robot friend, Frederic travels the globe meet the world’s foremost research authorities to reveal their latest discoveries. With his blend of deadpan humor and clear-eyed perception, Beigbeder has penned a brutal and brilliant expose of the enduring issue of our own morality.
Jolts by Fernando Sdrigotti, 9781910312513, Influx Press, £9.99
Nine stories. Nine ways of not being at home. Nine confrontations to the limits of fiction and memoir. Jolts is a playful and honest exploration of the joys and sorrows of lives lived in-between places. A collection that travels across time, space, and language, in order to deliver the gospel of the Latin American short story.
When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby, 9780857303950, No Exit Press, £12.99
In England, 1943, British pilot Vee Katchatourian is determined to get her flying Wings, in spite of her sex and foreign name. Meanwhile, in Occupied Poland, Ewa Hartman serves German officers in her father’s guest house, while secretly gathering intelligence for the resistance. What neither woman knows is that they are in love with the same man… Stefan Bergel is haunted by a choice he made whilst held in Russian captivity. Now, he’s one of the only surviving witnesses of an appalling war crime – a crime that risks going unpunished. Compelled to expose the truth, Stefan asks both women to take enormous risks for him. Their actions could completely change the course of the war… but is he asking too much?
The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya, 9781770415256, ECW Press, £14.99
When Neela Devaki’s song is covered by internet-famous artist Rukmini, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins. But as Rukmini’s star rises and Neela’s stagnates, jealousy and self-doubt creep in. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, one career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the centre of an internet firestorm. A stirring examination of making art in the modern era, a love letter to brown women, an authentic glimpse into the music industry, and a nuanced exploration of the promise and peril of being seen.
The Immortals of Tehran by Ali Araghi, 9781612198187, Melville House, £20.00
Family patriarch Agha spends his days telling stories to his great-great-great-great grandson Ahmad. Agha’s favourite story tells of a family curse that sheds light on Iran’s political turmoil and foretells Ahmad’s role in the country’s future. There is certainly something plaguing Ahmad’s family. At the age of ten Ahmad witnesses his father’s suicide and consequently loses his voice. But this is only the beginning of his very long life: a life of loves and losses, family dramas, a doomed career in politics, and of incendiary poetry, all of which catch fire at the centre of the Revolution.
What You Become In Flight by Ellen O’Connell Whittet, 9781612198323, Melville House, £15.99
After a devastating misstep by her dance partner, Ellen’s life is unalterably changed. Recovered but no longer able to dance, she embarks on a self-discovery of life outside of ballet while coming to terms with her past. She describes how her grandmother and cousin inspired her to take up ballet, how she developed eating disorders in order to retain the body of a ballerina, and how a sexual assault nearly derailed her recovery. By telling her story, Ellen uses her newfound vocation of writing to reflect on survival, happiness, and trust.
The Rat People: A Journey through Beijing’s Forbidden Underground by Patrick Saint-Paul & David Homel, 9781551528038, Arsenal Pulp Press, £15.99
In a relatively short amount of time, China has become the second largest economy in the world and is soon poised to overtake the US. But the country’s rapid growth was achieved on the backs and shoulders of its workforce. Now, a million of them and their descendants live underground in Beijing under inhuman conditions, where there is no light or water and little sanitation. In The Rat People, Saint-Paul brings their individual stories to life, creating a shocking cautionary tale about the lengths to which people will go in search of a better life, and the human cost paid in service to the modern economy.
How To Feed A Dictator: Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Enver Hoxha, Fidel Castro, and Pol Pot Through the Eyes of Their Cooks by Witold Szablowski & Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Penguin Books, 9780143129752, £17.00
What was Pol Pot eating while two million Cambodians were dying of hunger? Did Idi Amin really eat human flesh? And why was Fidel Castro obsessed with one particular cow? Traveling across four continents, from the ruins of Iraq to the savannahs of Kenya, Witold Szablowski tracked down the personal chefs of five dictators known for the oppression and massacre of their own citizens. Dishy, deliciously readable, and dead serious, How to Feed a Dictator provides a knife’s-edge view of what it was like to be behind the scenes at some of the turning points of the last century.
Brain Food: A Daily Dose of Creativity by Magnus Frederiksen & Klara Lindberg, Dokument Press, 9789188369376, £12.99
The 365 challenges in this book are designed to help you find the many creative sides of yourself, whether you incorrectly think you aren’t creative or you’re already a creativity world champion (not a real thing) who could use a challenge. Take on one brief a day. Or binge them all. Or roll the dice and let fate decide. There is no right or wrong. The worst thing that can happen? You’ll discover new ways of being creative at work, at home, and everywhere else in your life.
Sunday Best: The Many Faces of London’s Religions by Katie Waggett, 9781910566701, Hoxton Mini Press, £16.95
In a time of growing isolationism, this is a much-needed celebration of the fact that our capital – and country – thrives on diversity. Captivating portraits of individuals in their most colourful religious outfits are accompanied by quotes on what religion means to them, as well interiors from the places of worship. Sunday Best is an uplifting study of tolerance as well as a unique overview of the six main religions that we see in London (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism).
An Opinionated Guide to London Green Spaces by Harry Ades & Marco Kesseler, 9781910566688, Hoxton Mini Press, £9.95
Don’t be fooled by London’s concrete landscape: it is, in fact, one of the greenest cities in the world. This small paperback featuring the top 50 green spaces to visit is part of a series of opinionated guides that offer simple, highly-curated advice on what to do and see in the capital. Illustrated with original photography and compelling text including insiders’ tips, it will cover the most impressive large and medium-sized parks, lesser-known green spaces, enchanting walks and pathways, urban zoos and more.
Mother: A Memoir by Nicholas Royle, 9781912408573, Myriad Editions, £8.99
Before the exquisitely painful ‘loss of her marbles’, Mrs Royle, a nurse by profession, is a marvelously no-nonsense character, an autodidact who reads widely and voraciously – from Trollope to Woolf, White to Winterson – swears at her fox-hunting neighbours, and instills in the young Nick a love of reading and wildlife that will form his character and his career. He captures the spirit of post-war parenting as well as of his mother whose dementia and death were triggered by the tragedy of losing her other son – Royle’s younger brother – to cancer in his twenties.
Rock Pool: Extraordinary Encounters Between the Tides by Heather Buttivant, 9781912836123, September Publishing, £9.99
This is an eye-opening, enchanting journey into the miniature worlds of rock pools with a new author who will change the way you view even the most ordinary creatures – from crabs to barnacles, blennies to anemones – forever. A writer and scientist who has spent decades with her hands immersed in freezing water, waiting and observing, uncovering the extraordinary secrets of the small creatures who survive in the shifting sands and draining pools between the tides. Focusing on a single creature per chapter Buttivant uses the retreating tides as a way to take us deeper into her own story, as well as the secrets of the sea.
The 100% Solution: A Framework for Solving Climate Change by Solomon Goldstein-Rose, 9781612198385, Melville House, £17.99
Most experts agree that we need to get to negative greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by the year 2050 in order to stave off the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Yet no proposal is currently on the table that specifically addresses the full scope of solutions. Here Solomon Goldstein-Rose lays out a specific framework for action that adds up to fully addressing climate change – it is not too late if action is taken now.
The Machine Never Blinks by Ivan Greenberg, Everett Patterson & Joseph Canlas, Fantagraphics, 9781683962823, £26.99
The Machine Never Blinks is a comprehensive, eye-opening picture of the use of spying and surveillance in history and legend, from the story of the Trojan Horse through 9/11 and the so-called war on terror, including the exponential growth of government and corporate intercepts and databases, and even surveillance as entertainment (reality tv) and convenience (smart speakers). Take a look around – who’s watching you right now?
The Garden by Sean Michael Wilson & Fumio Obata, Liminal 11, 9781912634163, £12.99
Quiet and meditative, The Garden is a story of growth and healing through mindfulness and gardening. It centres on Joanna, a British business woman who has been signed off sick with stress at work. Seeking something more than just something to pass the time, she travels to Japan and learns zen gardening.
Portrait of a Drunk by Florent Ruppert, Jermone Mulot, Olivier Schrauwen, Fantagraphics, 9781683962892, £29.99
Guy is no master mariner, with a clipped red (or black) beard. He’s just an ordinary member of the crew — able enough, but also a lazy, cowardly liar, a drunkard, and a thief. He urinates on bar counters and vomits in ladies’ restrooms. All of which makes him more like the real gallows fodder that haunted the seven seas in the 18th century than the swashbuckling Hollywood heroes that grace most contemporary pirate narratives. A story told in two allegorical parts: “The Blowout” and “The Hangover.” Guy the pirate brings together the key narrative and pictorial elements of the great tales of the sea — bright colors, grand battles, and plenty of gallows humor in this tour de force of black comedy.
Spit Three Times by Davide Reviati, Seven Stories, 9781609809096, £22.99
Guido and his pals are rebels without a cause, living in a rural town in a forsaken corner of the Italian countryside turned peripheral wasteland, they spend their days trying to get high as a way to forget about the bleak hopelessness around them. Nearby live the Stancic, a family of Romani who escaped the communist regime of Marshal Tito and settled there just after World War II. Running parallel to the protagonist’s coming-of-age is the evolving relationship that the rural town has with this group of outsiders.
As booksellers across the UK re-open their doors they need your help to stay afloat.
If anything you’ve read about on our blog catches your eye, consider ordering from your local bookshop. Find yours here. #ChooseBookshops