Malorie Blackman

Malorie Blackman has written over seventy books for children and young adults, including the Noughts & Crosses series, Thief and a science-fiction thriller, Chasing the Stars. Many of her books have also been adapted for stage and television, including a BAFTA-award-winning BBC production of Pig-Heart Boy and a Pilot Theatre stage adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz of Noughts & Crosses. There is also a major BBC production of Noughts & Crosses, with Roc Nation (Jay-Z’s entertainment company) curating the soundtrack as executive music producer. In 2005 Malorie was honoured with the Eleanor Farjeon Award in recognition of her distinguished contribution to the world of children’s books. In 2008 she received an OBE for her services to children’s literature, and between 2013 and 2015 she was the Children’s Laureate. Most recently Malorie wrote for the Doctor Who series on BBC One, and the fifth novel in her Noughts & Crosses series, Crossfire, was published by Penguin Random House Children’s in summer 2019.

Calm

Vintage Minis. Series: Vintage Minis

Tim Parks

  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Published: 08/06/2017
  • ISBN: 9781784872595
  • Length: 112  Pages
  • Dimensions: 178mm x 6mm x 110mm
  • Weight: 65g
  • RRP: £3.50

How do we find calm in our frantic modern world? Tim Parks – lifelong sceptic of all things spiritual – finds himself on a Buddhist meditation retreat trying to answer this very question. With brutal honesty and dry wit, he recounts his journey from disbelief to something approaching inner peace and tackles one of the great mysteries of our time – how to survive in this modern age.

Selected from the book Teach us to Sit Still by Tim Parks

VINTAGE MINIS: GREAT MINDS. BIG IDEAS. LITTLE BOOKS.

A series of short books by the world’s greatest writers on the experiences that make us human

Also in the Vintage Minis series:
Swimming by Roger Deakin
Motherhood by Helen Simpson
Work by Joseph Heller
Liberty by Virginia Woolf

Born in Manchester, Tim Parks grew up in London and studied at Cambridge and Harvard. He lives in Milan. He is the acclaimed author of novels, non-fiction and essays, including Europa, In Extremis, A Season with Verona, Teach Us to Sit Still and Italian Ways. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Betty Trask Prize, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the John Florio Prize and the Italo Calvino Prize.

Penguin Books

Jonathan Coe

Jonathan Coe is the author of thirteen novels, all published by Penguin, which include the highly acclaimed bestsellers What a Carve Up!, The House of Sleep, The Rotters’ Club, Number 11 and Middle England, which won the Costa Novel of the Year Award and the Prix du Livre Européen. He is also the author of a biography of B.S Johnson, Like a Fiery Elephant, and The Broken Mirror, a children’s book.

Mr Wilder and Me

Jonathan Coe

  • Imprint: Viking
  • Published: 05/11/2020
  • ISBN: 9780241454664
  • Length: 256  Pages
  • Dimensions: 222mm x 26mm x 144mm
  • Weight: 377g
  • RRP: £16.99

**The dazzling new novel from the prize-winning, bestselling author of Middle England**

‘As good as anything he’s written – a novel to cherish’ Observer
_______________________________________________________

In the heady summer of 1977, a naïve young woman called Calista sets out from Athens to venture into the wider world. On a Greek island that has been turned into a film set, she finds herself working for the famed Hollywood director Billy Wilder, about whom she knows almost nothing. But the time she spends in this glamorous, unfamiliar new life will change her for good.

While Calista is thrilled with her new adventure, Wilder himself is living with the realisation that his star may be on the wane. Rebuffed by Hollywood, he has financed his new film with German money, and when Calista follows him to Munich for the shooting of further scenes, she finds herself joining him on a journey of memory into the dark heart of his family history.

In a novel that is at once a tender coming-of-age story and an intimate portrait of one of cinema’s most intriguing figures, Jonathan Coe turns his gaze on the nature of time and fame, of family and the treacherous lure of nostalgia. When the world is catapulting towards change, do you hold on for dear life or decide it’s time to let go?
_______________________________________________________

‘A beautiful, bittersweet novel that is itself crying out for the silver screen treatment’ Scotsman

‘Effortlessly pleasurable and deceptively simple’The Times

‘Utterly charming, deeply poignant and ultimately uplifting’Mail on Sunday

‘A charming, bittersweet book, and a perfect reminder of art’s value in stark times’ Spectator

‘A book more loving towards its readers or its subject is hard to imagine’ John Self, The Critic

The life and light that flooded Middle England is preserved and multiplied in Mr Wilder & Me. . . a satisfyingly sweeping novel that still manages to push the form in new directions. As good as anything he’s written – a novel to cherish

Observer

Ali Smith

Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962. She is the author of Spring, Winter, Autumn, Public library and other stories, How to be both, Shire, Artful, There but for the, The first person and other stories, Girl Meets Boy, The Accidental, The whole story and other stories, Hotel World, Other stories and other stories, Like and Free Love. Hotel World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. The Accidental was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. How to be both won the Bailey’s Prize, the Goldsmiths Prize and the Costa Novel of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Autumn was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017 and Winter was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize 2018. Ali Smith lives in Cambridge.

Summer

Ali Smith

  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Published: 06/05/2021
  • ISBN: 9780241973370
  • Length: 208  Pages
  • Dimensions: 198mm x 15mm x 129mm
  • Weight: 200g
  • RRP: £8.99

Discover the unforgettable finale to Ali Smith’s dazzling literary tour-de-force

In the present, Sacha knows the world’s in trouble. Her brother Robert just is trouble. Their mother and father are having trouble. Meanwhile the world’s in meltdown – and the real meltdown hasn’t even started yet. In the past, a lovely summer. A different brother and sister know they’re living on borrowed time.

This is a story about people on the brink of change. They’re family, but they think they’re strangers. So: where does family begin? And what do people who think they’ve got nothing in common have in common?

Summer.

‘Smith’s seasonal quartet of novels is a bold and brilliant experiment’ Independent

‘The novel’s hopeful message about the healing power of friendship ensures the quartet ends on a feel-good note’ Sunday Times

George Orwell

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), better known by his pen-name, George Orwell, was born in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. An author and journalist, Orwell was one of the most prominent and influential figures in twentieth-century literature. His unique political allegory Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with the dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame. His novels and non-fiction include Burmese Days, Down and Out in Paris and London, The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

George Orwell, Fido Nesti (Illustrator)

  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Published: 01/04/2021
  • ISBN: 9780241436493
  • Length: 224  Pages
  • Dimensions: 276mm x 25mm x 205mm
  • Weight: 500g
  • RRP: £20.00

Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker, Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

Lee Child

Lee Child is one of the world’s leading thriller writers. He was born in Coventry, raised in Birmingham, and now lives in New York. It is said one of his novels featuring his hero Jack Reacher is sold somewhere in the world every nine seconds. His books consistently achieve the number-one slot on bestseller lists around the world and have sold over one hundred million copies. Lee is the recipient of many awards, most recently Author of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards. He was appointed CBE in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman is one of the most highly respected children’s authors writing today. Winner of many prestigious awards, including the Carnegie of Carnegies and the Whitbread Award, Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials has been acclaimed as a modern classic. It has sold 17.5 million copies worldwide and been translated into 40 languages. In 2005 he was awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. He lives in Oxford.

The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust Volume Two

Philip Pullman, Christopher Wormell (Illustrator)

  • Imprint: Penguin and David Fickling Books
  • Published: 17/09/2020
  • ISBN: 9780241373354
  • Length: 736  Pages
  • Dimensions: 198mm x 44mm x 129mm
  • Weight: 579g
  • RRP: £8.99

**Don’t miss the second series of His Dark Materials on BBC One this November.**

From the author of the phenomenal His Dark Materials comes the next chapter in the story of Lyra Silvertongue . . .

Lyra is now studying at St Sophia’s College, Oxford, with her daemon Pantalaimon.

But, for the first time there are serious divisions between the two.
Lyra is questioning everything she once held dear. Pan misses the impulsiveness of their youth.

When an act of terrible violence breaks the peace of the Oxford night, Lyra and Pan’s relationship reaches a crisis and they are drawn, far from home, into the dangerous factions of a world they had no idea existed.

The Secret Commonwealth 
is truly a book for our times; a powerful adventure and a thought-provoking look at what it is to understand yourself and to grow up and make sense of the world around you.


This is storytelling at its very best from one of our greatest writers.


*Exclusive to the paperback edition, Chris Wormell’s new original illustrations bring Lyra’s world vividly to life.*

_____

Reviews for The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust Volume Two:

“[Pullman] has created a fantasy world, made yet more satisfying in rigour and stylistic elegance. This is a book for getting older with” Guardian, Book of the Week

The Secret Commonwealth is ablaze with light and life. The writing is exquisite; every sentence sings … To read Pullman is to experience the world refreshed, aglow, in Technicolour” i

“Pullman’s story is still thought-provoking … This book elegantly weaves in live issues, from Europe’s refugee crisis to facts in the post-truth era. And Pullman’s prose is rewarding as ever” The Times

“A long, taxing, complex journey, laced with beauty, terror and philosophy” Metro

“As ever, Pullman’s story is complex and vast but home to some of the finest storytelling in the 21st century. Revel in whole new worlds and enjoy one of literature’s most wonderful heroines before she comes to HBO and the BBC” Stylist

“Pullman is confronting readers with the horrors of our own world reflected back at us. In The Secret Commonwealthhe creates a fearful symmetry” The Herald

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her novels include Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and the MaddAddam trilogy. Her 1985 classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, went back into the bestseller charts with the election of Donald Trump, when the Handmaids became a symbol of resistance against the disempowerment of women, and with the 2017 release of the award-winning Channel 4 TV series. Its sequel, The Testaments, was published in 2019 and was a global number one bestseller and won the Booker Prize. Atwood has won numerous awards including the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Imagination in Service to Society, the Franz Kafka Prize, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. In 2019 she was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for services to literature. She has also worked as a cartoonist, illustrator, librettist, playwright and puppeteer. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

The Testaments

The Booker prize-winning sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood

  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Published: 01/09/2020
  • ISBN: 9781784708214
  • Length: 448  Pages
  • Dimensions: 198mm x 30mm x 128mm
  • Weight: 386g
  • RRP: £8.99

THE NUMBER 1 BESTSELLER AND WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE

The Testaments is Atwood at her best . . . To read this book is to feel the world turning’ Anne Enright

The Republic of Gilead is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, two girls with radically different experiences of the regime come face to face with the legendary, ruthless Aunt Lydia. But how far will each go for what she believes?

Now with additional material: book club discussion points and an interview with Margaret Atwood about the real-life events that inspired The Testaments and The Handmaid’s Tale.
_________________________________

PRAISE FOR THE TESTAMENTS:

‘Everything The Handmaid’s Tale fans wanted and more. Prepare to hold your breath throughout, and to cry real tears at the end’ Stylist

‘Atwood challenges us constantly and poses the question that lies like a pearl inside the shell of this frighteningly readable novel, “Before you sit in judgement, how would you behave in Gilead?”’ Sunday Telegraph

‘She manages to write about the darkest and most terrifying parts of human psychology in a way that is still deeply funny and full of dark strange hope’ Naomi Alderman, author of The Power

A plump, pacy, witty and tightly plotted page-turner… Atwood is on top form’ Observer

‘She is one of the greatest writers of the past century’ Sunday Times

‘How did she manage to make darkness feel so effortless? How did she think to inject humour where no humour should exist? Because she’s Margaret Atwood, and she can do anything’ Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House

Hafsa Zayyan

How I wrote it: Hafsa Zayyan on We Are All Birds of Uganda

Hafsa Zayyan managed to write her debut novel in six months, while working full time as a lawyer. Here the winner of the Merky Books New Writer’s Prize discusses the hours of research and late nights it took to produce her brilliant first book. 

Weeks after publishing her debut novel, Hafsa Zayyan still considers her career as an author to be something “random and flukey”. The 29-year-old won a publishing contract after entering the first New Writer’s Prize from Merky Books on something of a whim, and ended up having to deliver an entire manuscript in six months – while working full-time as a dispute resolution lawyer.

Nevertheless, We Are All Birds of Uganda is a thing of beauty: an ambitious first novel that spans decades and continents, with two twisting love stories at its core. Tackling issues of identity, religion and colonialism, Zayyan’s story explores the legacy of Idi Amin’s expulsion of thousands of people of South Asian heritage from Uganda in 1972. Here, she tells us how she wrote it.

Before your novel, did you write often?

Ever since childhood I’d enjoyed writing short stories, and I wanted, always, to maybe write a book, but I never considered it seriously as a sole career option. I kind of saw writing in the same way that I saw acting or singing, anything that you would maybe have to be a little bit lucky to get your break. In my family, it seemed to be a more secure option to go for an established professional career and degree, and I was interested in the law anyway. So I went and did a university degree in law, then a masters, then I got a job working in the City. And I’ve been there ever since. I did some creative writing at university, but after being rejected by agents with a children’s book I wrote during my holidays I gave up.  

How did you come across the prize?

I had been listening to Stormzy for a while and following what he’d been doing, because he’d been doing lots of unusual stuff for a grime artist. So I went to the Barbican and the launch of Merky Books and Rise Up, and heard about the competition and thought, well, why not? Just apply. You only have to write 2,500 words and it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to exercise this part of your brain that’s been dusty completely unattended to for years.

How did you settle upon the subject of your novel?

The prize encouraged entrants to write stories that weren’t being told, that you hadn’t heard people talking about. The 1972 Ugandan-Asian expulsion was something I had only learned about in the past five years, despite it being a massive part of British Colonial and African industry. The idea of someone being able to just expel tens of thousands of people who had been living there, some for multiple generations, and that had happened in the Seventies, not even 100 years ago, and I had no idea. It seemed to have been erased from history. I thought, well, this is a good idea.

What happened next?

I wrote one of Hassan’s letters, the first one, for the competition entry [the letters form the historical part of We Are All Birds of Uganda, and date from 1945 to 1981] and even for that the research was extensive. I went to the British Library to read academic texts on the experiences of refugees on multicultural Britain, and various other text books and memoirs and literature about the Ugandan/Asian expulsion specifically. I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it, not in the slightest.

A month passed and I was shortlisted, and I was asked by Merky to submit the rest of my manuscript within seven days – and I had absolutely nothing. So I had to bash out as much as I possibly could! I think I did another Hassan chapter, because I didn’t have the time to research more of his story, and a couple of Sameer chapters [Sameer is a 20-something lawyer living in modern-day London]. It was like, 20,000 words – definitely not the real novel. And that’s what they judged it on.

When I won, they asked if I could submit the full manuscript by December. At this point, it was June. So I was like, “I guess, I’ll try?”

How, practically, did you balance your full-time job with writing a novel?

I look back at that period of my life and it’s a complete blur. I can barely remember it because I was in a hole writing, whatever, whenever I could. I made a lot of sacrifices socially and I cancelled going on holiday, taking the time off to write.

My hours as a lawyer vary but you can, in lawyer-terms, have a life: you won’t be working that many weekends or late at night. Monday to Friday, if I finished work by 6pm, I’d run to the British Library and read until they closed at 8pm. Then I’d run back home and write as much as I could until midnight. If I didn’t get out at six then I’d be writing 9-11, 9 to midnight, or 10 to 12. I’d basically squeeze it in when I could, and it would be completely fine with me if I only wrote about two or three paragraphs. I didn’t have targets, to meet certain numbers of words or chapters by a specific time, I just did what I could when I could.

Did you encounter any writer’s block?

When I did, I would just read instead, stuff for the Hassan chapters. I was quite disciplined about researching; I felt the responsibility to get it as right as possible, because even though it’s fiction, I wanted the historical elements of it to be as accurate as possible. It’s also an educational tool, that’s another purpose of the novel, to teach people about this part of our history. So if I had a creative block I could still do stuff to progress the novel that wasn’t writing.

How did it feel to submit your manuscript?

It was the scariest time. I was just really worried: they had no idea what the plot was going to be, they had no idea where the book was going to go. I think it took them about a week for them to get back to me, and I didn’t receive any updates in between. So for the whole week I was feeling sick, like, what if they hate this, what if it’s terrible, what if I actually can’t write. But thankfully they were extremely complimentary when they got back to me; I’m sure he knew how to talk to vulnerable debut authors whose creative babies are in their hands!

What was it like when people read it for the first time?

The very first non-family review that I got on Goodreads felt so, so good. And I started getting DMs from people being like, “By the way, I read your book and wanted you to know that it really resonated with me”, or “I felt really seen” or, “it felt wonderful to feel represented.” That kind of stuff felt better than any money you could ever earn from writing a book. People reading it and learning something from it. It was the best feeling ever.

Hafsa Zayyan is a writer and dispute resolution lawyer based in London. She won the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize in 2019. We Are All Birds of Uganda is her debut novel, inspired by the mixed background from which she hails. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and holds a masters’ degree from the University of Oxford.

[This post was originally published here]