September 2014 Newsletter

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September's News from Bookbag Towers

Hi, hello and we hope all is well with you. Summer, what we had of it, is over. And it's time for the autumn books release rush. There's an awful lot of good stuff coming out over the next few weeks. Ian McEwan, Will Self, David Mitchell, Martin Amis, Sarah Waters, Howard Jacobson and Ali Smith all have new books to come. So keep an eye peeled on on the Bookbag homepage. We'll be reviewing as much as we can as quickly as we can, promise!

What else has been happening in the world of books? Well, the aforementioned Will Self is his usual provocative, well (Will?) Self, writing for the BBC. He thinks George Orwell was a "literary mediocrity". Sacrilege, cries Jill! We love you, Will, but badmouthing our beloved Orwell? How could you?!

In much more inclusive news, the British Library has created a new website, Discovering Literature, where students and general readers can discover 1,200 Romantic and Victorian literary treasures, new insights by 60 experts, 25 documentary films, 30 inspirational teachers’ notes and more. It's both fabulous and an awful time-stealer, whether you're a teacher, a student or a civilian. Take a look!

Golden Hour

We're going back ten years for our blast from the past for September. While Wandering - A Walking Companion by Duncan Minshull was first published ten years ago as The Vintage Book of Walking. Reprinted and retitled with a stunning new cover by James Jones and Finn Dean, and a foreword by Robert Macfarlane, one of the best writers on walking in recent years. It's a beautiful anthology of writing for walkers, featuring stories poems and musings from a wonderfully eclectic mix of personalities. A must for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors, this marvellous book is to be kept in a rucksack and opened mid-walk.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new...

In fiction, Ani (and the Man Booker Prize longlist) is recommending The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Holly Sykes is 15 and has found true love with an older man in his twenties - until she finds him in bed with her best mate. Upset and disorientated, she runs away from home. This may enable her to escape from the unfaithful Vinny and her overbearing family but not the weirdness. She's not the only one though: Hugo the student, conman and lothario thought he was only doing someone a good turn when the weirdness started for him. There is a point to it though: eventually battle lines will be drawn and it's anyone's guess as to who will win, despite what the Anchorites may say. This is the life of Holly Sykes also doubling as an eclectic confection of enticing curiosity. In other words it serves those of us who just want a stonking good read as well as the literary discussionistas. Ani wanted it to win the 2014 Man Booker and thinks it should have made the shortlist.

In non-fiction, we're recommending something a little bit different this month. The Neon Colouring Book by Richard Merritt, Amanda Hillier and Felicity French is what is says on the tin - a colouring book. But it's a colouring book for adults! It's fabulous: relaxing, engaging and just plain good fun. Go on, indulge yourself - you do deserve it. Sue is very proud of her peacock!

For teens, Jill loved The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel. William Everett's father has risen high in the railway. But it wasn't always thus. He spent many years working for Cornelius Van Horne as a manual labourer, cutting and blasting through swathes of Canada and laying tracks. When Will and his father witness the laying of the last piece of track, there's an avalanche. And Will's father saves Van Horne's life. Promotion and success followed and now Van Horne is dead, Will's father is general manager and the world's biggest train - the Boundless, at 987 carriages long - will carry his body in perpetuity. This is a wonderful, vivid adventure set on the world's longest train and featuring murder, mayhem, circus performers and the mythical sasquatch. What more could you possibly want?!

And for the little ones, Zoe thinks you should look at Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Willow is not like other girls. She is not just smart, but certifiably gifted. She gets on better with adults than she does her peers. She loves patterns and plants, the colour red and the number 7. She is charming and adorable and quirky. She is one of the most real characters I've met in a book this year. And she is hurting. Parents shouldn't die before their children are grown. They just shouldn't, and to lose both before your teens is frightening to comprehend. This could have been the most depressing book in the world, but that couldn't be further from the truth. It's a beautifully uplifting story about a girl who was already an outsider, now trying to come to terms with a new life that's unconventional.


There's some cool stuff for you this month. We've been talking to Ed Straw about his book Stand and Deliver. It aims to address anachronistic governmental institutions, which were never designed to work in a global environment or to administer large public sectors and which therefore fail in policy, delivery, and accountability. It's a fascinating book and our interview with Ed puts some more flesh on the bones of our review. You should read both.

Jill thought that The Leopard of Dramoor by P De V Hencher had an intricate and interesting plot with a vivid sense of time and place. Warfare was never far away in the Scottish-English borders in medieval times. She had a few questions for the author when he popped in to see us and it makes for an interesting interview!


We're always on the look out for people to join our panel of reviewers at Bookbag. We need people who understand that the reader wants to know what the reviewer thinks about the book and not just what's written on the back cover. If you think that you're one of these special people that we're looking for, we want to hear from you. You can find details of how to apply here on the site. Don't be shy!


We have competitions for some great books going this month, and every month, so get entering!

And that's about it for this month. If you're passing Bookbag Towers do pop in and see us – we're at

All at Bookbag Towers

See what we were doing last year

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