From the cruel irony of 'A Member of the Family' to the fateful echoes of 'The Gp-Away Bird' and the unexpectedly sinister 'The Girl I Left Behind Me', in settings that range from South Africa to the Portobello Road, Muriel Spark coolly probes the idiosyncrasies that lurk beneath the veneer of human respectability, displaying the acerbic wit and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her unique talent.
'No other writer is so ceaselessly astonished by the natural world as he.' Robert Macfarlane The name of John Muir has come to stand for the protection of wild land and wilderness in both America and Britain. Born in Dunbar in 1838, Muir is famed as a pioneer of conservation, and his passion, discipline and vision are still inspirational today.
Combining acute observation with a sense of inner discovery, Muir's description of the summer he spent in what would become Yosemite National park in California's Sierra Nevada mountains raises an awareness of nature to a spiritual dimension. His journal provides a unique weaving of natural history, lyrical prose and amusing anecdote, retaining a freshness, intensity and honesty which will amaze the modern reader.
'The richness of Muir's writing roots deeper into the terrain than any other wilderness writer known to me.' Los Angeles Times 'As more and more of us grow aghast at what we have done to the world we started with, Muir's reverence and devotion will seem keenly germane, and our regret may be transmuted into a fight for the future.' Edward Hoagland
Jeff Atman, a journalist, is in Venice to cover the opening of the Venice Art Biennale. He's expecting to see a load of art, go to a lot of parties and drink too many bellinis. He's not expecting to meet the spellbinding Laura, who will completely transform his few days in the city. Another city, another assignment: this time on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi. Amid the crowds, ghats and chaos of India's holiest Hindu city a different kind of transformation lies in wait. A beautifully told story of erotic love and spiritual yearning, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is playful, stylish, sensual, comic, ingenious and utterly captivating. It confirms Geoff Dyer as one of Britain's most exciting and original writers.
Was the twentieth century the most violent in history? Are religions or tyrants, capitalism or communism the cause of most human suffering? Has violence increased or decreased over the course of history?
In this wholly original and remarkably ambitious work, 'Atrocitologist' Matthew White considers man's inhumanity to man across several thousand years of history. From the First Punic War and the collapse of Mayan rule, to the reign of Peter the Great and the cataclysmic events of the Second World War, White's epic book spans centuries and civilisations as it measures the hundred most violent events in human history. While sceptical of any grand theory for the causes of human violence, White does share three big lessons gleaned from his careful statistical analysis: one, chaos is more deadly than tyranny; two, the world is even more disorganised than we realise; and three, wars kill more civilians than soldiers (in fact, the army is usually the safest place to be).
If we study history to avoid the mistakes of the past, then there can be no more important place to start than this eye-opening and entertaining book.
Sarah and Jack have never doubted that they are made for each other. But there is someone in Sarah's family who will not tolerate the relationship. The reason lies in both the past and the present, and it will take Sarah across an ocean to a place she never imagined she would be. Kate Grenville takes us back to the Australia of The Secret River in this novel about love, tangled histories and how it matters to keep stories alive.
Jaffy Brown is running along a street in London's East End when he comes face to face with an escaped circus animal. Plucked from the jaws of death by Mr Jamrach - explorer, entrepreneur and collector of the world's strangest creatures - the two strike up a friendship.
Before he knows it, Jaffy finds himself on board a ship bound for the Dutch East Indies, on an unusual commission for Mr Jamrach. His journey - if he survives it - will push faith, love and friendship to their utmost limits.
Go the Fuck to Sleep is a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don't always send a toddler sailing off to dreamland. Profane, affectionate and refreshingly honest, it captures the familiar and unspoken tribulations of putting your child to bed for the night. Colourfully illustrated and hilariously funny, this is a breath of fresh air for parents new, old, and expectant*.
(*You should probably not read this to your children.)
Pippa seems to have everything in life. But suddenly she finds her world beginning to unravel. Amid the buzzing lawnmowers and suburban coffee mornings, she starts to wonder how she came to be in this place. The answer is a story of wild youth, unexpected encounters, affairs and betrayals, and the dangerous security of marriage. It brilliantly reveals the challenges of modern life - and all the possibilities that it holds.
For Penelope, wife of Odyseeus, maintaining a kingdom while her husband was off fighting the Trojan war was not a simple business. Already aggrieved that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep over a hundred lustful, greedy and bloodthirsty suitors at bay...
Girl meets boy. It's a story as old as time. But what happens when an old story meets a brand new set of circumstances? Ali Smith's re-mix of Ovid's most joyful metamorphosis is a story about the kind of fluidity that can't be bottled and sold. It is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, a story of puns and doubles, reversals and revelations. Funny and fresh, poetic and political, Girl Meets Boy is a myth of metamorphosis for the modern world.
In these hilarious stories of perverse meetings, casual dates and romantic encounters, we are enthralled, saddened, inspired and surprised by the encounters we witness. McCall Smith, a master of the unexpected and a seamless storyteller, revels in offering us the quirky complications inherent in entanglements which human beings engineer for themselves - entanglements that can be shocking, edifying, compulsive, complicated and sometimes, completely disastrous. This is an exceptional collection of stories from an author whose rapidly growing audience delights in his extraordinary imagination and delicious insights into the endlessly fascinating peculiarities of the human condition.
Karen Armstrong's concise yet compelling investigation into the history of myth takes us from the Palaeolithic period and the mythology of the hunters right up to the 'Great Western Transformation' of the last 500 years. She shows us that the history of myth is the history of humanity, and our stories and beliefs, our curiosity and attempts to understand the world, link us to our ancestors and each other. Myths help us make sense of the universe, and of ourselves. Armstrong's characteristically insightful and eloquent book serves as a brilliant and thought-provoking introduction to myth in the broadest sense - and why we dismiss it only at our peril.
Eric Sanderson wakes up in a place he doesn't recognise, unable to remember who he is. All he has left are journal entries recalling Clio, a perfect love now gone. So begins a thrilling adventure that will send Eric and his cynical cat Ian on a search for the Ludovician, the force that is threatening his life, and Dr Trey Fidorus, the only man who knows its secrets.
In her remarkable stories of seemingly ordinary people living extraordinary lives. Miranda July reveals how a single moment can change everything. Whether writing about a middle-aged woman's obsession with Prince William or an aging factory worker who has never been in love, the result is startling, tender and sexy by turns. Miranda July is a brilliant new voice in fiction.
The Cutting Room heralds the arrival of an outstanding, contemporary Glasgow novel. Its charismatic protagonist, Rilke, is eccentric, witty and frequently outrageous. An auctioneer by profession, he is an acknowledged expert in antiques but also considers himself something of an expert in many other fields. When Rilke comes upon a hidden collection of graphically violent erotic photographs, he feels compelled to unearth more about the deceased owner who coveted them. What follows is a compulsive journey of discovery, decadence and deviousness, steered in part by Rilke's gay promiscuity and inquisitive nature. Louise Welsh's writing is stylish and captivating; she combines aspects of a detective story with shades of the gothic in a colourful Glasgow ranging from the genteel suburbs to a transvestite club, auction house to the bookies, pub and porn shop. The result is a page-turning and deliciously original debut. The Cutting Room has won the Crime Writers Association award for debut crime novels, the John Creasey Memorial Dagger, and has been longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2002.
By 1910, Leo Tolstoy, the world's most famous author, had become an almost religious figure, surrounded on his lavish estate by family and followers alike. Set in the tumultuous last year of the count's life, The Last Station centres on the battle for his soul waged by his wife and his leading disciple. Torn between his professed doctrine of poverty and chastity on the one hand and the reality of his enormous wealth, his thirteen children, and a life of hedonism on the other, Tolstoy makes a dramatic flight from his home. Too ill to continue beyond the tiny station of Astapovo, he believes he is dying alone, while outside over one hundred newspapermen are awaiting hourly reports on his condition. Narrated in six different voices, including Tolstoy's own from his diaries and literary works, The Last Station is a richly inventive novel that dances bewitchingly between fact and fiction.
As a boy, Daniel Rooke was always an outsider. At school he learned to hide his clever thoughts from his cruel peers; at home his parents were bemused by their bookish son. Daniel could only hope - against all the evidence - that he would one day find his place in life. By 1788, Daniel has become Lieutenant Rooke, astronomer with the First Fleet as it lands on the unknown shores of New South Wales. As the newcomers struggle to establish a settlement for themselves and their cargo of convicts, and attempts are made to communicate with those who already inhabit this land, Rooke sets up his observatory to chart the stars. But the place where they have landed will prove far more revelatory than the night sky. Out on his isolated point, Rooke comes to know the local Aboriginal people, and forges a remarkable connection with one child, which will change his life in ways he never imagined. Based on real events, Kate Grenville's stunning new novel conveys the poignancy and emotional power of an extraordinary friendship, and how through it a man might find himself: a story that resonates across the oceans and across the centuries.
If he's in the right mood, divine Angus might grant you sight of your true love in a dream; you might even fall in love with him, but he'll never love you back. He's too busy making mischief, stealing the palace of the gods from his father, turning his enemies into pigs etc ; until he is trapped by his own romantic games and falls for an unattainable woman, doomed to seek her forever. In twentieth-century Scotland, Angus's troubled alter ego searches for his true family and identity; a psychotherapist who helps people understand their dreams, his life seems to parallel that of his mythic namesake, until we ask, could they be one and the same? Mesmerically weaving together the tales of the Celtic god and the Scottish scientist, Alexander McCall Smith unites dream and reality, leaving us to wonder: what is life, but the pursuit of our dreams?
At the dawn of the twenty-first century Adam Kellas finds himself hurled on a journey between continents and cultures. In his quest from the war-torn mountains of Afghanistan to the elegant dinner tables of north London and then the marshlands of the American South, only the memory of the beautiful, elusive Astrid offers the possibility of hope. With all the explosive drama of The People's Act of Love, this is a spellbinding tale of folly and the pursuit of love from one of today's most talented and visionary writers.
When Theo Griepenkerl happens upon the fifth Gospel in a war-torn Iraqi museum, he can't believe his luck. Driven by greed and a lust for fame, he capitalises on his find by publishing it. His book is a sensation. But he can hardly imagine the incendiary consequences his discovery will have for Christians, Arabs, homicidal maniacs and Amazon customers alike. The Fire Gospel is a brilliant piece of storytelling, dazzlingly outrageous and utterly gripping.
The Courage Consort, possibly the seventh best-known a cappella vocal ensemble in Britain, are given two weeks in a Belgian chateau to rehearse their latest commission, the monstrously complicated Partitum Mutante. But can the piece be performed? Does it matter that its composer is a maniac best known for attacking his wife with a stiletto shoe at the baggage reclaim of Milan airport? Can the five members of the Consort endure their own sexual tensions and wildly differing temperaments? And what is the inhuman voice that calls out to them from the woods at night? The esoteric world of avant-garde classical music is the unlikely setting for a story of rare power - perhaps the most moving Michel Faber has yet written.
When it comes to bad news, we've never had it so good. Laurence Shorter is feeling anxious. Every time he turns on the radio or opens a newspaper he finds another reason to be tearful. It's time to make a change. It's time to meet some positive thinkers. The Optimist charts Laurence's quest for inner happiness. Can Desmond Tutu bring a smile to Laurence's face? Will he ride out the tide of pessimism with California's famous Surfing Rabbi? Or will it fall to the ultimate icon of optimism, Bill Clinton, to show Laurence the brighter side of life? The Optimist is a hilarious and life-affirming stand against the grind of everyday strife.