A Kind of Confession: The writer’s private world

Alex Miller     Recommended by    

A Kind of Confession is a secret look into Alex Miller’s writing life, spanning sixty years of creativity and inspiration. As a young man in 1961 Miller left his work as a ringer in Queensland and set out to achieve his dream of becoming a serious novelist. It was not until 1988 that his first novel, Watching the Climbers on the Mountain, was published. Twelve more novels would follow, all bestsellers, many published internationally.

This selection from his notebooks and letters makes it exhilaratingly evident that Miller has been devoted to finding and telling stories that are profound, substantial and entertaining, stories that capture both intellect and emotion.

Miller’s fascinating life is told in a personal, behind-the-scenes exploration of his struggle to become a published writer, his determination, his methods of creative thought and the sources of his inspiration. His writing, sometimes in anger and despair, sometimes with humour and joy, whether created for publication or for private meditation, is alive with ideas, moral choices, commentary, encouragement, criticism and love.


The Wren, The Wren

Anne Enright     Recommended by    

A contemporary novel of daughterhood and motherhood, from the Booker Prize-winning Irish author

‘A magnificent novel’

‘Might just be her best yet’

‘Gem-packed language… A must-read’

Carmel had been alone all her life. The baby knew this. They looked at each other, and all of time was there. The baby knew how vast her mother’s loneliness had been.

Nell – funny, brave and so much loved – is a young woman with adventure on her mind. As she sets out into the world, she finds her family history hard to escape. For her mother, Carmel, Nell’s leaving home opens a space in her heart, where the turmoil of a lifetime begins to churn. And across the generations falls the long shadow of Carmel’s famous father, an Irish poet of beautiful words and brutal actions.

This is a meditation on love- spiritual, romantic, darkly sexual or genetic. A multigenerational novel that traces the inheritance not just of trauma but also of wonder, it is a testament to the glorious resilience of women in the face of promises false and true. Above all, it is an exploration of the love between mother and daughter – sometimes fierce, often painful, but always transcendent.



Michael Cunningham     Recommended by    

‘Unsparing and tender.’ Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn

‘A brilliant novel from our most brilliant of writers.’ Colum McCann, author of Apeirogon

‘A quietly stunning achievement.’ Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

From the brilliant mind of Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham, Day is a searing, exquisitely crafted meditation on love and loss, and the struggles and limitations of family life – how to live together and apart, and maybe even escape the marriage plot entirely.

April 5th, 2019: In a cozy brownstone in Brooklyn, the veneer of domestic bliss is beginning to crack. Dan and Isabel, troubled husband and wife, are both a little bit in love with Isabel’s younger brother, Robbie. Robbie, wayward soul of the family, who still lives in the attic loft; Robbie, who, trying to get over his most recent boyfriend, has created a glamorous avatar online; Robbie, who now has to move out of the house – and whose departure threatens to break the family apart. And then there is Nathan, age ten, taking his first uncertain steps toward independence, while Violet, five, does her best not to notice the growing rift between her parents.

April 5th, 2020: As the world goes into lockdown the brownstone is feeling more like a prison. Violet is terrified of leaving the windows open, obsessed with keeping her family safe. Isabel and Dan circle each other warily, communicating mostly in veiled jabs and frustrated sighs. And beloved Robbie is stranded in Iceland, alone in a mountain cabin with nothing but his thoughts – and his secret Instagram life – for company.

April 5th, 2021: Emerging from the worst of the crisis, the family comes together to reckon with a new, very different reality – with what they’ve learned, what they’ve lost, and how they might go on.


Johnny Cash: The Life in Lyrics

Various     Recommended by    

The life of the Man in Black is revealed through his lyrics and by rare photographs and ephemera, in this beautifully illustrated official hardback edition, fully authorised by the Cash estate and featuring 125 of his most iconic songs.

An essential collectible that sheds new light on Cash’s life and work, this book includes rare visual material in addition to remembrances from Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, and “family historian” Mark Stielper. Released for the twentieth anniversary of the legendary musician’s passing, it is a landmark moment in music publishing and a visually stunning celebration of one of the world’s most significant artists.

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The Rest is History

Tom Holland & Dominic Sandbrook     Recommended by    

Make room Herodotus, stand down Bede, pipe down Pepys there’s a new history book in town.

From the chart-topping podcast The Rest is History, a whistle-stop tour through the past from Alexander the Great to Tolkien, the Wars of the Roses to Watergate. The nation’s favourite historians Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook take on the most curious moments in history, answering the questions we didn’t even think to ask:
– Did the Trojan War actually happen?
– What was the most disastrous party in history?
– Was Richard Nixon more like Caligula or Claudius?
– How did a hair appointment almost blow Churchill’s cover?
– Why did the Nazis believe they were descended from Atlantis?

Whether it is sending historical figures to Casa Amor in a series of Love Island, ranking history’s most famous eunuchs and pigeons (including Winkie, the unsung hero of the Second World War), or debating the meaning of greatness, there is nothing too big or too small for Tom and Dominic to unpick.

So run your Egyptian milk bath, strap up your best Spartan sandals, and prepare for a journey down the highways and byways of the human past. . .


Waiting to Be Arrested at Night: A Uyghur Poet’s Memoir of China’s Genocide

Tahir Hamut Izgil     Recommended by    

‘Essential reading’
AI WEIWEI, author of 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows

‘Deserves to be read widely’

A Uyghur poet’s piercing memoir of life under the most coercive surveillance regime in history.

If you took an Uber in Washington DC a few years ago, there’s a chance your driver was one of the greatest living Uyghur poets, and one of only a handful from his minority Muslim community to escape the genocide being visited upon his homeland in western China.

A successful filmmaker, innovative poet and prominent intellectual, Tahir Hamut Izgil had long been acquainted with state surveillance and violence, having spent three years in a labour camp on fabricated charges.

But in 2017, the Chinese government’s repression of its Uyghur citizens assumed a terrifying new intensity- critics were silenced; conversations became hushed; passports were confiscated; and Uyghurs were forced to provide DNA samples and biometric data.

As Izgil’s friends disappeared one by one, it became clear that fleeing the country was his family’s only hope.

Escape to America spared Izgil’s family the internment camps that have swallowed over a million Uyghurs. It also allowed this rare personal testimony of the Xinjiang genocide to reach the wider world.

Waiting to Be Arrested at Night charts the ongoing destruction of a community and a way of life. It is a call for the world to awaken to a humanitarian catastrophe, an unforgettable story of courage, escape and survival, and a moving tribute to Izgil’s friends and fellow Uyghurs whose voices have been silenced.


Alexandria: The City that Changed the World

Islam Issa     Recommended by    

‘Monumental and vividly imagined . . . a fitting tribute to a city that has survived, changed and grown for so many centuries’ Daily Telegraph

A cornucopia of fascinating details, every page revealing a new delight’  Paul Strathern, author of The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance

A city drawn in sand.

Inspired by the tales of Homer and his own ambitions of empire, Alexander the Great sketched the idea of a city onto the sparsely populated Egyptian coastline. He did not live to see Alexandria built, but his vision of a sparkling metropolis that celebrated learning and diversity was swiftly realised and still stands today.

Situated on the cusp of Africa, Europe and Asia, great civilisations met in Alexandria. Together, Greeks and Egyptians, Romans and Jews created a global knowledge capital of enormous influence: the inventive collaboration of its citizens shaped modern philosophy, science, religion and more. In pitched battles, later empires, from the Arabs and Ottomans to the French and British, laid claim to the city but its independent spirit endures.

In this sweeping biography of the great city, Islam Issa takes us on a journey across millennia, rich in big ideas, brutal tragedies and distinctive characters, from Cleopatra to Napoleon. From its humble origins to dizzy heights and present-day strife, Alexandria tells the gripping story of a city that has shaped our modern world.


So Late in the Day

Claire Keegan     Recommended by    

‘A genuine once-in-a-generation writer.’ – The Times

‘Every word is the right word in the right place, and the effect is resonant and deeply moving.’ – Hilary Mantel

‘Claire Keegan makes her moments real – and then she makes them matter.’ – Colm Toibin

After an uneventful Friday at the Dublin office, Cathal faces into the long weekend and takes the bus home. There, his mind agitates over a woman named Sabine with whom he could have spent his life, had he acted differently. All evening, with only the television and a bottle of champagne for company, thoughts of this woman and others intrude – and the true significance of this particular date is revealed.

From one of the finest writers working today, Keegan’s new story asks if a lack of generosity might ruin what could be between men and women. Is it possible to love without sharing?


The Conversion

Amanda Lohrey     Recommended by    

From Miles Franklin Award-winning author Amanda Lohrey comes a stunning literary foray into place, grief, and what makes a home.

The conversion was Nick’s idea.

Nick – so persuasive, ever the optimist, still boyishly handsome. Always on a quest to design the perfect environment, convinced it could heal a wounded soul.

The conversion was Nick’s idea, but it’s Zoe who’s here now, in a valley of old coalmines and new vineyards, working out how to live in a deconsecrated church.

What to do with all that vertical space, those oppressive stained-glass windows? Can a church become a home or, even with all its vestiges removed, will it remain forever what it was intended to be?

For Zoe, alone and troubled by a ghost from the recent past, the little church seems empty of the possibilities Nick enthused about. She is stuck in purgatory-until a determined young teacher pushes her way into Zoe’s life, convinced of her own peculiar mission for the building.

Melanie has something of Nick’s unquenchable zeal about her. And it’s clear to Zoe that she won’t take no for an answer.

The Conversion is a startling novel about the homes we live in- how we shape them, and how they shape us. Like Amanda Lohrey’s bestselling The Labyrinth, it is distinguished by its deep intelligence, eye for human drama and effortless readability.


David Lynch: A Retrospective

Ian Nathan     Recommended by    

Stunningly illustrated, this biography of filmmaker David Lynch is published to coincide with the 45th anniversary of Eraserhead.

From his experimental shorts of the 1960s to feature films like Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive — not forgetting the award-winning TV series Twin Peaks — David Lynch, pop culture icon, cult figure, film industry outsider and master filmmaker, has pushed the boundaries of cinematic storytelling. He is a true artist in a realm of pretenders — an American great — who can take his place alongside Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol or Steven Spielberg.

This is a portrait of an enchanting presence: eminently reasonable yet driven, boyishly shy yet a towering force on set, an interviewee of rare clarity who never gives the game away. Lynch is quirky, there is no doubt about that, but it takes an ironclad determination to get any film made, let alone films so uniquely his own.

Ian Nathan, who lives and works in London, is one of the UK’s best-known film writers. He is the author of Stephen King at The Movies, two previous titles in the Retrospective series: Ridley Scott and James Cameron, and biographies of The Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson. He is the former editor and executive editor of Empire, the world’s biggest movie magazine, and also regularly contributes to The Times, Independent, Cahiers Du Cinema and the Discovering Film documentary series on Sky Arts.

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