Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth Here’s a confession: I am envious of Zadie Smith.This is not only a case of casual, low-level, everyday envy, the kind you might feel over someone’s new wardrobe, but a full-blown envy that warrants its place among the seven deadly sins. I may be risking victim blaming here – if the…

Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry

Reviewed by Terence Jagger Japan suffers multitudes of earthquakes every year and is among the best prepared countries in the world. Tsunami, too, are common, and both are planned for meticulously. But March 2011 was different. This is a staggering book, intensely moving, and a wonderfully penetrating insight into modern Japan, both its resilience and…

Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan

Reviewed by Liz Dexter This is a truly delightful book which is a MUST if you’re a 35-55 year old British person and a great read for everyone else, too. Enjoy a lovely journey through children’s books as Mangan takes you through her reading childhood from The Very Hungry Caterpillar to Judy Blume, with stops…

The Good Mothers by Alex Perry

Reviewed by Max Dunbar Operation Shame Nowadays, when we think of the mafia, it’s with a sense of nostalgia. David Chase captured the feel in classic mob drama The Sopranos. New Jersey don Tony Soprano is very much the modern crime boss. He’s real and frightening, the threat he poses is palpable, but his finances…

Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story by Lulah Ellender

Reviewed by Gill Davies Lulah Ellender’s book – subtitled “A Family Story” – is part biography, part family history, and it includes reflections on her own family which gradually emerge from the broader narrative. At its centre is the life and early death of her grandmother, Elisabeth Knatchbull-Hugessen, who was born in 1915 into an upper-middle-class English…

Solo: The Joy of Cooking for One by Signe Johansen

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton When I look at my collection of cookbooks it’s clear that there’s one truth that isn’t being universally acknowledged; they’re all geared towards cooking for family and friends despite the growing number of people who live alone. Despite spending most of my time cooking only for myself, I hadn’t given it…

Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington

Review by Peter Reason Miriam Darlington’s first book, Otter Country, recounted her search and study of otters in Britain. I reviewed this book with enthusiasm in Resurgence & Ecologist, noting in particular how she described startlingly close encounters with otters with a vividness that took me deeply into the experience. So I opened her second…

The World Broke in Two by Sam Goldstein

Reviewed by Harriet This enthralling multiple biography is subtitled ‘Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, and the year that changed literature’. The year is 1922, and the claim is a large one which can only be fully substantiated by referring to writers who are not major players here: in that year, James Joyce…

The Lion and the Unicorn by George Orwell

Reviewed by Karen Langley Although George Orwell’s name resonates most strongly with us nowadays because of his great novels – in particular Nineteen Eighty Four, which seems to become more relevant every day – it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was a superb essayist. There is even a prize in his name for political writing,…

The Russian Soul: Selections from A Writer’s Diary by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Introduced by Rosamund Bartlett Translated by Kenneth Lantz / Olga Shartse Reviewed by Karen Langley Notting Hill Editions will probably need no introduction to readers of Shiny New Books. The publisher specialises in producing beautiful little cloth covered volumes of essays, with hardback covers, thick quality paper and bookmarks – and the contents are always…

My Life, Our Times by Gordon Brown

Reviewed by Liz Dexter It’s the book everyone’s been waiting for that fills in the gaps left by Tony Blair’s autobiography and the various books on the financial crisis, the 2010 election and the fortunes of Labour. If you’re looking for a quick and easy read, this, to be fair, isn’t it: if you’re looking…

Science Fiction: A Literary History edited by Roger Luckhurst

Reviewed by Annabel Once upon a time SF was a subculture haunted by small populations of nerds and geeks. Star Wars (1977) changed that, … SF author Adam Roberts says this in his preface to the British Library’s volume of essays surveying the rich literary history of science fiction. He’s right – in a way…

Unaccompanied Minor by Alexander Newley

Reviewed by Annabel The children of celebrity couples inevitably have a hard time growing up, especially when their parents split. You need only think of the late Carrie Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher as a prime example. Carrie was later canny and secure enough in her writing and performing – and her…

Eastern Horizons: Hitchhiking the Silk Road by Levison Wood

Reviewed by Liz Dexter It’s worth noting from the off that this is not a ‘new’ travel book by the popular explorer, but a revisiting of a journey he made in his early 20s, in the early part of this century. He hadn’t published on it before and apparently enjoyed revisiting his notebooks; it also…

Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann

Reviewed by Harriet Most people probably think that the presence of black people in Britain began with the large influx of nearly 500 who came over from Jamaica in 1948 on the MV Empire Windrush. Before that, we may have a vague idea that the relatively small number of black people who appear in 18th century…

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

Reviewed by Annabel While I can’t claim to read anywhere near the volume of old and newly reprinted novels that some of my Shiny colleagues do – perennially falling for the latest novels by the latest literary darlings – I do love browsing in second-hand bookshops and I will always make a beeline for a…