Tuesday, December 01, 2015

December 2015 Highlights

1. Avenue of Mysteries (Doubleday, 2015) / John Irving
2. Death by Water (Atlantic, 2015) / Kenzaburō Ōe
3. The Age of Reinvention (trans. from the French by Sam Taylor) (Atria Books, 2015) / Karine Tuil

1. Dead Man’s Float (Copper Canyon Press, 2015) / Jim Harrison

1. Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire (Random House, 2015) / Roger Crowley
2. This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan War (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015) / Samanth Subramanian

Sunday, November 01, 2015

November 2015 Highlights

1. The Japanese Lover (Atria Books, 2015) / Isabel Allende
2. Number 11 (Viking, 2015) / Jonathan Coe
3. The Mare (Pantheon, 2015) / Mary Gaitskill
4. Wherever There Is Light (Atria Books, 2015) / Peter Golden
5. Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise (Grand Central Publishing, 2015) / Oscar Hijuelos
6. Avenue of Mysteries (Simon & Schuster, 2015) / John Irving
7. All the Houses (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Karen Olsson
8. The Muralist (Algonquin Books, 2015) / B.A. Shapiro
9. The Age of Reinvention (trans. from the French by Sam Taylor) (Scribner UK, 2015) / Karine Tuil
10. Cousins (Viking, 2015) / Salley Vickers

First Novels
1. American Copper (Unbridled Books, 2015) / Shann Ray

1. A Wild Swan and Other Tales (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Michael Cunningham
2. You Have Never Been Here: New and Selected Stories (Small Beer Press, 2015) / Mary Rickert
3. Calloustown (Dzance Books, 2015) / George Singleton
4. Tales of Accidental Genius (Harper Perennial, 2015) / Simon Van Booy

1. Second Empire (Alice James Books, 2015) / Richie Hofmann
2. Peace Talks (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Andrew Motion

1. To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 (Viking, 2015) / Ian Kershaw
2. The Simplest Words: A Storyteller’s Journey (Allen & Unwin, 2015) / Alex Miller
3. The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett (Bloomsbury USA, 2015) / Nathan Ward

Thursday, October 01, 2015

October 2015 Highlights

1. Beatlebone (Canongate Books, 2015) / Kevin Barry
2. The Secret Chord (Viking, 2015) / Geraldine Brooks
3. The Hours Count (Riverbed Books, 2015) / Jillian Cantor
4. The War Reporter (Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin’s Press, 2015) / Martin Fletcher
5. The Italian Wife (Berkley, 2015) / Kate Furnivall
6. A Banquet of Consequences (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015) / Elizabeth George
7. Dictator (Hutchinson, 2015) / Robert Harris
8. Submission (trans. from the French by Lorin Stein) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Michele Houellebecq
9. The House on Cold Hill (Macmillan, 2015) / Peter James
10. Two Gun & Sun (Caitlin Press, 2015) / June Hutton

11. Hell & High Water (Walker Books, 2015) / Tanya Landman
12. High Dive (William Heinemann, 2015) / Jonathan Lee
13. Mrs Roosevelt’s Confidante (Bantam, 2015) / Susan Elia MacNeal
14. Slade House (Sceptre/Random House, 2015) / David Mitchell
15. A Place Called Sorry (Caitlin Press, 2015) / Donna Milner
16. After the Circus (trans. from the French by Mark Polizzotti) (Yale University Press, 2015) / Patrick Modiano
17. The Lake House (Macmillan, 2015) / Kate Morton
18. The Mark and the Void (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Paul Murray
19. A Strangeness in My Mind (trans. from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap) (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Orhan Pamuk
20. Dreams of the Red Phoenix (Unbridled Books, 2015) / Virginia Pye

21. Dark Corners (Hutchinson, 2015) / Ruth Rendell
22. Martin John (Biblioasis, 2015) / Anakana Schofield
23. Golden Age (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Jane Smiley
24. All the Stars in the Heavens (Harper, 2015) / Adriana Trigiani
25. The Gap of Time (Hogarth, 2015) / Jeanette Winterson

First Novels
1. Juventud (Curbside Splendor Publishing, 2015) / Vanessa Blakeslee
2. City on Fire (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Garth Risk Hallberg
3. Beauty Is a Wound (trans. from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker) (New Directions, 2015) / Eka Kurniawan
4. Landfalls (Little, Brown, 2015) / Naomi J. Williams

1. Mothers, Tell Your Daughters (W.W. Norton, 2015) / Bonnie Jo Campbell
2. The Early Stories of Truman Capote (Random House, 2015) / Truman Capote
3. The Tsar of Love and Techno (Hogarth, 2015) / Anthony Marra
4. Thirteen Ways of Looking (Random House, 2015) / Colum McCann
5. 100 Years of the Best American Stories (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) / Lorrie Moore & Heidi Pitlor (eds.)
6. The Best American Short Stories 2015 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) / T.C. Boyle & Heidi Pitlor (eds.)

1. Felicity (Penguin Press, 2015) / Mary Oliver

1. Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life (William Collins, 2015) / Jonathan Bate
2. Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age (Graywolf Press, 2015) / Sven Birkerts
3. The Road to Little Dribbling (Doubleday, 2015) / Bill Bryson
4. A House of My Own: Stories from My Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Sandra Cisneros
5. Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar (Doubleday, 2015) / Tom Holland
6. Hemingway in Love: His Own Story: A Memoir (St Martin’s Press, 2015) / A.E. Hotchner
7. Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal (Doubleday, 2015) / Jay Parini
8. The Best American Essays 2015 (Mariner Books, 2015) / Robert Atwan & Ariel Levy (eds.)
9. Between Gods: A Memoir (Harper Perennial, 2015) / Alison Pick
10. They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper (Fourth Estate, 2015) / Bruce Robinson

11. The Givenness of Things: Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Marilynne Robinson
12. The Witches: Salem, 1692 (Little, Brown, 2015) / Stacy Schiff
13. My Father’s Guitar and Other Imaginary Things (Algonquin Books, 2015) / Joseph Skibell
14. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (Penguin Press, 2015) / Sherry Turkle
15. Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers (William Collins/Harper, 2015) / Simon Winchester

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Rotten Durian Awards & Other Malaysiana Miscellany

A SENIOR EDITOR of a Malaysian publishing house received the following email the other day. The message, with typos amended, reads: “I can’t write very well, but I thought I’d like to try writing a novel. I’ve decided to write a novel about pirates, but I don’t know anything about pirates. Could you please email me information about pirates: their lifestyle, their eating habits, where they like to chill out during the weekends, what they like to do during the day, what kinds of books they read, etc., so that I can start working on the novel immediately? With much appreciation and best wishes.”
MALAYSIA is not exactly the friendliest country in the world; most of the time the people are bloody rude, downright discourteous, boorishly loudmouthed and deeply disrespectful, among other things. Asian values? What Asian values? Malaysia is truly not Asia.
SOME MANUSCRIPTS are so bloody horrendous that I literally get sick editing them! I feel feverish, headache-y and all-over-the-body-achy. Seriously, one of these days we must consider giving out a slew of ROTTEN DURIAN AWARDS for the crappiest Malaysian books of the year—books we absolutely could not care less about, much less read. I know for sure there won’t be a dearth of contenders for these uniquely Malaysian awards where MEDIOCRITY is the ONLY yardstick of greatness and celebrated with customary poop (pomp) and ceremony! Perhaps I will start the ball rolling with that pathetic attempt of a book ... yes, that particular pseudo-book! It reminds me of the opening lines to Keir Alexander’s excellent novel, The Ruby Slippers: “She stinks. It has to be said. Stinks to high heaven.” She does, believe me.
THE COST of doing business is escalating all the time. Maintaining sales have always been a challenge, now more so than ever. There are not many good manuscripts to choose from in a lacklustre marketplace. There’s nothing much we can do about the decline of the English language or the quality of writing in Malaysia in the short term. We have to accept the fact that the only thing we can do as publishers is to enhance our production values: editing standards and marketing efforts will need to be stepped up. Producing a book is not going to get any easier; editors will have to break their backs editing and rewriting substandard manuscripts to a level deemed publishable in a short time. Not that there are many good editors to choose from in a nation that doesn’t care much for reading and writing in the first place.
AT A BOOK LAUNCH in a five-star hotel (nothing less that five stars will do, or an exclusive golf club) in Kuala Lumpur the other day, everyone invited to attend the event was treated to a sumptuous meal of sweet and savory Malaysian delicacies and given a complimentary copy or two of the said book of the day. Suffice to say that the food tasted so much better than the book. This is quite understandable. Let’s not beat around the bush; no one in their right frame of mind would use their hard-earned cash to pay for it. The trick is not to take Malaysian publishing too seriously. If you do, you are in for an early grave.
WHEN will Malaysian education start focusing on understanding and critical thinking skills? Will it ever? There is a serious dearth of these basic skills: reading, writing, creative thinking, questioning, criticism, creativity and imagination; there is also an absolute lack of interest or intellectual curiosity or empathy about the world we live in. We desperately need graduates who can not only eat but spell chocolate! Education per se is irrelevant; one must have the right mindset to use the knowledge acquired and make one’s life useful and meaningful to society. The idea of education is to make every one of us into critical, empathetic, intelligent, logical and thinking beings. If not, what’s the point of existence? What’s really the point of education if we do not produce intelligent, efficient and productive nation builders? It is frightening when the education system keeps on churning out graduates who don’t read (and have no interest in reading) and can’t write.
SERIOUSLY, do we really have a publishing industry in Malaysia? I sometimes wonder, more often lately. A sad fact: Malaysian writers can’t write and don’t want to be edited at all. Those who can, the writing is hollow, bland, shallow, lifeless, insipid, puerile, illiterate, dispirited, uninspiring, self-indulgent, lazy and lackadaisical. Sometimes the manuscripts are so execrable, possibly written by someone who doesn’t speak English, that editing them is next to impossible. (I don’t pray for much, just good health and happiness for all creatures big and small, being a better human being ... and good writing to land on my desk.)

Another sad fact: Editors don’t know how to edit. (Editing is not just about punctuation, grammar and spelling.) Most of them lack the most basic of editing skills (grammar and spelling); if they can’t even handle basic editing, surely they are in the wrong profession, no? Editors are unwilling to learn and tend to miss more than they spot errors (and constantly introducing new ones at the same time). And many are averse to research, checking facts and solving problems. Punctuating dialogue is another major weakness. Most of them lack imagination, intellectual curiosity and have no idea why they are doing the things they are doing. Many are not (and will never be) aware of the important aspects of book production like bibliography, footnotes, endnotes, indexing, etc. Also, not many editors have a nose for business or finance. Publishing is not just about PUBLISHING bad books; it is also about SELLING the bad books you publish. Both are equally important to sustain the business.

Another sad fact: Designers don’t know how to typeset books and design covers. Most of them are not designers; when you think about it, they are really more incompetent typesetters than designers. Most, sadly, have no grasp of the aesthetics, whether in the design of covers or typesetting of pages, are not open to constructive criticism and lack basic language skills (English and Malay). (“The kind of designs you don’t exactly need to go to design school to learn. The idea is to do it blindly.”) There is absolutely no passion to push boundaries or to have higher expectations, no sense of accomplishment for a job well done. They do not seem to learn anything from experience. They have no idea whether contents pages are required for the manuscripts they typeset; they have no idea what acknowledgements, forewords, prefaces, introductions and afterwords are for and who writes them. They may have moved their MOUSE for centuries, but they have not gain any relevant experience at all.

Another sad fact: Translation standards are abysmal. Translation is not just about translating words to another language; it’s also about translating cultural and other creative nuances; the translated text must make sense and transport you to another world. “Translation,” in the words of Anthony Burgess, “is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.” A good translator must not only possess a solid grounding in both languages but a strong grasp of idioms and metaphors as well. Sadly, it’s rare to find translators who are strong in both languages.

A vicious cycle. Definitely. So, do we really have a publishing industry in Malaysia? No. I believe what we have here is more akin to some kind of stunted, constipated offshoot of public relations, rather than publishing as we know it. Books are never published for the right reasons. It never fails to amaze me how publishers always find reasons to justify the publishing of substandard books as though producing as many such books as possible is some kind of noble calling or something!
EVIL, THEY SAY, NEVER DIES ... it claws its way back from the pits of hell to haunt the living. We are in the midst of editing perhaps the worst manuscript on the planet … rejected by all who had a chance to look at it but somehow foisted on us editors for the stupidest of reasons. And to think that the British once colonised us, you would expect a certain standard of English. After the last disaster of a book, we thought we had seen the last and worst of horrendous books. No-o-o-o … that’s too good to be true. Ladies and gentlemen, Evil is back in business and is here to haunt the living daylights out of us. Just goes to prove that there are some things money can’t buy … for instance, to write well and tell a wonderful story (fiction or otherwise). Some publishers claim they publish these rejected manuscripts under the pretext of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Seriously, you can call them anything you want; I prefer to pile them under POO and flush them down the LOO where they belong for all eternity. Of course, under normal circumstances these manuscripts would not see the light of day but the dark of the sewers. I fail to understand what joy these author-wannabes derive from being published under such circumstances!
AND THEN there are those so-called Malaysian authors who insist that we do not comply with standards and conventions when editing their so-called manuscripts! As the Backstreet Boys would croon back in the late 1990s, They want it that way! You can have it any way you want, Sweetheart, as long as you pay the production costs and buy up all the stocks and keep them locked up in your room! And maybe toss them in with the carrots, potatoes, onions and tomatoes when Mummy makes chicken soup for the whole family. The books will also come in handy if you have plans for house extensions. Books, after all, are not just books; they make hardy bricks, too.
REMEMBER THE GOOD OLD DAYS when we used to have meals and lovely conversations without interruptions? We used to eat and talk, and eat and talk, all the while enjoying ourselves. Those were the days when we used to really talk with one another and conversations were long, and there were jokes and laughter, and time just passed without us realising it. Those days are long gone. People nowadays are more interested in their smartphones, internet, text messaging, etc., and seem to prefer to communicate with people not dining at the table but elsewhere, reading news updates, taking photos of themselves in all manner of poses, etc. You may have the whole wide world at your fingertips, but you don’t seem to be aware of the immediate world around you. Once in a while, think about the person sitting opposite you.
POMPOUS LASS: Only native speakers can edit my manuscript! No Malaysian editors for me, please!
Publisher: You mean someone from Good Olde Mother England?
Pompous Lass: Of course—if English is their mother tongue!
Publisher: Why’s that?
Pompous Lass: Because my book is for the wonderful people of this planet. I want it to be perfectly edited for all my readers from around the world …
Publisher: Would you like to bear the cost of getting someone from England to edit it then?
Pompous Lass: Will that be cheap?
Publisher: What do you think? Everything is cheap except you?
Pompous Lass: I wouldn’t want to spend my money on that! If it’s too expensive, a local editor should be all right, I guess!
WATERLILY: I want to talk to the editor?
Receptionist: Who’s calling?
Waterlily: Lily!
Receptionist: Lily who?
Waterlily: Water “I-can’t-tell-you-my-real-name” Lily!
Receptionist: How can I help you?
Waterlily: I want to talk to the editor about my manuscript?
Receptionist: What’s your manuscript about?
Waterlily: I can’t tell you that! I don’t know who you are. You may just steal and profit from my hard work! I want to speak to the editor!
Editor: Could you send us samples of your work, Water?
Waterlily: I can’t do that either.
Editor: So what can you do, Water?
Waterlily: Why do you need samples of my work?
Editor: Duh! So that we could assess your writing and decide whether we want to publish it or not!
Waterlily: Why do you want to review it? I am a famous writer and my work is quoted in all the leading journals all over the galaxy!
Editor: That’s nice and all and I’m happy for you. However, we would still like to assess it.
Waterlily: Will you be distributing my book in the U.S. and the U.K.?
Editor: No. We only sell foreign rights to those markets. And over the internet.
Waterlily: Looks like you are not the right publisher for me then. Goodbye!
Editor: Good riddance.
AUTHOR: Would you like to publish my manuscript?
Publisher: Well, it depends …
Author: Depends on what?
Publisher: Well, whether you have a written manuscript?
Author: I haven’t written one. Can you get it written for me?
Publisher: Why is that?
Author: I can’t write.
Publisher: But you have studied for a couple of foreign degrees … and you have lived overseas for many years. With your fake accent and all, I’m sure you could write English.
Author: I’m very bad at grammar. Could you get me a writer whom I could talk to, take down notes and put them all in a book for me? I can talk very well. I just can’t write.
Publisher: I can’t imagine how you manage to pass all your exams over the years!
AUTHOR: Can you label me a bestselling author on the cover of my new book?
Editor: No! You are not a bestselling author! And you’ve never have been one!
Author: It’s a way of MARKETING the book!
Editor: I don’t think that’s MARKETING; that’s shameless CONNING. Your first book sold less than a thousand copies in over five years. That, to me, is a disaster of epic proportions! Your book sounds more like the worst-selling book of the century. And with the way it is moving or not moving, it looks set to be the worst-selling book in the history of humankind. Your book will still be around even after the Apocalypse!
AUTHOR: And on what grounds are you rejecting my manuscript?
Editor: Well, it sucks, for one!
Author: What! How dare you insult me! Everyone who has read it thinks it a magnificent piece of work!
Editor: Who, pray tell, read your magnum opus?
Author: My darling husband and children, friends and relatives! And my dearest mummy and daddy, too!
Editor: Of course!
Author: So can I take it that you are not interested in publishing my manuscript?
Editor: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da ... Duh!
AUTHOR: Yahoo! My book is a runaway bestseller!
Editor: How’s that possible?
Author: I got every one of my best friends to buy 500 copies of my book. Yahoo! Time for a reprint?
Editor: What do you expect them to do with all the copies of your book?
Author: Who cares what they do with them? Hide them under the stairs? Perhaps they can make beef or vegetable stew with them?
AUTHOR: I would like you to publish my book?
Editor: Your manuscript, you mean? Well, it all depends on the quality of your manuscript.
Author: What? I know your Financial Controller and the Top Guy, you know!
Editor: Ooh, I’m shivering! Of course, we will publish your book—even though it sucks big-time!
Author: What?
Editor: Isn’t that what you want?
WISDOM, they say, comes with age. I once thought that wisdom was the exclusive province of the elderly. Now that I am all grown up, I have come to realise that that’s all balderdash. Wisdom is the province of those who possess it; age is simply immaterial. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to meet young people who are wise beyond their years, and I have also had the MISFORTUNE of meeting old people who have absolutely no wisdom at all.
AUTHOR: I don’t like my marriage photograph in the book. We look so bloody fat.
Editor: Of course, both of you are fat. So, what do you want me to do? Both of you should have gone on a diet before getting married. Well, you could always get married again.
AUTHOR: Make sure all numbers smaller than 10 are in figures, not words, okay?
Editor: Numbers from 1-9 will be in words, not numerals. Anything from 10 and above, I will use figures. That’s the standard editing rule.
Author: But I am your client and you do as I instruct.
Editor: So, what else do you want to go with that? Bad grammar? I can do that. What about factual errors? You want some of those? Weak characterization, perhaps? A plot full of holes? We can add a couple of those, if you like. Why don’t I also throw in as many misspellings as I can for you on the house?
Author: What?
Editor: For your information, you ain’t my client. You can keep your money and go ask your mummy to search and replace all your 1-9s to figures.
“Anyone can be an author nowadays. You don’t really have to be a good writer or excellent in grammar and all that nonsense,” so says the marketing consultant. You can’t write? No problem, we will get you a ghostwriter to write on your behalf for a fee, she says. And if you suck big-time at grammar and vocabulary, also no problem. We have the backroom boys (editors, copyeditors, proofreaders and designers) to clean up your writing (or lack thereof) and make all your dreams come true. After all, most people just like to see their names on the covers of their so-called books. And perhaps launching them at one of the hotels or golf clubs (or fast-food joints). That’s about it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

September 2015 Highlights

1. The Blue Between Sky and Water (Bloomsbury USA, 2015) / Susan Abulhawa
2. The Real Justine (Pegasus, 2015) / Stephen Amidon
3. The Heart Goes Last (Bloomsbury Publishing/Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2015) / Margaret Atwood
4. The Blue Guitar (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / John Banville
5. The Prize (Counterpoint, 2015) / Jill Bialosky
6. Sweet Caress (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015) / William Boyd
7. We Never Asked for Wings (Mantle, 2015) / Vanessa Diffenbaugh
8. This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! (Algonquin Books, 2015) / Jonathan Evison
9. Where My Heart Used to Beat (Hutchinson, 2015) / Sebastian Faulks
10. The Story of the Lost Child (trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein) (Europa Editions, 2015) / Elena Ferrante

11. Purity (Fourth Estate/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Jonathan Franzen
12. The Last September (Algonquin Books, 2015) / Nina de Gramont
13. Fates and Furies (Riverhead Books, 2015) / Lauren Groff
14. The Past (Jonathan Cape, 2015) / Tessa Hadley
15. The Illegal (HarperCollins Canada, 2015) / Lawrence Hill
16. Fear of Dying (St Martin’s Press, 2015) / Erica Jong
17. The Hummingbird (William Morrow, 2015) / Stephen P. Kiernan
18. Marvel and a Wonder (Akashic Books, 2015) / Joe Meno
19. After the Parade (Scribner, 2015) / Lori Ostlund
20. A Strangeness in My Mind (trans. from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap) (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Orhan Pamuk

21. Arcadia (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Iain Pears
22. Above the Waterfall (Ecco, 2015) / Ron Rash
23. Sleep (Doubleday Canada, 2015) / Nino Ricci
24. Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (Jonathan Cape/Random House, 2015) / Salman Rushdie
25. Martin John (Biblioasis, 2015) / Anakana Schofield
26. The Marvels (Scholastic Press, 2015) / Brian Selznick
27. The Double Life of Liliane (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015) / Lily Tuck
28. The Natural Way of Things (Allen & Unwin, 2015) / Charlotte Wood

First Novels
1. The Secret Son (Allen & Unwin, 2015) / Jenny Ackland
2. The Suicide of Claire Bishop (Dzanc Books, 2015) / Carmiel Banasky
3. Did You Ever Have a Family (Scout Press/Gallery Books/Jonathan Cape, 2015) / Bill Clegg
4. The Courtesan (Dutton, 2015) / Alexandra Curry
5. The Book of Memory (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Petina Gappah
6. Jade Dragon Mountain (Minotaur Books, 2015) / Elsa Hart
7. The Sparrow Sisters (William Morrow, 2015) / Ellen Herrick
8. The Waiting Room (Vintage Australia/Random House Books Australia, 2015) / Leah Kaminsky
9. Beauty Is a Wound (trans. from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker) (New Directions, 2015) / Eka Kurniawan
10. The Story of My Teeth (trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney) (Coffee House Press, 2015) / Valeria Luiselli

11. Under the Udala Trees (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) / Chinelo Okparanta
12. Grief is the Thing with Feathers (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Max Porter
13. The Hundred-Year Flood (Little A, 2015) / Matthew Salesses
14. Gold Fame Citrus (Riverhead Books, 2015) / Claire Vaye Watkins

1. Arvida (trans. from the French by Donald Winkler) (Biblioasis, 2015) / Samuel Archibald
2. A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories (ed. Stephen Emerson) (Picador, 2015) / Lucia Berlin
3. Only the Animals (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Ceridwen Dovey
4. Half An Inch of Water (Graywolf Press, 2015) / Percival Everett
5. The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015 (Anchor, 2014) / Laura Furman (ed.)
6. The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers (New Island Books, 2015) / Sinéad Gleeson (ed.)
7. The Tsar of Love and Techno (Hogarth, 2015) / Anthony Marra
8. A Kind of Compass: Stories on Distance (Tramp Press, 2015) / Belinda McKeon (ed.)
9. A Slanting of the Sun (Doubleday Ireland/Steerforth, 2015) / Donal Ryan
10. Stories from Other Places (Harvill Secker, 2015) / Nicholas Shakespeare

11. The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Joy Williams

1. Impossible Bottle (Louisiana State University Press, 2015) / Claudia Emerson
2. Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2014 (Mariner Books, 2015) / Linda Gregerson
3. Notes on the Assemblage (City Lights, 2015) / Juan Felipe Herrera
4. Application for Release from the Dream (Graywolf Press, 2015) / Tony Hoagland
5. Diversion (ECW Press, 2015) / George Murray
6. 40 Sonnets (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Don Paterson
7. Reconnaissance (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Carl Phillips
8. Selected Later Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / C.K. Williams

1. The House of Twenty Thousand Books (New York Review Books, 2015) / Sasha Abramsky
2. Early Fiction in England: From Geoffrey of Monmouth to Chaucer (Penguin Classics, 2015) / Laura Ashe (ed.)
3. Freedom Regained: The Possibility of Free Will (University of Chicago Press, 2015) / Julian Baggini
4. Frederick the Great: King of Prussia (Allen Lane, 2015) / Tim Blanning
5. Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Roger Crowley
6. Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation (Profile Books, 2015) / David Crystal
7. South Toward Home: Travels in Southern Literature (W.W. Norton, 2015) / Margaret Eby
8. Tales of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today’s New York (Penguin Books, 2015) / John Freeman (ed.)
9. The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George (Travelers’ Tales, 2015) / Don George
10. Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Robert Gildea

11. Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies (Thames & Hudson, 2015) / Alexandra Harris
12. Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar (Little, Brown, 2015) / Tom Holland
13. Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2015) / Alistair Horne
14. Negroland: A Memoir (Pantheon, 2015) / Margo Jefferson
15. The Art of Memoir (Harper, 2015) / Mary Karr
16. Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawai‘i (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Susanna Moore
17. The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age (Ecco, 2015) / Joyce Carol Oates
18. Iraq: A History (Oneworld Publications, 2015) / John Robertson
19. The Face of Britain: The Nation through Its Portraits (Viking, 2015) / Simon Schama
20. John le Carre (Harper, 2015) / Adam Sisman

21. Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Tim Duggan Books/Bodley Head, 2015) / Timothy Snyder
22. Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads (with photographs by Steve McCurry) (Hamish Hamilton/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) / Paul Theroux
23. The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett (Bloomsbury USA, 2015) / Nathan Ward
24. Island Home: A Landscape Memoir (Hamish Hamilton/ Penguin Books Australia, 2015) / Tim Winton

Saturday, August 01, 2015

August 2015 Highlights

1. The Automobile Club of Egypt (trans. from the Arabic by Russell Harris) (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Alaa Al Aswany
2. The Dove’s Necklace (Overlook, 2015) / Raja Alem
3. Noonday (Hamish Hamilton, 2015) / Pat Barker
4. Devotion (Oneworld Publications, 2015) / Ros Barber
5. The Incarnations (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2015) / Susan Barker
6. Up Against the Night (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015) / Justin Cartwright
7. Trust No One (Atria Books, 2015) / Paul Cleave
8. Last Bus to Wisdom (Riverhead Books, 2015) / Ivan Doig
9. Days of Awe (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Lauren Fox
10. Flood of Fire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Amitav Ghosh

11. The Fall of Princes (Algonquin Books, 2015) / Robert Goolrick
12. Best Boy (Liveright, 2015) / Eli Gottlieb
13. The Taming of the Queen (Simon & Schuster, 2015) / Philippa Gregory
14. A Game for All the Family (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015) / Sophie Hannah
15. His Whole Life (McClelland & Stewart, 2015) / Elizabeth Hay
16. Black-Eyed Susans (Ballantine Books/Michael Joseph, 2015) / Julia Heaberlin
17. The Marriage of Opposites (Simon & Schuster, 2015) / Alice Hoffman
18. A Guide to Berlin (Vintage Australia, 2015) / Gail Jones
19. Man on Fire (Bloomsbury Circus, 2015) / Stephen Kelman
20. Villa America (Little, Brown, 2015) / Liza Klaussmann

21. A Woman Loved (trans. from the French by Geoffrey Strachan) (Graywolf Press, 2015) / Andreï Makine
22. Splinter the Silence (Little, Brown, 2015) / Val McDermid
23. Circling the Sun (Virago, 2015) / Paula McLain
24. The Night Sister (Doubleday, 2015) / Jennifer McMahon
25. The Crossing (Sceptre, 2015) / Andrew Miller
26. Songs of Love and Montefiore (Simon & Schuster, 2015) / Santa Montefiore
27. Eileen (Random House, 2015) / Ottessa Moshfegh
28. Miss Emily (Sandstone Press, 2015) / Nuala O’Connor
29. Sistering (Linda Leith Publishing, 2015) / Jennifer Quist
30. The Boy Between (Hachette Books Ireland, 2015) / Susan Stairs

31. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (Simon & Schuster, 2015) / Genevieve Valentine
32. The Illogic of Kassel (trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean & Anna Milsom) (Harvill Secker, 2015) / Enrique Vila-Matas
33. A Body in Barcelona (Chatto & Windus, 2015) / Jason Webster

First Novels
1. The Girl Who Slept with God (Viking, 2015) / Val Brelinski
2. Nelly Dean (The Borough Press, 2015) / Alison Case
3. The Daughters (Liveright, 2015) / Adrienne Celt
4. Everybody Rise (St Martin’s Press, 2015) / Stephanie Clifford
5. Make Your Home Among Strangers (St Martin’s Press, 2015) / Jennine Capó Crucet
6. Whispers Through a Megaphone (One, 2015) / Rachel Elliott
7. The Pope’s Daughter (trans. from the Italian by Anthony Shugaar) (Europa Editions, 2015) / Dario Fo
8. The Girl from the Garden (Ecco, 2015) / Parnaz Forouton
9. The Loney (John Murray, 2015) / Andrew Michael Hurley
10. Bright Lines (Penguin Books, 2015) / Tanwi Nandini Islam

11. Mrs Bennet has Her Say (Berkley, 2015) / Jane Juska
12. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine (Harper, 2015) / Alexandra Kleeman
13. Beauty Is a Wound (trans. from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker) (Text Publishing, 2015) / Eka Kurniawan
14. The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley (Riverhead Books, 2015) / Jeremy Massey
15. The Beautiful Bureaucrat (Henry Holt, 2015) / Helen Phillips
16. Dragonfish (W.W. Norton, 2015) / Vu Tran
17. All That Followed (Henry Holt, 2015) / Gabriel Urza
18. Landfalls (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Naomi J. Williams

1. The State We’re In: Maine Stories (Scribner, 2015) / Ann Beattie
2. A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories (ed. Stephen Emerson) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Lucia Berlin
3. Beneath the Earth: Dark and Surprising Stories (Doubleday, 2015) / John Boyne
4. Man V. Nature (Oneworld Publications, 2015) / Diane Cook
5. A Clear View of the Southern Sky (Story River Books, 2015) / Mary Hood
6. Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings (eds. Laurence Jackson Hyman & Sarah Hyman DeWitt) (Random House, 2015) / Shirley Jackson
7. Fortune Smiles (Random House, 2015) / Adam Johnson
8. The Complete Stories (trans. from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson) (New Directions, 2015) / Clarice Lispector
9. Sea Lovers: Selected Stories (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2015) / Valerie Martin
10. We Don’t Know What We’re Doing (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Thomas Morris

1. A Small Story About the Sky (Copper Canyon Press, 2015) / Alberto Ríos

1. Walking with Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah (Riverhead Books, 2015) / Anna Badkhen
2. Yanks and Limeys: Alliance Warfare in the Second World War (Jonathan Cape, 2015) / Niall Barr
3. Fracture: Life and Culture in the West, 1918-1938 (Atlantic Books, 2015) / Philipp Blom
4. ’Membering (Dundurn, 2015) / Austin Clarke
5. The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion (St Martin’s Press, 2015) / Tracy Daugherty
6. Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books (Pegasus, 2015) / Michael Dirda
7. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015) / Peter Frankopan
8. The Lost World of Byzantium (Yale University Press, 2015) / Jonathan Harris
9. Reading Claudius (The Dial Press/Random House, 2015) / Caroline Heller
10. Everything is Happening: Journey into a Painting (Granta Books, 2015) / Michael Jacobs

11. Latest Readings (Yale University Press, 2015) / Clive James
12. The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution (Viking, 2015) / Dominic Lieven
13. Desert Songs of the Night: 1500 Years of Arabic Literature (Saqi Books, 2015) / Suheil Bushrui & James M. Malarkey (eds.)
14. Pedigree: A Memoir (trans. from the French by Mark Polizzotti) (Yale University Press, 2015) / Patrick Modiano
15. Every Time a Friend Succeeds Something Inside Me Dies: The Life of Gore Vidal (Little, Brown, 2015) / Jay Parini
16. Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Journey (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015) / David Payne
17. Nabokov in America: On the Road to Lolita (Bloomsbury USA, 2015) / Robert Roper
18. Out in the Midday Sun: The British in Malaya, 1880-1960 (Monsoon Books, 2015) / Margaret Shennan
19. Cursed Kings: The Hundred Years War IV (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Jonathan Sumption
20. Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society (trans. from the Spanish by John King) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Mario Vargas Llosa

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

July 2015 Highlights

1. Early One Morning (Virago, 2015) / Virginia Baily
2. June (trans. from the Dutch by David Colmer) (Harvill Secker, 2015) / Gerbrand Bakker
3. The Shouting in the Dark (Sandstone Press, 2015) / Elleke Boehmer
4. A Cure for Suicide (Pantheon, 2015) / Jesse Ball
5. Broken Promise (New American Library, 2015) / Linwood Barclay
6. The Incarnations (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2014) / Susan Barker
7. The Truth According to Us (Doubleday, 2015) / Annie Barrows
8. The Dust that Falls from Dreams (Harvill Secker, 2015) / Louis de Bernières
9. The Love She Left Behind (W.W. Norton, 2015) / Amanda Coe
10. Confession of the Lioness (trans. from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw) (Harvill Secker, 2015) / Mia Couto

11. Archipelago of Souls (Picador Australia, 2015) / Gregory Day
12. The Ends of the Earth (Bantam Press, 2015) / Robert Goddard
13. Devastation Road (Scribner UK, 2015) / Jason Hewitt
14. The Anger Meridian (Akashic Books, 2015) / Kaylie Jones
15. The Captive Condition (Pantheon, 2015) / Kevin P. Keating
16. Go Set a Watchman (Harper/William Heinemann, 2015) / Harper Lee
17. The Quality of Silence (Little, Brown, 2015) / Rosamund Lupton
18. Good Hope Road (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015) / Sarita Mandanna
19. You Don’t Have to Live Like This (Harper, 2015) / Benjamin Markovits
20. Circling the Sun (Ballantine Books, 2015) / Paula McLain

21. Blood Salt Water (Orion, 2015) / Denise Mina
22. Something to Hide (Chatto & Windus, 2015) / Deborah Moggach
23. Signs for Lost Children (Granta Books, 2015) / Sarah Moss
24. The Mark and the Void (Hamish Hamilton, 2015) / Paul Murray
25. A Master Plan for Rescue (Riverhead Books, 2015) / Janis Cooke Newman
26. The Rocks (Heron Books, 2015) / Peter Nichols
27. Miss Emily (Penguin Press, 2015) / Nuala O’Connor
28. The Gods of Tango (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Carolina de Robertis
29. The Kindness (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015) / Polly Samson
30. The Tale of Genji (trans. from the Japanese by Dennis Washburn) (W.W. Norton, 2015) / Murasaki Shikibu

31. The Parrots (Fig Tree, 2015) / Alexandra Shulman
32. The Song Collector (Sceptre, 2015) / Natasha Solomons
33. The First of July (published as At Break of Day in the U.K. in 2013) (Pegasus, 2015) / Elizabeth Speller
34. The New Neighbor (Touchstone, 2015) / Leah Stewart
35. The Way Things Were (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Aatish Taseer
36. The Seed Collectors (Canongate Books, 2015) / Scarlett Thomas
37. Without the Moon (Serpent’s Tail, 2015) / Cathi Unsworth
38. The Night Stages (Oneworld Publications/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Jane Urquhart
39. Lovers on All Saints’ Day (Riverhead Books, 2015) / Juan Gabriel Vásquez
40. The Dying Grass (Viking, 2015) / William T. Vollmann

41. The Invaders (Regan Arts, 2015) / Karolina Waclawiak
42. Secessia (Grove Press, 2015) / Kent Wascom
43. The Ecliptic (Scribner UK, 2015) / Benjamin Wood

First Novels
1. Neverwhere (William Morrow, 2015) / Neil Gaiman
2. The Artificial Anatomy of Parks (Legend Press, 2015) / Kat Gordon
3. Us Conductors (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015) / Sean Michaels
4. Among the Ten Thousand Things (Random House, 2015) / Julia Pierpont
5. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Bloomsbury Circus/Bloomsbury USA, 2015) / Natasha Pulley
6. The Looking Glass House (Corvus, 2015) / Vanessa Tait
7. My Sunshine Away (Viking, 2015) / M.O. Walsh
8. In a Dark, Dark Wood (Harvill Secker, 2015) / Ruth Ware
9. The Small Backs of Children (Harper, 2105) / Lidia Yuknavitch

1. The Dog (Picador, 2015) / Jack Livings
2. New American Stories (Vintage, 2015) / Ben Marcus (ed.)
3. Daydreams of Angels (Quercus, 2015) / Heather O’Neill
4. Confidence (Biblioasis, 2015) / Russell Smith
5. Among The Wild Mulattos & Other Tales (Texas Review Press, 2015) / Tom Williams
6. The All Saints’ Day Lovers (trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean) (Riverbed Books, 2015) / Juan Gabriel Vásquez

1. Black Cat Bone (Graywolf Press, 2015) / John Burnside
2. Steep Tea (Carcanet Press, 2015) / Jee Leong Koh
3. Physical (Jonathan Cape, 2015) / Andrew McMillan
4. Happiness (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Jack Underwood 

1. Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015) / Ta-Nehisi Coates
2. The History of Modern France: From the Revolution to the Present Day (Simon & Schuster, 2015) / Jonathan Fenby
3. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (Penguin Press, 2015) / William Finnegan
4. The Seven Good Years (Granta Books, 2015) / Etgar Keret
5. The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War (Bodley Head, 2015) / Yasmin Khan
6. Harry Mount’s Odyssey: Ancient Greece in the Footsteps of Odysseus (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015) / Harry Mount
7. Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History (Bloomsbury, 2015) / Francis O’Gorman
8. Between Gods (Tinder Press, 2015) / Alison Pick
9. Going Up: To Cambridge and Beyond: A Writer’s Memoir (The Robson Press, 2015) / Frederic Raphael
10. The Last Act of Love (Picador, 2015) / Cathy Rentzenbrink

11. The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria (Rider, 2015) / Samar Yazbek

Monday, June 01, 2015

June 2015 Highlights

1. The Blue Between Sky and Water (Bloomsbury Circus, 2015) / Susan Abulhawa
2. Saint Mazie (Serpent’s Tail, 2015) / Jami Attenberg
3. June (trans. from the Dutch by David Colmer) (Harvill Secker, 2015) / Gerbrand Bakker
4. Summerlong (Ecco, 2015) / Dean Bakopoulos
5. Devotion (Oneworld Publications, 2015) / Ros Barber
6. The Truth According to Us (The Dial Press, 2015) / Annie Barrows
7. Invisible Threads (Quartet Books, 2015) / Lucy Beresford
8. In the Unlikely Event (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Judy Blume
9. The Westhampton Leisure Hour and Supper Club (2015) / Samantha Bruce-Benjamin
10. Nothing But Grass (Chatto & Windus, 2015) / Will Cohu

11. The Barefoot Queen (Black Swan, 2015) / Idelfonso Falcones
12. The Italian Wife (Sphere, 2015) / Kate Furnivall
13. Our Souls at Night (Picador, 2015) / Kent Haruf
14. The Stories We Tell (St Martin’s Press, 2015) / Patty Callahan Henry
15. The Loved Ones (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015) / Mary-Beth Hughes
16. Language Arts (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) / Stephanie Kallos
17. The Festival of Insignificance (trans. from the French by Linda Asher) (Harper/Faber & Faber, 2015) / Milan Kundera
18. The Mountain Story (Simon & Schuster, 2015) / Lori Lansens
19. The Last Summer of the Water Strider (Scribner, 2015) / Tim Lott
20. Tightrope (Little, Brown, 2015) / Simon Mawer

21. Tender (Picador, 2015) / Belinda McKeon
22. As Night Falls (Ballantine Books, 2015) / Jenny Milchman
23. Red Lightning (Counterpoint, 2015) / Laura Pritchett
24. The Year of the Runaways (Picador, 2015) / Sunjeev Sahota
25. Hearts of Stone (Headline, 2015) / Simon Scarrow
26. Into the Fire (Bantam Press, 2015) / Manda Scott
27. I Saw a Man (Faber & Faber/Doubleday, 2015) / Owen Sheers
28. The Pinch (Graywolf Press, 2015) / Steve Stern
29. Valley Fever (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Katherine Taylor
30. A Head Full of Ghosts (William Morrow, 2015) / Paul Tremblay

31. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (Atria Books, 2015) / Genevieve Valentine
32. The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty (Ecco, 2015) / Vendela Vida
33. The Sunken Cathedral (Scribner, 2015) / Kate Walbert
34. Death is a Welcome Guest (John Murray, 2015) / Louise Welsh
35. A Year of Marvellous Ways (Tinder Press, 2015) / Sarah Winman
36. Haints Stay (Two Dollar Radio, 2015) / Colin Winnette
37. The Cartel (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Don Winslow
38. The Household Spirit (Pantheon, 2015) / Tod Wodicka

First Novels
1. Weightless (St Martin’s Press, 2015) / Sarah Bannan
2. The Versions of Us (Widenfeld & Nicolson, 2015) / Laura Barnett
3. Nothing But Grass (Chatto & Windus, 2015) / Will Cohu
4. The Meursault Investigation (trans. from the French by John Cullen) (Other Press, 2015) / Kamel Daoud
5. The Sunlit Night (Bloomsbury Circus/Bloomsbury USA, 2015) / Rebecca Dinerstein
6. Muse (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Jonathan Galassi
7. I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) / Jesse Goolsby
8. In the Language of Miracles (Viking, 2015) / Rajia Hassib
9. The Way Back to Florence (Cheyne Walk, 2015) / Glenn Haybittle
10. Safekeeping (Fig Tree, 2015) / Jessamyn Hope

11. The Star Side of Bird Hill (Penguin Press, 2015) / Naomi Jackson
12. Death and Mr Pickwick (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Stephen Jarvis
13. Left of the Bang (Fourth Estate, 2015) / Claire Lowdon
14. The Unfortunates (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Sophie McManus
15. Butterfly Fish (Jacaranda Books, 2015) / Irenosen Okojie
16. The Hopeful (Ig Publishing, 2015) / Tracy O’Neill
17. Land Where I Flee (Quercus, 2015) / Prajwal Parajuly
18. A Fortunate Age (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015) / Joanna Rakoff
19. The House at the Edge of the World (Viking, 2015) / Julia Rochester
20. The Cherry Harvest (William Morrow, 2015) / Lucy Sanna

21. The Heart of the Order (Little A, 2015) / Theo Schell-Lambert
22. The Book of Speculation (St Martin’s Press, 2015) / Erika Swyler
23. The Lodger (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015) / Louisa Treger
24. In a Dark, Dark Wood (Scout Press/Gallery Books, 2015) / Ruth Wave

1. In the Country (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) / Mia Alvar
2. The Not-Dead and The Saved and Other Stories (Picador, 2015) / Kate Clanchy
3. In Another Country: Selected Stories (Biblioasis, 2015) / David Constantine
4. Jellyfish (Freight Books, 2015) / Janice Galloway
5. Love + Hate: Stories and Essays (Faber & Faber, 2015) / Hanif Kureishi
6. Music for Wartime (Viking, 2015) / Rebecca Makkai
7. The Hope of Floating Has Carried Us This Far (Coffee House Press, 2015) / Quintan Ana Wikswo

1. My Feelings (Graywolf Press, 2015) / Nick Flynn
2. Heaven (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Rowan Ricardo Phillips
3. Blood Work (CB Editions, 2015) / Matthew Siegel
4. Alive: New and Selected Poems (The New York Review of Books, 2015) / Elizabeth Willis
5. Benediction for a Black Swan (She Writes Press, 2015) / Mimi Zollars

1. The Prince of Minor Writers: The Selected Essays of Max Beerbohm (ed. Phillip Lopate) (NYRB Classics, 2015) / Max Beerbohm
2. Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) / Emily Bingham
3. Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World (Counterpoint, 2015) / James Boyce
4. The Street of Wonderful Possibilities: Whistler, Wilde & Sargent in Title Street (Frances Lincoln, 2015) / Devon Cox
5. Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition (Amberley Publishing/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) / Nisid Hajari
6. How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People (Allen Lane, 2015) / Sudhir Hazareesingh
7. Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War (William Collins, 2015) / Raghu Karnad
8. The Seven Good Years: A Memoir (Riverhead Books, 2015) / Etgar Keret
9. The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects (W.W. Norton, 2015) / Deborah Lutz
10. In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love (HarperWave, 2015) Joseph Luzzi

11. A Literary Tour of Italy (Alma Books, 2015) / Tim Parks
12. Nabokov in America: On the Road to Lolita (Bloomsbury USA, 2015) / Robert Roper
13. Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015) / Jonathan Sacks
14. The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self, and Home on the Far Side of the World (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015) / Tracy Slater
15. My Generation: Collected Nonfiction (ed. James L.W. West III) (Random House, 2015) / William Styron
16. Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (Harper, 2015) / Rosemary Sullivan

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Frustrations of a Book Editor in Malaysia

I HAVE YET TO FULLY RECOVER from producing a spate of horrendous books these couple of months. Yes, months of slow, mind-numbing torture. All right, let me be honest here, these are really bad books I am talking about. And I am not joking. Seriously. I am calling them “books” for lack of a better word. On second thought, “trash” would probably be a more appropriate word to use! (Regardless of what we think, any self-indulgent crap slap between two covers with an ISBN is technically a book.) Worst of all is being literally forced to produce books from manuscripts that have been rejected, but somehow clawed their way back from the depths of Hell to scare the bloody living daylights of Humankind. (These nightmarish books to end all nightmares are lethal enough to kill you instantly!) Publishing in Malaysia is like running on a treadmill; you just go nowhere even after much painstaking exertion. Here are some of my not-so-favourite things about being a book editor in Malaysia!

ONE, authors who are willing to (and actually do) pay others to write about them for them (in biographies or autobiographies) and praise them to high heaven. (In this age of self-absorption, self-aggrandisement and shameless self-promotion, there are indeed people who are so obsessed about seeing their names in print that they are willing to pay others to write their books for them!) Most enjoy praising themselves in their badly self-penned autobiographies!

TWO, authors who are ungrateful to their editors and waste their time when their so-called books fail to make a dent in the local (and global) marketplace. Somehow the possibility that their books are just not good enough never crosses their minds.

THREE, authors who plan their all-important book launches (and the food, of course!) without having completed writing their manuscripts or going through their final proofs. Book launches (at opulent five-star hotels and exclusive golf clubs, no less!) are planned even before the ink on the pages has dried—sometimes even before the book is written! (These are a dime a dozen.) It is so easy to get published in Malaysia; there is only one qualification you need: just write badly! Too many authors fall in this category. (I have edited some of the worst autobiographies not only on this planet but the whole galaxy.) And they are such a waste of precious life and prime retail space.

FOUR, psychotic authors who “hijack” the whole publishing process and behave like prima donnas and divas. (There are many of these prancing and strutting around like peacocks and peahens.)

FIVE, authors who think the publishing house belongs to their dearest daddies or granddaddies. Believe it or not, money does buy you everything nowadays—despite what they teach you in philosophy school!

SIX, authors who are under the delusion that they write better than V.S. Naipaul, Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand and R.K. Narayan all put together! (An indepth study definitely needs to be done to delve into this very strange Malaysian malaise.) This state of cockiness and overconfidence is frightening.

SEVEN, authors who are supposedly graduates of some of the finest universities on the planet, and yet are unable to string proper sentences together or organise their (unintelligible) prose into paragraphs. (Who was it who said that education makes one a well-rounded person? He obviously haven’t had the misfortune of meeting such a creature as a Malaysian. (“If you can’t do such simple things, you might as well flush your degree down the you-know-where,” a schoolmaster once told me in the late 1960s.)

EIGHT, authors who demand advances even though they have no manuscripts to show. (Go figure this one out!) For some reason or other, they also want to know their sales figures before sitting down to write the book they say they were put on this beautiful earth to write. And (this is a good one) they always want to know when their books will be available in the bookshops (when they have yet to write anything)! (Mama told me that this sort of behaviour is rooted in one or a combination of these: traumatic childhood experiences, psychological trauma or defective upbringing!)

NINE, authors who do not allow editors to edit their books (and who, for one reason or other, do not edit their own books themselves, usually due to pure laziness, pomposity or other human flaws which should make the Devil so proud of them). They also demand an assurance from the editor that as editor he will be personally responsible for reading every line or word of the atrocious manuscript to ensure that the book is perfect! They just love contradicting themselves, don’t they? (“Don’t you dare edit my work; you are solely responsible for every mistake that occurs in my book and make sure my author photograph is in colour; I want the graphs and tables to be in colour, too. What do you think? Ain’t it pretty?”) It’s no surprise to find more than one preface and/or five or six forewords in these books! This group of authors also loves launching their masterpieces and making a public spectacle of themselves! (On the other hand, there are authors who keep amending their work, even after their books have been on bookstore shelves for months!) Or how about this evergreen: “All my friends and relatives have read my manuscript and they all think it’s perfect; there’s no need for more editing to be done.” Or this chestnut: “Why so many rounds of editing-huh?” Or this: “I need the comma there. I dont feel comfortable without it.”

TEN, most potential authors just want to get published; it doesn’t really matter whether their writing is good enough. But it does matter in more ways than one as we all very well know.

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, authors who cry and wail over the phone and who won’t take no for an answer because they have already invested so little time on the manuscript. (Somehow, they don’t seem to understand why I have rejected their yet-to be-written manuscripts. “I’ll only write it if you want it,” they lament!)

Ironically, authors who write well tend to give editors less problems than those who can’t write!

Rare though they are, I have had the privilege of working with authors (not many) who have become great friends over the years. Editing can be a very traumatic experience (for the editor), but when both writer and editor work well together, the end product is something to behold. I always look forward to working with writers who believe in and are not afraid of rewriting and revising their work; such writers are a joy to work with because they are really passionate about their work and are not afraid of pushing themselves beyond the boundaries.

Do you belong to any or a combination of these stereotypes? I hope not, because these are not exactly role models worth aspiring to!