The top 10 novels of desert war

Guardian Books - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 12:43
From TE Lawrence to Michael Ondaatje, Robert Allison picks the best fiction about an extreme environment which lends itself to the highest drama

The desert has always been fertile ground for novelists. Not only in the otherworldliness of the landscape but also for its capacity to act as an existential sounding board for characters; such vast expanses of emptiness naturally encouraging introspection and reflection.

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JK Rowling to write Quidditch match reports for Harry Potter fansite

Telegraph - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 12:30
The Harry Potter author will bring back old characters for a series of Quidditch match reports on the Pottermore fan website

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The Empire of Necessity: The Untold History of a Slave Rebellion in the Age of Liberty

Guardian Books - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 12:00
Michael Moorcock on a tale of revolt on board a slave ship that explores the interdependency of liberty and slavery in the US

On 20 February 1805 in the remote bay of an uninhabited island off the Chilean coast, Captain Amasa Delano from Massachusetts, reduced to seal-hunting for a bad living, anchored his ship the Perseverance to take on fresh supplies of water and fish. Suddenly another ship, the Tryal, flying the Spanish flag, lumbered out of the morning mist. She was in desperate condition, her rigging ragged, boats missing, her complement reduced to a handful of half-starved sailors and with a cargo of unchained west African slaves.

When Delano boarded the Tryal he found her half-mad captain, Benito Cerreño, supported on the arms of his Muslim body-slaves Babo and Mori. The Spaniard sobbed out a fragmented story of losing hands, boats, passengers and cargo to sickness and the elements. He appealed to the good-hearted American for help. Astonished by the lack of discipline aboard, which he attributed to Cerreño's poor health and seamanship, Delano swiftly sent his longboat back to the Perseverance for supplies. An abolitionist, Delano was nonetheless impressed by the apparent devotion of the two slaves, father and son, who refused to be separated for a moment from their master.

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15 best North American novels of all time

Telegraph - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 11:00
List: Fear and Loathing, The Grapes of Wrath, Moby Dick: are these the best American novels?

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Female characters admired by men readers' stories

Guardian Books - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 09:52

We joined a campaign against targeting children's books by gender and asked the boys and men in our audience to show and tell what female characters they liked. Here is a selection of your contributions

To show our support for a campaign to stop targeting books at girls or boys, Guardian Books asked our male readers about female characters they liked or admired, and we also put out a request for parents to let us know about girls their boys were enjoying reading about. The responses were varied, numerous and encouraging. Among the adjectives used to describe these characters were: imaginative, inspiring, brave, resourceful, funny, awesome, smart, smarmy, eccentric, independent, cunning, wild-spirited, fiery, genius, strong, inquisitive, driven, logical, thorough, obsessive, nerdy, intelligent, fearless, clever, rebel and curious.

If you want to contribute your own, feel free to add your entry to the GuardianWitness assignment or leave a comment in the thread below.

This is my son, Ben, with Harriet the Spy. He's only half way through so far but says "it's interesting and mysterious and I like any books that have adventure". He says "Boys can read books about anyone and I wouldn't like to read books that only had boys in". He also loves the Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence which have the central female characters of Flavia and Nubia, as well as Jonathan and Lupus.

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11 April 2014, 12:55

Dan (11yo) picked Tracy as his top female character. Her feistiness and imagination inspire him.

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15 April 2014, 8:07

Owen has adored the My Naughty Little Sister stories since before he could read them himself. And although he's moved on to enjoy "boy" books like Horrid Henry and Beast Quest, there's nothing like a few tales of that naughty little girl to provide an escape for an active 7-year old boy!

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11 April 2014, 11:36

I read this book in my early teens and loved Scout, an adventurous girl with an active imagination. It wasn't until about half way through the book I realised she was a girl!

I am one of the co-creators of Cozy Classics, a series of board books for kids that re-tell beloved classics in 12 words and 12 needle-felted illustrations. Because of the series, my young son, Felix, is already well-versed in the exploits of literary heroines such as Lizzy Bennet, Jane Eyre, Emma Woodhouse, Natasha Rostova and others.

As for me, when I grew up I was a big fan of Harriet the Spy.

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15 April 2014, 17:12

As a child in primary school I loved Roald Dahl. I especially loved Matilda and read it maybe about 3 or 4 times back to back. I felt I could relate to her, not because I had a horrible family like hers (my family are lovely), but because of her feeling of isolation and she was so curious about the outside world and a dreamer. I was like that at school and always told off for 'day-dreaming' which would probably be put down to suffering from depression due to bullying. If children are given encouragement then they feel better about themselves and find happiness in their own interests rather than being forced to fit into a rigid structure of learning. [...] After feeling like I had no brains at school, I have now gone on to do a degree in Computing, wrote my first computer program two years ago, and I'm learning Swedish. I always think of Matilda when I feel that I'm not clever enough... and Roald ;)

When I was a kid, I was absolutely inspired by Roald Dahl's Matilda.

I wanted to be as smart and brilliant as she was. It never really occurred to me when I read it that it was a girl - of course I knew it was a girl, it just wasn't a thing I focused on. She was just an awesome human being.

Great book in fact '' Epic''

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10 April 2014, 10:55

My 7 year old son really likes the girl character Nina in the book Nina and the Kung Fu Adventure. She's really smart and adventurous and he's always saying how he wishes she were his friend so that he could go on adventures with her!

Thóra Gudmundsdóttir

The Icelander Thóra Gudmundsdóttir (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir), in the series of books by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Brilliant character. Love the tangle in her domestic life, good humour, and she is a fighter - always comes out on top.

Too many to choose from but Dido Twite, the heroine of Joan Aitken's endlessly inventive James III series is brave, resourceful and funny and not even her family can hold her back :)

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10 April 2014, 19:31

Too many to choose from but I'll start with an obvious one: Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium trilogy. She's enigmatic, brilliant, tough, stoic and, deep down, very caring. How could one not root for her?

Rosie is a very fun character from The Rosie Project, which I've just read. As with Lisbeth, the exterior is at odds with the interior. And both are super-smart.

Spoiler Alert!!!! This was my favourite book as an 11 year old. Tyke Tiler inspired me so much that I started writing my own version (though I only got halfway through and the manuscript didn't survive to the best of my knowledge). In fact it shaped my adult reading to a great extent: I love to read about anyone who disregards what they're brought up to believe they should do, and I especially love to read stories about girls who are brave enough to

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10 April 2014, 10:23

I read Edith Nesbit's Railway Children to my then 8 y.o. twins and again found that Bobbie (Roberta) was human, caring and resilient. My son (as well as my daughter) responded positively to her. She was also resourceful and a very good role model for respecting others. She is also not perfect and shallow like many characters. She builds friendships with the "old Gentleman" and gains his respect. She uses this respect to help her clear her father and bring home.

Over a century old the story still resonated with my children and Bobbie was relevant to a modern 8 year old boy.

Offred is the main character and the novel is written from her point of view. Although her circumstances are dire due to the theocratic state in which she lives, she manages to remain strong and resilient.

Behold the titular titian (& sometimes green) haired genius Anne (with an 'E') Shirley and her tragical and ultimately royally beautiful life, puffed sleeves and all. Too good for the likes of Gilbert Blythe IMHO.

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11 April 2014, 17:47

This is Serbian translation of Swedish chapter book "Hedvig and Max-Olov" by Frida Nilsson. Hedvig is just 7 and she wanted a horse to impress her friends, but her father bought her a donkey instead, and it was horrible for her to handle this, until she made this freaky animal a good friend of her. And she dared to confront a bully in her class who mocked her for this donkey. And not only she is brave, but also perfectly normal: as each healthy village child does, she also collects and burries dead animals she finds around, be it a dead pet or a snake overrun by truck.

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15 April 2014, 13:19

This is a beautiful, beautiful book by Tove Jansson - a master of simple elegant storytelling. Sophia and Grandmother's relationship couldn't fail to inspire any dreamer.

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15 April 2014, 13:56

The indomitable, competent and magnanimous captain of the Amazon, what boy could fail to be inspired by Nancy Blackett in the Swallows and Amazons series. She was easily the equal of John Walker, captain of the Swallow! She and sister/first mate Peggy were a swashbuckling contrast to the rather more conventional walkers.

Everyone should pick up Y for an epic adventure, exciting action and the awesomeness that is Dr Alison Mann. She's smart, smarmy, sexy and probably a few more 's' words too. She might just be able to save the human race as we know it and oh my good golly gosh, it's a comic book!

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10 April 2014, 21:36

I love the character Lyra Belacqua in the series 'His Dark Materials' by Philip Pullman. She doesn't fit any particular 'box' and is a wonderfully complex and well-developed character. She's adventurous, brave but also not afraid to be afraid, if that makes sense. There are many atypical female characters in the series but Lyra is the one that I find the most special. Not only that, the first word of the first book and the last word of the last book is 'Lyra'. Which you think Pullman must have done intentionally, and that's pretty cool.

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9 April 2014, 14:17

@GuardianBooks @GuardianWitness Better still, heres my flatmate. Lyra broke his heart 10 years ago. He's still not ok

Our son loved the Pippi Longstocking stories as a child, superhuman, strong, independent and making up her own rules, what child boy or girl could not admire her?

@GuardianBooks @GuardianWitness greetings from & Dagny

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A Conversation about Happiness by Mikey Cuddihy

Telegraph - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 09:00
Helen Brown admires a nuanced memoir about coming of age in an experimental education

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Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus review Original and powerful short stories

Guardian Books - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 09:00
Marcus's collection explores profound themes of guilt and sexuality in a unique experimental style

Ben Marcus is one of the most stunningly original and profoundly unsettling writers of his generation. His subtle kinks of syntax, his daring choices of individual words and combinations of them, which seem a quarter tone out but somehow wholly right, the reiterated concerns a pervading sense of guilt, the surrealism of sexuality, dangerous but necessary generational relationships do not make for easy reading. That is not to say that he is a difficult writer; merely that he deals with strong emotional material in a unique and experimental style. Reading Marcus is liable to induce a kind of literary vertigo. You can't swallow the story whole and move on to the next: the book needs to be set aside between pieces, for the feelings to clarify and the mind to gain some traction on what you have experienced.

The first four stories are, in the broadest terms, examples of realism. "What Have You Done" describes the uneasy reunion of Paul with his family in Cleveland. Through flashes of sarcasm and unexpected weeping Paul at first maintains, to his intrusive sister, that his job is to "cash Dad's checks and spend the money on child sex labourers down at the shipyard" a more banal truth emerges. Only on the last page does the reason for the prickly exchanges and air of suppressed menace become clear. The next pieces deal with a mildly lecherous creative writing lecturer on a cruise, a stressed parent dealing with childcare issues and divorce, and a sick American in search of treatments both physical and amatory. But elements of Marcus's distinctive style edge in, almost as if the reader were being given an introduction to how to read his work under the guise of Franzen-eque issues and emotional alienation. In "Rollingwood", "It's still dark when the weeping erupts, so Mather knows it is early The boy is wedged under the machine when Mather goes in. The machine has run dry again, streaks of pink fluid smeared inside the hose, the tank in the crib issuing an exhausted wheeze." "On Not Growing Up" sees a shift into George Saunders-style satire, a question-andanswer interview beginning: "How long have you been a child?" "Seventy-one years." Then it gets even weirder.

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The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD, and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought review

Guardian Books - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 07:30
David Adam's punchy explanation of the mental torment of OCD is well-intentioned, but lacks subtlety

An Ethiopian schoolgirl called Bira, David Adam begins his story, once ate a wall of her house. "She didn't want to, but she found that to eat the wall was the only way to stop her thinking about it By the time she was 17 years old she had eaten eight square metres of the wall more than half a tonne of mud bricks." She had parasites, constipation, a lot of pain and sores in her throat from all the swallowing. "In tears, she walked to her local hospital," where she found one of her country's "eight psychiatrists for a nation of 70 million people", and asked for help.

You can see why a writer would want to start his book with such a story. Girl eats house, it's a brilliant image, as grabbing as Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. On the other hand, it raises a lot of questions. When did this happen, what was the diagnosis and treatment? How is Bira doing now? Is there anything especially Ethiopian about mud-eating, or to do with being a girl, or a teenager? Was it something smaller and more particular about Bira?

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Charlie Chaplin: London's greatest son

Telegraph - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 07:00
As Charlie Chaplin turns 125, Peter Ackroyd takes Horatia Harrod on a tour of Chaplin's London

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Altered Pasts by Richard J Evans, review

Telegraph - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 07:00
Is the study of counterfactual history anything more than a parlour game, asks John Gallagher

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JK Rowling writes Quidditch match reports for Pottermore

Guardian Books - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 07:00
The Harry Potter author, in the voice of Ginny Weasley, Harry's wife, has been reporting on the 2014 Quidditch World Cup in the Patagonian desert

Seven years after JK Rowling's fans tore themselves reluctantly away from the end of the last novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the author has provided a fresh insight into life as an adult for Harry's wife, Ginny Weasley.

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NSFW: David Cronenberg’s new book trailer

Quill & Quire Blog - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 22:10

It’s rare (if ever) that Q&Q posts a link considered not safe for work, but we’ll make an exception for David Cronenberg.

A trailer for the filmmaker’s debut novel, Consumed, has appeared on the website of his publisher Hamish Hamilton.

Very little else has been revealed about the novel, except that it will be released Sept. 30, the cover was designed by Chip Kidd, and Viggo Mortensen praised its “originality, wit, preoccupation with technology, and uncompromising carnality.”

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Paul Wells wins $10,000 J.W. Dafoe Book Prize

Quill & Quire Blog - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 22:08

Two weeks after receiving the Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing, Maclean’s politics editor Paul Wells has won the 2014 J.W. Dafoe Book Prize for The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006­– (Random House Canada).

In a press release, the jury praised Wells for his “lively, witty and perceptive insider, political portrait of Stephen Harper as a calculating, incremental politician.”

Wells was selected for the $10,000 prize from a shortlist of five titles, narrowed down from 40 submissions. The other nominees were:

  • P. Whitney Lackenbauer, The Canadian Rangers: A Living History (University of British Columbia Press)
  • David O’Keefe, One Day in August: The Untold Story Behind Canada’s Tragedy at Dieppe (Knopf Canada)
  • John L. Riley, The Once and Future Great Lakes Country: An Ecological History (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

The prize is awarded annually to “the best book on Canada, Canadians, and/or Canada’s place in the world published in the previous calendar year.” It honours Canadian newspaper editor John Wesley Dafoe, who worked for the Manitoba Free Press from 1901 to 1944.

Wells will be presented with the award in Winnipeg on May 27.

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Sex Workers Find AirBnB Convenient and Inexpensive

eBookNewser - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 20:44

AirBnB rental units are being used by sex workers, who cite the service as inexpensive, convenient, and lacking in surveillance when compared to typical hotels. This may very well surprise no one, but it’s particularly hard to swallow for AirBnB hosts who are not aware of the brothel-like conditions.

The story in the New York Post came after Air Teman, an AirBnB host who complained about coming home to police shutting down a sex party for “Big Beautiful Women.” Teman said, “There were all sorts of people walking out of my apartment and people coming in from the back yard. It was a huge mess.” One party-goer even shared the event on Twitter as a “XXX FREAK FEST.” continued…

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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Irony: Google Glass Developer Creates App That Maps Security Cameras

eBookNewser - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 19:38

Google Glass developer, Sander Veenhof, has created, what some must see as a most ironic situational irony: an app for Google Glass wearers to see security cameras in their surroundings. The app culls open data about security cameras and maps the information into the user’s vision, using 3D projections.

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Game of Thrones: 21 characters we love to hate

Telegraph - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 19:05
Game of Thrones is full of murderous scumbags. James Lachno counts down the best baddies

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You Can Drive Land Rover’s Concept Car Remotely With an iPhone

eBookNewser - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 18:50

Land Rover’s new concept sports utility vehicle looks it came from the latest James Bond movie – complete with remote iPhone driving features as well as gesture-controlled doors. Add to all of that laser-positioning sensors, a special, transparent bonnet that lets drivers see the ground below, and daylight headlamps with object tracking and beam-dipping for night-time rocky, off-road terrain:


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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Biographer Gregory White Smith dies, Gone Girl trailer offers tip line for fans, and more

Quill & Quire Blog - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 17:23
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