Penguin General hosted its authors at the Library Club on St Martins Lane last night (14th September), who personally introduced their books for Spring 2017 in a series of five-minute readings.
Authors included double Olympic and world champion in flyweight boxing Nicola Adams, whose autobiography with Viking is set to be published in April, in conversation with her editor Emily Robertson; and Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, who read from her new book, Daughters of Eve, publishing 2nd February, set over the course of one evening in Istanbul.
Boxer Nicola Adams and her editor Emily Robertson
Adams, who has just come home from Rio, said of her experience: "It taught me in the end I was really determined and you can take on any challenge, as long as you're focused and dedicated you can achieve anything." For more details, people will have to buy the book, Adams teased.
Shafak's novel is "a sweeping tale of faith and friendship, tradition and modernity, love and an unexpected betrayal" that begins with the theft of a Turkish housewife's handbag, containing a photograph, on a street in Istanbul. While she is chasing the bag, seeing the photograph prompts her to go back in time to Oxford University, where as a student she took a course about God from a charismatic teacher and fell in love. Shafak (right) said sometimes "subjects choose us".
"The story has been accumulating inside me for quite some time now and I tried to resist it," she said.
Claire Fuller, 2015's winner of the Desmond Elliott prize and recent winner of the Royal Academy & Pin Drop Short Story Award, also took the stage to read from her forthcoming novel, Swimming Lessons, publishing on 26th January; and Yaa Gyasi read from her forthcoming debut novel, Homegoing, out on 5th January, about two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver.
In non fiction, Julia Samuel, a grief therapist of 25 years and co-founder of Child Bereavement UK, talked about her new book Grief Works, out 2nd March. It aims to break taboos around the way we talk about death, featuring 15 stories of different people's experience of loss that reveal how grief is at once "universal in what they feel and entirely unique".
Claire Fuller and Julia Samuel
"I really hope this books helps to be part of a momentum that breaks that taboo," said Samuel. She added: "You may be thinking oh my god I can't face a depressing book about death but the feedback I've got is the reverse. They find it uplifting and see themselves in the story."
Tackling another difficult topic, feminist Nimko Ali talked about female genital mutilation (FGM), a topic she tackles head on in her new book Rude, also slated for publication on 2nd March.
British journalist, jungle explorer and TV presenter Will Millard also told the story behind his book, The Old Man and the Sand Eel, how he let the perfect catch slip through his fingers and his journey, a celebration of biodiversity across the British Isles, that ensued. Last year he lived alongside aboriginal whale harpooners for BBC Two series "Hunters of the South Sea".
The evening was concluded with a performance from violinist Min Kym (left), a child prodigy and youngest ever student of the Purcell School of Music, whose memoir, Gone is about what happened to her when her "soul mate" violin was stolen and how she thought she might never play again. Viking is publishing Gone on 6th April. Her publisher Joel Rickett called it "a luminous spellbinding book about love and loss" for which you don't need to know a thing about music.