Thursday, 30 July 2009


Many thanks to Val Hennessy at the Daily Mail for a nice review of Vercors' You Shall Know them. Val says:

From the dramatic beginning you will be mesmerised by this weird, though-provoking novel

and concludes that the book is

a good, gripping read.

Vercors' book is an examination of the dividing line between humans and other animals, and doesn't shirk from profound philosophical investigation into the nature of humanity. The plot involves a radical and daring experiment in which a journalist artificially inseminates a female of the 'tropi' species and then deliberately kills the resulting infant, in order to provoke a trial which examines the nature of the tropi, of humanity and of his crime.

With an ever growing consciousness around the world about how we treat other species, with Spain granting apes 'human' rights, and groups in other countries agitating for the same, there was never a more timely novel.


Tuesday, 28 July 2009


While I was on holiday The Independent published a fascinating article on book cover design, under the cheeky heading Covered in Glory. The feature, by Jonathan Gibbs, describes the recent years as "a golden age" for book design, and sets this observation in the context of the perceived threat to the physical book (and the physical book cover) represented by the cyber-gizmos such as the Kindle, which are, many believe, poised Dalek-like on the brink of obliterating print.

Jonathan was kind enough to mention the Capuchin Classics as one of four reprint houses whose output exemplifies good book design. Jonathan says:

Capuchin Classics, by contrast, hark back to the classic Penguin "grid format", with bands of signature mint-green and original illustrations by Angela Landels. For Capuchin's editor-in-chief, Emma Howard, this aspect of the cover design was crucial. "We thought that using line drawings would be a refreshing antidote to the ghastly photographic covers that you see everywhere,".

The article is illustrated with many wonderful examples of the book cover art, including our own The Green Hat. This gem of a novel has become our best-selling title, and we are very excited by the forthcoming (January) publication of the same author's These Charming People.


Monday, 27 July 2009


Thanks to Sophia Martelli in yesterday's Observer for a lovely review of Incandescence, which appeared in the paper's splendid Classics Corner spot.

Sophia says :
"Long out of print, Incandescence fits perfectly into Capuchin Classics' mission to "revive great works of fiction that have been unjustly forgotten or neglected". Championed by William Boyd, writer of the book's foreword, it is a gritty, glittering star in the publisher's line-up."
Sophie goes on to praise the novel's "hard-boiled urban poetry" and compares Nova's prose style to DeLilo, Kerouac, Chandler and Amis.

This is very welcome praise for a grossly undersung literary figure.


Friday, 24 July 2009

SHOP TALK continued yet again

Concluding the round up of recently acquired Capuchin Classics stockists, we have:

Sweetens in Bolton (pictured); The New Bookshop in Cockermouth and E Hopper & Co Ltd. in Malton.

A good bookshop, even in this age of rapidly encroaching digitisation, can be a vital part of its community and help to shape the identity of its location. My personal favourite is Daunt in Marylebone High Street, London, which combines being set in a beautiful building in an interesting location with intelligently selected books which are enticingly displayed and sold by personable and knowledgeable staff. The Daunt model has now been rolled out to four other sites in London.

I'd be fascinated to hear about your own choices.


Tuesday, 21 July 2009

SHOP TALK continued

I'm pleased to announce that a further number of bookshops has joined the list of those who stock the Capuchin Classics. It's been particularly interesting to learn about those outlets lying outside my natural Home Counties territory.

Corbett's Bookshops have branches in Princes Risborough, Bucks. and West Byfleet, Surrey (ok, we're starting closer to home, be patient).

Knaresborough Bookshop has since 1969 been offering a wonderful range of local books combined with an impressively large selection of carefully selected titles across the genres.

Nantwich Bookshop (illustrated above) is housed in a beautiful half-timbered building, where it graces this delightful Cheshire town. Apologies for lapsing into tourist office speak there.

Bookstack in Eastbourne sounds like another very intelligently-run bookshop, and was featured a s such in the Guardian's feature on our best independent bookshops.

I'll continue this round-up in the next blog.

Happy bookshop hunting.


Friday, 17 July 2009


It is with no apology whatsoever that I post another blog on the subject of holiday reading. It was with a sense of quiet approval that my wife and I noticed, on arriving at the Tuscan villa (a short distance from Pian di Sco, pictured) which was to be our home for a week, that our fellow guests had already created a communal literature facility by placing piles of books they had brought with them on a table under one of the loggias (or loggie, for our Italian readers). This collection embraced a wide range of styles and genres, from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to Confessions of a Shopaholic. As usual, I packed far more books than necessary, but they did betray a certain enigmatic eclecticness among the general collection, including as they did a facsimile reprint of a nineteenth-century treatise on the history of archery, The Book of Archery, and Labyrinths by Borges.

We were also intrigued to discover that there was a huge collection of English language books throughout the villa (although not entirely surprised, given that it's owned by an ex-pat). This included several books by Robert B. Parker, which pleased one member of our party no end, as she had brought one of his novels with her and was eager for more. Witnessing the enthusiasm and passion with which people describe the Crime genre, I often wish I could enjoy this type of writing, but every time I try again I'm diasapointed and irritated. This is probably a fault in me.

I did manage to finish Capuchin Classics' own Shirley's Guild and a fascinating biography of my cultural hero, Leonard Cohen, called Various Positions.

Tuscany itself was fabulous, very hot and full of Dante.


Wednesday, 1 July 2009


The current spot of atmospheric warmness might have led me to contemplate those great passages of poetry and prose which have described relentless, oppressive, unstinting, stultifying (yes, the Central line is getting to me) heat . Instead, thanks to the mental giddiness engendered by both the soaring temperature and my imminent holiday (we're escaping to chilly Tuscany), I thought you might enjoy a list of literary landmarks which so nearly describe our current weather.

You might like to start with the feminist standard - Fear of Frying, before leaping into the urban present with Rainspotting and then, pining for the quieter bucolicism of the English countryside, reach for Bakenfield. Why not wash that down with the somewhat frothier narrative, Thirst among Equals, leading naturally enough to that sad state of affairs, The Last Bottle. Or you may prefer a traditional, cosy detective series, such as Sweaty Wainthropp Investigates*.

Finally, what better epilogue to the whole experience than to return to - following the inevitable hosepipe legislation - Graham Swift's mysterious, elegaic Waterbanned.

The blog is now packing its bags and practising its appalling Italian, and will return on Monday July 13'th, or thereabouts.


*Fair enough, it's a TV series based on a novel, but who could resist?