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Books

Book review: There There, by Tommy Orange

I did not think I would ever write a review that tried to summarise and praise a book which is about Native American history, the histories and tragedies of those peoples, drones and 3D-printing, steady persistence and reckless criminality, all centred around a powwow in Oakland.

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Sandra Ireland

Book review: Bone Deep, by Sandra Ireland

On the back cover of Sandra Ireland’s second novel is the question: “What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person?” The answer after reading Bone Deep is: a lot more than you could ever have imagined. The consequences are felt through the pages of this book like ripples after a stone is thrown into the still, deep waters of the mill pond near the homes of our central characters.

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The Rise and Fall of the British Nation

Book review: The Rise And Fall Of The British Nation, by David Edgerton

I am, by nature, amenable to controversy, to books that subvert presumptions and always in favour of engaged debate. So the introduction to David Edgerton’s book whetted my appetite. He makes a number of propositions which I wanted to know more about. If there were a one sentence summary of this book it would be “Danny Boyle got it all wrong at the Olympics Opening Ceremony”.

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So Much Life Left Over

Book review: So Much Life Left Over, by Louis De Bernières

The Guardian once reported that Louis De Bernières had made so much money from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin that he would have no need ever to work again. Happily, need or not, he continues to write, and So Much Life Left Over is a richly enjoyable, agreeably old-fashioned novel. It begins in Ceylon, where Daniel Pitt, a First World War flying ace, is managing a tea estate, and it covers the inter-war years, mostly in England, to reach a fairly bleak conclusion early in the Hitler War.

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It Takes One To Know One

Book review: It Takes One To Know One, by Isla Dewar

I always imagine that the authors of mystery novels must rue the invention of mobile phones. A quick call to ask a question, a text to avoid a misunderstanding or even research done on the hoof by Googling a fact must be the enemy of trying to keep suspense going.

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Liam McIlvanney PIC: Sharron Bennett/REX/Shutterstock

Book review: The Quaker, by Liam McIlvanney

Most Scottish readers will immediately identify the inspiration behind Liam McIlvanney’s new novel. In Glasgow, in 1969, women are being killed by a man with a penchant for Biblical quotation and, it seems, an obsession with menstruation. But instead of being a retread of the ghastly and unsolved Bible John case, the book also morphs into a far more elaborate study of Glasgow in that period. In many ways its closest cousin would be Denise Mina’s The Long Drop, which similarly took real crimes and looked at hidden causes – indeed serial killer Peter Manuel, the subject of that novel, appears offstage during McIlvanney’s novel.

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Helen Dunmore

Book review: Girl, Balancing & Other Stories, by Helen Dunmore

Helen Dunmore died a year ago, too young at 64, and at the height of her powers as a writer; her last novel Birdcage Walk was ambitious in conception, admirable in execution, disturbing and highly enjoyable. She was first known as a poet and was 40 when her first novel for adults was written. She had always written short stories, but published only one collection. When she knew she was dying, she suggested to her son Patrick that there might be enough unpublished or uncollected short stories to make a book. There were, and it’s a very good book too, which will be welcomed and enjoyed by her readers, for, as her son says: “The collection is Dunmore work through and through… characterised by a preoccupying interest in the individuals who otherwise may not be noted by the hands that write our shared history.”

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Adam Smith (1723 - 1790). Original Artwork: Drawing by J Jacks and engraved by C Picart from a model by Tassie. PIC: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Book review: Adam Smith: What He Thought, and Why it Matters, by Jesse Norman

“The consent on which modern commercial society relies, consent given freely by people who believe it will enable them to prosper, is starting to break down. The so-called developed countries do not have answers to globalisation, because they have not thought beyond the boundaries of ideology and self-interest. We have had, not the end of history, but the end of ideas.”

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JK Rowling trolls Donald Trump’s ‘writing skills’ over tweet typo

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has mocked US President Donald Trump on Twitter, pointing out a typo in a tweet he posted boasting about his writing ability.

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Philip Pullman PIC: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

The best books for teens this summer

If you thought The Little Mermaid was a lovely fairy tale with singing crabs and happy endings, think again. Louise O’Neill’s searing retelling of the original tale in The Surface Breaks (Scholastic, £12.99) could not be further from Disney’s sanitised version if it tried. The book crackles with darkness and discomfort and shines a harsh light on the troubling misogyny tied up in so many fairy stories.

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An illustration from Go Wild on the River

The best kids books for summer

Emma Dunn and Sarah Mallon look at what’s on offer for younger readers this summer, from fairy tales to adventure handbooks

0-5 years

Julian wants to be a mermaid but what will his Nana think? With love and acceptance bursting from its pages, Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love (Walker, £11.99) is a celebration of being yourself. Mesmerised by the mermaids from the Coney Island Parade, Julian floats along, curious about what it would be like to be one of them. Sparse text and sublime illustrations give the book a magical feel as real life shifts in and out of Julian’s imagination. This stunning book exudes warmth and joy.

Bright and contemporary, Xavier Deneux’s Jungle Animals (Abrams & Chronicle, £7.99) is a sturdy board book with all sorts of creatures to discover. With simple raised textures this is a lovely book to share, or for little ones to explore on their own.

In Hansel & Gretel (Two Hoots £11.99), Bethan Woollvin draws her characters in bold lines with mischievous expressions. When Hansel and Gretel chew holes in the good witch’s gingerbread house and wreak havoc with her spells, can she remain a good witch for long? A fantastic cautionary tale with an unexpected twist – children will delight in this playful retelling of the classic fairy tale, which is full of Woolvin’s characteristic dark humour and smart writing.

The Day War Came by Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb (Walker, £10) is a book for anyone who has ever felt lost and alone. For one little girl, war has taken everything and she doesn’t know how to get it back. But when she is turned away from a school because there isn’t a chair for her to sit on, a little boy makes her feel welcome and gives her hope. Cobb’s pencil sketches are expressive and heartfelt, deftly conveying the fury of war and the emotions that go with it. War is a difficult topic to talk about but Davies’ story makes it accessible and relatable. (ED)

6-9 years

Explore the playful side of poetry with your child in Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me (Tiny Owl, £9.99). When Jace meets his new puppy, they realise that they both love to speak in poems, creating a lovely collection of rhymes, haikus and raps as they experiment with language together. Eloise Greenfield’s lively text and Ehsan Abdollahi’s vibrant, collage-style illustrations combine in a celebration of art and words which is perfect for sharing aloud.

When Thomas offers to help his grandad with the garden, the last thing he expects to find is a dragon fruit tree, with tiny dragons hatching from the fruit! Flicker the dragon is definitely more exciting than an ordinary pet, but his fire-breathing habits make him a bit of a handful, and quite difficult to keep secret... This ingenious premise is brought to life with great skill and humour by author Andy Shepherd and illustrator Sara Ogilvie in The Boy Who Grew Dragons (Piccadilly, £5.99).

Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland, but his legacy can be seen in libraries across the world. His inspiring story has now been adapted to share with young readers in The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie (Pikku, £8.99). Author Andrew Larsen and illustrator Katty Maurey pay tribute to this great philanthropist, following him from his difficult childhood, through his years of hard work to the realisation of his dream to bring books to everyone. A worthwhile read celebrating perseverance and the transformative power of libraries.

Go Wild on the River: An Adventure Handbook (Nosy Crow, £7.99) is the only passport you will need for a summer full of adventures in the outdoors. Author and illustrator team Goldie Hawk and Rachael Saunders have produced a fun and informative guide to the many things you can see and do in and around water; including how to spot and learn about wildlife, tips for skimming stones and building rafts and much more. This book will turn an ordinary trip to your local park into an intrepid excursion. (SM)

9-12 years

Ruby’s heart belongs in Australia, the place where she can remember her mother most clearly, so when her dad announces that they are moving to the mountains in India she is terrified. At first her new home seems as scary as she imagined, but when she finds that the local wildlife is under threat from poachers, she begins to see things differently. In When the Mountains Roared (Orion, £6.99), Jess Butterworth’s love for the landscape and the animals she describes shines through, creating an immersive world for Ruby and the reader to explore and fall in love with.

Michael Morpurgo and Barroux have teamed up for the first time to share a very personal story about two brothers torn apart by World War Two. In Mouth of the Wolf (Egmont, £12.99) is based on the lives of Michael’s uncles Francis and Pieter who chose very different paths when faced with the harsh realities of war. By turns thrilling, moving and thought-provoking, this is a stunning collaboration pitched perfectly to enable young readers to find out about what the war meant in the context of love, family and sacrifice.

Hanna Konola’s Art Masterclass with Vincent Van Gogh (Wide Eyed Editions, £9.99) is an excellent activity book for any budding artist. Information about Van Gogh’s life and style is complemented by a step-by-step journey through his various techniques, drawing from some of his most famous works. This book provides space to experiment with colour, gives tips on using perspective and much more, leading up to the creation of your own masterpiece. A beautifully produced book to teach, inspire and excite artists of the future.

The classic boarding school story collides with a heavy dose of mystery, crime and suspicious activity in The Book Case: An Emily Lime Mystery (David Fickling, £10.99). New girl Daphne quickly realises that St Rita’s School for Spirited Girls isn’t like other schools, but could there be something more sinister going on? Watch out for the secret passageways and red herrings as you make your way through this daring tale of mischief from Dave Shelton – and make sure you bring your torch for the midnight feast! (SM)

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The new Folio Society edition of The South Polar Times

Dramatic increase in readership forecast for South Polar Times

It is a testament to our continuing fascination with the polar explorers of the early 20th century that so much of the literature they produced is still in print. Walk into your local bookshop – if you’re lucky enough to still have such a thing – and if you can’t actually find a copy of Scott’s journals or Shackleton’s South or Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World displayed on the shelves, you should have little difficulty ordering one. Chances are your only real problem will be deciding which of the various different editions to buy.

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Arthur Conan Doyle PIC: Getty Images

Book review: Conan Doyle for the Defence, by Margalit Fox

Margalit Fox, recently retired from her position as chief obituary writer for the New York Times, has addressed one of the most shameful miscarriages of justice in Scottish legal history – the conviction of Oscar Slater for the murder of Marion Gilchrist in 1908 – and the part played by Arthur Conan Doyle in Slater’s eventual release and exoneration after almost 20 years in Peterhead Prison. There is no doubt now that Slater was innocent, and there should never have been any. Fox, unlike some who have written about the case, isn’t interested in speculating about who actually killed Miss Gilchrist. She does touch on the question in the last chapter of her lucid and engaging book, but sensibly observes that “any ‘solution’ advanced 11 decades after the fact can only be the product of undiluted speculation”.

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OK, Mr Field

Book review: OK, Mr Field, by Katharine Kilalea

Much is made by Shakespeare scholars of the repetition of negative words and phrases in King Lear and the way in which this contributes to the overall mood of the play, but when it comes to relentless deployment of the language of negation, South African author Katherine Kilalea could probably have taught the Bard a thing or three. Her debut novel OK, Mr Field, is a veritable riot of negativity, an orgy of absence. In narrative terms, it is the story of one man’s failure to achieve anything much, drip-fed over the course of 200 pages, but narrative isn’t the primary concern here – instead, we have an exquisitely uncomfortable study of ennui.

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Olivia Laing PIC: Geraint Lewis/Writer Pictures

Book review: Crudo, by Olivia Laing

This really is a most perplexing book. I have previously written in praise of Olivia Laing’s non-fiction – The Lonely City especially – so was more than intrigued about her first novel. I finished it wishing it had been non-fiction. The flyleaf claims, rather boastfully, that it “rewires the novel”, although personally I believe that every novel ought to rewire the novel. Yet in some ways it seems like a nostalgic throwback to high Modernism.

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Dinny McMahon

Book review: China’s Great Wall of Debt, by Dinny McMahon

There is apparently a Chinese proverb stating that “neither fortunes nor flowers last forever”. This seems to accurately mirror the view laid out in this study of how the world’s most populous country, which has been considered a powerhouse of economic growth in recent years, may now be heading rapidly towards a shockwave-inducing meltdown that could make Brexit or Greece’s economic collapse seem like mere molehills in comparison. “China is interwoven into the fabric of the global economy to such a degree that the fallout from its current economic problems will ripple across the globe,” he warns.

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Darren McGarvey won the Orwell prize for books for his work 'Poverty Safari'

Scotsman columnist Darren McGarvey wins Orwell Prize for political writing

Scottish rapper and writer Darren McGarvey has been awarded the UK’s most prestigious prize for political writing at a ceremony in London.

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JO Morgan

Book review: Assurances, by JO Morgan

JO Morgan is indubitably one of the most interesting poets to have emerged in Scotland in recent years. His work is nothing like the kind of Creative Writing that often passes for poetry – what I have referred to before as the “While I was doing something, I saw something, which was like something else and that made me think of something” style. From his debut, Natural Mechanical, through to Interference Pattern from two years ago, he has honed a new take on that notoriously difficult genre, the long form poem.

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Stuart MacBride PIC: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

Book review: The Blood Road, by Stuart MacBride

After making only a cameo appearance in last year’s Now We Are Dead, in which Stuart MacBride brought DI (now DS) Roberta Steel to the fore, Aberdeen detective Logan McRae is back centre stage, with a move from CID to Professional Standards. Who watches the watchmen? Apparently Logan does.

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