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Bringing you festive, bookish cheer from our authors and the Two Roads team!

DAY 2 – Feat. Two Roads publisher Lisa Highton

The Penguin Book of the British Short Story edited by Phillip Hensher

Volume 1 from Daniel Defoe to John Buchan

Volume 2 from P G Wodehouse to Zadie Smith  


Two Roads 12 Days of Christmas Day 2This is my Christmas present to me.  It comes with a gift tag which says:

I hereby give you permission to put your feet up and read other people’s books over the Christmas holidays, much love etc

I have a passion for short stories and have a huge collection. They’re so marvellously liberating, allowing you to dip in and out – they are the cocktail party of literature.

There’s a publishing myth that short stories don’t sell, which is probably utter nonsense (along with green books not selling – though that one may actually be true). Whatever, the truth is that they are one of the most enjoyable forms of reading.

This incredibly handsome and well curated collection is so tantalising it’s almost edible. It includes some favourites such as Muriel Spark’s Bang-Bang You’re Dead, the old masters such as Saki and Maugham, and some new discoveries for me such as Margaret Oliphant, who wrote prolifically all her life to support her family. I can’t wait.

Happy book break to everyone.



Bringing you festive, bookish cheer from our authors and the Two Roads team!

DAY 1 – Feat. Guinevere Glasfurd, author of the forthcoming The Words In My Hand (find out more at

Two Roads 12 Days of Christmas Day 1I was lucky to see Edna O’Brien in conversation twice this year – first, in early February, when she read from the final draft of her latest novel (still a sheaf of loose papers) and then again in November when those papers had become a book: her seventeenth novel, The Little Red Chairs.

The Little Red Chairs deals with the horror of the Bosnian war and brings that horror home – in this case to an unwitting, but in some ways complicit, village community in Ireland. Writing the novel, O’Brien said, was a way to confront the evil of the war, to face down the unrepentant swagger of the men who perpetrated it; to bear witness through language and literature.

Many of us remember the Bosnian war, the nightly reports on the news. It was awful, horrific, but we were largely safe from it. O’Brien’s novel breaks this down absolutely. There is no safe distance, she seems to be saying; the war is ours, it was then and is now. If we do not confront it, (or are simply complacent), then we are within reach and liable to its harm, to its consequences.

I saw The Little Red Chairs first as a bundle of papers and then as a book. As my first novel makes its way towards being published, I’m aware of the work needed to bring a book to print. I’m aware too of how hard it is, as a woman, to write, and how few women make a living as writers and sustain that over many years.

So, read The Little Red Chairs because it is a great work, and read it for it is: an astonishingly rare thing: a seventeenth novel – one woman’s writing life.


It's pub dayThe time has finally come: today Two Roads publishes Life, Love and The Archers, the first ever collection of prose by beloved poet Wendy Cope.

Wendy Cope has long been one of the nation’s best-loved poets, with her sharp eye for human foibles and wry sense of humour. For the first time, Life, Love and the Archers brings together the best of her prose – recollections, reviews and essays from the light-hearted to the serious, taken from a lifetime of published and unpublished work, and all with Cope’s lightness of touch.

A book for anyone who’s ever fallen in love, tried to give up smoking, or consoled themselves that they’ll never be quite as old as Mick Jagger.

Publicity for the book has kicked off with an interview on Radio 4 Front Row (which you can find here, from 12:35, and a pick as Non-Fiction Book of the Month in Good Housekeeping, which called Wendy’s writing ‘always witty and insightful’.

Wendy has also recorded the audio edition of the book (we posted a picture from the recording session a little while ago: click here) and we have an exclusive extract here:


Whatever your destination this summer, we’ve got you covered (well, almost…)

We’ve asked people i the office to share with us the best books to take with you on a trip abroad, and we’re happy to announce our first literary world tour, which includes France, ItalySpain, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Australia and California.

Time to book that plane ticket…


FRANCE, by Kate Craigie (Editorial Assistant at John Murray Press, @KateCraigie)

France. Where you’ll find the best wine in the world, a museum on every rue and where you can use the phrase ‘ooh la la’ without anyone batting an eyelid. Even the names of its cities and regions are evocative: Paris, Normandy, the Riviera, the Loire Valley, the Alps, Marseille; each has its own cuisine, its own unique landscape, its own charm.

If you’re spending a few days in the city of lights, you’ll find that there is no greater companion than E. H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art. Required reading for History of Art students, Gombrich’s book is a thorough yet accessible introduction the visual arts and is indispensable if you want to get the most out of Paris’s many museums.

If the museum-based tourist shuffle is getting you down and you want to sample  Paris’s spookier side with a trip to its famous cemetery, Pere Lachaise, or its subterranean passageways, Les Catacombes, Pure by Andrew Miller is perfect for setting the gothic mood. Set during the turbulent years before the revolution, provincial engineer Jean-Baptiste Baratte is ordered to exhume the vast cemetery of Les Innocents in the poor Parisian quarter of Les Halles and to demolish its church. But the cemetery becomes a kind of hell for Baratte; its overflowing bodies literally taint the air and Baratte begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might bring about his own. This is a wonderful novel; unsettling, the perfect antidote to all  those Paris postcards featuring hearts and Mona Lisa smiles.

Escaping the capital and sampling France’s Riviera, Swimming Home by Deborah Levy is a mesmerising poolside read. This short novel is set in the summer house of Joe Jacobs, a poet, in the mid-nineties. The tranquillity is disrupted when a troubled fan turns up. The ensuing drama is delicately handled, and there’s a shock at the end. Alternatively, Bonjour Tristesse by Francois Sagan is a coming-of-age story set on the Riviera where teenager Cecile is holidaying with her father and his mistress. Vivid and poetic, this bittersweet novella has endured as an ode to burgeoning sexuality.


ITALY, by Federico Andornino (Editorial Assistant at Two Roads, @Due_Strade)

Let’s be honest: if you’re spending your holidays in Italy, there is going to be very little time to read at all. Most of your days will be spent visiting small medieval villages on top of the Tuscan hills, swimming in the crystal-blue waters of the sea off the Amalfi coast, drinking glorious wines in Puglia, eating delicious food in Sicily and trying to cure a terrible case of Stendhal syndrome in Rome. But let’s just assume for a second that you have visited Italy many many times and you actually want to do some proper reading while you explore the country on the ever-reliable (not) Ferrovie dello Stato trains. Let’s start from the top, shall we?

Fly into Turin airport and spend a few days wandering around this beautiful city, the first capital of unified Italy. It’s home to one of the country’s most prestigious publishers, Einaudi, which has introduced the world to amazing writers like Italo Calvino: If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, is an absolute classic. Hire a car and head to the wine region of the Langhe, where you can read local writer, translator and poet Cesare Pavese: I recommend his greatest novel, The Moon and the Bonfires, recently published by the New York Review of Books (probably easier to find online).

Now get on a train and head south. Yes, we are indeed going to Tuscany, the land of a million cliches. Skip Florence (you have been there before, after all, right?) and head to Siena. Home of one of the oldest universities in the world, and famous for its horse races, this is truly a gem. You don’t need a map: just get lost in the small medieval alleys and relax. While you’re there, read Enchantment by Pietro Grossi, one of the few young contemporary Italian writers being translated into English. His novel, about friendship and growing up, is set in Tuscany and it’s a heartbreaking, gripping read.

Finally, make your way to Puglia. Less well-known than other parts of Italy, this is truly a blessed land: beautiful beaches, extraordinary architecture, gorgeous food and oh-so-lovely wine. I recommend three stops: Lecce (fantastic baroque churches and sweet iced-coffee), Otranto (strong wines and picturesque countryside) and Gallipoli (truly spectacular beaches). All the while, read Gianrico Carofiglio’s series of detective novels, featuring Avvocato Guerrieri, a character I bet you’ll fall in love with: start with Involuntary Witness and work your way through.


SPAIN, by Lisa Highton (Publisher at Two Roads, @TwoRoadsBooks)

If I’m lucky, I can read a book a day on holiday and still deal with the big issues of food and siestas. I’ve only been to Barcelona and along the coast towards France so my Catalan-centric recommendations reflect that! I read about places after I’ve been there, they have more meaning that way. One day I’ll go exploring … but in the meantime can a list of books to read fail to include In The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon– not this list anyway. I loved this when I first read it well over 10 years ago, an old-fashioned story within a story set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Wonderful romantic and heroic characters and, frankly, who doesn’t love a book about books? I’m surprised, and not a little relieved, that this hasn’t been made into a film.

From Zafon, it’s but a short step to Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, an account of his time fighting in the Spanish Civil War. This war can be as confusing to read about as it must have been to experience, but this is a wonderful piece of writing. ‘Curiously enough the whole experience has left me with not less but more belief in the decency of human beings.’ 1984 aside, he’s somewhat fallen out of favour but I remain a fan.

I’ve also got my eye on an art book, Barcelona and Modernity, an account of the extraordinary Catalan artists – Gaudi, Miro, Picasso (not Catalan I know!)  and Dali (his house is definitely on the itinerary this year).

Now go away please, I’m reading. I’ll see you for drinks by the pool later…


GREECE, by Rebecca Hilsdon (Work experience at John Murray Press, @rebecca_july)

Greek mythology echoes throughout the country from the legendary Peloponnesian caves to the ancient ruins of Athens and the sandy beaches of Rhodes. The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, author of I, Claudius, provides an exhaustive yet accessible account of these spellbinding stories which includes the tales of Icarus, Aphrodite and Troy. It is the perfect introduction to a country which was built on tales of mighty Gods, terrifying sea monsters and fearless heroes.

The Greek Cuisine Cookbook will ensure your Mediterranean culinary skills are up to scratch even before you hop onto the plane. It is packed with fifty quick and easy recipes from Spicy Chicken Burgers and Romano Cheese Pasta to more quintessentially Greek dishes such as Broiled Tilapia Fillets and Feta Cheese Casserole. Trying out the recipes will definitely put you in the holiday spirit and when you pop into the traditional tavernas you will know exactly what to order!

You could also follow in the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor who became particularly taken with Greece. His book The Broken Road is an account of the final part of his journey through Europe in the 1930’s and the final chapters are devoted to Greece. It is a wonderful letter to a country of outstanding natural beauty, history and food written by one of the great travel writers and adventurers.


IRELAND, by Becky Walsh (Editorial Assistant at John Murray, @BeckyAWalsh)

You’re off on holidays to Ireland: the land of green fields, potatoes, leprechauns, St Patrick, seven-time winner of the Eurovision, renowned for the céad míle fáilte and home to some of the greatest authors, playwrights and poets in the world. I could mention James Joyce and W. B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett, Edna O’Brien, Maeve Binchy and Anne Enright. There are so many gems to choose from but what would I recommend to you to read while there?

Firstly, some poetry. Try a collection from Nobel-Prize winner Seamus Heaney. Maybe read ‘Digging’, a meandering, metaphorical journey through generations or, my favourite, ‘Midterm Break’, a deceptively simple poem about the loss of a loved one.

Move on to something by Colm Tóibín. I’d suggest Brooklyn, the story of Eilis, a young girl from rural Ireland who moves to New York in the 1950s. Emigration is at the heart of the Irish story; to understand Ireland in 2014 you need to understand all those who have left and why they chose to do so.

Finally, something more contemporary: Young Skins by Colin Barrett, a debut collection of vivid short stories that sparkle with life and crackle with truth. After that you probably deserve a Guinness!


JAPAN, by Kristin Bradley (Sales and Marketing Executive at Hodder Faith)

In between practising your bows and learning which variant of ‘thank you’ is the correct level of formality for most situations (arigato gosaimasu should get you by), you may want to read a few books that offer deeper insight into the culture you’re about to step in to.

If you’ve got a particularly long flight, try Shōgun by James Clavell. Inspired by the true story of an English man who went to Japan and became a samurai, this 1000+ page book will tell you all you could want to know about feudal Japan through a page-turning plot that has been credited with drastically increasing the English-speaking world’s awareness and interest about Japan.

Another book that will help you understand the intricacies of the Japanese culture is The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd. This is the story of a Scottish woman in the early 20th century who has an affair with a Japanese nobleman and finds herself having to forge her own way in Japan after being cut off from the European community. The author was born and raised in Japan to Scottish parents and as a result understands Japanese culture in a way that few gaigin (foreigners) could hope to.

Once you get there, enjoy all the food, take in the culture and relish in the wide variety of weird and wonderful things you’ll find in vending machines.


AUSTRALIA, by Lisa Highton

If you’re planning to go to Australia for any length of time, here’s the first marvellous fact. From Europe or the US, it’ll take over 20 hours – so plenty of time to read (hey, you’ve seen all the movies and you’re down to that last episode of The Big Bang Theory). Here are my recommendations – I’ve cut it down to five modern and five classic but frankly, I could add two zeroes to each of those.

Five Modern Novels to Read now

The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan. Recently long-listed for the Booker – a soldier surgeon, a hero of Changi and how difficult it is to live after survival. Brilliant.

Dirt Music – Tim Winton. Shortlisted for the Booker – set on Winton’s beloved West Australian coast, a man survives a terrible car crash and struggles to put his life back together. If that sounds trite , it isn’t. When this was first released the Australian publishers produced a CD of the actual music – still one of my favourites

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak. Don’t let the film put you off.

True History of The Kelly Gang – Peter Carey. A classic outlaw tale of an Australian icon (Ned Kelly not Peter Carey)

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion. Oh go on, it’s a bit like BBT – perfect holiday reading

Five Classics

The Man Who Loved Children – Christina Stead

My Brilliant Career – Miles Franklin

Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay

The Tree of Man – Patrick White

Unreliable Memoirs – Clive James


CALIFORNIA, by Jo Davey (Editor at Hodder Faith, @JoannaLDavey)

Of the handful of screensavers on my Kindle, the image of John Steinbeck has always been my favourite. It’s the sultry mystery of his expression in the drawing and tilt of his head – he’s listening to you, whisky and cigarette in hand, on the brink of a poetic interjection. But, I shamefacedly admit I know little of him or his work.

While researching my upcoming trip around California, Steinbeck came up as the author whose upbringing in the Golden State imbued his writing with a distinct flavour of the region. In ‘Cannery Row’ his irresistible description of Monterey – a town on my trail – as ‘a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream’ had me transfixed.

Will you be my Rough Guide to California, Mr Steinbeck? I hope so.



Our Independent Booksellers Week project has come to an end! Day 6 sees Lisa visit Watermark Books, in London King’s Cross Station, very close to Platform Nine and Three Quarters (see a map here).
Here’s her take:

‘Right next to Platform 9 3/4 (and hordes of tourists lining up for photos is one of the treasure of the new Kings Cross Station!). A great indie shop with lovely staff: the perfect stop before boarding your train…’

Keep up with our #IBW2014 project here on our blog, on Twitter and Facebook and visit your local bookshop today (the Booksellers Association has a very handy map here)!

A few steps from King’s Cross Platform 9 3/4



Celebrating Independent Booksellers Week at Watermark books



Inside Watermark Books



Lisa bought two books recommended by the staff at Watermark Books: Chloe Hopper’s THE ENGAGEMENT and Gwendoline Riley’s OPPOSED POSITIONS (plus, she got another tote bag to add to her collection)



















































Our Independent

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Booksellers Week project continues! Day 5 takes us to theatre bookshop and cultural landmark Samuel French, just a few steps away from our office (find the bookshop on the map here).
Read more about Fede’s visit:

Samuel French Theatre Bookshop is literally a few seconds away from our office on Euston road and it’s filled with all sorts of theatre-related books: from Shakespeare, to the American greats, to local up-and-coming playwrights. Interestingly Samuel French functions as a bookshop, as a publishers of stage scripts, and as a licencing agency. The staff is very passionate and recommended two plays: a classic (Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, the longest-running play in the world) and a bright new thing (Penelope Skinner’s Eigengrau, which premiered at the Bush Theatre in 2010)

Keep up with our #IBW2014 project here on our blog, on Twitter and Facebook and visit your local bookshop today (the Booksellers Association has a very handy map here)!

The sun is shining and we’re visiting a bookshop!

Can you tell it’s a theatre bookshop?

Everything you need to become a theatre star

The two recommendations bought by Fede: Agatha Christie’s THE MOUSETRAP and Penelope Skinner’s EIGENGRAU

Day 4 of our Independent Booksellers Week project and we’ve decided to visit one of our ‘locals’, iconic LGBT bookshop Gay’s The Word, situated in the heart of Bloomsbury (find them on a map here).

Here’s what Fede had to say after his lunchtime stroll:

‘Another great indie to add to our list. It might be “the fountainhead of queer literature in Britain” (as Armistead Maupin famously said), but Gay’s The Word is full of wonderful titles that even a more mainstream audience can enjoy. Indeed, the true beauty of this shop is its range: from Booker Prize winning writers to unknown debuts, from big publishers to tiny presses, Gay’s The Word has a brilliant, brilliant selection of books. Plus they run a lively programme of events and they’re just about to start selling their books online…’

Keep up with our #IBW2014 project here on our blog, on Twitter and Facebook and visit your local bookshop today (the Booksellers Association has a very handy map here)!

Welcome to Gay’s The Word, in the heart of Bloomsbury

The bookshop stocks a wide range of LGBT titles



Staff recommendations

What Fede bought: THE SUMMER BOOK, one of Tove Jansson’s adult novels (she is best known as the creator of the Moomin series); and a novel by Will Eaves, THIS IS PARADISE



























Another busy morning for Two Roads! On Day 3 of our week-long tour of some of our favourite indies, Fede has ventured out of the office for a sunny walk in Primrose Hill, where he visited the charming Primrose Hill Books, run by Jessica and Marek, on one of London’s most beautiful streets, Regent’s Park Road (have a look at

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the map here).

Here’s Fede’s take:

A truly special place: Primrose Hill Books might be tiny, but it’s packed with a fine selection of titles. Jessica and Marek are simply the loveliest booksellers I’ve ever met and they are truly part of the community: the locals trust their recommendations and so did I, buying two books they raved about… They run lots of well-attended events with both local authors and bestselling writers, and publish a catalogue of their favourite reads twice a year: a Christmas selection of beautiful gift hardbacks, and a summer reading list filled with the latest must-reads in paperback. Their customers trust their judgement so much that they often receive orders via email pre-Christmas just based on those lists…

Keep up with our #IBW2014 project here on our blog, on Twitter and Facebook and visit your local bookshop today (the Booksellers Association has a very handy map here)!

A pretty bookshop on one of London’s most charming streets

A tiny shop, packed with a great selection of books



Even more books!



Jessica and Marek’s recommendations for Fede’s summer reading



Primrose Hill books’ catalogues: packed with tips and recommendations























































A busy morning for Two Roads! On Day 2 of our week-long tour of some of our favourite indies, Lisa has paid a visit to Lutyens & Rubinstein, the beautiful shop on Kensington Park Road (find it on a map here). The brilliant staff had dozens of fantastic recommendations: take a look at our pictures below for more.

Here’s Lisa’s take on L&R…

I am lucky enough to have Lutyens & Rubinstein as my local bookshop. I’m always coming out of there with great recommendations (I may have the largest collection of L&R bags ever). Chatting to Claire Harris today, I came out with these fabulous books for my summer reading, complete discoveries for me – and oh, another bag…

Keep up with our #IBW2014 project here on our blog, on Twitter and Facebook and visit your local bookshop today (the Booksellers Association has a very handy map here)!

Claire, Lutyens & Rubinstein’s shop manager

Isn’t this shop pretty?

A selection of L&R tote bags








Claire recommended. Lisa bought.






Hampstead Ponds. Summer. Costa shortlist.




Iconic. Creepy. Brilliant.

Starting with this one: there was a chorus of ‘Oh, you’ve never read? You will LOVE …’



Clever. Moving. Frightening. Discovery.



Also recommended (part I)…

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Also recommended (part II)…



Also recommended (part III)…
















































To celebrate Independent Booksellers Week, the two roads of Two Roads have embarked on a week long tour of some of their favourite indies, in the hope of meeting passionate, inspired booksellers who would recommend new books to treasure and share.
Today Lisa visited the brand new Foyles shop and was greeted by a bright, welcoming space, a huge selection of books, an inviting cafe and an intriguing new read: Mark Forsyth’s THE UNKNOWN UNKNOWN. Check out the pictures below and come back tomorrow for more indie love…

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