Category reading lists

self-help cat

It’s February, as you might have noticed – supposedly the shortest month of the year, but it often feels like the longest. It’s cold, it’s dark, New Year’s resolutions have already fallen apart, and it’s an awfully long way ‘til next Christmas.

Still, it’s not all bad news: creme eggs are already on sale, the nights are getting shorter, and it’s a pretty good time of year for donning a third jumper and settling down to read in the evening. And, on the topic of books, for many people February can actually be a much more sensible and sustainable time to engage with those books that can help improve your life, away from the post-Christmas pressures. So with that in mind, here are three books we’d recommend to inspire you to make the small changes that can actually make the biggest difference this year.


1. Thrive by Arianna Huffington. Whatever you think of HuffPo, there’s no denying that Arianna Huffington is one of the most successful businesswomen on the planet, and Thrive is her manifesto. Refreshingly, it doesn’t espouse getting up at 3am to check emails or eating only maca powder to fuel your inhuman working days. Rather, it’s a personal and thoughtful look at what it means to be a working woman: what works, what doesn’t, and what we really, really need to change.


2. The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. Alongside having the best pastries on the planet and being the inventors of Lego, Denmark has long been officially ranked as the happiest country in the world. In this book, Helen Russell – stressed-out Londoner, happiness sceptic and very funny author – sets out to discover the reasons. I won’t spoil it, but with the exception of having a special Viking gene, most of the solutions are easier to implement than you’d think.

The Year of Living Danishly

3. Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. All right, so technically this one isn’t out until March, but it’s the big one – what good are all those life-changing techniques if you don’t actually do them on a regular basis? Gretchen is a passionate, friendly and meticulously researched guide to how to build habits into your daily existence and make real changes happen – thanks to her techniques I now go to bed an hour earlier and get up in time to eat breakfast, which I’m pretty sure are the first steps to taking over the world.

Better than Before

So, it’s time to come out of hibernation and get reading. Which books have inspired you to make changes? Why not visit our Facebook page and let us know?

Alice Munro Nobel Prize and Carrie Snyder Girl RunnerAlice Munro,

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one of Canada most beloved writers and a master of the short story form, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. While we were researching Ms. Munro’s achievements, we came across this interesting piece of trivia:

> Alice Munro has won the Governor General’s Literary Award – one of Canada’s most prestigious prizes – three times.

> Two Roads author Carrie Snyder was a finalist at the prize with her short story collection THE JULIET STORIES last year

But the connections don’t end there. When DEAR LIFE, the latest collection by Ms. Munro, came out in 2012, Carrie was asked by the National Post to review it. Read her review here:

And you can read Carrie’s blog post here with her thoughts on Alice Munro’s achievement here:

Hurrah for Canada!

…the cover for UNDER THE WIDE AND STARRY SKY, the new book by Nancy Horan (and our first 2014 title!)

Under the wide and starry sky Robert Louis Stevenson Nancy HoranThe novel, Nancy’s second after Loving Frank (New York Times bestseller and Richard & Judy Bookclub pick), tells the passionate and turbulent story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny, a fierce love affair-marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness that spans decades as they travel the world for the sake of his health following their art and dreams.


Nancy was in London this weekend and we gave her the very first proof of the book. She looks quite pleased, don’t you think?


Nancy Horan author of Loving frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny

We publish in January 2014 and you can find out more here on the website and on Facebook.







The End of Your Life Book Club book club read E. M. Forster's Howards End (Will Schwalbe)

After a few months spent on hiatus, the book club gathered once more to discuss the E. M. Forster classic novel Howards End. The meeting was timed with the release of the paperback edition of Will’s The End of Your Life Book Club and although he couldn’t be with us in the Two Roads headquarters, he managed to join in from New York, talking about the book with Lisa, who is in the Big Apple herself: a true transatlantic book club experience!


The End of Your Life Book Club book club read E. M. Forster's Howards End (Will Schwalbe)

Will reading HOWARDS END in New York

Surprisingly perhaps, not many people had read Howards End before or even seen the film. The book is about three families in England at the beginning of the 20th century: the Wilcoxes, rich capitalists with a fortune made in the Colonies; the half-German Schlegel siblings Margaret, Tibby, and Helen; and the Basts, a struggling couple in the lower-middle class. It explores the underlying class warfare involving these three distinct groups and the source of their conflict – Howards End, a house in the countryside which ultimately becomes a symbol of conflict within British society.

For such an apparently heavy subject, the novel is incredibly engaging (and obviously beautifully written). We found ourselves drawn to some of the most obvious themes (the now famous line ‘Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. was the focus of much discussion) and we were particularly intrigued by the relationship between the highly idealistic Margaret and Henry, the pragmatic defender of social conventions. How could such different characters end up becoming husband and wife?

But most of our conversation revolved around the timeliness of the novel. When it was first published in 1910, E. M. Forster’s book dealt with some of the most profound issues of British society: the relationship between ownership and power, and the huge gap between different social statuses. Most people in the club agreed that Howards End still feels incredibly ‘of the time’ today – class still being a subject worth writing about in these troubled times – but also wondered if Forster would pick a different subject matter (race perhaps?) were he alive today.

The End of Your Life Book Club book club read E. M. Forster's Howards End (Will Schwalbe)

Zadie’s Smith ON BEAUTY

The discussion turned towards more recent books when someone brought up Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, the Orange Prize-winning novel which is an homage to Forster’s classic. We started talking about the modern ‘reinterpretations’ of the classics, not only in literature but also in films (we spent quite a bit of time analysing how cult film Clueless relates to Emma, the Jane Austen book it is loosely based on): do they introduce the classics to new audiences and ensure their survival? Or is it just a way to exploit some of the greatest works of the past?

In the end we went back to Howards End and we agreed

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to a good 3 out of 4 score. And then we rewarded ourselves with some well deserved cake (check out more pics on Facebook):

The End of Your Life Book Club book club read E. M. Forster's Howards End (Will Schwalbe)









“Mmmh I wonder if they sell espresso here”

One month. Thirty days.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to change your life in unexpected, quite dramatic ways. Right before Christmas I was standing in front of my desk in an office tower in the outskirts of Milan, looking at the space where I had worked for the past 16 months and that I had just finished cleaning out. It was my last day at Rizzoli before the holidays. My last day before moving to London for my new job as Editorial Assistant at Two Roads.

And now I am in a different, taller office tower, in the centre of a different, larger city, at the heart of a different, foreign country. The first few days at Two Roads have been positively crazy, filled with gargantuan tasks: how do you work a touch screen elevator without constantly ending up on the wrong floor? How can you suppress your craving for espressos and learn to like filter coffee? (this one’s easy: you simply can’t. I drink tea now) How do you pretend you know the name of that colleague you’ve been introduced to on your first day and is now in the lift with you? (smile, say “Hello” with a thick Italian accent, smile some more).

But despite all of this – new job, new colleagues, new life – I feel right at home, proud to be part of the Two Roads family and happy to be back in London, a city I first fell in love with while studying here two years ago. And after all there is one thing that hasn’t changed: I still get to read books, lots of them! They might be new submissions, or backlist titles I have to get acquainted with, or new books coming out in the next few months. It doesn’t really matter: I am most happy when sitting on the couch in my new flat, sipping espresso and reading. Just reading.

Of course it helps when the book is incredibly good. Take Eleven Days, the debut novel by Lea Carpenter we are publishing in June. It’s a fantastic story of mother and son, separated by distance and time but connected by a bond that is impossible to break. It’s a glorious first novel, written with grace and compassion, a book that has made me laugh, cry, think and has reminded me why I love working in publishing. You can find out more about Lea and her work here on the Two Roads website.


I think that will do as an introduction, but from now on I’ll be contributing regularly to the blog so look out for updates regarding life in the Two Roads office and the adventures of an Italian expat in London.

For daily news and pics follow me on twitter @Due_Strade (google-translate it and you’ll get it!).

Alla prossima…


Guest blogger: Richard Pike, Rights Manager

Suite Francaise Irene NemirovskySuite Française is a book that had been on my reading list for several years.  I’d heard it being talked about so often, that I suppose I understood its importance without ever really knowing what it’s about.  When I saw it would be the subject of discussion at the seventh Two Roads Book Club, I thought it time to discover what makes this novel such an enduring topic of conversation.

Irène Némirovsky was already a successful author when, in 1941, she started to plan an ambitious new project – a 1,000 page novel in five parts, a symphonic story of the lives of the French under occupation.  Tragically the novel would remain unfinished.  Némirovsky, of Russian and Jewish descent, was taken under arrest to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942.  She died, at the age of 39, in August that same year.

The manuscript for the first movements of Suite Française, as well as notes for the final three parts (including, poignantly, ‘Peace’) were undiscovered until the late nineties, when Némirovsky’s daughter began typing up her mother’s writing in order to preserve it.  You can guess what happened next.  An incredible story appeared once more on the page, and in 2004 Suite Française was published for the first time. As Will had mentioned in his letter, the book’s very existence was a remarkable story in its own right.

The uncompleted novel is divided in to two parts.  The first, ‘Storm in June’, set in 1940, follows several characters as they flee Paris and make their way in the chaos that ensues. The second, ‘Dolce’, tells the story of the residents of Bussy, a small town coming to terms with life under German occupation for the third time.

As Will had guessed, we found it impossible to discuss Suite Française without referring to the context in which it was written.  Némirovsky describes events so recent in her memory, that it’s hard not to see the novel as a semi-historical document of France at that time.  For many of us it invited us to reconsider what we thought we knew about the Second World War, and we found a greater appreciation of how different people’s experiences of war could be.

Despite their terrible situation, we collectively felt little sympathy for many of the characters in the book, especially those from the higher levels of society, whose true nature is exposed when their behaviour is contrasted with the simply described suffering of the lower classes. It’s an interesting study of human character under duress, with events such as the Péricands forgetting to bring an elderly family member with them as they flee, or the wealthy Charles Langelet stealing fuel from unsuspecting refugees, helping to create a quite damning conclusion.

We also questioned how we ourselves would react under occupation. It may seem easy to pass judgment on the villagers of Bussy and others for their acceptance of the occupation, but when we were each put on the spot, several of us admitted that we would have acted similarly.  When so much of our identity is defined by our relationships, our homes, our career, is it really so simple to give up everything for something as uncertain as resistance?

We also touched upon how different life would have been in a world without twenty-four hour news and Twitter.  The fear and uncertainty that those fleeing Paris would have been multiplied by their not knowing what was really happening in the rest of France.

This is a book of many themes, too many for us to discuss in the space of one hour, but the beauty of Némirovsky’s writing is that the author’s own opinions or agenda are never overbearing or explicit.  Her narrative, in the style of the very best documentaries, prompts and provokes, but leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions.

And so this meeting of the Two Roads Book Club drew to a close.  As with all unfinished works of art, it’s easy to wonder ‘what might have been’. We were certainly left with the feeling that there was more to come after the slower pace of ‘Dolce’.  However, I think we did all appreciate the merits of what does exist.

The group was split when considering whether we would read more of the author’s work, but we all agreed that Suite Française challenged us to think again about a period that we had thought we understood well, and that the book’s very existence was a quite remarkable and important story in itself.

Guest blogger: Lucy Zilberkweit, Press Officer,

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid, Two Roads Book Club, Will SchwalbeOn the sixth meeting of our Two Roads Book Club, not only did we have a book that had been on many of our ‘to read’ piles for years, but we FINALLY had the inspiration behind our book club, Will Schwalbe, in the room with us. After months of emails back and forth about our reading list, we were able to celebrate in style with the man himself. We met in the Library at the Hospital Club and settled down to discuss The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

For those who haven’t read this, it’s a novel set in the years following 9/11, and tackles, through the engaging, articulate words of its narrator Changez, what it is to be a Pakistani living in the suspicious, terrorism-altered Western world. The novel is brief, and the narration takes place during the course of one long evening in a Lahore café. The reader, addressed as ‘you’, takes on the persona of an American businessman or CIA agent – the exact occupation and reason for his presence in Lahore is never made clear – and is approached by a bearded young gentleman, who invites himself to join ‘you’ at ‘your’ table. Over the course of cups of tea, snacks and a delicious evening meal, the stranger, who introduces himself as Changez, describes his life during the years he lived in America, interspersed with snapshots of Lahore life. continue reading »

I’m often (well, occasionally) asked which Australian authors I would recommend.


Nothing more annoying than a list of ten books, so here are twelve Australian books I love. I am hugely grateful that much of my formative reading was done in Australia, which bolted onto a narrative British base  pretty much perfectly.  Obviously I love more than twelve, but this is a start.  I could have done fifty but this is a blog…not a pulpit.


So, in no particular order … get your minds outside these…

1.  The Fortunes of Richard Mahony trilogy  Henry Handel Richardson

2. The Tree of Man Patrick White

3. Oscar and Lucinda Peter Carey

4. The Man Who Loved Children Christina Stead

5. Careful He Might Hear You Sumner Locke Elliot

6. Come in Spinner Dymphna Cusack – cannot find this in print – anyone know where I can get this?

7. The Monkey’s Mask Dorothy Porter

8. The Idea of Perfection Kate Grenville

9. Dancing on Coral Glenda Adams

10. The Sound of One Hand Clapping Richard Flanagan

11.  The Transit of Venus Shirley Hazzard

12.  Cloudstreet Tim Winton (what? you thought I’d leave it off?) + TV series

Australian literature (past and present)  is poorly available in the UK, so many of these will be unknown, even though they’re a bit ‘greatest hits’.  None the worse for that of course.  Embrace Australia’s storytelling culture…

And finally – a taster of  some contemporary writers I recommend hugely:  James Bradley, Charlotte Wood, Carrie Tiffany, Garth Nix, Joan London, Gillian Rubinstein … do try and see where they take you…one connection leads to another.



Oh, and by the way…

Text Publishing Australia is relaunching some Australian classics – more info here.



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