Category Will Schwalbe

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)









Will Schwalbe

Have you ever wondered why publishers play around with book covers so much?

What’s the point of changing the cover of a successful book when it comes out in paperback? Won’t that confuse readers when they browse in bookshops and online?

Actually the move from hardcover to paperback gives the publisher the opportunity to bring the book to a new market (and to those who were waiting for it to come out in paperback!).

Take the case of Will Schwalbe’s book, The End of Your Life Book Club publishing in paperback this June.

The hardback jacket design, with its bright green background and golden leaves, was a big in-house favourite and a hit with booksellers and readers alike, which is why we didn’t want to change it too much. Using the same design, the new bright cream background, gives a fresh (summery) life to the cover, while making sure that the reader knows it’s already a big success (cue the “New York Times bestseller” sticker).

In the end, making sure that the book looks new but maintains the established and easily recognisable feel of its previous edition is always hard, but we believe our art department did a fantastic job with Will’s memoir. But

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The End of Your Life book Club (hardcover)

The End of Your Life book Club (paperback)













Good morning and happy Monday to you faithful followers of all things Two Roads!

Are you feeling down? Did you have a wet, miserable weekend? Did you look like this while crossing the road today?

Well then it’s definitely time for a healthy dose of Two Roads Monday Blues Remedy!


The Stockholm Octavo (out in paperback on February 14th)

Here’s the updated cover for the paperback edition of Karen’s novel.

New look.

Same fantastic feel.

We are also launching a tumblr. blog devoted to the art of creating the perfect Octavo. Do check it out and follow the slow unveiling of this mysterious art of cartomancy on Twitter and Facebook as well.



Doodlemum (out on February 28th)

Angie is hard at work on a secret Two Roads project (more juicy details to follow!). But in the meantime go ahead and enjoy her daily dose of Doodlemum on her website (and remember to like her Facebook page!) Stay tuned for a great update from our publicity department coming next week…


After Cleo Came Jonah (out in paperback on February 28th)

If you haven’t already go visit Helen’s Facebook page and read Jonah’s Blog. Last post: THE ENEMY.

Beware of that cat…




Until I Say Good-Bye (out on March 14th)

As you know a wonderful video has been uploaded on Susan’s page and on the Two Roads website. It’s a powerful message and although it’s Susan’s husband speaking, you can feel her energy coming through. It’s very moving. Watch & share and keep checking Susan’s Facebook page for touching (and quite funny) updates like this.

Island Wife (out March 28th)

Finally the advance praise is in and it includes quotes from fellow writers, poets and rock stars (yup: you got that right!). Here’s a quick selection:

  • ‘Brave, funny, poignant, beautifully written.’Elisabeth Luard, food-writer, journalist, and broadcaster
  •  ‘The day to day details of a family who have followed the man’s ambitions to the remote island of Mull are  hilarious and very touching. A beautifully told story’Mike Rutherford, founding member of Genesis
  • ‘Humour and honesty prevail throughout and always there is the poetic backdrop of the wild landscape of the island and the wild emotions that come and go with its tides.’Mairi Hedderwick, author of the Katie Morag series
  • ‘Warm but never sentimental… It balances wry humour and lyrical delight, practical toughness and vulnerability in equal measure… A joy to read.’Philip Gross, novelist and poet
  • ‘Island Wife is a breezy (in every sense), frequently funny and often dreadfully sad tale of a madcap adventure with an intrepid farmer husband and five children on a romantic Hebridean island, which often turns out to be not quite as romantic as the wide-eyed author had imagined.’ Christopher Matthew, author and journalist

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (out April 11th)

Great news coming from the US. Z is part of Publishers’ Marketplace BUZZ BOOKS 2013 (spring/summer edition).

You can download the digital booklet here or read the extract on USA Today’s website.





The Still Point of the Turning World (out April 11th)

Will Schwalbe, author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Your Life Book Club, loved Emily’s book. Here’s what he had to say:

  • ‘It’s hard to find words that do justice to Emily Rapp’s The Still Point of the Turning World. It’s one of those rare books that you want to press into people’s hands and simply say, “You must read this. You will thank me.” At every turn, Rapp avoids the maudlin and the expected to get at very deep truths, sometimes painful and sometimes liberating and sometimes both. She looks for wisdom and comfort to a wide range of sources ranging from C.S. Lewis to Marilynne Robinson to Buddhist teaching. And she looks to her son. This is one family’s story of living while facing death, but also an astonishingly generous work about recognizing the pain and grace that exist all around us.’



You can now find Fede on instagram as well: just look for Due_Strade_London. Lots of pics of London, Italy & Italian food (and wine), and of course books, books, and even more books.


Public service announcement!!!

In case you intend to visit Leicester in the future with a dead monarch in the boot of your car…






Until next week..


The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey ZaslowThis month’s book club took a slightly different tack in the form of a conversation between Will Schwalbe and Lisa Highton, respectively author and publisher of The End of Your Life Book Club, but both connected through publishing to The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

The Last Lecture was one of the last books that Will was involved with before resigning his position as Editor in Chief of Hyperion Books, New York, in January 2008. Ironically, given that The Last Lecture is a book concerned with the imminent death of a man with pancreatic cancer, Will’s own mother had just been diagnosed with the same insidious disease. Lisa published the UK edition of The Last Lecture.


LH: The publishing of The Last Lecture was big news in the publishing world. The story of a man given a short time to live, and his ‘message in a bottle’ to his wife and young family, touched millions of people. Your mother read this in manuscript, didn’t she? Did you feel a little awkward giving her a book which so precisely mirrored her condition?

WS: I’d already left Hyperion when the finished manuscript came in – but my friends there shared it with me. Mom knew about Randy Pausch from a video of his last lecture that had gone viral, and from the news, and from my telling her about the book when my colleagues acquired the right to publish it. But I still wasn’t sure if she’d actually want to read it – I was worried that it would be too close. So instead of giving it to her to read, I mentioned that I was reading it, and then left it out in the open, on a table, for her to find. She read it right away – and had a reaction to it that surprised me. She said it made her feel lucky. I asked her how that could be, given that she had the exact same disease. ‘But he’s got three small children and will never see them grow up,’ she said. ‘And he’ll never know what it’s like to have grandchildren.’

I’m curious what elements of The Last Lecture spoke most directly to you, Lisa. Were there particular aspects of Pausch’s life or his approach to his death that were especially compelling for you when you were acquiring the right to publish the book in the UK?

LH: I think I must find approaching death compelling on some level. That may be age of course! But I’ve published a lot of books on this topic – some famous like Tuesdays With Morrie or The Last Lecture, others less so. I think the fascination is seeing what people do with their lives when they know how little of it they have left. Randy Pausch approached his demise with a kind of muscular energy and a goal oriented (dare I say male) list. His aim being to achieve his childhood dreams but also to leave ‘a message in a bottle’ for his children so they could understand his love for them. Do you think the appeal is as much in its wake-up call for all of us not to fritter our lives away and drift?

WS: Yes, I do think that’s part of it – we all know we need to ‘seize the day’ but most of us need to remind ourselves constantly of that. One of the things I love about the Pausch book is that he’s so specific. He starts by describing his situation as an ‘engineering problem’. The question he poses himself is how to spend what he knows is a limited amount of time, using lessons he’s learned from throughout his whole life. Even a simple thing like rethinking how you handle the telephone (Pausch said he never put his feet up when talking on the phone) is valuable to ponder. Handling the phone differently doesn’t just give you back hours every week – it changes how you look at your priorities, where you choose to spend whatever time you have left.

Do you find yourself employing any of Pausch’s more specific tips? I’d also love to learn more about lessons you learned from Jai Pausch’s book.

LH: One of my favourite chapters is ‘The Park is Open till 8pm’, when Randy’s preparing to get his diagnosis. It’s a perfect example of glass half-full. Whatever the outcome, he says to Jai, this is a wonderful day, right here right now. I also like his nod to manners and old fashioned courtesy, e.g. dance with the one who brung you (that metaphor could go far and wide!) and that a hand-written thank you note can make all the difference. Both are a reminder that the simple courtesies and respect for other people should never be forgotten, no matter how busy we are. Always take time to stop and say thank you – people like to be appreciated. We all need to remember to do that. So, thank you and I’ll leave it to you to have the last word on The Last Lecture.

WS: One of the best things about The Last Lecture is that it isn’t really possible to have the last word on it – it’s a book you can revisit constantly and it constantly gives new gifts and insights. But I think I’ll

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end by pointing out something we haven’t yet discussed – the incredible contribution of Jeff Zaslow, who wrote the first article on Pausch’s lecture and who helped Randy Pausch write the book. Tragically, Jeff died in a car accident on February 10, 2012, while promoting a wonderful new book he had written. Jeff Zaslow also left an indelible legacy. So I’d like to leave this post with heartfelt thanks to Randy and to Jeff, for their books and lives.

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan DidionGuest blogger: Jason Bartholomew, Rights Director

The Two Roads Book Club met last week to discuss Joan Didion’s THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. The tea was brewed, the pastries were glistening, and the conversation was flowing. Overall, the general feeling was each of us felt a strong connection to Didion’s book. Whether the book conjured up memories of funerals attended in Mexico, time spent working as a grief counsellor where this book was suggested reading for those in mourning, or perhaps that it simply served as a reminder of our own mortality — we all agreed Didion’s book was a moving account but not an easy read.

Personally, I very much enjoyed the book. Didion has written a phenomenal memoir of death, grief, and how life can change in an instant. There is such a sadness to the story, but the richness of the writing is transportive. The book opens with Didion’s husband dying suddenly of cardiac arrest. Didion had been preparing dinner in their apartment in Manhattan, and one moment her husband was alive — sitting in his favorite chair and reading — and the next moment he was dead.

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel BarberyGuest blogger: Valerie Appleby, Editorial Assistant, Two Roads

Marx, phenomenology,

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hubris, desire… all in the first few pages. If this sounds like your kind of book, then you would have been in the minority at the Two Roads book club meeting last Thursday. At least, right off the bat…

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, an international bestseller since 2009 and our Two Roads February book club pick, seemed at first to split the group into two camps: those staunchly opposed, who found the writing pretentious, the characters frustrating and the ‘feel’ a bit too French, and those in support, who relished the philosophical narrative and championed the main characters as they journeyed towards personal enlightenment. But after a bit of discussion, it soon became clear that aside from a couple participants who simply couldn’t get into the story, the majority of us came to like – if not love – it, perhaps

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Two Roads January Book Club members

The inaugural Two Roads book clubbers

Guest Blogger: Francesca Best, Assistant Editor, Hodder & Stoughton

On Friday lunchtime the inaugural Two Roads Book Club met, and over cheese and piccalilli sandwiches ten of us from Hodder, Two Roads and John Murray discussed Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. It was a choice inspired by Will Schwalbe’s End of Your Life Book Club, which will be published by Two Roads in March 2012.

Our discussion kicked off with all of us wondering why we had never heard of Stegner (an American author) before. His writing is wonderful, warm, honest, witty at times and always sensitive; Crossing to Safety has the feel of a classic. Ostensibly set over the course of one day, the story is laid out as a series of flashbacks, beginning in depression-era America, and charting practically a lifetime of its characters. It seems timeless,

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yet surprisingly it was written relatively recently, in 1987.

Crossing to Safety book coverNarrated by Larry Morgan, it follows his and

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his wife Sally’s friendship with another married couple, Sid and Charity Lang. Both men are academics, as Stegner was – in fact we wondered how much of an autobiographical element there was to the book. We agreed it was refreshing that the story involved no wife-swapping, instead the drama is provided by the ups and downs of friendship, the quiet triumphs and tragedies of normal lives.

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