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The polls are in and it’s official: the world is a better place with Susan Calman in it.

Especially when it’s Susan Calman, on Strictly, showing us the true meaning of joy.

And it turns out joy is dancing to Queen, dressed as the Queen of Dragons, and cheering up a nation’s Saturday night.

Here are some of our highlights from the past week:

The politest fan:

Couldn’t have put it better ourselves, actually.

A surprise message:


From one Queen to another.

And, of course, the main event:


We’ll be safely installed on our sofas come Saturday night, ready for Susan and Kevin to show us their best jive.

#TeamCalman #StrictlySusan

p.s. this Monday next marks Susan’s birthday, so please join us in wishing her a day full of celebrations, and a lifetime full of dancing (literally and metaphorically speaking)


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On day 5 Lisa travels outside London, all the way up to the Scottish Borders:




I’d like to celebrate not one, but many, independent book shops in the Scottish Borders.
I was lucky enough to be at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose at the start of IBW (yes, marvellous – thanks for asking). It’s always great to be up in Scotland and the Borders Festival is one of my favourites. For those of you who don’t know that most beautiful part of the world (think Sir Walter Scott/Abbotsford and rolling postcardy green hills) it’s especially well served by independent bookshops. In fact there is a Borders book trail featuring some of the best independent book shops in Scotland, if not the UK, if not the universe. There are some fabulous local bookshops on the trail from Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells to Masons of Melrose.

Taking time out from the packed book tent at the book festival in Melrose, I walked down the pretty streets to visit Mason’s (which has recently had a smart do-over). Two women coming out of the shop said ‘Oh I do love an independent bookshop, we must keep supporting them’ ‘Ooh yes, said her friend, clutching a book bag’. Well said m’dears, but I was spooked by the coincidence. I think it’s the mark of a good bookshop to have a full display of the best of new fiction and as a fully paid-up member of the Rose Tremain Appreciation Society I happily succumbed to THE GUSTAV SONATA and the inevitable 12 post and greetings cards. I was also very tempted by THE ESSEX SERPENT (Sarah Perry) and GOLDEN HILL (Francis Spufford).

Back to the book tent which was heaving with people buying, signing and talking about books. I think that a festival book tent is one of my favourite places in the world, along with John Lewis and my sofa. It’s thanks to the enthusiasm of readers, writers, and energetic and imaginative booksellers that we have these special places. Long may they thrive.

Find out more about Independent Bookshop Week here. And discover the Borders Book festival here: http://www.bordersbookfestival.org/

IBW2016 - Borders


IBW2016 - Borders

IBW2016 - Borders

IBW2016 - Borders



Time for something slightly different: for our day 4 we visited London indie comic book Gosh! London.

Fede reports:


I didn’t really know I was a fan of graphic novels until I published The Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf earlier this year (find out more here) and I was introduced to this incredible world. The brilliant people at Gosh! London were very supportive of Riad’s book, and I decided to repay the favour by paying them a visit and celebrate them as part of this year’s Independent Bookshop Week. After all they have a pretty impressive pedigree:

“With a 25-year track record in the industry and enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff, Gosh! Comics remains London’s must-visit store for those who love the medium. From translated European albums to mainstream superhero antics; vintage children’s books to contemporary graphic fiction; compulsively readable manga to cutting edge small press: we’ve got something for everyone.”

And it’s so true. The shop is divided over two floors: the lower ground space mostly holds the kind of comic the uninitiated would classify as ‘geeky’ (think superheroes and manga, including some real gems like a Japanese adaptation of the popular TV series Sherlock). The ground floor has got an incredible range of graphic novels and memoirs, ranging from the classics (Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis to name but two), to independently-printed anthologies.

Nora, one of the shop’s booksellers, was literally bubbling with excitement when I told her I wanted to buy a couple of books and needed her help. After a quick test to see what I like reading (‘quirky literary’ was the diagnosis) she suggested the following:

ASTERIOS POLYP by David Mazzucchelli, a tale of an architect fleeing New York after a fire destroys his apartment.

FOR AS LONG AS IT RAINS by Zviane, the story of two lovers and their last night together.

DEAD SINGERS SOCIETY (vol 1), an anthology edited by Paddy Johnston (who is actually one of our colleagues here at Hachette UK!)

The shop also runs a series of events (check their blog here: http://www.goshlondon.com/blog/) and is very active in the graphic community.

So next time you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten track, give Gosh! a go: you will be pleasantly surprised.’

Find out more about Independent Bookshop Week here. And get in touch with Pages of Hackney directly to buy/order a book and support independent retailers: http://www.goshlondon.com/contact/

IBW2016 - Gosh


IBW2016 - Gosh


IBW2016 - Gosh

IBW2016 - Gosh

IBW2016 - Gosh





Another day, another bookshop.

This time Kate pops in her new local indie, Burley Fisher Books in Haggerston:


A few months ago, a little bookshop opened just over the road from where I live in Hackney. Hooray! Books on my doorstep! Over the last few months I’ve dipped into Burley Fisher frequently, but, alas, I’ve just moved and they’re no longer my local, so I thought I’d pick them as my IBW2016 in a slightly gloomy, farewell-to-Hackney-are-there-any-bookshops-in-Wandsworth sort of a way.

Nestled between a kebab shop and a corner shop (of course!), Burley Fisher is an eclectic, bespoke bookshop, with some fabulous and unique displays. They also have a lovely, quiet café with some great coffee on offer – the perfect place for perusing your purchases. Run by Jason Burley and Sam Fisher of Camden Lock Books, this is a bookshop with a great pedigree, but with a really fresh feel.

I came away with two entirely unrelated, entirely unplanned purchases – Edward Gorey’s THE DOUBTFUL GUEST, a darkly absurd illustrated book about a distinctly penguin-ish creature that moves in with an aristocratic family, and EVERY GRAIN OF RICE by Fuchsia Dunlop, a primer on Chinese (particularly Sichuan) cooking, simply because the illustrated/cookery table at Burley Fisher looked SO good.

Find out more about Independent Bookshop Week here. And get in touch with Pages of Hackney directly to buy/order a book and support independent retailers: http://burleyfisherbooks.com/shop/

IBW2016 - Burley Fisher


IBW2016 - Burley Fisher


IBW2016 - Burley Fisher


IBW2016 - Burley Fisher


IBW2016 - Burley Fisher



Our Independent Bookshop Tour continues with a visit to Hackney indie bookshop Pages of Hackney.

Ruby, part of the Two Roads publicity team, went to explore the shop:



Pages of Hackney is sandwiched between Spice & Grill and a newsagent on Lower Clapton Road, a busy street in North East London. It’s my local, a ten min stroll from my house and a great place for a bookstore; there are two lovely parks within walking distance or if you like beer with your books, the Windsor Castle, a good pub just across the road. I have spent many a day in all.

I popped in on a Saturday, and Manon recommended three books to me. It was a nice surprise to meet Manon, a fellow Antipodean also from Auckland. She used to work at Time Out Bookstore, which is a fantastic independent bookstore sitting under the shadow of a mountain in Mt Eden Village. So while we bonded over people we knew, and our experiences of living in London, I squeezed in a request for recommendations of books to buy. And I came away with some good ones:

THE GIRLS by Emma Cline – a book very recently published, and described by the Telegraph as a ‘trance-like portrait of the Manson family’. I am resisting reading this right now so I can save it for my holiday next month.

THE ARGONAUTS by Maggie Nelson – a genre-bending memoir, Nelson tells a love story and channels public intellectuals such as Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes.

10: 04 by Ben Lerner – the second novel by this author and recommended to me for its fractured narrative.

The shop has an intimate event space downstairs which also sells vinyl and second hand books and truly felt like someone’s living room (see pic of comfy couches). Their larger events are held down the road at Sutton House and it’s clear when you check out their events schedule that they have incredibly thoughtful programming (find out more here: http://pagesofhackney.co.uk/?page_id=165). There are many events which include local authors on topical themes as well as talks which showcase new releases.
By the time I left with a laden bag, Pages of Hackney was brimming with people of Hackney (and beyond) and I was squeezing between books and bodies to get out.

Find out more about Independent Bookshop Week here. And get in touch with Pages of Hackney directly to buy/order a book and support independent retailers: http://pagesofhackney.co.uk/?page_id=946

IBW2016 - Pages of Hackney

IBW2016 - Pages of Hackney

IBW2016 - Pages of Hackney

IBW2016 - Pages of Hackney

IBW2016 - Pages of Hackney




We kick-start the 2016 edition of our Independent Bookshop Tour with a visit to new Highbury indie INK @ 84, Fede’s new local bookshop:




That’s what I thought as soon as a sign advertising the opening of a new bookshop in Highbury went up. It was wonderful to see books take over what had been yet another estate agent: it happened last December, just a few weeks before Christmas, but INK@84 already feels like an established part of the community.

Opened and run by artist Tessa Shaw and author Betsy Tobin, it’s a small but welcoming and beautifully bright shop filled with a brilliant selection of books. The majority of the bookshop is devoted to fiction and non-fiction, but there’s also a colourful children’s section, a graphic-novels shelf and travel and cookery sections.

The shops also sells a range of quirky and truly original stationery and – major bonus – functions as a coffee shop/cocktail bar. All the drinks are locally sourced: the coffee comes from Shoreditch roastery Nude Espresso, the natural sodas are supplied by Square Root London, the beer by Hammerton Brewery and the gin by Sacred Microdistillery.

But the focus is, of course, books. And Tessa and Betsy are incredibly passionate about literature. When I visited they spent an hour trying to find the perfect book recommendation: their taste is eclectic, ranging from the latest paperback to intriguing classic; from debut authors to established names; from graphic memoirs to crime and thrillers. And they champion authors by organising well-attended events: a list of recent names includes Chris Cleave and Louise Doughty (sign up to their newsletter here: http://www.ink84bookshop.co.uk/#!find-us/c24vq).

I left the shop with two new books: BLACK WATER, the brand new dark tale by Louise Doughty, and LONESOME DOVE, the classic western novel by Larry McMurtry. A slightly odd duo, but that’s the joy of indie bookshops recommendations, right? Summer reading, here I come…

PS: special thanks to Tessa and Betsy who put up a glorious IBW display a couple of days early so that I could take a few pictures!

Find out more about Independent Bookshop Week here. And get in touch with Ink@84 directly to buy/order a book and support independent retailers: http://www.ink84bookshop.co.uk/#!find-us/c24vq

IBW2016 - Ink@84


IBW2016 - Ink@84


IBW2016 - Ink@84IBW2016 - Ink@84

IBW2016 - Ink@84


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

DAY 12: FINAL DAY! – Feat. Ross Fraser, Two Roads’ marketing champion.

Two Roads 12 Days of Christmas Day 12Reading at Christmas is a chore.

It’s not because I’m too busy drinking with good cheer, or because I’m watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the millionth time or even because I’ve fallen asleep surrounded by the crumbs of many a fallen mince pie. Deary me no…

The reason is because the choice of exactly what to read can be too daunting. How do I choose between my personal seasonal favourites like A Child’s Christmas in Wales or Ethel and Ernest, and the new ‘good’uns’ like The Fox and the Star or The Explorer’s Guild? It’s tricky…

My solution though is simple: read them all and consume excessive amounts of Turkey and festive Toblerone to keep going – it’s the only way through!


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

DAY 11 – Feat. Gretchen Rubin, Two Roads author of international bestseller Better Than Before (find out more at http://bit.ly/betterthanbefore)

Gretchen Rubin (credit Elena Seibert) Two Roads BooksI run a monthly bookclub on my website gretchenrubin.com (you can sign up to the bookclub newsletter here) and here are my December recommendations:

An outstanding book about happiness, good habits, or human nature: Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I find Thoreau maddening; I also find myself quoting him constantly. Whether or not you agree with his ideas (and I often don’t), his work is relentlessly thought-provoking.

An outstanding children’s book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Don’t worry about whether you liked the movies, or even saw the movies, it doesn’t matter. This is a great book. If you like dystopia, and boy I sure do love dystopia.

An eccentric pick: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Well, maybe it’s not so eccentric, given that this book has been wildly popular for more than 150 years. I was just re-reading it, for the millionth time, because I was trying to figure out if Jane Eyre is a classic Questioner (read Better Than Before and you’ll see what I mean!) – and I remembered how much I love this novel!


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

DAY 10 – Feat. Kate Miles, Editor and friend from our sister imprint Saltyard Books.

Two Roads 12 Days of Christmas Day 10I always loved colouring in as a child and I’ve enjoyed reliving the joy and satisfaction of colouring since colouring books became all the rage this year.

Parisian Street Style is the perfect book for relaxing on the sofa with a glass of wine while you watch some Christmas classics.

That is why I’m giving a copy to lots of my friends this Christmas: they’ll be able to unwind, switch off and the only challenge will be working out which colours to choose…


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

DAY 9 – Feat.Two Roads author Ruth Hogan, whose début novel The Keeper of Lost Things will be published in early 2017.

Two Roads 12 Days of Christmas Day 9I’m always dreaming of a white Christmas, but as the English climate rarely obliges, I’ll turn to The Snow Queen. This wonderful edition of Stories from Hans Christian Anderson has magical illustrations by Edmund Dulac and was given to my mum as a Christmas present in 1942. I remember it from my own childhood and I still love it today.

I’ll also be reading A Christmas Carol (again!): Charles Dickens’ prose is as rich and satisfying as a dollop of Christmas pudding and who can resist a ghost story at Christmas?

John Betjeman is my literary comfort blanket and I’ll be snuggling up with his poetry, lighting the log burner and drinking a Banana Blush cocktail. I think he would approve.

Finally, A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale is a treat I’m saving for after Christmas, when the guests have gone, the house is peaceful and the sofa beckons.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

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