Monday, September 28, 2009

Karen Maitland - My five Favourite Books

We've got a survey going at the moment to find out what your favourite 5 books of all time are (in no particular order). If you let us know, you could win 20 books of your choice*

For more information go to our website competitions page, which is here.

We thought you might be interested in some of the great and good's choices, and so today we have the wonderful Karen Maitland's picks . Karen is the author of the spellbinding pageturner The Company of Liars, which we love. I reviewed it here by the way.


'Here are my favourite five in no particular order. If you saw my house at home which is stacked floor to ceiling with books that I love and couldn't bring myself to part with, (I've now run out of bookshelf space), you'd know how hard this was. My top 500 would have been easier, so many apologises to anyone who books I adore, but didn't mention.

The Power and The Glory by Graham Greene.
This was the first adult book I read when I was growing up and it made me realise for the first time that novels, instead of having as their main characters impossibly brave, handsome heroes, could be written about real people that I could relate to, who had stomach ulcers, human vices and faced with danger sensibly wanted to run away and hide. This was the book that made me want to be a writer.

Carnage on the Committee by Ruth Dudley Edwards
A hilarious crime novel for anyone who loves books. Panellists on a literary-prize committee are murdered one by one. Is the killer a disgruntled, author, publisher or reader? I love this book for its ingenious plot, the caricatures of different literary types and the thinly veiled references to certain modern authors, as well as its redoubtable amateur detective Baroness 'Jack' Troutbeck who a brilliant creation. This is the book that makes me laugh out loud.

Perfume by Patrick Suskind
A historical novel set in Paris with ruthless and unique killer who stalks these pages. The character is so horrible yet so captivating I found myself desperate for him to get away with his crimes. Amazing atmosphere and such an original character.

Midnight's Children - by Salman Rushdie
I am a big fan of magical realism and a love the way the author seamlessly blends history with magic and wonder in this novel which reveals so much about the period and the culture. It brings home the great suffering that the people of India and Pakistan endured at the time of partition far more than a straight historical novel ever could.

Nights at the Circus - by Angela Carter
A fantastic book in every sense of the word, set in the 19th century about a raunchy cockney trapeze artist who appears to have wings and be able to fly. Like the bemused reporter sent to investigate her, we don't know if its true or a con and the author skilfully pulls you deeper and deeper into her bizarre fantasy until you believe that anything is possible. Reading this book for me is like being a kid a toy shop, because it invites your imagination to play in an endless world of ideas with anyone saying to you – ‘No that's silly. Stop that at once!’

Thanks Karen.

Now everyone go and buy her books.

Please send us your votes and let the whole world know about the competition.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Joseph and his Amazing Eco-Horror Scream Trophy

Many many congratulations to Joseph D'Lacey, who just last week won The British Fantasy Society 'Best Newcomer' Award. I've been a huge fan of his since I read the extraordinary 'Meat' last year, a dystopian eco horror with incredible humanity. Stephen King says 'Joseph D'Lacey rocks', and I wouldn't argue.

His second book Garbage Man, is equally compelling, the first 100 pages having some of the most powerful (if sometimes disturbing) imagery, and it satisfies both fans of zombie mayhem and also psychological chiller.
I did an interview with Joseph last year which you can find on this here blog. here's a link..

Anyway, If you gat a chance, give Joseph D'Lacey a go. He's horrific (in a fantasy sort of way).

And if anyone can suggest a way of getting copies of Kill Crew (his latest US published novella) to stock in the shop, let me know. Suggesting Amazoid or Stonegarden will not be tolerated.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stop the Cavalry

I'm delighted to let you all know that it's Christmas. Despite the lovely hot summer temperatures, and it being only 2 weeks since the school children came back from the summer holidays, we received this on Thursday;

and this;

I have no idea where to put them, and Harper collins should be ashamed of themselves for publishing this in September (although they 'claim' that it's published in October, so why send it now).
We have to pay for this at the end of next month, in the knowledge that we won't sell any of them until the end of November at the earliest.
Maybe we shouldn't have ordered them when we did(we actually did this in July, which seems insane), and then simply remembered to do this nearer Christmas, but isn't it about time publishers and booksellers got together and agreed that actually christmas doesn't start in retail until November.

Bah humbug.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The New Big Green Bookshop Newsletter

If you click on the pages they get bigger. This is 5 hours work.


I've been on holiday, haven't I?
Hunston Mill was the place, near Chichester. It's a 'Converted Mill' and very enjoyable it was too. Quiet is probably the one word i'd use if I could only use one word to describe it.
I'll stick some photos on Facebook later on should you like to see Freya eating blackberries or wonderful sunset scenes.
Here though, I thought we could talk about books. We sell books at the Big Green Bookshop and so it seems to make sense.
Let's talk about the Booker Prize first of all. We've got a Booker Book Club at the shop where we're challenging our customers to read all 6 of the Booker Shortlist between September 8th, the date when the shortlist was announced, and October 6th, the date when the winner is announced. In order for people to afford this we've turned into a library, and for £20 people can borrow each of the 6 shortlisted books in order to read them in time. We'll all be meeting in the shop on October 6th to discuss each of the books and decide who should win, before watching the result on TV (it'll probably be on BBC4), and moaning that the best book wasn't chosen.
Anyway, I thought i'd get an early advantage and read a couple of the longlist that I thought would make it to the shortlist. Colm Toibin's Brooklyn and William Trevor's Love and Summer.
Those of you who know what's on the shortlist will know that neither of these books made it, so I still had 6 more books to try and squeeze in.
However, I can say that, although i'd never have thought about reading these two books usually, i'm really pleased I did.

Toibin's novel is set in the 1950's in a small Irish town and follows Eilis Lacey as she is forced by duty to leave her small town life and her family and friends to move to America (Brooklyn, obviously) where a job at a department store is waiting for her, arranged by the mysterious Father Flood.
Slowly the pain and heartbreak of leaving Ireland is replaced by an acceptance of her new life, and through the routine of her job and shared experiences with her flatmates, she begins to enjoy her life again.
But for how long....
The book drew me in, and although I was initially reluctant to warm to Eilis, by the time she'd reached the land of the free I wanted to know what happened to her. Colm Toibin's style of writing is very simple, and so I was initially surprised that it was a Booker Longlisted book, but I think this is what makes it so readable and accessible. The main issue I had with the book was that he introduced us to some really interesting characters, but then they disappeared and that was the last we heard of them. The woman she shared a room with on the journey to America and the man who sang at the Christmas lunch at the church hall. These are just 2 of the people I'd have wanted to learn more about, but I guess Toibin was trying to say as you go through life, you cross paths with interesting people , never to see them again. But it still annoyed me.
Anyway, it was well worth reading.

Love and Summer by William Trevor was utterly wonderful and it's a travesty that it didn't get onto the Booker shortlist. It is, simply put, the story of a summer love affair between Florian Kilderry, who, one day cycles into the small Irish town of Rathmoye in Ireland, and Ellie, a convent girl who years ago was sent to work for a recently widowed farmer and ended up marrying him. Although Florian plans to leave Ireland a passionate and wreckless affair begins between him and Ellie.
I've never read any William Trevor before but I definitely will be reading more. He has an incredibly evocative way of describing things, from the shift in power between the two protagonists in the story, to the tragedy of Mrs Connulty, who's mother funeral the story begins at. I bloody loved it.

I'm reading Wolf Hall at the moment, and i'll tell you about that some other time and maybe i'll also tell you know what I thought of Summertime by JM Coetzee (maybe i'd best not).

Next week we have a series of guest blogs , and also news of some exciting developments in the world of the Big Green Bookshop, so keep watching.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Big Green Bookshop Five Best Books Ever! By Sam Enthoven

Tim Here. Simon's on holiday. Which is nice. I have not blogged for soo long I've almost forgotten how. Luckily I have one of the greatest authors for young people ever to help me out.

So, without further ado, Ladies & Gentlemen may I present to you the fantastic, the fabulous the something else brilliant that begins with 'F' Mr Sam Enthoven... (cue applause) Who will now tell you all about his top five books... (more applause, and possibly cheering)

Enter Sam. He walks confidently to the centre stage. Takes a swig of water (without spilling any down his shirt) and begins....

PREACHER, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, is a nine-volume comic about friendship, love and courage, encompassing a skewed but brilliant look at American history, righteous rage against religious dogma, vampires, drinking, cowboys, sex, swearing, violence, heart-stopping romance and swearing. It's a work of genius. And if the fact that it's nine volumes long means that technically PREACHER has to be all five of my favourite books plus another four, that's fine with me.

I read BILL, THE GALACTIC HERO by Harry Harrison when I was eleven. I'd picked it up hoping for a Star Wars-style romp full of spaceships and explosions. What I got was SF's answer to Catch-22: dazzlingly cynical, snortingly funny, Bill's story changed my outlook forever. I reread it again yesterday and it was every bit as terrific as the first time.

Lots of books try to scare you. SONG OF KALI by Dan Simmons reached into my mind and disturbed me. This book is haunting, horrifying, harrowing and utterly brilliant. Once you know about the Song, you'll never forget it.

We all have bad days. But if you read TOUCHING THE VOID by Joe Simpson not "only" will you have experienced a jaw-droppingly thrilling true story of grit and survival, you'll also – no matter how bad things ever get for you – be able to say to yourself: 'Well, at least I'm not desperately trying to make my way down one of the world's most dangerous mountains alone, with a broken leg, without food or water or shelter, with no hope of rescue because all my friends think I'm dead.' It's not a book for fans of Boney M, I guess. For everyone else I'd say it's essential.

STONE JUNCTION by Jim Dodge is a wonderful, warm-hearted, gleefully subversive epic of counterculture, chaos and magic. Every few years I find I miss the story and the people in it and I have to reread it again. I won't say more: I just urge you to discover it for yourself.

I'm Sam Enthoven. I write fantastical action thrillers for young people. If you'd like to find out more about me, check my homepage at
Happy reading and best wishes to all who read this –Sam

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Celebrity Top 5

each week, to encourage you to get involved in this 'vote for your 5 favourite books of all time in no particular order' thing we're doing, we've asked a behemoth of the book industry to tell us their own top 5.

To start us off, the mighty Scott Pack has sent us his list. Scott, for those of you who don't know, is head of the rather innovative publisher The Friday Project, who specialise in turning some of that stuff that we enjoy on the web into bookshaped objects to buy in bookshops. He also is better at gambling than me and a lot of other people too.
He has an extremely popular blog called Me and My Big Mouth (much more popular than ours), which is opinionated, true, false, endearing, annoying and slightly addictive.
Anyway, here is his top 5.

I am not entirely sure that these are necessarily my five favourite books but if you held a gun to my head right now and told me I could only save five books from my collection then these would be the ones I would choose.

5. The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I re-read it every couple of years and I have yet to find a flaw. Beautifully crafted. Wonderful tone. Gets better every time.

4. Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec. A true work of genius from a true genius. Based purely on the content alone it is a remarkable novel but when you find out how he wrote the thing it becomes a marvel.

3. A Wild Sheep Chase/Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami. Apologies for the double choice and I am not sure if this omnibus is still available but these two classic early Murakami novels are always best read together. He has never quite topped them if you ask me.

2. The Satanic Mill by Otfried Preussler. Also known as The Curse of Darkling Mill. Without question the best children's book I have ever read. Better than Rowling, Pullman, Gaiman and the rest.

1. The Odyssey by Homer. The greatest story ever told. I would recommend the Richmond Lattimore or Robert Fagles translations but, to be honest, you can't go far wrong with any of them.

Thanks Scott.

please feel free to vote for your top 5 by emailing, phoning, coming into the shop, carrier pigeon etc.
More info on the survey here. Click on this sentence that i'm writing now to get to the votey bit.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Following on from my last post..

Corporation Tax was something we both knew about, but didn't think it would be quite so unpleasant.
It's a tax on taxable profit, and we thought that as in our first year's trading we hadn't really made a profit, this wouldn't affect us too much. Ah...but 'taxable' profit is different to normal profit isn't it, so things like our stock holding were counted as assets. This meant that we'd effectively made quite a healthy profit and were therefore liable to a stonking great tax bill.
And I do mean stonking.
We're paying 3 months rent as well this month, and of course our accountants, who were the bearers of the bad tax news need paying also.

Spare some change guvnor'

alternatively you publishers could offer us extra discounts and extended credit, and customers could decide now's the best time to buy all those books you've been promising yourselves. Oh, and all you schools who owe us money from the end of last term, maybe now's the time to find a pen that works.

Or you could send us your spare change.

In happier news, Katie and I are expecting our second baby on February 20th. So nothing else matters really.

Friday, September 04, 2009

...what could possibly go wrong

Corporation Tax. That's a bit of a bugger isn't it.....
Ah well. Maybe we can pay ourselves again sometime around Christmas.