Between the Covers 14/07/2013

Your weekly guide to what's really going on in the world of books

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The Independent Culture

Literature’s newest prize, The Folio Prize, aims to shake up the current literary landscape, and has also asked the 100 or so members of its Academy to look back at the history of literature and let us know which books should have won prizes at the time, but didn’t. Academicians’ answers are being published one by one on their website (, and so far Bret Easton Ellis has praised Stoner by John Williams (1965): “A very powerful reading experience.”

A L Kennedy has lamented that Party Going by Henry Green (1939) is not more widely read: “We should know Green’s name as we do Chekhov’s”; and Philip Pullman has described The Balloonist by MacDonald Harris (1977) as “ironic, funny, tragic, sexy, and written in the most beautifully intelligent prose.” Today, they will publish Julie Myerson’s nomination which, we can reveal, will be Strangers by Anita Brookner (2009). Myerson calls it “one of the most profound, accomplished and inspiring novels I’ve ever read” and says that she was “shocked and saddened that it was completely passed over for prizes when it was published in 2009.” The Folio Prize will announce this year’s judges on Tuesday, when five lucky Academicians will have the chance to consider 80 books and shortlist eight. The winner will be announced in March 2014.


Just for the record, Between the Covers did check the quote in this week’s interview with the author Tilly Culme-Seymour, who says that childhood summers on the Norwegian island of Småhølmene were all carefree, idyllic and full of “naked scrabble” … She meant naked scrabbling about in the sunny island wilderness, surely? Thank you to the interviewer, Christian, for texting her to check: no, she really did mean naked Scrabble, the board game. Only in Scandinavia ….


A recent report by the Booksellers Association shows that 63 per cent of shoppers admit to what they call “showrooming”, where they browse books in hard-working local bookshops and then go and buy them a few pence cheaper from tax-avoiding online retail giants. At the same time, most shoppers feel sad that there are fewer bookshops on the high street than five years ago. Younger shoppers apparently feel more guilty about this than older shoppers. So they should! Shame on you. High street bookshop chains and most independents deliver, you know. And often they’re cheaper than you think. When you’ve finished standing in the naughty corner, see for details.


Don’t you just love it when a book really speaks to you? Between the Covers has received some advance review copies recently with stickers on the fronts that aim to do exactly that. One said: “Please review me!” Another, Michael Robotham’s Say You’re Sorry, read: “Love it or your money back.” However, Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel arrived with a free T-shirt, which bears the slogan “Reacher said nothing”. If you’ve been there, read that, and want the T-shirt, tweet @IndyonSunday explaining where you would wear it, by noon on Tuesday. Our favourite will win the shirt (which comes in a dark, olive green).