Between the covers: What’s really going on in the world of books

The award for Humour at the Polticial Book Awards went to Martin Rowson’s The Coalition Book

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Between the Covers cannot generally be bought (although it’s true that we will do almost anything for a free canvas book bag), but an exception was made last week for Dr Hilary Hubbard, the winning bidder for an evening with The Independent and Independent on Sunday’s literary editors in the papers’ Christmas charity auction.

The bid was a present from her husband to take her mind off a tricky operation, and Dr Hubbard tells us she was pleased to come round to the news that she had an evening to look forward to in Literary London. So off we trotted to the Political Book Awards to sup champagne, chomp beef canapes and salmon “bowl food”, and rub shoulders with the likes of John Sergeant, Andrew Marr, Ziauddin Sardar, Christine Hamilton and Mary Beard.

The host, Rory Bremner, was worth the entry fee on his own, with a scattergun approach to Chilcot Inquiry gags and literary political in-jokes: “Political fiction: this normally goes to somebody’s expenses ... Political humour and satire: this should be a shoo-in for the Ukip register of members and councillors ...”

The French Ambassador, Her Excellency Sylvie Bermann, made an impassioned defence of free speech, and presented the award for Humour to Martin Rowson’s The Coalition Book. Rowson (top) impressed by beginning his speech “Je suis Charlie”, and completing it entirely in French.

We don’t know who he was talking about, but he did mention: “moutons ... horribles… onanists … Farage, le serpent pugiliste ...” Congratulations, all, and thanks Dr Hubbard for buying us.

Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi and Larry Siems has received some rave reviews (including here last Sunday) since it appeared in a simultaneous, worldwide publication on 20 January, and is already number 19 on the bestsellers chart for biography and memoir, according to Waterstones.

One person who won’t be able to read it, however, is Slahi – or any of his fellow detainees at Guantanamo. “The detention centre library at Guantanamo has more than 19,000 titles,” a spokesman told VICE News. “Books are provided as a means of intellectual stimulation. All titles available are culturally sensitive, non-extremist in nature, and generally non-controversial.” However, “US forces personnel assigned to Joint Task Force Guantanamo are free to purchase [Slahi’s] book as desired”.

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