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Five things we loved this week

Posted on 5th February 2016 by Sally Campbell
Our literary round-up of the last seven days

1.  Thank you for helping us raise £1million

We are thrilled to announce that our #buybooksforsyria campaign has now raised its target of £1million for Oxfam’s Syria Crisis Appeal.  This is enough money to deliver clean water and sanitation to thousands of people affected by the Syria conflict. We are hugely grateful to all the authors and publishers who came together for such a good cause and a huge thank you to everyone who bought a book in support of this campaign.

2.   Four legs may be better than two

All eyes (compound-, cat- and human-) are on nature at the moment. We love fur, feathers and claws. Sales of bear costumes are on the rise.  And reports are flooding in of pigeon impersonators congregating in Trafalgar Square. Three particularly notable arrivals to the natural history section: Firstly, Landskipping, a beautiful book that explores all aspects of our landscapes from animal husbandry to its sheer beauty/sublimity.  Raptor, James Macdonald Lockhart’s intimate portrait of these magnificent birds in the wild will appeal to fans of H is For Hawk. Finally, Being A Beast is an intelligent and comic wonder of a book detailing the many ways one man emulated wild animals, to get closer to nature.

3.    Night of the living classic

Sometimes, the present reanimates a great book from the past – it then has a resurgence of life, rampages around and causes all manner of new influence. One such re-animated classic is Look Homeward Angel, which is causing a stir as a new-found love for the book spreads far and wide. Two other titles of old that are rising up and capturing hearts and minds: the controversial title, The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage, under-appreciated in its time, is having its long-over-due revival (read a review of The Power of The Dog here) and John le Carre’s The Night Manager, our Rediscovered Classic of the Month, admiration for which seems to be infectious, so watch out (you can read a review here).

4.    A literature prescription

It’s official: literature is a powerful medicine. Stephen Fry, Ian McKellen and Melvyn Bragg have all contributed to a new free online course at Warwick University that teaches students how literature can help ease mental health difficulties. The course aims to cover six main topics: ‘Stress’, ‘heartbreak’, ‘bereavement’, ‘trauma’, ‘depression and bi-polar’, and ‘aging and dementia’. More than 9000 people have signed up for the course which began on Monday. If you don’t have time for the course, just read any book – it has long been proven that a mere 6 minutes of reading will calm anyone – and – the argument that you can read yourself happy is not new.

5.   International and time-travelling books

Would you like to take an illegal trip through Tibet in the early 1950’s and watch – at a safe distance – the Chinese Red Army march over the border? Would you like to  be embroiled in the complex and Machiavellian manoeuvres of the international arms trade, yet remain unscathed? Would you like to understand immigration in an intimate, moving and more human way? Would you like to discover how one man shaped late-twentieth century culture by witnessing his defence of some of Britain’s most loveable rogues? And would you like to take a magical trip through the top-soil to find hundreds of species of friendly beetles? Well, all you need to do is read our five books of the month then. Easy as that.

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