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Old 21st Dec 2007, 12:22   #1
kirsty
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Default R&J Book Club Picks

The latest picks for the Richard and Judy Book Club have just been released:

9 January A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini (Bloomsbury)
16 January Random Acts of Heroic Love, Danny Scheinmann (Black Swan)
23 January The Rose of Sebastopol, Katharine McMahon (W&N)
30 January A Quiet Belief in Angels, RJ Ellory (Orion)
6 February Notes From an Exhibition, Patrick Gale (Fourth Estate)
13 February Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris (Viking)
20 February The Visible World, Mark Slouka (Portobello)
27 February Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones (John Murray)
5 March Blood River, Tim Butcher (Chatto)
12 March The Welsh Girl, Peter Ho Davies (Sceptre)


Someone from Waterstone's has said that it is "the most bookshop-friendly list" to come from them in a while. Presumably because of the Booker connection of Mister Pip and The Welsh Girl, and also the hype around Joshua Ferris.

Not sure if any of you are interested in R&J, but thought I'd post the list anyhoo.
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Old 21st Dec 2007, 12:27   #2
John Self
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Default Re: R&J Book Club Picks

I'm very interested in the list, as I think R&J have a great ability to bring interesting books to a wider audience. And certainly Peter Ho Davies will be pretty relaxed now about not making the Booker shortlist after all...

Otherwise though I am pretty unenthusiastic about the list. Bookshop-friendly, yes, in that it's mostly pretty readable stuff, nothing as challenging as, say, Cloud Atlas.
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Old 21st Dec 2007, 12:55   #3
kirsty
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Default Re: R&J Book Club Picks

Totally agree JS. I was heartened when Cloud Atlas won their Book of the Year prize a couple of years ago (ahead of the more "obvious" R&J fair like Robbie Williams's auto/biog and the chick lit-ty types). I had hoped there would be similarly challenging books on the lists afterwards but that hasn't seemed to have happened.
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Old 3rd Jan 2008, 10:04   #4
John Self
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Default Re: R&J Book Club Picks

Most of the paperbacks seem to be in the shops now: last year I thought the publishers rushed out their paperbacks to coincide with the shows, now I understand that it's a condition of being picked that they make paperback editions available in time.

Had a browse of them in Waterstone's yesterday, and left even less impressed than I had been on first instinct above.

It's not a completely unappealing list, of course - The Welsh Girl is one of the best novels of last year, and although Mister Pip has slipped down a little in my estimation since I read it, I still enjoyed it very much. Apart from that though, the only one I would like to read is the non-fiction title, Blood River by Tim Butcher. John le Carré called it "a masterpiece" and I was further intrigued by a hilariously snotty review on Amazon which called it "a grating and irritating read for any seasoned traveller. He is ignorant, over-dramatic and quite obviously better suited to the easy European lifestyle," adding somewhat resentfully that the author does have "a great literary capacity". Sounds good to me!

The other book I've read on the list is Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End, which I know to be crap.

On A Thousand Splendid Suns, I would kind of like to read it out of curiosity but Stewart's comments on The Kite Runner have warned me off Hosseini. There's a short extract here (PDF file) of the my-first-burqa type which does suggest it's playing to the Western reader's horror of Islamism.

I keep trying to pick up R.J. Ellory's A Quiet Belief in Angels and Danny Scheinmann's Random Acts of Heroic Love, but with titles as offputtingly sentimental as that, just think how bad the contents must be! And The Rose of Sebastopol might be brilliant, but the publisher has chosen to sell it in the historical-drama-with-corseted-woman-on-cover genre, so sod 'em.

I had succeeded in picking up Mark Slouka's The Visible World, even before it was R&J'd, mainly because I liked the cover of the hardback. But when I browsed it yesterday, I read a one-page chapter at random and found it so cloyingly overwritten that I couldn't eat for the rest of the day. So that's why the reviews compare him with John Berger and Michael Ondaatje. Still, kudos to small publisher Portobello for making it into the big time.

That leaves Patrick Gale, erstwhile purveyor of gay lit with silly titles. Notes from an Exhibition sounds a bit earnest - bipolar artist dies and leaves "a legacy of secrets" - but who knows? And if Gale turns out to be one of this year's R&J big sellers - though I've a feeling that will be the Ellory just as last year it was The Interpretation of Murder, another crime-linked one - then at least he has a big back catalogue for the public to fill up on, a la Jodi Picoult.
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Old 3rd Jan 2008, 10:12   #5
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Default Re: R&J Book Club Picks

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Self View Post
The other book I've read on the list is Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End, which I know to be crap.
Ha ha. I couldn't resist the pull of Waterstones yesterday and splurged a little on the 3 for 2s. Because I pretty much had the other titles, or they were corset dramas, or they plain didn't interest me, I just picked that up, along with Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook and Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Klay, as my free book. Also got Chabon's Gentlemen Of The Road, reduced to four or five quid, which is maybe a hint that it's not that good. But who cares - it seems a quick read.

Quote:
On A Thousand Splendid Suns, I would kind of like to read it out of curiosity but Stewart's comments on The Kite Runner have warned me off Hosseini. There's a short extract here (PDF file) of the my-first-burqa type which does suggest it's playing to the Western reader's horror of Islamism.
Although I never finished The Swallows Of Kabul, due to reading fatigue rather than boredom, I think Yasmina Khadra does burqa-lit better.
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Old 3rd Jan 2008, 14:46   #6
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Default Re: R&J Book Club Picks

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It's not a completely unappealing list, of course - The Welsh Girl is one of the best novels of last year, and although Mister Pip has slipped down a little in my estimation since I read it, I still enjoyed it very much.
I'm glad to see both of these on the list. Mister Pip has actually gone up in my estimation as I am in the midst of Great Expectations which I had not read before.
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Old 4th Jan 2008, 2:11   #7
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Default Re: R&J Book Club Picks

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Self View Post

On A Thousand Splendid Suns, I would kind of like to read it out of curiosity but Stewart's comments on The Kite Runner have warned me off Hosseini.

What, my review was not enough to put you off?
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Old 4th Jan 2008, 7:55   #8
John Self
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Default Re: R&J Book Club Picks

Ah yes, I knew there was another reason...
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Old 7th Jan 2008, 10:45   #9
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Default Re: R&J Book Club Picks

Sigh. Like Hosseini needs any kind of extra promotion, I'd say that his books are amongst the best selling in our shop already. I get so sad selling the same books over and over, and watching them gain more publicity and sales and promotions. It may be a good read, i don't know, but there seems such an imbalance between those in campaigns and those that have not got the might of R&J or publishers with scads of money behind them.

I have a confession actually. I talked a woman out of buying the Joshua Ferris. I do not usually try to change people's minds, but for some reason this book pisses me off. It's not nearly as good as it thinks it is, Coupland has done it all better before, and yet there it is, deemed hip, destined for great sales. Bah!
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Old 7th Jan 2008, 10:58   #10
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Default Re: R&J Book Club Picks

Good for you sara! Yes, the Ferris book is almost insanely over-rated. Is everyone else mad, or is it me?

I was in Sainburys and Tesco at the weekend and surprised to see neither had any of the R&J books, except for the Hosseini which they were stocking anyway. Waterstone's is coming down with them, and even our little newsagent/toy/stationery shop across the road from my office has The Welsh Girl and Mister Pip. Maybe real booksellers will get a head start on the supermarkets and make a bit of money out of them then.
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