Your guide to reading the world, and the ‘Publishers We Love’ ready to help you do it

If seeing the sun through your office window is giving you itchy feet we can help by kick-starting your world travels (in a literary sense, not literally).

We recently came across this wonderful TED talk from writer Ann Morgan, recalling her experience reading a book from every single country in just one year. Morgan was inspired to set herself the challenge after noticing the almost complete dominance of English language books, from English-speaking countries, on her bookshelves.

She sourced her reading material using recommendations from locals, in some special cases it even being translated by volunteers purely for the project. Morgan said, ‘it’s incredible the breadth of perspective you get’.

This resultant guide gives details of all the 196 books—or unpublished translations where nothing else was available—she read, to allow others to follow her journey.

And luckily for us, and you, there’s a new press in town which is going to add even more amazing translations to this impressive reading list.

Titled Axis Press are, in their own words because they say it best, ‘a not-for profit press on a mission to shake up contemporary international literature. Tilted Axis publishes the books that might not otherwise make it into English, for the very reasons that make them exciting to us – artistic originality, radical vision, the sense that here is something new’.

Deborah Smith, Publisher and Editor at Titled Axis, is the talented translator that bought Han Kang’s now Man Booker International Prize shortlisted ‘The Vegetarian’ to English readers.

Deborah specialises in Korean, but we can also expect Indian, Indonesian and Uzbek translations from Tilted Axis Press in the near future. Their focus on Asian literature will nicely supplement the already brilliant work on European translations being done by Peirene Press.

Tilted_Axis_Press_540_400_235We were lucky enough to catch Deborah Smith talking about ‘The Vegetarian’ at Burley Fisher Bookshop in Haggerston (watch this space for the ‘Bookshops we love’ feature!), and have every faith that Tilted Axis is going to be something special.

A Woman’s War

Last weekend we visited the LeAnna Leska by Lee Millere Miller exhibition ‘A Woman’s War’ at the Imperial War Museum.

One photo that particularly caught our eye was this brilliant, and very Worrals-esque, shot of Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilot Anna Leska.

The ATA was a civilian organisation set up during the Second World War, responsible for ferrying military aircraft (new, damaged and repaired) between airfields, factories and maintenance units – much as Worrals is seen doing in the opening book of the series by Captain W.E. Johns, ‘Worrals of the W.A.A.F’. The ATA’s  role was vital to the war effort: their delivery of aircraft from the factories to the Royal Air Force freed countless numbers of combat pilots for duty in battle.

The ATA employed pilots deemed unsuitable for the Royal Air Force, through age, fitness, or notably, gender. These pilots needed to be capable of flying a large and challenging range of military aircraft in difficult conditions, and at risk from enemy attack.

‘Worrals of the A.T.A’ would have in fact been more accurate than ‘Worrals of the W.A.A.F’, as whilst members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force were not supposed to pilot planes, over one hundred women served as wartime pilots for the ATA, and Johns actually modelled the character of Worrals on ATA pilots Amy Johnson and Pauline Gower.

Experienced pilot, aviation writer and civil defence commissioner Pauline Gower proposed the establishment of a women’s branch of the ATA, and subsequently headed up this division.

Amy Johnson was a pioneering aviator, being the first female pilot to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930 and setting numerous other long distance records. She joined the newly formed ATA in 1940 and famously lost her life in 1941 in service during a ferry flight, after bailing out into the Thames Estuary. The exact circumstances surrounding her death are still disputed and her body was never recovered.

Their stories, and also that of Lee Miller, are as interesting as a Worrals book, and well worth looking into.

New Fiction for Summer 16!

leyendo-un-libro-en-la-playaWe have two new fiction titles to announce for the summer season. ‘The Ballad of Curly Oswald’ is the account of a boy growing up in a hippie commune in the 1970s amid his extended family of drop-outs and dreamers, as they grapple with problems ranging from eco-friendly slug-control to the mischief of a power-hungry guru. It is an extraordinary chronicle of a lifestyle both alternative yet strangely viable, a microcosm of eccentricity, comedy and grotesque tragedy, told with the unflinching eye of a child and the sympathy of a narrator who sees the underlying humour of life in all its deranged glory. And yet more bizarre is ‘Quintember’, which tells of the murderous career of Dr Felix Culpepper, a classics scholar of St Wygefortis College, Cambridge and assassin-of-choice to the British Establishment. If there is a book with more erudition, violence and wit in it, it has yet to cross our desk. Either is the perfect antidote to yet another Wilbur Smith or Katie FFFFForde style item of beach fodder.