New event: I’ll be at P&G Wells Bookshop in Winchester at 3pm on Sunday 3rd July, reading from The Island of Thieves and signing books. See you there!
How long does it take to write a book? I’ve just written a short piece here about the length of time that I took to write my new book, The Island of Thieves.
The book itself is published next month; here’s the cover…
I went into a bookshop recently and spent a long time wandering through the fiction shelves, searching for a novel to read. I went through crime, sf, children’s books and general fiction, skimming titles, reading a few pages here and there, but nothing sprang out at me. I don’t know where the problem lies; have I become tired of fiction? Are novels losing their fizz? Or was I looking at a particularly uninspiring selection? I don’t think so: this was a fairly big bookshop with long lines of shelves.
I eventually left with two books. Both were in the Psychology section, although neither should have been; they’re both what would probably be described as “creative non-fiction” and so, perhaps, unclassifiable. One has proved to be brilliant; the other interesting and worthwhile.
The first was a wonderful book by Tim Parks about his struggles with illness: Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic’s Search for Health and Healing. It’s funny, clever, illuminating, intriguing, surprising and highly recommended. Teach Us to Sit Still describes how he lived in a state of agony for many years, trying all kinds of conventional medical techniques, before finally, reluctantly, sceptically, turning to meditation. To his astonishment, it worked. To my astonishment, this book actually made me want to start meditating. I haven’t yet. It also made me want to read more Parks; I’ve read a couple of his non-fiction books before, but none of his novels; I’m now going to remedy that.
Then I read The Case for Working with Your Hands: or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good by Matthew Crawford. (Which was published in the US as Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work; the British title was changed because we have no idea what “shop class” means.) Not a perfect book by any means, but fascinating in places; he mingles some neat description of his own working life – as an electrician, a philosopher and a mechanic – with a polemic on the failings of modern industrial society.
I’ve also reviewed a couple of good books for the Guardian: a new biography of Romain Gary by David Bellos – author of the wonderful biography of Georges Perec – and his translation of Gary’s strange book, Hocus Bogus, which could also be called “creative non-fiction” too, although in a very different way to these other two.
I’ve written a short piece here about writing under two different names.
I’m doing an event in the Foyles in Westfield – in Shepherd’s Bush – next Saturday, August 14th. I’ll be there at 2pm.
If you come along, make sure you bring a copy of this voucher, which gives you 20% off all children’s books in Foyles till the end of August.
I’m going to be doing another event in London next month too: on Saturday 18th September, I’ll be at the Chiswick Book Festival.
The seventh Grk book is published this week. (I’ve seen it described as the eighth and even the ninth, but it’s definitely the seventh. I’ve kept count.) If you live in the UK, you can order a copy from amazon or (I hope) buy it in your local bookshop. As you can probably tell from the title, it’s the story of Tim and Grk’s adventures in Australia.
I was interviewed for the Guardian Books Podcast, talking about Grk Down Under and reading a couple of pages from the book. You can listen to the podcast here:
My bit starts after about thirteen minutes. Before that, Julie Eccleshare talks about her favourite books coming out this summer.