The Nan Booker Prize

July 29, 2015, Posted by Beau Merchant in Books, Books Worth Staring At, Uncategorized

The Nan Booker Prize 2015

Inspired by the 2015 Man Booker Prize longlist announcement, we asked our own Nan Who Stares at Books (Beau’s Nan) to pick her favourite books of the last year. So, slightly missing the point, she sent us a list of books and her (unedited) opinion on them, dating back to 1947. Bless ‘er, you legend Nan!

So, without further ado, we present you with the shortlist for the inaugural Nan Booker Prize:

     Alone in Berlin

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

“How lives change overnight, how through fear friends become enemies.yet kindness is amongst it also. Excellent reading.”


That Woman

That Women (she meant Woman) by Anna Sebba (she meant Anne)

“First book on Wallis, that l felt told whole story.”

 American Devil

American Devil by Oliver Stark

“Gripping, makes one think, how these peoples minds work, 3/4 way through.”



Toast by Nigel Slater

“Oh yes! The joys of yester-years. Curly Wurleys, Merrymaids choclate toffees. Junket. Kathy kirby,the memories came flooding back. Laughed, cried. ‘Oh happy days’ brought back by a book.”


Joe and Marilyn by Roger Kahn

“A love story of passion, despair, friendship. An actress and Baseball star. Magic.”


Waiting for Doggo

Waiting for Doggo by Mark Mills

“Very different from his others. But so bloody ennoyable. Xxxx Cup of tea then back to Doggo xxxx Enjoyable I mean actually xxxx”

See you again same time next year, Nan.

July 24, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books

Cultural Favourites: TENACITY author J.S. Law

J.S. Law’s debut novel, Tenacity, is unlike any crime thriller book we’ve read before – and we mean that in a very good way. Set primarily on a submarine, it follows Lieutenant Danielle Lewis as she investigates a suspicious suicide. Trapped in this claustrophobic environment and with a crew of hostile men to deal with, she has to stand alone under extreme pressure – especially with a potential murderer on board.

With the book out this week, we asked J.S. Law to tell us a few of his cultural highlights…

Book – Favourite book? What a question to ask an author. I could barely narrow this down to my favourite fifty books! But as I’m on the ropes and I have to give an answer, I’m going to go with The Road by Cormac McCarthy. That book really taught me how you accomplish amazing atmosphere with the simplest of language, and I can re-read it over and again.

Writer – Man, how to choose this… Tolkien would be too easy. McCarthy would obviously be up there, as would Easton Ellis. But I’m going to look to crime and put McDermid, James and Billingam in play too. Thinking about writing style, atmosphere, sense of place… I’m going to choose the Godfather of Tartan Noir, William McIlvanney. If you haven’t read the Laidlaw books then do (the audiobook, read by Mr MacIlvanney himself, is also absolutely fantastic).

Artist – My daughter’s pretty good!

Film – I’m a closet geek so the Lord of the Rings trilogy would be top of this pile. If I wasn’t allowed that, due to unfair anti-geek laws, then I’d go with the series of Sons of Anarchy (though we definitely need to see more V-Rods roaring around the set).

Motorcycle (note from MWSAB: we don’t think we included this category originally…) – My Harley Davidson Night Rod Special ;-)

Food – I’m not sure there’s any food I like that’s good for you. My favourite food is a fry up: Scottish Square sliced sausage, black pudding, potato scones, fried bread, bacon, eggs, beans and toast (and sliced fried tomato if you need one of your five a day). All of that in a fresh morning roll is how I roll. If I was being cultural then it’d need to be something from overseas, you know, like a burrito.

Drink – I think this would need to be Dom Perignon White Gold Jeroboam. Actually, in all honesty, I just Googled that and, at $40k a bottle, it’s never likely to touch my lips! In truth, I’m a sailor through and through. I like lager and I’m not even that picky. German beers tend to be a little kinder on my hangover and so Beck’s remains a firm favourite. And if there are no good lagers about, I’ll take a Caledonian, which is my tipple of choice when I watch Scotland play at Murrayfield.

Half Empty/Half full – Definitely half empty! Half full kind of implies it’s not time to get the next round in yet.

Place/Holiday destination – Anyone who’s been on a good night out knows that location is secondary to company. So for me, as long as the kids and wife (or some of my buddies if it’s that kinda trip) are there, then I’m all good. I did fall in love with the Garda Region of Italy though. I’d live there in a heartbeat. Green and lush countryside, beautiful weather and wine, great cycling and water sports. That’d be somewhere I could call home.

Band/Album – Queensryche, Operation: Mindcrime.

Sport/team – Rugby Union all the way. I attend Murrayfield for almost every Scotland home game and have done, whenever possible, since I played in the Queen Victoria School’s Pipes and Drums at the national stadium in the late eighties. I still remember the first time we sang ‘Flower of Scotland’ at Murrayfield in 1990 and the triumph that followed it, and it’s worth bearing in mind that being a Scotland fan, you have to remember back to stuff like that, because victories have been few and far between since then, although all the sweeter for it. (also, check out The Grudge by Tom English – superb telling of the build up to that match).

Hobbies – It’s got to be writing. I’m often asked how I make time to write the novels, but, in truth, writing them is my escape from daily life. I get to sit in my comfy office chair and make stuff up. I loved writing Tenacity, building new characters like Dan Lewis up from nothing but ideas and concepts and then presenting her to the world. Once you’ve met her, I think you might agree my hobby is very worthwhile.

TENACITY by J.S. Law launches on July 30 2015, and you can pre-order the ebook here – we absolutely loved it. Follow James on Twitter: @JSLawBooks tenacity3d

July 22, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books, Sport

Book News | Phil Tufnell autobiography out this August

Cricketing legend. Ballroom dancer. Question of Sport skipper. Ski jumper. Jungle king. Phil Tufnell has packed a lot of stuff into his life, so it seems only fitting that he’s chosen to write an autobiography, the excellently titled Where Am I?

Out this August following the end of the current Ashes series, Where Am I? tells Phil’s story, from the end of his cricketing days through to the crazy rollercoaster ride he has enjoyed since retiring from the game in 2003, including dining on mealworms on I’m a Celebrity, shaking those hips on Strictly Come Dancing, and tormenting poor old Sue Barker on A Question of Sport. It’s easy to understand why Tuffers has become such a national treasure, and we’re sure his hilarious story is one you won’t want to miss.

Where Am I? by Phil Tufnell will be published in hardback and ebook on August 27 2015. You can pre-order a SIGNED copy now from the good folks at Waterstones HERE.


July 2, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books, Food

9 great bookish quotes about booze

You like a drink, we like a drink, and most authors certainly like a drink. So let’s raise a glass and enjoy 9 great book-related(ish) quotes about booze…











June 30, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books

12 classic paperback reads for summer

Sitting on a beach drinking overpriced continental lager. Sweating excessively on public transport in a hot European city. Visiting an old fort and having a photo next to a cannon. We all celebrate the summer holidays in different ways, but there seems to be one constant: a good book.

Thinking of what to take with you on your jollies? Here are our picks of 12 classic paperback reads for summer that you simply can’t go wrong with…


1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

The fourth in the series is coming soon and we couldn’t be more excited. This dangerously addictive thriller will have you cancelling plans left right and centre. Rich

2. Cider with Rosie – Laurie Lee

Laurie Lee’s beautifully written memoir about growing up in post- WWI rural Gloucestershire. Nostalgic bliss with a melancholy edge. Rich

3. Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell

London during the 1976 heatwave was a very sweaty place, and hardly ideal conditions for a father to disappear without giving his family any clues as to where he’s gone. A great set-up for another masterpiece of writing from Maggie. She never disappoints. Tom

4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

15-year-old Christopher Boone investigates the murder of his neighbour’s dog in this modern classic. Has sold mllions of copies and been made into a hugely succesful theatre production – read it to find out why. Tom




5. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple

A glorious black comedy and an absolute riot. Coming from a former Arrested Development writer, you’d expect nothing less. Rich

6. I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

912 pages of tension, twists and action. A gruesome murder leads to a world-wide adventure that doesn’t let up for a beat. We can’t wait to read author Terry Hayes’ next novel The Year of the Locust  in 2016. Beau

7. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – John le Carré

You cna pick up any le Carré and get lost in a world of espionage, mystery and conflict, but this is probably his finest hour. Tom

8. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

A classic. The desire to live the ‘American Dream’ comes at a cost in the 1920s. The rich-young-things are so well written you can smell the wealth coming off the pages. As you lay on the beach sipping a cocktail this summer, you could almost feel like one of them. Beau




9. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair – Joël Dicker

The definition of a page-turner. An author suffering from writer’s block goes to a small coastal town to  support his friend and mentor who has been arrested for the murder of a young girl 33 years ago. He’s gradually drawn into the town’s murky past where nothing (as always) is as it seems. If you can get over the odd bit of questionable dialogue, this is the crime book of the summer. Beau

10. Fatherland – Robert Harris

The enduring classic that made Harris’s name – the ultimate in speculative fiction. Rich

11. American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Nothing says summer like ‘ROAD TRIP!’, and Gaiman takes us on the ultimate one in American Gods. A strange journey across the states featuring murder, forgotten gods and a host of bizarre characters. Beau

12. On the Road – Jack Kerouac

Speaking of road trips, this pops up all the time on lists like this because it’s a classic – especially for anyone who’s travelling. Tom

…or if you don’t fancy any of those, just get yourself a John Grisham.

June 24, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books

7 great quotes about bookshops

It’s independent bookshop week! As you can probably guess, we’re huge bookshop fans, so the chance to celebrate glorious havens of bookish joy is one not to be missed.

You can join in the fun by simply visiting your local bookshop (find yours here), and by getting involved on social media by following @indiebound_uk and @booksaremybag and using #IBW2015. Check the Independent Bookshop Week site for all the info:

In honour of this week, here are seven great quotes about bookshops. Well, six great ones and one from Mr Book















Happy independent bookshop week!

June 18, 2015, Posted by Mr Book in Books

Stephen Bywater: My 5 favourite writers

Stephen Bywater, author of horror thrillers The Devil’s Ark and new book Night of the Damned, reveals his writing inspiration…

Where to start is the natural response, or at least for anyone who loves reading.

Hergé and Tintin? Early to bed and sharing in the adventures of the roving reporter and his faithful dog? I still believe it was Tintin’s trips aboard Haddock’s ship, the Sirius, which made me run away to sea at sixteen.

Then there was Stephen King and later, with a heterosexual teenager’s desire to get grips with the opposite sex, Henry Miller’s Rosy Crucifixion trilogy. Miller, however, taught me more about men than he did women, and perhaps a desire to tell the truth, no matter how unpalatable it might be to others.

Recently, there have also been brief but intense love affairs with B S Johnson and Shirley Jackson. If you haven’t read B S Johnson’s Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry I urge you to read it. It’s an anarchic, cynical and cruelly humorous novel which will lead you by the nose to Jonathan Coe’s award-winning biography of the writer. (Does Coe count as a sly sixth?)

Night of the Damned by Stephen Bywater is out now in paperback and ebook

night of the damned

June 11, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books

The Father’s Day Gift Guide 2015

It’s that time of year again where we all show our love for old bear.

Father’s Day is fast approaching, and if you’re looking for the perfect book to treat him with then we’ve got what you need. Check out this selection of beauties…



Hearts of Stone – Simon Scarrow: a powerful WWII novel by the bestselling historical fiction author. Three friends find themselves on opposing sides as the war reaches the Greek island of Lefkas. Action-packed and rich in historical detail. Hardback, Headline, £18.99


Quicksand by Steve Toltz: the hilarious new novel from the Booker-shortlisted author. It’s a proper tour de force, taking a subversive (and slightly disturbing) look at 21st century life. Hardback, Hodder & Stoughton, £17.99

The Children Act – Ian McEwan: Another fantastic slice of fiction from the author of Atonement and On Chesil Beach. We won’t spoil the plot, but it’s safe to say that it’s one of his best in recent years. Paperback, Vintage, £7.99

Finders Keepers – Stephen King: the second volume in a trilogy (following Mr Mercedes) from the legendary author, focusing on Detective Bill Hodges. Proper old school, heart-pounding suspense. Hardback, Hodder & Stoughton, £20



Ricky Hatton’s Vegas Tales – Ricky Hatton: the boxing legend reveals hilarious, crazy tales from his five huge fights in Las Vegas, giving an insight into his incredible career. Packed with contributions from fans, his team, and celebrity pals such as Noel Gallagher. Hardback, Headline, £20

Vegas Tales

No Limits – Ian Poulter: the autobiography from one of golf’s most charismatic (and best-dressed) figures. This is his inspirational story, form his early failed career as a footballer with Spurs , through to his match-winning contributions in successive European Ryder Cup triumphs. Paperback, Quercus, £7.99



Rebel Heroes – Huey Morgan: one of the sharpest radio DJs in the land, Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ frontman Huey Morgan examines his favourite musical rule-breakers and looks at why we will always need revolutionary artists. Hardback, Octopus, £18.99


The Road Beneath My Feet – Frank Turner: the folk punk hero reveals all about life on the road in this brilliant tour memoir. Anyone who loves live music will enjoy Frank’s journey from tiny pub gigs through to selling out Wembley Arena. Hardback, Headline, £20


Bonus Non-Fiction

Churchill’s Secret Warriors – Damien Lewis: the renowned war reporter uncovers the stories behind the band of eccentrics and buccaneers that Churchill recruited to strike back against a seemingly invincible foe – the Nazis. Gripping stuff. Paperback, Quercus, £7.9950355_ChurchillsSecretWarriors_PB.indd

Walking Away – Simon Armitage: The poet follows up Walking Home with a new memoir, as he swaps the moorland uplands of the north for the coastal fringes of Britain’s south west, taking poetry into distant communities and tourist hot-spots and busking his way from start to finish. Hardback, Faber & Faber, £16.99

The Water Book – Alok Jha: ever wondered what the deal is with that stuff that comes out of your tap? (water, incase you weren’t sure). Wonder no more, as Alok Jha lifts the lid on the weird world of water and reveals the extraordinary story about our most ordinary substance. Hardback, Headline, £20

 Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there!