North Melbourne Books - December 2014 Newsletter
     Independent, local book shop set in the heart of North Melbourne
Hello! We are very excited about Christmas this year at North Melbourne Books. We've been putting decorations on the tree, choosing lovely Christmas lights and of course, reading some wonderful Christmas stories. Penguin has brought out some beautifully presented Christmas classics, bound in hardback and featuring great authors such as Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott. We review two of them below.

Our author interview this month is with Bob Brown. We talk with Bob about his inspiring book, Optimism: Reflections on a Life of Action.

December is a quieter month for new releases, but there is still much to get excited about, with new titles from Nick Hornby, Haruki Murakami, Stephen King, Helen Razer, Bernard Keane, Guy Rundle and Frank Moorhouse.

Finally, we'd like to take this opportunity to wish all our customers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

North Melbourne Books Talks to Former Greens Leader Bob Brown
NMB: You start your book with a marvelous quote from British philosopher Bertrand Russell: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” How can the intelligent but doubtful start to assert their influence politically, and how do you avoid becoming too cocksure?

BB: Take the risk! The intelligent have got to get over it (being full of doubt).

NMB: During your political career you have been ridiculed in parliament for raising questions of conservation, and in the press for your optimism about a future possible global parliament. Why do you think our politics lacks so much imagination and hope?

BB: Because it is dominated by vested interests, exemplified by the lobby houses - for miners, loggers, insurance industry, big retailers, big farmers etc. - opposite Parliament House in Canberra. Not least of all these is the Murdoch media with, eg, its pervasive climate scepticism and pro-coal editorial drive.

NMB: You were a rarity in Australian politics, being an openly gay leader of a parliamentary party. That’s quite a journey for a person who at one stage underwent aversion therapy to try and change his sexuality. What would you say to a young gay person going into politics today?

BB: Go for it. Be the first gay PM. Never forget those, in this country, who were hung, jailed or destroyed because they were gay - or those now persecuted for whatever reason.

NMB: In Optimism you say that writing down problems can sometimes help resolve them. Has the process of writing your book helped you come to a new personal understanding?

Yes. Always it does. My next time will be on "Defiance!"


NMB: Your book is simply and beautifully written. You’ve also published poetry, and that comes through in your writing. Who are the writers that have inspired you most on your journey?

BB: Many and various, including Bertrand, Oscar and Judith Wright. A little humour has got to be part of the story!
New fiction for December
Funny Girl
Nick Hornby
Viking $29.99

Barbara Parker is Miss Blackpool of 1964, but she doesn't want to be a beauty queen. She wants to make people laugh, like her heroine Lucille Ball. So she leaves Blackpool and her family behind, takes herself off to London, and gets a job behind the cosmetics counter of a Kensington department store, while trying to work out how she can get herself noticed. Nick Hornby's new novel offers a captivating portrait of youthful exuberance and creativity at a time when Britain itself was experiencing one of its most enduring creative bursts.
The Strange Library
Haruki Murakami
Harvill/Secker $29.99

On his way home from school, the young narrator of The Strange Library finds himself wondering how taxes were collected in the Ottoman Empire. He pops into the local library to see if it has a book on the subject. This is his first mistake. Led to a special 'reading room' in a maze under the library by a strange old man, he finds himself imprisoned with only a sheep man, who makes excellent donuts, and a girl, who can talk with her hands, for company. A new novella from Haruki Murakami.
Stephen Baxter
Gollancz $29.99

Fresh from his latest collaboration with Terry Pratchett on the Long Earth sequence Stephen Baxter now returns to the mysteries and challenges first hinted at in his acclaimed novel Proxima. This is grand scale, big idea SF of the best possible sort.
Stephen King
H & S Fiction $32.99

In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Charles Jacobs. Soon they forge a deep bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity. This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It's a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.
The Best Australian Stories 2014
Edited by Amanda Lohrey
Black Inc $29.99

In The Best Australian Stories 2014, Patrick White Award–winning author Amanda Lohrey selects the outstanding short fiction of the year.

Sometimes fantastical, sometimes raw, and always a 'shot of adrenaline to the mind and heart', this collection features exciting new voices alongside the established and admired.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North Commemorative Edition
Richard Flanagan
Vintage $45

The winner of the Man Booker Prize 2014. A novel of the cruelty of war, tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

This beautiful commemorative hardcover edition includes:
Judge’s comments on The Man Booker Prize 2014, an essay by Richard Flanagan on his father and being a child of the Thai-Burma ‘Death Camp’, and Flanagan’s acceptance speech for The Man Booker Prize 2014.
New non-fiction for December
Between Us: Women of Letters
Michaela McGuire & Marieke Hardy

Viking $29.99

Bestselling novelist Hannah Kent exchanges letters about books, editing and synchronicity with her publisher Alex Craig. Intimate and outrageous declarations of love and friendship are shared between actor Rhys Muldoon and musician Kram. And award-winning cartoonist First Dog on the Moon expresses his affection for his editor Sophie Black through drawings (while she sticks to the written word). Between Us is an inspiring and engaging collection of all-new letters from some of Australia's best-loved people.

All royalties for the book will go to Edgar's Mission animal rescue shelter.
A Short History of Stupid
Bernard Keane & Helen Razer

Viking $29.99

Explore what's behind the remorseless spread of idiocy, and why there's just so much damn Stupid around you. Stupid isn't just ignorance; it's not just laziness. Worse than the absence of thought, Stupid is a virus that drains our productivity and leaves us sick and diminished. And Stupid has a long, complex and terrible past, one we need to understand in order to defeat it.
Australia Under Surveillance
Frank Moorhouse
Vintage $32.99

ASIO has kept a file on Frank Moorhouse since he was seventeen. Now Frank has decided it is time to report on ASIO. This year ASIO has extended its surveillance powers, made the issuing of warrants easier and limited the freedom of journalists. At a time when the government has raised the terrorist alert level to 'high' we are facing the question of what degree of terrorist threat we are prepared to endure so as to retain freedoms of expression and what might loosely be called the 'traditional privacies'.
Inequality and the 1%
Danny Dorling
Verso $29.99

Inequality is more than just economics, it is the culture that divides and makes social mobility almost impossible. Leading writer Danny Dorling goes in pursuit of the latest research into how the lives and ideas of the 1% impact on the remaining 99%; and the findings are shocking.
Clivosaurus: The Politics of Cliver Palmer: Quarterly Essay 56
Guy Rundle
Black Inc $19.99

In Clivosaurus, Guy Rundle observes Palmer close up, examining his rise to prominence, his beliefs, his deals and his politics – not to mention his poetry. Rundle shows that neither the government nor the media have been able to take Palmer's measure. Convinced they face a self-interested clown, they have failed to recognise both his tactical flexibility and the consistency of his centre-right politics.
The Best Australian Essays 2014
Edited by Robert Manne
Black Inc $29.99

In The Best Australian Essays 2014, Robert Manne assembles his picks of contemporary non-fiction writing. Tim Winton reflects on the impact of landscape on the Australian character; Helen Garner remembers her mother with a raw and stirring poignancy; Christos Tsiolkas wonders how the Left forgot its origins; Tim Flannery traces the history of the Great Barrier Reef and fears for its future. With essays traversing madness, liberty under Tony Abbott, the enslaving of horses and the legacy of Doris Lessing, this sharp collection offers lucid insight, shrewd understanding and heartbreaking empathy.
Six Poets from Hardy to Larkin
Alan Bennett
Faber $29.99

Alan Bennett's selection of English verse by his favourite poets, accompanied by his own enlivening commentary. In this personal anthology, Alan Bennett has chosen more than a hundred poems by six well-loved poets, discussing the writers and their verse in his customary conversational style through anecdote, shrewd appraisal and spare but telling biographical detail.
Other new books of interest
Seeing Things As They Are: Selected Journalism and Other Writings
George Orwell
Harvill/Secker $69.99

Whether political, poetic, polemic or personal, this is surprising, witty and intelligent writing to delight in. A mix of well-known and intriguing, less familiar pieces, this engaging collection illuminates our understanding of Orwell's work as a whole.
New Philosopher: The End of Growth
Various Contributors
New Philosopher $14.95

The latest edition of the ever-popular New Philosopher tackles the question of economic growth. With contributions from Clive Hamilton, Patrick Stokes and Nigel Warburton.
The Best Australian Poems 2014
Edited by Geoff Page

Black Inc $24.99

In The Best Australian Poems 2014, award-winning poet Geoff Page compiles an anthology that celebrates both the established and the emerging, the classical and the pioneering in contemporary Australian poetry. From Les Murray to John Kinsella, from Judith Beveridge to Lisa Gorton, this is a lively, colourful and resonant collection for readers and writers alike.
When I Talk to You
Michael Leunig
HarperCollins $19.99

A new edition of Leunig's much loved and best-selling collection of prayers, featuring remastered illustrations and a new introduction.
The Unknown Unknown
Mark Forsyth
Icon Books $1.99

Mark Forsyth – author of the Sunday Times Number One bestseller The Etymologicon – reveals in this essay, specially commissioned for Independent Booksellers Week, the most valuable thing about a really good bookshop. Along the way he considers the wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld, naughty French photographs, why Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy would never have met online, and why only a bookshop can give you that precious thing – what you never knew you were looking for.
I Knead My Mummy and Other Poems by Kittens
Francesco Marciuliano
Random $19.99

Just when you thought things couldn't get any cuter . . . The kittens of the world have decided to write a book. Of confessional poems, no less. From taking a bath in a bowl of milk to playing keep-away with your car keys and vanquishing the strange lumps at the end of the bed (sorry, turns out those were your toes), these kittens reveal their confused and curious little minds as they discover the world around them.
New Books From Our Children's Room
Baby Days
Alison Lester
Allen & Unwin $16.99

In this delightful collection of four rhyming stories, Alison Lester shares the joy of all the things little children can do in a day. This gorgeous padded hardcover makes the perfect gift or addition to a first library.
Mouse Mansion 3: Sam and Julia at the Circus
Karina Schaapman
Allen & Unwin $24.99

Sam and Julia live in a wonderful place called Mouse Mansion. Sam is super shy and very well behaved, while Julia is super curious and very stubborn. The two mice couldn't be more different, but they are the best of friends.
The Magic Faraway Tree Deluxe Edition
Enid Blyton
Egmont Books $29.95

The much loved classic's 75th anniversary is celebrated with this full colour deluxe hardcover version.  With new illustrations by Mark Beech this new edition will captivate and entrance another generation of children.
Anne of Green Gables: Puffin in Bloom series
L.M Montgomery
Penguin $19.99

The new Puffin in Bloom series includes brightly re-jacketed  hardcover editons of L.M Montgomery's first Anne novel as well as Johanna Spyri's Heidi and Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Princess. Perfect books for giving.
The New Small Person
Lauren Child
Puffin $14.99

Elmore Green started off life as an only child, as many children do. He had a room all to himself, and everything in it was his. But one day everything changed . . .
The Teddy Robinson Storybook
Joan G. Robinson
Macmillan $19.99

Since his first appearance in 1953 this adorable bear has been enchanting readers and now the author's daughter (and owner of the real Teddy Robinson) has selected and introduced her favourite stories.
Bears Don't Read!
Emma Chichester Clark
HarperCollins $24.99

"Bears don't read!" George isn't happy doing the usual bear things like chatting and fishing. But what else is there? Then one day, he finds a book beneath a tree and knows... More than anything he wants to learn to read!
Staff picks, favourite books and latest reviews from our blog
Our top picks from the web

* Listen to Philip Adams discuss with Guy Rundle his latest Quarterly Essay Clivosaurus on ABC Radio National's Late Night Live. Click here.

* Robert Dessiax discusses his new memoir, What Days Are For, with Michael Cathcart on ABC Radio National's Books and Arts Daily. Click here. 

* Danielle Trussoni reviews Stephen King's new novel at The New York Times. She writes, "Reading “Revival” is experiencing a master storyteller having the time of his life." Click

* Helen Razer and Bernard Keane discuss their new book A Short History of Stupid on ABC's Sunday Extra. Click here.
Christmas favourites this month...
A Merry Christmas & Other Christmas Stories
Louisa May Alcott
Penguin Christmas Classics $16.99
Penguin has brought out five beautifully produced “Christmas Classics”. They are all hardback editions, around 120 pages in length and retail for $16.99. The five authors featured are Louisa May Alcott, Anthony Trollope, Nikolai Gogol, Charles Dickens and E. T. A Hoffmann.  

A Merry Christmas & Other Christmas Stories features six individual Christmas stories plus an excerpt from Little Women. Novelist and critic G. K. Chesterton once noted that Louisa May Alcott’s writing “is one of the really human things in human literature.” It’s hard to put it better than that.  

The stories in this slim collection exhibit Alcott’s warmth and generosity of spirit. She is an expert at drawing intimate domestic scenes: blazing hearth fires, plump pies ready for eating and cozy rooms providing protection from the wind, snow and rain outside. Louisa May Alcott must also have surely loved children, as her portraits of them are especially sweet. In one story she describes how, “The little ones lay about, looking like little Cupids with sugar hearts and faded roses still clutched in their chubby hands.”

The themes of these stories are all about charity, setting a good example and helping out those less well off than yourself. Orphans find relief from their poverty and bad luck, neglected grandmothers are found again by their relatives and lonely widows get second chances at love. It’s all very heartwarming, but doesn’t come across as sickly-sweet or cloying. Louisa May Alcott’s very human touch, her appeal to the better part of our natures, has ensured that her stories remain timeless. This collection will transport you back to 19th century America, while its positive message will lift your spirits.

The Night Before Christmas
Nikolai Gogol
Penguin Christmas Classics  $16.99
The plot of this famous story by Nikolai Gogol, one of the great Russian writers, is too madcap and unbelievable to recount in any detail. It has to be read to be believed! But it would be safe to say it's in essence a convoluted love story, along the lines of Shakespeare’s Midsummer's Night Dream: two young people must go through a night of surreal and improbable ordeals until true love finds its way. Gogol’s night time adventure, however, is more earthy and blackly comic than Shakespeare’s celestial dream-poem.
There are two suitors, Vakula the blacksmith and the beautiful Oksana. It is the night before Christmas, and so the devil is free to roam around and torment people. To get the ball rolling, he steals the moon and places it in his pocket. Next he starts a snowstorm and all sorts of confusions are set off. At last when Vakula thinks he is making progress in asking for Oksana’s hand, she throws a spanner in the works, insisting that she will not marry him until he brings her the Tsarina's shoes. Vakula must find a way to fulfil this request.
The Night Before Christmas is peopled with a cast of grotesque and humourous characters. Besides the devil, there’s a witch that streaks across the sky, Cossacks that get stuffed into coal bags and shady characters who can perform magical tricks. Gogol drew inspiration from the folk tales of his home village in Ukraine for this story, which certainly comes through in its idiosyncratic and highly original tone. It’s a story that is part irreverent comedy, part black fairytale. Despite all these weird and wonderful elements, it’s also a story that has a deliciously warm feeling. There may be devils and witches in the air, making mischief, plus a cast of other grotesques, but you know once Christmas day arrives all these naughty beings will be put in their place and good will reign the day.  
Book reviews from our blog this month

The Battlers, by Kylie Tennant. Kylie Tennant's The Battlers doubles as a document of how Australians experienced the Great Depression and a brilliant literary work, reminiscent of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, by Naomi Klein. In this impressively researched and deeply considered book, Naomi Klein argues that dramatically cutting our emissions, as the science declares is necessary, will turn our economy and politics upside down, and maybe for the better.

The Underground Girls of Kabul: The Hidden Lives of Afghan Girls Disguised as Boys, by Jenny Nordberg. In this brilliant work of empathy and understanding, Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg takes us inside the lives of Afghan women and their struggle for a better life.

The Impulse Society: What's Wrong With Getting What We Want, by Paul Roberts. In this compelling and accessible essay on consumerism, Paul Roberts suggests we need to embrace more traditional values to overcome an economy that continues to preach instant gratification.
Christmas Classics
A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens
Penguin $16.99
The Nutcracker
E.T.A Hoffman
Penguin $16.99

Christmas at Thompson Hall and Other Christmas Stories
Anthony Trollope
Penguin $16.99

Community Message Board

Errol's Angels Community Choir presents: Errol Street Christmas Carols
When: Thursday 11th December, 7.15 pm
Where: Meet out front of The Centre, 58 Errol Street. The Errol's Angels will then sing their favourite carols along Errol Street. Special guest appearance by Santa.
Errol's Angels

(Do you have a community message or event you would like to get out? Click here to get details on how to post a notice.)
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