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Independent Bookshop Week

Independent Bookshop Week is just around the corner! Launched in 2006 as part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, this special week is a celebration of independent bookshops nationwide and the role independents play in their communities.

We asked Serpent’s Tail authors to take us on a journey through their favourite independent bookshops, from London, to Ludlow, to Vermont and beyond!

Join the conversation and let us know your favourite indie bookshop by tweeting us @SerpentsTail.

Sarai Walker – author of The Cherry Robbers

Northshire Bookstore, Vermont USA

“I love so many independent bookshops. One of my favourites is Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont. In the early 2000s, I did my master’s degree in creative writing at Bennington College, which is nearby.

I would often visit Northshire Bookstore and spend hours there browsing their amazing selection. It was such a cozy environment in which to discover new books and authors, and I always found not only books there but inspiration. A couple years ago I returned to Vermont for the first time in about 15 years. Of course I went back to Northshire and there I saw my first novel on the shelf. It was such a thrill for me to see my work available there.”

Alix Nathan – author of Sea Change

Poetry Pharmacy, Bishop’s Castle and The Montgomery Bookshop, Ludlow UK

“Living in the Marches means my two nearest independent bookshops are in England and in Wales: the famous and fascinating Poetry Pharmacy, Bishop’s Castle and The Montgomery Bookshop, cosy, book- and flower-filled in lovely Montgomery.  Not far away is Burway Books, small in size, big of heart.  In a 25-mile radius bookshops are only independent! Yet a little further, Castle Bookshop in historic Ludlow and the amazing, ever lively Booka’.  Better scrub the 25-mile radius bit as Booka is 29 miles away.  I suppose if I stretch the distance between me and Shrewsbury Waterstones to 30 miles the assertion about radius could be retained …”

Lizzy Stewart – author of Alison

The Bookseller Crow, Crystal Palace, London UK

“The experience of trying to choose a favourite bookshop is not similar to the desperate brain-rifling I have to do to choose a favourite book. It is impossible, for every mood there is a different bookshop! So I’ll have to go for the one that has been my longest serving local! Though I’ve moved away now, the Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace served me well for six years. The selection of books is well curated and unusual, which really gives the shop an identity. The graphic novel selection is great, the kids book section is good and they have, on occasion, let me draw all over their windows!”

Jami Attenberg – author of I Came All This Way to Meet You

“It’s impossible for me to choose a favourite independent bookstore because in a way they’re all my favourites. I love how each indie bookstore I step into has its own identity and point of view. I love reading the little shelf-talker notes booksellers write for their favourite reads. I love chit-chatting with the staff, seeing how their day is going, having them point me in the right direction of something new I haven’t heard of before. I love the soundtrack playing in the background. I love the dinging of a bell on a front door whenever a new customer shows up. I love the way little communities form out of them. I love how they make a neighbourhood complete.”

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Summer Reading Guide

The ultimate summer reading guide. Begin with a gothic ghost story with a fiery feminist zeal and end with a book about the untidy, complicated underbelly of love and love’s end. Whether you’re sunbathing in your local park or vacationing through the Mediterranean, you won’t be able to step away from these stories.

Which one of these books will you be diving into this summer? Let us know by tweeting us @SerpentsTail.

OUT NOW

An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life by Paul Dalla Rosa

By turns unsparing and tender, Dalla Rosa explores our lives in late-stage Capitalism, where globalisation and its false promises of connectivity leave us further alienated and disenfranchised. Like the legendary Lucia Berlin and his contemporary Ottessa Moshfegh, Dalla Rosa is a masterful observer-and hilarious eviscerator-of our ugly, beautiful attempts at finding meaning in an ugly, beautiful world.

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker

First they get married, then they get buried. The Cherry Robbers is a wonderfully atmospheric, propulsive novel about sisterhood, mortality and forging one’s own path.

Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling

One long, hot summer Andy and her friends begin a game that will take their whole lives to play out.

‘Engrossing, beguiling, and with an undertow of menace, Before the Ruins is a masterly debut from a richly talented author’ – Sarah Waters

‘Jaw-droppingly brilliant writing’ – Marian Keyes

COMING SOON

Chorus by Rebecca Kauffman

Chorus is a hopeful story of family, of loss and recovery, of complicated relationships forged between brothers and sisters as they move through life together, and of the unlikely forces that first drive them away and then ultimately back home.

Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors by Aravind Jayan

A scandalous video.
A humiliated family.
And a brother stuck in the middle.

Full of bittersweet comedy, and insight into contemporary Indian society and an online generation, this is a story about now with the feel of a classic.

Is This Love? by C.E. Riley

Did you mean to marry me? Did you understand the vows that we took?

Narrated by J in the days, weeks and months after the marriage collapses, and interspersed with the departed wife’s diary entries, Is This Love? is an addictive, deeply unsettling, and provocative novel of deception and betrayal, and passion turned to pain.

The Long Answer by Anna Hogeland

The Long Answer is a stunning novel of secrets kept and secrets shared. Deeply empathetic and hugely absorbing, it unravels the intimate dynamics of female friendship, sisterhood, motherhood and grief, and the ways in which women are bound together and pulled apart by their shared and contrasting experiences of pregnancy, abortion, miscarriage and infertility.

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Easter Holiday Reads

Start your Easter holidays with new fiction that won’t just grip you from the very first page, but also challenge your world views and perspectives. This Easter, we’re highlighting the best our list has to offer, including a wonderfully moving debut short story collection by Gurnaik Johal and a venomous page-turning thriller by Catriona Ward.

Tell us what you’re reading by tweeting us @SerpentsTail!

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

A major new novel from million-copy bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Booth is a riveting novel focused on the very things that bind, and break, a family.

We Move by Gurnaik Johal

Mapping an area of West London, these stories chart a wider narrative about the movement of multiple generations of immigrants. In acts of startling imagination, Gurnaik Johal’s debut brings together the past and the present, the local and the global, to show the surprising ways we come together.

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Immersive, lyrical and deeply moving, Libertie is a novel about legacy and longing, the story of a young woman struggling to discover what freedom truly means – for herself, and for generations to come.

Witness by Alex Wheatle

Torn between protecting his family and himself, Cornell has one hell of a decision to make. This is published as part of the Quick Reads series, which aims to share the joy of reading with adults who are improving their literacy. It is Alex Wheatle at his best: a thrilling, pacy story that is full of moral complexity and insight into gang violence.

Sundial by Catriona Ward

The new modern gothic masterpiece from the bestselling and award-winning author of The Last House on Needless Street. Perfect for readers of Push and Girl A. If Stephen King says ‘do not miss this book,’ perhaps its best we listen!

The Geometer Lobachevsky by Adrian Duncan

It is 1950 and Nikolai Lobachevsky, great-grandson of his illustrious namesake, is surveying a bog in the Irish Midlands, where he studies the locals, the land and their ways. One afternoon, soon after he arrives, he receives a telegram calling him back to Leningrad for a ‘special appointment’.

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WE MOVE: READ AN EXTRACT

A debut brimful of the music and movement of multicultural London, to stand besides White TeethBrick Lane and The Buddha of Suburbia.

Here, beneath the planes circling Heathrow, various lives connect. Priti speaks English and her nani Punjabi. Without Priti’s mum around they struggle to make a shared language. Not far away, Chetan and Aanshi’s relationship shifts when a woman leaves her car in their drive but never returns to collect it. Gujan’s baba steps out of his flat above the chicken shop for the first time in years to take his grandson on a bicycle tour of the old and changed neighbourhood. And returning home after dropping out of university, Lata grapples with a secret about her estranged family friend, now a chart-topping rapper in a crisis of confidence.

Mapping an area of West London, these stories chart a wider narrative about the movement of multiple generations of immigrants. In acts of startling imagination, Gurnaik Johal’s debut brings together the past and the present, the local and the global, to show the surprising ways we come together.

We Move publishes 7th April. Find out more here.

Read an extract below:


After he’d done the evens, Paddy did the odds. For the five years that it had been on his route, the road was like any other, neat rows of newly planted trees casting speckled shadows over semidetached homes. But doing his rounds a few weeks ago, Paddy saw a group of old men dragging a piano out from fifty-eight and onto the pavement. And from then on, it was the road with the piano.

At first, Paddy thought it was for the taking. He could see it in his dining room, his little one learning to play. But one of its legs was bike-locked in place. There was a stool tucked under it. Wasn’t a sign or anything. It was simply there.

Passing it each day, Paddy would run his finger along the keys, high to low. He hadn’t seen anyone play it until now. He posted a letter for fifty-five and looked across the road. A young man sat down on the stool.

*

Umer rested his fingers on the keys, playing silent notes, waiting for the 90 to go. In the month since he started working, he’d walked one way to the chicken shop. But today, he’d left a little earlier than he needed to and, on a whim, gone a different way. He wondered how long the piano had been here, only minutes from his home, without him knowing. He tentatively voiced a chord.

He tried to improvise a little something, but repeating the movement, he realised it was a song he knew, nothing new under the sun and that. He switched up, jumping into a stride with a Fats Waller pomp, before stumbling onto a minor refrain that he came at sideways, thinking Thelonius Monk. Over the static of growing traffic, he looped a Dillalude, gliding into a familiar Soulquarian groove. Melodies came and went like passing thoughts, and cars, with their windows down to let out smoke, slowed to hear him hum Badu over The Twelfth of Never.

*

Priyanka’s bus pulled up. Hearing music, she looked out the window. A man was playing a piano on the street. He was wearing a red cap and matching polo shirt. She took a photo and sent it to her group chat. The replies were instant.

‘He’s kind of fit you know’

‘TF is he wearing?’

‘Have we finally found priya’s type?’

‘Thought this day would never come’

Priyanka replied with a Forever Alone meme.

‘All that time playing pain gonna final come in useful’

The girls used to crowd the practice room at break when she was preparing for her piano exam. She’d run through her pieces, and they’d chat away. She’d taken up the piano to strengthen her university applications. It was supposed to indicate she was a person beyond her studies. But then the music became its own type of academic pursuit. The bus moved on, and Priyanka glanced back at the house behind the piano, all its windows open.

*

Reggie stood in the family room listening to the music. The piano was Vi’s. He’d given most of her things away, but the piano had remained, silent for months.

She’d been standing right here, by the window, when it started. She coughed. ‘Must be something going around,’ she said.

They went to the GP. They went to the hospital. Lung cancer.

A few weeks later, he went for a check-up of his own. The doctor found a benign lump and suggested watchful waiting, whatever that meant. He’d left Vi at home to rest. When he reached the doorstep, he could hear her playing her piece upstairs. He put the key in the door but didn’t turn it, listening.

Vi was determined to keep living life. She filled the calendar the piano with all sorts. Janelle, their daughter, came with them to appointments, closing her hair salon in the middle of the day. Reggie rolled the strange words around in his head: cisplatin, etoposide. They sat next to Vi during chemo, watching, waiting. At home, he cooked and cleaned. There were still bins to take out, grass to cut. There was respite in scrubbing tiles, relief scouring mould from grout.

After chemo, Vi flushed her system clean with water. They were both in and out of the bathroom all day. That was the extent of his own little mass, an endless feeling of needing to go, and the frustration of never arriving. He went to check-ups almost hoping for the thing to malign. It would be neat, he thought, that after a full life together, they would die together. He couldn’t imagine life without her, and there was something romantic in the thought of dying in each other’s arms. Or at least in neighbouring beds.

When Reggie was finally admitted – a routine procedure, the doctor said – Vi was an inpatient. Janelle taught them how to talk to each other through computers. The connection in the hospital was off and on. When the call buffered, Reggie hung up and redialled. They picked up where they left off, going through old stories, playing the hits. After years of marriage, they knew them all by heart. But they were like old songs, the kind that when they came on you couldn’t not sing along. Vi did the one where her foot got trod on by Nina Simone. Reggie that one about the salmon.

The connection cut. Vi froze, lit blue by her screen. Reggie redialled.

‘Where was I? Right, so I climbed through the window–’

‘Some might say fell.’

They were young again, talking all night, the first signs of the sunrise filling their separate rooms.

‘Sing the sun awake,’ he said.

‘It’s late,’ Vi said. She always did this dance.

‘It would make my day. Do the one you wrote.’

She sang under her breath. People were sleeping. Her voice was fragile but perfectly clear, like thin ice. There was a delay in the connection, and he watched her mouth move a second or so before any sound came out, like she was miles away. She froze. 

He made his recovery in time for the funeral. 

The piano player finished and walked off. The day passed as it usually did, both slow and quick. When clouds appeared, Reggie went out with two rainbow-striped umbrellas and attached them to the piano. The rain cleared and the sun returned, casting multicoloured shadows across the keys. He brought the umbrellas in. He was woken by music in the middle of the night.

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Spring 2022 Highlights

Begin 2022 with satirical literary fiction, short stories and even a memoir on the intersections of race and art. We’re spotlighting our Spring 2022 highlights, from Pola Oloixarac’s examinations of art and violence in Mona and Gurnaik Johal’s short stories, to essays on race by Esi Edugyan and epic historical fiction by Karen Joy Fowler. Ultimately, these are page-turning reads that will grip you from the very first page.

Tell us what you’re reading by tweeting us @SerpentsTail.

Mona by Pola Oloixarac

The brilliant and provocative UK debut of a Latin American star of world literature, Mona is a wicked satire of the literary elite, exploring both art and violence.

We Move by Gurnaik Johal

Mapping an area of West London, the stories in We Move chart a wider narrative about the movement of multiple generations of immigrants. In acts of startling imagination, Gurnaik Johal’s debut brings together the past and the present, the local and the global, to show the surprising ways we come together.

Out of the Sun by Esi Edugyan

History is a construction. What happens when we bring stories consigned to the margins up to the light? How does that complicate our certainties about who we are, as individuals, as nations, as human beings? Two-time Booker Shortlistee and internationally bestselling author Esi Edugyan delivers a searing analysis of the relationship between race and art.

In The Seeing Hands of Others by Nat Ogle

This original and provocative fiction telling the story of a contentious trial, pieced together in documents from the accused and accuser, a ground-breaking debut novel that combines the investigatory pleasures of a legal drama with a provocative and literary exploration of the limits of empathy.

I Came All This Way to Meet You by Jami Attenberg

This is a fantastically fierce and funny memoir of how the New York Times-bestselling author Jami Attenberg embraced her creativity – and how it saved her.

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

Booth tells the story of the brilliant and disastrously ill-fated Booth family. From the award-winning author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Booth is a riveting novel focused on the very things that bind, and break, a family.

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker

The Cherry Robbers is a wonderfully atmospheric,  propulsive novel about sisterhood, mortality and  forging one’s own path – perfect for readers who love Shirley Jackson and Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides.

Sunken City by Marta Barone

In Sunken City, A young woman retraces the footsteps of her elusive father through one of the darkest periods of Italian history. This elegant, heartfelt novel will appeal to fans of Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels.

An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life by Paul Dalla Rosa

A story collection that perfectly captures life in the internet age, this is a superb literary debut for fans of Garth Greenwell, Brandon Taylor, and Mary Gaitskill.

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Serpent’s Tail Gifting Guide 2021

The countdown to Christmas has begun! Whether you’re shopping for a friend who loves their feminist fiction or a family member who is obsessed with trying out new recipes, we’ve curated a diverse selection of reads so that you can say ‘bye’ to any and all Christmas shopping panicking.

For all our latest news and new reads, join our newsletter.

Stay up to date on social media @SerpentsTail.

PASSING: TAKING NETFLIX BY STORM

Get your family and friends this favourite taking the world – and Netflix – by storm. Now a major film starring Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and Alexander Skarsgård, Passing by Nella Larsen is a story about childhood friends Claire and Irene. Both are light-skinned enough to pass as white, but only one of them has chosen to cross the colour line and live with the secret hanging over her. 

IN THE DREAM HOUSE

‘Ravishingly beautiful’ Observer
‘Excruciatingly honest and yet vibrantly creative’ Irish Times
‘Provocative and rich’ Economist
‘Daring, chilling, and unlike anything else you’ve ever read’ Esquire
‘An absolute must-read’ Stylist

In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing experience with a charismatic but volatile woman, this is a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse.

BASICALLY, ALL OF THE GAITSKILLS

Spend this holiday season with the one and only Mary Gaitskill. Lovers of essays will devour Oppositions, a collection of provocative and searchingly analytical writing. If you’re into fiction, This is Pleasure is also a masterful fictional contribution to the #MeToo debate.

IF YOU LOVED SQUID GAME

We all watched Squid Game, right? Looking for another riveting story that focuses on power, corruption as well as critiques the capitalist system? Well, look no further. The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-Eun is a satirical Korean eco-thriller with a fierce feminist sensibility.

Yona has been stuck behind a desk for years working as a programming coordinator for Jungle, a travel company specialising in package holidays to destinations ravaged by disaster. When a senior colleague touches her inappropriately she tries to complain, and in an attempt to bury her allegations, the company make her an attractive proposition: a free ticket for one of their most sought-after trips, to the desert island of Mui.

She accepts the offer and travels to the remote island, where the major attraction is a supposedly-dramatic sinkhole. Yona realises that the company has dangerous plans to fabricate an environmental catastrophe to make the trip more interesting, but when she tries to raise the alarm, she discovers she has put her own life in danger.

DETRANSITION, BABY: AN IRRESISTIBLE READ

Longlisted for the Women’s Prize 2021 and Top Ten The Times Bestseller, Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters is a uniquely trans take on love, motherhood, and those exes who you just can’t quit.

This phenomenal book is for anyone who wants to get lost in a page-turner – think a ‘modern Sex and the City’. We promise you, once you start reading this, you’re gonna wish for that first-read butterflies all over again.

COOK AS YOU ARE: REAL-LIFE RECIPES

If the home cook in your life is on a quest for new recipes, they’ll be in great hands with Ruby Tandoh’s new book. Cook As You Are is for all of us – the real home cooks, juggling babies or long commutes, who might have limited resources and limited time. From last-minute inspiration to delicious meals for one, easy one-pot dinners to no-chop recipes for when life keeps your hands full.

ALL OF YOU, EVERY SINGLE ONE

All of You, Every Single One by Beatrice Hitchman is an exhilarating queer love story set in early twentieth-century Vienna.

‘I know,’ he says, ‘too much. You’ll learn to be too much, too.’ Then, gently, ‘I think it might help.’

When Julia flees her unhappy marriage for the handsome tailor Eve Perret, she expects her life from now on will be a challenge, not least because the year is 1911. They leave everything behind to settle in Vienna, but their happiness is increasingly diminished by Julia’s longing for a child.

Ada Bauer’s wealthy industrialist family have sent her to Dr Freud in the hope that he can fix her mutism and do so without a scandal. But help will soon come for Ada from an unexpected quarter and change many lives irrevocably.

All of You Every Single One is an epic novel about family, freedom and how true love might survive impossible odds.

LIBERTIE

‘A soaring exploration of what “freedom” truly means … an elegantly layered, beautifully rendered tour de force that is not to be missed’ Roxane Gay

With rave reviews from Roxane Gay and a Times Book of the Month, Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge is a book about what freedom actually means – and where to find it.

LOSE YOUR MOTHER

From Saidiya Hartman comes a profound and harrowing meditation by a descendant of slaves who journeyed to Africa to understand her past.

The slave, Saidiya Hartman observes, is a stranger torn from family, home, and country. To lose your mother is to be severed from your kin, to forget your past, and to inhabit the world as an outsider. In Lose Your Mother, Hartman traces the history of the Atlantic slave trade by recounting a journey she took along a slave route in Ghana.

There are no known survivors of Hartman’s lineage, no relatives to find. She is a stranger in search of strangers, and this fact leads her into intimate engagements with the people she encounters along the way, and with figures from the past, vividly dramatising the effects of slavery on three centuries of African and American history.

SEA CHANGE: FOR THE HISTORY BUFFS

‘Unsettling and strange, Sea Change, cements Nathan’s reputation as one of our most interesting historical novelists.’ The Times

From acclaimed author of The Warlow Experiment, Sea Change by Alix Nathan is the moving story of a mother and daughter separated in Regency England.

FOR PROFANE AND OPINIONATED WOMEN EVERYWHERE

Essex Girls are disreputable, disrespectful and disobedient. They speak out of turn, too loudly and too often, in an accent irritating to the ruling classes. Their bodies are hyper-sexualised and irredeemably vulgar. They are given to intricate and voluble squabbling. They do not apologise for any of this. And why should they? Essex Girls by Sarah Perry is the ultimate gift for opinionated women everywhere.