Very good piece looking at the competing fortunes of Quercus and Waterstones. I’d add a small amount of caution here. Firstly, the Waterstones figures are for the year up to April 2013 whereas the Quercus figures are more up to date. Even so you can follow the logic through from April 2013 until today, in many ways that makes sense because the impact of the kind of policies highlighted here would be more dramatic on publishers in the key Christmas Trading period than at any other time:
Now, cash management is closely related to stock management, so it should come as no surprise that Waterstones’ stock has come down as their cash has grown. I have no knowledge of the state of Quercus’ stock management, but it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ve got too much stock, probably of extremely good titles, sitting in a warehouse, intended for those big orders that never came from the retailers with those challenging conditions.
For independent publishers to remain independent, and sadly it looks as though Quercus will not, we need a relentless focus on cash management and cash generation. Our businesses and the titles and content that make them need to be profitable, and we need to use the digital print and e-book technologies that enable us to hold the lowest stock possible. Easy to say, and probably pretty obvious, but if we don’t hold it as a top priority we can easily be caught out.
This is not, nor shall it ever be, a baking blog. But I do bake.
Coming up to Christmas I make sugar cookies based on a recipe given to me by my girlfriend’s aunt in Evantson. I also make gingerbread men from Delia’s recipe online. I could lie and say that I do this for the kids, but the truth is, cookies and gingerbread men are great and especially at Christmas.
We also undertake the rather more grueling task of 144 mince pies, made with our own mincemeat (always fun) and my girlfriends pastry (buttery, crumbly goodness).
Whereas I’m a messy kitchen hand, others in the house are not, so I tend to make my cookie dough in advance of baking and I did that tonight (along with wrapping some gifts it really made the night PRETTY Christmassy) and I thought I’d share a gallery for the fun of it!
They are both sitting pretty in the fridge right now waiting for tomorrow (or maybe even Thursday) when I break them out, roll them, cook them and ice/sprinkle them! Even more fun on the way!
It is difficult when writing about such a huge category as Children’s books, which as within it so many genres and sub genres, to choose just three books, but somehow I have managed it.
Ancient Folk Tales of Ireland
Hawkhill Publishing is a new house, run by Colm Ennis formerly of Hughes & Hughes. he has had a fairly good start and Ancient Folk Tales of Ireland continues his run of good releases. Illustrated by Paul Bolger a somewhat unknown (for reasons I cannot fathom) illustrator of some talent and based on the stories collected by Douglas Hyde Ireland’s first President, this is a wonderful book of the kind all homes should have. It brings to life many of the older and now sadly neglected Irish folktales that warrant our attention.
The Circus Ship
Written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. This is a wonderful book. The images shine and he text sparkles and more importantly, they work well together. The production values are something else. I love the book for all those reasons and because my searching leads me to believe that the book is based (in the REAL LIFE STORY sense of the word based) on an actual event, the Sinking of the Royal Tar (Google Docs).
A Little History of the World
E.H. Gombrich wrote this book in German in 1935 and it was only translated to English and released in 2005. It is a startlingly good read and while it strays towards the upper end of the Children’s category, I think it worth adding here to encourage the reading of solid non-fiction by children.
Straight into this edition. To read part 1 and part 2, click the links!
Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521 – 1580 Roger Crowley also wrote Constantinople: The Last Great Siege. That was a good book. But it lacked two things that make this book essential reading, personality and narrative structure. It is as if Crowley went away after Constantinople and read Tom Holland, realised that he could do as well or better and set to. He paints a wonderfully engaging picture of the Mediterranean world and of its rulers, capturing the burdened Phillip II in a few short sentences scattered throughout the book. His real strength though is that his insight stretches to the tensions within the camps and between them, explaining with equal authority the pressure on the Sultan’s commanders and those of the Christian states. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is just excellent.
Hidden Cork: Charmers, Chancers and Cute hoors (DOI: I commissioned this book)
I love a good non-fiction book that opens up unknown places and interesting little bits of information, digestible if you will. Hidden Cork brings to life many of the characters and crazy people who have populated the history of the city along with the stories of fabulous and forgotten events. Michael Lenihan, who wrote the book, is an absolute charm of a writer who has a deep interest in the topic and a passion that is unrivalled. A gem of a book.
The Gutenberg Revolution
John Man’s short and concise biography of Johann Gutenberg is a joy to read. When I look at how the world is changing for what (firmly tongue in cheek) Cory Doctorow at TOC Frankfurt called The People Of The Book, this is the perfect Christmas gift for the publisher, writer, editor or reader in your life. Man has really fleshed out a character who up until I read his books, was at best a cardboard cut out. Maybe it’s my emerging preference for quality narrative fiction (this list really attests to that) but I’d recommend it to anyone, not just a book fan, but the history fan too.
Like the Sci-Fi & Fantasy section, keeping this section to three is too hard and so I have cheated a little by suggesting two notable exclusions.
The Dictionary of Irish Biography
Yes it is expensive, yes it is beyond what most people would need or want, but it’s very imposing-ness makes it invaluable and essential for those engaged in deep study of Irish history, even as jumping off point.
A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain
By Marc Morris is an absorbing account of the life of Edward I, a man most people only know for being William Wallace’s enemy in Braveheart. In fact his life was enormously interesting spanning wars in the Levant, France Scotland and Wales, not to mention a vicious civil war while he was still only crown prince. Morris delivers a stirring narrative too, all told one of the better biographies I’ve read
Sci-fi & Fantasy today
It is a difficult thing to hold my list to three books in this post (and so cheekily I’ve chosen some series based books). I have read some incredible sci-fi and fantasy books over the last year, some of which have really broken through to the mainstream of sci-fi readers and some of which have only done passably well. The three I’ve selected simply ran away with my imagination.
Fire Upon The Deep Vernor Vinge is by many people’s standard one of the modern greats of Science Fiction. Until I read a post by Jo Walton about his book Fire Upon The Deep on Tor.com the emerging online hub of science fiction and fantasy, (which goes to show the value of a good educational role for online communities). There was so much in the post that appealed to me that I went out and bought the book and have since bought another, I will probably buy anything and everything he writes or has written. Fire Upon The Deep is an absorbing read with strange and wonderful characters, exciting and yet extremely limiting realities (FOR THE AUTHOR THAT IS). What a book to read if your creative insights are running dry, it is sure to spark imagination and profound thoughts.
Empire In Black & Gold (The Shadow of the Apt Series)
I was not convinced at first by this book. The pace seemed slow, the language stilted. Yet it was good enough for me to keep reading. And then, boy did it take off like a rocket. Perhaps THE most exciting and inventive series I’ve read in a while. It offers new perspectives on a host of fantasy memes. I was sent book two and three by another fan and I’ve decided that it is that kind of series, the kind that converts readers into zealots. I think you should all become zealots! Read the first four in rapid succession and you’ll feel bereft when it comes to the last page and you’ll be dying for the next book!
The Blade Itself (The First Law Trilogy) Joe Abercrombie is a fine writer. One who knows a lot about fantasy. In this remarkable series he pretty much subverts the accepted narratives of fantasy while creating new and exciting versions around the carcass. A berseker (and an evil one at that) central hero, a torturer who holds our pity, respect and I suspect for most people, our admiration and a wise central enigmatic character that is almost the exact opposite of your Belgarath or Gandalf.
Tomorrow, History, Eoin
Honourable Mention: The Long Price Quartet, by Daniel Abraham (AMAZING)