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Jan 01, 2021

According to Google an almanac (or almanach) is an annual calendar containing important dates and statistical information such as astronomical data and tide tables. It can also be a handbook containing information of general interest or on a sport or pastime. Back in the early 90s I had the pleasure of working for a year on Whitaker's Almanac. Of course that was in a different millennium when we used to look up answers in books and a search engine, not something the editorial team were yet familiar with. It was a fascinating experience and the breadth and depth of information contained in that one publication was truly impressive. I even contributed to the 1992 edition with an article on hallmarks! I have since discovered that almanacs are published on a very wide variety of subjects and hopefully one of the following will be of interest to you whether for gardening, sailing, solving arguments or winning the lotto!

If you read the blurb Whitaker's Concise 2021 (they dropped Almanac from the title) is the definitive reference guide to the UK. A UK-centric gold-mine of information with an enormous breadth of coverage. At a fraction of the price of the standard edition, the reader with an interest in UK facts and figures is really getting value for money. The concise edition. It contains a comprehensive explanation of every aspect of national and local government infrastructure in the UK, astronomical and tidal data for 2021, guides to UK law, education and taxation, overviews of the water, energy and transport industries, essential calendar information, chapters on royalty and peerage, defence, complete results for each constituency from the last UK General Election and an up-to-date list of MPs, government departments and public bodies - quite simply, the UK in one volume! My personal favourite.  Very establishment. Must surely be the Queen's favourite, I hope she keeps an up-to-date copy in the Palace library!
This is obviously a must-have for all cricket fans. Again a very British publication. An absolute treasure of information world cricket in the preceding year. A perfect gift for any cricket enthusiast. Or as the specialists would say "Overall, Wisden succeeds again in meeting its challenge, recording meticulously and comprehensively while finding time to breathe and reflect". -- Richard Hobson, The Cricketer
Turning to more typical almanac fare here we cross the Atlantic for North America's most well-known annual that contains facts, predictions, and feature items that have made it a cultural icon: traditionally 80 percent-accurate weather forecasts; notable astronomical events and time-honoured astrological dates; horticultural, culinary, fashion, and other trends; historical hallmarks; best fishing days; time - and money-saving garden advice; recipes for refreshment; facts on folklore, farmers, home remedies, and husbandry; amusements and contests.
You couldn't get much further from Whitaker's Almanac here. I have purposely referenced the 2020 edition even if of course 2021  is available. Any publication purporting to contain predictions for 2020 is worth getting hold of ... Brexit, Covid, etc. 
Described as a practical guide to growing, cooking and crafting. This almanac, although it contains a wealth of ideas, hints and information, because it lacks dates reviewers have complained that it is a misnomer, however, I decided to include it in my list. It comes from a publisher specialising in esoteric subject matter.
Another American almanac the National Geographic Kids' Almanac features animal stories, explorer profiles,  inventions, games, and challenges for curious kids who want to learn all about the world and everything that's in it! More of an annual than an almanac but good fun all the same.
 
This one's a little more sober and for a very niche market. (No pun intented ...) The 2021 Stock Trader’s Almanac's stated aim helping to understand the cycles, trends, and patterns that will define stock trading in 2021... Organized in calendar format it's used by top traders, investors, and money managers but also 'perfect for stock trading novices, seasoned market pros, and those who have yet to dip their toe into the lucrative world of stock trading'.
A true almanac this one; with monthly calendars and maps of both hemispheres, it charts the rhythm of lunar phases and contains up to date information on the constellations, meteors and events that take place above our heads. It features 'fascinating celestial facts and notable astronomical anniversaries'  and is approved of the astronomers of the Royal Observatory Greenwich. 
   
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Dec 31, 2020

For anyone considering becoming a Vegan as their New Year's resolution, these are the benefits and some of the things you need to consider.

Huge health benefits

By eating a plant-based diet, you're avoiding meat, fish, dairy and eggs. That means less saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. Vegans also tend to be very conscious about the quality of food they eat, so will be buying organic and fair trade produce. You can actually get every vitamin and mineral you need from a vegan diet, including protein, calcium and iron. These are particularly important for vegans, as they're more at risk of deficiencies. For example, vegans need to ensure they get enough Vitamin B12, which can only be found in animal products. The Vegan Society recommends taking a Vitamin B12 supplement, if you're not eating fortified foods. One small caveat though: it's a good idea to take a Vitamin D supplement as this is found in fish and eggs and isn't found in vegan foods. You'll also be cutting down on processed foods, which means less sugar and salt. You'll have a smaller carbon footprint The UK's Vegan Society estimates that the average individual's carbon footprint reduces by 1.5 tCO2e by going vegan. By doing this, you'll also be reducing your food and water consumption, meaning you're having a smaller impact on the environment. There's also an economic benefit to being vegan. As less food is wasted, the less you'll need to buy. The vegan industry is booming More and more people have been turning to veganism and the market is growing. According to research by Nielsen, the number of UK vegans has almost risen by 900% in the last decade, which is about 360,000 people. Almost half of non-vegans (47%) admit to having tried veganism, with many people following the veganuary campaign.

Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons // Nava Atlas

I enjoyed this book. It provides a wide variety of easy to make nutritious and incredibly tasty soups and stews. I have made many of the recipes and have gotten rave reviews from everyone that has eaten the food. I have been vegan for almost 40 years and have been searching for soup recipes that are not just thickened flour based gravy or cream based sauces. This book is filled with recipes that are interesting, nutritious, and very tasteful. I enjoyed many of the soups so much that I made them more than once. I am a very picky eater and I am very fussy about how my soup is made. I am a soup fanatic. I have never been disappointed with any of the recipes in this book. I recommend this book to anyone that is vegan, has a loved one that is vegan, is looking for a way to eat more healthy, or anyone that just likes good tasting food. About the Author NAVAS ATLAS is an award-winning cookbook author, food columnist, and food photographer who has worked on more than two dozen cookbooks. He has written for VegNews, Vegetarian Times, Fine Cooking, and other magazines. He is a certified health coach and teaches cooking classes in New York City. He has been featured on the Food Network and PBS. He lives in New York City.

Vegan Bowl Attack! // Jackie Sobon

More Than 100 One-Dish Meals Packed with Plant-Based Power is the ultimate resource for busy vegans who need quick, delicious meals that fit busy schedules. With over 100 vegan recipes, Vegan Bowl Attack will equip you with a wide range of vegan-friendly and gluten-free recipes that are sure to keep you full and satisfied. Vegan Bowl Attack includes a wide variety of recipes ranging from appetizers and soups to entrees and desserts. From snacking on Chickpea Fries with Sriracha Ketchup (page 94) to deliciously packing in the protein with the High-Protein Hemp Burger (page 100), you’ll find recipes for any meal of the day. With Vegan Bowl Attack, you can be assured that every recipe is free of common allergens such as soy, eggs, dairy, and gluten. Includes easy-to-follow instructions and beautiful full-color photographs for every dish!

Jackie Sobon is a vegan athlete. She is a vegan, personal trainer, powerlifter and the author of Vegan Bowl Attack. She is also the host of the Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness podcast. She has competed as a powerlifter, bodybuilder, and strongwoman. She is also a writer for Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness, VegNews Magazine, Vegan Fitness, and Vegan Health and Fitness. Jackie is a RYT200 yoga teacher and an ACE certified personal trainer. She is currently training to compete in the 2017 Crossfit Games.

Veganomicon // Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero

I’ve been wanting to write a review of this book since I first bought it, but every time I tried to write something the words just wouldn’t flow. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say, but that this cookbook is so great I wanted to take the time to do it justice. I’ve been using this book for at least a year now, and I have to say that I have never looked at another cookbook the way I look at Veganomicon. This book is my go-to book for basically every meal. There is a great variety of recipes in this book, and they are all very easy to follow. The ingredients are all things I usually have in my kitchen, and the recipes are so easy it’s ridiculous. I’ve cooked so many meals from this book that I can’t even remember them all. Some of the recipes that I love are the samosas, the ho chi mai, the polenta-crusted eggplant, the gazpacho, the “egg” salad, “crab” cakes, and the black bean brownies. The cookbook has a great variety of recipes for every meal, and I don’t know how many times I’ve found myself cooking something from this book. I almost always use my parents’ copy, though, because I have my own copy to use for school. I really don’t know how to say more without just telling you to go buy the book, but I’ll try. If you want to be vegan, and especially if you want to cook for yourself, this book is a must. I really don’t know why I haven’t written this review before now. I guess if I’m forced to write a review now, it’ll force me to read the book again and see what all I’ve been missing.

The Homemade Vegan Pantry // Miyoko Schinner

The Homemade Vegan Pantry is a must-have for any vegan kitchen. It has a great selection of vegan recipes that will please the whole family. The recipes are not fancy, but are tasty and easy to make. The book is organized by topic, such as sauces, basics, spreads, salads, burgers & sandwiches, soups, stews, and desserts. Each section has a variety of recipes that are easy to find and follow. My favorite section was the desserts. There are a variety of recipes that will satisfy your sweet tooth. For example, the cookies and bars are great for snacking. The cupcakes and cake recipes are great for birthdays and other celebrations. I also like the sauces, spreads and condiments section. There are a variety of recipes that are great for sandwiches, burgers, and even salad dressings. She also has an interesting recipe for vegan mayonnaise. My kids love vegan mayonnaise on their sandwiches. The best thing about Miyoko’s recipes is that they are not complicated. She does not use hard-to-find ingredients or impossible-to-pronounce ingredients. She keeps her recipes simple, yet delicious. I enjoy cooking for my family. The recipes in this book are perfect for my busy schedule. I like recipes that I can make with basic ingredients. I also like recipes that are easy to follow. I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes in this book. I recommend The Homemade Vegan Pantry for anyone who wants to learn how to cook vegan recipes. I like this book so much that I am going to buy it for my sister, who is a vegetarian.

Title: One Pot Vegan // Roxy Pope, Ben Pook

Readers of the blog will know that I have a longstanding love for Roxy Pope’s books. Her books are my go-to cookbooks when I want to try something new. She is also the author of the blog Cake ‘n Knife. One Pot Vegan is different to her other books. It is written in a different style. It is divided into chapters, each with a different focus. The chapters include:

  • One Pot Meals
  • Sweet Things
  • Breakfast and Brunch
  • Soups
  • One Pot Sauces
  • Burgers and Balls
  • Pasta Bowls Dips,
  • Spreads,
  • Pickles and Spreads Drinks
  • Smoothies Snacks

I love how easy it is to flip straight to the section I want. The chapters are short and to the point. The recipes are not split out by main course, side dish or dessert. They are all mixed together, so you can choose whatever you fancy – it’s the perfect cookbook for busy people. You can find a recipe for whatever takes your fancy. The recipes are easy to follow and the instructions are simple and easy to read. The photographs are beautiful – they look like they have been taken by a professional photographer. There are recipes for things I have never heard of – like Nutty Butter, Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, and Veggie-Beef Burgers. There are also recipes for things that are common in our house, like Sweet Potato Fries and BBQ Burgers. They are all simple to follow and delicious to eat! I love the simplicity of the recipes. The recipes are very straightforward and easy to follow. Most of the recipes have only a few steps. The recipes are easy to read and easy to follow. The instructions are clear and precise. I have tried a few recipes from the book already and they have all been a success. I have made the Nutty Butter, Sweet Potato Fries, Veggie-Beef Burgers, and the Chocolate Hazelnut Spread. The recipes are all easy to make. The recipes are all delicious. The recipes are all simple – even my children can follow them. I am going to make the rest of the recipes from the book in the coming weeks. I am sure that they will all be just as good. I love Roxy Pope

 

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Dec 30, 2020
Platform is a novel by Michel Houellebecq published in 2001. Houellebecq's dystopian vision of a near-future where sex has been replaced by the cloning of human beings is his most accomplished and thought-provoking novel. The main character, a marketing consultant, has to travel to Thailand to convince a sex-tourism entrepreneur to make a deal with his company. The novel's brooding, cynical tone is perfectly embodied in the hero's obsession with the film Back To The Future Part II, which he watches over and over again on video. The novel is shot through with a sense of despair, and in the end the hero decides to clone himself and to travel back in time to meet the 19th-century writer Joris Karl Huysmans, whose work he admires. As the hero says, "I'm only doing it for the pleasure of talking to you again, of course, but it's also because I don't have any choice. You're a writer, Huysmans, you understand that. You're my last resort."
The Possibility of an Island In the beginning of the 21st century, on a tiny island of the coast of Western Europe, there lives a man of around fifty. He is rich, withdrawn, solitary. His name is Michel Djerzinski. He is a scientist and he lives alone in a huge mansion. One day, a new maid arrives at the mansion. Her name is Sophie. She comes from Eastern Europe. She is twenty-five and she is very beautiful. She and Michel go to bed together and from this moment onwards their relationship will change their lives in an irreversible way.
Serotonin. We are in the far future. A single human colony, also a reproduction, is left orbiting an old star, between the galaxy's spiral arms. The protagonist, a historian and teacher, spends most of his time drinking and sleeping with women, but at the same time he is obsessed with the idea that humanity should undertake a last-ditch effort to reproduce itself. This is the story of a man who is obsessed with death, but who is incapable of doing anything significant with his life, who spends his days enjoying his existence.
Atomised. This is the first novel written by Michel Houellebecq. The novel narrates the lives of two brothers, Michel and Bruno, who were raised in an upper middle class family in France. Since childhood, Bruno, the younger of the two, gets angry when Michel, the elder brother, gets the attention. He believes that he is better than his brother at everything even though Michel is a gifted mathematician. In his adolescence, Bruno gets a sex education book from Michel. Bruno is shocked to find his brother in the book and gets angry at his brother. The novel also presents the lives of two married couples, Michel and Isabelle and Bruno and Francoise. Bruno is in love with Francoise while Michel is in love with Isabelle. The novel was published in 1994 and was a great success. The novel received the Prix Novembre in 1994.
Submission by Michel Houellebecq is a provocative novel, set in a near future France. It is the fictional story of a Muslim man who wins the French presidency in a landslide victory, and the ensuing political turmoil that follows. Submission is a must read for anyone interested in international affairs and the future of France. the novel is meant to be a thought experiment, and a critique of certain political and social trends in France
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Dec 23, 2020

At Bookface.io we're always using the latest and greatest technology using AI  We also love reading by the way - and Jack Reacher is one of our favourites (even if they did try and ruin it by casting Tom Cruise in the lead role!).  This Top 10 is a bit different though.  It was generated using  GPT 3 from Open AI.  If you haven't heard of GPT 3 - try this article. In the meantime, here's what GPT 3 thinks.  I think it made a pretty good job.  Jack Reacher would be proud (provided he's had his coffee).

AI: I am an AI created by OpenAI. How can I help you today?

Human: What are the top 10 Jack Reacher books and why?

AI: Okay. First one is One Shot by Lee Childs. It was the first novel by Lee Childs featuring Cruise and about him emerging as a leader for the group. The story takes place primarily in the American city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and on the South Fork of Long Island in New York. This book was published in 1996.

Human: Interesting.  What's next?

AI: Second on the list is Worth Dying For by Lee Childs. Jack Reacher said, 'Haven't done that yet.' In this book, Lee describes Reacher being trained as a soldier and in boxing and martial arts. This book crossed the boundary between genre fiction and literary fiction and became much more popular than Lee Childs' previous novels. It was an immediate international best seller. The story takes place primarily in New York City, Georgia, and Margrave, Alabama. It was published in 1997.

Human: What's number three?

AI: Maden of the Dragon coming in third is a book of short stories written by Lee Childs. The main theme in his short stories is that people who hurt other people come to bad ends. This book covers actions in London, Paris, Nova Scotia, and California. It was published in 1997.

Human: Is it a Jack Reacher book?

AI: It is the 4th but yes. The Hard Way was written by Lee Childs and first published on 6 October 1997. Jack Reacher must battle a giant in order to save his friend from this guy. This book takes place primarily in the American city of New York City and its suburbs. It was Lee Childs's second published novel featuring Reacher. Jack Reacher is the protagonist.

Human: Jack Reacher is always the protagonist

AI: Book number five is Jack Reacher's Rules by Lee Childs. The book introduces several elements of what has become Childs's signature "Reacherese" style, including detailed notes at the start of each novel, a reoccurring theme of the number 5 (Jack Reacher's favorite number), and an explanation for Reacher's love of pork pie hats at the end. Other than those differences, this book is very similar to Childs's other novels. Book takes place in New York City, Georgia, and Margrave, Alabama.

Human: Where is Killing Floor on the list?

AI: The sixth on the list is Killing Floor by Lee Childs. Also, it is the only novel written solely by Childs. Jack Reacher is looking for work and decides to wander around town. He notices a mixed martial arts studio called The Junkyard. He enters into the studio and sees four men beating up one participant of the group. He talks to the owner of the studio, Michelle Chang. She gives Reacher a job and he starts training.

Human: How many to go?

AI: 7th is Tripwire by Lee Childs. In the book, Reacher has walked into a trap, with Michelle Chang, a woman he considered very much a friend and who might be falling for him (he's an expert on that), in danger.

Human: How many to go?

AI: Next is Without Fail by Lee Childs. The only common ground Reacher and the other three men have is that each had spent the night with Margaret Coe, the director of Human Rights Watch for the Middle East, who dropped out. However, Reacher also notes a large fire the previous night. He goes to the bureau and determines that Jay Knox was the agent assigned to protect her and discovers he was killed. He was reassigned to protect the other members of her team. Reacher suspects that the assassin will strike again that night and tries to warn the other agents.

Human: Got it. Next one?

AI: Echo Burning by Lee Childs is about Jack Reacher–the man from the secret agency that knows where the bodies are buried. They sent him on a mission. But now Reacher wants out. He's seen enough – and he thinks the American dream soured for good.

Human: Can you tell me some more about Echo Burning?

AI: Sure. In the opening chapters of the novel, Lee Childs introduces Reacher to the readers. He is not your typical hero. Rather, he is atypical. Reacher is a drifter. He hiked out West from Fort Dix in New Jersey and has ended up in Margrave, Georgia. From there, he wants to move on. "I'm moving on, Jack Reacher said. I've been thinking about it for a while. I want to be by myself for a while. I'm tired of working with others." Later, Reacher explains that he does not need people yelling at him all the time because he wants to explore the world and figure out who he is.

Human: He's an interesting character

AI: The series continues with Worth The Change by Lee Childs. Second in a series by Lee Childs, the novel starts with Reacher hitchhiking, eight miles down the road from Alice, when he sees that most of a family has been killed. Not only that, the criminal who did it is still around – the killer is going to shoot anyone he comes across. So begins what becomes an action-packed and exciting story.

Human: Any more?

AI: Persuader by Lee Childs is third in a series by Lee Childs. When a wise and kindly old man who helped him as a child dies, Reacher travels to his funeral. He hires Dakota to drive him back. On the way there, two men try to kill them but fail. Reacher starts to investigate, and discovers that the old man had ties to organized crime. When one of the criminals from Florida arrives to town, he suspects that maybe someone is after something or someone else important. Then they may be right.

Human: Is that the last one?

AI: No. Personal by Lee Childs is the fourth in a series by Lee Childs. Jack Reacher is sitting in the Burger City parking lot, minding his own business. But after checking up on an old friend and colleague from his old special unit, Army Major Susan Turner, he finds out that the Army thinks she murdered two people. He decides to travel to see her for himself to learn what is going on. He hopes that maybe together, they can figure out who really did it. But soon, Reacher also becomes a suspect.

Human: Which is the best one?

AI: The Enemy. Lee is an exceptional writer. His focus on details, description, and action make the dialogue of his characters come to life. Reacher is a mysterious character. Because of that, I like this novel. It is the second novel by Lee Childs. Human also appeared at the beginning.

Human: Thank you.  I think that is at least 10

AI: You're welcome. Goodbye!

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Feb 24, 2021

A portrait of the poet and ‘public prophet’ spotlights her entanglements with empire and race but doesn’t neglect the schlockier pleasures of biographical speculation

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” asked Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1850, unwittingly turning herself from one of Britain’s pre-eminent poets into a Valentine’s card fixture. It wasn’t just the words, which are still lovely, but the way they tend to be read in conjunction with the story of her clandestine courtship by fellow-poet Robert Browning. In 1846, after a year and a half of epistolary romance and secret meetings, young Browning famously burst into the 40-year-old’s London sickroom and whisked her to Italy and a new life of sunshine, sex and lyric poetry.

Of course, this biographical reading would have appalled Browning, who spent a career trying to break the automatic identification between the “I” of the poem and the “me” of the poet. Chances are such a reductive approach would have unsettled Barrett Browning too. She saw herself as a public prophet rather than as what she scathingly called a “fair writer”. Her first publication as a precocious 14-year-old had been an account of the Battle of Marathon, and she went on to tackle big, gnarly subjects including the iniquity of laissez-faire capitalism (“The Cry of the Children”) and the struggle of Italy for political self-determination (“Casa Guidi Windows”). These days we forget that when Wordsworth died in 1850 it was Barrett, rather than Tennyson, who was most often mentioned as the next poet laureate.

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Feb 23, 2021

A young woman weighs faith and science as she searches for meaning in the wake of family tragedy

Marianne Moore once suggested that poets and scientists work analogously, not only because each is willing to “waste effort” but because each “is attentive to clues, each must narrow the choice, must strive for precision”. Yaa Gyasi, whose triumphant debut Homegoing was published in 2016, demonstrates the marvellous truth of this in her new novel, Transcendent Kingdom, which shifts between clinical rigour and lyrical attentiveness as it tries “to make meaning” of one woman’s life.

Gifty is a PhD candidate at Stanford University who is conducting a study on the “neural circuits of reward-seeking behaviour” in mice by addicting them to a sugary energy drink and caging them in a behavioural testing chamber fitted with a lever that administers either the drink or a randomised electric shock. Using optogenetics, she is attempting to identify which neurons are “firing or not firing” whenever they decide to press the lever: “The mice who can’t stop pushing the lever, even after being shocked dozens of times are, neurologically, the ones who are the most interesting to me,” she says. But Gifty’s attention has been diverted away from her experiment because her mother has come to stay, having had a relapse of the severe depression that she has experienced since the death of Gifty’s brother, Nana, by overdose. This intrusion acts as the catalyst that disrupts Gifty’s carefully calibrated world, confronting her with the traumatic memories she has been trying to avoid.

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Feb 23, 2021

My grandmother tells me off for bemoaning my life. Her memories of losing everything and beginning again continue to inspire me, writes poet Nikita Gill

“You are the granddaughter of a family that has known war and trouble like it is the back of our hands. Building hope where there is none it is part of our legacy.” My grandmother said these words, gently but firmly, on a recent phone call that I had spent lamenting the state of the world, and the pandemic, and feeling rather sorry for myself.

She was right, as she often is.

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Feb 23, 2021

The co-founder of the City Lights Bookstore had global stature but remained a neighborhood fixture

By early afternoon, a small memorial of flowers and a can of Pabst had begun to accumulate outside the door of City Lights Books, to commemorate the death of its co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

And by the evening, a vigil for Ferlinghetti, one of the last living links to the Beat generation, was being held in the adjacent Jack Kerouac Alley, a tiny side street that separates the bookstore – a tourist attraction and official city landmark for decades – from the celebrated Beat hangout Vesuvio Cafe.

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Feb 23, 2021
The writer/drag performer and the television executive talk books with Harriett
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Feb 23, 2021

Lockdown has triggered a boom in the exchange of intimate shots – and now a new book called Sending Nudes is celebrating the pleasures and perils of baring all to the camera

Have you ever sent a nude selfie? The question draws a thick red line between generations, throwing one side into a panic while the other just laughs. And yet, as far back as 2009, that fount of moral wisdom, Kanye West, was advising how to stay safe. “When you take the picture cut off your face / And cover up the tattoo by the waist,” he rapped in Jamie Foxx’s song Digital Girl.

As the pandemic forces relationships to be conducted remotely, more people than ever are resorting to the virtual exchange of intimacies. Last autumn, a poll of 7,000 UK schoolchildren by the youth sexual health charity Brook put the figure at nearly one in five who said they would send a naked selfie to a partner during a lockdown.

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Feb 23, 2021

Galia Oz claims late author – hailed as Israel’s greatest – beat and humiliated her in childhood, but siblings say they remember him differently

The daughter of the late Israeli author Amos Oz has alleged that her father subjected her to “a routine of sadistic abuse” in a new memoir, claims that have been challenged by his family.

Galia Oz, a children’s author, published her autobiography, Something Disguised as Love, in Hebrew on Sunday. “In my childhood, my father beat me, swore and humiliated me,” she writes, in a translation published by the newspaper Haaretz. “The violence was creative: He dragged me from inside the house and threw me outside. He called me trash. Not a passing loss of control and not a slap in the face here or there, but a routine of sadistic abuse. My crime was me myself, so the punishment had no end. He had a need to make sure I would break.”

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Feb 23, 2021

From the Swiss Alps to the Utah desert via Crystal Palace, a sticky end can find you anywhere in this month’s mysteries

Femi Kayode
Raven Books, £14.99, pp432

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Feb 23, 2021

Boasting a remarkable roster of literary talent from Sara Collins and Lisa Taddeo to Laura Bates and Yomi Adegoke, This Is How We Come Back Stronger is an anthology of writing born out of Feminist Book Society's author events and discussions. In this exclusive piece, the editors of the anthology explain how the pandemic hastened the necessity for such a volume and what they hope will be its lasting legacy.  

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Feb 22, 2021

The abduction of a boy in Mexico City is told from opposing perspectives in this gripping study of motherhood

Translated by Sophie Hughes, this powerfully bleak Mexican debut is a taut two-hander that examines motherhood through the prism of a child’s abduction. It’s narrated by two unnamed women in Mexico City. The first – middle-class, married to a man from Spain – tells us that her three-year-old son, Daniel, hasn’t been seen since he went missing in a playground while she was absorbed in her phone: the man she was having an affair with had just texted to break things off. Now unable to get out of bed, she’s dead-eyed with self-loathing, her agony intensified by having to care for her husband’s Catalan niece, Nagore, of whom they took custody after the girl’s father murdered her mother. This is a novel in which violence is endemic.

Empty Houses starts very much in the vein of contemporary fiction about put-upon women whose circumstances tip them into misanthropy; think of Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment, the rise of Ottessa Moshfegh and the post-Gone Girl vogue for marital thrillers. “Breastfeeding is the reflex of mothers who, given that they can’t eat their children, wish to smother them instead,” Daniel’s mother reflects. “We offer the breast not only on instinct but out of an obliterated desire to kill our progeny before it’s too late.”

Navarro puts you in the shoes of a child snatcher frantically building a life based on unsustainable lies

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Feb 22, 2021

Her duplicitous love triangle story is a hit – but some viewers are calling its mind-boggling twist ‘preposterous’. The horror and sci-fi veteran turned thriller-writer hits back

When Sarah Pinborough’s thriller Behind Her Eyes was published in 2017, even she described it as a “Marmite book”. Her publisher slapped on equally dire warnings, hyping it with the hashtag #WTFthatending.

Now the novel is a hit Netflix miniseries and Pinborough is still boggled by her own twist. “I finished watching it and then I had a shower and went to bed and I was still thinking, ‘That ending, man!’ – and I made it up!” she says, speaking from her home near Milton Keynes. “But it’s different seeing it.”

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Feb 22, 2021

From Ode to a Nightingale to Modern Love, Ruth Padel, Will Harris, Mary Jean Chan, Rachel Long and Seán Hewitt choose their favourites

Chosen by Ruth Padel

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Feb 22, 2021

In her phenomenal debut novel The Lamplighters, Emma Stonex tells the disquieting story of the disappearance of a group of lighthouse keepers off the coast of 1970s Cornwall. This exclusive piece discusses the roles played by the wives of these mysterious figures and how they came to dominate the story's narrative.   

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Feb 22, 2021

Tax breaks announced for companies who pay for manuscript by the Marquis de Sade, valued at €4.5m

The French government is appealing for corporate help to acquire the manuscript of the Marquis de Sade’s notorious The 120 Days of Sodom, valued at €4.5m (£3.9m), for the National Library of France.

Related: ‘The most impure tale ever written’: how The 120 Days of Sodom became a ‘classic’

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Feb 22, 2021

Some surprisingly buoyant and cheering verses from a neglected American writer

A Grey Day

Grey drizzling mists the moorlands drape,
Rain whitens the dead sea,
From headland dim to sullen cape
Grey sails creep wearily.
I know not how that merchantman
Has found the heart; but ’t is her plan
Seaward her endless course to shape.

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Feb 22, 2021

Saima Mir, author of exciting new crime thriller The Khan, has been gratified to note that there is now more publishing centred on strong female South Asian protagonists than there was a few years ago. In this piece, Saima picks those novels (and characters) that have spoken most deeply to her. 

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Feb 22, 2021

Author Namina Forna loved JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis’ books as a child, but saw little that resembled the magic and rich mythology she saw in Africa

When I was a child, I was what you would call a JRR Tolkien fangirl. I read The Lord of the Rings over and over. I traipsed around the countryside, imagining it was Middle-earth. With just a flight of imagination, I could be snug in the Shire, exploring the mines of Moria, or even flitting through the woods of Lothlórien.

When the first Lord of the Rings movie was finally released, I was 14 and so excited to see it. But immediately, I noticed something distressing: no one on screen looked like me. The darkest characters on screen, the orcs, were all male. Even as a monster, it seemed, there was no place for people who looked like me in Tolkien’s world.

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Feb 22, 2021

The musician and author’s second novel, about a young person’s search for their vanished father, is beautifully descriptive, if occasionally clumsy

Writer and musician Kerry Andrew’s second novel, Skin, is an atmospheric creation. It follows young Matty, an introverted kid from north London, whose father disappears one day. Matty is convinced that he’s killed himself, drowned or been murdered. However, there are no answers from Matty’s brittle mother, Rosa, or from the wider community, and Matty seeks solace – and clues – in Hampstead’s swimming ponds. Throughout the novel, water functions as an ever-shifting symbol: a place to belong, a space for freedom and play, a death-lure full of secrets, a comfort and a challenge: “It began to have its own call. Water has a song, a near-silent lilt. When you got closer – tarn, pool, river, proper swimming lake – the impatience made you sweat.” Skin stirs with references to water myths, from selkies and mermaids to sirens and cursed bodies of water.

The unease of identity is another strong theme: Matty’s Italian mother and Irish father find comfort and conflict in their homelands, caught by the ties that bind and those that anchor, creating an unresolved restlessness that they pass on to Matty. Meanwhile, Matty’s explorations of sexuality, gender expression and identity glimmer suggestively through the entire novel.

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Feb 22, 2021

Robert Maxwell and Rupert Murdoch were once the two biggest power brokers in British politics. But their fierce rivalry paved the way for Maxwell’s demise

The dinner dances hosted by Robert and Betty Maxwell at their Italianate mansion in Oxford, Headington Hill Hall, were reckoned, even by hardened partygoers, to be in a class of their own. Every year on Maxwell’s birthday, the great and good would descend in their droves to enjoy his hospitality. Labour party grandees would rub shoulders with captains of industry, leading scientists with newspapers editors.

But the party to celebrate Maxwell’s 65th birthday in June 1988 was confidently predicted to outdo them all in terms of both opulence and pomp. The US president, Ronald Reagan, sent a telegram of congratulations: “Nancy and I are delighted to join in the chorus of appreciation.” So did the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who extolled Maxwell’s “sense of direction and decision” – very similar, she noted, to her own. As far as the then Labour leader, Neil Kinnock was concerned, “If Bob Maxwell didn’t exist, no one could invent him.” Kinnock went on to pay tribute to Maxwell’s “basic convictions of liberty and fair play”.

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Feb 21, 2021

These remarkable essays from the writer’s early years highlight her search for truth and attention to detail

Except for Joan Didion, the New Journalists of the 1960s were a self-dramatising gang, determined to upstage the stories they reported. Norman Mailer brawled, Hunter S Thompson raged; less loudly macho, Tom Wolfe preened and Truman Capote whispered sedition. When Didion calls writing “an aggressive, even a hostile act” or “the tactic of a secret bully”, she might be defining this bumptious fraternity.

Didion’s own tactics, sampled here in a smattering of uncollected articles, are more covert, perhaps even passive-aggressive. In an essay celebrating the scruffy underground press of the hippie era, she proclaims the ideology that underlay the new procedures: on guard against the respectable broadsheets and their “factitious ‘objectivity’”, journalists needed to risk “the act of saying I”. For Didion, however, that was easier said than done. Tentative, tremulous, she initially resisted employing the first-person pronoun, which belonged to her male colleagues by egotistical right.

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Feb 21, 2021
Johny Pitts talks to Caleb Azumah Nelson about Open Water, his hotly anticipated debut
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