MUP Recommends: what we’re reading this festive period

Posted by Becca Parkinson - Friday, 17 Dec 2021

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We asked our team here at Manchester University Press, how they’re planning to spend their well-earned down-time over the Christmas break, and what they’re looking forward to reading this festive season.

The books they’ve chosen range from acclaimed travel and nature writing, to epic tomes of fiction. Here’s what they said:

“I’m really looking forward to starting Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. His novel, All the Light We Cannot See, is one of my favourite books, and I excitedly pre-ordered this new one when it was announced, not realising it is a 600+ page behemoth. So I imagine most of my Christmas break will be spent curled up with this book, and I hope it lives up to expectations.

I have asked for a lot of books for Christmas, fiction and non-fiction, and loads of cookbooks, so I’ll have plenty to read.”

Becca Parkinson, Marketing Coordinator

“I will be finishing off reading the works of Barbara Comyns. I was introduced to her by Avril Horner earlier this year, who has written a biography of her. I started with Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, was immediately captivated, and have read everything that is in print apart from A Touch of Mistletoe (just reprinted by Daunt Books). So that is going to be my Christmas book.”

Matthew Frost, Senior Commissioning Editor (Literature, Theatre & Film)

“I’m going to be reading Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead. I was gifted a copy recently but at nearly 600 pages it’s too heavy to commute with, so I intend curl up on the couch reading it over Christmas. I know [Editorial Director] Emma (Brennan) has read this book, so I’m looking forward to virtual book chat with her in the new year!”

Rebecca Mortimer, Marketing Campaigns and Communications Executive

From our own list: Everything must change: Philosophical Lessons from Lockdown by Vittorio Bufacchi (MUP)

“I think the reason is self-explanatory but it’s an accessibly written compact book that has a high chance of completion!”

From outside MUP: Devil-Land: England under siege 1588-1688 by Clare Jackson (Allen Lane)

“I’m not normally a history buff but I heard the author talking about the book and was transfixed by the impact on world events and how they shaped England during this period, and how amazingly relevant they are to our relationship with contemporary Europe.

The Book of Bees by Piotr Socha (Thames and Hudson)

“An illustrated book for kids, which I will read (look at) with my 2 year old daughter who loves bees, as do I.”

Simon Ross, Chief Executive

“Tough decision! Despite whittling down my to read pile, I have a lot to choose from over Christmas.

I still need to read Shuggie Bain which I’ve been looking forward to since the paperback came out. But I tend to alternate between fiction and non-fiction and am 2/3 through The Overstory by Richard Powers so feel I should be more serious with the next one.

So, Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flynn is something I’m looking forward to. It was shortlisted for loads this year including the Wainwright Prize and is part travel, part nature writing about spaces left by civilisation and what happens to them. I want to read it because its been recommended by several people, but also because it’s in a slightly genre defying space rich in potential for our own list, so I hope to learn from it stylistically and structurally as much as enjoy it as a good read.”

Tom Dark, Senior Commissioning Editor (Society, Economy, History of Science and Social Sciences trade books)

“I am planning to read The Strangest Man by Graham Farmelo – I listened to the In Our Time podcast about Dirac’s life and mind-blowing contributions to science and felt compelled to learn more about him.

I am currently reading The Free World by Louis Menand, an intriguing big book that promises to expand my mind in the process of imbibing it. When the scholarship is this good, reading is an absolute pleasure.

From our own list, I’m reading the proof of Driving with strangers, packed full of interesting stories and the author’s experiences when hitchhiking across a number of continents. The books premise is the perfect antidote to pandemic life”

Chris Hart, Head of Marketing

“In lieu of an actual holiday, I’m going to be exploring the Balkans courtesy of a book recently longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize – Minarets in the Mountains. It’s an account of Europe’s Muslim history through the eyes of travel writer Tharik Hussain, and based on the reviews I’ve seen so far, it promises to be a fascinating journey!”

Humairaa, Assistant Editorial Controller

“I started a subscription to Fitzcarraldo’s fiction list in the long-ago early stages of lockdown 1.0 (closed bookshops? – the horror!), and so Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob, translated by Jennifer Croft, thumped onto my doormat a couple of weeks ago as an early Christmas present to myself! That will be keeping me quiet over the end-of-year break, and because my brain has decided that a week’s holiday is enough time to read 5 books, I’m also hoping to get cracking on Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer. Totally manageable, yes?”

Jen Mellor, Production Editor

“Over the last year I’ve been working through every story starring that funny little sleuth Hercule Poirot. There’s Agatha Christie’s 33 novels (plus 13 short story collections), a novelisation of Black Coffee by Charles Osborne and four officially licensed works by Manchester-born author Sophie Hannah.

I’ve just finished reading number 19 so it would be nice to try and hit 20 before the new year—but it’s a difficult thing, to read, when you’ve a coupe in one hand and a snifter of Baileys in your other and you can only see straight by squinting out your nostril. Poirot might have to wait.”

Christian Lea, Sales Support Assistant

“I’m starting with two short story collections that came out in English translations this year: The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez (Granta) and Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki (Verso). After that, the annual reread of Donna Tartt’s festive classic The Secret History (Penguin).”

Laura Swift, Editorial Assistant

“I’ll be reading Black Paper: Writing in a Dark Time by Teju Cole. I first came across Cole through his piece ‘The White-Savior Industrial Complex’, which offered a sharp critique of the Kony 2012 campaign and self-flattering white interventions in African politics. His previous collection, Known and Strange Things, contained an amazing array of essays on art, literature and politics. I’ve been looking forward to the follow-up for some time.”

Alun Richards, Assistant Editor

“I’m going to be reading The Abstainer by Ian McGuire (in fact, I’ve already started it). So far, I’m enjoying the vivid evocation of Manchester 150 years ago and I’m expecting plenty of twists and turns. I didn’t know this when I picked it up, but the author is a lecturer here at the university.”

David Appleyard, Production Manager

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