We're so, so sorry

Coming up

  • John O’Farrell — Family Politics

    THIS WEDNESDAY, 3rd April, 7.30pm

    John O’Farrell, author of ‘May Contain Nuts’ and ‘The Best a Man Can Get’, joins us to discuss his latest novel ‘Family Politics’, an antidote to our divided times, with his signature warmth and wit.

  • Zeinab Badawi — An African History of Africa TWO TICKETS LEFT

    Wednesday 10th April, 7.30pm

    Zeinab Badawi, president of SOAS and television journalist, joins us to provide an authentic account of Africa's history, told through African voices.

  • Alex Niven — The North Will Rise Again

    Wednesday 17th April, 7.30pm

    Writer, poet and lecturer at Newcastle University Alex Niven confronts the North/South divide and the future of regional politics.

  • SOLD OUT: Tom Burgis — Cuckooland

    Wednesday 24th April, 7.30pm

  • Coming up at the Non-Fiction Book ClubTania Branigan (Red Memory)

  • Coming up at the Fiction Book ClubSophie Mackintosh (Cursed Bread), Michael Magee (Close to Home)

Departures and arrivals

It may have been Good Friday, but it was a sad one at Backstory as we said farewell to Rory. I want to thank him for the enthusiasm, ideas and energy he has thrown at Backstory in its first year and a half, from music nights to beautiful design to writing to setting up our fantastic fiction book club, which — like much of what he has begun — will continue to flourish. We will miss him, of course, but we’re delighted he is going on to great adventures. Good luck, Rory!

As we begin our second chapter (sorry!), I’m very happy that I get to do so alongside our new manager, Denise, who has been a team stalwart since the beginning and whose empire has slowly been expanding to reflect the range of her talents. I love working with Denise and I can’t wait to tell you about the exciting plans we’ve already been hatching. Better still, we now have a new partner in crime, Savannah Sullivan, who joined as a bookseller and marketing executive a fortnight ago. Please welcome Savannah if you haven’t already. — Tom


I CAN ALREADY HEAR THE GROANS. Okay, we get it. And we’re — kind of —sorry. I’ve worked in a bookshop long enough to know that once a book gets over, say, 300 pages, there’s an inverse relationship between increasing page count and propensity to buy. Propensity to sigh, however, tracks pretty neatly.

So I am well aware that the thing you were hoping for tonight, on checking your inbox post-chocolate eggs and countryside yomps, wasn’t a short email imploring you to buy a long book. But hey, Easter’s always been a time of surprises.

Let me first say, then, that if you are in search of the zippy, whizzy or pithy, we have lots to offer. In fact, one of Rory’s several legacies is this rather neat round-up of some of our favourite novels under 200 pages.

And if you skip the next five paragraphs, we’ve rounded up our edit of April’s other best books, all of which are considerably shorter.

But for those of you feeling brave enough, we really do need to talk about our new book of the month, Caledonian Road by Andrew O’Hagan.

Don’t blame us if you pick up this thrilling, of-the-moment, Dickensian hardback one quiet afternoon and don’t put it down for three days.

O’Hagan — who wowed many of us at the Backstory fiction book club with his previous novel, Mayflies — creates a compelling (and blistering) portrait of modern Britain in this state-of-the-nation novel. He draws characters so vividly you’ll think you’re spotting them on the streets of London.

Set over the course of a year and one man’s spiralling downfall, Caledonian Road will have you questioning privilege, the media, and how well you really know your neighbours.

Pick it up at Backstory or order it online (with free postage anywhere in the UK), and let us know how you get on. I promise to let you read a Claire Keegan next. — Tom


And here’s our edit of April’s other new releases:

The Gentleman from Peru by André Aciman — out now

A summering group of Americans on the Amalfi Coast draw the attention of an eccentric gentleman who knows things about them that no stranger could know. Aciman goes strange in this pitch-perfect novella. Rory 

Day One by Abigail Dean — out now

Dean pulls no punches in this exploration of how the community of fictional Stonesmere reacts to a shocking primary school shooting. Each chapter follows different characters, including family members of the dead and a person who gets entangled with out-of-town conspiracy theorists. I loved Girl A, Dean’s debut, and this is just as compelling, a proper “read in a day” book. Denise

Song of the Huntress by Lucy Holland — out now

For fans of myth and folklore retellings. Set in 7th century Wessex, Song of the Huntress interweaves history and Celtic folklore while tackling themes of womanhood, queerness, loss, and responsibility. Perfect for fans of Jennifer Saint and Madeline Miller wanting to try some non-Greek mythology. Darby

As Young as This by Roxy Dunn — out now

The story of 34-year-old aspiring actress Margot, told in the relationships she has had with men who she has seen as the stepping stones to marriage and motherhood. From her first sexual encounter, big romance, messy break-up and all the iterations in between. But what if her story doesn’t end how she has always imagined it would? Perfect for fans of Dolly Alderton, Monica Heisey and Daisy Buchanan. Denise

James by Percival Everett — Pre-order for delivery on 11th April

James is a retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the perspective of Jim, an enslaved man who runs away to avoid being sold away from his family. The subject matter is heavy; however, it’s written in a way that’s approachable and even fast-paced. In addition to exploring racism and human cruelty, Everett focuses on language and the power of being able to tell one’s own story. Darby

Anomaly by Andrej Nikolaidis — Pre-order for delivery on 16th April

An apocalypse on New Year’s Day ravages the Earth. The book unfolds through a series of stories about odd people that interconnect and overlap. Curiously narrated and written like a piece of music. Rory 

You Are Here by David Nicholls — Pre-order for delivery on 23rd April

Vintage Nicholls. Funny, bittersweet, ever so human. Two lonely thirtysomethings are reluctantly persuaded by a mutual friend to join a group walk. The group soon dwindles and the two are left alone… Very nicely done. I read it on holiday recently and it had me chuckling at the breakfast table (“Do you get the sublime in London?”/“You do, but only in certain postcodes.”) and planning a long-distance walk from the safety of my sun lounger. Tom