Book reviews, musings and waffle from a British lit addict

Canongate Handpicked: Get On It

One gloomy Friday evening at the end of October, I was cooking dinner and browsing Twitter and spotted something that set my book loving heart all a-flutter: order any book from Canongate before the weekend was out and I’d get a free book, handpicked by one of their lovely staff members.
They had me at “free book”.  
As always, excuse my photography!

Deciding what to buy turned out to be a tricky task.  It has rarely (never) occurred to me to buy direct from a publisher’s website.  I don’t know why that is.  Maybe because, although there are publishers whose books I know that I almost always love (Canongate because I love the Canongate Myths books, Orion’s fantasy imprint Gollancz and Vintage because of their gorgeous red-spined classics), a book’s publisher isn’t what draws me in.  Browsing Canongate’s website and realising just how many great books they’ve brought to the world (and how many of these books I actually already own…) was an eye-opener.

In the end, I went for The Well by Catherine Chanter because the cover is delightfully creepy and it sounds excellent.  Also, give me a story about a family moving into a seemingly idyllic new residence that turns out to not quite be all it seems and I will be happy.  There was no way that I was going to be picking just one once I’d started exploring.  My second pick was The Ghost Rider by Ismail Kadar.  Who could resist this blurb?!

An old woman is awoken in the dead of night by knocks at her front door. The woman opens it to find her daughter, Doruntine, standing there alone in the darkness. She has been brought home from a distant land by a mysterious rider she claims is her brother Konstandin. But unbeknownst to her, Konstandin has been dead for years. What follows is chain of events which plunges a medieval village into fear and mistrust. Who is the ghost rider?

Not me.

I wasn’t sure what I was more excited for: the two books I’d chosen or my handpicked wildcard.

The two books arrived and while I was as excited as I ever am to receive new books, it then became apparent that I was in fact mostly curious and excited about the wildcard.  Thankfully, it arrived the next day.  Cue gushing.

What surprised me was that the package didn’t feel like a hastily thrown together freebie or a gimick designed to get people buying more on the run up to Christmas.  It actually felt like receiving something put together by somebody who loves books just as much as I do.  Obviously there couldn’t be a great deal of planning in what to get me personally because all the person doing the book selecting had to go on were the two books that I’d picked out on that occasion from their pretty hefty range but it still felt thoughtful.  It was nice to think that someone had taken the time to pick out a book, write out a postcard and bundle it up with a letter.  

And here’s another great and glorious thing.  Left to my own devices, I’d have almost certainly not have picked out No one belongs here more thank you but now that I have it, I can’t wait to read it.  I don’t usually read short stories but I’ve seen nothing but glowing praise for this collection so it seems as good a place as any to start.  So not only was it free, it might just push my reading in a new direction.  Book buying from other book lovers is always the best kind of book buying.

I have no affiliation with Canongate (sadly) and this post is entirely unprompted – I just think that in the run up to Christmas, there is little that could be better than a bookish pick-me-up.  Or pick-you-up.  That should be a phrase.

If you missed the chance to get yourself a free handpicked book the first time around, get over to Canongate now.  You have three whole days to order a book and then you’ll get your own package of loveliness at no extra cost.  I may have already ordered another book (The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber) so that I can get another surprise…