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Patrick Modiano Wins 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature

Paris Tendresse, Patrick Modiano, Brassai

French novelist Patrick Modiano has won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature. Modiano, 69, is no stranger to accolades. His previous awards include the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2012, as well as a lifetime achievement award in 2010 from the Institut de France. Individual novels have also been recognised, including the highly prized Goncourt Prize for his book “Missing Person“. “Missing Person” is perhaps also Modiano’s best-known work, though the historical author is quite prolific, with nearly 30 published works so far. If you’re looking to read Patrick Modiano books written in English, there are far fewer copies available, but there are still enough to get a great start on his catalog.

While he himself was not born until 1945, much of Modiano’s work is nevertheless inspired by the Nazi occupation of France. Much of his finest writing details, down to the minutiae, the lives of regular French citizenry and the impact the war had on their day-to-day lives. His writing’s uniqueness comes, in part, from a balance between highly detailed, highly thorough description of the mundane, and a sense of mystery and ambiguity for situations and plotlines. That fondness for mystery has coined him his very own literary term. In France, if a scenario or character is particularly open-ended, it can be said to be “modianesque”.

Despite his popularity, prolific output and celebrated success, Modiano himself is sadly not as thrilled with his choice of profession as his fans are. He has stated for the media in the past that his writing is more a curse than a gift to him, that he feels feverishly compelled to write and dreams of being free of the burden.

remise-de-peine-modiano While perhaps not as well-known as last year’s winner Alice Munro, Modiano is nonetheless a more far-reaching choice than some winners in previous years. If you’re not familiar with him or his work, you’re probably not French – while Modiano is a lesser-known name elsewhere, within his home country he is very famous and widely regarded as one of France’s best writers. He prefers to stay out of the spotlight, however, and is a very private person, giving few interviews and attending few galas. As such, books signed by Patrick Modiano are extremely rare, with not a single Patrick Modiano autograph for sale on AbeBooks (which is rare indeed).

Some Modiano titles are collectable, and prices are sure to climb with today’s announcement. The most expensive Patrick Modiano book ever sold on AbeBooks was a copy of Remise de Peine. The first edition, limited to 55 numbered copies, sold for £450. I think we can expect to see some more expensive sales in the coming days and weeks.

Modiano is the 15th Nobel Prize-winner of France.


A Gallery of September’s Stunning Sales

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

September’s most expensive sales list includes no fewer than four historically significant, multi-volume sets, including the complete works or Sir Winston Churchill in 38 volumes and Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough in 13 volumes. Also on the list is a first edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, signed by J.K. Rowling, and a beautifully bound 1894 edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Explore our hand-picked gallery of some of the most stunning books sold in September. You’ll find everything from 17th-century philosophy by René Descartes to a deluxe 1963 French edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy, illustrated by Salvador Dali.

See the Gallery


Eight Facts About Graham Greene


Today is the 110th anniversary of the birth of famous novelist Graham Greene (1904-1991), best known for his celebrated works Our Man in Havana, The End of the Affair and The Power and the Glory.

In honour of the day and the man, here are some Graham Greene facts for you.

1) Graham Greene’s complete given name was Henry Graham Greene.

2) One fact about Graham Greene is he was incredibly prolific. He published 26 novels during his lifetime, over a career period of 59 years. One publication, No Man’s Land, was published posthumously in 2005, 14 years after Greene’s death.

3) Greene had a rough adolescence. He attended boarding school at which his father was the headmaster, and during his years there he attempted suicide more than once, and was socially ostracised and unhappy.

4) Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his adolescence, Greene was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a condition which plagued him all his life. Interestingly, he also attributed much of his best work to its symptoms.

5) The two themes which feature most heavily and consistently throughout Greene’s work are those of religion (particularly Catholicism) and espionage.

6) While Greene is widely known as a novelist, he also wrote several plays and screenplays, and many short stories, including “The Destructors“, an excellent story which many readers find highly disturbing.

7) As a way to make enough money to work full-time on his novels, Greene wrote magazine articles and film reviews. In 1937 he published a review in the British publication Night and Day, of the Shirley Temple film Wee Willie Winkie. In it he strongly implied that Temple’s appeal as a film star was largely due to her appeal (of a sexual nature) to dirty old men. Temple was nine at the time. The review did not go over well, and Greene was subsequently sued by cinema company Twentieth Century Fox.

8) Greene’s novels were so successful that many if not most were adapted into successful films. The best known of those films are Brighton Rock (made twice – in 1947 and again in 2010), The End of the Affair (again, twice, in 1955 and again in 1999), The Fugitive (from the novel The Power and the Glory), Our Man in Havana, and The Quiet American (twice, 1958 and again in 2002).


As You Wish: Cary Elwes’ New Book on The Princess Bride

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

Inconceivable! Can it be true? Fans of The Princess Bride (and how could one not be?) will surely be delighted to hear that Cary Elwes, the actor who played Westley/Farm Boy/The Dread Pirate Roberts in the 1987 film adaptation of the book has come out with a book of his own. Out next month, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride is a treasure trove of delights for those of us who love Fezzik, Inigo, Princess Buttercup and Vizzini. The book is a first-person telling of Elwes’ experiences while on the set of the iconic film, and offers interviews with costars Robin Wright (Buttercup), Billy Crystal (Miracle Max), Mandy Patinkin (Inigo) and Christopher Guest (Count Rugen), not to mention director Rob Reiner and the screenwriter (and author of the original book) William Goldman*. Visual people won’t be disappointed, either – there are photographs of set and cast that have never before seen the light of day.

Elwes was apparently inspired to share his experiences, memories and perspectives when he was overwhelmed by the level of devotion and admiration and interest in the film at the 25th cast reunion in 2002.

If this is of interest to you for the Cary Elwes rather than The Princess Bride, you may be excited to know that we have up for sale several genuine pieces of memorabilia from the “Saw” movies, autographed by Elwes, including this rare, severed, bloody prop foot. You know, to cherish. Sadly, the listing does not have an associated image.

And for those who have never read The Princess Bride (what?), enjoy our video review.

*To those confused by the original book’s authorship, make no mistake – The Princess Bride was written by William Goldman. S. Morgenstern was a pseudonym, and a literary device Goldman used to add interesting back story to the book.


Rapper’s Delight: The Hip Hop Cookbook

Rapper's Delight: The Hip Hop Cookbook
What WHAAAAAAT! Yes yes y’all, the rumours are true – whether or not you can take the heat, it is definitely time to get in the kitchen, so you can create some culinary chaos with Rapper’s Delight: The Hip Hop Cookbook (96 pages, Dokument Press). Authors Joseph Innis (a foodie), Ralph Miller (a writer) and Peter Stadden (a graphic designer) put their heads together to bring this book into the world, and we are richer for it.

There’s so much here to like. Are you into food and cookery books? Are you into rap and hip-hop music? Maybe you have a keen interest in illustrators?

The Hip Hop Cookbook is a compilation of 30 recipes inspired by hip-hop artists, accompanied by truly excellent, made-to-order illustrations by up and coming artists. The recipe names alone are reason enough to own the book and display it proudly. Mouthwatering choices include Wu-Tang Clam Chowder, Public Enemiso Soup, and Run DM Sea Bass, just to name a few. The recipes are rap-inspired, not rapper-provided, so don’t be disappointed to learn these dishes may not have graced the grills of your favourite MCs. But they are definitely rapper-approved:

There are all aspects of Hip Hop, but the best of it has unique blending of ingredients, detailed preparation as well as great taste. Rappers Delight connects like great food, makes too much sense.” — Public Enemy’s Chuck D.

Sure, the genre isn’t exactly untapped – titles like Cookin’ with Coolio, and Lost in the Supermarket: An Indie Rock Cookbook, and I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen With Your Favorite Bands have all explored the realm already, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. But for hip-hop fans, the release of this slick, stylish offering is exciting nevertheless. There is something so universal and uniting about food and cooking. There are literary cookbooks, celebrity cookbooks, religious cookbooks, and cookbooks from every country you can think of. Getting in the kitchen and creating something nourishing and delicious is something anyone can understand. And now you can do it as an homage to some of your favourite beatmasters and lyrical geniuses. And don’t worry, parents and folks with delicate sensibilities – while hop-hop tracks can make use of some salty language, the Hip Hop cookbook is 100% family-friendly and explicit-lyric free. Parental Advisory not required! Throw some butter in a pan, some Biggie on the turntable, and get stirring.

And for good measure (get it?), on the off-chance you are unfamiliar with the namesake of the cookbook, do yourself a favour and find the song “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang, one of the finest, most iconic and oft-sampled tracks in hip-hop history.

Let’s cook y’all! Peace.

Ludacrispy Duck recipe from Rapper's Delight: The Hip Hop Cookbook


Hilary Mantel and “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher”

wolf-hall-mantelTwo-time Booker Award-Winner Hilary Mantel has everyone in quite an uproar. The bestselling author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies has released a new short story, titled The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: August 6th, 1983. And as if the title wasn’t shocking enough, even more incredible is Mantel’s admission that the inspiration for the piece comes not from her imagination, but from her own past. She remembers a day in her own life, in 1983, when she spied (then) Prime Minister Thatcher, alone and unguarded, from her flat window. She makes no secret of her loathing of Thatcher, and has related how the spotting of her led to a fantasy about killing her.

What isn’t surprising at all is that the story immediately generated outrage and controversy. The Daily Telegraph allegedly paid a large sum of money for the rights to first publication, only to pull out of the same deal once details of the story came to light.

While Mantel is quite decisive about her feelings toward Thatcher as a person and politician (she refers at one point to her “boiling detestation” of her), she does acknowledge the good that may have come to her own career as a result, saying “[a]s a citizen, I suffered from her but, as a writer, I benefited”.

You can make up your own mind on the story’s merits. Read The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: August 6th, 1983 on The Guardian.


Record-breaking Swarm of Jane Austen Fans Overtakes Bath

There had better be a lot of pencil-sharpening going on at the Guinness Book of World Records headquarters, because there’s a new sheriff in town, in the form of up to 550 Jane Austen fans dressed in petticoats, smocking, chemises and more. According to The Telegraph, the merry band of men, women and children overtook the quaint tourist town of Bath, Somerset on 13th September in an effort to unseat the United States as the record holder for the largest gathering of people dressed in regency costume. America’s showing was a paltry 491 individuals, easily crushed by the revelers at Bath.

Bath was an obvious choice for the celebration, as Austen made her home there for several years in her twenties, receiving her only known marriage proposal during her stay (though it was not a productive time for her writing).

The Jane Austen festival takes place in Bath every year and attracts fans and admirers – and apparently, period costume enthusiasts – from all over Europe and parts of North America. It includes walking tours, discussions, dance workshops, food, performances and more. This year’s 10-day festivities are still underway, until Sunday, 21st September, so while you’ve missed the chance to be part of the record-breaking, you can still don a bonnet and take part in the party.

And finally, the record for largest gathering of people dressed in regency costume is back in Merry Old England, where it belongs. The announcement was met with hearty cheers and much celebration.

Now that you’re in the mood, here are some Jane Austen facts for you, as well as a pretty sketchy representation of the regency costume cobbled together from staff members here. I’m not sure we would count toward the record.


Did you know there was a literary prize for books about mountains?

Hanging On by Martin BoysenI didn’t and I’ve been doing this job for a long time. The Boardman Tasker Prize celebrates mountain literature and is organised by the Boardman Tasker Trust.

The prize of £3,000 commemorates the lives of climbers Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker, who died in 1982 while climbing Mount Everest. Both men wrote about mountaineering, hence the prize set up by friends and family.

The 2014 shortlist is:

My Father, Frank, Unresting Spirit of Everest by Tony Smythe

In Search of Peaks, Passes and Glaciers: Irish Alpine Pioneers by Frank Nugent

Nanga Parbat 1970,Tragedy and Controversy by Richard Sale & Jochen Hemmleb

Law Unto Himself by Michael Law

Hanging On, A Life Inside British Climbing’s Golden Age by Martin Boysen

Tears of the Dawn by Jules Lines


Pre-first editions? Manuscripts, galley proofs & advanced reader copies explained

Enjoy our latest video about editions printed in small quantities before the release date. A pre-first edition book is any limited run of a book printed before the stated first edition is published. Learn more about these types of books in our book collecting guide.


2014 Booker Prize shortlist announced

The shortlist for the 2014 Man Booker Prize has been announced. The six books shortlisted are:

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, cholera and pitiless beatings. Until he receives a letter that will change him forever. Moving deftly from the POW camp to contemporary Australia, from the experiences of Dorrigo and his comrades to those of the Japanese guards, this novel tells a story of love, death, and family, exploring the many forms of good and evil, war and truth, and guilt.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first 18years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she says. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my fun-house mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

J by Howard Jacobson
J by Howard Jacobson
Set in the future, J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying. Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn t know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It isn’t the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. Brutality has grown commonplace.Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe – a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as What Happened, If It Happened. J is a novel to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World.

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
It is 1967, Calcutta. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in student unrest, agitation, extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind is this note. ‘Ma, I feel exhausted with consuming, with taking and grabbing and using. I am so bloated that I feel I cannot breathe any more. I am leaving to find some air, some place where I shall be able to purge myself, push back against the life given me and make my own. I feel I live in a borrowed house. It’s time to find my own… — Forgive me…’.’

How to be Both by Ali Smith / signed copies
How to Be Both by Ali Smith
A novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance. Smith can make anything happen, which is why she is one of our most exciting writers today .

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris / signed copies
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God. Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online Paul might be a better version of the real thing.

The winner is announced on October 14.

The 2013 Man Booker Prize was awarded to Eleanor Catton for The Luminairies. Just 28 years old when the prize was awarded, the Canadian-born New Zealander was the youngest winner in the prize’s history. Signed copies of The Luminaries are still available.