Sunday, 28 August 2011


READER! READ FASTER! is taking a little break because half of us are catching up on a little vitamin D at our Spanish villas.

To keep you entertained for the next few days, here's our Dave with a replacement head.

This is McSweeney's Issue 36, which is a 275-cubic-inch full-color head-crate containing a selection of booklets from the likes of Michael Chabon, Jack Pendarvis, Wajahat Ali and soon-to-be-adopted Mancunian Colm Tóibín.

Dave also has a real head, but it's less interesting.

Monday, 22 August 2011


Melvin Burgess will discuss his new novel Kill All Enemies in Blackwell's Manchester on September 6th.

He is best known for the award-winning novel Junk, which dealt with teenage heroin use at a time when Trainspotting was hitting the headlines, and for his novelisation of the film Billy Elliot. Kill All Enemies tells the story of a 14-year-old caught in violent family life.

This will be a discussion with a difference. Melvin Burgess will join Manchester Salon in picking apart fashions in literature and to what extent novels reflect and shape our impressions of society.

We will examine the process of writing gritty, realistic novels and how important the process of being immersed in the subject can be for developing stories.

Date: Tuesday 6th September
Time: 6.30pm - 8.30pm
Venue: Blackwell's bookshop, Manchester
Tickets: £5 (£3 conc) available from the shop or from Manchester Salon

Friday, 12 August 2011


Deep voice: "Last time on Cover Judging Contest". Cut to a heavily edited montage of these blog posts.

As if two rounds of our epic Cover Judging Contest weren't enough, here is round three. All you have to do is vote on your favourite book cover, as listed below.

The winners from all four rounds will go head-to-head in a final that promises high tension, tearful debate and a higher than average volume of paper cuts for a sleepy summer afternoon.

Vote by using the form at the top of this page, or, for those reading in black and white, leave a comment below.

As with with the rest of the series, we advise you click on a cover to nuzzle your eyes deep into its full-size wondrousness.

Soul Stealers by Andy Remic

A sassy, but true-to-life depiction of lesbian albino vampires that communicates a powerful mix of lust and terror.

Enfance by Nathalie Sarraute

What is he/she thinking? What is he/she wearing? Who is she/he? All that we know is that it's a child.

Les Thibault II by Roger Martin De Gard


Global Shadows by James Ferguson

Rewards repeat viewing. Now look again. And again.

Fighting Bull by Nigel Farage

The gently eccentric Nigel Farage bearing the modern day equivalent of the sword and shield - the megaphone and Union Jack novelty umbrella.

Thursday, 11 August 2011


Voting in round two of our Cover Judging Contest is over. Blimey. This is dragging on. No. No. This is wonderful. We're having the time of our lives.

The joint winners were the worryingly un-PC Obama book and Dave Egger's hairy Wild Things, both with 33% of the vote. This pair of, quite frankly, freaks go through to the final.

Roll on round three where, as D*Ream once sang, ur the best thing. No. No. Wrong single. As D*Ream once sang, things can only get better.

Monday, 8 August 2011


Our intrepid trawl of book covers continues with the second round of our Cover Judging Contest.

We have a stack of favourite book cover designs and we are asking you to look through them and vote for your favourite. Using the power of an ultra-modern blog poll, last time you gave the nod to some penguins looking at a dead bear. Nice. I hope you're happy with yourself.

Only four this time, due to the overwhelming quality on display. Have a look at the covers below and vote for your favourite. Either leave a comment or use the poll at the top of this pageVoting now closed: click here for the latest. We'll give it a couple of days, then move on to the next round. After four rounds, we'll have a grand final.

Oh and we strongly recommend you click on a book cover to see a larger image. Go!

Obama and the Jim Crow Media: The Return of the Nigger Breakers by Ishmael Reed

There are not a lot of covers awe-inspiring enough to drown out an n-bomb, so on behalf of nervous white booksellers everywhere, I'd like to thank Ishmael Reed for personally commisioning this tour de force.

This is Not a Pipe by Michel Foucault

Included in this list because of its ugly, thoughtless design. This is a great example of how not to do a book cover. Chosen as a cheeky, ironic addition! ;)

The Wild Things by Dave Eggers

Made hairy due to an odd industrial printing error.

Tout Terrain by Tim Swain and Christiane Salvador

An iconic piece of French design. Unflinchingly modern and empoweringly accessible. .


'Tis the year of our Lord 1865 and steam and smog chokes the skies of this great cursed city of Manchester.

Queen Victoria sits upon a mechanical throne in a gas-driven airship which hovers invisible over Piccadilly Gardens.

A construct powered by Faraday's lightning has taken her place in London. The real Queen prefers Manchester now, where her riches are made in creaking cotton factories and other, darker, stranger, hidden places.

But she is bored and needs a book to read.

Springheel Jack, the Queen's spy and sometime-lover, digs deep into Mancunian tunnels finding strange beasts within; the city's criminal underworld of rippers and thieves who sport mechanised limbs and practice the dark arts of the secret cabals.

Gallant and dashing, he strikes them aside with his cane, his flashbang top hat and his rapier wit, following the gaslight signals to the home of Lord Blackwell, scribe and bookkeeper. If he makes it out alive, the Queen has promised him a dirigible of his own and his next jaunt will be to the moon.

Lord Blackwell, half man half robot, drinks a draught of crude oil and takes in the aspect of his new book display.

Before him lie bizarre tales of courageous inventors, foolhardy scientists and brass-plated romance. It pleases him. He beholds the future in all its rusty, creaky, electric beauty and commands the reanimated corpses that he calls his staff to open up shop for business.

Springheeled Jack will be with him soon and he expects a hefty return for all his hard work. He smiles and flakes of rust fall from his lips.

He names it Steampunk, and the future, he thinks, is a bright, brassy one.

The Five Favourite Steampunk Long Stories as Chosen by the Honourable Lord Blackwell of Manchester

The Boneshaker
Cherie Priest

At the start of the Civil War, a Russian mining company commissions a great machine to pave the way from Seattle to Alaska and speed up the gold rush that is beating a path to the frozen north. Inventor Leviticus Blue creates the machine, but on its first test run it malfunctions, decimating Seattle's banking district and uncovering a vein of Blight Gas that turns everyone who breathes it into the living dead. Sixteen years later Briar, Blue's widow, lives in the poor neighborhood outside the wall that's been built around the uninhabitable city. Life is tough with a ruined reputation, but she and her teenage son Ezekiel are surviving - until Zeke impetuously decides that he must reclaim his father's name from the clutches of history.

The Difference Engine
William Gibson, Bruce Sterling

The computer age has arrived a century ahead of time with Charles Babbage's perfection of his Analytical Engine. The Industrial Revolution, supercharged by the development of steam-driven cybernetic Engines, is in full and drastic swing. Great Britain, with her calculating-cannons, steam dreadnoughts, machine-guns and information technology, prepares to better the world's lot ...

Infernal Devices
K.W. Jeter

When George's father dies, he left George his watchmaker shop... and more. But George has little talent for watches and other infernal devices. When someone tries to steal an old device from the premises, George finds himself embroiled in a mystery of time travel, music and sexual intrigue. The classic steampunk tale from the master of the genre. With a new introduction by the author, and an afterword by Jeff Vandermeer.

Richard Harland

"... a page-turning, pulse-pounding read" - Kirkus reviews
"WORLDSHAKER is a punchy, thought-proviking novel, a pacy adventure story" - Caroline Horn


The Time Machine
H.G. Wells

A Victorian scientist develops a time machine and travels to the year 802,171 AD. There he finds the meek, child-like Eloi who live in fear of the underground-dwelling Morlocks. When his time machine goes missing, the Traveller faces a fight to enter the Morlocks' domain and return to his own time. THE TIME MACHINE remains one of the cornerstones of science-fiction literature and has proved hugely influential.

This blog post was written by Dave Hartley.

Sunday, 7 August 2011


Ben Bradley's antarctic cover of Well-being & Death won round one of our Cover Judging Contest.

43% of you were won over by the cute empathy of the penguins and the cute deadness of the geographically anomalous panda bear.

Optics' sub-Tron nightmare came second with 28% of the vote, while the Word Art wonder of In The House came third with 15%.

Stay tuned our second of four rounds. We're having fun, right?

Thursday, 4 August 2011


At Blackwell, we argue for hours every day about book covers; specifically about the magic quality that transforms a merely good book cover into a transcendental work of art.

We have collected quite a large number of our favourite book covers, in an effort to define that elusive quality, using the power of an ultra-modern blog poll.

Have a look at the covers below and vote for your favourite. Either leave a comment or use the poll at the top of this page. We'll give it a couple of days, then move on to the next round. Voting now closed for this round. Click here for the latest cover judging fun.

There will be four rounds, culmunating in a final featuring the winners of each round.

There is a chance that a promotion based on this information will follow in the shop, which would, probably, qualify as the best sales promotion in the history of trading.

Click on a book cover to see a larger image. Vote now!

Well-being & Death by Ben Bradley

This book has haunted me ever since it came into the shop.

Optics by A H Tunnacliffe and J G Hirst

This book is about, I guess, the process of seeing. Seems ironic.

Отцы и дети. Накануне. “Мировая классика“ (Иван Тургенев)

Спасибо за потрудившись посмотреть это!!!!! К сожалению, это ничего не значит!!!!!!!!! :)

Linguistics for Beginners by W. Terrence Gordon

Based on a true story, this cover depicts a famous meeting between a red-head girl with a basket, and an Inuit. The evocative water-colour wash in the background represents the bubbling, innocent romantic attraction that transcends linguistic boundaries.

In the House by Margaret Johnson

Don't really want to dilute this cover's power by writing anything about it.