Dear Granny Smith: free audiobook read by Philip Jackson

First broadcast on Book of the Week in 2009, the wonderful production of Dear Granny Smith: A letter from your postman by Roy Mayall and delivered by Philip Jackson is now available as a free audiobook.

A fascinating, eye-opening letter which goes behind the scenes in the sorting room and out on the daily round, it is a heartfelt musing on the past, present and future role of one of the oldest British institutions, the Postie.

You can listen to it here, and sit back while you imagine “dawn colours and bird song, and letters bathed in morning light.”

Vital Little Plans launch


To mark the publication of ‘Vital Little Plans’, our anthology of Jane Jacobs’ shorter writings, Short Books and the Architecture Foundation are hosting an event at Hoxton Hall. Come along to hear two of our most perceptive and articulate commentators on the built environment, Will Self and Owen Hatherley discuss Jacobs’ lasting legacy as an urban theorist and activist.

When: 7pm-9pm Wednesday, 5th July 2017

Where: Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton St, N1 6SH

Cost: £24, tickets entitle purchasers to admission and a copy of “Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs”, which features an introductory essay by Will Self (regular retail price: £16.99).  Copies of the book can be picked up on the night.

Win a Weekend Away

Three Things web image“It was the most unexpected and enchanting sight – slated rooftops of different shapes and sizes stretched before me; the stones grey green and blue, each unique, filled with personality, age and a weather-beaten history. I was in sensory heaven. Everything was so beautiful, so clean, green and fresh…’You’re not in Kansas any more Dorothy,’ I said to myself again…”

Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets is out today coinciding with American Independence Day and what better way to celebrate than to launch the Short Books Summer Competition.

Intrigued by the extract above? Read on here, here and in an independent bookshop near you. And enter our summer competition to win a weekend away for 2* in Wigtown, Scotland aka Jessica’s sensory heaven.

How to enter? It’s easy. Whether it’s sitting on the bus as you commute to work, or curled up on an uncomfortable windowsill desperately trying to catch the last few rays of sunshine, we’d love to know: where’s your favourite place to read?

Just like Jessica has, send us a photo of you and your copy of Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets in your favourite place to read. The book is available on Amazon, at Waterstones or at an independent bookshop near you.

Fence web image

You can send in your photo in 1 of 3 ways:

Tweet us: @shortbooksUK

Facebook us: on the Short Books page


Email us:**

The quirkier and more inventive your picture, the better because the photo with the most likes or retweets WINS.

*Sneak peek of beautiful Lochancroft cottage here. The weekend can be booked between Oct 2013 and March 2014. The competition ends 31st July, 2013. Winner to be announced on that date.

**The photos that are submitted via email, will be posted on the Short Books twitter & facebook pages. Don’t forget to encourage your friends to retweet or like the photo -to increase your chances of winning!


Competition to be announced July 4th

Three Things web image

Stay tuned for an exciting competition that will be announced along with the mass market release of Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets by Jessica A Fox.

If you like reading, travelling and getting creative – this is the competition for you!

Check back next Thursday July 4th for full details.

Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and sign up to our mailing list to cover all your bases and make sure you DON’T MISS OUT.

Autumn Humour

Much excitement – finished copies of An Insomniac’s Guide to the Small Hours have arrived!



The JM Barrie Ladies Swimming Society hits 5000 followers on Facebook! To celebrate this and the 4th of July – we are giving away copies of The JM Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society book, notepads, bookmarks and some fabulous vintage bathing caps! ‘Share’ this photo on the JM Barrie Ladies Facebook page and tell us who you would recommend the book to and why… we will be giving prizes away to the best answers. And just in case you need reminding how gorgeous those bathing caps are here’s a brilliant picture…


The JM Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Club…

…is really growing! Barbara is truly inspirational and its not just us that think so. She now has over 3000 followers on Facebook and it is growing all the time. Do pop over there to see her – she has a brilliant collection of vintage swimming photos that you won’t want to miss.

And we should also be saying a big thank-you to Waitrose who have been hugely supportive of this book – so much so that you can read Barbara’s extraordinary story in this month’s Waitrose Chronicle Magazine here.

Not just any old pond…

The brilliant Barbara Zitwer talks about the importance of wild swimming and why the Hampstead Ladies Pond is so important to her in particular. If you want to follow Barbara’s progress with The JM Barrie Ladies Swimming Society, you can visit her excellent Facebook page that is gathering followers quicker than Micheal Phelps can swim a length…


Calling all publishers

This brilliant video from Dorling Kindersley is certainly a call to action for all publishers –  if we thought more like this publishing might be a very different place.

Tea, cakes and a touch of frostbite?

A lovely review of  Barbara J. Zitwer’s The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society in the Daily Mail today. As they so rightly point out with a combination of Peter Pan, wild swimming and a group of feisty octogenarians, what’s not to love? And for those of you that do enjoy dipping your toes into icy waters, the author Barbara is going to be launching her novel at, yes, you guessed it, Hampstead Ladies Pond on April 18th. There will be tea, cakes, a bookshop and surprise surprise a quick dip for those that feel they are made of steely stuff. If you would like to come and join us please email In the true spirit of The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society – everyone is welcome.

Coping with austerity Greece by Sofka Zinovieff

The White Lie

There has been a fantastic response to Andrea Gillies’ debut novel The White Lie and her reviews have been every bit as good as we hoped they would. If you haven’t yet laid your hands on a copy – now is the moment…

Here’s what the reviewers have been saying:

“A really terrific read… Elegant, well written, genuinely gripping”
Joanna Harris

“A wonderfully compelling portrait of a family haunted by secrets and lies… pitch perfect on the chilling, devestating consequences of guilt” Sally Brampton

“Absolutely searing… we have a major new talent in our midst” Daily Express

“A white lie is, by convention, a harmless thing… Gillies explores in this novel how such lies may be very far from innocent in intention or in effect… the truth beginning to work its way to the surface, like a swollen and decomposing corpse… She excels in her portrait of a landscape that consumes the merely human – eats it for lunch, as it were – and has slowly, over many generations, created a family in its own image.”
Helen Dunmore, Times

“The White Lie is a story of decline, of a crumbling ­hierarchy taking desperate measures to save face (and the bloodline and the silver) before the hordes sweep them away. Yet, more than that, it is an account of the unreliability of personal history. Is a family story true because it is repeated? Does it matter in the end if the “truth” is revealed, if the lie has been lived? This novel develops ideas of the fragility and fluidity of identity. We all self-mythologise.
“The strength of this immersive story is that it does not require neat revelations. The White Lie is, even with its detours, a page-turner. It is also, finally, very moving…”
Francine Stock, Guardian

“There’s an echo of Virginia Woolf, especially To the Lighthouse, that lifts Gillies’ work above the average family drama. The fact that she also keeps a tight hold of the gossipy strands of her story is a great credit to her powers, as well as her ability to keep her readers guessing the truth to the end. This is an unusual, unsettling, often lovely story that plumbs the depths of what family means. It is a fine debut novel.”
Lesley McDowell, The Scotsman

“Gillies writes with elegance… bringing the closed world of the big house to life with cinematic clarity, the guilt-ridden residents as distressed as the threadbare furniture. The book has a pleasantly teasing quality, stealthily circling its central mysteries, challenging the reader to keep up while it flits between eras. A gripping exploration of the stories families tell about themselves, myths sometimes more potent than the truth.”
Financial Times

“**** Gillies handles her large cast and clashing versions of events with a precision that makes reading this imaginative novel a fascinating process of discovery.”

“Gillies’ beautifully crafted debut combines page-turning aplomb with psychological insight… She is a tantalising storyteller, dropping in clues, vertiginous surprises and unexpected revelations.”
Marie Claire

“An intricate, well-observed novel of secrets and guilt.”
Woman & Home

“Gillies writes magnificently on everything she touches, be it family secrets, Highland light, or the nature of memory.”
Sunday Times

“By the time I was half way through the book I was returning to it at every spare moment to find out what happened – and it really wasn’t what I was expecting…”

Part 2: 3 Boys vs 1 fence

Trevor gives us a sneaky, and hilarious, behind the scenes peek filming the latest series of The Three Hungry Boys, due to air in January on Channel 4.  In this series Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall challenges the boys to drive a battery-powered converted milk float (aka ‘Daisy’) from River Cottage to Lands End. With no money and no food on board, it took them five hungry weeks and resulted in a few hair-raising moments…

It was the last day of our 5-week trip and the end was in sight, literally. The jutting headland of Land’s End was plainly visible in the distance but rather than making a beeline for the finish, we had more pressing matters on our mind. We had in our possession one monster lobster, one giant crab and a haunch of venison and they all needed to get in our bellies. We’d promised ourselves a feast of epic proportions to finish our trip and that is what we intended to do.

Seeing as we were cooking the best produce that the South West has to offer, we had to find a suitable spot to do the meal justice. We weren’t about to pull over in any old lay-by on the side of the road. We had to find somewhere special with a killer view and some peace and quiet.

The day before we’d had a tip about a simple field with a stunning view over Land’s End and Sennen Bay so we headed off to find it. We arrived at a farmer’s campsite and initially things didn’t look promising, there was the usual farmyard filled with machinery and farming paraphernalia but no stunning view. We crossed our fingers and carried on through the farm. This detour had taken a while and now time was tight – we had to slow roast the venison to release the flavours but we also had to be at Land’s End before dark which meant we couldn’t hang around.

Driving out of the farm down a track we all let out a sigh of relief, ahead of us was a large empty field and over the brow we could see Sennen Bay stretching away from us. We carried on down the track looking for a level patch of land to pull up on when we realised it wasn’t quite as perfect as we had first thought. Blocking our view was a small group of caravans and tents clustered into the corner of the field. Seeing as we had come this far we weren’t about to give up and there was a gap in the hedge that led into another smaller field where we could get an uninterrupted view and we would be by ourselves.

Daisy was pointed toward the gap and it was pedal to the metal, or whatever the equivalent is in a three and a half ton milk float. As we got closer, Thom pointed out that there was what looked like an electric fence lying on the ground. There was a brief conversation as to whether we should stop and make sure it was A) off and B) secure enough to drive over. However, the usual Hungry Boy logic prevailed and instead of doing the sensible thing we decided to carry on and see what happened. We drove over the fence and thought we were home and dry when suddenly Tim, who was driving, slammed on the brakes. As you could have guessed the fence had got tangled under the van and we were now dragging it along with us. Realising that we could go no further we stopped to see what the damage was.

Being the nearest to the door I put my hand on the metal door handle only to find that I couldn’t let go and that I now also had a quite significant electric shock pulsing through my body.

“AAAAARARARARARAAGGGAGGAGAHH” was the only sound I could muster. I’ve been shocked by fences before but this was by far and away the worst I had ever encountered. I don’t know what kind of cows they were keeping in this field but I imagine they are now very well behaved.

I’d managed to push the handle just enough to get the door open and by using my shoulder Thom and I were able to bundle through. Thom, instantly skeptical of the severity of the shock, began to laugh and accused me of being a wuss – until he put his hand on Daisy at which point he made pretty much the same noise I had and also did a little dance.

After getting over our shocks, we set about surveying the damage under the van and it didn’t look too bad. The fence was wrapped around some of the axle but it looked like it could easily be unhooked…that is, if we could have touched it with our hands which, of course, we couldn’t.

We asked Tim to back up to see if that would help. This wasn’t a very good idea. Daisy jerked back slamming the door shut at the same time as lifting the fence up from the ground to around shin height. This had the result of trapping my legs inbetween the fence, again sending shocks through my body. It felt like my legs had turned to jelly and I was going to fall so I put my hands out to steady myself. Unfortunately the only thing I could lean on was the metal side of Daisy, which was also electrified. So there I was in a field with an electric fence wrapped round my legs, with my hands firmly pressed against an electrified van soaking up the volts. There were some very choice expletives heard in that field at that moment. I literally had to jump out of the fence and as I walked back around the van the sight of Tim, Thom, and the crew crying with laughter greeted me.

We didn’t know what to do, Tim was now trapped in the van as the door was still electrified and even using your sleeves to open the door gave you a bad shock. Everyone had a go at opening it but instantly recoiled when they got a shock, leaving him stuck inside complaining that his leg hairs were standing on end due to the electrical charge.

The only option left to us was to try and untangle the fence using something that doesn’t conduct electricity and our range of options was fairy limited as we were in a field. So that was how we ended up with 2 grown men rooting about under the van poking tiny sticks at an electric fence. Every time a piece of the fence would come loose it would invariably hit someone else and a lot of swearing would follow. We spent a good 15-20 minutes like that until we were finally free and Tim and his now normal leg hair could drive the van to our lunch spot.

We arrived there relieved but still a little twitchy from all the shocks vowing to next time put the effort in and do things properly. The lunch that followed was a perfect combination of unspoilt views and delicious food but I have a sneaking suspicion that it tasted all the better because of all the hard work we had put in to get there…


The Three Hungry Boys make the news

Great efforts have been underway at Short Books HQ in preparation for the publication of The Three Hungry Boys book – published on November 27th. This weekend saw the boys appear in The Times as the new TV chefs – where food and supplies don’t cost the earth. They are all about foraging, free food and working for your supper. Discovered by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Tim, Thom and Trevor are a brilliant threesome and seem set for success.  Their new series for Channel 4 will start any day now and their (excellent!) cookbook is out this week.

Here’s what The Times thought of them in this weekend’s paper:





Graven with Diamonds Wins Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year.

Congratulations to Nicola Shulman on winning the Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year for Graven with Diamonds at the Writers Guild awards. Her brilliant biography of the Tudor poet, Thomas Wyatt, has received great critical acclaim this year and brilliantly evokes the work and life of one of the most important Tudor figures in the court of Henry VIII. The paperback will be out in September next year. Congratulations Nicola!

Oh and check out this lovely review from AN Wilson in yesterday’s Evening Standard:

A Winter Guide to Birds and Birdsong by Simon Barnes

A fabulous 8 page pull-out of Simon Barnes’ guide to winter birds in The Times this weekend, with fantastic illustrations by Natalie Lee. It is also accompanied by Simon’s brilliant podcast on birdsong that will take you from listening to the robin to recognising the nightingale. You can find the guide here. Or, if you aren’t a Times subscriber you can find both book info and the podcast here.

Dinner with Churchill in Top 5 this week

Very pleased indeed to see that Dinner with Churchill is holding its own…

Short Books in the news…

Yes, it is true. Short Books’ first enhanced ebook will be hitting the stores on November 3rd. Here’s what The Bookseller had to say about it.

The Pocket Book of Good Grannies Preview

Another fabulous offering from Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, author of bestselling The Good Granny Guide. This time Jane features 50 deliciously recognisable Granny types – from Glam Gran (she descends on the newborn’s cradle like a fairy godmother with her designer baby clothes and cashmere wraps) to Wise Gran (she knows by instinct how to get a burp out of a baby and how to comfort a colicky one…)

We completely love the Alex Fox’s illustrations – this really is a celebration of grandmotherhood in all its guises. There’s a Granny in here for everyone. Which one are you?

It is out now, and let’s be honest, it is the PERFECT stocking filler…

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Welcome to the new site!

Welcome, welcome, welcome to Short Books’ new website and this, our news and events blog. We are very pleased to see you and hope that our new-fangled website will mean that we can see and hear much more from all our visitors in the future. We love to know what our readers think of our books and if you would like to get in touch with us or our authors you can either email or go onto the Short Books Club Blog and leave us a comment – we promise to reply as quickly as we can.

To stay up to date with our latest catalogues and news, sign up on the ‘Trade’ page of the website. We won’t bombard you with emails but will make sure you know all the important bits of what we are getting up to. Meanwhile, The Short Books Club Blog, over on t’other page, is going great guns and we now have over 200 book clubs signed up and reviewing our books. Each month we offer ten free copies of one of our latest titles to ten book groups across the country – and they then come and review them with us and the other clubs who have read it. Author interviews, reading guides and free offers will all take place here. If you would like to receive notices and join the club just sign up on the Club page.

So we hope you enjoy our new site and please be forgiving of any small glitches that may rear their ugly faces in the teething stages – we will endeavour to make it plain sailing from here on but when did that plan ever work…?!

Best wishes

The Short Books Team