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  • Welcome to Pitshanger Books

    A warm welcome to our new website. Please feel free to explore the site and let us know what you think of it.
  • Your local independent bookshop

    Located on lovely, leafy Pitshanger Lane. We stock over 3000 titles. As well as books, we sell cards, wrapping paper, stationery and games.
  • Serving our community

    Everybody that works here lives locally. We all love the area and we all love books so please feel free to ask if there's anything you need.
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Costa Award Book of the Year

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The winner of this year's Costa Prize is H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, who also won the Samuel Johnson Prize - both very well deserved.

'In real life, goshawks resemble sparrowhawks the way leopards resemble housecats. Bigger, yes. But bulkier, bloodier, deadlier, scarier, and much, much harder to see. Birds of deep woodland, not gardens, they're the birdwatchers' dark grail.' As a child Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer. She learned the arcane terminology and read all the classic books, including T.H. White's tortured masterpiece, The Goshawk, which describes White's struggle to train a hawk as a spiritual contest. When her father dies and she is knocked sideways by grief, she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk.She buys Mabel for GBP800 on a Scottish quayside and takes her home to Cambridge. Then she fills the freezer with hawk food and unplugs the phone, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals. 'To train a hawk you must watch it like a hawk, and so gain the ability to predict what it will do next.Eventually you don't see the hawk's body language at all. You seem to feel what it feels. The hawk's apprehension becomes your own.As the days passed and I put myself in the hawk's wild mind to tame her, my humanity was burning away.' Destined to be a classic of nature writing, H is for Hawk is a record of a spiritual journey - an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald's struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk's taming and her own untaming. At the same time, it's a kaleidoscopic biography of the brilliant and troubled novelist T. H.White, best known for The Once and Future King. It's a book about memory, nature and nation, and how it might be possible to try to reconcile death with life and love.

Book of the Week

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

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'Oh, what can I not do, in my dreams. In my dreams I travel on trains and climb mountains, I play concerts and swim rivers, I carry important documents on vital missions, I attend meetings which become song-and-dance routines. My body lies boxed in darkness, but beneath my closed eyelids there is colour, sound and movement, in glorious contrast to the day; mad movies projected nightly in the private theatre of my skull.' Anna Lyndsey was living a normal life. She enjoyed her job; she was ambitious; she was falling in love. Then the unthinkable happened. It began with a burning sensation on her face when she was exposed to computer screens and fluorescent lighting. Then the burning spread and the problematic light sources proliferated. Now her extreme sensitivity to light in all forms means she must spend much of her life in total darkness. During the best times, she can venture cautiously outside at dusk and dawn, avoiding high-strength streetlamps. During the worst, she must spend months in a darkened room, listening to audiobooks, inventing word-games and fighting to keep despair at bay. Told with great beauty, humour and honesty, Girl in the Dark is the astonishing and uplifting account of Anna's descent into the depths of her extraordinary illness. It is the story of how, through her determination to make her impossible life possible and with the love of those around her, she has managed to find light in even the darkest of places.


Book at Bedtime

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

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'There's a journey we must go on, and no more delay...' This is the extraordinary new novel from the author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize winning The Remains of the Day. The Romans have long since departed, and Britain is steadily declining into ruin. But at least the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased. The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They expect to face many hazards - some strange and other - worldly - but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another. Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel in a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge and war

Afghanistan

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If you are interested in Afghanistan, look out for this definitive book on the war there by award-winning journalist Christina Lamb, which will be published on January 1st 2015. How did the war in Afghanistan go so terribly wrong? This shocking account provides answers that will surprise even the experts. An unmissable account of the conflict that has dominated foreign affairs since 9/11. Crouched in a ditch in Helmand, with Taliban gunfire exploding around her, Christina Lamb found herself wondering what the British troops at her side were achieving.Twenty years earlier, she had cowered in a ditch in nearby Kandahar, only that time under Russian fire, and alongside Afghans who later became Taliban. Today, the war in Afghanistan - at one point hailed by the US as 'a breathtaking success' - has sucked in 140,000 troops. Meanwhile, 70 per cent of terror plots are believed to originate in neighbouring Pakistan.How did this happen? Lamb travels both countries seeking answers. She visits Hamid Karzai's palace in Kabul, where she finds him pacing a walled garden with snipers on the roof and two baby deer for company. In Herat, she meets a group of women writers who risked their lives under the Taliban, and are once again living in fear.In Peshawar, she discovers mosques openly raising money to fight Americans, while in Quetta she encounters Taliban ministers openly recruiting fighters. In Karachi, she spends days with Benazir Bhutto, whose dream of saving Pakistan would end in tragedy. Lamb's riveting account reveals a textbook case of how not to run a war. It is a tale of international confusion, competing military operations, civilian casualties and payoffs. But the real problem is Pakistan, whose dictator takes billions of dollars of US aid even as the country's intelligence agencies help to train enemies of the West. With unparalleled access to key players, from top officials in Washington, London, Islamabad and Kabul, to Taliban and Pakistani spies, Christina Lamb traces the Afghan conflict back to the 1980s, when the CIA decided to use Islam as a rallying cry against the Soviet invaders.Unflinching and insightful, this account of the West's involvement in Afghanistan is vital reading for anyone who wants to understand the mistakes and misjudgements that cost so many lives.

These are the books that were most popular with our customers last week......

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1. Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

2. Nora Webtser by Colm Toibin

3. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

4. The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry

5. Silent Boy by Andrew Taylor

6. The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons

7. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

8. The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

9. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

10. Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

If you would like to read any of these books, please send us a message from our contacts page, and we will reserve a copy for you.

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We are very excited about the dramatisation of Hilary Mantel's wonderful Booker Prize winning novel.

'Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,' says Thomas More, 'and when you come back that night he'll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks' tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.' England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant.Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself.His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages. From one of our finest living writers, 'Wolf Hall' is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion, suffering and courage.

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Forthcoming events

  • Britain's Greatest Generation

This wonderful book co-authored by Sue Elliott will be published in April and ties in with a major BBC 2 series.

It tells the story of a truly remarkable generation. Born into a world still reeling from the earth-shattering events of the Great War, they grew up during the Great Depression, witnessed the globe tear itself apart all over again during the Second World War, and emerged from post-war austerity determined to create a new society for their children. This is the story of the men and women who raised their families during the immense social upheaval of the Sixties and Seventies, as the battle for civil liberties raged on and old industrial communities were rent asunder by unprecedented technological advances. Britain's Greatest Generation follows both the ordinary men and women who lived through these extraordinary times, as well as a host of household names including Dame Vera Lynn, Sir David Attenborough, Brian Rix and Diana Athill, as they reflect upon these incredible experiences in their own words.

Join us on Thursday April 23rd to hear Sue read from the book and discuss some of the many fascinating themes. The evening starts at 7pm. Do let us know if you are interested in coming along as places are limited.