Monday, October 24, 2011

Train Your Brain!

Working memory expert TRACY PACKIAM ALLOWAY tells SHANTINI SUNTHARAJAH how she makes cross-training techniques for the little grey cells more accessible for everyone

“I REALLY ENJOY running barefoot.” This might sound like a declaration from an experimental athlete or an unpredictable free spirit. However, Tracy Packiam Alloway is neither a professional runner nor a head-in-the-clouds hippie. In fact, she couldn’t have a more down-to-earth day job. She is a teacher.

To be more precise, Alloway is a professor of psychology at the University of Stirling in Scotland. Every year, she leads hundreds of undergraduates through the intricacies of Psychology and is the University’s Director of the Centre for Learning in the Lifespan where she simplifies complex academic research on neuropsychology, developmental psychology, health and education for the general public.

The professor’s penchant for running sans shoes isn’t the only surprising thing about her. She has none of the characteristics routinely associated with established academics. Professors are frequently pictured as serious, perhaps bespectacled, older men and women who have the unfortunate tendency to intersperse their conversations with scholarly language and topics that are of little or no interest to anyone.

Alloway is the polar opposite of this general assumption. The petite 36-year-old mother of two little boys is vivacious, friendly and has a delightful habit of peppering her conversation with infectious laughs and friendly smiles. Plus, there isn’t a pair of spectacles in sight. There is, however, one important trait she shares with her studious peers: Alloway is a brilliant scholar. “I love learning and I’m always curious and interested in finding out more about everything.”

The young professor has a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Stirling and has conducted intensive research on working memory, which is essentially how the brain stores and manages information in order to tackle complex cognitive tasks such as reasoning, learning and comprehension. Alloway expertly explains it in easy-to-understand terms: “IQ is the knowledge that you learn. Your working memory is what you do with that knowledge.” She refers to working memory as the brain’s “Post-it” note. “You may read something and when someone asks you a question that’s related, you have to think about what you read and know how to use the information in your answer. Working memory is your ability to hold information in your mind and then manipulate that information mentally.”

Alloway is one of the world’s most respected authorities on working memory, particularly on how it impacts learning in children. In 2009, she won the prestigious Joseph Lister Prize, which is awarded by the British Science Association, for making her scientific research accessible to a wider audience. “I conduct a lot of research and studies on how children learn. I’ve worked with typically developing children, those who are gifted and the children who struggle with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and learning disabilities. It is my absolute passion.”

A sought-after speaker and world traveller, Alloway can be found on any continent at any given time. Her flight schedule for a particular month could include Brazil, Switzerland, the US and anywhere in between. Her expertise on working memory and her talent for simplifying academic papers littered with scholastic jargon means she is equally skilled at presenting a keynote address to academic professionals at an important conference or giving a personalised talk to teachers and parents who are intent on helping their children learn efficiently.

Despite her hectic schedule of teaching classes at the university and fulfilling speaking engagements, Alloway managed to squeeze in some time to develop a highly popular online learning programme called Jungle Memory with her husband Ross, also a university professor.

Jungle Memory allows children to dramatically improve their working memory and subsequently, their achievements in school. To date, the programme has close to 10,000 users from 30 different countries. “It’s so rewarding and inspiring when I receive emails from parents and teachers reporting the amazing progress they see in children who use Jungle Memory,” says Alloway with a wide smile. “I just received an email from a teacher in Canada telling me about a boy who’s moved up three reading levels after just eight weeks. That’s remarkable progress!”

Alloway’s own amazing progress to the heights of academic success is the result of a lifelong passion for knowledge. After some prodding, she modestly admits that she was a straight A student in school. “I’ve always loved learning,” confesses the former Assunta Primary School student. “I think it was also partly because of my mum who’s a teacher. She made learning enjoyable. We’d always play games at home to improve our knowledge, like we’d race to see who could recite the most number of capital cities in the shortest period of time.”

Alloway, who is the elder of two children, grew up in Malaysia. In her early teens, she moved with her parents and brother to Oregon in the US for three years. While Mum and Dad attended Bible College, the two Packiam children attended a local high school. “I was 13 at the time, which I suppose is a difficult age, but our family is really close and we did everything together. It was easy to adjust to life in a different country.”

Alloway’s journey to becoming a respected psychologist began at her high school in Oregon. “We had called an Early Careers Class and our teacher invited people who worked in various professions to speak to us.” The talk, given by a psychologist, captivated young Alloway. “I was impressed with the value of psychology and the potential of it. I know it sounds clichéd but I really felt inspired to help people by studying psychology.”

Although Alloway spends a great deal of her time writing about the subject that ignited her passion all those years ago, she never thought she’d see her name on the cover of a book. “I’ve published scientific articles in over 75 different journals in the course of my work, but I don’t really think of myself as an author,” she reveals, flashing another one of her bright smiles. “I suppose when I think of writing I think of fiction and I don’t think I’m a good fiction writer!” she adds, laughing.

This self-assessment may or may not be true but Alloway is undeniably a prolific writer and her non-fiction books are certainly well received such as the insightful Improving Working Memory published by Sage. In less than two years, the young professor had written and published four books on the subject of working memory. Her prowess as a writer attracted the attention of John Wiley & Sons, publishers of the well-known Dummies series of guidebooks. “They approached me in February last year. The book I wrote for them is basically a guide on how to improve your life from your brain to your toes,” explains Alloway.

In keeping with her incredible writing pace, Alloway completed Training Your Brain for Dummies between March and August of last year. The book hit bookstores in December 2010. “I like writing in the early morning. I finished the whole book by writing bits of it between 5 and 7 or 7.30am each day. Sometimes, I would pick it up again at the end of the day when the kids were safely in bed,” she says. Alloway reveals the secret behind her ability to juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities. “I try to be very organised…you have to be with kids! I work whenever I have the time; I just do it. I don’t really have the luxury of telling myself I’ll do it later.”

The meticulously systematic professor is currently working on another book with her husband. “It’s about working memory in relation to the different aspects of life and I’m very excited about it. We’ve already completed a few chapters and one chapter is about happiness.” Alloway and her husband use true stories and experiences to demystify the edicts of working memory. “We talk about Mario, one of the Chilean miners who was trapped underground for more than two months in 2010. He was known as the joker and kept his spirits up even when everyone else had given up hope,” says Alloway. “There is evidence to show that we use our working memory to keep a goal in mind and in Mario’s case, his goal was to focus on the positive. Staying happy requires working memory.”

Alloway writes her books about working memory with a very specific goal in mind. “I want the cutting edge information found in journal articles and research papers to reach the people who need it,” she says. “I want the parent with the child who has dyslexia or the teacher who’s handling a student with a learning disability to know what methods and practices work and what don’t.”

Alloway has never wavered from the reason she chose to study psychology. “I want to help people. I want parents to have access to information but I also want them to have access to the idea of hope.”

Alloway is the co-author (with Ross Alloway) of The Working Memory Advantage: Train Your Brain to Function Stronger, Smarter, Faster (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

TRACY PACKIAM ALLOWAY, author of Training Your Brain for Dummies and renowned authority on working memory, offers three ways to train your brain:

1. Pick up a newspaper and choose a fairly common word like ‘find’ or ‘positive.’ Give yourself 30 seconds to scan that page and circle your chosen word as quickly as you can. If you train yourself to scan and pick up specifics really quickly, you can improve your focus and attention.
2. Get your friend to tap a rhythm on a table—maybe start with four or five taps and see if you can mirror that same rhythm. This trains your memory. The same part of the brain that is used to find order in rhythm is also used to remember information in order like the sequential digits that make up a phone number or a set of instructions.
3. Working memory can also be honed by remembering something backwards. You can make a fun game of it on a road trip. For instance, everyone in the car can compete to remember the backward sequence of the colours of five cars that pass or you could try to recite car number plates backwards.

Reproduced from MPH’s 105th Anniversary Issue of Quill magazine

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blood Reunion ... the adventures continue!

Friday, October 21, 2011

An Obsession with Haruki Murakami

Singaporean short-story writer O THIAM CHIN waits for October 25, 2011, with bated breath

ON OCTOBER 25, 2011, 1Q84, the highly anticipated novel by the great Japanese writer Haruki Murakami will be launched officially in English. It is one of the biggest highlights in the literary calendar this year, one that fans of the writer have been waiting eagerly for. This is his 12th novel, following After Dark, which was published in 2007.

1Q84 was published in Japan in May 2009 and was an immediate bestseller there. Its first print run sold out on the first day and it achieved sales of a million copies within a month. It has since sold over four million copies! With its phenomenal success, translation into various languages quickly went ahead, with the English-language publication rights secured by the US publishing giant, Knopf, and an October launch date was announced in January this year. Unlike the Chinese edition of the novel, which came out in 2010 in three separate volumes, the new novel is published in the US as a single volume, running to almost a thousand pages. (1Q84 is published by Harvill Secker in the UK.)

The title of the novel is a direct reference to George Orwell’s 1984, with a wordplay on the English letter ‘Q’ which is pronounced the same as the number nine (“kyuu”) in Japanese. To hasten the production of the English version, the publishers have resorted to two of his regular translators, Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, to work simultaneously on the translation. This is the first full-length novel by Murakami that is written in the third-person.

The story of 1Q84 revolves around two main characters, Aomame (“green peas” in Japanese), a hired killer, and Tengo, a novelist and mathematics tutor, with the narrative moving between them in alternate chapters. Exploring an array of issues and themes that include family ties, religious cult, love and writing, it shows how their lives start to overlap with each other in a world that seems to get stranger and more surreal.

Already a huge buzz is generating among his fans, with the publication of an excerpt from the novel entitled “Town of Cats” in the September 5 issue of The New Yorker. In the story, Tengo visits his father at the hospice and confronts deep-seated issues from the past. In his interview with the magazine, Murakami said, “Whenever I write a novel, I have a strong sense that I am doing something I was unable to do before. With each new work, I move up a step and discover something new inside me. I don’t see this novel as a departure, but I do think it has been a major step in my career.”

I first got to know of Murakami when a fellow writer briefly mentioned him to me back in 2002. “What? You have never read him? You should,” he said with mock surprise. Being a slow, cautious reader, back then and even now, I chose one of the slimmest books in his oeuvre, South of the Border, West of the Sun.

The story, in which a man starts to question his life, after being reunited with his first love from high school, an enigmatic woman with a limp from polio in her childhood, has all the hallmarks of a Murakami novel: lonely, introverted characters struggling to keep their fragile individualism in the face of a suffocating, conformist society, and a strange, sometimes convoluted, plot that usually involves disappearance, death and disillusionment. In his hands, all things are possible. As his translator, Jay Rubin, once said, “It is not because he is writing about Japan that people love him … it’s about the moment to moment sensation of being in his world. Inside his head.”

Of course, Murakami isn’t the first Japanese writer I read when I first got interested in Japanese Literature—there was Yasunari Kawabata, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, and Yukio Mishima—but somehow none of them came close to capturing my attention quite like him. The worlds he created, vastly different from the old masters of Japanese Literature, were darkly compelling, where hope and despair change like shifting elements of light and shadow, a world I could sink into, as an observer who kept his distance, much like his characters, living different, parallel lives very much like my own, yet so different in so many ways. The pleasure goes deep, like a drug, and perhaps, that’s why I keep going back to him.

And so began my love for his writings. There was a period in my life when my reading consisted solely of his works, as I slowly made my way through his oeuvre. When I began to write short stories in 2005, I held his short stories as a guide to show me what a truly great short story can do, to create an entire world, full and complete in itself. Even now, when I get stuck writing my stories, I’d pull out my dog-eared copy of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, a collection of his best stories, from my bookshelf and read one of the stories, picking up an idea or two, and getting inspired all over again. His influence is all over my writing psyche, truth be told.

During the long wait, I have pre-ordered the book in early September (49 more days!), and started preparing the groundwork, to devote myself to the book. I’m slowly working through the pile of books on my writing table; I juggle about nine to twelve books at any one time; now, I’m down to two. With the release day approaching fast, and the anticipation building up to fever pitch, my hunger, and obsession, with Murakami, continues to grow and grow, as I wait to enter his head, into the strange world he has created in 1Q84.

O THIAM CHIN is a Singapore-born writer whose stories have appeared in several literary journals and anthologies, including World Literature Today, Asia Literary Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Kyoto Journal and the New Straits Times. His début collection of stories, Free-Falling Man, was published in 2006, followed by a second collection, Never Been Better, in 2009 (which was longlisted for the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award), and a third, Under the Sun. His new collection, The Rest of Your Life and Everything That Comes With It, has just been published.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Julian Barnes and His Man Booker Prize

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Outsiders on the ‘SEAN’: Depictions of Southeast Asia in Western Fiction

Southeast Asia has been inspiring Western writers for hundreds of years. As the region has evolved socially and politically over the years, so have the themes and concerns of its fictions. From John Dryden to Alex Garland, from Joseph Conrad to Joan Didion, TOM SYKES attempts a summing-up of the canon despite its diversity

IN THE EARLY MODERN PERIOD, Europeans had a false conception of Southeast Asia as a land of permissiveness, exoticism and extravagance. The Portuguese adventurer Fernao Mendes Pinto found the people of Malacca, Patani, Sumatra, Aceh and Siam (now Thailand) not to be like this. Instead, he decided they were more tolerant, charitable and respectful than his fellow Westerners whom he castigated for their greed and violence. Even so, after resisting pirates in the South China Sea, he became one himself. These experiences are fictionalised in Peregrinacao, published in 1614 after his death.

John Dryden’s 1699 play Amboyna concerns the real-life slaughter of English traders by Dutch soldiers on the Indonesian island of Ambon. Writing at the beginning of the colonial era, Dryden portrayed the indigenes less charitably than Pinto, as one-dimensional, animal-like beings. The play was poorly received.

Heinrich Anselm von Ziegler’s 1689 Baroque adventure Banise the Asiatic is set in southern Myanmar and use travelogues written by Pinto as source material. In a rousing, happy ending, the hero, Banise, successfully defends the Pegu Empire from conquest by the evil tyrant Chaumigrem. In real life quite the opposite happened.

Dryden’s and Ziegler’s oversights are partly explained by the inaccessibility of Southeast Asian literature to Westerners hoping to understand and write validly about its culture. According to historians Robin W. Winks and James R. Rush, “no piece of South or East Asian fiction was available in a Western language until the eighteenth century.”

By the late 1800s, novels were addressing Western colonialism’s ‘civilising mission’ rhetoric, albeit in contradictory ways. William Carlton Dawe’s Hong Kong-based potboilers The Mandarin (1899) and The Yellow Man (1900) may have been attacked by contemporary critics for being ‘unpatriotic’, but there’s an ethnocentric streak to his characterisation. His non-white men are amoral and vicious, his women exotic but unattainable. Dawe warns against interracial relationships (“the love of the white for the yellow”) while salaciously describing it. Jack Curzon, or, Mysterious Manila (1898), by the American author Clavering Gunter, is also full of derring-do but set in the Philippines. Published in the same year that the United States wrested control of the islands from the Spanish, the novel has an undertone of American supremacism to it, not to say an unflattering take on the indigenes. As a contemporary reviewer put it, “an important part is also played by a semi-civilised Tagal native, who possesses in common with all his kind, so the writer assures us, a sense of smell equal to that of a bloodhound.”

The colonial adventure genre reaches its apotheosis in Joseph Conrad’s series of novels set in the Malay archipelago. The first, Almayer’s Folly: A Story of an Eastern River (1895), is about a Dutch trader in Borneo whose marriage to a half-caste girl is as disastrous as his harebrained schemes to make money. Lord Jim (1900) begins with a young British sailor abandoning a ship full of Muslim pilgrims from the Malay states. Jim redeems himself as a raja-style ruler of a fictional island in the South Seas, winning the hearts and minds of the inhabitants by defeating the tribal king Tunku Allang. This may seem like a thinly disguised celebration of colonialism, but Conrad’s outlook is more complex than that. Both Almayer and Jim are flawed antiheroes with questionable pasts and symbolise misgivings about the legitimacy of the imperial project.

The 20th century was perhaps the most eventful in the history of Southeast Asia. A world war, a cold war, decolonisation and revolution all appear in Western novels of the era, many of which cast a sympathetic eye over their subject matter. George Orwell’s Burmese Days (1934) tells of a British police officer in Myanmar with an affection for the indigenous culture and a distaste for the colonial administration he works for. Just as Orwell learned the language during his time in Myanmar, so Anthony Burgess became fluent in Malay while working as a teacher during the Malayan Emergency. He conducted painstaking research into its history and culture for The Malayan Trilogy (1956-9), intending to become “the true fictional expert on Malaya.” Graham Greene’s early Vietnam novel The Quiet American (1955) seeks to understand the Vietminh while critiquing American CIA intervention in the country. Greene was appalled when a slushy Hollywood adaptation of the novel tried to graft a pro-American, anti-Communist message onto it. In a comparable vein, Joan Didion’s cleverly experimental Democracy (1984) exposes the profoundly anti-democratic policies of the US in Indochina from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Of all the Western novels about the Pacific during World War II, James Clavell’s King Rat (1962) is perhaps the darkest. Based on the author’s incarceration in Singapore’s Changi Prison, the novel shocks with its representation of the squalid conditions, the barbarism of the Japanese guards and the Darwinian rivalry between the POWs themselves.

In recent years, Southeast Asia has come to occupy a different space in the Western psyche, as a tourist destination affording pleasures and experiences unavailable at home. The biggest-selling novel to engage with this is of course Alex Garland’s The Beach (1996). Richard is a seasoned backpacker in search of an authentic, off-the-beaten-track experience in Thailand. His discovery of an idyllic beach commune comes at the price of his own descent into madness and murder. Described as “Generation X’s first great novel,” The Beach is ultimately a meditation on how our perception of reality is mediated by so many fictions, from videogames to movies to commercial tourism itself. Also set in Thailand, Michel Houellebecq’s controversial Platform (2001) addresses the behaviour of Western sex tourists in Pattaya and other such resorts.

Southeast Asian society has changed radically over the years. Western fiction has tried to keep up with those changes, sometimes getting its depictions right, sometimes wrong. We can’t predict what the novels of the future will be like but we can be sure that the region will continue to feed the Western imagination.

Reproduced from MPH’s 105th Anniversary issue of Quill magazine

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Writing the Sequel

When you’ve finished a novel, should you move on to pastures new or use it as a basis for the next work? ELLEN WHYTE wonders

WHEN I FINISHED my romance story Blackmail Bride, I was plunged into uncertainty about the next step. Should I move on to pastures new or continue with Lucy and Jack?

There are plenty of excellent reasons for using one work as a platform for a series.

First, after you’ve spent hours dreaming up your characters, it can be hard to put them into storage. Not only is it wasteful, but characters tend to take on a life of their own, and you can’t help but dream about what happens next. This urge is so strong that even a new author playing about with old characters isn’t a stumbling block: it makes me buy stories like Pemberley: Or Pride and Prejudice Continued by Emma Tennant and watch The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Second, publishers like sequels because they sell better. Not only do readers who loved the first story buy in because they want to see how your characters are developing, but new readers are more likely to plump for a book that’s part of a series than a stand-alone book. Somehow a series implies quality. The lure of the series is so strong that I still buy The Cat Who ... books by Lilian Jackson Braun on the strength of the first stories—even though the last half a dozen books have been dismally disappointing.

Third, if you’re really lucky, you can get a book deal for a series. That means advances, money in the bank, and fewer sleepless nights wondering if you’re being an idiot for following your dreams when you could be coining it as a therapist, lecturer, sales executive or whatever.

When I started Blackmail Bride, I fully intended it to be the start of a series. It makes economic sense that’s hard to refute. However, the main problem for the romance writer is that reusing main characters is tricky as you can’t have them falling in love all over again. The classic solution is to create new characters but to have your old hero and heroine making cameo appearances. So the “Welsh family saga” was born.

The thing is, I put the saga thingy on the book cover, and decided I’d worry about writing the sequel after. Getting new ideas has never been a problem, so it didn’t occur to me for a second that I might have writer’s block.

I didn’t either. The problem was that I had too many ideas of what could be done next. I wasn’t sure if I should keep the setting, or keep the characters.

I set Blackmail Bride in Scotland, in the mythical Bear’s Glen that I based on, one of my favourite places, Loch Lomond. Putting it in familiar territory meant very little research, which gave me the opportunity to practice the storytelling skills needed to keep readers entertained for 55,000 words.

In order to set myself up for potential sequels, I had the foresight to make my hero Jack a twin, so his brother Greg was all set to have his heartstrings tugged. I also introduced some minor characters like Jim, the Navajo academic turned writer, who could provide rich fodder for the future.

However, for the next book, I wanted to take advantage of my time in Sarawak. The land of the headhunters is exciting, mysterious, and I bet readers would love the idea of that exotic land. Although I lived there for a few years, introducing characters who are not of my own culture would mean more research and some careful writing.

I was hoping to keep that task manageable by building on the practical experience of writing Blackmail Bride.

I settled for moving Greg into Borneo, and leaving Jim for the next novel. Then I went to bed because that’s the place where I do my best thinking. To the casual observer it looks like I’m napping with the cats, but actually the brain is working overtime. Seriously. That occasional rusty sound is evidence that my mental gears are working, or that the cats are purry happy.

Anyway, during my inspirational lie-down, the plot for the next story unfolded without a problem. I got Greg to Borneo, and Emily, the heroine of the tale, popped into my mind practically fully formed. The minor characters, including the bomoh and the sexy bint, were born equally painlessly. I placed them all at the Red Hibiscus resort, and thereby got the title for the story: Black Magic and Mayhem at the Red Hibiscus.

And that’s where things got tricky. Suddenly I wondered if I should re-christen Greg, and turn this tale into a mystery with a romance subplot rather than a romance with a mystery subplot. I agonised over this for ages because both paths had tonnes of appeal. Worse, by the end of two days I had two outlines: one for a mystery and another for a romance.

The cats couldn’t advise me beyond a purr and an offer of a toy mousie, so I consulted my other half. He is not a writer, but he has a lovely incisive mind that’s good at weighing up the pros and cons of investment and experience.

“Build on the romance as it’s your principle investment and save the detective plot for another series,” he advised. “Finish Red Hibiscus, then start the detective. Then you’ll have two projects in hand, which will keep you fresh.”

The idea of working on two projects appeals because it has already worked for me. I have a secret completed book, Wildcat in Moscow, a rollicking romance that features Chelsea Moore, an artist by trade and eco-warrior by nature who falls in with Vladimir Voyeykov, a Russian business tycoon rumoured to be a member of the Red Mafia.

Wildcat in Moscow is far more robust than Blackmail Bride, and at 80,000 words it’s also longer. I wrote it in between edits of Blackmail Bride, and I’m dying to find a home for it. In fact, I liked Wildcat in Moscow so much, that I’m 30,000 words into the follow-up Summer in Moscow. This follow-up is also a closely guarded secret.

When I reminded my other half of the Secret Project, he wasn’t fazed. “So have three projects in hand! Once one takes off, you’ll need the others to keep readers happy. Writers can’t produce one book a year anymore, so figure on writing three or four.”

I’ve taken his advice but in moderation. For one thing, I have to balance book writing that pays poorly with commissions that buy the cat biscuits. In my free time I’m hard at work at Red Hibiscus, and plan to put that out at the end of the quarter.

I’m keeping Wildcat in Moscow back until I see how the other books are doing, but I’ve got the second half of Summer in Moscow simmering in the back of my mind and plan to continue work on that. Ideally, it will be finished at the end of this year. Then if all goes well with Blackmail Bride and Red Hibiscus, I can leverage those successes.

In my dreamtime I’m toying with a detective who can handle the mystery plot I’ve put aside. That seems to be turning into a short story, which I rather like the sound of. I could do with a project that involves just 5,000 words at a time.

In my best daydreams all these projects will take off in a big way, and I’ll be busy writing sequels for the next twenty years. The Welsh family will be at the top of the Amazon bestseller list, and everyone will know Chelsea Moore as well as they know Bella Swan and Elizabeth Bennet. Yes, it’s all pie in the sky. But a girl can dream, right?

Reproduced from the July-September 2011 issue of Quill magazine

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What I am Reading ...

Saturday, October 01, 2011

October 2011 Highlights

1. Until the Dawn’s Light (trans. from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M. Green) (Schocken, 2011) / Aharon Appelfeld
2. The Sense of an Ending (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) / Julian Barnes
3. The Yellow Emperor’s Curse (Overlook Press, 2011) / Kunal Basu
4. The Night Strangers (Crown, 2011) / Chris Bohjalian
5. Ithaca (McClelland & Stewart, 2011) / David Davidar
6. Lightning Rods (New Directions, 2011) / Helen DeWitt
7. The Forgotten Waltz (W.W. Norton, 2011) / Anne Enright
8. The Marriage Plot (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Fourth Estate, 2011) / Jeffrey Eugenides
9. Assumption (Graywolf Press, 2011) / Percival Everett
10. Lucky Break (Bloomsbury USA, 2011) / Esther Freud

11. The Lady of the Rivers (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2011) / Philippa Gregory
12. Ed King (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) / David Guterson
13. Nanjing Requiem (Pantheon, 2011) / Ha Jin
14. The Great Leader (Grove Press, 2011) / Jim Harrison
15. The Betrayal of Trust (Chatto & Windus, 2011) / Susan Hill
16. The Dovekeepers (Scribner, 2011) / Alice Hoffman
17. Of Beasts and Beings (Europa Editions, 2011) / Ian Holding
18. The Stranger’s Child (Knopf Doubleday, 2011) / Alan Hollinghurst
19. Perfect People (Macmillan, 2011) / Peter James
20. When She Woke (Algonquin Books, 2011) / Hillary Jordan

21. Swimming Home (And Other Stories, 2011) / Deborah Levy
22. The Virgin Cure (Knopf Canada, 2011) / Ami McKay
23. Autumn Laing (Allen & Unwin, 2011) / Alex Miller
24. Damascus (Two Dollar Radio, 2011) / Joshua Mohr
25. The Wine of Solitude (trans. Sandra Smith) (Chatto & Windus, 2010) / Irène Némirovsky
26. Stolen Souls (Soho Crime, 2011) / Stuart Neville
27. The Cat’s Table (Knopf Doubleday, 2011) / Michael Ondaatje
28. The Impossible Dead (Orion, 2011) / Ian Rankin
29. Falling Together (William Morrow, 2011) / Marisa de los Santos
30. Cain (trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) / Jose Saramago

31. A Dublin Student Doctor (Doherty, 2011) / Patrick Taylor
32. Madame Bovary (trans. from the French by Adam Thorpe) (Vintage Classics, 2011) / Gustave Flaubert
33. Zone One (Doubleday, 2011) / Colson Whitehead
34. Letters from an Unknown Woman (published as Nourishment in the UK) (Arcade Publishing, 2011) / Gerard Woodward

First Novels
1. The Wandering Falcon (Penguin USA, 2011) / Jamil Ahmad
2. The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) / Kimberly Cutter
3. Hold Me Now (Freehand Books, 2011) / Stephen Gauer
4. Landfall (Fig Tree, 2011) / Helen Gordon
5. Shards (Black Cat/Grove Press/Atlantic, 2011) / Ismet Prcic
6. In the King’s Arms (McWitty Press, 2011) / Sonia Taitz
7. Tides of War (Henry Holt, 2011) / Stella Tillyard

1. God Bless America (Lookout Books, 2011) / Steve Almond
2. The Best American Short Stories 2011 (Mariner Books, 2011) / Heidi Pitlor & Geraldine Brooks (eds.)
3. Collected Folk Tales (HarperCollins, 2011) / Alan Garner
4. Life Times (Penguin USA, 2011) / Nadine Gordimer
5. Other Heartbreaks (Engine Books, 2011) / Patricia Henley
6. Collected Ghost Stories (ed. Darryl Jones) (Oxford University Press, 2011) / M.R. James
7. Men in the Making (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) / Bruce Machart
8. New Selected Stories (Chatto & Windus, 2011) / Alice Munro
9. Scenes from Village Life (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) / Amos Oz
10. A Lovesong for India: Tales from East and West (Little, Brown, 2011) / Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
11. A Curious Dream: Collected Works (McArthur & Co., 2011) / Kate Pullinger

12. The Outlaw Album (Little, Brown, 2011) / Daniel Woodrell

1. Strange Horses (Flambard Press, 2012) / Olivia Byard
2. The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Penguin, 2011) / Rita Dove (ed.)
3. The Bees (Picador, 2011) / Carol Ann Duffy
4. Child: New and Selected Poems 1991-2011 (Carcanet Press, 2011) / Mimi Khalvati
5. Raw Material (The Gallery Press, 2011) / Derek Mahon
6. Grace (Bloodaxe, 2011) / Esther Morgan
7. Cusp (Seren, 2012) / Graham Mort
8. Memorial (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Alice Oswald
9. Breaking Silence (Bloodaxe Books, 2011) / Jacob Sam-La Rose

1. The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time (Chatto & Windus, 2011) / Peter Ackroyd
2. The Best American Essays 2011 (Mariner Books, 2011) / Edwidge Danticat & Roger Atwan
3. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (Nan A. Talese, 2011) / Margaret Atwood
4. Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything (Faber & Faber US, 2011) / David Bellos
5. What It Means to Be Human (Virago Press, 2011) / Joanna Bourke
6. Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe (Allen Lane, 2011) / Norman Davies
7. Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest (Bodley Head, 2011) / Wade Davis
8. On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling (Princeton University Press, 2011) / Michael Dirda
9. Ben Jonson: A Life (Oxford University Press, 2011) / Ian Donaldson
10. Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist (The Belnap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011) / Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

11. Eva Braun: Life with Hitler (trans. from the German by Damion Searles) (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) / Heike B. Görtemaker
12. Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa (Free Press, 2011) / Richard Grant
13. Virginia Woolf (Thames & Hudson, 2011) / Alexandra Harris
14. Arguably (Atlantic Books, 2011) / Christopher Hitchens
15. The Language Wars: A History of Proper English (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Henry Hitchings
16. Socrates: A Man of Our Times (Viking Adult, 2011) / Paul Johnson
17. The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael (ed. Sanford Schwartz) (Library of America, 2011) / Pauline Kael
18. Thinking, Fast and Slow (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Daniel Kahneman
19. Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark (Viking, 2011) / Brian Kellow
20. Why Trilling Matters (Yale University Press, 2011) / Adam Kirsch

21. What is Madness? (Hamish Hamilton, 2011) / Darian Leader
22. Books: A Living History (Thames & Hudson, 2011) / Martyn Lyons
23. Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer (The Overlook Press, 2011) / Alexander Maitland
24. The Gentry: Intimate Histories (HarperPress, 2011) / Adam Nicolson
25. Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British (Viking, 2011) / Jeremy Paxman
26. Why Read Moby-Dick? (Viking Adult, 2011) / Nathaniel Philbrick
27. Jerusalem: The Biography (Knopf Doubleday, 2011) / Simon Sebag Montefiore
28. Pulphead: Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / John Jeremiah Sullivan
29. Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives (Profile Books, 2011) / John Sutherland
30. Charles Dickens: A Life (Viking/Penguin USA, 2011) / Claire Tomalin

31. Dante in Love (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / A.N. Wilson
32. Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal? (Jonathan Cape, 2011) / Jeanette Winterson
33. Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York (Doubleday, 2011) / James Wolcott