Seren Christmas Gift Guide 2021

Our gift guide returns for 2021 with loads of great new recommendations. From old favourites to brand new books that are hot off the press, find something for everyone this Christmas.

Bar 44 Tapas y Copas by Owen and Tom Morgan

Bar 44 Tapas y Copas is the perfect gift for hardcore foodies and home cooks alike. Packed with over 100 out of this world recipes which elevate Spanish cuisine to exciting new heights, it includes dishes for any occasion. Chicken sobrassada and spiced yoghurt, beetroot gazpacho, tuna tartare with apple ajo blanco, lamb empanada, strawberry and cava sorbet and pear and olive oil cake are just some of the dishes you can try at home. There’s even a chapter dedicated to sherry and Spanish wines with some fantastic cocktails mixed in for good measure. What more could you want?

Seren Gift Subscription

The new one year Seren Gift Subscription is the perfect present for any book lover. The recipient will receive three brand-new Seren books across the year plus a range of other subscriber perks. Buy today and we’ll post them a gift card explaining who the gift is from to open on Christmas Day in advance of the first book arriving in January 2022. Every new subscriber will receive a Seren tote-bag, notebook and pen with their first delivery.

Two book deal – Please and Still by Christopher Meredith

Published simultaneously earlier this year, renowned author Christopher Meredith’s two new books will satisfy any literature lover. His poetry collection Still uses the title word as a fulcrum to balance paradoxical concerns: stillness and motion, memory and forgetting, sanity and madness, survival and extinction. Meanwhile his short novel Please is a verbally dazzling tragicomedy about hidden passion and regret in which octogenarian language geek Vernon tries to find a way to write the story of his long marriage.

All The Men I Never Married by Kim Moore

One of this year’s most highly anticipated poetry books, All The Men I Never Married is the astounding new collection by Kim Moore. Pointedly feminist, challenging and keenly aware of the contradictions and complexities of desire, this collection speaks to the experiences of many women. The 48 numbered poems take us through a gallery of exes and significant others where we encounter rage, pain, guilt, and love.

Real Oxford by Patrick McGuinness

In Real Oxford, Professor Patrick McGuinness guides us through the past, but also the present Oxford, as he walks the city from the station to the ringroad. He tracks its canals and towpaths, its footbridges and tunnels to introduce us to the unnoticed and reflect on the familiar, revealing that the ‘Real Oxford’ is more than dreaming spires, bicycles, and Inspector Morse. This is a guide to Oxford unlike any other.

Japan Stories by Jayne Joso

Japan Stories is a spellbinding collection of short fiction set in Japan by Jayne Joso. Each centres on a particular character – a sinister museum curator, a son caring for his dementia-struck father,  a young woman who returns to haunt her killer, and a curious homeless man intent on cleaning your home with lemons! This work also includes Joso’s stories, ‘I’m not David Bowie’ and ‘Maru-chan’ an homage to Yayoi Kusama. Together, these compelling narratives become a mosaic of life in contemporary Japan, its people, its society, its thinking, its character. Illustrated by Manga artist Namiko, Japan Stories provides a window into a country we would all love to know more deeply.  

100 Poems to Save the Earth edited by Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans

A book for both the climate conscious and poetry fanatics, this landmark anthology brings together 100 poems by the best new and established contemporary poets from Britain, Ireland, America and beyond. They invite us to fine-tune our senses, to listen to the world around us, and pay attention to what we have been missing. The defining crisis of our time is revealed to be fundamentally a crisis of perception. We must act now if we are to save the only planet we have.

Four Dervishes by Hammad Rind

“Easily the most remarkable work of fiction to come out of Wales in a thousand moons” says Jon Gower. This outstanding debut novel from Hammad Rind is a satirical comedy which takes inspiration from the dastan, an ornate form of oral history. Forced onto the street by a power cut, the unnamed narrator finds himself sheltering in a cemetery where he comes across four others – a grave digger, an aristocrat, an honourable criminal and a messiah – each with a past, and with a story to tell. Crimes have been committed, dark family secrets revealed, fortunes rise and fall, the varieties of love are explored, and new selves are discovered in a rich round of storytelling. And as the Disappointed Man discovers, a new story is about to begin…

Welsh Quilts by Jen Jones

Welsh Quilts Jen Jones

In Welsh Quilts expert author Jen Jones presents an authoritative guide to the history and art of the quilt in Wales. Driven by her desire to see this gloriously high-quality craft revived, Jones set out to research the topic which led to the creation of her extensive quilt collection, now housed in the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter. Including stunning, high resolution images of the bold designs and intricate stitching of the quilts in her collection, Welsh Quilts is the essential book on the subject, whether you are a quilter yourself, or simply interested in quilting heritage.

Troeon : Turnings by Philip Gross, Cyril Jones and Valerie Coffin Price

This beautifully illustrated, bilingual collection (a great gift for Welsh learners) sees two poets, each confident in their own traditions, meet in the hinterland between translation and collaboration ­– Cyril Jones from the disciplines of Welsh cynghanedd, Philip Gross from the restless variety of English verse. Rather than lamenting the impossibility of reproducing any language’s unique knots of form and content in translation, they trust each other to explore the energies released. Valerie Coffin Price’s striking letter press designs make this a fantastic gift.

Fatal Solution by Leslie Scase

Fans of historical crime fiction are sure to be captivated by Leslie Scase’s latest Inspector Chard mystery. In Fatal Solution Inspector Thomas Chard once again finds himself faced with a murder in bustling Victorian Pontypridd. On the face of it the case appears unremarkable, even if it isn’t obviously solvable, but following new leads takes Chard into unexpected places. A second murder, a sexual predator, industrial espionage and a mining disaster crowd into the investigation, baffling the Inspector and his colleagues and Chard finds his own life at risk as the murderer attempts to avoid capture. In this page-turning story of detection, both Chard and the reader are left guessing until the final page…

Tide-Race by Brenda Chamberlain

Tide-race is Brenda Chamberlain’s remarkable account of life on Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli in Welsh), a remote and mysterious island off the coast of North Wales, where she lived from 1947 to 1961, during the last days of its hardy community. The combination of Bardsey, ancient site of Christian pilgrimage, wild and dangerous landscape, and Brenda Chamberlain, Royal Academy trained artist, results in a classic book, vividly illustrated by the author’s line drawings.

Much With Body by Polly Atkin

Much With Body by Polly Atkin is a Poetry Book Society Winter Choice. The beauty of the Lake District is both balm and mirror, refracting pain and also soothing it with distraction. Much of the landscape is lakescape, giving the book a watery feel, the author’s wild swimming being just one kind of immersion. There is also a distinct link with the past in a central section of found poems taken from transcripts of the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, from a period late in her life when she was often ill. In common with the works of the Wordsworths, these poems share a quality of the metaphysical sublime. Their reverence for the natural world is an uneasy awe, contingent upon knowledge of our fragility and mortality.

Just You and the Page by Sue Gee

Part biography, part memoir, Just You and the Page by acclaimed novelist Sue Gee is a must-read for the aspiring writer. Opening in 1971, with the dramatist Michael Wall hammering out his plays on a portable typewriter, and concluding in 2020, when the novelist and academic Josie Barnard is teaching students to compose novels on Instagram, Gee interviews twelve distinctly different writers about their craft. As she examines what has shaped them and their careers, several themes emerge: struggle, inspiration, dedication, and above all, resilience.

A Last Respect edited by Glyn Mathias and Daniel G. Williams

A must-have anthology for fans of contemporary Welsh poetry, A Last Respect celebrates the Roland Mathias Prize, awarded to outstanding books of poetry by authors from Wales. It presents a selection of work from all eleven prize-winning books, by Dannie Abse, Tiffany Atkinson, Ruth Bidgood, Ailbhe Darcy, Rhian Edwards, Christine Evans, John Freeman, Philip Gross, Gwyneth Lewis, Robert Minhinnick, and Owen Sheers.

Morlais by Alun Lewis

Morlais Alun Lewis

Miner’s son Morlais Jenkins is already being educated away from his background at grammar school when he is adopted, on the death of her own son, by the wife of the local colliery owner. Despite the heavy price, Morlais’s parents recognise the opportunity for their son to make a better future. Morlais is a gifted poet and, stiffled by middle class life, his adoptive mother encourages him to be neither working class or middle class, but true to his talent. As Morlais struggles to find his place between his two families, his two backgrounds and his desire to become a poet, this enthralling novel by Alun Lewis is the journey of a boy who becomes a man.

The Amazingly Astonishing Story by Lucy Gannon

By turns laugh out loud funny and deeply sad, The Amazingly Astonishing Story (which was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year) is a frank and surprising look into a child’s tumultuous mind, a classic story of a working-class girl growing up in the 60s. Her Catholic upbringing, a father torn between daughter and new wife, her irreverent imagination and determination to enjoy life, mean this really is an amazing story (including meeting the Beatles).

Regional Pamphlets edited by Amy Wack

Our series of regional poetry pamphlets celebrates the beauty, history, and lively everyday goings-on of four areas of Wales: Pembrokeshire, Snowdonia, the Borders, and the capital city of Cardiff. Each pamphlet comes with an envelope and a postcard – the perfect stocking filler for your loved ones this Christmas.

Darkness in the City of Light by Tony Curtis

The ‘city of light’ under German occupation: Paris, a place, a people, lives in flux. And among these uncertainties, these compromised loyalties, these existences under constant threat, lives Marcel Petiot, a mass murderer. A doctor, a resistance fighter, a collaborator: who can tell? Stretching backwards and forwards through the twentieth century, this remarkable multi-form novel combines fiction, journals, poetry and images in its investigation of what war can let loose, and how evil can dominate a man. The compelling debut novel by Tony Curtis.

Real Cambridge by Grahame Davies

Grahame Davies revisits his own university town in Real Cambridge to examine it anew and discovers another Cambridge away from A List alumni, Nobel prizes and scientific discoveries. Behind the picture-postcard image of punts, Pimms and polymaths, is the working East Anglian fenland community that gave us Pink Floyd, Association Football, the Society for Psychical Research, the Cambridge Folk Festival, the Reality Checkpoint – and the graffiti protestor who sprayed his messages in Latin… Tourists and armchair travellers alike will be surprised by the discoveries Davies makes in this offbeat exploration.

The Owl House by Daniel Butler

In The Owl House, Daniel Butler charts his relationship with two barn owls which nested in the barn of his rural mid-Wales home. In this pastoral exploration of his locale, rich in wildlife of all kinds, he roams the mountains and forests, takes trips to the coast, encounters all manner of animals and birds, and grows to understand the relationship between the local people and their surroundings. A rich and vivid portrait of one of the most remote and sparsely populated areas of Britain – mid-Wales – broad in its horizons yet full of fascinating detail.

We Have to Leave the Earth by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s new poetry collection is both keenly political and deeply personal. As well as tender poems about family and mental health, there are two sequences: Songs for the Arctic, inspired by field work done for the Arctic at the Thought Foundation, poems that are vividly descriptive of an extreme landscape sensitive to the effects of global-warming. And The House of Rest, a history in nine poems of Josephine Butler (1828-1906), who pioneered feminist activism, and helped to repeal the Contagious Diseases Act 1869. Jess-Cooke is unafraid of dark material but is also ultimately hopeful and full of creative strategies to meet challenging times. 

All the Souls by Mary-Ann Constantine

While away the long winter nights with this enthralling collection of short fiction by Mary-Ann Constantine. Two doctors and a folklorist meet in northern Brittany in 1898, determined to prove that leprosy still exists. But their ardour for collecting evidence draws them into a dark, watchful landscape where superstition is rife. From poignant and dangerous obsessions with the iconic (a Romano-British figurine; a carved wooden Christ-child; a bronze angel) to direct, often puzzled conversations with ghosts, the characters in this book all strive to make contact with the impossible.

The Golden Valley by Phil Cope

Illustrated with stunning photographs, The Golden Valley is Phil Cope’s personal account of the Garw valley where he has lived for thirty-five years. In it he explores the valley’s history: sparsely worked agriculture; boom-town coal exploitation; sudden, followed by gentle, post-industrial decline; attempts at re-invigoration through heritage and leisure; and now, existing in a post-covid world. He photographs everything from the ancient Garw hilltops, to the terraced houses of the coal villages, to the valley’s outstanding areas of natural beauty.

The White Trail by Fflur Dafydd

In this contemporary retelling from Seren’s New stories from the Mabinogion series, award-winning writer Fflur Dafydd transforms the medieval Welsh Arthurian myth of the Mabinogion’s ‘Culhwch and Olwen’ into a 21st century quest for love and revenge. Life is tough for Cilydd, after his wife Goleuddydd, who is nine months pregnant, seems to vanish into thin air at a supermarket one wintry afternoon. Cilydd gets his cousin, Arthur – a private eye who has never solved a single case – to help him with the investigation. So begins a tale of intrigue and confusion that ends with a wild boar chase and a dangerous journey to the House of the Missing.

Newspaper Taxis edited by Phil Bowen, Damian Furniss and David Woolley

January 1963. ‘Please, Please Me’ by The Beatles shoots to number one. So begins a new era, in which one band transforms the face of music, youth and popular culture. Taking in everything from the music, their influence, the way we lived then and the way we live now, this book is a response to the Beatles’ creativity and capacity to influence successive generations. With contributions by a myriad of poets including, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Elaine Feinstein, Peter Finch, Adrian Henri, Philip Larkin, Lachlan Mackinnon, Roger McGough, Sheenagh Pugh, Jeremy Reed and Carol Rumens. Beatles fans young and old will want this anthology to add to their collection.

The Green Bridge edited by John Davies

This new edition of The Green Bridge, collects work by twenty-five of the Wales’s foremost writers of the twentieth century in an entertaining and varied anthology. Horror, satire, humour, war, tales of the aristocracy, of navvies, love, and madness, industry, the countryside, politics and sport: these stories provide insight into the changing values of Wales and the world. Includes work by Dannie Abse, Glenda Beagan, Ron Berry, Duncan Bush, Brenda Chamberlain, Rhys Davies, Dorothy Edwards, Caradoc Evans, George Ewart Evans, Margiad Evans, Sian Evans, Geraint Goodwin, Nigel Helseltine, Richard Hughes, Emyr Humphreys, Glyn Jones, Gwyn Jones, Alun Lewis, Clare Morgan, Leslie Norris, Ifan Pughe, Alun Richards, Jaci Stephen, Dylan Thomas and Gwyn Thomas.

Auscultation by Ilse Pedler

Auscultation means listening and specifically, in medicine, listening to sounds that come from the body’s internal organs. If listening is a central theme of this collection, it is also about being heard. Ilse Pedler is poet of breadth and depth. There are poems about waiting rooms and surgical instruments, about crisis calls, about overhearing farmers and pet owners and colleagues. There are poems about surviving a stern childhood and a heartbreaking sequence about being a stepmother. This is a compelling debut from a striking new voice.

Wild Places by Iolo Williams

Television naturalist Iolo Williams picks his top 40 nature sites in Wales. From Cemlyn on Anglesey to the Newport Wetlands, from Stackpole in Pembrokeshire to the Dee Estuary, Williams criss-crosses Wales. His list takes in coastal sites from marshes to towering cliffs – plus Skomer and other islands – mountains, valleys, bogs, meadows, woods and land reclaimed from industry. Drawing on his considerable knowledge, Williams guides readers and visitors to the natural delights of each site. Naturalists of all kinds will find much to enjoy in this beautifully illustrated book.

Poetry Wales Subscription

Founded in 1965, Poetry Wales is Wales’ foremost poetry magazine. Edited by Zoë Brigley, the magazine publishes internationally respected contemporary poetry, features and reviews in its triannual print and digital magazine. Its mission is to sustain and preserve the artistic works both inspiring our literary present and shaping our literary future. The perfect gift for any poetry lover.

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Queer’s the Word: Readings for LGBT+ History Month

Daryl Leeworthy, author of A Little Gay History of Wales and Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind the Screen, shares some of the top books you should be reading this LGBT+ History Month.

Since the removal of Section 28 from the statute book in 2003, Britain’s queer communities have come together each February to celebrate a history which was for so long hidden in plain sight. Each year, LGBT+ History Month has a theme: in 2021 it is ‘Body, Mind, Spirit’. Anyone who has watched Russell T. Davies’s masterpiece, It’s A Sin, will know just how much each of those elements can be affected by absorbing oneself in aspects of the queer past and present. The books I have chosen for this short article penned as a contribution to LGBT+ History Month, each represent a different side of life.

Let’s start with the master historian, Jeffrey Weeks, who was born in the Rhondda in 1945, and his landmark book, Coming Out. First published by Quartet in 1977, and released in a new edition in 2016, Coming Out brings Britain’s queer history to life. It is radical. It is rooted in the ideas of gay liberation – about which more in a moment – and in the left-wing politics of the 1970s. But it is not an artifact of an earlier time, so much as an endlessly absorbing and fascinating excavation of a past richly experienced but all-too-easily cloaked in the horror of criminal codes and lavender scares. Weeks’s great triumph is to bring queer history back down to street level. In his long career, Weeks went on to write about Edward Carpenter, theories of sexuality, and the triumph of the queer civil rights movement through signature legislation such as same-sex marriage. This spring he turns his attention to his Welsh roots in a masterful memoir, Between Worlds.

To understand the Gay Liberation Front itself, there is no better work than Lisa Power’s No Bath But Plenty Of Bubbles, an oral history of the movement in London, which was originally published in 1995 by Cassell. Long out of print and difficult to get hold of, it has recently been re-released as an e-book to mark GLF’s fiftieth anniversary. By the time the book appeared in the mid-1990s, the world had changed completely from that envisaged by the GLF activists twenty years before – but rarely for the better. The age of consent, set at 21 since 1967, fell to eighteen in 1994 but the opportunity to bring about equality at 16 was narrowly missed. Section 28 was on the statute book and ruining the lives of a generation of queer children (me included). HIV/AIDS wreaked havoc all over the world, amongst queer and non-queer communities alike. Lisa Power wrote a book of history, then, but one designed as a kick into gear, a serious attempt to recover something of the spirit and purpose of the Gay Liberation Front and to make the world better for everyone. Twenty five years later, we know it succeeded.

After a year living with the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are feeling an enormous strain and frustration. We have come to think of the virus as a once in a century event – it is not. But that tells us something about how societies remember and how we as individuals remember, too. Studies have shown that the descendants of those most directly impacted by traumatic events carry with them a genetic memory – an imprint of that harm which cannot be got rid of. It is especially apparent amongst Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren. For queer people, especially, it is also true of HIV/AIDS, the other great global pandemic of the past fifty years. To understand the interplay between trauma and memory, there is no better novel than Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers. Published in 2018, it focuses on Chicago and brings to life a community which was forced to adapt and compelled to live with death and danger, day after day. But it is a universal story, one which can – and in its comparison with COVID-19 does – affect us all.

But what of Wales? When I wrote A Little Gay History of Wales a few years ago, I had a delightful afternoon reading Sion Eirian’s 1979 novel, Bob yn y Ddinas. It’s not really a queer novel except for a passage where the title character, Bob, goes into the Duke Of Wellington pub in central Cardiff and encounters a neighbourhood drag queen who buys a drink for everyone in the snug, but not him. He was outside the community. This was truth, not fiction. For a period in the late-1970s, the Duke of Wellington joined its neighbour the King’s Cross and the nearby Golden Cross and Bristol Hotel as part of the small gay scene of those years. This was Real Cardiff, as Peter Finch would describe it, tough and grimy and poor; the place as it was before the corporate towers arrived and the rents shot up.

My last choice takes me back to the Rhondda and to another queer emigré who made his way to London: the novelist Rhys Davies. In his lifetime, Rhys Davies never openly acknowledged his homosexuality. Privately, and to his friends, and partners, it was a different story. He cruised guardsmen on the streets of interwar London; he cruised men in the various European cities in which he lived; he was in Germany like Christopher Isherwood and saw the rise of the Nazis; he wrote very queer novels which take little decoding for modern readers; and became close friends and a beneficiary of the noted American lesbians Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas. Alas, much of the writer’s work is now out of print but his memoir, Print of a Hare’s Foot, first published in 1969, appears as a Seren Classic. More so than Mike Stephens’s prize-winning biography, which doesn’t really get to the heart of its subject’s sexuality, I’m afraid, Print of a Hare’s Foot is the best place to start with a writer who is to Wales what Oscar Wilde is to Ireland.

Daryl Leeworthy is the Rhys Davies Research Fellow at Swansea University. He is the author of A Little Gay History of Wales (2019) and of Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind the Screen, which is out now with Seren.

Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind the Screen is available on the Seren website: £9.99

A Little Gay History of Wales is published by University of Wales Press: £11.99

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