World AIDS Day 2012: What will you be reading?

December 1st is World AIDS Day, an opportunity to raise awareness and to unite people the world over in the fight against HIV and AIDS. As the world looks forwards, searching for a cure for AIDS, we must also remember to look back, to see where this disease came from.

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON by Randy Shilts is the definitive history of the spread of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, which brought this disease to international attention. From 1982 Shilts devoted himself to covering the story of the disease and its medical, social and political implications. A masterpiece of investigative journalism, weaving together the personal stories of those in the gay community and the medical and political establishments with political and social reporting, he exposes how AIDS was ignored, or denied, by many national institutions.

“An astounding piece of investigative journalism, a must-read for those who seek to understand the nature of this dark chapter in gay history.” — Attitude

“A heroic work of journalism on what must rank as one of the foremost catastrophes of modern history.” — The New York Times

Author Randy Shilts was the first openly gay journalist in America. While writing this book he refused to find out his own HIV status, for fear that the knowledge would compromise his journalistic integrity. Tragically, he was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1987, after the completion of AND THE BAND PLAYED ON, and he died in 1994. His legacy remains: a frighteningly powerful report of the origins of the AIDS epidemic, essential reading for all.

WIN one of three copies of MEET SEBASTIAN VETTEL!

MEET SEBASTIAN VETTEL is an intimate insight into the life of Formula 1’s youngest ever triple World Champion. Including exclusive contributions in their own words from Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, as well as a host of previously unpublished photographs from his early life, MEET SEBASTIAN VETTEL relives the astonishing story an already stellar driving career. Read how Vettel joined Formula 1 as a teenager (after many years as a karting champion), his early struggle to establish himself as a driver and his stratospheric rise to Formula 1 stardom. Vettel became the youngest ever F1 driver, the youngest to score championship points, qualify in pole position and to win a race, and is now the youngest ever triple World Champion.

The book includes a full account of Vettel’s record-breaking 2011 season: the most championship points won in a season, most pole positions in a season, and the most laps led in a season.

To celebrate Sebastian Vettel’s historic third consecutive championship victory, Souvenir Press are giving away three copies of MEET SEBASTIAN VETTEL. To be in with a chance of winning, simply fill in the form below, telling us which has been your favourite race of the 2012 Formula One season*. Competition closes at 9am (UK time) on 1st December 2012.

*Winners will be picked at random. One entry per person.

More Praise for the Piano

As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE PIANO is one of Souvenir Press’s new titles this autumn. It received rave reviews from the three leading classical music magazines in the UK, but the good news hasn’t stopped there. This is something special for music lovers and pianists everywhere.

From the Irish Times:

“A new history of the piano and pianists from Mozart to Jerry Lee Lewis makes entertaining reading… cast(s) fascinating lights on the origin of the instrument and on what might be called the social history of the piano.”

From Pianist magazine:

“Isacoff offers a history and appreciation of the ‘wondrous box’ and its players. He beefs up his tale with plenty of anecdotes and surprising facts… A diverting gift for piano lovers.”

Two classical music bloggers have also shared their thoughts beautiful book, quoted here but you can read the reviews in full via the links provided:

“Isacoff is adept at weaving in useful, odd and amusing facts. He rarely goes at a subject straight but wanders around seducing with yet more unusual information… Illuminating and highly readable… Generously and helpfully illustrated.” – Planet Hugill blog

“The gathering together here of so much information is an achievement in itself but to place the material in such an informative and entertaining narrative will make all lovers of the piano and, indeed, lovers of music want this book.” – The Classical Reviewer blog

So if you’re stuck for a festive gift for a music-lover in your life, A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE PIANO comes highly recommended.

The Book by Alan Watts

Appearing on Desert Island Discs at the weekend, John Lloyd (writer and television producer, best known for his work on Blackadder and QI) chose THE BOOK: ON THE TABOO AGAINST KNOWING WHO YOU ARE by Alan Watts as the book he would take with him to a desert island. He described it as:

The best book I’ve ever read on the nature of what actually is, what the world is about.

Explaining man’s role in the universe as a unique expression of the total universe, and interdependent on it, Alan Watts offers a new understanding of personal identity. He presents an alternative to the feelings of alienation that is prevalent in Western modern society, and a vision of how we can come to understand the world as a whole.

Alan Watts was central to the introduction of Eastern philosophy and thought to Western readers, and was one of the best-known writers of the 1960s and 1970s.

Recommended reading

TAO: The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts
“A remarkable book… This book is a ‘must'” — Shambhala Review


A MEDITATOR’S DIARY by Jane Hamilton-Merritt

The Road to Biscuit Land

This week we have a very special guest post on Take Home a Souvenir. Jessica Thom is the author of the acclaimed ‘Welcome to Biscuit Land’. Published last month to rave reviews, it is Jessica’s first book, based on her blog Touretteshero. The book features a foreword by Stephen Fry, who met Jessica when she appeared on his television show Fry’s Planet Word in 2011.

I have Tourettes Syndrome, which means I make movements and noises I can’t control. These are known as tics and my most prominent verbal tic is “Biscuit,’ a word I say involuntarily hundreds of times an hour.

Having Tourettes means only a small percentage of the words I say communicate what I’m thinking. Writing Welcome to Biscuit Land helped me to find a voice enriched by tics but not interrupted by them. It offered me something unique; a way of sharing my life without all the “Biscuits.”

Tourettes is a condition shrouded in myths and stereotypes. Most people in the UK have heard of it but very few have any clear understanding of what it really is. To help change this, three years ago I founded Touretteshero with my friend Matthew Pountney. Our aim is to challenge the misconceptions about Tourettes and share the humour and creativity that can arise from it with the widest possible audience.

Writing a daily blog about living with Tourettes has become a key part of my life, and it’s this blog that forms the basis of my book, Welcome to Biscuit Land – A Year in the Life of Touretteshero, which was published by Souvenir Press this autumn.

The journey to publication was full of memorable moments. Here are some of them:

Nervously climbing the stairs for our first meeting with Ernest Hecht at Great Russell Street

My surprise and joy at opening the email containing Stephen Fry’s wonderful, perfectly pitched, foreword to the book

My sudden sense of responsibility when I signed the contract

The light changing slowly outside my window as the hours passed putting the book together

Patiently drawing and re-drawing each illustration until I had a set that hadn’t been ruined by my sudden arm movements

The wave of relief as I sent off the final manuscript

The strange mix of exhaustion and satisfaction after our twelve-hour round trip to Devon for the front cover photo shoot

Nervously opening the padded envelope containing the proof copy

Sitting opposite Jane Garvey in the BBC Woman’s Hour studio explaining the tangible difference that people’s increased understanding of Tourettes makes to my life

The pleasure of seeing all my friends, family and supporters at our biscuit-fuelled launch party while I gave a tic-enhanced thank-you speech

The significance of signing a copy of Welcome to Biscuit Land for an eleven-year-old boy whose tics have been making his life very tough recently

Touretteshero has changed the way I view my tics and my experiences. I hope the book will give many other people the chance to share my unusual perspective as well. While not much can be done to prevent the physical effects of the condition, everyone can help to reduce its social impact.

I’d like Welcome to Biscuit Land to play a part in changing attitudes towards Tourettes and help me fulfil my mission to change the world, “One tic at a time.”

Calling all bloggers!

Are you a UK-based blogger who likes books? Particularly non-fiction books? If so, we would like you to get in touch.

Here at Souvenir Press we have a very eclectic list of titles, spanning over 60 years of publishing, so there is something to suit all tastes. Whether you’re an animal lover or a mum-to-be, whether you’re interested in aliens (real? Fake?) or gardening or music, the chances are we’ve got something you’ll love.

We are looking for people who would be interested in reviewing Souvenir Press titles – new and back-list. If this sounds like you, please get in touch. You can tweet me @SouvenirPress or email me: to request a copy of our latest catalogue.

Here are our new titles for Autumn 2012, and you can find further information on the Souvenir Press website.








A Natural History of the Piano

A new title for Souvenir Press this autumn, A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE PIANO by Stuart Isacoff has been reviewed in the UK’s three leading classical music magazines, and they all agree: it’s something special.

Classical Music magazine made it Editor’s Choice, calling it “vastly entertaining and wonderfully informative. Isacoff always seems to come up with that extra piece of background or a juicy anecdote. [A] comprehensive and quite brilliant book.”

BBC Music Magazine gives A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE PIANO a five-star rating, and describes it as “a treat for all pianists and pianophiles alike, one that leaves behind a rare glow of warmth.”

Gramophone magazine devoted a double-page spread to the book, calling it a “richly informative book” that “should inspire piano novices to investigate the world of what the author calls ‘the most important instrument ever created’.”

A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE PIANO is out now as an ebook and as a beautiful hardcover, the ideal Christmas gift for the pianist in your life.