United Agents Foreign Rights News

BEST BOOKS OF 2012

As we finish up another year, it’s a good moment to feature the year’s best books.   Below is a round-up of the United Agents and A.P. Watt books that have featured on the main Best Books of 2012 lists.  The most Best Book of the Year mentions are for Jane Ridley’s biography of Edward VII, BERTIE, with a total of 12.  The fiction with the most mentions is GRIMM TALES by Philip Pullman which features on 4 lists, followed by CAPITAL by John Lanchester and the stunning debut, MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON by I.J. Kay, each featuring on 3 lists.  Special mention is also deserved by Craig Brown’s ONE ON ONE: 101 TRUE ENCOUNTERS which was the most recommended of our books for 2011 (14 recommendations) and features after the US publication on the below list a second year as one of Michiko Kakutani’s favourite books of 2012 in the New York Times.

Let’s emerge after Christmas with renewed passion for reading.  And let’s all buy books to give as gifts this Christmas! Any of the below would be wonderful presents. Best wishes for a comforting end to 2012 and an energizing start to 2013!  

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MAJOR/MINOR by Alba Arikha

English publisher: Quartet Books

foreign rights sold to Bollati Boringhieri/Italy and Berlin Verlag/Germany

“The daughter of a well-known figurative artist / Holocaust survivor / close friend to Samuel Beckett recalls her childhood in Paris and Israel. If I were still doing Open City Books, I would have picked this to publish in America. Someone should.” Thomas Beller, New Yorker

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THE SMALL HOURS by Susie Boyt

English publisher: Virago Press

all foreign rights are available

“A novel which stood out for me is Susie Boyt’s The Small Hours, about an eccentric woman who tries to overcome the misery of her own childhood by founding an idyllic nursery for little girls. Like Edward St Aubyn and Henry James, Boyt has an acute sense of how even the rich can live in despair, and the result is an exquisitely written black comedy about innocence, evil and financial ruin.” Amanda Craig, New Statesman

The Small Hours by Susie Boyt is about the distress that families can cause, and one woman’s attempt to mend her past: it carried me away with its lyrical energy.” Joan Bakewell, Mail on Sunday

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HELLO GOODBYE HELLO: A CIRCLE OF 101 REMARKABLE MEETINGS by Craig Brown (UK title: ONE ON ONE)

English publishers: Fourth Estate/UK and Simon & Schuster/USA

foreign rights sold: Briefing Press/Chinese (complex), Kiepenheuer/Germany, Books in the Attic/Israel, Edizioni Clichy/Italy, KPI Co./Korea, and Empresa Folha Da Manha/Brazil

“In this captivating volume a longtime columnist for the satirical British magazine Private Eye weaves together dozens of real-life encounters into a glittering daisy chain that reads like an entertaining illustration of the theory of Six Degrees of Separation. Frank Lloyd Wright meets Marilyn Monroe who meets Nikita Khrushchev. Tolstoy meets Tchaikovsky who meets Rachmaninoff who meets Harpo Marx who meets George Bernard Shaw. Mr. Brown’s sketches of these incongruous meetings — drawing upon diaries, biographies, interviews and other source material — possess the historical resonance of reportage, the surreal fizz of fiction.” Michiko Kakutani’s 10 Favorite Books of 2012, New York Times

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SHAKESPEARE’S LOCAL: SIX CENTURIES OF HISTORY SEEN THROUGH ONE EXTRAORDINARY PUB by  Pete Brown

English publisher: Macmillan

all foreign rights are available

“Brown is an unashamed beer nerd but by some happy twist of fate he’s also a fascinating and engaging writer. Social history through the story of a single pub, told by a man you’d genuinely want to drink with.” Financial Times

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DAYS OF GOD: THE REVOLUTION IN IRAN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES by James Buchan

English publishers: John Murray/UK and Simon & Schuster/USA

all foreign rights are available

“A soundly argued account of the causes, course and consequences of the revolution that toppled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s shah, and replaced him with an Islamic theocracy. Buchan, a Persian scholar and former FT foreign correspondent, puts his first-hand experience of Iran to perceptive use.” Financial Times

“A British scholar of Persian, who first travelled to Iran in 1975, offers an elegant and textured analysis of why the shah, Iran’s wealth-creator king, was replaced in 1979 with a Shia divine who was deeply uninterested in modern government.” Economist

“A superb and original history of the Iranian Revolution.  It’s essential reading.” Simon Sebag Montefiore, Mail on Sunday

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THE HOUR BETWEEN DOG AND WOLF by John Coates - shortlisted for the 2012 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award and the Wellcome Trust Book Prize

English publishers: Fourth Estate/UK, Penguin/USA, and Random House/Canada

foreign rights sold (A.P. Watt): Wealth Press/Chinese (complex), CITIC/Chinese (simplified), Hayakawa/Japan, KPI Co./Korea, Anagrama/Spanish

“No one is better qualified to analyse the biology of banking than Coates, a trader turned neuroscientist. As long as human brains control the world of finance, there will be cycles of irrational exuberance and unfounded pessimism, but Coates shows how the wild swings that destabilise banks and the global economy could be calmed by applying biological principles.” Financial Times

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GRACE: A MEMOIR by Grace Coddington

English publishers: Chatto & Windus/UK and Random House/USA

foreign rights sold (A.P. Watt): Azoth/Chinese (complex), Hunan People Publishing/Chinese (simplified), Atlas Contact/Netherlands, Albin Michel/France, Conde Nast/Japan, Bookie Publishing House/Korea, Record/Brazil, Sinbad/Russia, Turner/Spanish

“Grace Coddington’s [story is] … described in breathless, name-dropping splendour in Grace: A Memoir. Even without the unlikely Anglesey-to-American-Vogue background, the story of the only woman brave enough to stand up to Anna Wintour would be worth reading.” Independent

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WHAT THEY DO IN THE DARK by Amanda Coe

English publishers: Virago Press/UK and Norton/USA

foreign rights sold: Denoel/France, Einaudi/Italy

“In this disturbing, stunningly accomplished debut novel, which focuses on two 10-year old girls in a gritty 1970s Yorkshire town, Coe unsentimentally evokes the pleasures, confusions, yearnings, and vulnerabilities of girls – and the casual way in which adults continually put their own interests ahead of the children who depend on them.” Atlantic, Best Books of 2012 (runner up to top 5)

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YELLOW TULIPS: POEMS 1968-2011 by James Fenton

English publisher: Faber & Faber

all foreign rights are available

“James Fenton’s poetic voice has a simple lyricism and a vivid gracefulness. Most important, these poems suggest that at 63, he still has a great future.” Economist

“Contains old and new poems from one of our greatest poets.  His world view is one of wry scepticism, and his poems are beautifully crafted.” Joan Bakewell, Mail on Sunday

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BAD PHARMA by Ben Goldacre – shortlisted for the National Book Awards Popular Non-fiction Book of the Year and a top ten bestseller with more than 31,000 copies sold

English publishers: Fourth Estate/UK, Farrar Straus & Giroux/USA, and Random House/Canada

foreign rights sold: Albatros/Czech, De Geus/Netherlands, Kiepenheuer/Germany, Books in the Attic/Israel, Mondadori/Italy, Gongjon/Korea, Gyldendal/Norway, Sonia Draga/Poland, Bizanzio/Portugal, Intrinseca/Brazil, Paidos/Spanish, Pegasus/Turkey

“The British medical writer and polemicist sinks his teeth into the scientific and business malpractices of the pharmaceutical industry. His analysis of the shortcomings of clinical trials is devastating… anyone with an interest in the pharma business should read it.” Financial Times

“To read Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Patients is to risk apoplexy. Nobody will be surprised to learn that the global pharmaceutical industry is rife with ­greed and corruption, but he lays out the evidence so carefully that I defy any reader not to be appalled by the lengths to which drug companies go to preserve patents and keep the cost of drugs artificially high.” Sunday Times

“How doctors and the patients they treat are hobbled by needless ignorance within the $600 billion pharmaceutical industry, which does not always publish the truth about whether its new drugs work, whether they are better than drugs already on the market and whether their side effects are a price worth paying.” Economist

“The coolest man in science takes on the crimes and corruption of the pharmaceutical industry.” Scout

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NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT by Nadine Gordimer

English publishers: Bloomsbury/UK and Macmillan/USA

foreign rights sold (A.P. Watt): De Geus/Netherlands, Grasset/France, Bloomsbury Verlag/Germany, Feltrinelli/Italy, Editora Schwarcz/Brazil,  Acantilado/Spanish

“Nadine Gordimer’s No Time Like the Present, which uses a mixed-race marriage to explore South Africa under Mbeki and Zuma, is a masterpiece.” New Statesman

“Nadine Gordimer’s No Time Like the Present [tackles]… how those who risked their lives fighting Apartheid now struggle to adapt to life in “free” South Africa. As always, Gordimer’s prose is a wonder of unsettling rhythms, vivid dialogue and striking imagery.” Independent

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MARRIED LOVE by Tessa Hadley

English publishers: Jonathan Cape/UK and HarperCollins/USA

all foreign rights are available – expect Tessa Hadley’s next novel, CLEVER GIRL, to be a best book of 2013!

"Hadley’s understatedly beautiful collection is filled with exquisitely calibrated gradations and expressions of class.” New York Times Book Review

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MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON by I.J. Kay

English publishers: Jonathan Cape/UK and Viking/USA

foreign rights sold: Kiepenheuer/Germany

“IJ Kay’s Mountains of the Moon is a startling first novel, exhilarating though full of pain and damage.” Adam Mars-Jones, Guardian

“I admired a first novel that didn’t seem to get the attention it deserved, I J Kay’s Mountains of the Moon. The book has a strong plot but it’s kept in the background, almost suppressed, so as to fix attention on the narrator-heroine, an extraordinary creation, feral and tender. The writing is highly coloured though carefully controlled, full of pain with a strange backwash of joy.” Adam Mars-Jones, New Statesman

“I read no novel more structurally challenging in 2012 than I.J. Kay’s Mountains of the Moon. Nominally about a woman’s rehabilitation after a prison sentence, the book, like the high modernist works of William Faulkner, slips in and out of different time periods, and from fantasy to reality with only the subtlest rhetorical pointers to guide you. Yet the difficulties of Ms. Kay’s labyrinthine story are consistently eased by her delightfully inventive wordplay. This work handsomely rewards re-reading.” Wall Street Journal

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THE BURNING AIR by Erin Kelly

English publishers: Hodder/UK and Pam Dorman Books/USA

foreign rights sold: Beijing Heping Yuhua/Chinese (simplified), Ambo Anthos/Netherlands, J.C. Lattes/France, Goldmann/Germany, Damm/Sweden

“A big two-part adaptation of her first [novel], The Poison Tree, is currently on ITV, but her latest sees her reach another level. Kelly excels at thrillers set in middle-England idylls, that sidestep the clichéd and the cosy to go for the jugular. This time, a well-to-do family holiday starts with cashmere and fresh coffee and ends with family secrets haemorrhaging from every member.” Independent on Sunday

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CAPITAL by John Lanchester

English publishers: Faber & Faber/UK and Norton/USA

foreign rights sold (A.P. Watt): Good Morning Press/Chinese (complex), Euromedia/Czech, Tiderne Skifter/Denmark, Prometheus/Netherlands, Plon/France, Klett-Cotta/Germany, Mondadori/Italy, Vigmostad & Bjorke/Norway, Anagrama/Spanish

“John Lanchester’s pacy novel Capital perfectly captures the zeitgeist of London on the cusp of the crash and after — the mad house prices, the egregious bankers and their wives, the Polish builders, Zimbabwean parking attendants, vapid conceptual artists and wannabe jihadis.” Evening Standard

“Unfurling a lively social panorama of London as the economic meltdown begins, Lanchester takes you (with a keen expansiveness and eye for telling detail reminiscent of 19th-century condition-of-England novels) into the minds and circumstances of a colourful diversity of characters: from filthy-rich city bankers to exploited asylum seekers. Smartly informed about both money and the metropolis, Capital is suavely satiric and warmly human” Sunday Times

"On a street in south London, in a time of financial lunacy, Lanchester gives us an unforgettable cast: the English banker, the Polish handyman, the Hungarian nanny, the Senegalese soccer player, the Zimbabwean refugee, the Pakistani shopkeepers. Obliviousness abounds, cultures clash, money perverts. True to English form, there’s even a mystery: Who’s sending all those anonymous postcards?" 25 Best Books of 2012, Seattle Times

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THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY CLUB by Andrew Martin

English publisher: Faber & Faber

all foreign rights are available

The Baghdad Railway Club by Andrew Martin made me an addict of the whole series of his Edwardian railway detective. The rather edgy (in the old-fashioned sense) relationship between Stringer (railwayman turned detective) and his left-wing wife adds piquancy to the tales. In this one, Jim Stringer, invalided out of the Western Front, gets involved in a spy mystery and a murder investigation in Mesopotamia. Martin’s unabashed railway enthusiasm is catching, and half the pleasure of the novels is in the details he has at his fingertips. The story of the Baghdad railway is especially fascinating, and this novel has an ingenious plot-twist to do with lip-reading.” A.N.Wilson, Spectator

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TRAPEZE by Simon Mawer (UK title: THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY)

English publishers: Little, Brown/UK and Other Press/USA

foreign rights sold: Kniha Zlin/Czech, Ambo Anthos/Netherlands, Le Cherche Midi/France, DVA/Germany, Neri Pozza/Italy, Dinamo/Norway, Znak/Poland, Civilizacao/Portugal, Lumen/Spanish, Pegasus/Turkey

“In a perfect combination of intrigue, romance, betrayal and incredible bravery, Mawer seamlessly combines fact and fiction to portray the life of one woman tapped by British Special Operations in 1941 to undertake deep-cover missions, commando training and a parachute jump into France, where she has a “fifty-fifty chance of survival.” 25 Best Books of 2012, Seattle Times

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GRIMM TALES by Philip Pullman – hardcover fiction bestseller with more than 22,000 copies sold

English publisher: Penguin

foreign rights sold (A.P. Watt): Shanghai Insight Media/Chinese (simplified), Aladin Verlag/Germany, Psichogios/Greece, Sifriat Poalim/Hebrew, Geopen/Hungary, Adriano Salani/Italy, Albatros/Poland, Objetiva/Brazil, Ediciones B/Spanish

 “The His Dark Materials author retells 50 of the Grimm brothers’ stories, some familiar, others not. All are infused with the beguiling, dreamlike logic of fairy tales and presented with beautiful simplicity and clarity. Bewitching, whether enjoyed with others or by oneself.” Financial Times

“Philip Pullman has gone right back to the stories that feed modern literature like an underground stream. Grimm Tales is his retelling of tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, interleaved with his own comments. There are classics, such as Rapunzel, and less well-known stories such as Hans my Hedgehog, all given a wonderfully sharp, vivid Pullman twist.” Times

“It is 200 years since the Grimm brothers published their collection of tales that have spellbound so many imaginations, young and old. In celebration, Pullman retells 50 of them, catching all their fast-paced, vivid magic. Against a background of dark forests, castles and cottages he conjures up princes and princesses, fatally trustful youngsters, kind crones, quick-witted peasants and talkative animals. To his wonderfully freshened versions, Pullman adds a brilliant overview of the genre, notes on sources, Freudian and other readings, and elucidation of issues such as the precise kind of sausage (a bratwurst) that ill-advisedly sets up home with a mouse. A marvellous book.” Sunday Times

“A delightfully wry reworking, by a master storyteller, of the anarchic fairy tales of the brothers Grimm.” Economist

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BERTIE: A LIFE OF EDWARD VII by Jane Ridley – top 5 bestseller in hardcover

English publisher: Chatto & Windus

all foreign rights are available

“Surprisingly, a vast amount of new information, some of it truly eye-opening, surfaced in this beautifully prepared and serious book.” Philip Hensher, Telegraph

“I was hugely entertained by Bertie: a Life of Edward VII Jane Ridley’s wonderful biography of the girl-crazy prince who set the pace for Edwardian aristocratic high jinks yet became, after nearly six decades in waiting, not a bad king.” Juliet Nicolson, Telegraph

“Jane Ridley’s Bertie: A Life of Edward VII is a model of how royal biographies should be written. It is impeccably researched, with much new material, balanced, sensible, disrespectful without being offensive, funny, and a vivid portrait of one of Britain’s most underrated and under-studied monarchs.” Philip Ziegler, Spectator

“Jane Ridley’s Bertie paints the story of Edward VII and his long, hectic life as Prince of Wales in vivid colours: no scandal is left unturned, and yet the depth and authenticity of the research make it clear that this is a serious, even magisterial work.” Antonia Fraser, Telegraph

“This summer’s Bertie, by Jane Ridley, is a subtle and sympathetic account of a king whose playboy exploits as Prince of Wales all too often dominate accounts of his life. Ridley demolishes many of the myths about his mistresses, and demonstrates how this blandest and most affable of monarchs is in fact particularly hard to read. His monstrous mother, manipulative and melodramatic, cast a shadow over his life, but when he became king at 59 he didn’t do such a bad job after all. Ridley’s extensive access to the Royal Archives, plus her storytelling verve, make this a real jewel of a royal biography.” Lucy Worsley, Telegraph

“My non-fiction choice would be Jane Ridley’s Bertie, a royal biography of rare scholarship and humour.” Anne Chisholm, Telegraph

“In a year when (almost) everyone became a royalist, if only for one squally summer afternoon, Jane Ridley’s Bertie: A Life of Edward VII was required reading. Ridley’s book, a decade in the making, does much more than recycle antique gossip about “Edward the Caresser”. She gives us the women, the champagne and the enormous girth, but she also shows us a clever and effective statesman. Drawing on new material from the Royal Archives, Ridley reinforces the case for Bertie as an instinctive European, using his web of family connections to draw France into an entente in 1904, followed by Russia three years later. Along the way the fat man known as “Tum-tum” also found the time to invent trouser turn-ups.” Kathryn Hughes, Guardian Best Biographies of 2012

“After the death of Edward VII in 1910, people began to ask how far he was responsible for the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale. In her excellent biography, Bertie, Jane Ridley puts this argument to bed. She concedes that Edward, unlike his father, did not amend official documents but in 1903 he had driven through the streets of Paris and proclaimed that this was a city where he felt at home. In 1914, while the diplomats played their ambiguous games, the French people remembered the king who had been their friend. The king had spoken and for them this was the voice of Britain.” Douglas Hurd, New Statesman

Bertie, Jane Ridley’s biography of Edward VII, who spent most of his life in the shadow of Queen Victoria, is hugely entertaining from first page to last. It is also scholarly and revealing. What particularly surprised me was how unfairly — often cruelly — he was treated, not just by his mother but also by his high-minded father, Prince Albert. Nevertheless, the pleasure-loving Bertie, who reigned for only nine years, succeeded in becoming an exceptionally popular king and a leader of fashion.” Evening Standard

“This diligent life is all about changing perceptions of the rakish heir to the throne who, his biographer insists, was less of a womaniser than commonly thought and came into his own as a king. After reading about the rigours of his loveless childhood (his mother, Queen Victoria, called him “sadly backward”), one feels some sympathy for his often unpalatable behaviour.” Sunday Times

“How a prince whose favourite pursuits were racing, shooting, gambling and seduction turned into a hard-working, clever king and a most able diplomat.” Economist

“A standout of its class.  A great deal of second-rate gloop has been printed about Edward VII, but she balances the salacious aspects of Edward’s life with his unsung role as the grand statesman of Europe.” Amanda Foreman, Mail on Sunday

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THE ENGLISH MONSTER by Lloyd Shepherd

English publishers: Simon & Schuster/UK and Atria/USA

foreign rights sold: Hayakawa/Japan

“In London’s East End in 1811, two households were slaughtered. Shepherd takes a brave leap of imagination that may infuriate crime purists but his purpose is to illuminate a dark chapter in Britain’s past. The result is a gripping, original read.” Financial Times

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MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS by Posy Simmonds

English publisher: Jonathan Cape

all foreign rights are available

“Posy Simmonds’s Mrs Weber’s Omnibus collects her Guardian strips of the 70s and 80s about a scruffy, well-meaning Guardian-reading family and their friends. It’s salutary to discover that both her cosy in-jokes about middle-class silliness and her sharp political fury over sexual inequality and the divide between rich and poor remain remarkably undated. Here, as well as jokes about hummus and childcare, you’ll find shrinking universities, attacks on the welfare state, youth unemployment – and, of course, Christmas, rolling around each year in a blizzard of grumbling and enchantment.” Justine Jordan, Guardian

“This year’s funniest book must surely be Mrs Weber’s Omnibus by Posy Simmonds, a big and bouncy collection of all her beady comic strips detailing the ups and downs of the impeccably earnest Guardian-reading Weber family. I love her beautiful drawings, as sharp and receptive as her ear for speech. Her characters are not only wincingly recognisable but also, finally, forgivable: she misses nothing, but, unlike most satirists, she never entirely condemns. More than any other artist at work today, people should be able to look back on Posy’s work in 100 years’ time and say to themselves: ‘Yes! That was what life was like back then!’” Craig Brown, Daily Mail

“A book to dip in and out of is Mrs Weber’s Omnibus by Posy Simmonds, a satisfyingly fat collection of her old Guardian comic strips that will make you laugh out loud. (Heaven is a polytechnic sociology lecturer called George.)” Rachael Cooke, Observer Best Graphic Novels of 2012

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CONSIDER THE FORK: THE UNSUNG HISTORY OF THE KITCHEN by Bee Wilson

English publishers: Penguin Press/UK and Basic Books/USA

foreign rights sold: Aripaev/Estonia, Jorge Zahar/Brazil, Temas e Debates/Portugal, Turner/Spanish

“Every second sentence has a fact not just collected, as they say, but connected – the history of women in professional kitchens she deals with in the twitch of an over-large skirt; calories, teeth, Clarence Birdseye, weighting scales, the microwave … in what is so much more than a history of these objects, Wilson invests each one with narrative and meaning.” Zoe Williams, Guardian

“Wilson gives a witty, well-informed history of kitchen implements and is a delight for anyone who’s ever been in a kitchen.” Independent on Sunday