Dog’s tales and meowmoirs: the irresistible rise of endearing animal books

A cuddly antidote to worrying times, ‘pet lit’ has become a publishing phenomenon. But isn’t it all a bit twee?

Picture the scene: it’s the end of a long day. You’re tired, you’re cold, you need to curl up with a cup of tea and something comforting to read. But wait! You also love animals. What better, then, than a copy of A Pug Like Percy, Fiona Harrison’s tale of a cute canine who has been dumped in an animal shelter, but who brings a “little miracle” to Gail and her unhappy family? Or Daisy Bell’s The Christmas Guest, a “heart-warming tale of a homeless puppy with a huge heart”? Or Jacqueline Sheehan’s A Dog Like Lloyd (“Roxanne Pellegrino’s … new life of solitude is interrupted when she meets Lloyd – a stray black labrador with an equally unhappy past”). You get the idea.

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Dan Brown’s Origin makes a strong start in UK bookshops

Although not quite the sensation of previous Robert Langdon thrillers, The Da Vinci Code author’s latest mystery sold 100,000 copies in its first week

Dan Brown’s mastery of something like a code for bestsellers has returned to cheer UK booksellers, with more than 100,000 copies of his latest thriller, Origin, sold in the first five days after publication last Tuesday. But while retailers pronounced themselves delighted, there were some indications that his hold on British readers is not quite as sure as it once was – with these figures adding up to only a fifth of the initial success of 2009’s The Lost Symbol.

According to Nielsen BookScan, Origin had amassed 100,095 sales by Saturday. Brown’s publisher, Transworld, said this makes it the fastest-selling original fiction title in the UK since Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman in 2015, which sold 168,455 print copies in its first five days. But ...

MacArthur ‘genius grants’ go to novelists Viet Thanh Nguyen and Jesmyn Ward

Among 2017’s recipients of the $625,000 honours are two novelists exploring the lives of minority communities in the US

Viet Thanh Nguyen and Jesmyn Ward, two novelists exploring how writers from minority communities must “claim the same rights” as the majority, have landed $625,000 (£470,000) MacArthur fellowships, popularly known as “genius grants”.

The no-strings-attached fellowships, which have previously gone to writers including Claudia Rankine and Ta-Nehisi Coates, are intended “to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations”. Two novelists were among this year’s selection of 24 fellows, which included mathematicians, historians, computer scientists and anthropologists. Ward was picked for novels “exploring the enduring bonds of community and familial love among poor African Americans of the rural South, against a landscape of circumscribed possibilities and lost potential”. Nguyen was chosen for “challenging popular depictions of the Vietnam war and exploring the myriad ways ...

Novel rejected as ‘too gay’ receives flood of crowdfunding support

The Madonna of Bolton by Matt Cain was turned down by mainstream publishers more than 30 times, but has won keen backing from readers

A novel that was rejected more than 30 times by publishers for being “too gay” has been inundated with backing from names including David Walliams, Mark Gatiss and SJ Watson after its author turned to crowdfunding.

Matt Cain’s The Madonna of Bolton tells the story of Charlie Matthews, who falls in love with Madonna on his ninth birthday. The obsession “sees him through some tough times in life: being persecuted at school; fitting in at a posh university; a glamorous career in London; finding boyfriends; getting rid of boyfriends; growing up and family heartbreak”. Launched on the crowdfunding site Unbound this week, it has already racked up 60% of what it needs to be published, with backers also including One Day author David Nicholls and the ...

Leonard Cohen’s last book, finished ‘days before his death’, due out next year

The Flame collects unpublished poetry, as well as notebook entries and song lyrics, and offers ‘an intimate look inside the life and mind of a singular artist’

A book of Leonard Cohen’s final poems, completed in the months before his death and tackling “the flame and how our culture threatened its extinction”, according to his manager, will be published next year.

Describing the collection, The Flame, as “an enormously powerful final chapter in Cohen’s storied literary career”, publisher Canongate said that the Canadian singer-songwriter had chosen and ordered the poems in the months before his death in November 2016. The overwhelming majority of the book, which will be published next October, will be new material, it added.

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Yuval Noah Harari’s new book to cover global warming, God and nationalism

The historian’s next book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, will ask ‘what should we teach children today to prepare them for the world of tomorrow’ and promises a sweeping look at the future

Faced with a world stuck in “nostalgic fantasies about going back to the past”, where politicians are “no longer capable of producing meaningful visions for the future”, Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari is turning to the present in a new book announced on Thursday.

Random House imprint Jonathan Cape acquired Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, as excitement built around the title ahead of next week’s Frankfurt book fair. It is due to be published next August. Harari said: “If Sapiens was about the past, and [follow-up] Homo Deus was about the future and distant future of humankind, the new book is about the present, and what we need to do to prepare ourselves for ...