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In The Omnivore Digest this week: what the critics are saying about new books from Roddy Doyle, Philippa Gregory and Olivia Laing, what Sarah Churchwell made of controversial novel Tampa, the latest Omnivore Pin-ups talk terse masculinity, crossword puzzles, and Patti Smith's eating habits, and an Author Pitch for budding entrepreneurs.

Thanks to Granta, we're also giving away five copies of Forty-One False Starts, a collection of essays on artists and writers by legendary New Yorker journalist Janet Malcolm. The Observer's Rachel Cooke said Forty-One False Starts was "full of good things" while Adam Kirsch in the New York Times described it as
"a powerfully distinctive and very entertaining literary experience... unmistakably the work of a master." For your chance to win, tell us which profession Malcolm is referring to here: "Every ________ who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible." Is it a) politician, b) banker, or c) journalist? Entries to competitions@theomnivore.co.uk by Friday 16th August.
FICTION

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
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"As we always know the outcome of historical fiction, Gregory shows considerable skill in generating and maintaining tension" Helen Brown, Telegraph VS "You long for something leftfield" Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times

Shire by Ali Smith
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"You will want to read this book at least three times: once in a headlong rush of fandom; then with an internet connection and a dictionary of poetic terms; and finally in a darkened room with the phone switched off and time to savour Smith’s delicious, playful use of language." Katy Guest, The Independent on Sunday 

The Guts by Roddy Doyle
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"The characters are all so warm and funny and irritable, so brimming with rude life, that this novel about ­illness and death manages never to become morbid.”" Edmund Gordon, Sunday Times VS "It has the same rough, slightly provisional feel as The Commitments and The Snapper, but without their energy or narrative drive " Theo Tait, Guardian
Wreaking by James Scudamore
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"In the first part of the book the prose is occasionally rickety … Yet when Scudamore introduces his most intriguing character, Roland, who acts as an adhesive for the novel’s complex collage of memory and imagination, it becomes clear that these are only teething troubles.” Lucian Robinson, Literary Review VS "Like a game of snakes and ladders with no dice, Wreaking leads nowhere except to a sense of frustration." Sheena Joughin, The Telegraph
Best of the rest 
Firefly by Janette Jenkins, Stoner by John Williams, Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan,  A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam, Hunters in the Snow by Daisy Hildyard, Ballistics by DW Wilson.
Pick of the paperbacks
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín, Silent House by Orhan Pamuk, Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe.
NON-FICTION
The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink by Olivia Laing
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"What gives her book its brilliance and originality is not personal memoir or literary history but the quality of its writing" John Carey, Sunday Times VS "...it doesn’t seem to occur to her that her personal experiences may have made her less, not more, able to write objectively about other people’s drinking." Keith Miller, Telegraph
Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Resanov and the Dream of a Russian America by Owen Matthews
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"...a blindingly good story extremely well told. Go, read. It will make you laugh, stretch your eyes and give thanks that you don’t live in anything remotely resembling late 18th-century Siberia." Sam Leith, Spectator VS "...although they sound dramatic, Rezanov and his adventures make for frustrating reading. Partly this is because of the man himself, a ­ludicrous, over-promoted bureaucrat who swung from vain bombast to expletive-laden insults." Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times
Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy by Ben Wilson
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"One of our finest young historians ... It is a wonderful book because it does not tell you the answer from on high but, instead, it asks the question: what do you think?" Sam Willis, Telegraph VS "...he fails to examine in any depth a thread running through the narrative. The navy may have produced great commanders and ships but they would never have stirred from port but for the common seaman." Stephen Taylor, New Statesman  
 
Best of the rest
Building: Letters 1960-1975 by Isaiah Berlin, Birds and People by Mark Cocker and David Tipling, 10 Billion by Stephen Emmott.
 
Pick of the paperbacks
Strindberg: A Life by Sue Prideaux, Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie, A Shed of One's Own by Marcus Berkmann

HATCHET JOB OF THE WEEK

When Alissa Nutting found out her old classmate Debra LaFave had been arrested for sleeping with a teenage pupil, she did what any aspiring writer would do and turned the sorry tale into a salacious, paedo-lite beach read. Tampa is - predictably - being promoted as the nubile lovechild of Lolita and Notes on a ScandalSarah Churchwell, writing in the Guardian, put it bottom of the class:

“Lacking any other saving stylistic or satirical grace, the novel ends up as fixated on sex with children as its protagonist. In the end, I don't want to be inside the mind of a sociopath; it proves the most unedifying place imaginable. If only you could always count on a paedophile for a fancy prose style, too.”

Read all reviews

OMNIVORE PIN-UPS

What’s the sexiest thing you’ve ever read?
Gray’s Anatomy. Sex is all about anatomy and Gray’s is the sexiest anatomy book out there.
Rosie, 25, Whitechapel

What have you just finished reading?
I have just finished reading a bunch of books by author du jour James Salter. My desire to read about cocktails, terse masculinity, and anal sex in French hotels has been sated.
Jasper, 31, north London
What have you just finished reading?
Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, which is one of the most beautiful and moving books I’ve read over the past few years ... That woman is just plain cool. She once stole a piece of raw steak and hid it in the pocket of her huge overcoat. I was completely overwhelmed by the powerful connection between her and Robert Mapplethorpe. Call me if you think you might be into recreating that.
Natasha, 26, Brixton
Which author do you have a crush on?
I’m easy for anyone who can put lots of underlineable sentences on every page without being superficial. Candia McWilliam was a bit of a pin-up in the late eighties/ early nineties. Her first book: A Case of Knives– my oh my! I had to start underlining my underlinings.
Jonnie, 24, Newcastle
Which book would you give someone you’re trying to impress?
I once gave a French boy a Charles Dickens novel that I hadn’t even read myself, so probably not that… Perhaps a crossword book with all the puzzles completed.
Anna-Sophia, 24, East London
AUTHOR PITCH

The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick

Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m a tech entrepreneur who has successfully bankrupted 3 perfectly good companies.

What’s your book about?
It’s about how to find out whether your business is a good idea by asking people the right questions, even though everybody is going to lie to you and say it’s “a great idea” since they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

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