BEN McNALLY BOOKS

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An occasional preview of some forthcoming books of interest.

A Bowl of Olives: On Food and Memory by Sara Midda

Workman Publishing
A Bowl of Olives: On Food and Memory by Sara Midda

From the author of the international bestseller In and Out of the Garden and the wondrous sketchbook Sara Midda’s South of France, comes a long-awaited treasure of a book. Drawn from the artist’s wealth of impressions and memories, it is a book for lovers of food and art and fine gift books—a book for anyone who, upon arriving in a new town, seeks first the local market, or who believes the best thing to do on a given night is to share a table with friends.

Sara Midda is a watercolorist whose delicate and beautiful paintings shine like jewels, evoking the sweet purple taste of a summer raspberry or the silvery greens and gnarled burnt umber of an olive grove. And she is also a collagist, weaving together photographs, line drawings, her personal swatches—all the hues of a spice cabinet, or the sensations of a picnic, the colors of the breeze, sunshine, laughter, the cooling grass. And a poet, in love with words that sing, like podding and wicker, nettle and snug.

By turns reverent and playful, A Bowl of Olives is a work of pure enchantment, celebrating food—of the seasons, of family, of travel and memory. It is as richly layered as a favorite meal.

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Autumn All the Cats Return by Phillippe Georget

Europa Editions
Autumn All the Cats Return by Phillippe Georget

Inspector Sebag is a policeman in the South of France with an unparalleled sixth sense, who excels at slipping into the skin of killers and hunting them down. However, when a retired French Algerian cop is discovered in his apartment with the symbol OAS left near his body and few indications who killed him or why, Sebag’s skills are put to the test. Days later, when a controversial monument is destroyed and another French Algerian is shot down, Sebag begins to put the pieces together. Bringing to light the horrors, hopes, and treasons committed during the war in Algeria fifteen years ago, in this sequel to Phillippe Georget’s Summertime, All the Cats Are Bored, Lieutenant Gilles Sebag discovers more than just a killer, but an entire secret history that not everyone wants revealed.

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1381: The Year of the Peasants' Revolt

Belknap Press
1381: The Year of the Peasants

Written with the fluency readers have come to expect from Juliet Barker, 1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt provides an account of the first great popular uprising in England and its background, and paints on a broad canvas a picture of English life in medieval times. Skeptical of contemporary chroniclers’ accounts of events, Barker draws on the judicial sources of the indictments and court proceedings that followed the rebellion. This emphasis offers a fresh perspective on the so-called Peasants’ Revolt and gives depth and texture to the historical narrative. Among the book’s arguments are that the rebels believed they were the loyal subjects of the king acting in his interests, and that the boy-king Richard II sympathized with their grievances.

Barker tells how and why a diverse and unlikely group of ordinary men and women from every corner of England—from servants and labourers living off wages, through the village elite who served as bailiffs, constables, and stewards, to the ranks of the gentry—united in armed rebellion against church and state to demand a radical political agenda. Had it been implemented, this agenda would have transformed English society and anticipated the French Revolution by four hundred years. 1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt is an important reassessment of the uprising and a fascinating, original study of medieval life in England’s towns and countryside.

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Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence by Karen Armstrong

Knopf Canada
Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence by Karen Armstrong

For the first time in American history, religious self-identification is on the decline. Some have cited a perception that began to grow after September 11: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance and divisiveness--something bad for society. But how accurate is that view? And does it apply equally to all faiths? In these troubled times, we risk basing decisions of real and dangerous consequence on mistaken understandings of the faiths subscribed around us, in our immediate community as well as globally. And so, with her deep learning and sympathetic understanding, Karen Armstrong examines the impulse toward violence in each of the world's great religions.

The comparative approach is new: while there have been plenty of books on jihad or the Crusades, this book lays the Christian and the Islamic way of war side by side, along with those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism. Each of these faiths arose in agrarian societies with plenty of motivation for violence: landowners had to lord it over peasants and warfare was essential to increase one's landholdings, the only real source of wealth before the great age of trade and commerce. In each context, it fell to the priestly class to legitimize the actions of the state. And so the martial ethos became bound up with the sacred. At the same time, however, their ideologies developed that ran counter to the warrior code: around sages, prophets and mystics. Within each tradition there grew up communities that represented a protest against the injustice and violence endemic to agrarian society. This book explores the symbiosis of these 2 impulses and its development as these confessional faiths came of age.

The aggression of secularism has often damaged religion and pushed it into a violent mode. But modernity has also been spectacularly violent, and so Armstrong goes on to show how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerence--and what hope there might be for peace among believers in our time.

Enquire about Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence by Karen Armstrong.