Navigating the modern business of book publishing

My Book of the Month – May 2009

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet – Reif Larson

Published by Random House - RRP A$34.95

Published by Random House - RRP A$34.95

So, the first thing you are going to ask when you read the title is “Who on Earth is TS Spivet? Should I have heard of him?”

Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet is a reclusive mapmaker from Montana with an incredible cartographic ability to draw everything from geography to human behaviour and even complex sociological concepts. His talent for scientific documentation and enquiry has led to publications in the Smithsonian and other academic journals. Most recently he was nominated for the Smithsonian’s Baird Award for his efforts to advance science. All of this, yet no one knew that T.S. Spivet is only 12 years old.

He is also completely fictional – this is a novel after all! It even says so on the cover.

But what an incredible novel! Reminiscent of Life of Pi, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Jonathan Safran Foer’s brilliant Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, this remarkable novel is one of the most intelligent, compassionate and entertaining stories I have ever read. It is an utterly original examination of the ability of science to understand the world around us, as told through the wonder-struck eyes of an adolescent child. TS is compelled to chart and map everything around him, attempting to order and categorise the chaos of complex human relationships in his family and his own grief at the tragic death of his younger brother. But as he runs away from his Montana home and treks across America to accept his fellowship at the Smithsonian, he begins to realise the limits of pure scientific enquiry when it comes to charting emotional landscapes. And the reality that awaits him in Washington DC is another lesson that truth and science are not always the same thing.

An amazing achievement by a debut author, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet is set to become a cult classic almost overnight. And, while it may not suit everyone’s taste as much as it did mine, do make sure you check it out. TS’s remarkable schematics and illustrations pepper almost every page providing the most wonderfully eclectic and interesting diversions from the narrative. And TS himself is a marvellous character, full of wonder and humour about the world he is travelling through. This is a children’s adventure book for adults and I challenge everyone to read it and not want to talk about it afterwards to, anyone who’ll listen.

The publishers have also put up a very fancy website which is a lot of fun to explore while we wait for the book to be released:

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Categorised in: All Posts, Book Reviews, Favourite Authors, Favourite Books, Fiction

1 Response »

  1. WordPress marked your blog under my review of this book, as a “related post.” I love your review of the book, and I’m so excited to know that other people are reading and loving T.S. Spivet. It’s definitely a book I can’t stop talking about.

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About Richard

Richard Bilkey has been selling, marketing and distributing books for over ten years, managing independent bookshops, a major online retailer and, most recently, one of Australia's largest Independent Book Distributors, Brumby Books.

Contact Richard directly at
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