A break from tradition

This blog is from Richard, deputy head of the library service.

My colleagues have recently started talking about some publishers (and book franchises) breaking away from their traditional offerings and supplementing these with a more grown-up content. Here I’m talking particularly about family favourites such as Enid Blyton and Ladybird; those of us who are in the 40+ category might see these new books on the shelf and look back with nostalgia at the adventures and fairy tales we grew up with – and we dutifully pick them up in response to a little tug on our heart-strings.

richard-brexit-islandFor example Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ have now become entangled with politics with Five on Brexit Island, they also experience an adventure in Five on A Strategy Away Day, and discover the benefits and challenges of going gluten free. There are also the Ladybird offerings, for example The Ladybird Book of Red Tape, and their popular How it Works series, which now includes: ‘The wife’, ‘The husband’, ‘The Dog’, etc. etc.

richard-strategy-away-daySo, are they any good…? Well, each to their own and, if I am honest, they are not going to be at the top of my next holiday reading list (perhaps too short!), however, for a little bit of fun and as break from the norm they are great. And, with the growing number of titles, it’ll soon be easier to choose one for a friend than selecting a birthday card for them! It would be a very grumpy 40+ who wouldn’t smile if given (the right) one of these.

richard-the-husbandMy own personal favourite franchise making a break from tradition has to be the Haynes workshop manuals. Here I do look back with nostalgia to the hot summers of my younger days – clambering over rusting heaps in a richly odorous scrap yard (diesel, petrol, oil, anti-freeze – scent really does have a strong memory) looking for that elusive replacement part for our aging Volkswagon, with my dad absolutely clear in his mind that, “We will find it!”, whereas to me the black and white photos never quite seemed to look like the actual ‘bit’ we needed.

richard-haynes-thomasBut, 30-odd years on, whilst you might not be able to find the parts anywhere (let alone your local scrap yard), the Haynes workshop manuals for The Starship Enterprise and Thomas the Tank Engine are simply fantastic; they are a treat for grown-ups looking back and a great way to get young enquiring minds thinking about the technical / scientific side of what they already enjoy. The mainstay remains automotive with around half of their 1500 titles falling in this area, but a whole world of reference from politics to space travel is available – borrow one from your local library, learn something new and have some fun.

Love is in the air – Epic Romance novels

Its not for everybody but February seems to me to be the best possible time to get stuck into one of these epic romances. These are love stories that stood the test of time, or adversity and lets be honest are probably much better for your soul than those red roses from the corner shop!

ali-outlanderOutlander by Diana Gabaldon

Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century – and a lover in another. In 1945, Claire Randall is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands, and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds. A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming.

ali-bronze-horsemanThe Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

During the summer of 1941 the Metanov family are living a hard life in Leningrad. As the German armies advance their future looks bleak. For Tatiana, love arrives in the guise of Alexander, who harbours a deadly and extraordinary secret.

ali-time-traverllers-wifeThe Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This is the story of Clare, a beautiful, strong-minded art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: his genetic clock randomly resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous and unpredictable, and lend a spectacular urgency to Clare and Henry’s unconventional love story. That their attempt to live normal lives together is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control makes their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

ali-gone-with-teh-windGone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Set against the historical backdrop of the American Civil War, this historical epic is a tale of a nation mortally divided. It is the love story of beautiful, ruthless Scarlet O’Hara and the dashing soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler.

ali-wuthering-heightsWuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

At the centre of this novel is the passionate love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff – recounted with such emotional intensity that a plain tale of the Yorkshire moors acquires the depth and simplicity of ancient tragedy.

ali-a-walk-to-rememberA Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

Landon Carter would never have dreamed of asking Jamie Sullivan out, but a twist of fate throws them together. In the months that follow, Landon breaks down Jamie’s natural reserve and begins to get to know her, and to fall in love. Then he discovers that Jamie has a reason for not letting people close.

ali-the-thorn-birdsThe Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Powered by the dreams and struggles of three generations, this is the epic saga of a family rooted in the Australian sheep country. At the story’s heart is the love of Meggie Cleary, who can never possess the man she desperately adores, and Ralph de Bricassart, who rises from parish priest to the inner circles of the Vatican…but whose passion for Meggie will follow him all the days of his life.

 

ali-love-storyLove Story by Erich Segal

Oliver Barrett IV is a rich jock from a stuffy Wasp family on his way to a Harvard degree and a career in law. Jenny Cavilleri is a wisecracking working-class beauty studying music at Radcliffe. They are opposites in nearly every way – but they fell in love. This is their story.

ali-war-and-peaceWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s beguiling masterpiece entwines love, death and determinism with Russia’s war with Napoleon and its effects on those swept up by the terror it brings. The lives of Pierre, Prince Andrei and Natasha are changed forever as conflict rages throughout the early 19th century.

ali-bridges-of-madison-countyThe Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

The story of Robert Kincaid, the photographer and free spirit searching for the covered bridges of Madison County, and Francesca Johnson, the farm wife waiting for the fulfillment of a girlhood dream, this story gives voice to the longings of men and women everywhere-and shows us what it is to love and be loved so intensely that life is never the same again.

ali-atonementAtonement by Ian McEwan

On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.

ali-love-in-the-time-of-choleraLove in the time of cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Florentino Ariza has never forgotten his first love. He has waited nearly a lifetime in silence since his beloved Fermina married another man. Following the death of her husband, Florentino has another chance to declare his eternal passion and win her back. Will love that has survived half a century remain unrequited?

 

 

 

 

 

#whatsyourstory – Meet Kim

kim-woodFull-time mum Kim Wood moved to Leeds seven years ago. With her husband working long hours and a new baby to look after, Kim felt isolated in a new area where she hardly knew anyone. She loved using her local library in Newcastle when she was growing up, so when she moved to Leeds she quickly sought out her local library. It’s proved a real lifeline for her and her three daughters; Sophie, Chloe and Phoebe. The girls are total bookworms and they love nothing more than coming to the library to read and explore new books – and taking home armfuls to read! Kim loves the variety of events happening at her local library and the chance to meet other parents and have some grown-up conversations! From storytimes to tea parties to food festivals, there’s always something fun going on that she can bring the family to. Using her local library has really helped Kim feel part of the community.

You don’t just have to take our word for it, here’s Kim telling you her story in her own words: https://youtu.be/C6uja0arxvw

Now you’ve met another of our Leeds Libraries ambassadors, could you be the next? If one of the many services available at Leeds Libraries has helped you, we want to know. Tweet us or write on our Facebook page using the hashtag #whatsyourstory, or email us at whatsyourstory@leeds.gov.uk, and let us know how we’ve helped you.

The Jhalak Prize For Book Of The Year By A Writer Of Colour

This new literary prize has recently announced its shortlisted books. The prize will be awarded annually and will seek out the best books by British/British resident BAME writers. The winner will receive £1,000 prize money.

The prize is unique in that it has accepted entries published in the UK in 2016 across a wide range of genres by a writer of colour. This will include fiction, non-fiction, short story, graphic novel, poetry, children’s books, YA and teen.   The prize was also open to self-published writers. It was started by authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla and Media Diversified, with support from The Authors’ Club and the prize donated by an anonymous benefactor.

The shortlisted books announced yesterday cross a variety of genres and  Judge Musa Okwonga added that they were, “six books that could not be more different in voice, and which could not be more alike in their excellence”.

The winner will be announced at a special event at The Authors’ Club on 17th March 2017.

jhalak-girl-of-ink-and-starsThe Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

When Isabella’s friend disappears, she volunteers to guide the search party. As a mapmaker’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart. But beneath the mountains a legendary fire demon awakens, and her journey is fraught with danger.

 

jhalak-a-rising-manA Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. But with barely a moment to acclimatise to his new life or to deal with the ghosts which still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj. A senior official has been murdered, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India: or else.

jhalak-speak-gigantularSpeak Gigantular by Irenosen Okojie

A startling debut short story collection from one of Britain’s rising literary stars. These stories are captivating, erotic, enigmatic and disturbing. Sexy, serious and at times downright disturbing, this brilliant collection sizzles with originality.

jhalak-black-and-british

 

Black And British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

David Olusoga’s ‘Black and British’ is a rich and revealing exploration of the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa. Drawing on new genetic and genealogical research, original records, expert testimony and contemporary interviews, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination and Shakespeare’s Othello. Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how black and white Britons have been intimately entwined for centuries.

jhalak-the-bone-readersThe Bone Readers by Jacob Ross

When Michael (Digger) Digson is recruited into DS Chilman’s new plain clothes squad in the small Caribbean island of Camaho he brings his own mission to discover who amongst a renegade police squad killed his mother in a political demonstration.

 

 

jhalak-another-dayAnother Day In The Death Of America by Gary Younge

On Saturday 23 November 2013 ten children were shot dead. The youngest was nine; the oldest was nineteen. They fell in suburbs, hamlets and ghettos. None made the national news. It was just another day in the death of America, where on average seven children and teens are killed by guns daily. Younge picked this day at random, searched for their families and tells their stories. What emerges is a sobering, searing, portrait of youth and guns in contemporary America.

Not that we are biased in Leeds Libraries but of course we would love either The Bone Readers, published by Peepal Tree Press, based in Leeds, or The Girl of Ink and Stars written by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, which we have also chosen for our shortlist for the Leeds Book Awards.

 

 

Costa Book Of the Year – Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

Irish playwright and author Sebastian Barry is celebrating this week, having been presented with the Costa Book of the Year award for his latest novel Days Without End. Since being established in 1971, the Costa Awards have been one of the country’s most well-respected and prestigious literary prizes. Barry is the first person to be given the award twice, having previously won it in 2008 for his novel The Secret Scripture. Barry says that his son coming out as gay was a crucial factor in him writing the story, which is set in the 1850s and has a gay love story at its centre. In their citation, the judges called it “A miracle of a book – both epic and intimate – that manages to create spaces for safety in the noise and the chaos of history.” Days Without End – along with many of Barry’s other works – can be found on our extensive catalogue.

days-without-endThomas McNulty, aged barely seventeen and having fled the Great Famine in Ireland, signs up for the U.S. Army in the 1850s. With his brother in arms, John Cole, Thomas goes on to fight in the Indian Wars–against the Sioux and the Yurok–and, ultimately, the Civil War. Orphans of terrible hardships themselves, the men find these days to be vivid and alive, despite the horrors they see and are complicit in.
Moving from the plains of Wyoming to Tennessee, Sebastian Barry’s latest work is a masterpiece of atmosphere and language. An intensely poignant story of two men and the makeshift family they create with a young Sioux girl, Winona, Days Without End is a fresh and haunting portrait of the most fateful years in American history and is a novel never to be forgotten.

seb-barry-a-long-long-waySet at the onset of World War One, ‘A Long Long Way’ evokes the camaraderie and humour of Willie Dunne and his regiment, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, but also the divided loyalties that many Irish soldiers felt. It also explores and dramatizes the events of the Easter Rising within Ireland.

seb-temporary-gentlemanJack McNulty is a temporary gentleman, an Irishman whose commission in the British army in the Second World War was never permanent. In 1957, sitting in his lodgings in Accra, he urgently sets out to write his story. He feels he cannot take one step further, or even hardly a breath, without looking back at all that has befallen him. He is an ordinary man, both petty and heroic, but he has seen extraordinary things. He has worked and wandered around the world – as a soldier, an engineer, a UN observer – trying to follow his childhood ambition to better himself.

The other shortlisted books – This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain are also available to borrow from Leeds Libraries.

Top 10 Science Fiction

Science Fiction is a genre that people either say they love or hate. It is a shame that many write it off as ‘not for them’ while often enjoying the films at the cinema that have been adapted from a book.

So if you fancy giving giving a new genre a chance these are the top 10 science fiction novels that were borrowed from us last month.

scifi-woolWool by Hugh Howey

In a ruined and hostile landscape, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies. The people who don’t follow the rules are the dangerous ones; they dare to hope and dream, and infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside. Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last.

scifi-the-long-cosmosThe Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

2070-71. Nearly six decades after Step Day and in the Long Earth, the new Next post-human society continues to evolve. For Joshua Valiente, now in his late sixties, it is time to take one last solo journey into the High Meggers: an adventure that turns into a disaster. Alone and facing death, his only hope of salvation lies with a group of trolls. But as Joshua confronts his mortality, the Long Earth receives a signal from the stars. A signal that is picked up by radio astronomers but also in more abstract ways – by the trolls and by the Great Traversers. Its message is simple but ts implications are enormous: JOIN US. The super-smart Next realise that the Message contains instructions on how to develop an immense artificial intelligence but to build it they have to seek help from throughout the industrious worlds of mankind.

scifi-the-thing-itselfThe Thing Itself by Adam Roberts

Two men while away the days in an Antarctic research station. Tensions between them build as they argue over a love letter one of them has received. One is practical and open. The other surly, superior and obsessed with reading one book – by the philosopher Kant. As a storm brews and they lose contact with the outside world they debate Kant, reality and the emptiness of the universe. The come to hate each other – and they learn that they are not alone.

scifi-the-long-utopiaThe Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

2045-2059. After the cataclysmic upheavals of Step Day and the Yellowstone eruption humanity is spreading further into the Long Earth, and society, on a battered Datum Earth and beyond, continues to evolve. Now an elderly and cantankerous AI, Lobsang lives in disguise with Agnes in an exotic, far-distant world. He’s convinced they’re leading a normal life in New Springfield – they even adopt a child – but it seems they have been guided there for a reason. As rumours of strange sightings and hauntings proliferate, it becomes clear that something is very awry with this particular world. Millions of steps away, Joshua is on a personal journey of discovery: learning about the father he never knew and a secret family history. But then he receives a summons from New Springfield. Lobsang understands the enormity of what’s taking place beneath the surface of his earth – a threat to all the worlds of the Long Earth.

scifi-auroraAurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Our voyage from Earth began generations ago. Now, we approach our destination. A new home. Aurora.

scifi-fellowship-of-the-ringThe Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

The ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ is the first part of Tolkien’s epic adventure ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care.

scifi-the-martianThe Martian by Andy Weir

I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Earth. I’m in a habitat designed to last 31 days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death. I’m screwed.

scifi-xeelee-enduranceXeelee Endurance by Stephen Baxter

Return to the eon-spanning and universe-crossing conflict between humanity and the unknowable alien Xeelee in this selection of uncollected and unpublished stories. From tales charting the earliest days of man’s adventure to the stars to stories of Old Earth, four billion years in the future, the range and startling imagination of Baxter is always on display. As humanity rises and falls, ebbs and flows, one thing is always needed – the ability to endure.

scifi-the-oceanThe Ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman

It began for our narrator 40 years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive.

scifi-the-explorerThe Explorer by James Smythe

When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers. But in space, nothing goes according to plan. The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod.

 

 

 

Librarian’s Choice- my first five books of the year

A blog from Stu, a Community Librarian based in the east of the city.

In an attempt to stave off the inevitable post-Christmas comedown, I’ve been distracting myself by reading as many books as I possibly can. Here’s a rundown of the first five books I’ve read this year:

stu-temporary-gentlemenThe Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry

An elegiac tale in which a retired UN weapons inspector looks back at the course of his life, and particularly the tempestuous marriage which ended with the early death of his alcoholic, mentally unstable wife. Barry is a tremendously gifted writer and the prose here is pretty much flawless, but somehow this never got going for me. I was reading page after page without really getting involved, almost as if I were waiting for the story to start properly, and I was still waiting for it to start when I turned the last page. It’s beautifully written but lacked a bit of depth for me, as if it was a 300 page synopsis of a much longer, weightier novel, but it’s still worth a look for the quality of the writing alone.

stu-daylight-gateThe Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

Marvellously lurid horror from Accrington’s finest, this is a fictionalised treatment of the tale of the Pendle witches. If you know the story, most of the facts are loosely in place, although she freely admits in the preface that her Alice Nutter bears no resemblance to her real-life counterpart. It’s pretty schlocky in places – as the fact that it’s published under the Hammer imprint would suggest – but it’s still not for the faint-hearted. There’s incest, grave-robbing, torture, necromancy and black magic aplenty, not to mention a deliciously sensual lesbian love story as well. She even manages to work in an invented plot of her own – involving Shakespeare himself as well as Doctor John Dee, all of which adds real flavour to the tale. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Hammer Horror movie there’s much to like here, and for those who already know the story and want to have a bit of fun with it there’s plenty to enjoy as well.

stu-assasination-of-thatcherThe Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

These days she’s famous for her outstanding historical novels based on the life of Thomas Cromwell, but this brilliant collection of short stories shows she’s possesses a much broader palette than that would suggest. These are fabulously dark little tales, always slightly grotesque in a Salinger or Roald Dahl-esque sort of way. They’re mostly tales of middle-class life gone awry – bored couples, failed marriages, the hideous grind of everyday life – described in tremendous prose and with a fine feel for dialogue. The title story seems to take most of the critical plaudits but my favourite is The Long QT – the shortest one in the whole set – in which a wife catches her husband in an extremely compromising position, before meeting a sticky – albeit hilarious – end. Highly recommended.

stu-where-have-you-beenWhere Have You Been? by Joseph O’Connor

More short stories, this time from one of Ireland’s greatest contemporary writers. Whereas Mantel’s stories are always slightly exaggerated, placing them just outside the realms of the completely believable, this collection is firmly rooted in real life, and it’s absolutely wonderful in places. Orchard Street, Dawn is a coruscating account of the lives of Irish immigrants in 19th century New York (a constant theme in his longer prose works), but most of these have a reasonably contemporary feel. His descriptive prose is a real treat for connoisseurs, and his talent for capturing the nuances, rhythms and colloquialisms of everyday speech is every bit as good as that of Roddy Doyle. By turns heart-breaking and laugh out loud funny, this collection has the temerity to be even better than Hilary Mantel’s.

The Sick Bag Song by Nick Cave

A disjointed, rambling travelogue in which the formidable Bad Seeds frontman spiels stream-of-consciousness thoughts onto aeroplane sick bags whilst in the throes of a US tour and collects them here in one handy volume. It also contains lyrics for songs he wrote at the time and discarded. It’s a bit too fragmentary to make any real sense – and maybe that’s the point – but overall it came across as if he were trying to write some sort of Ginsberg-esque jazz poem, and it didn’t work for me at all in that respect. That said, Cave is Cave and in amongst the weirdness there are some lines of genuine brilliance – “If the past don’t get you, the future will.” Right on.