Listening to read

This blog post is from Louise, a library assistant at Morley library.

As Leeds Libraries moved across to Borrowbox for Ebooks and Audiobooks, I downloaded the app onto my iPhone to get a feel for it, to have a good look about it so that I could better understand how it works. The app took moments to appear on my home screen and after a short search for my library card, I was in. Have you used it yet? I’ve been really impressed with the service so far, it’s clear to look at, easy to use and it’s sparked a new direction for my reading.

Perhaps like me you’ve never listened to Audiobooks before? Been told they were just for old people or children? You might be surprised at how varied the genres are, from romance, to comedy, thriller, drama, plenty of non-fiction too, biography and languages. I planned to listen to at least one to see how it worked and was very pleased to find it was even better than I had expected.

Some audiobooks I’ve listened to recently:

Breakfast at TiffanysBreakfast At Tiffany’s- Truman Capote, read by Michael C Hall

I’ve see the film, and had the paperback on my shelf for as long as I can remember but for some reason I’ve never got around to reading it. At 2hrs 49 in duration it won’t take over your life but will certainly make an impact on your heart. Michael C Hall, you may know, is the actor who plays Dexter in the TV thriller of the same name. It turns out (and something that borrowers often tell us) that the reader is pretty crucial to whether you will click with an audiobook or not. For this reason the preview option listed next to every audiobook is fantastic, giving you a small sample so that should the reader do something annoying with his intonation, rolling his rrrrrrrrrr’s or similar, you can try another. No fear of not enjoying Michael’s rendering of this classic, I found out later that this edition was especially recorded by Audible for release on Valentine’s Day in 2014.
I had thought that listening would be less of an experience than reading, more of a passive than an active pursuit. But a good writer engages so fully with your senses that the language itself finds its way to you. You might see it as an extra layering or texture in the story. I am so glad to have read this, I hope you’ll try it too.

Alias GraceAlias Grace- Margaret Atwood , read by Sarah Gadon

Not long after reeling from the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale I am on a bit of a Margaret Atwood kick, and really enjoying discovering more of her writing. Alias Grace is a a slow burning work of historical fiction, based on, true events of the 1843 murders of Canadians Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery. Grace Marks a young, well-mannered serving maid was convicted of their murders along with James McDermott the Stable hand. In the fashionable society of the time Grace Marks became a thing of fascination, infamous for her title of Murderess.
“Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word – musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor.”
Although incarcerated, Grace is hired out as a domestic servant for the governor of the penitentiary and becomes a regular feature of the Governor’s wife’s circle, an object to be lamented and discussed. A committee of Methodist ladies and gentlemen, believing her innocent are working steadily to have her released. They hire a young Psychiatrist, Doctor Simon Jordan to interview Grace, to study her story and to try to find out what happened that fateful day. You know with Atwood that you are getting a feisty heroine who is more than she seems. Can’t recommend this enough to fans of Handmaids tale.

Harry Potter PhilosophersHarry Potter and the Philosophers Stone- JK Rowling, read by Stephen Fry

So I’m in that age group that neither grew up with these books, nor was caught up in the Potter hysteria when they were released. But I do have children who have read and loved these books time and time again. I thought it was high time I gave it a go. I had to wait a little while to listen to this as its perennially popular, but it was as easy as clicking reserve and waiting for an email to arrive. I can hand on heart say I would never have picked up a copy of this book, it’s enormous, and there are too many other great things always to be read but I SO enjoyed listening to it that I intend to listen to the whole series in time. Stephen Fry is just perfect as reader and it’s such a treat to curl up in a chair and listen to him. This would be fantastic to listen together with friends or family, a great story to share.

Carnegies MaidCarnegie’s Maid- Marie Benedict, read by Alana Kerr Collins

Another Historical fiction, that plots the life of a serving maid Clara Kelley to the Pittsburgh family home of industry tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. I was drawn to this as the library I work in was one of those opened as a beneficiary of funds from Carnegie. Clara Kelley is sent to America from her poverty stricken home in Ireland as her farming families’ last hope. After a dreadful voyage in the belly of a ship, during which many of her fellow passengers are wiped out with illness or weakness from starvation, in a moment of luck she is offered a position shortly after stepping onto the dock. I found the description of this time period fascinating, in the 1860’s industry was booming, Clara having left green land finds the new world is dark and soot laden. Besides proving a detailed account of the life of a servant at that time, the customs and rituals there is a great insight into the friction between the new money of the industrialists and America’s oldest families. Andrew Carnegie is a fascinating character, an immigrant himself, determined, self-taught, and hard working, a man who drew a line and began to give and make better where he could. This is a fictionalised account of what may have softened his character later in life and extremely enjoyable.

Little WomenLittle Women- Louisa May Alcott, BBC Radio 4, full cast dramatisation

I chose this a pick me up during some very rainy afternoons travelling between branches. As a dramatisation you get a cast rather than the one reader, and a variety of sound effects and music in places. This is a wonderful, warm listen, and will have you crying on the bus. Just over two hours long it’s easy to finish in one sitting if you choose, and the story is so full of energy and feeling from start to finish. Re reading an old favourite is so comforting, I quite fancy looking up the film again.

Some things I’ve learned from listening along:
1. Don’t let anyone tell you that listening is ‘not as good as’ reading or doesn’t count.
2. The reader is everything, listen to a sample and check you can listen with ease.
3. Try something that you would find challenging or wouldn’t usually read, you’ll be surprised how listening can make the concepts clearer.
4. Listening is perfect for all those times when you’d like to be reading but can’t, in the car, on a noisy bus, washing up, walking to and from work or school, doing the housework, late at night when your eyes are too tired to read. See it as fitting in more reading time in addition to your books.
5. With BorrowBox and a Leeds library card all this is free. I researched a well known providers audio service and found that for a fee I could have one audio book, (ONE!) a month. Enjoy the variety and try something new.

TattooistSome Audiobooks I’m waiting to read next are : The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Anna Karenina.

If you’re having any difficulty using this service from your device or need your pin number please contact your local library, we’d love to help you get started on all this great content.

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Dying Matters week

dying matters logoEvery year in May, Dying Matters host an Awareness Week, which places the importance of talking about dying, death and bereavement firmly on the national agenda. In 2018, the week will run from 14th to the 20th of May and will be asking “What Can You Do… in your community?” To find out more about the week and to find events near you have a look at the Dying Matters website.

Books can be a huge help in many ways when talking about death and bereavement. They can provide practical help such as family law to help with wills and probate, to poetry books to help you choose the right poem for a funeral. We have all these and more in our libraries to help you.

Talking about death can be tricky, especially to children, and books are a good way to help with this. Below is a review from one of our librarians on a book that helped her through a very difficult time in her life.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, reviewed by Sam.

a monster callsI have never been so scared to read a book in all my life than I have this one.
Last year I watched the film adaption of this book and I cried like a baby, then something unexpected happened, my mum was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly I was in the same shoes as Conor the young boy who this story is based around. Unlike Conor I only had a week before my mum sadly passed away. In the book Conor’s mother seems to have been suffering with cancer for a while going through various trials and treatments. I suppose in a way I was lucky that I didn’t have to suffer the horrible feeling Conor does of waiting for his mother to pass and guilt that Conor does which in turn causes him to summon the monster.

I felt that the use of the monster and his stories was a fantastic way to portray how a child rebels against life and it’s unfairness. The monster visits Conor three times and tells him three stories. These are very misleading as both the reader and Conor believe that the good person will always win and that justice will be done. However the monster shows him that unfortunately that isn’t always how the world works. During the monster’s visits Conor seems to have “black outs” where damage is done and it’s like a small child who has done something bad and blames their imaginary friend, “The monster did it”. I thought that this was a good way of showing how even though he is a teenager he is still a child.

During the book the adults in Conor’s life all have different ways in which they try to deal with the situation. His teachers give him special treatment – which leads to him being bullied by a gang of boys in his class. His grandmother is very hard but underneath she is caring and believes that Conor should be told the truth about what is happening. His parents both seem to want to hide some of the harsh facts with regards to his mother’s treatment. While reading this I agreed with the views of his grandmother as a lot of Conor’s frustration with the situation is that both his parents keep telling him everything is going to be fine and don’t worry about it but he knows that that’s not true. This causes him to bury what he knows to be true and pretend that everything is fine. I felt this way myself even though I was 25 at the time of my mum being in hospital with cancer, because I was my mum’s youngest I have always been somewhat put in a bubble whenever difficult things happen. You notice certain looks between people, things get said that you weren’t aware of and even though I am an adult people would rely on my older sister but not myself which was extremely frustrating. I felt that feeling throughout reading this book – the total and utter feeling of helplessness, that nothing you can do will help.

Another of the feelings that I felt throughout this book was isolation and loneliness. Despite his teachers offering to be there for support, his dad who comes back from America and him having to live with his grandmother, Conor spends most of his time alone or with the monster. Even in school surrounded by his classmates, he still feels alone. His main friend Lily has been cut off from him because despite them being close from their mothers’ friendship because she was told what was happening to his mum and told everyone at school. This caused what the kind of situation it always causes, that awkwardness, when people don’t know what to say so they don’t talk to you at all. The only “normal” contact Conor has and I say that in the loosest form possible is when Harry the teacher’s pet and his cronies bully him. Conor puts up with this because they are speaking to him and not treating him like he isn’t there. Eventually Conor uses the monster’s help when Harry decides that the worst thing for Conor would be treat him as if he were invisible.

I felt this book was a great way for people who may know someone who is going through this situation to try and understand what they are going through and how they may be feeling. It also helps identify the stigmas that cancer brings that no one wants to talk about and shows that not talking about it can actually make it worse in the long run. For me the best way if you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation or know someone who has is to talk to them and ask them how they are feeling. Do something fun or have a cup of tea, treat them how you normally would and listen if they want to talk. That is what got me through and even a year later I’m still getting over the loss of my mum. It’s not something you ever lose but you also need to think about yourself. I think the book reflects this as Conor realises that those you love never really leave you, they are always with you in your memories. 

Zine Library Highlights

This blog is written by Claire and Sapphia, the founders of our Zine library here at Central Library in Leeds.

Our small but mighty Zine Library can be found on the first floor corridor of Leeds Central Library. We have recently acquired some new zines and wanted to share some of our favourites.

All art should have a purpose

All art should have a purpose

All art should have a purpose

A beautiful zine full of photo collage, retro images and inspirational quotes. The images transport you back in time to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s with romantic images, nostalgic depictions and clever composition of all the various layers. Printed and pasted onto gorgeous paper with beautiful flowers, it’s one to get your hands on for a perusal.

Cats in Action by Emily Gilbert

It’s in the title. This is one is for cat lovers. A collation of cats including Lulu, Walter and Sebastian painted in a glorious array of locations, showing themselves off. Including pouncing, prowling and generally showing off and getting in the way. Just like your general cat.

Error 404

Error 404

Error 404 by Scott W Mason

Illustration portraiture, photography and illustration exploring identity and mark making. With interactive elements to play with and super graphic design this is a great zine to explore.

Bees for beginners – Sophie Ellis

A Bee-ginners guide to the wonderful world of the most amazing insects. Bees of course. A great zine to discover all the different bee species, why they might sting and how they protect themselves with cute little illustrations. Also ‘thirst aid’ for bees and an itinerary of all the flowers that you should plant to keep those bumbles happy and healthy.

Perks of a new body

Perks of a New body

Perks of a New Body; A Zine about turning 30 by Frannerd

I have just turned 30, this was clearly a zine I had to read. A super cute zine full of illustrations and quirky anecdotes. ‘When you’re 30, you stop caring about stupid stuff….and start caring about the important stuff. It’s lovely to think about the changes you have in your mind set becoming a full-fledged adult. (I won’t lie to you. I’m not sure I’ve even made it yet.) But I definitely feel myself sitting on the ‘adult’ fence for most scenarios including comparing yourself to others and spending time with the people that are important to you.
You can also find a Body Positive bullet journal our librarians have created as part of the Engaging Libraries; Body Image and Mind project. Find it in the zine library and add your thoughts, drawings and share.

Existing autistic

Existing Autistic

Existing Autistic by Aven Wildsmith

A zine about living in the world as an autistic person, beautifully illustrated with bits of information and affirmations that will make you feel empowered and inspired. Great to read if you want to know more about autism or if you are autistic and want to feel fierce.

Women in stem

Women in Stem

A mini celebration of Women in Stem by Vicky Likes Drawing

This zine looks at women working in STEM( Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) It acts as a perfect pocket guide to women who have conquered male dominated industries and serves to empower the next generation of women inventors, thinkers and scientists. It includes information on Ada Lovelace who was regarded as the first computer programmer, creating the first algorithm carried out by a machine and Mae Jemison who became the first Black American women to travel to space in 1992. I keep a copy on my desk as inspiration.

105 Women Press

105 Women is a collective based in Leeds run by artists from all countries and across generations. This is their first publication and includes work from Cherry Styles. The zine includes poems about slavery, anger, home, loss and war but also depicts the strength the women gain from one another in telling their stories, creating, laughing together, and listening.

Gone; A Zine about Grief by Flo Toch

This zine is a heartfelt exploration into grief by the author. The author uses the zine as a way to talk about her grief after the loss of her dad. It also includes empathic poems and writings from others effected. The sharing and pure honesty of the writing looks to help others who are going through the same process. We find this zine is particularly useful at our Death Cafes in helping people to open up about death and their fears. It also has a list of resources on the back page.

Our collection of zines is growing but we are always looking for submissions. Get in touch zine.library@leeds.gov.uk or send them into Zine Library, Leeds Central Library, LS1 3AB. All zines need to adhere to our stock and collections policy.

Helen Dunmore posthumously wins Costa Book of the Year

Ali Inside the waveWe are so pleased that Inside the Wave by the late Helen Dunmore has been named winner of the 2017 Costa Book of the Year. The collection, Dunmore’s tenth, explores the borderline between the living and the dead – the underworld and the human living world – and the exquisitely intense being of both, and includes her final poem, ‘Hold out your arms’, written shortly before her death in June 2017, aged 64.

The announcement was made on Tuesday evening at an awards ceremony held at Quaglino’s in central London where Dunmore’s son, Patrick Charnley, accepted a cheque for £30,000, from Dominic Paul, Managing Director of Costa.

Ali Days withoutInside the Wave, published by Bloodaxe Books, is the eighth collection of poetry to take the overall prize. Poetry has a strong record in the Costa Book Awards, often winning the overall prize several times in a row. Most recently, Christopher Reid won in 2009 with A Scattering, followed by Jo Shapcott with Of Mutability a year later in 2010. The 2016 Costa Book of the Year was Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, the first novelist ever to win the Book of the Year twice.

Ali in the days of rainInside the Wave beat the bookmakers’ favourite, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by bestselling debut novelist Gail Honeyman, In the Days of Rain by author and academic Rebecca Stott, Reservoir 13 by novelist Jon McGregor and The Explorer by children’s author Katherine Rundell for to win the overall prize and a cheque for £30,000 at the awards ceremony.

 

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won twelve times by a novel, five times by a first novel, six times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book.

To see our previous blog post following Helen Dunmore’s death, with links to her books, please click here.

A Poem for Christmas

Happy Christmas from Leeds Libraries to all our blog readers. Here’s hoping you have a lovely time, and you find lots of books under the tree.

 

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The books were all stacked by the chimney with care,
In hopes Dr. Seuss soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While How the Grinch Stole Christmas crept through their heads;
And in festive bright jumpers and a Santa Claus hat,
We wakened our brains for a literary chat;
When into our discourse there rose such a matter,
Of which story was best, we proceeded to natter.
Little Women by Alcott, a heart-warming tale
Of sharing a feast that is hearty and hale.
And what of Charles Dickens, that classical writer,
Who tells us of Scrooge that miserly old blighter;
When visited by Christmas ghosts numbered three
He realizes his life is a catastrophe.
A Christmas Carol does come in numerous varieties,
With ones for the aged and the youths of societies.
We both liked Miss Christie’s seasonal fair;
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, beware!
Gems hidden in dinner and Poirot prowling round;
Of intrigue and scheming Agatha does herself proud.
The mood then turns sombre, and tears do unfurl
As we consider the fate of Andersen’s Little Match Girl;
Pitied by those who had not shown her kindness,
A lesson to all suffering poverty blindness.
Through a wardrobe we tumble to Narnia’s cold winter-scape,
From the Snow Queen’s harsh rule, we aim to escape;
With four adventurous children and a lion as guides,
Across frost covered hilltops we slip and we slide.
Then arriving home on our hearth, we lay out on a plate,
A pork pie, some turnips, for the Hogfather we wait;
To Pratchett’s Discworld we eagerly go,
Listening earnestly for the cry “HO. HO. HO.”
“Blooming Christmas here again!” is the cry we next hear
As Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas brings on some good cheer.
These famous tales suit a cold winter’s night
When each of should be all snuggled up tight;
So “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Christmas Reads

Get the fire on, put on your slippers and pour yourself something Christmassy. That’s definitely a Snowball for me but hot chocolate will do. Settle down and get in the mood for the holidays with this selection of books.

Don’t worry about the shopping – that’s what the internet is for!

Xmas AfterAfter the Snow by Susannah Constantine

Christmas morning, 1969. All eleven-year-old Esme Munroe wants for Christmas is for her mother to be on one of her ‘good’ days – and, secretly, for a velvet riding hat. So when she finds an assortment of wet towels and dirty plates in her stocking, she’s just relieved Father Christmas remembered to stop at The Lodge this year. But later that day Esme’s mother disappears in the heavy snow. Even more mysteriously, only the Earl of Culcairn seems to know where she might have gone. Torn between protecting her mother and uncovering the secrets tumbling out of Culcairn Castle’s ornate closets, Esme realises that life will never be the same again after the snow.

Xmas UncommonThe uncommon life of Alfred Warner in six days by Juliet Conlin

Shortly before Christmas, 79-year-old Alfred Warner arrives at Berlin’s busy central train station, to meet his granddaughter Brynja for the first time. When she fails to arrive, Alfred, afraid and alone, is taken in by a stranger, Julia, who quickly realises that there is something remarkable about him.

Xmas ProjectThe Christmas project by Maxine Morrey

Professional organiser Kate has never been tempted to hit a client over the head with a snow shovel, but Michael O’Farrell is the most obnoxious – and heart-stoppingly gorgeous – man she has ever met. If he weren’t her best friend’s brother, she would not have waited on his doorstep in the freezing cold for five minutes, let alone an hour. Kate knows, however, that her job isn’t just about tidying up, sometimes she needs to be part therapist too, and Michael clearly needs her help to declutter his heart as well as his home. But with the festive season just around the corner there isn’t much time to get Michael’s house ready for the O’Farrell family celebrations, but everyone knows that at Christmas anything can happen.

Xmas ColdCold Christmas by Alastair Gunn

Nobody remembers the young men entering the abandoned London flat a few weeks ago. Nobody cares if they left. Until the unbearable smell of decay. DCI Antonia Hawkins is called in to view the dead men; three, lying neat in a row. There’s no damage to the bodies, no obvious cause of death. Is this a suicide pact? Or is that just how it’s meant to look? But Hawkins soon discovers the link between the three men. They had all been fascinated by the supernatural and the occult. And they had recently met in a tiny village just outside London. A village named Cold Christmas.

Xmas sevenSeven days of us by Francesca Hornak 

It’s Christmas, and the Birch family are coming together at their second home in Norfolk. Emma and Andrew’s daughter, Olivia, is back for the first time in years, and while Emma is elated at them all being under one roof, her younger, more frivolous daughter Phoebe is braced for inevitable clashes. But aid worker Olivia is only home because she has nowhere else to go. Having recently returned from Africa, where she’s been treating a life-threatening virus, she has been told that she must stay in quarantine for a week, and so, too should her family. For the next seven days, no one can leave the house, and no one can enter. It doesn’t sound too hard. But a week with your nearest and dearest can feel like an eternity, especially when they’re all harbouring secrets.

Xmas cakesChristmas cakes & mistletoe nights by Carole Matthews

Fay and Danny are madly in love and it’s all Fay’s ever dreamed of. But she left everything – including the delightful cake shop she used to run – to be with Danny on his cosy canal boat The Dreamcatcher. And as she soon finds out, making delicious cakes on the water isn’t always smooth sailing! Then Fay gets a call from her friends, a call that sends her back to where it all began, back to where she first met Danny, back to her friends and the Cake Shop in the Garden. It will be hard being away from Danny but their relationship is strong enough to survive – isn’t it? Fay soon falls happily back in love with her passion for baking – especially now she’s on dry land again! – and starts to wonder if she ever should have left.

Xmas wellThe well of ice by Andrea Carter

Mid-December in Glendara and solicitor Benedicta ‘Ben’ O’Keeffe is working flat-out on the usual raft of sale closings before Christmas, so the last thing she needs is a complaint about noise emanating from the Oak pub. The one bright spot on the horizon is the anticipation of her first Christmas with Sergeant Tom Molloy. In Dublin to close another sale, she walks out onto the street. Two trams pass each other, and staring at her from across the tracks is Luke Kirby, the man who killed her sister. He approaches her, remorseful, conciliatory, plausible. She walks away. But as she does so, he says something that chills her to the bone. Back in Inishowen, Glendara is in chaos. The Oak has burned down. To make matters worse Carole Kearney, the Oak’s barmaid, is missing. And then on Christmas morning, a walk up Sliabh Sneacht results in a gruesome discovery: a body found face-down in the snow.

And a few for the kids:-

Xmas soulsChristmas dinner of souls by Ross Montgomery

It’s a dark and lonely Christmas Eve in the dining room of ancient Soul’s College. The kitchen boy, 11-year-old Lucas, has helped prepare a highly unusual meal, made with unrecognisable ingredients, cooked by a mysterious chef. And then the guests arrive – and carnage ensues. They are ex-students of Soul’s College, and they are all completely demented. They demand bottle after bottle of wine, flinging their cutlery and howling like banshees until – silence. The Dean of Soul’s College has arrived, and the evening’s ceremonies must begin. For this is the annual meeting of a secret club for those who despise children, warmth, happiness, and above all Christmas.

Xmas LeopardThe storm leopards by Holly Webb

 The countdown to Christmas has begun, and Isabelle and her family take a trip to a nearby zoo, where Isabelle catches a glimpse of a snow leopard. Fascinated by these rare and secretive creatures, Isabelle tries to find out what she can do to help them. Little does she know she’s about to have an amazing snow leopard adventure of her own.

Xmas fatherFather Christmas and me by Matt Haig

It isn’t always easy, growing up as a human in Elfhelm, even if your adoptive parents are the newly married Father Christmas and Mary Christmas. For one thing, Elf School can be annoying when you have to sing Christmas songs every day – even in July – and when you fail all your toy-making tests. Also it can get very, very cold.But when the jealous Easter Bunny and his rabbit army launch an attack to stop Christmas, it’s up to Amelia, her new family and the elves to keep Christmas alive. Before it’s too late . . .

Xmas saurusThe Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

This is a story about a boy named William Trundle, and a dinosaur, the Christmasaurus. It’s about how they meet one Christmas Eve and have a magical adventure. It’s about friendship and families, sleigh bells and Santa, singing elves and flying reindeer, music and magic. It’s about discovering your heart’s true desire, and learning that the impossible might just be possible.

And some to read out loud:-

Xmas huglessMerry Christmas, Hugless Douglas by David Melling

Hugless Douglas knows what Christmas is all about – it’s excitement, lots of deep snow, finding a tree, sledging and being with friends. And one more thing of course – Christmas hugs!

Xmas wantAll I want for Christmas by Rachel Bright

The countdown to Christmas has begun and there is so much for Little Penguin to be excited about: decorating the tree, cooking festive treats, sending a letter to Santa, wrapping presents, and much more. But what does Big Penguin want for Christmas? The answer will warm the hearts of every penguin, big or small!

xmas itsIt’s Christmas! by Tracey Corderoy

Otto is SO excited for Christmas! He makes Dad’s Christmas cookies look even better by adding globs of frosting and LOTS of sprinkles. When Mom uses new ornaments to decorate the Christmas tree, Otto decides that they need all of the old ornaments, too-especially the star that never stops blinking! But Otto isn’t done-he’s determined to make this holiday the most Christmassy Christmas ever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literary Challenges

Louise – Senior Librarian Manager – Local & Family History

Lou WutheringWhen I found the BBC list of 100 books you should read before you die I must admit to feeling quite smug.  Here I am a graduate with an English degree, 17 years’ experience of working in libraries and reading as a favourite pass time, surely I can score highly on this list.  However it was not to be, I was brought back down to earth with a score barely in the twenties, and while my English course had covered some of the lists authors, they were not the right books to allow me to tick them off the list.  And so began my literary challenge, my aim to complete at least two thirds of the list, why not the full thing? Because I know there are some on it I have no interest in reading and I fully believe that life is too short to read a book that doesn’t grip you.  I started with Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and found to my surprise it was not at all the story I thought it would be, thanks to overly romanticised TV adaptations and one Kate Bush song I really thought this was an epic romantic tale, instead I found a book full a characters I really couldn’t like, spoiled, abused, abusive and cruel these were lives to be endured not rooted for, but it did grip me, and so I look forward to continuing on and finding more from this list of classic and contemporary books to keep me invested.

lou AnimalSo far I’ve discovered that ‘Animal Farm’ is as relevant to today’s political landscape as the time it was written, that the minor characters of Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ are as fascinating as the main ones (I mean you Mr Wemmick), and that Roald Dahl is as enjoyable now as he was when I was young.  So far this challenge has allowed me to focus my reading, and I’ve read more in the last 6 months than in the year leading up to it adding another 12 to my running total. I’ve begun to read outside my comfort zone, enjoying books I never thought I’d been interested in.  The challenge has also reinvigorated my reading and I’m spending less time in front of the TV and internet and more time curled up with a book, it also sparked conversations with colleagues who I found out have a number of literary challenges of their own.

Antony – Deputy Manager – Local & Family History

My reading challenge – started ten-years ago, and still ongoing – is to read one book for each entry in the Dewey sequence (e.g. 172, 389, 505, etc). That’s a lot of books – and I’ve only managed around forty in that time. That’s OK, though, because the challenge was really only designed as a way to focus my reading when I had nothing specific in mind to pick-up next: confronted with the myriad of possible options presented in any public library, all equally valid and thus impossible to choose between, I needed a system that would help me work my way through that maze – and so the Dewey Sequence challenge was born. A secondary purpose: the challenge would oblige me to read books that I wouldn’t normally choose (so no ticking off as complete just because I knew I’d previously read a book for that sequence number).

What have been the most and least interesting books? Well, I don’t really want to single anything out as being dull, because I firmly believe that no amount of learning about the world is ever wasted (another motivation for the challenge) – but I do have to admit that titles such as Teach Yourself: Windows Vista (005) and  Skywriting: The Best of Air Jamaica’s In-Flight Magazine (052) were, let’s say, a bit niche (albeit that reading the latter did mean I’ll never forget the name of Jamaica’s first Premier, Norman Manley).

Lou NaturalAs for the best reads – Roger Clarke’s A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting For Proof (133) stands out in a relatively crowded field, just above books such as Phillip Blom’s Encyclopédie : the Triumph of Reason in an Unreasonable Age (034), Phillip Knightley’s The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Vietnam (070), and Melissa Katsoulis’ Telling Tales: A History of Literary Hoaxes (098). Most recently I’ve read Niall Ferguson’s The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die (300), which in some ways perfectly sums up the challenge: I’m not sure I completely agree with every argument made in the book – but I’ve at least opened myself up to the kinds of perspectives that I wouldn’t usually be confronted with; a core purpose, surely, for any public library service.

Helen – Librarian – Local & Family History

I set myself a literary challenge many years ago and I am still slowly working my way through it. In my youth I was a big fan of the band The Divine Comedy. If you’re not familiar with the name then you may remember the theme tune to Father Ted as well as the (fictional) Eurovision entry ‘My Lovely Horse’ – both written and performed by the band. In 1994 the Divine Comedy released their third album Promenade and track 3 features an unusual song entitled The Booklovers. The song itself is little more than a list of authors followed by a greeting or reference to a piece of their work. For example, we hear singer and songwriter, Neil Hannon, recite ‘Graham Greene’ followed by the words ‘Call me ‘pinky’, lovely’ (a reference to Greene’s Brighton Rock)’.  The song clocks in at nearly 6 minutes long and over 70 authors are mentioned in total.

Lou MobyLong ago I decided that I would read something by each of these authors. Luckily the list is of fairly well known writers so getting hold of works by each has not been a problem so far, especially working in a library… I’ve managed to read 33 of  the authors so far, possibly more, but if I cannot recall the storyline of a particular work then I’ve discounted it and will have to read it again sometime for it to properly ‘count’. Through this song I’ve discovered many of the classics of literature including Melville’s Moby Dick, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and one of my all-time favourites Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

Ross – Librarian Manager – Local & Family History

I’ve set myself a reading challenge based on the traditional Japanese parlour game of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, usually translated as ‘A Gathering of One Hundred Supernatural Tales’. The game became popular in the 17th Century and often an entire village would play. After sunset, villagers would gather in a darkened house and light a hundred candles. Each would then relate a strange or supernatural tale, finishing by blowing out one of the flames. The game would continue long into the night, and it would be up to those present whether or not they dared extinguish the last remaining candle. (As well as being a frightening prospect in itself, doing so was also believed to summon a demon!) In my version of the game, I plan to read a hundred ghost stories, blogging about each as I go. I’ll try anything from Victorian classics to modern creepypasta, but I definitely intend to include some works by the Japanese author Ryunosuke Akutagawa, who’s written some brilliantly spooky-sounding short stories but is better-known for Rashomon. I probably won’t get going until December (that being perfect ghost story season) but, if you want to follow my progress, you can do so at: 100flickeringflames.blogspot.co.uk

Sally – Deputy Manager – Local & Family History

Lou HarryTo coincide with our latest exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic I set my self the challenge to read the Harry Potter book series. To everyone’s dismay I have never given the books a proper chance, and even more embarrassingly I was the perfect age to read them when they came out, being ten years old when The Philosopher’s Stone was released – somehow they managed to pass me by and I never got past the second book…

Whilst still not quite finished, I’m ploughing through with a new found, and growing appreciation for the series.  I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition in London whilst working on our own here in Leeds Libraries along with watching live panel discussions on the books and their effect on the world – working with and understanding our special collections which are on display in our exhibition has enabled me to put clear links between legendary literature and the hard work and real magic Jk Rowling put into the series. I’m excited to finish and become a fully-fledged fan!

So those are our literary challenges, I think a common theme appears to be that these challenges will take time, in some case decades to complete and while reading off list is fine in some ways it’s nice to have something to come back to.  Do you have a literary challenge of your own?  If so please let us know in the comments box below.