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.

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.