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.

Librarian’s Choice – Sisters

This blog is from Kat, an Assistant Community Librarian.

Being a sister is weird; there is no one I love or hate more in the world than my little sister. I recently realised that some of my favourite stories are centred on this special and frustrating relationship – books, films and reality TV. My mum is also a sister and understands the special bond of sisterhood – I was once watching Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and she said “Oh, I love this film, it’s about sisters being horrible to each other…” My all-time fave sisters are obviously the Kardashians but here are a few others that I quite like too;

kat-little-womenLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read this (and watched the Winona Ryder film version)– and I keep meaning to reread as an adult but never get around to it. This is a story of four sisters and how the family copes whilst their father is away fighting in the American Civil War. Each sister has a different personality, but are all united by their love for each other and their grief (just like the Kardashians? Okay… I know no one else likes a Kardashian reference). Does anything sum up an annoying little sister more than when Amy throws Jo’s manuscript in the fire? And then needs to be rescued from the ice and becomes the victim? That is definitely something my sister would do!

kat-the-lost-and-the-foundThe Lost & The Found by Cat Clarke

Nominated for a Leeds Book Award last year this book is about a little girl who is kidnapped, and returns to the family years later, seen through the eyes of her younger sister; how she felt during the years without a sister and how she tries to get to know her on her return. This is such a heart-breaking book, it actually made me cry real tears (which very rarely happens!).

kat-pride-and-prejudicePride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Another book about four sisters, and again a really annoying younger sister (although actually Lydia was probably the most fun, I’d much rather have a sister like her than boring Jane). Although there is a focus on marriage, class and wealth at its heart this is a novel about family and the lengths siblings will go to to support/defend each other.

kat-double-actDouble Act by Jacqueline Wilson

This was the first Jacqueline Wilson I ever read – I can remember finding it in my school library (which was pretty much a single shelf in the corner) and devouring it. It made me wish I had a twin with a matching name (probably around the same time I was watching Sister, Sister on Nickelodeon and thought it was possible I had a long lost twin somewhere). It was also around the time I just got my sister, and although she wasn’t my twin at least there was someone with just as weird a name as me.

kat-the-other-boleyn-girlThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Where Little Women touches of the idea of one sister stealing another sisters love interest this goes all the way – and the worst part is this is based on real life sisters! Mary is Henry VIII’s lover for a while and then whilst she is pregnant he moves on to her sister Anne. Which in the end works out better for Mary, she might never become Queen of England but at least she isn’t beheaded. This is a little unbelievable from a modern perspective, but I guess this is just the way sisters were with each other back then – and at least they loved each other in their own bizarre way.

Where there are books there is hope

dying matters logoWe are happy to support the Dying Matters campaign as we realise that death is an important subject even if it is not easy to talk about. Their mission is to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life. This book list is designed to help stimulate discussion and is only a sample of what is available in Leeds Libraries. The aim is to help people not only celebrate living but be empowered and informed as they face the end of life .

These books offer an opportunity to engage in this taboo subject, to learn and find solace in other people’s experiences as well as helping to find the answers to questions you never dared ask lastly ,to share ones last wishes with friends and family.

A Death Café will be running bi-monthly at The Reginald Centre Community Hub, Chapeltown in partnership with Xina Broderick, a local funeral Director, starting on Saturday 21st of January. Further details can be found here.

angie-death-mattersDeath Matters By Sally Petch

An unusual new book that encourages us to change how we think about dying. Throughout the book, author Sally Petch asks us to start talking about and planning our own death – so that we can reach a place of acceptance and lessen our fear of an event which is ultimately inevitable. “Death Matters is an easy to read book. Sally Petch has performed us a great service in helping us come to terms with the idea of death.” Satish Kumar, Editor-in-chief, Resurgence Magazine

angie-the-welcome-visitorThe Welcome Visitor by John Humphrys

Death is a subject modern society shies away from. But if we regard death as a failure in our desire to prolong life, can we ever arrive at a humane approach to those whose lives have lost meaning? Here, John Humphrys and his co-author Dr Sarah Jarvis take a wider look at how our attitudes to death have changed as doctors have learned how to prolong life beyond anything that could have been imagined only a few generations ago, and confront one of the great challenges facing the western world today. There are no easy answers but the first step must surely be to accept that death can be as welcome as it is inevitable.

angie-being-mortalBeing mortal: illness, medicine and what matters in the end by Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande examines his experiences as a surgeon, as he confronts the realities of ageing and dying in his patients and in his family, as well as the limits of what he can do. He emerges with a story that explores a range of questions.

angie-deaths-summer-coatDeath’s summer coat: what the history of death and dying can tell us about life and living by Brandy Shillace

Consideration of death and dying is back in the public forum. People are sipping tea at Death Cafes. Poses the question how can we approach death in a culture dead set against talking about mortality? Written with humour and humanity

angie-mums-listMum’s List by St John Greene

On her deathbed, Kate Greene’s only concern was for her two little boys, Reef and Finn, and her loving husband, Singe. She knew she’d be leaving them behind very soon. The couple talked and cried together as she wrote her thoughts and wishes down, trying to help the man she loved create the best life for their boys after she was gone

How to have a good death: Foreword By Esther Ranzen who shares her personal experience of losing her late husband Desmond Wilcox

Find out how to deal with death, from understanding the process of dying to communicating with hospital staff and working through difficult stages of bereavement. A book that helps you prepare and plan for a good death, with informed choices and practical advice.

angie-wills-and-probateWills and Probate by David Bunn

This two-in-one guide to making a will and obtaining probate for the estate of someone who has died could help readers save thousands of pounds on legal fees. The guide covers the whole of the U.K.

angie-good-funeral-guideThe Good Funeral Guide by Charles Cowling

A good death contributes to a good life, so we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to deal with a reality most of us don’t want to face. Find out how to deal with death, from understanding the process of dying to communicating with hospital staff and working through the difficult stages of bereavement

angie-poems-for-funeralsPoems and readings for funerals and memorials Edited by Julia Watson

This book gathers together many of the treasured and poignant poems, readings, quotations and religious extracts that both celebrate life and express grief and sorrow about death,

angie-smoke-gets-inSmoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

Doughty – a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre – took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humour and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased. This book tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes

angie-standing-on-myStanding on my brother’s shoulders: Making peace with grief and suicide by Tara J. Lal

Following the death of their mother during childhood Tara and her older brother Adam developed a deep, caring bond, but Adam struggled silently with growing anxiety and depression. Four years after their mother’s death, he committed suicide, throwing himself from his study window at Oxford University. Grief and insecurity threatened to engulf Tara, but eventually she found, within her brother’s Grief and insecurity threatened to engulf Tara, but eventually she found, within her brother’s diaries, her reason to live.

angie-what-does-dead-meanWhat does dead mean? a book for young children to help explain death and dying by Caroline Jay

This is an illustrated book that guides children gently through the ‘big’ questions they often ask about death and dying. Suitable for children aged 4+. This is an ideal book for parents and carers to read with their children, as well as teachers, therapists and counsellors working with young children.

Always and Forever by Debi Gliori

When Fox dies the rest of his family are absolutely distraught. How will Mole, Otter and Hare go on without their beloved friend? But, months later, Squirrel reminds them all of how funny Fox used to be, and they realise that Fox is still there in their hearts and memories.

angie-are-you-sadAre You Sad, Little Bear? by Rachel Rivett and Tina MacNaughton

A book about learning to say goodbye. This charmingly illustrated picture book will help young children in times of bereavement, loss or change, gently exploring the reasons for saying goodbye and giving reassurance that goodbye doesn’t mean the end of things.

angie-grandads-islandGrandad’s Island by Benji Davies

After the phenomenal success of The Storm Whale and On Sudden Hill, this new book by Benji Davies deals with the emotional topic of losing a grandparent. Subtly told, this beautifully illustrated book tackles a difficult subject with great sensitivity and depth.

angie-fault-in-our-starsThe fault in our stars by John Green

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

angie-tuesdays-with-morrieTuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Alborn

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through life. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago. Mitch Albom rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Knowing he was dying of motor neurone disease – MItch visited Morrie in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final ‘class’: lessons in how to live.

Precious Lives by Margaret Forster

Margaret Forster’s most personal biography yet. It takes up the intertwining story of her gritty, 96 year old northern father, Arthur with that of her sister-in-law, Marion, who dies of Cancer. Margaret Forster’s father was not a man to answer questions about life and death, so she attempts to answer them for herself. As Forster looks back at Arthur’s life an indomitable man, she evokes incidents from her childhood, his working life and stubborn old age, trying to make sense of their largely unspoken relationship and of his tenacious hold on life, and on his family. Arthur and Marion’s lives were ordinary, but, when faced with death become precious.

Librarian’s (and family) Choice

This week’s blog is from Trudi (and her family), a Community Librarian based in the South of the city.

It’s almost Christmas and after all the festivities there may be time to relax and read. Looking for inspiration? Perhaps these will help…

Books for a Year Six child…

trudi-street-childStreet Child by Berlie Doherty
This is on a Year 6 reading list at a local primary school. The list also includes Goodnight Mr Tom and as most of the children had already read it, Street Child was the next most popular!
My youngest daughter is enjoying this immensely. The story is set in Victorian times and is about a boy called Jim, whose dad has died and his mum is going to die. There is no money and they are about to lose their home. A book about survival.

trudi-wimpy-kidDiary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
There are ten books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
The series started off online in 2004 and made its print debut in April of 2007. There are now more than 180 million copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books available in 61 editions and 52 languages.
A few children I know have asked for a set of these books for Christmas! Ever popular, written in a comic format with drawings and speech bubbles, my daughter cannot get enough of these. Funny and complete escapism.

I asked my husband which book he would recommend as a gift for someone. His answer was…

trudi-fellowship-of-the-ringLord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
This is an epic adventure and renowned as a favourite for children and adults. My husband read it when he was aged 28 (almost 20 years ago) and loved being transported through lots of different lands and settings on a magical and fantastical grand adventure. He says that the books are much better than the films! If he could own only one book, this would be it.

And…

trudi-grapes-of-wrathGrapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
My husband read this recently and couldn’t stop talking about it.
With themes pertinent to society today, this is a journey with the Joad family who are evicted by greedy bankers recovering their farming properties in the American mid-west to sell to larger, more profitable farming companies. Their only hope is to travel to California to start a new life having been tempted by the misrepresentation of the land of opportunity. Everyone should read this!

My eldest daughter is almost out of her teens and her recommendations include:-

trudi-handmaids-taleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This book was lent to my daughter by a family friend and came highly recommended.
Written in 1985, this novel, in the genre of speculative fiction, is set in an oppressive imperfect world – where women exist to fulfil the desires of society but are chastised for it. A group of women are moved between wealthy men, to mother their children to keep the population stable. They are harshly judged by other women for this vital job. Although she found some of the themes terrifying, this book is very highly rated by my daughter as a ‘must read’.

trudi-the-girl-who-savedThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
A poor girl from the slums of Soweto comes across a fortune and gets embroiled in a political secret. She is sent to Sweden where she meets a man who, in law, doesn’t exist. A completely bizarre and hilarious book. Another ‘must read’ from my daughter who was laughing so much trying to explain the storyline that it must just speak for itself!

What I will be reading over Christmas…

trudi-talking-headsTalking Heads by Alan Bennett
I first read this collection of monologues as soon as they were published in the late 1980s and realised quickly that although I was only in my teens, I had an old soul! Humorous and touching, all human life is here.
I love anything by Alan Bennett and look forward to reading Keeping On Keeping On!

trudi-a-million-yearsA Million Years In A Day by Greg Jenner
A good ‘dip in and out of’ book, this is a witty look at the popular history of everyday life and social rituals, from the Stone Age to the phone age, brought to you by the chief nerd of the Horrible Histories TV series.
If you secretly enjoy watching Horrible Histories then you will love this!

Librarian’s choice – Top 10 Favourites

This blog is from Stu, a community librarian based in the East of the city:-

Here’s a list of ten of my favourite fiction books, in no particular order.

stu-catch-22Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

Joseph Heller was once confronted by an interviewer with the statement, ‘Since Catch-22, you haven’t written anywhere near as good.’ To which Heller replied, ‘No. But neither has anyone else.’ I think this is the greatest book written by anyone anywhere ever and is worthy of every bit of praise that’s been lavished on it over the years. It’s the sorry tale of Yossarian, a bomber in the US Airforce during World War II and his quest to “live forever or die trying”. It’s gloriously, riotously funny, contradictions piling up on top of one another so fast you need wings to stay above them, and the dialogue is absolutely hilarious too. At its heart it’s a razor-sharp satire on the utter ridiculousness of war and what it does to those who are made to fight it, and there are so many classic scenes it would be impossible to even begin to describe them. If you’ve never had a look at this one, you really should do so immediately. Read read read.

stu-salughterhouse-5Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut was described for the vast majority of his career as a sci-fi novelist, but it was a tag which he absolutely hated. So it goes. There are sci-fi aspects to this book to be sure – time travel, aliens from the planet Tralfalmadore – but really it’s a wickedly clever, achingly sad autobiographical novel about the fire-bombing of Dreseden at the end of World War II, which Vonnegut himself actually survived. It’s a startlingly original work with a mellifluous blend of fact, fiction and meta-fiction (years before it became de rigeur), and parts of it – such as the American soldier shot for stealing a teapot – are completely unforgettable. I must have read this book ten times and I’ll read it ten more before I’m finished. Amazing stuff.

stu-cannery-rowCannery Row by John Steinbeck.

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gambler and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen” and he would have meant the same thing…..” If that opening paragraph doesn’t grab your attention, nothing will. This novella about Doc, Mack, Hazel and the boys panhandling down on Cannery Row is a thing of absolute beauty, and is the perfect introduction for anyone new to Steinbeck’s world. If you’re already familiar with this, the sequel Sweet Thursday is a great read too, as is Tortilla Flat, which is almost like a prototype for this little gem.

stu-wuthering-heightsWuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Emily is my favourite Bronte by a considerable distance, and this is my favourite Bronte novel by a country mile. Most people will have a vague idea of the story – Cathy, Heathcliff, love, passion, death etc. – but the real star of this novel is the wild Yorkshire landscape, described perfectly in Bronte’s turbulent, almost Gothic prose.

stu-notes-from-undergroundNotes From Underground by Dostoyevsky.

This book provides us with the first great anti-hero in literature, the progenitor of a whole motley crew of misanthropic weirdoes from the starving, unnamed wretch in Knut Hamsun’s Hunger to Arturo Bandini and Henry Chinaski and everyone in between. You could also look at it as the first proper Existential novel, if you really wanted to. The great Russian writers come with a lot of baggage and formidable reputations to boot, and the sheer size of their works can often put people off, but for the dedicated reader there are great delights to be found therein. This is reasonably short by the standards of many of his other works, so if you’ve ever fancied checking him out but feel over-faced by The Idiot, maybe this is the place to start.

stu-frankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Yeah, I know, people will tell you that there were Gothic novels before this one – The Castle Of Otranto, The Monk, Ann Radcliffe and all that – but for me this is really where it all started. It’s a canny mix of early Gothic atmospherics shot through with Romantic sensibilities, and it’s treatment of the dichotomy between science and religion captured the Zeitgeist perfectly when it was first published in the early 19th century. It’s a surprisingly easy read for something that’s as old as it is, and it’s a compulsive, page-turning story to boot; it’s also a hugely influential work that has spawned thousands of imitators both in printed and cinematic forms. If you’ve ever read a book or watched a movie with a mad scientist protagonist who ends up being destroyed by his single-minded pursuit of his vision, whether the writer even knows it or not, you can trace a direct line back to poor, misguided Victor. Incidentally, Shelley’s treatment of the creature he creates is deeply sympathetic, extremely humane and quite forward-thinking in many ways, so it’s kind of odd that over the years it has come to be known as Frankenstein’s Monster. It may be monstrous, but that’s not quite the same thing. With all the recent debates about GM foods, cloning and stem cells, it’s still as relevant as ever and seems destined to remain so for quite some time yet.

stu-johnny-got-his-gunJohnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo.

It’s worth noting that this book is unique on this list as it’s the only one that I haven’t read more than once – yet. I read it two or three years ago, having had it on my list since my university days a long time ago in a universe far, far away. It’s an absolutely breathtaking piece of creative writing and trying to describe it effectively is virtually impossible. In a nutshell though, the whole novel is an internal monologue from inside the head of a soldier who has been blown up by a shell in World War I. The thing is, he doesn’t realise initially that he has been blown up, and over the course of the opening few chapters he makes – via some astonishingly inventive psychological insights from the writer -several chilling discoveries about the extent of his injuries; he has no arms, no legs, and most of his face has been blown off so he’s deaf and blind as well. What follows is his attempts to deal with the situation he’s in, and his amazing efforts to communicate with the outside world. Absolutely extraordinary, this one.

stu-ulyssesUlysses by James Joyce.

Ulysses is really more of an artistic statement and an intellectual puzzle than a novel, but it’s no less enjoyable for it. On the face of it’s the tale of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom and their meeting one day in Dublin on 16th June, 1904. What lies beneath is a virtuoso display of technical skill, linguistic pastiche (check out the Oxen Of the Sun section for a stellar example of this) and stream-of-consciousness monologues, all addressing serious contemporary issues such as the power of the Catholic church, Home Rule and Irish Nationalism. It fulfils Joyce’s promise from A Portrait Of the Artist As A Young Man to ‘forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race’ and it does so brilliantly.

stu-the-fightThe Fight by Norman Mailer.

A bit of a cheat putting this on a fiction list, but it’s an cracking example of what came to be known as the non-fiction novel so I think I’ll just about get away with it. This is Mailer’s account of the famous Ali-Frasier Rumble In the Jungle in 1974. Mailer was one of the great men of American letters, and many of his novels are undisputed classics. What people don’t often realise is that he was a very good journalist too, and that one of his main passions was writing about boxing, something he did for most of his life. This works as a great insider scoop of the fight, but it’s also an intimate portrait of the two fighters (there’s a lovely bit where Ali takes Mailer for a run on the eve of the fight, for example) and he captures the madness of 70s Zaire beautifully as well.

stu-fupFup by Jim Dodge.

I can never resist an opportunity to plug this one. So small you can read it in half an hour, this novella is a lovely little zen-like fable about a ninety nine year old man who keeps himself alive with home-made Death Whisper whiskey, his grandson and their pet duck Fup, who they rescue from the clutches of the crazy wild boar that’s terrorizing their ranch. Jim Dodge is an absolute magician with words and it’s a shame that his whole printed output only amounts to three novels – Stone Junction and Not Fade Away are both pretty mind-blowing too – and a single book of poetry/shorter prose. There’s a bit of magic realism going on here which adds to the mystique, but really it’s just a great story, beautifully told, and with a real heartbreaker as an ending. It’s one of those books that you’ll read once, go back to the beginning, read again, then start buying copies for all your friends. Wonderful.

Margaret Atwood – Live Screening at Central Library

We are very excited to be able to join up with the British library when Margaret Atwood receives the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize.

On Thursday 13th October we are screening a live broadcast from the British library to see Margaret receive her prize and deliver an address. There will also be a reading of Margaret’s classic book, The Handmaid’s Tale by actress Elizabeth McGovern.

This is a real treat, and not to be missed if, like us, you are a huge Atwood fan. The screening will take place in Room 700 in Central Library from 6.30 – 8.00pm. Tickets are free, but booking is essential. There are a few places left, but you are going to have to be quick! To book a place go to www.ticketsource.co.uk/leedslibraryevents

To celebrate here are a few of our favourite Atwood classics:-

atwood-hag-seedHag-seed: the Tempest retold

Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds. Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge. After 12 years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?

atwood-heart-goes-lastThe heart goes last

Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.

atwood-stone-mattressStone mattress: nine tales

A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. An elderly lady with Charles Bonnet’s syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly-formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. A woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. And a crime committed long-ago is revenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion year old stromatalite. In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood ventures into the shadowland earlier explored by fabulists and concoctors of dark yarns such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Daphne du Maurier and Arthur Conan Doyle.

atwood-handmaids-taleThe handmaid’s tale

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function – to breed. If she deviates, she will be killed. But even an oppressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

atwood-the-doorThe door

With a wickedly sharp sense of the funny, underpinned by a wordly sagacity, this is a collection of poetry about love, about growing older, about family, and about writing.

atwood-madd-adamMaddAddam

Toby, a survivor of the man-made plague that has swept the Earth, is telling stories. Stories left over from the old world, and stories that will determine a new one. Listening hard is young Blackbeard, one of the innocent Crakers, the species designed to replace humanity. Their reluctant prophet, Jimmy-the-Snowman, is in a coma, so they’ve chosen a new hero – Zeb, the street-smart man Toby loves. As clever Pigoons attack their fragile garden and malevolent Painballers scheme, the small band of survivors will need more than stories.

atwood-oryx-and-crakeOryx and Crake

Pigs might not fly, but they are strangely altered. So, for that matter, are wolves and raccoons. A man, once named Jimmy, now calls himself Snowman and lives in a tree, wrapped in an old bed sheet. The voice of Oryx, the woman he loved, teasingly haunts him. The green-eyed children of Crake are his responsibility.

Librarian’s Choice – Books and Places

This blog is from Joanne, an Assistant Communities Librarian based in the South of the city.

I look forward to my holiday reading every year and I can remember places I have been by the books I read there. Here is a selection of my most memorable books and places and then a look at the books I have put aside for my holiday this year.

Jo Me before youMe Before You by Jojo Moyes

Outside a caravan in France I sobbed uncontrollably at the end of this book. This is a powerful love story which tackles the issues of disability head on. There is a film out this summer, but once I have read a book I rarely feel I want to see it on the screen. But if it is anything like the book it will be compelling.

Jo And the mountains echoedAnd the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

By the side of Windermere Lake, I followed the twists and turns of a novel that begins in an Afganistan Village and deals with family seperation and the bonds which unite families. I had been a massive fan of this authors previous books. The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns and I wasn’t disappointed with this book or the wonderful lake views, even if it was pouring with rain.

Jo We need to talk about kevinWe need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I don’t think I would ever have picked this book up, but my daughter was starting A level English in the September and it was on her reading list. She was determined to go off and enjoy the sights and sounds of  Puerto Pollensa in Majorca. I was quite happy to stay on the sun bed and tackle her Reading List. This is a powerful book and you can see why it was on the AS reading list. It has many layers.  The tale of Kevin who is a teenager killer is told through the eyes of his mother. It forces you to think about your parenting and how much you can decide the destiny of your children. I certainly didn’t have much control over my daughter’s nocturnal life style on that holiday. However, it turned out to be a book we both loved and still discuss.

This year I am staying close to home for holidays, but have already planned some reading. It’s a mix this year. Having worked in the Public Library for 6 months I have loved having such a wide selection at my finger tips.

Jo go set a watchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

One of my favourite books of all time is To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee and I still haven’t read the much talked about Go set a Watchman.The reviews are mixed but it will be interesting to revisit the characters of Atticus and Scout  and see how the father/daughter relationship developed. One of my favourite quotes of all times comes from To Kill a Mocking Bird;

“ You never really understand a person until you climb into their shoes and walk around in them”. How true……

jo after youAfter You by Jojo Moyes

Having so enjoyed Me before you, I am going to give this a go. I must remember to pack the tissues.

jo collected poems larkinCollected Poems by Philip Larkin

And finally, after being inspired at a recent poetry workshop run by a colleague, I need to revisit some poetry. I always loved Philip Larkin, so I am going to give him another go. Happy holidays and Happy reading………..