Librarian Top 10 – Books for Bedtime

This list come from Rachel, our children’s librarian based at Central Library.

We read to our 18 month old daughter every night before bed. Some nights she’ll close the front cover after one page and other nights she’ll cry for more after four stories, either way is fine. We have been reading to her since the day she was born and she loves books, in fact they are her favourite toy. Bedtime stories don’t have to be about going to sleep and some of the nicest picture books to curl up with when you’re winding down before sleep aren’t. The one thing my list of favourites has in common is a gentle rhythmic text that flows well, often with a lovely positive message. Over the months we have found a selection of favourites and this is our list of top 10 stories at bedtime that are great for the adult as well as the child. In no particular order:

snail and the whaleThe Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson

This Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler combo is definitely underrated compared to the ever popular Gruffalo books, having said that it is by far one of my favourites. The words and story flow beautifully in a relaxing way as you go on an adventure discovering the marvels of the planet. This story depicts friendship, being caring and helpful as well as bravery to dream big and experience the world. It is a window to lovely dreams.

Smelly LouieSmelly Louie by Catherine Rayner

The illustrations in this book are just gorgeously scruffy. It takes you on Louie’s journey to get his smell back after his owners have given him a bath and shampooed him in roses and apple blossom scent. It’s a lovely fun story to fall between bathtime and bedtime.

LoveLove… by Emma Dodd

I absolutely adore the pastel illustrations of this book as they flash and shimmer with shards of gold. The story breezes through lots of different ways that love is presented. One of my favourite sentences from the book is “Sometimes love is quiet and it needs no words at all”. The text is beautiful and perfect for snuggling up at bedtime.

TidyTidy by Emily Gravett

Emily Gravett is one of my favourite illustrators; I think her style is amazing! Tidy is a fab and funny story about a badger that has to keep tidying up the forest. I really like how the story goes into autumn; the leaves start falling and the colours are all gorgeous browns and oranges. We always play a quiet little game where we point to the animals that are hidden all over the pages in the forest.

Peace at lastPeace at Last by Jill Murphy

This book is great to cuddle up with and it really engages the attention of my daughter. I particularly like that the words get you to act out the sound effects throughout the story, which makes it really easy to read in a fun way. It’s also all about being tired and I often find myself yawning along with Mr Bear whilst reading it in dimmed light. That’s OK though, because they won’t know it’s not part of the story. Peace at Last is a well-loved classic by many and never really seems to date.

worstprincessThe Worst Princess by Anna Kemp

This book appeals to me greatly and hopefully my daughter will grow to enjoy the spirit of the character. I really like this alternative take on the ‘traditional princess’, the text is funny and bounces along really well. It’s an excellent message to go to sleep with for a strong growing girl in a modern world.

Extra yarnExtra Yarn by Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are a really interesting and unique author/illustrator combination. This story is just lovely where the girl warms and brightens up the dull and cold little town by knitting jumpers for everyone including the animals. It’s a gentle magical tale where good prevails and includes an odd yarn bomb here and there. Brilliant!

Love is my favourite thingLove is My Favourite Thing by Emma Chichester Clark

I adore this story; it’s told through the eyes of a very enthusiastic little dog called Plum and all the things she loves to do. The story is so gushing and fun to read and the illustrations are cute too. It reminds me of our dogs and the things they get up to which they know are naughty but just can’t but help doing anyway. This is a really great book to snuggle up and read at the end of the day.

The paper dollsThe Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson

I love this book and we’ve even made up our own tune to sing the little song that repeats throughout this story. It puts into words so well that sometimes things can be gone but will always stay in your memory and heart. Discovering some of the things that are in the little girl’s memory is just lovely and the ending is so touching. In true Julia Donaldson style the words flow in such a beautiful and relaxing way as you read this book and the calming illustrations and plain background make for a great bedtime read.

How to catch a starHow to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers

It’s wonderful to sit and imagine that you can catch a star. The little boy in the story is so patient as he waits for his moment, and when the opportunity comes to catch his very own star he grasps it. What a lovely underlying message! This is a story to encourage gazing up at the night sky and it finds a fun way to relate to the stars that twinkle up there.

#10 Books set in Myanmar (Burma)

Burma chroniclesThe river of lost footsteps: a personal history of Burma by Thant Myint-U – A story of modern Burma, in part through a telling of his own family’s history, in an interwoven narrative by turns lyrical, dramatic and appalling.

 Burmese Days by George Orwell. Classic novel set in Burma in the 20and 30’s

The art of hearing heartbeats: a novel by Jan-Philipp Sendker -A suspenseful love story set in the exotic Burmese countryside, where a young American woman discovers the secret that lived in her father’s heart for over fifty years

Return to Mandalay by  Rosanna Ley A woman’s search to find the truth about her grandfather’s past, her family origins and the red-eyed chinthe itself – enigmatic symbol of the riches of Mandalay.

Elephant moon by John Sweeney – Based on a little-known WW2 true story when a herd of 53 elephants was used by a young English schoolteacher to rescue a band of orphans in Burma and transport them to the safety of India. An incredible journey filled with adventure, tragedy and love.

 Return to MandalayThe road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone – In the new Chinese economy in the late ’80s, the frontier at Wanting is a magnet for outcasts & the desperate. To Na Ga it represents not the beginning of a new life, but the end of the road. Will, her American lover, has thrown her out leaving her with painful memories, a dollar bank account & a ticket back to Burma.

 From the land of green ghosts: a Burmese odyssey by Pascal Khoo Thwe – The autobiographical story of a young man’s upbringing in a remote tribal village in Burma and his subsequent journey from his strife-torn country to the tranquil quads of Cambridge

Freedom from fear and other writings by Aung San Suu Kyi – Reflects Suu Kyi’s greatest hopes and fears for her people, her concern about the need for international cooperation and gives poignant reminiscences of her role in politics

 Burma chronicles by  Guy Delisle – presents a personal and distinctively humorous glimpse into a political hotspot, putting a popular spin on current affairs.

A well-tempered heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker – Julia, a successful lawyer’s story is interwoven with that of a Burmese woman named Nu Nu who finds her world turned upside down when Burma goes to war and calls on her two young sons to be child soldiers

20 superb crime reads

20 superb crime reads

RubberneckerThe strange death of Fiona GriffithsAngelica's smileAn evil mindI've got you under my skinThe keeperTell no talesThe death seasonW is for wastedThe final minuteWrongful deathForensics: the anatomy of crimeThe hidden girlLand of the blindUnlucky 13Blood on the waterAbattoir bluesLamentationSecond lifeDon't talk to strangers


We’ve hand picked these titles and combined them into a list from a selection of:

  • Our top issuing titles last month
  • The very top reader rated titles of 2014 – all have at least five recommendations!
  • Titles from 2015 which have already received a 5 star rating or two.

Click through to 20 superb crime reads to read more about the titles. We guarantee you’ll find something good.




Impress your friends! Check out our politics book list

The politics bookElection Day is drawing ever closer. If you’re interested in finding out more about political science, the party leaders or how the British political system works, these 10 books offer a great place to start.

Books on how it all works:

The Politics Book by Paul Kelly. Covering everything from the dawn of political thinking to modern day spin this is a brilliant choice for those who really want to dive head first into the subject. Brimming with over 100 ground-breaking ideas and masses of graphs and step by step summaries to help you get to grips with them. You’ll have facts at your fingertips after this read.

British Politics for Dummies by Julian Knight. Packed with bite sized facts and easy to follow information this is the perfect place to start if you are new to politics or simply want to brush up your knowledge in an easy to digest and entertaining way.

An introduction to the party leaders:

The Establishment and how they get away with itCameron: The Rise of the New Conservative by Francis Elliott and James Hanning. Just how did the relatively unknown Cameron rise through the Tory ranks to lead his party to government via coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010? This well researched and informative biography sets out to answer that question and give an insight into the man behind the politician.

Ed: The Millibands and the Making of a New Labour by Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre. Surely no recent party leadership battle has been as personal as that between the Milliband brothers. How Ed came to pursue the same path into politics as his older brother David and ultimately defeat him to become the next Labour Party leader is charted in this enlightening biography.

Nick Clegg: The Biography by Chris Bowers. Riding a tidal wave of popular opinion in 2010 Clegg lead his party into an unexpected coalition government with the Conservative Party. Since then he has come under widespread criticism over U-turns and broken manifesto promises. This biography charts his epic rise to become the second most powerful politician in Britain and equally epic fall from the public’s grace.

Fighting Bull by Nigel Farage. As UKIP take up more and more space on the centre stage of politics it is impossible to overlook this larger than life new fixture of the political right. This book offers a chance to find out what Farage thinks of Farage and his place in British politics today.

British politics today:

Sex Lies and the Ballot Box: 50 Things You Need to Know About British Elections by Philip Cowley and Sex, lies & the ballot box: 50 things you need to know about British electionsRobert Ford. 51 essays on how we vote and why. Examining everything from the effects of a candidate’s sex appeal on their electoral success to why so many of us lie about who we voted for. This is a thought provoking read and timely conversation starter.

Understanding British Party Politics by Stephen Driver. As the idea of a single party leadership, which for so many years dominated British Politics, seems to be drifting into a bygone age and with the country poised for another coalition government this book takes a closer look at recent events which have led to such a significant shift in voting habits and changed the political landscape as we knew it.

In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition by Matthew d’Ancona. Have you ever wondered what really goes on behind the scenes of the current coalition government? This book pulls back the curtain to reveal the struggles behind the smiles.

The Establishment and How They Got Away With It by Owen Jones. Just how democratic is our democracy? That’s the question Jones asks as he explores the often shadowy influence of the upper class establishment on all areas of British life from Parliament to press to banks.

Thanks to Gemma Alexander from the Information and Research Library


#LeedsReadsRecommends – 10 new novels Spring 15

Spring Fiction- 10 titles not to be missed, in stock or coming soon. Watch out for our crime picks coming soon.

1. Kate Atkinson – A God in Ruins – Companion to ‘Life after Life’. It further explores the story pf Ursula’s younger brother fighter pilot Teddy.

2. Patrick Gale – A Place called Winter – Inspired by his own family history, it tells of Harry Cane who is forced to emigrate to Canada to make a new life for himself to prevent his family being engulfed in scandal.

3. Ryan Gattiss – All Involved – Los Angeles 1992 – The riots are shown through 18 different enforcement professionals and gang members Brilliant writing about a different world

4. Kazuo Ishiguro – The Buried GiantFirst novel in a decade from the amazing writer of Remains of the Day and Never let me Go. A couple set off in a land of mist & rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for many years.

5. Joanna Rakoff – A Fortunate Age – 1990s Brooklyn – A cast of college friends, the boom and bust and 9/11 – coming of age in New York.

6.  Wolf Winter – Cecilia EkbackMystery set in 1717 Sweden. A Finnish family joins a small community of settlers and their daughter discovers a mutilated body.

7. Lillian on life by Alison Jean Lester – Lillian, a single, well-travelled woman of a certain age, wakes up next to her married lover and looks back at her life. It’s not at all the life she expected. Walking the unpaved road between traditional and modern options for women, Lillian has grappled with parental disappointment, society’s expectations and the vagaries of love and sex.

8. A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman – An unlikely friendship develops in Cornwall in 1948 between an old lady and a war damaged young man. By the author of When God was a Rabbit

9.  Paradise City by Elizabeth Day – 4 strangers lives collide with deep consequences. Depicts the divide between the haves and have-nots in today’s London.

10. The Mirror World of Melody Black by Gavin Extence – Melody is spiralling out of control – a story of mental illness by the author of the extremely well rated ‘The Universe versus Alex Woods’

Books that might turn you into a vegetarian

The jungleThere will be lots more, but here’s some book suggestions (a couple of non fiction ones too) for novels that put you off meat.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair “The Jungle” is the fictitious account of a family of Lithuanian immigrants living in Chicago and working in the Chicago’s Union Stock Yards. While it is a work of fiction it brought to light the horrible working conditions of the Chicago meat-packing industry at the beginning of the 20th century

BêteAmerican savage by Matt Whyman (Young Adult) – Titus, Angelica and the kids go to great lengths to fit into their new lives in sunny Florida. Not easy when their appetite runs to feasts of human flesh. In this dark comic serving of everyday family life with contemporary cannibals, the Savages seek to hide in plain sight by setting up a vegan cafe. The venture turns out to be a surprise sensation, bad apples bob to the surface & Titus is questions if the family have bitten off more than they can chew.

My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki – Tells the story of a parallel year in the lives of two women at opposite ends of the Earth, who are brought together in a strange convergence of global politics, meat, television and personal crisis

My year of meatsBête by Adam Roberts – A man is about to kill a cow. He discusses life and death and his right to kill with the compliant animal. He begins to suspect he may be about to commit murder, but kills anyway. It began when the animal rights movement injected domestic animals with artificial intelligence in a bid to have the status of animals realigned by the international court of human rights. But what is an animal that can talk? Where does its intelligence end at its machine intelligence begin? And where might its soul reside?

The year of the flood by Margaret Atwood – Adam One – the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners – has long predicted the waterless flood. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful and uneasily hilarious, ‘The Year of the Flood’ is a testament to Atwood’s visionary power –All science and technology is Corporation-owned, in the service of furthering capitalist growth and keeping the populace unrevolutionary, while destroying the resources and ecological balances of the planet at an ever-increasing rate. Genetic manipulation has been busy producing useless or noxious monsters such as green rabbits, rakunks, and partly rational pigs

 Meat by Joseph D’Lacey (on order)

Abyrne is a decaying town, trapped by an advancing wilderness. Its people depend on meat for survival. Meat is sanctified and precious, eaten with devout solemnity by everyone. But a handful of people suspect Abyrne is evil, rotten to its religious heart


Eating animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

‘Eating Animals’ is a riveting expose which presents the gut-wrenching truth about the price paid by the environment, the government, the Third World and the animals themselves in order to put meat on our tables more quickly and conveniently than ever before

Fast food nation: what the all-American meal is doing to the world by Eric Schlosser

This myth-shattering book tells the story of America and the world’s infatuation with fast food, from its origins in the 1950s southern California to the global triumph of a handful of burger and fried chicken chains

#FF Books about books. Novels on our favourite topic!

The serpent papersWhat could be better than reading a book about a book, books, bookshops, authors, the 84 Charing Cross Roadpleasure of reading, collecting, or being addicted to books?

Thanks to San Jose Public Library for the idea of books about books!

A new book about books is  The serpent papers by Jessica Cornwell A book hunter on a secret mission uncovers a centuries old mission. First in trilogy.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff –Through a 20 year correspondence, American Hanff recountsBalzac and the little Chinese seamstress her quest to understand literature & her long-distance relationship with a British bookstore & its staff.

 Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie – ​The story of two hapless city boys exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There the two friends meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress & secretly devour these banned works, the friends find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

The book thiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak ​Trying to make sense of the horrors of war, Death tells the story of a The bookman's taleyoung German girl whose special talents sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding during the Holocaust.

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie C. Lovett Antiquarian book enthusiast Peter Byerly discovers an 18thC study of Shakespeare forgeries that contains a Victorian portrait strongly resembling his late wife, a finding that sparks an obsessive search through the bard’s historical period.

A discovery of witchesA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness ​- Diana Bishop, a visiting professor of alchemical history at Oxford University, would like nothing better than to conduct her research in peace. Unfortunately, Diana’s hopes of an uneventful term are dashed when an old alchemy text, paged from the depths of the Bodleian Library, attempts to show her a shadowy secret.  She sends the book back to its shelf, but not before its odd behaviour is noticed.  Now Diana is being hounded by aThe uncommon reader wide assortment of other scholars, all bent on learning the book’s secret. Thus begins an adventure that covers three books in Harness’ intriguing trilogy.

The Eyre affairThe Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde ​In an alternate England, Thursday Next is a Literary Agent charged with the task of protecting Literature from those who would change or exploit it.  Her job gets complicated when a villain kidnaps Jane Eyre & holds her hostage.  First in a series.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury  In a future totalitarian state where books are banned and destroyed by Fahrenheit 451the government, Guy Montag, a fireman in charge of burning books, meets a revolutionary schoolteacher who dares to read and a girl who tells him of a past when people did not live in fear.  Also available as an eAudiobook and CD talking book

The Jane Austen book clubThe Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler A group of book lovers meets monthly to discuss the novels of Jane Austen.  Along the way they work through their own personal problems and concerns.

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones As war rages outside, an island child learns how to escape through literatureMister Pip when a substitute teacher begins reading Great Expectations. Also available as a Talking book in CD and cassette format.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan Recession shuffles Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Fran Web-design drone into a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Only a few customers keep coming in & never seem to buy anything, just borrow obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger and soon Clay’s embarked on a complex analysis of  customer behaviour.


Northanger Abbey Jane Austen – A book that parodies the Gothic romances novels of the time. Northanger AbbeyCatherine Morland is a young girl with a very active imagination. Her naivety and love of sensational novels lead her to approach the fashionable social scene in Bath and her stay at nearby Northanger Abbey with preconceptions that have embarrassing and entertaining consequences.  Also available as a CD audiobook, an electronic audiobook, and an eBook

PossessionPossession by A.S. Byatt ​The discovery, in a book at the British Library, of an old letter draws together two couples, one a pair of modern scholars, the other a Victorian literary giant and a popular “poetess.”

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink ​The former lover of a German attorney refuses to defend herself when The readershe is accused of a hideous crime. The attorney gradually realizes that the woman may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder. Also available as a CD audiobook

The shadow of the windThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – ​Daniel Sempere is 10 when he discovers the mysterious and rare book, The Shadow of the Wind, and he is mesmerized by the book and its shadowy author.  His obsession grows as he does, pulling him into a strange, Satanic world of murder and intrigue.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin The sign above his Island Books says, “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World,” but grumpy bookstore owner A.J. Fikry seems like a living refutation of its The storied life of A.J. Fikrymeaning. Recently widowed, his sales falling precipitously, and his prize rare book missing, A.J. finds little comfort even in the company of books. Then just when it seems like he has become an unreachable island, a large package arrives that begins to change everything..

The thirteenth taleThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield ​- Margaret Lea, the plain, unworldly daughter of a London bookseller is invited by reclusive author Vida Winter to write her biography.  Margaret soon finds herself living on a remove estate where the writer slowly unfolds her tragic life story.  As she listens to Winter’s tale, Margaret’s own carefully guarded secrets threaten to overwhelm her. Also available as a CD audiobook

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett When Queen Elizabeth II ventures into the Windsor branch of a London bookmobile to fetch her wayward corgis, she borrows a book just to be polite.  Thus begins a love affair with reading that threatens to topple the Empire. Also available as a CD audiobook