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.

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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.

Headingley Library’s fantastic modern classics display

If you fancy a change from Richard and Judy Book Club titles or something different and stimulating to tickle your brain cells apart from summer beach reads, why not visit Headingley Library today and check out the new display of modern classics?

There’s a great selection – from cult authors such as Charles Bukowski, Bret Easton Ellis and Richard Brautigan to literary titans like Steinbeck, Hemingway and Nabokov, and more avante garde works by writers like J G Ballard, Samuel Beckett, Alexander Trocchi, Fernando Pessoa and many, many more.

The collection has been bought with money given by local councillors, so we hope you enjoy some of these glorious classics.

The full list is below. These books can be reserved and collected at any library:

 

 

 

Go tell it on the mountain Baldwin,James    
The atrocity exhibition Ballard,J.G.    
A kind of loving Barstow,Stan    
Malone dies Beckett,Samuel  
Molloy Beckett,Samuel  
The unnamable Beckett,Samuel  
Revenge of the lawn:stories 1962-1970 Brautigan,Richard  
So the wind won’t blow it all away Brautigan,Richard  
Ham on rye:a novel Bukowski,Charles  
Post office Bukowski,Charles  
The master and Margarita Bulgakov,Mikhail Af
Junky:the definitive text of `Junk’ Burroughs,William S.
Hard rain falling Carpenter,Don      
Burning your boats:collected short stories Carter,Angela  
Shadow dance Carter,Angela  
What we talk about when we talk about love Carver,Raymond  
And the ass saw the angel Cave,Nick    
The death of Bunny Munro Cave,Nick    
Underworld Delillo,Don      
White Noise Delillo,Don      
Not fade away Dodge,Jim      
Stone Junction:an alchemical pot-boiler Dodge,Jim      
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius Eggers,Dave    
What is the what:a novel Eggers,Dave    
American psycho Ellis,Bret Easto
Less than zero Ellis,Bret Easto
Chronicle of a death foretold Garcia Marquez,Gabriel  
The tin drum Grass,Gunter  
Dirty Havana trilogy Gutierrez,Pedro Juan
Hunger Hamsun,Knut    
Closing time Heller,Joseph  
Something happened Heller,Joseph  
The old man and the sea Hemingway,Ernest  
Siddharatha Hesse,Herman  
Steppenwolf Hesse,Hermann  
Island Huxley,Aldous  
A portrait of the artist as a young man Joyce,James    
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest Kesey,Ken      
Darkness at noon Koestler,Arthur  
The buddha of suburbia Kureishi,Hanif    
Babbitt Lewis,Sinclair
Main Street Lewis,Sinclair
Martin Eden London,Jack    
Outer dark McCarthy,Cormac  
The border trilogy McCarthy,Cormac  
The orchard keeper McCarthy,Cormac  
The ballad of the Sad Cafe McCullers,Carson  
The heart is a lonely hunter McCullers,Carson  
Dancers at the End of Time Moorcock,Michael  
Lolita Nabokov,Vladimir
Pale fire Nabokov,Vladimir
Complete stories O’Connor,Flannery
Doctor Zhivago Pasternak,Boris    
GB84 Peace,David    
Nineteen Eighty Peace,David    
Nineteen eighty three Peace,David    
Nineteen seventy four Peace,David    
Nineteen seventy seven Peace,David    
The book of disquiet Pessoa,Fernando
Gravity’s rainbow Pynchon,Thomas  
City of night Rechy,John    
The dice man Rhinehart,Luke    
Nausea Sartre,Jean-Paul
Last exit to Brooklyn Selby,Hubert  
The case of Comrade Tulayev Serge,Victor  
The Illuminatus! trilogy Shea,Robert  
One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich Solzhenitsyn,Alexander
Cannery Row Steinbeck,John    
Sweet Thursday Steinbeck,John    
Fear & loathing in America Thompson,Hunter S.
Helen and desire Trocchi,Alexander
Rabbit at rest Updike,John    
Rabbit is rich Updike,John    
Rabbit redux Updike,John    
Rabbit, run Updike,John    
The motel life: a novel Vlautin,Willy    
The golden apples Welty,Eudora  
Voss White,Patrick  
A man in full Wolfe,Tom      
We Zamyatin,Yevgeny  
Germinal Zola,Emile    

  

 

 

 

 

 

Jacket Image for Bret Easton Ellis:American psycho, Glamorama, Lunar Park

 

 

Classic books to become London Benches

Paddington Bear bench 50 benches designed by artists and writers to look like open books, have been placed around London.

Literary classics ranging from ‘Peter Pan’ to ‘The Day of the Triffids’ are being celebrated in a series of colourful illustrated benches. Cressida Cowell the ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ creator says “I am so excited to have designed a How to Train Your Dragon book bench and to be part of the National Literacy Trust’s Books about Town campaign to celebrate the wealth of writing and illustrating talent in this country. I am hoping Books about Town will remind Londoners on the streets of the joy of reading books.”

How To Train Your Dragon Bench Literary heroes such as Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Mary Poppins and Hercules Poirot also appear on benches for visitors to find by following literary trails.

The benches will be auctioned at London’s Southbank Centre on 7 October to raise funds for the National Literacy Trust to tackle illiteracy in deprived communities across the UK.

Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ultra condensed classic books

image-medium (63)If you want to impress to your friends …..

Pouring scorn on some of the condensed versions of classics put out by Book-a-Minute Classics and similar shortened versions, Blame it on the Voices have come up with this handy list of these ultimate shorties, so look no further. You don’t need to have read the great works of classic literature.

Instead here’s these handy condensed — ultra condensed versions.  My favourite is Christmas Carol but have to admire Huck Finn for brevity