Book Clubs at Home

Channel 4 have recently been doing a Stay at Home Academy in the evenings – Jamie Oliver did a series on cooking in the lockdown, then Kirstie Allsopp had some crafting episodes.  This week is Richard and Judy’s turn – I was thrilled to find out that they are presenting ‘Keep Reading and Carry On’.

I have very much enjoyed the first few episodes.  Of course, I would love for them to be longer so we could see some more in depth discussions of the books but the fact that there is a whole programme dedicated to books on primetime television is wonderful.

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I particularly loved Graham Norton and Louis Theroux’s guest appearances. They both came across as genuinely enthusiastic about the books and I would love to have a bookish chat with either of them.

I have also been loving the bookshelves I have seen in the houses of everyone broadcasting from home.  Stephen Fry has a particularly enviable study.  However, when I watched the BBC’s Big Night In a couple of weeks ago my favourite background was Jason Manford’s – he had a blank wall behind him with pieces of paper pinned up saying, ‘Bookshelves’.  I loved it!

Book Review – A Kind of Paradise

I have seen Amy Rebecca Tan’s A Kind of Paradise recommened by many people and as it is set in a library I just couldn’t resist it.

Publisher’s Blurb

Thirteen-year-old Jamie Bunn made a mistake at the end of the school year.  A big one.  And every kid in her middle school knows all about it.  Now she has to spend her summer vacation volunteering at the local library—as punishment.  What a waste of a summer!

Or so she thinks.

A Kind of Paradise is an unforgettable story about the power of community, the power of the library, and the power of forgiveness.

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I loved this book.  It was exactly the kind of cosy, comfirting read I need at the moment.  As a celebration of libraries and community it is perfect but the plot is also engaging and you can’t help rooting for the characters.  Piecing together what happened to Jamie at school makes for fun problem solving as well.

I spent a lot of time at the library as a child – I would take out as many books as I was allowed and would quite happily have taken more and read them too.  They are such a fantastic resource and although they are closed at the moment this book reminds us of that.  I would highly recommend it to any book lover.

Book Details

A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan

Publisher:  HarperCollins

ISBN: 9780062795410

RRP: £12.99

Reading Pretty Books

Like many of you I love to have beautiful books.  Given a choice between two editions of the same book, I will always choose the one I think prettiest (unless it is ridiculously expensive!).

This can cause me a dilemma though.  Sometimes one of my very favourite books will be reissued with a stunningly beautiful cover and I have to decide whether I can justify purchasing another copy of the same book.

In some cases it is easy – I bought all of the hardcover reissues of the original Swallows and Amazons covers to replace my battered paperbacks which were just not so pretty.  When my sister found a box of vintage Famous Five books – mostly with dustjackets – going for a song at our village fête I didn’t hesitate to get rid of those paperbacks either.  Although, I did keep my 3-in-1 copy of the first three books because it brought back such wonderful memories.

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Sometimes it is harder though.  There are some beautiful editions of Anne of Green Gables available now and I would so love to have them on my shelf.  My copy is not all that pretty but I am quite attached to it and it is stuffed full of pressed flowers and other memorabilia so I am loathe to part with it.

I know many people have multiple copies of the same book and that would solve a lot of problems but also create a whole new one – where would I keep them all?  I barely have room for the books I have now so having many different editions of a book is a slippery slope I have so far avoided.  It can be hard to resist though!

Autumn Reading

I quite often find that my reading slows down over the summer. There is just so much to do outside and I have been particularly busy this summer – see my alter ego Gadding About with Galahad if you want to know why!

Not that I haven’t been reading – I have made a reasonable dent in the TBR shelves I showed you in July (ten books read) as well as several extra ones I snuck in. It is just that I wasn’t reading as much as I would have liked.

However, the onset of autumn always makes me want to read. It’s partly all the back to school stuff in the shops and partly the long dark evenings when a blanket and a book by the fire seem like the most wonderful idea. Either way, I’m hoping to read a great many more books over the next few months!

Literary Edinburgh

I have recently been spending some time in Scotland, a place which I love.  I stopped off on the way up to spend the day in Edinburgh and I had a great time soaking up the culture.

My first stop had to be the Scott Memorial.  It really stands out on the skyline and as I was reading Waverley at the time I couldn’t not pay it a visit.  There is a little café in the park there which I found was the perfect spot for breakfast.

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I had a lovely time wandering through the streets before moving on to the National Library of Scotland.  Unfortunately the main exhibition was closed due to technical problems with the lighting but I did get to see a small display of letters and manuscripts relating to the publication of Byron’s Don Juan.  It was wonderful to see and I was especially fascinated by the proof copies annotated with Byron’s corrections.

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I loved this staircase at the National Library of Scotland!

By then it was lunchtime.  I was meeting an old university friend and we had a lovely catch up before going on to the Writers’ Museum.  I had been so looking forward to this and I was not disappointed.  I had actually been before but not for several years and even then it was just a flying visit.  This time I could really take everything in, although we still had to be kicked out at closing time!

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If I lived here I would have to have that little tower room!

The museum mostly focuses on Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott.  Obviously, as I was reading Waverley, I was excited about seeing the Scott displays.  I was especially moved by his rocking horse – with uneven steps for his feet as he had polio as a child.

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I was also fascinated by the Stevenson displays.  He lived such an interesting life all over the world, although sadly that was mainly due to his ongoing ill health.  Last year I read an excellent book by Joseph Farrell about Stevenson’s time in Samoa so I loved seeing some of his belongings too.

The Burns exhibition was also great, although I am perhaps less familiar with his work.  I’m afraid that I also came away with the impression that he was the least likeable of the three men!

Having left the museum I had half an hour to spare before my train left, which gave me just enough time for a very fleeting visit to The Fruitmarket Gallery.  I had seen the title of their current exhibition – The Annotated Reader – as I passed in the morning and naturally I was intrigued.  It hadn’t been open then but was now so I sacrificed my chance of a cup of tea and dived in.

The creators of the exhibition – Ryan Gander and Jonathan P Watts – had asked a whole range of people to annotate a page from the book they would choose to have with them if they had missed the last train home.  Those pages were hung from the walls around the gallery and visitors were positively encouraged to take them home.  I found the whole idea fascinating, picked up several pages for myself and would have loved to be able to spend more time there.

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Catching my train north I learnt both that Edinburgh Waverley is the only railway station in the world named after a novel and the there is such a thing as a UNESCO city of literature.  I had no idea that was a thing but I thoroughly approve and would love to find some more!

I had the most fantastic day – I couldn’t live in a city but I do enjoy my occassional trips.  I love discovering literary and other cultural places to visit and I always come away feeling inspired to write and to read everything.

The Joys of Listening

Audio books have been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember.  As a child I used to have my bedtime story read to me by my parents but then I loved to listen to story tapes as I fell asleep.  I still sometimes do that to this day, although I tend to fall asleep a lot faster these days.  Sleep timers are a wonderful invention.

Mostly though, I listen to them when I am doing something which would normally mean I couldn’t read.  Like driving – it is frowned upon to read a physical book behind the wheel!  Audio books definitely make the journey more interesting.

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I recently discovered the Libby app at my library which allows me to borrow audio books (and e-books if I want them) and download them onto my phone.  It has revolutionised my listening and I have found books I had never heard of before.  Since I got the app I have been listening to a huge number of cosy crime books – specifically the Needlecraft Mysteries by Monica Ferris and the Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett.  I have been devouring them and loving every minute.  I am not alone either – the newest Booktown Mystery has a six month waiting list!  It is wonderful to see any form of library so well used.