Monday 19th August, 6-7pm
Find out more about the book, and how to get tickets, at www.ayewrite.com.
Monday 19th August, 6-7pm
Find out more about the book, and how to get tickets, at www.ayewrite.com.
Please welcome back guest blogger Louloubelle
I have always tried to recommend books to people and I have recently realised that there is definitely a certain amount of chance and skill involved – a science if you will.
1) Acquaintances are easier to recommend for.
You’ve just finished a book and whether or not you liked it you are absolutely sure your sister will L.O.V.E it, in my case that usually involves everything turning out well for the main characters. You say “you must read it you will love it!” Five days later it is back on your book shelf because “well it was a bit overly soppy” (the Twilight Series) or “it was a bit strange” (The Observations by Jane Harris). But in a short conversation with your new workmates, you mention that Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch is the best mix of Crime Mystery/Science Fiction/Fantasy and funny to boot – and they have read the whole series by the time you are back from holiday. Go figure.
2) Over-recommending is the Cardinal Sin
Try it. You’ll love it. Go on. Try it. Try it! It’s a fine line to walk between being right and being annoying. You know they will love it but the decision does lie with the reader and sometimes overegging the pudding can just lead to disappointment when they don’t love it or when the twist at the end is 10 pages too early and is frankly underwhelming in face of its praise. Or as in a recent case your friend will simply abandon the copy of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian on the dinner table and silently leave it behind when they leave.
3) Make sure you are right
So that when you tell your traumatised father that To Kill a Mockingbird is a great book and he answers that his evil English teacher ruined it for him you don’t buy him it for his birthday.
4) Keep the best books for yourself
Selfish. Yes. Part of the secret. Absolutely. Which is why I never strongly recommend the Mathew Shardlake series by CJ Sansom to anyone. They are great and I want to keep them to myself. So my one final recommendation of the many mentioned so far which I don’t want everyone to read because then everyone will know about it, but it really is worth a read is The President’s Hat.
Go on. You’ll really like it.
The May/June edition of newbooks magazine – available in all Glasgow libraries! – has author Isabel Ashdown writing about “My five favourite summers” – her favourite literary scenes of summer. I realise that summer seems a distant prospect at times [it's snowing not too far from here] but it set me wondering – what makes a perfect summer read? Is it a book set in the place you’re visiting - have you travelled to Spetses clutching a copy of The Magus, or read Jane Austen in Bath? Or do you enjoy a spot of armchair travelling – choosing a book to take you to a place you’d love to visit but can’t – maybe it’s set in the past or the future, in a fantasy land, or is just too far away?
Get in touch if you’d like to share your perfect summer read.
For the record, Isabel Ashdown’s are:
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
The Wild by Esther Freud
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
You can read the reasons for her choices in the magazine at your local Glasgow library.
My name is Helen and I’m a bookaholic. There are worse addictions to have and it’s a fairly inexpensive and harmless enough obsession. But it is a problem. The reason being that I keep buying books when I’ve still got a humongous To Be Read (TBR) pile to get through and unless I lock myself away for the next year or so, I’ll never reduce the mountainous stack of books on my bedside table.
My book fetish has become even more out of control recently and I blame Twitter. I’ve been on Twitter (@HelenMacKinven) now for a year and a half and was wary of entering the murky waters of social media. But I dipped my painted toe in and once I realised that the water was not shark infested, I began to relax a bit and engage with other like-minded folk who loved books too. Many of those that I follow on Twitter write blogs on their own writing or review books. This provided me with a never ending supply of book recommendations to feed my addiction. I could get a quick fix within minutes on Twitter and before I could stop myself, I’d be hitting the ‘add to basket’ button on Amazon.
But what makes me chose one book over another? Obviously, taste is subjective and just because my best pal likes to read sci-fi, that doesn’t mean I’d ever consider anything with wee green men in it even although I originally come from Bonnybridge, allegedly the UFO capital of the world. I’m not a fan of crime fiction either but I make an exception for Kate Atkinson’s Brodie series. And much as I also suffer from being a shoeaholic and have more handbags than I could ever need, I’m not interested in fluffy chick lit either. Then there’s the book every woman seemed to be talking about. Listening to my pals, I feel as if I’m one of the few women on the planet who hasn’t read 50 Shades of Grey and I don’t ever intend to!
I’m also one of the few folk I know who doesn’t own a Kindle. I appreciate all the benefits but I still prefer a ‘tree’ book rather than an e-book and as an avid book festival goer, you can’t get a writer to sign a Kindle. A friend (who shall remain nameless to spare her blushes) swears by her Kindle as the best way to read erotica without anyone else knowing. It’s understandable as who would want to be seen on the train reading a bodice ripper? But I did fall victim to the old cliché of judging a book by its cover when I dismissed Me Before You by Jojo Moyes because of its girly pink cover only to later read it after numerous recommendations and found it to be a far deeper story-line than the artwork suggested.
And there are some books that I’ve been told I MUST read but haven’t enjoyed at all. I used to force myself to finish a book even when I hated it but no longer beat myself up and abandon it early on as life is too short. The most recent example was Lanark by Alasdair Gray. It may well be a classic in Scottish literature but it did nothing for me and I’m not ashamed to admit that my wee brain couldn’t cope with the deep and meaningful concepts.
As a writer of contemporary Scottish fiction aimed at female readers, I tend to choose books in the genre I aspire to be published in so I read and enjoy writers such as Janice Galloway, Jackie Kay, Anne Donovan, Laura Marney, Isla Dewar, Maggie O’Farrell to name but a few. Writers are often given the advice to write the book you’d want to read so that’s what I’m aiming to do. EL James need not worry about her status as queen of erotica!
I’m a bookaholic and proud of it. Are you? What makes you chose one book over another?
Read more about Helen’s book addiction on her blog!
The new Mitchell events card is out now – pick up a copy in venues around Glasgow or see it on the website.
As well as the regular Mitchell tours and family history courses, there’s a series of talks about Scottish football, to accompany the More Than a Game exhibition currently at Kelvingrove.
And Aye Write! favourite Karen Campbell will be here during Refugee Week, exploring the reality behind her new novel This is Where I Am with Joe Brady and Wafa Shaheen of Refugee Council Scotland. This event is on Thursday 20th June, 6pm, and it’s free.
Are any of you planning to go to the Boswell Book Festival? It takes place this weekend at the impressive Auchinleck House in Ayrshire – built around 1760 for the Boswell family - and promotes itself as “the world’s only biography festival”.
This week’s guest blogger is Alison, librarian at Castlemilk High School and Springburn Academy
In my capacity as a secondary school librarian I have been working with two bookgroups, predominantly first years, and I have come to the realisation that our young people have a lot to offer us in terms of how we engage with books.
The challenge with this age group is to create book groups that are dynamic and engaging, while also promoting literacy. The format of read a book, come back, review and analyse it, was not a solution that would satisfy the requirements of “dynamic and engaging” for the young people.
I believe that some of the activities we have worked on would be completely at home in an adult book group. They would also help to encourage participation from so called non-readers, lapsed readers or reluctant readers (dragged along by a friend usually!). I’d like to explore a few with you.
The Diary of A Wimpy kid series is always in great demand so an activity around this always goes down well with our pre-teens. Together we worked on brainstorming what qualities a diary format book had. Cue sticking post-it notes all over the table with adjectives as diverse as “crush”, “war” and “rivalry”. We then decided to write our own diaries based on books we had read or hobbies we had. This prompted them to think about different narrative styles and how we could adapt existing books or be creatively free. My attempt to convince them that my Diary of a Scary Librarian was entirely autobiographical was met with giggles and protest…..
What qualities do we think make a good diary format novel? Is this a legitimate form to use when attempting to tell a great story? Or will it always fall short of its potential? Think Adrian Mole, The Color Purple and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’d encourage all bookgroups to see if they can adapt a novel and see how it would differ in diary format.
The perennial debate of ‘what is better; the book or the film’ features regularly in my discussions with pupils. Unlike most of my friends, there is no overwhelming majority exclaiming that “the book is ALWAYS better”. So I gave my young members the chance to explore the situation and pick one of their favourite films. They then had to write their own story interpretation of it.
How would we do if faced with the same challenge? Maybe we should be a little less harsh when we look at the work of screenwriters faced with novels that, in all honesty, are available for our own individual interpretation?
An excellent ice breaker in my first book group session was the Who Am I, Post-it on your forehead, only yes/no answers allowed game (proper title would be welcome!). As we worked round the group we introduced ourselves, offered up our foreheads to our neighbour to determine which fictional character we would be and then the real fun began. This allowed the pupils to explore characters that they knew well, or were completely unfamiliar with. Rather than focusing on a review of one book we discussed and recommended a selection of books. This encouraged the pupils to borrow books they had learned about at the end of the session.
Imagine this in an adult book club “Eliza Doolittle – what book is she from?….That sounds good actually, I might go check it out” Perfect for those looking for new avenues to explore, or reluctant readers who can become involved without the commitment of having to a read a novel before the bookgroup meeting.
Next week we are planning the Book-Bout. Here, you fight your book’s corner and tell everyone why it is THE best book. I can’t wait to see how the pupils convey the key aspects of what makes a book great!
Go on….fight for the books you love!
On Friday night poet Tom Leonard will be reading from his new book of prose at a free event in the CCA. The collection Definition Articles includes literary, topical, political and personal matter from across forty years. Books will be on sale before and after the reading.
CCA, 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. Friday 10th May, 7:30. All welcome.
For today’s blog, please welcome back Suzie Blue.
I am a proud, self-confessed bookworm. My earliest memories involve being read to, and my earliest revelations about people came not from social interaction but from literary characters. Admittedly not the healthiest way to approach life, but I think I turned out alright…
So whenever I struggle to understand real people now, I turn to fictional people to help me. As a single woman still (pretty much) in my prime I see many parallels between the men I meet and the men I read.
I’ve narrowed them into three categories – this isn’t definitive or exclusive, but does reflect my experience.
First, the Charmers:
These colourful characters like an audience and I imagine are pretty fun to write. Their confidence, social ease, good looks and good humour draws people in, but their emotions are skin-deep. The positive qualities mask insecurity, anger/resentment and fragility, and create a man who is volatile, insincere and selfish. F Scott Fitzgerald hit the nail on the head with Tom. I’m also inclined to include Vronsky (Anna Karenina) here, despite Tolstoy’s masterful characterisation, as in my opinion he is wholly responsible for destroying Anna’s confidence and eventually her life. The reader sees every side to Vronsky’s personality, but narcissism sits atop it all.
Next, the Troubled:
In both reality and fiction, I find myself drawn to this type most often. They are preoccupied, intelligent and sensitive, and fiercely protective either of their once-hurt feelings or the way of life they’ve cultivated in an effort to block those feelings. In a word: unobtainable.
In Burmese Days, I fell in love with Flory and his symbolic birthmark, and read in resigned sadness his tragic demise following Elizabeth’s rejection of him. Jay Gatsby had the same effect on me– he is not a Charmer despite his skilful deceptions; his quiet obsession with Daisy is heartbreakingly naive. Tragedy doesn’t always follow with troubled types though, Mr Rochester (Jane Eyre) and Levin (Anna Karenina) both get the woman they love. Their moral strength in the face of adversity ensures this. The same is not true of poor Dean Moriarty (On the Road), whose exuberance and energy masks an almost childlike bewilderment about life and guarantees him the constant complicated cycle of marriages and divorces.
The Perfect Men
It’s telling that the best literary examples of male perfection were created by female authors. Wishful thinking? Absolutely. Realistic? Definitely not.
Jane Austen had a supreme talent for creating wonderful men, and yet avoided allowing her strong-minded, outspoken, modern women to fall with a grateful swoon into their arms. Mr Darcy, Mr Knightley and the like all had to prove their worth.
Darcy in particular has become a cliché, only in part due to Colin Firth’s iconic portrayal. The intended message in Austen’s work is that marrying for love alone is what leads to true happiness. But just how many of Austen’s men who were eventually shown favour by her heroines were poor or badly placed in society? Exactly.
It wouldn’t be right for a female law student to talk about the perfect literary men and not include Atticus Finch. Read him as a teen and admittedly he may seem a bit too straight, maybe even boring. But read him as an adult and you will find him caring, moral, passionate and incredibly brave. But I consider myself a modern woman, so when I find my Atticus Finch, I’ll make him prove himself.