Posts Tagged ‘Reading’
Here’s all the books I’ve been sent this December. Which ones do you like the sound of? And don’t miss your chance to win THREE books in my YouTube giveaway. Winner announced on the 14th January 2018 on my YouTube page.
I’ve set myself the challenge to read and video review as many of the Richard & Judy Book Club Autumn 2017 picks as possible. Today I’m reviewing: Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
I love books. And I love bookshops. When I’m stressed, when I’m sad, when I’ve got writers’ block, I head to a bookshop and I breathe. Then I buy as many tomes as I can carry. But it seems I’m a dying breed. Books, and the shops selling them, are under threat. Hence I found myself at the star-studded launch of the nationwide movement to champion bookstores – Books Are My Bag – masterminded by Maurice Saatchi.
Showing their support were, among others, Rachel Johnson, Sebastian Faulks and Kathy Lette – who I threw myself at in a wine fuelled fangirl move. It was a perfect meet your heros moment: Lette was warm and friendly, her razor sharp wit matched only by her razor sharp style. Megaswoons.
Then things got serious with the speeches. Stepping up to the podium to speak in favour of the written word were Patrick Neale, President of The Booksellers Association and bookshop owner, Gail Rebuck, Chair of Penguin Random House, and Lord Maurice Saatchi, of the M&C Saatchi.
Neale opened by telling the audience that, in the last ten years bookshops have been closing in the UK at the rate of one a week. Rebuck asserted bookshops are of great social importance and the lifeblood of our culture. Saatchi explained the iconic Books Are My Bag bags are to be human shields against the destruction of the bookshops. A bag carrying army of 100,000 book lovers will become walking adverts to the joy of books. I hope, down to my bones, it works.
Much as this was a joyous and entertaining event to attend, it had an important message at its heart. Saatchi put it best when he quoted his late wife, author Josephine Hart, “Reading was a route map through life.” We all need a little guidance now and then. Books offer us so much more than simply paper and ink. Let’s not let them disappear from our nation’s landscape. Get yourself down a bookshop – it’ll change your life (and theirs).
Further details about the Books Are My Bag campaign, including how you can get involved, can be found here.
In the brazen pursuit of trying to launch my book-writing career, here is my argument for why Confessions of a Fashionista makes the perfect Mothers’ Day gift. Confessions of a Fashionista is a mum-loving book. It features a real life mum (mine), who is always ignored and always proved right. It is even dedicated to my mum, ‘who didn’t want me to write about [her] but let me do it anyway.’ How mumtastic is that? It is also, allegedly, funny. Here are three mum bits in my book for you to enjoy.
Mum picks clothes off the floor and drops them neatly folded onto my legs. They say genius skips a generation, but in this family it’s tidiness. Mum cleans instinctively, obsessively, like a Stepford Wife on speed. She has declared jihad on dust. Our house is free from books, ornaments, excessive soft furnishings and, often, people. She’s a pioneer of OCD. The say minimalism began in 1960s America, but I have a strong suspicion it was born in 1950s north Hertfordshire.
‘That’s a nice top, where’s it from?’ Mum appears with more newspapers.
‘Specialist shop. Only a hundred and fifty pounds in the sale.’
Mum grips the sideboard to steady herself. ‘You spent a hundred and fifty pounds on a cardigan?’
I forgot I’m not talking to fashionistas. ‘It’s cashmere.’
[On discovering my mum trying to throw away the one of a kind Elizabethan costume I bought from the English National Opera].
Mum is shoving the ENO dress into her rubbish bag.
‘Mum! That’s Tosca’s costume.’
‘Well, she can either have it back or we chuck it. It’s covered in white powder.’ She rubs her fingers together and wrinkles her nose.
‘It’s plaster of Paris. It glows under UV light.’ I make a snatch for the bottom of the dress but she’s too quick.
‘Why on earth would you want a dress that glowed in the dark?’
‘I use it for fancy dress.’
‘What’s this?’ She holds up a hot-pink leather skirt. ‘Fancy dress too?’
‘No, that’s Harrods’ own brand.’
Don’t forget to write your own mum loving dedication in the front of the book – your mum will be thrilled. Tell her I said hi. Happy Mother’s Day.
Then we enjoyed Taiye Selasi’s beautiful kimono, some delicious stories about Toni Morrison, and a reading from her novel, Ghana Must Go (named after the plastic red and white striped bags Ghanaians often use at airports, and what was shouted at the Ghanaians as they were hounded from Nigeria).
Next up was Thomas Keneally, launching his new book, The Daughters of Mars (which tells the stories of Australian sisters who become frontline nurses during World War I). You know Thomas Keneally? Australian, won the booker in 1982 for Schindler’s Ark… THAT Thomas Keneally. 77 years old, with a robust sense of humour, Keneally read heartrending extracts and revealed he’d been inspired to write in a female voice by the final guest, A.M. Homes.
Homes premiered her new novel, May We Be Forgiven. Her reading was dark and humorous, and punctuated with her own stand up comedy routine tangents. Though she was keen to impress the book is a hefty 203,000 words, I shouldn’t let it put you off.
I love the Shoreditch Literary Salon. It’s a free event, where you can get a free cocktail, and a slice of pizza (if you’re lucky, have sharp elbows and nerves of steel. That pizza is good). You only need to be a member to attend – of the Facebook group, not the club. I know, how cool is that?!
The erudite Damian Barr conducts proceedings with a Manhattan and a healthy dollop of wit. Tuesday night he and the rest of us celebrated the salon’s 4th anniversary. There was cake. It was marvellous. As per usual the room was packed to the rafters, a heady mix of body heat and books. You can’t beat it.
Many authors, including Thomas Keneally, comment on the audience. They use words such as: young, hip, fashionable, and beautiful. And whilst all of those things are true of the crowd (does L’Oreal style hair flick) what they’re really commenting on is how unusual that is. Your traditional book-loving crowd are like the Tamara Drew stereotypes: earnest, older and wearing some form of knitted brown clothing. I don’t wish to be rude or disparaging, but if you’ve attended a number of literary events up and down the country, as I have, you will recognise the ‘type’. Huzzah to the cardigan brigade who embraces the written word and salivates over a beautiful sentence: I salute you. BUT it’s refreshing to know enjoying books is not the preserve of a particular generation, or the elite intelligentsia. Books are trendy, stylish, fabulous and sexy, and all those other words usually reserved for the fashion and lifestyle pages of magazines. Reading is hot. And if that doesn’t deserve a huge chocolate cake of celebration, I don’t know what does.
For intellectual posing by the pool or in the park:
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.
Forget Fifty Shades of Grey, the Orange Prize winner Madeline Miller will raise your temperature with this story about the love between Achilles and Patroclus (yes, they’re both men). A tenderly written, beautifully described re-telling of a tale that appeared in Homer’s The Illiad. The story runs in a golden blur across the sand like it’s eponymous hero; and despite knowing what ultimately happens, the book never loses its pace or tension. I became so entwined and invested in Patroclus’ and Achilles’ destiny I couldn’t put this down. I kept reading till the early hours of the morning before snivelling into a pack of tissues. Stunning.
For making you appreciate holidaying with your family isn’t so bad:
Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
First, let me assure you Jeanette Winterson’s autobiographical Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? isn’t the depressing tear-fest you might fear. Then let me tell you that it is, at times, harrowing. You cannot read the life story of a girl who was abandoned at birth, adopted by a borderline poverty-stricken family, abused by her religious zealot adoptive Mother and rejected for being a lesbian, without expecting a few tears. But there is more than misery in this memoir. There is survival and hope. Winterson is a strong woman, a strong writer and this is a book to make you value your life.
For the day after murder on the dance floor:
The Fall by Claire McGowan
This is a murder mystery with a difference. It’s not just the victim who meets a sticky demise; the middle class dream is butchered too. McGowan joyfully destroys every spoil and sparkle of Charlotte, her spoilt protagonist, when a week before her £40K wedding her banker boyfriend is accused of murder. Charlotte must seek help from unlikely sources: Keisha, an angry woman with a potentially deadly secret, and Hegarty, the police officer who arrested her fiancé. I didn’t know crime could be this funny.
For reading on your Kindle, if you’re over the age of 21:
Diary of a Chav: Trainers v Tiaras by Grace Dent
Technically this is a young adult novel, but don’t let that put you off. Dent nails the language, life and dreams of her Chav protagonist Shiraz Bailey Wood, from Goodmayes Estate, Essex with her trademark humour. But far from ending up the joke of the book, Shiraz is a hilarious, intelligent young woman you really root for. This is a stealthily clever read, which made me re-examine my own prejudices as well as laugh so much my organic herbal tea came out my nostrils. But be warned: there are six books in this series, and once I started I had to read them all. Worth a cheeky download, innit.
Have a happy bank holiday weekend x
A friend of mine downloads books onto his ipad to read on his commute because, ‘carrying a book or a Kindle into a meeting is unprofessional’. To him toting a well-leafed novel in a corporate environment sends the wrong signal. It makes him look distracted, as if he’s timewasting instead of focusing on the agenda. Based on this logic reading a book is a bad, shameful thing. It’s something to hide in your electronic planner.
Is reading detrimental to your career? Is your book habit stopping you from getting that promotion? Poppycock! Books are perfectly packaged little mind enhancers. They’re little dumbbells your brain works out with. They’re bound cluster bombs of educational titbits and insights into the human condition. Read a book and you don’t regress into a monosyllabic fool unable to focus on a 5-point financial strategy, you blossom and grow into a smarter, more self-aware person.
We can all learn from reading stories. My understanding of history comes from fiction, not the classroom. My grasp of politics, religion and all those things you’re not supposed to discuss at dinner parties is borne from books. Hell, I’m the pre-internet generation: I learnt about sex from Jilly Cooper.
Each time you open a book you prosper. I want to work with people who are continually learning. I want to hire people who are hungry for knowledge. I’d like to entrust my money to someone who’s read The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations and The Prince. I feel confident in people who read. A book is a badge of honour, and infinitely better than strolling into a meeting with a dog-eared copy of a free paper.