Monthly Archives: July 2011

Book Prizes, Why Should We Save Another One?

This week it was announced that Booktrust “have taken the difficult decision not to run the John Llewellyn Rhys in autumn 2011. This Prize is incredibly important, highlighting and celebrating the best new books by writers under 35, as well as being very dear to Booktrust. We have not taken this decision lightly and we strongly intend to bring back the Prize with a bang in the very near future.” There has been disappointment and shock, there have also been a few mumbles of ‘well we have enough book prizes don’t we?’

This news, which Ben Johncock has been great at updating us on, did a few things to me. One, I felt saddened that one of the UK’s longest running book awards (almost seven decades) has been pulled, people are saying it will be back in 2012 but ‘near future’ doesn’t suggest it is definite. Next I found myself emailing Booktrust’s Prize and Awards Manager Claire Shanahan expressing my concerns and how sad I was, I also said how I thought maybe rather than postpone it, unless it’s done to make a statement or impact, could they not find a judging panel who will do it for free, or less than usual, because they have a passion for it? I haven’t heard back but if I do I will update you all here.

I then found myself – after reading peoples reactions – getting a bit cross by one author, who has previously won, and their comment of “well, it can’t cost very much to administer, can it?” which made me think,  “well why don’t you put your hand in your pocket and save it then?” especially as the author has since become well known rather well selling and more than likely very well off. In fact why aren’t some of the other previous winners who are now well known and well onto their 4th or more bestselling novel doing just that? Working together and creating a John Llewellyn Rhys Fund or something, what could be better to further mark the death of a young author in 1940 for which the award was set up, what could be a more apt thank you?

There are of course lots of people who have said ‘well its more signs of the death of the book’. Rather than thinking ‘look at what a mess this Tory lead coalition government continues to make’. There are also people who are thinking ‘well, who needs all of these book prizes anyway?’

Being one of the co-founders, and driving forces, behind The Green Carnation Prize one of the things I have most often heard, and in fact come up against when trying to push the prize, is ‘oh do we really need another book prize?’ Erm, yes, we bloody do. All book prizes promote reading and books and push authors into peoples conciousness. That is why we need them and the more the merrier.

The prizes where the authors get money (and this is where the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and The Green Carnation Prize differ as we are currently a kudos award – in fact until we get a sponsor the judges also do all the reading for free) this is incredibly helpful. It can fund the next book, or with something like the Booker the next few books – though the JLR Prize is especially helpful as the authors are under 35 and that’s a key time in their careers. Of course prizes which are just kudos based also get a book publicity. The winner of the Green Carnation Prize was mentioned in the UK press and also on  some further shores like Canada, Australia and the US. Anyway, I could go on and on but I will stop… for now.

What are your thoughts on the ‘break’ in the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize after almost 70 years? What could be done to prevent this? Do you have a favourite prize? Or do you simply think there are too many book prizes about?

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Savidge Reads Feedback Wanted #1… Do You Like Incoming Book Posts?

My recent mid year thoughts have me a-thinking. One of the things that I wondered was if you like it when bloggers do a post all about the latest books that they have received? If you do I have hidden my latest post on all the new books at Savidge Reads HQ here. But before you do pop there, or move swiftly on I would love your thoughts on this.

I personally do like incoming posts myself, firstly I am nosey and secondly I just love pictures of books and seeing what I might be missing, but I know there are lots of people out there who don’t. So I wondered why you do or you don’t? Let me know. Thanks.

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Half a Year Already, Which Makes Me Ponder…

I meant to pop this post up earlier today but every time I read it I thought it was verging on one of those navel-gazing posts and that was not the tone that I was after at all. I do always get to the middle of the year though and have a small ponder, about this and that and everything really, and start to take stock. Does anyone else do this?

It’s been a weird year so far I have to say. First of all I am in a new city leaving behind over a decade of a place I called home and all my friends, book group, familiarity etc. Then I got poorly and that seemed to set me back a bit more. I thought I had felt secure and supported and yet things feel rocky again, the ground is shifting and I find myself getting frustrated I am not in the position that I had hoped I would be in by now when 2011 opened. Thats partly the health thing, partly sod’s law and partly because I think I put rather a lot of pressure on myself. That all sounds a little maudlin or miserable and ungrateful and its not meant to, honest – I think I have been bloody positive this year as much as I can, outwardly at least. I’m going off on a personal tangent so lets get back to my quibbles about Savidge Reads instead, much safer territory.

I fear I will never be 100% happy with Savidge Reads, I’m too close to it and can see all its faults niggling at me, but ever since I gave it a revamp and a nice new face (which I still really like and am very glad I did) I have felt like something else needs to change. I always say that I am planning on posting less… and then don’t. There is no use even saying that today as this is the second post today and you have two coming tomorrow. Its something I keep mulling over though, am I writing about too many books even though it’s the amount I am reading (in fact my blog is very behind the amount I have read this year with ‘less work and more being ill’) but it is also what I am reading and at the moment what I am reading feels wrong. It’s almost too mainstream, maybe even too modern. With a new literary salon on the horizon (venue now sorted and launch date) and The Green Carnation Prize submission reading in full swing its understandable in a way, but… but… but…

I need to redefine the direction I’m going in, I think. What happened to me reading older more forgotten classics? How can I find more of those current hidden away gems that miss the mainstream radar like ‘The Proof of Love’ which blew me away when I least expected it? In trying all this new stuff what has happened to my old favourite authors? These are the questions I need to be asking myself moving forward, none of you have the answers in the interim though do you?

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Recommended Reading, My Books of 2011 So Far…

Can you believe we are halfway through 2011 already? I have more thoughts on all that coming later on today. Why is it that knowing you are halfway through a year makes you think about everything more? Like I said, more on that later today. In the meantime I thought I would give you a list of my books of the year so far. There have been more than ten in my ‘Books of 2011’ category, some have grown on me, some faded over time and some like the marvellous new Ali Smith novel ‘There But For The’ still need a little time to settle on me as do about six books I have read recently and have still only done small notes on pre-review. Getting back to the point without further ado, here are my favourite reads of 2011 so far…

  1. The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall
  2. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
  3. Annabel by Kathleen Winter
  4. Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood
  5. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
  6. Grace Williams Says It Loud by Emma Henderson
  7. The Mermaid’s Singing by Val McDermid
  8. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
  9. Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
  10. Before I Go To Sleep by  SJ Watson

I wonder if these will still be some of my favourites by the end of the year. There are a few contenders that I haven’t put reviews up on the blog, in fact ‘Swamplandia!’ by Karen Russell which I read ages ago, but haven’t reviewed yet could be a contender. Of course my end of year favourites allow me to cheat a little more, I have ten released in the year and ten released before, this mid-way post is more of a merge.

It is of course now pretty much summer time, and so you could really say that really this is my list of summer reading recommendations, should you be in the need of any. What are your favourite books of the year so far? What would you recommend I get reading over the summer months?

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