Monthly Archives: March 2013

Books of London Calling…

This week will mainly see me in London, both for work and for pleasure, which I am really, really looking forward to. I have to admit that when I left, after living there for over twelve years, back in 2010 I had fallen completely out of love with the city and never wanted to go back. The few short visits I have had in the interim haven’t thawed me I have a feeling this one will as it’s a longer trip and I have filled it with friends, much book based shenanigans and much more.

As some of you may well be aware, I like to read about the places I am in and so I have been pondering which London books I should pack, or pop on my devil’s device if I decide to take that with me, for my venture – though I have a feeling I will be gaining books as I go on this trip. After my odd London phobia for the last few years I have tried to read as little set there as possible and now I feel like I should have a couple of options to read whilst there, which ones would you recommend?

I was planning on binging on the new Underground Lines series that Penguin have published as the London Tube turns 150 years old this year (can you believe it is that old?) and read six of them as I know I will be using those six tubes on the trip. However I simply didn’t have the time though I might pop one or two in my back to read on the way, but don’t they look beautiful?

Tube Tales

I was going to schedule loads of posts to go up while I was away, then I was going to give the blog a holiday however now I have decided I am going to do something else… Random live blog posts of my adventures as I go along. Fret not these won’t be endless and won’t simply be a picture of the train with ‘I am on the train’ underneath, they will be choice posts on and off over the next few days as I catch up with friends (some who are authors you may know), publishers and publicists, bloggers, bookshops I spot (and probably fall into) and literary landmarks I spot whilst out and about plus some of my favourite old haunts. Sound like a plan? It will be like a mini break in London with me, sort of.

I hope you enjoy them. I have decided to call them ‘London Calling’. In the meantime before they start… What books set in London would you recommend I try and read (if I have time), could you name a literary ones and crime based ones?

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40 Books Before I’m 40 (Redux)…

So today is my birthday and I have turned the ripe old age of thirty one, which means I officially can no longer pretend I am in my ‘very late’ twenties, rather like at New Year I use my birthday to put the last year into perspective and focus myself for what I want in the year ahead. As it was the big 3-0 last year I pondered looking a decade forward and choosing forty books to read before I was forty. I promptly then went off the idea and popped it on the back burner for another time.

Well that time has arrived. I have spent the last few days whittling over books that I feel it would be good to give myself, albeit rather loosely, a nudge in the direction of reading. Some of the books were ones, like ‘Middlemarch’ which will get a special mention shortly, which I have been simply meaning to read, other more modern books I have been intrigued about. I was also greatly helped with my new edition of ‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’ (not that I am suggesting this will be on my 40th heaven forbid) which I have spent long periods mulling over.

1001 40

The rules, for there must always be some guidelines or things just get silly (see I even sound older), were simply that the books must be published by an author that I hadn’t tried before – thought I better throw that in there before I get some emails/comments telling me I have missed some absolute gems. Simple as that! And here is the list…

  1. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  3. Before Night Falls – Reinaldo Arenas
  4. Nightwood – Djuna Barnes
  5. The Heat of the Day – Elizabeth Bowen
  6. Wild Swans – Jung Chang
  7. Claudine’s House – Colette
  8. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
  9. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  10. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  11. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  12. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  13. The Well of Loneliness – Radclyffe Hall
  14. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  15. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
  16. Smilla’s Sense of Snow – Peter Hoeg
  17. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  18. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  19. Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally
  20. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
  21. Independent People – Halldor Laxness
  22. Lost Language of Cranes – David Leavitt
  23. The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
  24. Embers – Sandor Marai
  25. Fugitive Pieces – Anne Micheals
  26. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  27. The Country Girls – Edna O’Brien
  28. Quartet in Autumn – Barbara Pym
  29. The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe
  30. All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
  31. Pamela – Samuel Richardson
  32.  Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
  33. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  34. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  35. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  36. Restoration – Rose Tremain
  37. Myra Breckinridge – Gore Vidal
  38. The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
  39. Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
  40. Therese Raquin – Emile Zola

So there they are! I have also made sure I miss some famous classics (‘The Leopard’, ‘The Iliad’, etc) and some lesser known ones (‘The Odd Women’, ‘A Crime in the Neighbourhood’) but those are on my periphery too plus I also need to have some for when I do my fifty before fifty don’t I?

Now you may have noticed that there is one book which breaks the trend slightly and that is ‘Middlemarch’. Which leads me to a little announcement, and I hope those of you joining in with Classically Challenged won’t be cross, as I have decided to postpone writing about it on the last Sunday of March and am moving it to the end of June. I know, I know, June is ages away. However after some thought, and having only got eight chapters in so far, I decided I don’t want to rush this read (and I am enjoying it so far) because of a deadline and with a fairly long trip to London next week, plus a literary festival to prepare and read for, oh and those solo podcasts too… you get the picture. I simply want to enjoy ‘Middlemarch’.

So what do you make of the list? Which have you read and which have you been meaning to? Let me know and I promise I will be back next week, well tomorrow, catching up on all the comments that I have been meaning to for ages. In the meantime there are things to unwrap, candles to blow out, cake to eat and some serious applying of anti-aging cream to be done!

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Other People’s Bookshelves #13 – Simon Savidge

Okay, so I thought I would do something a bit different with Other People’s Bookshelves by taking part in it myself. My thoughts behind this were that a) no one likes to be number thirteen (and indeed I am really, really superstitious about the number myself) and b) as it is my birthday tomorrow I might as well make the whole weekend all about me. I am half joking with that last comment, sort of. Ha! So today I will share with you my shelves and indeed my book boxes and who knows you might even get to know me a little better. How weird to be interviewing myself…

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I used to keep every single book that I read, yet this all stopped when I was living in London as after a few years I simply didn’t have the room and so I had to get tough. I have to admit I did use to keep books on my shelves that I didn’t really love but just wanted people to see that I had read, so was good to be tough. However now I have much more room and indeed have bought lots more bookshelves so I can see my old ‘hoard everything’ tendency is creeping back. That said though when the new shelves were sorted I rearranged everything and did get rid of ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘The White Tiger’ so maybe the habit won’t die out. You do have to be careful of mood though, some books you love some days and less the next. It is tricky. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

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Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

I have always had them in alphabetical order on the shelves of books I have read in the lounge. Until the weekend before this I did actually have crime on separate shelves from fiction and non-fiction, I think I was playing at having a bookshop in my head, now though everything is mingled together genre wise, but in author surname order.

What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

I think the first book I bought with my own money wasn’t actually until my twenties because I had relatives that bought me books and I was hooked onto the library at an early age thanks to my mother. I also had a spell from my mid teens to early twenties where I went completely off reading and didn’t pick up a book for, wait for it, six years. Can you believe that? The first two books I bought then were Agatha Christie’s ‘4.50 from Paddington’ and ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier, both of those are definitely on my shelves.

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Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I did used to have my Agatha Raisin books, and indeed my favourite childhood books, hidden away in the bedroom because I thought people would judge me. Now they too are mingled in with everything else since the new shelves have come in. I have decided that I am not going to feel to feel guilty about books anymore, especially if they are a pleasure to read, life is too short. Yet I think I might start to tell myself off if I don’t get better at giving up on books I am just not enjoying. I am guilty of that quite often and it causes reading funks.

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

Funnily enough Simon, it would be the Conan Doyle book of short stories to which you refer. I also have lots of books that my Granddad, Bongy, made for me when I was younger. Those are both to be found stored away by the bed just in case.

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What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

It was ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind and it was indeed one of the first forays into adult fiction that I had. My mum was always keen to let me read whatever I fancied really, she vetted everything but only with a quick glance and I think, like with my much younger siblings, she just wanted us to embrace reading without forcing it down our necks. Best way to do that was just to let us all read pretty much what we want and never refer things as adult, young adult or kids fiction. I have read ‘Perfume’ twice now, the second time – back in my early mid-twenties – I felt I was reading a completely different book, I don’t think I got all the nuances at a younger age which only added to the initial delight of the book second time around. Oh and yes, it is on the shelves now.

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I am lucky in the fact that I get a fair few books free through the blog and work. That said I am amazed at the fact that no matter how many books I have there are always more and more books that I want. I have the library for those books, or indeed charity shops though the library is now my place of preference, and if I really, really, really loved them then I would definitely want it on my shelves.

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What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

I am going to cheat with two. ‘Chocolat’ by Joanne Harris which I finished a few days ago and adored, I now want to read EVERYTHING she has ever written. I have also just popped ‘The Life of Pi’ on the shelves, I leant it to my other halves mother (who I talk about books with a lot) but I don’t really like lending books and so when I spotted a pristine second hand one bought it to go back on the shelves so I don’t have to ask for mine back. It is a weird tick I have, I know she will look after it, and yet… Ha!

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Hmmmm, I would sound spoilt if I said yes. If you mean on my ‘books I have read’ shelves in the lounge there are a few books I have loaned and never seen again, especially swapping my tie in edition of ‘Wicked’ for the stunning American import I had, and a few that have gone missing in my many moves. If you mean in the ‘books to be read’ shelves and boxes in the bedroom I should say no with over 600 of them – yet Deborah Levy’s ‘Black Vodka; Ten Stories’ and Chris Ware’s ‘Building Stories’ are calling out to me. I am hoping I get some vouchers tomorrow and can get those. Oh and all the Persephone books that I don’t have of course. No rush though, a good library is built slowly.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

That it is an explosion of eclectic tastes and voices from someone who reads widely and clearly can’t decide what genre of book they really love or what their particular taste or penchant is in books… something I am getting more and more comfortable with as I get older.

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Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in the Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of my responses and/or any of the books I mentioned?

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Chocolat – Joanne Harris

I have had Joanne Harris’ ‘Chocolat’ in the TBR for ages and ages and ages. Why has is shamefully languished there for years? Well, it is one of those rare cases where I have seen (and really enjoyed) the film of the book first and so have had to wait until the actors and plot left my mind so that I could let the story and the prose work with my brain to create it all over again from scratch.

***** Black Swan Books, paperback, 1999, fiction, 384 pages, from my own personal TBR

It is Mardi Gras and the start of Lent (so perfect time to be reading this book) in the small rather sleepy yet picturesque town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes when two strangers arrive on the change of the winds. From the moment they arrive Vianne Rocher, and her daughter Anouk, cause a stir with the townsfolk both with their sense of the exotic and the mysterious way in which they suddenly arrived.

Rather than attracting the locals to the mystery of them seems to repel them in some kind of fear. This is increased when Vianne decides that she will settle into the town and open a chocolate shop, right opposite the church, at the start of Lent. From here on in she becomes a symbol to Father Reynaud, the local priest and man many seem to fear, of all that is unholy and a detriment to the town. It soon becomes an unspoken war between the two that one of them will survive in this town and see the other disappear, yet who is good and who is bad?

I have to say that even though I had seen the film, though it has been a while, ‘Chocolat’ as a book was a whole lot darker and less twee than I thought it would be before picking it up. One of the many things that I admired so much about it was that under the tale of outsiders coming to a place, and quietly causing mayhem, there was the huge theme of people’s individuality and that being different should be celebrated and not ostracised, yet ‘Chocolat’ is also cleverly not a book that smacks you over the head with a moralistic tone.

The other thing that I really loved about ‘Chocolat’ (and again even having seen the film, which I will now stop mentioning) was the way it felt like a rather modern fairytale for grownups and also a book which has that delicious, pun intended, sense of the magical and the real merging and mingling without any spectacular fireworks or magic spells. You as the reader get to know Vianne rather well and yet, like with the town’s people, she is slightly an enigma. You find yourself asking, as everyone else in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes does, if indeed Vianne might just be a witch, or is it all smoke, mirrors and scrying in chocolate?

“I know all their favourites. It’s a knack, a professional secret like a fortune-teller reading palms. My mother would have laughed at this waste of my skills, but I have no desire to probe further into their lives than this. I do not want their secrets and their innermost thoughts. Nor do I want their fears or gratitude. A tame alchemist, she would have called me with kindly contempt, working with domestic magic when I could have wielded marvels. But I like these people. I like their small introverted concerns. I can read their eyes, their mouths, so easily; this one with its hint of bitterness will relish my zesty orange twists; this sweet smiling one the soft-centred apricot hearts; the girl with the windblown hair will love the mendiants; this brisk, cheery woman the chocolate brazils.”

Like every town anywhere Lansquenet-sous-Tannes is full of secrets and for some reason, could it be the scent of chocolate in the air or Vianne herself, it is in the chocolate shop that people feel suddenly they can share what is going on behind closed doors. This of course creates some wonderful off shoot storylines and some marvellous characters. My favourites were most probably Josephine Muscat; a woman under her husband’s violent thumb and made out by all to be a crazy thief, and also Armande Voizin; the oldest woman in the town who people have to respect for that but also think is a witch and elderly rebel, an embarrassment even to her family.

“’Well, well, it’s M’sieur le Cure.’ The voice came from just behind me, and in spite of myself I recoiled. Armande Voizin gave a small crow of laughter. Nervous, he?’ she said maliciously. ‘You should be. You’re out of your territory here, aren’t you? What’s the mission this time? Converting the pagans?’
‘Madame.’ In spite of her insolence I gave her a polite nod. ‘I trust you are in good health.’
‘Oh do you?’ Her black eyes fizzed with laughter. ‘I was under the impression that you couldn’t wait to give me the last rites.’     

The final brilliant thing that I really liked about ‘Chocolat’ was that Harris, as you can see from the excerpts I have chosen, writes the book in both the perspective of Vianne and Father Reynaud. This gives you a really interesting double perspective of how they feel about each other and how they both see the people in the town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes from completely different outlooks. She also manages somehow to make neither party really bad, even though there is one side you are rooting for more than another, even though each one has flaws and rightly or wrongly sees themselves as the right party in all of this.

So are there any negatives, honestly I couldn’t say there were. I just really enjoyed the experience of reading ‘Chocolat’, I loved the characters, the slight dark atmosphere the book has that broods and builds and of course I loved the chocolate which completely takes over your senses, you can taste and smell it coming off the page. In fact maybe that is the slight concern with the book, the amount of chocolate that I simply HAD to eat, I had no choice, whilst reading it.

As I am planning on reading the next two of the books in the ‘Chocolat’ series, I could (if the books have chocolate in them this much and this wonderfully) end up the size of a house and be sending Joanne Harris a large invoice for all the chocolate I have had to buy for the cravings and the membership I will need for a gym afterwards. ‘Chocolat’ is truly a delicious book and I am excited to have so much more Joanne Harris to look forward to.

Who else has read ‘Chocolat’ and what were your thoughts? Which of Joanne Harris’ other books have you read and would recommend? I have a real hankering to watch the film, with a big box of chocolates, later – in fact that could be my Friday night sorted.

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Filed under Books of 2013, Joanne Harris, Review, Transworld Publishing

The Character of Rain – Amelie Nothomb

I mentioned a while ago that I get very jealous of people who seem to be able to search out, quite naturally and by chance, really unusual novels and authors. My friend John is one such fellow and when we were catching up over the phone, for the first time in ages, a few weeks ago he mentioned he was reading ‘The Character of Rain’ by Amelie Nothomb, which I have never heard of before and became intrigued by as it sounded so unusual. As luck would have it my library had a copy and so I, like a complete copy cat, decided to give it a whirl, and what an unusual book it did indeed turn out to be.

**** Faber and Faber, paperback, 2004, fiction, translated by Timothy Bent, 144 pages, borrowed from the library

Apparently the Japanese believe that from birth until around the age a child goes to nursery that the child is in fact a god (something that I had never heard before and found the idea of really rather fascinating) of sorts. Amelia Nothomb uses this cultural reference in ‘The Character of Rain’ to give us the perspective of a child through these ages, only this is no ordinary child really, or is it?

‘The cradle became too small. The tube was transplanted to a crib, the same one used previously by its older brother and sister.
“Maybe moving the Plant will wake it up,” said the mother, sighing.
It didn’t.
From the beginning of the univers, God had slept in the same room as its parents. This didn’t pose problems for them, of course. They could forget it was even there.’

The novel is initially told in the third person as we learn about this unusual baby simply called ‘Tube’ or ‘Plant’  who is born completely unresponsive. Everything soon changes as out of nowhere this child finds a voice and won’t shut up, enraged by the state it finds itself in until a surprise guest makes it firstly find something it likes and secondly finds its own sense of self when we realize that the third person narrative is actually this child’s voice told in a mixture of present, past  and all knowing perspectives. Its a clever, quirky and rather unsettling style which I found I really liked and became intrigued by.

The child, we learn, is born in Japan and yet is the child of two Belgian parents who have moved to the country for the fathers work. This creates  further interesting perspectives. Firstly we have the child questioning whether it is in fact Belgian or Japanese, does it have to be either, if so which would it choose to be, plus whether anyone can be a product of two cultures successfully and how those two cultures clash and collide. This becomes secondarily, or even more interesting when having found out that Nothomb herself was born in Japan from Belgian parents. Is this book then really a surreal and provoking version of her autobiography? As I read on I couldn’t help but hope not. Thirdly, we also get an insight into Japan in the 1970’s when the book is set, a time when the country was divided in many ways both within Japanese people and also with incoming foreigners and those who had lived there for generations.

‘Because I was becoming so demanding of Nishio-san, my parents decided to hire a second Japanese nanny to help her. They placed an announcement in the village.
Only one person applied for the job.
Thus Kashima-san became my second nanny. Kashima-san was the opposite of Nishio-san, who was young and gentle and sweet. Nishio-san was not pretty and came form poverty. Kashima-san was around fifty and her beauty was as aristocratic as her background. She belonged to that ancient Japanese nobility the Americans abolished in 1945. For nearly thirty years, she had been a princess, and then one day she found herself without a title and without money.’

I will admit that I had a few initial quibbles with the book. The start was a little over philosophical for me, and I was worried I wasn’t going to get very far with it, especially with all the ‘tube’ business. I also then worried when I realized our all knowing omnipresent narrator was actually not even yet at nursery but seemed to have the human race so down pat, I thought it would jar. As I went on reading though all worries went. I started to see what Nothomb was saying about children, and how they might not be able to say much but they think a lot and learn far faster than we adults do. I also started to really like our narrator, especially the darker and more crazy sounding and egomaniac like she became – any child who chooses ‘death’ as one of their first words is one to watch. I was reading on getting more and more nervous something dreadful seemed to be looming as the book progressed to the end.

As you can probably guess I really liked ‘The Character of Rain’ and it was the quirky and unusual read I wanted that would take me outside of the accidental trend I have been setting myself book-wise this year. I loved the dark edges of the book, I eventually loved and admired our very odd narrator and I found Nothomb’s themes and thoughts on culture and what defines us more and more compelling as I read on – and all in less than 150 pages, it is hard to fault. I can’t really recommend it more than that can I?

Who else has read ‘The Character of Rain’? Who else has read Amelie Nothomb, are you a fan of her quirks and style or do you find it odd and unsettling? Which of her books should I read next?

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In Other Words

So over the last few weeks I have been mysteriously hinting at what I have been up to as I have been working with Culture Liverpool on the first Liverpool literature festival. Well now I can finally tell you all just what I will be doing and all the events that I have planned for ‘In Other Words 2013’, and I am really, really excited about it…

IOW2013its

One of the things I am super excited about is that fact that Liverpool is the only city outside London that is hosting World Book Night for 2013. So on the opening night of the festival, which is in honour of the library re-opening after a huge revamp, is jam packed with exciting things as the ‘marketplace’ will be brimming with book swappers, book shoppers and even a cafe that is doing a special literary based menu. If that inst enough some of the authors (Philippa Gregory, Jasper Fforde, Jeanette Winterson, Jackie Kay and Patrick Ness) will all be at events on the opening night. Naturally I will be clamoring to get to these events, and these authors, to report back and have some serious fan-boy moments.

Over the next three weeks there are even more stonking events with James Herbert doing a special night of ‘Tales of Terror’ in some very dark and spooky infamous Liverpool tunnels, the Mersey’s finest poets Roger McGough and Brian Pattern (my favourite author as a kid) are appearing, as are Denise Mina, Janet Street Porter, Melvyn Bragg, Karen Campbell and Helen Walsh (who will be giving a writing workshop) and Rosie Garland having a book launch with a big circus… and much, much more! How awesome is that? And all of it will be (almost) on my doorstep. It is too exciting for words, in other words.

Now apart from going and being a real fan boy and a punter, I will also be hosting some events which are;

Novel Approaches: Ben Marcus & Keith Ridgway

Free | 24th April

6.30pm , Studio 2, Parr Street, 33-45 Parr Street, Liverpool, L1 4JN

Join authors Keith Ridgway and Ben Marcus in conversation with Simon Savidge about the novel, what makes it a novel, how it is evolving and how both authors, rather infamously with two highly talked about books of last year, are breaking the stereotypes of what can constitute a novel and how the written word can be used in many different ways.

Afternoon Tea With John Whaite

Ticketed | 28th April

Afternoon Tea With John Whaite , Liverpool Town Hall, High Street, Liverpool, L2 3SW

Join the winner of the Great British Bake Off 2012 for tea and, most aptly, baked goods in the delights of the Town Hall to talk about his time on the show, swapping banking for baking and how his new book John Whaite Bakes looks at food for any mood, plus he will share some top tips too.

Cost: £10 includes afternoon tea made by the Town Hall , Please book in advance at http://www.itsliverpool.com/culture

Council Estate Of Mind: Class And The Novel

Free | 29th April

6.30pm – 7.30pm , Kuumba Imani, Millennium Centre Cafe, 4 Princes Road, Liverpool, L8 1TH

Join authors Kerry Hudson, James Smythe and Claire McGowan, currently Director of the Crime Writer’s Association, in conversation with Simon Savidge about class and the novel. Why is it that the middle and upper classes have been more predominant in fiction and how the ‘council estate’ novel is now rising as its own sub-genre and how to give voice to the unspoken in society.

First Words; Debut Authors In Discussion

Free | 30th April

6.30pm – 7.30pm , The Attic, 33-35 Parr Street, Liverpool L1 4JN

How hard is the road to getting your first book published? Is being an author all you expect it to be? These questions and many more will be answered by debut novelists of 2013 Beatrice Hitchman, Sarah Butler and Gavin Extence, John Ironmonger and Kerry Hudson who debuted in fine form in 2012. They will also offer tips to budding debut novelists out there too.

Celebrating The Bookshop

Free | 5th May

2.30pm – 3.30pm , The Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX

If you love words, you have to love a bookshop. Join Jessica Fox; who swapped NASA and the US for a book shop in Wigtown, Sarah Henshaw; who sells books aboard a barge she lived, worked and travelled on all last year; Jen Campbell; a bookseller whose books are about the odd things people say in bookshops and Mandy Vere; of independent bookshop News from Nowhere for a discussion on why we love a bookshop, why we need them and why the future is bright for them even in the age of the e-reader.

So all in all I am excited on all sorts of levels, in part because I am getting to interview some cracking authors for my own events, in part as I have been loving being involved in the cities first literary festival and also because I am going to just geek out with lots of book based goodies for a solid two weeks.

I will of course be reporting back on the blog and also on The Readers and You Wrote The Book! too, so if you have any questions for any of the authors or want me to report on any of the events specifically then do please let me know. I really had better get a wriggle on with some serious reading hadn’t I?

(Oh and well done Kateg who correctly guessed that all the books in the picture yesterday were off books by authors, well some of them, that I will be having events with at In Other Words, email me with your details to collect your prize!)

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Kindle Road Trip #1

Whilst I admit I am still remaining a mixture of conflicted and sceptical about the Kindle that has recently (and very kindly thanks to The Beard) come into my life, I am going to be seeing if our relationship will strengthen over the next few days.  Truth is so far I have really just been using the Kindle to watch TV shows, I may have used it a tiny bit to help me get through the nightmare of ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ but I haven’t really done much reading on it at all. This is about to change as I am off on the first of two long road trips with my little companion today and I am not packing a single book, just the Kindle.

Kindle Road Trip

I have to admit I am a little daunted by this. I shouldn’t be and it probably sounds very dramatic, but I do find there is a safety in the feeling that a bulky paperweight of, erm, paper in your hands. We will see. The good thing is that I am going to Gran’s, so should I suddenly go into paper withdrawal then I can grab something from her never ending supply – always good to have a back up. Though I won’t have the same back up next week when I head to the bright lights of London, but I will face that dreaded thought then.

I have scheduled some posts to go live while I am away, and I promise that when I come back I will finally catch up with all the comments you have kindly left that I have been meaning to respond to for ages. In the meantime today I thought I would put up a little competition that links into tomorrow’s post…

What do all the books below have in common?

Mystery Books

If anyone manages to guess by the time my post goes live tomorrow there might just be a gift of some sort in it for you as a treat. So can you guess? Right, time to get this road trip on the, well, road!

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Are Shelves the Solution?

You know how I said, ages and ages and ages ago, that I would finally get a handle on how many books I owned and sort them all out? Guess what? I still haven’t done it. It has been in the (very, very, very) back of my mind since the beginning of the year but it is just one of those things that I never seem to have time for. Okay, so I procrastinate.

photo 1Well, this past week with my thoughts on how my reading diet had become a little too staple and then getting a huge influx of books for some events and projects I have got coming up I had to face facts and admit that my book situation has got rather out of hand. Some of you, looking at the picture here ————> might be wondering how on earth I couldn’t tell that there might be a problem seeing as Mount Paperback has not only been threatening to topple and kill me and The Beard in our sleep, but has also started to meander across the floor threatening to come and get us that way too. For me it is the stuff of dreams, for The Beard it is the stuff of nightmares. So I knew this weekend I had to sort it out. This morning I still hadn’t.

So thinking that the best way to get Mr Savidge to get a wriggle on, and knowing I am off to London in a few weeks and may well come back even more laden with books, The Beard went off out on an adventure to Ikea – I wasn’t allowed to go as a) one of my friends from Manchester and his partner were coming b) I cannot be trusted not to spend hours aimlessly mooching and then begging for meatballs and chips. The Beard has come back and guess what… we have more shelves!

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Two sets in fact. I think there has been a realisation that a life with me is going to be a life with books and a life with shelves so better to simply embrace it. Oscar has been joining in with all the building – why do all cats love a box?

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Actually not all cats do, a mixture of too much going on, banging and change has lead Millie to flea and hide (we have all been there) under the possible safety of a drawer, well if you can call this good hiding.

photo 2

Now you may think, and I have thought this also, that more shelves mean no need to cull. This is not the case, I have been made to promise that I will now cull books as they are coming in and stop putting off going through all the books I have.

I will do this! It will just have to wait until after I have been to Gran’s this week. Until then they can all just go on the lovely new shelves with all that space…

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Other People’s Bookshelves #12 – Layla of Impossible Alice

Hello and welcome to another nosey through Other People’s Bookshelves. Today we are joining layla to have a gander at just what she has on her shelves and why. Before we do though lets find a little more out about Layla. She has a government office job and lives in the gorgeous city of Norwich which thankfully has an independent bookshop, The Book Hive. She has been an avid reader since she was little, when she used to carry on reading under the covers long after she was supposed to be asleep! Both of her parents love books and so the house she grew up in was always full of books to read, and they took her to the library once a week – libraries are still magical places of discovery for her! She has been blogging for only a few months at https://impossiblealice.wordpress.com/ mostly about books, but sometimes about coffee and cake. Besides books, she is really into music and plays the guitar and has written a few of her own songs. Now to her shelves…

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

It’s been my ambition since I was little to have my own library, but I had to downsize a few years ago so most of my books are now in my parents’ attic. In my current flat I have limited space, but I tend to keep most of what I buy. I use the library much more these days and so buy fewer books, but I still buy a lot second hand. The only ones I don’t keep are ones I haven’t enjoyed or know I won’t read again.

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Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

I have them in alphabetical order by author, in the fiction section. I also have sections for poetry, biography, and then all the other non-fiction in a bit of a huge muddled up section together. Or at least I did initially. Now I’m running out of room I’ve found myself shoving books wherever they’ll fit. Eventually I’ll pull them all off the shelves and reorganise, which is probably the point where I’d cull anything I know I’m not going to re-read.

What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I did have a phase when I was around 10 or 11 of being obsessed with The Babysitter’s Club! Every Saturday my sister would go to ballet class, and I’d spend that hour in the bookshop round the corner. When the new book in that series came out I’d get it with my pocket money, as they only cost around £2. I think I kept most of them, but they’re in the attic at my mum and dad’s. I was so proud to have the whole series, which really amuses me now.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I have a pile of Sweet Valley high books which I picked up really cheap a few years ago to re-read after reading a really amusing blog written about someone re-reading them all and making fun of them. They’re hidden on a low shelf so aren’t on immediate view – not exactly literary masterpieces!

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Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

I’ve always been a big Arthur Ransome fan, and I have some lovely hardback editions of the Swallows and Amazons books (not first editions, but some 1950s ones) that I picked up at book fairs. I don’t have the whole set, but they’re definitely important to me. Aside from that, I’ve got a copy of Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield that I read so often it now has no cover, and some books I got signed by favourite authors that mean a lot to me, especially the Jeanette Winterson and Neil Gaiman ones.

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

My dad gave me Thomas Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree to read when I was about 11, I remember my teacher at school being really impressed that I was reading it. I really should re-read it now as I can’t remember much of it. I also remember finding Agatha Christie books in the library and reading every one I could get hold of. I don’t have a copy of Under the Greenwood Tree now, but I do have some Agatha Christie mysteries on the shelf.

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I’m using the library a lot lately in an effort to save money and space, but if I really loved a book and thought I’d re-read it, I’d definitely buy it. I always buy new books by my favourite writers though, as I know I’ll want to keep them and am too impatient to wait to get them from the library!

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

I recently picked up Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn on your recommendation, Simon, but haven’t started it yet. I’m really looking forward to it as I’m a big crime fan.

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Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

I would really love the annotated Sherlock Holmes editions that came out a few years back, but they’re huge and really expensive, so I doubt I’ll be buying them soon. I keep looking at them when I see them in bookshops, they’re fantastic.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

I would guess that I read quite widely – I have classics, modern novels, fantasy, crime, biography, history, popular science, poetry. I don’t stick to only one kind of writing. A comment I’ve had a lot is that I have lots of books, but I don’t feel like I have as most of them are in storage!

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A big thank you to Layla for letting me grill her and sharing her shelves with all of us. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in the Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Layla’s responses and/or any of the books she mentioned?

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Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell

I do like a family drama. Well, at least I like them in a fictional sense rather than my own personal ones if they ever happen. That said it isn’t the most of original storylines for a book is it? Yet when an author brings a new angle on it, or writes a family so convincingly that you feel a part of their drama then there is nothing more compelling in literary fiction. In ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ that is exactly what Maggie O’Farrell creates.

***** Tinder Press, hardback, 2013, fiction, 352 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

It is the summer or 1976 when, after announcing that he is going to the local newsagents for a paper, Robert Riordan simply disappears leaving his wife Greta both horrified and mystified as to where her husband has gone. She soon calls upon all of her children to come home and help, however it seems none of the Riordan offspring really considers themselves a part of ‘the family’ for varying reasons.

Michael Francis is too busy caught up in the state of his marriage, his wife having just discovered the Open University and feminism and possibly herself, which we learn was really only a marriage after he got his girlfriend, now wife, pregnant after some rather angry sex aimed at his now father-in-law – it involves a hilarious conversation about whether being from Irish parents he might happen to be in the IRA. Monica is now married for the same time and coming to terms with the fact she doesn’t really like being a stepmom, and wonders if she might have liked her own children after all, she also happens to be terrified of the countryside, which now she lives in it is a quandary.  Aoife is the black sheep of the family and after a tempestuous relationship with her mother and estrangement with her sister has vanished to New York to get away. Now of course they must all come back to comfort their mother, try and find their father and also confront each other.

Whilst a family drama is nothing new in terms of a premise for a novel, Maggie O’Farrell masters it and creates something new and different with the characters in the Riordan family, the situations they find themselves in and of course the mystery of Roberts disappearance and the enigma. Though the novel is very much set in the present day, well the ridiculous heat of the infamous never ending summer of 1976, ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ is a novel that really looks at a/the families past too. I thought this was mainly done through Aoife and Gretta who, for me personally, take the novel to another level (or two or three) above any great literary family drama.

Firstly Gretta for her semi-tragic role within the family, and also for the big laughs in the book – sometimes at her expense, and as a woman who can completely rewrite her own history and often does. You know from the start, as she bakes bread in the sweltering heat, that here is a woman with hidden depths and a life behind her. Aoife is a real enigma and, for me, had the most gripping and compelling (even more so than Roberts disappearance, which occasionally you forget about) story with the relationship breakdown with her sister and also with her dyslexia or curse as she sees it, which at the time was not diagnosed and people merely thought someone was inept, put upon her by ‘a sorcerer who was in a bad mood’ when he passed her pram. I found her fascinating and her story incredibly moving. I also don’t think I have understood dyslexia so well before.

“There was a sudden, crushing weight on her chest and it was difficult to draw breath into her lungs; please, her mind was saying, she wasn’t sure to whom, please, please. Let me get through this, just this once, I’ll do anything, anything at all. ‘Contract’, she could recognise, right at the top of the page; that was good; Evelyn had said it was a contract. Or did it say ‘contact’? Was there an ‘r’ there? Aoife pressed her left eye hard with the heel of her palm and scanned the now undulating string of letters that made up the words. Was there an ‘r’ and if so, where ought it to be? Before the ‘t’ or after the ‘t’ or next to the ‘c’ and, if so, which ‘c’? Panic cramming her throat, she told herself to leave ‘contract’ or ‘contact’ or whatever the hell it was and look down the page and when she did, she knew she was doomed.”  

The conversations between the characters are another master stroke of O’Farrell’s as it comes of the page as real as the characters who speak it. I mentioned before the awkward conversation between Michael Francis and his father in law over dinner, a family he is amazed by because of ‘how nice they all were to each other’, about if he is in the IRA or linked to it, which was prevalent at the time. The conversations between couples who don’t really know if they know each other anymore or maybe got the other one wrong at the start, sibling bickering and the way an atmosphere can change slowly over time as family members start to remember what it was that annoyed them about each other etc are all completely believable.

As you may have guessed I really, really, really liked ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ and found myself gripped to it like it was a thriller because of the gripping and believable characters and the fact that there are a few mysteries and secrets, which all families have, to keep you going. I would heartily recommend any one give this delightful, and also occasionally rather dark and distressing, domestic drama a whirl, you will be pulled into the Riordan family far better than any ordinary soap opera and its stunningly written.

You can hear me in conversation with Maggie O’Farrell on my new podcast ‘You Wrote The Book!’, I now need to get a wriggle on and read her first three novels as so far I have only read her latest three and each book cements the fact she is becoming one of my favourites more and more each time. Are you a fan of O’Farrell? Which of her books have you read and what did you think?  Have any of you read ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ yet and if so what did you think?

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You Wrote The Book!

So a week or so ago I asked you all about author interviews and mentioned that I was off working on a solo podcast, whilst very much continuing The Readers with Gavin of course. Well I can reveal that I have finally found a name for it…

YWTBBanner2

Thank you all for your suggestions on here and on GoodReads too. I actually came to mind when I was recording with Patrick Ness as I asked him about a character, who admittedly was only on one page of his new book, that he couldn’t remember and I said ‘come on, you wrote the book didn’t you?’ and it seemed to stick and now it is here for good. So what is it all about?

Well, each fortnight over the coming months I will be joined by a special guest author to discuss their life as a writer and as a reader, from the current novel they have published to the first book they read and everything in between. It is the sort of thing I would love to listen to, and indeed do listen to many shorter versions of as parts of other shows so I have made mine longer, and so I am hoping it might be right down some of your alleys.

The first episode is now live on the website and indeed on iTunes and I felt very lucky indeed as my first guest is Maggie O’Farrell who I am rather a big fan of (I will be reviewing ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ tomorrow) and who I was beyond chuffed said yes to coming on, she was a fab guest and somehow I managed not to go all fanboy like I was expecting to.

Over the next few weeks I will be being joined by Patrick Ness, Joanne Harris and Alan Bradley. And of course I would love you all to be part of it if you fancied, so if you have any questions you would like to ask the author, or any feedback then you can email youwrotethebook@gmail.com or comment on twitter @youwrotethebook. Yes I know more emails and tweets but it actually helps to keep them separate. Anyway have a listen and let me know what you think, fingers crossed you like it, and also let me know if there are any authors you would love me to try and snag for the show.

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Reading Diets

I don’t know about you but when I go out for a meal, be it at an Italian, Indian, Chinese etc, I find that I invariably order the same thing. Odd because in my head I am really adventurous and like to try anything and everything, but that really only happens on holiday or if I am at a buffet or tasting evening or event for work. What has all this food got to do with books? Well, since you asked so nicely, let me tell you… I think I have started to do the same thing with the books I read.

Out of the twenty-six books that I have read this year I have worked out that only five of them aren’t middle class white writers, most of them female and that the stories on the whole apart from six or seven have a middle class setting even if they range from Victorian England to 1930’s America and the present day in both countries. Also, only three of them have been in translation. And I wonder why I have been getting into reading funks a lot this year.

I don’t think it is intentional though, I think somewhere along the line – like ordering the same favourite meals without realising it – it has simply become the case. Though I have now spotted it and I am thinking that it is time to address it as, dare I say it, I have been getting harder on the books I am reading and more likely to give up on them or see faults in them (though the next two book reviews you will see are of the vein I am talking and were absolute corkers). It is not that I am getting bored, I guess it is just that if you eat the same things all the time you forget why you liked them so much in the first place. They lose their special qualities and you lose your appetite. I have actually just remembered Kim of Reading Matters mentioned, when we recorded an episode of the Readers, that she used to be on a firm diet of American literature and suddenly the form she loved she was getting a bit let down by too often, so she mixed it up.

Mixing it up is very much what I am about to do. After all that is what I did as a kid, I would simply mooch around libraries and bookshops with my mum and take risks, sometimes admittedly based on the cover. Also the oh-so-slow (I have been doing it since January the 1st) clearing out of my TBR is going to get a rocket propelled wriggle on today and tomorrow, they are now overflowing the hardback shelves and paperback storage boxes and appearing in piles all over the floors/tables of varying rooms.  So I will be looking for as many non white middle class books, and books in translation, as I can find and popping them high up the TBR – this will nicely link in with the fact that I am off to a round the world buffet restaurant where I have now decided I will be as adventurous as possible (whilst still scoffing on an old ‘safe’ choice now and again).

Do you ever feel your reading diet has become a little structured, bland or routine? How did you break it once you know you’re in it? What books would you recommend to me that will send me away from what I know and off to distant places all around the world meeting all walks of life?

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The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 Longlist

So they have been announced, the twenty titles that make the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 Longlist, and after my guesses yesterday I can reveal that I guessed a whopping… four! More on that shortly, first though here is the list of the twenty titles…

Kitty Aldridge – A Trick I Learned From Dead Men (Jonathan Cape)
Kate Atkinson – Life After Life (Doubleday)
Ros Barber – The Marlow Papers (Sceptre)
Shani Boianjiu – The People of Forever are Not Afraid (Hogarth)
Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Sheila Heti – How Should a Person Be? (Harvill Secker)
A M Homes – May We Be Forgiven (Granta)
Barbara Kingsolver – Flight Behaviour (Faber & Faber)
Deborah Copaken Kogen – The Red Book (Virago)
Hilary Mantel – Bring Up the Bodies (Fourth Estate)
Bonnie Nadzam – Lamb (Hutchinson)
Emily Perkins – The Forrests (Bloomsbury Circus)
Michèle Roberts – Ignorance (Bloomsbury)
Francesca Segal – The Innocents (Chatto & Windus)
Maria Semple – Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Elif Shafak – Honour (Viking)
Zadie Smith – NW (Hamish Hamilton)
M L Stedman – The Light Between Oceans (Doubleday)
Carrie Tiffany – Mateship with Birds (Picador)
G Willow Wilson – Alif the Unseen (Corvus Books)

I have made the ones I have read in bold and linked to them if I have reviewed them, I have also put all the ones I have in mount TBR in italics. What you possibly might want to know is what I think of the list overall though maybe? Well, I have to say that I rather like it.

The talking points are of course going to be, firstly, Hilary Mantel. I can only imagine that there will be lots of people groaning about how she is up for yet another award and isn’t it unfair she is winning all these awards because she wrote such a brilliant book – honestly this whole attitude of slating someone for writing something that apparently, I haven’t read it yet though now I am more tempted, many people think is one of the very best books of the year is just mean. She has written a great book, the best books are meant to win prizes, let her enjoy it and please shut the **** up moaning about it and say something positive. Alas in the same vein I think the second point will be the ‘oh my god a crime book is on the list’ with Gillian Flynn and ‘Gone Girl’, a book I loved and am delighted is on the list – indeed I guessed it might be.

Speaking of guesses, yes I am sad that Kerry Hudson, Nell Leyshon, Maggie O’Farrell etc have missed out, especially as the Emily Perkins novel that I really didn’t get on with is on the list, but yippee Kate Atkinson is on it, and I predicted she would win it back on January the 1st in an episode of the Readers podcast. Let us continue on that positive note and look at the thing that really excites me about the list… The books I have never bloody heard of! These are, for me, what a longlist is all about – well, apart from the fact longlists make us look at books and talk about them, a lot.

I am really keen to find out more about the ones I don’t have here at home, especially the authors that I haven’t heard of, I tried the Smith and the Kingsolver and they didn’t grab me when I got them. I have heard of all the books or the authors bar three and those are the ones which really strike me as books I might need to get my mitts on. They are Deborah Copaken Kogen’s ‘The Red Book’, Carrie Tiffany’s ‘Mateship With Birds’ and ‘The People of Forever are Not Afraid’ by Shani Boianjiu. The latter two in particular as the Tiffany sounds right up my street as I love books set in the middle of the countryside/nowhere and how that effects people, the Boianjiu also sounds like it would be outside my normal reading remit which is something I am desperately looking for at the moment. In fact I will be discussing reading diets, and the fact I think I need to change my reading tastes a bit later today.

In the meantime though, what do you make of the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist above? Which of the books have you read and what did you make of them? Are there any books you are shocked to see on there or missing from there? Do you think Flynn vs. Mantel will be the big story? Is anyone planning on reading them all (I am going to read some if the whim takes, probably the two I mentioned I know nothing about, maybe) at all?

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Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 Longlist?

So tomorrow is the announcement of the first, yet technically eighteenth, Women’s Prize for Literature. As has become the routine in the last few years, I do love to have a go at guessing what books might be on it. This isn’t based on what people ‘in the trade’ might be thinking or any of that gubbins, though I love all the speculation, it is simply based on books I have loved, am desperate to read or simply think might be on the list, though I am sure I will be proven delightfully wrong once again this year and a million miles off in my guesses.

The first four of my guesses are some of my favourite books of 2012, well, those that fall into the submission guidelines, they are…

The Colour of Milk – Nell Leyshon
Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole Me Ma – Kerry Hudson
The Lighthouse – Alison Moore
The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

Next up some books that I have read, or in the case of the Atkinson am reading, and am yet to review but have thoroughly enjoyed…

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell
Past the Shallows – Favel Parrett
May We Be Forgiven – A. M. Holmes

Next up another four more books that are on the bedside table at the moment…

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie – Ayana Mathis
A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
Tell The Wolves I Am Home – Carol Rifka Brunt
Origins of Love – Kishwar Desai

Three more books that I am keen to read very soon and also one which I have been mulling over reading or not because of the Jesus factor, if it gets long listed will definitely read it…

The Palace of Curiosities – Rosie Garland
Tigers in Red Weather – Liza Klaussmann
Above All Things – Tanis Rideout
The Liar’s Gospel – Naomi Alderman

Finally a mix of four books that would cause some talking points if they were listed (well one would for me particularly)…

Bring Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel
The Casual Vacancy – J. K. Rowling
Bitter Greens – Kate Forsyth
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

I am pretty much sure that Hilary Mantel is going to be on the list and, unlike the general consensus I have heard of late, I have no grumbles about that at all. It has been really annoying me that people are now laying into her, everyone was really celebratory of her Booker double, after winning the Costa Prize too. Surely great books of the year should be able to win as many book prizes as they are eligible for, no? I can’t be doing with all the gripers, yes I know too much talk can put you off a book but don’t be mean about it. Rant over.

As for the other three, well I don’t think many people are predicting that J.K. Rowling will be on the list yet I would be quite chuffed if she was – it would get people talking, the book deals with current themes and it might get me to finally read it which I have been saying I will for ages. If ‘Bitter Greens’ gets on the longlist I will be talking about it to everyone because it is the retelling of Rapunzel and we all know that is my favourite fairytale and I named my duck after her when I was four. I have just had this in the post and have been sooooooooo excited, I am saving it for some long journeys I have coming up. Finally, the Flynn, why not? It has been a huge seller, everyone has been talking about it and the twists and turns and characters, even if you love to loathe them, are great. Though of course it is a crime novel and so may be written off for that, it could be a dark horse though.

I know I have missed out some of the big hitters like Barbara Kingsolver, Tracy Chevalier, Aminatta Forna, Nicola Barker and Rose Tremain (who I now desperately want to read the works of as though Gran and my mother love her I haven’t but The Beard’s mother yesterday was raving about her and we seem to be on an authorish wavelength) but I wanted to have a different and varied list overall. I wouldn’t be upset if any of them were on it. I also debated ‘The Friday Gospels’ by Jenn Ashworth, yet didn’t think there would be two books with ‘gospel’ in the title, why I don’t know and ‘Red Joan’ by Jennie Rooney. I mulled over some other debuts like  ‘The Innocents’ by Francesca Segal and I couldn’t work out if Katherine Boo was eligible, though I really want to read it but then decided I just couldn’t second guess it could I?

Yet that is part of the fun isn’t it, the fact that no one could guess the longlist because there are so many eligible books that have come out in the last twelve months and we have no idea how many books have been put forward. Plus how dull would it be if we could guess? One of the things that is great about the longlist is finding a whole new selection of books and authors you have never heard of before and want to go and find out more about. I am getting even more excited about the prize now.

I will report back when the list is announced at some point tomorrow, I am hoping really early. In the meantime which books do you think might just make the longlist, which ones would you be particularly thrilled to see?

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