How do we find the books that for varying unknown reasons go under the radar? Initially this seems like a really simple question to answer, and as it was one that a listener of The Readers asked recently I thought it would be pretty simple to come up with some suggestions. Well more fool me, oh silly Simon of Savidge. As I then discovered when I had to think of some handy hints it is a lot harder than I thought. After all if we all knew where all the great undiscovered gems were they wouldn’t be so, well, undiscovered would they?
My first, almost automatic, response to a question like that is ‘ooh, you must go and check out Fiction Uncovered’. Those of you who are frequent visitors to this blog will know that I am a huge fan of this initiative, and indeed have just been its very first guest editor, which selects eight books every year by British authors that for some unknown reason seem to have missed out on the accolades that they deserve. This has put some marvellous books in my reading path and ones that I would have been unlikely to discover otherwise. Yet Fiction Uncovered only choose eight books a year and is not an initiative that runs in every country, even if it should. Some countries do initiatives and prizes for unpublished manuscripts but what about all the books, and there must be loads and loads and loads, all over the world that go without the notice they should and are frankly bloody marvellous? I know ‘the big’ prizes throw up a few, but again what percentage is that of amazing lesser known works worldwide? Ooh it makes your head hurt a bit.
Second option is if you come across books which you have read and loved and seem to have gone under the radar tell EVERYONE about them. That most powerful thing, word of mouth. After all isn’t it great to tell people about a new to them author that you love and are desperate for them to go and try? I have probably mentioned some certain titles/authors to you on here (or in person) over and over and over again. But it is because I think they are marvellous and think you should read them because you may well think they are marvellous and do the same. In fact I have done a list of ten British books you really should uncover for Fiction Uncovered, do have a gander as each one is an absolute corker. Oh and as well as telling everyone about amazing lesser known books, don’t forget to ask them back be it online, in book groups or at the library or your bookshop.
Weirdly enough The Beard came up with the third response, as is my want I wander around the house pondering, musing and muttering, when he said ‘why don’t you just ask the publishers?’ This was a very good question, the answer being I am not sure. I guess you would have to put it rather carefully, you don’t want to say ‘Erm excuse me lovely publishers but as well as sending all your Catton’s, Amis’ (well…), Tartt’s and your Mantel’s, could you do me a favour and send some of you lesser known authors that you think are genius but might not actually publish again if their book sales don’t pick up?’ You may offend a few publishers, their houses and their authors and never be spoken to, let alone emailed, again. Yet publishers are a good place to go a hunting, especially the more independent or left field, so I would recommend a good mooch on their websites.
It was the idea of mooching, which I do so love to do, that gave me the third option which really should have been the first and most obvious… Have a mooch in your local library/secondhand bookshop/independent bookshop/high street bookshop. This shows the power of having somewhere, library or bookshop, that you can just go and peruse the shelves at your will (well between 9am and 5pm at least) eyeing the spines and picking up books at whim you may or may not fancy. Once I had stumbled upon this most obvious answer I got very excited on the episode before last of the Readers (yes I have been meaning to blog about this for two weeks) and came up with a cunning plan that I think we should all do… Yes, ALL of us, yes you included.
We should all go to our local library and take out a selection (be it two or three, or be it ten or twelve) of random books we have never heard of before – and there will probably be a fair few unless you are the biggest book buff ever – which after having mooched and perused the shelves for quite some time we then take home and try out and, if you can or want to, then share. You can tweet them, blog them, email them, whatever. Just share them. Thomas has already been and done it, such a swat, and now I have recently been and done it to coming home with all of these treats…
- Fup – Jim Dodge
- Cold Water – Gwendoline Riley
- Disquiet – Julia Leigh
- A Modern Family – Socrates Adams
- Nothing to Fear – Matthew D’Ancona
- Today – David Miller
- Everything I Found on the Beach – Cynan Jones
- Drowning Rose – Marika Cobbold
- Catch – Simon Robson
- The White Woman on the Green Bicycle – Monique Roffey
- Do No Harm – Carol Topolski
- The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai – Ruiyan Xu
Some of them I am sure some of you will have heard of however they are all new to me and books which I just thought ‘well why not give that a whirl’. So here I am sharing them with you. It’s like a mini reader’s revolution, though being booky it’s very calm and lovely – and rather quiet if you are at the library.
So now what I would really like you to do, again as Thomas has done so marvellously, is go off and pop to your local library (because they need you) or bookshop and pick out some titles that are new to you which you would quite like to give a whirl (they can be classic or modern, I stupidly forgot to go to the classic section, fiction or non – basically books which you wouldn’t have picked up otherwise) and share them on your blog linking back to here so we can all come and have a nosey and spread the word. If you are thinking ‘well I don’t have a blog’ why not post them on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #ReadersRevolution or email them to me and I will do a compilation post or two as and when they arrive, what do you think? Reviewing them could be done the same way… So go on, do please, please give this a whirl (gosh I hate it when I beg, ha) as I think we need to give voices to those lesser known books.