You may have noticed around the blogosphere on Thursday last week that many a blogger was ignoring Valentine’s Day (and any possible conflicting presents they got) in favour of mentioning the new list of Quick Reads. Today, if a little belatedly, it is my turn to have a natter to you about the initiative, which after speaking to its Project Manager for The Readers I became all the more impassioned about, and also to report back on having read a couple of the books which rather marvellously seems to have cured my reading funk – hoorah to that.
Whilst I was in my ‘reading rut’ did you know that I was joining in with around 12 million other people in the UK alone? No, me neither! The idea behind Quick Reads is to get books into the hands of those who don’t read and to get those who do read to try something new and different, though for me it is the non readers that I think are the most important. The initiative aims itself at people who are worried that books will be boring, make them feel unintelligent, have bad associations with their education and much more. Basically these books are designed to appeal to the sort of person I was not so many moons ago, though before the initiative was founded in 2006, when I had been put off reading and thought it was a dull and self satisfactory kind of pass time – oh how things have changed. Obviously it has a real poignancy for me, especially as I was someone lucky enough to have friends and relatives eager to provide me with lots of reading recommendations, but many people don’t.
Quick Reads distributes these mini novels, all written by a host of well known authors with big back catalogues to quickly take a reader off into a world of escapism, in retail stores around the UK for just £1, on Amazon for even cheaper if you have a K***** (cough) and free in libraries all around, and up and down, the UK. They are also starting reading groups in prisons where it has proven that reading and literacy can curb reoffending, what could be better as an initiative.
The question is though… What are the books actually like? It is this that made me hold off from writing about the initiative until I had read some and so here, in mini review form as I know I am waffling on, are my thoughts on the ones that the non reader of my past would have grabbed if he had had the option.
Wrong Time, Wrong Place – Simon Kernick
As a group of friends go hiking in the Scottish highlands they come across a naked woman who is running from something or someone. Clearly having been beaten and half starved but unable to speak a word of English they decide to help her and take her to their holiday cottage, their kindness however is their biggest mistake as someone knows that this girl is missing and they will do everything and anything to cover up this girls existence and anyone else’s knowledge of it.
Well, wow! Simon Kernick certainly knows how to grip you from the start of this tale until the very end – which had two or three absolutely brilliant twists in it. Clichéd as it sounds I actually couldn’t put this down and read it in one great greedy gulp. It is quite terrifying, though it does go a little farcical at points and also reminded me of several horror movies, yet that is what may attract non readers to it and keep them reading because it is a pure escapist adrenaline rush. I was chilled and thrilled throughout but especially by the ending, genius. It should come with a warning for anyone who is averse to gore though.
A Dreadful Murder; The Mysterious Death of Caroline Luard – Minette Walters
In 1908, in a small town in Kent, Mrs Caroline Luard was found dead outside the Summer House in the large estate that she rented with her husband. She had been attacked and shot twice in broad daylight with no
witnesses and soon her husband became the prime suspect as the last person to see her alive and the first person to find her dead. In this short novel Minette Walters looks at one of England’s unresolved true crimes, one that in its heyday was infamous, and tries to see if she can work out who the killer was.
This was just my sort of book. I love that period in history and how detection was evolving, as it was still a relatively new form of policing, I also love a grand house as a murder setting and all the gossip that evolves below stairs and in the surrounding neighbourhoods and I love true crimes and find the unsolved ones all the more intriguing, even if it is slightly infuriating that we will never know the truth. So I naturally thought that this was brilliant. I could see this making people rush off to read more fictionalised true crimes, books from the era and of course more of Minette Walters books themselves – I know I wanted to do just this when I finished it.
So… hopefully that gives you an idea of what a brilliant initiative this all is. For me, from both the mind of someone who didn’t used to read at all and someone who is now an addicted avid reader, these two reads were just great. One provided utter escapism and took me into a genre I tend to watch in films rather than read, though might read more in the future for escape, the other reignited my desire for narrative nonfiction or a book from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. Both were from authors I had never tried before and will definitely give another whirl.
If you fancy giving anyone you know who doesn’t read much a good start I would recommend passing them one of these and supporting a brilliant cause, or indeed (as I was last week) you find yourself in a reading funk or you just want to dabble with something new in your reading diet then pick up a couple for yourself. I would definitely recommend them on both counts. You can hear more about the initiative on The Readers this week, and visit the Quick Reads website too. Which of their books have you read and what did you make of them?