Young Writer of the Year Award 2016 (And Shadow Judging It)

This morning the four titles eligible for The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser Dunlop Award (quite a mouthful but bear with it because it is a wonderful prize) have been announced. Now before I go onto introduce them, I just thought you might like to know what qualifies for the prize, because if you are anything like me this stuff fascinates you. The basic rules are that £5000 is awarded to a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by an author of 35 years or under. The winning book being an work of outstanding literary merit. Last year the prize was won by Sarah Howe with Loop of Jade a collection of poetry which I was rather a big fan of.

So what about the shortlist this year, which I am going to be one of the official Shadow Judges for (more on that below), well let me share the wonderfully eclectic list of titles with you now…

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I have read all four of them already, so there may be a giveaway of a set at some point, though Jessie Greengrass is in my small pile of ‘reviews to finally tweak and put up on the blog’ so that review will be coming soon. I have linked to all the others above. What I can say about them as a collective is a) they are all rather marvellous b) they all do some really innovative (a marmite word I know but true) things with their form be they poetry, a novel, a collection of short stories, or in one case a mix of them all c) the judges are going to have a very difficult time choosing one of these winners… and so are the shadow panel, of which I am one.

Yes, thrillingly I am one of the inaugural official Shadow Judges (which I think sounds quite mystical/magical, like I can summon myself in a shadow and appear anywhere at anytime, possibly now sounding ominous oops) this year along side the wonderful Kim of Reading Matters, Eric of LonesomeReader, Naomi of The Writes of Women and Charlie of The Worm Hole, Dan Dalton will be joining us as a chair for a very exciting official shadow meeting. You can find out more about us as a collective here. We will be discussing, debating and convening over the next few weeks before we announce our winner a few days before the official winner is revealed in early December. So that is going to be great. I am planning on dipping into all four of them again over the forthcoming weeks.

So which of the titles have you read and what did you make of them? Which of these that you haven’t read hold a certain appeal to you? Do let me know and we can have a natter about them in the comments below.

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The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, Shortlists & A Books Are My Bag of Fiction Giveaway

I have been meaning to mention this sooner but as everything is still a little bonkers post move, and me having a week being a bit of a poorly sausage, I am still catching up with everything. However, one of the things that has delighted me of late was being asked to be one of the bloggers/vloggers for Books Are My Bag and their Readers Awards 2016. A few weeks ago I was sent a box brimming with book treats in the form of the shortlist, which you can see in the video below…

In case you need a list of books (and seriously who doesn’t like a list of books, then you can see all the titles which you can vote for here http://www.nationalbooktokens.com/vote below. There are some stonkingly good books and there is some tough competition.

Fiction Award

  • The Green Road by Anne Enright
  • Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
  • The Loney by Andrew Hurley
  • The Muse by Jessie Burton
  • This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
  • The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Non-fiction Award

  • Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
  • SPQR by Mary Beard
  • Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane
  • The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi
  • It’s All in Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan

Biography & Autobiography Award

  • Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham
  • The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • At the Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell
  • The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf
  • Alive Alive Oh! by Diana Athill

Childrens Award

  • One by Sarah Crossan
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  • Beetle Boy by MG Leonard
  • The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt
  • The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
  • The Detective Dog by Julia Donaldson

Breakthrough Author Award

  • Abi Elphinstone (The Shadow Keeper)
  • Amy Liptrot (The Outrun)
  • Andrew Michael Hurley (The Loney)
  • Han Kang (The Vegetarian)
  • Joanna Cannon (The Trouble with Goats and Sheep)
  • Kit de Waal (My Name is Leon)
  • Lisa McInerney (The Glorious Heresies)
  • Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Harmless Like You)

I was given the Biography and Autobiography to talk about on my channel. Initially I was a bit puzzled because those aren’t the sort of books that I would rush to read. However after having a dabble with trying a chapter of the five I had not read I am now eager to read them all. And over the next few months I will be. You can see a video of me trying them all out below.

Now one category that I am most familiar with is fiction. I bloody love contemporary fiction. So familiar am I that I have already got all of the fiction shortlist. So I thought in my second and final giveaway this week, to mark my full return to blogging (you can see the first here) I thought I would giveaway the entire fiction shortlist, in a books are my bag bag, to one lucky winner. Oh and this is open internationally. Here are the books looking all resplendent.

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So what do you have to do to win? Well two things. Firstly you have to tell me what your favourite fiction AND non ficton books of the year have been and why. You also need to tell me the name of my cat which makes a guest appearance in my Try A Chapter video above. You have until the 14th of November when voting closes, don’t forget you can vote here http://www.nationalbooktokens.com/vote  That is it, good luck.

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The Birds – Daphne Du Maurier (A Spook-tacular Giveaway)

Get ready for a couple of book giveaways happening over the next few days on Savidge Reads because I feel like after having abandoning you on and off over the last few weeks, those of you who have carried on visiting (you hardcore bunch) deserve some thanks. The first of these is a book giveaway that is utterly befitting of the time of year and that is the newly reissued edition of Daphne Du Maurier’s collection The Birds and Other Stories. Be warned, the cover is so stunning it is X rated on the book cover porn stakes…

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… See I told you that it was stunning. I read this collection for the first time back in 2010 and, as you can see from my review here – which is old so don’t judge it too harshly, I absolutely loved it. Not only does it have the title story, which Hitchcock then immortalised in the movie, but it also spooky tales like ‘The Apple Tree’, ‘Monte Verita’ and ‘Kiss Me Again, Stranger’. So perfect for this time of year.

Speaking of the movie, this weekend I will be hosting a special screening of The Birds in Waterstones Tottenham Court Road with The Bluestocking Club and Virago, which you can find more details here though I think it is almost sold out so if you want a ticket grab it quick. Virago and I thought it might be nice to share the (creepy) birdy book love, as it is so apt for this time of year, and so they have kindly offered up THREE copies of the book to give away to Savidge Readers in the UK. So, if you would like a copy of the book then please let me know what your favourite creepy book or story is and why in the comments below. You have until the stroke of midnight on All Hallow’s Eve (so midnight GMT next Monday) to enter. Good luck, I can wait to hear all your scary suggestions…

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And The Winner of The Man Booker Prize 2016 Is…

Paul Beatty with The Sellout

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I was lucky enough to host an event with four of the Man Booker shortlisted authors, including Paul, combining my day job and my love of books perfectly, in Liverpool’s St George’s Hall as you can see below, where Paul is reading to a rapt audience. (You will be able to see a video of the event on my Booktube channel soon, as well as a podcast on a special return of You Wrote The Book!)

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Having read the entire shortlist I don’t envy the judges having to make the decision because (despite me possibly being a bit underwhelmed at first – before I read them, so who on earth did I think I was) I thought the shortlist had a huge amount to offer and were actually all very different. The psychological profiling and claustrophobic clinging atmosphere  in Eileen, the huge conversations about family and Europe in Hot Milk, the use of satire smoking some serious rage in The Sellout which will have you checking your own prejudices, the sense of adventure, storytelling and gripping nature of His Bloody Project, the short stories meets novel in All That Man Is which looks at what it is to be a man throughout an entire life and the epic nature of Do Not Say We Have Nothing which looks at dark histories and culture clashes in the present. So yeah, quite a choice.

So huge congrats to Paul, and to all the shortlisted authors. Have you all read The Sellout  and if so what did you make of it? My review will be live, very, very soon – and that video and podcast too.

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Other People’s Bookshelves #83 – Rebecca Smith

Hello and welcome back to the series Other People’s Bookshelves. If you haven’t seen them before these are a series where a guest takes over the blog and feeds into the book lust we all feel by sharing their shelves. This week we are off to Scotland, where we are being put up by the lovely, lovely Rebecca Smith who has kindly invited us to have a gander at her bookshelves. Before we do Rebecca has kindly put on stunning Scottish spread of utter joy and delight. So now we are refreshed and before we rampage through her shelves Rebecca is just going to introduce herself a bit more…

I’m Rebecca and I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Cumbria amongst forests and mountains, snakes and stags. I now live in Central Scotland with my 6 year old son and my partner. One day I will build my own house surrounded by trees and grass. With those huge bookcases that spans walls and reach the ceiling. I went to University in Stirling (English, Film and Media). I lived and studied in Hungary for a semester (thank you Erasmus). And I produced live radio for nearly 10 years, almost purely living off adrenaline. I write short stories and currently work for BBC Radio Drama part time. Last year I applied for the https://womentoringproject.co.uk/ and was lucky enough to be selected by the amazing Kirsty Logan. She is mentoring me which has given me a huge boost in confidence with regards to my writing.

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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 keep all of the books I buy. But I usually end up lending a book to someone which is how I manage to keep space for more! I’ve lost a few books throughout the years and it’s only recently I’ve wanted (and seen the benefit of) re-reading of them. I’ll be buying again them when the house is built…

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 don’t really cull my books. I’m very reluctant too anyway. And yes, it’s alphabetical: although the bottom shelf tends to be reference or books that don’t really fit anywhere else (1975 Jackie annual – it’s mums, I can’t part with it. It teaches you how to read your palm!) The books in the most accessible bookcase by the window have the short stories, poetry and a wee bit of drama. The books that pile up on top of the other books tend to be the ones I use most, taking them out to re-read passages when I’m writing. All the middle section are my University books, (good ole Norton Anthologies) and my partners building books – he works for a house builder (it’s not the only reason I’m with him.) In the kitchen there is the ‘travel section’, the cook books and the lit magazines. And of course in my sons room is his rather messy book case. I’ve read him a story every night since he was born. We’re reading a book about a police cat at the moment. His favourite (and will always be mine) is Fantastic Mr Fox.

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

Probably a series of books called The Mystery Club by Fiona Kelly. Oh I loved those books. I used to walk around the estate (my dad was the forester on a small country estate in the Lake District: it was idyllic) walking amidst the gardens, the scattered cottages, the lodge houses, the farm with a pen and notebook marking down anything that I thought could be suspicious. (That cottage has been empty for 3 weeks now, where is Mr Brown, have those curtains been moved…?!) I even wrote to Fiona Kelly and I was over the moon when she replied. I don’t have the books at my house but they could be in my parents cellar. Or it could have been a Judy Blume book. I loved every word that woman wrote.

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?

Not really no, but there are books that are either my Dads or my ex-husbands which are not my style. I’m not that overly taken with crime novels.

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?

Hmm, obviously the first thing I’d save is my son, and cat. (I assume my boyfriend could escape himself.) There is a very special book I bought in Krakow, Shaking A Leg, The Collected Writings of Angela Carter. I’m very careful with this (I would never lend this out) and I like to go back every now and then to read parts. It has her short stories and her essays collated in it. It looks beautiful, it is beautiful. I’d probably save that.

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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?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a house with over-flowing bookshelves. I used to read whatever my parents had lying around. Dad liked the classics and the adventures, mum, the family sagas. When I was 16 I read and loved Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and studied it for my A level English project. That felt adult, especially the war scenes which have stayed with throughout the years. I also bought from my local, very small and now closed down, book shop, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. I adored this book. It felt different, very adult, but very’ me’ at the same time. Unfortunately I lent it to someone and I never saw it again. That’s on my to-buy list.

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?

Yes, I borrow a lot out of the library as I can’t afford to buy all the books I want. I recently read Anne Enright’s, The Green Road from the library and I will buy that when I can as I loved nearly every sentence.

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

Helen Sedgwick’s, The Comet Seekers. I bought it at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Just finished reading it. I loved it. It was like chatting to old friends.

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

So so many; my wish list on Wordery is huge. The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, The Outrun by Amy Liptrot, This Must be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell, The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss, The Assassin’s Cloak by Irene Taylor (diary extracts – I really like the idea of this), Thin Air by Michelle Paver,  Bark by Lorrie Moore (another one I borrowed from the library and need to buy!)

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

No idea, but when people come round I like to find out what they like to read then I suggest something. It’s always a nice feeling when they come back and have liked it.

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And a huge thanks to Rebecca (my favourite name for obvious reaons) for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves.. If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance, I am catching up with all the latest volunteers. In the meantime… what do you think of Rebecca’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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The Man Booker Shortlist 2016 (And A Liverpool Event)

One of the exciting things that I have been meaning to tell you about for ages, after it being a secret for quite a while, is that I am working on and hosting a very exciting event this week… as the Man Booker Shortlist is coming to Liverpool on Thursday night . When I say the shortlist I actually mean four of the shortlisted authors; Paul Beatty, Deborah Levy, Graeme Macrae Burnet and Ottessa Moshfegh, who will be popping to the stunning Liverpool library to meet some reading groups and then doing an event (hosted by me, not nervous at all) in the evening in the stunning Concert Room at St George’s Hall (if you fancy coming details are here).

Having read the shortlist I am really excited to talk about the authors books this year, which in case you have missed it (as if you have, though I have just realised I never posted anything about the shortlist which only shows what a dreadful book blogger I have been for the past few months, do forgive me) are…

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  • The Sellout – Paul Beatty (Oneworld)
  • Hot Milk – Deborah Levy (Hamish Hamilton)
  • His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet (Contraband)
  • Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh (Jonathan Cape)
  • All That Man Is – David Szalay (Jonathan Cape)
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien (Granta Books)

Now I am holding fire on talking about all the books in full until after the event, though I will then dish all and predict a winner, but you can see me chatting about the shortlisted books, the first chapters of five and the whole of one, in the video below which I hope will give you a taster of what to expect if you are still debating which to read as the list is quite an eclectic one, which I like.

In the interim before I report back I just thought I would give you that quick update. If you are near Liverpool on Thursday do pop by (I know it is short-list notice, see what I did there, but I have been bonkers busy organising the event and now suddenly it is here). I would also love to hear your thought on any of the shortlisted books that you have read. It seems a while since we had a good old bookish natter about some specific books.

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I Have Moved…

I have moved. I have wifi. I am back. At the risk of sounding like an ‘I am back, honest, I really am’ record that has become stuck on repeat… I really am back. I have moved into a lovely new house (with the space for a library, hooray) and whilst it has been one of the most stressful experiences I have endured but the reward of being in this house – which I think will be my forever home – is more than I could have imagined. I genuinely beam when I come home to this…

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Admittedly it is still utter chaos (and I have yet to have many family or friends round really, let alone the rooms ready for a readers and writers retreat, but fret not that will come) and is mainly rooms filled with boxes. I should add there were 67 boxes of books and the movers were heard to mutter ‘hasn’t he heard of a bloody Kindle’ which made me laugh. Slowly but surely though we are all getting used to the space, even Mildred who is a slight agoraphobic and to whom this feels utterly giant.

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Ha! So now I can officially between unboxing, walls being knocked down, kitchens being ripped out and the like, I am back. How are all of you? What have you been up to and what have you been reading?

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