Tag Archives: Roddy Doyle

The Gordon Burn Prize Shortlist 2015

Sometimes it seems like it is another week and another book prize, however there are some quite different and unusual ones and for that reason (along with the fact that we all love a list of books don’t we?) I wanted to mention the announcement of The Gordon Burn Prize shortlist for 2015. One of these will join previous winners Pig Iron by Benjamin Myers and The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (another two books I have been meaning to read for ages) when the winner is announced in October.

The criteria for the Gordon Burns Prize, set up by New Writing North with Faber & Faber, are books which challenge our perceived notions of genre and make us think again about just what it is that we are reading and non-fiction that explores in innovative and exciting ways topics that reflect Gordon Burn’s interests such as social history, sport, true crime, music, celebrity and art. Books where the reader begins to question the very nature of what he is reading. Fiction? Non-fiction? Faction?

 I think this sounds really interesting and (possibly bar sport) quite different which you all know I am a huge fan of. The shortlist has now been announced and the five books that judges actress Maxine Peake, authors Doug Johnstone and Roddy Doyle, journalist Suzanne Moore and artist Gavin Turk have chosen are…

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I don’t have the books I stole this from Twitter, apologies to the owners but its for a good bookish cause 😉

  • In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile by Dan Davies (Quercus)
  • Midland by Honor Gavin (Penned in the Margins)
  • Noon Tide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera (Granta Books)
  • Original Rockers by Richard King (Faber & Faber)
  • Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev (Faber & Faber)

Now I have to say other than the Dan Davies, which with its subject matter of Jimmy Savile has had a lot of debate and discussion going on about it, I have not heard of any of the other books and that always makes me really, really excited. So for that reason, along with something that I will be able to tell you all about on Thursday, I have decided that I am going to read all of them before the winner is announced on Friday October the 9th ‘oop’ north in lovely Durham as part of their literature festival.

Have any of you read any of these titles? What did you make of them? Are there any that intrigue you, might you be up for reading all five? Have you read either of the previous winners, Benjamin Myers or Paul Kingsnorth? What are your thoughts on the more left field (and I think rather exciting) book prizes?

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It’s World Book Day; Celebrate With A Quick Read (Or A Long One…)

It is World Book Day, hooray! A day devoted to celebrating the love of books around the world. It is all too easy to forget though, especially in the bubble of the book blogosphere, that not everyone out in that there big wide world has the ability, time, money or simply the inclination/desire to read books. Some people may even be wary of the world of books or find reading difficult.

As I have mentioned many a time on this blog, I myself was a great reader as a child but my late teens and early twenties were a barren time for books. I had been put off by the endless re-reading and re-reading of school texts which had to be analysed to the umpteenth degree. I felt that books were more for academics than for enjoyment. Oh and I was more interested in getting drunk on alcho-pops and dancing to Britney in my early twenties and so was lost in a bookish wilderness. I had become alienated from the wonderful world that books can provide for us all and in actual fact, hold on to your hats, thought that books were for the pretentious and elite. Now I know different, obviously, all it too was the recommendation of the right book to try (in my case The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie) and I was off…

Sometimes all it takes is that quick recommendation, loaning of a book or pointing in the direction of a library that can create the spark needed to fire a love of reading. Or of course re-reading. Quick Reads is an initiative which aims to do the same and selects several titles by well-known authors that are short, sharp reads aimed to attract those who think books and reading might not be for them and get them hooked. They are designed to encourage those who have been put off reading or are late to reading to ‘give a book a whirl’ and who knows they might become a book addict? Great stuff!

Yet they are also perfect, as I discovered when reading three of them after this year’s titles were announced, for an avid reader who might fancy trying out an author you have meant to read for a while, or just getting time to read something short and sharp whilst on your commute or having a nice cup of tea in your favourite book nook. Here are my thoughts on three of them…

Dead Man Talking – Roddy Doyle

Vintage Books, paperback, 2015, fiction, 98 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

Pat had been best friends with Joe Murphy since they were kids. But five years ago they had a fight. A big one, and they haven’t spoken since — till the day before Joe’s funeral.

What? On the day before his funeral Joe would be dead, wouldn’t he?

Yes, he would…

This was my first foray into the work of Roddy Doyle (despite my mothers best efforts, unless you count having watched The Commitments film at a young age and spending hours singing the soundtrack in the car) and I was not sure what to expect but I enjoyed it very much. Regular readers will know that I quite like ghostly tales and stories that are quite quirky and this is both.

There is a wonderful surreal element to this story without it ever veering too far off into magical realism which some new and avid readers might find off putting, it almost has a ‘fairytale for adults’ feel whilst as it goes on and takes stranger and stranger twists reminded me somewhat of a Roald Dahl sinister short story and a Hitchcock movie. What I thought Roddy Doyle did wonderfully was give the book an underlying message of grief, regret and mortality yet never making it overtly melancholy. All in all an interesting and thought provoking twisting tale, I need to read a novel of his now don’t I? Where would you recommend I start?

Out of the Dark – Adele Geras

Quercus Books, paperback, 2015, fiction, 101 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

Rob Stone comes back from the horrors of the First World War with a ruined face and a broken heart. Lonely, unable to forget the things he has seen, and haunted by the ghost of his dead captain, all that Rob has left is a picture of the captain’s family. Rob sets out to find them, hoping that by giving them the picture, he can bring peace to the captain’s ghost – and to his own troubled heart.

Another author that I have been meaning to read for ages (another which my mother has also raved about reading her young adult novels with her studenst) and another quick reads with a ghost in it this year.

I am normally not the greatest fan of wartime novels, I think the subject has been overdone, yet I really, really loved this story. In a very short space of time Adele Geras makes you sympathise and empathise with our main character and the affects that war has had on him both physically and mentally. The tale of Rob’s heartbreak after his fiancé backs out of the marriage was one which I found both heart-breaking and also, for me, added a side to the war that I have never seen depicted in another piece of writing about the time. In fact I think that was one of the things that I liked so much about Out of the Dark was that it really put me in the head of a young man who had been to war far more than anything else I have read has done. More food for thought, and another author that I shall return to.

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen – Sophie Hannah

Hodder & Stoughton, paperback, 2015, fiction, 117 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

After Chloe and her daughter Freya are rescued from disaster by a man who seems too good to be true, Chloe decides she must find him again to thank him. But instead of meeting her knight in shining armour, she comes across a woman called Nadine Caspian who warns her to stay well away from him. The man is dangerous, Nadine claims, and a compulsive liar. Alarmed, Chloe asks her what she means, but Nadine will say no more. Chloe knows that the sensible choice would be to walk away – after all, she doesn’t know anything about this man. But she is too curious. What could Nadine have meant? And can Chloe find out the truth without putting herself and her daughter in danger?

Regulars to Savidge Reads will know that I am a big fan of Sophie both as an author or some corking thrillers, and a wonderful collection of short stories (which were recommended to me by a friend and got me into her work – see it’s all about the recommendations) of which you can find out more here. Shockingly though, and despite having them all, I have not read one of her books since 2011!?!? Where has the time gone?

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen is, as you might expect, like the perfect condensed versions of one of her Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer thrillers, and indeed they turn up in this one. From the off you are constantly question who is telling the truth and who is doing some serious lying and manipulating, the guessing only gets greater as Sophie throws in some twists, turns and potential red herrings. If you love this then go and get your hands on Little Face which is the first in the series, I need to grab Lasting Damage just as soon as I have finished the Fiction Uncovered reading, promise!

This isn’t the whole collection of books either, I still have three more to dip into in due course – which I will be eating with more of the Galaxy chocolates these arrived with – but hopefully gives you some insight into the diversity of the books which Quick Reads produce (and they have a whole backlist you can go through, here are some more I’ve read) and how easy they are to get into and just taking you away. As I said, perfect reads for any reader be you avid or just wanting to give books and reading a try. And all for just £1 or to be found in your local library, what could be better? (Though if you’re reading something longer that’s good too, I will be spending some of the evening with Maya Angelou, you?) Happy World Book Day all!

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Filed under Adele Geras, Quick Reads, Roddy Doyle, Sophie Hannah

The Great Unread

Todays blog was planned after finally finishing book sorting in the new flat, but looking at Booking Through Thursday  today its a coincidence that I was going to do a blog on my ‘unread’ books now that their move was all done and dusted by 1am this morning, now its just the rest of the flat to shift.

The Booking Through Thursday Question was ‘Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ I will say that I never ever think ‘don’t give me another book’ though… ever! Also i couldnt do a  list as I think a list of 900+ books could be quite boring! So I thought I would do it in pictures.

Now you guys were fantastic when I asked questions about how to sort my new shelves. However first of all I had to get the boxes sorted which preety much had every book I owned in and had no real structure other than box one was the books I most wanted to read etc. Now as you’ll see below there were a lot of boxes!

 

These six boxes now contain books I have been given by friends and family, or bought from second hand shops. Once these were all done and dusted it was time for the sorting of the shelves. Not the shelves in the lounge which are only for books that I have actually read, these are my new in built shelves in massive new bedroom, it has a bed and a sofa in it, most pleased. But how to do organise incoming books and my TBR? Well you all gave me your hints and tips and in the end I decided to do it like this…

First Set of Shelves

Biographies on the top shelf, big tomes of books on the next shelves, new, old and inbetween. The final bottom shelve is very thin quick and easy reads again new old and inbetween. This is so dependent on mood or if I am up for a challenge I can just grab one of those at random… it makes sense to me! Then we have on the opposite in built shelves… 

More shelves

We have two piles of ‘Man Booker Winners I Haven’t Read’, followed by my ‘Daphne Du Maurier’ TBR and then a small cluster of books that might be ‘unfinished’ but I wouldnt like to comment or linger on those. Below that we have all the latest incoming paperbacks from publishers and under that the latest hardbacks from publishers. It appears that I have quite a lot of reading to do, but I would never say ‘oh no more books for me thank you’. If I did I wouldn’t have received this pile of delights from Vintage

Vintage Man Bookers

I was tempted to give these books thier own shelf as in the picture above as they look stunning. Vintage have decided to re-issue nine of their published Man Booker winners with delightful new covers and in smaller paperbacks which make them easier for commuters like Savidge Reads, though that might not have been the original idea behind the resizing. The books are, in case the picture isnt great…

  • Possession – A. S. Byatt
  • The Gathering – Anne Enright
  • The Famished Road – Ben Okri
  • Amsterdam – Ian McEwan
  • The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch
  • Disgrace – J. M. Coetzee
  • How Late It Was, How Late – James Kelman
  • Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle
  • Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

I have already read Amsterdam and Midnights Children as I had made a pact with Jackie at Farmlanebooks that we would try and read all the winners over a certain period of time, so this series has been a very welcome new addition to the shelves, and almost a housewarming gift!

What about all of you? Whats your TBR like, where can I have a good old nosey! Which pile of my TBR should I pick a book from next, what reads do you have lined up in your ‘great unread’?

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Second Hand Book Boom

There has been a piece in several different papers this week about the surge in second hand book shop sales. Is this because of the credit crisis? I think that assumption is a little too strong. I personally think people are buying from both; I have to say with book groups I will always try and find a book second hand just in case I don’t like it. Now I am get some sent which helps, I can understand people not splashing out on a book especially hardbacks if they might simply not like it. Mind you I have rules with second hand books, they need to not have cracked spines or water stains I am quite picky unless it’s an orange Penguin or is ‘loved worn’. I can also see in some cases the fact you can get a lot of bargains. Like today when I went for a little wonder (research for this blog you understand) I managed to get all of this for just under a fiver.


Red Dragon/The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
I am almost 100% sure that I have read Red Dragon, but don’t want to check if the ending involves a boat and a sudden twist just in case I am really off and it was one of the others. I saw these and thought ‘oh why not’? I remember enjoying, if that’s the right word, whichever Hannibal Lector book it was about eight years ago.

Animals People – Indra Sinha
I have read this so it’s going straight on the shelves. It was one of the many books I have lent to someone and never seen the light of day again. One of the most unlikely likeable protagonists I think I have read in the last few years and what a story he tells. A fictional chemical factory explodes in a town in India (based on true facts) and the scars it leaves on the land and its people. Brilliance!

Quantum of Solace – Ian Fleming
A collection of all the short stories of James Bond which is in pristine condition and would have set me back over ten pounds. I want to read more Bond after really enjoying the darkness I didn’t expect in Casino Royale last year.

The Ghost – Robert Harris
Have no idea what to expect from this at all. I wouldn’t have picked this up full price but have heard a lot of good things about the author and thought this was a worthy try. We will see…

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors/Paula Spencer – Roddy Doyle
Another author have always wanted to try and read and like the idea of reading The Woman Who Walked Into Doors and then reading its sequel that came out ten years later. Thought would be interesting to read them both in succession and see if it works.

The Night Watch – Sarah Waters
Read it last year and really enjoyed it have bought this for Novel Insights.

A High Wind In Jamaica – Richard Hughes
I would not have picked this classic up had I not seen it today and for so cheap. Sounds like a very interesting mix of Pirate story, children’s adventure and literary classic.

The Shakespeare Secret – J.L. Carrell
I fancy reading some ‘adventure’ stories this year and remember there being some really positive reviews of this, I just didn’t quite want to buy it when it came out and am not sure why now. It’s now on my TBR so no complaints.

Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith
I was sent this by the publishers last year, decided would pick this up as another treat for Novel Insights.

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Filed under Book Spree, Ian Fleming, Indra Sinha, Sarah Waters, Tom Rob Smith