Library Porn

loo library

Last night I fell over a stack of books and hit my head on the wardrobe.

This is not uncommon. Since my bookshelves can no longer house my ever-growing collection, I have taken to stacking any new purchases in large piles around the shelves. Gradually, the piles have begun creeping towards my bedroom door so that on occasion (often during the middle of the night), books come crashing down onto the small stretch of carpet that leads to my bathroom.

Barely conscious and unable to fumble my way around in the dark, the last few weeks have seen several book-related accidents and a rather uncommon twist on ‘things that go bump in the night’. Since a lack of space means that there is simply no room for a new bookcase, I have instead reduced by quest for perfect shelving to Pinterest, where I have dedicated an entire board to the best book storage imaginable.

You can see my library porn collection in full here.

Philip Pullman – Twitterature Tales

houseflyI have to admit, I don’t follow too many authors on Twitter.

Accustomed to unlimited words and pages, most seem to struggle finding something to say within the 140 character count. Philip Pullman admitted as much in a recent interview with The Telegraph, confessing, “I joined Twitter back in November because the people who do my website suggested it would be a good quick way of keeping in touch with readers, but I soon found out I didn’t have very much to say.”

However, rather than resorting to the occasional PR-recommended Q+A, or repetitive re-tweets from fans and followers, Pullman began devoting each of his tweets to the story of Jeffrey, a well-mannered and educated housefly with a penchant for attractive ladybirds. From his ongoing dung addiction, to the discovery of the Silverfish Syphony Orchestra and the alluring Madame Vespucci, monitoring Jeffrey’s escapades has become a daily ritual with my morning coffee.

“Jeffrey is just fun,” Pullman says. “I don’t think it’ll be a book. I’d rather keep it where it is. But if it had a title it would probably be The Jeffreyad. What’s next in the story? I don’t know. I shall have to wait and see.”

To catch up on Jeffrey’s latest escapades, you can follow Philip Pullman at @PhillipPullman. 

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Capture

I can’t believe how long it has taken me to read this novel.

For months it sat on my bookshelf, untouched and forgotten as I ploughed through the list I had sworn not to stray from. Last week, however, a long train journey and limited budget (no more impromptu WHSmith purchases) beckoned me back to the bookshelf and this international bestseller.

I have to admit, I was a little dubious. The Telegraph had described it as ‘a sort of centenarian Forrest Gump’ and I was unsure whether I had the patience to follow a senior Scandinavian across Sweden with an ever-growing group of criminals and oddballs.

It certainly isn’t a novel that takes itself too seriously. Its protagonist is the practical optimist Allan Karlsson, a hundred-year-old pensioner who escapes his 100th birthday party from an open window and heads for the nearest bus station. After stealing a suitcase in an unpleasant encounter outside a waiting room toilet, Allan embarks on an adventure with an ever-growing group of new acquaintances, including an elephant and a homeless criminal.

Yes, you have to work hard to keep up. There’s no emotional attachment to these characters, they are there merely to keep the ball rolling, and oh how fast the ball rolls. Besides remembering each character’s name, there is Allan’s personal past to follow, as the novel recounts his unknowing involvement in the key events from the twentieth century. Befriending several dictators, US presidents and Nobel prize winners, Allan’s life becomes an amusing satire of twentieth century history.

Although far from the deep and meaningful reads that usually accompany me on long journeys, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is an oddly uplifting read that left me in a strangely optimistic mood for the rest of the week.

Hay Festival 2014

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This year Hay Festival runs from 22 May to 1 June and as always, I couldn’t wait to see the laureate line up. With the early bird tickets already on sale here, I was thrilled to see that this year’s Nobel Laureate speaker is Toni Morrison, one of my favourite prose writers of all time. With tickets selling at only £15 each, I promptly purchased two (I’m taking my Mum along for the adventure) and booked myself several days off work.

With the festival’s line up including Stephen Fry, Judi Dench, Jennifer Saunders and Julia Donaldson, this year’s Hay Festival looks set to be its finest yet.

For more details on Hay Festival, I suggest visiting the website at http://www.hayfestival.com.

The Underdog: Costa Book Prize 2013

nathan filerEverybody loves an underdog. There’s nothing better than seeing a virtually unknown individual pip the top contenders to the winning post. Their reactions are always delightfully sincere mixtures of shock, joy, and humble appreciation.

When Nathan Filer won The Costa Book Prize last week, his response was no different. The mental health nurse from Bristol, who spent ten years writing his debut novel The Shock of the Fall, told the press that his win felt “very nice indeed”, before going on to add that he would be returning to work on Sunday for his next shift.

Facing stiff competition from the critically acclaimed Samuel Johnson and Kate Atkinson, the humble writer was not the obvious contender for the top prize, with Atkinson expected to take home the award for her eighth novel Life After Life. As the first debut novel to take the prize since 2006, The Shock of the Fall is an inspiring start for all debut novelists in 2014.

Have you picked up your copy yet?

New Year’s Readolutions

books to read

Yes, I can’t believe that’s what I titled this post either.

Every year I fill several notebooks with recommended reads and every year, I end up being so distracted by new releases or Waterstones’ Buy One Get One Half Price, that I almost never get round to reading them. This year, however, I have promised myself to purchase at least six of the books on last year’s list. And read them.

1. And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini.

2. The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins.

3. The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton.

4. The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin.

5. Stoner, John Williams.

6. The End of the Affair, Graham Greene.

Christmas Crackers

this christmas

During my time at Waterstones, every family member would receive a book for Christmas, regardless of whether or not they enjoyed reading. Since then, I’ve put slightly more thought and consideration into my gifts, occasionally seeing past the bookshelves for a more appropriate gift. However, for those who love nothing more than receiving a great read, here are my recommendations.

1. Dominion, C.J. Sansom. One of my 2013 favourites, this is a great purchase for anyone who enjoys history and a good political thriller.

2. Mad About the Boy, Helen Fielding. Bridget’s back. Helen Fielding’s third instalment of Bridget Jones has caused a stir amongst the Chardonnay lovers of the literary world, as Bridget returns as the fifty year old widow back on the dating scene once more. I’ve picked up a copy for my Mum, my godmother, and every other fifty-something Bridget fan I know.

3. The Book Thief, Markus Zusack. With the film having just been released, this is one book that must be read before watching the film. I’ve picked up a copy for my sister, whose only knowledge of great books comes from the film adaptations, horror!

4. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte. In this case, it’s less about the book and more about the cover. Waterstones have been selling these beautiful cloth bound editions of classics for a while now, but they’re the perfect Christmas gift for any book lover. I picked up two copies, one for my step-mother and one, well, for myself. Why not?

5. Bonkers, Jennifer Saunders. This is a great autobiography from Jennifer Saunders. Funny, well-written, and at times deeply moving, this is a great gift from the queen of British comedy.

6. One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore. Set in Soviet Russia, this is the perfect accompaniment to any cold day spent in front of the fire. Another perfect read for any book lover, this is the book I have lent out the most in 2013.