Ever heard about the App Blinkist? I hadn’t until a friend excitedly told me about it the other day. Blinkist is an App which condenses books into 15-20 minute reads, basically Cliff Notes for adults, only it’s exclusively non-fiction (thank God!). I gave it a try and I’ve now ‘read’ Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, a book I’ve been curious about for a while. Except I don’t feel I’ve really read it, I only know the definition of ‘the beauty myth’ and have learnt that we women should try to be friends not competitors….it took me 19 minutes.
Lost track of the many literary prizes and literary dates? Just missed the announcement of the Booker or Pulitzer prize winners? Join the club! Even we struggle to keep up. Here’s a bit of help with all the important literary dates for your calendar. We’ve focused mainly on dates for the UK except some internationally significant book prizes. For those events where dates for 2018 have not yet been published, we have used the 2017 dates. Please let us know in the comment field below if we missed any (which we surely have)!
James Wood’s annual list of literary discoveries from the past year is always an interesting read. This year he has chosen four books that he feels deserve more attention (particularly in America, from where he’s writing). I was drawn to his review of Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone, a book I’ve been circling in the bookshops without actually picking up. Perhaps because I found Erpenbeck’s previous novel The End of Days so excruciatingly sad? There’s nothing wrong with the quality of her writing, though, and Wood’s prediction (‘When she wins the Nobel Prize in a few years’) will probably come true. I think I will give it a go anyway. See what else Wood is suggesting here.
Finding beautiful books to give as presents used to be tricky. Not any longer. The arrival of e-books seemed to have propelled publishers into spending more thought and money on striking book covers. So walking into a well-stocked bookstore these days is no longer only a treat for your mind but a feast for your eyes as well. The bookshops are brimming with temptations: colourful, intelligent, artistic even tactile book covers. Combine that with some clever content and you’re in gift heaven. If there ever was a place you could kill off that Christmas shopping list with one stab, it’s in a bookshop.
What better way to spend a dark October evening than reading a spine-chilling ghost story? Or even reading one aloud to your family? Many of them are short so you don’t need to scare yourself for days on end. We have selected our favourites and, if you want to freak out your children too, we have some for them as well…
The Guardian has made a comprehensive and very useful list of 100 books that have shaped our modern world. Now this might sound unbearably dry to some of you (as it did to me) and there are few beach reads here but the way this list is divided into sub-lists ensures that there’s something for everyone. Have a browse and be inspired. Thank you The Guardian!
Great pick this year by the Nobel committee. Author of The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro wins the highest accolade of all, and, unlike last year’s winner Bob Dylan, is excited about it! ‘Flabbergastingly flattering’ was his comment to the press. Of his eight novels, The Remains of the Day, which has become a modern classic, is probably the most enduring. Never Let Me Go, also made a profound impression on me when I read it years ago. I was less keen on his latest novel The Buried Giant, which came out in 2015 and is reviewed here. I would start with Remains of the Day if I were new to Ishiguro. And there are always the filmed versions of that and Never Let Me Go, both worth your while.
I’m of the conviction that life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy. I read many books for this blog, for example, which I end up ditching after 80 or so pages. I try to give all books a fair chance and read at least 50 pages, preferably a bit more, before I put the book, guilt free, to the side. It has happened to me that a book all of a sudden picks up after a while and turns out to be excellent. I don’t want to miss those.
I have to confess. Shakespeare scares the hell out of me. Plain and simple. I sit through Shakespeare plays with my British-educated friends watching them nod and smile, while I struggle to understand even half of what’s being said. But hasn’t she studied English Literature, you might be thinking? Indeed, I have, but only in my later degrees at which point I could choose other kinds of courses. Which I happily did. The only piece of Shakespeare I’ve ever read (parts of) was King Lear as an undergraduate student in America.
Time to fix that.
Today the Man Booker Prize announced their always much anticipated long-list for 2017. A win or a short-listing normally makes a huge difference to sales so publishers get quite excited about this prize. Readers should also pay attention, although I don’t think they always get it right.