Calling all book groups!

The latest additions to our book group collections are guaranteed to stimulate lots of thought, discussion, and debate.

You can borrow up to 15 copies of any of the titles below for your book group to borrow for up to 6 weeks at a time. Find out how – and download the complete list featuring more than 200 other titles – here.

A Girl is a half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
Experimental, award-winning insight into a young woman’s relationship with her severely brain-damaged brother.

Look Who’s Back by Timor Vermes
Berlin, 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of ground, alive and well.

The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne
A Moroccan holiday goes horribly wrong.

Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding
Story of the British War Crimes Investigation Team and the hunt for the senior Nazi officials responsible for the atrocities of Auschwitz.

Longbourn by Jo Baker
Life below stairs in Georgian England.

Elizabeth is missing by Emma Healy
A mystery story with a difference, narrated by a ninety-year old with dementia.

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh
Desire turns to dangerous obsession during a family holiday.

All the Birds Singing by Evie Wyld
Something is killing the sheep, but what is it? There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and man, and rumours of an obscure, formidable beast.

The Circle by Dave Eggers
Mae Holland is hired to work for the world’s most powerful internet company. But a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.

World War One Fiction (available from September)
15 individual titles. Choose one each then share your reading experiences with the rest of your group.

World War One Non- Fiction (available from September)
15 individual titles including histories, biographies and classics. Choose one each then share your reading experiences with the rest of your group.

Join the Big Library Read

Join the biggest book group in the world and take part in the Overdrive Big Library Read!

All library members will be able to borrow and read the eBook, A Pedigree to Die For by Laurien Berenson, from the 3rd-18th June by visiting  our Overdrive site.

This unusual mystery novel is set in the cut-throat world of dog shows! The apparent heart attack that killed kennel owner Max Turnbull looks suspiciously like foul play as his prize winning pedigree poodle is also now missing. Melanie Travis is talked into investigating her uncle’s death so poses as a poodle breeder. She soon discovers, in the championship dog world, the instinct for survival, and winning, can prove fatal.

During the Big Library Read there is unlimited simultaneous access to this title. Why not get together with your friends or family and have a mini book group. Overdrive ebooks can be read on a wide range of computers, tablets, mobile phones and ebook readers (see Overdrive information page for more details).


Book group for parents with young children launches at Oxgangs Library

babyOxgangsOxgangs Library have just launched a new book group aimed at parents with young babies.  If you’ve been held back from attending a book group because of childcare arrangements then this book group could be exactly what you are looking for.

Come along to Oxgangs Library and meet like minded parents have a chat about books and reading. These friendly fun sessions will include short stories, poetry and short readings. There also be time to share books and rhymes with baby too.

Forthcoming sessions will take place on March 17 and 31, April 28 and May 12.

For more information email Carol Marr at Oxgangs Library or phone 0131 529 5546.

How libraries help learners

This week is Adult Learners’ Week. What’s it all about?

Adult Learners’ Week is a national celebration of the benefits of lifelong learning. We’re getting involved with writing workshops, singing, cooking, and facebook sessions – for details see our events calendar.

But why are libraries getting involved?

Public libraries have always been a source of information, knowledge and culture for all. They are spaces where anyone can go without feeling pressure to buy anything, and without feeling judged for what items they want to read.

Library services are crucial to adults who wish learn at whatever level, be it to improve their literacy or embark on a research project, through formal schemes or simply for the pleasure of learning something new.

Any individual can borrow any item they need, at no (or very little) immediate cost – especially relevant at a time when many people have less disposable income.

Also, for many adult learners, schools are associated with negative learning experiences whereas libraries are often viewed as more neutral spaces and therefore perhaps more conducive to adults wanting to learn.

So what do libraries do to support adult learners?

Lots! Here are just a few examples:

Our fantastic  Edinburgh Reads programme of events offers opportunities for adults to interact with authors and topics in an informal and stimulating way.

Some authors have engaged specifically with adults discovering reading for the first time. For example, crime writer Lin Anderson’s short novel Blood Red Roses, published specifically with emergent readers in mind, was read by several adult literacy groups in central Edinburgh who met the author for a chat over coffee and cake. This provided a real opportunity for personal growth in confidence and enjoyment of reading.

The annual ‘Six Book Challenge’ provides another way of supporting and encouraging emergent readers to discover the joy and satisfaction of reading for pleasure.

Since doing the  Challenge I have seen my reading get better. I am on my fourth book and did not read much before.’ (Sue)

I like to read to my children now, we help each other.‘(Chris)

Perhaps one of  the most popular ways Edinburgh  Libraries support adult learners is through our LearnIT Project. For complete beginners, we provide free informal and very supportive support in using computers. Adults can attend classes, pop into a drop- in LearnIT Lab, or meet with a volunteer IT Buddy for one to one tuition.

I was thrilled to be able to buy a washing machine online for nearly  £70 less than in the shops!’ Joan, LearnIT student.

And of course, our growing library of online learning resources provide support to adults learning at home or on the move.

Happy Adult Learners’ Week!

New titles to borrow for your book group

deadman's pedalBook groups in Edinburgh now have an even greater choice of free books to borrow as we’ve extended our list of book group collections to include 173 titles.

New additions like Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Are you my mother? and John O’Farrell’s The man who forgot his wife have generated strong reactions from critics and are sure to do so among book groups as well. Throw in a few classics, some thought-provoking non-fiction and the cream of contemporary Scottish novelists and you’ve got the perfect mix of books for your group to read, debate and discuss.

And you can join in the conversation right here right now, on Tales of One City.

Each title on our list of books for book groups has a link to a page where you can see what other readers thought of the book as well as submit your own thoughts and opinions.

So whether you want to stick up for The Elegance of the Hedgehog, share your thoughts on Mr Chartwell or join the Shirley Jackson love-in … you can do so now.

How to borrow books for your book group

If you’re a member of a book group in Edinburgh you can borrow up to fifteen copies of a particular book for your book group to use for 6 weeks. It’s so easy, and even better, it’s all free!

Here’s how:

  • Choose a person from your bookgroup to join as a Library Book Group member.
  • Get a Book Group ticket at your nearest library.
  • Choose the book you’d like to read – take your pick from these titles
  • Call 0131 242 8046 or email to book the collection.
  • Pick up and return collections to your nearest library.

If you already have a library card you can still use it for your own personal reading. The book group ticket is an extra card for borrowing multiple copies of the same book.

The Big Book Group Quiz is BACK!

It’s on! In association with Blackwell’s Bookshop we’re looking for the smartest book group in town. Could it be yours? And even if it’s not, we guarantee fun fun fun finding out.

Register your team of five bookish quizzers and maybe you’ll be the ones to take the title from reigning champs Portobello Book Group.

The quiz takes place at Central Library on Thursday 13th December, 6.30 – 7.45pm – so why not make it your book group’s Christmas night out? Call 0131 242 8046 or email reserve your team’s place. If you’re struggling to get five people don’t worry, we’ll get you sorted out with a team.

Finally, just to get you in training, who said “A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke?” (Here’s a clue. It was a man…)

A different kind of book group

Our ESOL Chatabout reading groups are a great way to improve your English, make friends and have fun. These friendly, informal reading groups are ideal for adult students learning English as a Second Language, at Intermediate Level, and are most definitely NOT English classes!

Over the past few months we’ve been reading The Little One by Lynda la Plante: a creepy ghost story that makes you want to sleep with the light on.

Maria commented ‘it was really scary and I loved the tension building up.. I learnt some new words like bell-pull..’. The group enjoyed sharing traditional ghost stories from their home countries.

More light-hearted was ‘Kung Fu Trip’ by poet, musician and writer Benjamin Zephaniah and his partly fictional account of a visit to mainland China. One of our members, Fung, was able to explain some of the Chinese expressions.

But the book which everyone enjoyed the most was Bloody Valentine by James Patterson, a particularly gory murder mystery! It led to lots of chatter and sharing of some new words and expressions.

All these books are from the ‘Quick Reads ‘series – short books by best selling writers and celebrities.Take a look at the full list of titles.

Chatabout groups run in the following libraries – use the contact details to find out how you can join.

McDonald Road Library Group meets the last Thursday of each month, 10-11.30am, starting Thursday 27th September. Contact: Wendy Pearson 0131 242 8022

Moredun Library Group meets the last Friday of each month, 11am, starting Friday 29th September. Contact: David Hayden 0131 529 5649

Fountainbridge Library Group. If you are interested in being part of a group at this library please contact Mo Boussaboun 0131 529 5616

A busy first year for our Dyslexia Chatterbooks group

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Dyslexia Chatterbooks has been running for its first academic year and as you can see from our photos we’ve had lots of fun!

The group meets on the last Tuesday of each month, from 6.00 -7.30pm in the Central Childrens’ Library, and any child aged 8-10 years, with some form of dyslexia, is most welcome.

We are definitely not a tutor-led or learning support group, but rather we offer an opportunity for exploring words and reading informally, through games, story telling, drama, laughter and lots more.

This year has included a visit from local story teller and author Lari Don, (‘I loved when she read to us!’ commented Rachael, ‘I liked the fairground story because some of it was true and we had to guess which bit was not true!’ responded Cloe and ‘My favourite bit was the riddle of the sphinx and the ghost train story.’ said Ross.)

Some of us met popular sports personality Kenny Logan, also dyslexic, at Drum Brae Library and were thoroughly enchanted by his wit and personal story of dyslexia.

We have read books about animals and then dressed up in fancy dress to tell our own stories, and have had time each week to share what we have enjoyed about reading in very  small groups, with friendly adult support. We will be taking a break during summer holidays in July and starting up again at the end of August. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact

Found in translation: the increasing appeal of foreign fiction

Translated fiction seems to be a recurring theme this week.

Yesterday’s announcement of the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize brought to mind Sam Jordison’s recent post on the Guardian Books Blog which asked whether we are at last beginning to appreciate writing from the wider world.

The recent upsurge in the popularity of overseas crime fiction suggests that we are indeed becoming more adventurous.

More evidence can be found in the existence of groups like the ‘Found in translation’ book group which meets once every 8 weeks at McDonald Road Library.

Of all our book groups, this one is unique in that it concentrates exclusively on contemporary European literature translated into English.

At the next meeting on 12th March, for example, the group will debate and discuss James Hopkin’s “Winter under water” before going away to read “A thousand peaceful cities” by Jerzy Pilch in time for the get-together on 21st May.

The group have also put together this list of titles they plan to read in the future. If you’re new to contemporary European fiction these books are as good a place as any to start. And joining the group is a great way to meet like-minded people and explore new authors and works together.

So if you’d like to get involved call McDonald Road Library on 0131 529 5636 or email

The TV Book Club: Book One! (and some alternatives)

It’s that time of year again, when the nation unites for a country-wide book group, led by a host of famous faces.  On Sunday 29th January the TV Book Club gets underway with a discussion of the immensely popular “Before I Go to Sleep” by S.J. Watson; so popular that at the time of writing, over 30 of you are on the waiting list to read it!

But the good news is that we also have two e-audiobooks curerntly available for loan – so get in quick!

Alternatively, while you’re waiting you could borrow books which explore similar themes – here are three titles we enjoyed:

Eastern Standard Time by Cory Doctorow

Art is an up-and-coming interface designer, working on the management of data flow along the Massachusetts Turnpike. He’s doing the best work of his career and can guarantee that the system will be the most counterintuitive, user-hostile piece of software ever pushed forth into the world. Why? Because Art is an industrial saboteur.

The Housekeeper and the Professor byYoko Ogawa

He is a maths professor with a peculiar problem – ever since a head injury 17 years ago, he has lived with only 80 minutes of short-term memory. She is a housekeeper with a ten-year-old son, who is entrusted to take care of him. Each morning, as they are reintroduced to one another, a strange relationship blossoms between them.

Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler

The story of a year in the life of Liam Pennywell, a man in his 61st year. A classical pedant, he’s just been ‘let go’ from his schoolteaching job and downsizes to a tiny out-of-town apartment. When he goes to bed early and alone on the first night, he wakes up in hospital unable to recall how he got there.

Are you learning English as a second language?

Fountainbridge Library’s new Chatabout Book Group is looking for members.

If you or someone you know is learning English as a second language at intermediate level why not come along? We are a friendly informal group and by reading and sharing books together we build our confidence in reading, listening to and speaking English.

The group meets at 5pm on the first Wednesday of every month at Fountainbridge Library.

If you’d like to find out more contact or call 0131 242 8022

Lin Anderson’s Recommended Reads

Crime writer Lin Anderson popped in to the new look Morningside Library  to chat about some of her favourite reads.  So if you are still looking for Christmas present ideas or inspiration for some holiday reading then check out what Lin had to recommend.

If you are interested in any of these books why not borrow them the catalog?

The Gowk Storm – Nancy Brysson Morrison –

And The Land Lay Still – James Robertson –

Casino Royale – Ian Fleming –

Introducing alt.bk.grp – a new kind of book group

Here at Moredun Library we’re planning a brand new book group; one with a difference…

Alt.Bk.Grp. is an alternative book group which will focus on genre fiction such as science fiction and fantasy as well as graphic novels and manga.

We’ll meet once a month to discuss a featured book, then we might branch off to look at accompanying works as well as film, television, computer and videogame adaptations.

So come along, bring a friend, make a few new ones and discover some great new fiction!

For more information contact Phil at Moredun Library – email or call 0131 529 5652.

Reading round Piershill

Piershill Chatterbooks event

Children at Piershill’s Chatterbooks Reading Group enjoyed a recent visit from local authors Kathryn Ross and Lindsey Fraser to talk about their book Reading Round Edinburgh: A Guide to Children’s Books of the City.

Piershill is just one of the libraries in the city that has a Chatterbooks Reading Group for children.  Find out if there’s Chatterbooks group at your local library.

Discovering and discussing Polish books and writers

Bringing people together through a shared love of Polish literature, culture, books and reading, the Polish Book Group at McDonald Road Library is looking for new members. The central aim of the group is to read and discuss Polish authors in English, but we also like the idea of reading Scottish authors translated into Polish.

We meet every two months, and books are provided in English and Polish. So far we have read House of Day House of Night by Olga Tokarczuk and The Last Supper by Pawel Huelle. Meetings are very relaxed, we have a cup of tea and a biscuit, and chat about travel, food and local issues as well as books!

For more information please contact Cecylia O’May on 0131 529 5636 or email  – or just come along to the next meeting on 20th June at 6pm.

Adult Learners’ Week

16-20 May is Adult Learners week and my goodness we’ve  got plenty going on in libraries to mark the fact. Whether you want to find out more about local history, start a book group, improve your computer skills or trace your family tree, we’ve got something for you.

Here on the blog we’ll be getting into the spirit of things, and every day during the week we’ll be telling you about the ways the library can help you learn everything from art appreciation to Italian. Remember our LearnIT computer classes for beginners run throughout the year and – this is a library service after all – we’ve got books to help you learn more about almost any subject under the sun.

Unless stated otherwise, contact the host library to book your place at the events listed below:

Adult literacy

Coffee, chat and browse of “Journey for Learning” books aimed at the less confident reader.  Also, an opportunity to look at computer software that helps you read websites, and create documents.
Gilmerton Library: Tuesday, 17 May 10.30am until 12.30pm

Enjoy the fantastic story telling skills of renowned teller of tales, Bea Ferguson, and have a go at developing your own skills. This event is aimed at members of City Literacy and Numeracy groups and their tutors.

Central Library (Conference Room) Monday 16th May, 2.00 – 3.30pm. To book a place email or call 0131 242 8022

Book groups

Looking for practical help with running your own reading group? Two sessions in the VCR Room, Central Library, may offer just what you need. Chat over a cuppa with our own Reading Development Officer, Annie Bell. No need to book a place, just turn up.

How to Run a Reading Group: Wednesday 18th May, 2.30-3.30pm

Reading Group Panics! Ask the expert: Thursday 19th May, 6.45-7.45pm

Computers and I.T.

A celebration of learning – any recent  LearnIT Computing for beginners attendees welcome at Piershill Library.  Strawberry Tea with seasonal refreshments, musical entertainment from Scots Music Group,  a chance to share how you have been using your newly acquired skills, and suggestions for further learning. Tuesday 17th May, 2.30 – 4.30pm

First click – getting started at Oxgangs Library, Tuesday 17th May, 2 – 3.30pm

The Virtual Library and Silver Surfers Club at Oxgangs Library, Thursday 19th May, 4 – 5pm

Scared to use a computer? Taster for the terrified at Oxgangs Library, Friday 20th May 10.30 – 12.00

LearnIT beyond basics 1. Doing more with Word at the Central Library Learning Centre, Friday 20th May, 10.30 – 12.30. To book a place email or call 0131 242 8022

LearnIT beyond basics 1. Doing more with Word at the Central Library Learning Centre, Friday 20th May, 2 – 4pm. To book a place email or call 0131 242 8022

And don’t forget our LearnIT classes run in libraries all year long…

Family history

Discover the delights of Family History with long-standing expert, Bob Starratt. Bob has run genealogy courses with Edinburgh City Council Adult Learning Programme for many years and this taster session will introduce you to the delights of family history using both  online computer resources and more traditional methods.

South Queensferry Library: Monday 16th May, 2 – 4pm.

Fountainbridge Library: Tuesday 17th May, 10.30 – 12.30.

Portobello Library: Wednesday 18th May, 6.30 – 8.00pm.

Central Library: Thursday 19th May, 10.30 – 12.00. To book a place email or call 0131 242 8022

Walk round historic Newington

See and hear about the history of one of Edinburgh’s most fascinating areas with local history expert Iain MacDonald. The walk will last for 1 ½ hours and will finish at Newington Library, where tea & coffee will be served.

Meet at Newington Library: Wednesday 18th May, 2pm

Edinburgh through the poets’ eyes

Edinburgh, as you might expect, has attracted the attention of poets throughout the ages. Their contributions, which range from the brilliant to the ludicrous, have one thing in common: they are all unforgettable.  Tom Sommerville’s informal workshop will look at poems by Dunbar, Fergusson, Burns, McGonagall and Robert Garioch. In association with WEA Scotland.

Corstorphine Library: Monday 16th May, 2.00 – 3.30pm

McDonald Road Library: Thursday 19th May, 2.30 – 4.00pm

Women in history

A talk by social historian Jane George. South Queensferry Library: Wednesday 18th May, 7 – 8pm.

Introducing the Monday Night Murder Club

A brand new book group from Edinburgh City Libraries. And this one’s a bit different…

Rather than concentrating on a specfic book each month, we’ll focus instead on a different theme, all based round the genre of crime fiction. So one month we might be concentrating on American detectives, another time it might be Edinburgh crime novels or historical sleuths.

Share your thoughts on your favourite crime authors, the best detectives, favourite tales and the most shocking twists. Enjoy a coffee and get new recommendations from staff and other crime fans.

You can come along each month or just attend when we’re discussing a topic that particulary interests you (contact us for details of what we’ll be discussing when).

We’ll meet at Sighthill Library on the first Monday of each month at 6.30pm, (starting 7th March).

Come along and interrogate us!

The Biggest Book Group Bash ever?

Bookgroupers were out in force on Monday 24th January in the Central Reference Library, to listen to a panel of ‘Edinburgh Reads’ authors (Sue Peebles, Laura Marney and Alan Bisset, with Stuart Kelly as Chair) discuss their ‘fantasy bookgroup’.

See more photos from the event on flickr

Each member of the panel got to choose a living auhor, an author from any time in history and a book to disuss at their fantasy book group. For those of you who couldn’t make it along or couldn’t quite manage to write down all their suggestions, please see the list below, of all the authors, titles, personalities alive and dead mentioned in the course of the discussion.  Happy reading!

Sue Peebles

Janet Frame (d.2004): one of New Zealand’s greatest writers.  Recommended autobiography -‘An Angel at my table

Christopher Hitchens, author of  ‘Hitch 22

Birds of America’ by Lorrie Moore –an ‘exquisite’ collection of 12 short stories which includes ‘People Like that are the Only People Here’ comparable to Raymond Carver’s ‘A Small, Good Thing’, a masterpiece of parental empathy and grief. Pablo Neruda’s ‘Twenty love poems and a song of despair’ was also mentioned.

Alan Bisset

Lady Caroline Lamb (d.1828) ‘the first celebrity stalker’, coiner of the phrase ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ about her erstwhile lover Lord Byron.  Her many letters are now available in the National Library’s ‘John Murray Archive’.

Martin Amis, author of ‘The Information’, and ‘The War Against Cliche: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000’- heavily recommended.

American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis.  A controversial black satire on the bankrupt, money-driven world of the 1980s.

Laura Marney

Muriel Spark (d.2006) Famous Edinburgh waspish author of ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Marilynne Robinson, underrated author of ‘Gilead’ and ‘Home’, gracefully measured family stories.

The Cone Gatherers’ by Robin Jenkins.  A novel that deserves to be more widely read, and more widely spread.

Other recommendations- ‘The Handmaid’s Tale‘ by Margaret Atwood; ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess; ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck; ‘Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka; ‘On Chesil beach’ by Ian McEwan and ‘Number9dream’ by David Mitchell.

Stuart Kelly

G.K. Chesterton (d.1936) witty, prolific, diverse English writer, often called ‘The Prince of paradox’.

Zadie Smith – award winning writer of ‘On Beauty’.

We have always lived in the Castle’ by Shirley Jackson. A mystery tale told by Merricat, an unreliable narrator.  Also wrote ‘The Lottery’.

Interested in Polish literature and culture?

Monday 24th January is shaping up to be a big day for our book groups.

As well as our rescheduled Big Book Group Bash with Alan Bissett, Laura Marney, Sue Peebles and Stuart Kelly – which we’re all looking forward to – just down the road at McDonald Road Library we’ll be holding the very first meeting of our brand new Polish book group.

The aim of this group is to share a love of Polish authors and bring them to a wider audience by reading books translated into English, or in their original language. Everyone’s welcome – and you certainly won’t need to be able to read or speak Polish.

Interested? Come along to our first meeting and help us decide what we’ll be reading, how often we meet, what kind of biscuits to order…

And if you can’t make it along (maybe because you’re going to the Big Book Group Bash!) don’t worry, just contact Katie or Cecylia on 0131 529 5636 or email for more information.

McDonald Road Library, Monday 24 January 2011, 6-7pm

It’s back! The Big Book Group Bash

We’ve had to reschedule due to the appalling weather at the start of December, but we’re delighted to announce that the Big Book Group Bash is ON!

Come along and hear some of our favourite authors – Alan Bissett, Laura Marney and Sue Peebles – discussing their fantasy book group.  In the chair is Stuart Kelly, literary editor of Scotland on Sunday and author of Scott-Land and The Book of Lost Books.

You’ll also hear more about our brand new book group service where book groups can register at their local library and borrow up to 15 copies of a particular title at a time. AND we’ll have seasonal nibbles and drinks…

Everyone’s welcome – whether you’re part of a book group, thinking about joining one, or just want to listen to some great writers talking about the books and authors they love. It’s totally free but you will have to book a place – just call 0131 242 8100 or email – and we’ll see you there!

Central Library, Monday 24 January 2011, 6.30pm