Desert Island Discs – Eleonora from Central Lending Library

Eleonora has been with the library for a few years now, working in the busy Lending department. She is also part of the imaginative team who run our Childrens’ Art Club. The thriving art club runs every second Wednesday and program a wide and varied selection of arts activities for their members.

We unfortunately had a to and fro of emails, as we were unable to provide Eleonora’s original choice of Music, so today we have no Metallica, listened to so much the cassettes were destroyed or, Faith No More which reminded Eleonora of studying for her art degree in Bologna.

Desert Island Discs

John Grant  –  Pale Green Ghosts
Eleonora says:

“amazing album I used listened all the time when I moved in Scotland, is perfect for any kind of mood”

Eleonora would like “anything by Ella Fitzgerald” so we suggest Ella Fitzgerald   –  At The Opera House 

and she also asked for anything by Creedance Clearwater Revival, so we offer The Best of Creedence Clearwater Revival

Book(s): The Name of the Rose and American Psycho …as we had a bit of difficulty fulfilling Eleonora’s music choices we have allowed both of her requests…

Eleonora said,

“I would like if I can chose two books, they are very important for me”

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco I just love the book and the movie as well, I got this book in my father’s “personal library” at home, when I started to read, I did not stop for hours. It reminds me my father and my house in south Italy.


American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – it was one of the books for my art degree. This book just drove me nuts, if I can say so. Brilliant book.


Luxury item: One of my father pipes, because sometimes I like to sit and smoke next to the window, look outside and get lost in my thoughts. 

A Day in a Child’s Life

Tucked away backstage, in a room in Central Library, is a copy of Kate Greenaway’s A Day in a Child’s Life. It’s an illustrated children’s song book with page after page of quaint colour wood engravings from the 19th century (the book was first published in 1881).

‘A Day in a Child’s Life’, an illustrated children’s song book

The pictures are quintessentially delicate and gentle. They skip along, lightly, gracefully; and every child that Kate Greenaway drew – and she drew many all through the book –  she drew them in historical costume, historical costume for the time, that is. The costumes date from decades before, from the early 19th century and Regency-era.

Playtime, an illustrated page from ‘A Day in a Child’s Life’

Kate Greenaway’s mother owned a millinery shop in Islington and the shop later developed into a ladies’ outfitters. Kate Greenaway, not unsurprisingly, learnt to sew, and she began to make the costumes for her child models to wear. Her illustrations were such a success that Liberty’s, the London department store, even introduced a line of children’s clothing based on them.

Behind the millinery shop was a garden, which as a child Kate Greenaway spent many hours in, and her pictures, as well as featuring children, feature flowers. Flowers drawn with thought and detail, picked and placed like a florist might for the best composition. Slim-leaved daffodils look particularly tall and upright beside a line of standing children, hands behind their backs; and in another illustration, big-faced sunflowers stand like shining suns to either side of a child (who has a head of golden curls) and is just about to wake up…  There was big public interest in flowers in Victorian times, floral dictionaries were enjoying a boom, and a few years later, in 1884, Kate Greenaway’s own The Language of Flowers became very popular.

Introductory image for ‘A Day in a Child’s Life’, an illustrated children’s song book

In terms of its production, A Day in a Child’s Life, was at the forefront of Victorian printing. It was engraved and printed by Edmund Evans, (who printed books by other illustration greats including Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott). He was pre-eminent in his work, pushing forward printing technologies by using a woodblock technique known as chromoxylography, and printing toy books and picture books that filled the floors of Victorian nurseries. It was also Edmund Evans’ nephew, Miles Birket Foster, who wrote the music for the song book.

Kate Greenaway, who has given her name to our own contemporary illustration award, the Kate Greenaway Medal, has been an influential figure in illustration. The artist and critic John Ruskin wrote of her:

“The fairyland that she creates for you is not beyond the sky nor beneath sea, but near you, even at your own doors. She does but show you how to see it”.

They were friends, John Ruskin and Kate Greenaway, and their correspondence with each other lasted until Ruskin’s death in 1900.

Do have a look on our Capital Collections exhibition to browse over more of these wonderful pictures.

Finnish authors promotion

This new year we’ll be promoting literature from our sister library, Iisalmi. So if you’ve never tried Finnish literature before, here’s the perfect opportunity!

So check out our Finnish authors collection on OverDrive and borrow a great selection of ebooks including –





Or a fantastic range of physical books –





Or downloadable audiobooks available on RBdigital and BorrowBox




See out full Focus on Finnish Authors reading suggestion list for lots more fantastic titles.

Edinburgh Libraries and Iisalmi Library in Finland became sister libraries early in 2019, and enjoy the opportunity to share and discuss experiences and cooperate by organising joint activities.

Iisalmi Cultural Centre

Iisalmi Cultural Centre & Library

Iisalmi is a vibrant middle-sized city in the Upper Savonia in the northeast of the country surrounded by lakes, rivers, and woodland. It has about 22,000 inhabitants and is known for the Olvi brewery and Genelec speaker factory among others. The library is located in the Iisalmi Cultural Centre, which also contains the Iisalmi Community College, Music College, Nature Museum and two main halls for different cultural events. Find out more about the city of Iisalmi

This partnership is the latest of many library collaborations under the NAPLE Sister Libraries cooperation programme for public libraries.

Paranormalise Me, Please

The first exhibition of 2020, Paranormalise Me, Please with artworks by Isaac Benjamin opened on 6th January in the Art and Design Library.

Untitled by Isaac Benjamin

Untitled by Isaac Benjamin

Isaac Benjamin is an Edinburgh-based artist who works across media including photography, painting and drawing. His new work is a representation of paranormal experiences. As an artist, he has previously explored his own personal struggles with severe mental health issues including delusional hallucinations and paranoia. Having found a sense of stability after a period of struggle, his work engages with the perceived dichotomies, parallels and divergences between issues related to mental health and paranormal experiences. He questions the common perception that otherworldly experiences are merely one aspect on the spectrum of hallucinations. This is Isaac’s second solo show.

The exhibition runs until 31st January.

Instant access to ebooks and audiobooks

This New Year we are running a fantastic promotion for non-library users offering them free instant access to ebooks and audiobooks on OverDrive without the need for a library card. If you read this blog you are probably already a member of the library, but do you know someone who isn’t, but would love free ebook and audiobook downloads? Please spread the word to your friends, family and work colleagues! 

Anyone over 13 years old with an EH postcode home, work or study address can sign up for instant access in seconds. All you need is a mobile phone number and the access code – Library2go. Thousands of best-selling books for adults, teens and children are available through OverDrive’s website or the Libby app. It’s a fantastic way to make the most of your electronic Christmas presents and to save money!

This promotion gives you access to OverDrive for three months.  However, its easy for people to keep on using the service for free by joining the library and receiving a permanent membership card. 

To find out how to get started go to This access option will be available from 7 January – 7 February 2020.

Some of our favourite books of 2019 (continued)

We asked colleagues to share with us the book they’d most enjoyed this past year.

Jen from the Art and Design Library chose Edward Ardizzone: Artist and Illustrator by Alan Powers.

“I was asked what library book I’ve enjoyed most this year and could I write about it, just a paragraph. To begin with this stumped me. It’s a tricky question – with a superlative in it too (what about all those other books?)… and then I thought of Alan Powers’ Edward Ardizzone: Artist and Illustrator. Sometimes, some things, just really are good.

It’s a large book, from the Art & Design Library.

Little Tim’s on the cover looking out to sea (at something, what is it? Not the ship). The book wouldn’t even need to be well written for me to be excited about it. There wouldn’t need to be many pictures, even one picture would do, even if it was in black and white (Ardizzone really could handle a pen, and that irksome material, black ink). But, of course, it isn’t. There are lots of pictures, lots in colour, and there are little gems throughout: unknown early commissions, men in pubs, things happening in streets, in parks. Always there’s a lightness – his pen is so loose and free, and just in the right place – and there it is, the moment is perfectly caught.

Edward Ardizzone (1900 – 1979), was an artist and illustrator, a biggie in 20th century illustration. The first of his Little Tim books was published in 1936; he also illustrated many contemporary writers (Eleanor Farjeon, Robert Graves). He drew illustrations for Walter de la Mare’s Peacock Pie, for magazines and advertising, and for the classics – to illustrate Dickens, Bunyan, Cervantes.

The book was published in 2016 alongside a retrospective exhibition held by the House of Illustration in London. It covers Ardizzone’s biographical story (he was also a war artist – have a look at the library catalogue for his war diaries…), mid-century illustration and illustration practice (book production, printing). And about illustration itself, Ardizzone is fascinating, and assertive. He particularly prized visual memory, and the art of making it all up. Illustration is about an imaginary world for Ardizzone. An illustrator,

‘creates a visual world, which looks real and which can be believed in. Yet it is not the real world but, like the author’s, a fiction.’
(p.179, quoting Ardizzone, The Born Illustrator, p.37).

This is a book for picture lovers, and book lovers. I thoroughly recommend it.”

Maybe 2020 could be the year to discover or revisit the treasure trove and book lover’s haven that is the Art and Design Library? Tucked away in a top corner of Central Library, you’ll find a feast of books, old and new on every aspect of art, craft and design to inspire and captivate.

Read more staff reading recommendations from 2019.

Some of our favourite books of 2019

Ever wondered what library staff choose to read? We asked some of our colleagues to recommend a book they’d particularly enjoyed reading this past year. Here’s what they said:

Carol at Stockbridge Library recommends The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood.
“I’m a big fan of Margaret Atwood, both her books and her politics. This novel has a humour to it although very dark in parts as it relates to this dystopian society, where the main characters Charmaine and Stan start off by living their lives in a car. Desperate to have a better live they embark on a ‘social experiment’ which splits their lives between suburban living one month, swopping it with a prison cell the next. All is not as it seems as both characters stray in their relationship with their alternative others. This is where things start to unfold in a very sinister way. And by the way Elvis makes an appearance, but not as you know him! This book was great fun to read and difficult to put down.”
Available as an ebook

Susan in the Digital Team tells us about The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel.
“It’s fair to say I wasn’t really looking forward to reading “The Stranger in the Woods” by Michael Finkel when it was chosen by my book group. I couldn’t see me enjoying a book about a man who spent almost 30 years of his life with no human interaction hiding out in the woods of Maine – the thought seemed horrifying.  That’s the good thing about book groups though, they throw books and ideas at you that you’d never think of reading and you discover gems like this. Christopher Knight was just 20 years old when he walked into the woods and created a home for himself hidden from the world, whilst living just minutes from other people.  Food and supplies were scavenged and stolen from the rural community around him without anyone ever seeing him, leading him to become known as the North Pond Hermit.  His story is unlike anything you have read and challenges all sorts of beliefs you might have had, bringing up more questions than answers really. Like why did Knight choose the life of a hermit and could you do the same? Why do we feel its wrong to live like this and was it right to try to make him conform to society’s values?  Would you steal to survive and did his thievery make Knight a bad person?  Want a short, fascinating non-fiction read – then this is the one for you.
Available as an ebook

Douglas from the Music Library recommends Sleeping Giants, (The Themis Files) by Sylvain Neuvel.
“I was in a well-known bookshop one day, browsing titles, when my daughter picked up a copy of Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. She was at that point almost set upon by a staff member who began to tell how good this book was and so on and so forth.  This kind of intrusion by staff in any shop is unwanted and unwelcome, so she put the book down and we made to move away. At that moment, an older gentleman leaned over the book table and said quietly, it really is a very good read and not at all how it was just described to you, completely different from anything he had read before, and a page turner.
All of which I have to agree with wholeheartedly, I am not a Sci-Fi reader but this has many more elements than just Sci-Fi. It is very readable, it moves with pace and is over all too quickly.
Sleeping Giants is the first part of a trilogy, the Themis files which I would also recommend.”

Clare in the Digital Team really liked The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.
“I loved The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. It’s a book unlike any I’ve ever read before. It was like being stuck in a sinister video game set in a stately home who-dunnit story. The narration changes every day as the protagonist slips into a different character in a race against time to solve the crime before he’s destined to start the story loop all over again – never knowing who he can trust, including himself.
It was complicated and clever and confusing but well worth the effort. I read this book back in January but it’s by far the most memorable book I read all year.”
Available as an ebook

Bronwen from the Art and Design and Music Libraries recommends two books. Her favourite fiction book of 2019 is Georgina Harding’s Land of the Living.
“Set in Norfolk and Nagaland in North East India, the narratives centres around Charlie, a young British Officer recently returned from service in India and Burma during the Second World War as he tries to reconnect with his childhood landscape of Norfolk, settling back into home and married life working a farm. Switching between the internal dialogue of Charlie’s memories and day to day conversations with his wife in Norfolk we learn more of Charlie’s harrowing experiences during the war and his time spent living with the Naga tribe. Charlie can’t bring himself to tell his young wife all he has experienced and this disparity between his experiences and what he reveals to even those close to him creates a powerful drama in the book. I found the book particularly interesting as I’d never heard of the Naga tribe and the book goes into quite some detail about their way of living and customs which I followed up with my own research. There’s also a dog in the story who lives on the farm with Charlie and his wife in Norfolk who to me seemed to symbolise home and family but when I asked the author this at a book festival signing she said, no, it’s just a dog, dogs are part of farm life.”

Bronwen’s favourite non-fiction book of 2019 is Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail.
“Based on Day’s series of podcasts in which interviewees explore what their failures have taught them, the book is divided into themes we can all relate to, such as family, work, relationships. It’s a powerfully honest book and Day reveals much of her own emotional and other personal struggles, but at the same time I found the book funny and uplifting. This is a book everyone can relate to – we’ve all failed at things at various times in our lives and we’re probably all still failing, and sometimes we learn to do things better the next time and sometimes not. The book made me want to write my own chapter on how to fail at being a library manager…”
Available as an ebook

Nicola from Kirkliston and South Queensferry Libraries picks Me by Elton John as her highlight of the year.
“This official autobiography by the Rocket Man (Elton John) did not disappoint. His early childhood and influence of his mother, whom he had a strained relationship with due to her moods and volatility, were contrasted to the nurturing role taken on by is grandmother. The absence of encouragement to be himself, and a burning ambition and desire to carve his own path lead to him undertaking to study at the Royal Academy of Music ultimately throwing out convention and turning to rock and roll.
There are so many times in his life where he reflects on the turning points which defined his career, often brought about by chance or twists of fate – the most career defining being his being given the contact for Bernie Taupin – his long standing lyricist and song writing partner.
There are so many anecdotes, which reveal an honesty and openness about a not perfect, but a life which has been lived to the fullest. I loved the anecdote about Sylvester Stalone, Richard Gere and Princess Diana coming to his home for a dinner party.
A page turning read, which had me hooked in its openness – a real roller coaster ride if ever there was one – fasten your seat belts!! 😉”

Janette from the Digital Team chooses The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter by Malcolm Mackay

A twenty – nine year old man lives alone in his Glasgow flat. The telephone rings, a casual conversation, but behind this a job offer. The clues are there if you know where to find them.

“Meet Calum Maclean, a free lance hit man for the Glasgow underworld, who is hired to bring about the demise of small-time drug dealer Lewis Winter.
It’s an easy job, in and out. It’s what happens next that creates problems. Calum finds himself embroiled in a turf war between an up and coming crime boss Shug Francis and the man who’s hired him, Jamieson, the long-standing boss in that part of town. Winter was one of Francis’s men and Jamieson put the hit out to send a message to Francis, who shall we say is none too pleased. He may have to do something, like go after Calum.
Written entirely in the present tense, it could well be described as a criminal procedural book. The chapters are short, and I found myself saying ‘just one more chapter’ before long half the book had been read……one more chapter?
This is the first book in what has become a trilogy, the next two are on my list to read over the holidays.”

Nikki from South Queensferry Library recommends To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

Virginia Woolf is one of those authors I’ve always meant to dip into, but I picked this book up on a bit of a whim. The book is centred around the Ramsay family and their holiday home on the Isle of Skye. Knowing very little about her style of writing and nothing at all about the plot of the book helped me enjoy both the characters and story for what they are. There’s dense poetic description in places, but rather than putting me off it made me want to slow my pace and take in as much as possible. Time is distorted in the story and changing character perspectives on top of this can make it a little hard to follow at times, but Woolf’s focus on the everyday tensions of family life and the affects of grief are very moving. I really enjoyed To the Lighthouse, and I think it’s a book I could come back to again and again and still find a new layer to the story.

Cecylia from Edinburgh and Scottish Collection recommends Things that Fall from the Sky by Selja Ahava.

“Things that Fall from the Sky was one of this year’s reads in our Found in Translation book group. We read it alongside the Finnish book group at our sister library, Iisalmi  and exchanged our thoughts on the book. I found it wonderfully weird and enchanting, also tragic and humorous at the same time. It’s a story or a fairy tale of three characters whose lives are changed forever by random events. A mother dies when hit by a block of ice which falls from the sky. A woman wins the lottery twice and a man is struck by the lightning four times. How they cope with the unexpected events? How they try to explain them? How they love and grieve?
Most highly recommended.”

What have you been reading this year?
Fancy joining a book group in 2020? Get in touch with your local library to find out how you can join their group or drop into the Central Library BookCafe

Read another about another great book recommendation from our Art and Design Library.