Edinburgh Reads: Sally Magnusson

This is my story, but it could be anybody’s

Sally Magnusson ‘s ‘Where memories go’ , her account of her mother Mamie’s long struggle with dementia, was one of the most-borrowed books from Edinburgh Libraries last year.

So it was no surprise that the Reference Library was packed for last night’s talk by the author.

DSC_5587 - CopySally talked about how as a journalist she was used to flitting in and out of other people’s lives, rarely digging deeper before moving on.

But then, in the late nineties, her mother ‘started to ‘go off the boil’. As Sally put it, she ‘mislaid her curiosity’.

And so began the biggest story of Sally’s life. A story she had to share. Because by sharing something, we encourage people to talk about it. And talking about something drives away stigma.

Sally spoke lovingly of her mother Mamie’s life story and character, before going on to describe the effect that dementia had on her.

Sally was keen to stress some of the positives of her experience. Mamie was still able to enjoy times of great in-the-moment happiness, and this was something that Sally came to treasure, learning that living for the moment and experiencing ‘the best day of your life’ over and over can be something to celebrate.

Sally also spoke about the lessons she learned. She spoke about the value of community, and how keenly she felt a lack of guidance and reassurance. This goes back to what she had said earlier about the need to talk and share our experiences, and this has been the legacy of the book.

There are other reasons for optimism as well. Sally argued that we are slowly getting better at understanding dementia.

She spoke about the positive effect music can have, and her work with Playlist for Life, which seeks to create a personal playlist for anyone with dementia to help unlock who they are. This is similar in idea to the work libraries do in care homes with Read Aloud.

We are extremely grateful to Sally for taking the time to come and talk so eloquently – gratitude which will be shared by every member of last night’s audience.DSC_5575 - Copy

Reading well: recommended books on dementia

“Dementia is one of the greatest social, medical, economic, scientific, philosophical and moral challenges of our times.”

Sally Magnusson, author of ‘Where memories go: why dementia changes everything’

The Reading Agency have got together with health experts and people with lived experience to draw up a list of the most helpful books for people with dementia and the people around them.

The books are also an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to find out about the condition.

As well as information and practical advice the list of titles includes personal accounts, and suggestions for shared therapeutic activities.

These titles are available to borrow from libraries now. Reserve them online using your library card and PIN to collect at your nearest library.

“It is abundantly clear that with support and books presented in an accessible way, people with dementia can continue to learn and amongst their learning can be an empowerment to help themselves and others in a similar situation.”

Keith Oliver, former headteacher diagnosed with dementia in 2010.






Catherine Rayner and Reading Rainbows

Congratulations to author and illustrator Catherine Rayner who has just won the Peters’ picture book of the year award for Smelly Louie!

Catherine’s been  a great friend to Edinburgh Libraries, and recently helped Gracemount nursery pupils celebrate the start of this year’s Reading Rainbows at South Neighbourhood Office and Library.


She shared some stories before presenting each child with a gift book pack containing 2 picture books, a pen and pad and an activity leaflet.

This year, over 1000 4-year-olds across the city will get a free book pack and hopefully, take part in Reading Rainbows events in libraries and Early Years’ Settings.

Join the Big Library Read!

Want to read a great autobiography that highlights the power of books in people’s lives? Then join in with this year’s Big Library Read!

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates will be available on our OverDrive site from 17-31 March for any library member to download. Read it on your own; read it with your friends; or host your own Big Library Read book group!

ShakespeareThe book follows English professor and prison volunteer Laura Bates as she took the bard behind bars to a solitary confinement  prison. One of the inmates however was trying to break out of prison, whilst Laura was trying to  get Shakespeare in! Witness the beginning of an unlikely friendship bonded by Shakespeare and lasting years – a friendship that, in the end, would save more than one life.

If you are new to OverDrive there are full user instructions available to get you started so you too can join in with the Big Library Read.

Books you can borrow for as long as you want

One of the greatest, and most overlooked, features of OverDrive is the fact that you get to download the classics of world literature on to your smartphone or tablet – and keep them for as long as you like.

Simply log on to the OverDrive site or app, and look for the ‘Additional eBooks’ button as shown below.

Why not download a handful on to your tablet or smartphone today? You’ll never be stuck for something to read and you might actually get round to reading some of those titles you’ve been meaning to for years.

There are thousands of available to choose from, which can be a little overwhelming if we’re honest, so here are twelve suggestions to get you started:

The Confidence Man by Herman Melville

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Emma by Jane Austen

Candide by Voltaire

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit

The Monk by Matthew Lewis

Don Quixote by Cervantes

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Poems by Emily Dickinson

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne

Silas Marner by George Eliot

Try our dyslexia-friendly library services

An informal opportunity over a cuppa to see the how our library services are helpful and accessible to adults with any level of dyslexia.

Oxgangs Library, Tuesday 24th March from 6.30 – 8.00pm

See how to use our e-books, and e-magazines…did you know the text can be fine-tuned to suit you?

Our e- audio books are great for listening to in the car, outside, anywhere.

We’ll try to answer your questions or put you in touch with somebody who can.

Gourmet Reads: Shari Low and Alex Gray

“It’s not an everyday occurrence in my life to get the opportunity to meet an author… and to be able to ask questions of his writing life over a convivial dinner. Gourmet Reads gave me just such an opportunity”

it was such a pleasure to attend your Gourmet Reads! All the best with your future authors…

‘I didn’t know what I was coming along to…Let me know about your next event, I’d definitely consider coming along. It was brilliant! A great initiative.’

Our previous Gourmet Reads evenings with Ian Rankin and Doug Johnstone were so much fun – now it’s the ladies turn.

beeline events

Gourmet Reads offer a unique chance to chat to your favourite authors over a meal  in the stylish surroundings of Elliot’s at Apex Waterloo.

To register for either of these forthcoming Gourmet Reads events call Grainne Crawford on 0131 529 7791 or email grainne.crawford@edinburgh.gov.uk

Shari Low, Friday 13th March

‘Gorgeous food and chatting about books are two of my favourite things in life. I’m looking forward to combining both these loves at the Gourmet Reads dinner!’ (Shari Low)

Author, Daily Record columnist and former fire-extinguisher flogger Shari will talk books, writing and anything else you want to ask her about. Good times and giggles guaranteed!

£50pp, 3 courses with wine, 6pm-9.30pm

Alex Gray , Thursday 30th April,

“I have come to the conclusion that there really are people out there who are simply evil”.

Alex Gray is a crime writer who takes her research seriously. Having completed the University of Glasgow’s Course in Forensic Medical Sciences Alex’s award-winning writing has an authenticity that’s hard to match.

Her books featuring Detective Chief Inspector Lorimer and psychological profiler Solomon (Solly) Brightman have won her an army of loyal fans.

£50pp, 3 courses with wine, 6pm-9.30pm