Book Week Scotland – Edinburgh Reads title

To celebrate Book week Scotland we have a cracking Scottish multi-access ebook available on Libby by a fabulous Scottish author!

The Bad Fire by Campbell Armstrong is available to download until the 30th November with unlimited copies. In this page-turning, atmospheric thriller a police detective returns to Glasgow to investigate his father’s death. Detective Eddie Mallon is coming home to Glasgow for the funeral of his father, whom he barely knew. Decades ago, the Mallon family split down the middle, and Eddie went to America with his mother while his sister stayed with their father, Jackie. Now Jackie has been murdered and Eddie has no choice but to conduct his own investigation, which takes him into the shadowy history of his father’s past and present and into something bigger and more disturbing than one man’s death.

Libby can be used on your tablet, phone of computer. Full instructions for using Libby can be found on our Your Library website.

Celebrating the Art and Design Library Artists’ Books Collection

Central Library are excited to invite you to the new exhibition on the Mezzanine: a showcase of the Artists’ Books Collection held by the Art and Design Library. The Art and Design Library Artists’ Books Collection comprises over 200 artists’ books and is part of the library’s contemporary special collections.

Artists books display on the Mezzanine at Central Library

The collection includes a significant range of works by Scottish artists, and artists working in Scotland.

The Art and Design Library began collecting artists’ books in the 1990s and has been gradually adding to the collection, with a more recent focus on the Scottish holdings. The Scottish artists represented include Douglas Gordon, Elaine Fullerton, Joanna Robson, Susie Wilson, Kate Whitford, and the late Ian Hamilton Finlay.

A selection of works by Susie Wilson
“Dr Jekyll and My Hyde” by Joanna Robson

The collection also includes many international contemporary artists’ books. Some of the earliest examples in the collection are those produced in the 1960s by the renowned Pop artist Edward Ruscha and celebrated Conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. Indeed, many sources cite Rusha and LeWitt as pioneers of this art form. The Library’s collection contains a range of examples of their work, some of which are simple collections of photographs in a book form. Other prominent international artists represented in the collection include the Abstract Expressionist painter, Helen Frankenthaler, and the Conceptualist artist Joseph Kosuth.

“Every Building on Sunset Strip” and “Some Los Angeles Apartments” by Edward Ruscha

As you will see throughout the display, artists’ books are diverse in form and concept. This diversity makes them difficult to define, although typically, these books are printed on a small scale and with limited editions. Sometimes they are produced in a conventional book-type form, but some can be produced as scrolls or concertinas, and even paper sculptures handcrafted in unique editions. They can feature unusual materials: glass, tree bark, ceramic, and textiles. The display showcases the wide variety of forms contained in the Art and Design Library collection and runs until the end of December 2022.

“Mysterious Ink” by Li Huang

It’s tapestry month this November at Central Library

Golden Threads reawakened – weaving a legacy

Central Library are delighted to be displaying through November an amazing community woven tapestry, Golden Threads, created by a group of amateur weavers based in Edinburgh. Find this beautiful display in the main staircase cabinets at Central Library.

The tapestry has a very interesting story taking its name from the golden threads it uses that were collected by the German Jew Hedwig Philip and that have not seen the light of day for some thirty years. Hedwig and her husband left Berlin in 1941, narrowly missing the Holocaust, travelling to join family in Pennsylvania.

Photo of Hedwig and the contents of her needlework box not opened for 70 years

Hedwig was a skilled needlewoman: she collected golden threads and embroidered a Torah Mantle for the local synagogue. In 1951 Hedwig travelled with all her belongings to Britain to join her daughter in Newcastle, dying not long afterwards. Hedwig’s box of threads, unopened, was passed from her daughter to her granddaughter, Cathie Wright.

Photo of Golden Threads tapestry

Cathie wanted something purposeful and interesting to be done with the threads. This secular tapestry pays homage to Hedwig’s story using her historic golden threads woven together with contemporary red and gray yarns. The tapestry Golden Threads is divided into sixteen panels designed by the sixteen amateur weavers Judith Barton, Sandra Carter, Sarah Clark, Barbara Clarke, Sylvia Davidson, Jackie Grant, Elspeth Hosie, Joan Houston, Kirsteen Kershaw, Joan MacLellan, Irene McCombe, Francesca McGrath, Lindi McWilliam, Serena Naismith, Anita Nolan, Hilary Watkinson and Ann Smuga. Together the panels pay homage to Hedwig’s story but the quantity and beauty of the threads, the heritage and the journey travelled, called for something more. The result is a modern, secular tapestry incorporating these historic golden threads, drawing on themes of Jewish heritage, refugee travel and survival, conflict avoidance, building bridges and seeking a better world with hope for a brighter future.

To quote from Cathie,

“This is a community enterprise that takes the threads from one spiritual tradition to universal themes that celebrate life and survival”.

The tapestries are woven with contemporary materials (wools and cottons) supplementing the old golden threads. They are joined with an overlay of golden braid which also came from Hedwig’s box. The overall size of the composite tapestry is 30 inches square. Thanks also to professional tapestry artists Joanne Soroka and Jo McDonald.

Supporting the display of the Golden Threads tapestry are books on tapestry weaving from the Art and Design Library.

Art of Tapestry author talk with Helen Wyld

If you enjoy looking at the Golden Threads tapestry and want to learn more about the art of tapestry come and hear author and Senior Curator of Historic Textiles at National Museums Scotland, Helen Wyld, deliver a free illustrated talk about her new book The Art of Tapestry. The book explores the National Trust’s collection of historic tapestries and brings new perspectives to the history of tapestry across Europe.

The Art of Tapestry with Helen Wyld will take place on Tuesday 22 November from 6:30 to 7:30pm in the George Washington Browne Room at Central Library.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

Brilliant fiction to celebrate Black History Month

To celebrate this year’s Black History Month, the Resource Management Team have curated a list of brilliant fiction from Black authors. Featuring a mix of historical and classic titles alongside the best contemporary fiction from exciting new voices.

5 books to pique your interest

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Set in East-London, this is an elegantly told love story between a dancer and a photographer. As the book unfolds Azumah Nelson explores the nuances of race and masculinity whilst celebrating community and Black culture.
Borrow Open Water from the library

Love in colour by Bolu Babalola
A beautiful collection of short stories – Love in colour retells iconic love stories from around the world. It’s a sweeping collection drawing inspiration from West African folktales, Greek myths, and the present day.
Borrow Love in colour from the library

Assembly by Natasha Brown
A short, powerful novel about a Black British woman navigating life marred and stifled by racism and the legacies of colonialism. Told in sharp and sparse vignettes.
Borrow Assembly from the library

People Person by Candice Carty-Williams
The second novel from the bestselling author of Queenie. People Person is a warm, engaging story about messy families, connection, and carving out your place in the world. It follows the story of Dimple Pennington as she gets to know her four half siblings.
Borrow People Person from the library

Lote by Shola Von Reinhold
The luxurious debut novel by Scottish author Shola Von Reinhold. Lote explores the pursuit of beauty and pleasure as a radical act. It follows protagonist Mathilda as she uncovers the life of Hermia Druitt a fictional Black poet lost to the archives.
Borrow Lote from the library

Access the full Brilliant fiction by Black authors collection and reserve a title to pick up from your local library.

Edinburgh’s literary women recognised

Edinburgh City of Literature Trust and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) are honouring five of Edinburgh’s overlooked women writers.

The five literary women were also social reformers, champions of women’s rights and instrumental in shaping Edinburgh’s history.  Plaques have been awarded through Historic Environment Scotland’s Commemorative Plaque scheme for three of these women, and the Trust have hopes for a further two, on buildings in the city associated with Mary Brunton, Christian Isobel Johnstone, Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane, Lady Margaret Sackville and Rebecca West.

Free podcasts have been created and copies of books written by all five women are being donated by the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust to fifteen of our libraries.

A set of five books, one from each featured author, is being donated by the City of Literature Trust with the support of funding from HES, to libraries across the city. From next week, you’ll find the titles at Balgreen, Blackhall, Corstorphine, Craigmillar, Currie, Drumbrae, Fountainbridge, Leith, McDonald Road, Morningside, Newington; Portobello, Piershill, Stockbridge and South Queensferry Libraries.

Each set contains –

Self-control by Mary Brunton
Mary Brunton (1778 – 1818) was a highly acclaimed Scottish novelist whose career rivalled Jane Austen’s. She championed women’s intellectual, creative and religious pursuits and her three novels prioritise sense over sentimentalism, labour over laziness and normalised the idea of the independent, educated, hard-working woman. Her wildly popular first novel, Self-Control, was selected to be included in Richard Bentley’s illustrious ‘canon-forming’ Standard Novels series in 1831 – before Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, which was published in the same year. Her life was cut tragically short and she is remembered with a plaque on her home at 35 Albany Street.
Reserve a copy of Self-control online

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West
Rebecca West’s debut novel The Return of the Soldier documents the aftermath of the WW1 from a woman’s perspective.
Cicily Isabel Fairfield (1892-1983) wrote novels and worked as a journalist and travel writer under the pen name Rebecca West. She is best known for her prolific and daring journalism career, which included writing for most major Western periodicals of the day, including The New Statesman, The New York Herald Tribune, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair. Famously she reported on the Nuremburg Trials after the Second World War and was described by US President Harry Truman as “the world’s best reporter” and by Time Magazine as “indisputably the world’s number one women writer”.  She is remembered with a plaque on her childhood home, 2 Hope Park Square.
Reserve a copy of The Return of the Soldier online

Clan-Albin by Christian Isobel Johnstone
Clan-Albin engages with themes on British imperial expansion, England’s economic and political relationship with Scotland and the role of women in public life.
Christian Isobel Johnstone (1781 – 1857) was a prolific writer, not just a novelist but also a non-fiction writer, investigative journalist and a creator of The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, publishing the latter under the pseudonym Margaret Dods. Her prestigious career rivalled that of Sir Walter Scott and she was the first woman to serve as a paid editor of a major Victorian periodical. Johnstone was a true Renaissance woman in Edinburgh’s literary scene who used her considerable skills not only to entertain and educate, but also to advocate for political and social reform. She is remembered with a plaque on her home at 12 Buccleuch Place.
Reserve a copy of Clan-Albin online

Selected Poems by Lady Margaret Sackville
Lady Margaret Sackville (1881 – 1963) published her first book of poetry when she was 19 and over her lifetime published around 40 books, mostly volumes of poetry but also plays, children’s stories and essays. A great supporter of the literary community, and in particular other women writers, she was a devout Roman Catholic and a pacifist, and from the beginning of the First World War was a member of the anti-war Union of Democratic Control.  She was also a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement and member of the British Committee of the International Women’s Congress.  She moved to Edinburgh and became the first president of Scottish PEN and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. An HES plaque will be installed to recognise her life and work at a location to be confirmed.
Reserve a copy of Selected Poems online

Mary Elizabeth Haldane: A record of a hundred years by Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane
A memoir of the writer’s mother.
Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane (1862 – 1937) was an eminent writer, translator, public figure, philosopher, suffragist, nursing administrator and social welfare worker. In her 20s she embarked on the ambitious project of translating the work of German philosopher Georg Hegel – a three volume edition which is still recognised and relied upon today. In addition, she wrote biographies on significant intellectual and cultural figures including the philosophers James Frederick Ferrier and Rene Descartes, and the writers George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell. She became the first female Justice of the Peace in Scotland in 1920.  An HES plaque will be installed to recognise her life and work at a location to be confirmed.
Reserve a copy of Mary Elizabeth Haldane: A record of a hundred years online

Find out more about these remarkable women through ‘Building Stories’, a series of podcasts profiling their lives, careers and major works created by in the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust and HES. Researched and produced by I Am Loud Productions, the podcasts can be found at

Together We Read 2022

We are holding another UK Together We Read digital book club, giving unlimited access to a popular ebook and audiobook until 20 October. Access it through the Libby app or Libby website.

This year’s brilliant title is How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie which is  outrageously funny, compulsive, and subversive. A wickedly dark romp about class, family, love… and murder.  They say you can’t choose your family. But you can kill them. Meet Grace Bernard. Daughter, sister, serial killer…Grace has lost everything. And she will stop at nothing to get revenge.

As usual the ebook can be accessed on tablet, smartphone, computer or ereader (except regular Kindles!) and full instructions can be found on our Libby help pages. Why not encourage your friends and family to read it too and host your own book group get-together!

For further information contact

New pocket books at Central library!

Pocket book collection at Central Library

Want to find the perfect summer read? Designed to be taken on the go, a new collection of pocket-sized books are ideal for holidays, picnics, or lunchbreaks. The smaller the better. From novellas to short stories, this collection offers readers titles that are short in length but big on content.

Here are a couple of classic titles on offer –

Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Explore the mysterious and fanciful world of the chocolate factory. This is a dark children’s classic to be enjoyed by adults too.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
This classic gothic tale from the celebrated Scottish author is an enduring masterpiece. Are people both good and evil? Follow the tale of respectable Dr Jekyll and his alter ego Mr Hyde.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper
The gripping and claustrophobic feminist classic follows one woman’s descent into madness when prescribed ‘the rest cure’.

John Steinbeck’s The Pearl
A heart wrenching and moral short story about the danger of greed. When a pearl diver discovers a valuable pearl he is thrust into the shadow of the evil it attracts.
And many more…

Take a look at the display in Central Library or browse the full pocket book collection online and reserve a title to pick up from your local library.

Journeys of Empire: South Asian Heritage Month

What is South Asian Heritage Month?

Shining a light on South Asian histories and identities – South Asian Heritage Month was founded in 2020 and runs from the 18 July to 17 August. This year’s theme is ‘Journeys of Empire.’ Journeys like the odyssey of indenture in the Caribbean and East Asia, the ones taken by Indian Ayahs paid to travel to Scotland in the 19th century, South Asian migration to Britain, and many others.

Here are a few books available at your local library to explore and celebrate South Asian Heritage Month:

Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell
This beautiful translation from Tilted Axis press was the winner of the 2022 International Booker Prize. Set in Northern India, 80 year-old Ma an unlikely protagonist travels to Pakistan to confront her past. It explores big themes like the trauma around partition, feminism, and grief all with a light touch. It’s a sweeping book which defies the borders of language, gender, and country.
Borrow Tomb of Sand in print

Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi
This lyrical work of fiction follows Ruby and Rania, two young British Indian sisters. Growing up in a society rife with racism and sexism, one day Ruby just stops speaking altogether. Arshi is an acclaimed poet and writes in a poetic language that is in turns unsettling and tender.
Borrow Somebody Loves You in print or audiobook

Non – fiction:
Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera
A bestseller recently made into a documentary for channel 4. This book aims to tell the lesser-known histories of empire – for example the story of millions of Indian soldiers who fought for Britain in WW2. This book explores how these histories continues to shape today’s England and Scotland.   
Borrow Empireland in print or ebook 

Coolie Woman: the Odyssey of indenture by Gaiutra Bahadur
This is a unique book which charts South Asian women’s journeys of forced indenture under British colonial rule in the late 19th century. The history of indentured women is specifically hard to unearth as there’s little documentation about their lives. (Note, ‘Coolie’ in the title of the book is a racial slur.)
Borrow Coolie Woman in print

I Belong Here: a Journey along the backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi
After experiencing traumatic racist abuse whilst on a train to Newcastle, Sethi resolved to walk the Pennine Way in an act of reclamation and adventure. This book follows her journey to find solace, confidence and belonging.
Borrow I Belong Here in print  

Brown baby by Nikesh Shukla
Written after the death of his mother and addressed to his two young daughters, this is a memoir of race, family and home. What does it mean to bring a brown baby into the world today? How do we live with hope and joy?
Borrow Brown Baby in print

Let Me Tell You This by Nadine Aisha Jassat
This incredible collection tells us stories of family, of belonging, and of being mixed race. Jassat is an Edinburgh based poet and is featured on the Edinburgh Women’s Mural. This collection explores what it is to be a woman of colour in Scotland today. Her writing is mesmeric, powerful, and moving.
Borrow Let Me Tell You This in print or ebook

How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil
The winner of the T.S. Eliot prize 2020, this is a sharp and poignant poetry collection which explores the themes of immigration, boundaries and borders, and what it means to be a guest.
Borrow How to Wash a Heart in print

Reserve any of these titles for collection at your local library.

A historical summer read

Join millions of others around the world in reading a fantastic historical novel during the Big Library Read, the world’s largest digital book club. From 12-27 July, readers can borrow and read the ebook and audiobook versions of The Girl in his Shadow by Audrey Blake from our Libby by OverDrive service. Borrow this suspenseful historical novel with no waiting lists on the Libby app or by visiting our Libby website.

An unforgettable historical fiction novel about one woman who believed in scientific medicine before the world believed in her. Set in London in 1845, orphan Nora Beady is raised by the eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft after losing her parents to a deadly pandemic. While other young ladies were raised to busy themselves with needlework and watercolours, Nora was trained to perfect her suturing and anatomical illustrations of dissections. Women face dire consequences if caught practicing medicine, but in Croft’s private clinic Nora is his most trusted – and secret – assistant. That is until the new surgical resident arrives and Nora must learn to play a new and uncomfortable role—that of a proper young lady.

The book will be available on the home page of the Libby app and the Libby website from the 12 July and with unlimited downloads is perfect for discussing with your friends and family. You can even discuss the book online or use #biglibraryread on social media for a chance to win a Samsung tablet and goody bag. Full instructions for using Libby can be found on our Your Library website.

Breaking the News at Central Library

Read all about it! Currently underway at the British Library is the Breaking the News exhibition.

Photo of new exhibition welcome panel in the Mezzanine area of Central Library

Alongside the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition, pop-up displays are on view at 30 public libraries across the UK including Edinburgh Central Library. The displays draw upon each library’s individual collection and regional connections to celebrate the value of regional news in communities across the UK. 

Photo of glass display case containing newspaper exhibition material

We have delved into Central Library’s newspaper and periodical collections, with the aim to celebrate the value of regional news and champion the personalities, journalism and stories that have made a mark through the years in our local area.  

It is often the case that national news carries many negative stories, but this can sometimes be quite different when looking locally. Local and grassroots news publications have a wonderful variety of stories, they can speak truth to power and are often free from the restraints and impartiality that is evident in the large mainstream tabloids and daily publications. 

Our exhibition space will be dedicated to Breaking the News through the following themes: 

4 July  – 4 August 2022, Edinburgh: a city of firsts 

We are looking at the local achievements that have put Edinburgh on the map. From the pioneering women known as the Edinburgh Seven, who would not rest until they became the first females accepted into a UK university to study medicine, to modern scientific marvels such as God particles and cloned sheep. Edinburgh has been at the forefront of many significant achievements and breakthroughs, this is your chance to explore and see how these were reported at the time. 

During this month we also have a showcase of the many and varied local news publications that have been produced over the years.

Examples of local news publications included in the display

5 August to 29 August 2022 – Edinburgh: Festival City 

During the exhibition’s second phase, we are ready to celebrate. It is the 75th anniversary of the world-famous International and Fringe festivals in Edinburgh, we are using this period to review our collection of material to discover some key moments and breakthroughs from the festivals’ history.

Display of festival material in Central Lending Library cabinets, until 29 August 2022.

Due to the closure of the Mezzanine area in Central Library for essential building works, we are relocating the British Library’s Breaking the News pop up display to the library’s front hall. This is where the festival material is featured also. (The display in the Mezzanine cabinets will be available to view until Saturday 13 August.)

Pop into Central Library during August to have a look!

Breaking the News festival display in the front hall, until 29 August 2022.

Summer Reading Challenge 2022 – Gadgeteers!

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge for children has started!

The theme this year is Gadgeteers, a science and innovation themed challenge that will spark children’s curiosity about the world around them.

We invite children aged 4 to 11 to take up the challenge of reading six books during the summer holidays. Children can register to take part at any of our libraries.

You can include library ebooks and audiobooks from our Library2go service in the challenge and there is a special collection of Gadgeteers themed titles available to borrow on Libby. Complete all six books to receive the challenge prizes including a finisher’s medal and certificate.

The Summer Reading Challenge runs until Wednesday 31 August.

Gadgeteers is brought to you by Edinburgh Libraries and The Reading Agency.

Don’t forget to drop into your local library or keep an eye on their Facebook page for information about activities and events for children throughout the holidays.

A group of six cartoon children characters pictured in amongst large cogs.

The Learning Professional Award 2022 goes to…

We were delighted when our colleague Julie Sutherland, librarian at Forrester High School, was announced the winner of this year’s Scottish Book Trust Learning Professional Award. We asked Julie to tell us all about it –

“It was completely unexpected when I received a call from the Scottish Book Trust earlier this year to say that I had won the Learning Professional Award. I had absolutely no idea that my colleague Lindsay Craik-Collins, CL of English and Media at Forrester High School, had put my name forward. You don’t expect that. She took the time to chat with pupils who regularly use the library outside of class time and I am led to believe that it was their comments that swung the vote my way.

It’s hard to imagine the effect you can have on a young person, but they are the ones that make my day. They challenge and invigorate me and there is no better way to start the day than chatting to a bunch of teenagers. Every morning we have a Card & Chat Club in the library before school starts. It gets VERY loud as we’re all a bit competitive and there is nothing they like more than making me pick up cards, and which occasionally results in a victory lap of the library!

Two of the lads Mrs Craik-Collins spoke to have been playing cards with me since they came to school in S1 and you can see them in the fantastic Scottish Book Trust film which announced the award at the end of this article. They did so well in their interviews and I’m incredibly proud of them. We had really missed Card & Chat Club when restrictions after school returned post-pandemic, initially prevented us from playing. Very soon we will be inviting our new S1s to join in the fun!

No Librarian is an island, and everything I do is possible because I’m part of a team, or really, lots of teams; working with pupils and teachers to understand what needs they have of the library and how I can help them best, developing citywide initiatives with librarians from other schools and community branches in Edinburgh and seeking help across the UK on the School Librarian Network Yahoo Group. I rely heavily on the knowledge and support of my colleagues, and I can do the things I do in school because of these fantastic teams and in my heart this award is for all of them. I’m a bit nosey, to be honest, and I love being the chair of Cilips East Branch because it gives me the chance to network with all kinds of libraries and their amazing staff. I love visiting them (we call this library bagging – a term coined by Cilips Central Branch – just think libraries instead of Munro’s) and sharing, then pinching, ideas that I can bring back to school. We’ve been to some amazing places that are right on our doorstep, everything from the Tool Library to the Library of Mistakes, including a professional peek behind the scenes at the Museum of Childhood’s library stores… then further afield to Prestonpans and Dunfermline Libraries. Library staff have great chat and love showing off their collections!

I’m not very good at looking back and giving myself a pat on the back for something well done, because I’m already thinking about the next thing I have planned. I get bored really easily, so am always looking for something a little bit different to try, whether it’s a course in graphic novels, ways to diversify the collection or a new reading initiative.

I hope that this award will illuminate the positive effect school libraries and librarians can have on a young person’s life. It’s not just about developing literacy and a love for reading, that’s really important, of course, but it’s also about the whole person and being there for every young person that needs your support.

So, who knows what is around the next corner, I have several cunning plans brewing and am keeping my options open and my eyes scanning the horizon, the next conversation in the library or email from a colleague could start something really interesting…”

Congratulations Julie! Watch this wonderful Scottish Book Trust film to find out what made Julie’s nomination stand out –

Empathy Day

Research shows that only ten percent of empathy is genetic, the rest is learned as we move through the world interacting with others, either in person or through the written word which allows us to literally experience the world as another person. One of the wonders of the library, is all the people you can become. Choose one book and you are an explorer, charting new territories, another and you are a servant in the household of the Bennett sisters. Although you do not feel the peril, the fear, the day-to-day life as if you were living it, researchers at The University of Toronto have discovered that there is some correlation in reading and experience; the parts of your brain related to running wakes up when you read about someone running, just as your grasping reflex turns on when you read of a character reaching for a light.

Empathy Day, founded in 2017, aims to promote empathy through reading. Though the day is mainly aimed at children and young adult readers (with excellent lists where authors recommend books which promote empathy) in Central Library we have widened the remit, with staff looking at adult fiction, non-fiction and children’s books which have increased their empathy, teaching them what it is like to be someone else.

Doris, Library Advisor at Central Lending and Children’s recommends All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Focusing on the themes of loss, bravery, resilience and kindness, this Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells the story of Marie-Laure, a blind girl who lives with her father and great uncle in Nazi occupied France. The other main character is Werner, a German boy who has grown up in an orphanage with his sister Jutta. Werner is a genius with electricals who attracts the attention of the Hitler Youth.

Frederick, “a reedy boy, thin as a blade of grass, skin as pale as cream”, is another character that readers will empathise with. The fact that he feels he has no agency in his life is heartbreaking. His friendship with Werner is tenderly written and there’s the constant fear that something terrible will happen at their military school.

All the Light We Cannot See is full of haunting three-dimensional characters, with many trying to do good in a terrifying world.

All the Light We Cannot See is available to borrow in print, ebook, audiobook or as a talking book.

Ania, Library Advisor at Central Lending and Children’s selects two books: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Oscar and the Lady in Pink by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Oscar and the Lady in Pink is told from the perspective of a 10-year-old Oscar through his letters to God. He is only ten years old and dying of leukaemia. He has been living in a hospital for a very long time feeling lonely, isolated, and unhappy. His parents, who bring him gifts and surely love him, are uncomfortable during their infrequent visits and have a very little connection with their dying son. They feel hopeless and distant as they avoid the subject of his imminent death.

Things change when Granny Rose, a hospital volunteer, enters Oscar’s life. She brings honesty, warmth and comfort to his life and is the only person willing to listen to Oscar’s questions about death.

My other choice, The Little Prince, I believe, is teaching us the secret of what is really important in life. One of the most significant sentences of the book: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” summarises the main message of the story. The importance of looking beneath the surface to find the real truth and meaning.  

The author, rightly, argues that we often see more clearly if we look with empathy (the heart) than if we look with the eye.

The Little Prince is available to borrow as a picture book, print, ebook, audiobook and DVD.

Hope, Library Advisor at Central Lending and Children’s chooses Hard Pushed, a Midwife’s Story by Leah Hazard
The astounding thing about medical memoirs is how practising doctors, nurses and midwifes find the time to write them. Leah Hazard left her career as a journalist to study midwifery after the traumatic birth of her first child, and the less traumatic birth of her second. Throughout the first it was the kindness of midwifes and doctors which made all the difference as she “failed to progress in labour” ending up with an emergency Caesarean.

In Hard Pushed, Hazard tells of the huge and tiny ways she seeks to make a difference to a patient, from cleaning a wound and listening to a woman’s struggles, to identifying full blown sepsis during a routine antenatal appointment.

Leah doesn’t skirt around the terrible pressures on the NHS, the staff shortages, the relentless shifts, the terror when the unit is full and there are only so many midwives on shift, and yet she relates these with empathy, and even good humour.

As someone who’s soon to give birth it’s terrifying reading, but it’s also good to know that midwives like Leah exist, and I am likely to have someone like that looking after me; someone warm, kind, human, who listens and relates.

Hard Pushed is available to borrow in print or talking book on CD

Emily, Library Advisor at Central Lending and Children’s selects The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom gave me a new outlook on life. It tells the story of the life and death of the main character, who is sent to Heaven, and meets five individuals who significantly impacted the life he had. This book is inspiring as it invites you to open up to the possibility that so many individuals, who you either know or don’t know, have an impact on the life you live. By reading this book, it definitely made me more thoughtful and empathetic to others, because just as so many people can have an impact on your life, you also may impact so many others’ lives; by treating people with kindness and exploring empathy, this impact you have can be positive. 

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is available to borrow in print

What book would you recommend for Empathy Day?

Walking books collection

Stockbridge Library has a new walking books collection! Whether you’re an avid walker, an armchair walker, or an amateur, here’s a glimpse into what the collection has to offer…

Walking guides

Walking in the Pentland Hills: 30 Walks in Edinburgh’s Local Hills by Susan Falconer – if you’re looking for easy walks from Edinburgh this book is packed full of options. Including popular Pentland trails around Harlaw reservoir and Scald Law, this book also weaves through historical facts, literary connections, and folktale.

Or try somewhere further afield:

Exploring the Fife Coastal Path by Hamish Brown – this route stretches from Kincardine to Newburgh. The walk can be completed in day trips or in 9 – 10 days. Walkers may wish to spend longer in St Andrews or exploring the beautiful beaches and fishing villages along the way. You can even have a go at the chain walk (at your own risk!)

Walking The Dales Way by Terry Marsh – this book guides you on a 79 mile walk across the Yorkshire Dales, ending in the Lake District. A largely flat walk across rolling dales, riversides, and moor. It’s broken up by picturesque villages making it perfect for long distance beginners. Complete it over 4 – 7 days. 

Day walks in Northumberland: 20 coastal & countryside routes by David Wilson – explore Bamburgh, Hadrian’s wall, Lindisfarne and more. These walks cover wide sandy beaches, ancient ruins, and the rolling Cheviot Hills. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, whales, and seals along the way.

Books on walking

Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit – from social change to famous walkers: this is a meditation on walking, wandering, and writing. Solnit argues we’ve become too focused on the destination at the expense of the journey – when we give up on journeys we give up the opportunity to discover new things about ourselves and the world around us.

Just Another Mountain by Sarah Jane Douglas – after losing her mother to breast cancer, Douglas set herself the challenge to climb every Munro. Through mountain climbing she found solace, hope, and the strength to overcome.  A poignant and moving memoir on walking and grief.

Hidden histories: a spotter’s guide to the British landscape by Mary-Ann Ochota – ever wondered why some fields are bumpy? How to spot a Roman road? Or do you want to learn more about the history of our landscape, from quarries to ancient burial mounds? This beautifully illustrated book encourages you to ‘get out there!’ and find out.

Navigation Skills for Walkers – this book by the ordnance survey will help you build up your confidence or help brush up on old skills. It includes tips on map reading, using GPS devices, and using a compass.

Discover the full walking collection at Stockbridge Library or browse the Walking collection titles online and reserve for pick up at your local library.

And don’t forget to check out Libby for some more great walking-themed ebook, audiobook and magazine titles!

New drawing and art books for children

For this month’s blog from the Art and Design Library, Jen reviews a few of our 


They’re exciting additions, and we have more to come. We’re planning a collection of travelling stock to send out to our community libraries – so do keep a look out for some smart new books on our shelves.  

For this year’s spring/summer exhibition, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are showing a Barbara Hepworth show at Modern Two. It opened on 9 April and will run until 2 October 2022.  

Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin therefore seems an apt title to begin with. Laura Carlin is an illustrator and ceramicist based in London, and the book feels so fresh. It’s a wonderful introduction, for anybody, to thoughts about form and shape. About what is it that we do in front of a sculpture; about how learning to see is a bodily thing; about how feelings and shapes collide; and how shapes talk to each other.  

I always love seeing the insides of books, so here are some sneaky shots. 

Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin
Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin
Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin

As you can see, Laura Carlin’s illustration work is a fantastic medley of mixed media-collage-drawing/everything work. And as well as being about Barbara Hepworth and her sculptures, the book also includes prompts for how you might make your own sculptures inspired by the natural world.  

Some extra links – to the Hepworth Wakefield gallery and Barbara Hepworth’s biography page (great photos and snippets of inspiring thoughts); and her sculpture garden and museum in St Ives if you’re ever that end of the map.  

Laura Carlin won the prestigious V & A Book Illustration Award in 2011 for her illustrated edition of Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man. And one of my favourite books of hers’ is A World of Your Own. On play and creativity, it just sparkles.   

There are more in this series. Tate Publishing is the publisher, and the series is called Meet the Artist. As with the Barbara Hepworth, Tate have commissioned a contemporary illustrator to respond to an older artist. Lizzy Stewart has made one on Turner; Rose Blake on David Hockney and Andy Warhol; Nick White on Giacometti; Hélène Baum-Owoyele on Frank Bowling, Helena Perez Garcia on the Pre-Raphaelites.  

They encourage observation and imagination, and they are brilliant creative introductions to art history, and to artmaking. 

(A further peek – these next couple of pictures are from the David Hockney book.)  

David Hockney by Rose Blake
David Hockney by Rose Blake

Another exciting little cohort in our new stock collection are several books by the French artist and educator Hervé Tullet . Art Workshops for Children; Draw Here; I Have an Idea!; andMy Stencil Kit: Draw, Colour and Create Your Own Stories.For sheer joy, energy, and a perfect explication of what it means to play, I totally recommend these books.

Here’s a look inside for you: 

Draw Here by Hervé Tullet
Draw Here by Hervé Tullet
Draw Here by Hervé Tullet
Art workshops for children by Hervé Tullet
Art workshops for children by Hervé Tullet

I find it endlessly interesting watching my toddler with his felt-tip pens. His compulsion and delight, the variety of things that need to be done to and with a felt-tip pen. Whoever knew. I can see the process of him learning – how do I hold this object; what can it do; it’s a tool, oh wow – and with that, comes his discovery of all kinds of concepts… His drawing is totally process-based, he’s busy exploring stuff (until suddenly he’s not!) but mostly he is, and it’s fun for him. What I love about the Hervé Tullet books is that he takes this boundless curiosity and intuitive need to create that all children seem to have, and he plays with it. It’s the visual equivalent of handstands or cartwheels, or just lying on the grass wiggling your toes. The books contain activities and workshops that are adaptable for pretty much any age group. It’s easy to forget how to play, and these books are a bundle of fun and cleverness that remind us how important it is.  

On this workshopping topic I’d just like to mention a couple of other books we have: Drawing Projects for Children; and Make Build Create. Both are by the artist-educator Paula Briggs.  

And here’s an endorsement for the Drawing Projects book by Quentin Blake – “A beautiful book, full of ideas and a vivid sense of materials – truly appetising and stimulating.”  

It wets my appetite too. The book is a collection of simple exercises and activities about making thoughtful and meaningful marks in all kinds of media. I find more each time I go back to them. There are also helpful notes for the facilitator/parent of an activity, and one of the tenets behind the books is that the facilitator need not be a specialist at all.  

Paula Briggs has also set up a charity called Access Art which is a treasure trove of resources for children’s art activities, both for Primary and Secondary age groups.  

And one more picture from some of our new children’s stock:

If you’re at high school reading this, or you’re the parent of someone who is, I thought I’d include a few gems from our stock – some personal gems anyway, from my personal canon, as I’m sure everybody has their own. 

The writer and illustrator, Mervyn Peake, creator of Gormenghast, wrote a little treatise on drawing called The Craft of the Lead Pencil. Originally published in 1946, it is full of the essence of what drawing is (or should be). It is a simple telling, just a few pages long. We have it compiled in another book, Mervyn Peake: Writings & Drawings. 

Similarly, Kimon Nicolaides’ The Natural Way to Draw, is a wonderful (old) how-to book. It is a year’s schedule of drawing that looks at the components of making a drawing – gesture, line, form, feeling, the materials you are working with… – and always with an eye on artists working in the past.  

Also in the 1970s, John Berger (1926 – 2017), artist, art historian, and writer, wrote his influential Ways of Seeing to accompany the BBC TV series of the same name. And in the early 2000s, he wrote a little book of essays and fragments on drawing. It begins,  

For the artist drawing is discovery. And that is not just a slick phrase, it is quite literally true. It is the actual act of drawing that forces the artist to look at the object in front of him, to dissect it in his mind’s eye and put it together again; or, if he is drawing from memory, that forces him to dredge his own mind, to discover the content of his own store of past observations… “

This is illustrated so well, I think, by the artist Sargy Mann in an introductory essay to a book on Bonnard’s drawings. It is about how the very best drawing is discovery, and about how we see. 

We have a lot of books on drawing, of course; on artists’ drawings and artists’ sketchbooks. Come and look at the golden oldies. (How does Rembrandt draw? How did he draw so much heart, I’d love to know that. And Hokusai – he draws with so much facility, so much life – we have his Manga sketchbooks in one of our stores. Originally published in 1814, they are a handbook of over 4,000 images. They contain drawings of everyday life, people, expressions, architecture; drawings of the natural world and animals; myths and stories.) 

And here are just a few extra pictures I pulled off the shelves from our drawing section to entice you: 

Drawing and Painting by Kate Wilson
Drawing and Painting by Kate Wilson
Drawing water by Tania Kovats
Drawing birds by John Busby
Drawing books from the Art and Design Library collection
Comics Sketchbooks by Steven Heller
Comics Sketchbooks by Steven Heller
Anatomy for the artist by Sarah Simblet
Anatomy for the artist by Sarah Simblet
Botany for the artist by Sarah Simblet
Sketching books from the Art and Design Library collection

What I mainly want to say though, is, we have lots and lots of great books. Please do come into the Art and Design Library and explore! 

Central Library’s Book Talk Group ‘Keep the Heid’ with a six-minute read-in in the Lending Library

Last Wednesday, three members of Book Talk, a group who meet fortnightly at Central Library had a ‘read-in’ in the lending library, to celebrate Keep The Heid.

Margaret, Lily and Kenneth from the Book Talk Group at Central Library

Keep The Heid, a Scotland wide initiative, saw over 400,000 people pledge to read for six minutes on the eleventh of May to promote health and wellbeing.

Before the read-in, group members Kenneth Macleod, Lily Johnston and Margaret Lobban spoke to library advisors about their group, libraries and why reading is important for so many reasons.

“We started off following an SQA,” says Lily, “but when we lost funding for that we decided we wanted to continue ourselves, so we moved the group to the library. We all work together, bringing texts and making suggestions of what we should read next. Margaret was a volunteer with the group, and when we moved, she chose to come with us.”

Lily from the Book Talk group at Central Library

The group have read books including a A Street Cat Named Bob and Greyfriars’ Bobby and often read short stories or a couple of chapters of a book together.

“It’s improved my reading a lot” said Kenneth, “I’ve been reading lots of books, I like science fiction, railways, music books.”

Lily agrees that reading with the group has hugely improved her confidence in her own ability both reading, and speaking publicly; “Quickreads have really encouraged me to do more reading, only if picking a book up for five or ten minutes. We read aloud in the group and it’s given me the confidence to do readings in church.”

“Reading out loud is really important”, agrees Margaret, “it gets across the fluency of the written word.”

“It’s a friendly group”, says Lily, “we give everyone the chance to do the reading and we help each other out, after we’ve read something we have a chat about it among ourselves. We’ve been doing this for ten years in some shape or form. It’s a great way to build up your confidence.”

Group members can bring in things other than books to share with the group, Lily has previously bought in some wordsearches she enjoys doing, another way the group can share their interest in words.

The group have found particular value in Quick Reads, short books and great stories by bestselling authors which provide a route into reading through accessible and easy to read writing styles and Journey For Learning books. The group also recommend titles in large print. “Large print books are magnificent”, says Margaret, “for those with dyslexia say, or people who aren’t confident and fluent readers”.

Margaret from the Book Talk group at Central Library

“We recently read a chapter from In My Life by Alan Johnson”, says Margaret, “and it was brilliant, it’s a music memoir, so everyone was saying, ‘Oh yes, I remember that year, what music were we listening to?’ And talking about it.”

“I like MC Beaton books”, says Kenneth, talking about writers the group has introduced him to, “Agatha Raisin [the detective] always arrives in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The group illustrate brilliantly the importance of reading for mental health and wellbeing, the key aim of Keep the Heid.

For the read-in, Lily has chosen Heidi by Joanne Spyri, which she reads on her ereader. Kenneth has chosen Red River Ransome, a mystery novel by Eric Wilson, while Margaret, a beekeeper, has chosen Dancing With Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard.

Kenneth from the Book Talk group at Central Library

As they move off to take position in the library, library advisor Fernando photographs them, and they read their chosen text for six minutes to show their commitment to Keep The Heid.

Margaret is eager to emphasise the importance of libraries, not only as a place for the group to meet and talk about books, but for everyone  – “you have more range here than any bookshop, I see over there, you have Urdu, Arabic, here you have large print and audio, there’s something for everyone, a library is such a gateway”.

Watch the video of the Book Talk group talking about books for Keep the Heid, Scotland’s Reading Moment on Wednesday 11 May.

Do you want to improve your reading in a friendly, supportive group for adults?  The Book Talk group welcomes new members.
They meet at Central Library every second Thursday from 2.15 to 4.15pm to read together and discuss their reading. If you’d like to find out more, please call Liz on 07922 416232.

Bookbug Week 2022 – join Bookbug’s big journey!

It’s Bookbug Week! We’ll be celebrating all kinds of journeys, whether it’s the excitement of riding on the bus or a train, strolls through the park, an adventure to outer space or even just a wee trip out in a buggy!

There’s lots of excitement in store this Bookbug Week.

Blackhall Library
Special multilingual Bookbug session takes place in the library garden (weather permitting) on Thursday 19 May at 10.30am. Please see Blackhall Library Facebook page for booking details.

Central Library
10.30am on Tuesday 17 and Friday 20 May
Join us in our Children’s Library for special journey themed sessions. Please see Central Library’s Facebook page for booking information.

Craigmillar Library
On Friday 20 May Bookbug is going on a big journey camping! Join Hannah for a walk around the Library garden with your favourite teddy bear, have a ‘camp-fire’ sing-along and then we will go to Bookbug’s campsite! Inside our special black-out sensory den you will be able to watch the Northern Lights, see the stars come out and enjoy a sleepy storytime.

This event is limited to small groups of five families, and is designed to be inclusive of children with autism or sensory processing issues, or who may find larger, noisier groups overwhelming. If the weather is too bad for an outdoor adventure we will still host the event indoors, and if all the tickets for this session get snapped up, we will add more sessions later in the day. Please check Craigmillar Library Facebook page for booking details.

Mobile Libraries
Our Mobile Library team will be popping along to Fox Covert Early Years Centre on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate Bookbug Week (closed event).

Moredun and Gilmerton Libraries
Bookbug is taking his Big Journey to the Union Canal on the Lochrin Belle, on Tuesday with his friends from Rainbow Kindergarten Nursery (closed event).

There will be two special Big Journey themed sessions at Gilmerton Library during the week, at 2.30pm on Tuesday 17 May and at 10.30am on Friday 20 May.

Oxgangs Library
Join our friends from Oxgangs Library for a special outdoor session at the Oxgangs Spring event at Colinton Mains Park on Friday 20 May between 1 and 4pm.

Stockbridge Library
On Monday 16 May, we will have a special storytelling and craft session around the Bookbug week theme Big Journeys. On Saturday we will have themed Bookbug and storytelling session with songs, rhymes and stories about buses, cars, rockets and boats.

Wester Hailes and Sighthill Libraries
Staff at Wester Hailes and Sighthill Libraries are joining forces to take you on a special Bookbug buggy walk. Details will be released on their Facebook pages.

Central Library staff pledge to Keep Their Heids this Mental Health Awareness Week

Keep The Heid is a campaign encouraging people to read for six minutes on the eleventh of May. It’s been proven by MindLab that just six minutes reading every day can reduce stress and improve sleep  – more so even than going for a walk or holding a steaming cup of tea.

I guess it’s not a surprise; reading takes you away from your anxieties, and for those six minutes you can be immersed in a world completely other than your own. Researchers are keen to emphasise that reading any book for pleasure will have the same effect.

Below our Library Advisors, Supervisors and Development Leaders share their #KeepTheHeid pledges, telling us which books they plan to immerse themselves in this week.

Bronwen, Art and Design and Music Library Development Leader, has pledged to read All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison as part of #KeeptheHeid
The book I’m pledging to read is ‘All Among the Barley’ by Melissa Harrison which I’m reading just now with my book group.

I’m taking it slowly which is a deliberate choice to relish the book’s wonderfully descriptive portrayal of rural England in the autumn of 1933. Told through the character of Edie, then a teenager growing up on a family farm and with the Great War still casting a shadow over everyone’s lives, themes of class, folklore, changing rural traditions and patriarchy are explored. I’ll be reading my six minutes on the bus to work, I find it helps to distract me from thinking about the challenges of the day ahead and to bring me some stillness and peace despite the busyness around me.

All Among the Barley is available to borrow both as hardback, large print, talking book and ebook.

Joanna, Library Advisor in Art and Design and Music Libraries has chosen Children of Our Era, a poem by Wislawa Szymborska as her six minute read
I have chosen this poem because of its ideas about society, citizenship, and peoples’ and communities’ involvement in political subjects. Some people told me: ‘I’m not voting. I’m not interested in politics.’ Which is obviously a wrong decision. There is a saying: ‘you maybe have no interest in politics, but the politics easily becomes interested in you’.

Miracle Fair by Wislawa Szymborska is available to borrow and we also have several other collections of her poetry.

Natasha, Art and Design and Music Library Supervisor is reading Last Order at the Liars’ Bar: The Story of the Beautiful South
I came across this book whilst searching for items in our Music Library annexe. The Beautiful South have long been favourites of mine, so I was intrigued to find out a little more behind the catchy melodies and Paul Heaton’s sharp lyrics. The band’s music has been very beneficial to my mental health over the years so I thought it would be fitting to read this book for my pledge.

Last Order at the Liars’ Bar is available to reserve from the Central Music Store.

Ania, Library Advisor in Central Lending and Children’s Library has chosen to read Akin by Emma Donoghue
‘Akin’ is a tale of love, loss and family, in which a retired New York professor’s life is thrown into chaos when he takes his great-nephew to the French Riviera, in hopes of uncovering his own mother’s wartime secrets.

I very much enjoy reading it, taking part in their journey through beautiful Nice, its restaurants, cafes, galleries, watching them clash, fight but also learn from each other. ‘Akin’ is a quietly moving novel that shows us how little we know one another, but how little, perhaps, we need to know in order to care.

It has two things I love in a novel: a beautiful city you can imagine being in with the main characters and a complicated, deep but also fascinating relation between people who are so different from one another and yet manage to gain some mutual trust and respect towards each other.

Akin is available in paperback, hardback, large print, talking book on CD and audiobook.

Zoe, Library Advisor at Central Lending and Children’s is reading The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong
I’m reading ‘The Young Team’ by Graeme Armstrong, a book published in 2020 which tells the candid tale of a young man and his pals growing up in the housing schemes of Airdrie. I’m enjoying this book so much and can’t wait to find out what the wise and brave protagonist will do next. This is Armstrong’s first book, yet he writes with such unwavering confidence  – definitely one to watch. 

The Young Team is available in Edinburgh Libraries as hardback, paperback and talking book on CD.

Jeanette, Central Lending and Children’s Library Adviser is reading Thin Places by Kerri Ni Dochartaigh which was shortlisted for The Wainwright Prize
Getting out into nature, no matter how bad I feel, almost always lifts my spirits, and I am curious about the impact of nature on others. ‘Thin Places’ by Kerri Ni Dochartaigh is a mix of memoir, history and nature writing. Born in Derry, Ireland at the height of the Troubles, the author’s childhood was shocking and traumatic. Her account of how nature; moths, foxes, birds and ‘thin places’, contribute to her gradual recovery is magical. Nature is healing but so is reading, and this book has had me absorbed from the first page. Highly recommended.

Thin Places is available to reserve in hardback or paper back.

Emily, Library Advisor in Central Lending and Children’s has pledged to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun for #KeeptheHeid
For my pledged six minutes of reading for Keep the Heid, I will be reading ‘Klara and the Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro. This book is classed as a dystopian science fiction novel, and explores themes of faith, rationality, and love through the eyes of artificial intelligence. I’ve chosen to read this book as part of my pledge because I’ve only heard good reviews for it since it was published in 2021, and I have high hopes that it will challenge my thoughts and views on the themes seen throughout. 

Klara and the Sun is available to borrow as hardback, paperback, talking book on CD and ebook.

Hope, Library Advisor in Central Lending and Children’s is reading Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
The Swan Inn is known for storytelling. People come from miles around to hear tales told by Joe Bliss, the innkeeper’s husband. One winter night (the longest of the year) just as Joe says, ‘Once Upon a Time…’, an unknown and injured man stumbles through the door holding a child in his arms. The man collapses. The child is drowned, or is she?

It is a story of stories, of maybe ghosts and longing, of the river which feeds the land and its people, yet can take them as well. I’m loving this strange and twisting novel.

Once Upon a River is available to borrow as paperback, hardback, ebook and audiobook.

Doris, Library Advisor at Central Lending and Children’s, is reading Taste by Stanley Tucci
Having recently finished Ruth Ozeki’s second novel The Book of Form and Emptiness, I was in the mood for something lighter.
I immediately picked up Stanley Tucci’s new book Taste. I’ve been avidly watching his TV programme and was looking forward to tucking into his memoir, which has a similarly reminiscent and urbane style. Something light yet with substance and a book to be savoured.

Taste is available to reserve as a hardback.

Dawn, Library Advisor at Central Lending and Children’s, chooses Edinburgh – Jarrold Short Walks
I was posted to Portobello library during Central’s ‘glow up’ and there found a bountiful book of walks in and around the Edinburgh area and this has lead to some new-to-me areas of the Pentlands. These explorations in the wilderness are crucial to maintaining my mental health which, in truth, like so many of us, has taken a severe bashing over the last two years.  If I had to choose one of these it would be Edinburgh – Jarrold Short Walks.

Edinburgh – Jarrold Short Walks is a little yellow paperback, available in four of our libraries

Vesna,  Central Lending and Children’s Library Development Leader pledges Burning Questions, Margaret Atwood’s third collection of essays and occasional pieces, covering 2004 – 2021
This choice was the result of practising the art of serendipity: a book voucher gift from a friend with an instruction to let the book chose me! I’ll be reading my six minutes during my lunch break, and if the weather is fair, outside in the park.

I am not sure which piece’s siren call will be the strongest today.  Perhaps a call to courage in ‘We Hang by the Thread’ (2016)? Or the wonderfully punctuated, firmly titled piece from 2019 Just.Tell.The.Truth. The most burning question of them all: How to Change the World (2013)? There are tempting pieces about other writers too: Doris Lessing, Alice Munro, Marie Clair-Blais. Whichever piece it is, I know that Atwood’s masterful writing, with generous sprinkle of wicked fun, will bring me back to the joy of reading. I’ll walk back to the library a little wiser, calmer, readier to carry on!

Burning Questions is available to reserve as an audiobook or hardback.

What will you read today to Keep the Heid and Read?

What libraries mean to me with Silé Edwards

Silé Edwards is a top London literary agent at Mushens Entertainment. Here she tells us about the impact libraries have had on her life and her choice to become an agent. She is open to submissions from passionate new writers!

Silé Edwards

What do libraries mean to you?
They mean so much to me, but mainly they are a special place where books are at their most accessible. They mean adventure, fun and sanctuary. I love that they are open to all and so welcoming.

What is your earliest memory of a library?
I think my earliest memory is quite hazy because I was very young, I remember lots of plastic covered books, and a sense of joy and wonder at the amount of books around. There was also a guy who dressed like a pirate running the café, which was so cool and just made the experience magical for me.  

Did libraries influence your ambition to become a literary agent?
My favourite early memory though is going into my local library and ordering in a copy of the latest Lemony Snicket Book (I think it was book 11 in the Series of Unfortunate Events). I was so happy because I would not have been able to buy it myself but was desperate to read it after devouring the last ten. The librarian was so helpful, and it was my first time reserving a book which made it super special. She was there when I went to pick it up too, and asked me to write her a review on it for the wall, which got me thinking not just about whether I liked it, but why and also how I would convince others to read it too – the foundations of being a Literary Agent.

Did you struggle without a library in lockdown?
It was really difficult, as the library is one of my favourite places to go when I work from home or need a book (as we don’t have many bookshops in our local area). I really missed the sense of community you find in libraries and was so pleased when it reopened after lockdown.

How do you think libraries can grow and connect and thrive in the post lockdown world?
I think that if libraries keep the community they serve at the centre of their functions, they will continue to be a place for people to learn, grow and discover books in the post lockdown world.

With huge thanks to Silé for sharing with us what libraries mean to her.

Writers of Edinburgh

Our latest story on Our Town Stories highlights authors who have helped put Edinburgh on the literary map through their own connections to the city or because the city plays a central role in their stories.

We feature Jenni Fagan, Quintin Jardine, Doug Johnstone, Alanna Knight, Alexander McCall Smith, Ambrose Parry, Aileen Paterson, Ian Rankin, J.K. Rowling, Sara Sheridan, Muriel Spark and Irvine Welsh. 

The changing face of the city is captured in its various guises from the dark Victorian streets of Inspector Jeremy Faro to the genteel private school of Miss Jean Brodie to the stark realities of Renton’s 1980s Edinburgh.

Advocates Close by Alexander Adam Inglis, c1890

So, if you’d like to know a wee bit more about the people who created these books and characters closely connected with the city, and perhaps discover some reading gems you’re not so familiar with, take a look at Writers of Edinburgh on Our Town Stories.

The story is part of a wider project with the Living Knowledge Network Libraries for Breaking the News. Look out for other activities, exhibitions and events happening across our Libraries soon.