The joy of rereading

Today’s blogpost is by Central Library’s Hope Whitmore, where she explores the joys and need to re-read beloved books.

“When I was a child, led into Kendal Library, holding my father’s hand, I looked up from my three foot something height at the shelves around me, and declared, grandly, ‘I will read all the books and then I will know everything in the world!’ 

Working in Edinburgh Central Library I would remember this, the wonder of so many books, and the way it seemed possible, to a five-year-old me, that these could be devoured. As a librarian I would see new books every day, not only the New new books, which went on the red trolley (unpacking and receipting these was one of my favourite tasks) but also new-to-me-books, the ones which had somehow (how?) remained hidden, even as I shelved trolleys and book checked. The main library was full of new discoveries to be made, slim little paperbacks, not previously noted, or huge tomes, somehow previously overlooked.

But, however much excitement I feel on discovering a new book, however thrilling it is to go down to the basement, cut open the boxes, remove the padding and reveal a box of gorgeous just published hardbacks, I am not staying true to my five-year-old self, rather, I have found myself lately going back to old familiar books, those I loved as a child, or in my early twenties, or even more recently than that.

Before lockdown I took out several books, and throughout lockdown have bought many others, but most of them remain unread, put to one side, in favour of the familiar novels I know and love, the rhythms of which I can follow, the beats of the story like the next note in a well-loved song.

Why, when surrounded by choice, do I do this? What happened to the child, who wanted to know all the things? And why do others reread books, particularly at times when things are hard. I set out to find out.

I put out a call on Social Media asking people why do you reread. Many cited familiarity as a reason to return to old books – the comfort of a story you know, the control of knowing what will happen, the pleasure of anticipation, the joy of remembering something suddenly, or pre-empting what is on the next page, with all the uncertainty and fallibility which comes with human memory (which way did this chapter lead, is this path how I remember it?) One friend, said ‘rereading gives comfort akin to rosary beads.’ Another friend wrote, ‘there is reassurance in knowing how something will end.’

There is also, however, the element of having changed, and therefore the book – seemingly once so beautiful, so strange, so romantic – having a different texture. ‘I first read Lolita when I was Lolita’s age,’ said one friend, ‘it reads totally differently reading it at the age of the character Humbert Humbert.’ 

At different ages, our life experience gives us different lenses. My favourite series of all time, The Cazalet Chronicles, follows a family with characters of all ages. You get to be so many different people, from the stubborn Louise who longs to play Hamlet, the beautiful but unhappy Zoe, to the lonely, lovely, dowdy Miss Milliment with stains on her clothes, and her glasses always hazy from the food she drops on them. Whichever stage of life you are at, you can ‘get’ the characters. 

In one of The Cazalet Books, I believe it is marking time, Clary, the imaginative little girl with always bitten nails begins to grow up, and speaks about reading for the sake of ‘meeting old friends again.’ This comes at a time when Clary feels lost. Her father, Rupert, is lost in France following the Normandy landings, presumed dead. She therefore seeks refuge in books, and the familiar friendship of these characters whose stories she knows, and who she can turn to again and again. These people are flawed, complex, human, and beloved, but on the page they don’t change, even as we do.

Perhaps this is what leads us to reread. Many people cite familiarity, in a world where things are looking far from familiar, with a lens, which is coloured by current events and different than any lens through which we have read before. Maybe, when we are so altered, so unsure, so lost, even, we need to reach for these old friends, to open their books, and greet them once again, ready to run the familiar, wild, overgrown paths, and hear their stories told anew.”

Join in with the Big Library Read

Join millions of others around the world in reading a historical fiction thriller during the Big Library Read, the world’s largest digital book club. From 3-17 August, readers can borrow and read Tim Mason’s “intellectually stimulating and viscerally exciting” ebook or audiobook The Darwin Affair from our OverDrive service. Solve the mystery from home – with your library card and no waiting lists, with the Libby app or by visiting our OverDrive website. You can even discuss the book online.

Historical fiction novel The Darwin Affair takes place in London during June 1860. When an assassination attempt is made on Queen Victoria, and a petty thief is gruesomely murdered moments later, Detective Inspector Charles Field quickly surmises that these crimes are connected to an even more sinister plot. Soon, Field’s investigation exposes a shocking conspiracy in which the publication of Charles Darwin’s controversial On the Origin of Species sets off a string of murders, arson, kidnapping, and the pursuit of a madman named the Chorister. As he edges closer to the Chorister, Field uncovers dark secrets that were meant to remain forever hidden. Tim Mason has created a rousing page-turner that both Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would relish!

The book will be available on the home page of the Libby/OverDrive apps and the OverDrive website from the 3 August and with unlimited downloads is perfect for discussing with your friends and family. If you use #biglibraryread on social media you’ll be entered into a draw to win a Samsung Galaxy Tablet!  Full instructions for using OverDrive can be found on our Your Library website.

What books are staff reading to help them through the lockdown?

We asked staff at Central Library to tell us a bit about the books they’ve been reading that have helped them through lockdown.

It turns out we’ve got a bit of a Marian Keyes fan club with a number of us reading her books that so engagingly tackle complex and difficult subjects with humour. Depression, alcoholism, bulimia, being broke, being unlucky in love … you name it … why are we reading about all these topics just now?

Fiona who’s been reading The Mystery of Mercy Close says `the reason it helps is basically because of the humour in it even though the main character suffers from depression’. Lesley is just starting on The Break, Joanna is reading Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married and Bronwen’s reading Grown Ups and says `I can be in someone else’s life while I’m reading; I love the characters and even though the book portrays real personal suffering, I’m laughing out loud one minute and crying the next’.  So thank you Marian Keyes – your writing is clearly helping us pull through. All of the Marian Keyes books noted are available from Edinburgh City Libraries’ RBdigital audiobook service.

Some books we read help us put our troubles in perspective. Doris’ last two are American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara.

Doris says “Both reminded me that as challenging as things are with lockdown –  the situation could be so much worse! Djinn Patrol deals with poverty and the slums in India and is heartbreaking yet is told with a deft sense of humour by the main character Jai. I loved the first 100 pages of American Dirt but must admit, I found it a bit implausible, as misery upon misery was heaped on the protagonists as the book progressed.”

Sometimes we want to read old favourites. Joanna has gone back to re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld stories. She says they are a “total escape from everyday problems and a lot of fun”. Discworld is a parallel time and place which might sound and smell like our own but looks completely different. Start with The Colour of Magic.

Historical stories set in difficult times can provide a sense of perspective on today. After reading a magazine article about the history of Agony Aunt columns, Clare found a suggested read, Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce on Overdrive. “Set during the London Blitz, it doesn’t avoid the hardships and destruction experienced on the home front, yet manages to be light-hearted and optimistic in tone. The  characters have setbacks but refuse to be beaten by events. Every day routine, worries, friendships and romances carry on. It was the perfect, easy, uplifting book I needed right now.”

A bit of time can also see you getting round to a book you’ve thought about reading. Jeanette says:
“During lockdown, I read a book I’ve meant to get to for ages, which is This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay. I might be the one of the few people in the country to not to have read this book since it was written in 2017 to great acclaim. It’s a collection of Kay’s secret diary entries which he wrote whilst working as a junior doctor. As a woman of a certain age, experiencing hot flushes and insomnia, I started to read it at 3am one dark morning, hoping it would help me drift back to sleep. I could not have been more wrong. It is both hilarious and shocking from the offset, filled with the author’s experiences of working on the front line of the NHS. By the time I had reached page 22, an account involving objects stuck in orifices, the book had to be put down as I was unable to stifle the laughter any longer and was in danger of waking my sleeping partner up!

This is not a book for the faint hearted or easily offended: strong language is used throughout, there are details of gruesome injuries that made me cringe, truly heartbreaking stories about births and deaths, and “a constant tsunami of bodily fluids” throughout. That said, it is an important book for all of us and especially now, as it is an eye opener, and insight into our essential yet underfunded and overstretched NHS.

After the first 22 pages, I took the book downstairs where it became my day time read. I could laugh out loud all I wanted to it, and also shed a tear as it is genuinely devastating in parts. I’ve finished the book now, but have gone back to it and from time to time read the funny bits to my partner and son which always raises a laugh. I have come to ‘This Is Going to Hurt’ late but I’m glad I did because it’s been a fantastic and uplifting addition to my time in lockdown.”
This is going to hurt is available to borrow as an audiobook and ebook.

Tell us what you’ve been reading in lockdown and how it’s helped.

 

Friday book quiz: round 3 (the answers)

The answers to the third round in the Friday book quiz from the Library Resource Management Team are below.

1. From which language is the novel “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” translated?
a) French
b) Czech
c) Italian

2. With which title did Salman Rushdie win the Booker prize?
a) Moor’s Last Sigh
b) Satanic verses
c) Midnight’s Children

3. In what publication was Wilkie Collins’ novel “The Woman in White” first serialised?
a) All the Year Round 
b) Bentley’s Miscellany
c) Household Words

 

4. What is the profession of C.J. Sansom’s character Shardlake?
a) Doctor
b) Lawyer
c) Soldier

5. Olive Kitteridge is married to a
a) Pharmacist
b) Teacher
c) Piano player

 

6. Complete the title of Sue Black’s book “All that remains”
a) A life in death
b) Life after death
c) Death is not the end

7. What is the name of the Labrador in Kate Atkinson’s novel “Big Sky”
a) Hercules
b) Barney
c) Dido

8. Who features in “Elizabeth is Missing”?
a) Maud
b) Eleanor
c) Sybil

9. In “His Bloody Project” by Graeme Macrae Burnet from what village is Roderick Macrae?
a) Cullen
b) Culbokie
c) Culduie

10. In which novel by Jane Austen does the following quote appear?
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid”.
a) Persuasion
b) Northanger Abbey
c) Sense and Sensibility

Friday book quiz: round 2 (the answers)

The answers to round two of the Friday book quiz are revealed below. Come back on Friday for round three.

1. Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South – in which novel?
a) Where the crawdads sing
b) Queenie
c) An American marriage 

2. Which creature features in the title of this Maja Lunde’s novel?
a)
The history of people
b) The history of bees
c) The history of unicorns

3. “A natural” deals with the struggles of a young footballer, the author is?
a) Ross Raisin
b) Andy Apple
c) Fraser Fish

4. “Stories of the law and how it’s broken” is the subtitle of which novel?
a)
Crime and punishment
b) The cases of Taggart
c) The secret barrister 

5. Which novel deals with the disappearance of three pupils from Appleyard College and the aftermath from this?
a)
Ghost wall
b) The Van Apfel girls are gone
c) Picnic at hanging rock 

6. The “Salt path” by Raynor Winn follows the coastal path from where in the UK?
a) Somerset to Dorset 
b) Kent to Hampshire
c) Lincolnshire to Northumbria

7. Witold Pilecki is the subject of which award winning book by Jack Fairweather?
a) The survivor
b) The volunteer 
c) The hero

8. Which of the following is the title of a novel by Charlie Mackesy
a)
The boy, the fox, the badger and the horse
b) The boy, the goldfish, the fox and the horse
c) The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse 

9. Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are the main characters in which novel by Hallie Rubenhold?
a)
The girls
b) The five 
c) The circle

10. Which workplace features in the title of this Joanne Ramos novel?
a) The farm
b) The office
c) The factory

Friday book quiz: round 2

Our second round in the Friday book quiz from the Library Resource Management Team.

The answers will be revealed on Monday and look out for the third round next Friday.

1. Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South – in which novel?
a) Where the crawdads sing
b) Queenie
c) An American marriage

2. Which creature features in the title of this Maja Lunde’s novel?
a) The history of people
b) The history of bees
c) The history of unicorns

3. “A natural” deals with the struggles of a young footballer, the author is?
a)
Ross Raisin
b) Andy Apple
c) Fraser Fish

4. “Stories of the law and how it’s broken” is the subtitle of which novel?
a)
Crime and punishment
b) The cases of Taggart
c) The secret barrister

5. Which novel deals with the disappearance of three pupils from Appleyard College and the aftermath from this?
a)
Ghost wall
b) The Van Apfel girls are gone
c) Picnic at hanging rock 

6. The “Salt path” by Raynor Winn follows the coastal path from where in the UK?
a) Somerset to Dorset
b) Kent to Hampshire
c) Lincolnshire to Northumbria

7. Witold Pilecki is the subject of which award-winning book by Jack Fairweather?
a)
The survivor
b) The volunteer
c) The hero

8. Which of the following is the title of a novel by Charlie Mackesy
a)
The boy, the fox, the badger and the horse
b) The boy, the goldfish, the fox and the horse
c) The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse 

9. Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are the main characters in which novel by Hallie Rubenhold?
a) The girls
b) The five
c) The circle

10. Which workplace features in the title of this Joanne Ramos novel?
a) The farm
b) The office
c) The factory

Hundreds of books delivered to vulnerable Edinburgh families in isolation

Families with vulnerable children who are shielding at home in Edinburgh are to have hundreds of books delivered to their doorsteps thanks to a new charity partnership.

Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC) – which supports the Royal Hospital for Sick Children – has teamed up with Edinburgh Libraries to help children and their siblings feed their imaginations while shielding for 12 weeks.

Edinburgh Libraries’ Book Bus

With libraries currently closed, Edinburgh Libraries has made available a Book Bus filled with around 1800 books for children and young people to ECHC. The bus will be stationed at the charity’s office, where volunteer delivery drivers will collect book packages and deliver them to local families who are known to the Sick Kids hospital on a regular basis. Through the book deliveries, the charity aims to bring fun and distraction to children and to help improve their mental wellbeing during lockdown.

The book delivery service has also been made possible thanks to generous sponsorship from Baillie Gifford.

Caroline Leishman has been shielding her family of three boys for eight weeks as her youngest son is on active treatment for Leukaemia.

She said: “Coming up with new and exciting ways to keep everyone occupied and distracted while also looking after a clinically vulnerable child becomes a little bit harder as each week goes by.

“It was such a relief when the book parcel from ECHC arrived on our doorstep. The kids were so excited to open it and discover all the new books they had to read which gave us some much needed breathing space!

“Books are such a wonderful resource for children who are shielding. They let their imaginations run wild so they can go on all sorts of fantastic adventures without ever leaving the safety of home.”

Book bags ready to be delivered

Roslyn Neely, CEO of ECHC, said: “We know from our work in the hospital that taking part in fun and creative activities that feed the imagination is the best way to take away children’s fear and feelings of isolation when they are unwell.

“It must be unimaginably tough for children and their siblings having to shield at home when they already face significant health challenges. We know the power of storytelling and the benefits that brings to children in hospital so we’re positive it will have the same effect in the home.

“We believe that nothing should get in the way of being a child. Even though they can’t physically be out and about in the world right now, children have a huge appetite for adventure and there’s a whole world of creativity and magic in their imaginations.

“Bringing books to their doorsteps through this wonderful partnership with Edinburgh Libraries is a great way to ensure they still have access to that. We’re also so grateful to Baillie Gifford for their sponsorship and to all our volunteer drivers for making this possible.”

City of Edinburgh Council Leader Adam McVey said: “We’re delighted we can help families known to the Sick Kids and thanks to our library team who have been superb. One of our mobile libraries is filled with about 1,800 children’s books so what better way of putting these books to good use.

“Books are a wonderful resource and will really help families having to self-isolate in their homes for 12 weeks. Reading as a family is a joy and can help to improve well-being – a recent study found that six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 60%. This is a great example showing how working together with partners in the city can respond to the needs of our communities.”

Book deliveries are one of a number of things that ECHC is doing to support children and families during the pandemic, all of which are being delivered safely in line with government restrictions during this time. All books that are returned to the Book Bus will be held on board for 72 hours for infection control before being recirculated.

Staff preparing the Book bus and bags

The charity is also distributing Emergency Care Packs of food and essential supplies, toiletries and arts and activity items. Families known to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children who would like any of the emergency care packs on offer are asked to contact Leigh at ECHC on 0131 668 4949 or leigh.drake@echcharity.org.

If you wish, you can make a donation to ECHC’s Emergency COVID-19 Appeal online.

Friday book quiz: round 1 (the answers)

On Friday’s blog, we set the questions to the first round of ten questions in the Library Resource Management Team’s book quiz.

The answers are revealed below.

1. Which of the following is a book by David Peace, author of “The damned united”?
a) Patient X
b) Ground zero
c) Guinea pig

2. “The house by the loch” is a title by which Scottish personality?
a) Sarah Smith
b) Kirsty Wark
c) Chris Hoy

3. Which of the following is a title by Elif Shafak?
a) 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world
b) 10 minutes 39 seconds in this strange world
c) 10 minutes 40 seconds in this strange world

4. What is the missing word from the title of this Doug Johnstone book, “A dark”?
a) Night
b) Chocolate
c) Matter 

5. According to Oyinkan Braithewaite who is a serial killer?
a) My brother
b) My sister
c) My mother

 

6. What colour of coat does the man have in the recent title by Julian Barnes?
a)
Green
b) Blue
c) Red 

7. According to Manda Scott, what do you call a group of spies?
a)
A cloak of spies
b) A treachery of spies 
c) A zone of spies

8. From which Scandinavian country does Thomas Erikson, the author of “surrounded by idiots”, come from?
a) Sweden
b) Denmark
c) Norway

 

9. Which Adrian Tchaikovsky novel is described here: “Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapar, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, Shadrapar is a museum, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity. Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new is Stefan Advani: rebel, outlaw, survivor”?
a) Cage of souls 

b) Children of ruin
c) Walking to Aldebaran

10. Jean McConville is the subject of which book by Patrick Keefe?
a) Do nothing
b) Say nothing
c) Hear nothing

How many did you get?

Friday book quiz – round 1

Just for fun, our Library Resource Management Team have set you a quick book quiz!

The answers will be revealed on Monday’s blog. And come back next Friday for another round of questions.

1. Which of the following is a book by David Peace, author of “The damned united”?
a) Patient X
b)
Ground zero
c)
Guinea pig

2. “The house by the loch” is a title by which Scottish personality?
a)
Sarah Smith
b) Kirsty Wark
c) Chris Hoy

3. Which of the following is a title by Elif Shafak?
a) 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world
b) 10 minutes 39 seconds in this strange world
c) 10 minutes 40 seconds in this strange world

4. What is the missing word from the title of this Doug Johnstone book, “A dark “?
a)
Night
b) Chocolate
c) Matter 

5. According to Oyinkan Braithewaite who is a serial killer?
a) My brother
b) My sister
c) My mother

6. What colour of coat does the man have in the recent title by Julian Barnes?
a)
Green
b) Blue
c) Red

7. According to Manda Scott, what do you call a group of spies?
a) A cloak of spies
b) A treachery of spies
c)
A zone of spies

8. From which scandinavian country does Thomas Erikson, the author of “surrounded by idiots”, come from?
a) Sweden
b) Denmark
c) Norway

9. Which Adrian Tchaikovsky novel is described here: “Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapar, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, Shadrapar is a museum, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity. Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new is Stefan Advani: rebel, outlaw, survivor”?
a) Cage of souls
b) Children of ruin
c) Walking to Aldebaran

10. Jean McConville is the subject of which book by Patrick Keefe?
a) Do nothing
b) Say nothing
c) Hear nothing

What libraries mean to me with Douglas Wright

In our latest Q & A session we talk to Douglas Wright, library adviser in the Music and Art and Design team at Central Library.

Douglas Wright from the Music and Art and Design team.

What do libraries (including Edinburgh City Libraries) mean to you as a music lover, musician and reader?
It is a bit of a cliche to say that a library gives you a world of choice or enables you to chose from the world, but it does. You can choose to be with old friends or make new ones. The old friends are the novels and classics that we all return to, to read or listen to, time and again or the new friends like the Sean O’Boyle’s Concerto for Digeridoo found on Naxos.

We use Naxos streaming service at work and I also use it at home. What I have noticed that I have in common with my colleagues in the Music Department is, when we switch on Naxos I the morning we go to the ‘Recently Added’ page and just choose anything from there. Often they are great treats like the Digeradoo Concerto but sometimes we are forced to think again. Like a Beatles /Bach Mash up which didn’t make it to my playlist.

As a music lover I have been part of a team who have been able to promote live music making in the library. We have also had many author talks by musicians or on musical topics, all of which have been a thrill to be part of. The team’s involvement in Make Music Day 2019 was a highlight, I think, for us all. Make Music Day 2019 was also the first time I had played my Ukulele in public and the first time in a long time I had done anything as a musician.

It was nice to dip my toe.

The biggest thing the library has done for me is introduce me to ebooks and I am a huge convert. For the past five years my wife and I have kept a list of our reading for the year. I have always tried to source all my books from my library but I look first to see if we have a copy of the book I wish to read on Overdrive, our ebook service, so I can have it on my phone and effectively have it with me all the time. I have just made myself aware that I have my music, my ebooks and my audiobooks on my phone so I carry the library or a library with me all the time, I think I need to question my own reliance on my phone, but that’s for another day.

What is your earliest library memory?
I was born and lived in Park Road, Kelvinbridge in Glasgow till I was eighteen. Kelvinbridge which is in between St. George’s Cross, Hillhead and Maryhill. On Saturday mornings, we, my Mum, Dad and brother would walk the short distance to St. George’s Cross in Glasgow where we would shop, pay bills, pay some money to my dad’s tailor account and then go to Woodside Library which was beside Jimmy Logan’s Metropole Theatre. My Mum and Dad would leave us in the children’s section and go and choose their selection for the week. I seem to remember that we had three tickets so we would make our small selection which at that time, for me, were books like Paddington, The Wombles and The Famous Five. From then on, I have a sketchy relationship with libraries.

Drifting in and out of love with them, spending years never going near one and then at other times never being out of them.

My relationship with Central Library really started when I had children and started using the Children’s Library. My children are now 26 and 22 so that was a little while ago. Often, if we were all at the library I would sneak downstairs to the Music Library and then as the children got older, we would all sneak downstairs, to chose our music.

Are you struggling to cope without a library? What advice would you give to those who love the library and can no longer go in?
There are many things I am struggling with and without at the moment. I have to say until asked that question, the Library or a library was not one of them. Now thinking about it, I think it is the thing I have been trying not to think about, I have been for the past few weeks distracting myself with things, tasks and ‘shiny objects’. Trying not to think about that bit of my day that’s missing, my ‘normal’. I have gone down a bit of a road there and to try now and get back to the things, tasks and shiny objects.

I have not been reading as much as I did but I have discovered the joy of audiobooks. I installed the BorrowBox and uLIBRARY apps and have listened to a number of books, which allows me to potter about our flat, as Bing Crosby says, “busy doing nothing working the whole day through, trying to find lots of things not to do”. So the advice would be, always listen to Bing, he will know what to do. I try not to throw advice about, there are people worth listening to, and that’s not me. Seriously, Bing, listen to him.

I am not a great fan of the 21st century, despite my increasing reliance on my phone, and it is not great for me – as a Library adviser who is there to look after and ready our physical collection for our membership to borrow – it is not great for me to say that we have a wonderful set of services online with a lot of those services able to answer to your needs 24 hours a day. We do, and for a lot of people, they have never been more important.

Having said all that, one thing that is said to us, the Music and Art and Design team, most often, is how much people, our membership, enjoy dealing with a person, in the library. That is of no solace at this time and if we are struggling without our library, the only real consolation we can have is that this will end, and hopefully for most of us it will end peacefully and will return to something nearer to a kind of normal.

A lot of people are struggling just now – music has the capacity to soothe by reflecting our emotions but also to challenge – what do you recommend as a music lover to those that are struggling?
One person’s soothing balm is another’s annoyance, So recommending something comes with dangers. My go-to favourites might not be to other people’s liking. I might pick Shostakovich who offers beautiful tunes within edgy, prickly, early 20th century Russian angst, but that is not everybody’s taste. I am also quite stuck with classical music, well, classical music from the romantic era. I once heard John Amis, music critic and broadcaster, talking about music and putting forward the thought that, as one ages music lovers gravitate more to Mozart and leave the youthful romantics in their past. I am about to enter my 59th year and I am still waiting to appreciate Mozart.

The great classical/Romantic composer of my choice would be that lovable cranky, cantankerous, angry, curmudgeon Beethoven. All things I aspire to be – cranky, cantankerous, curmudgeonly and angry – I look forward to all of those traits in my unapologetic dotage.

I have also been pushing myself to other genres, I have tried and enjoyed some of the works of Miles Davis, jazz trumpet legend and I have, strangely, for the past few months, been listening to country music. Recently, I watched a major BBC 4 documentary series on country music and I listened to some of the artists featured in that. That could, of course, be a throwback to my father’s record collection, which included country and western, folk and some dodgy sectarian accordion bands.

On Radio 4, there is a segment of a show called ‘Inheritance Tracks’ in which people describe a piece of music which has been handed down to them and which they hand on to someone they love. I am pleased to say that I have already achieved that with a song by Johnny Cash, the great country and western singer/songwriter, called “A Boy Named SUE” which I got from my father. I played this to my son years ago and he loved it and thought it funny, and it is still on one of his play lists.

Whichever way you inherit your music there are pieces of music which are given to you, which you connect with, somebody or something or an event or a time, place when you were happy, sad, anxious. A song which evokes a memory of a loved one or a beloved thing or in my case I song I sang whilst nappy changing.

Music tinged with emotions which perhaps might be too strong to be dealt with at this time. Can I say the best piece of advice I was ever given was, never listen to advice. Although, that was said about child rearing, but apply it to your music choices. Go to our Naxos website and chose the first CD cover that jumps out at you not because you have heard of the composer or artist but because the CD cover is yellow like the sun or it has your favourite word in the title.

I am reluctant to suggest anything except, try anything, and if you don’t like it, try something else and keep trying till you find the things, book, songs, symphonies, opera which will be your new or old friends.

Are you listening to music just now? What are you listening to? What would you recommend as a way through?
This is now going to be a large cop out, I am listening to music at the moment but I realised I haven’t actually chosen anything. I have been listening to BBC Radio 3 or to Classic FM, so, letting others choose for me and it has been wonderful. I have listened to a programme about building your CD library, one which was focused on the wonderful Symphony of Psalms by Stravinsky, a work I had forgotten I had studied years ago for my Higher Music and I was amazed how much I remembered. I listened to a strange production of an Opera by Cherubini. Lunchtime concerts of string music and operas in the afternoon. At this very moment the Bavarian Radio Chorus are singing Alfred Schnittke’s Three Sacred Hymns, which I would never have chosen but are sublime. Morning request programmes with music from classics to Romantics to American Minimalists.

How can we connect as librarians, borrowers, readers and musicians just now when the library is closed? Can social media be a replacement or do we need more? How can music help to overcome this?
There are parts of this question to which I really don’t know the answer, if there is an answer.

I think, we continue to be a part of the things that are already happening, online groups, concerts, being part of doing things collectively but separately.

Music always unifies in some way and will find a way to be part of the healing we will all go through.

It seems, everything which is happening at the moment requires some kind of social media, it concerns me there are people without access to all that is going on, for whatever reason and their isolation may be even greater. For me, social media is only ever a tool, a little bit of all the things we do. I have been trying and failing, to write something about all the things that social media is and isn’t, all the things it does and the things it doesn’t do. I have ranted and railed, agreed and disagreed. Scrubbed out and started again. All I have come up with is, what it doesn’t do, is let me pick up my granddaughter when she falls over in her back yard, me, like millions of other grandparents in the world, but it does allow us to see her and hear her and sing with her. Until we are all together again, it will have to do.

With many thanks to Douglas for sharing his thoughts on what libraries and music mean to him. 

What libraries mean to me with Molly Kent

In today’s library Q & A session, we ask artist, student and library advisor, Molly Kent what libraries mean to her.

Molly is currently in her final year at Edinburgh University studying for her MA Hons Fine Art and Art History. Molly is currently curating her degree show which uses the traditional medium of rug tufting to create an immersive installation space on the topic of doubt. The work draws on contemporary existence regarding social media and living in an internet-driven environment through the visual aesthetics of digital glitch. It also highlights the importance of a time-old craft, evolved and made relevant to the field of contemporary art through various areas of research. Making use of bright and neon colours, unsettling phrases and organic shapes, each piece intends to mirror the feeling of doubt through sensory experience and highlight the commonality of doubt, albeit often brushed under the rug. Rugs, that we’d normally see as domestic objects, begin to morph and climb walls, resembling bacteria and virus structures, as if mutating before us. It plays on the idea that doubt can be perceived as an ailment that overtime shifts and morphs into something new continuing its hold over us.

Rug tufted artwork by Molly Kent

What do libraries (including Edinburgh City Libraries) mean to you as an artist and as a student?
Libraries have often been one of the main starting points of my research when it comes to approaching a new series of artwork. While my current work centres on my personal experiences and emotions, the medium I am currently working with is new to me. Libraries have offered me an otherwise unattainable insight into the process of rug making, with both my university library and Edinburgh City Libraries holding a series of books that weren’t available online. As well as a wonderful holding on contemporary arts more widely, the library gives insight into other practices as well through exhibition catalogues that inspire new methods and presentation.

In particular, Edinburgh City Libraries has a great holding of books that go through the step by steps of rug hooking, including what fabrics, yarns and adhesives to use. Information into the practical side of rug making is somewhat scarce online and the insight gathered from these books has been invaluable to my practice. In addition to this, being able to experience a whole host of artistic expressions from so many areas of visual culture through the rotating monthly exhibitions in the Art and Design Library sparks creativity from often unexpected works – opening up ideas to branch off existing works into new multidisciplinary methods.

Also, I grew up in libraries, so to speak. Often taken after school to access books that we couldn’t at home, and as a safe place to work, libraries have become a haven for me over the years. The ability to immerse myself in so many different topics, enabling my research and artistic practice to reach new avenues is invaluable.

Rug tufted artwork by Molly Kent

What is your earliest library memory?
My earliest memory of libraries would be from back home in Birmingham, at my local library after school. My mom would take me in so I could read to my heart’s content, often getting through a book a day. Talking to the librarians was a highlight and over time I’d be allowed to help out around the library, especially after my mom started to work there.

When I was around 12/13 years old I would be helping to run craft sessions. These sessions helped me find my love for creating and helped others express themselves through art too. I continued to help with the craft sessions when I started working at my hometown library at 17 years old.

Are you struggling to cope without a library? What advice would you give to those who love the library and can no longer go in?
Without a doubt, yes. As I’m coming to the end of my degree, it’s especially difficult not to be able to dip back into all the books I’ve been looking at for the past year or so, or find inspirations in new ones. Books have always been one of my main sources of creative inspiration and the loss of access is difficult. As well, having worked as a library advisor for the past 7 years, and having a good understanding of catalogue systems, it’s easy for me to find books on particular topics and areas quickly. Now, with just the internet and e-services, it’s more time consuming and far more difficult to find relevant information quickly.

I’d advise looking into the eBook services, particularly magazines and periodicals we host online now. Being able to browse art magazines and see what’s going on worldwide in contemporary arts is vital, and especially seeing how galleries and artists are responding to and working within the new confines of a COVID-19 landscape. In addition to this, for myself, Instagram is a great place to look for inspiration and community in these strange times. I’ve been able to connect more widely across the UK, and globally, and as I’ve put more time into sharing my work there. I’ve made new connections that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

A lot of people are struggling just now – art has the capacity to soothe by reflecting our emotions but also to challenge – what do you recommend as an artist to those that are struggling?
It’s difficult to pinpoint because we all process things differently. For myself, I am creating more now that I am home and challenging myself to produce something new every day. But for others, trying to navigate this new way of living could be difficult and we shouldn’t feel the need to use this time as one of productivity. If you have the spark to use this time for creativity, my recommendation is to start now. If you’ve ever wanted to draw, paint, sculpt etc. work with what you have currently, be it only a pencil and paper and start making. Or, if you’ve ever wanted to know more about art or any other topics, there’s a whole host of courses being published for free online by some of the biggest institutions online. I’ve been eyeing some courses from Harvard for when I finish my degree next month, as something to keep my brain engaged and continue my learning.

Are you able to practise as an artist just now? What are you working on? What would you recommend as a way through?
I am lucky enough to have a home studio (read: my partner and I have a  home office that is completely overrun with rug-making materials) so I have been able to continue my artistic practice. I was lucky enough to have had my degree show sponsored in part by Paintbox Yarns via Lovecrafts and was sent yarn to work with. So, thankfully, I have plenty of materials to work with. Just before quarantine started I was able to upgrade my rug tufting frame so for the past few weeks I’ve been working on some large scale rugs.

Rug tufted artwork installation by Molly Kent

How can we connect as librarians, borrowers, readers and as creatives just now when the library is closed? Can social media be a replacement or do we need more? How can art help to overcome this?
I don’t think social media can be a total replacement for the physical, in-person communicative experience. Some galleries are creating stunning digital exhibitions, and it’s great that more investment is being made into online engagement with individuals, particularly as this will greatly benefit social groups who were excluded from some mainstream artistic spaces. But currently, it’s a fantastic place for us all to connect. I’ve seen digital book clubs, live-streamed art tutorials, even art tutorials taking place via Zoom. This is all so we can continue learning, sharing and providing one another with feedback to keep our work developing.

Ultimately art can bring everyone together, there’s no need for a high brow understanding of the ins-and-outs of art history. If art makes you feel something or peaks a curiosity you hadn’t otherwise explored, now is a great time to engage with institutions, artist-run spaces, and individual makers within your locality or internationally. Then, when libraries re-open it will be wonderful to bring together a newly engaged community focus into these pre-existing spaces.

Rug tufted artwork installation by Molly Kent

With huge thanks to Molly for talking to us and sharing what libraries mean to her.

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. 

 

Spooky Halloween Reads

Looking for a spooky read this Halloween? Here are some of our favourite children’s titles! Click on the title to reserve a copy at your local library.

Christopher pumpkin by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Christopher Pumpkin is delighted to be magicked to life by a witch – until he discovers she wants him and the other pumpkins to get her creepy castle ready for the spookiest party ever! Chris just can’t bring himself to hang cobwebs and cook curried slugs – he’s much more into bunting and fairy cakes!


Horrid Henry and the Zombie Vampire by Francesca Simon
Henry’s class are on a spooky school trip to the local museum, but could there be a terrifying zombie vampire on the loose? Henry soon has his classmates believing Miss Battle-Axe and Miss Lovely might be scarier than they seem. Originally published: as part of Horrid Henry and the zombie vampire.

 

Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbit
Welcome to the Embassy of the Dead. Leave your life at the door. Jake likes to stay out of trouble, usually. But when he opens a strange box containing a severed finger, trouble comes knocking at his door. Literally. Jake has summoned a reaper to drag him to the Eternal Void (yep, it’s as deadly as it sounds) and his only option is to RUN FOR HIS LIFE! Alone (and a tiny bit scared, to be honest), Jake makes another spooky discovery – he can see and speak to ghosts and, with the help of his deadly gang (well dead, at least) – ancient butler Stiffkey, hockey stick-wielding Cora, and Zorro the ghost fox – Jake has one mission: find the Embassy of the Dead and seek refuge. But the Embassy has troubles of its own and may not be the safe haven Jake is hoping for.

Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Goblin Army by Alex Gardiner
It’s Halloween, and Roger is yet again pulled into a bonkers adventure with the grouchy dwarf warrior Mossbelly MacFearsome. It turns out that Roger has accidentally set free the vicious Goblin Chief Redcap, who is looking to open an ancient portal back to his own world. Now Roger, Moss and their friends must track him down before he unleashes a mighty horde of goblins hellbent on destruction, mayhem – and pickled onions. But how exactly does one find a ghoulish goblin on the one night of the year when everyone is in spooky fancy dress?

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab
Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake, even more than usual. She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs. When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter – and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger. And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever.

Look out too for the Spooky Reads collection of ebooks and audiobooks on our Kid’s OverDrive site and Halloween Horrors on the Teen OverDrive site.

Get ready for the Space Chase!


Edinburgh City Libraries are calling on children across Edinburgh to take part in The Reading Agency’s 2019 Summer Reading Challenge, Space Chase!

Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, Space Chase will see children team up with the futuristic family, the Rockets, for an exciting space mission – tracking down books stolen by a mischievous band of aliens. As part of the challenge, children are asked to borrow and read any six library books over the summer.

Each library book read for the challenge, gains a sticker (some even have mysterious smells) to help children and the Rockets solve clues, dodge asteroids and find the missing books.  There will also be lots of fun and adventure along the way! As well as visiting your local library to borrow books, you can also borrow books online through our OverDrive Kids service – look out for the Space Chase online collection!

To take part in this year’s challenge, come to your local library to sign up and receive your challenge card to keep a record of your Summer Reading Challenge journey. Look out too for events and activities in your local library over the summer holidays to celebrate the Summer Reading Challenge.

 

 

Top Ten eBooks

Ever wondered just what people read on our OverDrive eBook service? Well here’s the current top ten most popular online books with our readers –

Becoming by Michelle Obama

The biography from the former American First Lady is top of our charts.Looking like this is going to be our most popular ebook ever! Is also the most popular audiobook too (available through RBdigital).

 

Past Tense by Lee Child

Find out about Jack Reacher’s latest escapades. Our readers can’t get enough of Lee Child novels, which is why you’ll find 66 of his ebooks and audiobooks available on OverDrive. Also available on BorrowBox as audiobook.

 

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Winning prizes all over the place, this is the book of the moment. Follow the story of Connell and Marianne who grow up in a small town in rural Ireland and how their relationship effects their lives as they move in to adulthood. Audiobook also available on RBdigital.

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

THE book of 2018 – if you’ve not read it yet, then why?! Meet Eleanor who has learned how to survive – but not how to live and follow her as life comes knocking on her door. Also available on RBdigital as audiobook.

 

Mythos by Stephen Fry

A surprising, but enchanting hit in both ebook and audiobook format – Stephen Fry vividly retells the tales of the Greek Gods in an entertaining and enthusiastic manner.

 

 

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This will make you laugh, it will also make you cry, but perhaps most importantly it will make you think. This diary of a junior doctor opens a window into the NHS from the other side and you’ll never think about it the same way again. Also available as audiobook on BorrowBox.

 

Milkman by Anna Burns

Another highly acclaimed novel, that tackles the Northern Ireland conflict from the perspective of an 18-year-old girl with no interest in the troubles, who’s aim is to stay as invisible as possible. As available on RBdigital as audiobook.

 

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Another bestselling novel from one of Scotland’s top writers. In 1940, Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into MI5. After the war she presumes the events of those years are over, but soon learns that there are no actions without consequences. Also available on BorrowBox as audiobook.

 

The Little Cafe in Copenhagen by Julie Caplin

Glad to see our readers like a little light-hearted romance too!  Described as “Danish happiness and hygge in one un-put-down-able story” this is the perfect read for a chilly night.

 

 

The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Well last in our line up is a self-help book with a difference (hence the title!). It’s a much-needed grab you by the shoulders and look you in the eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humour. Available on OverDrive as ebook and audiobook..

 

So surprised at our top ten? Or hopefully impressed by the great choice of acclaimed and popular titles available now to download! Access these titles from our Libby or OverDrive apps or the OverDrive website. Full instructions for using our ebook service can be found at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/overdrive.

Some of our favourite books of 2018

Once again we asked our library staff to let us know which books they’ve read and particularly enjoyed over the past year. Here’s what they told us –

One of Susan’s favourite books of 2018 was This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay.
“It’s a rare book that makes you laugh, cry and consider big political and social issues of the day all within the space of a page. Kay wrote a series of very witty diaries during his years as a junior doctor, laying bare the daily work and trials of the NHS. Now published for us to share, they are a real eye opener to just how valuable our health service is and how lucky we are to have it. It is also a shocking and revelatory depiction of how the people who work for the NHS are treated and the affect that this could have on our care and their lives.”
Available as an ebook

Clare chose Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
“The Carnegie Medal winning book is a powerful and gripping adventure based on a true story.  A birding party from the St Kilda island of Hirta are seemingly abandoned to the elements and fate on a desolate sea stack. As time passes and the return boat each day fails to appear, the small group of men and boys must work together if they are to survive the coming winter. The island birds play a central role in the narrative and I loved the illustrations of the birds at the back of the book which made it easy to picture their place in the story.”
Available as an ebook

Stewart enjoyed The Valley at the Centre of the World by Malachy Tallack
“This is a wonderful book, which I’d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in contemporary Scottish fiction. Set in Shetland, it beautifully describes the sometimes challenging day to day existence of a modern island community. Tallack’s sense of place – especially the interwoven freedoms and limitations of insular life – is very keen and he has a marvellous way with language, creating characters who are utterly believable, each one of whom speaks with an individual voice.”

Sarah suggests Chemistry by Carol Shields
“It’s really hard to choose as we’ve had so many wonderful short stories from different anthologies at the Central Library BookCafé this year, BUT it really has to be Chemistry by Carol Shields. In this short story, Shields writes with remarkable understatement which catches the reader by surprise. She has a delicate touch coupled with a genius turn of phrase that displays such love of her characters. She elevates the mundane to the extraordinary. Possibly the best writer we’ve had this year.”

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, perhaps unsurprisingly, got two votes!
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Janette says:
“Here on the back cover we get out first introduction to Eleanor Oliphant. I had picked this book up on several occasions thinking that it would be, dare I say it, a bit depressing? I’m glad I finally did, because you know what? I liked Eleanor!
She’s quirky, solitary and doesn’t fit in well with the world, but makes no bones about who she is. Her life changes completely when she meets Raymond from IT at work, and when they save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the pavement, the three become the kind of friends who rescue one another from the isolation they have all been living.
There is a particular “Oh, no” moment about three quarters of the way through, but without giving too much away, things end up ok.
Give it a go, as the title says Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine!

Nicola also recommends Eleanor’s story:
“An uplifting read, which restores your faith in humanity! I really enjoyed this book which was set in Glasgow, with believable and well developed characters. Whilst following the life and goings on of the main protagonist Eleanor, you truly understand what it means to feel lonely and isolated, and how it feels to not understand the ‘protocols’ of society around you. Although at odds with the norms, she is a fantastically lovable individual. You will laugh out loud at some of her misunderstandings and quirks, and definitely be rooting for her!! Hope that there’s a follow-up. This would make a fantastic movie, just hope it stays true to the book and isn’t set in LA instead of Glasgow.”
Available as an ebook

Bronwen told us:
“One of my library colleagues once said to me that once you reach your 50s you enjoy a good murder story and this seems to have been the case for me this year with two crime stories that both centre around the theme of murder and have both drawn on the landscape of their settings as a key element of their narrative structure”.

Bronwen’s first choice is Broken Ground by Val McDermid
“I’m a great Val McDermid fan and particularly enjoyed the latest `Broken Ground’ in her DCI Karen Pirie series investigating historic cases. Set in both Edinburgh and the remote West Coast, McDermid vividly conveys these contrasting places pitching remote settlements and the inherent properties of peat bogs for preservation against the hipster multicultural yet alienated city life. It’s an easy read, it’s a thriller, but be warned it’s compulsive reading and will keep you awake at night”.
Available as an audiobook

and her second choice is Darkness by Ragmar Jonasson
“Ragmar Jonasson is an Icelandic crime writer and having read her new book Darkness this year I’ll be searching out more books by this author. Although based around the resolution of a crime this narrative presents more of a psychological portrait of a woman detective in her 60s struggling with the prospect of impending retirement, loneliness, and a terrible sense of loss. As the story unfolds we learn more about why this woman holds the attitudes she does and the actions she takes as a result. I would never have guessed the ending. It’s truly gripping.”
Available as an ebook

Carol recommends Dirt Road by James Kelman
“Kelman shines in this one as a master storyteller who draws you into the narrative with a familiarity of conversation. The story is based around 16 year old Murdo who travels from rural Scotland with his father to visit relatives in Alabama. Their journey is prompted by the recent death of his mother. What is instantly attractive about Murdo’s story is his love of music, and playing of the accordion, an unlikely instrument for a teenage boy. But it’s his love of music which provides a catalyst for adventure and a way of coming to terms with his own loss and passage into adulthood. It’s a great interplay of music, place and people by one of our best known Scottish authors.”
Available as an ebook

Nikki enjoyed Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck 
“After reading ‘Of Mice and Men’ last year and really enjoying it, I decided to try something else by Steinbeck. This book follows the fortunes of the Joads, a family of farmers from Oklahoma’s dust bowl, as they travel west in search of work during the great depression. The Joads struggles are explained with so much compassion. You are just rooting for them to all make it out in one piece. The descriptions of their small cotton farm and the arid desert they travel through to California feel very real. I found this book hard to put down, and kept wondering what would happen to the characters next.”
Available as an ebook 

If one of your resolutions is to read more in 2019, why not join others to enjoy and discuss great writing at your local library’s book group or drop into the Central Library BookCafe?

 

Book Week Scotland is coming!

Book Week Scotland is only a week away and the excitement is mounting! There are some fantastic literary events and activities taking place in Edinburgh libraries and school libraries during the week, Monday 19 – Sunday 25 November.

Check out our programme below and grab your tickets fast!

War is Over reading to coincide with Armistice Day
There will be a reading from ‘War is Over’ by David Almond to coincide with the Armistice Day commemorations. There will also be a colouring competition which will include a prize.
Muirhouse Library, Friday 16 November at 3.30pm

Rebel Art activity for children and young people
Come along to Drumbrae Library to help create a graffiti style art banner that will be displayed in the library for the duration of Book Week Scotland. There will also be an ongoing ‘Rebel Art’ station in place in the library for the week where people can add to the artwork and leave comments.
Drumbrae Library, Monday 19 November at 6pm (and then all week).

Wird Hunt!
According to the last national census, around 1.5 million people in Scotland can speak Scots. The Dictionar o the Scots Leid is the definitive record of their vocabulary.
The ‘Wird Hunt!’ exhibition will illuminate the Dictionar’s history as well as that of the language itself. Learn how the Dictionar’s makers keep track of the language in their day-to-day work and discover how their vast collection of quotations richly illustrate a centuries-long tradition of writing in Scots.
Want to help make the Dictionar even bigger and better? ‘Wird Hunt!’ also provides a unique opportunity to work side-by-side with the editors to identify new evidence of Scots vocabulary from a collection of present-day Scots books and poems.
Wester Hailes Library, Tuesday 20 November, 1 – 7pm
Free drop-in activity for adults, refreshments (teas, coffees & biscuits) provided

Memories of Early Granton
The Storytelling Centre and Granton Library are presenting ‘Memories of Early Granton’. Come along and listen to stories about early Granton and, if you’d like to, share a story of your own.
Granton Library, Tuesday 20 November, 6.30 – 8.30pm
Free event, tea and coffee provided

Stuart MacBride – The Blood Road
From Granite City to Auld Reekie – Morningside Library is delighted to welcome Stuart MacBride, creator of Aberdeen’s D.C.I. Logan McRae, as he swaps the oil capital of Europe for Scotland’s City of Literature to promote his latest book, ‘The Blood Road’.
Morningside Library, Tuesday 20 November at 7pm
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite

Wird Hunt!
Another chance to contribute to the The Dictionar o the Scots Leid.
Leith Library, Wednesday 21 November, 1 – 7pm
Free drop-in activity for adults

Sam Conniff Allende – Be more pirate, or, How to take on the world and win 
‘Be More Pirate’ reveals the radical strategies of Golden Age pirates, and updates them into clear solutions for making your mark on the 21st Century. Sam has been a mentor to thousands of young entrepreneurs and is now a sought after public speaker on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Leadership and Youth. Come along and find out how to be more ‘pirate’.
Stockbridge Library, Wednesday 21 November at 6.30pm
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite


M.C. Gladstone – The Moss of Cree: a Scottish childhood

M.C. Gladstone will read from her recently published memoir detailing her childhood experiences growing up in Scotland. The autobiography describes Mary’s evolution from wean on a dairy farm to sophisticate in Paris.
Stockbridge Library, Thursday 22 November at 2.30pm
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite


Write a story: creative writing workshop for imaginative adults

A beginner’s creative writing workshop for adults around the theme of Rebels, facilitated by local author and creative writers groups leader Carla Acheson. No experience required, just enthusiasm!
Stockbridge Library, Friday 23 November at 10.30am
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.


The Adventures of Justine and Sebastien – children’s storytime

A French storytime for under 8s
Morningside Library, Friday 23 November at 2.30 – 3pm
No ticket required, just come along to the library.


Craft-a-noon for children with a Rebel artist theme: Frida Kahlo

The regular Friday afternoon arts and crafts session for kids at Stockbridge has a rebellious theme this week.
Stockbridge Library, Friday 23 November at 2.30pm
Drop in session, no need to book

Wird Hunt!
Another chance to contribute to the The Dictionar o the Scots Leid.
Craigmillar Library, Saturday 24 November, 11 – 4pm
Free drop-in activity for adults

Dyslexia Chatterbooks Group

Calling all 8-11 year olds with dyslexia!

Come and join our fantastic Dyslexia Chatterbooks Group for children in Primary 4 – Primary 7, on Tuesday 25 September, 6-7.30pm in Central Children’s Library.

Group members working on book cover designs

 

We meet the last Tuesday of the month for an evening of fun reading games and book related crafts and activities. The group is run by library staff and supported by our fantastic volunteers, who tailor the programme to meet children’s interests and talents.

A typical session involves a story either told or read by a library member of staff/volunteer, some quick supported paired reading, drawing and story making games (e.g. reading bingo, word recognition, word searches). Acting out plays, poetry and riddle making are some of other popular activities with the group. There is also time for a snack and time at the end to choose a book for next time.

A visit from author Vivian French

 

We often have authors visiting the group meetings , most recently Lari Don and Vivian French, as well as other special events such as animal Zoolab workshops, magic shows and story making workshops etc which have all been popular.

 

For more information please contact:
childrenslibrary@edinburgh.gov.uk or 0131 242 8027.

It’s Read an eBook Day!

Love ebooks? Then today’s the day for you as its Read an eBook Day! Organised by OverDrive, our ebook supplier, the focus is on celebrating the importance of digital reading.

They want to hear what you are reading now or perhaps what ebook reading means to you. Have you been ill or find it difficult leaving the house and so our downloadable services are invaluable in keeping you supplied with reading material? Or did you first discover your favourite author via an ebook or just love the flexibility of using them on holiday? Use the hashtag #eBookLove today on social media and tell everyone your story (or even just your favourite ebook).

Best of all everyone who uses the hashtag #eBookLove today has the chance to win a Kobo Aura One ebook reader! Not tried ebooks before, then today’s the perfect day to start – find all the information you need on our OverDrive help pages. Then tweet that hashtag and win yourself an ebook reader!

Why do we read?

Calling on all readers over 18 years old who read for pleasure.

A lot of the research about reading focuses on readers’ genre preferences and tastes. Social scientists try to link these preferences with readers’ social characteristics. Women are said to prefer fiction and men non-fiction. Yet little is known about what people do with books once they have chosen them and why reading is important to them.

The project “Reading Matters. A cultural sociology of reading” explores the meanings of reading for pleasure in the lives of readers.

If you are over 18 years old and would like to share your experiences of reading get in touch with sociologist Angelica Thumala at the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh.

It does not matter how frequently you read, in which format or what genres. Interviews last between one and two hours. Responses will be anonymised.

Those interested in taking part or who have questions please email Angelica at angelica.thumala@ed.ac.uk