I was invited to celebrate the launch of the BBC’s ‘Novels That Shaped Our World’ campaign at New Broadcasting House on Tuesday night with other book bloggers and vloggers. It begins a year-long celebration of literature at the BBC and also marks the 300th anniversary of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Daniel Defoe which is widely considered to be the first modern English novel.
Six writers and critics – Stig Abell, Syima Aslam, Juno Dawson, Kit de Waal, Mariella Frostrup and Alexander McCall Smith – have come up with a list of 100 novels that shaped our world. The list itself is not going to please everyone. It consists of English language titles only and it also includes several series such as the Earthsea trilogy and Discworld, so to call it a list of “100 novels” isn’t strictly true. However, I think those bemoaning the fact that it is not a collection of “greatest” novels featuring lots of worthy tomes are slightly missing the point, as it is very much a list of books which have had personal impact on the panellists. That’s not to say that books traditionally thought of as great literature are not here because they are (‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Middlemarch’, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ are among those which made the cut). But it seems to have upset some people that they appear alongside more modern books considered to be guilty pleasures (‘The Twilight Saga’ and ‘Riders’ being two which are typically excluded from these kind of lists). Organised thematically, it’s a bit like an updated version of The Big Read series from the early 2000s but without a public vote, thereby preventing the overrepresentation of Jeffrey Archer and Jacqueline Wilson this time. Continue reading
I have been to a number of individual literary events in London over the last few years but until this weekend, I had never been to one of the many book festivals held in the capital each year. Now in its eighth year, Chiswick Book Festival in west London runs from Thursday 15th – Monday 19th September with talks from a wide variety of authors and other speakers. Armed with an all-day pass, I went to four events at St Michael and All Angels Church and the Tabard Theatre yesterday.
In no particular order, here are some of my favourite books from those I’ve read in 2015:
Favourite fiction published in 2015
I loved Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith which is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series and I was lucky enough to attend a special launch event in October in which my team came first in a live escape game. Winning a signed copy was a particular highlight.
The relaunch of the Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award introduced me to some fantastic new authors including The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota which is my personal favourite from a very strong shortlist.
I really enjoyed seeing Hanya Yanagihara talk about her second novel A Little Life at Foyles last summer. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, it’s been one of the most talked-about and controversial books of the year and, in my view, one of the most astonishingly original. Continue reading
Last week, I attended another bloggers event at the Groucho Club in London to celebrate the work of classic crime writers Margery Allingham and Eric Ambler with short talks delivered by Barry Pike, a founder and Chairman of the Margery Allingham Society, and Simon Brett, a crime writer and Ambler expert. I developed an interest in classic crime fiction after reading Martin Edwards’ compendium of the genre The Golden Age of Murder last summer which outlined the lives and works of key members of the Detection Club in the early 20th century including Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley among others. I was therefore very keen to learn more about two other crime writers whose names were familiar to me but whose novels I had never read before.
This week, I was lucky enough to get a place at a special launch event for ‘Career of Evil’, the third book in the crime fiction series by J. K. Rowling written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. I really enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm and was very keen to read the latest instalment of Cormoran Strike’s adventures.
To celebrate the launch, the publishers of ‘Career of Evil’ teamed up with Time Run to organise a special crime thriller version of a live gaming experience where teams need to solve clues and puzzles to “escape” the room as quickly as possible. Based in Hackney, it’s been described by the Metro as “immersive theatre meets Crystal Maze but better”. This definitely wasn’t going to be a typical book launch… Continue reading
Longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara has been talked about as one of the novels of the year, if not the decade. On Wednesday night, Yanagihara appeared at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road in London in conversation with Cathy Rentzenbrink, the Associate Editor of The Bookseller, to talk about her astonishing second novel.
As well as hosting one of the biggest literary festivals in the country, Hay-on-Wye is the official book town of Wales and home to over twenty bookshops. It was somewhat inevitable that I would end up visiting a few and making some purchases during my time at the festival last month…
Hay Cinema Bookshop
One of the first bookshops I visited was the Hay Cinema Bookshop with Francis Edwards Antiquarian Books on the top floor. I made three more visits during the week and still feel like I barely scratched the surface of this enormous shop which has been based in a converted cinema since 1965. It’s a bit like Baggins Book Bazaar – another very large second-hand bookshop in Rochester, Kent – but with a much wider range of fiction including a large amount of brand new remainder stock. I bought seven books from the shop which has an excellent range of translated fiction and literary biographies. Continue reading