To celebrate World Book Day 2017, the library team have written about the books we are currently reading when we’re not at work. We hope our choices will inspire you to get reading and to share your current reads with us.
Liz Martin, Librarian: The Ribbons Are For Fearlessness: A Journey, by Catrina Davies
A shy introvert from Cornwall decides that an excellent way to cure a broken heart would be to travel with her friend in a half-converted ambulance (as a campervan) to the North Cape in Norway. The friend dies unexpectedly and suddenly before departure, but she decides to do the trip solo anyway, busking to fund her trip with a cello and a very small repertoire.
She gets there, as they always say, after many adventures.
On the way south she learns to surf in the Lofoten Islands (having always just watched her ex-boyfriend surf in Cornwall) then she carries on travelling south through Europe to Portugal, with many moving encounters on the way, and some bizarre situations.
Her heart recovers, she grows, she gets braver, she breaks an arm, her cello playing improves and she returns to Cornwall changed. I really don’t want to give this book the clichéd label of ‘inspirational’ (even though it is!) but it is a frequently jaw-dropping read.
‘A memoir about a woman struggling to make sense of death and in the process transmuting grief into meaning. It is also a tale of female courage and discovery.’ (Monique Roffey, author of With the Kisses of his Mouth)
This was a serendipitous find in my local library, but you can buy an excellent-value bundle of book, CD of her songs, postcards of some of the places she visited and a ribbon (for fearlessness!) from her website. Her blog is also very good.
Ed Smithson, Assistant Librarian: The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles In The City, by William B. Helmreich
Helmreich is a sociology professor at City College of New York who is fond of taking his Masters’ students to the streets as part of his teaching. Recently he took it upon himself to walk every block of all five boroughs of the city (that’s c.6,000 miles and 9 pairs of shoes), talking to the inhabitants and recording his impressions.
This is in no way a detailed, systematic description of each block, rather it’s a lengthy ramble and collection of street-level anecdotes about the weird and wonderful things Helmreich has experienced on his travels. The book is not organised geographically, rather it is divided into themes such as immigration, communities and gentrification, flitting back and forth between boroughs to paint a broader picture of life in the city. Helmreich does repeatedly suggest that specific areas and communities could be worthy of future research.
I heard about this book a few years ago and was immediately impressed with the audacity/insanity of the author… I’m a lover of New York but have not had the chance to visit for many years so reading this book is a great way of vicariously travelling there.
Tessa Richards, Deputy Librarian: The Raw Scent Of Vanilla, by Emilia Bresciani
A true story, The raw scent of vanilla ‘follows the highs and lows of the Bresciani-Lujan family, whose women turn to the wisdom of nature to solve their problems. They take counsel with the wise Pink Dolphin of the Amazon, ask the river for advice, and follow the profound messages of their dreams. But when tragedy hits hard and a mystical Blue Cat announces death, their wisdom persuades them to seek other spiritual routes.
Decades later, in another land, Emilia Bresciani must face her own tragedies. She turns to the wisdom of her ancestors for guidance. After becoming a successful journalist she was looking forward to starting a new family with her husband – until her life was shattered by his murder in mysterious circumstances. In a horrifying downward spiral, she found herself not only a widow, but also the only suspect in his murder.’
I first read this book around 15 years ago and it still ranks as one of my absolute favourites. It is beautifully written and takes the reader on an emotional journey through the life of the writer and her family with the myths and legends of the Amazon jungle forming a fascinating backdrop.
Tula Miller, Assistant Librarian: The Secret Queen: Eleanor Talbot, the Woman Who Put Richard III On The Throne, by John Ashdown-Hill
This book makes a convincing argument for Edward IV’s first marriage (“pre-contract”) to Lady Eleanor Talbot, widow of Ralph Butler, Lord Sudeley, thereby making his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville invalid and their children illegitimate. Eleanor died in 1468, four years after Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth in 1464.
This validates Richard III’s acceptance of the throne. In addition, if Edward’s children were illegitimate there would have been no need for the ‘removal’ of his sons by Richard or his supporters.
A very ‘readable’ author, Ashdown-Hill was a leading figure in the ‘searching for Richard’ campaign and created the rosary that was placed in the coffin before burial in Leicester cathedral.
Clare Kavanagh, Assistant Librarian: Lyrebird, by Cecelia Ahern
Lyrebird is set in the south-west of Ireland, ‘where rugged mountains meet bright blue lakes and thick forests. Deep in the woods, a young woman lives alone, forever secluded from the world, her life a well-kept secret. She possesses an extraordinary talent, the likes of which no-one has seen before: a gift that will earn her the nickname Lyrebird. When Solomon stumbles into Laura’s solitary existence, her life is turned on its head and she is confronted by a world desperate to understand her. But while Solomon knows the world will embrace Laura, will it free her to spread her wings or will it trap her in a gilded cage? Like all wild birds, she needs to fly free’.
I have only just started this but it has already intrigued me and I want to find out more about Laura’s story and what her future holds. And why Tom kept her existence a secret from his twin Joe who he was so close to in every other way. “They were identical in looks, and they gelled despite the difference in personalities …. they had no need of explanation or description …so in tune they could sense each other’s moods, worries and fears… knew what the other was thinking at any given time.” Or did they?
There are some very strong characters involved in the storyline and I am anticipating lots of plot twists and drama!
Diana Hackett, Assistant Librarian: Born To Run, by Bruce Springsteen
The life of the Boss, as told by the Boss… I’m a Springsteen fan, so my opinion is certainly biased, but this is a brilliant and engaging read.
Springsteen has been telling stories of America and Americans throughout his musical career, and in this vividly written autobiography he finally tells his own. I think Springsteen is often dismissed and under-rated as both a musician and a story-teller, but this book showcases his lyrical talents, as his free-wheeling, evocative narrative style enables a sometimes painfully honest window into the experiences that have shaped his career.
I’m really enjoying the innovative use of structure – this is not a simple chronological life story, but a collection of memories and portraits of the places, people and moments that have had the biggest impact on his life and music. For the fan, it’s everything you could ever hope for and for the uninitiated, its honesty and warmth might just convince you that he is worthy of further investigation.
What about you?
That’s what we’re reading: now it’s your turn! We’d love to hear about the books that you’re currently reading, so get in touch: post a comment here; tweet us; Facebook us, or send us an email.
And finally, we’d like to take the opportunity to wish all our readers a very happy World Book Day 2017!