Category Archives: Libraries

Lockdown reading

BooksI read an interesting article in The Conversation the other day, linking the similarities of our current lockdown and the thirst for reading with book clubs in the Second World War during the blitz. Interesting parallels, although I think these days, it is much easier to get hold of books than it was in 1939. Today, bookshops on the high street might be closed, but the online book industry must be booming. Got to love your e-reader; instant libraries at the touch of a button.

Personally, books are my current choice of drug, having recently quit alcohol. I am hearing stories all around of people stockpiling booze to get through this crisis, but I have found that reading is a much more effective and safe way to get out of your head. It has the power to transport your mind to somewhere completely different, and at the same time aids reflection on your current life, situation or quandary. On the plus side, no hangover, no headaches, no tiredness or depressive thoughts. What’s not to like about that?

So, what am I reading during lockdown? On the fiction side, I am chomping my way through Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy, starting with Red Sister. Having read his previous two trilogies – The Broken Empire and The Red Queen’s War – I like his style of writing, which is quite dark and intense, but with a subtle black humour, which is timely and uplifting. I also can’t resist a good fight and a kick-ass female lead, which ticks all my boxes in Red Sister.

On the non-fiction side I am reading Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari; a fascinating look at the history of drug prohibition and addiction. This is a book that everyone should read, and deals with issues that touch all of our lives one way or another. The stories here are powerful and real; they resonate on a level we can all identify with. If you cannot or don’t want to read the book, at the very least, I urge you to check out his TED talk Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.

So, what are you reading to keep you happy and grounded in lockdown?


Protect and Reinvent our Local Libraries

Okay, so you may be getting bored with me harping on about libraries, but I find it comforting to know that so many well known writers have also been influenced by their local libraries. Here is an extract from the Reading Agency lecture delivered by Jeanette Winterson, published in the Guardian on 23rd Nov.

What do libraries mean to you?

One of my earliest memories is of being taken to the local library. It was such a treat to be able to sit and browse the books, finally deciding on the favourites for that week. If I close my eyes, the scent of polish on the wooden floor takes me back. I am sitting in a pool of books, my siblings milling around, gently increasing the piles to precarious heights. Those were the days of searching for books via index cards and when library cards really were made of card and really did get stamped.

Now I’m not a person who particularly yearns for those nostalgic days, but I do believe in giving everyone the opportunity to explore information, whether in print or digital format. I was fortunate to grow up in a household where every room had a bookshelf filled to bursting point. Not every child has access to books, computers or even an e-reader. Libraries today are a hub of interactive and community information, from novels to newspapers, music to meetings. Libraries today run events, clubs, classes, allow free internet access and self-service facilities. It most certainly is about equality of opportunity; a fundamentally human quality that is seemly being eroded by government cuts. Is it any wonder that authors like Zadie Smith continue to speak up in favour of our public libraries?

According to Public Libraries News, 253 libraries are currently under threat or have been closed/left council control since 01.04.12, out of circa 4612 in the UK.

More opinion from Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson, who argues that closing down libraries is a “false economy”. I couldn’t agree more.

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