THE FUTURE LIBRARY

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Imagine writing a book only to have it safely stored unseen by anyone for up to 100 years.

This is the reality to which famous writers and poets are subjecting their work as part of The Future Library project. 

It all starts with a forest of 1,000 trees planted near Oslo, Norway, which we will be harvested in 100 years and used to print a unique anthology – for people yet to be born! The anthology will be from books, poems or texts submitted by one author per year (one piece of work only)  for the next 100 years and apart from its creator no other human being alive will have seen their work. 

The creator of this living conceptual artwork is Katie Paterson, a Glaswegian visual artist. Trust is central to this project: trust that there is a future; trust that there will be a future that cares about art and the written word; trust that the work will be carried on; trust that writers have handed in complete work. After all – who is to know if only a sheaf of empty pages is handed over.

Katie Paterson says that ‘tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future’.

This is the beauty about this concept; it runs contrary to all expectations and desires of writers and readers. Often the writers battle to have their work read. Readers are always eager for an immediate access to the book. 

The first contributor to The Future Library was Margaret Atwood with her piece entitled ‘Scribbler Moon’. That is all we and anyone knows about the book. Although it might be a poem, a short story. No one knows.

Will her name still be known 100 years hence? Will her grandchildren or great-grandchildren attend the unveiling of the anthology in 2114? 

‘I am sending a manuscript into time,’ Margaret Atwood said at the time of delivering her work to The Future Library. ‘Will any human beings be waiting there to receive it? Will there be a ‘Norway’? Will there be a ‘forest’? Will there be a ‘library’?

‘How strange it is to think of my own voice – silent by then for a long time – suddenly being awakened, after a hundred years.

‘There’s something magical about it. It’s like Sleeping Beauty. The texts are going to slumber for 100 years and then they’ll wake up, come to life again. It’s a fairytale length of time. She slept for 100 years.’

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David Mitchell’s book, entitled ‘From Me Flows What We Call Time’ is the second written text secreted within what is envisaged to be a specially designated room at the New Public Deichmanske Library, Oslo. Here the name of each writer and the name of their work will be on display in front of their work, hidden from view.  The famous ‘Cloud Atlas’ author found the writing process liberating and thrived in knowing he wouldn’t be alive for criticism. Furthermore he added, ‘Isn’t the prospect of a berth aboard an Ark of Literature with fellow-passengers of this calibre not a tempting one?’’

He stressed the topic of trust and belief in the future in his eloquent speech about the project.

‘Firstly, the Future Library project is a vote of confidence in the future.

‘We have to trust our successors, and their successors, and theirs, to steer the project through a hundred years of political skulduggery, climate change, budget cutbacks and zombie apocalypses. 

‘We have to trust that ‘digital archeologists’ will manage to get inside ancient USB sticks.’ 

Luckily the latter point has been taken into consideration and alongside an easily formatted version of the written work there will also be a printed paper copy. Belts and braces!

Will these writers find a receptive audience ten decades from now? What will the future generations make of the written words? How relevant will they find the stories? What will they make of the project?

What about you? What do you think of The Future Library? 

Here is a video link to video link to Katie Paterson in Norway discussing her artwork, where she says she imagines the ‘tree rings like chapters in a book’.

https://vimeo.com/katiepaterson/future

‘Nature, the soul, love, and God, one recognises through the heart, and not through the reason… Reason is a tool, a machine, which is driven by the spiritual fire.’  Dostoevsky

BLIND DATE BOOKS

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I’m always on the look-out for bookshops with a difference. There are the cafe bookshops. More recently the one-book bookshop in Tokyo. However, these still have books and their covers clearly visible on a shelf.

Elizabeth’s Bookshop in Australia is turning the way we often choose our books on its head by wrapping up the books. Instead of ‘judging books by their cover’ the bookshop feels its policy allows the book to be bought for its contents and also encourages a diversity of reading genres by hiding the book covers. Neatly wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string, the book parcels line shelf upon shelf in one section of the second-hand bookshop. Upon each book is written a few key words about the book – its genre, main plot line. That is all. The rest is pot luck.

An employee originally had the idea to have a ‘blind date with a book’ and sales have mushroomed and the concept has been rolled out to all its six stores across Australia. The books are chosen by staff  who also write on the covers. The customers often buy the books as presents for family and friends for special occasions such as Christmas, birthdays or Valentines. One major selling point is the ease and lack of stress in choosing a book as well as the sense of anticipation and intrigue of the ‘secret’ book held within. 

I can just imagine the anguish felt by the publishers and authors. After hours of deliberation and huge expense their work upon cover design and blurb content is hidden by nondescript paper. However at the same time my interest is definitely piqued and I would happily embrace the ‘blind date’ books now and then. Especially since the books can be returned within seven days if they have already been read – the only main drawback I could envisage. 

What about you? Have you ever come across this scenario in a bookshop near you? Would you buy such a book as a present? Or for yourself? As always I look forward to reading your comments.

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A Gathering of Flowers

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Old books hold their own mystique; as if endowed with sacred properties, to be revered, protected, held in awe. I’m not talking about books from decades ago, rather those hundreds of years old. The Hortus Eystettensis is no exception.

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This first edition botanical book was printed in 1613 and made the news this week as it comes up for sale at Christie’s in London. It is not the humungous value of the book (an estimated £ 1.2 million / $ 1.7 million) that I find astonishing, rather the beauty, detail and colour which is so staggering.

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The drawings are as vivid and alluring as on the day they were created, the colours striking, bright.

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The florilegium (latin for A Gathering of Flowers) depicts over a 1,000 varieties of flowers found in the gardens of the Bishop of Eichstätt and was commissioned by the bishop. The botanist Basilius Besler created the book along with a team of gifted craftsmen and altogether the task took him sixteen years.

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The work generally reflects the four seasons, showing first the flowering and then the fruiting stages. There were two forms of the books. A cheaper black and white version with drawings and text for reference purposes as well as this more luxurious hand-coloured version on top quality paper without text.

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The Hortus Eystettensis is unique in that is changed the face of botanical art overnight. Previous botany books had concentrated on medicinal and culinary herbs, which were mostly depicted in a crude manner.  Besler’s book was of garden flowers, herbs and vegetables as well as exotic plants such as  arum lilies. The drawings were reproduced on high-quality engraved copper plates by expert craftsmen before printing and the reproductions are almost life-sized in exquisite detail. The layout was unusual too and modern in its concept and artistically pleasing. The pièce de résistance however is the beautiful and delicate hand-colouring throughout the book.

‘If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.’ Buddha

Information from Wikipedia and The Times.

 

MY ‘INTIMIDATING TBR’ TAG

Lovely  Eve Messenger  tagged us all for this more unusual book tag – ‘My Intimidating TBR’ Tag. I do like completing the tags occasionally and couldn’t resist giving this one a go. Like Eve, I’m encouraging everyone to join the fun and consider themselves tagged.

  1. What book have you been unable to finish?

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‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is a book I was so excited to read, keen doesn’t cover it. I have read two thirds of it; found it inspiring, funny and wise at times. Then I will find a section which for me is annoying, cliche, blasé and undeserving of a such a good writer. For this reason alone I still have not got round to finishing this book.

Here is a taster: 

‘The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one…when courage dies, creativity dies with it.’

‘The writer Rebecca Solnit puts is well: “So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.” Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.’

(PS. I recently finished her brilliant ‘The Signature of All Things’ and can highly recommend this book.)

2. What book have you yet to read because you just haven’t had the time?

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‘Birds Without Wings’ by Louis de Bernieres

A while ago I read an interview with Louis de Bernieres of ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ fame. Whilst he appreciates the fame and success the book and later the film brought him, he considers his more recent novel, ‘Birds Without Wings’, the true classic and worthier novel. At 625 pages of intense and literary writing this is a book that deserves time and concentration so I’m still waiting for that perfect (many long) moments! This brief outline explains the scope and setting: 

‘Set against the backdrop of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks, Birds Without Wings traces the fortunes of one small community in south-west Anatolia – a town in which Christian and Muslim lives and traditions have co-existed peacefully for centuries.’

3. Which book have you yet to read because it is a sequel?

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‘Our Own Country: A Novel (The Midwife Series)’ by Jodi Daynard

In March 2015 I reviewed ‘The Midwife’s Revolt’ and when I came across the next book in the series I could not pass up the opportunity to see whether Jodi Daynard keeps up the pace and emotion in her latest novel.  I hope it does not cover too much of the same ground however.

‘In 1770s Boston, a prosperous merchant’s daughter, Eliza Boylston, lives a charmed life—until war breaches the walls of the family estate and forces her to live in a world in which wealth can no longer protect her.’

4. What book have you yet to read because it is a new release?

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‘small great things’ by Jodi Picoult

As a great fan of Jodi Picoult I always keep an eye out for her latest book. Her current novel-in-progress, ‘small great things’, is due out on 8th November 2016 and along with her fans around the world I’m looking forward to this latest sure-to-be bestseller. As usual she doesn’t shy away from controversial weighty topics; this time it’s race. 

‘Ruth, an African-American nurse, has worked at a CT hospital for nearly twenty years as a labor and delivery nurse. So when a young couple, Turk and Brittany, come into the hospital to have their baby, it is business as usual — until Turk calls in Ruth’s white supervisor after the birth. He says, “I don’t want her or anyone like her to touch my boy,” and pulls up his sleeve to reveal a Confederate flag tattoo: he and his wife are Skinheads.’

5. What book have you yet to read because you read a book by the same author and didn’t like it?

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‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tart

It wasn’t that I didn’t like ‘The Goldfinch’; at times I adored it, wallowing in the long descriptive passages, caught up in the general premise. However, it was just TOO long and verbose. I’m tempted though to try and read another one of her books, particularly ‘The Secret History’. Once again the description is enticing but I’m torn. 

‘Under the influence of their charismatic Classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality, their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.’

What do you think? Has anyone read this? Should I give it a go? 

6. What book have you yet to read because you aren’t in the mood?

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‘The Girl with all the Gifts’ by M. R. Carey

This book was a Christmas present and one I do want to read, that I keep meaning to read but somehow the moment is never quite right. Not one for night times, not one for sunny happy days, not one for low depressed days. Hmm…still I’m intrigued though. 

‘Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.’

7. What book have you yet to read because it is humongous?

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‘The Penguin Book of the British Short Story. Volume 1’ edited by Philip Hensher.

Having seen the editor of this short story collection talk in November 2015 at the Royal Society of Literature I truly meant to have read this earlier. Again it was a present and I can’t wait to read the stories contained within but its size has caused certain reservations within me. Not the 702 pages, rather its actual tome and tomb-like weight – having been spoilt with the light weight of a kindle and paperbacks it will be annoying to not be able to hold it with one hand, not to be able to snuggle up and be cosy to read in the evenings. However, I will tackle this soon…I mean it. Then there is always volume two to put on my Christmas list. I had to laugh when reading Philip Hensher’s comment in the General Introduction when he writes that: ‘This anthology could easily have become twice as long as it is’. Was that a threat?!

8. What book have you yet to read because it was a cover buy with bad reviews?

None!

9. Which book on your TBR is the most intimidating to you?

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‘Mason & Dixon’ by Thomas Pynchon

This book has been on my TBR since forever, quietly disappearing to the bookcase before finding its way back onto my bedside table. The book is the most intimidating I’ve ever come across. I just about get the first few pages but its style is so dense and complex; yet I feel I should be better than this. I read ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ by Pynchon as a student and was hooked. I want to do this one justice and might persevere – or maybe not. 

Here’s a taster for you of the first sentence:

‘Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr’d the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware,— the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall, a stocking’d-foot Descent made upon the great Kitchen, in a purposeful Dither since Morning, punctuated by the ringing Lids of various Boilers and Stewing-Pots, fragrant with Pie-Spices, peel’d Fruits, Suet, heated Sugar,— the Children, having all upon the Fly, among rhythmic slaps of Batter and Spoon, coax’d and stolen what they might, proceed, as upon each afternoon all this snowy Advent, to a comfortable Room at the rear of the House, years since given over to their carefree Assaults.’

I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection; as always I would love to hear from you about some of these selections or about some of your own Intimidating TBRs. If you’re tempted, please do the Tag!

THE AUTUMN BOOK TAG

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I was recently nominated by Charley at the wonderful booksandbakes1 for The Autumn Book Tag. How could I refuse! As always a delight and matter of indulgence!

  1. What’s your favourite thing about Autumn?    

I  love the feeling of promise that Autumn brings with it as the cold cracks the morning awake and the summer finally slips away. As with New Year,  Autumn comes with the tension and excitement of new beginnings, where anything is possible.

Also in Autumn the big kid in me is unleashed and I’m incapable of walking past a pile of russet leaves on the ground. Instead I will rush in and kick them around with abandon. The sound, the scent, the scrunchy feeling underfoot – what is there not to like?  

2. What Book reminds you of your school days?

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In my last year of primary school we read a book that resulted in a large display of copper items in the reading area. I nagged my mother until all her precious copper pots and pans made up most of the display. It took me years to find the book that so inspired me and this wonderful coppery show. It was the ’The King of Copper Mountain’ by Paul Biegel and I reread it recently, this time falling for the warmth of my childhood memories stored within the tale. 

3. What book cover reminds you of Autumn?

queenieThe hues of deep russet to light orange brilliantly reflect the colours of Autumn as the leaves dazzle us with their extravaganza. The lighter yellow is the cooler sunlight that shines through the leaves, the shell a hint of beach walks in the crisp chilly winds, the deeper orange a reminder of the warmth of the fire in front of which one sits, nursing a hot chocolate and marshmallows. Subtle, striking cover and perfect for Autumn beauty.

4. What is your favourite horror or Halloween book? 

cujoI’m not into horror books, frightened easily by the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’.  However, many years ago I read Stephen King’s ‘Cujo’. Once started, I was incapable of stopping but I remember reading it in terror followed by sleepless nights. It was simply one of those books I had to finish. Relentless.

5. Which is your favourite horror or Halloween film?

weeping:jpgI have managed to go through life without watching a single horror film and intend to keep it that way. The weeping angles in Doctor Who are scary enough and have me hiding behind a cushion! I know, I’m a real wimp!

6. What Fall book are you most looking forward to?

shopholicYou can’t go wrong this time of year with a feel-good book and not many do this better than Sophie Kinsella and her shopaholic series. The latest one is released next Thursday 22nd  October so I’m look forward to curling up on a sofa and reading ‘Shopaholic to the Rescue’.

7. What Autumn movie release are you most looking forward to?

It’s strange isn’t it? As a student I seemed to live in the cinema, then with a young child, we all adored the children films. Now with a teenager I feel the film years returning as my son is busy with his friends. I saw great reviews for Suffragette (a topic I wrote a thesis on) with Meryl Streep and Helen Bonham Carter and I’m tempted to go on a ‘date’ with my husband to see this.

8.  What are three books you are planning to read this Autumn?

On top of the one mentioned, I have three kindle books I bought with my birthday money and look forward to reading in the coming weeks.

I hope you enjoyed reading these and are also planning your Autumn reading. If you have a chance I would enjoy to read some of your own Autumn Book tags. 

For now, have that blanket at the ready, book handy, candles alight. Right,  time to snuggle and read…see you soon…

‘Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.’

F. Scott Fitzgerald

FIRST SENTENCES…

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The usual furore over the Man Booker Prize is now diminishing but as always I could not help but be intrigued. 

It’s one of world’s largest monetary literary prize awards giving £ 50,000 to the winner. On top of this international success and world-wide renown is guaranteed for the winner and a sure-bet for the short-listed books. 

So, what are the winning and short-listed books like? 

Here is a taster with the first sentence of each of them…enjoy!

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‘Listen. Dead people never stop talking. Maybe because death is not death at all, just a detention after school.’

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‘Turin is where the famous shroud is from, the one showing Christ’s body supine after crucifixion: hands folded over genitals, eyes closed, head crowned with thorns.’

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‘We were fishermen: My brothers and I became fishermen in January of 1996 after our father moved out of Akure, a town in the west of Nigeria, where we had lived together all our lives.’

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‘Randeep Sanghera stood in front of the green-and-blue map tacked to the wall.’

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‘Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.’

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‘The eleventh apartment had only one closet, but it did have a sliding glass door that opened onto a small balcony, from which he could see a man sitting across the way, outdoors in only a T-shirt and shorts, even though it was October, smoking.’

Source: BBC online news.

Did any tempt? Do you now want to buy any of the books and read on?  

Also, for all writers out there take comfort in the fact that Marlon James at one stage deleted his first novel following numerous rejections, only to revive it later when he discovered it in an email!

My Life in Books Tag

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I enjoyed reading Charley’s recent post at booksandbakes1  on the tag of My Life in Books and she kindly nominated anyone who wanted to participate. My hand shot up as the prospect of having an excuse to study my books was irresistible. What a treat!

Blimey! Where to start? By my reckoning I read at least 80 books a year, so that alone adds up to … a lot of books. I slowly dawdled past my old flames, scanning the covers, stopping to flip through the pages, reading a snippet here or there. It quickly became evident that this post would take some time to complete…hours later…

Here are my book selections for the tag and I’ve added a twist by including the first sentence/paragraph of each book as a taster. I want to mention that the books read in recent years, most of which have been on Kindle, are sadly ruled out. The choice was still staggering however.

  1. FIND A BOOK FOR EACH OF YOUR INITIALS.

I cheated a bit here by including my middle name too.    

A.

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This is the  last of Thomas Eidson’s excellent and heart-stopping trilogy.

‘Like a frigid hand of ice gripping the back of her neck, the winter wind blew in across the prairie, over the quiet farmyard and into the garden where they stood staring at the coffin. She shivered.’

M.  

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Get your tissue box out for this one – although I rarely cry whilst reading this one had me weeping by the end. Beautiful but so sad. I’ve put the sequel ‘After You’ on to my Christmas list. The sequel is a first for Jojo Moyes but she could not resist the clamour from her fans to learn more about Louise and her life.

‘There are 158 footsteps between the bus stop and home, but it can stretch to 180 if you aren’t in a hurry, like maybe if you’re wearing platform shoes.’

P. 

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Gosh, I re-read this many times in my teens and then later relished seeing Steve McQueen in the film version. I suffered with him throughout and by the end collapsed on the sofa exhausted. 

‘The blow was such a stunner that it was thirteen years before I could get back on my feet again.’

2. COUNT YOUR AGE  ALONG YOUR BOOK SHELF – WHICH BOOK IS IT?

A tricky one as the house is encumbered with bookcases but I have an antique-style desk with top bookshelf where my all time favourite books reside. I counted and stopped at my age.

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A must-read for mankind I feel. 

‘You who live safe

In your warm houses,

You who find, returning in the evening,

Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider if this is a man

Who works in the mud,

Who does not know peace,

Who fights for a scrap of bread,

Who dies because of a yes or a no.’

3. PICK A BOOK SET IN YOUR STATE/COUNTY/CITY/COUNTRY

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This book starts in the county I’m living in now, so just slides into this category by my reckoning.

‘I decided to enter this world just as my mother got off the bus after an unproductive shopping trip to Ilford.’

4. PICK A BOOK THAT REPRESENTS A DESTINATION YOU WOULD LOVE TRAVEL TO

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I am a great fan of Mme Ramotswe of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1.  Ladies Detective Agency and I would love to travel to the warmth of Botswana, sit in a cafe and do nothing but gaze onto life outside whilst sipping redbush tea. Oh well, I’l make do with reading the books and watching the TV series. 

‘Mme Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Kgale Hill. These were its assets: a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone and an old typewriter. Then there was a teapot, in which Mme Ramotswe – the only lady detective in Botswana – brewed redbush tea.’

5. PICK A BOOK THAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR

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As such I don’t have a favourite colour but I adore this cover of the sunset over the sea and must say that I bought the book for that alone, before becoming engrossed and anguished by the tale that unfolded. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

‘Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.’

6. WHICH BOOK DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF?

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As so many writers I was inspired by a wonderful teacher. When I was aged 8-years-old Mr Kewley introduced this book to us. I have re-read it countless times, the magic of words still beating their song in my heart. The book holds a particular pathos for me as my then favourite teacher passed away two years later from leukaemia. 

‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with thing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.’ 

7. WHICH BOOK DID YOU HAVE MOST DIFFICULTY READING?

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Having read and mostly enjoyed ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ I bought this hardback with confidence. Alas all my attempts to read beyond the first chapter failed and it now sits in my book shelf, unread, pristine. Such a pity as I loved the concept and it felt such a noble enterprise.

‘Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr’d the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware.-the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall…’

8. WHICH BOOK IN YOUR TBR PILE WILL GIVE YOU THE BIGGEST SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT WHEN YOU FINISH IT?

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In my twenties I was introduced to this and it is a tricky read and took a long while to attune myself to the complex language. I was thrilled to have finished it but also surprised how much by the end it had become part of my inner self.

‘When conversation at school turned to the Russo-Japanese War, Kiyoaki Matsugae asked his closest friend Shiegkuna Honda, how much he could remember about it.’

I hope you have enjoyed reading about the books in my life and I would like nominate you fellow bloggers to carry on with the tag. I  look forward to learning about the books that have featured and are present in your life, please grasp hold of the baton and carry it forwards. It’s a great fun tag to complete. 

‘THE FUTURE STARTS WITH THE ALPHABET’ *

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How often don’t we take it for granted  – this reading and writing. Let’s spare a thought today on International Literacy Day for the one fifth of the world’s population who are unable to enjoy and reap the rewards of what is now recognised as an inalienable human right – literacy.

Whilst in Roman era only 1% of the population was literate this has gradually increased over time in the western world and beyond to 99%, particularly following the Industrial Revolution. However, many areas in the world, such as Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Afghanistan, suffer from literacy rates of just above 20%. Of the one fifth illiterate people in the world, two-thirds are women, further disenfranchising and disempowering them from an active involvement in the community.

The International Literacy Day was established in 1965 by UNESCO to highlight the shocking illiteracy in the world as well as supporting and creating multifold organisations to improve literacy. They see a direct link with illiteracy and poverty and ill-health and recognise the relationship between improved literacy and economic growth and progress. Therefore the theme of International Literacy Day 2015 is Literacy and Sustainable Societies.

imageIt is increasingly recognised that in today’s 21st Century literacy means much more than the basics of working with words and numbers. Communication is a central factor of literacy, not only through reading and writing, but also through the ability to listen and speak. Early on it is important to develop critical and visual literacy.

Of course technology now plays a huge role in society and individuals need to be computer literate, able to research information and then learn how to effectively use this. As many teachers will no doubt admit, their students now often know more than the teachers regarding modern technology and the teaching emphasis in this area has shifted to a form of partnership in learning.

Furthermore, computers, tablets and mobile phones are themselves seen as offering ‘fresh opportunities for literacy for all’. *

imageThis is not a hopeless cause and it has been proved that with determination and concerted effort literacy rates can dramatically increase over just twenty years. Hopefully the the hundreds of activities and events across the globe today can move more people towards improved literacy.

Personally I cannot imagine a world where I could not read or write – a lifeline of joy, education, entertainment, knowledge. Let’s hope that many more can soon drink from this fount of enlightenment.

* UNESCO Director-General

PLANT A BOOK

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We all know books are special but an Argentinian Children’s Publisher have truly put the magic into one of their books.

imageIn an attempt to teach children the origins of books – trees – they have created a hand-stitched children’s book into which Jacaranda seeds are carefully sewn. Once the book is read, it is buried and within seven to fourteen years the beautiful purpleblue blooms of the Jacaranda tree will flourish.
image‘Mi Papa estuvo en al selva’  (‘My Daddy was in the jungle’) is hand made on acid-free paper, uses ecological ink and is finished with silk. The story itself follows a father’s adventures in the South American jungle and is aimed for the 8-12 age group, although it can obviously be read to younger children.

imagePequenos, the publishers based in Buenos Aries, believe that ‘trees and children can grow together’ and with this book they have successfully achieved the world’s first truly recyclable book whilst teaching children about ecological responsibility.


The book caused a sensation when launched earlier this year, gaining not only national but also international notoriety. Some bookshelves promoted the books by half-planting them in soil and allowing the seeds to germinate – a spectacular and thought-provoking sight and visualising the novel concept of not only do books come from trees but trees come from books.

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It will be interesting to see if their idea of ‘Tree, Book, Tree’ will be picked up by other publishers and grow across the globe. How can it lose? Teaching children the love of reading and ecology. Alas the stunning sub-tropical Jacaranda seeds will not flourish in colder climes and adjustments must be made accordingly. Ahh…

Please do take a look at their promotion video which also shows the book production.

http://www.fcb.com/our-work/tree-book-tree

‘Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.’

Confucius

Here Comes Pippi…

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Happy 70th Birthday this week to loveable anarchic Pippi Långstrump / Longstocking.

The Pippi Långstrump stories are hugely successful and enjoyed by children (and adults) across the globe. So far they have been translated into over 70 languages and the author Astrid Lindgren has sold more than 144 million books.

However, it’s on a personal level I want to say thank you to this mischievous character. Her independent fun-loving free-spirit had me believing anything was possible. Well, maybe not lifting a horse (I never tried!) but I got up to many wild-cap adventures during my childhood, surely influenced by Pippi. IMG_1026

Escaping from nursery aged four being one of my first clear memories! Alas we did not get too far as teachers caught up with myself and merry band of followers en route to the dark mystical wood near the school.

When older in England I often stood in front of Mary, the shop-keeper of our local sweet-shop on Saturday mornings, my pocket money clasped tightly in my fist and fantasied about being able to buy all the sweets to share out amongst my friends. Just like Pippi.

Pippi is naturally fearless just by daring to be herself. She could not imagine being or doing anything else. She does not have a malicious streak in her body, instead she means well all the time although sometimes things do not quite work out. The few times she realises she has done wrong Pippi is mortified and full of remorse.

Isn’t it every child’s dream for a few hours to be totally free from grown-ups, to do things that are not allowed? In her beautifully observed and amusing adventures Pippi makes friends with two other children and introduces them to her wonderful version of the world. These friends, well one in particular is my second reason for my love affair with the Pippi stories.

The two friends are siblings Tommy and Annika – my namesake. There I was, in a book, in a record, same blonde hair, same age, yellow jumper, brown corduroy trousers led safely astray by very original Pippi.

I spent so many hours listening to my record of the stories that at times fiction blended in with reality. Did I or did I not strap scrubbing brushes onto my feet and dance around on a soap-sudded kitchen floor to clean it? I know I often lay non-conformist style on my bed, my feet on the pillow, my head at the end of my bed. Just like Pippi.

At times Tommy and Annika tried to tame this wonderful maverick character; even convincing her to attend school with them for a day. The experiment  does not go not well and Pippi decides school is good for the holidays it grants you!

220px-Astrid_Lindgren_1924Astrid Lindgren felt a close affinity for children; perhaps as a result of being mostly absent for the first years of her own first child’s life as he lived with foster parents far away in Copenhagen whilst she worked in Stockholm. Throughout her life she campaigned for Children’s Rights and was instrumental in the banning of corporal punishment against children. I imagine Pippi’s  exuberance and courage reflected Astrid Lindgren’s own approach to life.

So, Happy Birthday Pippi – you’ve given so much with your larger than life personality, your pigtails, your stomping nature. May we all live as impulsively and free.

“If I have managed to brighten up even one gloomy childhood – than I’m satisfied.”

Astrid Lindgren