Archive for category Books
We couldn’t go on holiday this year but I spent the latter part of the summer travelling the length and breadth of the Scottish Highlands. In books.
I was a reader for the longlist of the Highland Book Prize.
The Highland Book Prize is an annual book prize that celebrates the talent, landscape and cultural diversity of the Highlands. It is open to fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
In 2020 there were 52 entries, which were initially reviewed by a panel of 145 volunteer readers, comprising both industry professionals and avid readers. Our opinions and comments were then aggregated to build a longlist of thirteen books.
The longlist will be read by a panel of experts who will draw up the shortlist. The final winner will be announced in May 2021 and will receive £1000 and a place on a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor.
Reading for the longlist was a great experience. I was sent a mix of fiction, memoir, non-fiction and poetry. Some of it challenged me and other stuff was more along the lines of my usual reading matter. I learned a lot about the people, landscape and nature of the Highlands. I’m hoping to be on the panel again next year. If you’d like to take part as well, applications to be a reader in 2021 are now open.
On another subject entirely, if you are struggling to find the time or space to write, you might be interested in this post, which I wrote for Lightbox Originals.
Have you got a rare and valuable first edition sitting on your bookshelf? Would you like one?
I recently came across an article on LoveMoney.com detailing the phenomenal sums achieved by the first editions of some books. Remember, when these books were first bought, the purchaser was often taking a gamble on an unknown author, simply hoping to find a good read and having no thought to what the book might be worth in the future.
Here are some examples to check for on your shelves:
A first edition of Bridget Jones’ Diary can fetch up to £303 or £500 if signed.
A signed US first edition of The Talented Mr Ripley can be worth up to £7,678.
First editions of either Animal Farm or 1984 by George Orwell can sell for £10,000.
A first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was saved from a skip by a teacher helping to clear out a school library. It sold for £33,000.
The Abe Books website has a useful article about identifying first editions. It’s not straightforward because different publishers use different identification methods. As a starting point, the publisher may state the words ‘first edition’ or ‘first printing’ on the copyright page. Alternatively, look at the number line – that’s a line of numbers on the copyright page. If a one is present then it’s usually a first edition. Sometimes booksellers are able to identify a first edition by a printing error that was later rectified.
It’s not too late to start your collection of first editions or gift one to somebody else. I have some copies of psychological thriller, The Promise available for only £6.99, including second class postage within the UK. These books can be signed, personalised with a special message or left pristine. An excellent present for yourself or someone you can’t get to see at the moment. For more details or to order, please email email@example.com.
Disclaimer: There is no guarantee that your copy of The Promise will rise in value, just as there is no guarantee that your lottery ticket will win the jackpot.
What Amazon reviewers say about The Promise:
“… there is something about the way that Sally Jenkins writes that draws me in and keeps me wanting to read more.” – Whiskas’ Mum.
“I was particularly surprised to find out much sympathy I felt for Tina, she is a very well written character.” – Theda.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures! How far would you go to protect yourself!!” – dash fan
Reading is a solitary pastime. We sit alone, in silence, our mind in another world and ‘do not disturb’ exuding from our concentrated expression. Reading is a hobby not easily shared with others.
Reading is becoming an increasingly sociable activity. Books connect people, both online, in the virtual world and in real, face-to-face society. Don’t miss out by reading in a bubble, try some of the following:
- Join a traditional book group. Most groups read one book a month and meet to discuss their opinions (depending on the group there may be coffee, wine or cake …) I’ve mentioned before that I run a book group at my local library and the library or bookshop is a good place to start if you’re looking for a group. Alternatively, start your own. A friend of mine formed a group with her neighbours and they take it in turns to host the meeting.
- Join a Shared Reading group. I’ve written before about these groups connected to The Reader charity. There is no ‘homework’ reading. It is all aloud during the (usually weekly) meeting.
- A couple of weeks ago I was a volunteer at Bookfest in my local library. It was a festival of children’s books with lots of author events and activities. I was one of three people on the front desk answering questions and directing people to events. It was fun to be with like-minded book lovers making an event happen that would be too expensive to stage without volunteers.
- Search out a Facebook group that discusses books. A few to get you going:
Imogen Clark’s Book Café – Imogen is a best-selling author
The Book Club – a large and busy group with occasional ‘real-life’ meet ups
Romantic Fiction Book Club – run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association
If you can recommend any others, please add them in the comments at the bottom of this post.
- Review your favourite books online. This could be on Amazon, Good Reads or NetGalley (where you can request advance e-book copies of new novels to review). Or start your own book blog and get social in the virtual world, interacting with readers and writers.
- Start a book exchange at work, church or wherever groups of people meet. See if you can encourage non-readers to try a novel. What greater gift can you give someone than the love of books?
Reading and the love of books can be as solitary or as social as you choose. Whichever way you do it – happy reading!
I rarely read memoir or autobiography but the title ‘Diary of a Lollipop Lady‘ jumped out from the library shelf. The subtitle is, ‘Memories of a Crossing Patrol in the 1960s’ and it is exactly what it says on the tin.
Hazel Wheeler spent 1966 as a lollipop lady in Yorkshire. She has two young daughters, her husband is working all hours and the debt collectors are after them. Back then it was unusual for mothers to do paid work but being a lollipop lady fits with school hours and the family needs the money. Hazel kept a diary during her twelve months in the job, noting down stories about her regular ‘customers’, the extremes of weather and the interesting things she witnesses.
What I liked most about this book were the odd comments Hazel dropped in about her ambitions to write for a living. Like many of us, she was an avid writer of letters to magazines. She records how she went into Smiths to leaf through the latest issues and see if anything of hers had been published. When it was, she celebrated the one guinea payment or the tea caddy from Peoples’ Friend (I think that prize is still going!). Her children are encouraged to enter writing competitions – with success. The book ends on a positive note, with an acceptance for Hazel from the BBC in January 1967 for a feature to be used on the ‘Home this Afternoon’ programme. Her fee is 10 guineas – more than three times what she earns in a week on the crossing.
After finishing the book I Googled ‘Hazel Wheeler’ and was sad to discover she’d died in 2009, not long after the book came out. Her obituary charts her diary-keeping and her publication history. Other volumes of her diaries provided material for ‘Living on Tick‘ and ‘Huddersfield at War‘.
I’m sure Hazel would be pleased to know that her books are still being read after her death – something for us all to aim for.
When I was young one of my ambitions was to own a secondhand bookshop. It was an ambition that was never fulfilled but I do still love to wander around shelves full of pre-loved books.
Shaun Bythell owns Scotland’s biggest secondhand bookshop and for a year he kept a diary of life in that shop. The diary was published in book form, The Diary of a Bookseller, a couple of years ago and it makes interesting reading for anyone who’s ever wondered what goes on behind the mountains of paperbacks and collectables.
There are comments on the customers (especially those who spend hours reading by the bookshop fire and then don’t buy anything), the staff (who have a tendency to the eccentric), the people who are selling their lifelong book collections and the way online ordering works in the secondhand industry. Sunny summer days are busy but in winter the takings are meagre.
Two particularly interesting points from the book are worth highlighting. Why not join the shop’s Random Book Club? For £59 a year you will be sent a surprise book every month. Might make a great present for someone who loves to try different genres?
And, if like me, you’ve ever wanted to run your own secondhand bookshop, here is the holiday for you:
Stay in the apartment above another secondhand bookshop, The Open Book, and you get to manage the bookshop (with help from volunteers) during your stay. But you need to plan ahead – the holiday is very popular and booked a couple of years into the future. Get on the waiting list via the Open Book Facebook page or book the apartment via AirBnb.
I’ve been beavering away on a couple of projects recently and am pleased to announce that one is now complete. Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is now available on Amazon Kindle and paperback. It brings together everything I’ve learnt about addressing an audience over the last five years.
Who should buy this book?
- Anyone who has to speak in meetings (work or otherwise), on a committee or any other group scenario such as a book club or writing group.
- Anyone who’s been asked to speak at a wedding, funeral, family party or similar occasion.
- Anyone with something to promote. That something could be a business, a favourite charity, a political or community campaign, a sports team in need of a sponsor, a club appealing for new members or anything that needs someone to pitch for publicity.
- Anyone who’d like to be paid for talking about their passion. (I receive a small fee when talking about writing to community groups).
- Anyone not included in the above. Remember those times you’ve felt awkward introducing yourself at a writers’ workshop, ‘selling’ yourself at an interview or making a complaint in a shop? There are times when we all lack confidence but being able to organise our thoughts and speak calmly makes these situations much easier.
As the title suggests, Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is aimed at those with no or very little experience of addressing an audience – that was the starting point for my journey in public speaking when I joined Sutton Coldfield Speakers Club in September 2013. The club is part of the Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC) and in 2018 I represented the Midlands in the national final of the ASC Speech Competition. Back in 2013 I had no desire at all to enter a speech competition and never expected to find myself, a few years later, speaking in a competitive situation on a stage in a packed hall at the ASC Annual Conference. It’s amazing what we can achieve with a bit of encouragement, self-belief and hard work!
But far more important than the competition, several people have commented on how much more confident I’ve become in everyday life since learning to speak in public – and I think that is the real benefit to me from the last few years. I wrote Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners to minimise the fear that we all feel when asked ‘to say a few words’.
I hope it will help you grow in confidence too.
Which would you prefer to unwrap on Christmas Day, an Amazon gift card or a Book Token?
I’d go for the Book Token every time, for several reasons:
- A Book Token means that I have to indulge and buy a book. On Amazon there’s a danger of being ‘good’ and buying something boring that you need, like an iron or a set of saucepans.
- A Book Token promises me an outing to a real bookshop where I can enjoy the smell of new books. I can pick them up and read the blurb. I can sit in an armchair and try out the first few pages. And if I’m in one of the bigger stores, I can enjoy a coffee before deciding on my final book selection. ‘Looking inside’ just isn’t the same.
- Buying online means clicking straight through to the bestseller everyone is talking about or automatically buying the new release of an author I know I enjoy. A Book Token offers the luxury of browsing. Other authors, new to me, will be sitting alongside the familiar – and maybe I might be tempted to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.
- Book Tokens create business for bookshops. Do we really want a future where all our book buying has to be done online?
National Book Tokens began in 1932 when publisher Harold Raymond noticed that very few books were given as Christmas gifts because people were afraid of buying the wrong book. In 1982 the Queen attended National Book Tokens’ 50th birthday party and in 2010 National Book Tokens changed to a gift card format.
National Book tokens are not dinosaurs. They do have an online presence and they can be spent (on books not irons!) online in selected book chains. Have a look at Caboodle from National Book Tokens for offers, events, competitions and to buy tokens online (you can even design your own).
Which would you prefer to unwrap on Christmas Day, an Amazon gift card or a Book Token? Which will you be giving to family and friends?