The Big Jubilee Read

The Jubilee weekend celebrations and Commonwealth Games may be over, but you can still take part in the Big Jubilee Read in Hampshire libraries. The Big Jubilee Read features 70 titles, all of which have been written by authors from Commonwealth countries, from Australia to Nigeria, published throughout Her Majesty The Queen’s reign.  

We have chosen a recommended read from each decade to get you started, for the full list of books please visit the website. Which will you read first? Drop us a comment below and let us know. 

1952 – 1961 

A House for Mr Biswas by V S Naipul 

A tale of a dysfunctional family set in post-colonial Trinidad. Mr Biswas is determined to achieve independence, and so he begins his struggle to buy a home of his own, finding one unsuitable home to another. A dark comedy packed with conflict with his in laws. Join Mr Biswas on his determined journey, battling through life.  

1962 – 1971 

Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe 

The Arrow of God is the third volume of Achebe’s African trilogy, following Things Fall Apart and No Longer At Ease. A story of a tribe with different customs and rituals, battling through the ideas of tradition and change. The chief priest of the god Ulu is starting to lose his authority. Is his village under threat?  

1972 – 1981 

Who do you think you are? By Alice Munro 

A collection of stories following Rose as she finds her way in life, away from her overbearing stepmother. Born in poverty in the back streets of a small Canadian town, Rose journeys through life from winning a scholarship to getting married. Written by Alice Munro, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.  

1982 – 1991 

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 

A tale set in 1956 in post-war England in the great English house Darlington Hall. The ageing butler Stevens, heads out on what he thinks is a relaxing holiday to the West Country. This takes him deep into the countryside and his past. But he may find love along his way.  

1992 – 2001 

White Teeth by Zadie Smith 

With themes of friendship love and war, this book follows three families across three generations and one brown mouse. A tale of two unlikely wartime friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. This book highlights Britain’s relationship with immigrants from the British Commonwealth, set in multicultural London between the mid-1970s to the late 1990s.  

2002 – 2011 

The Secret River by Kate Grenville 

Set in London in the 1800s, we follow William Thornhill as he makes the biggest mistake of his life. Happily married to his childhood sweetheart Sal, will William’s family have to pay for his mistake? William’s sentence is to be shipped off to New South Wales for good. Although he doesn’t know it yet, he will soon have to make the most difficult decision of his life.  

2012 – 2022 

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam 

Set in Sri Lanka at the end of the Civil War, we follow Krishan on his way north from Colombo into the Northern Province for a funeral. His journey follows an island devastated by violence. With themes of loss and longing, this story is a memorial for the missing and the dead.  

To borrow books from the Big Jubilee Read, please visit your local library in Hampshire. You can also reserve these titles online for £1 per book. We have also chosen 22 of the titles as additions to our extensive Reading Groups Sets – if you belong to a Reading Group you can borrow these by signing up for a special Reading Group membership in your local library. Some of the titles are also available as eBooks and eAudiobooks, which can be borrowed for free through the BorrowBox app

Author of the Month: Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is our author of the month for September. Born in 1939, this well-loved Canadian novelist, poet and essayist has won two Booker prizes and been shortlisted for three more, making her one of only four authors to have won twice!

She has become associated with the rights of women and girls all over the world. The iconic red dress of the Handmaid’s Tale has become a symbol of protest against attacks on women’s rights.

Margaret Atwood is a great read for those looking for strong female characters, uncomfortably plausible dystopias and razor-sharp wit and satire. Her novels have had enduring popularity and raise questions as relevant now as when they were written.

Find Atwood’s books on our catalogue.

“Being able to read and write did not provide answers to all questions. It led to other questions, and then to others.” – The Testaments

Author of the Month: Haruki Murakami

August 2022

Biography

Haruki Murakami was born in 1949 to middle class parents in Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan. However, at an early age the family moved to the bustling port town of Kobe, where a young Murakami was exposed to American culture through books, movies and jazz music. Murakami studied drama at Waseba University in Tokyo, where he expanded his reading and developed a taste for Western writers such as Jack Kerouac, Franz Kafka and Kurt Vonnegut. After completing his studies, Murakami and his wife Yoko opened a coffee house and jazz club in Tokyo called the ‘Peter Cat’. Murakami began to write during this time, publishing his first novel Hear the Wind Singin 1979 at the age of 29. This debut novel would win the well-respected Gunzo Prize for New Writers (1979) and convince Murakami to continue writing.

Career

Murakami’s writing does not sit easily within the cannon of Japanese literature, and for much of his career he has been seen as an outsider due to the American influences in his novels. Murakami’s novels are generally seen as examples of magical realism. However, the plot and style of his novels are eclectic at best and defy all attempts at categorisation. Murakami has characterised himself as a conduit from his own subconscious to that of the reader, expressed through his dreamlike and often experimental prose. Common themes in his work include cats, baseball, jazz, classical music and the Beatles.

Following on from Hear the Wind Sing (1979) Murakami would complete a trilogy of works with A Wild Sheep Chase (1982). The novel was successful in Japan and received critical praise from Western reviewers. However, Norwegian Wood (1987) was the novel which would bring Murakami to his widest audience yet. It became a sensation in Japan and then abroad (in 1989), selling more than 1 million copies in the first 7 days of its release and 3.5 million in its first year. Murakami has been a household name in Japan since, with fans going to great lengths to meet the famously reclusive author.

Awards and Accolades

Some of Murakami’s most notable works include The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1995) which won the Yomiuri Literary Award and Kafka on the Shore (2002) which received a World Fantasy Award for its English translation in 2006. Murakami has also received a Hans Christian Anderson Award (2016) and an America Award in Literature (2018) for lifetime achievement in writing. Notable exceptions to this trend include Murakami’s three volume novel 1Q84 (2009-2010) which has been voted one of the greatest novels of the last 30 years in Japan but received poor reviews with Western critics and fans. For first time readers A Wild Sheep Chase or Norwegian Wood are a great place to start, while Murakami’s short story collections are interesting and challenging in shorter manageable chunks.

Links  

The Paris Review – Haruki Murakami, The Art of Fiction No. 182

The Guardian – Haruki Murakami: ‘You have to go through the darkness before you get to the light’

The New Yorker – The Underground Worlds of Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami – Author

NPR – Haruki Murakami: ‘I’ve had All Sorts of Strange Experiences in My Life’

Fantastic Fiction – Haruki Murakami

Find Murakami’s books here

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” – Haruki Murakami