Learn a new skill: 5 books for beginners 

Reading is a great way to learn at your own pace. Whether you’re dipping your toe into something for the first time, or brushing up on an old skill, it’s never too late to learn something new. There are all sorts of guides waiting for you at your local library and checking out a beginner’s book is a great way to discover if a new hobby is for you or not. Check out these five step-by-step guides to start your journey. 

 
Macramé for beginners and beyond 

Macramé has seen a massive resurgence in the last couple of years and fills Pinterest boards across the world. Always wanted to give it a go but not sure where to start? Look no further. Learn all the basic macramé knots with the knot tutorial library so you can get started on your favourite projects straight away. Want to craft a hanging plant holder or a stunning statement arch for the garden or a doorway? This book includes on-trend macramé projects for inside and outside the home. Choose from an assortment of projects with easy and more advanced versions so you can develop your skills as you go. 

RHS grow your own veg and fruit bible 

Highly regarded gardener, Carol Klein, has collaborated with the Royal Horticultural Society to create an easy-to-follow, practical and inspiring beginner’s guide to everything you need to know to grow fruit, vegetables, salads, and herbs all year round. With an environmentally friendly approach, Carol gives all the advice you need to succeed. From preparing a plot, planning what to plant, and how to grow any one of the 80 featured food plants, this is a book to help you any time of year, whatever your experience. 

DIY on a budget: the very best tried-and-tested ideas for your home 

Let’s face it, DIY is hard. It’s a skillset all of us need but few of us master and, with all the different online tutorials, it’s impossible to know the best way to get that much needed work done. This official handbook from the founder of a 2-million-member strong online community offers tried and tested advice and all the inspiration you need to re-decorate rooms and homes of all sizes, no matter how big or small your budget. No more scrolling through YouTube tutorials – phew! 

Crochet: learn it, love it 

Crochet can be a lifelong skill perfect for making inexpensive personalised gifts for friends and family alike. With pictures, diagrams, and step-by-step guides to 40 essential crochet techniques and 12 simple beginner projects, you can dive straight in with this skill-building book by renowned crochet designer Tracey Todhunter.  

Joe’s 30-minute meals: 100 quick and healthy recipes 

Fall in love with cooking again by learning a few new healthy recipes that won’t take hours of preparation. Joe’s 30-Minute Meals is packed with everyday healthy dishes that you’ll want to make, time and time again. With chapters simply organised by main ingredient, it’s easy to find a dish you can’t wait to get started on.  

There’s more to explore 

Not found what you’re looking for? Hampshire Libraries has all sorts of books to help you learn a new skill, just search for your topic in our online catalogue to get started. Or if you learn better with tuition, check out our Learning in Libraries courses, many of them are free! 

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

UEFA European Women’s Championship

The UEFA European Women’s Championship’s are well underway and this tournament will go down in history for breaking many records.  The Lionesses have been front and centre of these achievements, securing the competition’s biggest win, a record they had set themselves by beating Scotland 6-0 to open the 2017 group stage.  Along with total goals scored, most goals in a half and most goals scored in a group stage this has truly been a historic campaign for women’s football, now more so than ever after their brilliant 2-1 win over Spain in extra time. 

The fans have played their part too.  The record crowd at Old Trafford that watched England defeat Austria surpassed the previous record by more than 27,000 spectators.  An attendance 68,871 smashed the previous record of the 41,301 fans attending the 2013 final between Germany and Norway in Solna, Sweden. The new benchmark looks set to go on 31 July, with the Wembley final already sold out.

With women’s football and women’s sport in general receiving additional coverage and interest, the National Literacy Trust have put together a reading list which showcases the best of what your library has to offer with a collection which focuses on sport and amazing stories from popular sporting figures.  Take a look and see how many you can read – maybe you can break some of your own reading records along the way.

UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 | National Literacy Trust

Jaz Santos vs. the world by Priscilla Mante
The first in a new series about a group of unlikely friends who come together to make their own girls’ football team, proving to everyone that they should be taken seriously.

Marta : from the playground to the pitch by Charlotte Browne
Marta is the best footballer in the history of the women’s game. The Brazilian has jaw-dropping flair and skill. She has scored more World Cup goals than any other player, and has won FIFA World Player of the Year six times. But pure talent alone was never enough – this book tells the story of how Marta chased her dreams with determination and a never-give-up attitude, to earn the right to be called the best player ever.

How to be extraordinary : real-life stories of extraordinary humans! by Rashmi Sirdeshpande
Could you be EXTRAORDINARY? This book will inspire you with the real-life stories of extraordinary people, showcasing a total variety of personalities and talents. Whoever you are, and whoever you want
to be, read about the extraordinary stories of these 15 people, and decide how YOU will be extraordinary too!

Our beautiful game by Lou Kuenzler
A hundred years before the Lionesses, Lily Parr, Alice Woods and their teammates were proudly playing their beloved, exciting and skilful game. As men were sent to fight in the war, women and girls took their place in munitions factories. Football became a favourite pastime and, before long, they were creating all-female sides and playing public matches to sell-out crowds, overshadowing men’s football. Despite drawing crowds of 50,000, women’s football was outlawed by the Football Association in 1921, who deemed it ‘unsuitable for females’. This is the incredible story of these amazing women.

Rocky by Tom Palmer
A struggling student and brilliant footballer, Rocky Race is many things, but to most people she’s just Roy Race’s little sister. It’s not much fun, especially as Melchester Rovers head to the League Cup Final. Rocky’s sick of everyone knowing her through Roy, she’s had enough of school, and she’s even started having panic attacks. Now it’s up to Rocky to find her own way – as a person and a player – and she’s going to need all her grit and determination to do it…

Author of the Month: Marian Keyes

Early Biography  
Marian Keyes is an Irish author born in 1963, who grew up in and around Dublin as part of a large family. Keyes completed degrees in law and business, moving to London in 1986 to take on an administrative role. However, Keyes began to struggle with alcoholism and depression in her twenties, eventually attempting to take her own life in 1995. Keyes underwent rehabilitation for her alcoholism in Dublin and began working on short stories, based in part on her own experiences. Keyes submitted these stories to the publisher Poolberg Press, with the promise of a novel to follow. The novel she submitted, Watermelon (1995), would become a best seller in Ireland and launch her career as an author. While Keyes has struggled with mental health difficulties for most of her adult life, she has described her writing as a ‘rope across the abyss’ which has given her the strength in times of crisis. Keyes has been sober now for over 25 years and lives with her husband Tony in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin. 

Work and Career  
Keyes’ works are darkly comic but insightful novels, often based on her own experiences. They cover sensitive topics such as mental illness, divorce, substance abuse and domestic violence while maintaining a tact and approachability which makes them instant favourites with readers. While Keyes’ books tackle heavy topics, their tone and narrative are optimistic and uplifting with a happy ending for all your favourite characters. Keyes main series is the Walsh Family novels, where we join the Walsh Sisters as they navigate the ups and downs of modern life. Watermelon (1995) is the First book in the series, while her latest work Again, Rachel (2022) is the most recent addition. Despite being associated with the genre, Keyes has been a strong critic of the term ‘chick-lit’ and its ‘belittling’ and ‘demeaning’ connotations. Equally, Keyes is a strong feminist and has drawn attention to differences in the way that male and female written works are represented and awarded.  

Accolades, Awards and Statistics 

Keyes is the British Book Awards Author of the Year 2022, recognised for her ‘expert storytelling, incredible warmth of heart, and significant contributions to the publishing industry over three decades of writing’. She has sold over 33 million books worldwide and her works have been translated into 36 different languages. Keyes has won ‘Popular Fiction Book of the Year’ at the Irish Book Awards in 2009 and 2017 for This Charming man (2008) and The Break (2017) respectively. Keyes has had multiple best-selling books in the UK and Ireland, where her works routinely top bestsellers lists. 

Marian Keyes – Biography 
Penguin – Where to start reading Marian Keyes’ books 
The Guardian – Marian Keyes: rehab was one of the happiest times of my life 
Twitter – Marian Keyes  
BBC Radio 4 – Desert Island Discs Marian Keyes 
Independent.ie – Author of the Year 
Chatelaine – Keyes on the term chick lit 

Check out our Marian Keyes collection on our catalogue

“Writing about feeling disconnected has enabled me to connect, and that has been the most lovely thing of all.” ~ Marian Keyes

Pride Month 2022 with our volunteer, Ren

Hello! I’m Ren, a volunteer at Chandler’s Ford Library, and I’ve been asked to tell you about some of the wonderful books we are recommending to you during Pride month 2022.

This Pride month Hampshire libraries are uplifting and celebrating a diverse range of queer voices and spotlighting their works through the theme of ‘coming of age’. Coming of age is an intense time of self discovery, something we all go through, but as queer people coming to terms with the fact you are different from what society expects of you can be scary, but at the same time also freeing. This freedom and celebration in the face of fear is what our ‘coming of age’ pride recommendations celebrate.

As many of you will know Pride started as a riot. Following the Stonewall uprising in 1969 after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York, people took to the streets in 1970 to march for queer rights, these marches are now known as the first Pride. Understanding this history of Pride is essential in acknowledging how far queer rights have come. Because of people like Martha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, a movement started to push for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people and over time has allowed these protests to grow into celebrations all over the world, uplifting and bringing together the queer community, showing any queer person who feels alone that they can and will find their people and their pride. With how large Pride has become over the years LGBTQIA+ people can now to come into their identity in a much more accepting society.

On a personal note, I’m so proud to be a part of a library service which celebrates queer identities and has such a diverse range of books, and that the book world continues to publish a diverse array of queer voices and stories. It’s amazing to know how many books are available to so many people who can recognise themselves within their pages, and feel at home and seen there. Many of the queer books available and coming into the library will allow people to feel seen in ways they haven’t been before and that makes me so happy. Having pride in your identity is a strength, let these characters’ stories show you that.

Within the pages of these books you will see characters go through the growing pains of life as they come into their own, not just linking to the LGBTQIA+ elements of their identities, but holistically how their whole identity effects their life and how they interact with the world around them.

I hope everyone, people a part of the queer community, questioning, or an ally wanting to diversify their reading, will take this Pride month to read LGBTQIA+ books. Hampshire libraries have a wide array of LGBTQIA+ books available to borrow through our services, either in branch, through our home library service or on BorrowBox (our eBook and eAudiobook service).

There has been a delightful list of queer books curated by our staff, featuring diverse and unique stories which I encourage everyone to look at, as well as checking out the rest of our catalogue and displays in branch for your LGBTQIA+ book needs! Below are some of my personal selections and a little bit about them. (As always make sure you look up any possible trigger warnings before jumping into these stories!)

Hani and Ishu’s guide to fake dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Queer rep: Lesbian main character, Bisexual main character

In this sapphic story two opposites fake a relationship for their own gains. Hani, easy going and popular, has told her friends she is dating Ishu after they told her that she couldn’t be bisexual if she has only dated guys. Ishu, an academic overachiever, has agreed to fake date to boost her popularity in the hopes of becoming head girl. Through this story of self conviction and self love these two Bengali teens learn what it means to be there for each other and to believe in themselves, no matter what other people may say.

Felix ever after by Kacen Callender –
Queer rep: Transgender main character, Achillian main character, Lesbian side character, Gay side character, Sapphic side character, Non binary side character

Felix Love wants his own happily ever after, but, even with the pride he has in his Black, queer and transgender identity, he is worried he’s one marginalisation too many. After he starts receiving transphobic messages and his deadname and photos of him pre transition out him at school, Felix sets himself on getting revenge. What he didn’t set his sights on was landing himself in a quasi-love triangle.
Through this tale of exploration, identity and love follow Felix as he learns who he is and what he truly deserves.

Loveless by Alice Oseman
Queer rep: AroAce main character, Lesbian side character, Pansexual side character, Nonbinary side character

Georgia is obsessed with love… at least she is in theory and fiction. After a disastrous attempt to confess to her chosen crush goes horribly wrong on prom night she commits herself to finding someone at university. With the help of her outgoing university roommate Rooney, and best friends from school Pip and Jason she is sure to find love, right? But, as Georgia learns of the terms aromantic and asexual, she has to learn if love is in the cards for her at all or is she destined to stay loveless.
This story shows the growing pains of moving away from home, the beauty of friendships and the freedom in finding who you truly are.

Annie on my mind by Nancy Garden
Queer rep: Lesbian main character, Lesbian side character

The history of this book is one to acknowledge, it has been controversial in the past, being banned from many libraries and even being burned in Kansas City! Luckily now the world is much more accepting and this book is acknowledged as one of the first portrayals of a healthy queer relationship in the YA genre.

In this sapphic book two young girls meet at a museum and quickly form a bond which starts as friendship and blossoms into more. Despite the pressures and expectations of family, school and society the two know they need to be true to themselves and how they feel, and through the help of an unexpected source they may just gain the freedom they need to stay together. This book grabs onto your heart with its exploration of coming to terms with your identity and finding pride in who you love.

Author of the Month: Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory was chosen to tie in with the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.  We wanted an accessible author who has a royal theme in their work, as well as having a good backlist.

Philippa Gregory is a world renowned historical novelist and a recognised authority on women’s history.  She has written 27 novels – her 27th, Dawnlands, will be published in November 2022 as well as 3 books for children.

As well as being a full time writer, she enjoys riding, walking, skiing and gardening.  She  also runs a charity which builds wells in The Gambia and teaches children how to cultivate their own food. The well digging side of the charity stopped during the pandemic to focus on a public health initiative.

We were lucky enough to chat to Philippa Gregory on one of our previous podcast episodes. You can listen to that here: https://pod.fo/e/e0f93.

“If it means something, take it to heart. If it means nothing, it’s nothing. Let it go.”
― Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl

International Women’s Day #BreakTheBias

International Women’s Day (IWD) March 8 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group, or organization specific. The theme of International Women’s Day 2022 is #BreakTheBias. To achieve this, we ask you to imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. For more information on IWD please visit their website.

Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias. We believe books, information and libraries are a great place to start, so to mark #IWD2022 we have selected some books for younger readers on the theme of inspirational women and highlights from the Women’s Fiction Prize 2022 longlist.

Books for younger readers:

The Extraordinary Life of Greta Thunberg
Devika Jina & Petra Braun

From taking part in school strikes and owning that her Asperger syndrome is her superpower, to crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a powerful stand against carbon emissions, this is the incredible story of a schoolgirl who is changing the world.

Little People, Big Dreams: Josephine Baker
Ma Isobel Sanchez Vegara

Discover the incredible life of Josephine Baker, the world-famous entertainer, activist and French Resistance agent in this true story of her life. She fought against segregation her whole life and kept going with style, whatever was thrown in her way.

Little People, Big Dreams: Jane Goodall
Ma Isobel Sanchez Vegara

When Jane was little, her father gave her a toy chimpanzee named Jubilee which inspired her lifelong love of animals. Jane went to study them in the wild, living with chimpanzees in their natural habitat and becoming famous for her pioneering approach to research.

Little People, Big Dreams: Marie Curie
Ma Isobel Sanchez Vegara

When Marie was young, she was unable to go to college because she was a woman. But when she was older, her discoveries of radium and polonium dramatically helped in the fight against cancer, and she went on to win the Nobel Prize for Physics. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the scientist’s life.

Little People, Big Dreams: Maya Angelou
Lisbeth Kaiser

Maya Angelou spent most of her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas. After a traumatic event at age eight, she stopped speaking for five years. However, Maya rediscovered her voice through books, and went on to become one of the world’s most beloved writers and speakers. This inspiring story of her life features a facts and photos section at the back.

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022

The Women’s Prize Trust is a registered charity championing women writers on a global stage. Their goal is to empower all women to raise their voice and own their story, by shining a spotlight on outstanding and ambitious fiction by women from anywhere in the world, regardless of their age, race, nationality, or background through the annual literary award.

This year the panel of judges; Anita Sethi, Dorothy Koomson, Lorraine Candy, Pandora Sykes and Chair, Mary Ann Sieghart; chose a longlist of sixteen books, featuring both debut and acclaimed writers; which span the globe in their settings, from Trinidad, Cyprus and a dystopian England, to Cape Cod, Buchenwald, and Vietnam. We’ve selected some titles which are already available to borrow as a book, eBook or eAudiobook.

Flamingo
Rachel Elliott

Flamingo is a novel about the power of love, welcome and acceptance. It’s a celebration of kindness, of tenderness. Set in 2018 and the 80s, it’s a song for the broken-hearted and the big-hearted, and is, ultimately, a novel grown from gratitude, and a book full of wild hope.

Great Circle
Maggie Shipstead

The life of Marian Graves was always been marked by a lust for freedom and danger. In 1950, she embarks on her life’s dream – to fly a Great Circle around the globe, pole to pole. But after a crash landing, she isstranded on the Antarctic ice without enough fuel and writes one last entry in her logbook. Half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a brilliant, troubled Hollywood starlet is irresistibly drawn to play Marian Graves, a role that will lead her to probe the deepest mysteries of the vanished pilot’s life.

Remote Sympathy
Catherine Chidgey

Frau Hahn’s husband, SS Sturmbannführer Dietrich Hahn, has taken up a powerful new position as camp administrator at Buchenwald, but her stubborn obliviousness to their new circumstances is challenged when she is forced into an unlikely alliance with one of Buchenwald’s prisoners, Dr Lenard Weber, the inventor of a machine that he believed could cure cancer.

Sorrow and Bliss
Meg Mason

Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. A gift – her mother once said – not everybody gets. So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave? Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents, Martha has one last chance to find out whether by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself.

The Book of Form and Emptiness
Ruth Ozeki

One year after the death of his beloved musician father, thirteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house – a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn’t understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; when his mother develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.

At first Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where he meets his very own Book – a talking thing – who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.

The Exhibitionist
Charlotte Mendelson

The Hanrahan family are gathering for a momentous weekend as famous artist and notorious egoist Ray Hanrahan prepares for the first exhibition of his art – one he is sure will burnish his reputation for good. But what of Lucia, Ray’s steadfast and selfless wife? She is an artist who has always had to put her roles as wife and mother first. What will happen if she decides to change? For Lucia is hiding secrets of her own, and as the weekend unfolds and the exhibition approaches, she must finally make a choice.

This One Sky Day  
Leone Ross

Dawn breaks across the archipelago of Popisho. The world is stirring awake again, each resident with their own list of things to do. A wedding feast to conjure and cook. An infidelity to investigate. A lost soul to set free. As the sun rises two star-crossed lovers try to find their way back to one another across this single day. When night falls, all have been given a gift, and many are no longer the same. The sky is pink, and some wonder if it will ever be blue again.

The Paper Palace
Miranda Cowley Heller

On a perfect August morning, Elle Bishop heads out for a swim in the pond below ‘The Paper Palace’ – her family’s holiday home in Cape Cod. As she dives beneath the water, she relives the passionate encounter she had the night before, against the side of the house that knows all her darkest secrets, while her husband and mother chatted to their guests inside… So begins a story that unfolds over twenty-four hours and fifty years, as Elle’s shocking betrayal leads her to a life-changing decision – and an ending you won’t be able to stop thinking about.

The Island of Missing Trees
Elif Shafak

1974, on the island of Cyprus. Two teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided land, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet, in secret. This tavern provides the best food in town, the best music, the best wine, but there is something else to the place: it makes one forget, even if for just a few hours, the world outside and its immoderate sorrows.

9 great reads from The Amplify Project

Recently on the Love Your Library podcast we sat down with Patricia and Pauline from The Amplify Project, a podcast that puts the spotlight on Black writers for the stage, page and screen. Through a series of intimate interviews, the podcast puts Black British writers front and centre to explore their work, experiences, and inspirations. Find out why The Amplify Project started and what they see in their future in the latest episode of the Hampshire Libraries podcast.

Below, you’ll find a curated list of book recommendations provided by The Amplify Project. Discover your next favourite read in this exciting collection of novels, plays, and poetry.

The Humiliations of Welton Blake by Alex Wheatle

‘Welton Blake has done it! He’s asked out Carmella McKenzie – the best-looking girl in school – and she’s only gone and said yes!

But just as he thinks his luck is starting to change, Welton’s phone breaks, kick-starting a series of unfortunate and humiliating events. With bullies to avoid, girls ready to knock him out and all the drama with his mum and dad, life for Welton is about to go very, very wrong…’

The Frequency of Magic by Anthony Joseph

‘Raphael earns his living as a butcher in a hillside village in rural Trinidad. He is also a would-be author, but there have been so many changes to the novel he has been writing for forty-one years that many of the characters have lost patience and gone off to do their own thing. But somehow, miraculously, the novel, as Raphael has planned it in one hundred chapters of a thousand words, seems to write itself…’

Homecoming by Colin Grant

‘These are stories of hope and regret, of triumphs and challenges, brimming with humour, anger and wisdom. Together, they reveal a rich tapestry of Caribbean British lives. Homecoming is an unforgettable portrait of a generation, which brilliantly illuminates an essential and much-misunderstood chapter of our history.’

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

‘South London, 2008. Two couples find themselves at a moment of reckoning, on the brink of acceptance or revolution. Melissa has a new baby and doesn’t want to let it change her. Meanwhile out in the suburbs, Stephanie is happy with Damian and their three children, but the death of Damian’s father has thrown him into crisis – or is it something or someone else? Are they all just in the wrong place? Are any of them prepared to take the leap?’

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

We Are All Birds of Uganda explores the entangled relationship between communities, generations and identity across two continents. Hafsa Zayyan’s deeply affecting debut novel is a powerful insight into what it means to live between two worlds and what it means to belong.

Tales from the Caribbean by Trish Cooke

This collection of favourite tales from the many different islands of the Caribbean will inform, delight and entertain children as well as educate them about this fascinating and varied region.

Death of England: Delroy by Roy Williams

Written in response to their play Death of England, Death of England: Delroy is a new standalone work by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams, which follows a Black working-class man searching for truth and confronting his relationship with White Britain.

This One Sky Day by Leone Ross

Dawn breaks across the archipelago of Popisho. The world is stirring awake again, each resident with their own list of things to do:

A wedding feast to conjure and cook.

An infidelity to investigate.

A lost soul to set free.

As the sun rises two star-crossed lovers try to find their way back to one another across this single day. When night falls, all have been given a gift, and many are no longer the same.

The sky is pink, and some wonder if it will ever be blue again.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2019, this murder mystery book explores themes of slavery, freedom and secrets and results in a beautiful and haunting tale about one woman’s fight to tell her story. Remember, you can find interesting and insightful interviews with the authors on The Amplify Project podcast, and catch the episode with Patricia and Pauline on the Love Your Library

Behind the bookshelves with a Library Team Assistant

Find out what it’s like to work behind the bookshelves, how libraries become a part of the community, and what three novels Libby would take with her to space.

What is your role and what do you like about it? 

My name is Libby Saer and I’m a Library Team Assistant with annualised hours. It’s like being a supply teacher, except for libraries. If one of the team is ill, on leave or doing some training, I step in to cover for them. Sometimes it’s just for the day, but often it’s for the week or longer. Fortunately, (if my memories of school are anything to go by) people are much nicer to library assistants than teenagers are to cover teachers…)

Not having fixed hours means that every week is different – and I love that. I’m usually at Hedge End, West End and Netley libraries, and each has its own particular atmosphere and loyal users. It’s fun to work with colleagues I may not have seen for a while, and to help customers with requests. I do everything from helping new members join, to tracking down the next book in someone’s favourite series. I love hearing about which books people have enjoyed (or not) and trying to match someone with a book they might like. Sometimes I find items that aren’t in the right place and send them to the library they are meant to be in, a job I find bizarrely satisfying. Even tidying books is more fun because I’m not doing the same set of shelves each week.

What did you do before you came to Hampshire Libraries? 

A bit of everything. I’ve taught in secondary schools, catalogued books in academic libraries, worked in marketing for universities, and provided pastoral care for students. Often at the same time as volunteering at church, at a community-run library and raising my children.

What made you want to work at Hampshire Libraries? 

I’ve lived in lots of different places, and everywhere I’ve been I have joined the library. Libraries are magical places to me. So, when I had the chance to volunteer in a community library I jumped at the opportunity, and I loved it.

I don’t think I really appreciated until then that a library can be a warm refuge for people who need it. For lots of people I talk to, their local library is a lifeline. Whether someone needs to make a Universal Credit claim, apply for a job, find a different book to read to a toddler, or even if they’re just curious about the world – the library is the place for them. I spoke to a student from a low-income family recently, who told me that without her local library – the kind encouragement of the library assistants and access to stories and information that widened her world – she would never have made it to university.

Once I was volunteering, one thing led to another and before long I was offered a job with Hampshire Libraries – getting paid to do what I already loved doing.

Is there anything that surprised you about working for Hampshire Libraries?

Quite often when people come into one of our libraries, they see me and their faces sink a little bit because I’m not the person they’re expecting to find. It’s lucky I’ve got thick skin! They’re relieved when I tell them I am just a temporary substitute, and their usual library assistant will be back soon. It’s really brought home to me how libraries build connection. Someone who works in the local library becomes a key part of the community. Ask anyone who has been in the job for a while, and they can tell you what the regulars like to read, where they are going on holiday, and how their health is. And the customers know their names and like to ask how they are doing too. It’s lovely.

Another surprise was just how many books someone can get through in a week. Sure, I expected to see younger readers leaving with piles of children’s books and then coming back the next Saturday for more. But many of our older customers get through an enormous stack of novels in a day or two. They can tell you exactly which authors to check out, so it’s always worth asking them if you’re after a good recommendation.

If you had to live out the rest of your life on a lonely space station overlooking the planet, what 3 books would you take and why? 

You may as well ask me which of my kids is my favourite. (Hint: it’s the one who unloads the dishwasher without being asked). But after much sighing and reluctant crossings-out, I’ve managed to narrow it down.

I’m going to assume that I get Desert Island Discs privileges, so this space station comes equipped with the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. And – shhh! – I’m going to smuggle aboard my e-reader stuffed with novels by my favourite authors: Jane Austen, John le Carré, Dorothy L Sayers, Robert Galbraith, Lee Child, Georgette Heyer, John Wyndham, Rosemary Sutcliff and Hilary Mantel.

But if you are going to allow me just three actual books in my space luggage, I guess I’ll pick the following:

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

I first read this as a teenager and have read it to all my children in turn. Conservationist Durrell really wrote two different books in one: a natural history of the Greek island of Corfu with beautiful, detailed depictions of the landscape and the wildlife, and a hilarious account of living on the island in the interwar years. The escapades of his family would make me giggle, and, as I looked down from the cold expanse of space, his warm descriptions of the island would bring alive to me the amazing beauty of our planet.

Smiley’s People by John Le Carré

I could have picked any one of Le Carré’s early books, but this humane, intriguing and tense espionage novel is one of his best. Like a game of chess, he carefully moves every piece around Cold War Europe until – checkmate – George Smiley, the retired spy refighting the battles of his past, meets both victory and defeat. Every character is wonderfully drawn, from the civil service mandarins covering their backs to the émigrés from behind the Iron Curtain being used as pawns by the security services. Le Carré never wrote more exquisite prose about the human cost of the secret life.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers

Sayers was one of the queens of the Golden Age of crime fiction. If you haven’t read her Lord Peter Wimsey detective stories – what are you waiting for? Don’t start with this one, but when you get to Gaudy Night you are in for a treat: it’s a cracking mystery set in an Oxford college, centred not around Wimsey but Harriet Vane, the woman he loves. More than mere detection – although certainly not less – it’s a sharp and funny meditation on work, love and integrity, asking a question today’s feminism still wrestles with – is it possible for a woman to have it all? My copy is falling apart and I refuse to be separated from it, even if I go into space.

LGBT+ History Month – February 2022

Hello there! My name is Jordan. I’m currently a Library Assistant at Winchester Library and today I’m guest-writing for the blog to talk to you about LGBT+ History Month.

Throughout February, Hampshire Libraries will be celebrating and spotlighting LGBT+ history and culture, as well as recognising the achievements of LGBT+ pioneers from all fields of life. LGBT+ History Month started in 2005, and is supported by a network of various charities, organisations, and schools.

This year’s theme is ‘Politics in Art’, with the aim of highlighting the importance of art and artistic expression in furthering LGBT+ rights and challenging injustice. It is easy to forget that only a few decades ago, creating art that was outside the norms of society would have been heavily censored and criticised, and continues to be this way for many parts of the world today.

Despite this, there were many bold pioneers. Artists such as Keith Haring generated awareness and activism about AIDs in the 1980s. Poets such as Audre Lorde spoke of gender and sexuality in an era where such topics were not widely accepted.

Art in all its forms has the power to inspire, educate and provoke. There is a rich history of defiantly challenging oppressive attitudes with the power of the written word. However, I feel art also fosters a sense of community. Art draws us together and provides space to see society – and ourselves – reflected in it. Underground zines allowed oppressed LGBT+ communities to communicate and be themselves during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Even today, book clubs allow all types of people to relax and feel safe while talking about their favourite novels.

On a personal level though, art helps us make sense of ourselves and where we fit in. It’s so important for art to reflect everyone in society, and while it hasn’t always been the case, in recent years I’m really proud that a wider range of diverse books are being printed and finding their way into libraries.

For a young teenager exploring their sexuality and finding the strength to come out, to the older person wishing to read about the history they lived through, Hampshire Libraries has a range of books available to read and reserve, either in branch or on BorrowBox, our eBook and eAudiobook service.

We have produced a book list, featuring a range of talent whatever you’re looking for. Below are a couple of my personal selections, but I encourage you to look through the whole list and find the book for you!

To reserve the books below from our catalogue, just click on the book image.

My recommended books are:

  • Pride: The Story of the LGBTQ Equality Movement by Matthew Todd
    Pride documents the milestones in the fight for LGBTQ equality, from the victories of early activists to the passing of legislation barring discrimination, and the gradual acceptance of the LGBTQ community in politics, sport, culture and the media. Rare images and documents cover the seminal moments, events and breakthroughs of the movement, while personal testimonies share the voices of key figures on a broad range of topics. Pride is a unique celebration of LGBTQ culture, an account of the ongoing challenges facing the community, and a testament to the equal rights that have been won for many as a result of the passion and determination of this mass movement.
  • Queer Intentions: A (Personal) Journey Through LGBTQ + Culture by Amelia Abraham
    Combining intrepid journalism with her own personal experience, in Queer Intentions, Amelia Abraham searches for the answers to these urgent challenges, as well as the broader question of what it means to be queer right now. With curiosity, good humour and disarming openness, Amelia takes the reader on a thought-provoking and entertaining journey. Join her as she cries at the first same-sex marriage in Britain, loses herself in the world’s biggest drag convention in L.A., marches at Pride parades across Europe, visits both a transgender model agency and the Anti-Violence Project in New York to understand the extremes of trans life today, parties in the clubs of Turkey’s underground LGBTQ+ scene, and meets a genderless family in progressive Stockholm.

  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
    This is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born. It tells of Vietnam, of the lasting impact of war, and of his family’s struggle to forge a new future. It serves as a doorway into parts of Little Dog’s life his mother has never known – episodes of bewilderment, fear and passion – all the while moving closer to an unforgettable revelation.

  • The Whispers by Greg Howard
    Before she disappeared, Riley’s mama used to tell him stories about the Whispers, mysterious creatures with the power to grant wishes.
    Riley wishes for lots of things. He wishes his secret crush Dylan liked him back. He wishes the bumbling detective would stop asking awkward questions. But most of all he wishes his mother would come home . . .
    Four months later, the police are no closer to finding out the truth – and Riley decides to take matters into his own hands.
    But do the Whispers really exist? And what is Riley willing to do to find out?
  • The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
    When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants – as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, which only gets harder once Flávia walks into her life.
    Beautiful and charismatic, Flávia takes Nishat’s breath away. But as their lives become tangled, they’re caught up in a rivalry that gets in the way of any feelings they might have for each other.
    Can Nishat find a way to be true to herself… and find love too?