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.

Books and me: On my Shelves with Vicky Duffell

Parenting poetry, picture books, and memoirs on mental health, Eastleigh Library Team Manager Vicky Duffell tells us about her favourite reads.

Where’s your favourite place to read?

I like to read on the train, it gives you a nice time out from the world. I’m often on the train with my son though so we read a lot of picture books. Sometimes when I’ve been reading aloud to him, the story has brought over other children on the train who were listening, and they want to look at the pictures too! I have dyspraxia so I don’t drive and there’s a lot of waiting for public transport. I always have a book with me in case there are delays, reading is a great way to reclaim that time.

Whenever I go on holiday, I always like to read a book that’s set in the place I’m visiting. I read Elena Ferrante’s novels while on my honeymoon in Italy, the books have a really strong sense of place so they were perfect. I also read Tales of the City when I visited San Francisco, it was really interesting to see the city through the eyes of someone coming to the city for the first time just when I was doing the same.

How do you read?

I prefer traditional print books; I do have an e-reader, but I like the physicality of a book. You don’t get that new book smell with an e-reader. That’s a great thing about working at the library, we get to check through all the crisp new books that come in.

I usually only read one book for myself at a time, but I read to my son every night. We went through a phase of constantly reading Zog and the Flying Doctors because it’s one of his favourites, though I vary it as much as I can because it gets a little boring. Reading for my own pleasure is quite sporadic, I would love to sit down and finish a book in one sitting but that’s quite a luxury when you’re a parent. I try to find books with shorter chapters that don’t require long periods of reading to really get into, poetry’s great for that too.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish, it’s a book of poetry about the small things you never thought about until you become a parent. I don’t often read poetry but it’s a brilliant way to look at something we don’t often talk about. For example, one of the poems is about having to hide in the toilets while you’re breastfeeding, and I think the condensed language makes it really impactful. It’s a book I would recommend to everyone, even if you don’t have children or never want children, it offers a very real and honest insight into the ups and downs of parenthood.

Reading Patterns – Do you follow any specific authors or genre?

I do follow some authors, but I mainly like to read based on subject matter and I really like books that look at mental health. When I had my son I suffered from post-partum psychosis, a rare illness that only affects about 1 in 1,000 mums. One of my favourites is Inferno by Catherine Cho which is amazingly written. It’s interesting to read about someone who went through an experience that you’ve had. Being able to compare how it was similar and different to my experience, I felt very connected to the book.

I also recently read David Harewood’s book Maybe I Don’t Belong Here. I saw his documentary Psychosis and Me on the BBC about his experience of psychosis in his 20s. I’d never really seen anyone talk about psychosis on TV before, so I was really looking forward to reading his biography. He talks about how race and gender can come into your experience with mental health

First loves, best loves

I remember reading a lot of Roald Dahl when I was younger, but it wasn’t really until I was a teenager that I properly got into reading. I remember at the turn of the millennium we had the Everyman’s Library collection in my school, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to read so I just worked my way through all of those. They were lovely hardbacks with quite plain covers, and I think I liked that I was going into the books without any expectations.

I read so many picture books that I’ve really grown to love them. Nadia Shireen’s books are some of the best ones and I particularly loved The Bumblebear. It’s about a bear who dresses up as a bee to sneak into the bees’ school. It’s just such an adorable book and the illustrations are lovely too. Sometimes I think I enjoy the picture book more than my son does and I think some of them are written to be enjoyed by the parents as much as the children.

One of my favourite authors is Elif Shafak, she wrote The Forty Rules of Love which I really enjoyed but her memoir Black Milk is about her experience of post-partum depression and about how she struggled with writing after having a child.

Vicky manages the team at Eastleigh Library, which is located at the top of the Swan Centre. Vicky was speaking with Isaac Fravashi.

Books and Me: On my shelves with Jayne Mushore

Jayne Mushore, Project Support Officer at Hampshire Libraries, speaks with us about empowering reads, childhood joys and the complexities of international identities.

Click on any of the book images to reserve that title.

Where’s your favourite place to read?

I used to commute between Middlesbrough and London so a lot of my reading happened on the train, but I love listening to audiobooks in the car too – you can just put something on and drive, it’s a great way to pass the time. But for me, the best place to read is on holiday. Looking out across the sea without a care in the world, just getting completely lost in the book. I’m not rushing to get here or there I’m not rushing to do anything. There’s just that chilled vibe, knowing I don’t have to put the book down until I’m quite ready. I can just get lost in the pages.

How do you read?

I always read a fiction and non-fiction book at the same time. Sometimes the non-fiction becomes too much and I’ll need something more exciting and that’s when I’ll switch to the fiction book. With fiction, you have to conjure those images in your mind to picture how the scene would look and so I can’t read two fiction books at the same time. In an ideal world, I would love to start a book and finish it in one sit-in, but with work and home life, I really have to make time. So I take any chance I get to just sit down and read.

I love audiobooks and I use BorrowBox a lot. I would say my reading is about 50/50 between audiobooks and physical books. When someone is reading the book aloud to you, they will put the emphasis on parts that wouldn’t necessarily stand out to you. But when you read something yourself, you can pause on the parts that resonate with you personally. So while I love audiobooks I do really like to read a book myself when I can.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading Slay In Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene. It’s a non-fiction book of black British women telling the story of their experience stepping on the career ladder. It talks about the challenges that they faced and how they navigate the working world. For example, one of the women talks about how they created a lingerie line for women of colour, producing tights that work for different skin tones. If it isn’t something you think about it can seem small, and if you don’t have the option, it may not be something you think you need. But actually, being able to wear something that works with your body is great and it’s really important for somebody to have that option.

“The quest for good is a marathon and not a sprint; it is measured over years, not fleeting moments; over failures and missteps and, of course, successes.” – Slay In Your Lane

The other book I’m reading is Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. I haven’t finished it yet but it’s quite out there and the cover really caught my eye. It’s about a girl who is communicating with spirits but is cursed by her community as her conception was from rape. It’s set in Africa and over the last year a lot of the novels I’ve been reading are Africa-based. I love reading about Africa in fiction, it’s always brought to life so differently each time, particularly in Who Fears Death. It’s quite different from any book I’ve read.

Reading patterns

I don’t really follow a genre or author in particular, I usually pick my books by going onto the library’s online catalogue to see what’s new and what catches my attention. Book covers really do grab me, they make me curious and tempt me to find out more. That may sound like a weird way to pick what you read but I always find something interesting by just having a browse. My friends and I always make recommendations to each other when we’ve read a really good book too. Slay In Your Lane was one that was a recommendation, I think it stood out because it’s such an empowering read for young black women.

I tend to read with my mood so if everything is going well, I will read quite uplifting books but if I’m going through something they’ll take a darker turn. Last year with the pandemic I was in the headspace of questioning a lot of things in my life and I couldn’t really be in “the now”. My friend recommended The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and it really kept me going through lockdown.

First love, best loves

I’m from Zimbabwe so most of what I remember reading at a young age was in my native language. When I started learning English, I remember I used to read a lot of Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven series. Fantastic Mr Fox is the book that really stands out from my childhood. A talking fox sneaking around being mischievous was hilarious to me. The world in the story was so different from our way of life in Africa I found it so intriguing. When I was a bit older one of my school friends had the Harry Potter books, I remember we read a few chapters of the prisoner of Azkaban and started asking ourselves “should we be doing this?”. With my African background and the Christian culture I grew up in, reading about witches wasn’t really acceptable. It shows how different attitudes can be as well because that was quite a big thing and we felt so wrong we didn’t end up finishing it!
The Devil Wears Prada was one of my favourites too, I remember being really excited to get a hold of the second book when it came out. The Hunger Games series was another big favourite of mine as well, but I remember reading a lot of John Grisham novels too. He was a lawyer before he became a writer, and The Firm is one I really remember enjoying.

The series of books I used to really love was The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – I used to read the books over and over again, I think I know them by heart! Reading about this strong African woman who’s doing exciting things was really thrilling. They hold real sentimental value to me, I remember thinking “I want to be that woman who’s out there getting stuff done!”

A book I really connected with recently was We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. Bulawayo is from Zimbabwe too and reading the book brought back so many memories. In the book, she writes about being playing ‘countries’ outside as children like I used to growing up. I can really understand the perspective she writes from. The main character, Darling, witnesses the violence happening in Zimbabwe as she’s growing up and doesn’t really understand what’s going on and then she moves to America. Something that made me quite emotional when I was reading the book is when she’s in America and calls a friend back home. The friend says that Darling can’t say ‘our country’ when talking about Zimbabwe because she decided to leave. I can relate to that because the friends and all the things you used to hold dear that built your friendship are no longer there. You don’t belong in Zimbabwe anymore, but you don’t feel as if you belong in this new world yet either. You’re in limbo. You’re very grateful for the opportunities you’ve found in this new world but trying to fit in parts of your old life with it is really hard. Then when you try to connect with the people back at home to say, “I’m one of you still”, they reject you and so you don’t know where you stand. It was very bittersweet to read about that through the story of Darling in We Need New Names. Everyone I know who has read the book and has migrated has agreed that this book perfectly tells the story of how it feels.

Overlooked Delights

Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter was extremely endearing and touching to me. I think the message of teaching a girl-child to be independent and themselves. That message of keeping going and finding your strength really resonated with my upbringing and some of what I witnessed as part of my cultural background. Reading a book like this, where somebody is really holding out their heart and saying, “things happen and life is hard but you do need to keep moving because there is light at the end of the tunnel”, is just so powerful to me.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Letter to My Daughter

Jayne Mushore is the Project Support Officer for the digital initiatives of Hampshire Libraries, working to deliver services such as the publicly accessible computers and the procurement of audiobooks. Jayne was speaking with Isaac Fravashi.

Are you ready to be an Earth Hero?

Climate change is big news, and it’s becoming apparent that making small changes to the way we live now, could be amplified, to have an even greater effect in 10 or 20 years time.

With this in mind, The Reading Agency chose the theme – ‘Wild World Heroes’ for the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge. With ideas from World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), the Challenge focuses on encouraging children to learn about real-world environmental issues, from plastic pollution and deforestation to wildlife decline and nature loss.

We have created a very special collection of books for ‘Earth Heroes’ to help children learn about the environment and nature, through stories, information on real-life climate heroes or simple, but effective actions they can take to make a difference right now.

If your child hasn’t signed up for the Summer Reading Challenge yet there’s still time. Participating children, who visit their local library, will receive a special collector’s poster and stickers when they read books – on any theme or topic. Children who finish the challenge can collect a certificate and medal from their local library too! For more information and to sign-up online please visit our Kids’ Zone website.

We will follow this collection with another selection of digital titles for older children and teenagers and a collection of books for adults, which will be released to coincide with the COP26 UN Climate Conference this autumn.

Story books (fiction)

The Last Bear, by Hannah Gold, with illustrations by Levi Pinfold

There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

“This is an important first novel, important for us, for polar bears, for the planet. It is deeply moving, beautifully told, quite unforgettable.” Michael Morpurgo.

Jungledrop, by Abi Elphinstone

Eleven-year-old twins, Fox and Fibber, have been rivals for as long as they can remember, but when they are whisked off to’ Jungledrop’, a magical unmapped Kingdom in charge of conjuring our world’s weather, things get wildly out of hand.

Fox and Fibber find themselves on an incredible adventure in a glow-in-the-dark rainforest full of golden panthers, gobblequick trees and enchanted temples as they race to find the long-lost Forever Fern and save the world.

A Good Day for Climbing Trees by Jaro Jacobs

Marnus is tired of feeling invisible, living in the shadow of his two brothers. His older brother is good at breaking swimming records and girls’ hearts. His younger brother is already a crafty entrepreneur who has tricked him into doing the dishes all summer.

But when a girl called Leila turns up on their doorstep one morning with a petition, it’s the start of an unexpected adventure. And finally, Marnus gets the chance to be noticed…

Nominated for the 2019 CILIP Carnegie Medal Spectator Best Books of the Year selection

Hope Jones Saves the World by Josh Lacey

Hope Jones’ New Year’s resolution is to give up plastic, and she’s inspiring others to do the same with her website. When she realises her local supermarket seems to stock more unnecessary plastic than food, she makes it her mission to do something about it. She may be just one ten-year-old with a homemade banner, but with enough determination, maybe Hope Jones really can save the world.

The Bear in the Stars by Alexis Snell

There was once a bear, a great, white bear – Queen of Beasts. Her kingdom was a beautiful, cold, glistening place. But over the years the ice disappeared, slipping away like sand through an hourglass. Slowly, slowly, one by one, the other animals moved on. The Great Bear has no choice but to leave her snowy realm to search for food, friends and a new home. She soon discovers a world that is growing hotter whilst hearts grow colder – until one small act of kindness changes everything.

Melt by Ele Fountain

A boy lives in a remote, snow-bound village with his elderly grandmother. Their traditional way of life is threatened by the changing snow and ice: it melts faster every year. When the sea-ice collapses while he is out hunting, he only just escapes with his life and is left stranded in the Arctic tundra.

Meanwhile a girl is trying to adapt to another new school. Her father promises his new job at an oil company will mean they never have to move again, but not long after he starts, his behaviour becomes odd and secretive. When their fates take a drastic turn the girl’s world collides with the boy’s and they find themselves together in a desperate search for survival, and for the truth.

Earth Friends, Fair Fashion by Holly Webb

Researching her school project on Fairtrade has been a real eye-opener for Maya. She loves clothes and is appalled to find that her favourite sparkly T-shirts are made by children in other countries who lead very different lives from her own. She knows she must do something about it, but how can she make a difference without revealing her pop star secret to the world?

Burning Sunlight by Anthea Simmons

Zaynab is from Somaliland, a country that doesn’t exist because of politics and may soon be no more than a desert. Lucas is from rural Devon, which might as well be a world away. When they meet, they discover a common cause: the climate crisis.

Together they overcome their differences to build a ‘Fridays For Future’ group at their school and fight for their right to protest and make a real impact on the local community. But when Zaynab uncovers a plot which could destroy the environment and people’s lives back home in Somaliland, she will stop at nothing to expose it. Lucas must decide if he is with her or against her – even if Zaynab’s actions may prove dangerous…

Harklights by Tim Tilley

Wick has always lived in the dark and dreadful Harklights Match Factory and Orphanage, working tirelessly for greedy Old Ma Bogey. He only dreams of escaping, until one day a bird drops something impossible and magical at his feet – a tiny baby in an acorn cradle…

As midnight chimes, Wick is visited by the Hobs, miniature protectors of the forest. Grateful for the kindness shown to their stolen child, they offer Wick the chance of a lifetime – escape from Harklights and begin a new life with them in the wild…

Information books (non-fiction)

Climate Rebels – Ben Lerwill

Climate change is happening, now. But it’s not too late to change the story. Meet the people, who are fighting to save our planet. Featuring 25 hopeful stories including Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, Wangari.

This book will transport you from the poles to the oceans, to the rainforests. These are true stories to make you think, make you cry, make you hope – and these are stories to make us all stand together and protect our home.

David Attenborough – Sanchez Vegara & Maria Isabel

His passion for animals led David Attenborough into a career in television, visiting animals in their natural habitats and sharing their untold stories with the world. This moving, illustrated book about his life features includes a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the broadcaster’s life.

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a bestselling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

Helping our planet – Jane Bingham

Caring for the Earth is the biggest challenge facing us all today, but what can YOU do to help? This practical, hands-on guide is filled with helpful checklists of actions to take and choices to make in your daily life. There are chapters on planet-friendly eating, shopping and travelling, and on ways to save energy and cut down on waste. There’s also clear advice on getting drastic about plastic, and taking better care of the natural world, and links to recommended websites with more information.

Rebel Animals – Kimberlie Hamilton

Discover secrets, stories, and facts about the world’s most at-risk animals!

This beautifully illustrated collection tells the story of over 60 real-life courageous creatures. With incredible facts about animals from all seven continents and the oceans of the world.

This fascinating book includes information about animal conservation and climate change, making it an ideal read for those who love nature and animals and want to make a difference.

How You Can Save the Planet – Hendrikus van Hensbergen

YOU have the power to change the world! Climate breakdown, species extinction, environmental disasters – we know the planet is heating up and running out of time; but what can we do about it?

Lots of things actually like: building a green wall; making recycled bird feeders; rewilding; setting up a ‘swapshop’; organising cycling groups at school.. and so much more!

The Extraordinary Life of Greta Thunberg – Devika Jina

The story of a girl who is changing the world. Greta Thunberg is an activist best known for calling attention to the devastating effects of climate change on our planet. A bold voice even against people that want to silence her, Greta has become a source of inspiration for millions of people who want to work towards tackling the climate crisis.

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.

Guardians of the Planet – Clive Gifford

This environmentally positive book contains everything children need to become guardians of the planet. Kids can learn how to become keepers of the coasts, friends of the forests, home heroes and much more through a mix of compelling facts, creative activities, and proactive tips.

Key environmental topics are clearly explained, and the easy-to-follow projects and suggestions help to put the issues in an everyday context. From reusing clothes and composting food to reducing water waste and giving wildlife a helping hand, this book will encourage children to engage with environmental problems and inspire them to take care of our wonderful planet.

Lots: The Diversity of Life on Earth – Nicola Davies & Emily Sutton

Winner of the Margaret Mallett Picture Book Award, as part of the English 4-11 Picture Book Awards.

There are living things everywhere: the more we look, the more we find. There are creatures on the tops of the tallest jungle trees, at the bottom of the coldest oceans, even under the feathers of birds and in boiling volcanic pools. So how many different kinds are there? One, two, three … lots Lots, a beautifully illustrated introduction to the concept of biodiversity for younger readers. With words from Nicola Davies and exquisite artwork by Emily Sutton, this ground-breaking book is certain to enchant and inspire children.

Drastic Plastic and Troublesome Trash – Hannah Wilson

Most of us don’t think twice before we buy something new and when we go to the shops we take the packaging for granted. But where does all our rubbish go to and how can we keep it under control so that it doesn’t ruin our planet?

This thoughtful but incredibly fun book enters the mysterious world of recycling, discovering how materials such as plastic, glass, paper and electronics are made and recycled. It also looks at the many ways we can help to reduce the amount of waste we throw out, has suggestions and activities for upcycling and explains how recycling is crucial to preserving the beautiful and life-sustaining world we live in.

The Lost Spells – Robert MacFarlane

The Lost Spells is a pocket-sized treasure that introduces a beautiful new set of natural spell-poems and artwork by beloved creative duo Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris.

As in The Lost Words, these “spells” take their subjects from relatively commonplace, and yet underappreciated, animals, birds, trees and flowers — from Barn Owl to Red Fox, Grey Seal to Silver Birch, Jay to Jackdaw. Written to be read aloud, The Lost Spells summons back what is often lost from sight and care and inspires protection and action on behalf of the natural world.

Earth Heroes – Lily Dyu

When faced with climate change, the biggest threat that our planet has ever confronted, it’s easy to feel as if nothing you do can really make a difference . . . but this book proves that individual people can change the world.

With twenty inspirational stories celebrating the pioneering work of a selection of Earth Heroes from all around the globe, from Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough to Yin Yuzhen and Isatou Ceesay, each tale is a beacon of hope in the fight for the future of our planet, proving that one person, no matter how small, can make a difference.

Books and me: on my shelves

John Coughlan CBE, who retired as Hampshire County Council’s Chief Executive last month, talks about his reading loves and recommendations as well as his vision for Hampshire’s libraries.

This blog post is taken from a longer conversation with Emma Noyce, head of Hampshire Libraries, which is available here.

Reading habits

I’m an English graduate, so I’m a reader by background. I love literacy, I love literature and I love books: I’ve kept reading since my university days. But I have to admit, particularly in the last three or four years, I’ve found it harder and harder so I’m very much looking forward to getting some time to read now as I retire.

Political instincts

Middle England by Jonathan Coe was a holiday read last year. It’s fantastic, highly comic, but also a state-of-the-nation novel. Jonathan Coe is a Brummie contemporary of mine, he went to St Philip’s School in Birmingham and I went to a Catholic grammar school not far away. When I first read The Rotters Club, which is about a group of the kids at St Philip’s school, I could recognise the streets, I could recognise the jobs the parents are doing, and recognise the pubs that they go to. I can hear his accent: posh Brummie a bit like mine, like sanded down Brummie. Since then, I’ve always liked returning to Jonathan Coe.

I’m not a political reader, per se. For me, the best literature is laced in metaphor, where you can read things into it. Charles Dickens is highly politicised, but in very well disguised ways. I love Dickens: I love his humour. I know it’s laced with sentimentality but that’s because he was a jobbing writer: he managed to put all his politics into material that was being read avidly on a monthly basis by a population who would queue at paper stands to buy his chapters. For me, Dickens just stands apart: a remarkable writer and person. I’d pick Bleak House as a particular favourite with its two major themes of child poverty and a legal system gone mad, and also Our Mutual Friend, partly because there’s a character who’s in the waste business: my dad was a dustman, so I always related to that.

Another favourite of mine is John le Carré. I first read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy when I was doing a serious and difficult staff investigation. It was one of those professional turning points, which we all have, when you decide where your career is going and what side you are on. The thing about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and most of le Carré, is that while they’re obviously really well-crafted spy stories, they’re also profound social commentaries. Tinker Tailor is a commentary on post-war, post-empire England. But for me, it’s also a tremendous management text because it makes you think deeply about how organisations take decisions and how you challenge those decisions if they happen to be wrong. It also talks deeply about issues of loyalty and betrayal, and the causes of betrayal and the nature of betrayal. It’s astonishing. I go back to it every year or two.

A non-fiction book, Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will, is one of those books that was a ‘moment-changing’ read of my life. It’s astonishingly difficult to read – it’s a history of rape – but brilliantly put together and unarguable.  I think boys should be made to read it.

Irish roots, Irish stories

It is ridiculous how many astonishing authors have come from recent and modern Ireland. I’m one of the few people I know that have read Ulysses  properly: but I did it because it was on my curriculum. It’s an extraordinary read and one I’d like to return to in retirement.

My parents came to England when they were teenagers. They ran away to get work at the time when there was a depression in Ireland. For them, the word ‘home’ referred to somewhere else. So one of one my choices would be Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. It was made into a wonderful film but the book, as ever, is even better than the film.

Prose writing among this group of Irish writers is subtle, gentle and pointed: you suddenly realise you’ve been hit hard without knowing it simply by a passage describing a scene, or a journey, or a conversation. Tóibín, for me, is probably one of the masters of that. The narrative of Brooklyn is very simple but hugely meaningful. It’s the story of a young woman who goes to live in America, a classic part of the Irish diaspora. And I relate to it because the woman is a bit like my mum. She went in different circumstances and for different reason but there’s that same sense of losing your family to go abroad and how the traditional parts of Irish culture butt against modern culture. It’s just beautifully, beautifully written.

William Trevor is another Irish writer, a Cork man, where my mum was from. He was a prolific author with a fantastic prose style, who tended to write about England and Englishness as an observer in his earlier novels but then went back into themes of how Ireland was changing as independence came in his later work. He deals with the harsh underbelly of people and places and it can be quite disturbing when he gets to work with his scalpel. Love and Summer is poignant and at times, challenging; it’s a love story and very different from some of his earlier work. One of the reasons I love it is because it’s a thriller: it becomes a page turner from having been this very elegiac, gentle narrative about rural Ireland.

BookTrust and children’s literacy

I’m Chair of Trustees for an organisation called BookTrust, which is a children’s reading charity which works nationally as a universal book gifting service, working with Hampshire County Council and with every other local authority, providing free books to different age groups of children.

As my children’s book choice, I’m picking Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas because it was one of those books that my children kept asking us to read again and again. I don’t know how many times we read it. It’s a great story about a witch who abuses a cat by changing its colour too often, but I won’t spoil the ending for you. It’s an absolute page turner.

The future of libraries

I think libraries are wonderful and I think they are huge assets to communities and to places. But in a modern society, libraries have to modernise too. I believe deeply in the physical book: whether a picture book or a written book, they’re remarkable things, tactile objects. Having a community resource of books where people know they can go is hugely important.

If we want to have libraries as vibrant, real places that people can trust, then we’ve got to make them relevant, we’ve got to make them used, and we’ve got to make sure that they can keep pace with their own viability. If the library service is serious about itself, it must continue to modernise. Protecting our libraries as buildings in corners of streets is not protecting our libraries as viable, important community resources that are going to be meaningful. We have to keep looking at what the future is going to hold, because otherwise you won’t create libraries, you’ll create unused museums of books. And that’s not what they should be for. They should be vibrant places that people use and go to.

Written up by Kate Price-McCarthy

Books and Me: on my shelves

Lucy Pick, commercial manager at Hampshire Libraries, talks about absorbing reading, perfect stories, and the pleasures of stumbling on a book by chance.

Where’s your favourite place to read?

When I used to be able to commute, I loved reading on the bus. You can lose yourself in a good book: with a book in your bag, you’re never going to be stuck.

I struggled to read during Covid when there was too much other stuff going on. I think the ability to properly absorb yourself in something else can get lost when you’re going through a period of stress. I need to set aside time to break the back of a book, to absorb myself into it and then, when I’m properly immersed, I’ll be reading while the kettle’s boiling, grabbing every possible moment.

How do you read?

I read one book at a time, but I can listen to an audiobook and read a book at the same time because my mind sees that as two different things. I’ve been listening to the Helena Kennedy audiobook Misjustice from BorrowBox, which was brilliant. I didn’t finish it by the time it was due back, but that was fine because, like radio where you might listen to half of a programme in the car and then get where you’re going, I didn’t need to listen to the whole thing to enjoy it.

I’ll happily turn down page corners to mark my place but only if it’s my own book. I’m not precious about the books I own: they’ve been in my bag, they’ve been on journeys, they’re old and tattered and that’s fine with me; that’s their history. With library books, I can’t do that, so I use a collection of vintage leather bookmarks I’ve picked up at charity shops.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished reading Handiwork by Sarah Baume which was remarkable. It’s a very short book so I had to ration myself. It’s very pared down in the sense that she almost writes like a poet, but she manages to steer away from being pretentious: it’s thoughtful and measured and wise. She’s a visual artist and an author and it’s very matter-of-fact and grounded, but then, suddenly, she’ll just swirl the world around, and capture something she sees in a way that takes your breath away.

Another book which totally absorbed me recently was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The quality of the writing grabbed me straight away; it’s an epic story told with amazing language and emotion and I can see why it got all the accolades it did. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started and I prefer it that way. I remember the first time I read Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger, which I borrowed from Chandler’s Ford Library as a teenager; I enjoyed not having any blurb, going into it cold and just seeing what happens.

My next one to read is Claire Fuller’s latest novel Unsettled Ground, for which she’s just been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She’s taken part in events for us at Hampshire Libraries, and the audience just loved her; she’s just so personable and knowledgeable.

Reading patterns

An early love of film noir got me into books by writers like Raymond Chandler, and through that to crime writing in general. For me it’s always about the narrative, I don’t like gruesome stories. I like Ann Cleeves, I’ve read quite a few of her titles, and I’ve read a lot of Ian Rankin, as well as Peter Robinson and Graham Hurley. But I haven’t read much crime recently because I became a bit saturated with it – there’s a danger with this genre that too many can become monotonous. Although I’ve just downloaded a Peter James audiobook from BorrowBox which I’ve been listening to in the garden.

I’m always drawn to a coming-of-age story, or what I’ve recently learned to call a “Bildungsroman” story. There are so many brilliant books of this kind: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Sophie Dahl’s Playing with the Grown-Ups. Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud is one I recommend when people ask for a book with a strong sense of location: it’s hugely evocative of Moroccan smells and sounds.

First love, best loves

As a child, I was an avid Chandler’s Ford Library user, reading huge amounts of Graham Greene and every Virago book they had on the shelf. I still use the Virago publishers’ name as a token of a good quality book.

For me, Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan is the perfect book. It’s understated, short and has moments when it feels like you’re pulling up a blind to reveal fragments of someone else’s life and then the blind comes down and you walk away again, which I love in a story. My strong feelings for it are probably partly down to stumbling on it by chance: I love a book you stumble upon.

Lynne Reid Banks is another brilliant writer who is not considered to be fashionable now, but when I was young, I lived and breathed the trilogy of The L Shaped Room, The Backward Shadow and Two is Lonely. The stories and the people she created were like family to me. I also loved brutal kitchen-sink fiction like Stan Barstow’s A Kind of Loving and John Braine’s Room at the Top.

I deliberately didn’t study literature beyond the age of 16 because I loved stories for what they were and found analysing them could ruin them for me. So the notion of magical realism in Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting meant nothing to me. I just loved his books for being beautifully written with wonderful descriptions of people and connections; like several authors I love, such as Toni Morrison and Hanif Kureshi, I haven’t read Kundera for a while.
When I feel I’ve experienced perfection in an author’s books, I sometimes don’t want to read any more as I don’t want to taint my experience.

Moonraker by Ian Fleming might seem like an odd choice but I love vintage and I love a charity shop, and the James Bond book jackets are just brilliant. They’re great combination of a good read and nostalgia, and while they’re no longer books you could consider “of our time”, it doesn’t mean I can’t read and enjoy them as a good story.

My enthusiasm for the Welsh poet R. S. Thomas comes from working with people in book shops who knew more about poetry than I did. There are certain things you can capture within a poem that you can’t capture within a novel – in the same way that you can convey feelings and ideas in abstract painting that you can’t in a figurative work. He’s a bit like Thomas Hardy in that he’s very British, very rooted within the landscape.

Possibly out of contrariness, I’ve picked The Pearl by John Steinbeck, rather than opting for his better-known novella Of Mice and Men. The Pearl is another perfect little story and one I’ve recommended a few times for someone who might be intimidated by tackling more widely known books.

Overlooked delights

In my opinion Simone de Beauvoir hasn’t got as much credit as she deserves for novels like She Came to Stay. It’s semi-autobiographical and touches on bigger philosophical questions that she and Jean-Paul Sartre both tackle, but wrapped up within day-to-day life. She captures the raw emotion of relationships and is sentimental without being a sentimentalist. I don’t think I’ve read beyond the first two pages of The Second Sex. I’m contrary: if someone tells me to watch a film, I won’t do it and it’s the same with books, I like to seek out my own discoveries.

As commercial manager of Hampshire Libraries, Lucy selects and looks after the books in our collection as well as overseeing our online catalogue. She combines this with her work as an abstract artist. Lucy was talking to Kate Price McCarthy

Award-winning books

It’s May and we are well into the Book Awards calendar. We’ve already had the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, The Man Booker International Prize and the Wolfson History Prize, amongst many others.

This month we will see the Orwell Prizes shortlist for political fiction and non-fiction, the Jhalak Prize winner, the winners of the Nibbies (the British Book Awards for the trade to identify the best books, bookshops and publishers) and The Daggers shortlist for the best new crime writing.

Jhalak Prize shortlisted books

There are prizes for practically every category of writing from big players like the Man Booker and Costa to the very particular such as the age specific The Paul Torday Prize (authors must be 60+) or the International Dylan Thomas Prize (39 or under), the place specific Portico Prize for books that honour the strong literary heritage of the North of England or the Ondaatje Prize that best evokes the spirit of a place generally. There are even prizes for making a point such as Staunch – the international award for thrillers in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.

2021 Longlist for the International Dylan Thomas Prize.

Are there too many prizes – do we really need them all or do the sheer number devalue the books they are set up to acknowledge?

Well, consider this. Just to get published, a book must jump through a number of hoops, not to mention getting the attention of a publisher in the first place. The publisher then has to take a risk, given the production and publicity costs set against the uncertainty of sales. The book then joins the 170,000 or so books published every year in the UK – factor in all books published in English each year and that figure jumps considerably. How will the author’s words and the publisher’s investment get recognised?

And from the reader’s side, time is finite – how to discover that sometimes elusive next great read, or even where to start looking if you want to try something different.

Book reviews, word of mouth and websites all help but what is needed is a kind of quality assurance process that covers a much wider range of genres and tastes. This is where book awards step in providing something for everyone. Awards create a media buzz encouraging conversations about books and often advocating those writers who didn’t make the cut. And lucky the author who goes on to win several awards such as Maggie O’Farrell with Hamnet – winner of both Waterstones Book of the Year and Women’s Prize for Fiction and currently shortlisted for the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year 2021.

More awards also mean more diversity, something that is badly needed in publishing. The heavyweight Booker now has an International version for novels in translation. The Women’s Prize for Fiction was set up to address the under-representation of women’s writing in major prizes and is now one of the most prestigious awards in the literary world.

The Jhalak Prize confronts lack of representation and seeks to identify and celebrate the finest works across all categories by British writers of colour. Now in its fifth year, it has gone from strength-to-strength and this year includes a prize for children’s and young adult books as well.

Likewise, the Polari Prize was founded 11 years ago to celebrate emerging and established UK LGBTQ+ writers and promote works that explores the LGBTQ+ experience.

Awards are also beneficial for small independent publishers enabling them to punch above their weight. Without the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing, the wonderful Diary of a Young Naturalist by 16-year-old Dara McNulty and its publisher Little Toller, may never have got the recognition they deserved.

So whether you’re in the mood for a intellectual workout, crave escapism, or seek to engage with the issues of the day (or yesterday), or appreciate books for their aesthetics, there is a book award out there that will help.

“Writers need validation” says the author Alys Conran, herself a winner of the Wales Book of the Year Award. Publishers need sales. And we all need great writing, whatever our tastes and interests.

Look out for our BorrowBox and web promotions which often include writers nominated for awards alongside our regular features such as Author of the Month.

Celebrate World Book Night with us

World Book Night (Friday 23 April) brings people from all backgrounds together with one goal – to share their love of reading and inspire others to read more. This year the libraries of Aldershot, Andover , Fleet, Chandler’s Ford and Gosport will be taking part, sharing free copies of ‘Stories to Make You Smile’ edited by Fanny Blake and Matt Haig’s latest book ‘The Midnight Library’.

World Book Night, which is supported by the major publishers and run by The Reading Agency is a campaign to encourage reading. Reading for pleasure is a globally recognised indicator in a huge range of social issues from poverty to mental health, yet in the UK 31% of adults don’t read in their free time.

Our teams will be taking the free books into the community to reach people who don’t normally visit their local library. We will be handing out copies of both books at railway stations and Saturday markets, having conversations about reading with people who do not read regularly or have books at home.

Stories to Make You Smile

This seriously entertaining collection of feelgood stories was edited by Fanny Blake and written especially by ten bestselling novelists: Jenny Eclair; Katie Fforde; Veronica Henry; Rachel Hore; Vaseem Khan; Dorothy Koomson, Helen Lederer; Richard Madeley; Eva Verde and Mark Watson.

From a hilarious race against time to a moment of unexpected eavesdropping, from righting wrongs in rural India to finding joy in unlikely places, these stories are all rich in wit and humour, guaranteed to lift your spirits and warm your heart.

Stories to Make You Smile is also available as a free eBook and audiobook download.

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

Matt Haig, the number one bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive, Notes on a Nervous Planet and award-winning books for children, including A Boy Called Christmas, brings us his latest book about regrets and second chances.

When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret, Nora feels she has let everyone down, including herself, but things are about to change and the library can help her find the answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

Take part in World Book Night online

You can also join in with a number of free events on World Book Night, which are being run by The British Library in conjunction with The Reading Agency.

Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation with Kate Mosse 6-7pm
Kazuo Ishiguro, one of the world’s most celebrated contemporary fiction authors, appears in conversation bestselling author Kate Mosse to discuss Klara and the Sun, his first book since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Klara and the Sun is an intensely moving and beautiful exploration of human connection and creativity in the face of loneliness and advanced technologies. Ishiguro looks at our changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

He talks to Kate Mosse about the inspiration for the novel, and the power of books and reading to bring people together and change lives.

This event is free to attend but booking is essential. Book your ticket now.

#ReadingHour 7-8pm
Reading Hour is an invitation for you to dedicate an hour reading in any way; read alone or with others, listen to an audiobook while preparing your dinner, have a book club meeting, call a friend to chat about books – the possibilities are endless! Share what you’re doing on social media using #ReadingHour.

Books to Make You Smile, hosted by Sandi Toksvig 8-9pm
Sign-up to hear exclusive readings from special guests about the books that make them smile. World Book Night Ambassador Sandi Toksvig talks live to featuring best-selling authors David Nicholls (One Day, Us, Sweet Sorrow), Bolu Babalola (Love in Colour), and World Book Night founder and Canongate Books CEO Jamie Byng.

This event is free to attend but booking is essential. Book your ticket now.

Windrush Day 2020

Following losses in World War II, Britain was in need of labourers, this prompted a campaign to encourage people from other countries in the British Empire and Commonwealth to immigrate to the UK. On 22 June 1948, the first ship carrying immigrants from the Caribbean arrived. This first ship’s name, HMT Empire Windrush , inspired the generation of imigrants to be called ‘The Windrush Generation’.

70+ years later, and 22 June is #WindrushDay in honour of all those who left their homes and, for many, their families to start a new life and help rebuild Britain. It’s a day to celebrate the rich, mixed history that this country has and embrace the wonderful stories, culture and food that has come to shape Britain.
We’ve put together some recommendation for books that’s perfect to read to gain a better understanding of Windrush and the Windrush Generation.


Windrush: a ship through time
by Paul Arnott

Available as physical book

For three decades the Windrush was the maritime Zelig of the twentieth century, playing different roles in the most turbulent years in modern times. Designed in 1930 in the Hamburg boatyard of a Jewish shipbuilder to ferry Germans to a new life in South America, it wasn’t long before Goebbels requisitioned her as one of his ‘Strength Through Joy’ vessels. However, her duties soon darkened: she became a Nazi troop carrier, a support vessel for the pocket battleship Tirpitz and a prison ship transporting Jews to Auschwitz. This is Paul Arnott’s vivid biography of a unique vessel, combining the memories of people who were there with a gripping account of an extraordinary merchant ship at the end of empires.

Surge
by Jay Bernard

Available as eBook and eAudiobook

Dubbed the ‘New Cross Massacre’, the fire was initially believed to be a racist attack, and the indifference with which the tragedy was met by the state triggered a new era of race relations in Britain.Tracing a line from New Cross to the ‘towers of blood’ of the Grenfell fire, this urgent collection speaks with, in and of the voices of the past, brought back by the incantation of dancehall rhythms and the music of Jamaican patois, to form a living presence in the absence of justice. A ground-breaking work of excavation, memory and activism – both political and personal, witness and documentary – Surge shines a much-needed light on an unacknowledged chapter in British history, one that powerfully resonates in our present moment.

Mother Country: real stories of the Windrush children 
edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

Available as physical book

Britain was known as the Mother Country: a home away from home; a place that you would be welcomed with open arms; a land where you were free to build a new life. 70 years on, this remarkable book explores the reality of the Windrush experience. It is an honest, eye-opening, funny, moving and ultimately inspiring celebration of the lives of both ordinary and extraordinary people.

The Windrush Betrayal
by Amelia Gentleman

Available as physical book and coming soon as eBook

Paulette Wilson had always assumed she was British. She had spent most of her life in London working as a cook; she even worked in the House of Commons’ canteen. How could someone who had lived in England since being a primary school pupil suddenly be classified as an illegal immigrant? It was only through Amelia Gentleman’s tenacious investigative and campaigning journalism that it emerged that thousands were in Paulette’s position. What united them was that they had all arrived in the UK from the Commonwealth as children in the 1950s and 1960s. In ‘The Windrush Betrayal’, Gentleman tells the story of the scandal and exposes deeply disturbing truths about modern Britain.

Home Coming
by Colin Grant

Available as eBook, eAudiobook and physical book

When Colin Grant was growing up in Luton in the 1960s, he learned not to ask his Jamaican parents why they had emigrated to Britain. ‘We’re here because we’re here’, his father would say, ‘You have some place else to go?’. But now, seventy years after the arrival of ships such as the Windrush, this generation of pioneers are ready to tell their stories. ‘Homecoming’ draws on over a hundred first-hand interviews, archival recordings and memoirs by the women and men who came to Britain from the West Indies between the late 1940s and the early 1960s.

Familiar Stranger
by Stuart Hall with Bill Schwarz

Available as physical book

Stuart Hall grew up in a middle-class family in 1930s Jamaica, still then a British colony. He found himself caught between two worlds: the stiflingly respectable middle class in Kingston, who, in their habits and ambitions, measured themselves against the white planter elite; and working-class and peasant Jamaica, neglected and grindingly poor, though rich in culture, music and history. But as colonial rule was challenged, things began to change in Kingston and across the world. When, in 1951, a scholarship took him across the Atlantic to Oxford University, Hall encountered other Caribbean writers and thinkers, from Sam Selvon and George Lamming to V.S. Naipaul. He also forged friendships with the likes of Raymond Williams and E.P. Thompson, with whom he worked in the formidable political movement, the New Left.

Voices of the Windrush generation: the real story told by the people themselves 
by David Matthews

Available as eBook and Physical book

With over 20 first-hand accounts from men, women and children of Windrush, this work sheds light on the true impact of one of the most disastrous and damaging scandals in recent memory, and gives a platform to those most affected – those whose voices have yet to be truly heard. Their stories provide intimate, personal and moving perspective on what it means to be black in Britain today, and the heartache the ‘hostile environment policy’ our government has created has meant for those who have called this country home for half a century and more.

Lovers and Strangers
by Clair Wills

Available as physical book

The battered and exhausted Britain of 1945 was desperate for workers – to rebuild, to fill the factories, to make the new NHS work. From all over the world and with many motives, thousands of individuals took the plunge. Most assumed they would spend just three or four years here, sending most of their pay back home, but instead large numbers stayed – and transformed the country. Drawing on an amazing array of unusual and surprising sources, Clair Wills’ book brings to life the incredible diversity and strangeness of the migrant experience.


For more articles and Windrush stories, visit the British Library’s website.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2020

2-8 March marks the week of eating disorders awareness 2020; a time when we fight the stereotypes and stigma around eating disorders.
It’s not just middle class, young, white woman and girls who can develop an eating disorder – it’s something that can affect anyone and everyone no matter age, gender, ethnicity, background or sexuality.
The stereotypes people sometimes hold about who can and who can’t develop an eating disorder can mean some people don’t seek help, or are afraid to talk to friends and family about it in fear that they will be laughed at, teased or not believed.

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with food or weight, check out the helplines at the bottom of this blog.

We’ve put together a list of books which can be useful reading for anyone who’s affected by an eating disorder, or would like to understand it more.

Image result for beat eating disorders

Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677
Studentline: 0808 801 0811
Youthline: 0808 801 0711

www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services/helplines