Author of the Month: Dorothy Koomson

Our author of the month for October is the brilliant Dorothy Koomson.

Born in 1971, Dorothy Koomson is a bestselling author of adult fiction books with over 2 million books sold. She has earned her title ‘The Queen of the Big Reveal’ with her nail-biting psychological thrillers, which pack an emotionally devastating punch.

Dorothy Koomson has been a strong advocate for Black authors to write the stories they want to tell without compromising their vision.

Try her latest novel ‘My Other Husband’ which critics are calling one of her best yet. This expertly crafted novel is full of twists and turns sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Check out our full catalogue of Dorothy Koomson titles.

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…

Get inspired by the Gadgeteers 

The Summer Reading Challenge launches on Saturday 16 July – any anyone who signs up, online or at their local library and reads six books gets a special medal and certificate.

You can read any six books, big books, little books, picture books, funny books, graphic novels, cookery books, eBooks or eAudiobooks… but if you’re inspired by the cool Gadgeteers you might want to borrow one of these brilliant science books this summer.  

They’re all available as physical books in the library, eBooks and eAudiobooks – so wherever you are and whatever you’re doing this summer you can still enjoy six great books and win that medal (did we mention the medal?) 

You can find plenty of books on our special category on our catalogue, check them out here: Summer Reading Challenge library catalogue.

Or if you enjoy reading or listening to books on your device, you can use our free BorrowBox service: Summer Reading Challenge BorrowBox bookshelf.

Here are some recommendations below:

Listen Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Janey Mack! Layla’s back! And she’s getting her inventions ready for the Grand Design Competition. But when her grandmother is taken ill and her family must go to Sudan to be by her side, Layla starts to feel like she is being pulled in so many different directions. Can she stay on the inventions team at school, if she’s in a different country? Why are her cousins making protest signs? And is anyone even listening to her?! This was not the halal girl summer she thought she was going to have. 

The taylor turbochaser by David Baddiel

Amy loves cars, and dreams of being a driver. But there’s a major catch: her slow old wheelchair with its broken wheel. When Amy finally gets a new electric one, it’s exciting – at first. But standard engines only have so much power. And that’s where Rahul comes in – Amy’s best friend and genius inventor. Soon Rahul turns a wheelchair into a supercar! And so the Taylor Turbochaser is born. But when it all goes suddenly wrong, Amy is going to have to hit the road – and drive. 

Uma and the answer to absolutely everything by Sam Copeland

Uma Gnuderson has a world full of questions: How can I save my home from being sold? Will my dad ever start talking again? And how do alpacas get drunk? But since her mum died, Uma’s life has been short on answers. Until one day she finds a mysterious Bluetooth earpiece and starts to ask it questions. And it answers them. All of them. It knows everything, from the capital of Mongolia to the colour of her headteacher’s underpants. The earpiece is an incredible high-tech artificial intelligence called Athena. Through Athena, Uma suddenly has the answer to every question she can imagine – and she’s going to use them to save her home and her father.  

Doctor Proctor’s fart powder by Jo Nesbo

Doctor Proctor is an ageing inventor just waiting for his big break. When he teams up with Lisa and her peculiar friend Nilly in making the world’s most powerful fart powder, it seems his dream may be coming true. But the ruthless twins Truls and Trym Thrane are lurking in the background just waiting to spoil their plans. 

George and the unbreakable code by Lucy Hawking and Stephen Hawking 

George and his best friend Annie haven’t had any space adventures for a while and they’re missing the excitement – but not for long. Seriously strange things start happening banks are handing out free money; supermarkets can’t charge for their produce so people are getting free food; and aircraft are refusing to fly. It looks like the world’s biggest and best computers have all been hacked. George and Annie must travel further into space than ever before in order to find out who is behind it. 

Kay’s marvellous medicine by Adam Kay

The olden days were pretty fun if you liked wearing chainmail or chopping people’s heads off but there was one tiny little problem back then – doctors didn’t have the slightest clue about how our bodies worked. It’s time to find out why Ancient Egyptians thought the brain was just a useless load of old stuffing that might as well be chucked in the bin, why teachers forced their pupils to smoke cigarettes, why hairdressers would cut off their customers’ legs, and why people used to get paid for farting. (Unfortunately that’s no longer a thing – sorry.) You’ll get answers to questions like: Why did patients gargle with wee? How did a doctor save people’s lives using a washing machine, a can of beans and some old sausages? What was the great stink? (No, it’s not what doctors call your bum). 

How we got to now: six innovations that made the modern world by Steven Johnson 

Did you drink a glass of water today? Did you turn on a light? Did you think about how miraculous either one of those things is when you did it? Of course not – but you should, and author Steven Johnson has. This adaptation of his adult book and popular PBS series explores the fascinating and interconnected stories of innovations – like clean drinking water and electricity – that changed the way people live. 

Danny Chung does not do maths by Maisie Chan

Eleven-year-old Danny Chung loves drawing more than anything – certainly more than maths, which, according to his dad and everyone else, is what he is ‘supposed’ to be good at. He also loves having his own room where he can draw in peace, so his life is turned upside down when a surprise that he’s been promised turns out to be his little, wrinkly, ex-maths-champion grandmother. Nai Nai can’t speak a word of English, which doesn’t make things easy for Danny when he is charged with looking after her during his school holidays.  

Babysitting Nai Nai is NOT what he wants to be doing! What’s worse, Nai Nai has to share his room, AND she takes the top bunk! Before long though it becomes clear to Danny that there is more to Nai Nai than meets the eye, and that they have more in common that he thought possible… 

Cyborg Cat and the night spider by Ade Adepitan

Ade loves playing football and he’s amazing in goal, despite the heavy metal calliper he has to wear on his leg. He can save any ball that’s sent his way, from any direction, so his friends have nicknamed him the Cyborg Cat. But when the Parsons Road Gang stumble upon some unusual graffiti it starts to have a really weird effect on Ade. Somehow, the art is drawing him into another dimension, where he really is Cyborg Cat! But that’s not all – after seeing the Night Spider’s art, Ade starts to feel weak and everything begins to go wrong. He’s banned from a school trip to a safari park because of his disability, and the doctors have some bad news about his legs. How can Ade overcome his challenges and what power does the mysterious Night Spider have over Cyborg Cat? Ade needs all his friends’ help to uncover the truth. 

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

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.

Winter Reads

10 perfect winter reads

There’s nothing better than shutting the door against a bitter winter’s evening and curling up in the warm. All you need is a good book to settle down by the fire with, but don’t worry, we have you covered. Here are 10 books perfect for getting you through the long cold nights.

1. Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson

A special collection of 12 imaginative Christmas stories and 12 recipes from the renowned author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Frankissstein.

Ghosts and jovial spirits, chances at love and tricks with time. Jeanette Winterson’s stories are unfailingly brilliant and filled with wonder. These short stories make the perfect read before bed.

2.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

No seasonal reading list would be complete without an honourable mention of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas – it’s all humbug to him. But one Christmas Eve he is visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley, and then by three more spirits – the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come. Will the things they show Scrooge be enough to make him change his miserly ways and learn the true meaning of Christmas?

Nostalgia, a haunting , and a cold heart that melts, what more could you want from a winter’s night?

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.”

3. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.

4. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

When James wakes to see snow falling one December morning, he is delighted and rushes outside to make a snowman. With coal eyes, an old green hat and scarf and a tangerine nose, he is perfect, and James can hardly bear to go inside and leave him. In the middle of the night, he wakes and creeps out to see his snowman again – and to his amazement, the snowman comes to life!

5. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

A magical, wintery tale of friendship, love and adventure. Join Gerda on her epic journey to the mysterious, snowy lands of the frozen North. Meeting fairy-tale princesses, talking crows and wise old women with enchanted gardens, on her quest to rescue best friend Kai from the Snow Queen’s icy palace.

6. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Late on Christmas Eve, after the town has gone to sleep, a boy boards a mysterious train that waits for him: the Polar Express bound for the North Pole. When he arrives there, Santa offers him any gift he desires.

“Seeing is believing, but, sometimes, the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

7.  Winter Wedding by Dilly Court

The brand new novel from the No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author.

Rosalind Blanchard’s husband Piers is gravely wounded in a shipwreck, and she finds herself head of crumbling Rockwood Castle once more. Pregnant with his unborn child and alone, she turns to the only man who has ever made her heart sing. His brother Alex. Alex was her old love, but Piers must be her future. Until shocking news of Piers changes everything. As the first snowflakes begin to appear, so too does another chance of happiness for Rosalind.

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr Seuss

The classic tale of the disgruntled Grinch and his fiendish attempts to steal Christmas from the citizens of Whoville. With wacky rhymes and zany illustrations, this book has been a seasonal favourite for over 40 years.

“Maybe Christmas (he thought) doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”

9. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

It’s the night before Hogswatch. And it’s too quiet. Where is the big jolly fat man? There are those who believe and those who don’t, but either way, it’s not right to find Death creeping down chimneys and trying to say Ho Ho Ho. Superstition makes things work in Discworld, and undermining it can have Consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. Susan the gothic governess has got to sort everything out by morning, otherwise, there won’t be a morning. Ever again…

10. The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig

Upset elves, reindeers dropping out of the sky, angry trolls and the chance that Christmas might be cancelled. But Amelia isn’t just any ordinary girl. And – as Father Christmas is going to find out – if Christmas is going to be saved, he might not be able to do it alone.

Written by Isaac Fravashi

Books and me: Carly Harrod

Carly Harrod from Hampshire Countryside Service tells us about the books that inspired a career with nature and why adults should read more children’s books.

Where’s your favourite place to read?

I like to find a nice sunny spot in the garden to sit and read my book, so I tend to read more in the summertime. Usually as soon as I finish work, I like to get out in the garden to read something. I have a wood fire in my living room so it can be nice to curl up in the evening and read a bit of a book there too.

How do you read?

I went through a stage of reading on my kindle until I filled my kindle up, but I actually really like the feel and smell of a real book, so I tend to read more physically.  If I’m really into a book I can’t stop reading it. I need to read it until it’s finished. So that might mean I read constantly for two days if I have time, but that can be hard when you have a seven-year-old running around. I find if I leave a book for too long, I get a bit lost and I might move onto something else and forget about it, so I like to read in one hit.

I like an easy read that I can just get completely lost in. There are some books that I just cannot get into though, and I’ll just stop and move onto another book if I’m not enjoying it. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien is one that I keep trying but I just can’t get through. I love Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit,but I get about 5 pages into The Silmarillion and just can’t go further. But I will never get rid of a book, I will always keep it in case I want to come back to it another time because it might not be that I will never like that book, it might just be the way I’m feeling on that day or that I’m just not into that genre at the moment.

Books are quite precious to me, I would never fold a page over or leave a book open and face down to save a page either. I have a few books that are really special and they sit in their dust jackets on my shelf to keep them safe.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series which I re-read all the time, especially in the summer. They’re just nice books to return to because I can get through one of them in a couple of days and I love to just get lost in that magical world.

Reading patterns

Fantasy is a big love of mine and I really enjoy authors like Tolkien and Pratchett, but I also love a bit of Scandi-noir. They’re crime novels that tend to follow the police trying to solve a puzzling case and I love the twists and turns, but they can be a bit darker. I think because they’re set in cities covered with snow, the crimes feel so far removed from here and I find them easier to read about. Samuel Bjork’s novels are some of my favourites but those are as dark as I can go with reading now. I used to be really into horror writing, I loved Stephen King and James Herbert, but I can’t read them at all these days. I used to love the Point Horror book series when I was growing up and R.L. Stine was my absolute favourite Point Horror writer but I think as I get older I prefer reading books that leave me with a nice feeling at the end.

First love, best loves

I have older siblings and a lot of what I read came from them. They had this lovely bookcase filled with some really old-fashioned books, like Swallows and Amazons and Enid Blyton and other books that can be quite outdated now. But I loved these stories about children going out into the countryside and having adventures. I think that’s probably why I do what I do now. As I got older, I began getting into the Point Horror books, I did enjoy them them but it was what everyone was reading at the time. What really stands out in my memory is when my sister bought me The Hobbit. I absolutely loved it. It’s still one of my favourite books and I go back and re-read it constantly. It was one of the first more adult books that I had ever been given. The writing was so immersive, I really felt like I was going to Middle Earth.

A series of books that I really love is by Monica Dickens, the series starts with The House at World’s End. It’s about this group of siblings who get sent away to live on a farm on their own and end up looking after all the stray animals in the area. They’re just such nice books, there’s nothing horrible in them, just very sweet escapism.

I also spend a lot of time looking through ID guides as part of my job and they can be really interesting. One that I absolutely love is called The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, the pictures in it are all hand drawn. It shows plants and animals all throughout the seasons and it’s just beautiful. Another brilliant one is Janet Marsh’s Nature Diary which is all about the Itchen Valley and the nature you can find throughout it. They’re both brilliant because even though they’re really old, it’s still plants and animals that we recognise. For anyone who wants to get out and become more involved with nature I would really recommend Francis Rose’s book on wildflowers, it’s a brilliant book to get started identifying flowers and I would really recommend Joseph Cornell’s book of activities for something to do as a family too.

But my all-time favourite book is A Fly Went By from Dr Suess. It’s just a long poem. I still have the copy that was read to me as a child and I still read it to my kids. Our oldest kids have children of their own now and we bought the book for them to read to their children as well.

Overlooked delights

I think adults should read more children’s books. They’re just simple pleasures with nothing bad happening. I like the positivity in life, and I think children’s books show us that. One I really enjoyed recently was Oi Frog! There are some fantastic kids’ books out there that can teach you stuff as well as teaching your kids stuff and I think we forget that. It reminds us of when things were easier, and I think we all need that sometimes.

Carly Harrod is a Project Manager for the Countryside Service, as part of her role she looks after the Countryside Service social media account and supports the volunteers who work throughout Hampshire. She regularly speaks on the Looking After Nature podcast. Carly was speaking with Isaac Fravashi.

Climate Change Reads for Young Adults

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.

We have created a very special collection of books and audiobooks for young adults to help them learn about the environment and nature, through fiction, information about climate heroes or simple, but effective actions they can take to make a difference right now. Find them on the eBooks app, BorrowBox.

“We deserve a safe future. And we demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?” ~ Greta Thunberg

Fiction titles

City of Rust by Gemma Fowler

Railey dreams of winning the drone races with her bio-robotic gecko friend, Atti. But when a bounty hunter crashes their biggest race yet, the pair are forced to flee to the feared Junker clans who mine the rubbish orbiting the Earth.

The Summer We Turned Green by William Sutcliffe

It’s the summer holidays, and thirteen-year-old Luke has just had his life turned upside down. First his older sister Rose moved ‘across the road’ – where a community of climate rebels are protesting the planned airport expansion – and now his dad’s gone too.

A fresh, funny, heartfelt look at this generation’s must-win battle: one earth, one chance.

The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe by Tricia Springstubb

Beautifully written, The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe is about expeditions big and small, about creatures who defy gravity and those of us who are bound by it.   A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

A Girl Called Joy by Jenny Valentine

Meet ten-year-old Joy Applebloom, a girl with a knack for finding the silver lining in even the darkest of rainclouds.
After years of travelling the world with her parents and older sister, Claude (Claude rhymes with bored, which is just about right), Joy and her family move to suburbia – back to school, back to her grumpy, rule-obsessed grandad and back to normality.

Joy soon finds her usual irrepressible positivity and zest for life waning, but when the powers that be threaten to pull down a mighty oak tree, Joy decides to fight back, and realizes that not all magic requires wands and spells, and perhaps the most important sort of magic is the power, resilience and courage that was there all along . . .

Plastic Girl by Jessica Maison

Eva grew up in a climate apocalypse, her parents are dead, and the boy she once loved is probably trying to kill her. Just when she’s about to give up, she discovers a new species born from plastic waste. More incredibly, she can mould these creatures into other beings – first a butterfly, then a fish, a deer, a bear – and eventually, a sister, Iris. As Eva dabbles with creating life, it becomes frightfully clear that her creations, Iris included, will either save humanity or end it.

Eva, one of Earth’s last inhabitants, is a lonely girl searching for companionship and evidence that life might return to Earth. What time she doesn’t use to survive her harsh environment, she spends searching for life, stewarding the lake around her cabin and making sculptures of extinct animals out of found materials. One day, while checking on her island, she discovers something alive that shouldn’t be, something she can transform and that can also transform her. She embarks on a grand and dangerous scientific journey that ultimately will birth a new era and provide her with the companionship she so desperately needs. Through Eva’s engagement with this new life, readers will discover that to save the world, humanity may have to become something else entirely or disappear completely.

Flood World by Tom Huddleston

Kara and Joe live outside the Wall, spending their days navigating perilous waterways and scratching out a living in the ruins of the old city. But when they get swept up in a police chase, and find themselves in possession of a mysterious map, they’re suddenly in a world of trouble!As they delve deeper and deeper into a dark world of rebellion and revenge they’ve soon got gangsters, cops and ruthless Mariner pirates in their hi-tech submarines hot on their heels. But as Joe and Kara are swept up into a revolution of justice and vengeance, they must find a way to fight back and save their city before the walls come tumbling down, and the waves come rushing in…

The Territory by Sarah Govett

Noa lives in what’s left of Britain where flooding means land is scarce. Everyone must sit an exam at 15: if you pass you can stay in the Territory, if you fail you must go to the Wetlands. Rich families can buy their children an upgrade to help, but ‘Norms’ like Noa must succeed on their own merit. Noa is a bright funny teenager, not sure which boy she likes, devoted to her friends. The book follows her as she and her friends face the exam. Who will pass and who will fail?

Watership Down by Adam Richards

Set in the once idyllic rural landscape of the south of England, ‘Watership Down’ follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the destruction of their home, as they head towards a mysterious promised land.

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die.Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from?A dystopian thriller about courage and freedom, with a love story at its heart.

Deep Secret by Berlie Doherty

Deep in a Derbyshire valley live two girls, twins, so alike that even their family can’t tell them apart. But tragedy is waiting. When the valley is sold to be flooded for a huge dam, the villagers are forced to leave their homes. Deep secrets are uncovered. New characters enter their lives and desires, love and grief come to the surface.

Zenith by Julie Bertagna

Sixteen-year-old Mara and her ship of refugees are tracking the North Star, desperate to find a homeland in the melted ice mountains of Greenland. The vast, floating city of Pomperoy is just one of the shocks that are not in their navigation plans. Unwittingly, the refugees bring catastrophe in their wake for Tuck, a gypsea pirate-boy, and also for Ilira – a land whose inhabitants exist in a state of terror at the top of the world. Back in the drowned ruins at the feet of the towering sky city, Fox is beginning his battle with the cruel, corrupt forces that rule the New World. But separated from Mara, his resolve begins to waver . . .

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

When a deadly Fly Flu sweeps the globe, it leaves a shell of the world that once was. Among the survivors are 18-year-old Nico and her dog, on a voyage devised by Nico’s father to find a mythical portal; a young artist named Kit, raised in an old abandoned cinema; and the enigmatic Deliverer, who lives Life after Life in an attempt to put the world back together. As swarms of infected Flies roam the earth, these few survivors navigate the woods of post apocalyptic New England, meeting others along the way, each on their own quest to find life and love in a world gone dark.

Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean

Every summer Quill and his friends are put ashore on a remote sea stac to hunt birds. But this summer, no one arrives to take them home. Surely nothing but the end of the world can explain why they’ve been abandoned – cold, starving and clinging to life, in the grip of a murderous ocean. How will they survive?

Non-Fiction titles

Be the Change by Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens

From National Poetry Day Ambassadors Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens comes an incredible anthology of poetry identifying ways we can Be the Change.

These positive and upbeat poems will explore sustainability and the positive efforts being made to protect the planet and are perfect for starting conversations about looking after each other and our environment.

Climate Rebels by Ben Lerwill

Most people know about Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough. But there are many other climate rebels around the world. They are not as famous, but they work very hard. This book is about some of these amazing people.

99 Maps to Save the Planet

A shocking but informative, eye-catching and witty book of maps that illustrate the perilous state of our planet. The maps in this book are often shocking, sometimes amusing, and packed with essential information.

Save our Species by Dominic Couzens

Focusing on thirty of our most loved and most ‘at risk’ inhabitants, this uplifting and hopeful book will give naturalists of any age the tools to respond to the SOS calls heard from their garden, local park and beyond.

The Almost Zero Waste Guide by Melanie Mannarino

In a perfect world, we would all be able to fit a year’s worth of waste in a mason jar. But for most of us​,​ doing so can be immensely intimidating or simply not feasible. In ​The (Almost) Zero Waste Guide​,​ author Melanie Mannarino shares 100 simple tips for being less wasteful w​ith what​ you eat, ​how you live in​​ your home, when you’re curating your wardrobe, when you practice self-care, during your travels​ near and far​, and in your community.

Make it Happen: How to be an Activist by Amika George

In the spring of 2017, 17-year-old Amika George founded the Free Periods movement on behalf of every schoolgirl who couldn’t afford tampons or sanitary towels. Three years later, in January 2020, these products became freely available to every schoolgirl in England for the first time, funded by the government. Anyone can make history, including a teenager launching a global petition from their bedroom. And Amika will show you how, in this essential guide to being an activist.

Taking on the Plastics Crisis by Hannah Testa

In this personal, moving essay, youth activist Hannah Testa shares with readers how she led a grassroots political campaign to successfully pass state legislation limiting single-use plastics and how she influenced global businesses to adopt more sustainable practices. Through her personal journey, readers can learn how they, too, can follow in Hannah’s footsteps and lower their carbon footprint by simply refusing single-use plastics.

Plasticus Maritimus by Ana Pego

For young readers comes an imaginative guide to ocean plastics, filled with tips and tricks for identifying—and combating—pollution in our oceans. Inspired by biologist Ana Pêgo’s life’s work, and filled with engaging science and colourful photographs, this foundational look at plastic pollution in the ocean explains why it is such an urgent contemporary issue.

Imaginary Borders by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

In this personal, moving essay, environmental activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez uses his art and his activism to show that climate change is a human issue that can’t be ignored.

One Earth: People of Colour Protecting our Planet by Anuradha Rao

One Earth profiles Black, Indigenous and People of Colour who live and work as environmental defenders. Through their individual stories, the book shows that the intersection of environment and ethnicity is an asset to achieving environmental goals.

No One is too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

‘Everything needs to change. And it has to start today’ In August 2018 a fifteen-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, decided not to go to school one day. Her actions ended up sparking a global movement for action against the climate crisis, inspiring millions of pupils to go on strike for our planet, forcing governments to listen, and earning her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. This book brings you Greta in her own words, for the first time.

Open your mind: Learn to deal with the big stuff in life by Gemma Cairney

Full of honest and practical advice from Gemma Cairney and a whole host of trained professionals and real people, ‘Open Your Mind’ is the best friend of a book everyone needs. From stress, trauma, and anxiety, to your place in the world and everything in between. It includes chapters on anxiety, depression, addiction, politics, our natural world, and feminism.

It’s Getting Hot in Here by Bridget Heos

Tackling the issue of global warming head-on for a teen audience, Bridget Heos examines the science behind it, the history of climate change on our planet, and the ways in which humans have affected the current crisis we face. It’s Getting Hot in Here illustrates how interconnected we are not just with everyone else on the planet, but with the people who came before us and the ones who will inherit the planet after us.

It’s Your World by Chelsea Clinton

In It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going, Chelsea Clinton tackles some of the biggest challenges facing our world today, especially for kids. Using data, charts and stories she unpacks challenges related to Poverty, Climate Change, Gender Equality, Health, Endangered Species and more. She also talks about what’s being done to make a difference in each area, particularly by kids and teenagers. With lots of suggestions and ideas for action, Chelsea Clinton shares her passion for helping others and shows readers that the world belongs to every single one of us, and every one of us counts.

Guarding Eden by Deborah Hart

Guarding Eden tells the personal stories of twelve ordinary people who were so concerned about climate change that they altered their lives to do something about it. Some did quiet backroom work in research, drafted submissions or wrote to politicians; others decided to go public, really public – one was part of the team occupying a 160-metre power-plant chimney, one went on a hunger strike publicised around the world, another started the Lock the Gate Alliance.

V is for Vegan by Kerstin Rogers

Vegan food has long suffered from a fusty, bland image so Kerstin Rodgers set out to change this. Whether you are a vegan, vegetarian, vegan curious, pescatarian or carnivore, if you are looking for something different, or merely to cut down on your animal and meat intake, this book will change your perception of veganism forever.

Chew on This by Eric Schlosser

Based on Eric Schlosser’s bestselling Fast Food Nation, this is the shocking truth about the fast food industry – how it all began, its success, what fast food actually is, what goes on in the slaughterhouses, meatpacking factories and flavour labs, global advertising, merchandising in UK schools, mass production and the exploitation of young workers in the thousands of fast-food outlets throughout the world. It also takes a look at the effects on the environment and the highly topical issue of obesity.

Generation Us by Andrew Weaver

In clear and accessible language, Generation Us explains the phenomenon of global warming, outlines the threat it presents to future generations and offers a path toward solutions to the problem. The reality of global warming has long been accepted within the scientific community, yet it remains a hotly debated topic at the political and social level.

Generation Green by Linda Sivertson

We all know about the Earth’s environmental crisis, but there is someone who can truly make a difference: you. If you text your friends or chat with them online, download music to your iPod, or toss bottles and papers into recycling bins, you’re already more eco-savvy than you think. It’s just as easy to do even more to help save the earth, and Generation Green shows you how. 

We are the Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

We Are the Weather Makers is a concise and revised edition that will allow listeners aged from nine to 90 to learn the facts about climate change and is as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 2006.

How to Change Everything by Naomi Klein

The first book for younger readers by internationally bestselling social activist Naomi Klein: the most authoritative and inspiring book on climate change for young people yet. Warming seas. Superstorms. Fires in the Amazon. The effects of climate change are all around us. Reforestation. School-strikes for climate change. Young people are saving the world and you can join them because you deserve better. Are you ready to change everything?

We are all Greta by Valentina Giannella

We Are All Greta sets out the basic ideas required to understand climate change, explained in a scientific and accessible way and drawn from the most authoritative sources. With a chapter on key words and sites to help you understand the climate challenge and a list of websites to visit for further information, this is a book for young people, for parents, for grandparents and anyone having to answer direct and urgent questions about what must be done to protect our world.

Voices of Change

The twelve essays in Voices of Change, by fifteen inspiring youth leading the climate change movement in Canada, explore the most challenging issues around climate change, from sustainability to activism. The contributors, from all across the nation, describe their own work developing successful initiatives that have positively brought about environmental change—from creating a “Library of Things” in Waterloo, Ontario, to an ocean-education program in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Blue Planet II by Leisa Stewart-Sharpe

Discover all there is to love about our Blue Planet, the stories of its inhabitants, and realise how you can help protect this wilderness beneath the waves.

New Life Stories by David Attenborough

How did Sir David track down a giant Earthworm? Why does he respect Rats? What was the first bribe in nature? Why do well known foods often have two names? And where can you see evidence of the earliest life on Earth? His enthusiasm is as infectious as ever, and conveys a unique fascination on topics as diverse as the Kiwi, Hummingbirds, Monsters, Butterflies, Chimps, Cuckoos, Fireflies and Elsa, the famous lioness. 

“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”  ~ David Attenborough

From Winchester to Barchester: Anthony Trollope’s links with Hampshire

Anthony Trollope was one of the most popular authors of the 19th century, and his novels, including the Barchester and Palliser series, continue to attract new fans. This talk will explore Anthony Trollope’s links with Hampshire including family connections with Heckfield and Winchester, and some Hampshire locations that may have inspired places in Barchester.

The event also marks the 150th anniversary in 2021 of the publication of Ralph the Heir, much of which is undisguisedly set in northern Hampshire.

This is an online talk using Zoom. Participants will be required to download and use Zoom.

Previous knowledge/experience required: All you need to attend a talk on Zoom is some basic computer skills and experience in using the internet. Don’t worry if you have not used it before as we will send you some basic guidance when you book.

Book your tickets

Join Hampshire Record Office for this fantastic talk on Monday 27 September at 6pm. Tickets are just £5 and can be booked by clicking the ‘Book Now’ image.

Barchester Towers, which was published in 1857, as the sequel to The Warden wryly chronicles the struggle for control of the English diocese of Barchester. It opens with the Bishop of Barchester lying on his death bed; soon a battle begins over who will take over power, with key players including the rather incompetent Dr Proudie, his fiendishly unpleasant wife and his slippery curate, Slope. This is a wonderfully rich novel, in which men and women are too shy to tell each other of their love; misunderstandings abound; and Church of England officials are only too willing to undermine each other in the battle for power.

The only autobiography by a major Victorian novelist, Trollope’s account offers a fascinating insight into his literary life and opinions. After a miserable childhood and misspent youth, Trollope turned his life around at the age of twenty-six. By 1860 the ‘hobbledehoy’ had become both a senior civil servant and a best-selling novelist. He worked for the Post Office for many years and stood unsuccessfully for Parliament. Best-known for the two series of novels grouped loosely around the clerical and political professions, the Barsetshire and Palliser series, in his Autobiography Trollope frankly describes his writing habits. His apparent preoccupation with contracts, deadlines, and earnings, and his account of the remorseless regularity with which he produced his daily quota of words, has divided opinion ever since.

Winchester offers a veritable feast of history, much of it unrecognised by twenty-first century visitors. This history of the Saxon capital of Wessex is told through evocative photographs of its buildings and intricate nooks and crannies. Brought to life with intriguing accounts are: St Catherine’s Hill, the site of a hill fort in 150 BC; the Peninsula Barracks, once a military establishment and now home to a range of museums; Winchester College, built in 1352, and its fourteenth-century gothic chapel; Winchester Cathedral, parts of which date from 1079; the resting place of novelist Jane Austen; the working water mill, still on its original medieval site; and King Arthur’s Round Table. Featuring a map showing points of interest, this is a must-read for locals and visitors alike.

To reserve ‘Heckfield: A Village History’ by Gordon Timmins, click here: https://bit.ly/3iH69AB.

To reserve ‘History of a Hampshire Parish – Heckfield and Mattingley: https://bit.ly/2UcWI2w.

What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?…Was ever anything so civil?”

Anthony Trollope