Learn a new skill: 5 books for beginners 

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

 
Macramé for beginners and beyond 

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

RHS grow your own veg and fruit bible 

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

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

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

Crochet: learn it, love it 

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

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

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

There’s more to explore 

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

The Big Jubilee Read

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

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

1952 – 1961 

A House for Mr Biswas by V S Naipul 

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

1962 – 1971 

Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe 

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

1972 – 1981 

Who do you think you are? By Alice Munro 

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

1982 – 1991 

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 

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

1992 – 2001 

White Teeth by Zadie Smith 

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

2002 – 2011 

The Secret River by Kate Grenville 

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

2012 – 2022 

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam 

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

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

Author of the Month: Margaret Atwood

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

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

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

Find Atwood’s books on our catalogue.

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

Author of the Month: Haruki Murakami

August 2022

Biography

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

Career

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

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

Awards and Accolades

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

Links  

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

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

The New Yorker – The Underground Worlds of Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami – Author

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

Fantastic Fiction – Haruki Murakami

Find Murakami’s books here

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

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. 

Summer Reading Challenge 2022 – Gadgeteers!

The Summer Reading Challenge is a great way to share stories and encourage reading throughout the summer holidays, a time when children’s reading skills can sometimes dip.

The theme of the challenge this year is Gadgeteers. Join Eddie, Leo, Ajay, Maggie, Aisha and James and discover the amazing science and innovation behind the world around you!

You can sign up at your local, Hampshire library, or online, from Saturday 16 July and read or listen to any six books to earn a certificate and medal. You can read story books, fact books, eBooks,  audiobooks, and even comics!  Once you have read/listened to your first few books, pop into your library to receive your Gadgeteers collector card and first stickers. Every time you finish reading/listening to a book, visit the library and see a member of our team to talk about the books you have read and collect your next stickers .

When you finish the challenge come to the library to collect your final stickers, finisher’s certificate and medal! Everyone who finishes the challenge has a chance to win a Samsung Galaxy tablet too!

Watch this video to find out more and see how you can take part!

The challenge is for children aged 4 – 11, and we look forward to you joining us in reading or sharing six books of your choice. Children aged 4 and under can join in the fun and earn reading star stickers throughout the summer.

You’ll find thousands of children’s eBooks and audiobooks free to download using our BorrowBox service with lots of titles always available without the wait. You’ll find links to some of our recommendations on this webpage and information about downloading ebooks and audiobooks.

If you’re not already a member of Hampshire Libraries, you can join to take part.

Meet the Gadgeteers!

Sign up, and join in the fun!

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

Author of the Month: Philippa Gregory

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

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

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

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

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

Author of the Month: Len Deighton

Leonard Cyril Deighton was born in London in 1929. His publications have included cookery books, history and military history, but he is best known for his spy novels. 

In 1940, at the age of eleven, Deighton witnessed the arrest of Anna Wolkoff, who was detained as a Nazi spy and charged with stealing correspondence between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Deighton later said that observing her arrest was “a major factor in my decision to write a spy story at my first attempt at fiction”

It was on an extended holiday in 1962 that Deighton wrote his first novel – The Ipcress File (short for the “Induction of Psychoneuroses by Conditioned Reflex under Stress”), which was a critical and commercial success.  

Several of Deighton’s novels have been adapted for the screen. In March 2022, ITV broadcast a new six-part adaption of The Ipcress File, starring Joe Cole as Harry Palmer. The new series had a big budget and big name stars, and plenty of overseas locations to capture the eye of the viewer. 

During 2021, Penguin Books reprinted all of Len Deighton’s fiction backlist, creating a range of fresh and vibrant cover designs that hark back to the 1960s, when designer Ray Hawkey did the covers for their first Deighton editions. 

‘The hallmarks of a Deighton novel are an intricate plot, an easy grasp of detail and a total mastery of storytelling technique.’ – Sunday Times

Powerful poetry: 7 must read contemporary poetry books

Poetry comes in all different shapes and sizes. From flowery language mixed with rhyme and rhythm, to plain speaking pages that confess something profound (and everything in between). Discover your favourite kind of poetry with these varied recommendations to get you started.

Everyone sang: a poem for every feeling by William Sieghart

This collection of writers new and old is an amazing way to find poems that connect with you. Everyone Sang is a wonderful selection of accessible poems that are arranged to help us map out our emotions. Chosen by the creator of the bestseller ‘The Poetry Pharmacy’, William Sieghart, and brought to life by illustrator Emily Sutton. The collection includes Maya Angelou to A.A. Milne, Lemn Sissay, Jackie Kay, Carol Ann Duffy, Joseph Coelho, Kae Tempest, W.B. Yeats, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, and many others.

If you’re a fan of Joeseph Coelho, you’ll love our interview with him on the Love Your Library podcast.

The actual by Inua Ellams

A symphony of personal and political fury. Sometimes probing delicately, sometimes burning with raw energy. In 55 poems that swerve and crackle with a rare music, Inua Ellams unleashes a full-throated assault on empire and its legacies of racism, injustice and toxic masculinity. In just 80 pages Ellams shows us the many faces of contemporary poetry and how we can use it to understand the world.

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

While Bluets narrator sets out to construct a sort of ‘pillow book’ about her lifelong obsession with the colour blue, she ends up facing down both the painful end of an affair and the grievous injury of a dear friend. Winding its way through depression, divinity, alcohol, and desire, visiting along the way with famous blue figures, including Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Yves Klein, Leonard Cohen and Andy Warhol.

bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward

Raised in Chorley in the north of England, Yrsa Daley-Ward’s work draws on her early life and her Jamaican and Nigerian heritage. The first collection from a ground-breaking poet, bone looks at identity, race, mental health, and femininity. With celebrity fans from Beyoncé to Florence Welch, this isn’t a collection to be missed.

Hold your own by Kae Tempest

Hold Your Own is a rhythmic retelling of the Tiresias myths set-in modern-day Britain. Kae Tempest’s first full-length collection takes a close look at class and gender in this ambitious multi-voiced work. A vastly popular and accomplished performance poet, Tempest commands a huge and dedicated following on the performance and rap circuit.

Grief is the thing with feathers by Max Porter

Part novella, part sound-poem, Max Porter’s debut depicts a wild and unruly grief embodied by the character Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. In a Nanny McPhee-like series of events, the sentimental bird visits a grieving family after the loss of their mother and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months, and the physical pain of loss gives way to memories, the family begin to heal.

Citizen: an American lyric by Claudia Rankine

Through essays, images, and poetry, Claudia Rankine’s book recounts mounting racial aggressions in 21st century daily life and in the media. The accumulative stresses that come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform and stay alive. Taking a close look at how racism has impacted the lives of Serena Williams, Zinedine Zidane, Mark Duggan and others.

Remember, there’s no wrong way to read poetry, but reading poems in different ways can be great for finding out how they can create different feelings. Why not try reading a poem as fast or as slowly as you possibly can and see whether it changes the sense of meaning you get from it? Lots of poets like to play with how words sound too, so you could even ask a friend to read a poem aloud to you. It’s a great way to discover more about poetry and share your favourite reads with those closest to you.