The best book podcasts to listen to in 2023 

Pop in your headphones and tune into the perfect podcast for you in 2023. If you’ve ever explored the world of podcasts, you’ll know that there’s a wealth of book-related content to choose from.  With so much choice, trying to pick a new podcast can feel a little overwhelming. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of our favourites for you to listen to in 2023 so you can get the lowdown on your favourite authors, learn about the publishing industry or discover your next great read.  

Best for the library-goer 

First things first, if you’re not already following our Love Your Library podcast then you’re missing out. Love Your Library is a book lover’s podcast, brought to you by Hampshire Libraries. We interview authors and companies from across the world about books and reading and have fun discussing what we’re reading. From Phillipa Gregory to Rory Cellan-Jones, no matter what you love to read we’ve got something for you.  

Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Android or online.  

Best for a bit of everything  

If you’re looking for podcast that covers book discussions and interviews as well as publishing news, then Books & Boba is the perfect show for you. Hosts Marvin Yueh and Reera Yoo pick a book by an Asian or Asian American author to read and discuss on the podcast every month as well as reporting on book deals, new releases and other bookish news. 

Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or online

Best to enjoy with a cup of tea  

If you’ve ever googled the most beautiful bookshops in the world, then you’ve probably come across Shakespeare and Company. Nestled in the heart of Paris, the shop isn’t just a picturesque place to browse, but since its opening in 1951 has been home to over 30,000 writers, artists, and intellectuals (known as tumbleweeds). These tumbleweeds include prolific authors and poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin, Ray Bradbury, and Jeanette Winterson. 

So, settle down with a cup of tea and a macaron and connect with a piece of bookish heritage. The weekly Shakespeare and Company: Writers, Books and Paris podcast is hosted by the Literary Director Adam Biles and features conversations with internationally acclaimed authors, recorded live from the bookshop. 

Listen now on Apple Podcasts or online

Best for sleuths  

Bookriot produce a wide range of excellent book related podcasts but if you’re a mystery or thriller fan then Read or Dead is the one for you. The bi-weekly mystery fiction podcast is dedicated to unearthing and discussing mystery and thriller literature. From true crime to fictional mysteries involving games, the show has a wide range of topics for you to uncover. 

Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or online

Best for comic book fans 

Novels aren’t for everyone – and that’s okay. If you’re more interested in reading comics, then The Stack from the team at Comic Book Club is a wonderful podcast pick. The hosts review new releases and the latest news in their weekly episodes. Whether you’re a Marvel, DC, or more of an indie fan, The Stack has you covered.  

Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or online

Best for classics 

For a more classically based podcast, then check out On the Road with Penguin Classics. Each episode, author Henry Eliot travels across Europe to interview novelists and readers alike. From Soho to Lisbon, the podcast focusses on literary locations and classic literature in an entertaining but educational way.  

Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Acast 

Best for a bedtime story 

If you’re looking for new way to experience your old favourites, then the Anne of Green Gables podcast is the place to start. The unabridged book is read by a full cast of talented actors, bringing read L.M. Montgomery’s childhood classic to life.  

Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or online

BBC Sounds also regularly release abridged versions of popular contemporary books. These include darkly funny How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie and People Person by the bestselling author, Candice Carty-Williams. 

Listen now on the BBC Sounds website or on their app
 

We’re all ears 

Let us know what your favourite book-related podcasts are on Facebook or Instagram, and sign up to our newsletter so you can hear more from us in 2023. 

Hampshire Libraries wrapped: the best of 2022

Chandler's Ford library with Jubilee bunting

We’ve loved finding ways to make your 2022 better and brighter. Whether you’ve been using your local library to find ways to save money, join the Gadgeteers in the Summer Reading Challenge, or enjoyed listening to the Love Your Library podcast, we’re glad you’ve joined us for what has been a very busy year. 

We wanted to look back on everything we’ve done together this year, so we’ve created a roundup of our best of 2022 as we look ahead to the New Year. 

Summer Reading Challenge  

Two children enjoying a book during the summer reading challenge

Over the summer, we once again held our annual Summer Reading Challenge. This year the theme was Gadgeteers, a collection of friends who love science and wanted to help your children discover the innovation behind the world around them. It was brilliant hearing about all the books Hampshire’s newest Gadgeteers read this summer, and we’re so pleased that so many children had fun! 

If you enjoyed the Summer Reading Challenge this year, why not join in with the winter mini challenge from The Reading Agency? The Gadgeteers are back to spark your children’s love of reading once again. It finishes on 20 February so sign up now and get stuck in. 

Pride month 

Pride month graphic with volunteer holding LGBTQ+ books and a rainbow flag

For Pride month this year, we invited Ren, a volunteer at Chandler’s Ford Library, to talk to us about the delightful list of queer books we have available at our libraries and share some personal recommendations. Our selection covers a range of books published in the last 40 years, so if you’re looking to diversify your reading then there’s sure to be something for you either as a physical copy or an eBook or audiobook on Borrowbox

Love Your Library podcast 

The Atlas Paradox book cover

It’s been an amazing year for the Love Your Library podcast, from superb interviews with award-winning authors, to expert recommendations from our library teams. 2022 has brought us plot twists, belly laughs, bestsellers and so much more. Take a look at all the episodes from 2022 have a listen!  

Death Positive Libraries 

Death positive libraries graphic for Hampshire Libraries

Libraries are uniquely placed to be a centre for bereavement support as well as a trusted space where conversations about death and dying can take place with caring staff on hand to help. So, in March we launched Death Positive Libraries.

We specially selected a collection of books for adults offering practical information and guidance and created one for children to help initiate conversations about death. These resources and much more are still available in each of our five hubs, so please make use of them and keep the conversation going.  

Cost of living resources

Man in a cafe in a Hampshire Library

As times have become tougher, libraries have supported communities across Hampshire. We put together some helpful resources on the different ways libraries can support you during the cost of living crisis. From learning a new skill to practical resources on budgeting, there’s something for everyone.

That’s a wrap! 

What was your highlight of 2022 and what’re you most looking forward to reading in 2023? Let us know on Facebook or Instagram, and sign up to our newsletter so you can stay up on all your local library’s news in the New Year. 

Have a lovely festive season, and we’ll see you in 2023.  

Author of the Month: Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble is our Author of the Month for December.

Dame Margaret Drabble was born in Sheffield in 1939. She attended a Quaker Boarding School in York then studied English Literature at Cambridge.

She is the author of numerous novels, in a long career chronicling British women’s experience throughout the changing stages of their lives.

She was appointed CBE in 1980 and made DBE in 2008. Margaret was also awarded the Golden PEN Award for a Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature in 2011.

Find her collection of work on our catalogue here.

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

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

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.

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.

Behind the bookshelves with an Area Manager

We caught up with one of Hampshire Libraries Area Managers, Liz, to find out how she came to work with the libraries, her time as a children’s librarian, and her top picks for younger readers.

How did you come to work at Hampshire Libraries?

I’ve always worked in libraries. When I left school, I started working in the libraries in Hull. I went off to university but came back to working in libraries in North Yorkshire after. I came to Hampshire as a Children’s Librarian in Fareham. That was a brilliant thing to do because it’s all about getting the right book to the right child at the right time. It really shaped my way of working. I’m an Area Manager now, so I manage an operational team, keeping the libraries open and developing services, but I think I’ll always be a Children’s Librarian by trade. As a Children’s Librarian, you have to be quite comfortable in front of large groups of children, telling stories in quite extravagant ways. I got to meet so many children’s authors and illustrators as well through book launches and the Wessex Book Fair.

I was so enveloped by children’s books at that time. Parents would come to me with questions like “my child doesn’t really like reading, do you know a book that can help?” or “my child has to go to the dentist soon, are there any books that will help them feel less scared?” and I needed to know those things. Books enable children to articulate what they’re feeling because children don’t always have the language to tell you what they’re thinking. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to somebody through a book than it is to have a direct conversation, especially when children are learning to communicate. Reading develops so much more than literacy and language, it’s empathy and understanding too. Even as an adult reading them, you learn things about the world you didn’t know before. Whether it’s about somebody else’s culture or about being a refugee, they just help you to understand somebody else’s life.

When I was younger, I really struggled to learn to read. I can still remember how humiliating it was because I just couldn’t do it, it was hard. So, I wasn’t really much of a reader when I was a kid, but I think that’s why I really believe it is about getting the right book to the right child at the right time.

Where do you like to read?

I read in bed a lot, but I really enjoy reading on the train. I have family in Yorkshire and if I go to visit them, I like to go by train so I can read and relax. I’ll always take a couple of books with me because I think it’s important to give yourself permission to stop reading something you aren’t enjoying. When we’re younger we have to finish the books that we’re told to read because they’re on the curriculum, and that can make reading feel like a lot of work. But one of the brilliant things about being an adult is that you don’t have to do that.

How do you read?

I usually read in small bits and get through books that way. I don’t tend to listen to audiobooks, I do own an e-reader which is great for reading at night, but I do prefer a physical book.

What do you read?

I’m reading a book called Coasting by Elise Downing and another book about triathlon training. I’m reading a lot of non-fiction lately, but I really like novels and depending on my mood I do love a bit of Chick Lit. I enjoy books with central female characters and books about women’s lives. One novel that really stayed with me was A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier. I really love the writing of Tracy Chevalier, I think they’re just great stories and her novels can give such an insight into the daily hardships of women from the past. Another author who does that really well is Kate Atkinson, particularly in her book Life After Life. The book is set during the second world war and really impressed on me how difficult it is for us to understand what it must have been like to live through that.

In terms of non-fiction, I really enjoy reading books about endurance sports. Over Christmas, I read Relentless by Alistair Brownlee, the Olympic triathlete. It’s a really interesting book because he talks to lots of different sports champions about their mindset and training, from footballers to darts players. I do triathlons and love cycling so it’s definitely a topic that interests me.

I must admit though, in times of stress where you just need a story to wash over you, a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine is Alan Titchmarsh’s novels. They’re so easy to read and there’s always a happy ending. If you’re feeling a bit anxious about something they’re just a proper escape.

What books would you recommend for children and teenagers?

A lot of my favourite picture books aren’t very new, but I think the sign of a good picture book is that it can really stand the test of time. The Blue Balloon by Mick Inkpen would be my first pick. It’s a very simple story about a magical balloon but the book has fold-out bits and some lovely language. I was reading it to a group of children and afterwards, I heard a boy say “I know what indestructible means” because it was used in the book. He must have only been about three or four years old, but he understood that word and how to use it because it was in the book. To me, that just perfectly illustrated how important picture books really are. Peace At Last by Jill Murphy, it’s a great story about poor Mr Bear trying to find somewhere to sleep but wherever he goes there’s a different noise that keeps him up. Another wonderful book is Winnie the Witch by Valérie Thomas and illustrated by Korky Paul. We had a visit from Korky Paul a few years ago and he saw a Winnie doll that I had made myself. He said he liked it so I made me one which lead to him signing a book for me addressed to “The Witch Maker”. But the book I would always give to a new baby is Dear Zoo which is such a classic.

Another genre I do love is teen fiction or YA. I’ve read so much teen fiction it’s difficult to pick favourites but one I really enjoyed is Beauty by Robin McKinley. It’s a wonderful retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story. Quite different but equally brilliant is Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful which is just such a beautiful book. I had a flick through the last couple of pages earlier and it still brings me to tears. When it didn’t win the Carnegie medal for children’s fiction, I was just so disappointed.

If you like books that are a bit more whimsical, I would really recommend Skellig by David Almond. It’s about a couple of kids who find a man in their shed, but the man has wings so it’s as if he’s an angel or something like that. All of David Almond’s books are set in the Northeast of England so they’re all grounded in the Newcastle and Northumberland area. He has this quite beautiful way of writing that builds the relationships between the characters really strongly. Some of them can be quite gritty so the books have quite a realistic aspect to them as well.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman is a must read as well. It was recently turned into a TV series. It shows a different perspective of racism, it’s one of those books that really open your eyes, especially if you’re white.

What books have you loved that might get overlooked?

I really like books about people and their lives. A book I enjoyed reading recently was 12 Birds to Save Your Life by Charlie Corbett. After his mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness and subsequently died, he found a way through his grief by reconnecting with the world through nature and bird songs. It’s more about his experience than about nature so even if birds aren’t your usual subject, you can still really connect with the story. A similar book is the amazing true story by Raynor Winn, The Salt Path. It’s about how she and her husband became homeless just as her husband is diagnosed with a terminal illness. With nowhere else to go, they decided to walk the South West Coast Path. She talks about how it just gave them purpose and time to process what was happening. I actually bought it for my niece last Christmas because, it’s such a wonderful book, I just thought she had to read it.

Make! Book collection

Do you consider yourself creative or do you think that you haven’t got a creative bone in your body?  Either way, Hampshire Libraries has put together a collection of titles for you.  The Make! collection has arrived in selected branches to empower you in your creative skills.  This selection has titles from macramé to song writing, sour dough baking to embroidery, water colours to anime illustration. 

Inspired by Get Creative and the way the population turned to arts and crafts during the lockdowns, this collection has inspiration for everyone from children and their caregivers to teens and adults.  You are never too old to learn a new skill!  Creativity has been shown to improve your mood, self esteem, cognitive function, alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety and now that the world is opening up to us again, joining a creative group can improve your social life.  Hampshire Libraries run many different creative courses – why not give one of them a try? Have a look at and search for a course near you Learning in Libraries

Michael Rosen’s Book of Play
These days, we seem to have less and less time for play. At school, children are focused on exams, while at home we’re all glued to our phones and iPads. Here, Michael Rosen shows us why we need more play in our lives. He explores the influence of play on everyone from Shakespeare to Dickens and Dali, delving into the history of play via puns, nonsense, improvisation and physical toys. He also explains why play is a core part of child development, proven to bolster creativity and resilience. Above all, play should be fun – and this book is full of silliness and laughter. Every chapter features exercises and prompts for creative indoor and outdoor play for all the family, with specially designed pages for scribbling, word play and more

The Art of Repair – Molly Martin
For Molly Martin, it all started with a pair of white woollen socks. Her favourite pair. When the heels became threadbare and a small hole appeared on the right toe, her mother got out her grandmother’s old darning mushroom and showed her how to mend them. In ‘The Art of Repair’, master repairer Molly Martin explores the humble origins of repair and how these simple sewing techniques offer not just a practical solution but a philosophy for life. Using her own charming illustrations, she teaches us the basics of the craft – Kantha, the running stitch used by Bengali women to sew together discarded cloth scraps, saris and dhotis; and Sashiko, the ancient Japanese practice of repairing workwear using a ‘boro’ or ‘little scrap’ – and shows how the art of mending can turn something old and worn into something new and meaningful.

Paint Play – Katie Rose Johnston
Forget everything you think you know about traditional watercolour painting – ‘Paint Play’ will show you how to experiment with paint, use it spontaneously, and have fun, no experience required! Through a series of 21 simple, achievable activities, artist Katie Rose Johnston demonstrates different ways of mixing colours, experiments with textures using salt and cling film, makes spatter art, animal print patterns and much more.

Knit Yourself Calm – Lynn Rowe and  Betsan Corkhill
The therapeutic benefits of knitting have long been recognised and holistic health expert Betsan Corkhill, together with knitting designer Lynne Rowe, create beautiful projects designed to calm and soothe. Suitable for beginners and more experienced knitters, discover how the repetitive process of knitting can relieve stress and improve your well-being.

Quilt Petite – Sedef Imer
Quilt Petite’ contains 18 sweet small quilts designed by Sedef Imer. Learn how to make mini quilts, cushions, table toppers, doll quilts, place mats, potholders, and lots more. It includes detailed instructions on a wide range of techniques such as patchwork, hand and machine quilting, English paper piecing, foundation paper piecing, raw edge applique, free motion applique, and hand embroidery. A range of projects are suitable for both beginners who wish to learn new techniques and for advanced quilters who wish to practice more challenging ones.

Look out for these titles at your local library, you can also find a selection in eBook and eAudio format on BorrowBox.

Written by Ali.