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: 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

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. 

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

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.

LGBT+ History Month – February 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My recommended books are:

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

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

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