When we do grab a moment to ourselves, the Regional Partnerships team are avid readers. So we went round the desks this week to find out what everyone is reading.
When we drop in on Tammy, she’s busy looking at a set of postcards based on vintage science fiction covers. “I just love the smell,” she says, sniffing a copy of Quatermass and the Pit.
When she’s not sniffing paper, Tammy does also read the words printed on them – in fact her Goodreads numbers are pretty intimidating. Her latest read is The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A **** by Sarah Knight, a how-to book which encourages you to stop stressing about the impositions other people put upon you.
“I’ve only read a couple of chapters so far,” she admits.
“Can you tell the blog readers what you think of it?”
Lyn takes us from the world of sweary self-help into the comforts of fiction.
“I’m a chick-lit girl,” she admits.
Lyn is currently re-reading Angels, by the Irish writer Marion Keyes.
“I go back to her books regularly,” she tells us. “They have these realistic circumstances that you recognise from life – they’re funny but also sad.”
Like Lyn, Deb enjoys books which connect to real experiences – in her case, The Course of Love by Alain de Botton.
“It’s the story of a couple’s journey through love – from the heady days of romance and adoration, to houses and kids and holidays and stress and work, then to those days when every single thing your partner says or does drives you mad.”
Deb says, “The book really captured the challenges of loving someone to bits through the real world of adventures and boring bits and dilemmas.”
On the day of our interviews, Matt had just received the box of science fiction postcards which we caught Tammy sniffing.
“That’s no big deal,” Matt says. “Who doesn’t love the smell of a new book? Or an old book. Or remember when they used to wrap chips in newspaper? That was grand.”
We tell Matt he’s drifting off topic. He hides a copy of Alice Munro’s The Progress of Love under his desk and continues:
“Sorry. In the same box as those postcards, I got a copy of the Squirrel Girl. She’s my favourite hero at the moment – she fights vampire cows! – Except maybe for Neill Cameron’s Mega Robo Bros. They’re two kids who happen to be awesome crime-fighting robots, but also trying to make sense of their identity as they grow into a human world. It’s wicked!”
Louise isn’t reading right now; she’s listening – to the audiobook of Carrie Fisher’s autobiography.
“Reading her obituaries, I realised her life was more complex than I had realised,” Louise says. “So now is my time to dig a bit deeper into her story.”
When we get to Tyler, he’s sharing round a packet of special jelly beans. Each colour of bean has two possible flavours, one delicious and one disgusting. Unfortunately, there’s no bean that smells (or tastes) like paper. Tammy claims that she doesn’t care anyway – clearly she’s been learning from her book.
Never mind! Tyler likes e-books anyway. He has just starting reading Robinson Crusoe. “I felt like I needed to check out the classics, there were quite a lot that I’d never read and they’re free on i-Books, so why wouldn’t you?”
Before that he was reading Matthew Todd’s Straight Jacket: How to be Gay and Happy. “I actually found it kind of depressing,” he says. “It offered quite a pessimistic view of the state of homosexuality which didn’t reflect the way I live my life. So I felt like I needed Robinson Crusoe to move on from it.”
Like Tammy, Chelle devours piles upon piles of books – she struggled to pick one read to share with us. Finally she decides to talk about Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms: “Since Terry Pratchett died last year, I’ve been reading the entire Discworld series chronologically. They’re all brilliant – each book blends wit with real social issues”.
“With searing honesty?” our overenthusiastic reporter asks.
Michelle thinks. “Not searing. Blunt, I’d say. Blunt, but funny. Pratchett can comment on our world in a way that realistic fiction just doesn’t allow, using imaginary places and people. Wyrd Sisters is a great example – the way it uses its witches to talk about ethnicity and identity.”
Janet has just returned from holidays in Europe. Her plan was to re-read Of Mice and Men. “It’s a classic, and a slim one, great for travelling; I often pick up classics when I can’t think what to read next” – but then she was captivated by an artist she discovered in a gallery in Rome.
“I went to an exhibition including work by Artemisia Gentileschi, a painter from the 17th century. I’d studied art but never heard of this woman before. She painted female characters in really strong positions – there’s even one painting of two women beheading a man.”
“When you see someone like Caravaggio depicting that scene, the women will look beautiful but really passive. It’s so common in the history of Western art: the female gaze is excluded. When you look at Gentileschi’s paintings, you can tell that it’s a woman behind the brush. I’d never heard of her before, but I found her totally inspiring. I wanted to know what kind of woman, in that time period, paints this kind of image which is so relevant and so modern.”
All this led Janet to the museum gift shop for her next read – only to find that the book of Gentileschi’s work was in Italian. She’s now hunting for an English-language copy online.
“The point is, sometimes you don’t find inspiration for your next book in a library – it comes from the places you visit, from outside events which spark your desire to discover more.”
What book is keeping you up at night? Comment below to let us know.