August 2016 Newsletter
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August's News from Bookbag Towers
Well, hello there, readers. We hope you're well. And we hope you're getting back to reading now that Rio 2016 and all the associated Olympic excitements are done and dusted. We have some great books for you to consider this month. So read on...
How many books do you think you might have read over the last three years? You'd be going some if you said a thousand, right? But what if you said 2.500? That would be amazing! Well, Faith Jackson, aged 12, has done just that. She has met authors, been given books, and now is about to be featured in Ripley's upcoming Odd Around the World. We like the cut of your jib, Faith. Keep reading!
The Guardian newspaper recently closed down its dedicated site for children's books. It is a real loss and everyone was sad to see it go. As author SF Said points out, children's book sales make up 30% of the UK market and yet only 3% of the newspaper coverage. This can't be right. If you agree, you might want to sign Said's open letter, which asks newspapers to cover at least one book for children every week. You read about Said's #coverkidsbooks campaign and find a link to sign the letter here.
Talking of books for young people, Penguin have brought out a YA series they're calling Originals. YA is nothing new, you know. And this list brings back some of the old favourites, which are as fresh and as challenging today as when they were first published. From SE Hinton and Robert Cormier to Beverley Naidoo and Berlie Doherty, there is some fabulous stuff here. Waterstone's has a great round-up.
And since we seem to be focusing on children's books this month, how could we let this newsletter go by without mentioning JK Rowling? Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has become the fastest-selling book this decade, selling 680,000 copies in the first three days after its release. And it's not even a novel - it's a script! Add two million copies in two days in North America, plus a slew of five star reviews for the play itself, and you can see just how much everybody still loves Potter.
Finally, have some very good news, fellow bookworms! According to a study by Yale University, we dedicated readers live, on average, and even after adjusting for variables like wealth and education, two years longer than our fellows who never crack open a book. You see? We've been onto something all along. And we don't even need to go to the gym to get those extra years. (We should probably go to the gym too, but sshh about that).
We've not recommended anything food-themed to you for a good long while. So our blast from the past this month is Toast: the Story of a Boy's Hunger by Nigel Slater . The story of Nigel Slater's childhood will have you laughing out loud one minute and reaching for the Kleenex the next. It's about food. It's about childhood. It's about food. It's about sex. And it's also, you guessed it, about food. Toast is a lovely book - warm, rich, evocative. Even tasty! You should read it.
Books of the Month
And on to to the new... . In fiction, we have two books featuring East Asians in America for you. Very different stories but both beautiful reads. Anna loved The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies , which documents the lesser known stories of Chinese migrants in America over more than a century. Today's hot topics focus much on cultures meeting and notions of foreignness, especially in the context of migration. As such, Peter Ho Davies could not have chosen a more current and thought-provoking theme. It's a perceptive take on identities and migration, the novel is not one to be left on the shelf.
Kate recommends Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan. This is the debut novel from Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, but you would never know it. It's an accomplished, unusual, poetically written story about a young Japanese girl, Yuki Oyama, who has lived most of her life in New York. As such, she feels an outsider: the American girls at school ignore her and she finds the rituals of her parents' home suffocating. Her father has hopes of her studying medicine, but the only thing Yuki enjoys is art. It's a well written, unique and engrossing debut novel with a strong emphasis on art, identity and familial bonds.
In non-fiction, John recommends The A-Z of Victorian Crime by Neil R A Bell, Trevor N Bond, Kate Clarke and M W Oldridge. Victorian crime has never ceased to cast its spell, perhaps because it all happened so long ago that it disgusts us less than similar equally dreadful events in our own time. Our never-ending fascination with murders and other misdeeds from the nineteenth century is well catered for in this book which makes a very worthwhile and relatively light read as well as as a work of reference. It also provides an incentive to seek out other works in more detail.
For teens, Jill has two books for you this month. First up is The Call by Peadar o Guilin. The Aes Sidhe are back. And in their quest to win back Ireland from humankind, they have placed a magical seal around the entire island. Nobody can get in or out. North? South? Doesn't matter any more. What does matter is The Call. Fewer than one in ten children survive this trial in the realm of the Sidhe. There are a good many survival game stories about at the moment, but The Call feels fresh and interesting and powerful. It's beautifully paced, remorseless and is peopled with characters you can believe in.
And then there is Here I Stand by Amnesty International . Every so often Amnesty International gets together a number of great authors and produces an anthology of writing. This time, they've done it for younger readers. Twenty-five contributions explore where we are with human rights in today's society: the sacrifices many made to win them; the sacrifices that still need to be made to spread them; how, where and why these rights are under attack and how deep is the need to defend them. This is an important book and also a thought-provoking anthology with some wonderful contributors.
We're always on the look out for people to join our panel of reviewers at Bookbag. We need people who understand that the reader wants to know what the reviewer thinks about the book and not just what's written on the back cover. If you think that you're one of these special people that we're looking for, we want to hear from you. You can find details of how to apply here on the site. Don't be shy!
We have competitions for some great books going this month, and every month, so get entering!
And that's about it for this month. If you're passing Bookbag Towers do pop in and see us – we're at www.thebookbag.co.uk .
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