May 2016 Newsletter

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May's News from Bookbag Towers

Hi, hello and how the devil are you? Read anything good lately? If you're looking for ideas, we can oblige with this month's recommendations and a blast from the past that's worth revisiting. If there's anything you think you can add, do let us know.

We'd like to take a moment to say goodbye to the fabulous Jenny Diski, who died from cancer recently. She wrote a diary in the London Review of Books post-diagnosis and it was as witty and acerbic as all her writing. We will truly miss her. Rest in peace, Jenny.

In more lighthearted news, Remus Lupin is the most recent Harry Potter death to be apologised for by JK Rowling. I'm sorry. I didn't enjoy doing it. The only time my editor ever saw me cry was over the fate of Teddy, she said. Hmph. Too late, Jo, too late!

Did you read about the citizen occupation of the Carnegie Library in South London? Residents were objecting to its closure and transformation into a wellbeing centre - whatever one of those is. It was a sad story of local authority cuts but it was also an uplifting story about people who care about their local services and books and reading and the communities libraries support. Stella Duffy has written a moving piece about the action, which is well worth reading.

Golden Hour

This month, we've decided to go back to 2009 and a book shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize. Bad Science by Ben Goldacre is an hilarious, useful and essential look at the appalling misuses of science throughout society. Part exposé and part educational tool, it's wise and witty and indispensible. Bad science is everywhere. People buy more expensive brand name aspirin than an equal dose in a different packet. Cosmetic adverts are peppered with pseudoscientific breakthroughs and ostensibly positive statistics. Newspapers and TV news (and sadly not just the tabloids) are riddled with scare stories of cannabis being 25 times stronger, or miracle cures that will make everyone and everything fit and healthy immediately. Ben Goldacre cuts through the bull and gives people the tools to spot such nonsense for themselves. It's always worth revisiting.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Rebecca has found a little jewel for those who enjoy historical fiction. Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell is a follow-up to 2013's The Other Typist. The 1950s publishing milieu takes centre stage and as three young people collide over a debated manuscript, Rindell expertly evokes New York City's Beat culture and the post-war paranoia over communism and homosexuality. This classy, well-plotted follow-up will win Rindell even more fans and tide us all over until the film version of The Other Typist – produced by and starring Keira Knightley – appears.

In non-fiction, Luke enthused about Paralian: Not Just Transgender by Liam Klenk . Paralian is an Ancient Greek word, meaning one who lives by the sea. Here, we follow the author's journey through life, narrated by his relationship to water – the river he grew up near, the oceans he crosses, and the water that later becomes his place of work. Uplifting, enlightening and ever engaging, this is a life story filled with dramatic events and major life changes. Well written, with a relatable tone and easy flowing prose, what really shines through is the author's attitude to life. No true life sob story here – this book follows a fascinating journey through life, gently educates on the subject of gender dysphoria, and, above all else, the author's attitude and nature shine throughout, making it a hopeful and mood enhancing read.

For YA readers, Jill was blown away by Whisper to Me by Nick Lake . Cassie lives with her father in a New Jersey beach town. Dad spends most of his time closeted away with his insect collection. He's an ex-Navy SEAL who suffers from PTSD and its concomitant anger issues. Frankly, Cassie finds him best avoided. Cassie herself is doing ok, despite a recent tragedy. Until, that is, she finds a dismembered foot on the beach, thought to be from a victim of a serial killer stalking the locality. A murder mystery, love story and exploration of mental ill health combined, this is a heady, addictive, paralysing read. Wonderful, wonderful stuff from Nick Lake, one of YA's most powerful voices.

For the younger ones, we think you should look at Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster . Eleven year old Joe was born with a rare condition that means he has no immune system and, therefore, no resistance to the germs that surround us in our daily lives. The result is he's spent his whole life trapped in a bubble – a small room in the hospital where the air is filtered and temperature and air purity is constantly monitored. His only escape is through his dreams of being a superhero and, unless something changes, it looks like he'll never get to see the outside world for himself. Beautifully written and perfectly crafted, this is one for the younger reader who looks beyond an action-fuelled plot.


We've been interviewing authors for you again this month and there have been some interesting Q&As.

Sue absolutely refused to be separated from Inside of Me until she found out what happened to anorexic India and her mother. She had quite a few questions for author Hazel McHaffie when she popped into Bookbag Towers. After she read Smart Ani realised that she would never be completely comfortable with her mobile phone again. She had a lot to ask author Joel Mentmore when he called in to see us. Jill thought that Cold Calling was unexpectedly delightful and above all, very, very human.Her conversation with author Russell Mardell was very enlightening.


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 .

All at Bookbag Towers

See what we were reading last year.

(PS – if you don't want to receive further copies of our newsletter please email us and we'll see that you're deleted from the mailing list.)