Encourage Reading and keep our Libraries

Labour Party

I was pleased to see this article by Lisa Jardine on the BBC website today.

Lisa, who incidentally is a neighbour of mine, living in the same Bloomsbury mansion block, hits the nail on the head.

It’s the content – what the book is about, what it says, how it says it and how the reader reacts – rather than its cover and binding which really matter. 

It was interesting to see that Lisa is reading Tony Blair’s much vaunted biography A Journey in e-book form. I have bought the hardback and am about to start my own particular journey through its 690 pages.  Faced with the prospect of carrying it to St Pancras International and then on the Eurostar, then from Brussels Midi station to the European Parliament and finally back to my flat in Brussels, I am seriously beginning to wish I had bought something which would allow me to read it electronically.  May be this will be the incentive I need.

The huge sales of Blair’s biog is just the latest in a line of best-selling books which truly demonstrate that reading is not in decline.  Lisa Jardine mentions the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books and the way Oprah Winfrey built up her book club.  I would perhaps add Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson and Labour Party supporter Ken Follett as two further authors who prove the art of reading is still very much alive and well.

However, I have to concede that the public library is not what it was.  Nevertheless, libraries still provide a valuable resource for adults, and particularly children, to explore the written word and become the readers of the future.

As the Coalition Government seeks to make massive cuts in public spending, let’s hope there are those in their midst who understand the importance of the arts in general and reading in particular.  The cultural industries generate considerable wealth for the UK.  They should be supported and encouraged.

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

Labour Party

I will come clean straight away and confess that my progress through the Man Booker shortlist has been completely disrupted by Stieg Larsson.  Tempted by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I became totally and utterly hooked and have now read all three – The Girl who played with Fire and The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  It’s been a long time, if ever, that I’ve read anything so compelling, such a ripping good yarn with a dose of Swedish social conscience.  Do go for it, but make sure you are either on holiday or otherwise have nothing too pressing to do as I assure you, you won’t be able to put any of the books down.

 Back to The Glass Room, the best of the shortlist after the winner. Wolf Hall.  It’s also set in the past, though this time only the middle of the last century, starting before the Second World War. 

At the end of the 1920s a wealthy, partly Jewish, Austrian family build a very modern house of glass where they hold musical soirees and generally live a privileged life.  The rise of Hitler and the War put paid to all of that and the family leaves the house for the United States.  Eventually the heroine comes back to Austria and is reunited with her oldest friend.

The book isn’t, in fact, as trite as this outline sounds.  Taking the house as its central feature, The Glass Room explores nationality, religion, war and the relationships between men and women with some degree of originality.  Written in an easy style, it’s a good read and will repay the time invested in it.