Tag Archives: reading

Wellcome Book Prize Blog Tour

As you know I usually only feature fiction books on acrimereadersblog. I don’t read an awful lot of non-fiction. However there are some exceptions to this, and The Butchering Art was one. Author Lindsey Fitzharris was talking at the York Literature Festival but unfortunately I was unable to attend. So when I was invited to take part in the Blog Tour for the Wellcome Book Prize I jumped at the chance to read a copy of her book.

The Wellcome Book Prize celebrates the best new books that illuminate our encounters with health and medicine. The Butchering Art tells the story of Joseph Lister. In the 19th Century operating theatres were known as ‘gateways to death’ over half the people who had surgery died on the table. Lister was one of the first to believe that germs caused death and that antiseptic could kill them. This was a shocking claim in an era where surgeons didn’t even bother washing their hands before cutting people open! With lots of graphich detail, The Butchering Art is a fascinating tale of Victorian hospitals, where the cleaners were paid more than the surgeons.

The following extract gives a flavour of the book which is available on amazon.

Lister escaped many of the dangerous medical treatments that some of his contemporaries experienced while growing up, because his father believed in vis medicatrix naturae, or “the healing power of nature.” Like many Quakers, Joseph Jackson was a therapeutic nihilist, adhering to the idea that Providence played the most important role in the healing process. He believed that administering foreign substances to the body was unnecessary and sometimes downright life-threatening. In an age when most medicinal concoctions contained highly toxic drugs like heroin, cocaine, and opium, Joseph Jackson’s ideas might not have been too wide of the mark. Because of the household’s dearly held principles, it came as a  surprise to everyone in the family when young Lister announced that he wanted to be a surgeon— a job that involved physically intervening in God’s handiwork. None of his relations, except a distant cousin, were doctors. And surgery, in particular, carried with it a certain social stigma even for those outside the Quaker community. The surgeon was very much viewed as a manual laborer who used his hands to make his living, much like a key cutter or plumber today. Nothing better demonstrated the inferiority of surgeons than their relative poverty. Before 1848, no major hospital had a salaried surgeon on its staff, and most surgeons (with the exception of a notable few) made very little money from their private practices. But the impact a medical career might have on his social and financial standing later in life was far from Lister’s mind when he was a boy. During the summer of 1841, at the age of fourteen, he wrote to his father, who was away attending to the family’s wine business, “When Mamma was out I was by myself and had nothing to do but draw skeletons.” Lister requested a sable brush so that he could “shade another man to shew the rest of the muscles.” He drew and labelled all the bones in the cranium, as well as those of the hands, from both the front and the back. Like his father, young Lister was a proficient artist— a skill that would later help him to document in startling detail his observations made during his medical career.

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Endless Night

Now I never thought I would have to write the following sentence.

Apparently some people don’t like crime fiction.

I know it’s quite unbelievable isn’t it? How can people possibly not enjoy a good tale of murder and intrigue? Personally I don’t get it. It’s like people who don’t like red wine or cheese. I know people like that exist but these are not people who I’m likely to become friends with.

However maybe investigating life outside crime fiction isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have recently read The History of Bees. I admit this is not something I would have picked up myself. Mr F bought it for me, as he’d seen something about it (on facebook I imagine!) Not being particularly at home in a bookshop he’ll have dashed in, asked a shop assistant for a copy and dashed out again. Clearly this is not a crime fiction book. I’ll be honest when he gave it to me I did start to wander if he knew me at all. However in the interests of home harmony I gave it a go. Well once I started I couldn’t put it down, this is a superb novel. I’d highly recommend it to everyone and I’m very glad I was given it, as otherwise I don’t think I would ever have read it.

That’s one of the great things about World Book Night, it encourages people to not only read more but to read stories they wouldn’t necessarily pick up. York Libraries are celebrating World Book Night in just that way. As well as encouraging people to donate books for Bookcase For All, they are also sharing the book love by asking people to donate a new copy of their favourite book to a library for others to enjoy, and to encourage a friend or neighbour to join the library. They are also getting people to read something different by asking the librarians for recommendations of books that have inspired them or going onto goodreads to tell people what books they enjoy.

As readers of this blog will know I am passionate about reading, and think anything that gets people reading is a good thing, I also think that people who love books also love talking about them. That’s why World Book Night and York’s celebration of it is such a good idea. Although I do think one night isn’t long enough, it should be endless!  We all love to talk about books, and when you read something that is really gripping you want to tell everyone about it. Running ‘bookcase for all’ is another excuse for me to bang on about books and reading. It’s such a thrill for me when someone comes back after having taken a book I’ve recommended and asks if we’ve anymore by that author (admittedly in a recent case he asked if I had any more by Mark Birmingham, fingers crossed he meant Billingham or he may have been rather disappointed!)

So maybe there is something to be said for broadening one’s horizons in the reading world after all (I’m never going to like white wine though!)

World Book Night is on the 23rd April. Find out more about York’s celebration at York Explore or via the York Press

Also keep an eye out for Bookcase For All on Look North next week, potentially Monday!

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The City

According to the BBC, York has been voted the best place to live in the UK. Having been here for a few years since the age of 18 (Yes ok so technically I’ve been here a couple of decades rather than a few years but let’s not split hairs!) I would agree on the whole, although maybe not for the same reasons.

According to the highly trustworthy BBC (unless it’s the weather forecast which is always wrong) York is the perfect mix of heritage and hi-tech. Heritage yes but hi-tech? I am clearly missing something! I know that we have the the National Railway Museum but I’m not sure World’s fastest steam engine could be classed as hi-tech nowadays? The mystery plays are a fantastic thing to watch and this year they will be featuring a movable stage which of course is quite hi-tech I suppose (or at least it was when it was first done back in medieval times!)

What wasn’t mentioned in the report of course was one of my favourite things about York – no not the pubs and bars before you think it – but the libraries. We have a fantastic library service which puts on some great events. For example last week I went on a course to learn how to make notebooks. It was a fun day although I suspect Paperchase may be a bit worried about a fall in their profits now I can make my own. Stationary being my second favourite purchase after books.

York library also has a high crime rate. Not people walking off with a Winsey Willis biography under their arm, or pilfering the drawing pins from the notice board, but crime fiction events. Last year we had some big hitters talking including Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah. There was also Mark Billingham and Chris Brookmyre. This was a hilarious evening, made all the better personally by the looks on the faces of some of the attendees. Clearly two women behind me thought the event was going to be a talk by the WI about jam making rather than one involving frozen chickens in public toilets and dead bodies.

Coming up next month is another exciting sounding event called CSI’s in York – from the writing duo Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper better known as Ashley Dyer. They are spending the afternoon showing us how to lift fingerprints and identify shoe evidence (you never know when that might come in handy)

Whilst I may not agree with some of the reasoning behind York being voted the best place to live, I certainly agree with the sentiment. Where else could you learn how to investigate a murder, see the only memorial in the country to women who lost their lives during the First World War and drink in a Viking bar all in the same afternoon? Not necessarily hi-tech but pretty amazing all the same.

Tickets for CSI’s in York are still available https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/event/csis-in-york-the-truth-about-forensic-investigating/https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/event/csis-in-york-the-truth-about-forensic-investigating/

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The Book Case

So Tuesday was my first trip out with Bookcase For All. For those who don’t know the idea is that we provide books for the homeless and vulnerable in York. When people think of the city of York they think of historical buildings, great tourist attractions, and for those of us of a certain age the Blue Peter competition to design a boss for the ceiling of York Minster. Whilst there is no denying that York is a beautiful place and we are very lucky to live here, like most places there are those who are struggling with the high cost of living, and with life in general. York has a high population of homeless and it seems like this is a problem that is just getting worse.

One good thing however is that there are some fantastic organisations within York providing essential items to people in need. The Lunar Project concentrates of period poverty and provides an outreach service twice a week, as well as providing boxes of towels and tampons in schools. Another excellent project around is Kitchen for Everyone York (KEY). They provide a hot meal on a Tuesday night as well as a cooked breakfast on a Sunday. Mr F can sometimes be found cooking sausages and bacon at KEY on a weekend (which is great for me as it means he’s not stinking out my kitchen frying it!)

One idea that had been brewing with me for a while was the idea of providing books for those who would like them. You often see people on the streets quietly minding their own business reading a book. As someone who reads a lot it bothered me that not everyone can afford to buy books, and whilst I am a huge fan of the library, without an address you can’t get a library card. Having done a bit of research there was no specific place I could donate books to try and reach vulnerable people. Therefore the idea for Bookcase For All (BFA) was born, and thanks to KEY a venue was offered to trial.

Everyone warned me not to get too disappointed if I didn’t get any takers to start with, it takes time to build up trust with people. However, my first outing was a huge success with over ten books taken and lots of requests for different genres and themes. What struck me both at BFA and when I went out with the Lunar Project, is the absolute lack of greed of people with nothing. When we were out offering hot drinks, alongside socks and gloves people were only taking items if they needed them. At BFA anyone who came up to chat was told to take anything they wanted from my pile of books, yet people were not just grabbing anything. They were picking up, and looking and choosing just like a proper library.

The other thing that surprised me and really shouldn’t have is that readers are all similar no matter what their home life. They all love books. They love to talk about books – what they have read, what they would like to read, what they are currently reading. People who like to read all like to talk about what they read.

However, the big thing I noticed is how narrow my own reading choices are.  As you know I read crime fiction, therefore 99% of the books I own are crime fiction. Therefore all of the books that I had for my first BFA were crime fiction. To me this didn’t seem to be a problem, yet apparently there are some weird people out there who don’t read crime fiction. Luckily I was saved by a donation from a friend which meant I had a much more eclectic mix of books to offer.

What it has taught me though is I’m definitely going to need a better source of books than just my own bookshelves, so if anyone is in York and has any books they could donate do let me know.

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Children of the revolution

As you all hopefully know, today is World Book Day. In fact it is the 20th anniversary of the day. I can imagine for parent’s the joy of this day is slightly tempered by the need to suddenly create an entire Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory out of an old washing up liquid bottle, an egg box and some sticky back plastic, but to me it’s a really positive day.

Everywhere you go people are talking about books. On the radio, in the papers, even people in the office are showing off pictures of their nephews and nieces dressed as book characters and discussing what they read as a child. Books are such exciting things.  Therefore I was rather surprised to read in the paper that last year 25% of children between eight and 11 had used their £1 book token to buy their first ever book. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great that the day allowed all those children to buy books. I just can’t imagine not having bought a book by the age of eight.

Admittedly I don’t actually remember buying books when I was eight, that was what parent’s and adults were for. Yet I remember books being everywhere, and I was a child before Harry Potter had even been thought of. We still had Enid Blyton, lots of books about girls with ponies, and of course what is still one of my favourites today, Winnie the Pooh. Even if we weren’t buying books, there were regular family trips to the local library or at one point there was a mobile library which came to us, books on wheels. Libraries were a great way to encourage us to read. Even the Father would come with us and pretend to read a paper whilst sat in the corner.

More disturbingly for me however, the article went on to say that one in 10 people within the UK did not own a book. One in 10 people did not own a book. That’s so shocking it deserves repeating twice.  I suspect Mr F would rather I owned less books, as it is getting close to a choice between my books and space for him, and that is a tricky choice. However to not own even one book I find very sad. The article doesn’t specify what type of book. I assume it means only fiction and therefore doesn’t include things such as cook books (everyone has to own at least one cook book don’t they, even if it’s just a Delia Smith how to boil an egg?) However still that to me is quite a shocking statistic. It makes me want to go and find all these people and give them a book. To be fair I probably do have enough to help out quite a lot.

That’s why I think something like World Book Day is so exciting and is starting a new revolution of readers. If all those children who are buying their first book continue to love reading, then books will be everywhere. Plus it will mean the next generation of parents have something to do whilst they are waiting for the superglue to dry on their child’s Harry Potter costume in 20 years time.

http://www.worldbookday.com/

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Nemesis

So with one week and two days left to go until the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival I thought I’d have a bit of a check where I am with the TOPCWFC 2016. I had high hopes this year. Looking through the list there were a lot of authors that I’ve seen before and therefore there was a high chance that I had read something of theirs already. However it does look like sadly I may have taken on more than I can chew yet again. This challenge is beginning to be my nemesis.

On the positive side, I’ve realised I’d counted wrong in my initial plan. I had counted two authors separately although they write as a team, and I’ve also excluded one author on the grounds he only writes true crime and this is a fiction challenge (my challenge my rules!) However with only nine days before the festival I still have 4 authors to go. Now admittedly as I write this I’m about to finish an audio book of one, and I’m halfway through another in hard copy, yet I still suspect it’s going to be a case of so near yet so far.

Out of interest though I’ve listed all those books I have read below. Obviously with some authors I’ve read most of their novels and so I’ve just listed the most recent one. It was actually quite an interesting exercise going through the authors and seeing what I’d read. Although it has made me realise how many new books there are out there that I really want to read. If only I could find a job that would pay me to read books all day, fingers crossed for next year.

The TOPCWFC 2016

  1. Linwood Barclay – Broken Promise
  2. Mark Billingham – Time of Death (audiobook)
  3. Peter James – A Twist of the Knife
  4. Sharon Bolton – Little Black Lies
  5. Mari Hannah – The Murder Wall
  6. Ysra Sigurdardottir – The Silence of the Sea
  7. Julia Crouch – The Long Fall
  8. Helen Fitzgerald – The Cry
  9. Paula Hawkins – Girl on a Train
  10. Clare Mackintosh – I let you go
  11. Alex Marwood – The Wicked Girls
  12. Simon Brett – The Hanging in the Hotel
  13. Frances Brody – A Death in the Dales
  14. Ann Granger – Dead In the Water (audio)
  15. Catriona McPherson – Quiet Neighbours
  16. Ruth Ware – In a Dark Dark Wood
  17. Elly Griffiths – The Crossing Places
  18. Brooke Magnanti – The Turning Tide
  19. Kate Medina – Fire Damage
  20. Val McDermid – Splinter the Silence
  21. Sophie Hannah – A Game for all the Family (audio)
  22. Simon Kernick – The Murder Exchange
  23. Laura Lippman – After I’m Gone
  24. Martyn Waites – The Dolls House (Yes technically its Tania Carver but its my rules!)
  25. Laura Wilson – The Wrong Girl
  26. Jeffrey Deaver – The Skin Collector
  27. Mark Lawson – The Deaths
  28. Gerald Seymour
  29. Martin Holmen – Clinch
  30. J S Law – Tenacity (audiobook)
  31. Beth Lewis
  32. Abir Mukherjee – A Rising Man
  33. NJ Cooper – Vengence in Mind
  34. Paul Mendleson – The serpentine road
  35. Deon Meyer – Devil’s Peak
  36. Margie Orford – Daddy’s Girl
  37. Michael Stanley –
  38. (Micheal Sears and Stanly Trollop one author above)
  39. Pierre Lemaitre – Blood Wedding
  40. Bernard Minier – The Frozen Dead
  41. SJ Parris – 
  42. Martina Cole – The Life
  43. Tess Gerritsen – Last to Die
  44. Charles Cumming – A Divided Spy
  45. Frank Gardner (True Crime so not in the challenge)
  46. Kate Rhodes – River of Souls
  47. Gillian Slovo – Ten Days
  48. Neil Cross – Captured

 

 

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A time of torment

Now that the Viking invasion of half term has finally departed, this week I treated myself to a trip into town to partake in one of my favourite pastimes – browsing round Waterstones bookshop. I like to head straight to the back of the shop avoiding all the gift buyers and get stuck into the crime section. As usual I start with the tables in the middle of the shelves which are piled up with books displayed by theme. Then I head to the start of the crime section, which is where my plan fell to pieces. It seemed they’d moved the section. I looked around in a panic, what’s a book shop after all without a good stock of crime fiction? This would be a complete torment for me to live in a city without a crime section in the bookshop. Yet it soon became clear that whilst the initial panic was unfounded, there was still crime novels galore, there was a new problem. The crime novels were now all just mixed in amongst a general fiction section stretching round the store.

This was not good for me. I don’t like change. I also like to be able to go into a bookshop and head straight to the crime section knowing that whatever I’m picking up is crime. I like to know I’m not going to pick up a book and end up with a mills and boon (which I was a big fan of when younger, mainly because Jilly Cooper was a lot harder to sneak past the parents but the sex scenes were just as good) or much worse something dungeons and dragons based. My reading matter rarely deviates from anything that isn’t classified as crime. This new layout therefore really seems to be rather at odds with what I like, so it was time to express my annoyance.

Clearly nowadays the idea of writing letters to the local newspaper is practically akin to sending smoke signals. Outraged from York has long been in retirement. Therefore I did what all modern annoyed people do and I took to twitter to express my disgust. Rather surprisingly I swiftly received a reply to my tweet from one of the most high ranking authors in crime fiction. Once I’d come down off the roof thanks to the excitement of getting the tweet, I actually read it. Suddenly rather than seeing the concept of all fiction being in one big pile as a negative thing, I was open to the idea that this actually was a good way to ‘broaden your horizons’

I do love is discovering new authors. One of the best things about both writing this blog and of course attending the festival is the joy of discovering new writers and styles that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up yourself. I have also in the past read non crime fiction and really enjoyed it. So I completely agree that mixing the books altogether could potentially mean I discover new authors which is obviously a good thing.

However there is still a part of me that is a little bit sad about this change. I always loved the fortnightly trip to the library and this hasn’t disappeared as an adult. The difference is now I always look for the little blue sticker with the handcuffs on it so I know I’m a getting a crime novel. Which leads me to the biggest issue that this is going to cause me, and that’s one of time. Whilst I’m looking forward to discovering new authors the sheer time I’m going to need to browse through all those books is scary. I wonder if part time working is feasible? Or maybe rather than seeing it as a Saturday morning treat I should just get a job in a bookshop.

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