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Sunday 16 January 2022

This month is known for dampening spirits. The dark days, gloomy weather and at the moment the demoralising and aggravating news stories.

So I was pleased to hear an inspiring and uplifting life story on Desert Island Discs the other day.

Simon Reeves got into trouble in his school days. He played truant, carried knives, mixed with the wrong crowds, left with no qualifications and was on the verge of suicide, yet the constant support of his family, a meeting with a kindly woman in a job centre and working hard at a menial job led to him turning his life around and having the most extraordinary opportunities.

It's a story of hope and redemption and his book recounts how he is now using his privileged role to inform, educate and entertain tv viewers about situations and populations of which we might be unfamiliar. It's encouraging, stimulating and energising. Just what I need at the moment!

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 9 January 2022

There's been a lot of attention this week on recognising achievement through awards, prizes and honours.

Among the more than usually heated debate about individuals included in this year's Honours List, there are some familiar literary names with Suffolk links.

The prolific and talented writer Anthony Horowitz has been given a CBE for his services to literature. Known for his Alex Rider young adult books, his recent murder mystery titles set in Suffolk and his tv dramas such as 'Foyle's War', he has also written James Bond and Sherlock Holmes novels and many tv and film scripts and adaptations. He has an extraordinary output!

Starting out on her literary career, Suffolk resident Kate Sawyer, who spoke to us on the launch of The Stranding, was shortlisted for the best debut novel in this year's Costa prize. While she may not have won, being shortlisted has undoubtedly given her a welcome and deserved profile.

While prizes and titles are lovely to receive - to know that our work and our contribution has been noted and appreciated - few of us will be able to experience or bestow such accolades. And in fact are they always really necessary? Sometimes it's important to realise what a privilege it is to work on something we enjoy doing and where we gain fulfilment from it. And a simple thank you from a stranger out of the blue can be a real blessing.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 2 January 2022

Happy new year! Here's hoping for better times in 2022...

One thing we can be sure about in the coming twelve months is that there'll be many more great new books released for us to read!

Of course, 'so many books, so little time' is a common refrain. And how to choose what book to read next...

I've mentioned before that when I first started working, I found that I wasn't reading at all so set myself a challenge to finish a certain number of books a year. I think it must have been one a month to start with, but then it soon turned to one a week. And now I'm reading a few times that number - 126 in 2021.

I like to think I read fairly widely in research for my journalism, preparation for author visits, and for reviews and recommendations, as well as just plain interest and curiosity. It means, though, that these days I hardly ever read any literary classics or poetry.

In the blog compiled for Pan Macmillan, we are encouraged to set out our own reading challenge this year, trying books we might otherwise overlook. There are some interesting suggestions: travel the world; prize winners and losers; a poem a day/week/month; overcome prejudices and dip into an unfamiliar genre. 

Meanwhile the Agatha Christie website has its own challenge for 2022 with twelve prompts to pick up a different Christie novel each month. You can sign up for a postcard which will suggest, for example, that you start reading one of her books set in a hot climate, or one featuring train travel or a story she wrote while abroad.

And one blogger I discovered has set herself the task of reading as many books as she can this year, putting a pound in a jar for every title she completes. At the end of the year she will give the total to charity. 

Lots of ways we can shake up our habits, but however you make your selections, I hope you enjoy your reading in the coming year.

Sunday 26 December 2021

I hope you've had a happy Christmas!

It's seemed rather strange, hasn't it? We've not been able to invest wholeheartedly in the usual plans to meet friends and family, nor have we been able to celebrate fully with all the illness around. But also the fact that Christmas Day fell on a Saturday this year made the lead up rather odd, a little disorientating? But of course I am never really clear what day it is in these current times.

Anyway, I hope you were able to spend time with family and enjoyed good food and conversation. Perhaps, too, you were the recipient of some carefully chosen reading material?!

I am rarely given books these days, but I can always rely on one friend who is brave enough to find a title that I would never have picked out myself. This year I was given a novel by Mary Wesley. I can't remember the last time I read one of her books, and I've only dipped into the first page so far, but it's made me feel very nostalgic and I'm looking forward to making the leap in the next few days. Apparently the book, or rather the author, was carefully selected to remind me that it's 'never too late'. Mary Wesley was famously aged 70 when her first book was published!

Like many people, I am prone to procrastination but the past couple of years have proved a salutory reminder that we should value the present, making the most of every moment because we don't know what's in store. Whether it's fulfilling a long-held ambition, meeting up with a distant friend, or going out for a special meal with family, it's important to do these things while we can rather than assume there will be more time, better weather or greater choice tomorrow, next week or next year.

I hope you are able to enjoy this festive period. There are no reading recommendations listed below because I trust that you received books among your Christmas gifts, but next week we'll be looking ahead to a new year of reading and possibly anticipating an author visit too!

Thank you for reading. Happy Christmas!

Sunday 19 December 2021

There are just a few more days until Christmas and once again things are unsettled and uneasy. But we still have good books to delve into for escape, stimulation and hope for the future - if we choose wisely.

Many newspapers and magazines are offering round-ups of titles which their editors consider the best reads from the past twelve months, and in 'Suffolk' magazine, you can read some bookseller picks here. So we're never short of recommendations at this time of year.

But I've got into the habit of looking to the list compiled by the former US president, Barack Obama. It's usually an eclectic and intriguing mix. You can take a look at his titles for 2021 here. He has lists of his music and movie choices too - no mentions for Kermit the Frog or Peppa Pig.

So I hope you are able to enjoy this last week of preparations, stay well, and have a very happy Christmas.

Thank you for reading.