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Sunday 31 December 2023

Is it me or have there been fewer articles than usual looking back over the past year, and more pieces about what lies ahead?

Things have been tough on any number of fronts, haven't they, so the newspaper editors can be forgiven for trying to keep our spirits up this weekend (and I'm looking at the Arts pages, of course, let's not get into politics).

We are due, they say, to enjoy a surfeit of great books, numerous compelling film and tv dramas, plus a multitude of groundbreaking music releases and fashion trends to amuse and delight.

It's good to focus on the positive, to be hopeful and optimistic and to keep driving forward (though I have SO many books I still want to read before embarking on yet more new releases...!). 

But it is good to take time out to pause and consider what has gone before. 

To think on how far we've come, what we've enjoyed, who we've spent time with, and how much we've learnt and grown in the challenges we've faced, and the books we've read! 

So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your company in this past year at book groups, author events and here on a Sunday evening. 

I've appreciated all your messages of support and encouragement and your online purchases, and am thrilled that so many of you find these e-newsletters helpful and enjoyable!

I hope we'll continue to read together in 2024, and will meet in person at author events and book groups as the months go by, too.  

And whether you are partying this evening, watching television companionably with family, or curling up with a good book, I wish you a very Happy New Year!

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 24 December 2023

I've changed my mind.

Last week I promised the usual book recommendations in this newsletter but, even though I have three titles I could mention, I've decided not to.

After all, I hope you've already picked out your book for this evening's Jólabókaflóð and tomorrow there may be a new book waiting for you under the tree, chosen with love and care by friends or family, so I don't want to distract you from these treats. 

I hope, then, you'll enjoy whatever book you have close to hand, and I look forward to comparing notes in the new year.

And if, among the people you meet over this festive period, there's anyone you think might like to receive these weekly missives with their reading suggestions, please invite them to sign up by following the link below, or send me an email.

For tonight, I'd like to thank you for all your kindnesses, encouragement and support over the past few months and wish you a very Happy Christmas!

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 17 December 2023

Not long to go now: next Sunday is Christmas Eve!

I'm not signing off just yet - I'm planning to send another newsletter to wish you well for the big day (though my recommendations might leave you hoping for a book token in the parcels under the tree).

Hopefully by this time next week, all the preparations will be complete and we'll be looking forward to spending the day just as we have in years gone past.

It's fun finding out about the different traditions and rituals families adopt, isn't it - when the presents get opened, the annual board game marathon, jigsaws, the King's Speech... This year I'm thinking of introducing a new one. 

It's called Jólabókaflóð. 

I know. It's Icelandic. You pronounce it 'yoh luh boh kuh flawd' apparently.

I've heard about it before and it seems to be quite popular in magazines and newspapers this year. But there's a lovely description of it on the Arctic Adventures website here

It's an Icelandic tradition where on the night before Christmas, you give and receive new books, and read and share stories together.

Doesn't that sound wonderful? People often say to me that it's all very well my giving out recommendations and running author events, but really they'd like me to provide them with time to read all these books.

Well, this is it! Light a fire, put on some beautiful Christmas music (I'm thinking Carols from King's rather than Noddy Holder), make some hot chocolate or put out some special beers (traditional for this night in Iceland apparently), and gather friends or family (or the cat) for some restful and magical reading, whether in silence or taking it turns to read aloud. I can't wait!

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 10 December 2023

It's been another busy week - and I have only just started on my Christmas preparations, so I'm feeling very much on the back foot! 

After meeting Lee Child last week and hearing what he had to say about the contribution libraries made to him as a child, this week I explored two very different approaches to libraries today.

Suffolk Libraries is continuing to innovate and expand its role as a community hub - I spoke to their recently appointed 'environmentalist in residence' who is leading workshops in upcycling and mending.

A few days earlier, in researching another article, I travelled to Nottingham to visit a subscription-based, member-only library called Bromley House founded in the 18th century and still going strong. 

There are a considerable number and variety of independent libraries throughout the country and many are thriving, offering very specific book collections, local history resources, programmes of educational classes and courses, while also lending the latest book releases and providing a comfortable, attractive and stimulating environment for their members to enjoy.

As information is increasingly available through digital means, it's interesting to see how many of us still relish poring over yellowing pages, reverently stroking leather covers, and enjoying a connection with readers and writers from centuries before. While the digitisation of information is vital and and an incredible resource, there's something very special in reading, handling and being in the presence of original books and documents, and being among likeminded individuals, a community of booklovers.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Well I've had quite a week and I'm pleased to say everything has gone brilliantly! Thank you to everyone who has come along to the events and meetings. I hope you enjoyed it all as much as I did.

Nicola Upson charmed us with her passion for Josephine Tey, Alfred Hitchcock and Daphne du Maurier as she described researching and writing her latest novel 'Shot with Crimson'. And afterwards it really was very special being able to see 'Rebecca' on the big screen. The Riverside Cinema was the perfect venue to launch this fabulous novel.

Adam Henson was wonderfully warm and entertaining, as we knew he would be. And it was a good job he could speak quickly as there was so much he wanted to share with us. We could have listened to him all night but he had to get back in the car and drive four hours back to the Cotswolds after our event at The Riverside.

There were two book groups for me to lead this week - our regular monthly meeting in Woodbridge discussed 'Saltwater' by Jessica Andrews, and this raised many topics of interest and debate. And I met with children at Woodbridge Primary School to talk about the book we've been reading there this term. 'The Final Year' by Matt Goodfellow was a huge hit with them all!

Then to round off my week, I met with the megastar Lee Child. He was on a short visit to London promoting his Jack Reacher tv series and he kindly spoke to me about his support of Suffolk Libraries. He was fantastic! You'll be able to find out what he told me about writing, reading and Reacher in my article in 'Suffolk' magazine early next year.

With all this going on, I haven't had much time for reading this week so I hope you'll forgive me for not providing my usual list of recommendations. Instead please take a look at the list supplied by members of the book group at our end-of-the-year meeting here.

Normal service will resume next week I hope - I've got a lovely selection of books to choose from!

Thank you for reading.