Summer Reading #1

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So this is a very short Q&A I did for our Wednesday Reads blog post series at work. Bonjour Tristesse is a short read, perfect for summer.

What is your job?

Marketing Executive

What do you do day to day?

My main responsibility (or at least one which takes up the most time) is putting together design briefs for a wide variety of promotional material from seasonal catalogues to flyers for book launches to goody bag contents. I oversee print advertising so this involves submitting titles to The Bookseller category spotlights, liaison with academic conference organisers to insert adverts in the programmes and working with a range of publications for advert space. One of the great things about working in a small publishers is you are able to shape your role to a certain extent. Aside from these fixed priorities I have commissioned guest blog posts from authors and topical experts to tie in with campaigns, book releases and national events. I love going to conferences and exhibition fairs – I have immensely enjoyed meeting such interesting characters who have spent years researching a niche area of theology.

What are you reading?

Bonjour Tristesse by Francois Sagan – a beautifully evocative portrayal of the south of France and  summer romance

Where are you reading it?

When I read I don’t want any distractions so I don’t tend to read whilst commuting. I much prefer to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon absorbed in a good book and it’s the perfect way to relax in the evenings too.

How are you reading it?

I will never be a digital convert. I have a beautiful Penguin Modern Classic edition

What percentage have you read?

I’m sadly nearing the end

Would you recommend it?

Definitely – read it if only because when it was released it caused outrage. But seriously, you know it’s good when you read another page at any given opportunity. It’s a coming of age story (with a twist) that is as relevant today as when it was written. It has the sense of revelling in carefree pleasure which really only comes with living a life of privilege without responsibility.

Why does it matter?

It matters because it brilliantly captures a pivotal moment in most people’s lives. Sagan’s style is so atmospheric, that it’s impossible to not be transported and moved by her words. The characterisation is realistic and the storyline poignant.

What else are you reading?

I do love a good psychological thriller and I find they are the perfect holiday read so I’m also reading Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent and Disclaimer by Renee Knight. Thoroughly recommended!

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Critical review of critics

From an author’s perspective, Amazon can be seen as having democratised the way in which a book is reviewed, with reader assessments more representative of the book-reading masses and less obliged to conform to a pre-determined consensus. The internet has provided a means for an ever increasing, easily accessible and vital exchange of opinions in literary criticism. As advertising budgets are slashed in smaller publishing companies and revenue models in the industry adapt to counter the dominance of Amazon, it would seem that reviews have never been so crucial as a way of increasing the exposure of a title at no cost to the publisher. Amateur critics undoubtedly have insights and recommendations which can significantly impact the success of a book and for smaller independent publishers, this word-of-mouth marketing is key.The more books there are, the greater the necessity for a way to navigate the field. Thousands of books are published every year while at the same time pages in newspapers and magazines dedicated to reviewing new releases is diminishing. On the internet, however, every literary niche has its community of readers and critics.

Whilst I acknowledge that there is a case for critical analysis which elevates any discussion of a novel from that of personal taste, the point isn’t that traditional critics are always wrong and bloggers or Amazon reviewers are right, or even that these comments are overwhelmingly negative but rather that authority has migrated from critics to a much wider audience. We live in an age of cultural populism – an age in which readers are not only entitled to their view but are encouraged to share it.

Children & Books

WORLD BOOK DAY takes place today; a celebration of the joy of reading. I can remember as a child cherishing the book tokens and the subsequent deliberation over which book to choose. I thought today would be a chance to write about a topic which I believe presents an often underestimated challenge to society, namely the decline in the number of  children and teenagers who read for pleasure. One manifestation of this issue is the impact it has on a child’s ability to research. Having worked for a time in education after leaving university, I was able to observe how frequently students used the internet to access vast amounts of free information; often typing word for word the title of an essay on Google search and then expecting the answer to be as easily obtained. There was very little desire to explore any given topic further and one has to wonder what effect this will have in terms of their further education, ability to demonstrate initiative and think independently.

The title of my blog reflects the course of events in my own life, the start of a career working with books but also indicates a love of ‘travelling’ by way of reading a book. It is a free form of entertainment being able to absorb the descriptive passages of a novel and view unfolding events through the eyes of a character in a book or discover new facts or places in nonfiction books. It is possible to travel around the world and trace the developments leading up to the modern world through the pages of a book. I believe that sense of wonder is worth attempting to instil in the children of today.

The main objective of World Book Day, this being its seventeenth year, is to encourage children to discover books and a love of reading. Now that publishers are embracing the digital age, I would hope that many more children, a new generation of readers, learn to love books in many different ways. A book is a friend for life so the sooner children start to handle books, look at the pictures and notice the symbols on the page the better. Of all the skills which small children learn from their parents, the most useful one which sets a steady course for successful access to the curriculum and familiarity with words and therefore learning, both in school and the wider world, is the ability to understand and handle language in its written form. Reading to children, however small, teaches them to focus, use their imagination and creates a curiosity for further investigation and experience in a huge range of subjects from astronomy to poetry and from historical epochs to lively fiction in all its forms.

A life without books is a sterile world. Children should be encouraged to read whatever their interest from comics to the great novels of English literature or from an encyclopaedia containing ‘mind-blowing facts’ to the latest teen read. Without books, children’s imaginations are stunted. The demands of the education system move swiftly and those who have not been introduced to books before they enter school are often at a continual disadvantage.