Tag Archives: #readwomen2014

World Book Night 2015

It’s nearly here. Thursday 23rd April is World Book Night 2015. It’s the time to celebrate and promote books and reading.

169 World Book Night logoThousands of books from the list (see below) are given away on the night to encourage the 35% of people who do not read regularly. The list therefore includes lots of different kinds of books, so there is something that will appeal everyone. World Book Night seems to be fading in other countries, but in the UK we have the Reading Agency to keep it strong.

Members and staff of the Society of Authors is taking part in an event at Shelter from the Storm, a free London homeless shelter.

Here is the list of books for World Book Night 2015:

  1. After the Fall by Charity Norman (Allen and Unwin)
  2. Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M. C. Beaton (Constable, Little, Brown)
  3. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb (HarperCollins)
  4. Chickenfeed by Minette Walters (Pan Macmillan)
  5. Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson (Head of Zeus)
  6. Dead Man Talking by Roddy Doyle (Quick Read) (Vintage)
  7. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Pan Macmillan)
  8. Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy, ed Neil Astley (Bloodaxe)
  9. Honour by Elif Shafak (Penguin)
  10. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (Orion / Hachette Children’s)
  11. Prime Suspect by Lynda La Plante (Simon & Schuster)
  12. Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle (Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House)
  13. Skellig by David Almond (Hachette Children’s)
  14. Spring Tide by Cilla and Rolf Börjlind (Hesperus)
  15. Street Cat Bob by James Bowen(Quick Read) (Hodder)
  16. The Martian by Andy Weir (Penguin)
  17. The Moaning of Life by Karl Pilkington (Canongate)
  18. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Penguin)
  19. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (John Murray)
  20. When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman (Headline)
Three children reading a book together in a village in Nepal, April 2011. Photo by Nirmal Dulal via wikicommons

Three children reading a book together in a village in Nepal, April 2011. Photo by Nirmal Dulal via wikicommons

What can you do for World Book Night?

Visit the World Book Night 2015 web page.

Read a book from the list.

Aim to read the whole list before World Book Night 2016.

Give a friend a book from the list.

Give two friends two books from the list.

Buy all the listed books that you don’t already own.

Girl Reading by Homer Winslow

Girl Reading by Homer Winslow

Suggest reading a book from the list in your reading group.

Make a donation to support World Book Night.

Leave a book from the list on a train, in a café or in some other public place to be found by a stranger.

Read a book from the list that you wouldn’t have read if it wasn’t included.

Send the link to this post by Twitter to all your followers.

Read all the books on the list by women (the proportion has increased from previous years, according to #readwomen2014).

La Lecon by Renoir

La Lecon by Renoir

I first blogged about World Book Night 2015 last December. You can read that blogpost here.

Tell us what you will do for World Book Night. Tell what you have done for WBN.

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The Craft of Blogging – (7) Finding Readers

Is anyone out there? Is anyone reading my blog? I sometimes wondered, especially when I started, but even after nearly two years I check my blog readership most days. One reason to blog, for me, is because it is a kind of ‘citizen publishing’. So there’s no point unless I find readers.

138 google logoThanks to Google Analytics I know quite a bit about how many people read my blog each day, what they are reading and whether they are new readers or returners. I know that if I write about books, the physical objects, I get many comments. Acquiring books, arranging books, decluttering books, art made from books and books for prisoners – these have always provoked responses. My most recent post on this theme is Abandoning Books, which is still attracting interest.

Last SeptemberAnd I also know, thanks to Google Analytics, that some of my book reviews are ‘stayers’, that is that they are read steadily – every week they appear in my top 10 most-read posts. Occasionally another review will join the standards: recently my comments on The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen became even more popular than the evergreen review of Mrs Palfrey in the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor. Other reviews rise and then fall away again, like Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys.

mrspalfrey greenThis feedback is very helpful to me to understand the blog’s readership. The statistics are useful, especially as I am not interested in simply maximising the number of readers, for this is not a commercial blog. Rather I want to know which posts are being read.

Getting readers

Here are six things I have learned about building readership in two years of blogging.

  1. Quality matters

138 Oblique bookshelfThe advice from successful bloggers is to post quality items at regular intervals. One reason I am a slow blogger is that I want to be sure of the quality of my writing, after all writing is the subject of my blog. Not only do the books I write about deserve good attention but so do the readers of the blog. Sloppy writing on a post can easily put readers off. I have not returned to blogs where I have suffered this.

And good quality posts include interesting pictures and links.

  1. Post at regular intervals

Regular intervals? Well, I am not sure about this. Do they mean frequent? I’ve said I am a slow blogger. I vary posts irregularly between five and six days. I don’t have any evidence that the variation affects my readership. Some people say that there are good days for posting. Certainly I know that the day fewest readers visit my blog is Saturday. But I doubt whether the day of posting makes much difference to bibliophiles.

  1. Have a subscription button

138 subscribeI encourage readers to subscribe at the end of every post. [Have you signed up?] This means that a steady group of people receive notifications of new posts.

  1. Use twitter to promote the blog

I follow and am followed by many more people on twitter than on my blog. Many of them declare bookish interests. I use hashtags to promote blog-related tweets including about my posts and often they pass them on … hooray for social media. The bookish ones I use are described by blogger Paula Read Nancarrow. I also use #readwomen2014 because I like to promote women writers. I blogged about that here.

  1. Use other connections

When I started blogging two years ago I sent all my friends the link via email. I now have an http link in my e-mail ‘signature’ which I rarely remove. Sometimes I send a friend a link to a post I think will interest them. And I do the same with my reading and writing groups. I try to comment frequently on other blogs. After all I can’t expect comments on my blog from readers unless I do.

  1. Other suggestions – websites, wider social media eg Facebook,

You will read advice to get yourself listed on bookish websites that list blogs, and to use other social media (especially Facebook). I am sure these can be useful. Anyway, I think they may be beyond my current technical capacity!

The young Jean Rhys

The young Jean Rhys

Bloggers with large followings: what have you done to promote your blog? What advice do you have to give bloggers who want to reach more readers? What am I missing?

 

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Books by women that changed my life

Guess which book written by a woman was voted the most influential! Following the announcement of the winner of the Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize this year (Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing) the organisers launched a campaign to find novels ‘that have impacted, shaped or changed readers lives’. The top 20 were reported in the Guardian in July.

136 Mockingbird coverTop of the list was To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. I suspect that some of its influence is due to the 1962 film of the book, starring Gregory Peck. It’s also a book that is often on the school curriculum, despite Michael Gove’s attempts to promote British fiction over all others. (For readers outside the UK, Gove was the Conservative Secretary of State for Education until recently.)

The top 10 most influential books in the Baileys’s poll:

  1. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
  5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  8. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  9. I Captured the Castle by Dodie Smith

136 Pride & PrejI loved To Kill a Mocking Bird when I read it. But it is not my first choice for the ten most influential books. Indeed my choices are very different from the full list of 20.

My list of 10 most influential books by women:

Some of these I have mentioned before in a post called Ten books that made me think. That list included books by men, but this list is confined to women. It is #Readwomen2014 after all.

These are in chronological order, rather than reflecting any hierarchy of influence.

  • What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge: a manual for growing up a good girl, now rejected!
  • The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff: perhaps the source of my enduring love of history and the reason it was the focus of my first degree.
  • Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden: adolescence anticipated.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: nothing to be said except it is #6 on the Baileys’s list.
  • Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy: a world where gender was not predominant fed into my growing feminism.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot: another classic and #16 on the list.
  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing: more feminism.
  • The Women’s Room by Marilyn French: yet more feminism.
  • Writing a Woman’s Life by Carolyn G Heilbrun: see my post about this one, here.

49 Golden nbook

What I like about this topic is that it bypasses any notion of favourite. What would be on your list of influential books by women?

 

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#readwomen2014

You will understand my title even if you don’t know what a hashtag is (a twitter thing) or have never heard that 2014 is the year of reading women. It started when Joanna Walsh, writer and illustrator, decided to call 2014 ‘the year of reading women’ and sent Christmas cards listing 250 names to encourage recipients if not to read women exclusively at least to look up some of the named writers. From this #readwomen2014 grew. She wrote on the Guardian blog about it: Will #readwomen2014 change our sexist reading habits?

100 BookshelfI’m not one of those who have decided to only read women writers, but I do want to do my bit to encourage people to read women, especially in the face of fewer women getting published, fewer women’s books being reviewed, and fewer women reviewers. (See the VIDA statistics for the record of different publications, aka the hall of shame). And there are days at a certain literary festival where there are no women featured at all. We need #readwomen2014.

Some reviewers, prompted by #readwomen2014 decided to read, and therefore review, only books by women in 2014. An American journal, Critical Flame, decided to go one step further and dedicate 2014 to women writers and writers of colour. This kind of action challenges the idea that white males set the standard and are the default position for how the world is to be seen in fiction: through the male consciousness. It encourages diversity.

It’s an attractive idea – expanding reading horizons. You could look at the gender balance of your recent reading*. Or of the books on your shelves. Or of the books in your local library. You could ask yourself how any imbalance has come about? How much is it to do with how you find out about books?

Last week I heard about a newly established mixed reading group, who picked their books for the first year, and not one of them was by a woman. And no one present had noticed.

83 BWPFF logo biggerSo in the spirit of #readwomen2014, and because this is my 100th blogpost, and because the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 will be announced this week, I am using my blog to wholeheartedly recommend reading more fiction by women (and, yes, to split an infinitive or two!). So here’s some suggestions from Bookword blog, with links to the posts.

Everything on my older women in fiction theme is by women. You can find these by clicking on the category link on the right. My review of Margaret Laurence The Stone Angel has been consistently one of my most read posts for over a year.

Elizabeth Taylor – novels and short stories (link to reviews by clicking on the category link).E.Taylor 1

Elizabeth Bowen – In the Heat of the Day.

Claire Cameron – The Bear (longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize).

Ruth Ozeki – Tale for the Time Being.

Jean Rhys – Good Morning, Midnight.

Ann Tyler – almost anything by her, and I reviewed The Accidental Tourist.

Carolyn Heilbrun – Writing a Woman’s Life for some non-fiction.

musselfeast_web_0_220_330Foreign fiction by women should not be ignored either. Try The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke, translated by Jamie Bulloch. It has just been given a special mention at this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

And Tove Jansson – The Summer Book.

*I checked my reading record over 12 months and it is 70/30 in favour of women. Perhaps I need to read more male writers.

 

More about #readwomen2014 in Guardian article by Alison Flood.

And for an excoriating post about the label ‘women’s fiction’ see Joanne Harris’s blog Capitalize This.

 

So: will your next book be written by a woman? Tell us one of your recommended reads by a woman.

 

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A Little Reading on International Women’s Day

Here’s a little something for International Women’s Day: Saturday 8th March 2014. It’s a good day for mulling over the longlist for the Baileys’ Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 (formerly Orange Prize for Fiction).

83.BWPFF logo

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah
  • Margaret Atwood – MaddAddam
  • Suzanne Berne – The Dogs of Littlefield
  • Fatima Bhutto – The Shadow of the Crescent Moon
  • Claire Cameron – The Bear
  • Lea Carpenter – Eleven Days
  • M.J. Carter – The Strangler Vine
  • Eleanor Catton – The Luminaries
  • Deborah Kay Davies – Reasons She Goes to the Woods
  • Elizabeth Gilbert – The Signature of All Things
  • Hannah Kent – Burial Rites
  • Rachel Kushner – The Flamethrowers
  • Jhumpa Lahiri – The Lowland
  • Audrey Magee – The Undertaking
  • Eimear McBride – A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing
  • Charlotte Mendelson – Almost English
  • Anna Quindlen – Still Life with Bread Crumbs
  • Elizabeth Strout – The Burgess Boys
  • Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch
  • Evie Wyld – All The Birds, Singing

20 titles. Have you read any of the longlist yet? I’ve read one and a half, so lots to consider for future reading. Let’s hear it for the newcomers on the list: six are first novels and seven are second novels. And I’m keen to read Canadian novelist Clair Cameron’s The Bear. She wrote The Line Painter. Which books will make it to the shortlist on April 7th? Doesn’t this list make you proud of women’s writing?

83 WPFF bookpile

These were the predictions of the blogger Farm Lane Books. Didn’t she do well?

And it’s a good day for women readers because Womankind and Bloomsbury have teamed up to make International Women’s Day Book List.  There are 10 books on the list and I’ve only heard of one of them. But they all look very interesting. Okay, yet more for the tbr pile.

imagesAnd check it out: the twitter hashtag #readwomen2014 is going well. No surprise given the content of this blogpost.

 

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