Wednesday, 21 January 2009

January Survival Kit: The West Wing and books

If December is about celebration January is about survival: you just have to get through it. And, according to my colleague Clare, last Monday was officially the most depressing day of the year. Well, we got through that so things must be getting better…

There are two things helping me survive Edinburgh’s dark January days: series 3 of The West Wing and books. Now I’m going to tell you a secret. My colleague Jasmine deals in books. Like all dealers, she runs a slightly covert operation. She’s not one to shout about things. And the currency is enthusiasm, not hard cash. But, gradually, over a few days, you suddenly realise pretty much everyone in the office is reading the same thing, and that their supplier was Jasmine. One of her most recent offerings has already made a brief appearance on this blog, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, but I was so struck by it I thought you wouldn’t mind my mentioning it again. It’s reality TV taken to its very extreme – read it. You won’t be disappointed. Also on my reading list at the moment is Bad Faith by Gillian Philip – another dystopian world where this time the Church has taken over. I’m only 100 pages in but it’s gripped me – I can’t wait to get to the end. And, because it’s January, there’s got to be some comfort reading. And mine, I’m almost ashamed to say, is Jane Austen. Not Pride and Prejudice – that’s good on telly, not so good in book form – but Mansfield Park. You can’t beat it.

There are two other readers in my household. The first is deep in Stamping Butterflies by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. For the second, perhaps 'reader' is stretching it a bit … she’s only 2. But she does love her picture books. She can be fickle in her taste – her favourites change daily. Currently top of her list are Follow that String, A Lark in the Ark, Natalie Russell’s beautiful new book Donkey’s Busy Day and Viv French’s first two books in her new series Sparkle Street. But there’s a couple of books she comes back to again and again … an ancient edition of Babar’s Big Book of Words, given to her by my cousin, now 16, who loved it when she was 2, and the Janet and Allan Ahlberg classic, Each Peach Pear Plum, at the end of which she always clammers “again, again” (either because she loves it so much or because she has worked out it delays bedtime by an extra few minutes – sometimes I suspect the latter).

But January hasn’t all been doom and gloom … here’s Jenny Watson, coordinator of the wonderful Aberdeen Reading Bus, to tell us about her January highlight:

“The Reading Bus and team had a fantastic day out at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 15th January 2009.

“The Reading Bus had a spectacular parking spot under Arthur's Seat and hosted a Scots Reading Champion Session. The guest class from Newcraighall School enjoyed an enthralling hour with Sheena Blackhall, Matthew Fitt, Bill Wilson, MSP and youngsters from Hanover Street School and Kittybrewster School.

“Inside the Scottish Parliament team members, including pupils, showcased examples of the innovative practice developed by The Reading Bus to an audience of MSPs, Scottish Book Trust representatives and a wide variety of guests from literacy organisations, authors, illustrators and poets.

The Reading Bus is extremely grateful to Maureen Watt, MSP for North- East Scotland for hosting this fantastic opportunity. It was a grand day out for all and a wonderful opportunity to share the work of The Reading Bus with a national audience.”

Enjoy the rest of your January!



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