Tag Archives: Readers

It’s Media Monday: What would your top 100 books be?

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Writing news

How do you know which books you should read? This is the question that I pondered the other day as I searched for some new summer reads for my holiday. In this search I stumbled across an article in The Guardian entitled “The 100 greatest novels of all time”. (You can read the list here) Great! I thought, there must be some I’ve read on here. On the list, the novels range from Clarissa by Samuel Richardson to Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. Hmmm. I’ve never heard of the first one and the only Tom Jones I know is the Welsh hairy bloke that women throw knickers at when he sings on stage – but somehow, I don’t think this list quite refers to this version.

Anyway, as my heart sank, it got me to thinking about these 100 greatest novels. I mean, what really does make a novel great? Does the fact that we can’t quite understand it make it great? Should it be a high-brow classic to be great or will a fast beach read count? Is it the theme it tackles? The way it is written? It’s complex characters or plot? I think different novels mean different things to different people – what works for one doesn’t always work for another (step forward Fifty Shades of Grey…)

So, in this quest for greatness I’ve decided to compile my own short list of best books, a top ten, if you will. Take a look and see what you think. For me, the books below are ones that I haven’t been able to put down and that have stayed in my head long after I’ve finished them – and that, to me, makes a novel great. Are these the kind of books you view as great? Or are the novels in the top 100 article more your thing? And what makes a novel great for you? Let the count down begin…

My top ten books (in no real order, sort of):

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – An all-time classic whose themes are still so relevant today.
  2. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen – Beautiful story and insightful account of old age
  3. My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle, Marcel Pagnol – not strictly a novel, but an all time favourite of mine. It’s an account of Pagnol’s childhood in Provence, France – atmospheric, magical. You can almost hear the cicadas.
  4. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt – so well written, it was a book that stayed with me for a long time afterwards.
  5. Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller – sharp, dark, cracking plot, amazing characterisation.
  6. 1984, George Orwell – has to be on the list. ingenious, a book way, way ahead of it’s time and one that still influences society today. Big Brother and Room 101, anyone..?
  7. Keeping up with Magda, Isla Dewer – on the list because it’s a book I re-read  when I need some calm and imagine I am by the sea. Cracking characters, great writer.
  8. Tell no one, Harlan Coben – The master of a thriller, this is his best book, bar none. Fast, intelligent – and the film’s just as good (french with subtitles)
  9. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte – ahead of it’s time, Bronte devised a novel full of humour, sharp cultural observation and poignancy. It surprised me how much I loved this book.
  10. The History Boys, Alan Bennett – alright, so it’s a play, but I have the book of it. The script of the play reads so, so well in book format – I couldn’t put it down. Relevant themes, rounded characters, lashings of wit – highly recommend.

 What makes a book great for you? Do you have your own top ten? Or do you prefer to let your preferences change as you go along?

Link: The Guardian 100 greatest novels: a list

 **Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**

It’s Media Monday: Katy Perry to be in comic form – but who would you be?

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Writing news

Have you ever imagined yourself as a comic character? Batman? Catwoman? Dennis the Menace? Well now, like a massive POW! punch, the comic book Fame will be turning the multi-award winning singer Katy Perry into her very own comic book character. Take that, Catwoman! (not that Catwoman’s my comic character of choice or anything…)

Ms.Perry follows in a long line of celebrities that have had their lives turned into comic form by the popular biography comic series. Fame, owned by Blue Water Productions, has also over the years transformed the faces and bodies of pop tween, Justin Beiber, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins. Katy’s

Katy Perry
Katy Perry – here’s lookin’ at you, comic kid!

comic biography will hit the shelves in July 2012 via Amazon, and while it’s a natural transition for Ms.Perry whose live stage shows follow a comic theme, from her blue hair to elaborate costumes, it highlights one main point: that most of us have such ordinary lives that even a comic version of them wouldn’t make them interesting. Can you imagine it? Headline: Mum take the kids to school [picture of mum, hair like a bird’s nest, kids not even with their shoes on yet]. Yawn. Or how about: [picture: mum and dad on the sofa] dad speech bubble: “How much is it for a baby sitter? Mum: “£6 an hour”. Dad: “DVD night at home it is then.” Yup, that’s the extent of the excitement of our everyday lives. No major music shows, no appearing on TV, no celebrity parties (unless you count Barney’s On Stage Christmas Show). Instead there’s just figuring out what to make the kids for dinner and wondering how you’re going to get out of mowing the lawn at the weekend.

Still, at least when we get bored, we know have the Fame comics to brighten our average days. Because, while most of our hours and weeks are pretty humdrum, like a life painted wall to ceiling in magnolia it sometimes needs a bit of colour! And what better way to see a celebrity in a comic to jazz things up! Who needs that friday night TV dinner and a bottle of house red when you can have a celebrity life to read about! In a comic! See, things aren’t so bad, are they?

So, good luck to Fame comic, Bluewater Productions and of course the lovely Katy Perry (who does seem jolly nice). She may have kissed a girl and liked it – and now she can read about it too! Now, where’s my Catwoman mask…

So, if you were a comic character, who would you be? What would a comic say about your life? And who would publish it?

**Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**

It’s Media Monday: Adele’s new unofficial biography is step too far…

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Image

Pop Quiz: What is a biography? Is it a) a true account of an exceptional person’s life? B) a memoir, perhaps, coined at the end of a fruitful and colourful life lived? Or is it c) an easy way to make money. Well, once upon a time, you’d be right to assume the first two, but these days things are very, very different.

Last week it was announced that the author Marco Shapiro has penned a book all about the singer, Adele. Okay, you may think, that doesn’t sound too bad, she’s an award-winning singer and she really does have a lovely voice. Well, let me tell you that the book is to be published without Adele’s blessing. That means she has played no part in it, has not contributed to any verification of facts or indeed unfacts, so to speak.  So that blows answers A and B right out of the water.

What we are witnessing with the Adele book is what has been emerging now for some time in the publishing industry, namely the money-spinning potential of the biography.  Now, look, I believe that, especially in today’s digital age, publishers need to make a profit, and biographies offer a seasonal route to do that – although in the UK sales of memoirs fell by 43%, according to The Bookseller in an article in The Telegraph. For a long time biographies have been published by the great and the good, from Tony Blair’s multi-million pound self-penned account of his time as Prime Minister, A Journey, and Barak Obama’s touching tale, Dreams of my Father, to Russell Brand’s, um, serious musings in My Booky Wooky. But what you have to remember is that these were autobiographies, penned by their authors, sanctioned, approved.

Adele – she’s got a lovely voice

The thing is, when biographies are unofficial, unsanctioned, my point is this: they are like peeping  at your neighbours through a hole in the fence – it’s just wrong. Last year’s biography book sale slump was put down to a limited niche offering, with not many titles appealing to women. But is this the way to improve sales, through sheer exploitation? Shapiro has stated that his book on Adele’s life will not contain any overt sensationalism, but then isn’t it simply a musing if it does not, and of course, who will read just some musings? But wait! For Shapiro has also let slip that the biography will reveal 21 secrets about the famous singer. Hang on a minute, forgive me, but doesn’t that seem, well, a bit sensationalist? Bare in mind that Marc Shapiro was the man who also brought you the unofficial biography of that pint-sized pop singer Justin Beiber. I rest my case.

It all boils down to the fact that unofficial biographies are the publishing equivalent of eavesdropping on a conversation, a phone-hacking version, if you will of the memoir world. And as a reader, what actual value do they have? It is hard to truly believe what is written when you know that the person they are discussing has not sanctioned anything that has been said. Of course, we do, in the UK, live in a country of free press, and celebrities cannot have control over everything that is written about them. But a whole book? Revealing intimate details about them? Any journalist going to journalist school knows that they have to trust a source, believe it, be able to justify it, stand by it. Any ‘friend’ of someone who speaks to the press or a writer and gives them intimate details for a tell-all, well, you have to question their motives. It all goes right back to biographies being money makers. But at what cost? Other than Simon Cowell seeming unfettered by his recent unofficial biography, I’d say most subjects would be mortified by such a tell-all book. And as for us readers? Well, I think we’ve got better things to spend our money on. So come on publishers! Give us some official biographies we can really enjoy, ponder on and laugh with, not some tabloid fodder that takes a mucky peek through someone’s net curtains. Now, anyone know if Adele’s got a new album out yet..?

What do you think of unofficial biographies? Justified or an intrusion on privacy?

**Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**