This weekend I was lucky enough to see some brilliant authors talk on a panel about their experiences with reading. World Book Night has for the past few years been somewhat of a detached experience for me, I collected my books and gave them out but never really had the chance to engage in other people’s thoughts on the giving of books or reading as a whole. Being in London has given me the chance to start exploring a communal view to reading and writing.
World Book Night Giving
After a failed attempt at trying to get a Books are my Bag ‘The Bard is my Bag’ bag (bag bag bag bag bag bag), I then moved on to giving out my World Book Night books (books books books books books). This year is my 3rd year as a giver and I chose Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne (who’s lovely in person!).
Scroll to the bottom to see how you can win a signed copy of the WBN 2016 edition of Am Normal Yet?
Arriving at the British Library
On Saturday April 23rd, I strolled up to the British Library with my lovely friend Stevie. The event was held in the conference room. Gradually everything kicked off and the list of panelists goes as follows:
- Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love (panel chair)
- Dreda Say Mitchell, author of Gangland Girl Series and more
- Holly Bourne, author of The Spinster Club books
- Matt Haig, author of Reasons to Stay Alive, The Humans, A Boy Called Christmas, The Radleys, The Last Family in England, Shadow Forest, To Be A Cat
- Sathnam Sanghera, author of Marriage Material and The Boy With the Topknot
- Stephenie Merritt (aka S J Parris), author of the Giordano Bruno series
A book, my childhood for a book!
Each of the authors took turns in sharing the origins of their love affair with books. Starting off Dreda discusses the transformational effect reading can have and though, while she was growing up, East London was seen to lack wealth, she thrived on the culturally rich environment that was home to Whitechapel library and Art Gallery. Holly Bourne said “reading gives sense to life and makes me feel less alone” and “books are safe hallucinogenics”. Holly, Matt and Stephanie grew up reading with their fathers, while Sathnam discussed growing up with family members who couldn’t read. Stephanie still has cassettes of the stories her father made up to tell her, because she loved each one and always wanted to hear them again.
I took a lot from these clearly intimate remembrances on the night which prompted me to write this blog. The key themes that seemed to stretch across the authors in varying levels was that:
- Reading is not a solitary experience. Either through the characters or someone reading to you, or even talking about books post-reading can create a sense of escape and community.
- Reading is therapeutic. Matt Haig describes his experience with reading as “literally the only way of leaving my own mind”, while Holly spoke about writing her first book as a way of removing herself from the stress of her job.
- Practically everyone didn’t ‘get’ Shakespeare at school – but they later came to appreciate and value everything he brought to the world.
We then ambled over to the exhibition area where I experienced a very brief moment of incredulity. Within a manner of minutes, I had witnessed a Shakespearean performance from not just David Crystal, but Trevor McDonald too! They were both spectacular, in case you were wondering.
Finally, I ended the night by perusing the British Library’s Shakespeare in Ten Acts exhibition. I came face to face with one of the First Folios and a human skull all in one night! It was traumatising to say the least, especially because the skull had been sawed into 3 at some point.
Overall the night was a brilliant insight into the minds of authors as readers. Their peaks and troughs, both personally and with books, has given me hopes that one day I might have a book sitting on the shelves alongside them, that their experiences are not that different from mine, and yet completely unique.
On the night I got to meet Holly Bourne and she was lovely enough to sign a copy of Am I Normal Yet? to give to one of you lucky chaps! That’s right! So to be in with a chance to win all you have to do is:
- Comment below why you love to read
- Follow my Twitter and RT this Tweet
— Emma Petfield (@HowlingReviews) April 26, 2016
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Competition Ts and Cs
1. UK and Ireland only
2. Competition will end on Friday 13th May 2016 at 7pm BST.
3. 18+ or must have parental/guardians permission