Readersforum's Blog

December 6, 2011

Almost 4m children in Britain do not own a book, poll finds

Filed under: Children's books — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:22 am

The National Literacy Trust has published research shwoing that almost 4 million children in Britain do not own a book. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

National Literacy Trust describes as ‘very worrying’ results of survey of 18,000 children between 11 and 16.

By Jessica Shepherd

Almost 4 million children in Britain – one in three – do not own a book, a poll has found. The National Literacy Trust charity, which carried out the survey, said the proportion had risen from one in 10 in 2005. The charity said the findings were very worrying because book ownership was linked to children’s futuresuccess in life. Children who read well can often overcome other hurdles that lock their peers into a cycle of disadvantage, it said.

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October 28, 2011

Read all about it: Britain’s shameful literacy crisis

Rioters in London apparently ignored the local bookshop. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA

So rioters shunned bookshops because they didn’t offer anything they wanted? That points to a debilitating exclusion from a civilised culture.

By Deborah Orr

In the immediate wake of the riots, much was made of a particularly telling detail of the huge disturbance that took place in London’s Clapham Junction. Nearly all of the shops on that stretch of road were attacked. Many were broken into. Some were stripped bare. A shop that sold party accessories and donated part of its profit each year to worldwide children’s charities was set ablaze and gutted. One shop, however, was untouched – a bookshop.

Simon, the manager of Black’s, the camping shop across the road, told the London Evening Standard’s David Cohen: “They smashed our window, ripped the plasma TVs off our walls, took all our jackets and rucksacks. I saw them go into Claire’s Accessories, break into NatWest, liberate our neighbours Toni & Guy of hair products. They carted off iPods from Currys, clothes from Debenhams, mobile phones from Carphone Warehouse. I was horrified. But Waterstone’s, directly opposite us, was untouched. For the looters it was as if it did not exist.”

At the time, I thought that this observation was bang-on. Because I never use betting shops, or print shops, I simply don’t see them. Bookshops, I always notice, because I love reading. Bookies are a different matter, because I never go into one and place a bet.

Those rioters at Clapham Junction, to generalise, probably didn’t even see Waterstone’s. Bookshops don’t even register, because they offer nothing that is wanted. To me, that seems like a miserable omission from a life, and an ignominious, debilitating exclusion from a civilised culture.

On Twitter, however, a comment suggesting that if the rioters had nicked a few books they “might learn something” was retweeted time and time again, for days, as if it was the acme of wit. There seemed to be little understanding that the tweet was cruel, superior, patronising; that it mocked the afflicted and blamed the victims of an education system that left swaths of people not just unable to read, but unable even to register the existence of a shop that sold literature. Failure on that scale is not individual. It is systemic.

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October 20, 2011

Applause and dissent at the Booker Prize dinner

Julian Barnes (right) is congratulated as he is announced as the winner of the Man Booker prize at the Guildhall Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA

The Man Booker dinner is the most sought-after ticket in the literary world. Sameer Rahim reports from the evening when Julian Barnes finally won the prize.


The Man Booker dinner is the most sought after ticket in the books calendar. Last night former winners like Howard Jacobson and Kazuo Ishiguro rubbed shoulders with the actor John Hurt and the BBC’s Alan Yentob. Yet while literary London used it as an opportunity to catch up (“Darling, we must have cocktails next week” – I swear that is a direct quote) the nominated authors were quietly sweating in their tuxedos or dresses.

All the talk was about whether this year’s prize had lost its traditional highbrow status. The tables at the front end of the Guildhall, where the nominated authors sat with their publishers, didn’t think so – though there was some muttering from the authors and agents further back, whose friends and clients the judges had ignored.

Oddly enough even people with strong opinions seemed not to have read the whole shortlist – or even much of it. More than one person told me that apart from Julian Barnes, Patrick deWitt and Carol Birch they hadn’t found much to interest them. Either this shows how little excitement the shortlist has provoked or as Stella Rimington, the chairman of the judges, has argued, it shows up the narrowness of “so-called literary critics” and their ilk.

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September 16, 2011

Roald Dahl’s family labelled ‘stingy’ in row over author’s hut

Roald Dahl's hut, in the garden of his home, Gipsy House in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. Photograph: Roald Dahl Museum/PA

Public appeal to pay for relocation of writer’s belongings causes fury among fans who say the family can easily afford it.

By Stephen Bates

It may have been a little optimistic of Roald Dahl’s relatives to expect an outbreak of public philanthropy when they launched an appeal on Tuesday to raise £500,000 to renovate the contents of the author’s dilapidated Buckinghamshire garden shed, when the books he wrote there continue to sell at the rate of 12 a minute every day of the year.

Instead, the Save the Hut campaign, launched on what would have been the author’s 95th birthday, was immediately greeted on the internet with snorts of derision – and disbelief that the family, which has benefited from the sale of 100m books, were not meeting the full cost themselves. There was also incredulity that removing the hut’s contents and preserving them in the local museum dedicated to Dahl’s works would cost so much.

One person wrote on Twitter: “I love Roald Dahl but half a million quid to relocate a shed? Really? And the continuing royalties won’t cover that anyway?” On the Daily Telegraph website, commenters called the Dahl family “stingy” and “greedy” and said: “Let them restore their own bloody shed.” The author’s granddaughter, the model Sophie Dahl, who said the family wanted to share his “palpable magic and limitless imagination”, found herself described as the Big Stingy Giant.

September 10, 2011

The world of book awards – a longlist

The 2010 Man Booker prize shortlisted books. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

We’ve all heard of the Man Booker and the Bad Sex prizes – but do you know your Impac from your Boardman Tasker?

By Claire Armitstead

The announcement of the Booker shortlist this week signals the start of the new awards season. In a sense, though, we’re halfway through it, with the Orange prize stealing a march by announcing its winner in June, thereby appearing to take command of the calendar year when their judging year actually runs from April to March. This sleight of hand worked particularly well this year, as Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife was published in March and is therefore very much a 2011 title.

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September 6, 2011

Internet and supermarkets kill off 2,000 bookshops

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:26 am

The number of bookshops in Britain has halved in the past six years and nearly 600 towns have none at all.

Many independent bookshop owners say that they are on the verge of collapse Photo: PA

By James Hall

Heavy discounting by supermarkets, the rise of internet retailers and the growing popularity of e-readers such as the Kindle have forced nearly 2,000 bookshops to close since 2005.

There were 2,178 high street bookshops left in Britain in July, according to research carried out by Experian, the data company, compared with 4,000 in 2005. A total of 580 towns do not have a single bookshop.

Campaigners warned yesterday that the loss of bookshops, coupled with threats to close thousands of libraries as part of council cuts, will lead to “book deserts” across large areas of the country.

Tim Godfray, the chief executive of the Booksellers Association, which represents independent bookshops, said: “These are very difficult times for bookselling and high street retailing in general. While the overall picture in terms of the number of independent booksellers in the UK is still one of contraction, we continue to do as much as we can to support booksellers, whose presence on the high street makes such an essential contribution to culture in the UK.”

Small shopkeepers have complained that rising rents and business rates are making it hard to stay in business.

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August 23, 2011

Stieg Larsson’s final novel ‘70% complete’, colleague claims

Stieg Larsson. Photograph: Scanpix/PA

Kurdo Baksi says he was shown manuscript for sequel to Millennium Trilogy, which would ‘make the perfect Hollywood film’.

By Charlotte Higgins

The fourth novel by Stieg Larsson, author of the 30m-selling Millennium Trilogy, is 70% complete, strongly features Camilla Salander, the twin of the series’ protaganist Lisbeth, and is set “between Ireland, Sweden and the US”, according to Larsson’s former colleague Kurdo Baksi.

Baksi, who was speaking at the Edinburgh international book festival about his memoir, Stieg Larsson My Friend, claims to have been shown the draft novel by Larsson’s partner of nearly 30 years, Eva Gabrielsson, shortly after the author’s death. Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004, before the novels were published.

However Baksi’s claims about the fourth book are sharply contradicted by Gabrielsson herself, who has said that the novel, at about 200 pages, is only about 30% complete and does not “hang together”. It exists in draft form on his computer, which she has kept.

Baksi said: “It is at 260 pages at the moment – about 70% complete. Eva has said the book is not so complete. She took the book after Stieg died and showed it to me and his father.”

Gabrielsson, who has also written a memoir, has previously hit out at Baksi’s representation of Larsson as a sloppy journalist who was not above rigging the facts, describing Baksi’s book as “pure slander” and calling for it to be withdrawn.

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July 7, 2011

Misery lit: unhappy Julian Assange changes mind on memoirs

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 11:49 am

WikiLeaks founder thought to have told publishers book could give ammunition to US prosecutors.

By Esther Addley

Julian Assange has indicated that he no longer wished to write the kind of book that was initially envisaged. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA

The million-pound book deal signed by Julian Assange to write his memoirs has collapsed, the Guardian has learned, after the WikiLeaks founder became unhappy with the process.

Assange signed a high profile deal for his memoirs in December with the Edinburgh-based publishers Canongate and US firm Alfred A Knopf, for a reported sum of £930,000. The rights have subsequently been sold in 35 countries.

At the time, Assange said he hoped the book “would become one of the unifying documents of our generation”. But he also indicated that the deal was critical in helping to fund his legal fight against extradition to Sweden to face accusations of rape and sexual assault.

According to publishing sources, however, the contract has fallen through, at least in its original form, after Assange indicated he no longer wished to write the kind of book that was initially envisaged. more

June 12, 2011

Terry Pratchett starts process to take his own life

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 9:06 am

Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2008. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

The fantasy writer Terry Pratchett says he has received consent forms requesting assisted suicide but has not yet signed them.

By Ben Dowell

Sir Terry Pratchett, the fantasy writer who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008, said yesterday he had started the formal process that could lead to his own assisted suicide at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

Pratchett, whose BBC2 film about the subject of assisted suicide is to be shown on BBC2 tomorrow, revealed he had been sent the consent forms requesting a suicide by the clinic and planned to sign them imminently.

“The only thing stopping me [signing them] is that I have made this film and I have a bloody book to finish,” he said.

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