Your one-stop shop for the week’s most interesting bookish news and reviews
This week saw the completion of The Guardian’s list of the 100 best English-language novels, a list that’s been two years in the making. It’s an interesting list, and it doesn’t include some of the big names that you’d expect to find so I was surprised at only having read 13 of these. Comparing it to the BBC’s list, from which I’ve read a slightly more acceptable 38 books, The Guardian seems to have gone for a much broader spectrum. Robert McCrum, the list compiler, explains why he chose these books over other possibilities, but Rachel Cooke argues that there should be more female writers included. I’m not sure I agree with Cooke – a list of great books should be exactly that: a list of great books. There shouldn’t be a quota (or even a discussion) of how many of each gender should be included. Should we feel the need to include books by authors of a range of ages too? How about racial profiling? Or how about, just picking books that are great? Surely anything but the latter is severely restrictive. Whatever way you look at it, there is never going to be a definitive list that everyone agrees to. How many have you read? Do you agree with McCrum’s choices?
I love David Mitchell’s work. (As an aside, that applies to both of the most famed David Mitchells: David Mitchell and David Mitchell, but in this particular instance, I’m referring to the former Mitchell, the author.) Cloud Atlas still stands as one of my favourite novels, and I loved The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet too. I’m yet to read last year’s The Bone Clocks but it’s sat on my bookshelf, waiting patiently for me – and I’m even more eager after this week reading his piece in The Guardian. He talks about world-building and how he used the book as an exercise in creating a world all of his own, in much the same way as Tolkien so successfully managed with Middle Earth. Mitchell’s next novel, Slade House, will continue in this theme and he believes that he has created his very own version of Middle Earth to use in all future books.
Following the revelations this week that retail giant Amazon are employers from hell, treating their staff abysmally, The Independent helpfully published a list of alternatives from which to buy your books. From Wordery.com to your friendly high-street store, there are lots of alternatives to going automatically to Amazon, even if visiting a real-life physical store does feel a bit anachronistic! In view of this, and in support of good working practices, all the book links for this week’s Sunday Morning Round-Up come from Wordery.
Spanish author Andres Trapiello has spent the last fourteen years adapting Cervantes’ famed masterpiece, Don Quixote. He is updating it, bringing it in to the modern age to make it more relevant and easier to understand. Trapiello claims that the original is almost unreadable, and is completely useless without the use of footnotes to explain what’s going on. Whilst re-writing old books for the modern age is nothing new, Trapiello’s book is causing somewhat of a controversy with Spanish academics, who argues that Trapiello is over-simplifying Cervantes’ great text. For me, I don’t see the problem: people will still read the original just in the same way as people do with Shakespeare and the equivalent modern re-writes. And as Trapiello says, it does seem a bit odd that people all over the world can enjoy a ‘readable’ copy of Don Quixote, except in the Spain, where the original Spanish work is so complicated that people just give up.
Books are good for you: this we already know. They are educational and help people to grow emotionally. They are good for relationships and empathy. But now, books can provide clean water too. The Drinkable Book Project, led by Dr. Teri Dankovich, provides users in countries such as Ghana and Bangladesh with books that have been treated with nano-particles of silver or copper which can kill bacteria. On each page, there are tips on how to decontaminate water and why that’s so important but the most impressive part is that by ripping out a page and pouring water through it like a filter, the book kills 99% of bacteria, making it as safe as US drinking water. Each page of the book can clean up to 100 litres of contaminated water, meaning that the book can potentially provide water for an individual for four years. It’s not perfect yet, and it’s still in the testing phases but as developments go, this is a pretty awesome one.
Sticking with good-news stories, one city in Romania is offering free bus rides to anyone who reads a book for the duration of their journey. Suggested to the mayor by book lover Victor Miron, the scheme is designed to encourage more people to read on public transport and as you may expect, it’s a scheme that has been welcomed with open arms.
Yes, there are three fun links this week instead of one because I just couldn’t decide between them!
First up, we’ve got the school in Mississippi that painted their lockers to look like books. Two teachers and 40 volunteers spent the summer painting 189 lockers to look like a shelf full of books.
For the second fun link of the week: ever wondered what to buy a book lover? Fear no more, for Buzzfeed has put together a list of fantastic gifts for book lovers. I want them all (greedy, yep). I especially love the book ring.
And finally: which Shakespearean villain are you? I am Tybalt (and for some strange reason, I’m not surprised!)