world book night & good omens

Last night I went to Walthamstow Library to pick up my box of 24 copies of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  This was the book that was my first choice to give out for World Book Night on Monday (23rd April).

World Book Night is “…a celebration of reading and books which sees tens of thousands of passionate volunteers gift books in their communities to share their love of reading.”   1,000,000 books are given out in total – half of these are donated directly to hospitals, prisons and care homes, and the other half go voluntary ‘Givers’ to distribute in their communities.

The process started some months ago when the public was given their chance to vote for their favourite books.  This went down to a shortlist of 100, and then the 25 books with the most votes became this year’s giveaways.

Anywone is able to apply to be a Giver, and is asked to make a first, second and third choice of book that they would like to give, who they would give it to (or where they would hand out) and why they have chosen that book.  WBN say “The greatest reading journeys start when you put a book in to someone’s hand and say ‘this one’s amazing, you have to read it’.”

The 25 books chosen this year were:

  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • The Player of Games – Iain M. Banks
  • Sleepyhead – Mark Billingham
  • Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • The Take – Martina Cole
  • Harlequin – Bernard Cornwell
  • Someone Like You – Roald Dahl
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  • Room – Emma Donoghue
  • Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
  • The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Misery – Stephen King
  • The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella
  • Small Island – Andrea Levy
  • Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist
  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell
  • The Damned Utd – David Peace
  • Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  • How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff
  • Touching The Void – Joe Simpson
  • I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

I have only read 12 of these, which is probably what the point of world Book Night is!  I have already been given a copy of Someone Like You by Roald Dahl, which I must remember to reigster!

I gave away 10 copies last night at the E17 Supper Club, and will be giving the rest away over at The Rose & Crown on Monday.

Everyone needs to read Good Omens – I can’t believe it is more than 21 years old now.  I remember the first time I read it, I thought it was the funniest thing I had EVER read…and yet there’s a really great story running through it about nurture vs nature – can someone be BORN evil, or are they moulded that way by experience.  a bit like We Need To Talk About Kevin, but hilarious.  And good!

If anyone in Walthamstow does actually want a copy, let me know, and I’ll keep you one – and if anyone reading this HAS got one, remember to register your copy on the World Book Night site, and then pass it on to someone else to read once you’ve finished it.

I will be reading it again and reviewing it as it has been YEARS since I last picked up my wonderful copy that my New Zealand penfriend had signed by Terry Pratchett for me!

american gods – neil gaiman

American Gods

Ever since I have been with The Man, he has been trying to get me to read American Gods, but I have steadfastedly refused (I like finding little ways to annoy him).  Daft I guess, as Good Omens is one of my favourite books of all time, and I have read Neverwhere about 10 times over the years!

This year so the tenth anniversary of American Gods first being published, and we were also looking for a book to reading August for the E17 Book Club, so I thought I would suggest it as it has had such fantastic reviews all over the place – including a massive 4.05/5 on Goodreads (from more than 58k ratings) and inclusion in World Book Night’s Top 100 Most Popular Books.  The rest of the group agreed!

The story starts with Shadow, a convict who is just being released from prison.  All he wants to do is return to his beautiful wife Laura, and get on with carving a better life for them.  However, soon after receiving some disturbing news about Laura, his life seems to take a turn for the more surreal.

He meets Mr Wednesday, who could be a God (if he is to be believed) and is offered a job with some rather strange stipulations.  Feeling that he has nothing to lose, Shadow agrees to the terms of the verbal contract and begins a road trip across America with the enigmatic Wednesday, meeting his ever stranger cohorts on their way, coupled with the intensifying feeling that something bigger than all of them is really going down!

If the book had been about 150 pages shorter, I could have very easily said “I LOVED IT!” – end of story!  But I can actually say that I really enjoyed it.  Shadow was a fantastic character – I really felt for him, and he was extremely easy to like – and when you like a character (especially if they are the protagonist), it makes you buy into the story that much more.  Wednesday was also a fantastic character – extremely visual.

Gaiman is a real story-teller, you get lost in his descriptions and ideas.  You just have to let yourself be taken along by him to where he wants you to be!  There were so many strands to the narrative, so many little incidents that seemed unimportant at the time, and then later became key or even vice versa – whole beautifully written mini stories that were almost seperate from the main text, and were never again referred to within it!

However, there seemed to be a crucial incident about 3/4 of the way into the book that lost a lot of us in the group.  We almost all lost interest at that point, and some found it rather gruelling to get to the end after it.

But don’t let this put you off of reading it, it is a truly magical story, and certainly makes you think about religion, contemporary worship (ie, are we all praying at the altar of consumerism and media?) and the morals of mankind.  Well, it made ME think anyway.

I think we should go back to the old ways, make a few sacrifices. Build more beautiful temples. Have more swordfights. Regain some magic and mystery.

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