The effects of reading

Posted on March 7, 2016. Filed under: 1 | Tags: , , |

I found this on the Stephen’s Lighthouse blog and thought you’d all find it interesting.

(Click on the image to make it larger and easier to read.)  HC


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My 6,128 Favorite Books

Posted on November 9, 2012. Filed under: Books | Tags: |

In this Wall Street Journal article, Joe Queenan, a leading humourist presents an offbeat analysis of his own eccentric reading style to explain why he avoids acclaimed books, reads several things simultaneously, and refuses to lend out his books.


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Our Story Winning Titles

Posted on February 27, 2012. Filed under: Books | Tags: , , , , |

You may remember late last year and early this year there were voting sheets in the library branches where you could vote for one book that would represent NSW in Our Story – a National Year of Reading project to come up with books that describe what it means to live in Australia.

Residents of each State and Territory were eligible to read the short list of books representing each state and vote for the one that best represents their state or territory.

The books on the NSW list included Bereft by Chris Womersley, The Harp in the South by Ruth Park, The Idea of Home by John Hughes, Lilian’s Story by Kate Grenville, Sydney Harbour by Ian Hoskins and Torn Apart by Peter Corris.

The Idea of Home won in NSW and joins Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, Listening to Country by Ros Moriarty, Smoke and Mirrors by Kel Robertson, Time’s Long Ruin by Stephen Orr, Wanting by Richard Flanagan, Well Done, Those Men by Barry Heard and The White Earth By Andrew McGahan.

Now take part in Australia’s biggest book group, based on the Our Story collection. Join a book club or take part in the online discussion with The Reading Room.

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What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered

Posted on February 27, 2012. Filed under: 1 | Tags: , |

So Library peeps, what have you been reading to keep your heads above all this water?


(I had a week and a half in bed this month so read my self silly)

  • Pure by Andrew Miller – it so happened I finished this book just as it was announced as the winner of the Costa Book of the Year. The Judges comments were that Miller had created a “structurally and stylistically flawless historical novel” – I think that’s going too far. It was OK but if I tell you I read at least two other books while I had this one on the go you might get an idea of what it did for me . . .
  • Flock by Lyn Hughes – set in Mount Victoria and Blackheath, about families and wallpaper. A book group read, I quite enjoyed it.
  • This is Not About Me and All Made Up by Janice Galloway – I downloaded these after listening to a Radio Scotland Book Café podcast interview with the author. Set in Ayrshire where I went to school these are misery memoirs with a sense of humour.
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett – another read for book group, and my second time with it. Well worth the reading.
  • The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey – gentle murder mystery set in country England in the 1950s.
  • Bereft by Chris Womersley – a really good read about a young man’s return to rural Australia post WWI to the scene of a crime he was accused of committing.
  • The Ghost at the Wedding by Shirley Walker – non-fiction this one but a nice pair to Bereft. This is the story of brothers who go with the AIF to WWI and then of their sons and nephews who go off to WWII and the women they leave behind.
  • I re-read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel because the sequel is due out later this year. Un-put-down-able.
  • Status Anxiety by Alain de Boton – the most readable philosopher I know.
  • In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar – set in 1970s Libya and told from the point of view of a 10 year old boy – so good I’ve ordered another book by this author, Anatomy of a Disappearance. Can’t wait!
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy – more snort-inducing family observational stories from David Sedaris.
  • Code Name Verity – YA novel set in WWII and following two female protagonists, one a spy, one a pilot. Gripping stuff.
  • The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt – violent, action-packed Western story – loved it!
  • As a pair to The Sisters Brothers I’m trying Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian but I think I’m going to have to take this one slowly . . .


  • Kitchen Confidential: adventures in the culinary underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. Not for the squeamish, this culinary memoir is full of commercial kitchen anecdotes to make your toes curl! Bourdain manages to make cooks and kitchen staff look like a strange breed of unruly rebel pirates, and kitchens like steamy, fiery, dangerous and relentless pressure-cookers. As an ex-waitress, there are a few stories I can relate to (minus the sex, drugs and celebrities).   
  • What I would do if I were you: dispatches from the frontline of family life by Mandy Nolan. Dry humour about contemporary family life. A little like a Richard Glover book, only from a mother’s perspective.
  • Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham. Well-written, funny and absorbing. The story of an author’s attempt to write the biography of a respected Victorian writer – only to uncover a scandalous hidden past.
  • Winter Trees by Sylvia Plath. It’s been so grey and rainy outside, I thought I’d cheer myself up with a little Plath…so continued on with more and read The Bell Jar too – A feminist classic; ultimately a very sad, but important story about mental illness and being a creative woman in contemporary society.
  •  How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. The book that shocked Germaine Greer!


  • Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin – What a compelling story.  Li was born into bitter poverty in rural Qingdao, China. Despite the harsh reality of life, his childhood was full of love. One day, a delegation from Madame Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy arrived at Li’s commune school to find suitable children to study ballet and serve in Chairman Mao’s revolution. At first they passed Li without taking any notice, but just as they were walking out of his classroom, the class teacher hesitated, and suddenly tapped the last gentleman from Beijing on the shoulder and pointed. `What about that boy?’. And that boy was Li. And so began Li’s remarkable journey. He was 11 when he left home to begin a seven-year harsh training regime from 5.30 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week at the Beijing Dance Academy…and I never realised that he ended up in Australia.
  • The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes – I have been putting off reading this book as I love, love, love Marian Keyes books.  And I knew as soon as I read it, I didn’t have another one of Marians’ books to read….so it was kind of like a little secret reward to myself to read this book.  The story is based around a group of people all living in the same house – 66 Star Street, Dublin – and it’s narrated by someone mysterious (and you don’t find out who until nearly the end).  Great read, great characters, and now I am sad I have finished it.
  • The Winds of Heaven by Judith Clarke – Awards for this book include being Shortlisted, 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – Young Adult Fiction Honour Book, 2010 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year – Older Readers.  A beautifully written and deeply moving story of two young women, and how their childhood experiences and the choices they make as teenagers determine their fates.  Reminded me of the Australia I grew up in.  The only thing I didn’t like was the 1960s encounter one of the characters had with her local public librarian….but it was all forgiven when in the acknowledgements, the Librarians of Lithgow, Blackheath and Katoomba Libraries were thanked by the author – take a bow everyone.  (Book dates from 2009).
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter – retellings of classic fairy tales. Angela Carter revises “Puss-in-Boots” and “Sleeping Beauty,” for example, from an adult, twentieth-century perspective. Her renditions are intended to disturb and titillate her audience, instead of lulling it to sleep. The title story recasts the legend of Bluebeard, the mysterious French nobleman who murders his many wives. The legend, as recorded by the seventeenth-century author Charles Perrault, begins with the marriage of a girl to an eccentric, wealthy man. Called away on business, the newlywed husband leaves his wife the keys to every room and cabinet in the house. This keyring includes one key that she must not use: the one to the ”room at the end of the great gallery.’’ Of course, she eventually enters the room forbidden to her. In it she finds the corpses of her husband’s previous wives, all with their throats cut. Startled, the girl drops the key, which is enchanted and permanently stained by the blood on the floor. From this stain, Bluebeard discovers her disobedience. He raises his scimitar, but just in time, her brothers arrive to slay the murderer.


  • Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett, a young Australian writer. I believe this is her first novel, and it’s a good one. A father and his sons are attempting to negotiate life after the death of the boys’ mother. The father is a fisherman with his own boat, and a dodgy off-sider named Jeff. The story is told from the viewpoint of the boys. How did their mother really die? How can they sustain themselves when their father has lost the plot? How dangerous is Jeff? There’s terrific writing here about the sea in all its phases, that Tim Winton would appreciate. Excellent read.
  •  Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout. A minister in a small parish in Maine, USA, encounters prejudice. His daughter Katherine suffers a trauma and stops speaking for quite a while. The natural goodness in the man is almost not enough to save him. I know I’m making this sound grim, but Strout’s writing is wonderful, insightful. She goes to the heart of what it is to be human. I will keep reading Strout for her wisdom and perception.
  • Foal’s Bread by Australian writer Gillian Mears. Another novel I loved and was impressed – and educated – by. I never have been a “horse person” but Mears takes me to the world of horse high-jumping in the earlier part of the twentieth century, in northern NSW. Rolly Nancarrow is the champion jumper in the district; he sees a scrap of a fifteen-year-old girl (Noah Childs) flying over jumps others couldn’t do, and falls for her. Rolly has an odd tendency to be struck by lightning. He is struck more than once, which affects the fortunes of Rolly and Noah, and their children George and Lainey. Mears is a terrific storyteller, and brings the horse world to life with the vividness of one who knows and loves it.
  • Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. I’ve just begun this one, but anyone who could write People of the Book and The Year of Wonders is going to deliver something good. So I’ll report on this next time.


  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. Set in New York in 1937.
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Babies can read!

Posted on January 24, 2012. Filed under: 1 | Tags: , , |

This lovely video was shared on Facebook by the National Year of Reading folks. It’s of a baby girl ‘reading’ to her father.

The wee one is having a wonderful time pretending to read to her Dad and is so pleased with herself at his reaction and they share a good belly laugh together.

It’s a great example of how important it is to model the behaviour you’d like to see in your children and of the importance of reading to very young children.

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What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered

Posted on January 23, 2012. Filed under: 1 | Tags: , |

So what  ‘Amazing Reads’ * have Library staff had in the past month?


  • I finished The Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux – I dipped into it over a few months. I got it after it was referenced several times by Bill Bryson in Notes From a Small Island which I have loved for years. Not as charming or humorous as Bryson, in fact Theroux started to sound more British than the British and the whole thing became a bit of a whinge-fest. Less ‘amazing’ than annoying!
  • Waterline by Ross Raisin – this moving story of a man’s descent into homelessness following the death of his wife had me amazed because the authentic ‘Weegie’ (Glaswegian) voice of the main characters was written by a Yorkshire man.
  • Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg, translated by the appropriately named Sarah Death is a novel set in the Lodz Ghetto during WWII. It amazes on a number of levels – I’m always amazed at what the Jews lived through and survived. Sem-Sandberg, taking his time over 651 pages, has done some amazing research and weaves contemporary documents into the novel and gets the reader totally immersed in this awful tale.
  • Magnificent Obsession : Victoria, Albert and the death that changed the monarchy by Helen Rappaport – I’m amazed no one took Victoria aside and gave her a good slap! I bet Albert would have; he’d seen how Victoria had behaved after her mother’s death and disapproved.  I haven’t suffered the death of a partner or spouse so I don’t know how it feels but I would imagine it better to honour your lost one with a full and useful life than years and years of isolation and selfishness.
  • Using my iPad I’ve made a start on The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester which is, according to a podcast I listened to, the first in a series commissioned by the Oxford University Press on ‘haunting pictures’. This one takes a picture of a very young Alice Pleasance Liddell photographed by Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll and tells the tale of the great author and his supposed muse.


  • Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier. I generally love fiction set in London during the 17th and 18th centuries, and this book is no exception. Based around the life of a shy teenage boy who has just moved to London from a cosy country town, it flows nicely – the interesting characters are what make this story really come to life.
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey. Fans of television comedy 30 Rock (especially Liz Lemon’s character) will enjoy this funny and supremely nerdy memoir.

Jenny M

  • I read Life, liberty and the pursuit of sausages : a comedy of transimensional tomfoolery by Tom Holt – Not what I usually would read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  A book full of people who turn into chickens ; a pig who turns into a very successful business man ; houses which are built, sold, then disappear ; a dry cleaners which is here one day and gone the next and a pencil sharpener which started out as a pig’s nose ring, but which is really the hub to a box which can do extraordinary things….. all add up to, as the subtitle of the book says … a comedy of transdimensional tomfoolery.


  • The Book of Rapture by Nikki Gemmel – Twins Tidge and Mouse and their older sister Soli, who wake up in an unfamiliar room. They don’t know how they got there or where their parents are.  As the book goes on, we discover that their scientist mother was working on a secret project to create a weapon of mass destruction capable of targeting members of a particular race. Her maternal love caused her to quit the project before it was completed, but now with her country torn apart by civil war and ethnic hatred, she has been kidnapped by those who insist on her finishing what she started.  The children’s father also worked on the project, but his crisis of conscience came earlier, and so his knowledge is not in demand. The children are told by a messenger that being hidden away in this basement room is part of their father’s plan to keep them safe, but as the days wear on and they become hungrier and more frightened, they begin to doubt they will see either of their parents again.  Not a book I loved and found it difficult to read.  Not my usual problem with Nikki Gemmels books.
  • Tea with Arwa by Arwa El Masri – an absolutely delightful story by Arwa El Masri, married to the ex-Canterbury Leagues Club player, Hazem El Masri.  This book has all my favourite ingredients (pardon the pun) – a story with recipes scattered throughout, a family story and scatterings of the Middle East.  It was lovely to hear how Arwa and her family had come to end up in Australia, and then the last part of the book was her sharing her love story with Hazem.  I really heard her own voice throughout the whole book and loved her honesty, care and love.  Thanks for sharing Arwa.
  • The Harp in the South by Ruth Park – as one of the books listed on the voting form for the NSW National Year of Reading Book, I thought I should refresh my memory with the story.  It was as good as I remembered.  How can you not love hearing about early life in Sydney (post World War II) – Surry Hills – with a struggling family doing normal, everyday things.  This book got my vote.
  • Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy – I hadn’t ready any Maeve Binchy for a few years as I overdosed on her.  This story took me a little while to get into as it was based around a hospital.  I hate hospitals – hate hospital TV dramas, comedies and books.  But once I got to know the characters and they spoke less and less about the medical stuff and more about their lives, I became wrapped.  Usual high standard, great storylines and interwoven with previous characters too.  I can highly recommend this as a book you want to go to bed with.


  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch – After hearing the rave reviews given by fellow library staff, I couldn’t resist. It was well worth the time; I finished slightly bemused, but thoroughly entertained, by the antics (and stream-of-consciousness style ranting) of narrator/protagonist Peter Grant.  
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – I honestly don’t think there is anything Safran Foer could write that I wouldn’t like. I expected this novel, following 9-year-old Oskar Schell in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, to be simply depressing. It is, but only due to the topic of content. It is also very clever; the style of narration is reminiscent of John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Once again, a writer who writes from a child’s perspective so well it is truly believable, and all the more poignant.


  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Poor Emma Bovary, married to a man who is the salt of the earth but lacking flair, subsists on a diet of romantic fiction, to which she adds her own full-blown fantasies. Life consistently fails to meet her expectations, until… Well, you can discover what happens to Emma yourself. Flaubert’s portrait of an ill-educated and under-exercised young woman is brilliant, and reminds me (as if I needed reminding) what can happen when you deny people a proper education and the chance to use and extend their abilities. Written in the 1850s.
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. His most recently-published book is a beautiful thing. The main character, Tony/Anthony Webster, shuffles carefully through life. He takes few risks, seeing himself as essentially good and peaceable, though he comes across as rather bloodless, his relationships guided more by politics than passion. In later life he is made to remember a cruel and vitriolic act of his own in the distant past. Clearly he has smudged over his own history, with time. Do we all? Now he is galvanised. What really did happen forty years ago to his intelligent, thoughtful friend Adrian?
  • Ghastly Business, by Louise Levene. This is shaping up to be light-hearted and entertaining, a whodunit of sorts, but I haven’t read much of it yet.

* The National Year of Reading and the Love2Read Twitter Reading Group theme for January 2012.

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The Joy of Books

Posted on January 22, 2012. Filed under: 1 | Tags: , , |

This is a beautifully done little film . . . and it confirms what I’ve been telling you; – arranging books by colour is the only way to go!

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Australian Women Writers’ NYR12

Posted on January 10, 2012. Filed under: 1 | Tags: , , |

The following was submitted on 2012/01/05 at 1:24 pm as a comment on the Library’s Readers in the Mist blog by Elizabeth Lhuede or

Perhaps there are some staff who would be interested in taking up the challenge this year?

Readers in the Mist is an exemplary blog and provides a model for other library’s social media personnel. (I’ve heard it mentioned in glowing terms on Twitter.)

 However, the last time I was in Katoomba library, the link to the blog was down. I was looking for recommendations for books by contemporary Australian women and having difficulty locating titles. Unfortunately, the weekend staff weren’t able to name more than a couple of well-known authors (such as Elizabeth Jolley).

The more I looked into it, the more obvious it became that local library and bookshop staff weren’t up on contemporary Australian Women Writers (nor was I, but I’d expected there to be a list, or something!). As a result, I went on to Twitter and asked for recommendations. I found many fantastic Australian female authors, many of whose books have attracted glowing reviews. Among these were my “amazing reads” for 2011: Charlotte Wood’s Animal People, Caroline Overington’s Matilda is Missing, Kalinda Ashton’s The Danger Game and Gail Jones’ Dreams of Speaking. I also enjoyed Leah Giarratano’s Black Ice, and can personally recommend Jaye Ford’s Beyond Fear and Christine Stinson’s It Takes a Village.

I’m looking forward to discovering many more amazing reads for 2012 and have on my “to be read” pile other books by Australian women: Claire Corbett’s When We Have Wings, Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows, Anna Funder’s All that I am, Charlotte Wood’s Animal People, PM Newton’s The Old School, Gillian Meare’s A Foal’s Bread, Gail Jones’ Five Bells, Jaye Ford’s Scared Yet (forthcoming), Nicole Watson’s The Boundary, Melanie Joosten’s Berlin Syndrome, Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts (forthcoming(, Kirsten Tranter’s A Common Loss, Honey Brown’s The Good Daughter, Eva Hornung’s Dog Boy, Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, Fiona McGregor’s Indelible Ink, Kim Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle, Paddy O’Reilly’s The Fine Colour of Rust, Helene Young’s The Shattered Sky, Angela Savage’s The Half-Child and Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Reign of Beasts (forthcoming).

Most of these books were published in 2011 and so far I’ve managed to find a good selection in Katoomba library, but only after a lot of effort on my part.

As a result of my experience, I decided to create a 2012 Reading & Reviewing “challenge” for the National Year of Reading. For this challenge, I’ve compiled (with help) lists of books, both fiction and nonfiction, by Australian women, including prize-winning and reader-recommended titles. These titles appear on the different “tabs” on the website/blog. I hope your staff will use this resource if they’re asked for recommendations in future.

Have the BMCC librarians decided on their reading lists for 2012? Would anyone be available to join the Australian Women Writers’ NYR12 challenge to read and review a self-determined number of books by Australian women throughout 2012 (and, hopefully, not only books for children)?

If so, please sign up at

I hope you’ll enjoy this challenge and help spread the word.

Happy new year, and happy reading!

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Back to the future

Posted on October 4, 2011. Filed under: Food for thought | Tags: , , , , |

These illustrations are by French artist Villemard in 1910 of how he imagined the future to be in the year 2000.  He’s pretty close . . .

More pictures here.


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The Slap

Posted on October 1, 2011. Filed under: Books | Tags: , |

Anyone else looking forward to this starting next week?

I read The Slap a while back with my book group and Dead Europe a few months ago. Not many likeable characters in Tsiolkas’ books but he’s a very, very compelling writer.

Here are two reviews, one with video, the second with a ‘family tree’ for easier following of the story.

  1. The Australian  (NB: Stephen Romei acknowledges in his blog, A Pair of Ragged Claws , that he’s got Anthony and Jonathan LaPaglia mixed up in the video)
  2. Fancy Goods Bookseller & Publisher blog

 Happy viewing.


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