Brent Librarian Sarah Smith shares her thoughts on setting up code clubs in Brent Libraries.
Brent Librarian Sarah Smith shares her thoughts on setting up code clubs in Brent Libraries.
Do you know someone that has a mental health condition? Would you like to know more about how hard are they struggling with their conditions? Would you like to find stories full of love, hate, sadness, happiness, tears, laughter, lost, pain, joy? Are you able to show empathy and patience towards all the people who need “someone to talk to”? We are not doctors, but we can be a friend, or a shoulder for someone that desperately needs it.
If the answer is YES, than have a look at the list bellow with books that shine a light on experiencing mental health difficulties. Young adult novels are powerful potions that can blow up the bridges between I’m fine and I’m not fine, and this stories remind us that above everything, we are Humans.
Over the weekend on November 5-6, libraries all over Britain took part in a twitter hash tag called #LoveToRead, which involved workers and customers to take a picture of themselves and upload it onto Twitter. As the event was organised by the BBC, they put on various events across the country, one being a talk about books with singer Cerys Matthews on BBC 6 Music and another being various BBC television personalities taking part in the event, well mainly the news team. The BBC website also had interviews with famous authors about what books shaped them over the years. Of course, Brent Libraries took part in the event and you can see a selection on the @BrentCulture twitter.
Well done to everyone in Brent who took part in the event during the weekend, it was a pleasure seeing the amazing variety of tastes and books on display there. The weekend shown that the library is a magical place in which anything can happen if you let your imagination wonder in it and choose a book that will make it flourish. The library is the only place (besides the internet, of course) where you do not have to pay for knowledge. Unlike the internet, in the library you can touch the knowledge, and no the iPad does not count!
I did not take part myself in the event due to intense selfie phobia but I do have a number of books that I would have liked to pose with if not for my various ailments. First is the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. It is famous in two ways: one for winning the Pulitzer Prize and secondly for being Seth Cohen’s favourite book in the O.C. The book centres on the two protagonists in the title over 16 years of their lives in pre and post war America. The book tackles a wide range of subjects from war, religion, immigration and sexual identity. Plus it’s about comics. Comics are fun.
The second is a book I discovered in highschool and would have loved to study but it’s of French origin and my French is bad. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas is a story about one man seeking revenge for the deeds his friends did to him years ago. He gets sent down and then discovers gold. Jackpot. Guess what happens next?
I must end it there but now I ask you: Did you take part in #LoveToRead? Do you have a book you love to pose with?
Allen Zadoff has written an unbelievable book. Honestly, it’s one of the best novels I have ever read. It dazzles in every aspect and never ceases to surprise.
So we start the book in the mind of our protagonist, this is a first person book. We don’t even know the protagonist’s name. The story starts off when “Boy Nobody” is friends with a kid called Jack. Jack invites “Boy Nobody to his house where his father is and that’s when we start to realise who “Boy Nobody” actually is, he’s an assassin. From the very first pages we sense that our protagonist is something special: “Jack’s dad wanders by with a beer in his hand. Chen Wu is his name. His friends call him John. He’s the CEO of a high-tech firm along Route 128. Lots of government contracts.” Our protagonist notices every little detail. Eventually he injects a poison into Mr Wu which kills him, “Boy Nobody” escapes, arousing no suspicion. That’s only the start of the book though.
Bit by bit we start to learn more about our protagonist. He gets new assignments every time he finishes one, his superiors are called Mother and Father and he still has memories of how it started. A few chapters in he’s sent on a new assignment, to kill the mayor of New York by befriending his daughter. I won’t describe what happens after that because then I would spoil your read.
What is so good about this book is how we discover more and more about our character as the story goes on. The author makes us believe that his mind works like a robot who’s constantly calculating but more importantly has no emotion at all. But as the story goes on we learn that’s not true. Our protagonist starts to feel emotion as doubt creeps in. The author completely submerges us into his brain; we know all his thoughts and dilemmas. What I also enjoyed very much was the attention to detail. I’ll give you an example: “She’s maybe fifteen, long brown hair, too much gloss on her lips. She has a backpack slung across one shoulder. The strap pulls her shirt tight, the swell of her breast pressing against fabric”, this is all in the mind of our protagonist.
This is a fantastic read, with plenty of surprises, I guarantee if you like action, thrillers and even romance books you’ll thoroughly enjoy this one, it’s a cracker!
“Mental illness turns people inwards […] It keeps up forever trapped by the pain of our own minds, in the same way that the pain of a broken leg or a cut thumb will grab your attention, holding it so tightly that your good leg or your good thumb seem to cease to exist.” – Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall
I really feel that this book tried as much as possible, within the confines of the written word, to take us into the mind of someone struggling to deal with the introspective nature of a mental illness. The reality that no one else can see these struggles can make a person feel they are going mad before the symptoms have begun manifesting themselves physically outside of their heads.
“I can only describe reality as I know it. I’m doing my best, and promise to keep trying.” – Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall
The Shock of the Fall is refreshing for not having a schizophrenic protagonist who spends the entire novel talking to himself and clutching his head in a dark corner of a room. I think Filer’s done a great job of giving more substance to something which can too often be viewed under one umbrella – not all mental health sufferers look the same, and not everyone deals with these issues the same way. In this book, Matt, despite his illness and outbursts, shows in his witty and often sarcastic observations of his life, that he is not defined by his mental health.
“Inside my head is a jigsaw made of trillions and trillions and trillions of atoms. It might take a while.” – Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall
This week is mental health awareness week, and relationships is the focus of the campaign this year – which I think is very important. Having been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) a few years ago, I have had to re-learn how to interact with people, to rewire and divert my thought processes so that I am not always assuming the worst and feeling terrible because of it. BPD is so wide and so vast, but to me, it means that on top of navigating a minefield of symptoms, I am always looking out for signs of rejection as a defence mechanism – whether in micro-expressions or brief changes in body language. This makes relationships difficult because BPD sufferers feel emotions intensely, and the slightest perceived negativity can send them into episodes of depression and self-doubt that can last days, and interacting with others during this period can be incredibly stressful.
“[…] one thing I’ve learnt about people, is that they can always surprise you.” – Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall
One of the hardest things for a mental health sufferer to accept is that this illness is theirs whether they want it or not, and that can be a very isolating experience. This is why this week is so important in highlighting just how much a human presence can mean to someone like Matt, who felt often deflated and without a clue how to help himself, or accept help. Just like relationships take time to nurture, understanding the dynamics of mental health will take a long time. But all of us can make a small start by making a cup of tea for a struggling loved one, or even by picking up a book and being open about what we find in it.
Brent Libraries have great stock of mental health related books, whether factual or fictional. It’s never too late to start talking about mental health, and books always make great conversation starters.
Some helpful contacts, should you feel you need them:
15-19 Broadway, Stratford, London E15 4BQ
T: 020 8519 2122, Info line: 0300 123 3393
24 hour helpline: 116 123 (freephone)
Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, Chris
PO Box 90 90
Offering specialist mental health emotional support 6-11pm everyday.
You can also email through their website.
Tel: 0845 767 8000
The Reading Agency have compiled a list of books to help young people deal with and gain understand of mental health issues. This is an extension of the successful Books on Prescription scheme.
There’s some really interesting choices and it’s not all about self-help, there’s fiction and graphic novels too.
What do you think? Can reading help with health? Would you add anything to this list…or take any of the titles off it?!
Here is the list the Reading Agency suggest:
(All these books are available to borrow from Brent Libraries)
Sherlock Holmes could be said to be the world’s greatest multimedia star. But he never even existed. In stories, plays, musicals, movies, not to mention TV and radio, he’s been played by over 70 actors from countries across the globe. The magic is that we all feel we know the character, he’s as ubiquitous as The Beatles or Father Christmas in popular culture and adored by even those who’ve never read a word of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original books. How did this happen? And how has a very Victorian character endured and thrived in the modern, digital world?
Tomorrow night amateur sleuth and Holmes buff WJ Bird be appearing at The Library at Willesden Green to take you on a journey from Baker Street to the bright lights of Hollywood and beyond to answer these questions.
The first Sherlock Holmes film was made in 1900, the latest just last year. His author died in 1930 but new stories about his most famous creation are still being written. Sherlock Holmes himself was killed off in a story in 1893 but returned from the dead in 1901 so perhaps his immortality was assured back then!
I met up with Will to ask him a few questions about his relationship with the great fictional detective.
Q. What’s Your favourite Sherlock Homes story and why?
“The Red Headed League” is a personal favourite as it is such a bizarre case and a lovely depiction of working life in Victorian London. Like many of the early short stories, nobody dies either. “The Musgrave Ritual” too is interesting as it’s a historical case that Holmes himself narrates – it’s set before he met Watson.
Q. Why do you think Sherlock Holmes captured the public’s imagination?
Come to the talk to find out my theories on this! But it’s mainly down to 1) the spread of popular media like magazines, cinema, TV and radio and 2) the creativity and passion of a lot of talented people over the past century, not just Arthur Conan Doyle!
Q. How has Sherlock Holmes influenced modern detectives on TV and in fiction?
Difficult question, but I guess being the first popular detective in English fiction means that he’s influenced them all. The detective as a maverick, not an establishment figure, has become a common theme, as has the importance of the more approachable “sidekick”. Conan Doyle also helped establish the idea of exposing the criminal underworld of a modern city through sometimes shocking tales, setting the template for Raymond Chandler and his like.
Q. Will Sherlock Homes still be in the public consciousness in 100 years?
As he keeps being reinvented then absolutely yes. As I say in my talk he’s gone in and out of fashion in popular culture over the decades, but the stories have never been out of print. But he’s becoming almost a mythical figure like Robin Hood now, not merely a literary one.
To hear more from Will do please come along to our free talk at The Library at Willesden Green, 6.30pm, 18 November. (They’ll even be free wine and mince pies!)
The winner of the Man Booker prize was announced last night. The winner is Marlon James with his fictional biography of an assassination attempt on Bob Marley, A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Marlon James is the first Jamaican writer to ever win the prize. His book, set in Jamaica, is an uncompromising story of 1970s gang violence in his homeland. I have not yet read the novel myself but according to reviews I have read it is not for the faint hearted as it is packed with violence, sex and bad language – but humour too apparently! Hopefully we will have a review on here soon but the book is understandably in great demand from the libraries and I thought I would give our customers the chance to read it first before I put in my own reservation. Brent Library members can reserve it for free today, place your reservation through our catalogue.
The book was an instant hit with the Man Booker judges and won through a unanimous decision. Michael Wood, the chair of the judging panel, describes it as “the most exciting book on the list”, although he admits it won’t be to everyone’s taste because of the bad language and risqué content.
The other books nominated were: Satin Island by Tom McCarthy, The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota, A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. All these titles are available to reserve for free from Brent Libraries, place your order online or call into your nearest Brent Library.
Change has been in the air lately. It had been my plan to review books discovered in the new Library at Willesden Green. I have, however, needed to travel down a different path, somewhere deeper. I’ve explained before how books are a powerful tool for me on my journey of self-discovery, like having a compass along with the map. This has been so poignantly apparent for me in recent weeks.
I’m just finishing reading Too close to home by Susan Lewis. It’s currently on the best seller list, and is well placed. I
must admit that it took me a little while to get into the meaning of it and feel absorbed in, but once I did, it was deeply felt. It portrays the paths of a mother undergoing a messy separation from her husband, along with her teenage daughter who is being severely bullied at school. Towards the last half of the book it took on the tones of a psychological thriller, which was a welcome surprise
It supported me in understanding more clearly how in change, the past is always hidden. A new structure is a catalyst, crucible, poultice for stirring up old wounds. The pressure around the structure of change lances the boil, brings the struggles to the surface so that they cannot hide any more, and can be more effectively healed as more safety is built around them.
Other readers may come to a different conclusion from the novel, and I’d be interested to hear what you learn from this, and any other book you’ve been immersed in recently.
Another recent highlight is She’s come undone, by Wally Lamb. Pootling, as I do at times, around the library catalogue for psychological fiction, I came across this, and reserved it immediately upon reading the blurb online. I’ve read some of Wally Lamb’s work before, and enjoyed it. He explores the vagaries of human distress very sensitively.
I admit that I was expecting this one to be slightly heavy going, difficult to stomach, but it was a real page turne
r for me – I couldn’t put it down! Well, I had to to go to work etc, but you get what I mean! The underlying themes of the effects of trauma on multiple levels upon an individual’s well-being and life path are well defined and touching. Although it’s set during the 60s, it doesn’t feel out-dated, as the themes are very pertinent to the present and the struggles young women [and men] face as they grow up and try to overcome the pain and restrictions of their pasts.
I’m going to leave it at that, as a surprise for those who would like to discover this book for themselves!
Having just about made it to book 40 of the year, I’m trying to get in a few 300 pagers to keep things ticking over target wise until I start the long awaited paperback version of The Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett!
In a recent staff meeting at Ealing Road Library one of my colleagues was discussing a book she’d noticed while shelving. Favourite Stories for Girls, the book is a fairly entertaining book of stories including one about a beauty pageant winner who defies her mother to play football with the boys and one about a girl detective who tries to solve The Case of the Appearing Sandwiches using the methods of Sherlock Holmes – but what struck us all was the title. Is it right to identify a book as suitable for one particular gender? I thought it was a shame boys might be put off reading this funny book by the title but on the other hand maybe it’s a helpful way to tell children what the book is about. Maybe I am too keen to be politically correct when encouraging children to read should be a priority. Whether we like it or not boys and girls do find aspects of their identity through gender roles and identifying which gender a book most suits might help them choose books they are likely to enjoy. Alternatively you could argue ‘which came first?’ do girls like fairies and boys dragons because it’s in their nature or because they’ve been told that’s what they should like?
“it’s a serious matter because it does narrow children’s sense of what they’re allowed to do or like, in a horrible, horrible way” Anne Fine
Last year Ladybird came down on the side of not labeling books and from now on ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ labels will not feature on their books. But as short a time ago as 2011 they published; Favourite Fairy Tales for Girls: the mix of princesses, fairies and classic characters is perfect for little girls everywhere and Favourite Stories for Boys: the lively mix of adventurous heroes, dastardly creatures and classic characters is perfect for boys everywhere. They defended this choice saying it was a way to make choosing a book easier, particularly for grandparents selecting a gift. I find these titles quite shocking! If you remove the words ‘boy/girl’ but leave the rest of the description you are still able to learn what the book is about but without excluding anyone, if your little girl loves princesses choose the first one if she prefers adventure stories choose the second.
“Books are for people. Stories are for people. Limiting that is foolish and short-sighted” Neil Gaiman
We do have a challenge though. Encouraging children to read is not always easy, particularly with boys, could a range of books seen to be especially for boys help encourage them to read more? I’m not sure but don’t think we should pursue the method even if it did work. We want children to read for a reason not just for the sake of it, we want children to read because it helps them learn about who they are, expands their ability to be open minded and imaginative – we have to practice what we are preaching! If you say ‘these books are just for you’ you are automatically saying to someone else ‘these books aren’t for you’ – and that seems wrong.
“what may seem to be a harmless marketing strategy, is, to an impressionable child, really a form of brainwashing, repeating the false message that boys are brilliant and brave, while girls are mostly just decorative”. Joanne Harris