World Book Night is the adult counterpart to World Book Day. You may remember getting £1 tokens from your school to spend on special books like JK Rowling’s Quidditch Through The Ages- but books shouldn’t lose their magic when you “grow up”! It’s been proven time and time again that books improve our mental health, but only 35% of adults identify as readers. Eleanor, Lucy, Amy and Diane were chosen from 5,000 applicants to hand out over 50 books FOR FREE! Each one has been specially selected to appeal to reluctant readers, and though supplies are limited, copies will be available to borrow from the Information Store. Once you’ve finished a book, we recommend you pass it to a friend or return it to the Information Store to add to our free book exchange. Find us in the StartUp Lounge on Thursday 23rd April.
Escape from Camp 14 by Shin Dong-hyuk and Blaine Harden
North Korea is one of the most secretive countries in the world, but we know that people deemed “politically unreliable” are transported to prison camps, known as ‘Total Control Zones’, where they are starved and worked until they die. Shin Dong-hyuk was born inside Camp 14, which houses 15,000 of the country’s 200,000 prisoners. Shin was able to escape with help from a fellow prisoner, and travelled to China where he was “discovered” by American journalists. Interviewer Blaine Harden was the first to hear the most shocking part of the story: aged 13 and desperate for food, Shin told the prison guards that his mother was helping his brother escape. It wasn’t until they were hanged in front of him that Shin realised the horror of what he had done. Though his testimony is somewhat unreliable, he is still the key witness in the UN’s ongoing investigation into human rights abuses in North Korea. Shin’s story was animated for the documentary Total Control Zone, which features footage from Camp 14 and chilling interviews with former prison guards.
Streetcat Bob by James Bowen
It’s easy to see why this cute cat has become famous!
James Bowen- a bipolar, homeless ex-heroin addict with ADHD- met an injured ginger tom whilst busking by a London methadone clinic. It didn’t take James long to realise how much he had in common with the cheeky, streetwise creature, and the pair became inseparable. James found fame when tourists from all over the world began sharing photos of Bob asleep whilst perched on James’ shoulder! Now they raise money for homeless charities as well as Cat’s Protection- you can even buy scarves ‘as worn by Bob’ on eBay! There are many books about James and Bob, from picture books to Where’s Wally-style puzzles, but Streetcat Bob is a Quick Read, designed specifically for people who find reading hard or boring! There are 10 copies of Streetcat Bob available to borrow from the Info Store- if you read it before World Book Night, come and tell us what you think.
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by MC Beaton
…Quiche of Death is the first of 25 novels starring amateur detective Agatha Raisin. Agatha fell in love with the countryside after a rare, idyllic holiday away from her parents. She raised enough by working in a biscuit factory to re-train as a secretary, and eventually sells her London firm to move down to the Cotswolds. Her first attempt at country living: win the cooking competition with a sneaky shop-bought quiche! When “her” quiche kills one of the judges, Agatha must prove she’s not the killer, and shake her reputation as a cheat! …Quiche of Death was adapted for Sky in 2014 and starred Exrtras’ Ashley Jensen. No word yet on whether they’ll film the other 24!
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
At six years old, Fitz learns he is the bastard son of the first man in line for the throne. The Prince is shamed into abdicating and allows his brother Verity to take his place; Fitz is sent to work as a stable boy, as lonely as he is despised. His curious bond with a puppy called Nosy outs Fitz as a magic user, and the loss of his only friend leads him to take on the role of Assassin. As he slowly develops his skills in magic, he bonds with another dog, Smithy, and travels to the village of Forge for his final test: release the villagers from the spell that has robbed them of their personality.
George R R Martin, the author of Game of Thrones, lists Robin Hobb amongst his favourite authors, and it’s clear they share a fascination with court politics and intrigue. Robin Hobb is a much faster writer, with over 20 novels to her name! She is very active on Twitter- find her (and her cats) at @robinhobb.
Honour by Elif Shafak
Elif Shafak is Turkey’s most read author, though this didn’t stop her being charged with ‘insulting Turkishness’ after the publication of her earlier novel The Bastard of Istanbul. She gave a TED talk in 2010 called The Politics of Fiction, in which she described her publishers’ reacting with surprise each time she handed them a novel that wasn’t about a Turkish woman! In Honour, second-generation English Muslim Esma becomes responsible for her brother Iskender, just released from 14 years in prison. The novel looks at why “honour” is so important in Kurdish communities and why the rules that apply to women don’t apply to men. One character doesn’t understand why the English use “What a shame!” to describe their disappointment at the traffic or the weather- isn’t shame far more serious than that? Though her choice of language can seem a little outdated (“can’t you shut your bleedin’ gob!”) Shafak covers four generations, four decades and two languages in just 300 pages. Honour killings in England often make headline news- read this novel to learn more about the impact murders have in close communities.
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Jamie was only 5 when his older sister Rose was killed by an Islamic terrorist. He can barely remember her, but the rest of his family are living in her shadow. Rose’s twin Jasmine has dyed her hair and had her nose pierced, and Jamie is really frightened by her rapidly plummeting weight. Their dad turns bitterly racist, and moves the family to the Lake District in response to London’s growing Muslim community. Here Jamie meets Sunya, a serious fan of superheroes who wears the niqab to keep her hair away from mortal eyes! When Jasmine wants to enter a talent contest, Jamie offers to join her on stage in his Spiderman outfit. He can’t sing or dance, but his mum might see him (wherever she is) if he gets on TV. It’s harder to keep his dad from noticing Sunya…
This book was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2012, but lost to Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls. Both books deal with grief, but no-one in My Sister seems to be grieving “properly”. Jamie’s parents send him to a therapist when he doesn’t cry, but no-one talks to his dad about his drinking. How long until they’re all ready to let Rose go?
You could win £100 if you submit a book review to worldbooknight.org/impact. Be sure to tell us what you think too!