Bookends #6 May 2018

This week’s Bookends brings you photos of libraries to drool over novel, a novel and – for those who love lists – 100 books Americans consider ‘great reads.’


Book: Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Warlight I’ve enjoyed Ondaatje’s work in the past – The English Patient is in fact one of my three favourite Booker Prize winners His new novel Warlight was described by Publishers Weekly as ”   a haunting, brilliant novel… Mesmerizing from the first sentence …. may be Ondaatje’s best work yet.”

Warlight is set in the decade after World War II and is the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945 they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. Fourteen years later Nathaniel begins to uncover what he didn’t know and didn’t understand about that time in his childhood.

This is one that is definitely going to get my attention later this year.


Article: What do Americans consider a good read?

Discussions about reading don’t often make an appearance on mainstream television channels which makes a new 8-part series about to air on PBS in America even more noteworthy. It’s designed to get people thinking and talking about reading by asking them about books that are special to them. A list of 100 has been compiled so far – click here to view this. Signature – an online newsletter from Penguin has highlighted a few that they believe are particularly important in the context of diversity. Take a look at their selections here 


Blog Post: Public Libraries Around the World 

As a staunch advocate of the public library ethos, any article about such places is sure to get my interest. On the LitHub site, Emily Temple posted a list of the 12 most popular libraries in the world. No surprises about which were included since in the main they were the national libraries in capital cities. What got my heart racing were the photos more than the stats.

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

I look at these places and drool. And I compare them with the building that is in the capital city of my own country, Wales.

Cardiff central library

Cardiff central library

It was opened in 2009 to much applause about its architectural and environmental credentials which include a sedum roof. The coloured glass facade does look attractive but the interior is nothing special. And sadly, after only 9 years its function as a library is being diminished. One floor is closed and half of another is given over to a drop in centre for council services. How long before all of it goes????


About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on May 11, 2018, in Bookends and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I was a bit skeptical about the Great American Read, but am now getting rather excited about it…even if there’s no Cather on the list. Surely she’ll be mentioned on the program. Right?

  2. That’s such a gorgeous building; I’m sorry to hear that part of it is closed.
    Warlight is on my TBR as well; I thoroughly enjoyed The Cat’s Table (and many of his backlist as well). I was just perusing a signed copy in a local shop recently and was renewedly amazed at how his signature barely looks like a signature. It always makes me smile!

  3. That list of 100 certainly has variety in genre and quality. Your library looks pretty from the outside. What a shame to hear things aren’t going so well on the inside.

  4. I saw something on Twitter the other day about libraries changing to suit the way people ‘live their lives’ these days, and I thought, well, if you change a library to make it appealing to people who don’t read books, what’s it for?
    And what will be left for people who do read books?
    I don’t know about the purpose of the Cardiff library, if it’s like our State Library in the city, it’s not really a drop-in to borrow sort of place. Students from nearby universities are always working there because the library has the resources they need, and there is a ‘family history centre’ there too. So it is a bit noisy, but there are other quiet places where we can research if we want to, and famously, at least one of our local authors wrote a book there in the quiet.
    But the local libraries I frequent in the suburbs of Melbourne are always full of people, who appear to be readers. Yes there are some on the computers, but most of the patrons are choosing, borrowing and returning books (and sometimes videos) and there is a quiet hum from the old people reading newspapers and the young people obviously studying together.

  5. The American list is …. interesting. I suspect a European list would be very different and there are plenty of books I wouldn’t regard as particularly significant. At least Orwell and two of my favourite Russians made it on there…! Not much from mainland Europe though.

  6. I would kill to live near one of these libraries. I have yet to look at the list of American books but if as your commenter states 50 Shades of Gray and The Notebook are there I won’t be impressed. We have a good library in Tasmania but not much to look at. It does have a wide selection of books and I do fine most things I look for. They could do with a bit more translated fiction though.

  7. Just looked at the list. Some great books there but some ordinary ones too. And horror of horrors, it’s sorted by title! I don’t see Cormac McCarthy there. Is Steinbeck? Nor is Wharton I think or Cather. Instead we have Fifty shades of grey, and The notebook.

  8. Wow, that’s sad about Cardiff library, Karen. Last year we visited Seattle’s impressive new library. It seems to be going very strong.

    I hadn’t heard about Ondaatje’s new novel. Love the cover, and love reading about that early post-war era.

    Will check out that American list. If I were in the USA still I’d be watching that show.

  9. I’m so looking forward to reading everyone’s thoughts on Warlight! And then if they’re positive, I just might even read it myself. 🙂
    I think I could look at pictures of libraries all day…

  10. I really want to read The Warlight, a long time since I read anything by Ondaatje. I so loved The English Patient.

  11. The Warlight jacket is very striking. I’m so sorry to hear about Cardiff’s library. I’ve heard similar things about Birmingham.

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