The Gladstone's Library team: what we're reading

The Gladstone's Library team: what we're reading

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At the Library, all of our staff and guests are united by (what else?) a love of books and reading. Some of us are drawn to nonfiction books, biographies and histories, while others adore nothing more than losing themselves in fantasy. This week I investigated just what we’ve got our noses in at the moment, and there’s some fantastic reading inspiration to be found!

Peter Francis, Warden

At the moment I am reading Dictator by Robert Harris – the third of his trilogy about Cicero. I loved the first two books. It is [a] fascinating and surprisingly pacy story – who would have thought a story about a philosopher and orator would be such a page turner.  It is also very informative about a period of Roman history that I was ignorant of. I am also reading Carl Jung’s Modern Man In Search of A Soul. I am very moved by many passages in this classic book. In an attempt to be tidy I am dipping into Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. It is surprisingly addictive. I have yet to see if it is life-changing.

Gary Butler, Library Assistant

I’m reading a few (too many) books at the moment. Doing Good Better by Will MacAskill is about ‘effective altruism’, a fascinating and provocative book on charitable giving. I’m also reading the recent Ted Hughes biography by Jonathan Bate. Hughes has fascinated me since I was a schoolboy. Bate has renewed my appreciation for the poetry, if not necessarily the man. I’ve also finally started reading Citizen by Claudia Rankine. Reading poetry has always been vital for me, but Citizen is something that feels morally necessary.

Louisa Yates, Director of Collections and Research

I'm reading Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks, So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson, and Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner. I like a blend! 

Sophie Caswell-Jones, Library Assistant Volunteer

At the moment I’m reading Howl's Moving Castle by Diane Wynne Jones, and also The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan.

Rhian Whitehead-Wright, Library Intern

I am currently reading a fantasy novel called Suldrun's Garden, which is the first book in the Lyonesse trilogy by Jack Vance.

It's set in the Medieval period, about two generations before King Arthur, taking a lot of inspiration from the folklore of the time. It's pretty much politics, war, magic, adventure and romance all strung together - very Lord of the Rings-esque. 

It takes a fair bit of concentration due to the many characters and plots and sub-plots but it's full of magical happenings and mystical creatures so it's a very worthwhile and fun read! 

It’s one of my dad's favourite books so he recommended it as I wanted to start reading more fantasy fiction.

Kirsten-Rose Brooks, Library Intern

I’ve just finished reading Octavia E. Butler’s trilogy, the Xenogenesis books, a disturbing but fascinating story of the takeover, healing and rescue of Earth and humans themselves by symbiotic aliens, after humanity has almost destroyed itself through war. I’m now reading Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, a bizarre tale of the near future in which the lawless roam free and the lawful take their places in prison cells. From a different genre, I’m also looking forward to starting The Outrun, a memoir on addiction and escape to a remote Orkney island, by upcoming Writer in Residence at the Library, Amy Liptrot.

Siân Morgan, Customer Service Administrator

I’ve got two on the go: The Defense of the Realm by Christopher Andrew, and Jessica Valenti’s The Purity Myth.

Amy Sumner, Public Relations / Marketing Officer

I’m currently waiting for a delivery of books (the size to get excited about, legitimately) which I ordered online including Grief is a Thing with Feathers (Max Porter), H is for Hawk (Helen Macdonald) and Even Though I Don’t Miss You (Chelsea Martin) amongst others. I’ve been waiting for these books for about four weeks (the perils of our age), and am consequently exhausting my bookshelf of all those previously purchased but not processed, until they arrive. Recently, I’ve finished Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood, a well-researched but ultimately imagined piece I picked up in a train station a year or so ago, written from the perspective of Ernest Hemingway’s very real wives, all four of them. That ignited my interest so I researched these liaisons frantically before settling down to consider A Moveable Feast made up of fragments of notes Hemingway penned about his time in 1920s Paris, and pieced together by his final wife, Mary, published posthumously. I enjoyed the contrast. Now I’m reading Under the Skin by Michel Faber (after much recommendation from the Library team), a book which at just 50 pages in, I am already gripped by far more tightly than the film, which I hated (sorry Scarlett Johansson). In fact I’m enjoying it so much it almost made me forget about the book delivery. But now I’ve remembered again. Come on books.

Katharine Easterby, Management PA

I’m reading The Atom Station by Halldór Laxness, an Icelandic writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955. The novel is about politics in Iceland after the Second World War and is told from the perspective of a country girl who moves to Reykjavik to be a servant in the house of her local MP. As well as capturing a particular moment in Icelandic history, it’s full of humour and eccentricity. I definitely recommend it. Laxness’s The Fish Can Sing and Independent People are really good too.

Rebecca Farmer, current Writer in Residence

I am just about to find out who did it in The Lighthouse by P.D. James. I read this book when it was first published in 2004 but I can’t remember who the murderer is, although I do remember all the details about food & drink – there are ‘jugs of good coffee’, Dalgleish is always pouring wine for his late night meetings with Kate and Benton, and there is plenty of hot toast – this says more about me than James’s writing. I feel sad there won’t be any new titles from her as she has now gone to the great library in the sky (surely that is what heaven is like?).

I read The Lighthouse before I go to sleep. This is not because it is cosy, far from it, but it is completely absorbing and switches my brain off from whatever is troubling me in my own writing. When I’m in the library I’m reading Letters of Louis MacNeice edited by Jonathan Allison. I am researching MacNeice’s poems (which I also love) but I get lost in delicious details in the letters and jokes about him having his hair cut by a ‘madman’ and his descriptions of the ‘Establishment’ types at a Faber party. MacNeice loved women and whiskey and rugby (I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess at which order they should come in) but what he also loved was work – it’s heartbreaking that in his final letter from hospital, written just a few days before he died, he is still making corrections to his final collection.

That was a momentary snapshot of the books we’re reading right now - ask us in a week or two and I’m sure they will all have changed again. Now it’s your turn…what have you been reading? Send us a Tweet @gladlib or comment on our Facebook page!

Kirsten-Rose Brooks, Intern