The Hay festival in Cartagena, Colombia took place a few weeks ago (25-28 January) and I’m sick with envy. I’ve long been wanting to go, maybe next year will be the year? The Hay Festival, Britain’s most famous literary festival once described by Bill Clinton as the Woodstock of the Mind, is a lot more than a week in Hay-on-Wye in Wales at the end of May, although that’s where it all started.
A number of exotic locations have been added to the Hay Festival calendar. We have Queretaro in Mexico the 6-9 September, Segovia, Spain in 20-23 September, Arequipa in Peru 8-11 November, or if you prefer the cold, there’s the Hay Winter Weekend in Hay-on-Wye 22-25 November or the Hay Festival in Aarhus, Denmark 26-29 October. Whichever you choose, one thing is certain, their program of author talks, music performances, debates and film previews is unparalleled. Hay Festival Website.
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The winner of the Costa Prize Book of the Year 2017 was announced yesterday. The poet Helen Dunmore received the prize posthumously for her poetry collection Inside the Wave, a collection of poems written during Dunmore’s battle with cancer. She died in June of last year, 64 years old. The poems, which are guaranteed to leave a lump in your throat, are ‘concerned with the borderline between life and death’.
‘To be alive is to be inside the wave, always travelling until it breaks and is gone’
The Costa Prize Category winners announced earlier are:
Costa First Novel Award – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. A bit of a disappointment in Jane’s opinion. See her review here.
Costa Novel Award – Reservoir 13 by John McGregor. A beautifully written, but quite slow novel about a small community shaken by the abduction of a young girl. Sadly, this book failed to sustain my interest. Perhaps I should give it another try…Incidentally, one of James Wood’s favourite reads from last year.
Costa Biography Award – In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott. About a girl growing up in a religious cult in England. Picked this up at my local bookstore the other day as it looked quite interesting. In my experience, Costa Biography winners are often more interesting than their novel award winners.
Costa Poetry Award – Inside the Wave by Helen Dunmore. (see above)
Costa Children’s Book Award – The Explorer by Kathrine Rundell. The best children’s book Kirstin has read in a long time. Go for it! See here review here.
Ever heard about the App Blinkist? I hadn’t until a friend excitedly told me about it the other day. Blinkist is an App which condenses books into 15-20 minute reads, basically Cliff Notes for adults, only it’s exclusively non-fiction (thank God!). I gave it a try and I’ve now ‘read’ Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, a book I’ve been curious about for a while. Except I don’t feel I’ve really read it, I only know the definition of ‘the beauty myth’ and have learnt that we women should try to be friends not competitors….it took me 19 minutes.
What’s the purpose of Blinkist, I wonder? Purportedly, it’s to save people’s time. To give more people a chance to familiarise themselves with great books. But isn’t it really about being able to convincingly lie at cocktails parties when someone asks if you have read Naomi Wolf or Stephen Hawking or any other well-known non-fiction book? Are people these days too embarrassed to admit that they haven’t read a given book?
I know people are busy. I wish I’d more time myself. But does everyone need to have seen or read everything? Isn’t it okay to admit you haven’t read Stephen Hawking’s book and have your conversation partner explain to you what it’s about? You’ll probably have read or seen something he or she hasn’t. Of course, it’s fun to discuss a book or TV-series with someone who’ve seen it too, but is it really so bad to be the one who hasn’t? With all the books, box-sets, films, TV-series out there it’s humanly impossible to have seen/read it all. So is there really a need to pretend?
Besides, isn’t it a thousand times more satisfying to digest a book slowly, dipping in and out of it, mulling over what the author is trying to communicate, making up your own mind about the topic? That doesn’t happen in 19 minutes. Yes, it’s true that many of these non-fiction books could benefit from a trim and don’t need to be read from start to finish. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be condensed down to 19 minutes by a twenty-something start-up employee.
Ironically, at the top of Blinkist ‘Top non-fiction’ list is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Sethan Covey. When you’ve finished a Blinkist ‘book’, a tick appears on the screen. Been there, done that! Need I say more?
Lost track of the many literary prizes and literary dates? Just missed the announcement of the Booker or Pulitzer prize winners? Join the club! Even we struggle to keep up. Here’s a bit of help with all the important literary dates for your calendar. We’ve focused mainly on dates for the UK except some internationally significant book prizes. For those events where dates for 2018 have not yet been published, we have used the 2017 dates. Please let us know in the comment field below if we missed any (which we surely have)!
2nd – Costa Prize Category Winners (2018)
27th Jan – 3rd Feb – National Storytelling Week (2018)
30th – Costa Book of the Year Winner (2018)
1st – Harry Potter Book Night (2018)
8th – Wellcome Book Prize Long-list (2018)
14th – International Book Giving Day (2018)
1st – World Book Day (2018)
8th – Women’s Prize for Fiction Long-list (Previously known as Bailey’s Prize) (every year)
12th– 18th – Shakespeare Week (2018)
12th – Man Booker Prize International Long-list (2018)
15th – National Book Critics Circle Awards (US) (2018)
20th – World Storytelling Day (2018)
20th – Wellcome Book Prize Shortlist (2018)
2nd – International Children’s Book Day (2018)
23rd – Women’s Prize for Fiction short-list (2018)
16th – The Pulitzer Prize (US) (2018)
12th – Man Booker Prize International short-list (2018)
23rd – World Book Night (2018)
30th – Wellcome Book Prize Winner (2018)
22nd – Man Booker Prize International winner (2018)
24th May – 3rd June – Hay Literary Festival (2018)
6th – Women’s Prize for Fiction winner (2018)
16th – 23rd – Independent Bookshop Week (2018)
27th – Man Booker Long-list (2017, date for 2018 TBC)
11th – 27th – Edinburgh International Book Festival (2018)
13th – Man Booker short-list (2017, date for 2018 TBC)
13th – Roald Dahl Day (every year)
23th – 29th – Banned Books Week (2018)
Black History Month (every year)
4th – National Poetry Day (2018)
5th -14th – Cheltenham Literary Festival (2018)
5th – Nobel Prize for Literature (2017)
9th -14th – National Libraries Week (2018)
10th – 14th – Frankfurt Book Fair (2018)
13th Oct – 1st Nov – London Literature Festival (2017)
16th – Man Booker Prize winner (2018)
21st – Everybody Writes Day (2018)
6th – Prix Goncourt (France) (2017)
13th -17th – Booktrust Children’s Book Week (2017)
15th Nov – National Book Awards (US) (2017)
21st Nov – Costa Book Awards short-list (2017)
For a more comprehensive overview of all UK literary festival, click here.
James Wood’s annual list of literary discoveries from the past year is always an interesting read. This year he has chosen four books that he feels deserve more attention (particularly in America, from where he’s writing). I was particularly drawn to his review of Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone, a book I’ve been circling in the bookshops without actually picking up. Perhaps because I found Erpenbeck’s previous novel The End of Days so excruciatingly sad? There’s nothing wrong with the quality of her writing, though, and Wood’s prediction (‘When she wins the Nobel Prize in a few years’) will probably come true. I think I will give it a go anyway. See what else Wood is suggesting here.
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