Tips on how to choose a book to read – by Jamie

Have you ever wasted time reading a book that leads you nowhere? Hoping it ‘gets better’ somewhere along the way – except – it doesn’t?
Work experience student Jamie has a formula for selecting books and genres to make reading a pleasurable experience every time.

Reading is a pastime enjoyed by people of all ages, but sometimes the novels that look interesting at a glance are only filled with disappointment. In this post, I am going to attempt to help you decipher whether a book is worth reading after only a chapter or two. This is only going to refer to fictional novels because there is an entirely different way of determining the quality of non-fiction, and of course children’s picture books can’t be held to the same standards. Please take what I say with a grain of salt as I am only 16 and obviously have not experienced as many books as some other people.

Before you can even begin to examine whether a book is worth reading, you need to understand what kinds of books suit you the best. If you read a lot then you won’t need any advice finding a genre, because you probably know already. If not, I’ll try to help you choose a genre or two.

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An easy way to start discovering what kinds of books best suit you is to look at the other media you consume (movies, TV shows etc.) and find out what genres they are. Most of the time the kinds of books that you enjoy are the same as the other things you enjoy. Another way to find what is best suited to your tastes is to ask friends and family to recommend books they think you’ll like. People close to you will be good at finding things you like because they spend so much time in your company. If this isn’t helpful, you could try reading short stories online to see what attracts your attention. I found myself suddenly interested in Steven King after reading a short story, called Suffer the Little Children, which he wrote.

Suffer the Little Children by Stephen King

Suffer the Little Children by Stephen King Image credit: http://www.mymbuzz.co

 

Now you have (hopefully) found a genre, you need to decide what you want in a book. Different people are attracted to different books for different reasons. This means that while an author may fall short in one way or another, it might not be an area that interested you anyway. An individual can enjoy a book purely because of the characters. Personally, I like books to be well-rounded and to focus on characters and plot development, so I find myself abandoning many books. If you can determine what aspects of reading you enjoy, it will be easier to decide if it will let you down in the end.

From the first chapters in a book it is usually clear what problems are going to persist. You might be used to continuing a book in the hope it might get good later, but I can confidently say it won’t. There isn’t enough time to read all of the good books in the world, so don’t waste time on the bad ones. I have never read a book that I found extremely boring in the beginning get better later. I’ve also discovered many books start out promising but go downhill. Books that seem promising in the beginning but later get worse are sometimes difficult or nearly impossible to identify. I will attempt to give you some tools to spot books that will disappoint you later.

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You may believe the most important part of a novel is the premise – but you are indisputably wrong. I enjoy it when a book has an exciting and engaging premise but it isn’t the most important thing. I have read books where the premise was interesting and showed amazing potential but was a letdown because of boring characters or lazy writing. I have also found books that had a seemingly boring premise to be written in a way that made the story engaging and interesting. It’s best not to judge a book solely on the potential it has, although it’s a good start. The skill of the author is what makes a novel memorable, not the basic idea behind the novel. Even if the author has the most amazing idea for a story, they can still fall flat if they don’t possess the skill that is needed. Reading reviews of your chosen novel will tell you how other people felt after reading it and can stop you wasting your time.

The dialogue between the characters in a book is a very important part of any novel. If a lot of the conversations between characters in the beginning of a book exists purely for exposition or has statements which no real person would ever say, then this is a sign of lazy writing. You can also tell if the characters are boring after only a few chapters. If a character has one trait or hobby that completely defines them and they don’t have multiple aspects to their personality, then they aren’t thought through very well. Boring characters are not good! The characters are part of what connects the reader to the action, so if they have no personality, then you, the reader, won’t relate to them or understand them. Having an abundance of scenes where the characters are sitting down and talking is also incredibly boring. It is fine occasionally but too many scenes where nothing happens is a bad sign. The author isn’t creative enough if the only time and place where characters interact is seated around a table.

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Boring! How you feel after reading pointless conversations in a book

Plot is another important part of any story. The plot can be simple or complicated as long as it is easy enough to understand and doesn’t leave large unanswered questions. If there is no hint of a plot within the first few chapters, then the novel probably isn’t worth reading. If there is no hint of plot, the entire first part of the book will be pointless. The plot also has to be interesting. I have read books with basic plotlines which take no originality to create and have no unique aspects to them. A good book should be unique so that it isn’t interchangeable with other books of the same genre. Having a predictable or overused plot is a sign of a book poorly made. There is no point in reading something that has nothing unique about it. If you even suspect the novel you are reading is going to be exactly like any number of other things you have read, then it probably won’t be worth your time.

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You know you’ve found a book you like when thinking about the story makes you happy

 

I believe I have given you a sufficient amount of tools to help you decipher the quality of what you’re reading. Now that you know how to pick a genre that suits your personality and keep you engaged it should make choosing a book much simpler. You also know a few indications of a poorly written or poorly thought-out book. You can use this information to improve your enjoyment of the things you read but in the end, it’s your choice to take my advice so feel free to do whatever you like with the information I have provided.

Harry Potter, the illustrated editions

You can now borrow the wonderful illustrated editions of the first three Harry Potter stories through the One Card Library network:  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

HP trilogy

These books are illustrated in full-colour and are accompanied by J.K. Rowling’s original text. We have grown used to picturing the novels’ characters as played by the actors in the Harry Potter films. British artist and illustrator Jim Kay presents the reader with a new, unique interpretation of the magical world we love.

 

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The Owl Post

 

Jim’s style appears fresh, spontaneous and sometimes whimsical. However when you examine his captivating pictures, you discover how Jim achieves an amazing amount of detail and texture through brushstroke. Jim’s images could even be used as the foundation for an animated version of the Harry Potter films.

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The Sorting Hat

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Buckbeak the Hippogriff

Peruse and enjoy some excellent features such as the Marauder’s Map, portraiture and detailed schematics of magical creatures, such as the Phoenix and the Grindylow.

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The illustrated editions offer readers a wonderful way to revisit the Harry Potter stories or introduce new young readers to the series. Read them as a family or to yourself, curled up in your favourite armchair, in the company of your magical familiar.

Reserve the Harry Potter illustrated editions through the Library’s online catalogue.

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On the Pottermore website you can  read a fascinating interview with Jim Kay, in which he discusses how he is inspired by real people to depict the characters in the Harry Potter books.

 

 

Surprise book of the month

Beautiful Goats cover.docxBeautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds

Written by Felicity Stockwell  and photographed by Andrew Perris

I have noticed that Library staff love putting Beautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds on display and it always gets borrowed. So what is so appealing about this unusual title?

I asked myself “Why do we love goats?” They eat almost everything and can butt you in the backside, then appear to laugh about it.  However, goats are also sweet natured and have pretty faces. They have personality. Maybe they are endeared to us from childhood, when we listen to the story of the brave Billy Goats Gruff outwitting the vile troll on the bridge. One of my colleagues also told me that goats have become nearly as popular as cats on the Internet.

In the first few pages of Beautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds, Felicity Stockwell looks at the history and cultural significance of goats. She writes about the agricultural products derived from goats, goats as pets, wild goats and show competitions. However, the greatest part of this book is devoted to showcasing 40 breeds of goats. Photographs are accompanied by specific information about each breed that is featured.

These goats are simply photogenic and definitely beautiful. Each goat is photographed against a simple grey background, which reflects the colour of the book’s covers.  They do not require any other artifices. Andrew Perris skilfully manages to capture so much expression on each of these animal’s faces.  The goats look proud and happy to be photographed on set. They raise their heads in regal poses as if to say “This is my good side”.

The final section of the book ‘Reportage’ takes a fun look inside a goat show, where black and white snapshots are posted billboard style, accompanied by cute captions.

It is worth browsing through this lovely book, whether you have an interest in agriculture, you would like a cheeky pet or even if you just enjoy clever photography. You can reserve Beautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds. Or enquire next time you visit the Library.

 

 

The Driver – Australia and New Zealand on the back of a truck.

20160920_160053I first heard about this upcoming title some months ago whilst flicking through the free newspaper ‘Big Rigs’ when I stopped at a roadhouse on a regular drive to Victoria. I was pretty excited when it finally arrived on my desk at the Library last week. As a fan of anything automotive, it was great to see an excellent book that focuses on an industry that is under-represented in library collections. An industry that everyone in Australia relies on, yet generally knows so little about.

20160920_160304The author is professional photographer and entrepreneur Alice Mabin. Alice is no stranger to rural Australia having grown up on the land, and photographing Aussie rural life, much of which appears in her first book, The Drover.

 

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The Driver – Australia and New Zealand on the back of a truck is literally a massive book, and it needs to be to even scratch the surface of an industry of the scale seen in Australia and New Zealand. It features 110 trucking families and businesses, of all sizes, truck makes and cargoes, providing very colourful and varied stories. It’s not just the trucks though, each spread also has the real-life experiences of those who drive the trucks, and superbly captures their passions and drives.

20160920_160232There’s 700 photographs, and Alice’s skill with the camera is clearly evident. Some were planned shots and stories, others occurred by chance as she travelled the country snapping the photo and then chatting with the driver.

20160920_160217Trucking life is certainly a culture unto itself and has suffered and triumphed through many changes and challenges since the pre-war period when trucks became a standard feature on and off of our roads. There is a timeline in the front of the book that highlights many of these important events.

Alice herself was struck by a truck whilst driving on the Sunshine Coast some years back and she accounts this incident as the trigger to understanding trucking life. Both of Alice’s books are available to borrow from SA Libraries and you can learn more about Alice on her website.

3 minutes of poetic fame

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The Writes of Spring

Open mic poetry readings at the Library

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Wednesday 28 September 2016

6.30 – 7.30pm (spectators) 6.00 – 7.30pm (performers)

North Eastern Writers Inc. will be presenting a free evening of poetry at the Library ‘The Writes of Spring’ on Wednesday 28 September 2016.

Come along to the Relaxed Reading Area of the Library and hear a range of emotive poetry and prose readings from members of the North Eastern Writers and the general public.

Or if you are a budding poet why not perform your piece? It costs $5 to participate and there is a three minute limit for each performer.  Registration is from 6pm.  Bare your soul, make a social comment, make us laugh or rap.  Whatever your style of poetry, you will be welcome.

A wine and cheese supper will be served.  Book online or telephone the Library on      8397 7333.

 

 

 

 

Children’s Book Council – Book of the Year Awards 2016

It’s Book Week! That means this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year awards have been revealed!

The shortlist was announced earlier this year, and the overall winners in each category were revealed at a special event yesterday. There are some common themes arising in most of these titles, commenting on some very contemporary issues around the world.

flightFlight, by Armin Greder and Nadia Wheatley won the Best Picture Book. From Nadia’s website: Under the cover of darkness, a small family takes flight in search of a new home. At first it could be happening thousands of years ago, but as the travellers make their way through the wilderness, the unseen dangers are suddenly transformed into the kind of images that are only too familiar from contemporary scenes of war.

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Mr Huff written and illustrated by Anna Walker took out the Early Childhood area. From the publisher: Mr Huff is following him around and making everything seem difficult.  Bill tries to get rid of him, but Mr Huff just gets bigger and bigger!  Then they both stop, and a surprising thing happens . . . 

 

soon-gleitzmanIn the Young Readers category, Soon, by Morris Gleitzman was the winner.  From Goodreads: Soon continues the incredibly moving story of Felix, a Jewish boy still struggling to survive in the wake of the liberation of Poland after the end of World War Two.

 

 

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Older Readers category was won by Cloudwish, written by Fiona Wood. Vân Uoc doesn’t believe in fairies, zombies, vampires, Father Christmas – or magic wishes. She believes in keeping a low profile: real life will start when school finishes. But when she attracts the attention of Billy Gardiner, she finds herself in an unwelcome spotlight. Not even Jane Eyre can help her now.

 

All of these titles are available from the Library, and you can see the full list of winners and honourable mentions here.

Classic Graphic: The Moomin stories

moomin_history_tove_jansson-cfb36ad907e5b10ec440f2105589c600                               pee-hoo

Today is the birthday of Finnish author, artist and cartoonist Tove Marika Jansson. Tove was born in Helsinki on 9 August 1914 and died on 27 June 2001 at the age of 86.

Tove Jansson was a member of the Swedish speaking minority in Finland. She was raised by bohemian artist parents, who encouraged a love of nature and an appreciation of diversity in their children. Tove studied art in Helsinki, Stockholm and Paris. Her siblings also grew up to become artists.

Tove Janson is the most widely read Finnish author outside her own country. Shemoomin_by_marzymarrs-d8wj23y received wide recognition for her short stories, novels, picture books, plays and a comic strip. Tove also exhibited paintings and graphic art and was commissioned to create public art works. Although Tove wrote for both children and adults, she is best known and loved for her Moomin stories.

230px-Finn_FamilyIn 1945 Söderström & Co published Tove’s first Moomin story The Moomins and the Great Flood in Swedish. This was followed by Comet In Moominland in 1946 and Finn Family Moomintroll or The Magician’s Hat in 1948.

Tove continued writing about the adventures of the Moomin family throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In 1966 the International Board on Books for Young People awarded Tove the Hans Christian Andersen award, which is the highest accolade that can be given to a writer or illustrator of children’s books.

Following the translation into English of her books Tove was approached by a British publisher to transform her Moomin stories in a comic strip format. In 1954, the famous London newspaper The Evening News started to publish it. In order to allow his sister more time for her visual art projects, Tove’s brother Lars Jansson took over drawing the comic strip from 1960.  It ran up until 1974.

In 1970, Tove ceased writing Moomin stories with the publication of her ninth and last Moomin book Moominvalley in November. She later published a somewhat eerie children’s picture book called The Dangerous Journey in 1977, which is about different characters but takes place in the world of Moominvalley.

Tove went on to write an acclaimed novel for adults, which focuses on the relationship between a young girl and her grandmother who are living on an island. The Summer Book (1972) is her best known work of fiction which has been translated into English. Throughout her life, Tove produced six novels and five books of short stories for an adult audience.

Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories have been adapted for film, the stage, television series, an opera and a theme park. Her books have been translated into several languages.

You can reserve books about Tove Jansson’s life through the One Card Network online. Visit the official Tove Jansson website at http://tovejansson.com/

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CharactersA friend asked me to post about Tove Jansson, so I decided to explore the world of the Moomins, to discover why both children and adults are still captivated by them.

So you may ask, what exactly is a Moomin? Are they really trolls?

Fear not, the Moomins are not your average ugly, stupid trolls lurking in the mountains or under bridges, lying in wait to catch their next meal. The Moomins are cute, kindly fairytale characters who are plump and white and resemble hippopotamuses! They are intelligent, literate and make their home in a tower in Mooninvalley, living alongside a host of eccentric characters.

Tove’s stories are full of lighthearted humour. Her simple and colourful ‘retro’ style illustrations will appeal to children. She cleverly parodies many different concepts in her Moomin stories, from becoming famous, vanity, the theatre, the legal profession to buying unnecessary modern kitchen gadgets.

Young Moomin or Moomintroll, as he is known in the original Swedish version, is a sweet-natured, brave and somewhat naïve character, making his way in the world. Moomin lives with his close knit family, his mother Moominmamma, father Moominpappa and girlfriend Snorkmaiden.

Moomin familyThe Moomin family is always ready to embrace new experiences, meet new people and welcome them into their home.

Moonminpappa enjoys reading and philosophising. Moominpappa’s romantic view of himself leads to all sorts of grand plans such as moving his family to a lighthouse so he can write a grand novel. The more practical Moominmamma takes pride in her home and loves her garden. She prefers to live simply but comfortably.

Moominmamma is skilled at making others know that they may not have made the best decisions, without making her family feel bad about themselves. Her serenity helps us to realise that everything will eventually turn out okay. However, Moominmamma is not immune from falling into the trap of keeping up appearances and competing with her neighbour Mrs Fillyjonk!

Pretty Snorkmaiden is a dreamer. She and Moomin are devoted to each other.  However, she can be insecure, overly concerned with her Snorkmaidenappearance and with getting Moomin’s attention. The adopted Little My causes chaos in the Moonmin household but she is perceptive and brings other characters down to earth with her sharp observations.

Tove Jansson’s work is original and surrealOn their numerous adventures, many of the characters that The Moomin family encounters are of indeterminate species. For example, at first glance Too-Ticky appears to be human, until you notice her strange birdlike feet. The fearless Little My is so small she can fit incharacter_mymble_familyto the pocket of her half-brother Snufkin. She looks remarkably like her mother, older sister Mymble and her seventeen younger siblings. A ghost who haunts a lighthouse resembles a sausage with legs!

The Moomin books teach us about the importance of family and friendship and about accepting others for their uniqueness. They value living a simple life, staying close to the beauty of nature and just being happy. The Moomins are always ready to help other characters, as everyone is important and needs a purpose.

You can borrow the Moomin stories and graphic novels (which comprise episodes from the Moomin comic strip) across the One Card Network. Tove Jansson’s work has also been adapted to bring her characters to younger readers, through a series of new picture books. Search the catalogue online, or enquire next time you visit the Library. Why not also visit the official Moomin site: https://www.moomin.com/en/

And yes, I could be hooked.