What book would you send to someone in prison?

Guardian Books - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 17:10

Leading authors have shared the books they would send an inmate and why, as part of the campaign Books for Prisoners. What book would you choose to send?

"Books represent a lifeline behind bars, a way of nourishing the mind and filling the many hours that prisoners spend locked in their cells." This was the main thrust of the letter that more than 80 prominent members of the British literary establishment sent to justice secretary Chris Grayling last month, expressing their disagreement with the newly enforced ban on family members and friends sending books to prisoners. The campaign against the measure continues to gain momentum, as was made clear again recently at the London Book Fair. At the invitation of English PEN and the Howard League, leading writers set out, in a set of postcards to be sent to Grayling, which books they would send prisoners and why. Here are some of the choices:

Martin Amis:

I would recommend Primo Levis If This is a Man. It is a masterly evocation of something much worse than prison: murderous enslavement for the crime of being born.

Id send the Prison Trilogy by Pramoedya Ananta Toer written in the head and remembered while on Buru prison island, but denied pen, paper and books.

I would send Jimmy Boyles visceral autobiography, A Sense of Freedom. It describes his journey from a violent, criminal youth to the degradation, shame and remorse he experienced in Scotlands most draconian prisons and the redemption eventually delivered by literature and art in the special unit at Barlinnie. It is a book everyone concerned with this current debate should read when the most wretched of our fellow citizens, who have nothing, are now being told they have less than nothing.

I would recommend giving prisoners Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. Its a true account of a disastrous climb in the South American Andes in which the two climbers face terrible choices, hit rock bottom, facing death, yet manage to survive. I can imagine prisoners would find a lot to relate to in the story of finding a way up and out from the worst moment of your life.

The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad. Because it shows the danger and treachery and fear in English public life.

The Grass Arena by John Healy. Its a long and brilliant postcard from hell. A brutal childhood, alcoholism, a London underworld this is what its like to touch bottom, then find your way up through the game of chess.

50 Shades of Grayling I presume the Lord Chancellor appreciates bondage.

My Books for Prisoners recommendation would be Rumis Masnavi, composed of six books of poetry.

The style is extraordinary, interwoven with stories within stories. The themes Rumi deals with (death, body, love, birth, beauty) are both universal and timeless. His peaceful voice speaks to our hearts and minds across all national and religious borders, and challenges head-on the teachings that promote bigotry, xenophobia and discrimination.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson...

for very similar reasons to Tracy Chevalier, this book demonstrates how you can rise above the circumstances you were born into or find yourself in without any new age, self help or preachy nonsense.

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson because it is very funny and I think prisoners need to read something to make them laugh and forget the prison bars.

The shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, the writing is so amazing and the story is so entertained that it would help them get out of prision for a while, even if its just in their minds.

I'm not sure anyone in prison will want to read about people worse off than they are, so I think a lot of the books recommended by writers in the article may not be welcomed. I reckon you'd want something distracting and interesting. The most recent thing I've read that was funny and interesting and unputdownable was Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, so I'd send that.

I think it would have to be Gibbings's Malice in Blunderland, as I don't think a funnier book exists, but also because Gibbings himself learned to read and write in prison. I can think of no better example of making the system make you something.

When I was inside I read (amongst others) The Count of Monte Cristo. Over one-thousand words of pure escapism. And of course, there's a prison break too.

I'd send a book of great travel writing, perhaps Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time of Gifts, or Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard, writing that can take you out of your current circumstances and let your mind roam free.

Well, during my - ahem - tenure, i read a few of the above.
What cons want more than anything is a book that lets your mind escape.
The most popular i found, were fantasy, Grisham, King, Pratchett.

Also, the hard men and gangster books books were always floating about.

The Count of Monte Cristo.

Pure entertainment, plus he escapes!!

I'd be tempted to send them 'How to break out of prison' by John Wareham, just to put a smile on their faces - but if the task is not just to amuse but also to stir their imagination and perhaps encourage them to seek further sources of inspiration, then I'd provide a copy of "The Master and Margarita " by Mikhail Bulgakov, with its brilliant study of the duality of light and dark, and good and evil.

I have sent dictionaries, tide tables, almanacs, very thick novels: anything the prison library service was unable or unwilling to supply. I worry what my reciepient and his 85,000 fellow inmates will do without friends like me. Very shortsighted.

How to survive the worst prison experience is good reading for those doing time!. So it has to be Jack London's The Star Rover, sometimes called the Jacket. This masterwork where punishment involves being locked in the frightening jacket, a product of San Francisco's penitentiary system. Of course there is a way out and therein lies the salutary lesson of this poem to humankind .

You would need something to take you away. Probably something that would do so readily: prisons are not the quietest & most restful places, so it might be hard to concentrate and make your mental escape through dense prose or poetry.

So, something that combines a large canvas with accessibility. Depending on taste writers like Dickens and Stephen King would qualify in that respect. The wide & wild landscapes of SF and fantasy would work: Iain M Banks & George RR Martin might be your travel guides there.

Reminded by some of these comments of the books I read when I've been in the cells: Solitude by Anthony Storr - not a bad book, but a fucking terrible, completely idiotic choice in the circumstances, just not a subject you want to think about or focus on at all; The Satanic Verses - great book and a great choice, such rich and engaging writing, completely captivating and diverting; and (one I mentioned above) States of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering by Stanley Cohen. Quite a weird experience to read accounts of (among many other things) severe abuse of prisoners while myself in custody, but an absolutely fascinating book, incredibly intellectually stimulating, as well as deeply humanistic and beautifully written. I won't say the hours flew by, but it helped loads.

Poems from Prison. (1968) by Etheridge Knight. He wrote these poems while an inmate at Indiana State Prison. To read some of his work check out this link: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/etheridge-knight#about

I can't relate physically or emotionally to inmates, but Mr. Knight did. Knowing your feelings aren't wrong is a universal need that everyone deserves: even those who did or do wrong acts.

When Mandela was in prison they smuggled the Complete Works of Shakespeare onto Robbin Island. Each of the ANC prisoners had it in turn and each chose a favorite play and quote. Mandela chose 'Julius Caesar' ("Fine, you've seized power now what do you do next?") and his favorite quote - "The coward dies many a death - the brave man dies but once."

There is also a brilliant film by the Taviani Brothers of 'Julius Caesar' performed by (mostly Mafia) inmates in Italy's highest security prison.

@GuardianBooks Shantaram. Inspirational. Written by & about an escaped Australian prisoner turned accidental medicine man in a Mumbai slum.

@GuardianBooks I used to teach in a high security prison and they loved Othello - all about misguided decisions so it seemed apt

@GuardianBooks I'd give a prisoner Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and the works of Epicurus. I think they both understood how to endure.

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The Alphabet Library: H is for Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar

Telegraph - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 16:20
In association with AbeBooks.co.uk, Tim Martin continues his series on the A to Z of forgotten books. This week, he recalls a 'frighteningly adventurous' experimental novel by Julio Cortazar

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‘2048′ Leads The Top Free iPhone Apps List This Week

eBookNewser - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 16:00

This week’s leading free iOS app is 2048, an addicting number puzzle game that seems to be spreading faster than wildfire. If you’re frustrated with addicting games, or, if you had a rough affair with Flappy Bird, you should play Flappy Smash. It’s a hilarious parody of Flappy Bird that lets you kill of the critters by closing the pipes.

There are also a few more apps added to the top ten this week that are worth mentioning – What’s the Difference, Basketball Kinds, and Lockscreen for iOS.

Below, we’ve listed the top free iPhone apps of the week. The list links to Inside Network’s research about the individual apps, including historical charts, developer information and download information. continued…

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A brief survey of the short story: Jean Rhys

Guardian Books - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 15:04
Filled with doomed women in loveless relationships, Jean Rhys's prose would be very hard to read if it weren't so extraordinary

"Too bitter," Jean Rhys said of her work in 1945. "And besides, who wants short stories?" No one did then, at least not hers. Rhys published her first collection in 1927, and her first novel the following year. In the 1930s came three increasingly dark and accomplished novels, but the better she got, the less she was read. She published nothing for 20 years, until stories began appearing in the London Magazine in the early 1960s. In 1966, her final novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, brought her acclaim and a degree of financial security at the age of 76. Another two short-story collections appeared before her death in 1979. They include some of the best British short stories of the last century.

The Left Bank, Rhys's debut collection, which Ford Madox Ford helped bring to publication, comprises a series of modernist fragments in which hard-up bohemians get mournfully smashed in Paris: "But there she was stony-broke and with a hand that was rapidly losing its cunning, seeking oblivion in a cheap Montparnasse café." Much of it resembles the most insubstantial parts of Maupassant. The best thing in it by far is the long closing story, Vienne, which describes a relationship disintegrating as a couple move through a corrupt and crumbling Europe.

But though he had looked, as it seemed, straight into my eyes, and though I was sure he knew exactly what I was thinking, he had not helped me. He had only smiled. He had left me in that moment that seemed like years standing there

Long after she was dead and her cottage had vanished it would survive. The tin bucket and the rusty lawnmower, the pieces of rag fluttering in the wind. All would last for ever.

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Amazon Rumored to Release Smartphone With 3D Screen This Fall

eBookNewser - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 15:00

According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon has been demonstrating a new smartphone prototype with a 3D screen to various developers in secured hotel suites in Seattle and San Francisco. The phone, which will be shipped in September, supposedly has four front-facing cameras capable of delivering a 3D experience without the use of special glasses. The cameras would also be used to detect eye movements from the user. continued…

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Tips, links and suggestions: What are you reading this week?

Guardian Books - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 14:24

Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week's blog. Here's a roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

sheen_shine let us in on the way they divide up their reading by age. It sounds like a nice way to balance classics and new releases. Does anyone else do anything similar to this?

I'm 25 and mostly read a mix of classics and new releases. Last night I finished The Godfather, an old battered copy I borrowed from my Dad who bought it way back in 1971. Today I started the new Bridget Jones which my sister bought for me from a charity shop for £3. I also read a lot of classics on my Kindle because they're free and then I hunt around charity shops to find a real copy so I still have it on my bookshelf.

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7 April 2014, 14:23

I just finished Stoner and now feel I have to read something upbeat and amusing. I found the prose in Stoner too flowery for my taste and overall a downer of a book. I suppose you have to take into consideration that it was written several years ago in a different style than today's.

Interesting to hear a dissenting voice on Stoner. I picked it up not exactly because of the hype, but because the publishers, in their efforts to generate a buzz, gave out truckloads of free copies, including mine. I could see why people liked it, the prose style was very fine, and I really wanted to be amazed by it, but just wasn't. I found it a little conventional for my tastes. Perhaps if I had been in a different frame of mind I might have enjoyed it more. Halfway through, I kept finding myself picking up other books in preference, and months later accepted that I just didn't have any real desire to go back to it.

Just finished Stoner - which felt substantial during the reading, but isn't really staying with me.

Touching, tragic, funny,terrible, wonderfully0-constructed account of life in an Albanian town during the Second World War. on the Man Booker INternational in 2005 and richly deserved.

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8 April 2014, 1:27

Sometimes I like big, so it was fun to see that The Hindus was as fat & tall as The Essential Ellison

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7 April 2014, 20:26

Neither of those two was a match for The Absolute Sandman (which itself was trounced by The Annotated Sandman that arrived here two weeks ago.)

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7 April 2014, 20:32

I have a confession to make. I have never read Sherlock Holmes. Second confession, i liked the tv series but felt some of the stories were too far fetched. Notably the one with the blade inserted into the guardsman's belt. How do the two compare?

@GuardianBooks about to finish @GlaisterLesley Little Egypt. Such a sense of place, am eking it out!

@GuardianBooks Loving Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed, giving away my hardcover copy to a Twitter follower when I'm done....

@GuardianBooks I'm Reding 'Taunting the dead' by @writermels brilliant book. Highly recommended.

@GuardianBooks Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury. To be honest, I'm starting to wonder why I'm bothering. #Hardwork.

Oh, I Capture the Caste. A very, very important book for me. I may even have been the person going on about how great it was here. I loved it so, so much (and the last line is just ... wow).

It was the book I was reading when I met my girlfriend, and the first gift I gave her was a copy of it. And I have a very, very old, special copy from my mum (so special it is literally in bubblewrap in my flat). It's associated now with a lot that I love most.

I completely relate to feeling that special emotional connection with a book. Mine is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

An excellent book on a fascinating country.

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9 April 2014, 4:14

One day soon I will be able to read a book about something other than Indonesia without feeling guilty...

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8 April 2014, 22:02

Looks through a highly personal lens at the lives of public musical icons that have changed the face of music in the 21st century. Spans from the early country rock of the 1950's and 60's to the rise in the Seattle grunge movement through to the dawn of inner city rap in the 90's. Insights so rare and subjects so varied they range from Elvis to Cobain to Dr. Dre.

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9 April 2014, 10:21

It's been on my bookshelf for months. Wish I'd picked it up sooner. Astonishing (fictionalised) portrait of Marilyn Monroe. And I'm only half way through.

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13 April 2014, 12:53

A £1 charity shop find.

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9 April 2014, 19:05

Mountolive - thanks btw to those people who encouraged me to persist with the Quartet despite the sudden change to third person narrative - (and the jump back in time). Interestingly it's written like a conventional novel but I'm now wondering whether this new viewpoint is any less blinkered than the others, or is still one particular individual's perspective. It's seeped very much in the feelings and observations of one individual, even the things a person wouldn't remember or necessarily consciously notice but might well feel in the moment being repulsively hot in a uniform, or inexplicably happy, or distaste for a particular colleague.

I'm also now reading The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier, which does a similar thing regarding perspective but much more overtly, moving between the different children's understanding of their childhood and their parents as they try to work out what really happened one summer years ago - all aware that they've only got part of the story.

I have read other books which use a similar device, namely, taking a narrative and turning it round so that the story is seen or told by someone from a different viewpoint. I can't remember what they were. Does anyone here know of any?

A very dear friend has given me a copy of The Luminaries with these words: "once you reach page 600 it gets very good". Is this the most underwhelming recommendation ever?

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Restoring John Farrar to the FSG Story

Publishers Lunch - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 14:01
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Another Journalist Targeted for Wearing Google Glass

eBookNewser - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 14:00

San Francisco is a dangerous place to flaunt Google Glass. For the second time this year, a person was targeted for wearing the device – this time, in broad daylight at a BART station.

The second victim is 20-year-old journalist at Business Insider, Kyle Russell, who was attacked just moments after writing a story about an anti-tech protest march in the same neighborhood. According to Russell, the attacker yelled, “Glass,” before snatching the electronic device off of his face and running from the scene. After chasing the thief through traffic, the attacker smashed the glasses to the ground and ran off in another direction. Police were unable to track down the culprit. Russell now has a broken, unusable Glass and plenty of unsympathetic tweets from San Franciscans. continued…

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Ian McEwan's new novel to take on 'perverse' religious parents

Telegraph - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 13:51
The Children Act will tell the story of religious parents who refuse medical treatment for their child

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New Ian McEwan novel The Children Act to take on religion

Guardian Books - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 12:59
Story focusing on parents who refuse treatment for their son's illness will be published in September

Ian McEwan will focus on the contested domains of religion and family life for his forthcoming novel, The Children Act, according to his publisher Jonathan Cape.

Due to be published on 4 September 2014, The Children Act puts ideas of adult responsibility on trial with a plot that revolves around parents who are refusing treatment for their sick son because of their religious beliefs. The novel centres on the presiding judge at the high court, who is a woman.

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John Steinbeck - quiz

Guardian Books - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 12:00
The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck's landmark novel of The Great Depression in the US, is 75 years old this week. Have you saved up enough knowledge to get through our quiz? Continue reading...
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Poem of the week: The Anniversary by John Donne

Guardian Books - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 10:48
Written with a musical setting in mind, this metaphysical celebration of 'everlasting' fidelity sings with love and intellectual honesty

John Donne was the grandson of last week's poet John Heywood. It's not impossible that Heywood saw the young boy who would turn out to inherit his talents, growing up to take the verbal wit he so enjoyed to bold new heights of poetic expression. Donne was born to Heywood's daughter, Elizabeth, in 1572. Although by this time, Heywood was in exile in Malines, and had only six years or so to live, he had permission from Elizabeth I to visit England. John Donne, of course, was also a child of precarious political times.

The Anniversary appears in Songs and Sonets, Donne's second collection, published in 1601. Theodore Redpath, editor of the Methuen University Paperback edition (1987) suggests it recalls the poet's first meeting with his teenaged wife-to-be, Ann More, in 1598. Autobiography can never be assumed, but fidelity in love is clearly the poem's major, anxious theme.

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Everyday Sexism and The Vagenda review everything you wanted to know about sexism, except how to fight it

Guardian Books - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 09:00
Laura Bates's Everyday Sexism website is a brilliant resource, but her book is frustratingly short on practical solutions. Meanwhile, The Vagenda is as puerile as the media it critiques

In April 2012 Laura Bates set up a website called the Everyday Sexism Project. The idea was that women would be able to use it to upload their accounts of the quotidian struggle involved in being a woman. Such stories might be niggling: visitors would be able to write about wolf-whistling, bottom-pinching or the glib remarks men like to make about women's weight and ability to concentrate. Or they might be grave: in Britain there are 400,000 sexual assaults every year, and one in four women will experience some kind of domestic violence.

Bates had no funding for this project, and no means of publicising it beyond her own Facebook wall. But she hoped that, with luck, she would persuade 50 women to share their experiences. At least then she would feel a little less alone. For she had, she writes, recently reached a "tipping point" when she realised just how many incidents she was putting up with every day, as if this ghastly stuff the cat-calls, the gestures, the aggression and humiliation was perfectly normal: something to be lived with, like migraine.

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