Saturday 21st March 2015

Days such as last Saturday do not come along too often. Not only was it the start of the annual Oxford Literary Festival but it was also the unveiling of the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition Marks of Genius at the newly refurbished Weston Library (formerly known as the New Bodleian).

DSCF4107The whole of Broad Street was buzzing with excitement and no little awe as thousands descended on our little corner of Oxford.

Some were here just for the Festival, some for the Exhibition, many for both. Not only was Broad Street heaving but Twitter got in on the act too:

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So, to the Marks of Genius exhibition – 130 of the most special treasures of the Bodleian Library presented to the public. It is impossible to convey the importance that this astonishing collection has had on civilisation – from science to art, religion to literature. It truly is breathtaking:

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The Gutenberg Bible – one of only forty eight surviving copies

By all means take a look at the exhibition website, but seeing these items for yourself cannot be recommended highly enough. AND. IT. IS. FREE.

We have put together a Marks of Genius Collection in our Norrington Room with books chosen to complement the exhibition. Even if I say so myself it looks very handsome

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To see this tweet from Ricahard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian did, quite frankly, make my day.

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The Oxford Literary Festival may be considerably younger than the Bodleian but it has become one of the essential parts of the cultural calendar of Oxford. For the second year we were asked to provide the marquee and, with us being us, we decided to substantially increase the space that we gave to books this time. So not only is there a full A-Z run of books by Festival authors but there is table upon table of some of our favourite books.

DSCF4189smallFrom early on the marquee was packed. Nestled between the Sheldonian Theatre and the Bodleian library is really is a book lovers paradise.

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We were at each of the venues selling books for such luminaries as Simon Schama, Cressida Cowell and Eric Kandel to name but three.

And so we move on from this exhilarating day. The Festival is in town until Sunday 29th, Marks of Genius runs until September the 20th and the Weston Library will stand gorgeous and proud for generations to come. We are honoured to stand next to it in a supportive, neighbourly fashion.

The eastern end of Broad Street has never looked better.

 

 

 

We Have The Loveliest Customers – part 1,005,932…

The bookshop is blessed in having so many wonderful customers who many of our booksellers class as friends now. Every so often one of these lovely people does something that melts our heart. Here is a recent example.

A wonderful woman is a regular visitor to the shop and she approached us to talk about the lack of a mirror in our disabled toilet. She said that she wanted to provide one and would not hear of it when we said that it was something we should do. She had the idea of a bookish quote being engraved on the mirror but was not sure what quote would be appropriate. Her suggestion was that our booksellers should vote on the quote to use. So we did. Groucho Marx won.

Here is a picture of Ulric, manager of the Norrington Room receiving the mirror from this customer who has touched all our hearts. Sometimes the world can appear to be a very lovely place…

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“Outside of a dog a book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog it is too dark to read.” GROUCHO MARX

A Year at Blackwell’s Teen Fiction Reading Group

Want to join a reading group but don’t know how or where? At Blackwell’s we host three reading groups every month. If you are interested in knowing more information about any of these groups please feel free to email  events.oxford@blackwell.co.uk or visit their websites listed below.

• 1st Monday of the month- Books on the Broad, a fiction reading group

• 2nd Friday of the month- Blackwell’s Teen Fiction Reading Group

• final Wednesday of the month- Non Fiction Reading Group

Blackwell’s Teen Fiction Reading Group

We’ve been running a teen fiction reading group in the bookshop for four years now and every year the books we read together are as varied as the next. We’ve had fantasy with reading the classic Eragon by Christopher Paolini, historical fiction reading Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Weir and dystopian with Patrick Ness’ More Than This.

What is so great about being part of the group is that everyone has different thoughts and opinions on each novel. Sometimes we all loved it, with no one challenging the views but other times we’ve had disagreements which is great for discussion. The group is made up of teenagers from 13+ and adults who enjoy reading teen fiction; the group is for everyone who enjoys picking up a teen fiction book. We decide what we read together fairly, by putting forward suggestions, five being pulled out, these are then put on our blog and voted for. The one with the most votes is the book we read for the month.

Our meeting is on the second Friday of the month at 6:30pm-7:30pm in Cafe Nero on the first floor. We are always looking to welcome new members, so if you’re interested in knowing more about us please visit our website www.blackwellsteenfictionreadinggroup.wordpress.com.

Recommending books is what being part of a reading group is all about, so I’ve written little reviews on the books we chose to read together last year.

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January: Every Day by David Levithan

I really enjoyed reading this book. David Levithan, who is supposedly best friends with ‘it’ man of teen fiction John Green, has a great style of writing. In this novel the main character ‘A’ wakes up every day in someone else’s body. For that day only A has to live the life of this person, trying to follow through the norm so that no one really notices the changes. Until one day A meets a girl, one it wants to be with and to fight to get to know. So with determination A every day wakes up in a body, a boy or a girl, and finds Rhiannon. The novel looks at the importance to not judging people by how they look but what is inside, the difficulties of overcoming the times when A ends up in a girls body, the understanding of loneliness and sacrifice for love. It’s a really warming story and one that should be read. The only thing I will say is it is for a mature teen readership, there is content of a sexual nature so be aware of this.

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February: The Kissing Game by Aiden Chambers

Our meeting fell on Valentine’s Day this year and did we pick a nice fluffy romance? No we picked The Kissing Game by Aiden Chambers. This is the second book I’ve read of Aiden and I love his style of writing, he could write about anything and you’d want to know all about it. In this collection of short stories there are 16 to get your teeth round which made it both fun to discuss as a group but also difficult! As quoted on Aiden Chambers website from a quote by School Library Journal: “These 16 stories focus mostly on dangerous or awkward difficulties that can underpin a burgeoning relationship.” Some of them were sad, where we all sat there saying “It made me nearly cry” with others being shocking (I wont reveal which one I’m talking about, but, ew). It’s not one for the lighthearted but definitely worth a read, especially as the stories are short so can jump in and out as little or as often as you want to.

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March: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Book number one of the Old Kingdom trilogy, Sabriel by Gareth Nix is the perfect read for anyone who likes a fantasy adventure. Sabriel has been living in a boarding school, working hard and getting good grades. Her Dad comes to visit every few months and everytime he comes she is thrilled. Sadly, she gets note that her father has died and it is now her time to take over his role in the kingdom beyond the wall, as Abhorsen, the keeper of the dead, making sure they pass to the other side. With the help of her fathers talking cat, Sabriel must try to fix the kingdom that is turning inside out and at the same time work out who killed her father and make them pay.

Also the good thing is a series, so perfect to get your teeth into.

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April: Maze Runner by James Dashner

What I can I say, James Dashner created a great series when he wrote the Maze Runner. At times they are grossly disturbing but that is the charm of this series. What would happen if a group of teenagers were stuck in a maze with mechanical creatures set out to kill them… erm. But this series is honestly the perfect read for anyone who loved The Hunger Games, it’s fast paced with lots of unexpected twists in the series a whole and it’s guaranteed after reading the first book you’ll want to finish the series.

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May: Eragon by Christopher Paolini

I loved this series. A few years ago I read this book, to have something in common with someone I was sharing it with at the time and I honestly struggled to get through it and didn’t continue with the series. This time though I gobbled the story and went on to read the other three books in a short period of time after finishing Eragon with the reading group. If you love reading fantasy novels, this is one you have to read. A world with dragons, dragon riders, elves, bad kings, fight scenes, what more does a great fantasy novel need to have?! One of the best parts of it is the relationship between Saphira, the dragon and Eragon. Don’t be put off by the size of each of the novels, the extra content is needed and don’t judge it by the film… the book is a million times better.

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June: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Weir

Sometimes a book leaves a mark on you after you’ve read it and Rose Under Fire promises to do just that. It is based in the Second World War and is the story of a young women who bravely flies planes from England to France after they have been repaired for the soldiers, with no weapons. One day she ends up being captured by the Nazi’s and taken to a concentration camp, and this story is her survival in that camp. It looks at the obviously horrific treatment of the people there, the friendships that the girls formed in their bunk rooms and how these characters kept trying to be strong through this horrific experience. Elizabeth Weir is a research writer so the story has been told close to the true facts. Not a great book to discuss as a group but definitely one to be read.

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July: Half Bad by Sally Green

If you struggle with violence, this one may not be the book for you. Half Bad by Sally Green deserves being part of the Telegraphs top Teen fiction reads of 2014 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/11030589/The-best-young-adult-books-of-2014.html) but it is at times worryingly violent in a physical violent way. Nathan is a half witch, which means he is half white witch (good witch) and half black witch (bad witch). Half bads are treated as though they are dirt and Nathan, he is the lowest of the low because not only did his mother, who was the white witch, commit suicide and leave him, his father is the worst black witch of the lot, notorious for killing white witches and eating them… On a witches 17th birthday they must receive three gifts from someone in their family, which defines what type of adult they become, or they die, Nathan must find his father to save his life. In the meantime, there are hunters after him and with the help of a few he must defy all.

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August- Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Dystopian fiction at its best, Uglies is set in a world where beauty is the most important thing. Everyone lives the first 16 years of their life as an ‘Ugly’, where they are normal human beings with wonky ears and frizzy hair. When they reach the age of becoming an adult, they become a Pretty, where they are made to be perfect, given designer clothes and live the life of parties and happy fun. The government set in place that every person would go under intense operations to fix the imperfections of the human race, including their ability to think for themselves. They are told they must be this pretty person and spend their whole lives living for the day they become pretty and Tally is no different. Until she meets Shay. Shay fills a void that her best friend left behind when he turned pretty months before she was due to. Shay however tells her that there is a way of living without being turned and a whole new adventure starts.

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September: More Than This by Patrick Ness

I would highly recommend reading Patrick Ness if you haven’t read his Chaos Walking Series. More Than this is a weird but exciting read. Seth in the opening chapter is drowning and thinks he is dying. The next thing you know he wakes up in a deserted town with no one around. You learn about where he is, why he tried to commit suicide, how he survives. I can’t really explain more than this as it would reveal too much of the plot and the joy of this book is learning information as you read along.

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October-: Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

This has to be my favourite read of the year. Set to be huge in teen fiction Throne of Glass I feel could be the next Hunger Games/Divergent/Maze Runner. There are three books out in the series already, technically four with a prequel written about Celaena’s life before Throne of Glass when she was an Assassin. Celaena is living in a prison where they are treated badly by the king. She is offered an ultimatum, she can continue living in the prison where she is going to die or she can represent the prince in a tournament to become the Kings Assassin. If she becomes the Kings Assassin she can be free in years, the only issue is, the King is the one man on the planet she detests and would rather she killed herself. In the meantime there is romance and the competition. You find out more about her as the book goes along, Caelena is feisty and funny and a character you really do love as she has lots of different layers. A must!

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November: Paper Towns by John Green

John Green. I don’t think this book needs a review because everyone must know about John Green and this book. Currently being made into a movie set to come out next year, Paper Town looks at the life of Quentin, the good hard working boy next door to Margo. Margo and him used to be the best of friends. One day she knocks on his door and they have this epic adventure, the next she has vanished and only Quentin can work out where on earth she is. Insert two brilliant best friends and you have the start of an epic quest to find where on earth Margo has vanished to. John Green is very good about writing friendships and I think this is done well in this novel.

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December: Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle

A nice little festive read, Let it Snow is a novel made of three stories which intertwine together. It’s fun to find the links and be like “Oh he was in the story before”. There isn’t enough Christmassy stories for Teen fiction so I think it’s great for that alone. Mixed feelings with the group for all of the stories but I think overall its a solid 7/10.

 

 

Want to join us?

Fabulous Valentine Inspiration

One of my favourite Oxford business is Fabulous Flowers. Unsurprisingly they have a fabulous Valentines idea – bouquets inspired some of the best romantic novels, creating bouquets ‘from the saucy to the innocent.’

This is the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ bouquet

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To complement the flowers we can think of no finer edition of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ than the Folio Society:

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Available from the shop by calling 01865 333602 it really is a thing of beauty…

Happy Valentines!

Tariq Ali launches Karim Miské’s debut novel ‘Arab Jazz’

On Monday 9th February at 7pm, We are thrilled to be hosting the Oxford launch of Karim Miské’s debut crime thriller, ‘Arab Jazz’. Joining us to host the evening’s discussion will be journalist, author, radical thinker and the inspiration for the Rolling Stone’s ‘Street Fighting Man’, Tariq Ali.

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Kosher sushi, kebabs, a second hand bookshop and a bar: the 19th arrondissement in Parisis a cosmopolitan neighbourhood where multicultural citizens live, love and worship alongside one another. This peace is shattered when Ahmed Taroudant’s melancholy daydreams are interrupted by the blood dripping from his upstairs neighbour’s brutally mutilated corpse. The violent murder of Laura Vignole, and the pork joint placed next to her, set imaginations ablaze across the neighborhood, and Ahmed finds himself the prime suspect. However detectives Rachel Kupferstein and Jean Hamelot are not short of leads. What is the connection between a disbanded hip-hop group and the fiery extremist preachers that jostle in the streets for attention? And what is the mysterious new pill that is taking the district by storm? In this his debut novel, Karim Miské demonstrates a masterful control of setting, as he moves seamlessly between the sensual streets of Paris and the synagogues of New York to reveal the truth behind a horrifying crime.

The novel has just been awarded France’s most prestigious award for crime writing and has been described by Tariq as ‘Intelligent and Gripping’. Join us for what is likely to be an extremely passionate and thought provoking talk where art begins to imitate life.

Tickets cost just £3 and are available to purchase from the customer service department of Blackwell’s Oxford or by calling 01865 333623.

Five Minutes with Samantha Shannon

To celebrate the publication of ‘The Mime Order‘, Samantha Shannon’s follow up to ‘The Bone Season‘, we will be hosting a very special afternoon event, on Saturday 31st January at the Sheldonian Theatre. Joining Samantha to discuss her books and the wonderful world that she has created will be Andy Serkis, best known for his acting roles as Gollum, King Kong and Caesar from ‘Planet of the Apes‘. Andy is also the founder of Imaginarium Studios which has purchased the rights to Samatha’s ‘The Bone Season‘. 

Samantha was kind enough to answer a few questions for Broad Conversation, in order to whet your appetite for the event…

Let’s start with an easy one – are you reading anything good at the moment?

I’ve got a few books on the go at the moment. The first one is Stone Mattress, the new collection of short stories by Margaret Atwood, which is full of her wonderful, dark wit. I’m quite a long way into an early translation of The Key, the final book in the Engelsfors trilogy by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg. It’s a gritty, complex urban fantasy set in a small town in Sweden, following the struggles of six young women who discover that they’re witches. I’m also looking forward to starting The Chimes by Anna Smaill, a dystopia based around music.

The Mime Order comes out in the UK on 27th Jan. How was writing the second book different to the first? Are there any sneak peeks you can tease us with?

Unlike the first book, The Mime Order isn’t based in Oxford at all – it’s solely set in my home city of London. It follows Paige as she returns to London after her ordeal as a prisoner, determined to bring the truth about Scion to light, but it’s more of a challenge than she could ever have anticipated. It’s nerve-racking to have a second book coming out, but it was fantastically good fun to write, as I was able to show the reader much more of the Bone Season world – including some new characters – and delve deeper into the relationships between Paige and her fellow gang members.

You’re one of the most contactable authors I’ve seen, and are always answering fan questions and interacting with readers on your Tumblr. Has answering these questions had an impact on your view of the world you’ve created? Does it make you consider aspects of the books that you maybe hadn’t thought about?

It hasn’t affected the way I write the books, but it’s definitely thought-provoking when someone asks me a question about something I hadn’t thought about.

Has there been any scene in particular that was the hardest to write? What do you do if something just isn’t coming together?

The dénouement of The Mime Order was tough to write, as it’s a very long, action-heavy scene, spread over several chapters, and involves a large number of characters. The ending also took a few tries to get right, but I’m pleased with how it turned out.

And one really obvious question – how did you feel when Imaginarium Studios took on ‘The Bone Season’?

I was over the moon. A few studios were interested in acquiring the film rights, but as soon as I heard that Andy Serkis was one of the co-founders of Imaginarium, I was intrigued. I admire Andy’s dedication to developing his particular field of interest within the film industry, and I was certain that if any studio was going to make The Bone Season look amazing on the big screen, it would be this one. I’ve really enjoyed working with the Imagineers so far. They’ve since teamed up with Chernin Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox to make the film, and they now have a double Oscar-nominated screenwriter on board.

If you’re a fan of ‘The Bone Season’, and can’t wait for ‘The Mime Order’, book now to see Samantha and Andy in conversation! Tickets for the event cost £5. You can also pre-order ‘The Mime Order’ (published 27th Jan 2015) and get a free ticket to the event.

Simply visit the Customer Service Desk in the Broad Street shop, or phone them on 01865 333623. For enquiries email: events.oxford@blackwell.co.uk

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest info.

Blackwell’s Book Gift Club

Anyone with bookish friends and family knows the joy of being handed a book you’ve never heard of, accompanied by a glowing recommendation, and discovering a real treasure. Sometimes the books you didn’t know you wanted are the books that grab you the most… Mark Forsyth’s essay The Unknown Unknown discusses ‘the delight of not getting what you wanted’ from a bookshop who can work magic in providing unknown, unmissable books.

The Blackwell’s Book Gift Club works on this very principle – we will choose a brand new book for you (or your favourite book-lover), and send it to you each month. It’s a little bit of literary magic in your letterbox!

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We choose the most interesting and high quality books published during the year, so you’ll always receive a brand new hardback book, published within the last three months, and worth at least £16. Books will be sent out on the 1st of each month, and should be with you/your chosen recipient within five working days.

There are five categories to choose from:

1. Fiction

2. History

3. Politics, Philosophy and Culture

4. Science

5. ‘The Perfect Mixture’ – a selection of books from all categories

You can subscribe for 6 months or 12 months, and the prices are as follows:

12 months: £199 for the Fiction category, and £221 for the other four categories.

6 months: £99.50 for the Fiction category, and £110.50 for the other four categories.

If you would prefer to receive paperbacks, then for 12 months it’s just £120 for the Fiction category, and £150 for any other category, and for 6 months, it’s £60 for Fiction and £75 for the other categories.

Postage within the UK is free – if the subscription is a present for somebody else, we can send the payment details to you and the books to another address. Please email oxford@blackwell.co.uk, with the subject ‘Book Gift Club’, for advice on international postage costs.

To leave you with some temptation, here’s a selection of some previous Gift Club choices…