Author: euanhirst

I am the Academic Manager of Blackwell's world famous bookshop on Broad Street in Oxford. I contribute frequently to our shop blog, Twitter and Facebook pages. Books are my life...

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…

marxgift

“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.

Click to Buy

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.

0370331974

Click to Buy

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.

0007137311

Click to Buy

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.

1909489409

Click to Buy

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.

0552552097

Click to Buy

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.

1405265116

Click to Buy

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.

0141350865

Click to Buy

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.

0857079131

Click to Buy

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.

1406350486

Click to Buy

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.

140883233X

Click to Buy

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!

140884818X

Click to Buy

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.

0141349174

Click to Buy

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

PPbouquet

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Happy Valentines!

The books that you are most likely to see under your tree this year…

As we tick off the first week of December we start to get a good feel for which books are going to be at the top of our bestseller lists come Christmas. If you are looking for inspiration for that ‘hard to buy for’ relative this might give you some ideas…

For details of these books and for plenty more recommendations from our booksellers visit our shop website, and don’t forget, you can always chat to us on Twitter!

Matchbook Books!

It seems that there is a new genre in town – the ‘matchbook’. Two examples have caught our eye, firstly a new collection of 30 short ‘entertainments’ by Michael Frayn and the second issue of Matchbook Stories from Cypriot indie publisher Books Ex Machina. Both are charming ‘amuse bouche’ that delight with their wit and style, both in content and design.

Perfect as presents – especially to yourself! Both are now available in the shop priced £12.99.

Harry Leslie Smith and Owen Jones in conversation with Melissa Benn

There is no doubt that one of the surprise personalities of the year has been Harry Leslie Smith, 91 year old survivor of the Great Depression and veteran of the Second World War. Whatever your politics, his memoir, Harry’s Last Stand, is an incredibly affecting book. On Tuesday October 28th you have the chance to see Harry in person.

Harry will share the stage at The Sheldonian Theatre with Owen Jones, political commentator and author of the bestselling ‘Chavs‘ and, now, ‘The Establishment‘. The discussion will be moderated by Melissa Benn.

Tickets cost £5 and can be obtained by visiting our Customer Service Department at Blackwell’s Bookshop, Broad Street, Oxford or by tel: 01865 333623 email: events.oxford@blackwell.co.uk

Stand on the Shoulders of Giants – FREE talks from leading academics

For the start of term we are, once again, excited and honoured to be able to present a series of talks from some world-class academics. Each talk is free to attend, seats are limited so please arrive early to ensure a place – talks begin at 3pm each day.

Monday 13th October, 3pm
Will Hutton Political Economist and Principal of Hertford College, Oxford
“What Does Studying Economics Teach Us?”

Tuesday 14th October, 3pm
Adam Roberts, Senior Research Fellow, Balliol College, Oxford
“Tackling Political Violence in Politics and International Relations”

Wednesday 15th October, 3pm
Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies, University of Oxford and Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow, St Antony’s College, Oxford
“What Does Studying History Tell Us?”

Thursday 16th October, 3pm
Danny Dorling, Halford MackinderProfessor of Geography, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
“What Does Studying Inequality Teach Us?”

Friday 17th October, 3pm
Marianne Talbot, Director of Studies in Philosophy at the University of Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education
“What Does Studying Philosophy Teach Us?”  

Keep up to date with all our author events on our shop page