World book night generally manages to pass me by, it shouldn't, I love the idea, and every year when I realise it's happening I think I'll get involved next time - and then fail too. As a keen reader this is a cause of some shame, I should try harder to share the joy of books and reading with those less keen - shouldn't I?
The important thing is that the opportunity to escape into a book is available to anyone who wants it and anything that promotes that is worth getting behind. This year I was sent a selection of author Q&A's and have chosen Ann Cleeves because - well because she loves Shetland, and so do I, but also because I found her responses interesting.
World Book Night 2016
3 favourite books of all time
This is almost impossible, changes daily and depends on what I’ve been reading most recently.
Le Grand Meaulnes (translated as The Lost Estate) by Alain Fournier is always on the list. I love the set-up, the sense of the lonely son of a country school master and his friendship with the older boy who becomes a fellow student. The plot is preposterous but readers are left with the idea of adventure, loyalty and mystery.
I’ve recently re-read Simenon’s Maigret novels and I’m a big fan. Simenon can say so much with one simple sentence, and there are no monsters in his crime fiction. I hope the recent television adaptation will bring in fresh readers.
To bring some cohesion to my choice I’ll add Side-tracked by Henning Mankell. Translated fiction is still my reading passion. Mankell’s hero, Wallender, is a very believable cop and Mankell does brilliantly visual first scenes.
3 books you would give to a reluctant reader
I’d suggest anything on the Quick Reads list. Quick Reads are books that have been specifically commissioned for people who are new to reading for pleasure. The content is very definitely for grown-ups, but the language is relatively simple and the chapters are short. The scheme has been going for ten years now so there’s plenty for people to choose from. For instance, this year there’s a story by Lucy Diamond about pregnancy, an edited version of Malala’s story and a crime novel by me! I wouldn’t want to recommend specific titles because reluctant readers have their own tastes and preferences like everyone else. Part of the joy of reading is wandering into a library and taking a chance with a book. So instead of giving 3 books, I’d give a library ticket.
3 outside places you like to read
I’ll read anywhere. Of course we all enjoy holiday reading and there’s something wonderful about knowing that I can spend all day losing myself in a novel, without feeling guilty (though I still think I should be writing…) I don’t do beach holidays much though so often my outside holiday reading will be somewhere a bit chilly. Luckily, Busta House Hotel in the North Mainland of Shetland has quite a sheltered garden. I sometimes snatch time when I’m at home to read in my own garden. A cup of tea, a lunchtime sandwich and a novel – what could be nicer? For my 60th birthday my husband and I took an expedition through Bolivia. He’s a passionate birder, so there were a lot of stops while he and the others tried to sort out various species of hummingbirds or to pin down the antbirds. I did spend quite a few hours reading by the track in the rain forest waiting for them.
Favourite Shakespeare work
Othello. I’m a crime-writer and Othello tackles very modern themes of obsessive love and jealousy. The plot could easily be up-dated to become a contemporary psychological thriller. Iago’s a clever and manipulative villain, and Othello is a flawed hero whose lack of confidence makes him an easy target. Desdemona is an independent woman who’s fallen love with an outsider.
Favourite Shakespeare quotation
Oberon’s speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxslips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight’
I was asked to learn this when I first started senior school and it seemed very grown up to be memorizing a piece of Shakespeare. This is Oberon planning his trick on his wife and it’s almost like a spell. The list of flowers and the heady language makes us feel as dreamy as Titania as she becomes enchanted. It also reminds me of a very happy childhood.