World Book Night is an initiative run by literary charity The Reading Agency to promote reading among those who don’t regularly read for pleasure or might not even own a book.
2016 is the year I’ve finally got round to applying to be a volunteer and I’m so glad I did. A few days ago I picked up my 16 copies of S.J. Parris’ Treachery
(and put my muscles to the ultimate test on the bus journey home) and I’ve handed them out to family, colleagues and the patients at my local hospital to spread the literary love. What I didn’t expect was all the interesting and insightful bookish conversations it would lead to…
This year it falls on the 23rd April – which also happens to be the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death! So today I’m bringing you an ultra-special Shakespeare-themed World Book Night Q&A with the authors of some of this year’s selected World Book Night reads.
What 3 Books You Would Give to a Reluctant Reader?
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.
[Ann Cleeves]: 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.
1: Talking It Over, Julian Barnes
2: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris
3: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams for its anarchic humour.
The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore for its chilling, touching brevity.
Honeydew by Edith Pearlman for the sheer joy of short stories.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Yang. This graphic novel tells the story of the first Asian-American superhero. It’s hilarious, thrilling, and poignant too. Plus, if your reader gets hooked, Gene has a fantastic body of work to sustain that interest.
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older invites readers into a magical New York and takes on themes of creativity, appropriation, and power while never scrimping on adventure. This is a great one for young artists who may not quite believe in their gifts.
For younger readers, The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher is a witty, diverse middle grade mystery with an even more charming sequel.
One Day – It’s funny, on-point, romantic and sad – with incredible dialogue. There’s a reason the entire London underground seemed to be reading it in 2009.
Station Eleven– I’ve been literally shoving this into the hands of everyone. It’s an incredible literary book, but with a gripping premise that will keep anyone up until silly o’clock to get to the end.
The Fault In Our Stars– YA fiction is great for reluctant readers as it’s so plot-focused. I defy anyone not to be totally bewitched by this one, and John Green is a great gateway drug into the amazing world of teen fiction.
I believe that very often a book finds its reader…and luckily books do have a long shelf life.
[Jan-Philipp Sendker]: It totally depends on the age of the reader, the gender, the interests, the personal background so it’s impossible to generalize. I do believe there are books for every reluctant reader, though. Sometimes it is just a matter of time or the right timing. Sometimes it is a matter of finding the right match. One of my children is a very reluctant reader but once in a while, when she finds the right book, very often by accident, never because I gave it to her, she reads through the night. I believe that very often a book finds its reader…and luckily books do have a long shelf life.
Your Favourite Shakespearean Work?
[Ann Cleeves]: 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.
Macbeth, for the influence it’s had on writers, especially those inspired by Lady Macbeth.
‘Sonnet 29’ or Twelfth Night.
Much Ado About Nothing. Beatrice is everything I ever aspire to be. And I have fond memories of Keanu Reeves wearing leather trousers and running around a tunnel, covered in massage oil.
[Jan-Philipp Sendker]: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The reason for it is simple: in school we had a very active theatre group and at one point we staged Shakespeare’s comedy. We all fell in love with the work. I played Zettel and had to sing a song on stage. Just by myself. I was scared because I can not sing. Not at all. I did it anyway and got an ovation from 800 spectators. Unforgettable.
Your Favourite Shakespeare Quotation?
Oberon’s speech from A Midsummer Nights 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,
Lulld 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.
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.” (The Tempest, IV.i.148–158)
“Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.”
Measure for Measure
“And thus I clothe my naked villainy.” (Richard III)
“Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.”
“Nothing will come of nothing” (King Lear)
It was with this quote my parents teased me as a teenager when I was too lazy to do my homework or to do anything. It really got on my nerves and only later in life did I discover that they quoted Shakespeare. And guess what: It is now me who is annoying his children with the same quote.
Thank you to FMcM Associates for providing me with this Q&A.