23 April is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. To pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors, this date was designated by UNESCO in 1995 as World Book and Copyright Day – ‘to encourage everyone, in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity.’ There are celebrations all over the world including ‘readathons’, street festivals in the USA and the Miguel de Cervantes Prize ceremony in Spain. In the UK, however, the World Book Day is held on the first Thursday in March, as 23 April clashes with Easter school holidays. Conversely, a separate event, World Book Night, organized by the independent charity The Reading Agency is held on 23 April.
Tonight, starting from 7.30 pm, authors and other public figures will take to the stage at Shaw Theatre, London, to discuss their reading journey and the books that have inspired and shaped them in an exciting and enlivening evening of performances, readings and talks. Scottish writer Irvine Welsh, most known for his iconic novels Trainspotting and Filth is one of them! Other than that mentioned there are smaller events taking place in public libraries nationwide comprising free book giveaways and quiz nights. You can find a list with all the events on the official website – so, how are you going to celebrate this event?
We thought it might be a great idea to ask our teachers and admin team to share their thoughts about their favourite books with us. You can find below the books and why they love them.
What we talk about when we talk about love – Raymond Carver
The genius of Raymond Carver lies in the sparseness of his prose. In What we talk about when we talk about love less is certainly more. It is the simplicity of the language and the space between the sentences that imbues each story in this short collection with such power and insight. Often tragic but always laced with an undercurrent of black humour, these stories are profound and emotionally charged. This is an ideal book for English language learners who want to read authentic prose that is both accessible and challenging.
Coming Up for Air – George Orwell
When I was in my late teens studying English at college, I was introduced to a wide range of new literature and poetry. There were two writers that captured my imagination and helped me in those difficult years of adjustment. The poet Louis Macneice and George Orwell. I ended up writing my final long essay on Orwell. I loved all his books – The Road to Wigan Pier; Down and Out in Paris and London; Animal Farm; Keep the Aspidistra Flying as well as all his assorted essays. The book that captured my imagination most though, was the less known ‘Coming Up for Air’.
At the time, having grown up through the Cold War, I was full of fears about the future of the planet and impending doom. I was attracted to a lot of books written before the second world war that expressed fears for the future in a much more direct and obvious way. Coming Up for Air was published in 1939. Yet the book focusses as much on fears about the future of capatalism and the folly of mundane things like mortgages, dead end jobs and urban expansion. Like so much of Orwell’s writing it is written from a really down to earth and very human perspective, with the main character being a grumpy but often funny chap, annoyed by little things and big – an everyday version of Orwell himself.
The story follows him as he returns to his childhood village and finds everything changed. If you look at towns around London like Slough, Bracknell and Harrow, these were all small pretty villages once, now swallowed up by the pace of change.
I think we all long for a simpler less changeable existence, full of certainties and peace. In this way, as I adjusted to the fact that life simply doesn’t work that way, the book offered me some comfort, as well just being a really good read.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
I first read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice when I was a young girl. I was instantly hooked on the storyline, unable to tear my eyes away, intrigued by Austen’s extensive character descriptions which led to me falling hopelessly in love with Mr. Darcy. This book is hard to categorize as its witty, romantic, dramatic and filled with wonderfully flawed characters one can identify with, whilst painting a razor-sharp picture of an oppressively class-bound culture with a strong woman at the center. I read Pride and Prejudice about once every five years, swept away by the witty developments of Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy as they struggle towards love and acceptance.
My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
It is so difficult to think of just one book that is your absolute favourite but I must say that recently I have been completely wrapped up in Elena Ferrante’s series of novels called The Neapolitan novels! I actually put the call out on twitter to Italians in London or Italy to see if they could lend me copy of the books as I really wanted to read them in Italian! Guess what? A really fantastic lady named Margerita sent me all 4 in the series in a e-book format! How cool is that? The power of Twitter!!
These novels have also been superbly translated into English by Ann Goldstein and document the deep friendship which evolves between two women in Naples from their childhood into adulthood. The first novel, My Brilliant Friend, is set in the 1950s in post-war Naples when many of the citizens of this ancient city were still struggling to make ends meet. There was a lot of poverty, corruption and Ferrante details these struggles in this captivating first novel – It’s hard to put it down! I have just started the 2nd novel calledThe Story of a New Name (2013) and I have two more to go – Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay (2014), and The Story of the Lost Child. I really can’t recommend more highly these books! They are engulfing and a true depiction of female friendship! However, they are not just for women I would recommend them for men as well as they truly capture human experience of friendship.
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
Enough said, eh? For anyone with a large complicated family of eccentrics, poets, disasters and angels, this book surely makes total sense. The way Márquez weaves history, mysticism, wisdom and duty into a century of inevitable oblivion has captivated me since I first read it at 19 while traveling. I only wish one day I will be able to read it in Spanish.