Censorship, Howl and City Lights of San Francisco

I recently found myself in San Francisco for a few days. I hadn’t been to the city before and didn’t have too much time for exploring; I was willing to forego my usual exploration of bookshops, but in the end my heart was drawn to one: City Lights, a bastion of literary freedom since its foundation in 1953.

Wandering the shelves of City Lights is an excellent pastime in its own right—progressive politics, brilliant fiction and non-fiction picks and downstairs, shelves upon shelves of gender politics, minority histories, and even religion and philosophy.

In the wake of the 2016 election, the store opened a “Pedagogies of Resistance” section, which was a total joy to browse, filled with titles about revolutionary movements that aim to empower the reader for present and future moments of resistance. You might wonder what sort of bookshop assumes such a public responsibility, but the truth is that City Lights has a rich history of resistance. This is a bookshop with history sewn into the very fibre of its being.

To read the entire article, please visit Book Riot.

Things I Learned from Jacqueline Wilson

As a child, I lived for the words Jacqueline Wilson wrote—every single sentence jumped into my sense of self. Wilson taught me a lot about the world, but I didn’t realise that until I was recently standing in a bookshop, looking at a hardback copy of her latest work, and a whack of nostalgia hit me right in the chest.

I’ve done some research and it appears that I lived my Wilson Years between 1997 and 2002, when I was between 7 and 12 years old. I have clear memories of all of the books I read and, after my book shop visit, I thumbed back through a few to fulfill the weird nostalgic loneliness I had in my heart for Tracy Beaker, Ruby and Garnett, Treasure and India—my Wilson friends.

Below is a rundown of the real-life lessons I learned from Jacqueline Wilson, which I still use in daily life. Also, all of these covers have changed since I was a child and it’s so lovely to see the updates. Nick Sharatt’s illustrations are as amazing now as they were in 1997.

To finish reading this article, please visit Book Riot.

Say Goodbye to Summer with 5 Books About Bees

I’ve always loved bees. To my father’s chagrin, I got my first tattoo when I was 22 years old–a honey bee on the left side of my back. It hurt, but the moment I saw the bee in the mirror, I loved him.

The bee has now been with me for five years and to celebrate the anniversary, I popped by a tattoo studio in London and had him upgraded, adding colour, lengthening wings and overall making him a little more organic. I love the tattoo just as much as I did before, but now it’s brighter and looks more ‘complete’, for want of a better word.

When I was 20 (and 21), I went through a horrible few months of depression and anxiety. It was a rotten time that I hope never to re-live again. Every day was a battle to just get out of bed and get through the day. It was miserable. On my 21st birthday, a friend of mine gave me a little silver chain with a bee hanging from it. Bees, she told me, are hardworking, self sufficient, intelligent and strong. She said the moment she saw it, it reminded her of me.

To finish reading this piece, please visit Book Riot.

In Praise of the IKEA Billy Bookcase

I moved house recently. Or more specifically, I moved in with my boyfriend, and it’s the first time I’ve ever lived with a significant other. Neither of us drink, which makes us by necessity a little anti-social, and so we spend a lot of time in the microcosm of our apartment. I thought this would annoy me because I like my own space (as does he) but it’s been an easy transition. Frankly, we’re both very happy to sit there ignoring each other except to ask occasional questions like “D’you want tea?”

We knew we were going to have a problem moving books. I have collated an entire bookcase in the short two years I have lived in London, with the shelves each packed two books deep. My cheap Argos bookshelf fell apart as soon as I tried to move it so I had to wave that goodbye. To be fair, it was very over-stacked and I worked it much too hard. My partner has also accumulated quite the collection of books, and collects comics, meaning we had five large cardboard boxes of those to move also. Worse, I moved most stuff on foot because the new apartment was less than a ten minute walk from the old. I took some books on each of my walks and my muscles were really feeling it by the end.

To finish reading this piece, please visit Book Riot.

Becoming a Digital Paper Person

I have always been a paper person.

When I was a child in school, I remember very clearly that my schoolbag weighed a ton. My back ached from the dense mass hanging from it- a bag full of copy books, workbooks, textbooks and the associated paraphernalia- but I loved all those little bits and didn’t equate their various delights with the heavy backpack.

Back then, ‘fancy paper’ was a thing- coloured pages; paper shaped like animals or hearts; scented paper. All of it seemed amazing to me at the time. When I look back now I realise that I literally collected sheets of paper and found it fun. I’m sure kids today would flush heads down toilets for less.

You can view the rest of this article at Book Riot.

Reading with the Codebreakers at Bletchley Park

Located in a leafy section of Milton Keynes in England, Bletchley Park was the home of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) during World War II. In 1938, the mansion on the site and a lot of the surrounding acreage was planned for a housing estate but was instead purchased by Hugh Sinclair, head of the SIS. The purchase price was £6000, which Sinclair paid out of his own pocket.

The Mansion at Bletchley Park

79 years later, I got the chance to spend some time at Bletchley, seeing an incredibly under-recognised piece of history in all of its understated glory.

Hugh Sinclair thought Bletchley would be useful in the event of a war; it had good transport connections and it would be easier to keep secret because it was outside London. ‘Station X’ was kept secret long after the end of World War II, it staff bound by a fierce code of honour that prevented them sharing the secrets of their work, until 1974, when FW Winterbotham wrote The Ultra SecretWinterbotham has been a top ranking member of MI6 who reported directly to Hugh Sinclair- and though his knowledge of the actual codebreaking has been recognised as inaccurate and some of his account is blatantly incorrect, the story still captured the imagination of the public. In 1993, the site was opened as a museum.

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5 Bookshops You Need to Visit around Camden Town

I moved to London in 2015 and took up residence in Camden Town immediately. Camden has its moments of being a rampant cliché, but I absolutely adore it. It’s bookish and quirky, great for people-watching and generally fills me with positivity. It can be super busy and cloying- but nestled around the craziness are some of my favourite bookshops.

Since its inception, Camden Town has been built on the shoulders of independent people- but in the past few years, a lot of market land has been purchased by a wealthy private investor, which is causing concern for local businesses and workers. Below is a series of bookshops that support local people and community efforts- and every single one is absolutely worth the visit if you’re in the area and fancy a bit of community activism.

Please visit Book Riot to read the rest of this list.


Dear London: Books to Make your Heart Soar

It was about 10pm. My boyfriend was curled up next to me, dozing quietly. The street was quiet, the night was dark and the TV was on, but muted. My duvet was calling.

And then the newsflashes started. Metropolitan Police had closed off London Bridge. I snapped to full alertness and the details came through; another van, another terrorist attack on the city I’ve adopted as home. I shook my boyfriend awake and we watched the news for a while, texting friends and family, offering our spare room for some friends of ours who might need it. In London, you go on- regardless of what happens.

London Bridge was one event too many, one of too many in a row- too many, too quickly. The absolute horror of the Grenfell Tower fire just days later- and then the most recent hate crime perpetrated against the Muslim community at Finsbury Park. It’s a cumulative sadness that pushes against everything you believe in. Anger and helplessness slide into the crevices. We become jaded and worn.

The rest of this article can be seen on Book Riot.

Namaste on my Shelf: 7 Books Every Yoga Teacher Needs

Long before I started my yoga teacher training, I had started to collect books about yoga. This was partially because I love books (duh), but there were other reasons too. I was doing quite a lot of home practice because I was trying to get much better at poses that challenged me- and there was no guarantee that an instructor in a class would cover the poses I wanted to learn more about. On top of that, I didn’t want to just fling my body into the poses; at best, I’d be doing a passable impersonation- but at worst, I’d injure myself. The books gave me alignment pointers and gateway stages to hitting advanced poses.

Ever since I completed training and became an actual instructor, I’ve relied on my books more than ever before. I want students to feel safe with me- which means I have a responsibility to make my knowledge as wide as possible. The below is a series of books that I think all yoga teachers should have on the shelf- for reference, for inspiration and for a little bit of fun.

Please visit Book Riot to read the list.

The Pursuit of…. Dust

This post contains spoilers for the just-released excerpt from Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust. Be cautious!

When I was ten years old, an excerpt from Northern Lights was featured in a curriculum textbook. I was intrigued, and my class teacher told me that the book was right there in the school library if I wanted to read it. Read it? Pfft. I devoured it.

I was a vociferous reader. My parents never gave out to me when I came to the dinner table with a book in my hand; they allowed me to spill food down my front while I kept my eyes on the pages, which seems daft but in retrospect really did foster my love of books. I’m not great with a fork, but I can read in almost any situation.

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