BBC Oxford Afternoon Bookclub

A busy few days, selling books at the Kennington Literary Festival on Saturday, and then at an event with historian and author Michal Giedroyc yesterday. But today was the BBC Oxford Afternoon Bookclub - five books, which, on reflection, could loosely be linked together by themes of community, equality...and taking time to smell the roses (perhaps). The five books discussed today can be found here and the link to the show is at the end of the post. It all started very seriously with a book recommended to tie into the election campaign, The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. A more quietly pursuasive, powerfully compelling argument for a more equal society you will not find. Distined to become a classic, this is one of our bestselling books in the shop at the moment, and word-of-mouth recommendation from customer brought it to my attention. A must-read if your political antenna need tuning amidst the current media din. We then moved on to the delightful Norris, The Bear Who Shared by the peerless Catherine Rayner. On one level a simple, yet rich sensory tale of a bear waiting for a delicious treat, it touches on 'How To Win Friends and Influence People' for pre-schoolers, and the benefits that accrue from trust and friendship is something Wilkinson and Pickett would wholeheartedly agree with. Barbara Trapido's first novel for seven years - Sex & Stravinsky - is my favourite book so far this year, even though I'm terribly biased as we are doing an event with her on May 12th. It's classic Trapido, a cast of characters that you know as friends by the end of the novel, richly recalled South African and Oxford settings, and themes as diverse as dance, fate, colonislism, Shakespearean comedy and the overbearing expectations of parents and its consequences. A reason to rejoice for lovers of good writing. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson is totally different - a true teen novel (as opposed to a 'young adult' novel hoping for adult cross-over success) this - on the face of it - deals with typical teen angst, dysfunctional parents, a move to a new home and school, new friends and body issues. Except...the book is set in the near future where advances in medical technology bring into question what it means to be human. You see, Jenna Fox has had a terrible accident, has been in a coma for a year...and knows nothing about who she is, except the home movies she watches. As she pieces together her past, and present, the clues start sliding into place about what really happened to her. And finally...Tiny Campsites. You don't get more zeitgeisty than a no-fly holiday eco-journalist, and Dixe Wills (pronounced 'Dixie') has produced a quirky, passionate guide to 75 of teh best tiny (under 1 acre) campsites the length and breadth of the UK. He has visited them all - and others beside - and on May 22nd Dixe is cycling to Mostly Books, pitching his tent, and taling about the joys of gathering the family and getting the tent out. You can listen to the show here until next Wednesday (May 5th). Fast forward to 1hr 10mins - and let me know what you think...

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