Dystopian fiction – along with a good dose of feminism

CoverI read The Handmaid’s Tale a long time ago, but could only stomach the first season on the box.  Maybe it feels a bit more real or even possible, or perhaps the dramatisation was all a bit much, but I just couldn’t cope with more terror or the gruesome relentless treatment of the women.

Dystopian fiction has always had a following, the stories are gripping and usually paint a vivid picture of a life in the margins. The Handmaid’s tale has been the most well-known book with a feminist perspective, but P.D. James wrote a book called The Children of Men in 1992 which was about a world with plummeting birthrates –  no children and no future, and The Parable of the Sower was written by Octavia Butler in 1993 and set in 2025 when communities have to protect themselves from marauding scavengers and roaming bands of ‘Paints’, people addicted to a drug that activates an orgasmic desire to burn, rape and murder.

In recent years a good deal more titles have been published and range from women coping with climate change, war, isolation and issues around fertility. A bit of a “trend” perhaps, but one that more and more seems to have the fiction set in reality.

Read more: The remarkable rise of the feminist dystopia The Atlantic Weekly

Check out my BiblioCommons list of Dystopian feminist fiction.

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UpLit – something positive to look forward to

CoverAt a time of political upheaval, where nothing seems to stay the same, and calamity and craziness is our daily news … there does seem to be an appetite for books about human connection, optimism and love (but not necessarily romance). The publishing community has declared that “UpLit” is a new trend – books about likeable characters on the margins of society who through sheer determination, a good dose of positivity mixed with some luck, empathy and kindness become the gentle heroes and heroines of the ordinary. With the publication of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, ‘UpLit’ went into overdrive and this new genre has become incredibly popular. Find out more in The Guardian: UpLit has become a ‘thing’.

Eleanor Oliphant is a great example of the genre, and another title I really enjoyed was The Cactus, about a prickly character who finds herself pregnant and surprisingly vulnerable, something she is not at all accustomed to feeling!

There are some great books being published and this is a trend that may well last a while given the daily amount of fear, negativity and trauma that comes streaming onto our TVs and phones. Take a break and enjoy some of these titles.

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Dear Donald Trump

Dear Donald Trump by Sophie Siers and Anne Villeneuve

Dear Donald Trump, I’m writing you a letter from my bedroom in New Zealand.  Sadly, the room does not belong only to me.  I have to share it with my big brother who exactly fits your description of an undesirable person.

I watched you on the TV news tonight and you said you were building a wall.  It made me think that perhaps I need one too.

Yours faithfully

Sam

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In the hands of another writer, this scenario could have been clunky and overstated, however Sophie Siers has created a delightful story of a young boy coming to grips with the concept of sharing, communicating and dealing with ‘undesirables’.

This book works – I loved the style of the retro illustrations which add to the story brilliantly, the message is a subtle, and the characters are charming. Donald Trump might be a bit disappointed to find that he doesn’t take centre stage, but the author has make great use of his policy so no doubt he could take some solace from that!

Tricky little title changes

The Guardian has recently published an article about why American publishers sometimes change the titles of books. In fact they don’t only change titles, they will also change names, places and spelling. The writer from The Guardian doesn’t really have an answer to why this happens, but happen it does and can be confusing for library users – and librarians!

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is a good example. It was originally published as Cross Stitch. Then there is The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman which became The Golden Compass, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Looking at these titles, it is hard to understand why they were changed. It is a tricky business though, as often it can look like your favourite author has published a new book only to be met with disappointment when the story starts to feel very familiar!

When a new title is given to a book, our wonderful cataloguers always add an entry to the catalogue record that lets you know that the book has two titles.

Notes: Also published as: Cross stitch. London : Rowan, 1992.
or
Notes: Originally published as: Northern lights. London : Scholastic, 1995.

And whatever title you type in will take you to the correct book.

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WORD Christchurch Festival and Book Towns

My tickets are booked for the WORD Christchurch Festival and I am happily attending an eclectic bunch of sessions, starting with Alt-America and ending with The Sex and Death Salon.  What I enjoyed about the last festival was the feeling of being surrounded by people who love books. The buzz and the talk is booky and fun. There are groups of people chatting away about the last session, or the books they might have bought – and the awe and excitement of meeting their favourite author.

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With this in mind I was delighted to see my reserve for Book Towns: Forty-five paradises of the printed word arrive on my desk this morning. This small book contains anecdotes of Books towns around the world, many being part of the International Organisation of Book Towns. Many towns have numerous bookshops, but these towns have embraced books as a way of driving tourism and regenerating communities faced with economic collapse and unemployment.

Featherston in the Wairarapa is featured.

CoverWigtown also warrants a chapter. Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop – and writer of the uber-popular Diary of a Bookseller will be here for WORD Christchurch.

Shaun Bythell. Image supplied.
Shaun Bythell. Image supplied.

The effect of becoming a Book Town can be far-reaching with many organising Book Festivals, accommodation and craft outlets to support the whole book experience. Pop up book towns are now becoming a feature – unused empty spaces are taken over by booksellers, often alongside a festival and featuring local artisans, music and food, as well as all the wonderful books of course.

Perhaps an idea for Christchurch?

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Feeding frenzy

Eating. It’s the most natural thing in the world yet it is becoming increasingly loaded with emotion and so-called science. This can leave the most sensible of us awash in recipes and diet plans.

To add to the dilemma of what to eat as adults, we are now increasingly concentrating on what to feed our children. Now in “my day” (yes I know that sounds dreadful but I can’t think of any other way to put it) we blended up a bit of pumpkin, threw in some cheese ( if we had any),  pureed apple or banana and that was that. Did this lead to lack of vitamins, macro-nutrients, poor eating habits and an addiction to sugar? I really don’t know… My children seem reasonably healthy, but with the addition of twins to our family I am aware that there is much discussion, and a certain amount of anxiety amongst new parents when faced with the endless opinions and debate around food.

So here are some new titles that will either help or hinder the feeding process!

CoverLittle Foodie: recipes for babies and toddlers with taste

Michele Olivier describes herself as a complete control freak and I have to agree with her. The book emanates from a blog she created when feeding her daughter Ellie and is full of organic, fresh, tasty meals. She suggests all you “need is a couple of hours each month  and a passion to give your baby the best”.  Good luck with that.

CoverBaby-led Feeding

This book is very attractive with colour pictures accompanying  each recipe and plenty of interesting ideas for first food. I struggled a bit with the cost factor of strawberry and goat cheese spread, simple poached salmon (I can’t even afford this for the adults in my family let alone the children) and tomato fennel soup, but that aside there are some good ideas in here for all the family.

CoverBaby Food Matters: what science says about how to give your child healthy eating habits for life

For those of you who are serious about this baby feeding business!  Packed full of ideas including the blindingly obvious “… don’t pressure him to eat past the point at which he feels full” or “limit unhealthy foods and snacks” to in-depth information and charts for average daily energy requirements in the first year of life, recommendations for the required amount of vitamin D, and how to cope with fussy eaters. There are no pretty pictures in this book!

CoverPet Cookbook: Easy everyday recipes for happy healthy pets

Now that we are educated on how to feed our children we can turn our attention to the family pet with the Pet Cookbook: Easy everyday recipes for happy healthy pets. Treat them to watermelon pupsicles, a tasty salmon log, pupcakes, chicken scramble (apparently chickens love this even though they are eating their own) and a super smoothy.  Heck, use these recipes yourself – they look great!

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Fiction and daughters

It would seem there is a daughter for every occupation, including a blind astronomer and a Can Opener.

Cover of The Glovemaker's DaughterCover of the Captain's DaughterCover of The Silk Merchant's DaughterCover of The Freemason's daughterCover of The Blind Astronomer's DaughterCover of The Locksmith's DaughterCover of The naturalist's daughterCover of The weaver's daughterCover of The doctor's daughterCover of The Shipbuilder's DaughterCover of The Lightkeeper's DaughtersCover of The Diplomat's daughterCover of The Sugar Planter's daughterCover of The Maskmaker's DaughterCover of The Painter's DaughterCover of The mad scientist's daughterCover of The Beekeeper's daughterCover of The murderer's daughterCover of The Can Opener's daughterCover of The Taxidermist's DaughterCover of The Undertaker's DaughterCover of The Bonesetter's DaughterCover of The Policeman's daughter

What really happened on the Channel Islands during WWII?

I never wanted to read  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I’m not a fan of books based on letters – I find it hard to gain an interest in the characters.  I did however see the movie. I quite liked it, (especially the clothes, but that probably isn’t really the basis for a good movie)  However, what it did do was pique my interest in a part of World War II that I knew nothing about.

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The library has recently purchased a title that was originally published in 1995,  The Model Occupation: The Channel Islands under German rule 1940-1945 by Madeleine Bunting. This is a fascinating story of what actually happened and the author looks at a variety of previously unanswered questions. Why wasn’t there a resistance movement against the German occupation, how did Britain manage and cope with the occupation, and what of the Islanders themselves – were the stories true of collaboration, or was it just a means of survival. Was this all a dirty secret that Britain didn’t want the rest of the world to know about, and what has been the impact on these Islands and their inhabitants?

Although I wasn’t a fan of either the book or the movie, they did create a curiosity and interest in the occupation and the toll it took on the Islands’ inhabitants.  I recommend this book if, like me you knew nothing about this time in history.

 

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Musings on fiction

Fiction publishing  is very much trend and theme driven, and as Heidi Klum said “one day you’re in and the next day you’re out”.

There are always the bestseller authors, but in amongst their numbers are a few subjects and authors that can come out of left field.

Bookshops

Bookshops. Books and people who sell them, read in them, murder in them and fall in love, usually in old dusty quaint places – none of which resemble Whitcoulls or Paper Plus.  The recently released movie The bookshop might also create some interest in this area.

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Librarians and Libraries

Librarians and libraries!  Well, not exactly a major trend, but for a generally under-represented group in books and films we seem to be featuring on a regular basis lately – usually there is a murder involved …which is um, interesting?

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Bakeries

Bakeries.  Food has always been a feature in fiction, but just lately there has been the odd bakery/romance popping up, which seems like a nice mixture to me.

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Bees and Beekeepers

Bees – and for some reason Beekeepers

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Feminist Dystopias

Feminist dystopias – not surprising considering the dramatisation of The Handmaid’s tale. These books are not for the faint hearted.

Find more feminist dystopias in our collection.

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Of course, fiction publishing is also affected by what is going on in the world, there have been more titles published in the last few years about refugees for example, plenty of titles about the economic crisis, climate change and a plethora of light easy reads for those of us who just want to escape.

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Unruly enclaves and Ruly dogs: Cool stuff from the selectors

Beyond the Map: Unruly Enclaves, Ghostly Places, Emerging Lands and Our Search for New Utopias

9781781316382Places that maps can’t confine or identify, Utopias, pieces of land in the middle of a highway, political places and cyberplaces. Written by the author of Off the Map, this book is hard to define but easy to read.  Each chapter is short, creative writing about places that defy definition in the normal scheme of things. Makes you look at the notion of Place in an entirely different way.

Better Homes and Gardens Decorating book

9781328944986Perhaps you are a child of the 50s and 60s, or you just love the design from this era? Better Homes and Gardens presents the new decorating bible for those favouring that wonderful mid-century design sensibility.  Crammed full of original designs, plans, colours, design and advertising. Great for ideas but also wonderful just to ponder times past.

 

Really Good Dog Photography

9781846149429I love cute dog photos, (I blame Facebook for this), and luckily Really Good Dog photography has plenty of them, but what has been surprising (and in a good way) is the depth of the photos and the accompanying essays.  These are no ordinary pictures, they tell a story both about the dog and the photographers. Many are startlingly beautiful, some fit the cute variety and others are just wonderful photographs with a dog almost there by chance. All tell a story and this is a great book for those who love dogs but also for those who are interested in photography.