A Book By Any Other Name/Books For ALL Ages

Good evening, Bookworms!

Just a fortnight to go now until World Book Night, so this time next week I should be getting an email from WBN to notify me that my box of books can be collected from my chosen pick-up location, that being the Trafford Centre branch of Waterstone’s. 24 special “World Book Night 2012” edition copies of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak will be there in a box awaiting the arrival of yours truly who will show the email on my BlackBerry and thus collect the books I will be giving out on 23rd April. In all probability, I will be giving out my books at the Trafford Centre and maybe in Waterstone’s, although I was thinking I might venture around the Orient dining area with the cafes, restaurants and food court – some people like to read a good book while they’re having a drink and a bite to eat. I have to say I speak from experience, as I have often been known to combine eating and reading – that is probably my favourite kind of multitasking, lol!

While I was in Waterstone’s earlier this evening, I was able to help another bookworm, and for this I should give some credit to a book I read last summer. If you cast your mind back to my bloggings from August and September of 2011, (see my blog entry of September 13th 2011) you may recall me reading a book called Tolstoy And The Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch, which was essentially the lady’s project of reading a book each day for a year as she mourned the death of her sister who’d died of cancer. One of the many books Nina read was one that I had read for my Waterstone’s book club a couple of years ago, The Other Hand by Chris Cleave, but Nina knew it as Little Bee. This is because, for some strange reason, the book was known as Little Bee in the USA and also New Zealand, despite the fact it was called The Other Hand throughout the rest of the English-reading world! The fellow bookworm at Waterstone’s this evening was stood in the area of A-Z General Fiction and near to where Chris Cleave’s novels were stocked. The Other Hand was on the shelves and she was holding a copy of Incendiary. She was on the phone at first, but when she’d finished her call, I said that I’d not read Incendiary but had really enjoyed The Other Hand when I read it a couple of years ago for my book club, and it was then that she replied that she was looking for Little Bee! Thanks to what I know from the Sankovitch book, I was able to tell her that The Other Hand is the same book as Little Bee and that it just has that title in the USA and New Zealand. As I blogged at the time, I still feel this is totally unnecessary and can’t see why they can’t just have the same title for the same language throughout the world.

I’d also like to know why someone felt the need to alter the title of the first Harry Potter book for those across the “pond”… We here in the UK know it as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone but over in the States it was changed to Sorceror’s Stone – did they really think Americans wouldn’t know what a philosopher was?! I know some people are a bit dim (George W Bush and Sarah Palin spring immediately to mind here), but surely not everyone across the Atlantic Ocean is as thick as two short planks?! Surely there are a considerable number of Americans who DO know what a philosopher is? (Actually, I imagine there are some people in the UK who don’t know what a philosopher is. Chavs, for instance. They wouldn’t know and probably wouldn’t care because they’re proud of being ignorant and thick, as I hinted last summer when I blogged during the rioting and looting!)

And from those who are proud of being ignorant and thick, we move on to the other extreme of the literary spectrum, those who are stuck-up and judgemental regarding what they feel everyone else should or shouldn’t read, as we return to the matter I was blogging about previously and the issue of literary snobbery! You will recall that I was agreeing with my fellow blogger, R.H. Culp who took umbrage with Joel Stein in the New York Times who had a problem with adults reading “Young Adult” fiction on public transport. I basically lambasted Mr Stein for being a miserable book dictator and pointed out he had no right to criticise adults for their choice of reading matter. Better that as many people as possible read as many books as they can, and enjoy doing so, than people not reading books at all!

While I was in Waterstone’s earlier this evening, I had a look at the Young Adult section, seeing which books Waterstone’s regarded as teenage reading matter. OK, there’s some light, frothy stuff, but then again you get that in adult general fiction. Most chick-lit books are fairly light reads about shopping and diets, aren’t they? And then there are your Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper novels, mostly concerning well-to-do ladies aiming to get in bed with some hunky polo player or other! Not exactly Dickens or Dostoyevsky, is it? But it’s still adult fiction and it persuades some people to pick up a book who might not otherwise do so, therefore it’s a good thing. Anyway, besides the teen equivalent of chick lit, you may also find some weightier matters! Dystopian novels, such as The Hunger Games trilogy, are hugely popular amongst teen readers, and as well as futuristic novels such as those, there’s also some notable works of historical fiction such as The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas or Between Shades of Gray, which deal with characters in concentration camps or Soviet gulags during and after World War II.

Regarding the latter of those novels, the author, Ruta Sepetys, is an American-Lithuanian whose family and their friends and neighbours were diabolically-treated during and after WWII by the NKVD, forerunners to the KGB. Between Shades of Gray centres on a 15 year old Lithuanian girl who, along with her family, is rounded up and packed off to a Siberian labour camp basically on the whim of Stalin’s government. Even when survivors of these camps made it back to their original home towns, they were still treated horrendously but couldn’t complain at risk of being sent back to Siberia. Only in the past 20 or so years, since the Soviet Union ceased to exist at the end of 1991, have these horrific stories come to light. Indeed, at the end of the novel, we find construction workers in 1995 Lithuania discovering a “time capsule” buried by the novel’s protagonist, Lina, in 1954 at a time when she was still taking a huge risk with her actions.

Yes, Mr Stein of the New York Times, that novel which I have just been describing is classed as a Young Adult novel. But are you seriously going to criticise any older adults who are reading novels of this nature?! I have seen some books split between general fiction and young adult fiction with copies in both sections, including The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and also my World Book Night choice, The Book Thief! I checked at Waterstone’s in the Trafford Centre and they had copies of Zusak’s novel in both sections! Quite right too! I’m glad these books appeal to readers young(ish) and old alike and that, therefore, as many readers as possible will try to ensure that such horrific and inhumane incidents in our history are never repeated.

Also, the fact of the matter is that some of these books have only been published in the last year or so, The Book Thief was published some time in the past decade and Between Shades Of Gray was only published last year. It’s not my bloody fault I was already well into my adult years before these books existed! Also, a story like that in Between Shades of Gray could not even really have been written before the mid 1990s at the earliest due to the whole historical background upon which the novel is based! We’re talking about people packed off to gulags in the 1940s. For those fortunate enough to have survived and returned home, they wouldn’t have done so for at least another decade or so. The main protagonist, Lina, had managed to return to her home town by 1954 as we find out from the time capsule. Even then, she, her husband and all their fellow survivors would not have been able to talk about the experience freely until 1991 when the USSR ceased to exist and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia gained their independence. Well, back over here in the UK, I was celebrating my 18th birthday and the start of my adult life in the April of that very year! Plus you then need to add on a few more years into the mid 1990s for the epilogue of the novel where the Lithuanian construction workers, building new properties in their recently-independent country, discover the time capsules that their brave compatriots had buried back in the 1950s in the hope they’d be found in years to come by sympathetic people who would make their story heard widely. While I guess someone could have written a story like that of The Book Thief when I was a teenager myself back in the 1980s, there is no way the Sepetys novel could’ve been written any earlier than around 1996.

As I said in my previous blog entry, I’ll read what I want and to hell with the book snobs! Then again, I have a Kindle. E-book devices such as these are absolute godsends for those of us bookworms who travel by public transport! Not only because it means we can have hundreds of books to choose from and all stored on one device, but it also means that, unless he or she is sat directly behind you and being especially nosey, the Book Snob does not know which of countless books you are actually reading on your device! Therefore, e-readers give you a bloody good opportunity to indulge in some “teen” fiction, such as I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You without any would-be literary dictators knowing anything about your reading habits!

I think that’s about all for now, you’ll be relieved to discover! Until next time, Happy Reading and don’t let the book snobs get you down!

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • Tolstoy And The Purple Chair – Nina Sankovitch
  • The Other Hand (Little Bee) – Chris Cleave
  • Incendiary – Chris Cleave
  • Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone – J K Rowling
  • The Hunger Games trilogy – Suzanne Collins
  • The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne
  • Between Shades Of Gray – Ruta Sepetys
  • I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You  – Ally Carter



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Filed under Books, Books About Books, E-Books & Audiobooks, Literary Issues, Rants, World Book Night, YA Books

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