The Browsers Book Group made quite a splash in the local newspaper on the last day of the year.
Our recommendations evening held earlier in the month was noted by the books editor on the East Anglian Daily Times, and he requested that we provide him with an account of the occasion and a list of our favourite titles.
The resulting double page spread provided a great reminder of what is a very popular annual event, and we've all added to our 'must read' booklists after hearing so many passionate and fascinating recommendations.
For most of us, there's nothing better than giving and receiving a book for Christmas. Visiting Lesley Dolphin on the Afternoon Programme yesterday we had lots of excitement debating the perfect presents for friends and family. These are the titles we discussed...
For children, aged four upwards, a beautiful picture book telling an inspiring story. 'Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer' by Fiona Robinson £9.99. Also take a look at 'Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World' by Kate Pankhurst, and brilliant rhyming stories from Andrea Beaty illustrated by the wonderful David Roberts, 'Rosie Revere, Engineer' and 'Iggy Peck Architect'.
An adventure story for readers aged 9-12, inspired by the Suffolk countryside is Fenn Halflin and the Fearzero by Francesca Armour-Chelu £6.99. The descriptions of a watery world are vivid and atmospheric.
Spoofs of favourite children's books have been all the rage in the past year. There are new Ladybirds for Grown Ups titles, including The Ladybird Book of Red Tape and The Ladybird Book of Boxing Day, but new for Christmas 2016 are Enid Blyton for Grown Ups. If you loved the Famous Five stories, take a look at Five on Brexit Island or Five Go Gluten Free among other titles!
Also still proving popular is last year's surprise bestseller 'Norwegian Wood - Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way'. It's £20 and packed with fascinating and intriguing information about fires, wood, and woodpiles!
But this year's big 'thing' is Hygge. Pronounce it as you will, the word stands for all that is associated with the Danish way of life, and there are lots of books telling you more about it. My favourite is 'The Little Book of Hygge' by Meik Wiking £9.99. It's full of information and tips so that you too might find happiness, warmth and contentment in the winter months. A great book to give or to keep!
My book of the year for 2016 is the novel by Jill Dawson called 'The Crime Writer'. It's got a beautiful retro cover, and a very clever plot which reveals something new each time you read it. The story tells of Patricia Highsmith, the famous American author who spent a short time living in a Suffolk village. Jill Dawson weaves biographical facts and Highsmith plotlines to create a moody, sinister and intriguing novel. It was this year's winner of the East Anglian Book Award. It's a great read and would make a lovely present.
Loving good design, I've found the adage 'never judge a book by its cover' hard to follow when selecting my reading material, and whenever I discover a marketing team that thinks creatively in sending out proof copies of new books, I'm especially excited.
This is how I received Rose Tremain's new book 'The Gustav Sonata' in the post today.
No impersonal Jiffy bag (though a book in a bag, in the post, is undeniably a treat), but a parcel wrapped in a sheet of music! Wonderful!
Few people give me a book these days. I'm known among my friends for my prolific reading of modern fiction and, working in a bookshop and regularly reviewing forthcoming titles, they understandably feel that it is too much of a challenge to find something I haven't read and might enjoy.
This year, though, I was delighted to find two book-shaped parcels among the gifts under my tree; two good friends had discovered two very different titles that proved perfect finds, and great inspiration for the coming year.
The first was a writer's journal. The cover is reminiscent of Emma Bridgewater in design, and the interior is full of exercises and prompts to challenge the writer's mind in plotting, description and characterisation. The key of course will be setting aside time to approach these stimulating ideas.
The second was a non-fiction title, 'Think like an engineer' and was not something I would have been drawn to, mainly because I don't think I have ever understood what an engineer does. Having read this book, I confess I'm still not entirely sure - how do people train to be an engineer as they seem to be essential to any situation.
The examples of the achievements of engineers' vision and application to problem-solving in so many different fields was truly inspiring. I was in tears as I read about David Koon. The murder of his daughter led him to introduce the GPS system for tracking mobile phone calls, first identifying its application and then becoming a politician in order to implement it. An astonishing man of insight and persistence who turned a horrific experience for good.
How wonderful that the writer could share such an inspiring and moving story.
Our endeavours on the rivers of England has qualified us for a name check in Country Life magazine courtesy of Griff Rhys Jones!
Griff is very kindly supporting our latest venture - to explore the length of the River Deben as Three Women in a Boat, though this year under our new guise as Daughters of the Deben.
He offered to be photographed with us in the local paper to help raise the profile of our venture which aims to celebrate our beautiful river and attract more people to rowing, and follows on from our eight days rowing the length of the Thames last year in a Victorian wooden skiff.
The photo shoot took place in Griff's garden on a damp Saturday morning. He was very enthusiastic about all that we were doing though, being very familiar with the river himself, he knew that it wasn't that great an undertaking to row it in a day.
Nevertheless, he was suitably impressed to mention it in his column for Country Life magazine. What a nice man!