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A place for Richmond upon Thames College students to share ideas and opinions about books and reading – your favourites, your reviews and your recommendations.

If you would like to submit something to go on this blog please email us at libraryadmin@rutc.ac.uk

If you are interested in finding something good to read then you are in the right place. Take a look at our reviews and suggestions.

Happy Summer Reading!

Now that the school year is winding down Richmond Readers will be taking a little break over the summer. Hopefully there will be a few chances to post about new books or great summer reads but it won’t be a weekly review.

If you’re looking for some reading suggestions to get you through the lovely, long summer break when you’re not watching the Olympics here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Books and authors

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – if you haven’t read it yet, now is the time!
  • Rapture by Lauren Kate – latest in the series
  • The Fear by Charlie Higson – Imagine a London invaded by zombies instead of tourists this summer
  • Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison – all the books in this series are hilarious and a great antidote to serious study
  • Fear by Michael Grant – latest in the series
  • A song of ice and fire by George R. R. Martin – books the television series Game of Thrones is based on
  • Any book by Terry Pratchett – I recommend the Tiffany Aching series or anything featuring the witches
  • The fault in our stars by John Green
  • You against me by Jenny Downham

Recommendations

I always have piles of not-yet-read books hanging about and will no doubt manage to tackle a few over the next month or two. Are there any books you’re looking forward to finally reading this summer?

Scott Pilgrim

We’re taking a break from teen angst this week to move on to twenty-something slackerdom. Scott Pilgrim is in his early twenties, plays in a band and likes video games – so far, so average. Then Scott falls in love with rollerblading delivery girl Ramona Flowers and he is faced with previously unimaginable challenges. Her seven evil exes to be precise.

The Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O’Malley consists of six volumes full of epic battles, band competitions, hipster jokes, relationship woes and a lot of growing up deftly portrayed in a manga-influenced style of illustration. The cast of characters from Scott’s roommate Wallace Wells, to his band mates Kim and Steven and the many curious inhabitants of Toronto are sharp and funny, while the story is laced with classic video game and pop culture references.

Made into a film by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and starring Michael Cera, check out the comics if you want more background on the story and the characters or just want to experience the original Scott Pilgrim adventure.

Current reads: Going Bovine

Going Bovine by Libba Bray is the latest book to rise to the top of my never-ending pile of must-read books. I haven’t finished it yet but so far it’s been promisingly funny. And what wouldn’t be amusing about a teenage coming-of-age story that involves a mad road trip based on the possible hallucinations of teen slacker Cameron, recently diagnosed with Creuzfeldt-Jakob BSE (mad cow disease). Accompanied by his hospital room-mate Gonzo and led on by various creatures including a pink haired punk angel called Dulcie and a norse god disguised as a garden gnome, Cameron embarks on a journey to cure himself and save the world. But are his hallucinations legit, or just another trick of the disease rapidly eroding his brain?

I’m looking forward to reading the end of Cameron and Gonzo’s journey across America and I’ve tried not to read too many spoilers in the meantime.

Next up after Going Bovine looks to be Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes unless I need a break from teen angst before I tackle that one. Maybe I just need some suggestions for some non-tragic teen fiction (there is some I’m sure) to fill in the gaps.

Join Me

Boredom can be dangerous. It can lead people to do all kind of strange things. This is the true story of a man who started a cult by accident. Inspired by little more than the fact that he was spending a lot of time sitting around at home without much to do Danny Wallace decided to put an ad in a paper asking people to join him. Join him in what? For what purpose? Well they had no way of knowing. The ad simply said ‘Join Me’ and asked joinees to send their name and a passport photo of themselves. 

This is clearly an odd thing to do but he wasn’t the only person who was in the mood to do something slightly irrational. A few people responded to the ad and joined up. In the hands of a less committed slightly odd person it might have stopped there. It might have turned into a story to tell his friends; an amusing story or a warning about the dangers of boredom. As it turned out that was very much just the beginning.

In honour of a recently deceased Swiss uncle who failed to set up a commune in the 40s Danny sets out to get a 100 joinees and then a 1000 joinees. The movement slowly spreads across the world. He becomes a minor celebrity in Belgium for example.

After a while his joinees start to demand answers from their Leader. He’s forced to make up something for Join Me to be about. After briefly considering using his powers for evil he opts for good instead. The Join Me movement spends a few weeks making old men happy through random acts of kindness before moving on to being kind to everyone else as well. Friday becomes their day for good deeds.

Danny travels all over Europe to meet joinees and to promote his cause. This is made slightly more complicated by the fact that he’s trying to keep his girlfriend in the dark because she tends to get annoyed by his ‘stupid boy projects’.

That brings us to a slight problem with this book. Danny Wallace was the co-author of Are You Dave Gorman, a book about his friend Dave Gorman’s attempts to find as many people called Dave Gorman as possible. After writing this book he went on to write Yes Man, a book about the weird stuff that happened to him after he decided to say yes to things. I haven’t read the other two books but I’ve heard good things. The problem is that he presents Join Me as something that happened on the spur of the moment, almost by accident. That sense of randomness is part of the appeal but looking at Danny’s record I slightly suspect that he might have had a book in mind all along. This is a minor point and the story will sweep you along. 

Even if Danny isn’t quite the innocent that he presents himself as his joinees are real people. They decide to ‘join’ a complete stranger, initially for reasons unknown and then in a quest to spread kindness. We learn about their lives and the strange but positive web of relationships that Join Me draws them into.

This is a very funny book. I’ve genuinely laughed out loud a few times which I don’t normally do when reading because people look at you. They might even want to know what the joke is and I find that rarely goes well. 

The humour comes tinged with ideas that will make you think about life. The first joinees are simply looking for something to connect to. Later on the movement becomes an excuse to be nice to random strangers. As Danny says it’s almost like he gave people permission to be kind. Are we all looking for connections? Are we all waiting for permission or an excuse to be nicer to each other?

Join Me is funny and thought-provoking but probably less spontaneous than it pretends to be. On balance I would recommend it.

The Road

Some of our readers may have noticed a certain fondness here at Richmond Readers for post-apocalyptic tales. This post is no different.

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a fascinating exploration of a world destroyed by a cataclysmic event that wiped out civilisation and blighted the environment. Like a number of McCarthy’s books The Road is bleak and its characters, the father and son, are engaged on a long, tortuous journey peppered with strange and dangerous encounters. The collapse of civilised life and the scarcity of food is what drives the father and son onwards towards the sea and hope of improved conditions. The lack of food makes their encounters with others dangerous, as roving bands of survivors capture whatever they can as a food source.

The Road raises all sorts of questions relating to hope and survival – how long do you keep going, what’s worth surviving for and what would you do when society breaks down and all the food finally runs out?

This was the first Cormac McCarthy book I read and I could not put it down till I was finished. I’ve since read Outer Dark, one of his older stories, which was strange, unsettling and wonderful in its own way. I highly recommend both The Road and Cormac McCarthy for your must-read lists.