The world has been a scary place this March – Donald Trump on a roll, bombings around the world, and libraries, reportedly, facing the greatest crisis in their history. Ok, I’m being a little facetious by including that final point along with the first two but while I feel ill-qualified to jump into geopolitics on my little blog, the plight of libraries is right up my alley (or bookshelf).

Earlier this week, there was an article on the BBC website ( that notes almost 8,000 library jobs have disappeared since 2010 (the start of the Tory cuts regime seems to be the standard bookend for all statistics these days). That, if you were wondering, is about a quarter of the number of library staff in Britain. Added to this, around 450 libraries will have closed by the end of 2016 (again, since 2010). That is a pretty severe massacre of one of the most important community spaces we have left. It is no surprise that The Guardian has suggested that libraries are “facing the greatest crisis in their history” (

If you’ve read my reviews of The Library Book or The Library: A World History, you’ll know that I have pretty strong feelings about the value of libraries to our society (not least because they keep me off the streets and out of trouble!). For those who haven’t read either of those reviews here is a quotation that pretty much typifies my position:
“Libraries are one of the few refuges away from the swirl of hyperactivity that represents modern life – spaces of tranquillity that still value Slow over Quick – repositories of knowledge and spaces of community, with genuinely egalitarian principles. To let such institutions die or be shamefully mutated into pseudo-coffee shops or PC suites before our eyes would be to oversee the failure of an irreplaceable service; The Library Book is a gentle reminder of all that is being lost at this very moment.”
Without action, the rapid decline in our library services is inevitable. Not everyone would mourn the loss, but I certainly would and as a society we would be impoverished beyond description. There are groups working against the cuts affecting our libraries, and you might like to get involved in something like Voice for the Library ( Consider it anyway. Once libraries and staff are gone they are unlikely ever to be replaced.

Thank you for bearing with while I was up on my soapbox – libraries matter to me, and hopefully to some of you too. But back to books more specific – my reading for the coming month.

According to my smug Goodreads totaliser I am already about 10 books behind schedule if I am going to hit my target of reviewing 50 titles this year. It is a not uncommon position for me but I can at least find solace in the fact that it is reviews lagging behind reading this year rather than reading not happening full stop.

Of the things that I still have outstanding to review I may take a run at Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth and The Catcher in the Rye, both of which have been floating around for a while. The main book I aim to review, however, is Frankenstein. The Brontë season (prompted by Charlotte Brontë’s bicentenary later this month) has put me in the mood for something Gothic and as I haven’t written anything on Frankenstein for the blog I think I might put something together on that classic.

The other thing I am reading at the moment is Devotion by Ros Barber. The blurb and cover caught my attention immediately when they flashed across my Twitter feed last month and I picked up a copy of the hardback within days. Here’s the blurb - what do you think?
April is angry. Only nineteen, she is an elective mute, accused of a religiously motivated atrocity. Dr Finlay Logan is broken. A borderline-suicidal psychologist still reeling from his daughter’s death, he must assess April’s sanity in a world where – ten years after the death of Richard Dawkins – moves have been made to classify religious belief as a form of mental illness. Both April and Finlay struggle to understand what has happened to them, sharing secrets, silence and an inability to deal with the world around them.
Gently unpicking the lives of these two broken characters, Barber offers a psychologically acute and deeply moving exploration of grief. An extraordinary novel from one of the brightest rising stars in fiction.

So that’s your insight into my reading life for another month. Enjoy the sunshine and see you here next month if not sooner!