Time to Read Blog

Neuromancer: messing with our brains since 1984

Posted Tuesday 13 February 2018 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

Continuing our occasional series of book reviews by members of the Writing Squad, Jack Mann writes about a book which defined part of the modern world and has, in some ways, messed with all our brains...

"William Gibson’s Neuromancer is an ambitious tech-noir thriller that explores through the lens of Henry Case, a fallen-from-grace computer hacker, the consequences of assimilating binaries – namely flesh/synthetic, feeling/thinking, suicidal tendencies/the need to get paid. Neuromancer is William Gibson’s first full novel, first published in 1984 as the first of The Sprawl Trilogy set in the not-too-distant future.

NeuromancerI enjoy Neuromancer’s prescience. Gibson coined the term ‘cyberspace’ in this novel and even with the manifestation of the internet as we now know it in the line: ‘a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation’, he doesn’t see himself as a science fiction writer. Gibson is also an inadvertent literary sartorialist, where his depiction of The Sprawl’s technologically augmented Molly Millions single-handedly sparked the ‘cyberpunk’ fashion sub-culture – including The Ghost in the Shell manga and The Matrix films’ character outfits.

‘He saw that her hands were sticky with blood. Back in the shadows, someone made wet sounds and died.’

I delight in Neuromancer’s B-movie pulp. The sex and the violence are graphic, the dialogue is often overly hep and how the story plays out improbable. Further, Gibson’s prose can become so frantic, so simultaneously nebulous and anachronistic, that it can be near impossible to decipher some scenes. And yet, at its best, Neuromancer is equally inspired, incisive and idiosyncratic.

“I know how you’re wired.”

Ultimately, this novel is about (faulty) connections. Whether that’s Case and Molly’s relationship, or Case ‘jacked in’ to cyberspace, Gibson prefers to learn and assimilate with the other than be ignorant, intolerant, or, indeed, subjugated by it. Through the tempered glass, Neuromancer is as much an open-minded reflection on its present as it is a dystopic vision of a possible future that increases in salience the more I work with both people and computers."

Block Jack MannJack MannJack Mann writes for his voice and speaks both pre-written and also improvised pieces, often with musicians he’s just met.  His poem Block explores 11 one on one reactions with urban environments and the people within them.

The Power of Words: St Helens Libraries and Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted Tuesday 6 February 2018 by Guest blog writer in Latest Libraries News

Most library services have an exhibition or a talk or two to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day but St Helens went several steps further this year. In this piece, Amanda Brown takes us through their impressive events ...

"Each January, St Helens Library Service commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day. This year’s theme ‘The Power of Words’ prompted us to create displays featuring related book stock, and also influenced a range of activities which were delivered across our libraries.

David Scott

David Scott HMDTo launch the Holocaust commemorations, Manchester poet David Scott, also known as ‘Argh Kid’, visited Parr Library to deliver poetry workshops to both primary and secondary pupils. David led two workshops that involved a re-understanding of what poetry is, by showing pupils different examples of poetry in a modern day landscape. This was then followed by the analysis of Holocaust poems, discussing imagery, language sound and rhythm.

Class visits

The theme ‘The Power of Words’ inspired a class visit offer to local schools, based on the powerful memoir ‘Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank. Over 350 Year 6 pupils visited their local library to learn about the Nazi attempt to annihilate all of Europe’s Jews using propaganda and persecution. The first part of the session focused on how it felt to be a Jewish child and be denied basic human rights such as riding a bicycle, owning a pet or swimming in a public swimming pool. The children considered their own lives today and the activities they like to enjoy, and how they would feel if they were told they were not allowed to take part in them.

HMD class visitThe second part of the visit focused on the life of Anne Frank. Library staff talked about Anne’s life after she went into hiding with her family, read out an excerpt of the book ‘Diary of a young girl’ and the children were encouraged to read aloud a selection of powerful and inspiring quotes written by Anne Frank herself.

Library staff ended the visit by explaining the importance of Holocaust Memorial Day, to remember the millions of people who had been murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The clear message learned from the visit was to end hatred and learn lessons from the past when people were treated badly, to prevent it from happening again. The visit concluded with the lighting of a candle and a minute’s silent reflection.

Small Cinema

HMD Woman in GoldSt Helens Library Service provides regular screenings of films as part of the touring cinema project ‘Small Cinema’. To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Newton le Willows Library presented a screening of ‘Woman in Gold’ starring Helen Mirren, which tells the extraordinary true story of Maria Altmann as she attempts to reclaim family possessions that were seized by the Nazis during World War 2. The film was well received by the attending audience.

Rescues of the Holocaust Exhibition

Rescues of the Holocaust HMDSt Helens Library Service has been extremely fortunate in acquiring exhibitions from a number of organisations to support Holocaust Memorial Day over the last six years. This year was no exception and ‘Rescues of the Holocaust’ focused on the fascinating stories of Bertha Bracey, Wilfred Israel, Ida and Louise Cook and Raoul Wallenburg who undertook remarkable rescue efforts to save lives imperilled by the Nazi regime. The exhibition was loaned from The Weiner Library and was displayed firstly in Rainhill Library and then Haydock Library. To launch the exhibition, staff in each library organised a candle lighting event attending by members of the public. Local musician Julia Cadman performed a unique choral composition at the event, based on the Primo Levi poem, ‘If this is a Man’

Civic Ceremony

HMD civic ceremonyFinally, the library service helped to organise the civic Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, held at the Town Hall on Friday 26th January. Children from both primary and secondary schools were invited to perform songs, poems and readings, inviting attendees to reflect and consider The Power of Words, and how they impact on us and those around us. This formal commemoration, attended by dignitaries such as The Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside, The Mayor & Mayoress, St Helens Council Leader, MPs, local councillors, representatives of organisations and members of the public, was a poignant and emotional ceremony but also gave a sense of hope to audience members from the local community.

St Helens Library Service is proud to support Holocaust Memorial Day by delivering events and activities to remember people who have died in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. St Helens Library Service will continue to challenge hatred, embrace diversity and work within our community to create a safer better future."

HMD choir

Forthcoming BBC events for book-lovers

Posted Monday 5 February 2018 by Ian Anstice in Latest Libraries News

Radio 4 Bookclub 20th Anniversary

BBC Radio 4 LogoThe early summer sees the 20th anniversary of Radio 4’s Bookclub, the original BBC Bookclub, presented by James Naughtie on the first Sunday and following Thursday of every month.  Jim has presented every one of over 200 episodes, interviewing, along with a select group of readers, a vast range of novelists, the occasional poet, children’s writer and non-fiction author.  Every single programme is available to download and keep via:  www.bbc.co.uk/bookclub

It’s free and a great opportunity to meet a writer at close quarters and hear them dissect a favourite work.  There’s wine too!  Details of forthcoming recordings are always on the website along with how to get in touch.  We are always keen to have new listeners along though places are limited.

Highlights this year:

#LovetoRead is celebrating book clubs this year and Radio 4 Bookclub will be at the heart of this.

From our May programme through to July we will be celebrating with some special authors – and hopefully some special readers in the audience.

As part of #LovetoRead on R4Extra and BBC Arts online, we highlight Bookclub’s magnificent roll call of writers with five authors from our list introducing their favourite programme from the archive.

And we’ll have a specially commissioned animation to share pointing to the many joys of the archive.

And in early November we hope to have a truly global Bookclub to celebrate the annual #LovetoRead weekend, when Jim will come together with Harriet Gilbert and our World Book Club audience from World Service – of upwards of 20 million listeners – in a unique joint Bookclub.  Details to be announced.


The BBC Short Story Awards – bigger than ever with new partners Cambridge University and First Story.

The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University.  This year’s judges are TV’s Mel Giedroyc, multi award- winning writers Ben Markovits, K J Orr, Sarah Howe and the Books Editor Di Speirs.  The #bbcnssa is currently open for entries from published writers who are British Nationals or UK residents.  Full details on how to enter and eligibility are here and the closing date March 12th.


The Student Critics Award with Cambridge University and First Story, to foster the nation’s next generation of critical readers.  Over 20 schools will participate directly in reading the NSSA anthology and learning some key critical tools.  Schools can apply in April via the website.  And in September there will be a huge set of online resources available for schools, libraries, young readers groups, online.   Full details of how to apply to take part or simply use the resources soon.

Book reviews from Attic Window Cellar Door

Posted Monday 5 February 2018 by Guest blog writer in Book Bloggers

Between social media, the public libraries movement, book shops, big publishers and a sharp rise in the number of small, independent niche publishers – books are everywhere, from posters of the latest must-read bestsellers in tube stations, to telephone boxes in remote rural areas turned into book exchanges. Publishers throw book launch parties to show off their authors (sign up to your favourite publishers’ newsletters and follow them on social media to hear about these events) and libraries are becoming hives of activity, hosting anything from mini plays and author Q&As, book readings to children’s story-time afternoons, and book discussion groups.

Attic Window authorAs a lifelong book lover, in the midst of this groundswell I became one of the hundreds, and maybe thousands of readers who stared a book blog. I started my blog (Attic Window, Cellar Door), because posting to a blog is a nice way to keep track of and give a bit more thought to the books I'm reading, and blogs are a good way to recommend books to other people with similar bookish tastes, and I get some great recommendations from other people’s blogs in return. Social Media is also fabulous for competitions and giveaways of books – follow bloggers, book shops, and publishers to spot these.

Some really good books I've read lately that have recently been released or are due to be released very soon are:

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Iraqi author Ahmed Saadawi – ordinary people living in a war zone. It has some arrestingly bitter-sweet moments among a backdrop of Gothic horror. Surreal with a compelling story, this is magic realism in the heart of contemporary war-torn Iraq.

In Our Mad and Furious City will be out in early May this year. It's contemporary fiction by debut author Guy Gunaratne, recounting 24 hours on a London housing estate. It's very up close and personal, and the writing is edge-of-the-seat tense from start to finish.

A really brilliant ghost story if you like something a bit more cosy and spine-tingling, is The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements, which is set on the Yorkshire Moors and is very atmospheric.

A book that's only just been released, and which is one of my favourites of the moment is The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn – a slow-building murder mystery thriller that evokes everything that is great about Hitchcock. It's very dark and claustrophobic noir but also very cosy, and I really recommend it to any murder mystery fans or black-and-white movie buffs.

The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton, which is another of my current favourites, is a perfect piece of Irish dystopian fiction set in a near-future Ireland where an eerie rain never stops falling. It's a dark and earthy tale, and written in the very best tradition of off-kilter Irish story telling.

And a book coming in May that I can't wait to get my hands on is a contemporary retelling, in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, of MacBeth by Jo Nesbo."

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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