“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

In Praise of the Quick Reads

I made this: BookElf at 12:03 pm

The Quick Reads scheme is one well known in the inner sanctum of the world of libraries and reader organisations and groups...and I wish to share my love of them . Quick Reads were launched in 2006 and since then there has been over 50 titles published under the brand, the latest 10 being published last week on World Book Day.

What is so great about Quick Reads is the variety of stories available. The aim of the QRs is to be read by adults who are either not confident in their reading, coming to reading in English for the first time or maybe coming back to reading after a break. This could lead to a selection of patronisingly simple titles about going to the park or zoo and eating ice cream with my dog spot, or a long list of stories about yoof and dat. But every ones tastes (well, maybe not every one's taste! No erotica as of yet!) is catered for. The titles range from autobiographies of celebrity chefs and rugby stars, to chick lit romances, to thrillers (including the genuinely terrifying 'Lily, a Ghost Story' by Adele Geras, which is probably one of my favourites). This is owed entirely to a remarkable collaboration between publishers, with many popular authors frequently found in the top ten contributing to the scheme. Quick Reads also come from popular television programmes; both the Dragon's from Dragon's Den and Doctor Who are represented (and David Tennent looking lovely on the cover is NO REASON why they are pride of place in my display AT ALL:-)

The writing is simple, compared to 'big' books, but not in a patronising way. There is less punctuation than you would find in a 'big' novel, for example. This does not limit the plots in terms of their adult content; in the new Peter James' QR the main character visits brothels and discussing his sexual practices in them quite frankly. Gordan Ramsey's autobiography is full of expletives as you may expect, and other books discuss knife crime, teenage pregnancy and other popular hard hitting themes.

In my experience, Quick Reads are a great way to get someone to read a full book, by themselves, for pleasure, for the first time; often the hardest step in getting people to be readers. One girl in my last job was a real pain at the start of term, then she randomly decided to borrow a book, because she had nothing better to do that night, and ended up a massive Adele Parks fan through her QR 'Happy Families'. She told us it was literally the first night she had ever turned her phone off and just sat and read. The story of a mother ignored by her family and worried about new relationships really spoke out to her in a way that none of the classic literature she had been 'forced' to read at school had done. Now she borrow a book evry couple of weeks and just finished the last of the Marion Keyes...we'll get her on Austen yet!

The books are £1.99 each, or can be bought as sets from the Quick Reads website. Most bookshops seel them, and libraries will have them; if you are ever stuck for a nice train or bus read I highly recommend you check them out- just because they're short and 'easy' reads doesn't make them bad books!

My favourites

Lily A Ghost Story by Adele Geras
Maybe its because I was on a bus winding over the Yorkshire Dales late in the evening in the deep of mid-winter when I read it, but I was genuinely chilled by this story of a young woman recovering from a miscarriage who finds work in a house with a dark secret...echoes of Rebecca throughout...great fun.

Happy Families by Adele Parks
I really like Park's other chick-lit books, especially the Other Woman's Shoes, which I read on holiday a couple of years ago. This is a great example of how chick-lit can resonate with the reader to a profound effect, and you feel for Lisa in her struggles, I had a little leap of joy at the end!

Traitors in the Tower by Alison Weir
The only historical fiction one of the series so far, this is a collection of short stories surrounding the deaths of such historical figures as Anne Boleyn and Jane Grey. Of most interest to me was that of Jane Parker, Lady Rochford, who I remembered from Shardlake and The Otter Boleyn Girl- it was nice to read a story dedicated to her. You might think oh great, another one about the Tudors, but in my mind you can never have too many!!

East End Tales bu Gilda O'Neill
Just really lovely, its in the retelling of tales from childhood that the simple structure of the Quick Read comes into ts own. I bought this as a preset for my ex's dad who also grew up in the East End and he enjoyed it immensely.

The Book Boy by Joanna Trollope
Trollope is such a master, she can make any style work for her (guff much). I was really touched by this story of a illiterate woman and her relationship with her son's bully. This one is for all the literacy teachers out there- the bit where the woman grasps the concept of reading for pleasure not as a chore brought a little tear to my eye in recognition. Lovely bus read.

This month I have been plowing my way through Company of Liers (see Book Club the fourth) and also discover Andre Pepper...his Pyke mysteries set in late Georgian England are a little silly at times but well worth giving a go.

Happy Reading!



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