By Chris Paling
'Paling's deftly drawn vignettes are frequently funny, sometimes sad and occasionally troubling . . . Borrow a copy from your local library, if you still have one. Better yet, buy it' Neil Armstrong, Mail on Sunday'Not only was I captivated by Paling's lovingly wrought series of pen portraits, I was amused, moved and - perhaps most surprising of all - uplifted' John Preston, Daily Mail'There are many detractors who question whether libraries are still relevant in the digital age. Paling's keenly and kindly observed account of his encounters offers a gentle insight as to why they still are' Helen Davies, Sunday TimesChris works as a librarian in a small-town library in the south of England. This is the story of the library, its staff, and the fascinating group of people who use the library on a regular basis. We'll meet characters like the street-sleepers Brewer, Wolf and Spencer, who are always the first through the doors. The Mad Hatter, an elderly man who scurries around manically, searching for books. Sons of Anarchy Alan, a young Down's Syndrome man addicted to the American TV drama series. Startled Stewart, a gay man with a spray-on tan who pops in most days for a nice chat, sharking for good-looking foreign language students. And Trish, who is relentlessly cheerful and always dressed in pink - she has never married, but the marital status of everybody she meets is of huge interest to her.Some of the characters' stories are tragic, some are amusing, some are genuinely surreal, but together they will paint a bigger picture of the world we live in today, and of a library's hugely important place within it. Yes, of course, people come in to borrow books, but the library is also the equivalent of the village pump. It's one of the few places left where anyone, regardless of age or income or background, can wander in and find somebody to listen to their concerns, to share the time of day. Reading Allowed will provide us with a fascinating portrait of a place that we all value and cherish, but which few of us truly know very much about ...
The Heyday Of The Football Annual
By Ian Preece
The Independent's Best Sports Book of the Year, 2015Christmas Day 1959 and legions of schoolboys up and down the country feverishly unwrapped the very first Topical Times Football Book. On the cover Bobby Charlton smacked a leather ball out of a pillar-box red background and, although this wasn't the first yearbook, it heralded the golden age of the Christmas football annual. As the sixties progressed, the shelves in Woolworth's and the local newsagent began to bulge with titles reflecting the expanding, exciting world of football - Charles Buchan's Soccer Gift Book nestled next to the International Football Book and the Midlands Soccer Annual.These annuals were educational and insightful, taking the reader into the changing rooms, the supporters' club lounges, and the manager's mind ahead of a tough season. Beautifully illustrated, they helped shape the football consciousness of a generation.In The Heyday of The Football Annual Ian Preece and Doug Cheeseman bottle the essence of these publications. They travel back in time to a world where Forfar Athletic and Doncaster Rovers had equal billing with Manchester United and Arsenal, where debate raged over the use of goal average, and Huddersfield v Carlisle was the main game on Match of the Day.Along the way, leading football writers Richard Williams, Jonathan Wilson, Patrick Collins and Derek Hammond, among others, share their memories - not only of 'soccer' annuals but of an era when the unveiling of Dundee's new stand was deemed worthy of a two-page spread, and Scunthorpe's pre-season tour to Ibiza merited a lengthy feature. This was a world where footballers grew chrysanthemums for a hobby, drank tea down the local café to pass the time, and Coventry City were the go-ahead club of the future. For better, and (certainly) for worse, it's a world long gone.
Why Would Anyone Want to Swing a Cat?
By Andy Simpson
Why is bureaucracy known as red, not yellow or blue tape?What is haywire and why do we go it?Why is a yawn infection?Who was Parker and why is he so Nosy?These are just some of the burning issues that have been exercising the minds of Daily Mail readers in recent years, and 1001 of the most entertaining have been reproduced in this bumper collection.Not all of the questions featured will have been nagging away at you for years - the scrap metal value of the Eiffel Tower, for example; and some of the answers throw up intriguing alternatives (does the expression "peg out" have its origins in the game of cribbage or in grave digging practices?); but for those who are inveterate devourers of trivia teasers and fascinating facts, The Daily Mail's Answers to Correspondents is a veritable feast.