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LoveReading’s Creativity section is perfect for those who want to make things with their own hands. Whether you’d like to learn the latest craft technique, see what others are doing as design inspiration and trying to keep up and have a go at the latest technological developments, have a look at the selection of titles we have below.
Our March 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. This is such a welcoming and warming read with community spirit, traditional craft, and the environment at its heart. Author Robert J Somerville was commissioned to build an elm barn by hand in Hertfordshire. Over the course of a year volunteers gathered together to help build the barn, and this is the story. There are so many positive elements to this read. A community of volunteers come together to: “teach, practice and celebrate skilled rural craftsmanship”. And while Dutch elm disease has decimated our Elm population, there is hope for the trees survival. As Robert Somerville says: “Elm is a species that suffered a major pandemic, but its incredible determination to survive prevails. Elm is proving itself to be a tree with an enduring life force, and, to my mind, is an appropriate icon for getting closer to nature, the resurgence in making things by hand and for bringing old skills back to life”. The book contains a myriad of interesting illustrations and photos as well as the story from concept to raising of the barn. At a time when community really matters, when our environment needs love and nurturing, Barn Club echoes with all that is good. It is a wonderful read that lightened my spirits and made me smile.
Our December 2020 Guest Editor “Take what you need from these pages; and most of all, enjoy what you do. Joy is such a vital part of creative writing – because if you don’t enjoy what you write, how can you expect anyone else to?” So begins Joanne Harris’s invaluably inspirational - and practical - Ten Things About Writing. Reading this book is rather like having a wise writer as a best friend, on hand to offer pragmatic and energising advice, with many unhelpful myths about writing crumbled, and an emphasis on the fact that writing is to be worked at, not something a wand can be waved at: “The ability to spin words into gold is a skill that comes from hard work, patience and lots of practice. Some people may have an aptitude; others will struggle to gain momentum.” I particularly loved the author’s unravelling of the myth of inspiration: “The idea that we must wait for the Muse to inspire us was invented by effete young Victorians who wanted an excuse to sit around doing nothing all day. Most of us don’t have that luxury, which means forgetting about the Muse and doing some actual footwork instead.” And this gem: “Don’t write because you want to be a writer. Write because you want to write.” In bracing style, Harris covers everything from doing proper research, finding your voice and effectual use of description (“If a passage doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s just pointless decoration. Kill it”), to drafting (“all first drafts are terrible... Just get on with it”), re-writing, and what to expect if you’re lucky enough to be published. And she doesn’t stop there, in the way that writing doesn’t either. She also covers dealing with fear, failure, rejection and writer’s block, with every stone turned and looked at from fresh angles, ending with an uplifting reminder that no matter how your writing journey turns out, “just writing is an act of bravery”. I’ll leave you with this typically droll nugget from the section on writing about women: “Top tip: real women very rarely think about their breasts at all – and certainly never in the way in which some male writers think they do.” I know this is a book I’ll keep coming back to, along with checking-in on the author’s #TenThings tweets.
Click to read our Q&A with Mark Adlington A book to fall totally and irretrievably in love with, Lion is full of the most gorgeous paintings, drawings, and sketches, and is absolutely stunning. The lion, an apex predator, is surely one of the most beautiful sights you can see. When I was 19 I found myself in Kenya, eyes wide, mouth open as I watched a lioness and three cubs at a water hole. It is something that is as clear to me now as it was then, so, when I saw this book was going to be published, I was first in the LoveReading queue. Here we journey together with Mark Adlington as he studies lions in East and Southern Africa. The foreword by the winner of the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa and Co-Founder and Director of Operations at the Big Life Foundation, Richard Bonham, is effusive in its praise of Mark Adlington. It comes with a warning, that lions do not make good neighbours, and “where humans and wildlife compete, wildlife will surely lose”. However all is not: “doom and gloom… in the Amboseli ecosystem, by 2003 there were only 25 lions left… today, things have changed and the population has clawed itself back to over 200”. Mark has painted the progeny of the lions this programme has saved, and they appear in this dazzlingly impressive book. Mark describes meeting Richard and his wife Tara as a miracle: “I found myself invited to stay ‘in the most beautiful part of Kenya’ by a total stranger on the strength of a little sketch of a lion cub posted on instagram”. Mark also allows us access to his sketchbook musings (oh, the tortoise!), and finishes by saying that a world without the lion is unimaginable. What then follows is page after page of the most beautiful artwork, and this is where my mouth dropped open. Each piece is so full of character and movement, so vibrantly alive, that it brought tears to my eyes. The art is allowed to shine, no page numbers or captions to distract, you can simply sink into the beauty of the lion. So, Lion is a book to take pride of place on your bookshelves, a book to return to and open with wonder, to sit with eyes wide and heart open, to adore. Undoubtedly one of my personal books of the year, Lion just had to join our LoveReading Star Books and is of course one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
Imparting wisdom from across two decades, Philip Pullman’s Dæmon Voices shares a generous banquet of thought-provoking insights into the art of story-telling and Pullman’s personal processes and passions. As the book’s editor, Simon Mason, writes in his introduction, Pullman is “interested in, above all, human nature, how we live and love and fight and betray and console one another. How we explain ourselves to ourselves,” and this all-encompassing ethos is reflected here, with essays covering everything from the responsibilities of the storyteller, how stories work, and authors’ intentions, to William Blake, Oliver Twist, and writing fantasy realistically. The tone is lively, ablaze with clear-sighted wit, no matter how complex the subject, with many pieces having been delivered at conferences. One of my personal favourites is “Let’s Write it in Red” which begins with an anecdote about a train journey during which the author witnessed children demonstrating the “two great principles of storytelling”. The first principle is that there are rules - among them stories must begin and have unity, and storytellers mustn’t be afraid of the obvious. Stories must have a destination too, and storytellers “must design the path so that it leads to the destination most surely, and with the maximum effect.” The second principle relates to form: “if the story is a path, then to follow it you have to ignore quite ruthlessly all the things that tempt you away from it. Your business as a storyteller is with the path, not the wood.” To these, Pullman adds a third - knowledge. Storytellers should “become more interested in your subject-matter than in the way you appear to others to be dealing with it.” With each of the 32 essays embodying these astute principles, Dæmon Voices is a trove of enlightenment, and entertaining to boot.
This enchanting reinvention of a Natural History of Fairies written by botanist Professor Elsie Arbour in the 1920s glows with timeless charm and the magic of nature. What’s more, author Emily Hawkins’s message about protecting fairies’ natural habitats has important real-world resonance, such as this: “human actions are putting fairies’ habitats at risk. When forests and woodland are cut down to make space for farmland…then fairies’ homes are destroyed.” Fairy enthusiasts will delight in the detail of the softly-radiant illustrations that present fairy anatomy and life cycles in the manner of natural history books, replete with labels and descriptions. Throughout, the book is suffused with a thrilling feeling that fairies might be found - if you know what you’re looking for, and where to look. The section on language and secret scripts will undoubtedly inspire young readers to write their own fairy codes, while coverage of a huge range of habitats - from meadows, gardens and woodlands, to mountains, marine environments and jungles - gives a satisfying global feel. Alongside providing fairy-lovers with much fodder for exploration, this coverage of habitats, and information on the likes of leaves, plants and animals, might also spark a wider love of nature. Sumptuously presented, with a silk bookmark, and gold edging and cover foil supplementing Jessica Roux’s illustrations, this book’s style is every bit as charming as its content, which makes it a gift to treasure.
“Take what you need from these pages; and most of all, enjoy what you do. Joy is such a vital part of creative writing – because if you don’t enjoy what you write, how can you expect anyone else to?” So begins Joanne Harris’s invaluably inspirational - and practical - Ten Things About Writing. Reading this book is rather like having a wise writer as a best friend, on hand to offer pragmatic and energising advice, with many unhelpful myths about writing crumbled, and an emphasis on the fact that writing is to be worked at, not something a wand can be waved at: “The ability to spin words into gold is a skill that comes from hard work, patience and lots of practice. Some people may have an aptitude; others will struggle to gain momentum.” I particularly loved the author’s unravelling of the myth of inspiration: “The idea that we must wait for the Muse to inspire us was invented by effete young Victorians who wanted an excuse to sit around doing nothing all day. Most of us don’t have that luxury, which means forgetting about the Muse and doing some actual footwork instead.” And this gem: “Don’t write because you want to be a writer. Write because you want to write.” In bracing style, Harris covers everything from doing proper research, finding your voice and effectual use of description (“If a passage doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s just pointless decoration. Kill it”), to drafting (“all first drafts are terrible... Just get on with it”), re-writing, and what to expect if you’re lucky enough to be published. And she doesn’t stop there, in the way that writing doesn’t either. She also covers dealing with fear, failure, rejection and writer’s block, with every stone turned and looked at from fresh angles, ending with an uplifting reminder that no matter how your writing journey turns out, “just writing is an act of bravery”. I’ll leave you with this typically droll nugget from the section on writing about women: “Top tip: real women very rarely think about their breasts at all – and certainly never in the way in which some male writers think they do.” I know this is a book I’ll keep coming back to, along with checking-in on the author’s #TenThings tweets.
Simply gorgeous! Seriously everyone, this really is THE most lovely book. I don’t know about you, but I adore looking at beautiful houses, and boy is Cath Kidston’s home stunning, it is also deliciously homely too. Yes of course, this is Cath Kidston of the Cath Kidston vintage-inspired homeware and designer brand. She has sent a gorgeous invitation to wander around her home, telling us how they found it, and how each room came into being. Pavilion have created a perfectly sized and visually beautiful book. Stuffed full of vivid, colourful photographs (shout out to Christopher Simon Sykes), I sank into the pages. I love her quirky touches, such as the cracker adorned painting, and the colour, oh my, the colour just pops! Yes I am rather gushing over this book, that’s because it sang to me, and I have fallen in love with it. A Place Called Home would make the perfect gift, but make sure you buy one for yourself too! Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, just because it is so beautiful.
Invisible work is the hidden ingredient for success in an AI-defined era. It is a mindset of deeply focused, value-added thinking and sharing. It is a process of creativity that combines emotional intelligence and collaboration. It is the key to the success of a growing army of self-employed workers. This is an emerging field of work in which new business domains and creative endeavours are based on personal interests and digital connections. It is also, crucially, the answer to the question of how we thrive in the AI era and raise a new generation capable of working with - rather than being replaced by - AI. Howkins lays out a visionary framework for working practice and success. He focuses on the ways in which we think most innovatively, how we best share those private ideas, how we make unseen connections and remain authentic whilst staking out our domain in a virtual world. He considers the growing area of self-employment in a chapter entitled `The Incorporated Self', and he explores the tricky task of spotting and nurturing those best suited to invisible work.
When I first saw this book, my immediate reaction was, hands off everyone, that’s mine! (No sharp elbows were used to obtain it I promise). This is the official Harry Potter Knitting Magic Pattern Book by Tanis Gray, and if you didn’t know you needed it, you do now. Non-knitting Harry Potter fans will be queuing up to learn a new skill, knitters previously unaware of Harry Potter (ummm, there might be a couple out there), can make some perfect presents, and if you love both, well, you are sorted. Tanis Gray is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, author of 9 knitting books and has over 500 published knitting designs. If you are new to knitting, the different projects are marked according to skill levels and include ‘Crafty Creatures’, ‘Wizarding Wardrobe’, Inspired Apparel’ and ‘Delightful Decor’. Particular favourites of mine are the Nagini Lariat (beginner), the Cornish Pixie (easy), and the Wizarding Transportation Scarf (advanced). Full instructions are given, with charts, and fabulous photos of finished pieces by Laura Flippen. Both useful and beautiful, with some lovely links, sketches and photos from the Harry Potter films, this is a must-have book for crafty fans and has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
I must confess that I exclaimed with delight when I saw All Good Things for the first time. It is fabulously described as “a treasury of images to uplift the spirits and reawaken wonder”. The size is perfect, the cover divinely enticing, and it just beckoned me in. I simply sank into the pages of the most beautiful images of art from around the world and through time. You may already have heard of, or indeed follow Stephen Ellcock on social media. Over the last ten years he has shared his images with the world. And we have taken them to our heart. Here he “explores our world and the human response to it one realm at a time”, and so we visit various realms from ‘The Face of the Water’, through to ‘The Human Realm’ and ‘Gods and Monsters’. The images and their explanations sit patiently, just waiting for you to turn the page. I have quite fallen in love with this book, it is gorgeous. September Publishing has created a little masterpiece, and it has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book and one of my picks of the month. All Good Things is a treasure of a treasury and would make the most perfect gift (but make sure you keep a copy for yourself!). Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
By turns gripping, meditative and elemental, and always inspirational, this treasure trove of prose, poetry and art lays bare a richness of relationships between female adventurers and the great outdoors. Shunning conventional, simplistic narratives about mankind conquering the highest this, or the deepest that, each adventurer-contributor shares their unique experiences with enlightening, engaging subtlety. In the wise words of one writer, “People go outdoors to push themselves past what they thought they could do…I go outdoors for the struggle, not to beat it.” This eloquent anthology contains over seventy pieces of writing and art, among them an enlightening piece about the motivations of an Antarctic researcher, an intimate account of a mountaineer’s connection with her father through cross-country skiing, and an exquisite evocation of the sensuous life-forces of a Dartmoor brook. It’s a delight to dip into, and the perfect gift for nature-lovers and adventure-seekers.
Featuring over fifty stylishly rendered boards, this is an interactive doodle book with a difference, and certainly takes the lingering trend for adult colouring-in books to the next level. Most of the book comprises unfinished boards for users to transform into their own tabletop games – twenty designs in all, followed by twenty-five sets of rules for players to choose to follow, each of which encourages creativity with suggestions for fashioning your own versions of classic board games. There’s also plenty of options for users to invent their own entirely new games, with a superb “Stuck for Ideas?” section that suggests fun themes and mash-ups, among them “Throne of Crowns” and “Uninvited Ghost”. There are suggestions specially devised for younger players too (for example “The Magical Maze” and “Lost Pets”) making this a compendium of creativity for all ages. Taking an average of half an hour to create each game and a further half an hour to play, this provides a plethora of opportunities to exercise one’s cerebral muscles while having a whole lot of fun.
Our mass produced globalised world does give us all access to things from around the world but they do lack any personality and individuality so it's not surprising there is currently a real upsurge in making and creating beautiful and interesting things yourself.
As William Morris once said 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.'
Here is a lovingly chosen selection of books to get you creating some beauty for your home. Whether you would like to knit, sew, sketch or print, you can hopefully find a book here that will spark your imagination.