Staff picks – MIS

Marylebone Information ServiceI always find it interesting to discover what my colleagues like to read in their spare time, so I thought I would find out and share a few recommendations with you, team by team.

First up are the staff of Marylebone Information Service (the reference library at Marylebone, known internally as ‘MIS’). You probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear them wax lyrical about the Dictionary of National Biography, but what would they recommend you read for pleasure?

Q, by Luther BlissettQ – Luther Blissett
My favourite book ever is Q. Luther Blissett is the pseudonym of four italian guys writing books together (they are now called Wu Ming, which means “anonymous” in Chinese). It is set around 1530 (onwards), is all about Luther’s ideas, cardinals, there’s a spy, there’s a hero (you’ll love him), and you’ll guess only at the end who the spy was… read it carefully, and don’t miss out characters, otherwise you’ll be disappointed! [Tania]

Wolf Hall, by Hilary MantelWolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
My current favourite book, the complete antidote to Robert Bolt’s ‘A Man for All Seasons’. [David]

Three men in a boat, by Jerome K JeromeThree Men in a Boat, to say nothing of the dog – Jerome K. Jerome
Sneered at by the critics when it was first published, this story of how three ordinary chaps spent their summer holidays rowing up the Thames is a fresh and funny today as it was in 1889. Much imitated since, there have been film, tv, stage  and radio adaptations but none have quite captured the magic of George, Harris and J’s (not forgetting Montmorency) adventures, and you can still follow their trip yourself on foot, by public transport or even in a boat. [Nicky]

Rent boy, by Pete MayRent Boy: How One Man Spent 20 Years Falling Off the Property Ladder, by Pete May
It’s a book about London, particularly West London. A lot of the book is set around places I know. Its also very funny and not too heavy a read! [Steve]

Gormenghast, by Mervyn PeakeGormenghast trilogy, by Mervyn Peake
I’m a great fan of the Gormenghast trilogy, comprising the novels “Titus Groan”, “Gormenghast” and “Titus Alone”. The action – at least in the first two books – takes place in Gormenghast, seat of the earls of that name, a gigantic maze of a castle standing within an outlandish landscape. Peake charts the progress from the birth of Titus, heir to the earldom, which he is due to inherit from his father Sepulchrave, the seventy-sixth earl. Larger-than-life characters with names more Dickensian than Dickens (Flay the gaunt retainer, Swelter the very overweight cook) populate this world, which is described in such careful detail that it becomes perfectly real, and the story is fascinating. [Neil]

The Stone Book Quartet, by Alan GarnerThe Stone Book Quartet, by Alan Garner
My favourite book: short, lyrical and loaded with meaning.
[Michael]

The Lord of the Rings, by JRR TolkienThe Lord of the Rings trilogy – J. R. R. Tolkien
An aunt got me my first copy as a present. I found it really hard to get into at first, but I made it through (it’s extremely long). As I got to know the characters I became more and more interested and instead of being a mountain to climb it became harder and harder to put down. It’s great to be able to chat about it with family and friends who have also read it, and to make reference to it in conversations etc. The only downside of reading it was that it made me get annoyed by the film which I thought was terrible due to the bits it skipped; I thought it would be great and really bring back the story! [Owen]

On the origin of species..., by Charles DarwinOn the origin of species by means of natural selection, by Charles Darwin
This is the book that set it all off, the bombshell, the granddaddy of them all, and it is superb. If you’re prepared to read the Victorian prose – which doesn’t immediately seem easy, but isn’t so difficult, either – you will discover just how cleverly and beautifully it was done. Darwin takes us on a carefully-planned journey, starting with his own and others’ efforts at breeding (and successfully modifying) farm animals and domestic pets – and eventually showing how differential survival rates in the wild will naturally lead to selection for certain characteristics in all the species of plant and animal on the planet. It took a genius like Darwin both to find the explanation, and to make that explanation crystal-clear to any reader with his fine writing style. An amazing book. [Neil]

Consuelo, the countess of Rudolstadt – Georges Sand
This is a book based (loosely) on the life of the opera singer Pauline Viardot and Frederic Chopin. The story is very romantic and quite gothic as well, with mysterious characters surrounding an extremely talented and modest heroine with a very unusual strength of character and independence. It was with great surprise that I discovered that Georges Sand (whose masculine pen name I had always found attractive) had not only written stories for children. I read this with delight and shivers and felt like a little girl reading a princess story! [Renée]

What do you think? An eclectic bunch…

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