Tag Archives: libraries

Recommended Reads

This week’s Book of the Week is The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was born on the 21st July 1899, this week marking his 121st birthday. We have put together a list of similar titles for you to look through and enjoy.


life of pi pic


Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

The Patel family have decided to sell their zoo in India and sail to Canada with a few remaining animals. Suddenly, tragedy strikes in the form of a horrendous storm, leaving the Patel’s son Pi as the sole human survivor. However, Pi is not alone in the ocean; a fearsome Bengal tiger has also survived the storm. The pair must learn to trust one another over the coming months if they are to last their voyage.


the great gatsby book cover


The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s most famous work, The Great Gatsby, has been heralded as a modern American classic. When young and impressionable Nick moves in next door to extravagant millionaire Gatsby, he is drawn into a series of events leading to catastrophic consequences. Gatsby spares no expense in his attempts to win over childhood love Daisy, now married to old-money brute Tom Buchanan, and Nick can only bear witness to his friend’s downfall.


the alchemist book pic


The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Originally written in Portuguese, The Alchemist has become an international bestseller. It is an allegorical novel, following the life of an Andalusian shepherd named Santiago who dreams of finding treasure in the pyramids of Egypt. Believing his dream to be prophetic, Santiago journeys to Egypt to seek his fortune. There, he experiences love, loss, and adventure in a powerful and moving tale.


if beale street could talk book pic


If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin

Set in Harlem in the 1970’s, Baldwin’s classic is a love story following the lives of Fonny, a sculptor, and Tish, the book’s narrator. When Fonny is falsely accused of rape, Tish, 19 and pregnant, must help their families win justice for her lover. Past and present mingle to form a passionate and powerful novel, widely regarded as an essential read for our time.

Some of these books are available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is a Westminster library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources. 

Recommended Reads

This week’s Book of the Week is The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. We’ve put together a selection of some historical fiction you may enjoy after reading Gregory’s Tudor romance.


wolf hall book cover

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall documents Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in the court of Henry VIII in the 16th Century. Born into a working-class family with no political history or renown, Wolf Hall highlights Cromwell’s pragmatism and skill in aiding Henry during the tumultuous Reformation period. Winning the Man Booker prize amongst other notable awards, Wolf Hall has been named as one of the 10 best historical novels by The Observer.


the gates of rome book cover

The Gates of Rome, by Conn Iggulden

Gladiatorial combat, conniving senators, and mass warfare whisk Iggulden’s readers off to the ancient world of the Roman Empire. Full of suspense and dastardly plots, the first book in the Emperor Series is not to be missed.


the mermaid and mrs hancock book cover

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, by Imogen Hermes Gowar

A stunning twist on the historical novel, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock takes the reader back to 1785 and the world of merchant sailing. Jonah Hancock leads the normal life of a merchant trader, until one day his Captain arrives on his doorstep claiming he has sold Jonah’s ship for the most staggering prize of all; a mermaid. But with great beauty comes a destructive power, one which has the potential to change Jonah’s life forever.


the narrow land book cover

The Narrow Land, by Christine Dwyer Hickey

Set in the 1950’s, The Narrow Land explores the unlikely friendship between Michael, a 10 year old boy living with his troubled mother, and the Hoppers, an artistic couple who live nearby. The legacy of the Second World War haunts this novel, shaping landscape and characters alike and making for a nostalgic read.

All of these books (and more!) are available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is a Westminster library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.

Recommended Reads

This week, our Book of the Week is The Butchers, by Ruth Gilligan. The Butchers deals with the subjects of the Irish borderlands, Catholicism vs Celtic Tradition, and family relationships. We have selected a list of similar books you might enjoy.  

normal people

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Connell and Marianne are from different worlds. He is the effortlessly popular star of the school football team; she keeps her head down and dreams of escaping their small Irish town. When the pair are both accepted into Trinity College Dublin, their worlds drift apart and collide in a realistic portrayal of growing up. 


night boat to tangier book pic

Night Boat to Tangier, by Kevin Barry

Barry’s latest novel looks at the impact of crime on the soul through Charlie and Maurice, ageing Irish gangsters chatting about their lives in a Spanish ferry terminal. These men are deeply flawed, carrying their familial tragedies into Spain on the hunt for Charlie’s missing daughter. This book is darkly comic, with a look into the devastating results of serious crime, and was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2019.


nine folds make a paper swan book pic

Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan, by Ruth Gilligan

Telling the untold stories of Irish Jews, Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan examines belonging, communities, and Irish identity in one spellbinding novel. Three intertwining voices combine to tell their stories throughout three different time periods, creating a comprehensive account of previously overlooked religious history in Ireland.


where the crawdads sing book cover

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

Owens’ 2018 novel is a beautiful coming of age story which has topped the NYTimes’ Best Seller List for the past two years. The story follows two different timelines which slowly come together, combining a murder investigation with a young girl’s experiences growing up in an isolated marsh in North Carolina in the 1950’s-60’s.

Some of these books are available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is a Westminster library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources. 

Glimpses of Queen’s Park in 1936

01 Headpiece adverts

Adverts from the Queen’s Park Calendar, December 1936

Westminster City Archives holds a few editions of a monthly local community guide from the 1930s called The Queen’s Park Calendar. One from December 1936 gives some impressions of contemporary social life in the area.

02 Cover and contents

Front cover and contents of The Queen’s Park Calendar, December 1936

The calendar gave Queen’s Park residents local information on shops, civic and church events, the public library, public transport, postal collection times, the cinema, and sports and recreation.

A notice of the Queen’s Park library advises that “all residents of Queen’s Park may borrow books on the signature of any ratepayer”. The library was open every day and with generous hours.

03 Queens Park Public Library

Advert for Queen’s Park Library, The Queen’s Park Calendar, December 1936

Among a short list of new books acquired by the library are two that reflect anxieties about international relations: “War Over England.  Air attack, with incendiary booms to melt steel like tallow, calculated to stir public apathy” by L.E.O. Charlton; and “The Far East comes nearer.  To a little Japanese expansion, add equal portion Chinese territory, flavour with Russian propaganda, simmer gently and this is the result”, by H.H. Tiltman.

The two neighbourhood cinemas, the Pavillion, Kensal Rise and the New Palace, Chamberlayne Road, offered a mix of British and American fare, and fitting the festive season they included Cicely Courtneidge in “Everybody Dance” and Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers in “Swing Time.”

Queen’s Park Rangers F.C., then in League Division Three (South), played two home fixtures over Christmas: on the 25th against Exeter City, 11am kick off; and on Boxing Day against Bristol City. With one day off, Rangers then travelled west for a return fixture with Exeter.

For those braving the tennis hard courts at the Paddington Rec and Queen’s Park, spots could be had for two shillings per hour.  The Rec’s cycling and running tracks could be used for training (running, four pence; cycling, six pence).

The Willesden & District Motor Club met every Tuesday evening at its HQ, the William IV pub on Harrow Road.  Afternoon recreational runs were held on Sundays, departing from the pub.

04 New Years Carnival Dance

Advert for an event at Porchester Hall, The Queen’s Park Calendar, December 1936

1937 was welcomed in with a New Year’s carnival dance at Porchester Hall, where “continuous dancing to two bands, 7.30 until 12.45” was to be enjoyed. Tickets five shillings at the door.

05 Tailpiece adverts

Adverts from the Queen’s Park Calendar, December 1936

My favourite things

One of the main reasons for starting this blog was that there was so much to tell – as the very first post said: “It’s about the life of the Libraries & Archives”. There are so very many facets to a public library service; I wanted to help bring more of what we can offer into the light.

After eighteen years in Westminster Libraries (a brief interlude in comparison to the tenure of Malcolm and many others, of course), I’ve rounded up a selection of wonderful things and, with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, persuaded my library-fan children to spare you my singing voice.  As I move on to pastures new, one of the things I will miss the most is editing this blog (I look forward to being a reader from now on). It’s been a privilege.

So long, farewell…