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First Published Thursday, 5 March 2009


Two-Storey Library

Library staff share some of their favourite books for World Book Day


Date: Mar 4, 2009

World Book Day is the biggest annual celebration of books and reading in the UK and Ireland.


World Book Day, Thursday 5 March 2009


Library staff share some of their favourite books.


Jane Healey, Senior Librarian, Highgate


  • Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim -The beauties of nature, social commentary and wry observations on life all mix in this witty and idiosyncratic semi-autobiographical diary.
  • The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley – If you ever wondered what life was like in medieval Greenland! … an entry into another world – this has lived on in my mind for years. Beautiful and enthralling.
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt – My favourite Booker winner – a lush interweaving of dual worlds as two contemporary scholars reconstruct an unsuspected love affair between two Victorian poets
  • The Charterhouse of Parma – by Stendahl – Possibly the greatest French novel ever. A romantic thriller set in the Napoleonic era it broke new ground with its realism and deep psychological insights. The description of the confusion of the battle of Waterloo greatly influenced Tolstoy.
  • Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier – Romance with a capital R. Beautifully written, elegiac, mysterious and tragic. Read with a box of tissues to hand …unless you have a heart of stone!

Felicity Page, Principal Librarian, Children and Young People


  • The Moons of Jupiter by Alice Munro – This encapsulates so much of her superb craft in short story telling. Called the Proust of the twentieth century she writes of love, loss, happiness and misery of the human heart.
  • Austerlitz by W.G.Sebald – Intriguing and lyrical journey of discovery into Europe’s shameful past.
  • Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man by George Sherwood. Thinly disguised fictional autobiography of Siegfried Sassoon, a brilliant diarest, poet and man of letters.
  • The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This illuminating and epic tale of a family and their tragic history in nineteenth century Russia demonstrates so many of the fundamental questions of life, death, religion, sin and redemption.
  • Anna Karenina by Leopold Tolstoy. This tragic love story and the tragic demise from grace of the heedless and beautiful and Anna and her treacherous lover is gripping from the first line – ‘each happy family is happy in a similar way but each unhappy family is uniquely unhappy.’

Sue Jessop, Principal Librarian Learning and Reading


  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- Based on a true story, and set in 1930s Alabama, Atticus Finch is the small town lawyer who challenges the rigid social codes of the time by defending a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Harper Lee’s only novel won the Pulitzer Prize.
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott – Fitzgerald – Set in a heat wave in America during the roaring 20’s, Fitzgerald invites you to join the world of glittering parties and a society obsessed with wealth and status. But Gatsby’s pursuit of his secret obsession and the tragic unfolding of events reveal a society with a murky underside.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. A mystery story told by a 15-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, at ease with complex maths but completely unable to recognize human emotions. An unusual and sensitive combination of maths, humour, love and sadness.
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler . "I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be." Chandler’s first novel, introducing the tough, cynical, world-weary, wisecracking Philip Marlowe
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy – Jude Fawley’s university aspirations are thwarted and his socially unacceptable love for the intellectual, free-spirited Sue Bridehead leads to truly shocking and unbearably tragic consequences. Created such a scandal when published Hardy never wrote another novel.

Sonia Winifred, Deputy Head of Camden Libraries


  • Forever Amber by Kathleen Windsor
  • Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
  • Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • Nana by Emile Zola
  • Love in the Time of Cholora by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Pamela Butler, Senior Librarian, Kentish Town


  • What we talk about when we talk about love by Raymond Carver -American master of minimalist prose puts meaning into the lives of everyday people.
  • The women’s room by Marilyn French – A book which meant so much in the movement for womens liberation and which still packs a punch.
  • Hunger by Knut Hamsun – A flavour of what it feels like to be starving, cold and desperate on the icy streets of Norway.
  • The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake – A colourful fantasy of exquisite characters and goings on in a fairytale castle.
  • Finding a different kind of normal: misadventures with Asperger syndrome by Jeanette Purkis – Fascinating and frightening in equal measure as a young woman looks back on her roller coaster life up to her success and acceptance of living with the syndrome.

Diane Bowman, Senior Librarian, West Hampstead


  • Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx – True love is found in the most unexpected places.
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – This novel had me in its grip from the first page, a thrilling dip into the sordid under life of Victorian London.
  • Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchell – Ten years in the writing, a heart breaking story of love and loss, a nation mortally divided. Margaret Mitchell’s only published work.
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens – A savage, but often comic indictment of a society that is rotten to the core. The case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce rumbles on and on.
  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – The most beautifully written book I have ever picked up. A poetic tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.
  • Kidnapped by R.L Stevenson – I just love dashing heroes and you don’t get more dashing than Alan Breck. Romance in the Scottish Highlands.

Gloria Keys, Group Manager St. Pancras


  • Secret History by Donna Tartt – Eerie and atmospheric with wonderful descriptions of New England in all its changing seasons.
  • A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby – Wonderful and very funny account of a complete non- walkers plan to walk to Afghanistan – a great travel book and fascinating picture of what Iran and Afghanistan used to be like.
  • From the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple – Another travel book following in the footsteps of a sixth century monk from Mount Athos in Greece across Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, tracing the Middle Eastern roots of Christianity.
  • The Kindness of Strangers by Kate Adie – Kate Adie’s autobiography starting with the sometimes hilarious memories of her early years at the BBC and her travels around the world as a foreign correspondent.
  • Lake Wobegone Days by Garrison Keillor – Read this after listening to GK read it on the radio! An account of growing up in the fifties in a small town in Minnesota. As Keillor grew up and embarked on the treacherous dating game, he had to cope with taking his date out in a car covered in verses from the Bible picked out in red reflective beading!

Nick West Senior Librarian, Holborn


  • Of Love and Hunger by Julian McClaren-Ross -The uncertain life of vacuum cleaner salesmen on the south coast in the immediate pre-war years.
  • 1974/1977/1980 by David Peace – First three parts of the Red Riding quartet. Murderous doings in the West Riding against a backdrop of the Ripper killings.
  • The Dumas Club by Arturo Perez-Reverte -Occult mystery set in the antiquarian book trade. Filmed by Polanski as ‘The Ninth Gate.’
  • The Separation by Christopher Priest- Alternative history of the Second World War.
  • Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens – Love and greed on the Kings Cross dust heaps and the Thames
  • Mother London by Michael Moorcock – Chronicles of London across the decades – 1930s to 1980s. Theobalds Road and Brooke Market and Holborn Viaduct feature prominently.
  • The Psalm Killer by Chris Petit -Northern Ireland serial-killer investigation sheds light on the darker recesses of the Troubles
  • Misfortune by Wesley Stace -Like a ballad bought to life. Victorian picaresque. Sarah Waters meets Jeffrey Eugenides.

Sally Davies, Senior Librarian, Swiss Cottage


  • Perfume by Patrick Suskind – Weirdly fascinating, compellingly gruesome story of obsession in pursuit of perfection.
  • A Secret History by Donna Tartt – A modern day Greek tragedy, a Dionysian cult in a New England college goes horribly wrong.
  • Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd – A dark tale of evil deeds by a real life eighteenth century architect, it’ll make you want to explore his churches in London.
  • The Plague by Albert Camus – That second most famous French existentialist footballer after Cantona muses on morality using the backdrop of the last outbreak of bubonic plague in North Africa.
  • Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – A typical story of a man turning into an insect. Full of angst ridden horror and self revulsion.
  • The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevksy – A young man of pure innocence and frail health falls in love and falls prey to the ruthless power hungry characters who cross his path and seek to manipulate his life.

Roma Greliak, Senior Librarian, Swiss Cottage


  • The Leopard by Tomasi di Lampedusa –A 19th century Sicilian aristocratic family play out love and war in the searing landscape of Sicily pre and post the fateful landing of Grariboldi.
  • Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry – A tender story of family relationships. Wonderful dialogue, humour, warmth and sensitivity.
  • Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – magical realism and epic story lines, a novel about love.
  • Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – An epic about love and marriage in post independent India.
  • Middlemarch by George Elliot – complex novel of early Victorian provincial life, charting the social and political movements of the time and how they shaped the destinies of ‘ordinary’ people.

Lesley Halliday, Senior Librarian


  • 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith – This book started life in weekly installments on the pages of The Scotsman. If you enjoy reading it, the very good news is that it is only the first of Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Street series. The occupants of 44 Scotland Street in one of Edinburgh’s more desirable residential areas are a fascinating bunch. A particular favourite of mine is Bertie who at the age of five can speak Italian and play the saxophone well. However, all is not well -he is in therapy after setting his father’s Guardian on fire…
  • The Natural Flights of the Human Mind by Clare Morrall – A recent Christmas present, much enjoyed. The two main characters have been so damaged by their life experiences they can barely function. One has withdrawn completely from society. A well timed bequest that one receives brings happiness for them both.
  • The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter – This old book was recommended by a friend in her nineties and it is both dated and charming with a dash of adventure thrown in. The Keeper of the Bees gives the reader a fictional insight into life in California post-First World War -and most definitely pre-Roaring Twenties!
  • Case Histories by Kate Atkinson- A bit of a departure for Kate Atkinson. I really enjoyed this who-dunnit with a difference. I was delighted when she continued the story of two of the characters in One Good Turn (I think I enjoyed this second book even more than Case Histories – but best to start at the beginning!)
  • Affinity by Sarah Waters – One of Sarah Waters’ lesser known books. It is more compact than Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith or The Night Watch –but it is perfectly developed. Her use of language and description is marvellous. Like Fingersmith, the book is set in Victorian London and in both books the plotline twists. I think the end will come as a surprise for most people.
  • Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler -I could have recommended any of Anne Tyler’s books with confidence but this is a particular favourite of mine. If you can’t find it on the shelves borrow another of Anne Tyler’s!

Steve Lack, Head of Camden Information Services


  • English journey by JB Priestley – Life, high and low, goes on during the Great Depression. Priestley brings provincial towns and cities to life with portraits of theatres, fairs, pubs, people.
  • Adolf Hitler, my part in his downfall by Spike Milligan – Comic writing was never the same again, Milligan makes you fall over laughing at tales of army life in the early days of WW2
  • Knulp by Hermann Hesse – Find out why proud vagrant Knulp wanders around the idyllic countryside of Southern Germany in the early 1900s.
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre – Smiley gets his man – or does he? Don’t worry about the plot, just enjoy the writing and the characters.
  • Under the Greenwood tree by Thomas Hardy -The light and fluffy romance of Dick Dewy and Fancy Day fizzes along whilst the wicked Reverend Maybury tries to replace the church band with a mechanised organ. Happy ending? Don’t bank on it with Hardy.
  • Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood – seen Cabaret, now read the book if you want to be topical.

Gordon Keys, Principal Librarian, Bibliographic Services


  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – Trollope’s wonderful comic description of ecclesiastical jealousies and ambitions – introducing two of the most notorious characters in Victorian fiction, Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope.
  • Roman Blood by Steven Saylor– the first in the brilliant Roman detective series. Gordianus the Finder solves real historical crimes during the times of Cicero and Julius Caesar.
  • 2 ½ pillars of wisdom by Alexander McCall Smith – A comic trilogy by the author of “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency”. The vain, pompous Professor von Ingelfield has been described as a cross between Frasier Crane and Victor Meldrew.
  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – set in America during the Depression years, the Joad family are forced to migrate to California with all their possessions where they and thousands of others endure hardship and poverty and are at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. You would have to possess a heart of stone to fail to be moved by this magnificent novel.
  • Chronicles by Bob Dylan – there are so many biographies of Dylan but he always surprises us with this autobiography unlike any other – is he being truthful? Maybe, maybe not it’s just such a joy to read.

Stella Richards, Manager, Children, Young People and Schools Library Service


  • The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini – A gripping story of boyhood friendship destroyed by and fear. It moved me to tears. I had no idea of what life was like in the Afghanistan in the 1970s.
  • The Map of Love by Ahdef Soueif – Beautiful writing. A romantic love story along with Egypt’s history, past and present.
  • Bird Song by Sebastian Faulks – Largely set on the western front in the First World War it tells the harrowing story men who lived in barely imaginable conditions and a clandestine love affair. A wonderful read.
  • Perfume: the story of a killer by Patrick Suskind -It is the story of a survivor, genius, perfumer, killer. Beautiful and horrific; the essence of the book stays with you for a long time.
  • Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter -Baroque fairy tale at the turn of the 19th century world. Magical realism at its best.

Nick Durant, Community Learning and Development Librarian


  • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. – It was a very subversive book in its time, and it still is: the “good” widow who is a church-goer and tries to educate and ‘sivilise’ Huck, is also a slave-owner; and the turning point is when Huck decides that he’s going to be “bad” after all: he’ll help Jim – the runaway slave – escape to freedom. This is the only book which I read as a child (and not at school) which I still read as an adult.
  • Tartuffe by Moliere (in the brilliant translation by Richard Wilbur). – Again, a subversive work. A play about how a conman, by pretending to be very religious, almost takes over a family. The ending, when a messenger from the King (Louis XIV) reveals that the King has understood the depths of Tartuffe’s wickedness and will put everything to rights, always makes the audience laugh – and Moliere meant it to.
  • The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. – The devil visits to Moscow, with his assistants (including a talking cat). One of the funniest books I’ve ever read: e.g. the theatre performance, during which Koroviev the Cat pulls off someone’s head, and then sticks it back on! Bulgakov wrote this at the height of the Stalin era, and though it never refers to Stalin, gives some idea of the terrifying craziness of those times.
  • Silence Among the Weapons, by John Arden. A vivid and authentic historical novel about politics and the theatre: in the first century BC a small troupe of actors tour Italy, as the Roman republic descends into chaos and civil war.
  • Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. – A novel about France’s defeat and occupation by the Germans in the second world war. Written from the midst of the events, it was never finished, because the author was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Only two-fifths of the book was completed, but it is magnificent. First we follow a number of different characters as they flee from Paris, after the collapse of the French army; then, once France is under occupation, we read how a Frenchwoman whose husband is a prisoner of war falls in love with a German officer billeted at her house. Clear-eyed, but compassion. An amazing book.

The Library

Where can I get these books?


All these books are in stock in Camden Libraries or can be reserved free of charge


Source:   http://www.camden.gov.uk/ccm/content/leisure/news/2009/march/library-staff-share-some-of-their-favourite-books-for-world-book-day.en;jsessionid=62480794C6B3658D58EF9BCE1B6CBCFB.node1



2 Responses to “World Book Day – Thursday 5th March”

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