Patron of Reading

Yesterday I returned to Alexandra Park School for my second session there as a Book Doctor. Over the course of the day I took appointments with eight students from Year 8, trying to find each one of them a book that would exactly suit that person. Here’s what I ‘prescribed’:


Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Trouble by Non Pratt

TWOC by Graham Joyce

True Grit by Charles Portis

Model Under Cover by Carina Axelsson

Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Everything is Fine by Cathy Brett

A World Between Us by Lydia Syson

Time and Flood by Stephen Baxter

-and, though not pictured-

The Recruit by Robert Muchamore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Thanks again to the staff at APS for another lovely warm welcome, and to the students I met for what were some fascinating discussions. Among these unique individuals the only pattern I could discern was that some said they’d reached a point where they’d had enough of what they’d liked before and were ready to try something new. I hope I helped them find it.

This post is to mark the passing of Shigeru Mizuki.


As well as being a manga genius it was he, more than anyone else, who introduced younger Japanese generations – and the wider world – and me – to the fascinating, charming and terrifying creatures known as the yokai. As I now know thanks to wonderful new English translations published by Drawn and Quarterly, Mizuki was a terrific historian and memoirist too: Showa is amazing.


There’s a lovely tribute to him by translator Zack Davisson here. If you don’t yet know Shigeru Mizuki or his work, his Seven Rules of Happiness (listed there) are as good an introduction as any.

His books live on.

This time I made a video. 😀


My five favourite books I’ve read in the last few months are:

The Bees by Laline Paull

Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson

Dandy in the Underworld by Sebastian Horsley

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith


Suffragette – My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst

All these and four hundred and ninety-five other books I adore(!) can be found on my Five Hundred Fine Books list, on my LibraryThing profile. Seeking some more summer reading suggestions? Step this way.

Fine write-ups of last week’s brilliant launch of Big Green Education and the Haringey Chapter of Patron of Reading here and here. I was a bit nervous about speaking after Michael Rosen but I think I got away with it. 😀

This is my copy of Doing It by Melvin Burgess:


In October 2004 being an unaccompanied adult at a book event for teenagers was an odder thing than it is now. I’d received some curious looks by the time I reached the front of the signing queue – not least, since I was also the tallest person in it, from Melvin himself.

I explained I was an aspiring author as well as a massive fan. He shook my hand, wished me luck and wrote this lovely message in what – typically for his work – is a truthful, passionate and thrillingly fearless book that still causes trouble to this day.

More of the Books Beside Me coming soon.

I’m still fizzing from my visit yesterday to Alexandra Park School – my second as their Patron of Reading.

The first visit back in December as a Book Doctor was deliberately low-key, to help me find my way into the role. This…


…was much bigger.

In two sessions I spoke to the whole of the school’s Years 7 and 8 – introducing myself, taking questions, talking about how I became a reader, and putting forward my next idea: a Free Readers Manifesto.

What I would like to develop is a way of encouraging students to read by thinking about the differences between reading you have to do for school and reading you do for yourself – which is what I mean by Free Reading.

APS students can – and did! – give me comments, questions and suggestions about how this manifesto could end up – because it’s not finished. When it’s done I would like it to be theirs as much as mine – something we’ve come up with together. For now, however, the draft version I gave them to consider and work on with me looks like this…

The Free Readers Manifesto – First Draft

1. We are free to read whatever we want.

2. We are free to skip bits we find badly written or boring.

3. We are free to give up on reading that does not give us what we want, and find other reading that does.

4. As Free Readers we will not be measured, tested or questioned on our reading – unless we want to be.

How can this manifesto be developed and improved? I can hardly wait to find out. Meanwhile, my thanks and best wishes to Alexandra Park School’s staff and students for what was another thrilling and inspiring visit.

Being a Patron of Reading is brilliant. 😀

This is my copy of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien:


It looks slim because it’s printed on thin paper. The whole book is there. Ask my father, who gave and read it to me as a bedtime story.

It took him four years. Even in the context of what so far has been a very lucky life, it was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

This is my copy of The Princess Bride by William Goldman:


The sticker on the front cover used to say its price – three pounds. I bought it to celebrate the arrival in the post of the contract for my first book deal.

The advance wasn’t big but it was going to be much appreciated: that night (18th Feb 2005) I had about two pounds left in the bank but enough in my pockets to pay for a bottle of tonic and this book that I knew and still love.

I was very happy, and whenever I’ve picked it up since I remember that feeling.

More of the Books Beside Me coming soon.

My five favourite books I’ve read so far this year are:

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage by Albert Glinsky

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

Nemo: River of Ghosts by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill


The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn

Of the films I’ve seen lately, my three favourites are:

The Fall directed by Tarsem

Bicycle Thieves directed by Vittorio De Sica

-and the thrillingly unhinged-

Blind Woman’s Curse directed by Teruo Ishii

BTW: The whole of my book Crawlers is now up and free to read on Wattpad here. A delighted THANK YOU to @dmitrixyz for all his comments as he read it and my smug smile when he was caught by one of the twists. 😀

Happy holidays,


Putting out my short stories on Wattpad has been a lot of fun so far. I’ve decided to take things a step further…


From today on Wattpad I’m going to serialize the whole of my book Crawlers for anyone to read on their desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone or other internet-access device of choice, for free.

I plan to put it out in episodes three times a week for the next ten weeks.

As I was writing the book I imagined what it would be like to read it in serial form on one’s phone. The idea drove me to make Crawlers as fast, tense and relentlessly thrilling as I could. Putting the book to this test for real at last is very exciting for me. I hope readers get a kick out of it too. 😀

Click through to the Crawlers page on Wattpad here.

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