Have a book-filled New Year
Books and Banter – our book club recommendations
We recently celebrated the first anniversary of Books and Banter – the book club I host in the conservatory here at Halsbeer once a month. I asked our members to score the books we had read during the year to find our MUST READS and DON’T BOTHERS of 2018.
Our two top reads were ‘This is Going to Hurt’ by Adam Kay, a hilarious and revealing glimpse behind the scenes of the life of a Junior Doctor in the NHS and ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman (deserving winner of the 2018 Costa Debut Novel award). These were followed closely in joint third by Anatomy of a Scandal written by Devon-born author Sarah Vaughan (Read an interview with her by Exploring Exeter) and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which is set during the Nigerian Civil War.
The ones we least liked were Matt Haig’s book ‘How to Stop Time’ and ‘Hotel du Lac’ by Anita Brookner (just goes to show we don’t agree with the Booker Prize judges, which Hotel du Lac won back in 1984).
Halsbeer’s little library
Our focus on books has got me thinking of what to do with all the books in the conservatory and in some of the cottages. We have a large selection, mainly of thrillers, which you are of course welcome to read during your stay. If you haven’t finished one of our books by the time you are due to leave do please take it with you. In return please either leave a book of your own that you have finished or make a donation to our chosen book charity.
This year I have decided to support Book Aid International, a charity that makes books available to millions of children around the world, in particular those in conflict zones or refugee camps. Just £2 allows a book to be sent to a child in need who may not own any books. I find that very hard to imagine when our children are lucky enough to have bookshelves bursting with books. We keep a variety of children’s books in the games room for you to read to your little ones during your stay plus we have a selection of local walking guides, books on local history and so on for you to borrow during your stay. We’d prefer these stay at Halsbeer for others to use.
Buying new books nearby
If browsing for new books is your thing, look no further than the gorgeous Liznojan on Gold Street in nearby Tiverton. Such a gem of an independent bookshop with a beautifully curated selection of books, focusing on some of the genres that are closest to my heart including nature, travel and adventure, mindful and spiritual reading along with well-chosen novels including some that we read in book club this year, such as Anthony Doerr’s All the Light we Cannot See. Liznojan has some of the most beautifully illustrated children’s books I’ve ever seen. Definitely worth a visit if you are a book-lover like me.
Kentisbeare’s Reading Room
As a lover of local history as well as books I was intrigued to know more about The Reading Room in Kentisbeare, which is on the village square opposite the Post Office at the top of Fore Street. It is now a private house, but I guessed Reading Rooms must have been some sort of precursor to public libraries. This article suggests that they were popular between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries and were imposed by the upper classes on the working classes as an alternative to the pub and were mainly open to men but not women. It’s funny, our book club is the other way around – men are of course welcome, we just don’t have any who attend at the moment!
Bring your book group
Please enquire with Katie if you would like to have a getaway with your book group to Halsbeer Farm or Blackdown Yurts. You could visit some of our nearby attractions that have literary connections, for example Agatha Christie’s summer house Greenway, now a National Trust property, or perhaps Dartmoor Prison, location of Simon Mayo’s recent novel Mad Blood Stirring. I’m sure there are plenty more I’ve not thought of or don’t know about yet.