Pearls of wisdom?

"When your child becomes a teenager you can’t control what aspirations it will have".

— Jenny, on why she has not "dared" to go back to her Sims family, in which the eldest child is about to become a teenager. Instead, she is "creating a new girl who is going to be really good at painting".

Revamped book discussion group

In my last Times-related post of the day (I think), I note that the newspaper has revamped its book club. The club started earlier this year, and despite initial misgivings about the books they’d select, I’ve found the choices and the discussions stimulating. The range of books is wide in terms of subject, level and age (they don’t always, or even usually, select "current bestsellers"). I don’t follow the online discussions that are integral to the book club, but the selected readers’ comments that are printed are usually interesting, whether or not you’ve read the book.

The main change is that a new book will be discussed only every four weeks, giving people more time to read and discuss it online — and the many informal book groups will be more able to read the same book in parallel and join the Times online discussion if they wish. Apparently the Times will run features such as author interviews in the four weeks that the book is the current selection.

The first book in the new format is "Little Children" by Tom Perotta. After a brief synopsis of the book (see link above), Alyson Rudd, the book club editor, asks: "What are the parallels with Madame Bovary? Are we meant to feel sympathy for McGorvey? Does Perotta try too hard to give Todd a reason to commit adultery? Why is American football so important?

Long live the Times books supplement, and all other such enterprises.

National biography competition

The Times is running a competition to win a year’s online subscription to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. If you go to the link, you can apparently browse the online version of the dictionary free until midnight on 4 December. (Or if you can’t get to the article from the link, go to and take it from there, they say.)

In the competition, you have to answer five questions — I can’t answer any of them without (presumably) looking at the dictionary first. "Which modern politician regularly enjoyed fish fingers with his dinner?" is one question. There is also a "more challenging" Advent Calendar competition at the dictionary’s site.

Entries have to be received by midnight on 5 December. The prize is a year’s personal subscription to the dictionary (worth £195 plus VAT, exactly the same price as a year’s membership of the London Library, see previous post), plus Oxford University Press books to the value of £100. 

More about private libraries

The other day I wrote a post which included, in passing, mention of a private library. Not having heard of one before, I looked into it some more and found the Association of Independent Libraries, founded in 1989. From the organisation’s website:

"The largest and best-known member library is the London Library, which houses one million books and serves over 8,000 members just two minutes from Piccadilly Circus. The smallest is the Tavistock Subscription Library which houses just 1500 books in a restored portion of a tenth and eleventh-century abbey building. The oldest is Chetham’s Library, founded in 1653 for the benefit of the people of Manchester.

Together, the Association’s members possess over two million books and have many listed buildings in their care. Many also possess charitable status. They combine the preservation of their historic collections and beautiful buildings with the supply of the latest books and periodicals, a personal service to their members and research facilities for non-members."

Here is the association’s directory page, listing all 28 member libraries, which seem to be all over the UK. There are also links to publications and to information about news and events.

In one of those many strange coincidences of interconnectednesses that I keep coming across, the editorial in the Times books supplement this Saturday was about these "subscription libraries", as Erica Wagner calls them. She is a member of the London library, paying  £195 a year for the privilege.  A far better deal than gym membership, says Wagner.