In episode 7 of Reading Glasses, Brea and Mallory discuss the best places for book tourism, interview Icelandic crime author Yrsa Sigurdardottir and debate spoilers. Use the hashtag #ReadingAroundTheWorld to participate in online discussion on Instagram and Twitter!
Books Mentioned –
Episode Fan Outline
What Are You Reading?
Brea is reading Faller by Will McIntosh. She’s read and enjoyed his book Love Minus Eighty, and is really enjoying this book, about a world where everyone wakes up one day and doesn’t remember anything. They call this day Day One. The main character has only a photo of himself and a woman he can’t remember, a toy solider with a parachute, and a mysterious map drawn in blood in his pockets as clues. Mallory thinks this sounds awesome.
Mallory is reading and enjoying Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn, an upcoming guest on the show, about a superhero’s sidekick who needs to step up and take on her boss’ role temporarily. It’s very funny and fun, and Brea also loved this book.
Mallory and Brea go over some listener tips sent in as emails. One listener, in response to the Book Awards episode, suggested the Goodreads Choice Awards as a good award to follow due to its diversity of genres. It even has historical fiction and horror as categories. Mallory and Brea also love this award and keep an eye on it. Another listener wrote in to suggest the apps Overdrive and Hoopla for audiobooks and comics. Brea is particularly interested in Hoopla because you don’t have to put items on hold, a process that is slowly killing her. Both hosts find out that some libraries carry play-a-ways, mp3 players pre-loaded with audiobooks.
Brea gushes about the new app Libby, a part of Overdrive, that organizes her library books on her phone. It’s easy to see what books are due back and easy to renew books, and Brea loves the interface.
Brea and Mallory talk about traveling around the world as a reader. They love taking bookish vacations. A couple of years ago, Mallory went to London for her birthday and spent the day seeing places like 221b Baker Street and Platform 9 ¾, including a bookstore that was on a canal barge. Amazing. But how do you find good places to be a book tourist? A high literacy rate doesn’t necessarily translate to good book culture.
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization launched a City of Literature program, where the city works together to “build strong global partnerships: encouraging literary exchanges, creating cross-cultural initiatives and developing local, national and international literary links. Each City is dedicated to pursuing excellence in literature on a local level, engaging citizens in a dynamic culture of words”, basically being a city where books and reading matter. To qualify, the city has to have –
Quality, quantity and diversity of publishing in the city
Quality and quantity of educational programs focusing on domestic or foreign literature at primary, secondary and tertiary levels
Literature, drama and/or poetry playing an important role in the city
Hosting literary events and festivals which promote domestic and foreign literature;
Existence of libraries, bookstores and public or private cultural centres which preserve, promote and disseminate domestic and foreign literature
Involvement by the publishing sector in translating literary works from diverse national languages and foreign literature
Active involvement of traditional and new media in promoting literature and strengthening the market for literary products.
PRETTY COOL! All the Cities of Literature would be great places to visit for readers.
The current list is –
Edinburgh, Scotland (2004)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (2008)
Iowa City, Iowa, United States (2008)
Dublin, Ireland (2010)
Reykjavík, Iceland (2011)
Norwich, England (2012)
Kraków, Poland (2013)
Heidelberg, Germany (2014)
Dunedin, New Zealand (2014) 
Granada, Spain (2014)
Prague, Czech Republic (2014)
Baghdad, Iraq (2015)
Barcelona, Spain (2015)
Ljubljana, Slovenia (2015)
Lviv, Ukraine (2015)
Montevideo, Uruguay (2015)
When you know you’re traveling, do some research! Read an author from there in advance and see if there are any cool landmarks (a place an author was born or a site featured in a book). Check out their bookstores and libraries, too! It’s really amazing to connect with book culture all around the world.
Mallory’s tip for international reader travel is to collect bookmarks from the great bookstores around the world! It’s a tiny thing that is a great keepsake. Books are heavy are hard to keep in your carry-on, bookmarks are not. Unless you have a zillion of them.
Brea’s tip is to look up authors from wherever you are going. It’s a great way to feel in touch with the place you’re at and to find new authors you’ve never heard of. Another thing she likes is little notebooks — not books you read but notebooks. She uses notebooks for EVERYTHING and physically writes down thoughts, journal things, to do lists. So she loves to buy little notebooks places — her last one is from the House of Terror in Budapest.
London, Paris, New York City, these places are automatic picks when it comes to book tourist destinations. Here are a few places you probably wouldn’t think of!
Hay on Wye – Wales
This place is a bibliophile destination! There’s 24 bookstores in this small town! It’s the National Book Town of Wales. They have a big literary festival every year that Bill Clinton called the “woodstock of the mind”.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
This city has more bookshops per person than anywhere else in the world, including over a hundred rare/used stores. El Ateneo, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, used to be a theater and still has all its ceiling frescos and statues. Lots of writers have lived here, like Jorge Luis Borges!
Teeny tiny town in Maine that has a 10 day book festival every year, with four independent bookstores in the main square! This is a place that doesn’t even have a Starbucks.
Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world! And the bulk of these sales happen during something called the Christmas Book Flood, a mass book buying In the two months leading up to Christmas. The Flood begins with the release of a catalog of new publications from the Iceland Publishers Association distributed free to every Icelandic home.
“It’s like the firing of the guns at the opening of the race,” one writer says. The main reason is the longstanding tradition in Iceland of giving books as Christmas presents – each and every Icelander typically receives at least one book under the tree each year. People give books on Christmas Eve and people spend the night reading. The Book Flood tradition dates to World War II, when currency restrictions limited the amount of imports in Iceland. The restrictions on imported paper were more lenient than on other products, so the book emerged as the Christmas present of choice.
National Steinbeck Centre in Salinas, California
It’s got Steinbeck memorabilia of all kinds, from literary manuscripts and letters to objects that found their way into the novels themselves. The detail is pretty mind-blowing, and the rooms try to follow the progression and feel of each famous book — so read the entire back catalogue before you step in the door.
Harry Ransom Center in Austin Texas
This is Brea’s old school! They have a Gutenberg bible, a manuscript of Canterbury Tales, plus a giant manuscript collection from some of America’s finest poets and authors, from O. Henry to Katherine Mansfield and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Mallory and Brea talk to Yrsa Sigudardottir. Yrsa tells Mallory and Brea that growing up in the book-loving Icelandtic culture definitely influenced her as a reader and writer. Yrsa actually has a background as an engineer, but her love of reading got her into writing. For a long time, her and her husband didn’t even have a television. She loves to read and loves to read lying down. Mallory asks about the Christmas book flood and Yrsa confirms that it dominates the publishing market. Yrsa says that a Christmas without getting books is a total flop. Yrsa is also a big book buyer, especially since she’s been trying to read more in English and Icelandic libraries don’t have a lot of English books. She’s been reading the long listed books for the New Zealand Crime Book Awards, since she is on the panel of judges. She loves to read horror books for pleasure reading, but laments the lack of really good horror. Yrsa recommends the Icelandic authors Arnaldur Indridason, Sjon and Audur Ava. Yrsa also laments that because English is such a big language with so many writers, that there isn’t a big American market for translated books. Her book, I Remember You, which really scared Mallory, has been made into an Icelandic film that Yrsa loves.
Brea and Mallor solve a reading problem sent in by a listener. Stephanie Francis writes in to ask what to do when you’re afraid to get to the end of the book, when a book has broken your heart so badly, but you’re desperate to know what happens. Mallory suggests finding a friend or an online pal to read the book alongside you. That way, some one will be there to comfort and commiserate with you when bad things happen. Brea suggests embracing spoilers and looking up what happens in the book ahead of time, so you’ve got some warning ahead of time. Brea uses this method to screen for potential dog death in movies and books.
Book Connection, a way to connect with other readers online!
This week’s hashtag – #ReadingAroundTheWorld
Instagram a photo of you at a bookish place you traveled to or tweet your favorite non-local bookstore that you’ve visited! We want to see your bookish travels!
If you liked the show, please rate and review us on iTunes! It’s really great for us and helps us reach more readers! You can email us at readingglassespodcast at gmail dot com, find us on Twitter at readingGpodcast, on Instagram at readingglassespodcast, and you can always follow along on our bookish adventures using the general hashtag #readingglasses
Thanks for reading!
About the show
Do you love books? Want to learn how to make the most of your reading life? Join hosts Brea Grant and Mallory O’Meara every week as they discuss tips and tricks for reading better on Reading Glasses, a podcast designed to help you get more out of your literary experiences.
As professional creatives and mega-readers, Mallory and Brea are experts on integrating a love of reading into a busy lifestyle. Listeners will get help for bookish problems, like how to vanquish that To-Be-Read pile and organize those bookshelves. Brea and Mallory also offer advice on reader dilemmas. How do you climb out of a reading slump? How do you support authors while still getting books on the cheap? Where do you hide the bodies of the people who won’t stop talking while you’re trying to read? No matter what you read or how you read it, Reading Glasses will help you do it better.
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