Reading for Pleasure: Christmas 2020 Reading Adventures

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Coming to the end of this year, we are sure many of you have plans for a relaxing break. These past twelve months may also have left you in a reflective and inquiring mood. Whether you want to escape into a fictional world; or continue exploring ideas from your studies, we hope that this blog post will give you some inspiration.

Philosophy deals with the largest, most complex questions and problems facing humanity. Movies, television and culture explore stories based on these questions and give an opportunity for scholars to debate and discuss what the stories mean. They can also give rise to creative and exciting new worlds. Here at the library, several e-books in our collections have explored various queries and theories with reference to some of our greatest literary works:

Lord of the Rings and Philosophy by Gregory Bassham and Eric Bronson: A fantastic primer on Tolkien’s famous trilogy, bringing together international academics to debate whether or not superhuman power can be used for good, or do humans always become addicted and corrupt?

How to Live Forever: Science Fiction and Philosophy by Stephen Clarke broadens the questions that science fiction can explore. Sections here discuss technology and its ability to influence and assist humanity; and the world of medicine and its attendant concerns with immortality.

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A wealth of relevant fictional tales are available online from Aberdeen City Libraries using the ‘Borrow Box’ service. More information can be found here. Some examples of the items available include:

The Last Human by Lee Bacon: A story set in a dystopian world where humanity is (supposedly) extinct and Earth is run by machines. Everything seems perfect and in order without war, pollution, crime or poverty. What happens then, when a robot meets a 12-year old? Join XR-935 on this extremely unlikely friendship, and follow their poignant, funny adventure together as they work out what it really means to be human.

The Ghost Network: Activate by I.I Davidson: John, Slack, Akone and Salome are all passionate about computer coding, gaming and hacking; and are thrilled to be at ‘Wolf’s Den’, a specialist academy, with other technologically adept souls from around the world. Then they discover Project 31, a secret study run by the school’s leaders using the pupils themselves as guinea pigs, and two shocking facts: they are all legally dead, and John’s scientist father planted A.I inside him before mysteriously vanishing. In order to find answers and escape their enemies, the four of them must flee across the tundra.

Several of the themes here also work well in festive tales, where characters can build new lives and find new strengths. The following item is also available electronically from City Libraries:

The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher: A Victorian mystery where orphaned Seren has to work out what a mysterious package contains, with the help of the strange ‘Christmas Crow’, a supernatural being who will lead her to ‘Tom’. Who is he? Can Seren trust him? And why must she find him before the owner of the parcel finds her? A fascinating adventure story exploring themes of family and belonging.

Another philosophical book that you can find on Primo is inspired by Tolkien’s contemporary and friend C. S Lewis:

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Worldview by Gregory Bassham & Jerry Walls: A great primer based on Lewis’ fantastic tales of adventures, magic and coming of age. It also covers the adult topics of morality, gender, free will and the implications of our choices.

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It could be paired with a number of modern day adventure stories that explore growing up, and the questions that come with facing difficult experiences and decisions. Examples of stories in this vein available from Aberdeen City libraries include:

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman: Sally Lockhart must track down her father’s killer. She’s perfectly equipped to do it, having had an unconventional upbringing for a Victorian lady: being a brilliant accountant who can ride like a Cossack, shoot like a demon and speak fluent Hindustani. Following the trail of the titular jewel, the first in this series is a masterful adventure story that completely transports you to historic London, India and China.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket: This series follows the Baudelaire children as they navigate the world of their eccentric extended family, outwitting and defeating their malevolent Uncle Olaf at every turn. Witty, absurd and extremely memorable. (Please note that the first of this series is available in audiobook format here, and you must be logged into the City Libraries online catalogue for this link to work. More information on how to join them can be found later in this post.)

The Storm Leopards by Holly Webb: A magical tale of family bonds and discovering new passions. When Isabelle and her family visit their local zoo, she comes across a beautiful snow leopard, and is entranced. Determined to help them, she soon finds out about conservation efforts in Mongolia centred on a mother leopard and her cubs.

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Before you go, here are a further few suggestions for festive reading:

The Lost Casebooks of Sherlock Holmes by Donald Thomas: The game is afoot! Join Holmes and Watson for sixteen tales of intellectual derring-do that see them contend with ‘supernatural curses’, find lost treasures, assist Winston Churchill at Sydney Street and foil a German invasion.

Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle: If Thomas has whetted your appetite Aberdeen City Libraries have the original mysteries available in print and online, including audiobooks read by Stephen Fry.

Access to e-resources

To find out more about the City Libraries, their collections and services, please do visit their website here. Membership of Aberdeen City Libraries is available to people who work, live or study in Aberdeen City or Shire. If you are not already a member, you can join online now and start using the online services immediately. Sign up for free here.

To access our e-books remember to sign in to Primo; then in the ‘View Online’ section in Primo click on the name of the provider (e.g. Ebook Central) to link to the full-text of an e-book. If the e-book provider presents you with a Shibboleth authentication screen, enter your University username and password again.

Our Christmas Vacation hours can be found here.

On behalf of all library staff here at the University, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And happy reading!

Lucy Drysdale

Reading for Pleasure

 

For many, picking up and reading a book may seem daunting. You may not have done much reading other than academic work for years, or maybe it’s just something you’ve never really got into the habit of. With a little more time on our hands, reading can be a great way to spend some of this time. It’s also a great way to escape some of the challenges around us and lose yourself in a different world.

If you haven’t read anything for fun in a while, it may seem difficult to know where to start. Start somewhere easy; choose a book that you know will make you smile, your favourite book as a child, something that you know will keep you reading! GoodReads is a great place to see reader reviews to find books that you might enjoy.

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And of course, you don’t have to pick up a physical book. If e-books and audiobooks work better for you then why not check out what Aberdeen City Libraries have to offer? See what’s available in their collection here.

Read on for some e-book recommendations…

The Secret War: Discovering new outlooks on World War II

75 years ago, the world was looking forward to a vastly different future than many people living then could have imagined 6 years previously. When World War II ended, much like today, everyone wondered what would come next and how and when ‘normality’ would resume. As we have discovered more about this seminal conflict, new and exciting stories have been told.

Aberdeen City Libraries have put together an excellent online collection of Wartime Stories to commemorate this anniversary. Several of the items include uplifting tales of wartime espionage, courage under fire, and dealing with impossible situations. 

Some highlights below: 

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The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather 

The captivating, almost unbelievable true story of Witold Pilecki, an operative with the Polish Resistance, and his two years smuggling information on the Holocaust to Western contacts from inside Auschwitz, alongside saving thousands of fellow prisoners.

The 21 Escapes of Lt Alistair Cram by David Guss 

Another true-life tale, in which you’d be readily forgiven for thinking this man’s middle name was ‘Houdini’. Captured in 1941, Lt Cram was held in 10 different POW camps and prisons and made 21 escape attempts. Courageous and defiant to the end, his partnership with David Stirling led to his last, successful escape and the Military Cross.

Many more wonderful items are available online from Aberdeen City Libraries. Please note that Aberdeen University students and staff can join Aberdeen City Libraries and use their online services immediately. For more information, please see our blog post. Once normal operation resumes, you will also be able to borrow books from the ‘Old Aberdeen Library’ on the Ground Floor of The Sir Duncan Rice Library. 

For further study of the conflict, Primo offers you a gateway into a plethora of information sources. Do get in touch with us if you need help searching Primo or see our Library guides for guidance. 

Harry Potter chapter readings

We may not be able to be back on campus yet but we can go back to Hogwarts. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is being released chapter at a time with a different celebrity reading each chapter; with Daniel Radcliffe himself reading the first chapter. These are available on Spotify and via the Wizarding World website. 

Green lifestyle 

As well as reading purely for pleasure, you may be looking for inspiration on what you can do to improve the world you live in. One aspect of that could be reducing your personal carbon footprint. Here are a couple of easy-to-read e-books from Aberdeen University Library, which might help you find ways to live in a more sustainable manner:

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How bad are bananas: the carbon footprint of everything by Mike Berners-Lee 

Cooler smarter practical steps for low-carbon living: expert advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists by Seth Shulman et al.

To access the above two items, remember to sign in to Primo; then in the ‘View Online’ section in Primo click on the name of the provider (VLeBooks, SpringerLink) to link to the full-text of an e-book. 

Please email us with any questions you may have. Until then, happy reading! 

Laura Bain, Lucy Drysdale and Elaine Fitzgerald