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Book Talk

Tune into Book Talk from Scottish Book Trust fortnightly for the best author interviews, book chat, discussions and news of events north of the border. Enjoy our back catalogue and get involved in Book Talk on our site: http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/booktalk.

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Tenth of December by George Saunders

This month, host Paul Gallagher is joined by two Scottish writers, Kirsty Logan and Gavin Inglis to discuss Tenth of December, the new collection of short stories from George Saunders. Saunders has received many awards and accolades for his short story writing, most recently  the inaugural Folio Prize, yet he is far from a household name. Tenth of December is a dark collection of stories with a sci-fi feel that explores a near-dystopian American society and the lives of those living in it. But did it divide our panel as much as it divided reviewers, whose opinions ranged from “the best book you'll read this year” to “rather insubstantial”?Listen now to find out what our panel thought about this collection, and whether short stories can ever match the literary experience of a novel. 

21mins

15 Apr 2014

Rank #1

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The Luminaries

Book Talk is seeing out 2013 with a bang, tackling Eleanor Catton's 800+ page Man Booker Prize Winner, The Luminaries. Sasha de Buyl is joined by Lois Wolfe, head of development at the National Library of Scotland, and literary critic and Man Booker judge Stuart Kelly to discuss Catton's challenging tome.Set in the New Zealand goldfields in the mid-1860s, the story follows Walter Moody, a prospector who hopes to make his fortune but instead stumbles into a complex series of unsolved crimes, including a disappearance, an attempted suicide and the unexpected appearance of an unlikely fortune. The story unfolds not just as a mystery, but as a rich historical portrait of the mid-19th century goldrush boom and bust and the towns and people that rose and fell with it.Does Catton's novel live up to its wild praise? Find out how our panellists felt about it, its unusual structure and heavy use of the zodiac and why they refer to this as an 'HBO novel.'

21mins

18 Dec 2013

Rank #2

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Kirsty Logan, Tim Sinclair and Ken MacLeod interviews

In this edition of the Book Talk podcast Ryan Van Winkle interviews Kirsty Logan about her debut collection of short stories, discusses parkour with novelist and poet Tim Sinclair and imagines the Scotland of the future with sci-fi author Ken MacLeod.The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales is the debut short story collection from former New Writers Award recipient Kirsty Logan. Written over the course of five years, the stories are set in locations as diverse as 1920s New Orleans, the Australian Outback and Paris.Kirsty reads her moving short story The Light Eater and discusses how writing helped her to process difficult emotions.Australian novelist and poet Tim Sinclair talks about his latest young adult novel, Run. Written in concrete poetry, where words function both linguistically and visually, the book explores the world of parkour, where participants “move through the urban environment in a way that doesn’t allow for boundaries”. But when ego gets involved, trouble quickly follows.Finally, acclaimed sci-fi writer Ken MacLeod discusses his new book about “flying saucers, hidden races and Antonio Gramsci’s theory of passive revolution”. Descent follows the teens and twenties of an ordinary Greenock man whose bad behaviour is blamed on a possible alien encounter.Moving from science fiction to science fact, Ken also explains his involvement with Hope Beyond Hype, a comic book he wrote in collaboration with OptiStem, an EU-funded stem cell research project. It was downloaded over 100 000 in times in the first few days following release - listen now to discover how the book was developed.Podcast contents00:00-00:53 Introduction00:53-09:20 Kirsty Logan interview09:20-16:30 Tim Sinclair Interview16:30-30.00 Ken MacLeod interview

30mins

5 Mar 2014

Rank #3

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Chris Ware, Dilys Rose and Michael Fry interviews

In this edition of Book Talk, Ryan Van Winkle speaks to Chris Ware, Dilys Rose and Michael Fry about stories, memories and histories.Chris Ware is an American graphic novelist whose latest book is Building Stories. The book, which has no beginning or end, is designed to reflect the non-linear way we remember our lives. Chris talks about why he decided to focus the intangible world of memory and how he develops work that can be read in multiple ways.“It’s like composing music. You have a sense of a feeling you’re trying to get to but the second you start playing a note or hearing the notes that you’re playing you think, ‘oh that doesn’t sound right’ or ‘that sounds better than what I had in mind’.”Scottish poet and novelist Dilys Rose picks up the thread of memory and its deception. The narrative of her new novel Pelmanism developed from the interconnected and fragmented nature of remembrance. Is there such a thing as a real memory when “once you start remembering, you start inventing as well”? Dilys also reads the homage to RD Laing she wrote for the novel as a creative solution to copyright clearance!Finally, we finish our tour of the past by speaking to historian Michael Fry. The title of Michael’s newest book A New Race of Men: Scotland 1815-1914 references a contemporary description of Scotland at a time of huge progress.  How did Scotland transform a country and its people?By looking at the past, Michael identifies how old Scotland connects to a new Scotland, “we don’t have to assume our history has been lost... People in Scotland are too unaware of the facts of their history, how those facts hang together, how they have survived, and how they still influence us in the present day.”Podcast contents00:00 – 00:51 Introduction00:55 – 13:05 Chris Ware13:05 – 21:52 Dilys Rose21:52 – 33:00 Michael Fry

33mins

27 May 2014

Rank #4

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Jodi Picoult, Helen Macdonald and Tom Barbash interviews

Jodi Picoult is the author of 23 books that have sold over 23 million copies. Her latest novel Leaving Time debuted at number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The book tells the story of Alice Metcalf, and elephant researcher, and her daughter Jenna. Following Alice's disappearance, Jenna uses Alice's diaries to find out more about her mother and what might have happened to her. Jodi speaks to Ryan about the research she undertook for the book - including learning how to run an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee and working with an elephant researcher in Botswana - and how she planned the structure of a book with multiple narratives.Helen Macdonald's recent memoir, H is for Hawk, won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-Fiction. After the sudden death of her father, Helen coped with her grief by returning to a childhood obsession and training a goshawk. "The goshawk was everything I wanted to be: it didn't know about grief, it was very solitary and it was also very powerful and full of rage... It took me a good few years to get enough emotional distance from that year to be able to write it as a book"The book is a raw and very personal reflection of a traumatic period in Helen's life and her storyis intertwined with that of writer TH White and his struggles with the difficulties in his life and attempts to train his own goshawk in 1936.Finally, Ryan talks to the author of one of his favourite books of the year, Stay Up With Me a short story collection by Tom Barbash. Tom explains how some of his stories were put together, and the power of drafting: "I do like the fact that I'm not quite getting at in the beginning". Podcast contents00:00 - 01:26 Introduction01:27 - 14:10 Jodi Picoult interview14:11 - 23:57 Helen Macdonald interview23:58 - 38:11 Tom Barbash

38mins

19 Dec 2014

Rank #5

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The Hope of the Future

An exciting new year has begun, and, appropriately, we're looking to the future in this, our first edition of Book Talk for 2014! Host Ryan Van Winkle sits down with three very different people to chat about what the future may hold for books and for Scotland.To get things started, literary critic and Man Booker Prize judge Stuart Kelly discusses the most recent Booker winner, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and why it should be on everyone's to-read list this year. Find out how considering the future informs his judging decisions, what books he's most looking forward to this year and what recent changes allowing American books to be considered could mean for the Man Booker Prize.Are mind-reading books the future of literature? Sci-fi author Hannu Rajaniemi seems to think so. The author of The Quantum Thief is not content to merely dream about fantastical inventions--he wants to create them as well. He and his collaborator are working on something they call neurofiction: a system that joins neuroscience with stories by measuring the brain activity of a reader and changing the direction of the story they're engaged in accordingly. A Choose Your Own Adventure for the 21st century!Finally, Lesley Riddoch, author of Blossom, discusses the future of Scotland at the dawn of a momentous year for the country. Why, she wonders, is a country with so much promise so troubled? And what can be done about it? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Learn more about Lesley's hopes for the country and what can be done to make Scotland a fairer, even more vibrant place to live.

35mins

7 Jan 2014

Rank #6

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

This month, the Book Talk panel has been discussing the 2014 Man Booker Prize winner, Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Taking its title from one of the most famous books in Japanese literature, written by the great haiku poet Basho, Flanagan’s novel has as its heart one of the most infamous episodes of Japanese history, the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War II.In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death Railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever. Joining Sasha de Buyl are Literature Manager at Creative Scotland, Jenny Niven, and former Booker prize judge and literary critic, Stuart Kelly.The panel discusses the many different facets of a novel called ‘graceful and unfathomable’ by the Telegraph, including its many scenes of torture and violence and the stripping back of concepts of traditional masculinity.Through the podcast, they explore what sort of book deserves to win a Booker prize and whether Flanagan’s Narrow Road has earned its weighty title. Despite winning the Man Booker Prize, the novel was nominated for a Bad Sex award. Were Flanagan's descriptions jarring for the panel?Flanagan is seen as a powerhouse of literary fiction in today’s market – does he mark a turn in the tide for the ‘Culture Cringe’ generation of Australian culture?If you're reading, or have read, the book, what did you think? How do you think it compares to Flanagan's previous books? Book Talk is produced by Colin Fraser of Culture Laser Productions.

27mins

26 Nov 2014

Rank #7

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Joanne Harris, Aarathi Prasad and Karin Kukkonen interviews

In this edition of the Book Talk podcast Ryan Van Winkle interviews bestselling Chocolat author Joanne Harris, biologist and science writer Aarathi Prasad and Dr Karin Kukkonen, an academic specialising in the history of graphic novels. Peaches for Monsieur le Curé is the third in Joanne Harris's series of books about Vianne Rocher, the chocolatier first introduced in her bestseller Chocolat. Joanne talks to Ryan about the challenges of revisiting a familiar character and explains why "if you want to create characters that people believe in then they can't be immune to life". She also gives a brillaint reading that exemplifies the sensory quality of her writing.Shortlisted for Salon's Transmission prize, Aarathi Prasad's first book Like A Virgin: How Science is Redefining the Rules of Sex provoked headlines when it was first published, due to its suggestion that technology could be making males unnecesarry in the reproductive process. She explains the quite startling details behind the headlines in this fascinating interview, describing just what it means to be "exploring the frontiers of conception".And finally we have a different kind of evolution, as the academic and author of Reading Comics, Dr. Karin Kukkonen, goes toe-to-toe with Ryan in a wide-ranging discussion about graphic novels through history, and picks the five essential graphic novels you need to read.Podcast Contents00:00-01:00 Intro 01:05-10:30 Joanne Harris interview 10:30-20:55 Aarathi Prasad on Like A Virgin: How Science is Redefining the Rules of Sex 20:55-31:40 Karin Kukkonen on graphic novelsDiscover MoreListen to our earlier interview with acclaimed graphic novelist Joe Sacco here: http://scottishbooktrust.com/audio/joe-sacco-and-rj-palacio-facing-realityMore about Joanne Harris at www.joanne-harris.co.uk/ More about Aarathi Prasad at www.aarathiprasad.com/

31mins

6 Feb 2014

Rank #8

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One Summer: America 1927

One of Britain's favourite narrative non-fiction writers is back with a fast-paced, often hilarious look at the events and people that shaped one eventful summer during the Roaring 20's.With his usual wry humour, Bryson details an enormously eventful five month period in the late 1920s when America reached the zenith of Jazz Age exuberance and fully took its place on the world stage. Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St Louis to France and became an instant celebrity (much to his chagrin), Prohibition created legendary mobsters and lawmakers, television and talking pictures started to hold audiences enthralled, Babe Ruth made an extraordinary and unexpected comeback and a tiny group of powerful men inadvertently set in motion the events that would lead to the stock market crash in just two short years.Host Paul Gallagher is joined by comedienne Ashley Storrie and Scottish Book Trust's web editor Brianne Moore to discuss the sprawling narrative populated by characters so bizarre it's almost difficult to believe they actually existed. Is Bryson successful at drawing you in and bringing history to life in a way your school textbooks never could? Or does his oftentimes lighthearted approach leave something to be desired? Have a listen and find out what our panel thought, and share your own feelings about America: One Summer, 1927 in the comments below or by tweeting us @scottishbktrust or leaving a message on our Facebook page.

23mins

22 Jan 2014

Rank #9

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The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh

In this edition of Book Talk Scottish author Barry Hutchison and journalist and critic Chitra Ramaswamy join host Sasha de Buyl to talk about The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins, the new novel by Irvine Welsh.Trainspotting may have been named as the nation’s favourite Scottish novel, but The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins is proving much more divisive, with our Twitter followers calling the novel everything from “brilliant” and “amazing” to “boring” and “utter rubbish”.The book follows the intertwined stories of Lucy Brennan, a personal trainer with her sights set on media stardom and Lena Sorensen, an overweight artist who accidentally catapults Lucy into the spotlight. Unusually for Welsh, the book features a female protagonist – how well has Welsh managed developing a female character?Listen now to discover what our panel thought about the book. Does the book achieve what it’s trying to say about the extremes of body imagine culture in modern American society? And can Irvine’s natural ability as a storyteller make incredibly an unpleasant protagonist appealing to the reader?If you’ve read The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins let us know what you thought about the book. Join the discussion by adding a comment below, by sending us a message on Twitter @ScottishBkTrust or on our Facebook page.

20mins

11 Jun 2014

Rank #10

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Scott Westerfeld, Gerry Hassan and Lin Anderson interviews

In this edition of Book Talk, host Ryan Van Winkle talks to author Scott Westerfeld about steampunk and zeppelins, discusses the myths of modern Scotland with commentator and academic Gerry Hassan, and looks at how crime and science work together in fiction with Lin Anderson and Doctor Kathy Charles.Scott Westerfeld, author of the Uglies trilogy, gives an insight into how he researched and created the steampunk World War One setting of Leviathan. Loved by teenagers and military history buffs alike, the book showcases a world that blends accurate military detail with fantastic creations including airships made of whales.  Scott discusses the benefits of writing for a young adult audience. “Adult readers are very fragile and very easy to alarm and scare off, whereas teenagers are incredibly robust readers who can keep going. If you see a teenager who’d really into a book you could drop a brick on their head and they’ll keep reading!”Gerry Hassan, commentator and academic in Cultural Policy discusses his latest book, Caledonian Dreaming: The Quest for a Different Scotland. Inspired by the work of Fintan O’Toole following the crash in Ireland, the book looks at the myths Hassan argues are inherent in Scottish identity. What are these stories we tell ourselves about modern Scotland and where did they come from?Finally, Ryan chats to crime writer Lin Anderson, creator of fictional forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod, and forensic psychologist Dr Kathy Charles about how crime and science work together in fiction.  Lin and Kathy discuss the use of psychology to develop strong characters, how to effectively depict the biological differences of psychopaths in fiction and the challenge of ensuring potential scenarios in the novel are scientifically plausible while keeping a novel entertaining. Podcast contents00:00-00:51  Introduction00:52-12:08  Scott Westerfeld interview12:09-22:26  Garry Hassan interview  22:27-32:05  Lin Anderson and Dr Kathy Charles interview

32mins

29 Apr 2014

Rank #11

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Book Week Scotland 2013 Preview

Book Week Scotland 2013 kicks off next week, and in this special edition of Book Talk, host Ryan Van Winkle gives us a preview of just a few of the exciting events to come! Scottish Book Trust's Head of Reader Development, Philippa Cochrane, and Reader Development Administrator, Sasha de Buyl get things started by sharing where you can find out about the events happening near you and which events they're most looking forward to attending.Next, award-winning author Ewan Morrison (whose latest novel, Close Your Eyes, was featured in our last book discussion podcast) discusses the workshops he ran throughout Scotland, encouraging people to get involved in Treasures. Find out what frequently appearing artifact surprised him most and how he dug down to find out what people really valued (it wasn't necessarily what they brought to the workshop!). Then, stick around and listen to him read his own Treasures story, featuring Batgirl and late American rocker, Kurt Cobain.Ready to discover all the National Library of Scotland has to offer? The library's reader in residence, Kate Hendry, has a full roster of events planned for Book Week Scotland. You'll have a chance to take your kids (or just yourself!) to the reading rooms during off hours to explore some of the millions of volumes the library has to offer, and try your luck at the book giveaway--who knows what fascinating volume you might grab out of the box? There will also be a pop-up books event for children aged 4-7, a Wikipedia relay for prizes, lectures and much more. Click here for a full listing of the National Library's events.Finally, Sara Sheridan, bestselling author of the Mirabelle Bevan mysteries, rounds things out by talking about the joys of writing a series, what drew her to the 1950s and how she's trying to give the 'cosy crime' genre the edge it had back in Agatha Christie's day. You can see Sara during Book Week Scotland at these events.There's all this and much more in this exciting edition!

34mins

20 Nov 2013

Rank #12

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Book Week Scotland Roundup

What did you get up to during Book Week Scotland? Did you meet some of your favourite authors, try our Literary Personalities app, or grab your copy of Treasures? In this instalment of Book Talk, Ryan Van Winkle takes us on a quick tour of the week, sitting down with two authors and staying up all night at the Fruitmarket Gallery.First up, Ryan meets Glasgow-based author Louise Welsh for a talk about her latest book, A Lovely Way to Burn, the first instalment of the Plague Times Trilogy. Set in a contemporary world engulfed in a pandemic, the book follows a woman named Stevie Smith who sets out to get some answers regarding her boyfriend's mysterious death. Find out where Louise found her inspiration, why you'll love her heroine, and what's to come in the next two books.Ryan then moves on to Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery, which hosted an all-night event called In the Wee Small Hours, featuring a drawing workshop, poetry readings and plenty of treats. Hear from some of the attendees, discover the inspiration behind the night, and listen to some of the attending poets read their work.Finally, Ryan takes some time to sit down with Alastair Reynolds, author of On the Steel Breeze, the second volume of the Poseidon's Children Sequence of science fiction novels. Among other things, they discuss the ins and outs of planning a multi-volume series and how he keeps science fiction grounded in reality.Podcast contents00:00-02:42 Intro02:42-15:36 Louise Welsh interview15:36-24:49 In the Wee Small Hours21:25-22:44 Samantha Walton reads her poem, Circuitous23:55-24:29 David Hopkins reads his poem, Sleep is Serious24:29-36:03 Alasdair Reynolds interview

36mins

4 Dec 2013

Rank #13

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Lucy Ribchester, Elisabeth Gifford and Lucy Hughes-Hallett interviews

In our first set of interviews for 2015, Ryan Van Winkle talks to Lucy Ribchester, Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Elizabeth Gifford about suffragettes, mythology and the fascist poet who wanted to create his own utopia.Lucy Ribchester is the Edinburgh-based author of the recently-published The Hourglass Factory, her first novel. As well as being shortlisted for this year's Costa Short Story Awards, Lucy is a previous recipient of a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award. The Hourglass Factory tells the story of Frankie George, a young reporter who becomes entangled in the messy, passionate worlds of the circus and the suffragettes when she meets Ebony Diamond, a mesmerising trapeze artist using her skills to fight for votes for women. Lucy opens up to Ryan about her inspirations, the fascinating world of those early suffragettes and why it took her five years to finish the book. Elisabeth Gifford is the author of Secrets of the Sea House, a fascinating novel which explores the interaction between history and myth. Based in the Hebrides, the book looks at the mythology of the islands and of the sea, and what happens when the two appear to come together in the form of a dark discovery. The book enjoys a very definite sense of place, and Elisabeth chats to Ryan about the culture of the Hebrides, the link between the sea and those who live by it, and the responsibility she felt in dealing with such an interesting culture. Elisabeth's new novel Return to Fourwinds is out now. Finally, Ryan speaks to Lucy Hughes-Hallett, a Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction winner and author of The Pike: Gabriele d'Annunzio, a searing biography of the man who believed he was the greatest Italian poet since Dante. The book was awarded the 2013 Costa Book Award for Biography of the Year, and the subject matter is certainly eye-opening. d'Annunzio was a creative, daredevil and fascist whose life goal was to establish a utopia based on his political and artistic ideals. Lucy talks Ryan through the intensely thrilling world of this strange man and the way his life unfolded. Podcast contents00:00 - 01:09 Introduction01:10 - 13:19 Lucy Ribchester interview13:20 - 19.08 Elisabeth Gifford interview19:09 - 29:33 Lucy Hughes-Hallett interviewBook Talk is produced by Colin Fraser of Culture Laser Productions.

29mins

28 Jan 2015

Rank #14

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Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This month, our Book Talk panel turns its attention to the wildly successful Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This highly personal, admirably honest memoir details the authors journey from a lost 26-year-old who thought she had lost everything following her mother's shockingly quick death from cancer. With nothing to lose, she made the impulsive decision to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America and to do it alone with no experience of long-distance hiking. It proved to be a journey that saved her life. In early 2015, the book became a movie starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl. What better time to feature it on Book Talk. Join host Claire Marchant-Collier and her guests Michael Merillo from Scottish Book Trust, who's walked the trail himself, and novelist Sophie Cooke.

23mins

14 Jan 2015

Rank #15

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Under the Skin by Michel Faber

This month, Book Talk cranks up the heat and settles in for a chat about Michel Faber's creepy sci-fi-meets-horror debut, Under the Skin, soon to be released as a film starring Scarlett Johansson. Joining host Danny Scott are Sarah Stewart, a senior editor at Floris Books, founder of the Lighthouse Children's Literary Consultancy and soon-to-be-published children's author; and Doug Johnstone, novelist, journalist, musician and co-founder of Scotland Writers FC.Under the Skin tells the unsettling story of Isserley, an alien sent to earth to harvest male hitchikers for an intergalactic corporation, which fattens them up and turns them into food. The macabre story is a dark satire on intensive farming, big business and environmental decay, as well as an examination of such issues as sexual identity and humanity.Find out how Faber managed to make Isserley a character readers could empahtize with, which parts our panel found most disturbing and whether they'd recommend the novel to a friend in this spine-tingling podcast.BookTalk is produced by Colin Fraser of Culture Laser Productions.

21mins

19 Feb 2014

Rank #16

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S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

Conceived by filmmaker J.J. Abrams and written by novelist Doug Dorst, S has been hailed as a brand new reading experience, but does it live up to the hype? Joining host Sasha deBuyl are Nicola Balkind, freelance writer and books blogger and Iain Morrison, Enterprise Manager at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery. S is an ambitious and complex work with multiple strands fighting for the reader’s attention. The core text, Ship of Theseus, is the final work of fictional author V. M. Straka, presented with footnotes from the translator. Additionally, a multi-coloured sprawl of notes in the margins reveals an unfolding relationship between two readers as they try to decipher the mysteries of the book and its author. A feast for the senses, S comes stuffed with with paraphernalia, including maps, letters, photocopied articles and a code wheel, making it a truly tactile experience. The book is certainly beautiful, but does the story meet the high standards set by the design? Is the intrigue created by S enough to keep readers hooked, or is the challenge of the book’s structure too much? Have a listen and find out what our panel thought, and join in the discussion in the comments or by tweeting us @scottishbktrust or leaving a message on our Facebook page.

21mins

19 Mar 2014

Rank #17

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The Humans by Matt Haig

In this edition of Book Talk we’re discussing The Humans by adult and young adult novelist Matt Haig. When Professor Andrew Martin solves the Riemann hypothesis, one of the world’s greatest mathematical problems, the inhabitants of planet Vonnadoria panic.Fearing what warmongering, greedy humans will do with this mathematical knowledge, the Vonnadorians kidnap Martin and replace him with their very own man who fell to earth - an assassin masked in the Professor’s body. Tasked with destroying all evidence of his discovery, including his wife Isobel and son Gulliver, the alien assassin strays from his original mission and attempts to better understand humans.Host Danny Scott is joined by fellow Earthlings Lynsey Rogers of the Scottish Book Trust and Leith librarian Colm Linnane to discuss the novel. Is Haig able to make the tried-and-tested sci-fi trope of an alien coming to Earth work and make it readable for sci-fi refusers? Can a book that has been as well reviewed as The Humans ever meet the expectations of readers? And what does the book say about what it is to be human in the 21st century?The Humans was one of the books given away on this year’s World Book Night – if you were lucky enough to receive a copy, let us know! How well do you think the novel worked? Join the discussion by tweeting us @scottishbktrust or commenting on Facebook!

21mins

13 May 2014

Rank #18

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Martina Cole, Jack Wolf and Irving Finkel interviews

In this edition of Book Talk, Ryan Van Winkle talks modern day crime with Martina Cole, 18th century science with Jack Wolf, and ancient Memopotamian stories with Irving Finkel.Martina Cole is a legendary British crime writer. She's the author of 21 books, including her most recent novel The Good Life.Cole discusses her background, how she stays up-to-date with the changing criminal world and her attraction to writing about criminals and prison life rather than from the police perspective: "I prefer writing from the perspective of the criminal, I think they're much more exciting people to write about... You know in my book who's bad and who's not."As one of the most borrowed - and stolen! - authors in prison libraries, Cole also discusses her work in prisons and why she's encouraging prisoners to escape (with a book!)Jack Wolf, whose debut novel The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, takes us back to 1750, a time where medieval superstition was on the way out and modern rationalist thinking on the way in. Wolf's protagonist, Tristan Hart, is a conflicted man caught between science and superstition.Wolf talks about conveying the mental pain of the character and also how he coped with writing a novel while keeping the language of the book as authentic as possible. "You just write. It becomes as instinctive as speaking the language I speak now".Finally, Ryan talks to Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum in London whose book The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood looks at the origins of the Biblical story of Noah's Ark.After deciphering a cuneiform tablet brought into the British Museum, Finkel discovered that it was the beginning of the flood story. While the story of Noah in the Bible is a universally known narrative, the tablet demonstrates that the ancient Mesopotamians knew a very similar story 1000 years before the Bible came into being.Finkel discusses the strong literary link and striking similarities between the stories and his theory about how the Babylonian story developed into the biblical version that we know today.Podcast contents00:00 - 00:58 Introduction00:58 - 10:22 Martina Cole10:22 - 20:18 Jack Wolf20:18 - 30:00 Irving Finkel

32mins

12 Nov 2014

Rank #19

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

This month finds the Book Talk panel reading and discussing The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. Faber's first book in fourteen years is a tale of adventure, faith and the ties that might hold two people together when they are worlds apart.Peter Leigh is a husband, a Christian, and now a missionary. As The Book of Strange New Things opens, he is set to embark on a journey that will be the biggest test of his faith yet. From the moment he says goodbye to his wife, Bea, and boards his flight, he begins a quest that will challenge his religious beliefs, his love and his understanding of the limits of the human body.Sasha de Buyl is joined by Writer Development Coordinator for Scottish Book Trust, Claire Marchant-Collier, and Marketing Manager of Glasgow Film (and former host of Book Talk), Paul Gallagher.Despite creating a strong character whose faith plays a major part in the story, and regularly referencing the Bible (the hardback edition of the book even looks like a copy), Faber is himself an atheist. Do the author's personal beliefs cause him to stereotype his characters or their faith?Peter and his wife describe their feelings for each other and their predicaments through a series of letters - is it a realistic portrayal of a long-distance relationship?Colonialism and the motives of a new alien race are also central to the novel, with Faber developing a new language that Peter, and the book's readers, are introduced to. How successful was Faber in bringing this new culture to life?Book Talk is produced by Colin Fraser of Culture Laser Productions.

21mins

28 Oct 2014

Rank #20