Wednesday, 23 April 2014

World Book Night No.19

Tonight is World Book Night.

World Book Night is an annual celebration of reading and books which takes place on 23 April. It sees passionate volunteers give hundreds of thousands of books away in their communities to share their love of reading with people who, for whatever reason, don’t read for pleasure or own books.

It is run by The Reading Agency - the charity with a mission to give everyone an equal chance to become a reader. Because everything changes when we read.

In the UK 35% of people don’t regularly read despite reading for pleasure being a globally recognised indicator in a huge range of social issues from poverty to mental health.

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging those who have lost the love of reading – or are yet to gain it – to pick up a book and read. Line by line, paragraph by paragraph until they too have discovered the power of reading and the opportunities in life that reading can open the door to.

For World Book Night events in London visit the World Book Night Website

To mark the occasion, we're reblogging 24 classics (one every hour!) from our London Walks Reading List series…

The Great London Reading List! Essential London books that Londoners take away on holiday to remind them of home… books visitors should read before arriving in London… fact, fiction, poetry, all genres welcome. If you’re in the mood to recommend a great London bookshop, too, we’d love to hear it!  All suggestions to the usual address, please, or leave a comment below or get in touch via Twitter @londonwalks.

The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock
By John Harris

Frank Zappa once said that “Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read.”

John Harris’s The Last Party is an honourable exception on the first two counts.

Set against the backdrop of Tony Blair’s rise to power, The Last Party is the tale of Britpop – the mid-90’s explosion of British indie music into the mainstream.

Author John Harris – contributor to Q, Mojo, Rolling Stone and The Guardian, amongst others – is a writer whose dry wit always staves off the excitable excesses that so upset Mr Zappa. Harris was also an eyewitness to the events chronicled in The Last Party, working as he was for the NME at the inception of what became Britpop. His gifts as a writer and his proximity to the events make him the perfect man for the job.

And he has quite a cast of characters to work with. Blur slugging it out with Oasis for the Number One spot – a story that made the headlines on the BBC 9 O’clock News. Oasis’s Noel Gallagher visiting Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. Oasis label boss Alan McGhee and his climb to the heights as a rock’n’roll visionary and subsequent descent into breakdown.

Many of Harris’s interviewees – particularly Justine Frischmann of Elastica – are prepared to put their side of the story free from any “showbiz” sheen – warts, needle marks and all. A far cry from Zappa’s “people who can’t talk”.

London locations abound – from Camden Town to Soho to Westminster – capturing the capital at a time when, as Harris sees it, the leftfield creative artists of British music began to chase the dollar and not the artistic glory, when politicians began to follow focus groups rather than ideology. Blur’s Alex James falling out of The Groucho with the other “celebs”; Jarvis Cocker gatecrashing Michael Jackson’s BRIT Awards stage show at Earl’s Court and being questioned by police for his trouble; Damon Albarn at the House of Commons; Noel Gallagher holding court at Supernova Heights, Belsize Park.

You will do well to remember Frank Zappa when you pick up The Last Party – his quote is always a good starting point for rock biography. But 300-or-so pages later, you’ll be closer to the quote often attributed to Hunter S. Thompson:

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

World Book Night falls on the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. To mark the occasion, here's the BRAND NEW London Walks Podcast, Shakespeare & London…

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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