Four years (and according to WordPress, 200 posts) ago I started the Literary Sofa blog without a clue what I was doing or where it would lead. Four years later I am still really enjoying it as a way of sharing my love of good books and connecting with other readers and writers both online and in person – it’s amazing how many people associated with the blog I’ve now met in real life. Writing novels is lonely and a long game but running a literary blog brings instant rewards and, I’m happy to say, a very appreciative audience. Viewing figures have grown steadily year on year – which is great, of course – but my focus isn’t on the numbers, it’s on providing consistently interesting, informative and well-written content, which is largely down to the fabulous line-up of guest authors willing to join me on a virtual piece of furniture!
This post is the one where I say a proper thank you to everyone who has supported the Sofa and also me as a writer thus far: guest authors, editors, publicists, agents (especially mine), fellow bloggers, writer friends and everyone who reads the blog, shares posts, contributes to debates – you make it happen and you make it worth doing. It has been a challenge to find the time over the last year but it seems that a laid-back approach works just as well. I’ve stopped doing in-depth reviews that take a day to write (and too long to read) and have plans to post more round-ups in the style of last week’s Verdict on my Summer Reading in order to cover more books. I’ll definitely continue with my twice-yearly selections of forthcoming titles and am about to start reading for my Fiction Hot Picks 2016 which will be revealed mid December.
So to celebrate the Sofa’s fourth birthday, this week I am running the ‘traditional’ Literary Lunch competition. Those I have previously hosted, either through the competition or charity auction, have been thoroughly enjoyable for me and the guests (or at least that’s what they said) whether or not we’d met before. Basically I take the winner out for a nice lunch in London – they get a choice of venue – and lots of bookish conversation, although I can do other topics.
Every year some unsuccessful entrants communicate the depth of their disappointment to me (AKA friends trying to make me feel guilty). Explaining that I have no control over a random number generator is little comfort… So this year, mindful of events out there in the real world and having seen for myself people’s generosity at the Help Calais project, I am offering an additional identical Literary Lunch to the highest bidder if there are any takers (and if you’ve already emptied your pockets for the cause, I’m delighted.) The minimum bid is a £100 donation to Save the Children Child Refugee Crisis Appeal – any less and I may as well eat a sandwich at my desk and donate the money directly.
THE LITERARY LUNCH – what’s up for grabs x2:
I will take one guest out to lunch at a central London restaurant on a mutually convenient date within the next year. (If the winner/highest bidder wishes to bring a friend along at their own expense that is fine.)
HOW TO ENTER – CLOSING DATE MONDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 6pm UK
It’s easy! Everyone leaving a comment below will be automatically entered in the competition. All you have to do is name the best book you’ve read this year (any kind of book, published any time).
There is NO OBLIGATION to place a monetary bid but should you wish to, you can either include it in your competition entry or in a separate comment. The starting bid is £100.
There is no need to give your email address as I can see this in administrator mode.
Any help spreading word of the competition via your social networks would be much appreciated.
Next week it’s another Writers on Location post featuring debut author Lucy Brydon and the experiences which led to her novel SHANGHAI PASSENGER.
Lovely idea! I can’t quite reach to a bid for the second lunch, but I’ll send a donation to Save the Children as a way of appreciating what you’re doing 🙂
Thank you, Sarah! That alone means the extra lunch was worth a go x
Great idea and I’ll send my donation, too. My favourite book(s) so far have been the Neapolitan trilogy – I’m just finishing the third one – as well as Ferrante’s novella Days of Abandonment.
I adore the Ferrante novels as I’m sure you know! How about meeting for a Neapolitan-themed lunch/coffee soon? And lovely of you to make a donation, thanks.
I agree – what a wonderful idea. ‘We Have Always Lived In The castle’, by Shirley Jackson has been my favourite (can’t believe I’d never read it). But loved Claire Fauller’s ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’ and Paul McVeigh’s ‘The Good Son’ too…
A lovely idea to do the second one but alas I cannot stretch to that donation as I’ve already given to several little ones who have been driving over to Calais with food, shelter and clothing. So I’ll just have to hope I win the other lunch this time – as one of the friends giving you a hard time every year when I don’t! My favourite book I’ve read this year so far has been The History of the Rain by Niall Williams – funny, sad and just generally lovely.
Thanks, Amanda! It did occur to me that people might have already maxed out on their donations as you have so I’m not going to take it personally if nobody can bid for the second lunch – worth a try! I would love you to win – thanks for entering year after year and maybe the random generator will finally come up trumps (you’re on a lucky streak)!
Hi Isabel. As a previous winner of your literary lunch, I already envy the eventual winner this year! My favourite book this year is “What comes next and how to like it” by Abigail Thomas…. And I’d delighted to start the bidding for the charity lunch at £100. Would love to catch up and support such a worthwhile charity at the same time!
Thank you so much, Voula! I am delighted that the extra lunch has already proven to be worth a shot. You’re very generous as well as a lovely dining companion!
I’ve been staring at my bookshelves trying to decide which has given me the most joy. It’s almost impossible but Jincy Willett’s The Writing Class put a big smile on my face. But there are at least half a dozen more I could name…
Slightly ahead of the curve here (I’m milking it – doesn’t happen to me often), but my favourite book so far this year is one not yet published. Paraic O’Donnell’s The Maker of Swans is out in Feb 2016, but he very kindly sent me a proof and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. His writing gives me the shivers. In a good way, where you have to go back and re-read a sentence a few times. End of gush. (I’ve been donating elsewhere but good luck with the auction!)
My favourite book this year is Weathering by Lucy Wood which I read in February. It’s a book which gave me such joy on many levels. She wields words like a poet, conjures atmosphere and place so well that a sense of the forest and river – the gurgle and flow, wet leaves stuck to your skin – stays with you inbetween reads, and her characters are unforgettable. Time for a reread, I think…
My favourite book this year was Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. The plotting is amazing, completely page-turning, but it also examines the role of art and music in our lives. Not what I had expected of a book about life after a deadly virus wiped out most of humanity.
My brain is quite simple and fickle Isabel. I tend to love the last thing I’ve read/watched/eaten/listened to (soon forgetting the thing I had loved that had come just before). So, whilst it’s still my last read I loved: The Secrets we Keep – by Jonathan Harvey.
One of those – found it in a holiday home we stayed at in the middle of nowhere so picked it up and it was very different to anything I’ve read before. Loved his dialog and voice of characters ranging from a hormonal teen girl to an alcoholic grandmother, and everyone inbetween.
Look forward to winning the lunch. Just let me know what time is best for you.
I’d have to say that Sarah Ward’s In Bitter Chill is my favourite read so far this year. It’s a beautifully structured, non-sensational, character-based crime novel and has justifiably garnered excellent reviews.