Kitchen Disco Recipes by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones, Tap to Tidy by Stacey Solomon

Janet Gordon, who lives in Takeley, reviews bestsellers and early fiction for India…

Readers will know how much I love libraries. Having moved so many times over the years, the first thing I did – after unpacking the kettle, of course – was to visit the local library.

I well remember the very first library I joined. Situated just off Totteridge Lane – home to all the stars of the 60s and 70s – it was the finest old building with a lovely Delft fireplace in the entrance hall.

A caring librarian, realizing that I had exhausted all the books in the children’s section, was kind enough to let me past the counter into the adult section where I was introduced to Gone with the Wind and Forever Amber. And, as a special treat, I got to choose my dad’s cowboy books every week.

A few weeks ago was the 100th anniversary of the Bethnal Green Library, an event to which I was invited. It’s a beautiful old building on the grounds of what used to be called Barmy Park, so called because the library is on the site of a former mental institution where Eastenders, including my husband Malcolm, had l used to play among bomb sites and craters. .

And that was 82 years ago, at the height of the Blitz, when a bomb slammed into the domed glass roof. Within days, these resourceful librarians had brought the library underground to the westbound Central Line tracks, where thousands of East Enders sheltered each night from the bombs raining down on them.

Janet Gordon at the Bethnal Green Library celebrations with author Kate Thompson, centre, and Hodder editor Kimberley Atkins

Bethnal Green tube station was also the site of the most appalling wartime tragedy, in 1943, which unfolded when a mother and baby, carefully descending the steps leading to the tracks, and almost to the bottom, tripped and fell. More than 100 people also died while trapped in the crash.

A special guest at the event was Ray, who lost his father and grandparents in the tragedy. He told us how a few days later at school he was sitting at his desk, visibly shaking, when his teacher threw a heavy set of wrenches at him and he was told to pull himself together. Different times.

Other guests of honor were Siddy Holloway, who presents the fascinating Secrets of the London Underground series, and Doreen Golding, Wanstead’s own Pearly Queen – and I discovered a relative of my extended family!

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson (Hodder £7.99)

It was also an event to celebrate the paperback publication of Kate Thompson’s The Little Wartime Library.

It’s such a heartwarming story of the camaraderie that existed between kind-hearted East Enders – factory workers, stall owners, mothers trying to hold their families together.

And, of course, Clara, the guardian of the underground library. A library, by the way, which cohabited with a medical room, a theater, bunk beds and those dreaded smelly latrines. It is also the story of the men who, unable to cope with their newfound confidence, tried to deprive the women of their reading materials and banished them from the library.

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson (Hodder £7.99) (60266376)
The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson (Hodder £7.99) (60266376)

Kate’s book is available in all bookstores – and of course in all good libraries!

If you want to know more about the East End, you will also enjoy reading A Child of the East End by Jean Fullerton (Corvus £8.99).

In the post-war years, life was tough for the hardy East Enders with housing shortages, rampant crime and families living in squalor. Fascinating.

To like. Food. Family: Disco Kitchen Recipes by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones (Octopus £20)

During confinement, Sophie and her husband Richard had so much fun composing a cookbook like no other.

Combining their two favorite things, music and cooking, the recipes are so much fun and don’t take long. After all, who wants to agonize over a stove for hours?

To like.  Food.  Family: Disco Kitchen Recipes by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones (Octopus £20) (60266366)
To like. Food. Family: Disco Kitchen Recipes by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones (Octopus £20) (60266366)

It also doesn’t look like a traditional cookbook. With recipes full of flavor, the pages are full of color seasoned with stories of their families. There’s even a fish stick sandwich.

I will pass this one on to my son and his family as they love the challenge of making such different recipes. I’ll let you know how they do.

Press to Tidy up by Stacey Solomon (Penguin £14.99)

Stacey needs absolutely no introduction, nor does her organizational skills.

Browsing through Tap to Tidy, I was struck by the simplicity and meaning of some of its solutions – and I started wondering who needed this basic advice.

But I bumped into a young cousin at a funeral the other day and was recounting how another cousin had set the house on fire by setting a fryer on fire. I was absolutely flabbergasted when my young cousin said “What’s a French fry pan?”

Press to Tidy by Stacey Solomon (Penguin £14.99) (60266372)
Press to Tidy by Stacey Solomon (Penguin £14.99) (60266372)

So, I guess as a gift for a young child who isn’t in college, or someone setting up their first home, Tap to Tidy is packed full of essential advice.

It’s also packed with easy-to-do things for the holiday season that won’t cost the earth and will fill your home with the Christmas spirit.

Would you prefer? Christmas Cracker by Joe Shooman (John Blake Publishing £9.99)

This is a little Christmas cookie from a book full of ridiculous questions to ponder. It’s a quiz because there are rules, but how you interpret them is entirely up to you.

For example, do you prefer a chocolate advent calendar or a surprise advent calendar with who knows what behind the doors? It could be germs, it could be a diamond ring.

Would you prefer?  Christmas Cracker by Joe Shooman (John Blake Publishing £9.99) (60266368)
Would you prefer? Christmas Cracker by Joe Shooman (John Blake Publishing £9.99) (60266368)


And, because we want you to have fun this Indie Christmas, we have three copies of Would You Rather? Christmas cracker to be won.

Who is the author of Would You Rather? Is it a) Joe Shooman, b) Joe Hatman or c) Joe Coatman.

Submit your entries to the Book Competition, Bishop’s Stortford Independent, 7 Palmers Lane, Bishop’s Stortford CM23 3XB or email with ‘Book Competition’ in the subject line.

Registration closes at 5 p.m. on Friday, November 11. Winners will need to collect their prize from the Indie office.

Alycia R. Lindley