The Reader 60

Reader 60 coverThe first issue of The Reader in 2016 is here and it’s a very special one indeed as it heralds our sixtieth edition. There are plenty of diamonds to be found inside Issue 60, ranging from the brand new to the nostalgic, and the inclusion of our One -Pagers’ – the raw, powerful and punchy moments from works of literature that make us feel alive and which we often turn to at times in need of affirmation.

‘We seek the ‘lines of life’. When readers tear from books the words that suddenly matter to them, that is their own pre-poem, the beginning of their work as receivers and transmitters of suddenly felt meaning. Reader writers: apply within.’ – The Reader Writers, Philip Davis

You’ll still find plenty of broader content within Issue 60, including new poetry from Carol Rumens, Julie-ann Rowell, Claire Allen and Vidyan Ravinthiran. The big themes of change and the future – still on many a mind as the year is fresh – feature in Gill Blow‘s story ‘Ladies of the Soil’, and Raymond Tallis seeks perspective on life from the imagined vantage of his future death in an extract from his new book The Black Mirror.

Sitting alongside future thoughts are frequent glances back towards the past, as we republish poems by Les Murray and U.A. Fanthorpe from our earliest issues, and revisit our childhoods while keeping feet firmly in the present day as we talk to Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, co-writers of the hugely popular Ladybird Books for grown-ups. Our second interview visits photographer Tim Booth, who talks about his stunning collection A Show of Hands – a collection of portraits of hands.

Marjorie Lotfi Gill features in The Poet on Her Work, turning distance that feels like helplessness into clarity as she writes on the subject of gun violence. Charlie Darby-Villis writes about reading poetry in a high security prison, and the poet David Constantine responds with his own recollection of visiting HMP Low Newton. More on the particular power reading can offer come from pieces by Drummond Bone, Ben Davis, David Abrahamson and Claire Sive.

All this alongside our Regulars and Recommendations – there’s much to celebrate in our latest milestone.

If you’re keen to make a literary resolution for the year ahead, yearly subscriptions to The Reader begin from £24, offering four issues of the magazine. You can also purchase your copy of Issue 60 for the price of £6.95. There’s the chance of winning a full set of the Ladybird Books for grown-ups within the issue, so don’t delay in ordering!

For more on The Reader, see our website.


The Reader 59

Reader 59 cover-1In need of something to bring a warm glow into the lengthening Autumn nights? The latest issue of The Reader is here to offer a wealth of new fiction and poetry, alongside a range of illuminating essays and thought pieces – and the bright cover artwork by Michael Troy is sure not to get lost amongst the gloom.

In Issue 59, you’ll find new work from two big names and returning contributors to The Reader. Blake Morrison introduces his poetry collection, Shingle Street, and the profoundly moving first chapter of The Life-Writer by David Constantine offers an enticing insight into the new novel from the author of In Another Country, the inspiration for the recent award-winning film 45 Years.

The Poet on His Work features Jonathan Edwards and his poem Song, where the low culture – ‘the earthy, the musical, the ordinary, the real’ – sits alongside the poetic:

“This poem took ten years to write. It took a few hours. I’m not the first boy in the history of the world to write a poem about a girl.” – Jonathan Edwards on Song

Marjorie Lofti Gill, Ian Tromp and Mary Maher complete the poetry line-up.

Dr Steve Mowle, a partner at Hetherington Family Practice and Associate Director for GP Education for Inner South West London, talks to Fiona Magee about life as a GP, the long-term relationship between patients and doctors and how reading within a group is part of ‘social prescribing’.

Tim Parks uses Chekhov to rebel against the problem of ‘biographical fallacy’; the ‘poet’s poet’ F.T. Prince comes to our attention courtesy of Anthony Rudolf; Brian Nellist recommends a Neglected Novel – as well as offering The Old Poem – and there are more from The Reader regulars, including Ian McMillan and Enid Stubin.

Curl up by the fire and order your copy, available to order from the website. If you’re on the search for Christmas present suggestions, a year’s subscription to The Reader – giving you four issues – costs £24 in the UK and £36 abroad.

The Reader 58 has arrived

Issue 58 of The Reader features Bill Bailey, Anna Woodford, Sarah Helm, Matthew Hollis, Salley Vickers and many more
Issue 58 of The Reader features Bill Bailey, Anna Woodford, Sarah Helm, Matthew Hollis, Salley Vickers and many more

If the heat is making you yearn to sit in the shade with some new reading material, then you’re in luck as Issue 58 of The Reader has arrived and it’s packed full of literary goodness to help you while away the long hot hours.

The contemporary very firmly combines with the classic this issue – new poetry comes from Matthew Hollis, Robert Etty, Claire Allen and Julian Flanagan with new fiction – the thought-provoking One, Two, Three, Four – from Greg Forshaw. To accompany the ever-popular Old Poem feature by Brian Nellist, we’re now introducing The Old Story to bring back a forgotten gem from the past, the first coming from Katherine Mansfield.

Bill Bailey talks to Fiona Magee about his own unique brand of comedy and why he’s not a fan of jokes, his relationship with language, ambitions to write a book and his belief in the importance of reading out loud.

“That’s the great power of literature: not all the information is there – you have to bring something as well to it to make it” – Bill Bailey

A trio of formidable female writers share their work: in this issue’s The Poet on Her Work, Anna Woodford discusses her poem ‘The Gender and Law at Durham Research Group’, looking at how two specialised languages – that of poetry and of law – respond to personal loss and the threatened loss of self. Salley Vickers‘ essay on The Winter’s Tale also examines loss – in particular the slow story of possible restoration after it – and extracts feature from Sarah Helm‘s If This Is A Woman, a scholarly and at the same time unswerving history of Ravensbruck, Hitler’s concentration camp for women.

All this, as well as a preview of the Storybarn, Liverpool’s new interactive story centre for children and families, by Jane Davis; tales from the Versewagon by Ian McMillan; five featured books about sisters from Angela MacMillan, and much more.

“Literature still serves all the purposes that oral storytelling once achieved, and remains essential to our wellbeing” – Joseph Gold, The Story Species

Make sure you order your copy now in time for your summer getaway – Issue 58 is available to order online now, via single copy or annual subscription, saving you 15% on the cover price over the year.

Visit our website for full details on purchasing:


English or American literature on the syllabus?

Cover-Of-Mice-And-MenLiterature has been making headlines over the weekend with new plans to overhaul the GCSE English Literature syllabus in schools. In a shake up of the current syllabus, it has been reported that Education Secretary Michael Gove has called for works by American authors – including Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Crucible by Arthur Miller and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – to be removed, in order for students to focus on works by British writers such as Jane Austen and Shakespeare.

The news has sparked a passionate response from academics, writers, readers – and even a pointed comment from one exam board – who all argue that rather than broadening the literary content on offer, as Mr Gove has said will be the case with the new measures, young people will instead be disencouraged from finding literature that has the potential to inspire and move them.

Following the outcry, there has since been a reply from both Mr Gove who has dismissed claims that he intended to ban works from American writers from being taught in schools, and the Department for Education who pointed to the strict guidance that exam boards have been issued with to cover a wider range of literature within the subject. Within the new requirements, a minimum core of at least one whole Shakespeare play, poetry from 1789 including the Romantics, a 19th century novel and some fiction or drama written in the British Isles since 1914 must be covered by teachers in order to create a ‘broader ambition’ for students.

Mr Gove noted that beyond these specifications teachers are free to include any other texts for study, including Of Mice and Men, which has been studied by 90% of GCSE English Literature students previously, and works from other American others.

At The Reader Organisation, we believe that great literature in all its forms – from British to American to authors of any other nationality, both classic and contemporary – is there to be enjoyed by readers of all ages and backgrounds. In our weekly shared reading groups that run around the UK, readers have been introduced to Steinbeck as well as Shakespeare, with the focus on the text being shared providing a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere where literature comes to life. One of the effects of this is that people’s reading habits can change and develop as they discover books and authors they have never previously encountered before, with guidance from group leaders giving them the confidence to explore further.

G31A7233It’s not just the choice of literature that has an impact, but also perspectives on the world widen through shared reading: 72% of our group members in health and wellbeing settings felt shared reading had helped them to think about things in a different way, and 81%  of our group members in open community groups enjoy the opportunity to develop relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds.

We read specifically with young people in both education and one-to-one settings outside of school, with the entire focus of our sessions encouraging reading for pleasure and a greater love of literature in young people. As a key partner of City of Readers, we’re working within schools delivering Reading Revolutionaries training for pupils to read for pleasure with one another, ensuring that all students have access to a wide, varied and high quality range of literature that they can enjoy in and out of school hours.

100% of the looked-after children we read with one-to-one told us they enjoyed reading books they wouldn’t have chosen themselves, and that they enjoyed discussing their ideas and opinions – together with City of Readers we’re aiming to get even more children and young people reading a greater range of great literature, expanding their horizons and imaginations.

Long may the discovery of great literature continue, both in and out of schools!

Find out more about our reading in education settings and with young people on our website:

For more about City of Readers and to discover how we’re part of plans to make Liverpool the UK’s foremost reading city and ensuring every young person leaves school reading for pleasure, visit

‘Magnificently rich’: The Reader reviewed

Issue 50 cover online versionAfter its release in the summer, we’re still celebrating the landmark 50th issue of The Reader magazine thanks to a review from American review and resource website New Pages. Based in Michigan, New Pages provides news, information and guides to literary magazines, independent publishers and bookstores, alternative newsweeklies and much more, describing itself as the ‘Portal of Independents’ spanning across the world of arts, publishing and libraries.

Our bumper Issue 50 has been reviewed in their latest round-up of literary magazines (dated November 15th), standing alongside publications such as The Asian American Literary Review and The Gettysburg Review. The issue was praised for its historic pieces of literature and items from the archive alongside new offerings where ‘new ideas sparkle under the crystalline canon.’ Despite some UK-centric articles needing a little more translation, the rich and varied literary content within crosses the divide, as reviewer Mary Florio states:

The ideas cross the ocean with a stunning virtuosity; it is a prized volume to be read again and again.

Cited as particular highlights are Godfather of The Reader Organisation and co-editor Brian Nellist’s essay ‘People Don’t Read Scott Any More’, originally published in the very first issue of The Reader in 1997 and republished in Issue 50 as a gem from The Reader archive, and Dr Rowan Williams’ poem Tolstoy at Astapovo, which ‘glows on the page with a kind of phosphoric rhythm’. The review finishes with a succinct appreciation of the publication:

Take it sentence by sentence. The journal is magnificently rich and does not “dumb down” literary engagement. And for all the promise of reward, it delivers.

You can read New Pages review of Issue 50 of The Reader in full here.

Issue 52 of The Reader will be arriving shortly, offering an antidote to the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle. Highlights include:

  • Poetry from John Burnside, Michael Schmidt, Carol Rumens, Jodie Hollander and Martyn Halsall
  • Exciting and striking new fiction from Jennifer O’Hagan and Gregory Heath
  • We are treated to Five Helpings of  George Herbert from distinguished guests including John Scrivener and David Constantine
  • The late Seamus Heaney is celebrated in two essays by Iona Heath and Carol Rumens
  • Iraq War veteran and author of the acclaimed novel The Yellow Birds Kevin Powers is interviewed by Drummond Moir

Discover the reward of great literature for yourself – issue 50 of The Reader can be purchased on our website, alongside issues from the back catalogue. Readers in the UK and abroad can also subscribe to receive a year’s worth of copies – four issues over 12 months. The perfect Christmas present for literature enthusiasts – buy your subscription for someone today:

Reading and the Reader

Reading and the ReaderProfessor Philip Davis, Editor of The Reader magazine and Director of Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems (CRILS) at the University of Liverpool has a brand new book coming out this week as part of The Literary Agenda, a new series from Oxford University Press. Phil’s book Reading and the Reader defends the value of reading serious literature, aiming to narrow the gap between the way writers and readers think, and to bring literary thinking into the ordinary thinking of the world – especially at a time when the arts and humanities are under some threat.

The Literary Agenda as a whole explains why now, urgently, is the right time to start reinvigorated work into the meaning and value of reading literature. See below a summary of four areas of exploration that are central to the work of The Literary Agenda:

  • Asks what is the point of literature in contemporary life.
  • Looks at the importance of reading and creative literary-based thinking in the wider world.
  • Addresses the state of literary education inside schools and universities.
  • Encourages a bold variety of personal approaches and individual voices, speaking across different countries, disciplines and temperaments.

Today literary work is being challenged as a way of thinking about contemporary life. Many fear that it has become side-lined by newer disciplines such as cultural and media studies, while others view its failure to attract national funding in competition with more apparently ‘useful’ subjects as the beginning of the end. Equally, the rise of instant social media and new digital technologies provokes the question that arises on every side: What is the point in poetry, plays, novels, in literary criticism and, above all, slow serious and deep reading. These fascinating and very important issues are further addressed within The Literary Agenda.

Interested in finding out more? You can purchase Phil’s book, Reading and the Reader, which is out now,  by simply visiting the Oxford University Press website via this link and pursue your curiosity.

The Reader is turning 50…

There is a mood of quiet, but excited anticipation in The Reader Organisation’s offices this month. Our magazine, The Reader, is turning the big 5-0 soon! How will we celebrate? By publishing a beautiful bumper edition of the Issue 50 cover online versionmagazine, jam-packed with brilliant literature from all of the friends we’ve made over the years and from some new friends who have recently joined us.

We’re going to let you into a few secrets to whet your appetite before the 50th issue hits doormats all over the country. Birthday highlights includes:

  • Poetry from Blake Morrison, Connie Benseley, Les Murray, and more.
  •  A selection from The Reader archive including Doris Lessing, Carol Rumens and Howard Jacobson.
  •  Two memoirs: David Constantine’s Where I’m From and Priscilla Gilman’s The Anti-Romantic Child.
  • Frank Cottrell Boyce writes with humour and candour of his part in creating the amazing Olympics opening ceremony with Danny Boyle.
  • Founder Jane Davis is interviewed on the origins of the magazine.

This issue proves to be an extra-special one but while you wait, why not head over to our website to discover and purchase past issues of The Reader, to read some of the wonderful pieces of literature that have been published in the magazine over the years.

If you’re already subscribed, you can expect Issue 50 of The Reader next month and if not, then what are you waiting for – subscribe to receive your copy today. 

The Reader is life changing and has an almost evangelical belief in the power of change through the act of reading or simply the power of pleasure through reading” – Lemn Sissay

M.A: Reading in Practice at University of Liverpool: Applications for 2013/2014 open

Interested in investigating the role of literature in Bibliotherapy and health? But don’t want to be suffocated by the confinements of a conventional academic course? 

MRL_5238-2 72dpiThen you might be interested in the M.A. degree course: Reading in Practice, run by the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems (CRILS) at The University of Liverpool.  The first Masters degree of its kind is preoccupied with the wider and deeper ways in which serious creative literature ‘finds’ people, emotionally and imaginatively, by offering living models and visions of human troubles and human possibilities.

Accompanied by a reading list which includes brilliant works of all kinds, from novels to essays on philosophy, you will be helped to develop the ability to use all literature as a form of personal time-travel and meditation. You will also learn how, in turn, you may re-create this process for others, through the formation of equivalent reading-groups based on The Reader Organisation’s ‘Get Into Reading’ model.

This course is perfect for those who don’t want to have to read loads of secondary criticism but want to use reading to enable them to think their thoughts better and find new ones. A  first degree in literature is not required:  you just have to be a lively, seriously committed reader!

Here’s what some of the past students have to say about their time on the M.A:

“The course often felt very hard and it should continue to do so. I feel bereft having finished, and wish I could do it over again”

“It’s such a personal course, where you have to bring so much of yourself”

“I feel that through my reading and writing on the MA I have consolidated some of the thoughts and feelings that have been floating in my head for years, finding the words to understand them.”

If any of this sounds interesting and you would like to find out a little more about the course details, the application process and who to contact, please read the M.A. document below, in which you will find out more, or visit the CRILS page of the University of Liverpool website.

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The Reader Organisation does Lunchtime Classics at Waterstones

Fancy some literature to go with your lunch? Then be sure to head to Waterstones in Liverpool One over the next couple of weeks, where The Reader Organisation will be making an appearance in the store’s Lunchtime Classics series.

Lunchtime Classics offers the chance for city workers and shoppers alike to take some time out and listen to readings from a range of classic fiction and poetry, accompanied by short talks about the text by literary experts. What’s more, the events are all absolutely free to attend.

Two of The Reader Organisation’s Project Workers are holding their own Lunchtime Classics sessions in the next two weeks. First up, Damian Taylor, Reader-in-Residence at Greater Manchester West NHS Trust, looks at Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky on Wednesday 29th August. Then a week later on Wednesday 5th September, Amanda Brown, Criminal Justice Projects Manager, will be reading from Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Both events will start at 12pm and last for an hour.

Damian and Amanda will be following in the footsteps of a range of esteemed speakers from the University of Liverpool and Edge Hill University who have spoken at the Lunchtime Classics series, as well as the editor of the A Little, Aloud anthologies Angela Macmillan who gave a reading of ‘The Invisible Child’ by Tove Jansson – which is included in A Little, Aloud for Children – in June.

Classic literature, discussion and a discounted lunch – attendees can also get 10% off all food and drink in the store’s Illy café – what could be better? For more information, see the Waterstones Liverpool One Twitter page.

‘Strange New Today’ Conference

The Reader Organisation’s Director Jane Davis, our research colleague at the University of Liverpool, Dr Josie Billington, and The Reader magazine‘s editor, Professor Phil Davis will be talking at the ‘Strange New Today’ Victorian Studies conference at Exeter University on September 17th.

Jane and Josie will hold a discussion on crisis, Victorian literature and “the reading cure”, and will highlight the informative and remedial value of Victorian literature for working through social, cultural, and psychological crises.

In ‘The Victorians’ Phil Davis identifies the realist novel as a ‘holding ground’ for the complex emotional and psychological concerns which emerged from rapid industrial and social change.  Through literature, and the public nature of the periodical press, authors and thinkers found a new medium of expression – reading and writing became remedial aids in times of difficulty. Such intellectual productivity, coupled with the desire to explore new emotional, social and psychological territories, caused these dramas of discovery to be played out in the very hearts and homes of the public.

This English Nation, will it get to know the meaning of its strange new today?

– Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present

The conference will be held in collaboration with The Reader Organisation and will explore what Victorian literature can tell us about the society in which it was produced and how it continues to enrich and comfort the lives of readers today.

Any queries regarding the conference can be directed to