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The best book events in London this May

The best book events in London this May

May 10, 2016 0 Comments
If the perk in the weather has given you some more get-up-and-go, we have the perfect way to use that energy and engage that curious mind! Whether you're looking for some entertainment or to puzzle out some politics, London is bursting with amazing book events this May.

We've picked out some of our favourites for you to get involved in; we think there's something for everyone! They include talks, readings, music, poetry, and even some Baileys.

And if you're not in London, don't panic. Scroll to the bottom of the post for tips about where to find out about book events near you.

So, without further ado, prepare for your calendar to be chock-full of fantastic book events:

The one about Paul McCartney:

Philip Norman on Paul McCartney

Biographer Philip Norman discusses his latest book, on the life of Paul McCartney. The book covers the singing and composing career of the Beatles star. It spans from his childhood, blighted by the death of his mother but redeemed by his father who first turned him to music, to his later career of solo super-stardom, and Norman's biography reveals the complex character beneath the cheeky-chappie facade.

At this event you can meet Philip Norman and hear what he has to say about Paul McCartney and his life, with a Q&A session afterwards.

When? Wednesday 11th May 19:30 - 21:00

Where? Islington Waterstones

The one that combines literature and politics:

Tomáš Zmeškal & Hamid Ismailov in conversation with Misha Glenny

Hamid Ismailov and Tomáš Zmeškal will read from their work and discuss literature and politics with writer and former Central Europe correspondent for Guardian and BBC, Misha Glenny.

Tomáš Zmeškal is an EU Prize Winner for Literature. His family saga, Love Letter in Cuneiform, explores marriage, love and destiny on the backdrop of the postwar Czechoslovak history. Zmeškal's tale, told as a mosaic of events, exposes the larger, ongoing struggle of postcommunist Eastern Europe to come to terms with suffering when catharsis is denied.

Hamid Ismailov, Uzbek writer in exile and UK broadcaster, is an author of dozens of books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, all banned in Uzbekistan. His latest book, The Dead Lake, long-listed for the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, tells a haunting Russian tale about environmental legacy of the Cold War.

This 'in conversation' is part of the 2016 European Literature Festival. Organised in collaboration with the Czech Centre.

When? Thursday 12th May 19:00

Where? Piccadilly Waterstones

The one where David Nicholls reads from his bestsellers:

David Nicholls Author Q&A with All Proceeds to Oxfam

Bestselling author of One Day, David Nicholls, will be interviewed by Radio 4 presenter Martha Kearney. The evening will also feature an author question and answer session and readings from his work.

David Nicholls is the author of four books, several TV screenplays and film scripts. He is best known for the novels One Day and Starter for Ten, as well as the TV film Great Expectations.

The event is being organised by Oxfam volunteers.

NOTE: The venue is accessible but the toilet facilities are located up one flight of open-tread stairs.

When? Monday 16th May 19:00 - 21:00

Where? Oxfam Books & Music Islington

The one that showcases a whole fiction prize shortlist (and includes Baileys):

Readings from the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016 Shortlist

Ahead of this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner announcement on 8th June, each of the six novels on the 2016 shortlist will brought to life in exclusive readings at the pop-up Baileys Prize Book Bar.
The 2016 shortlist is: Ruby by Cynthia Bond, The Green Road by Anne Enright, The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney, The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie, The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild, and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.
Stars of stage and screen, Tori Allen-Martin and Jim Rastall will perform the readings from the shortlisted books – a perfect treat for your lunch hour!

When? Wednesday 18th May 13:00 & Friday 20th May 13:00

Where? Tottenham Court Road Waterstones

The one about crime:

Criminal Worlds: Detective Fiction in Europe

In this event, hosted by broadcaster and journalist Mark Lawson, European crime writers examine the back stories of detective heroes in foreign lands. The guests will include bestselling crime novelist Peter James, Finnish crime-writing sensation Kati Hiekkapelto, and German writer Volker Kutscher. The panel will cast their forensic eye on the celebrated and lesser-known investigators of European fiction.

This event is part of the 2016 European Literature Festival

When? Friday 13th May 18:30 - 20:00

Where? British Library

The Sci-Fi one:

An evening with Peter Newman

Spend the evening with bestselling Science Fiction author Peter Newman as he celebrates the launch of his latest book - The Malice. Peter will be in conversation with his wife Emma Newman, herself an acclaimed Sci-Fi author.

When? Thursday 19th May 18:00 - 20:00

Where? Covent Garden Waterstones

The one in a Yurt with music:

Limehouse Books Yurt Salon with Peepal Tree Press

This session will feature four groundbreaking British Black Writers: Karen Onojaife, Desiree Reynolds, Judith Bryan, and Jacqueline Crooks. All four are accomplished across a range of writing types and genres, and have been published by Peepal Tree Press, including the recent anthology Closure (edited by Jacob Ross).

Music will be provided by Bobby Dylan performing a new electric set.

When? Tuesday 17th May 18:30 - 21:30

Where? Yurt Cafe - St Katharine's Precinct

The one about London’s past:

Nocturnal London: An Evening with Matthew Beaumont and Will Self

Throughout its history, London has been two places: the daytime city of business and work, and the night-time palace of dark desires, crime, and vagrancy. This place has attracted writers, lawyers, poets, and politicians who have all attempted to chart and control the nocturnal flows of the capital. In the medieval city, night-walking was a punishable crime; by the Victorian era, Charles Dickens was forced to wander the streets by night in order to becalm his disturbed mind. This talk examines why the city shrouded in darkness been such a compelling subject over the centuries.

Before the age of the gas lamp, the city at night was a different place, home to the lost, the licentious, and the insomniac. In this lecture, Matthew Beaumont, author of Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, will discuss the perambulations of London’s poets, novelists, and thinkers with acclaimed writer and journalist Will Self.

When? Tuesday 24th May 19:00

Where? Piccadilly Waterstones

The one about London today:

21st –century London with Ben Judah and Rowan Moore

Join foreign correspondent Ben Judah and architecture critic Rowan Moore for a discussion on the state of London in the 21st century. Recognised as a global city, London has always been in a state of change and flux, but how does that manifest itself today and what does it mean for the future? In light of their recent books, This is London and Slow Burn City respectively, Ben Judah and Rowan Moore look at the people and infrastructure of London, raising questions on issues from immigration to investment.

When? Tuesday 31st May 19:00

Where? Piccadilly Waterstones

The one with Lego:

'How to Train Your Dragon' & LEGO ELVES® play day with Cressida Cowell and Duncan Titmarsh

Join Cressida Cowell, bestselling author-illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon series, and Duncan Titmarsh, the UK’s only certified professional LEGO® builder, at a joint event for the paperback release of How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury and launch of new LEGO ELVES® play sets with dragons. They will be book signing, a chance to chat to Cressida and you can learn from Duncan how to build your own magical LEGO ELVES® dragon!

When? Monday 30th May 13:00 - 16:00

Where? Piccadilly Waterstones

The one about translated fiction:

The Man Booker International Prize 2016: Translation at its Finest Chaired by Alex Clark

Translated fiction is undergoing a renaissance in the UK. During the evening you'll hear some of the finest international translators discuss their craft with journalist Alex Clark, a few days before the first winners of the newly evolved Man Booker International Prize are announced.

The shortlisted books include A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa (translated by Daniel Hahn), Elena Ferrante's The Story of the Lost Child, Han Kang's The Vegetarian, Orhan Pamuk's A Strangeness in My Mind, Robert Seethaler's A Whole Life, and Yan Lianke's The Four Books.

The evening will include readings from the shortlist along with discussion from the translators of four of the shortlisted works: Charlotte Collins (A Whole Life), Daniel Hahn (A General Theory of Oblivion), Ekin Oklap (A Strangeness in my Mind) and Deborah Smith (The Vegetarian).

When?  Thursday 12th May 19:00 - 20:00

Where? Charing Cross Road Foyles

The one about Shakespeare:

An Evening with Benet Brandreth- 400 years of Shakespeare

As part of Waterstones' programme celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare, Benet Brandreth will be discussing his work as rhetoric coach with the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as what the Bard's work means to him and how it influenced his Shakespearean novel The Spy of Venice.

This will be followed by a Shakespeare quiz created and hosted by Benet himself. Prizes to be won! And you can take part as a small team if you like. All are welcome!

When? Monday 23rd May 19:00

Where? Piccadilly Waterstones

The poetry one:

Birds, Tigers and Terrible Lizards: Live Poetry with Sidekick Books

The afternoon celebrates the spoken word with live poetry from a selection of poets published by Sidekick Books. The talented poets and inspiring performers are James Coghill, an eco poet; Dzifa Benson, who has performed her prose and poetry nationally and internationally at venues including Tate Britain, Glastonbury Festival, and the Houses of Parliament; Peter Daniels, winner of many poetry competitions; Kirsten Irving, who has edited more than a dozen anthologies of poetry and illustration; Lorraine Mariner, whose poetry collection Furniture (2009) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize; and Jon Stone, a London-based poet and publisher who has performed his work at the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and on BBC Radio 3 and 4, as well as at festivals.

Enjoy some live poetry and pick up a free poetry pamphlet, plus have a go at their poetry ‘lucky dip’ and take away your own poetic souvenir.

When? Friday 20th May 14:00 - 15:00

Where? Waterloo Station Foyles

The one that’s actually in June:

Literary Death Match

Literary Death Match, now in 60 cities worldwide, was called "the most entertaining reading series ever" by the LA Times. The live show brings together four authors to read their most electric writing for seven minutes or less before a panel of three all-star judges. After each pair of readers, the judges take turns spouting hilarious, off-the-wall commentary — in the categories of literary merit, performance and intangibles — then select their favourite to advance to the finals. The two finalists then compete in a vaguely literary competition to determine who takes home the Literary Death Match crown.

When? Thursday 23rd June 19:00 - 20:00

Where? Charing Cross Foyles

The one with two comic authors:

Nina Stibbe in coversation with Nick Hornby

Nina Stibbe, the author of the bestselling Love, Nina, talks about her new novel, Paradise Lodge, with Nick Hornby, writer of modern classics such as High Fidelity, About a Boy, and Funny Girl.
Who better to join Nina in conversation than the man who has adapted Love, Nina for the small screen? With BBC One’s Nick Hornby-penned adaptation beginning on May 20th, there’s been no better time for these two beloved comic authors to get together to discuss Nina’s work.

When? Thursday 2nd June 19:00 - 20:30 (okay, this one's in June too - but it sounded too good to miss out!)

Where? Charing Cross Road Foyles

The one about Bowie:

On Bowie: Simon Critchley and Thomas Jones

Philosopher and writer Simon Critchley will discussing his new book On Bowie with one of the London Review Bookshop's editors, Thomas Jones.

On Bowie traces the development of David Bowie’s music and lyrics from different angles. Critchley draws on cultural and philosophical references, along with his own intensely personal response to the music, to paint an enlightening and poignant portrait of Bowie as a songwriter, poet, performer and icon.

When? Thursday 12th May 19:00

Where? London Review Bookshop, Bury Place

The one that’s a whole festival:

Greenwich Book Festival

With sections for all ages there's something for everyone to enjoy. For the children there's after school fun on the Friday as well as a whole host of activities on the Saturday, including stories and laughs from Jim Smith, and illustrator Ben Newman bringing Professor Astro Cat along for a gravity-defying drawing workshop.

And some of the highlights for adults include talks on the 'Rise and rise of the short story' and 'Cast Away: stories of survival from Europe's refugee crisis', as well as literary workshops and lots of great authors and signings.

When? Friday 27th May - Saturday 28th May

Where? University of Greenwich, Royal Naval College, National Maratime Museum

The one that brings writers together from all across Europe:

European Literature Night: The Writers' Showcase

Now in its 8th year, the European Literature Night brings together thrilling narratives that take you to many corners of the continent, and far beyond.

It will be hosted by broadcaster Rosie Goldsmith and the discussion will feature English novelist Kate Mosse, whose 2005 novel Labyrinth has been translated into more than 37 languages; it will travel to the Turkish prison cells of Burhan Sönmez’s Istanbul, Istanbul; to the many ordinary lives turned upside down in Dorthe Nors’ twisted and imaginative Copenhagen streets; to Slovenian writer Gabriela Babnik’s seductive tale of forbidden love amongst the dusty plains of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; via the deadpan Belgian humour of Peter Verhelst in his Gorilla-narrated fable about the story of human civilisation (and its collapse, of course); to the tormented relationship unfolding between widow and son on Dutch-writer Jaap Robben’s remote and stormy island (located somewhere between Scotland and Norway); finishing in the strange and comic novel that moves between Alek Popov’s Bulgaria and New York, where two brothers are beginning to doubt whether their long-deceased father is in fact actually dead.

This event is part of the European Literature Festival.

When? Wednesday 11th May 18:30 - 20:15

Where? British Library


Outside London? Why not check out the many literary festivals across the country this May.

There are also other events in national and local bookshops UK wide. You can see Waterstones events here.

And your local library is another great place to investigate for book events!


This post was written by Holly Newson

Picture credit: Featured image adapted from Rev Stan - Flickr

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