Chris Paling's Reading Allowed is a wonderful, warm-hearted and eccentric look at the life of a librarian in a provincial library, and the extraordinary cast of characters he encounters every day.
'Paling's deftly drawn vignettes are frequently funny, sometimes sad and occasionally troubling . . . Borrow a copy from your local library, if you still have one. Better yet, buy it' Neil Armstrong, Mail on Sunday
'Not only was I captivated by Paling's lovingly wrought series of pen portraits, I was amused, moved and - perhaps most surprising of all - uplifted' John Preston, Daily Mail
'There are many detractors who question whether libraries are still relevant in the digital age. Paling's keenly and kindly observed account of his encounters offers a gentle insight as to why they still are' Helen Davies, Sunday Times
Chris works as a librarian in a small-town library in the south of England. This is the story of the library, its staff, and the fascinating group of people who use the library on a regular basis.
We'll meet characters like the street-sleepers Brewer, Wolf and Spencer, who are always the first through the doors. The Mad Hatter, an elderly man who scurries around manically, searching for books. Sons of Anarchy Alan, a young Down's Syndrome man addicted to the American TV drama series. Startled Stewart, a gay man with a spray-on tan who pops in most days for a nice chat, sharking for good-looking foreign language students. And Trish, who is relentlessly cheerful and always dressed in pink - she has never married, but the marital status of everybody she meets is of huge interest to her.
Some of the characters' stories are tragic, some are amusing, some are genuinely surreal, but together they will paint a bigger picture of the world we live in today, and of a library's hugely important place within it. Yes, of course, people come in to borrow books, but the library is also the equivalent of the village pump. It's one of the few places left where anyone, regardless of age or income or background, can wander in and find somebody to listen to their concerns, to share the time of day.
Reading Allowed will provide us with a fascinating portrait of a place that we all value and cherish, but which few of us truly know very much about ...
Paling's deftly drawn vignettes are frequently funny, sometimes sad and occasionally troubling . . . Borrow a copy from your local library, if you still have one. Better yet, buy it - Mail on Sunday
Not only was I captivated by Paling's lovingly wrought series of pen portraits, I was amused, moved and - perhaps most surprising of all - uplifted - Daily Mail
There are many detractors who question whether libraries are still relevant in the digital age. Paling's keenly and kindly observed account of his encounters offers a gentle insight as to why they still are - Sunday Times
Restorative, gently British feel of these pages . . . It's fun, it's breezy . . . and it's full of Great British Quirk. It made me feel at home, and I recommend it strongly - The Book Bag
Much of the dialogue is worthy of Alan Bennett - Spectator
Paling's unflashy, plain-speaking and observant style is engaging - Sunday Herald
Paling is an observant writer, with a brilliant ear for dialogue, and he sketches the eccentric cast of employees and customers perfectly. Although there is humour here, there is also pathos, as the library dwindles to become the haunt of the elderly and the homeless - a snapshot of people and institutions on the margins of the digital age, a poignant record of the unconnected life - Tablet
Minutely observed cast . . . It is pinpoint-specific, as personal as a fingerprint or a reading record . . . The characters here lift these interlinked vignettes into something altogether richer - Times Literary Supplement