A tale of a Government cat — Open Book

The official kitty-cat of Parliament Square!!!

While the exploits of Whitehall Cats – Palmerston and Larry most recently – have been recently making the news, cats in Government employ are nothing new. In fact, here at National Records of Scotland, we have evidence of a feline curiosity – a cat tasked with protecting records more than three centuries ago. The Exchequer […]

via A tale of a Government cat — Open Book

The truth, according to Google

Apparently Google is working on a new algorithm to measure the veracity of websites and order its search results accordingly. More truthful and reliable sites would be listed at the top of the ranking – via CNN Money:

The truth, according to Google

It must be true, I found it on the Internet!

Naive? Maybe. After all, cyberspace has its fair share of myths. Now Google may have found a way to clean house, or at least throw the trash in the basement.

The company is figuring out how to rank websites by the veracity of their content. The more truthful the page, the higher up it would appear in search results.

Google (GOOG) currently sorts search results based on criteria such as the number of links pointing at the website, the amount of time users spend on it, as well as the prominence of its social media profile.

The algorithm, named PageRank after Google co-founder Larry Page, is supposed to rank websites based on their reputation.

google truth

But a team of Google engineers and research scientists say the current system mainly reflects the popularity of a website, which may tell users little about its truthfulness.

Gossip websites are good example, according to the Google team. While immensely popular, they are not generally considered very reliable.

To fix the problem, Google has come up with a new truth-seeking algorithm, describing it in a research paper first reported by New Scientist.

So how would it work? The new algorithm draws on Google’s “Knowledge Vault” — a collection of 2.8 billion facts extracted from the Internet.

By checking pages against that database, and cross-referencing related facts, the research team believes the algorithm could assign each page a truth score. Pages with a high proportion of false claims would be bumped down in the search results.

Google said the new algorithm is in the research stage. The scientists still need to figure out plenty of issues before it can be used, including ensuring the system appropriately deals with new facts on a topic.

Advice to Little Girls a children’s book by Mark Twain’s – via @brainpicker

A lovely piece from Brain Pickings with some fine advice from Mr Twain (except maybe the ‘pouring hot water on your little brother’ thing…

Advice to Little Girls: Young Mark Twain’s Little-Known, Lovely 1865 Children’s Book


“Good little girls always show marked deference for the aged. You ought never to ‘sass’ old people unless they ‘sass’ you first.”

In the summer of 2011, I chanced upon a lovely Italian edition of a little-known, playful short story young Mark Twain had written in 1865 at age of 30, with Victorian-scrapbook-inspired artwork by celebrated Russian-born children’s book illustrator Vladimir Radunsky, mischievously encouraging girls to think independently rather than blindly obey rules and social mores. I was instantly in love. So I approached my friend Claudia Zoe Bedrick of Brooklyn’s Enchanted Lion Books, whom I’d befriended through her beautiful books and with whom I’d already begun collaborating on another side project, to see if she’d be willing to take a leap of faith and help bring this gem to life in America. It took a bit of convincing, but we eventually joined forces, pooled our lunch money to pay Vladimir his advance, and found a printer capable of reflecting the mesmerism of the Twain/Radunsky story in the book’s physicality — rich colors, crisp text, thick beautiful paper with a red fabric spine.

I’m enormously delighted to announce that Advice to Little Girls (public library) is officially out this week — a true labor of love nearly two years in the making. (You might recall a sneak peek from my TED Bookstore selections earlier this year.) Grab a copy, enjoy, and share!

While frolicsome in tone and full of wink, the story — like the most timeless of children’s books — is colored with subtle hues of grown-up philosophy on the human condition, exploring all the deft ways in which we creatively rationalize our wrongdoing and reconcile the good and evil we each embody.

Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for every trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted to under peculiarly aggravated circumstances.

If you have nothing but a rag-doll stuffed with sawdust, while one of your more fortunate little playmates has a costly China one, you should treat her with a show of kindness nevertheless. And you ought not to attempt to make a forcible swap with her unless your conscience would justify you in it, and you know you are able to do it.

One can’t help but wonder whether this particular bit may have in part inspired the irreverent 1964 anthology Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls and its mischievous advice on brother-sister relations:

If at any time you find it necessary to correct your brother, do not correct him with mud — never, on any account, throw mud at him, because it will spoil his clothes. It is better to scald him a little, for then you obtain desirable results. You secure his immediate attention to the lessons you are inculcating, and at the same time your hot water will have a tendency to move impurities from his person, and possibly the skin, in spots.

If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won’t. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment.

Good little girls always show marked deference for the aged. You ought never to ‘sass’ old people unless they ‘sass’ you first.

There are no words to describe how much Advice to Little Girls makes my heart sing — let’s make a choir.

21 Scottish Novels to Look Forward to in 2015 – from @ScottishBkTrust

Looking ahead to some upcoming fiction by Scottish authors – via the Scottish Book Trust


2015 looks like being yet another vintage year for Scottish novels.

We had just finished all the 25 new releases which got us talking in 2014 when 2015 publishing schedules started to arrive. This year, there is a marvellous mix of new releases from established writers and newcomers born in Scotland or who call her windy spaces home. Below are just 21 of them to pre-order in your local bookshop or library.

Is there a book below that’s got you crossing off the days on your calendar a little too enthusiastically? Or is there a notable absence below? Either way, chuck the title in the comments or tweet us @ScottishBkTrust

The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester
January 2015 | @SimonSchusterUK

A recent graduate of our very own New Writers Awards, Lucy Ribchester wasted no time in securing a publishing deal with Simon & Schuster for her debut novel. The Hourglass Factory is set in 1912 London as the suffragette movement reaches fever pitch. When flat-broke Fleet Street hack Frankie George becomes entangled with mysterious trapeze artist Ebony Diamond, she is quickly drawn into a world of dark, dark secrets.

Read Lucy Ribchester’s revealing Author Confessions on our blog.

Dead Girl Walking by Christopher Brookmyre
January 2015 | @LittleBrownUK

Fan-favourite Jark Parlabane makes his sixth appearance in Chris Brookmyre’s 19th novel. The investigative journalist has lost his career, marriage and self-respect. When famous singer Heike Gunn vanishes it offers Parlabane one last shot at redemption. He sets off on a mad hunt for her through European capitals and remote Scottish islands as the walls close in around him.

The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan
February 2015 | @FaberBooks

The secrets we keep from the ones we love is the dominant theme of highly-respected writer Andrew O’Hagan’s fifth novel. The Illuminations is an inter-generational tale of modern war, memory and the complications of fact and promises to add another tale of real emotional depth to the twice Booker-nominated author’s catalogue.

Devil You Know by Cathy MacPhail
March 2015 | @KelpiesTeen

Currently nominated for a Scottish Children’s Book Award for Mosi’s War, prolific Greenock-based author Cathy MacPhail is set to give Scottish young adult fiction another shot in the arm with a new “fast-paced teen thriller [of] real-life drama and shocking twists”. Reinforce the edge of your seat and follow Logan as he journeys from Aberdeen to the heart of Glasgow gang culture.

Rise by Karen Campbell
March 2015 | @circusbooks (Bloomsbury)

Former policewoman Karen Campbell has switched publisher for her latest novel. Bloomsbury Circus, a literary fiction imprint of Bloomsbury, is looking forward to publishing Rise in spring. Campbell’s sixth novel follows different characters north to the Scottish Highlands; when a tragic accident binds their lives together, and a pre-referendum community fractures around them, they must face their pasts in order to find their futures.

Fishnet by Kirstin Innes
April 2015 | @FreightBooks

Writer and journalist Kirstin Innes, spent three years researching her debut novel which focuses on the murky world of escorts and prostitution. Anticipation for Fishnet has run high ever since an earlier draft of the book was nominated for the Mslexia First Novel Award.

A Decent Ride by Irvine Welsh
April 2015 | @JonathanCape

Welsh is back in Edinburgh for this dark and seedy tale after his 2014 jolly to Florida for The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins. Think sex, drugs and taxi drivers on this rollercoaster tour of the underbelly of society. It’s billed as “his funniest, filthiest book yet”. It’s not going to be a novel for the easily shocked.

Listen to our Book Talk podcast on The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins.

The Malice of Waves by Mark Douglas-Home
April 2015 | @SandstonePress

The Scotsman felt that Mark Douglas-Home’s first sea detective novel raised the bar of Scottish crime fiction. His third in the series, from the 2014 Scottish Publisher of the Year Sandstone Press, journeys to Priest Island where the secret of 14-year-old Max Wheeler’s disappearance is a closely guarded secret. Can oceanographer Cal McGill solve the case before the murderer strikes again?

Blood, Sweat, Water by Denise Mina
April 2015 | @OrionBooks

Scotland’s two-time winner of Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award returns with her fifth DI Alex Morrow tale, and the first since The Red Road. When a prime-suspect in a drug-smuggling and money-laundering investigation mysteriously disappears, DI Morrow suspects foul play.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
May 2015 | @LittleBrownUK

Kate Atkinson follows up her Costa Book Prize-winning, experimental Life After Life, with a companion piece. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her attention to Ursula Todd’s beloved younger brother. A would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband and father, Teddy has to navigate the perils and progress of the 20th Century – presumably, again and again.

Listen to our Book Talk podcast on Life After Life featuring novelist Kirsty Logan.

The Seeker by S.G. MacLean
May 2015 | @QuercusBooks

Inverness-born author S.G. MacLean turns her attention to 1654 London for her latest historical thriller. Oliver Cromwell is at the height of his power and has declared himself Lord Protector in a city full of spies and merchants, priests and soldiers, exiles and assassins. When the hero of his armies, John Winter, is found dead, his most trusted agent, Damian Seeker, steps up to solve the mystery.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
May 2015 | @HarvillSecker

Kirsty Logan has come a long way since graduating from our New Writers Awards programme. The first-ever Gavin Wallace Fellow’s debut full-length novel, is set to be published in the UK, US and Canada and has already been compared to Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. It follows North and her bear as they float around a flooded world on a circus boat.

Find out who made Kirsty Logan’s list of 7 fantastically unusual debut novels.

The Paradox by Charlie Fletcher
May 2015 | @OrbitBooks

MR Carey, the author of the recent bestselling novel The Girl With All The Gifts, is already a big fan of Edinburgh-based author Charlie Fletcher’s Oversight trilogy. This, the second installment in Fletcher’s gothic fantasy adventure, joins the last members of the Oversight secret society as they wearily patrol London’s borders between the natural and supernatural, facing dark new enemies and forging unlikely alliances.

The Lost and Found by Cat Clarke
May 2015 | @QuercusBooks

Cat Clarke’s taut, page-turning young adult novels already boast a big fanbase in the UK and are now set to make waves over the Atlantic. American readers will have to wait until 2016 to read Clarke’s psychological thriller about a girl whose older “sister” turns up 13 years after being kidnapped. We get to read it this spring.

Check out Cat Clarke’s book list of young adult novels about real teenagers

Dacre’s War by Rosemary Goring
May 2015 | @PolygonBooks

The Herald’s literary editor returns with another hotly-anticipated work of historical fiction following her highly-rated debut After Flodden. When, ten years after the battle of Flodden, clan chief Adam Crozier learns that the most powerful man in the north of England ordered his father’s murder, he determines to take his revenge in the wild Scotland-England border.

The Ghosts of Altona by Craig Russell
June 2015 | @QuercusBooks

Former police officer Craig Russell returns in 2015 with another installment in his Hamburg-set Jan Fabel thrillers. When four bodies are found, there is nothing to connect the bloodless murders other than their efficiency, and the weapon used. Can Fabel hunt down the killer they call ‘The Ghost’ before he becomes a victim himself?

Death is a Welcome Guest by Louise Welsh
June 2015 | @HodderBooks

The Cutting Room author, Louise Welsh, turns up the heat this summer with the second installment in her Plague Times trilogy. Following on from her 2014 novel A Lovely Way to Burn, Welsh invites readers to revisit a modern London devastated by a pandemic called ‘The Sweats’.

The Importance of Manners by HG Watt
June 2015 | @FreightBooks

Istanbul-born Hande Zapsu Watt writes for the first time as HG Watt for this dark comedy set in Benin. Watt’s deeply satirical novel follows four pampered Western Europeans on a misguided Heart of Darkness cruise through contemporary Africa’s interior.

Sweet Caress by William Boyd
September 2015 | @BloomsburyBooks

Bestselling author William Boyd returns from James Bond duties (Solo) for his “most beautiful, daring and enthralling novel to date”, according to his publisher. Sweet Caress follows the life of Amory Clay whose developing career as a photographer takes her to 1920s Berlin, 1930s New York and to WW2 as one of the first female war photographers.


The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May
September 2015 | @Gollancz

California-born, now Edinburgh-based, photographer and young adult author Elizabeth May releases part two of her Falconer trilogy this September. Her debut novel, The Falconer, was our teen book of the month in July and we can’t wait to dig our talons into part two of the adventure.

Truestory by Catherine Simpson
TBC 2015 | @SandstonePress

Born and raised on a Lancashire dairy farm, Catherine Simpson has been resident in Scotland for over twenty years. She follows up her eye-catching performance at our New Writers Showcase last year with her second novel, Truestory, in 2015. It tells the tale of a 12-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome called Sam, holed up in the remote family house he refuses to leave.

The Pros and Cons of Reading on a Tablet – via @scottishbktrust

I saw this on the Scottish Book Trust’s site and had to share. This is an entertaining view of e-reading, somewhat different from my own (NB: I specifically bought an older style Kindle – no backlight, no headaches!)…

The Pros and Cons of Reading on a Tablet

Reading on a tablet

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Even though the world around me has been soundly enamoured with digital reading devices for some time, I have held back. I was suspicious of these strange, new beasts. I imagine this is how my Dad felt the first time he saw an mp3 player. However, having had a tablet in my life for just over a month, I thought it was high time to let the world know about my new relationship and to let you know whether it’s all it’s cracked up to be. Here are some things I have learned in my journey to becoming a digital reader…

1.    It’s absolutely made for comics

The thing that tipped me over the edge with tablets was definitely comics. I could see that reading books digitally had a certain usefulness to it, but comics, a medium I love, are transformed when you have a tablet.

Having come back to comics after few years, I realised I couldn’t buy single issues anymore. Single issues comics are a fleeting and timely medium, often collected into a volume after the fact, but unlike most other forms of popular culture, they’re produced so flimsily that they basically fall apart if you spend any time with them. This means you have two options: (a) you bag and board every single comic you buy and implement a rigid filing system so you can find them again, or (b) wait, and buy the collected volumes when they come out.

The tablet/ereader gives you that sorely needed option (c). It’s honestly brilliant. I’m not particularly techy, so I won’t tell you how the screen resolution and graphics card lovingly depict the art you so love. It just works to read comics on a tablet. It’s intuitive, it’s nice and it just makes sense.

Comics to read right now on your tablet:

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

Saga by Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples

Batgirl by Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart


2.    Night time reading? No problem!

Like all great leaps forward in technology, reading with a tablet or Kindle gives you powers and abilities above your puny human limitations. Like, for example, reading in the dark! All tablets (and Kindles from the Paperwhite up) are backlit which means in low light or even no light, you can read to your heart’s content. In the back seat of a dark car? Partner asleep beside you? Er, waiting for a gig to start? No problem!

I can only imagine what 10-year-old me would have done with this sort of power.

Creepy books to read in the dark on your tablet:

American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes


3.    With great power comes great responsibility…

…to your eyes. The ugly dark side to the amazing reading powers a tablet will give you is the accompanied headaches. In the name of science, I read a few books on my tablet, and though the reading experience was very intuitive, I spent the day with a permanent headache. Reading on a tablet really does strain your eyes, so you can’t go for mammoth reading marathons like you might with a paper book. I’d recommend shorter reads or books with a speedy plot so you can get through them quickly and then rest your peepers. However, most tablets come with screen settings and there are apps that will change your tablet’s light to a more eye-friendly hue as the light in your room dims; another great feature of tablets!

Books you can fly through on your tablet to avoid headaches:

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’ Neill

The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester


4.    Neither a borrower nor a lender be

The saddest thing for me about reading on a tablet is that I can’t lend or gift the books I own to others. I know some people are precious about their book collections, but not I. I love to lend books and share the books I love with others. I’ve only read a few books on my tablet and I have already said ‘I’m so sorry I can’t lend this to you’ more times than I can count.

Books you’ll wish you could lend to your friends, but you CAN’T:

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (which I still have not read because it is on my mother’s Kindle, and not mine).


5.    Paper books are still the best

Regardless of everything a reading device can do for me, paper books are still the champions of the book world. Nothing really beats the reading experience of a real book. I mean, if it ain’t broke… you know the rest. With a real book, you can read without straining your eyes, you can flick back and revisit earlier pages, you can read in the dark (get a torch!) and you can share your books with anyone and everyone (well, if you want). I mean, if you think about it, is there anything a paper book can’t do?*

Paperbacks you can curl up with again and again:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Pop Co by Scarlett Thomas

*I realise there are many things a paper book can’t do.

Image credit: Tablets by Martin Voltri

Mysterious Edinburgh #BookSculptures

The first set of these beautiful sculpted books were left around Edinburgh by an anonymous, library-loving artist in 2011. She later made five sculptures for the Scottish Book Trust, then another series for her own altruistic reasons

I’ve been fascinated by this story since the beginning and made several trips around Edinburgh (and elsewhere in Scotland) to see these wonderful pieces with my own eyes. Here are some of my pics:

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It’s Official! – re-postings from @natlibscot Official Publications Unit blog

Cold War intelligence 
Posted: 07 Oct 2014 02:14 AM PDT
Now available through the National Library of Scotland. A full-text collection of 2,360 formerly classified U.S. government documents (most of them classified Top Secret or higher) which provides readers with the declassified documentary record about the successes and failures of the U.S. intelligence community in its efforts to spy on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Details on how to access this resource can be found on the NLS Website

The Smith Commission 
Posted: 09 Oct 2014 01:57 AM PDT 
You have an opportunity to have your say and respond to the Commission directly via their website from the 13th October 2014. The terms of reference for the Commission are: To convene cross-party talks and facilitate an inclusive engagement process across Scotland to produce, by 30 November 2014, Heads of Agreement with recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. This process will be informed by a Command Paper, to be published by 31 October and will result in the publication of draft clauses by 25 January. The recommendations will deliver more financial, welfare and taxation powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom.


Official Publications in the National Library of Scotland

nlsWe are curators of the Official Publications collection in the National Library of Scotland (we have over 2 million government and government-related publications). You can find out more about who we are and what’s in our collections on our web pages.