Invasive Plants of Literature

Have you ever recoiled in horror from a plant?

Chances are that the answer to that question is no.

Plants by their sedentary nature aren’t very scary, however, that hasn’t stopped writers from across history using them as central features in their novels, with the intention of eliciting fear. Of course, as with many things, the degree to which something is considered ‘scary’ will depend largely on context. A simple weed growing in a back garden may not be deemed that frightening, however, given the right context that plant can be a real fixation of fear for a homeowner.

Take an invasive plant such as Japanese knotweed, a plant that has the capability of knocking up to 10% off the value of a home (thanks to Knotweed Help for the research!). This plant is by no means frightening when looked at from a distance, but when you take into account the damage that it could cause to a person’s fortune, it’s not hard to imagine this plant becoming a staple in some homeowners’ nightmares. Getting rid of Japanese knotweed can be a gargantuan task, so it’s unsurprising that this plant could be considered so frightening by certain folks – it’s all about context!

The following four works all used plants in some shape or another to elicit fear:

Day of the Triffids

The classic sci-fi tale of a world taken over by sentient plants, The Day of the Triffids is considered a landmark story in British science fiction that explores a post-apocalyptic world that has become overrun by the titular plants. It’s posited by the main character that the plants originated in the USSR, before becoming farmed on an industrial scale to produce a much prized chemical, this leads to them amassing large numbers, before making a claim for world domination.

War of the Worlds

John Wyndham cited The War of the Worlds as a major influence when writing The Day of the Triffids, and it’s not difficult to see those influences when reading H. G. Wells iconic classic. Wells’ contemporary setting and scientific style makes for a compelling read that sidelines characterisation in favour of meticulous detail. In the second part of the book, a red weed begins to grow wherever the invading force of Martians appear. Although this plant matter is thought to be a part of the invading force, the Martians soon appear to be weakened by the red weed, leading to their eventual downfall.

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets

Screaming Mandrakes and a Whomping Willow play small but pivotal roles in J. K. Rowling’s second iconic adventure in a novel that takes the first step towards a darker tone that would come to dominate the series towards the end of its run. Unlike the sentient plants of The Day of the Triffids, the Whomping Willow does not have the same power of locomotion, however it still causes Ron and Harry a fair bit of trouble on their return to Hogwarts. The rather hideous Mandrakes are introduced during a Herbology class, but prove to be useful later on in the tale when their roots are used to revive ‘putrefied’ students.

5 Major City-Based Literary Festivals

Take your city break holiday to the next level by booking into a literary festival whilst you’re away.

There’s nothing quite like a literary festival to enliven the senses and widen your cultural horizons. Combining this experience with a city break can be a fantastic way of getting to know a different side to a place that you’re visiting, whilst also giving you the opportunity of meeting people from the local area who share the same interest as you. If you’re considering booking a trip to stay in a UK city this year, then why not take a look at our top picks of city-based literary festivals.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Known the world over for its legendary Fringe Festival, it can be notoriously difficult to secure a room during this period of time, making the International Book Festival a great fall back option for those looking to explore this historic city and also get a dose of high culture. The festival takes place over the duration of three weeks and is considered to be one of the largest festivals of its kind in the world. Expect readings, signings and workshops for attendees of all ages, the full programme will be confirmed in June.

Bath Festival of Children’s Literature

Another historic town that deserves a visit is Bath, with its iconic ‘Bath stone’ buildings contributing to a classy ambience that is perfect for a weekend’s stay. The annual Festival of Children’s Literature is also the largest of it’s kind in the world and often hosts some of the best known children authors in the land. Young book lovers will be more than pleased the vast array of events that are tailored especially for them and feature classic characters, as well as the hottest new YA books.

Warwick Words History Festival

This historically rich city is the perfect place for a Historical Literary festival and is often attended by some of the most prominent writers in the field. Warwick is a quiet university city that makes for a romantic getaway for history lovers and Anglophiles alike, and during the festival it’s a hot spot for big names in history and historical fiction. Previous speakers include Alison Ward, Andy Kershaw and Tracey Thorn.

Liverpool Literary Festival

Run by the University of Liverpool, the Liverpool Literary Festival is only in its fourth year, but has still managed to attract some impressive names to previous incarnations including Tony Robinson, Val McDermid and Shami Chakrabarti. Liverpool is a wonderful city well worth a visit to any one who has not yet had the pleasure, offering equal parts raucous entertainment and historical diversions, including the striking St. George’s Hall, Walker Art Gallery and historic Royal Albert Docks.

Would rather stay in the countryside for your Literary Festival? We don’t blame you – check out our top picks for rural book festivals here.

Organising Your Library

One thing that nearly all bibliophiles have in common is an issue of space and organisation.

Although modern readers might keep all their favourite titles on digital record (organising them is a task for another article!), millions of readers around the world are still steadfastly dedicated to paper copies, and who can blame them! There’s nothing more satisfying to an avid reader than getting all their books in order, but a habit of picking up new books (and not letting go of old volumes) can lead to hoarding levels of untidiness.

If you feel like you’ve reached a point where you can no longer deal with the amount of books filling your home, then maybe the time has come to either get some professional help or roll up your sleeves and get down some organising!

Hire A Professional Organiser

Should you be blessed with the financial capability, whilst also being short on time, then you could consider hiring a professional organiser from You Need A Vicky to come to your home and help you make sense of your collection. Decluttering a home of hundreds (or even thousands) of books can take some time, so you should be clear on the hourly rate that your helper will charge. If possible, ask for quote beforehand, so that you know roughly how much you might have to pay once the work has been completed.

Do It Yourself

If like most people, you simply don’t have the cash for getting a professional organiser in, then you’ll need to gee yourself up and get to it yourself. Clear a weekend or two, so that you have plenty of free time and read our tips to put yourself in the best position.

Take Stock

The first thing you’ll want to do is take stock of your entire collection and figure out what books you want to keep on your shelves, and which you might feel are better to get rid of. You should know instinctively which books ‘spark joy’, as Marie Kondo would put it and which volumes are ready to find a new home.

Find A Home For Unwanted Volumes

Once you’ve sorted the wheat from the chaff you can kick off the process proper by sending off any unwanted books to new homes, whether that’s as library donations, gifts, eBay auctions or wholesalers. Getting a chunk of your collection organised in this way is a great motivator and should push you to properly organise the books that you’re planning on keeping.

Organise In Your Own Way

Now that you’ve got yourself in a good position to start organising you’ll want to consider how you want to sort your books. Organising a collection should involve the implementation of some kind of system so that you’ll be able to find each book in your collection with ease, rather than spending hours trawling through your bookcases.


Libraries have been using this simple, effective system for centuries as an intuitive way of keeping books in order and making them universally accessible for any English-language speaker. Use the ‘Sort’ functionality on a spreadsheet software to quickly alphabetise your collection with the least fuss.

In Order Of Acquisition

This is a much more personal way of organising a book collection and will require some real mental gymnastics, especially if you’re dealing with a large collection of books. Again, a spreadsheet may come in useful here as it will allow you to quickly visualise your entire collection and assign them each a timestamp according to when you acquired them. Sort by Descending (or Ascending) to finish the job.

By Date Of Publication

This is a fun way of organising your collection which is best suited to those with eclectic collections that span decades, or even centuries. A quick fix of finding the date of publication for each volume, without going through the hassle of opening each one, is to simply enter each item into Wikipedia, which should contain the relevant information required.

If you properly prepare, organising your book collection can be a rewarding, satisfying experience that will leave you with a feeling of greater control over your belongings. Best of luck!

5 Major American Literary Festivals

Fancy a trip across the pond?

Whilst it could be argued that the most prized literary works in the English language originate from our sceptred isle (as a certain English wordsmith once put it), modern history has given rise to some truly significant writers from the land of the brave and free.

Although the origins of the novel can certainly be traced back to English writers such as Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan, it wasn’t long until American writers such as Thomas Attwood Digges and William Hill Brown followed suit with celebrated works of their own. These early American works were quickly surpassed in popularity by the writing of Susanna Rowson and Harriet Beecher Stowe. These writers led the way for modern writers from all social classes and backgrounds to engage with the written word, paving the way for eminent writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, amongst others, to carve out an American style which is continued and celebrated today in a huge variety of literary festivals in the States.

Fall for the Book

Based in George Mason University, Virginia, Fall for the Book is a completely independent non-profit book festival that serves as the flagship event for the year, held in October each year. Readers are connected with hundreds of authors each year, with the Fall for the Book acting as the focal point for the year’s festivities. Authors at this year’s event include book club picks David Grann, Rainbow Rowell and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Kansas Book Festival

Taking place this year in (you guessed it!) Kansas, this book festival is solely focused on providing fans of fiction the opportunity to learn more about their favourite books and authors. It’s origins begin with First Lady Mary Brownback back in 2011, the first event of which hosted 900 attendees and 30 authors, including David Eisenhower, Chester Nez, Alexandra Robbins and Frank White. Since its inception, the Festival has made thousands of dollars of grants available to schools in the State, spreading the written word more with every passing year.

Savannah Book Festival

Now in its  12th year, the Savannah Book Festival is peculiar in that it is completely free to all attendees, meaning that people from all walks of life and experience the curated series of solo author presentations, readings and workshops. From its humble beginnings at the Trinity United Methodist Church in 2008, the Festival has grown to become one of the major literary events in Georgia with over 40 authors (local, regional and national) appearing at over seven venues around downtown Savannah.

Boston Book Festival

If you’ve not had the opportunity to visit Boston yet, then their annual Book Festival might be just the thing to get you there. In addition to a full roster of year-round events, the flagship event is one of the largest of its kinds in the states and offers readers the opportunity to meet some of the biggest literary names in the country. This year’s event sees Erin Entrada Kelly, Elizabeth Strout, Samantha Power and Reginald Dwayne Betts, amongst others, take to the stage to present their works, discuss their influences and share their experiences.

Would you rather visit a literary festival in the UK? Check out our top picks for Literary Festivals in the Countryside and in the City!

5 Countryside Literary Festivals

Pack your hamper and stow your reading glasses: it’s time for a trip to the country!

Whilst the Havant Literary Festival may be on hiatus for the time being, there are still plenty of other fantastic literary events happening up and down the country. Whilst many of these events take place in the urban metropolises of our great country, there are also dozens of events taking place in the lush, verdant countryside of our great nation. Let’s take a look at the pick of the crops and find the next best literary event for you to attend:

Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

Taking place from the 18th-22nd September 2019, this year’s Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival is looking to be one of the best yet, with an electrifying lineup including Wolf Hall author Dame Hilary Mantel, Robert Harris, Cressida Cowell, Jenny Exlair and James Runcie. This year there will be dozens of speakers from a wide range of backgrounds, as well as some interesting workshops which promise to widen the minds of all who sign up. Tickets are moving fast, so now is the time to get booking!

Lavenham Literary Festival

Buried in the heart of Suffolk you’ll find the village of Lavenham, a place as notable for its historical buildings as for its literary heritage. Although small in stature, the Lavenham Literary Festival nonetheless packs a punch with some of the finest authors of the land regularly making an appearance at their wintery festival. This year, from the 15th-17th November, the Festival will welcome Bridget Holding, Hannah Beckerman and TV’s Ruth Jones.

Jersey Festival of Words

This five-day literary event brings readers of all kinds to the island of Jersey for an enriching and exciting experience. Only in its fourth year, the Festival of Words has had no trouble in attracting all manner of notable writers including Michael Morpurgo, Simon Scarrow and Louis de Bernieres. This year will see another diverse lineup including Jenny Eclair, TV’s Michael Parkinson and Konnie Huq.

Ryedale Book Festival

This charitable organisation is dedicated to promoting a love of reading, storytelling and creative writing throughout Ryedale by working with schools , libraries and venues around the area. The Book Festival hosts a number of events throughout the year for readers of all ages including Ryedale Spookfest, a horror themed mini-festival, evening events and thrilling workshops with successful writers from around the country.

Upton Cressett Literary and History Festival

Tickets are usually extremely hard to come by for this literary event for the creme of the creme, however it’s an event that is more than worth the hassle of getting the tickets. This year’s event (which has already sold out!) will feature William Sitwell, Jane Thynne, Phillip Mould and novelist Nicholas Coleridge. As ever there will be a fine supply of food and drinks on hand, as well as Tudor costume dancing in the gardens throughout the day.

Are you thinking of attending one of these literary events? Or perhaps you’re going to another that we’ve not mentioned here – let us know by getting in touch!