Meet the SYP Scotland Committee 2021/22!

Posted on May 15, 2021 in Scotland

Get to know all of our SYP Scotland Committee members! We asked each of them to write about a book they think is overhyped, and a better alternative, and it makes for very interesting reading. We certainly all have some new books to add to our TBR lists!

Sonali Misra (she/her), Co-chair
I’m an Indian author and PhD researcher in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling, and I’ve worked in Indian publishing for four years. But I’ve also studied literature in my undergrad and master’s, and I had to read and analyse Heart of Darkness not once but twice, and I wasn’t the only one in my multinational class! Can we please stop prescribing this racist text at university? If we want to learn more about nations in the African continent, why can’t we read classics by writers who actually come from there, such as Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Chinua Achebe? 

Grace Balfour-Harle, Co-chair
Hi, I’m Grace (she/her), and I’m the new Co-Chair of SYP Scotland. I’ve studied English and Legal Studies and done a masters in Publishing, and now I’m the Editorial Assistant at the Beano comic, based in Dundee. I’ve always loved children’s fiction and magazines, so getting to combine them into a job is pretty fantastic
A classic I think is overrated is any Jane Austen novel. I’ve started them many times but I have never been able to care enough about her characters to finish any of her novels. Everyone tells me I need to read them, but I’ve never enjoyed this type of period drama in any medium — the only one I’ve ever finished is Bridgerton! A better alternative I think, is Circe by Madeline Miller. It’s all about a strong, complex, female character who makes her own fate, despite the trials and tribulations she faces throughout the novel. Plus Greek Gods, monsters and magic. Much more fun! 

Nuha Zulkernain (she/her) Inclusivity Officer
I’m an MSc Publishing student and a submissions reader. In my undergraduate degree, I had to read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. An incoherent book about a misogynistic American man stumbling through the streets of Paris in the 1930s. He drinks, he gets intimate, and he has friendship problems. I’m not sparing on the details – that is literally it. If you’re looking to travel to France’s capital without moving from your sofa, then I urge you to read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame because there are more ways to write about Paris than just wine and cigarettes.

Frances Rowbottom (she/her), Conference Lead
I am an American Literature PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. My research focuses on William Faulkner’s uses of myth, and the legacies of the Civil War in the American South.
I’ve studied George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, and for such a well-revered title, nothing really ‘happens’. Instead, I recommend Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure as a brilliant novel from a similar time period: both Hardy and Eliot focus on provincial Victorian England, yet the tales of Jude Fawley’s love affair with his cousin are far more engaging, radical, and often overlooked. 

Bryony Rogers (she/her) Membership Secretary and Mentorship Scheme Lead
I am a MLitt Publishing Student at Stirling University. As an avid reader of romance novels I am pained to say I am not a fan of Jane Austen. I think perhaps it is because the first book of hers I read was Mansfield Park. I found this a dull read in which nothing of note happened and then she married her cousin… This did not encourage me to continue with Austen. Instead, if you are looking for a romance of the same era I recommend reading the newly released novel The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk. This has all the sparkle of a regency romance with the added bonus of magic and fantasy! 

Lola Gaztañaga Baggen, (she/her) Communications Officer
I’m an Intern, Bookseller and MSc Creative Writing graduate based in Edinburgh. I adore Children’s literature and Fantasy, but I’ve always had a strong dislike for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. However whimsical the image of a lamp-post lost in a snowy forest may be, it doesn’t make up for some seriously troubling views on gender, sexuality, and shame. For an equally magical novel that explores the dangers of child grooming without victim-blaming (poor Edmund!), try The Lives Of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones — which is witty, empowering, and doesn’t read as religious propaganda 101. 

Kathryn Haldane, (she/her) Communications Officer
I have always been a fan of gothic fiction, and love anything filled with unsettling, ghostly goings-on. While older gothic fiction is often brilliant and set many of the frameworks used by writers today, some of these older novels have a tendency for unsavoury ‘madwoman in the attic’ female characters and stereotypical characterisation. I have massively enjoyed recent novels by female writers like Sarah Perry with Melmoth, Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist and The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell, which are all brilliantly constructed, creepy novels that don’t fall back on any lazy tropes. 

Susie Butler (she/her), Conference Lead
I’m an Assistant Editor at Edinburgh University Press. I love a good bit of historical fiction, but sad to say I just don’t get the hype around Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. For me the writing style doesn’t work and I found it slow and too easy to put down. If you haven’t already read it, I can’t recommend Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet enough. Compelling but painful, it’s a book I could read again and again. 

Joana Kalcheva (she/her), Student Liaison Officer
As a submissions reader, a contributor to a publishing newsletter and a book blogger, I sometimes stumble upon titles that don’t quite resonate with me. But it is always tricky to review a classic, just because it’s become one for a reason.
The book I find overhyped is The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. It was very difficult for me to finish it. I thought it would help me to get closer to a world so distant and unknown but the reality of it hit me: with its boredom, the slow-paced narrative and the never-ending chapters. Eco writes in exhausting detail about everything, it was a bit overwhelming. It took me ages to get to the last page.
I could’ve spent my time on many great books instead – something like Agatha Christie’s Death Comes as the End, several Sherlock Holmes stories or any other historical mystery series. 

Hollie Monaghan, Communications Officer
Hollie Monaghan (she/her) and I’m one of the new Communications Officers. I’m a part-time Marketing Manager for @TheSelkieUK, part-time proofreader, part-time bartender, and full-time publishing hopeful! While at university, my Victorian Literature professor had been praising Middlemarch as her favourite book all year. When I finally went to read it for class…well it’s very long isn’t it? (And very dull). For a far more interesting read from the era, check out the eerie and enthralling The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It may be just as long, but it’s completely worth it! 

Beth Ralston (she/her), Treasurer
I’m Beth (she/her) and I’ll be Treasurer for SYP Scotland this year. I’m an MSc Publishing student at Edinburgh Napier University – and I’m also a freelance copywriter during the rare pockets of free time when I’m not studying!
Mine isn’t an example of an overhyped book as such, it’s more of a confession… I’m starting to feel like I’m the only person on bookish Twitter who has not read Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – and I don’t plan on watching the Netflix adaptation, either. *Ducks under table!* 

Lauren McFarlane, Events Officer
I’m Lauren (she/her) and I’m one of the new Events Officers for SYP Scotland. I’m a solicitor to trade but currently doing a masters in publishing at Edinburgh Napier with a view to doing a slight career pivot! A book that sticks out to me as being overhyped is The Great Gatsby, which I found a bit vapid. If I was reading Fitzgerald again, I’d stick with Tender is the Night which at least transports you to the French Riviera! 

Katy Gallacher, Communications Officer
I’m Katy, she/her, and I’m one of the new Communications Officers for SYP Scotland. I am a bit of a book addict and have been blogging about books for roughly five years, I have an arts background, but I am hoping to transition into the world of publishing. My pick for a classic book that is overhyped is The Catcher in the Rye maybe it’s because it was forced upon me in school, but I felt like it could put me to sleep, since it is described as the “novel of teenage angst and rebellion” I would instead recommend another book that could be described as such but is fun and feminist…Bad Habits by Flynn Meaney.

Fine Mayer, Events Officer
Hiya, I’m Fine (she/her) and I’m excited to be on board as one of SYP Scotland’s new Events Officers. I’m currently doing a Scottish Gaelic immersion year at uni whilst juggling a publishing internship and a part-time job, and I finished my English Lit degree last year.
I cannot hear mention of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles without feeling the need to throw a copy of said novel out of the window. The sheer misogyny of the plot sets my blood boiling every single time and my poor uni friends have listened to more than one extended rant on the subject – sorry!
For empowered, wonderful characters, I always recommend Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology (which I hope a certain SYP Scotland committee member may yet read). 

Natalie Jayne Clark (she/they) Book Club and Shadow Panel Co-ordinator
I am an MLitt Publishing Student at Stirling University. I teach and I do freelance writing and editing. I adore sci-fi and of course I am a huge fan of the sci-fi classic that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I must say I never understood the hype around Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I read it as a teenager and forgot the entirety of the plot and characters so quickly I read it again a year later and right now I still struggle to remember any of it. For sci-fi that hits hard and is ever-memorable check out Iain M. Banks’ Culture series. Each book stands by itself in a different time and place of the throughout the history of the Culture empire. Player of Games is a good book to start with. It’s just so layered and plays more with body modifications, gender, AI and societal norms better than Philip K. Dick ever did.