Category: Book Musings (page 1 of 9)

July 2019 TBR

This is the second time that I have put forward a TBR for the coming month as the last one seemed to go down well. Some of the review copies and Wishful thinking are the same as last time as I ended up reading the five on the Wainwright longlist that I hadn’t yet read. There are quite a few library books to read too, as these are reaching the end of their renewal phase. Probably not going to get to all of those. I know I am not going to get to all of these, I only managed 17 last month in the end, but aiming to make a serious indent into the list below

Blog Tours 

Second Life – Karl Tearney

Library Books

The Stolen Bicycle by Ming-Yi Wu

Chernobyl: History of A Tragedy by Serhii Plokhy

Untie The Lines: Setting Sail And Breaking Free by Emma Bamford

Cobra In The Bath: Adventures In Less Travelled Lands by Miles Morland

The Edge Of The World: A Cultural History Of The North Sea And The Transformation Of Europe by Michael Pye

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind The Myth Of The Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth

Tweet Of The Day: A Year Of Britain’S Birds From The Acclaimed Radio 4 Series by Brett Westwood & Stephen Moss

Elephant Complex: Travels In Sri Lanka by John Gimlette

White Mountain: Real And Imagined Journeys In The Himalayas by Robert Twigger

Concretopia: A journey around the rebuilding of postwar Britain by John Grindrod


In Sicily by Norman Lewis

Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa by Matthew Fort

Sicily: Through the Writers’ Eyes by Horatio Clare

Bitter Almonds: Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood by Mary Taylor Simeti

The March of the Long Shadows by Norman Lewis

Review Books

Limits of the Known by David Roberts

Vickery’s Folk Flora: An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants by Roy Vickery

All Together Now: One Man’s Walk in Search of His Father and a Lost England by Mike Carter

The Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds by Stephen Rutt

Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili

Tempest: An Anthology        Edited by Anna Vaught & Anna Johnson

Still Water: Reflections on the Deep Life of the Pond by John Lewis-Stempel

The Many Lives of Carbon by Dag Olav Hessen, Tr. Kerri Pierce

The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey on Two Rivers by Moritz Thomsen

The Book of Puka-Puka: A Lone Trader in the South Pacific by Robert Dean Frisbie

Savage Gods by Paul Kingsnorth

Irreplaceable: The Fight To Save Our Wild Places by Julian Hoffman

The Ancient Woods of the Helford River by Oliver Rackham

Wishful Thinking

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

The House of Islam by Ed Husain

Chasing the Ghost: My Search for all the Wild Flowers of Britain by Peter Marren

Origins: How The Earth Made Us by Lewis Dartnell

Quicksand Tales: The Misadventures Of Keggie Carew by Keggie Carew

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

The Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds

Origins: How The Earth Made Us by Lewis Dartnell

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

When: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

The Good Life: Up the Yukon Without a Paddle by Dorian Amos

A Raindrop in the Ocean: The Extraordinary Life of a Global Adventurer by Michael Dobbs-Higginson

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott

Coasting by Jonathan Raban

Any on there that you have read, or want to read? Let me know in the comments below.

Book Musings – June 2019

Halfway through the year. It seems to go faster Didn’t read quite as many as May but still had a very varied month with regards to the books that I did read. I am not going to do a favourites so far through the year as others are doing, but I am going to do a few stats.

Books Read so far: 108

Male authors: 66

Female authors: 42 (39%)

Review Copies: 54

Library Books: 47

Own Books: 7

Top Five Publishers:


Jonathan Cape



Simon & Schuster

Top Five Genres:




Natural History


I am really pleased to almost reach 40% female authors. in my reading. Having that variety adds further depth to my reading.

Anyway onto the books that I read in June. Dixe Wills is carving himself out a very small genre and Tiny Churches one of his books that have covered subjects as diverse as campsites, islands and stations. Informative and enjoyable and quirky.

The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read, was a book that my wife spotted in a bookshop one day, and the library had it.  Philippa Perry writes about how we need to learn from what our parents did and improve on it. Our relationships are as good as the effort we put in at the end of the day. Very much focused on new parents, it had a little suitable for my three teenagers.

I rarely read crime fiction, because it is not really my thing. However, Benjamin Myers is another thing. As Rebecca from Bookish Beck says, he could make a shopping list interesting. These Darkening Days is about a series of attached in a northern town and the race to find the perpetrator after one victim is killed. Very good as I have come to expect by Myers.

The Wolfson history prize looks to celebrate the very best in historical non-fiction each year and Trading in War by Margarette Lincoln is her book about London’s docklands in the Age of Cook and Nelson. She has included an immense amount of detail in here and has still made it very readable.

I have been a fan of both Tony Hawk and Tony Hawks for years. The latter has been inundated by fans of the former asking all manner of skateboarding questions, that to put it frankly he is ill equiped to answer. The A to Z of Skateboarding is his slightly (ok very) sarcastic repsonse. Hilarious.

Most people are fed up with the news now days, it is a relentless stream of violence, politics and is just grim. Jodie Jackson  has a different take on it and in You Are What You Read: Why Changing Your Media Diet Can Change the World she advocates taking a very different approach to the way that you consume it.

I love being alongside the sea and this book by Isobel Carlson is a celebration of all things wet, sandy and rocky. Not a bad gift book and has some beautiful photgraphs.

I also managed to read the five on the Wainwright Prize longlist that hadn’t got to.  I have been vaguely aware of Kate Humble via Springwatch but Thinking On My Feet is the first book by her that I have read. In this, she champions taking time each day to get outside and go for a walk and she takes us through a fairly hectic year in her life and the walks that she enjoyed all over the world. Marc Hamer spent a lot of his working life killing moles for people who wanted pristine lawns until one day he decided that he no longer wanted to do it anymore. How To Catch A Mole And Find Yourself In Nature is an exploration of his life being outdoors. It is a really nicely written book.


Lynne Roper discovered wild swimming when she was recovering from breast cancer and she swam in the sea, rivers and ponds until she died from a brain tumour. This diary of her favourite swimming was put together by Tanya Shadrick who couldn’t find anyone to publish it, so she formed her own publishing company and it ended up on the Wainwright. I had the privilege of meeting her last week and she is an amazing woman in her own right. People underestimate urban wildlife, thinking that to get that experience in the natural world you need to be in the wilds of Scotland. You don’t and Ghost Trees by Bob Gilbert proves that. He lives in the East End parish of Poplar and he discoveres the wildness that our capital city has evry day of the year. A charming book.


My poetry book this month was The Sea That Beckoned by Angela Gabrielle Fabunan. It is an interesting collection exploring those places we’ve sought to call home.

Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer is partly sport and partly travel. In this, she describes her participation in the World’s Wildest Horse Race across the Mongolian Steppe. I am not a big horse person, so initially wasn’t sure on this, but it was a really good read.

I also read a couple of travel books and both walking. Kathryn Barnes does not consider herself a walker, but there was something about the Pacific Trail that appealed. In, The Unlikeliest Backpacker is her story of the walk she undertook with her husband and the characters that she met on the way. I have read a few of Hugh Thomson’s books before, Green Road into the Trees and the excellent, Tequilla Oil. One Man And A Mule is the account of his journey across the North of Britain accompanied by Jethro the Mule and Jasper Winn. It isn’t about the journey though, rather about the people that he meets on the way. Really enjoyable book.


I had two books of the month. First up is the magnificent Underland by Robert Macfarlane with his accounts of heading deep underneath the surface of our planet. Secondly is a searingly honest account by Joe Harkness from stepping away from the twisted blanket around his neck and his slow recovery aided by rediscovering his love of bird watching. Bird Therapy is a force for the good that the natural world can bring to our mental health.


Independent Bookshop Week 2019

For all of those who just one click their latest release to their phone or Kindle are missing out the pleasure of walking into a bookshop and spending some time looking. If you are anything like me you will quite often you will find the book you were after and inevitably end up with a couple more. I can hear my overcrowded bookshelves crying softly…

Did you know that there are around 900 independent bookshops around the UK? This creates thousands of jobs in the local community as well as thousands of other jobs in publishing and associated industries. For every pound that you spend in an independent shop almost doubles in value as it transfers to the local economy.

My very local book shop is Gulliver’s Bookshop in Wimborne.:

This bookshop has been going fifty years this year and is run by bookshop angels. No really. The family that own and run it, surname is Angel. They also have a sister bookshop called Westbourne Books and now own the shop Square Records for those that want to choose something to listen with their chosen reading material. I am fairly clued up on new releases with regards to non fiction in the coming year, but every now and again there is something on their shelf that I haven’t come across.

Not only are they fifty years old, but this year they won Best Independent Bookshop in the South West and were a finalist for the overall award. Sadly they didn’t win (boo), but this is an acknowledgement of the effect they are having in the town. The other thing that they have been running for the past nine years if the Wimborne Literary Festival. I have been almost all of the years it has been running and they are great little events and a chance to meet some of my favourite authors.

If you’re not sure where your nearest independent bookshop is then you can find one here. Whilst they have been having a resurgence recently, you do have to use them or you will loose them.

Follow Gulliver’s on twitter here, and follow the hashtags #BookshopHeroes and #IndieBookshopWeek and @booksaremybag for news this week about other peoples favourite shops.

Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

Today is the publication day for the paperback of Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton. For those of you who haven’t read it yet, here is an extract:

Earth Calling

Drifting through interstellar space, three light-years out from the star 31 Aquilae, the Neána abode cluster picked up a series of short, faint electromagnetic pulses that lasted intermittently for eighteen years. The early signatures were familiar to the Neána, and faintly worrying: nuclear fission detonations, followed seven years later by fusion explosions. The technological progress of whoever was detonating them was exceptionally swift by the usual metric of emerging civilizations.

Metaviral spawn chewed into the cometry chunks that anchored the vast cluster, spinning out a string of flimsy receiver webs twenty kilometers across. They aligned themselves on the G-class star fifty light-years away, where the savage weapons were being deployed.

Sure enough, a torrent of weak electromagnetic signals was pouring out from the star’s third planet. A sentient species was entering into its early scientific industrial state.

The Neána were concerned that so many nuclear weapons were being used. Clearly, the new species was disturbingly aggressive. Some of the cluster’s minds welcomed that.

Analysis of the radio signals, now becoming analogue audiovisual broadcasts, revealed a bipedal race organized along geo-tribal lines, and constantly in conflict. Their specific biochemical composition was one that, from the Neána perspective, gave them sadly short lives. That was posited as the probable reason behind their faster than usual technological progression.

That there would be an expedition was never in doubt; the Neána saw that as their duty no matter what kind of life evolved on distant worlds. The only question now concerned the level of assistance to be offered. Those who welcomed the new species’ aggressive qualities wanted to make the full spectrum of Neána technology available. They almost prevailed.

I hope that you enjoyed that. I loved this book when it first came out, and you can read my original review here

Twenty Books of Summer

For the past couple of years, I have seen the hashtag for the #20BooksOfSummer appear in my Twitter Feed at the beginning of June. This is a challenge that is run by Cathy at 746 Books and you can read more about her here. I like challenges as they can often get you looking at books that you wouldn’t necessarily consider. I have one that I created for a group I run on Good Read that is prompting you to pick books that have won or been shortlisted for prizes. Anyway back to this one. The aim of it is to get you to read 20 books that are on your TBR and you have from the 3rd June to the 3rd September to do so.

This year I have decided to join in.  So far I am a week late starting, but I have picked my 20 books from the various piles I have lying around the house and they are here below:


We are off to Sicily this summer and five of my pile are books about that island:

In Sicily by Norman Lewis

Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa by Matthew Fort

Sicily: Through the Writers’ Eyes by Horatio Clare

Bitter Almonds: Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood by Mary Taylor Simeti

The March of the Long Shadows by Norman Lewis

Three from the Wainwright Prize Longlist:

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

How To Catch A Mole And Find Yourself In Nature by Marc Hamer

Ghost Trees: Nature and People in a London Parish by Bob Gilbert

Then four books that have a mountain theme

White Mountain: Real And Imagined Journeys In The Himalayas by Robert Twigger

Limits of the Known by David Roberts

Just Another Mountain by Sarah Jane Douglas

Everest England: 29,000 Feet in 12 Days by Peter Owen Jones

Three by the brilliant writer, Raban, that I have been meaning to review for far too long:

Coasting by Jonathan Raban

For Love & Money  by Jonathan Raban

Hunting Mister Heartbreak  by Jonathan Raban

Lastly, five books that have a watery theme:

A Raindrop in the Ocean: The Extraordinary Life of a Global Adventurer by Michael Dobbs-Higginson

Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do by Wallace J. Nichols

When the Rivers Run Dry: Water – The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century by Fred Pearce

Still Water: Reflections on the Deep Life of the Pond by John Lewis-Stempel

The Chronology Of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

So there we go. Nineteen non-fiction and one novel. Have you heard of any of these? Has anyone read any of them?

You can find out more about 20 Books of Summer at Cathy’s blog and see who else is participating with the challenge here. Or follow the #20BooksOfSummer hashtag on twitter to see weekly progress from all those taking part.










June TBR

This is the first time that I have ever done anything like this as I normally plan what I am going to read on a spreadsheet and change it as things evolve over the month. But after a couple of positive comments from other bloggers, I thought that I would reveal what is on the TBR for June. I have split them into sections, Blog Tours for those that I have to read for a particular date, library books that are due back or have reservations on them. Then onto review copies and a section that I have called wishful thinking as I would love to get to them but with everything else going on, it probably won’t happen!


Blog Tours 

Trading in War: London’s Maritime World in the Age of Cook and Nelson by Margarette Lincoln

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

The A to Z of Skateboarding by Tony Hawk

Library Books

Tiny Churches by Dixe Wills

These Darkening Days by Benjamin Myers

The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (And Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) by Philippa Perry

White Mountain: Real And Imagined Journeys In The Himalayas by Robert Twigger

Defender by G X Todd

One Man And A Mule by Hugh Thomson

Review Books

Limits of the Known by David Roberts

Vickery’s Folk Flora: An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants by Roy Vickery

The Sea That Beckoned by Angela Gabrielle Fabunan

The Unlikeliest Backpacker: From Office Desk to Wilderness by Kathryn Barnes

All Together Now: One Man’s Walk in Search of His Father and a Lost England by Mike Carter

The Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds by Stephen Rutt

Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili

Tempest: An Anthology        Edited by Anna Vaught & Anna Johnson

Still Water: Reflections on the Deep Life of the Pond by John Lewis-Stempel

The Many Lives of Carbon by Dag Olav Hessen, Tr. Kerri Pierce

The Sea: A Celebration of Shorelines, Beaches and Oceans by Isobel Carlson

Wishful Thinking

The House of Islam by Ed Husain

Chasing the Ghost: My Search for all the Wild Flowers of Britain by Peter Marren

Origins: How The Earth Made Us by Lewis Dartnell

Quicksand Tales: The Misadventures Of Keggie Carew by Keggie Carew

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

The Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds

Origins: How The Earth Made Us by Lewis Dartnell

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

When: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

The Good Life: Up the Yukon Without a Paddle by Dorian Amos

A Raindrop in the Ocean: The Extraordinary Life of a Global Adventurer by Michael Dobbs-Higginson

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott

Coasting by Jonathan Raban

So that is it. If I spent less time on twitter then I might make some inroads into the backlog. Any on there that you have read, or want to read? Let me know in the comments below.

Book Musings – May 2019

May always seems a long month, however, the advantage of a long month is more time for reading, especially when you have two long weekends! Somehow I got through 21 books in the end and here they are. First up is the debut book from Alex Woodcock, King of Dust it is about his journey around the South West looking for churches that have Romanesque architecture. A really enjoyable book about a subject that I knew very little about. Stunning cover too.

Any home in the UK could be subject to a natural disaster, but when you can see your approaching meter by metre, it must be unnerving. In The Easternmost House, Juliet Blaxland talks about living on the east coast that is being eroded at a dramatic rate. Well worth reading. The other side of the country, Eat Surf Live is a book about the culinary and other delights of the Cornwall by Vera Bachernegg & Katharina Maria Zimmermann.  A beautifully produced book. Alo on the subject of food, The Picnic Book by Ali Ray is a celebration of outdoor food and is packed with recipies and places to visit.


Money is the lubricant of modern business and Dharshini David takes us on a journey that The Almighty Dollar takes as it wends its way around the world.

Only squeezed in one fiction this month, and it was the second book that I have read by Fredrik Backman. Wasn’t that struck on A Man Called Ove, but My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologises was much better.

I read three natural history books this month, Hare by Jim Crumley which was very good, but espresso sized. The Good Bee is a celebration of the black and yellow creatures that we are far more reliant on that we realise and Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum have written a book that celebrates them. The Way Home by Mark Boyle is a memoir about his life off-grid in Ireland. An interesting read.


My Poetry book this month was Take Me To The Edge by Katya Boirand. As you can probably see from the cover, this is not a conventional poetry book. Boirand has taken five words that were given to her and made a poem from them. Each poem is accompanied by a portrait of the provider.

Modern life is a cacophony of noise, alerts from phones and an ever-crowded planet we barely have any time for ourselves. Michael Harris’ book, Solitude is about removing external distractions and concentrating on the matter that is important to you at that moment. Interesting read.

Following on from that I read four science books.  Aurora by Melanie Windridge is about those magical lights that hang over the northern and southern hemispheres and the science behind them. Linda Geddes’ book, Chasing The Sun is about the source of our energy at the centre of the solar system and how we have evolved hand in hand with it over the millennia. Also, I read two of the new ladybird Science expert series Consciousness by Hannah Critchlow and Genetics by Adam Rutherford. Both concise books on their subjects.


Three more travel books this month. First was Bodie On The Road about Belinda Jones adoption of a rescue dog and her travels up and down the west coast of America. An enjoyable and unchallenging read. More reportage than travel, Gatecrashing Paradise by Tom Chesshyre is about the paradise island of the Maldives as he peers behind the luxury apartments. Finally, I read a book that the author, Gabriel Stewart sent me. Called I Went for a Walk. It is about his attempt to walk 1000 miles and some of the personal challenges that he faced doing it.


I hadn’t had many five star reads this year so far and then get three this month, Seashaken Houses by  Tom Nancollas, Earth from Space Michael Bright and Chloe Sarosh and finally Life at Walnut Tree Farm Rufus Deakin and Titus Rowlandson. All very different and all brilliant.


Book Musings – April 2019

April was a reasonable reading month, managed to get through 17 books in total, helped by the long weekend at Easter. Still have a massive backlog of books to read, not helped by buying more!


The AA sent me The Woman Who Rode A Shark. Primarily aimed at children, this book by Ailsa Ross & art by Amy Blackwell tells the stories of 50 women adventurers who have made a difference.

I actually read quite a lot of fiction this month too, South of the Border, West of the Sun was one that I found for a friend and before posting it off to her, read it. I think that it has been my favourite Murakami so far. I read Grief is a thing with Feathers when staying with my wife’s aunt one weekend. I liked it but didn’t love it like some people. Managed to get a copy of Lanny by Max Porter from the library. This story of a boy called Lanny and his place in the natural world has a dark undercurrent of folk horror. I really liked it.


I also read most of the shortlist from the Wellcome prize, including these two fiction offerings, Murmur by Will Eaves and My Year Of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. Murmur was the winner of the prize, in the end, but of these two I preferred the other!


The remainder of the shortlist were The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein, Mind on Fire by Arnold Thomas Fanning which is about his descent and recovery from mental illness and Heart by Sandeep Jauhar which is fairly self-explanatory. All were worthy inclusions to the shortlist but my favourite of these, and our Shadow Panel winner was The Trauma Cleaner. Not one to read when you are eating your lunch though.


Gabriel Hemery’s new book, Green Gold is a fictionalised account of the of a Victorian Plant Hunter called John Jeffrey. He has based the story of actual correspondence from the Association that sent him to the west of America in the search of plants and conifers. I thought it was really good.

I had read David Bramwell & Jo Keeling’s book called The Mysterium and realised that the library had The Odysseum. This is about Strange Journeys and things that have happened to people. Not bad overall.

Out of the Woods is a blend of memoir and natural history as seems to be the fashion these days. This by Luke Turner is also an exploration of his bi-sexuality and how he spends time in the forest to get some comfort amongst the trees.

This month poetry book was Sincerity by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. I have only read a couple of her works before but thought this was really good too.

Chris Mullin has written some of the best political diaries of recent years seen from the perspective of the back benches and a brief spell as a Junior Minister. This is a step back and a look at his time as a journalist, his first political stirrings, his marriage and now retirement from political life. Not as good as the diaries, but still worth reading.

Kassia St. Clair’s book, The Secret life of Colour, was really good, so I was looking forward to her next book. I managed to get hold of a copy of The Golden Thread. This wasn’t too bad in the end, but it did have some flaws that showed that it might have been rushed to publication. Fantastic cover though

I have actually met Dan Richards and interviewed him for his previous book, Climbing Days. In fact, the cover of that book adorns the wall of my office with the striking image by Stanley Donwood. I was really pleased to be sent a proof of his new book, Outpost by Canongate. In this, he heads out to visit as many bothys as possible. These small shelters are for walkers and explorers to shelter in overnight before heading onward on their travels. An excellent book that shows how he is maturing as a writer too. Looking forward to hearing his next project.

Monisha Rajesh’s first book was about taking 80 Trains around the colourful country of India. Her next book, was the logical next step up from there, Around the World in 80 Trains.  She is an author that engages with the people around her as she travels and this makes it a far more interesting book to read. Well worth reading.

I first came across David Seabrook last year when I read, All the Devils are Here. In that, he mentioned a series of killings in London and it turns out there was another book that he wrote about those murders called, Jack Of Jumps. It makes for grim reading, but this is still an unsolved murder case even though there has been plenty of speculation as to who the perpetrator was, including Seabrook’s own idea in here. Fascinating, if grim, reading.

Not a bad month overall. My book of the month was Outpost, which I would urge you to read if you can. Are there any here that you have read? Or want to read?

A few other questions for you too:

1. Do you like the summing up posts?

2. Would you like to see a monthly TBR Post of what I am planning to read?

3. Would you like to see blog posts with a more general book centred theme rather than just reviews?

Book Musings – March 2019

We are eight days into April already. It does mean that we have passed the equinox and the clocks have moved to Summertime. Spring is fully here now! Just here to sum up what I read in March and look ahead to April’s reads. Even though it is a long month, I only managed to read 16 books, probably because I spent waaaay too long faffing around on Twitter. So to the books.

Mark Beaumont is a machine and this book is proof of that. He originally broke the record for cycling around the world a few years ago and had subsequently lost it to other riders. Around the World in 80 Days was his attempt to not only get it back but to pretty much ensure that no one else would be taking it off him for a very long time.

I don’t read many graphic novels, but when I found this one by Neil Gaiman in the library it was a must. Really good as ever and reassuringly disturbing.


A couple of fiction book too this month, the first was Sight by Jessie Greengrass. This was longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize and my library had it. Wasn’t overly struck by it, to begin with, but it grew on me a little more by the end. I was sent In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne. This is one of the books on the Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist and is it set over 48 hours in London. We join it as tensions rise with a looming clash between the locals and a right-wing march through their home. Fast paced and visceral in its language.

I have only read one of Julia Blackburn’s book before call Thin paths. This latest one of hers, Time Song: Searching For Doggerland is partly a memoir and partly a book about this vanished landscape that is now under the North Sea. Well worth reading.

Jeremy Robson has been a publisher for years sometimes working for others, but mostly working form himself. This book, Under Cover, is all about his life spent publishing all sorts of people with all types of books. Highly entertaining reading.

Orchid Summer can be best summed up as a plant addict travelling all around the country to find the plants that he loves.  Jon Dunn is the addict concerned and he manages to make this very readable.


Assurances        J.O. Morgan        Poetry

The Point of Poetry        Joe Nutt        Poetry

The premise of Not Working: Why We Have to Stop sounded really good when I saw it in the catalogue, but it really didn’t work for me for a variety of reasons.


Adam Rutherford is best known as the presenter of Inside Science on BBC Radio 4, but he also writes some really good books. The Book of Humans is his latest and it is a well-written pop science book about our genetic story. New out this month is another book on the subject of the moment, sleep. This time Guy Leschziner is looking at how our brains and mind works when we are sleeping in The Nocturnal Brain. The best way of finding out how most people function is to look at those who don’t function correctly when it comes to sleep.

There are times when real ife is stranger than fiction and The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre recounts one of those stories here. Oleg Gordievsky was a KGB officer but also was a spy for MI6. The secrets and opinions that he passed back to his handlers were key in the cold war. It has a very dramatic ending too and is possibly better than some spy thrillers that I have read in the past.

Eight was a tiny theme going on this month, and the next book Around India in 80 Trains does exactly what it says on the title. Monisha Rajesh heads to the country of her parents to discover the places that have made India and at the same time get the cultural experience turned up to 11. Well worth reading. I have her next book to read in a week or so.

I hadn’t intended on collection this range of Little Toller books but somehow have ended up with four of them now. Ah well. This copy of In Pursuit of Spring had gone all the way out to Canada and then got sent to me by Allison. In the spring of 1913, beginning on March the 21st, Edward Thomas sets off on his bicycle to head to Somerset to discover the places in the south that were showing the first signs of spring. I started the book on the 21st and read a chapter a day. He travelled through places that I grew up in and my family name even gets a mention too!

The Wild Remedy was my book of the month. It is a book that is a thing of beauty and needs to be read by those that have emerged from the Winter and are still feeling the effects of depression. It is very personal too as Emma recounts points when she was at her very lowest ebb.

Any of these take your fancy? Or are there any that you have read?


Book Musings – February 2019

For such a short month, February seemed to last for ages. I spent a lot of time heading from Dorset to London too, three times for work and a couple for personal reasons, one of which was to judge the Stanford Dolman award. More on that in a later post, after it has been printed in NB Magazine. Anyway onto the books that I read in February. I managed to read 17 in the end. First up are my fiction reads


I was recommended The Hours by Michael Cunningham by a friend on twitter. The library had a copy so I thought, I’d give it a go. It is three stories all intertwined together but focused on the book Mr Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I have read one of his others, and really liked it, but this didn’t do it so much for me. Maybe it was because of the Woolf links as the only book of hers that I have read I could not get along with. I really like spy fiction, but most of what is out there, is broadly similar. The latest book, from Sarah Armstrong, The Wolves of Leninsky Prospekt              Fiction is the story of a woman who is kicked out of university and ends up marrying a childhood friend in a marriage of convenience before heading out to Moscow, where she becomes unintentionally embroiled in an espionage scandal. I also read one of the fiction offerings from the Wellcome longlist, Astoturf. This book by Matthew Sperling is about a character called Ned who isn’t getting the girls and is stuck in a dead end job. He is persuaded to try taking a short course in steroids to improve his physique. One thing leads to another and he starts a website selling his own brand of performance drugs. Very much a blokish book and I wasn’t that impressed.

In my reading challenges, I had promised to read the Discworld books that I hadn’t this year. The Last Hero was the first from that list and in true Terry Pratchett for it did not disappoint. Very funny and a tiny parody of life on our world too. I have been following Gareth L Powell on Twitter for a while now and was fortunate to be sent his book, Embers of War, last year. Didn’t get to read it until I picked it up when we were away for the weekend and heading up into London. This happened to be the weekend he was at the Forbidden Planet promoting his new book, Fleet of Knives, so I popped in to see him to buy a copy and to get both books signed. He is a genuinely nice guy and well worth following for his always positive posts. Anyway, the book, Embers of War is a book about a ship with a sparse crew on board who are there to help other ships in danger. When they are called to assist a ship in distress they don’t fully realise what they are getting into and it is not long before they realise they are right in the middle of a fast-escalating war. Really good stuff and I am looking forward to reading his next book.


Not really sure where to slot this one, but Silence: In The Age Of Noise is Erling Kagge’s thoughts and musings on the absence of noise and how it can benefit us. It is a beautifully produced book with lots of things to ponder.

There is a lot of talk about how the natural world can help you and how our lack of it is affecting mental health and wellbeing. This is brilliantly covered in the book, The Nature Fix. But how do you set about rediscovering something that we have been ignoring for the past few years? Well, Simon Barnes’ book, Rewild Yourself is a set of  23 ideas to help get you outside and making nature more relevant to you. There are lots of simple and inexpensive and most importantly practical tips to assist when you venture outside. I have lived some of my life near the coast and was really looking forward to reading the debut book by Charlotte Runcie called Salt On Your Tongue: Women And The Sea. This memoir is about her personal journey through pregnancy in the context of her love of the sea. She brings into it all sort of stories from myth and folklore as well as recent history. Really liked the writing style of it too, so if you have any longing for the coast then this could be for you.


My poetry book this month was Green Noise by the amazing Jean Sprackland. I had only read her non-fiction before now and now I have read this beautiful collection will read her other poetry books.

The Stanford Dolman shortlisted books are always worth reading, and Lights in the Distance by Daniel Trilling was one that I was looking forward to from there. It is about the realities of migration told through the personal stories of the people he meets. Powerful stuff and should be essential reading for lots of people.

I also read the others on the shortlist. Damian Le Bas’ book is called The Stopping Places where he travels around the UK and Southern France looking for the laybys where his Gypsy people paused in their journeys. Fascinating book on the almost hidden sub-culture of our country.  The Ottoman Empire was in existence for several hundred years before collapsing after the First World War. Even though it has been gone for a century, if you know where to look you can still see that the traces and echoes of the past are still there. Scott travels through twelve countries looking and talking to the people that have been displaced and who are still feeling the effects of the collapse. The Rhine is Europe longest river, reaching from the North Sea, across Germany and deep into the Alps. Ben Coates has written an entertaining book of his travel from his adopted home along the river to this source. Not quite as good as his first, but still worth reading though.


As well as the Stanford Dolman books that I was reading to judge, I also have read the Adventure travel shortlist and the next three are from that. A short book about a woman who inadvertently adopts a dog by Ishbel Holmes is as much about her torrid past as it is about Lucy the street dog. Really enjoyable and uplifting story. I have read one of Ben Fogle’s books before on Land Rovers, which was ok, but not brilliantly written. Up, about his training and successful attempt to climb Everest is a little better. I particularly liked the other side of the story told by his wife, Marina. It added a better depth to the story. As an adventurer, Levison Wood is hard to beat. He has walked halfway across Africa, across the rooftop of the world and through the jungles of Central America. This latest book of his travel around the Arabian peninsula doesn’t have a TV series to accompany it but is still worth reading none the less.


After the Beast from the East I was hoping for another pile of snow this year, sadly we only got the merest dusting. But the day it did snow seemed to be a good day to start reading The Little Book of Snow by Sally Coulthard. This beautifully produced book was a delightfully cornucopia of all sorts of facts and anecdotes about the white stuff. It makes a beautiful gift book.

My book of the month was The Last Hero. I have forgotten just how good STP could be. So do you like the look of any of these?

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