Category: Book Musings (Page 1 of 15)

January 2021 Review

That was the longest January that I think I have ever experienced. It seemed to go on forever. Even though it went on for ages I didn’t read as much as I thought that I was going to either (story of my life). However, I did manage to read seventeen books and still have a lot to review (!!) and here they are:

This was shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Travel Memoir Book prize and I actually met Peter at the prize ceremony. Footnotes is his book about travelling around the UK in the company of some of his favourite writers. I really liked it and it made me think of which writers I would like to follow if I were to make a similar journey.

We are reaching various crises at the moment. Covid is the most immediate, but just because we are not looking at others at the moment, doesn’t mean that they haven’t gone away. One which hasn’t is climate change and in Enough, Cassandra Coburn explains the principles behind the Planetary Health Diet and how but making significant changes, we can help climate change. It is a very interesting book.

Rotherweird is the story about a part of England that was established back in Elizabethan times to hold Twelve children, gifted far beyond their years. 450 years on it is still bound by its unique set of laws. Learning about its history is banned, but there is a new guy in town who is there to uncover it for his own personal gain. It is a richly imagined story.

I read two fiction books this month, both set in different parts of our world. On Borrowed Time is set in Hong Kong and is set at the time of the handover from the UK back to China. Various storylines converge in this medium-paced thriller. A very different and when it was released controversial book is American Dirt. This is about a mother and son story of fleeing from a Mexican drug cartel and hoping that they can get to America.

    

Growing up in Northern Ireland in Derry during the worst of the troubles, Kerri had seen a lot of violence. She left there and vowed never to return again, but witnessing that had left a lot of baggage to lug around. It reached a point where it was almost too much. Thankfully it didn’t and her route back to where she is mentally today is the story in the beautifully written memoir.

Saving the World – Women by Paola Diana is a short and tautly written book about improving gender equality. She strongly argues the case for breaking the glass ceiling and having more women at the top of society

My two poetry books this month were The Martian Regress – J.O. Morgan and Postcolonial Love Poem – Natalie Dia. Both very different as the first is about a lone martian returning to Earth and the second is a richly imagined collection see from the perspective of an indigenous American.

   

I read two, yes two, science fiction books in January! Use of weapons is one of the few in the culture series that I hadn’t read until now. It is not my favourite in the series, but it is still enjoyable as Banks is true to form all the way through. The second is more of a thriller set on Mars, but unlike that other one, this felt much more plausible.

   

We are a long time dead and the way that we commemorate those that we have lost is the subject of Tomb With A View. Ross travels all over the UK find the stories on the stones. Highly recommended.

Two of the four travel book that I read this month came from the wonderful people at Eland. Time Among the Maya is about Ronald Wright’s time spent wandering the Yucatan peninsular looking for the magnificent structures that they left behind, but it is as much about the people that still inhabit those countries. The second was the reportage/travel book from Martha Gellhorn and the strong opinions that she has of the places she visits. Lastly is Gavin Young’s book, In Search of Conrad. In here he spends lots of time on boats chasing the shadows of Joseph Conrad by sea, land and river, visiting ports and islands, from Singapore to the Straits of Makassar.

       

I had two five star books in January. The first is Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez. This concerns how badly skewed almost everything is towards the male; be it car safety, phone sizes and computer algorithms. She writes clearly and with some passion about her subject. The second was the latest travel book by John Gimlette. In The Gardens of Mars, he takes us all around the fascinating island of Madagascar and back through its short and turbulent history.

   

Anyone read any of these? Or do you now want to read any of these now you’ve seen them? Let me know in the comments below.

February 2021 TBR

Well, that was possibly the longest January on record. But we made it through. No sign of lockdown easing at the moment, and I still have an enormous pile of books to read. So without further ado, here is my slightly ambitious TBR for February:

 

Finishing Off (Still!)

Lotharingia – Simon Winder

American Dirt – Jeanie Cummins

 

Blog Tour

Botanical Curses and Poisons – Fez Inkwright

 

Review Copies

How Britain Ends – Gavin Esler

The Mahogany Pod – Jill Hopper

The Actuality – Paul Braddon

Like Fado – Graham Mort

Behind the Enigma – John Ferris

The Germans and Europe – Peter Millar

Wyntertide – Andrew Caldecot

Mrs Moreau’s Warbler – Stephen Moss

Sunny And The Wicked Lady – Alison Moore

 

Library Books

The Wild Laughter – Caoilinn Huges

A Beginner’s Guide To Japan – Pico Iyer

Constellations – Sinéad Gleeson

The Accidental Countryside – Stephen Moss

Red Sands – Caroline Eden

Spying on Whales – Nicholas Pyenson

The Bells of Old Tokyo – Anna Sherman

Everybody Lies – Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

The Lost Orchard – Raymond Blanc

On the Plain of Snakes – Paul Theroux

 

Challenge Books

Mirrors of the Unseen – Jason Elliot

The Marsh Arabs – Wilfred Theisger

Eating For England – Nigel Slater

Seveneves – Neal Stephenson

From Rome to San Marino – Oliver Knox

Hokkaido Highway Blues – Will Ferguson

 

Poetry

How The Hell Are You? – Glyn Maxwell

Black Country – Liz Berry

 

Science Fiction

None this month as I read two (yes two!!) in January

My Books of 2020

That wasn’t really the year that any of us were expecting at all. As grim as it has been I have still found some respite within the pages of books. These 14 books are my top reads of the year

The first three on my list are by the wonderful author, Terry Pratchett. The first two are the first in the Tiffany Aching sub-series of Discworld and the final one is his take on a riotous football match in the city of Ankh-Morpork. He is still one of my favourite authors.

          

 

One of the books that were in the category that I was judging at the beginning of the year for the Stanfords Travel Writing prize was Where There’s a Will by Emily Chappell. I did get to meet her there and she is modest and unassuming. It didn’t win the prize, that went to Rough Magic. However, this is one of the best and most intense cycling books that I have ever read.

Next on my best books of the year are four books from Eland. This publisher is one of my favourites as they plough on regardless unearthing the best travel books that have dropped off other publishers backlist. Two of them are set in World War 2 and are equally historical documents as well as the author’s reflection on the place that they working.

     

I am not sure that you would be able to recreate the journey that Nicolas Bouvier took now. Too many borders and conflict, but this is a snapshot on a world that seemed gentler and more tolerant. Brue Wannell is one of those people that we have fewer of these days. He was a traveller, linguist and Orientalist who knew so much about the history of the orient that he shared generously with all those that worked with him.

     

There are lots of books out there by cyclists and travellers who have been around the world for a variety of reasons, but this one by Stephen Fabes is one of the best that I have read. It is very different from Emily Chappell’s book as he doesn’t really rush, but takes time to see the people and places he is travelling through.

It is not often that we get a new young talent emerge onto the writing science, by Dara McAnulty is one who has taken the nature writing genre by storm this year, winning several prizes and showing that he is going to making an impact in years to come. Tim Dee is an author who has been around for many years and his latest, Greenery, continues his ability to form the same words that others use into wonderful forms.

     

Lev Parikian is a conductor who has rediscovered the natural world in his middle age. His first books, Why Do Birds Disappear was hilarious and Into The Tangle Bank continues that humourous way of looking a the natural world. On a completely different scale is Roy Vickery’s vast tome about the folklore and names and uses of British and Irish plants. It took me ages to read it, but it is a gold mine of a book that you can dip into again and again.

     

My book of 2020 is something very different,  Unofficial Britain by Gareth Rees. We have a lot of history in this country and if you know where and how to look you can decipher the lumps and bumps in the landscape. What Gareth Rees does in this book is to get us to look at those places that you would normally ignore and shows how others are using them for their own particular ritual elements. It is a heady mix of folklore, history, landscape and cityscape writing and all built on the foundation of psychogeography.

 

2020 Book Stats

I finished 190 books in 2020, there were several reasons for dropping from my 2019 total; really busy at work and distracted by what seems to be even more pressing world events at the moment. I did reach my Good Reads Target though.  Here are my stats for the last years reading.

My total pages read was 49347 and my monthly average of books was 17, just ahead of last years, 16.7. This broke down into these monthly totals:

January – 17

February – 16

March – 16

April – 16

May – 16

June – 16

July – 18

August – 17

September – 15

October – 15

November – 16

December – 12

 

The split of books read

Male Authors – 131

Female Authors – 59 i.e. 31% (This was 2% down on last year’s reading)

 

Review Copies – 94 (last year was 90)

Library Books – 42 (last year was 89)

Own Books– 54 (last year was 25)

 

Non-Fiction – 141 – 74.5%

Fiction – 25 – 13%

Poetry – 24 – 12.5%

 

Stars Awarded:

5 Stars – 14 Books
4.5 Stars – 21 Books
4 Stars – 79 Books
3.5 stars – 41 Books
3 stars – 27 Books
2.5 Stars – 4 Books
2 Stars – 3 Books
1.5 stars 0 Books
1 star – 0 Books

 

Genres

I use a spreadsheet to keep a note of the types and genres of books that I read. There are detailed below:

Travel 38
Natural History 26
Poetry 23
Memoir 13
Fiction 12
Science 9
Science Fiction 7
Fantasy 6
Landscape 5
History 5
Environmental 4
Miscellaneous 4
Language 3
Gardening 2
Britain 2
Maths 2
Politics 2
Biography 2
Craft 2
Psychology 2
Maps 1
Spying 1
Technology 1
Sport 1
Humour 1
Social History 1
Cricket 1
Reportage 1

Publishers

These are the number of books read by each publisher. The top eight are all independent publishers. Bloomsbury were top last year.

Eland 12
Faber & Faber 9
Elliott & Thompson 8
Canongate 8
Granta 7
Bloomsbury 6
Fly on the Wall Press 6
Little Toller 6
John Murray 6
Jonathan Cape 5
Saraband 5
Penguin 5
Picador 4
William Collins 4
Haus Publishing 4
Icon Books 3
Chelsea Green Publishing 3
Allen Lane 3
Cinnamon Press 3
Sandstone Press 3
Corgi 3
Penned In The Margins 2
Vintage 2
Melville House 2
Hamish Hamilton 2
September Publishing 2
Salt 2
Head of Zeus 2
Michael O’Mara Books 2
Bradt 2
Modern Books 2
Gollancz 1
Jo Fletcher 1
W&N 1
The Westbourne Press 1
Summersdale 1
The Bodley Head 1
Golden Antelope Press 1
Myriad Editions 1
Carcanet 1
Duckworth 1
Birlinn Books 1
Dey Street 1
Chroma Editions 1
Headline 1
Profile Books 1
Michael Joseph 1
Arcadia Books 1
Little, Brown 1
Batsford Books 1
Headline 1
Wildings Press 1
Stella Maris 1
Titan Books 1
Sphere 1
Portobello 1
Allen & Unwin 1
Seven Dials 1
4th Estate 1
Pelagic Publishing 1
Sort of Books 1
Twist It Press 1
Reaktion Books 1
Doubleday 1
Inkandescent 1
Pursuit Books 1
Wood Wide Works 1
Pan Macmilliam 1
Uniform Books 1
Unbound 1
Longbarrow Press 1
Octopus Publishing 1
Tor 1
Fitzcarraldo Editions 1
Influx Press 1

Favourite Book Covers of 2020

These are my favourite covers of the books that I have read over the course of 2020. They are in no particular order, but the one at the bottom is my cover of the year. The way I see it, the cover of the book has one job only and that is to be catching or attractive enough to make me want to pause, pick them up and then make me want to read it. In my opinion, all of these covers do that.

   

     

   

   

   

   

   

   

And my favourite cover is Wanderland

 

 

January 2021 TBR

Another year passes and I have small hopes for this one… Thankfully though there are books. New books and old books that I have yet to read. So without further ado, here is my TBR for the coming month

Finishing Off
Lotharingia – Simon Winder
Time Among the Maya – Ronald Wright
Footnotes – Peter Fiennes
A Tomb With A View – Peter Ross
Invisible Women – Caroline Criado-Perez

Blog Tour
On Borrowed Time – Graeme Hall
Enough – Dr Cassandra Coburn

Review Copies
The Gardens of Mars – John Gimlette
How Britain Ends – Gavin Esler
Thin Places – Kerri ní Dochartaigh
American Dirt – Jeanie Cummins
Rotherweird – Andrew Caldecot
Wyntertide – Andrew Caldecot
Behind the Enigma – John Ferris
The Germans and Europe – Peter Millar
Saving the World – Women – Paola Diana

Library Books
On The Marsh – Simon Barnes
Another Fine Mess – Tim Moore

Challenge Books
Mirrors of the Unseen – Jason Elliot
The Marsh Arabs – Wilfred Theisger
Travels With Myself And Another: Five Journeys From Hell – Martha Gellhorn
In Search of Conrad – Gavin Young
Use of Weapons – Iain M. Banks
Letters – Saul Bellow
Seveneves – Neal Stephenson

Poetry
The Martian Regress – J.O. Morgan
Postcolonial Love Poem – Natalie Diaz

Science Fiction
One Way – S.J. Morden

There are a few that have been on here before, but I am hoping to up my monthly total to crack through them

2021 Reading Intentions

The only New Year’s resolution that I have ever kept was the one where I vowed never to make another New Years resolution. These are therefore things that I plan to do in term of reading over the coming twelve months but are not hard or fast resolutions. I enjoy reading and I fear if it becomes too much of a chore or job then I’d stop. This fantastic Tom Gauld Cartoon sums it up for me.

 

My Own Books

I think this year I have bought in excess of 60 books, not sure exactly how many as I stopped counting then. So my note to myself from last year (try not to buy so many books) didn’t really get listened to… I did get given a first edition Lord of the Rings set and found a signed Margaret Durrell which I am quite pleased about. I have bought one new bookshelf and I am about to order another with some of my Christmas money. I realise that I have a lot of books that I want to read but not necessarily want to keep, so what I have decided to do with these books is to read them and pass on or back to charity shops or to my local secondhand bookshop. The aim of this is to free up some much-needed space!

 

Review Copies

I have managed to keep on top of my 2020 review copies, but have not really made any inroads into the massive backlog that I have acquired that goes back to 2018! I think there are around 93 review books that I need to read that still take up two shelves on the bookcase behind where I sit. I will be working my way through these as fast as I can and where I have been sent books to read that I hadn’t requested I will be passing them on or donating them to the library.

 

Library Books

My local library (Wimborne) has been fantastic during the most recent lockdown. They couldn’t open but were running a click and collect service. Yes, I still have too many library books out, and will still keep getting them out too, one of the factors that libraries are measured by is book issues so I like to feel that I am doing my part. I am fortunate that I have two library cards, what I intend to do is to get them down to a point where all my library books fit on one shelf on the bookcase in the lounge.

 

Female and BAME Authors

In 2020, 31% of my reading was by female authors. I was lower than I wanted, but intend to read at least 35% this coming year. I read 12 books by BAME authors this year and want to read at least one book a month next year too.

 

Poetry

Last year I managed to read two poetry books a month in 2020. I am aiming to continue this in 2021

 

Literary Awards

Having failed to do some or all of these last year I will be aiming to read all of these again

Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards (much shorter prize this year because of Stanford’s financial woes and the lack of travel)

Wainwright

Royal Society

Baillie Gifford

Arthur C Clarke

 

The World From My Armchair Challenge

I have read a further 20 books now for this from the countries listed below.

Bolivia
Brazil
Bulgaria
Cuba
Cyprus
Fiji
Greece
Kiribati
Latvia
Macedonia
Malaysia
Myanmar
Nepal
Slovakia
Somalia
Syrian Arab Republic
Timor-Leste
Turkey
Ukraine
Uzbekistan

I did spectacularly fail to read my #20BooksOf Summer which was all books for this; only managed half of them. I will be reading my way through the rest in the early part of this year. I have now read books about or passing through 64 countries and seas out of a total of 215 so far.

 

Discworld

Managed four more from the Discworld series this year, but these are still to go:

I Shall Wear Midnight

Snuff

Raising Steam

The Shepherd’s Crown

I am also intending on reading his Bromeliad series after I have finished Discworld

 

Science Fiction

Only read seven science fiction books this year which I am ashamed of really as I had high hopes of getting more than that read. Aiming to read at least one book a month again.

 

Blogging

I have always been a reader first and foremost and I get immense pleasure from reading and talking about books. It was reading that introduced me to NB magazine and the blog came off the back of that. I am still going to continue with the blog, mostly because of the friendships that I have got from it. It will still be all about the books though, but not exclusively about the shiny new books. I am still happy to receive a book for review if a publisher or publicist still wishes to send them to me and will only be requesting books that I really want to read so I can work my way through my backlog.

 

So there we have it, broadly the same as last year, with a few tweaks here and there.

 

What are your reading intentions?

Anticipated Books for 2021

I have been through all of the 2021 publishers catalogues that could lay my hands on (21 so far and still a few missing too). I have extracted all the books that I really like the look of. Most are non-fiction, as you have probably come to expect by now, but there are a smattering of fiction, sci-fi and the odd poetry in there.

Allen Lane
Mission Economy – Mariana Mazzucato
Math Without Numbers – Milo Beckman
Finding the Mother Tree – Suzanne Simard
Worn – Sofi Thanhauser
Ice Rivers – Jemma Wadham
Shape – Jordan Ellenberg

Bloomsbury
Male Tears – Benjamin Myers
A Still Life – Josie George
The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly Fishing – Mark Kurlansky
The Glitter in the Green – Jon Dunn
When America Stopped Being Great – Nick Bryant
I Belong Here – Anita Sethi
About Britain – Tim Cole
Kintsugi – Bonnie Kemske
Shedding the Shackles – Lynne Stein
Cuba – Mike Gonzalez
Going Dark – Julia Ebner
The Trick – William Leith
Sardinia – Edward Burman
Tangier – Richard Hamilton
Handmade – Anna Ploszajski
The Brilliant Abyss – Helen Scales
Much Ado About Mothing – James Lowen
Forecast – Joe Shute
Heathland – Clive Chatters
Treasured Islands – Peter Naldrett

Bodley Head
Under A White Sky – Elizabeth Kolbert
A Most Remarkable Creature – Jonathan Meiburg
The Day The World Stops Shopping – J. B. MacKinnon

British Library
The Book Lover’s Bucket List – Caroline Taggart
Spaceworlds – Edited by Mike Ashley
Future Crimes – Edited by Mike Ashley

Canongate
Thin Places – Kerri ní Dochartaigh
The Secret History of Here – Alistair Moffat

Chatto & Windus
Heavy Light – Horatio Clare
Snakes And Ladders – Selina Todd
Letters To Camondo – Edmund de Waal

Eland
Borderlines – Charles Nicholl
Somebody Else – Charles Nicholl
Letters from Egypt – Lucie Duff Gordon
The Turkish Embassy Letters – Mary Wortley Montagu
Three Cities of Morocco – Jerome and Louis Tharaud

Elliott & Thompson
The Future of You – Tracey Follows
Earthed A Memoir – Rebecca Schiller
The Pay Off – Gottfried Leibbrandt and Natasha De Terán
Lobby Life – Carole Walker
Beside the Seaside – Ian Walker

Faber & Faber
Britain Alone – Philip Stephens

Gollancz
What Abigail Did That Summer – Ben Aaronovitch

Harvill Secker
Seed to Dust – Marc Hamer
99 Green Maps To Change The World –

Head of Zeus
Languages Are Good For Us – Sophie Hardach
Voyagers – Nicholas Thomas
The Gardens of Mars Madagascar – John Gimlette
How Britain Ends English Nationalism and the Rebirth of Four Nations – Gavin Esler
The Physics of Climate Change – Lawrence Krauss
The Wild Isles – Patrick Barkham (ed.)

Headline
The Circling Sky – Neil Ansell

Icon Books
Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars – Kate Greene
Shearwater – Roger Morgan-Grenville
Sealand – Dylan Taylor-Lehman
Imperial Mud – James Boyce
Half Lives – Lucy Jane Santos

John Murray
Hot Stew – Fiona Mozley
Extraterrestrial – Avi Loeb
Futureproof – Kevin Roose
Super Senses – Emma Young
The Hunt For Mount Everest – Craig Storti
Outlandish – Nick Hunt
Checkmate In Berlin – Giles Milton
A Length Of Road – Robert Hamberger

Jonathan Ball
Hitler’S Spies – Evert Kleynhans

Jonathan Cape
Ransom – Michael Symmons Roberts
Waypoints – Robert Martineau

Little Toller

They are planning on releasing ten books in 2021, I have only been told about these so far:

Swifts – Charles Foster
Long Field – Pamela Petro
Millstone Grit

Michael Joseph
A Walk from the Wild Edge – Jake Tyler
A History of What Comes Next – Sylvain Neuvel
Peter 2.0 – Peter Scott-Morgan
A New History of Britain – Philip Parker
Latitude – Nick Crane
12 Birds to Save Your Life – Charlie Corbett

Oneworld
Weirdest Maths At the Frontiers of Reason – David Darling and Agnijo Banerjee
Why You Won’t Get Rich – Robert Verkaik
Some Assembly Required – Neil Shubin
The Art of Patience – Sylvain Tesson, Tr. Frank Wynne
Social Warming – Charles Arthur
The Last Stargazers – Emily Levesque

Pan Macmillan
Hunter Killer Spy – James E Mack

Particular Books
Slow Rise – Robert Penn
Birdsong in a Time of Silence – Steven Lovatt
Lev’s Violin – Helena Attlee

Picador
The Quiet Americans – Scott Anderson
The System – Robert B. Reich
The Book Collectors of Daraya – Delphine Minoui
A World on the Wing – Scott Weidensaul
The Stone Age – Jen Hadfield
The Book of Difficult Fruit – Kate Lebo
Revolt – Nadav Eyal
Everybody – Olivia Laing
A Place For Everything – Judith Flanders
Wayfinding – Michael Bond

Profile Books
Notes From Deep Time – Helen Gordon
Field Work – Bella Bathurst
The Greywacke – Nick Davidson
Mountain Tales – Saumya Roy
How to Spend a Trillion Dollars – Rowan Hooper

Quercus
Sad Songs – Laura Barton
A history of the universe in 100 stars – Florian Freistetter
The Plant Hunter’s Atlas – Ambra Edwards

Reaktion Books
An Inky Business – Matthew J. Shaw
Nature Fast and Nature Slow – Nicholas P. Money
Ash – Edward Parker
Cherry – Constance L. Kirker and Mary Newman

Sandstone Press
The Actuality – Paul Braddon
The Weekend Fix – Craig Weldon

Saraband
Westering – Laurence Mitchell
The Mahogany Pod – Jill Hopper

Scribe Books
The Ghost in the Garden – Jude Piesse
The Rare Metals War – Guillaume Pitron
Waters of the World – Sarah Dry

September Publishing
Two Lights – James Roberts

Serpent’s Tail
The Disconnect – Roisin Kiberd

Square Peg
Gardening For Bumblebees – Dave Goulson

Transworld
The Wild Track – Margaret Reynolds
Red Line – Joby Warrick
Elegy For a River – Tom Moorhouse
Woodston – John Lewis-Stempel
The Age of Unpeace – Mark Leonard
Taking on Gravity – Richard Browning
The Spy who was left out in the Cold – Tim Tate

Two Roads
Back To nature – Chris Packham & Megan McCubbin
The Lip – Charlie Carroll
Windswept – Annabel Abbs

W&N
Kim and Jim – Michael Holzman
The Life Scientific – Anna Buckley
How to Read Numbers – Tom Chivers and David Chivers

White Rabbit
The Foghorn’s Lament – Jennifer Lucy Allan

NEW ADDITIONS:

Salt Publishing

White Spines – Nicholas Royle

 

Duckworth

Deeper Into The Wood        Ruth Pavey

 

Chelsea Green

From What Is to What If – Rob Hopkins

Barn Club – Robert Somerville

Wild Nights Out – Chris Salisbury

 

William Collins

The Black Ridge – Simon Ingram

Islands of Abandonment – Cal Flyn

Land – Simon Winchester

River Kings – Cat Jarman

The Wood Age – Roland Ennos

A Curious Boy – Richard Fortey

The Fragile Earth – Ed. David Remnick & Henry Finder

Restoring the Wild – Roy Dennis

Einstein’s Fridge – Paul Sen

Truth is Beautiful – David McCandless

Beak, Tooth and Claw – Mary Colwell

Swifts and Us – Sarah Gibson

Bat, Ball and Field – Jon Hotten

Noise – Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony & Cass R. Sunstein

Phosphorescence – Julia Baird

Mother of Invention – Katrine Marçal

 

4th Estate

What If We Stopped Pretending? – Jonathan Franzen

Sea State – Tabitha Lasley

Albert and the Whale – Philip Hoare

How to be Sad – Helen Russell

Hummingbird Salamander – Jeff VanderMeer

Thinking Better – Marcus du Sautoy

 

Granta

The Language of Thieves – Martin Puchner

Wars of the Interior – Joseph Zárate Tr Annie McDermott

Karachi Vice – Samira Shackle

Comic Timing – Holly Pester

Undreamed Shores – Frances Larson

Had I Known – Barbara Ehrenreich

The End of Bias – Jessica Nordell

Comrade Aeon’s Field – Emma Larkin

 

Any that take you fancy? And are there any that you know about that you think that I should know too?

November 2020 Review

Another month rushes by and we emergy from Lockdown lite into winter and the coronavirus rippling its way through the population once again. It has been a difficult year in so many ways and whilst I have been distracted at times, books once again have been a solace at times too. I somehow managed to read 16 books during November, probably because of the three poetry books I ended up reading. It was a good month too all good books and finally finished one that I had been reading for absolutely ages. So here they are

I normally only try to do one blog tour a month as reading to a deadline is not always convenient but I promised to do three in November. The first was a book called The Greatest Beer Run Ever by John Donohue and I chose to do this because it sounded utterly mad. It started in a bar and He agrees to head to Vietnam to pass on some beers to friends of his and others who are fighting in the war there. And I was right, it was mad and a heartwarming read.

My second blog tour book was, Lev Parikian’s new book, Music To Eat Cake By. In this, he was challenged to write articles on any subject by whoever sponsored him. So here, you will find essays and musings on birds, cricket, snooker, space travel, a bit more cricket, hiccups, music and a little more cricket. It is hilarious. Read it.

For those playing apocalypse bingo, we haven’t had the asteroid yet this year, but there are still a few more days to go. The end of the world is something that has troubled people for millennia.  Adam Roberts normally writes science fiction, so is quite used t thinking about different places and worlds. His take on the end of the world is quite upbeat all things considered.

        

 

Nightingales In November is actually about them all year round. I thought that this was a nicely written book about twelve species of birds and what they do month by month. Increasing from twelve birds to 366, Dominic Couzens has had the difficult job of picking from the 10,000 or so species around the world and condensing them into this charming book. There is much more to fungi than mushrooms on toast and The Secret Life of Fungi by Aliya Whiteley tells all about their hidden worlds.

   

Two more books on birds I read this month were Featherhood and Blood Ties. In the first, Charlie Gilmour writes about the way his life was changed by the addition of a baby magpie. It helps him deal with all of the events of his life and come a little way to understanding his actual father. Ben Crane’s book is about falcons and building a relationship with his son. Both very different and yet have lots of things in common.

        

This is a compilation of poetry art and photography all about Manchester called Mancunian Ways.  I have never visited the city, but this short volume gives a good flavour of its character.  I can’t remember where I picked this volume of Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry from, but I liked the previous stuff of hers that I had read. Rapture is about love in all of its myriad forms. Caroline Bird’s latest collection is starting to get onto shortlists, including most recently the Costa. Library had a copy so I got hold of a copy and then someone else reserved it, so it got bumped up the list. I quite liked The Air Year it is very different from other poetry I have read in the past and she digs deep in her emotions to find the words.

We all have blood flowing through us, and in Nine Pints, Rose George takes us around and out of the body in search of this life-giving fluid. It is a fascinating book on all manner of things that will make some people cringe.

The third blog tour that I was on this month was the final book in Peter F. Hamilton’s Science Fiction trilogy, The Saints of Salvation. It is fast-paced and set across thousands of light-years as humanity fights back against the Olyix. Great ending to the series.

TV affects culture as much as culture affects TV and Phil Harrison looks at the way that the British have dances and moved with the box in the corner of our rooms. It makes for fascinating reading.

Having read On Fiji Islands by Ronald Wright, I want to go to the islands. This was his account of staying there in the 1980s and is an enlightening experience,

Vickery’s Folk Flora is the book that I started way back in 2019 and have dipped into for snippets of information about all manner of plants over the past mumble mumble number of months that I have taken to read it. It is brilliant and if you have any interest in folklore, social history or most importantly plants, then you need a copy of this. It is my book of the month for November.

December 2020 TBR

It is already the 1st of December! How? I have a very short TBR this month, primarily as I have two aims:

  • Finish my Good Reads Challenge of 190 books and I have got 12 to go
  • Finish all my 2020 requested review copies

So here they are:

How Spies Think – David Omand

Behind the Enigma – John Ferris

One Day in August – David O’Keefe

American Dirt – Jeanie Cummins

Time Among the Maya – Ronald Wright

Fifty Words for Snow – Nancy Campbell

Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics -Peter Geoghegan

 

I know that is five short, so I will be picking some from here:

The Maths Of Life And Death – Kit Yates

Seveneves – Neal Stephenson

Letters – Saul Bellow

The Prester Quest – Nicholas Jubber

Mirrors of the Unseen – Jason Elliot

Use of Weapons – Iain M. Banks

In Search of Conrad -Gavin Young

Travels With Myself And Another – Martha Gellhorn

Toast – Nigel Slater

The Marsh Arabs – Wilfred Theisger

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