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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.

Tiny Churches by Dixe Wills

4 out of 5 stars

Whilst not particularly religious, Dixe Wills still takes time to pop into most of the churches that he passes as he travels around the countryside on his bike. These places are not huge edifices that can seat hundreds, rather they are modest buildings that have served the needs of their local communities for years, and in quite a lot of cases hundreds and hundreds of years.

For this book, Wills has had to reduce his shortlist down to 60 buildings and in line with his other books, he has chosen the smallest of them. Even the largest of those his has picked can seat 30 or so at a squeeze, but most only have room for a dozen or so. The range of building he has selected too is impressive, there are places that disappeared and the buildings were discovered much later with original architecture intact. He visits an amazing chapel made from Nissan Huts by Italian Prisoners of War WW2 up in Orkney. There are buildings that highlight the Romanesque, the Gothic and even takes us to the oldest wooden church in the country. It never ceases to amaze me just how old some of these places are. Frequently Norman and a significant number of churches with Anglo Saxon origins and even one with Roman foundations.

It is not a spiritual journey rather a pilgrimage to the tiny, quirky and always impressive spiritual focal points of villages and towns. I like Will writing style as he always manages to find lots of interesting things to say about any of the subjects that he is writing about, and this is no different, each church has a potted history of its significant features and his own personal take of his visit. Most importantly you can go and visit these yourself, clear details are given on how to get there and each mini-biography is accompanied by lovely photos of the church in question and some of the internal fittings and settings. Not just a book for the architecture buff, but one for those that have a passing interest in the places they are rooted in. A good companion volume to The King of Dust by Alex Woodcock.

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

The Sea by Isobel Carlson

3 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

We are fortunate in the UK to have a close association with the coast and the sea. A day spent by the seaside can do wonders for our wellbeing. It doesn’t matter whether you have gone for a walk along the shore, sat on a beach eating fish and chips or been brave enough to take a dip in our cold seas, it has a way of restoring something deep inside us.

This charming little book from Isobel Carlson is a celebration of the coasts, coves bays and open oceans that cover our world. In here she has snippets about the creatures that inhabit the sea, spectacular coastlines that we should try and see and things to do when you do make it to the sea. The lovely photos make this a nicely presented gift book all about the sea and coast. However, I did feel that it was missing a bibliography for those that are finding more out about a subject and it would have been good to see more than three pages on environmental and plastic concerns. I thought it could have had more on the perilous state our oceans are in.

Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer and published by Ebury.


About the Book

The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. An outrageous feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the army of Genghis Khan, the Derby sees competitors ride 25 horses across 1000km, and it’s rare that more than half of the riders make it to the finish line.

In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, wildly underprepared and in search of the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Finding on the wild Mongolian steppe strength and self-knowledge she didn’t know she possessed, even whilst caught in biblical storms and lost in the mountains, Lara tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. She didn’t just complete the race: in one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she won, becoming the youngest-ever competitor to conquer the course.

A tale of endurance, adventure and man’s struggle to tame the wild, Rough Magic is the extraordinary story of one woman’s quest to find herself in one of the most remote and challenging landscapes on earth.


About the Author

Lara Prior-Palmer was born in London in 1994. Her aunt is Lucinda Green, a legendary rider and one of the UK’s best-ever equestrians. Lara studied conceptual history and Persian at Stanford University. In 2013, she competed in the 1000 kilometre Mongol Derby in Mongolia, sometimes described as the world’s toughest and longest horse race. Rough Magic is her first book.


My Review

The Mongol Derby is the world hardest horse race. The aim is to ride 600s mile across the Mongolian plains, that was once the home of the army of Genghis Khan.  The ride takes 10 days and they are restricted in the time they can ride each day and how hard they can push their horses too. The riders swap horses at regular intervals, transferring saddles onto a new horse that they have seen before at each urtuu they stop at.  

Her race began in 2009, and there are around 30 to 40 entries each year to travel across this beautiful landscape and they will travel across lush valleys, woodlands, rivers, mountains and the steppe that this part of the world is famous for. Riding for that distance takes its toll on the competitors and the race will be lucky to see half of the starters actually complete it. On a whim Lara Prior-Palmer decided to enter the race and sent off her application, secretly hoping that she wouldn’t get in. They accepted and even knocked down the entry fee when they realised that her aunt was the Lucinda Green of Badminton Trails fame.

Prior-Palmer was totally unprepared and being a late entry meant that she had missed all the preparation that the organisers recommend for the race. On top of that, she would be one of the youngest competitors at the age of 19. The disclaimer on the website is fairly blunt:

We want to point out how dangerous the Mongol Derby is. By taking part in this race you are greatly increasing your risk of severe physical injury or even death.

She’d missed that originally and it was too late to cancel or take any of her vaccinations. However, it was time to catch a plane and head around the world to the city of Ulaanbaatar to meet the other competitors and have the pre-race briefing. It was slowly dawning on her just what she’d taken on. Next, they were heading out onto the steppe to acclimatize and final prep for the race. Then before she knew it, it was time to start, there was a blessing from the Lama and they were off.

So she begins 10 days of racing against the other competitors, the landscape and herself. Even though it is the first person past the finishing line who will win, there are time penalties for pushing your horse too hard and disqualification is certain cases. They have to navigate using the maps and GPS to each of the urtuu’s where they swap to their next pony after the vets have examined their previous one. The pony you choose next can make or break that leg. The landscape is endlessly challenging with marmot holes to trip horse and rider. At the end of the first day she is second to last.

Riding for that amount of time would be tough enough on a seasoned rider who knew the horse, but for each leg , they choose an animal that they have never seen before, let alone ridden. By the start of the third day, her legs felt like lead. Only seven more days to go… The leader of the Derby was a girl from Texas, called Devan,  and she didn’t seem to want to be relinquishing the lead any time soon. Some drop out of the race and slowly she start to catch the leader, even setting a record for the highest number of legs completed in one day. She never thought she’d finish but she might be in with a chance at this.

I like horses but have only been brave enough to go on one once. At first glance, this wouldn’t normally my sort of thing, but this is a good example of taking a chance on a book because sometime you can be surprised. This account of the frantic dash across the Mongolian steppe is nicely balanced between a personal account of the race and a memoir of her life with a light dusting of travel writing. She is quite naive, forgetting all manner of things, does almost zero preparation and makes other errors that would cost someone else the race. What she does have though is grit and determination as well as a desire, not necessarily to win, but to upset the applecart and defy all expectations. Even though I knew what the result was from the blurb, I still turned the final pages in a frantic rush as both competitors head into the final stages of the race. It is what good non-fiction should be, a strong narrative about a subject that you may not know about with a personal angle. Well worth reading.


Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour


Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to Ebury and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for the copy of the book to read.

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.










The Unlikeliest Backpacker by Kathryn Barnes

3.5 out of 5 stars

Some people are happy with routine in their lives and have found a balance between working and relaxing that suits them. Kathryn Barnes and her husband, Conrad weren’t those people though. Something didn’t feel right they had travelled in the past for fairly big chunks of time, and the call to see more of the world was beckoning again. A germ of an idea grew larger and before they knew it they had quit their jobs and booked a flight to the West Coast of America to walk 1000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail or PCT as it is normally known

There was one tiny issue though, they hadn’t got any experience of hiking. Or camping. Inexperienced would be an understatement, they are city birds and have barely walked anywhere unless they could help it. This wouldn’t be the whole route though, they were just going to walk the section from northern California, through Oregon and Washington and just over the Canadian border. Not only would they have to carry everything on their backs, but the route they were walking was known for mountain lions and bears.

Even though they were departing in June they knew as soon as they got to the higher altitudes there would be snow, it was going to be a steep learning curve in more ways that one. Starting off with small daily mileages as their stamina and experience grew they were able to build the distance they could travel over the course of the trek. The views were spectacular, and so were the midges… They encountered all sorts of characters on their walk, from the warm and generous people that helped them out when they needed it with spare kit and lifts to the very occasional sinister individual. One person though who pops up most days is Dan as they seem to roughly keep pace with him.

I did like this book, as it had a certain charm to it. Barnes is quite honest in her writing and is prepared to tell it how it is, from the highs of standing at the top of the passes, drinking in the views and letting the peace of the woods soak into their psyche to the very low points when they squabbled over the most trivial of things. Even though they didn’t walk the entire trail, it has made her reconsider all her priorities.  Some of what they learnt as a couple she shares at the end of the book, especially the essential tip to appreciate it as you pass through. There are practical details and links for those wanting to undertake a similar experience. It has made them think about their relationship with the wider world, and seriously think about leaving London. I did feel that the book was missing photos of their walk, they obviously took lots as it is mentioned fairly often in the text. There are some on her website though:

The White Darkness by David Grann

4.5 out of 5 Stars

The line between focus and obsession is very thin. Henry Worsley was one of those who crossed backwards and forwards over the line. He was a devoted husband and father and when serving in the special forces, was decorated for bravery. One Worsley‘sobsessions though was Ernest Shackleton. This explorer tried to become the first person to reach the South Pole and even attempted to cross the frozen continent on foot. Sadly he never succeeded in these adventures, but his leadership skills meant that he kept his men from dying.

It was those leadership skills that Worsley used when commanding his own men. There was another link too, Frank Worsley, one of Shackleton’s men, was a relation. He began to collect some of the items from the expeditions across the ice. He began to feel the call of the ice and started to plan his own expedition there. In 2008 he arrived there with two other descendants from Shackleton’s team. Nothing is easy in Antarctica and they fought against the landscape and the place to reach their goal. However, it did not get it out of his system. Antarctica became a place that he felt at home and seven years later, he was back there; this time to walk alone on a 1000 mile journey across the whole continent. He was going to have to pull all his supplies on a sled as he was not dependent on supply drops. It was a high-risk journey that was fraught with danger.

This is a short and intense book that is very moving. I had never read any of Grann’s books before but I thought that his writing is excellent. The descriptions of Worsley’s trips to Antarctica are sparse and yet full of presence. Not only is the story in this book quite something, but the photos taken from Worsley’s and the Shackleton collection are stunning.  Can highly recommend this for anyone who has a fascination with the southern ice and about an amazing guy who was so driven to the ultimate limit.

Trading in War by Margarette Lincoln

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Trading in War by Margarette Lincoln and published by Yale Books.


About the Book

A vivid account of the forgotten citizens of maritime London who sustained Britain during the Revolutionary Wars

In the half-century before the Battle of Trafalgar the port of London became the commercial nexus of a global empire and launch pad of Britain’s military campaigns in North America and Napoleonic Europe. The unruly riverside parishes east of the Tower seethed with life, a crowded, cosmopolitan, and incendiary mix of sailors, soldiers, traders, and the network of ordinary citizens that served them. Harnessing little-known archival and archaeological sources, Lincoln recovers a forgotten maritime world. Her gripping narrative highlights the pervasive impact of war, which brought violence, smuggling, pilfering from ships on the river, and a susceptibility to subversive political ideas. It also commemorates the working maritime community: shipwrights and those who built London’s first docks, wives who coped while husbands were at sea, and early trade unions. This meticulously researched work reveals the lives of ordinary Londoners behind the unstoppable rise of Britain’s sea power and its eventual defeat of Napoleon.


About the Author

Dr Margarette Lincoln was director of research and collections and, from 2001, deputy director of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. She is now a visiting fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. She lives in London.


My Review

The Port of London has always been significant, but in the fifty or so years before the Battle of Trafalgar, it grew and grew in importance becoming the commercial hub of what was rapidly becoming a global empire. The docks were east of the Tower of London and centred in the Parishes of Rotherhithe, Deptford, Greenwich and Wapping. Other parishes around supplied materials and people into the riverside shipwrights and victualler that kept the vast machine that was the Navy, fed.

On top of all the industry, there was a seething mass of humanity, dockers, sailors, shipwrights, traders, cooks, crooks and Navy wives who lived in the area. This place was changing rapidly as it expanded to meet the demands of the crown. The dynamics though meant that it was a place that brought in people who had a different view on the rule of law. Not only were there criminals and thieves but with a revolution in the air over the channel in France, then there was an undercurrent of subversion and open challenges to the authority of the monarch.

It is a vivid story of life in the London docks. Just some of the details that Lincoln has uncovered in the excellent social history are quite staggering. For example, bakers made 6500kg of biscuits a day to keep the navy supplied, a constant supply of livestock that was being slaughtered for food for the ships. Women who took over from their late husbands and continued to supply the navy for years after. Most campaigns could not have been undertaken without the tonnes of material that flowed into the docks and headed out onto the world’s oceans and as the area became more important more businesses appeared to ensure that they could become suppliers to the docks and shipbuilders. There were chemical factories producing sulphuric acid in huge vats, as well as a never-ending stream of felled trees to build the ships being launched fairly frequently.

If you have any interest in the history of London, maritime events or social history then I can highly recommend this. This is crammed with detail, the narrative takes you from musings on the political changes of the time to personal stories of the people that lived, worked, sailed from the port right up to global events that affected the ebb and flow of life in the area. I liked the way that the chapters are split into broad themes. Lincoln writes with clarity, ensuring that this really complex story of London does not read like an academic text.


Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour


About the Wolfson History Prize

First awarded by the Wolfson Foundation in 1972, the Wolfson History Prize remains a beacon of the best historical writing being produced in the UK, reflecting qualities of both readability for a general audience and excellence in writing and research. The most valuable non-fiction writing prize in the UK, the Wolfson History Prize is awarded annually, with the winner receiving £40,000, and the shortlisted authors receiving £4,000 each. Over £1.1 million has been awarded to more than 100 historians in the prize’s 47-year history. Previous winners include Mary Beard, Simon Schama, Eric J. Hobsbawm, Amanda Vickery, Antony Beevor, Christopher Bayly, and Antonia Fraser.

To be eligible for consideration, authors must be resident in the UK in the year of the book’s publication (the preceding year of the award), must not be a previous winner of the Prize and must have written a book which is scholarly, accessible and well written.

To learn more about the Wolfson History Prize please visit, or connect on Twitter via @WolfsonHistory / #WolfsonHistoryPrize.

About the Wolfson History Prize Judges

David Cannadine is an historian of modern British history from 1800 to 2000 and a trustee of the Wolfson Foundation. He is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University, a Visiting Professor of History at the University of Oxford, the editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and became President of the British Academy in July 2017. He has previously taught at the University of Cambridge and Columbia University, New York. He was Director and Professor of History at the Institute of Historical Research from 1998-2003. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Literature, the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society. In 2009 he was awarded a knighthood for services to scholarship. His publications include Margaret Thatcher: A Life And Legacy (2017), The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond our Differences (2012), Mellon: An American Life (2006), Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (2001), Class in Britain (1998), and The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy (1990).  He has contributed to many national bodies in heritage and the arts, including the National Portrait Gallery, English Heritage, Westminster Abbey, the Victorian Society, Royal Academy Trust and the Library of Birmingham Trust.


Richard Evans is Provost of Gresham College in the City of London and Regius Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of numerous books on modern German and European History, including A Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years 1830-1910, which won the Wolfson History Prize in 1989. His most recent books are The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914, a volume in the Penguin History of Europe, and Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History, published in February 2019. From 2010 to 2017 he was President of Wolfson College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and was knighted in 2012 for services to scholarship.


Carole Hillenbrand has been Professor Emerita of Islamic History at the University of Edinburgh since 2008 and Professorial Fellow (Islamic History), at the University of St Andrews since 2013. Studied Modern and Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge, Arabic and Turkish at the University of Oxford, and wrote a PhD on Islamic history at the University of Edinburgh.  She has held Visiting Fellowships in America and Holland. She was elected an Honorary Life Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford in 2010 and a Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America in 2012.  She was awarded the King Faisal International Prize in Islamic Studies in 2005 and the British Academy/ Nayef Al Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding in 2016. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Historical Society. In 2009 she was awarded an OBE for services to Higher Education and in 2018 she was awarded a CBE for services to the understanding of Islamic history.


Diarmaid MacCulloch is a Fellow of Saint Cross College and Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Historical Society and of the Society of Antiquaries of London; he co-edited the Journal of Ecclesiastical History for twenty years. He was ordained deacon in the Church of England in 1987 and in 2012 was knighted for services to scholarship. His chosen research field has been Tudor England (including a biography of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and a study of the Reformation under Edward VI); he has also written on the wider history of the European Reformation and on world Christianity generally. His History of Christianity: the first three thousand years (winner of the 2010 Hessell-Tiltman Prize and the 2010 Cundill History Prize, Montreal) was followed by the BBC series A History of Christianity (given the Radio Times Readers’ Award, May 2010). Further television work has included How God made the English, 2012, Henry VIII’s Fixer: the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, 2013, and Sex and the Church, 2015. His biography of Thomas Cromwell was published in September 2018. He won the Wolfson History Prize in 2004 for Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700.


About the Wolfson Foundation

The Wolfson Foundation ( is an independent grant-making charity that aims to promote the civic health of society by supporting excellence in the arts & humanities, education, science and health. Since 1955, almost £900 million (£1.9 billion in real terms) has been awarded to nearly 11,000 projects and individuals across the UK, all on the basis of expert peer review. The Wolfson Foundation is committed to supporting history and the humanities more broadly. Since 2012, awards across the UK of more than £10.7 million have been made for Postgraduate Scholarships to support research in the humanities at universities, and some £11 million to museums and galleries, as well as numerous awards for historic buildings. You can connect via twitter @wolfsonfdn.

Buy this and all of the others on the shortlist at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to Ben at Midas PR for the copy of the book to read.

You Are What You Read by Jodie Jackson

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for You Are What You Read by Jodie Jackson and published by Unbound.


About the Book

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and powerless after watching the news? Does it make you feel sad about the world, without much hope for its future? Take a breath – the world is not as bad as the headlines would have you believe.

In You Are What You Read, campaigner and researcher Jodie Jackson helps us understand how our current twenty-four-hour news cycle is produced, who decides what stories are selected, why the news is mostly negative and what effect this has on us as individuals and as a society.

Combining the latest research from psychology, sociology and the media, she builds a powerful case for including solutions into our news narrative as an antidote to the negativity bias.

You Are What You Read is not just a book, it is a manifesto for a movement: it is not a call for us to ignore the negative but rather a call to not ignore the positive. It asks us to change the way we consume the news and shows us how, through our choices, we have the power to improve our media diet, our mental health and just possibly the world.


About the Author

Jodie Jackson is an author, researcher and campaigner. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of East London (UK) where she investigated the psychological impact of the news.

As she discovered evidence of the beneficial effects of solutions focused news on our wellbeing, she grew convinced of the need to spread consumer awareness. She is a regular speaker at media conferences and universities. Jodie is also a qualified yoga teacher and life coach.


My Review

When did you last see a good news story? We seem to have a diet of really bad news that never stops. Even when the presenter is talking about the latest disaster there is a ticker tape of sub-stories that expand to fill the vacuum of the entire day. It is just draining listening to or reading the stories that flood out of our media. I stopped watching a while ago now, and even though I buy the weekend papers, I tend to read the supplements rather than the main section. Thankfully though, there could be another way and campaigner and researcher Jodie Jackson wants to show us it.

First, though, you have to understand that psychology of why the media outlets produce the material that they do, Jackson goes into the details behind the headlines, why bad news rather than good news sells and the cumulative effect that this has on our mental well being. She addresses points on fake news, and churnalism, where journalists take a very liberal view of the truth in the speed to get the articles written for the ever hungry news machine.

She says that we don’t need to stop seeing bad news, being informed about significant world events is necessary, however, we need to limit our intake of it. What Jackson is advocating though is looking for alternative sources for your news, places that have taken time to do the proper research about a topic, can write with a balanced view and are seeking to inform rather than just go for the sensational headline. Seeking solution focused news sources that concentrate on innovation, initiative peacebuilding and positive responses to social issues need to make up a significant proportion of our media diet.

 There are various methods and suggestions in the book that are very sensible. Stop reading the dirge from the media outlets that want sensational headlines and find those that have a more considered and balanced approach. Avoid the tabloids they are preaching to a base level of readers as well as trying to dictate the political agenda in a lot of cases. Read from different perspectives on the same story. Don’t forget though, we as the consumers of this actually hold the power, if we stop buying and watching the worst news channels then they will change as they will lose customers and then income. Jackson writes with a positive clarity about a subject that most people find unpalatable these days, but more than that there are things that you can do to change your media intake and make you a better-informed person.


Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour


Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to Anne Cater from Random Thing Tours for the copy of the book to read.

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