April 2021 Review

We for a short month that ended up a really good month for reading. I didn’t get anywhere near the number of books that I wanted to read but did manage to clear another 17 from my TBR and had three, yes three five star reads. Mor on them at the bottom of the post.  And here they all are.

I read four books about Japan this month and first up is a translated book, Touring the Land of the Dead. It is two novellas by Maki Kashimada and translated by Haydn Trowell, one story is about a couple who have been surviving on his wife salary after he could no longer work. The second is about a family of four sisters who have always been close and then one finds a man and the bond is tested and loosened. Both slightly surreal in that very Japanese way.

I had heard a lot about, How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell and had managed to get a copy via the library. I liked the premise of this book, that we are constantly distracted by all of modern life and Odell’s philosophy of how to resist it. In the end, it didn’t really live up to my expectations.

I am trying to read books that have a theme where possible and these three are on health. Stroke is a fairly obvious title, and it is the story about Ricky’s survival following a stroke that almost killed him. Sinéad Gleeson’s book won our Wellcome Prize Shadow Award last year, and these are a series of essays about the various and numerous health problems she has had. She is quite some writer too! Finally in this little section is How to Be Sad which is Helen Russell’s take on how to be sad properly, how to get through it and how to use that to enjoy the better times when they come.


Another theme and this time it is symbols. Hyphens & Hashtags is a wonderful little book about the characters that you find on keyboards and the second a wider look at symbols that we come across in our modern lives.


The first two of the six natural history book that I read in April, are The Spirit of the River by Declan Murphy and Save Our Species by Dominic Couzens & Sarah Edmunds. Murphy’s book is about the summer he spent watching the dippers and kingfishers in a local river and Couzens’ book is ways that we can practically help the endangered species in our country.


Gone is about the animals that we deliberately or accidentally chose not to help and are no longer with us. Michael Blencowe has written a fascinating tale of his search for their remains in museums around the world. Roger Morgan-Grenville has a thing about shearwaters and this rather good book is the story of his obsession with them.


Only read one poetry book this month. In a strange bit of book serendipity, Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott was mentioned in Constellations and it was going to be my next book to read. It is not a bad collection all about her mortality

My travel reading this month was all centred on Japan. First was Pico Iyer’s  A Beginner’s Guide To Japan, a series of though and muses about his life in that country. In Hokkaido Highway Blue, Will Ferguson decides to follow the cherry blossom from the South West of the Country right up to the northernmost island. He hitchhikes his way of getting to see the country and meet the people that are not on any tourist trail at all.


I have three Book of the Month for April. First is the sublime The Bells of Old Tokyo by Anna Sherman which is her story about seeking the great bells by which the inhabitants of Edo, later called Tokyo tracked their lives by. Next is another obsession distilled down into a book, The Screaming Sky. Charles Foster doesn’t really do anything by halves and this is his musings on those masters of the air, Swifts.  Finally is Neil Ansell’s book about a place near me, The New Forest. Beautifully written as ever, he extolls the place and the natural world that manages to just cling on. Read all three.


So have you read any of these? Are there now any that you want to read? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    I fancy the one about the New Forest and I am amazed at how many you managed to read this last month! Mind you, with my horrendous looming reading plans for this month, I appear to be on my seventh and eighth of the month myself, but doubt I’ll be able to sustain that!

    • Paul

      Neil is such a good author and I have had the pleasure of meeting him once. Horrendous reading plans? I feel your pain

  2. Jean Kinkead

    Thanks for getting this posted. Due to so much reading and writing at work, my real life reading and book discoveries are seriously lagging. Hence, very pleased to see your offerings. Particularly interested in “A Beginner’s Guide to Japan”, “The Bells of Old Tokyo”, “Hokkaido Highway Blues”, “Hyphens and Hashtags” and “Symbols”. Wonderful collection for April. Cheers

    • Paul

      The Bells of Old Tokyo is sublime, Jean

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