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.


  1. Dorothy ~Jane McLachlan ~ Wortley

    Hello Paul,
    January may have been a long month but you have filled it with some wonderful books.
    Firstly I added FOOTNOTES to my ” wish – List ” upon your Review – it sound wonderful.
    You already know I have ordered A TOMB WITH A VIEW – impatient for it – I shouldn’t be with so many to read…
    TRAVELS WITH MYSELF AND ANOTHER , unsure if I may have this, as I have a few of MG – I love her no nonsense way – came to discover her via Hemmingway. On my ” to check ” ” wish – List “.
    And I absolutely adored ( in an eye opening way ) INVISIBLE WOMEN – and have given it as Gifts. Eagerly awaiting her follow up and again will be giving it as gifts. This work scared me as it made me realise as a woman my acceptance of the level of discomfort I have been expected to just cope/put up with ( sadly even by other Women ), I was previously a Shot Blast and Powder Coating Assistant and constantly had to argue for properly fitting safety kit… Face Masks, Goggles, Overalls and Boots – it should have been more obvious to me as Clients would mention it to me… even to bringing me in names of Suppliers but the Secretary ( Female ) would just tell me to stop making a fuss! I brought my work Boots home when I left as felt no one who was Size 3 Shoe would ever likely be employed again? ( the boots are actually a 4 as she couldn’t be bothered researching/paying for the right ones and I was so grateful to get something almost right). It does run through the back of my mind to wonder if it was an act of Theft? Although no one has ever contacted me about them…
    Delighted to say there are many more suppliers these days and am considering a Green set of Overalls for Gardening ( nothing worse than ” builders bum ” be it male or female ).
    Looking forward to next months round up.
    Take care. Keep Safe.

    • Paul

      Thank you, DJ

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