Monthly Muse: October

I seem to be doing these later and later; the plan for October was to do these as I went along and failed! Never mind. First of all my news if you haven’t already seen it, I was humbled to be asked to participate as a shadow judge on The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award, in association with The University of Warwick. The shortlist was announced at the weekend and here they are:

Anyway, in lesser news, I managed to read 18 books in October. I am going to do it a little bit differently this month and see how it works. Let me know what you think.

These were the three fiction books that I read:


Melissa Harrison’s was a story about a girl in the Suffolk countryside growing up in between the wars and how the life that she had known was beginning to change. Anna Vaught’s book was a bit of magical realism set on the Pembrokeshire Coast and Tom Cox’s book was a series of ghost and folklore stories. Not sure which was my favourite as they were all good in very different ways.

I read one book on the history of air and space travel called The Earth Gazers by Christopher Potter. It was an interesting read and covered a lot of time and events.

I quite like humorous books, they are a moment of light relief in a mad world at the moment. Dear Mr Pop Star is a series of letters sent by Derek Philpott & Dave Philpott to all sorts of pop stars and responses that they had back from them. Lots of tongue in cheek humour. The Snooty Bookshop is a collection of 50 postcards from the cartoon genius that is Tom Gauld.


I have a thing for books on language. It is a fascinating goldmine of the way our communication evolves as we interact with each other. I went with my eldest to see Susie Dent on her Tour and she was really good and I had had Dent’s Modern Tribes: The Secret Languages Of Britain from the library for ages before finally getting around to reading it. In this, she looks at the way we learn the language of the tribe we belong too, whether you’re a lawyer or baker, mechanic or pilots. Very good it was too. This is the third book that I have read of Claire’s. The previous two were on books, but The Real McCoy and 149 Other Eponyms was on people who have made it into our language. A short and sweet little book full of intersting stories, some of which you may have heard of and others that you wouldn’t.


Not actually sure how to classify No Limits by Nightscape. It is a books of urban exploration, taking us the readers up to the places that you would not normally be allowed to go. Amazing photos pf our cityscapes.


Those of you that read this blog regularly (thank you all), will know that I love reading natural history books. There are some great ones out there and these are three that should be added to the great lists: Landfill by Tim Dee is about those annoying gulls that try and steal your chips on the seafront. In here Tim explores how they have become urbanised and live in parallel with us now. Mary Colwell’s book is not quite a eulogy to the Curlew, but at the rate their numbers are plummeting, it could soon be. Beautifully written account of her walk across Ireland and the UK to still see the few that are left. Haunts Of The Black Masseur I couldn’t really get along with. I have included it in here as there is a loose overlap with wild swimming. it is a literary look at writers who have spent a proportion of their lives swimming. It did give me a few books to explore further, but felt a bit disjointed. Finally is One of Horatio Clare’s two new books, The Light In The Dark. This is his diary of the pain that he goes through every winter and the light fade, the clock goes back and the nights draw in. It is painful for him and he relies on his family and the natural world to help him through.


My other favourite subject to read about is travel and managed to read five books this month, four of which were walking books and one spent on a tiny boat in the worlds fourth largest river. Chris Townsend wanted to walk the longest route through the watershed of Scotland and told his story in Along the Divide: Walking the Wild Spine of Scotland. It is a really good book on what you would think was a well-travelled part of the world. Staying in Scotland, The Hidden Ways: Scotland’s Forgotten Roads is Alistair Moffat’s exploration of the routes that the people used to walk to get acros the parts of the country. As he walks he tells of the history of the paths. More importantly, it is the beginning of a campaign to make these accessible to many more people. In The Crossway, Guy Stagg decides to walk from Canterbury across Europe to Jerusalem (one for my #WorldFromMyArmchair challenge too). He was relying on strangers to shelter him, something necessary as he headed over the Alp over the end of Winter.  Part of the purpose of the walk was to see if he could overcome the depression that haunted him. Staying in Europe, Horatio Clare’s other new book Something of His Art: Walking to Lubeck with JS Bach is the account of his walk following in the footsteps of the great composer. Finally, we head to America and Jonathan Raban’s account, Old Glory. In this, his second book that he wrote, he is heading down the Missippi in a 16-foot aluminium boat. He is a keen observer of people and places and his writing is spectacular, probing and lyrical.


Quite a month really. Any you like the look of? Or have read yourself? let me know below.

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  1. Jackie Law

    A varied month of reading. I’m most tempted by the Tom Gauld as I enjoy sending postcards – although the idea of breaking up a book leaves me conflicted 🙂

    • admin

      You’d need to get two…

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