October 2020 Review

October came and went sort of in a rush and yet seemed to drag in other ways. Not a bad reading month, but one down on my usual target of 16 books as I ended up reading 15 in the end. There were some good books too and here they are.


I read my first Chelsea Green book over the summer and their MD contacted me offering to send me anything from their catalogue that took my eye. Material by Nick Kary was one of the books I chose. This is exploring a lifetime of creating products and artworks with his hands and how that very action can make all the difference to our well being. It is really nicely written too.

I had been meaning to read Modern Nature for a very long time. This is Derek Jarman’s book about his garden on the shingle peninsular of Dungeness and about his determination as he starts to succumb to HIV and then AIDs. Moving and poignant. Another book on gardening that was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize is Alice Vincent’s book, Rootbound. This is about her life in London and as a festival and gig reviewer and how a small balcony sparked a love of gardening.


I read two books on birds, the first Corvus is about Esther Woolfson’s adoption of a magpie and a crow and life with them around her Scottish home. Whilst I think these two creatures should be free, I also know that they had a life that may have been snatched from them when they were chicks. The second book is Mark Avery’s well-written argument to ban driven grouse shooting because of the effect it has on the moors and the devastation of the Hen Harrier but ruthless gamekeepers.


The second Chelsea Gren book was the wonderful titled, Bringing Back the Beaver. In here Derek Gow makes the case for bringing back the beaver to our riverscapes and the account of his efforts to do so, often stymied by ‘regulations’ and powerful landed people with vested interests to keep the status quo. Gow is somwhat a character too! Treated myself to the new Lost Spells book by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris. It is aimed at children primarily, but Morris is an artist with a stunning talent.


My two poetry books could not have been more different. Confess is about the Salaem witch trials and the arrest of a four-year-old girl, whose forced confession was used to condemn her own mother to death. It is a bit grim, but van der Molen’s prose is sensitive and full of power. My second poetry book was the new collection from Steve Denehan. These are modern and are about his family and life in general. I like the way that they feel relevant and accessible


I haven’t read much Doctorow but when I was offered a copy of his new book, Attack Surface, I thought that I would take a punt with it. And it was really good. And quite scary too. That is all will say here as I think that you should read it too.

The rise of AI gadgets in the home is growing apace, but most people don’t think what the implications are for these technologies. Thankfully there are people like, Flynn Coleman who does and her book, A Human Algorithm detail various ways that it is permeating our lives. If you have the slightest interest in this subject then I’d recommend reading it.

I did manage to read four travel books too. The first two are on islands, and I Am An Island by Tasmin Calidis is the account of her time spent on a tiny island in the Hebrides. it was a beautiful spot, but she didn’t have the easiest time settling in. The second island book is Peter Millar’s tale of travelling the length of the Caribean island of Cuba on their almost defunct trains. I really liked this and it made me want to visit the place, as all good travels books should do.


The second two travel books were stories of travels on a bicycle. In A Time Of Birds – Helen Moat cycles with her teenage son on the bike she calls the tank all the way across Europe in the spring. It is slow travel at its best.

My book of the month is Signs of Life by Stephen Fabes. Not content with a jaunt across Europe, he decides to take the long way cycling around the world. It is a six-year journey and he is an eloquent and sensitive writer. Cracking book.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    You read some smashing books in October!

    • Paul

      I am trying to read all the good ones!

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