What I’ve been reading this summer…

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Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker – I’ve read Lisa-Jo’s blog for many years, having been drawn to it by friends with ties to South Africa. (Lisa-Jo is South African in case you’re wondering about that connection). I love her realness, her desire to be both encouraging and honest. However I’d never read her book because I figured I was not the target audience since I’m not a mother. Somehow I stumbled across an excerpt from it where she talked about the pressure on her to want marriage and children and fit a certain kind of female ‘mould’ from others in her church and the damage that did to her. That connected with me, and so I ordered a copy of her book. Though it is most definitely aimed at other mothers, I’d say if you a woman who identifies as Christian you may also get encouragement from reading this.

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The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain – I had recommended The Little Paris Bookshop to a few friends last year, and one of those friends found this book and told me if I’d liked that book, I would likely love this one too. She was correct. It’s a short book written from a few different character’s perspectives. Laure is a gilder who gets attacked outside her home and her handbag stolen. Laurent, the owner of a bookshop finds the stolen handbag and sets on a mission to find its owner trying to work out who it is from the remaining contents and how they find each other.

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Walking Home by Clare Balding – This is one of those books that has been on my reading pile for more than a year, as I got it when it first came out on paperback as part of one of the Waterstones’ ‘Buy one get one half price’ deals…because why buy wouldn’t you buy two (or four) books in one go? I loved Clare’s autobiography My Animals and Other Family and so I had to buy her next book. What I didn’t realise until I got home was that it was all about walking. I’m not sporty or hugely outdoorsy mainly because I HATE being cold (good job I live in Scotland then – HA!) so it remained on the pile. And then I picked it up, because since getting my camera last November, I have discovered a love of going for walks. And then when I read it, I realised Clare likes walking for the same reason I do. I had stupidly made the assumption that Clare being a sports journalist would be all about extreme hikes and marathons and stuff. Instead what I’ve got is a collection of real tales of grumbling through walks led by people who say they are shorter than they are (been there), wonderful stories of everyday people and how there is pleasure in walking because it lets you stop and pause to take in the views. YES! I’m loving it, and I would have finished by now if it wasn’t for me trying to finish up books of authors and editors I’m going to see at Edinburgh International Book Festival

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Nasty Women by 404 Ink – There couldn’t be a more appopriate or relevant time to be reading this and The Good Immigrant.  I’m so glad to say that it is not just white middle class straight women who have contributed their writings to this fantastic collection of essays. What is it like to be mixed race and have the white members of your family voting for Trump? What is it like to suffer as a consequence of the cinderella service of women’s health care? What is it like to be a woman of colour growing up in Scotland? I’m learning, and identifying and pausing for thought. I can’t wait to meet some of the people who put this book together next Saturday.

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What I read in June…

img_8694Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith – the most recent addition to the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, where Mr Polopetsi gets into some difficult bother for being too trusting and Mma Ramotswe goes in search in someone’s childhood to some unexpected results, and a dog doesn’t seem to want to leave Mr J.L.B. Matekoni’s apprentice, Fanwell. As always the book is full of wise ponderings of Mma Ramotswe and reasons to rage against Violet Sepotho. I love that Mr Polopetsi is back in the series again and very excited to find out what will be happening in Gaborone when we go to the book festival in August!

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The Complaints by Ian Rankin – Another Edinburgh author, but with a far more macabre view on things! I read the sequel to this years ago when I went on spa day with my friend Carrie, and didn’t know you sat next swimming pools and read at spa days. I borrowed the book she had brought while she was getting a spa treatment and got hooked. Of course then I had to go and read the first book. I really love the character of Malcolm Fox, and the conspiracy theory elements to these books. I really am hoping for a third…please Mr Rankin?!

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Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Well this is basically exactly what it says in the title. A friend of Chimamanda asked for advice on raising their daughter to know her gender shouldn’t make her unequal to others. This is a simple and thought provoking read that I think is worth everyone taking time to meditate on…not just parents. And let’s not go into the fact I didn’t manage to get a ticket to see Ms Adichie at the book festival this year. *shakes angry fist at Nicola Sturgeon*

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Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult – It’s rare that I read so much fiction in such a short space of time, but with some unexpected time off and the fact I was still reading Between the World And Me, and a couple of other non-fiction books I felt I needed to keep a fiction book in my Currently Reading pile. Only problem was that I started reading and had to find out what had happened. The story really focuses on a mother and daughter, and a night when a woman was found dead, and the mother found injured at the elephant sanctuary where they worked and lived. As always with Jodi’s books, the different chapters tell different elements of the story from perspective of different characters – their present thoughts, past thoughts and memories.  It’s not quite the ‘real life’ feel of her other novels. The twist at the end was not what I expected, and was saddened by how it ended. But I guess it wouldn’t be a Jodi Picoult novel if I didn’t finish a book without that feeling!

BK’s Book Pouch: What I’ve finished reading…

At the start of the year, I was reading lots but then I lost my energy. In the last week though, I’ve felt able to pick up a book and focus on it and I’m now trying to catch up on the reading challenge I set for myself this year. I’ve finished a couple of books that I’d been trying to read for a while, and hopefully close to finishing a third.

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – This has been on my ‘I better check out’ list for a while as some of the young women I work with through Girlguiding had mentioned this book to me a few times as one that had really made them think. They recently started a library of books to share, and this was one of the first books they requested for the shelf. Of course then the netflix series based on the book aired during the Easter Holidays, and I was more than slightly concerned about what I watched. So the girls allowed me to borrow a copy and I was relieved to find it a lot less dramatic and more realistic than the TV series. (The TV series has added A LOT of extra stories). Mental health is one of the biggest taboos and issues facing young people I work with today, and I don’t think any book, film or TV show will portray issues perfectly, but hopefully these forms of art can help bring taboo subjects into the open and discuss them in a way that leads to people being more aware and better supported.

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Happy Mum Happy Baby by Giovanna Fletcher – A strange one to be on my list as I’m not a parent, but lots of my friends are and I’ve spent a lot of years of my life supporting women through pregnancy, pregnancy loss and parenting. I’ve followed Giovanna Fletcher, her husband, Tom’s and his sister Carrie’s vlogs on YouTube for a while. I really enjoyed the read, and appreciated the honesty and oversharing! I’m sure it’s a book that will encourage lots of parents and I’d love to see a similar book written by a Dad.

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The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking – I was slightly dubious about the tables full of ‘hygge’ books I’d seen in the bookshops, especially with the following of people posting about their ‘hygge’ on instagram and facebook all.the.time… I was concerned about the cultural appropriation, how authentic the books claiming to be experts on this thing called ‘hygge’, and what the Danish thought ‘hygge’ was (because if I’m to believe Sandi Toksvig, who is actually Danish, it just means going round to someone’s house and drinking wine and chilling out). However, a certain blogger convinced me to try it out, and I trust her book recommendations. I also appreciated that the book was written by someone who was Danish and lived in Denmark as opposed to someone who had visited Denmark a few times! I still think his idea of living hygge on a ‘budget’ shows the privileged position he talks from, but it was an interesting read and echoed some of my beliefs about community.

Is there anything you’ve been reading recently that you’ve enjoyed?

What I’m currently reading: February edition 

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Between The World And Me  by Ta-Nehisi Coates – A must read for the world  we are living in right now. It’s basically a (very long) letter Ta-Nehisi is writing to his teenage son, explaining the history of colonialism, white patriarchy and it’s continued legacy oppressing people of colour. Most specifically he is talking about his own experience growing up as a man of colour in the USA, but to be honest I think it’s just as relevant to British experience. It’s a read that is making me think more about my white privilege (because it’s real) and I hope gives me better understanding so I can be an ally rather than yet another oppressor.

Lion by Saroo Brierley – Previously known as A Long Way Home, I went to see the film based on this book last week and basically came out going EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE THIS FILM. I had seen numerous interviews with Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and the real Saroo Brierley and been waiting a while for the film to be released in the UK, and to have time to go see it. I deliberately waited to read the book until after I saw the film – I didn’t want to be sitting in the cinema annoyed by parts changed or left out. Saroo tells the story of his beginnings in the neighbourhood of “Ginestlay” (Ganesh Talai), getting lost by becoming trapped on a train for two days that took him from Central India to Kolkata, life on the streets, to spending two months in an orphanage while organising for him to be adopted by an Australian family to finding his home again using Google Earth. I’ve felt very uncomfortable with international adoption for a long time, and I think this story is one people need to hear. The issues surrounding it are complex, but having met people who are transracial adoptees and hearing their experiences – there are discussions that need to be had. The book has answered some of the questions and concerns I had watching Saroo’s story unfold in the film, as well as raising more questions and ponderings but what the answer is to some of the massive social issues like children living in poverty around the world…

Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon – I found this book in the Edinburgh Zoo giftshop, and came away with two copies which I’m likely going to give as presents. This story is so lovely, all about a penguin who finds a pinecone and makes friends with it – only to discover that pinecone is not coping in the penguin environment as it wasn’t made to withstand the cold temperatures of ice and snow. So penguin makes a long journey to take pinecone back where he belongs…it’s a story of love and how it multiplies!

What I’m currently reading: New Year edition

I love that in the last few weeks people have been messaging me on this blog, facebook and even instagram about books! With the end of the Christmas upon us today (Happy Three Kings Day by the way) and work looking to get less next week, I’m now starting to wrap those final presents* and feel like maybe I can be a human being again. Rather than this weird robot that battles public transport, works with lots of people who like to bring in their children to buy stuff when they are ill, battles more public transport and sleeps as her main defence of public transport/snotty and possibly been puking children germs.

That means…ooh! Books! And we all know that I’ve already added to more to my ‘To Read’ pile than I’ve taken off it. Leading up to Christmas I read the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them screenplay, The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher and just before Hogmanay I managed to finish The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig.

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The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg – This book was a gift from my lovely friend Kathy (my friends Kathy and Vicky always seem to know exactly what books and food I will like. They both have a special gift for gifting!). And it says a lot about my book pile that this was from TWO Christmases ago. I love it so far and it’s made me giggle out loud. It focuses on Martha who is living in a very corruptly run old aged pensioner care home in Sweden, and her rallying her friends to rebel against the people who run it to escape and have a more enjoyable life. I fear that there’s a lot of similarities between myself and Martha, so um…let’s hope for the sake of others that I don’t grow too old! ha ha!

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Library Cat: The Observations of a Thinking Cat by Alex Howard – Poor Library Cat. He was being read, and then got bumped for books I was trying to read before I met their authors at the Edinburgh Book Festival last summer. Then he got bumped again at Christmas time so I could get through some new Christmas books in preparation for my Christmas BookPouch post! So I really need to knuckle down and finish this. The book was written by a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh as a creative pondering of what the cat who lived in the university library thought of all the conversations and sightings around the university campus at George Square. The chapters are quite short so it’s a lovely light read and (apparently too) easy to put down and pick back up again. Sadly Library Cat went missing about the same time this book was published. Really miss him as my friends who were at Edinburgh would always report to me when they caught sight of him in the library.

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Talking As Fast As I can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls by Lauren Graham – my lovely sister got me this for Christmas, which is great as it was sold out for a while in December. Really it should be close to the bottom of the pile to get in the proper queue, but I don’t think I can wait to read this. I love Lauren Graham, and I’ve loved both Gilmore Girls and was working my way through Parenthood (as it stopped showing on free TV here in the UK after the ?first? season) before Christmas madness hit. I have a good collection of autobiographies, and I think the reason I love ‘old fashioned blogging’ is because I just like to hear people’s stories and about their lives. So it’s one I plan to start reading tomorrow on my day off.

Oh, and because people have asked…it wasn’t me who left a copy of Murder At Christmas on a bus for a stranger to pick up. My friend from high school tagged me in facebook post about it saying ‘This sounds like something you would do’. Truth is…yes, I have anonymously sent books to people before. And  I have left things at bus stops and cafes for people to ‘find’ before. I just find it fun. There is a great charity in Edinburgh called Streetreads** that I would love to get involved with (at the moment I’ve not been able to due to other commitments) that provides a library service to the homeless in our city. My Senior Section girls also love reading and last year started a sort of feminist library of DVDs and books to share. So if there are any people wanting to give books…

 

*yes, Christmas presents. I’m a procrastinator, and I hate wrapping presents. I’m now trying to find the ones I bought for friends I’ve not yet seen to exchange gifts that are still to be wrapped. Just about all my friends can testify to my terrible habit of forgetting to take presents with me/post cards and presents even though I’ll have bought them sometimes months in advance because I’ll have seen something I think they’d like and got it in preparation for Christmas/a birthday.

** As a wee thought, I do believe Streetreads may still be looking for people to give short book reviews (i.e. a short synopsis of a book and what they liked about it), I think to give readers choosing books a better idea of what each books is about. If you go to the website, there’s an e-mail address you can contact. Maybe you could donate a book and put a short 200 word review in with it they can use?

And of course…please do feel free to share what you are currently reading, or perhaps what you have just finished reading in the comments. 🙂

The one where I confess I’m indoctrinating my friends kids…

…because it’s true. I really am.

Those who don’t share my faith beliefs may think I’m about to confess to forcing them to read the bible, go to church, Sunday school, bible camp!

Nope.

It’s in a different way. I’m encouraging them into becoming fully fledged bookworms.

Granted, I’m not around them as much as their parents and teachers. So you know, my influence is fairly minimal. But yesterday I was thinking about my two awesome godsons – the eldest of which will be NINE (yes, I’m freaking out about that) next year. The other will turn 1. Elastaboy loves a book, and though it’s tough to tell at 4 months old, it seems the Grand Duke is heading in the same direction.

"Don't let them buy anything" said their Mum. "Ummm....books don't count right?" said I.

A day out so their Mum could pack for surf camp in 2014 without ‘help’ from their youngest son (out of shot climbing on a wall). “Don’t let them buy anything” said their Mum. “Ummm….books don’t count right?” said I. (You can’t go through life without having read Charlotte’s Web in my opinion).

One of my favourite things to do with all my friends kids is read with them. It is by far my favourite part of babysitting getting to do the storytime part of the bedtime routine. I did this with my little sister who I also created stories for, and my little brother, who was so good at memorising every.single.word of his favourite books he would correct you if you didn’t get those bedtime stories word perfect. Then I had about a 10 year gap before I really got to do it again, and that was for Miss Sweetroot. It’s no secret that I was overjoyed when she fell in love with the books of Jacqueline Wilson – my favourite author as a kid. Through Miss Sweetroot I fell back in love with Children’s Literature, and took no shame in borrowing her books after she’d finished them. Because quite frankly I wanted to find out how they ended (this is the problem of only doing some bedtime routines – you miss bits of the story!). Every time I visited Elastaboy and Mr Teapot they would drag out books for me to read. And pretty much every Christmas and Birthday my friends’ kids get a book from me. As I mentioned the other week, I read to my newest godson (the Duke) and as he sat peacefully and didn’t cry I’m going to take that as a good sign.

Miss Sweetroot, now a high school student has developed the same tendencies of being found to be reading way past her bedtime, and having a constant stack of unread books because she buys more than she has time to read. Can’t think where she’s learned those bad habits from, but I fear calling her out on this would be hypocritical. Last few times I’ve seen Elastaboy, he’s opened up the book I’ve given him and completely ignored well…everyone…as he immediately started reading it. Last time I saw him in October, he got told off by his Dad for reading a book while we were sitting in a restaurant. I used to do exactly the same thing when I went shopping with my Mum – I would end up doing things like finding a spot underneath a rack of clothes or some other random corner where I could cosy up and just start reading. She also had to curtail my book buying for holidays because we

1) couldn’t afford all the books I could get through in a 2 week holiday

2) needed space in our luggage for clean clothes and beach towels.

And I’m pretty sure when I was his age, I probably got bored halfway through the meal and pulled out a book too, and hoped that by sitting at the end of a table no one would notice that I’d checked out of the grown up’s conversations.

So beware if you let your child communicate with me. They just may need a bigger bookshelf soon…

🙂

 

 

BK’s Book Pouch: A Christmas Edition

Yes, I’m a terrible video maker and editor. Yes, I used my webcam because it was easier and I don’t have a tripod for my camera. No, I don’t get paid by Waterstone’s to promote the books they sell. Or any of the authors whose books are featured!

But hopefully you will survive my rambling and I’ve cut out my rant about nativity books, nativity scenes and nativity plays…

Here is me with Eliza, Olaf, Piecrust Bear and the Reindeer with No Name introducing you to my favourite Christmas reads.

The one where I talk about #edbookfest

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August is nearly over, and like every year, I’ve been spending it consumed in books. I had to ditch some of the books I had begun at the start of the summer to focus on these 3 in an attempt to finish them before I met the authors who wrote them.

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I confessed to Sue Perkins (and apologised) for the fact that somewhere in the ether the Senior Section girls have video footage of me pretending to be Sue when they ran their own Bake-Off night. She asked me how I did that. I just had to say that I was told to comment on their baking by mentioning dodgy baking innuendos like ‘soggy bottoms’ etc. Sorry Sue once again. Because you’re so lovely and I simply could never do you justice. Actress I am most definitely not (except for that first day of high school when I got myself out of a detention by crying).

And of course then when I meet the authors I can’t not buy their books and have them signed if I hadn’t gotten a copy already. I can’t wait to get a moment to read Tim Burgess’ book which all about a challenge he set to find copies of vinyl in record stores around the world recommended by various artists. He was interviewed by Ian Rankin, who is well known in Edinburgh for writing the Rebus novels, frequenting the Oxford Bar and being a vinylophile. Ian gave me three recommendations of vinyl records I needed to buy when I got my first record player back in April. I asked Tim if he would be willing to do the same. He very kindly did…

So yes. I’ve had to give one of my tickets back, but hoping to make the final event I have booked if I finish work on time and the buses are on my side this weekend!

Meanwhile, I need to get off my blog and finish putting together the accounts for the two Girlguiding units I volunteer with. There has already been some hair tearing out over the Guides’ ones (too many people handling the moneys this year, not to mention the chaos of going from 9 to 24 Guides over the course of year. So it’s a bit of a mess that I’m sorting out). Seriously though, volunteering is GREAT. Meanwhile I’m appreciating even more my wonderful staff Pam and Emily, and my co-manager Sarah from when I ran the community centre and the pregnancy centre who did all the bookkeeping work. Like seriously…I’m so grateful because this is not my natural gifting. I can do it, I will get there. But man, this is my least favourite task of running a Girlguiding unit.

Help me.

Ok. Really am going now.

And to do accounting.

Not read The Little Paris Bookshop.

If Hamilton had gone to Hogwarts…

So you may have picked up from my last blog that this week, there have been two things that have consumed my hours that don’t involve work and sleeping.
1. Hamilton: An American Musical – The Original Broadway Cast Recording
2. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Special Rehearsal Edition Script

I’ve now listened to Hamilton close to 100 times since getting the CD and free download that accompanied it a few days before Surf Camp, and read The Cursed Child script twice.

Ages ago, I watched this incredible interview that was made for International Women’s Day. Emma Watson interviewing creator and star of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda. And in it, she sorted the main cast characters into Hogwarts houses.

And yes, it’s been well documented that I’m a fully fledged Harry Potter nerd. And having now listened and looked into the story of Hamilton and the Schuyler sisters…I have to say I love you Emma, you are AWESOME, but…we don’t fully agree on which houses they should be on. Alexander we are in total agreement…but the others, not totally. You aren’t likely going to read this, and let’s face it we are not the sorting hat (and I fully respect the sorting hat who originally gave me a choice between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, but in new Pottermore placed me in Hufflepuff). This is simply my own take on where I think Burr, Hamilton, Eliza and Angelica would have ended up had they gone to Hogwarts. 🙂

What are the traits that characterise the members of the Hogwarts houses?

Gryffindor – courage, bravery and determination

Slytherin – Proud, ambitious, cunning

Ravenclaw – wit, wisdom, learning.

Hufflepuff – Loyal, patient, fair, hard-working, true

So where do I think the Sorting Hat would place each of them?

Alexander Hamilton – definitely Gryffindor. For all the reasons that you and Lin-Manuel mention here. He is brave, courageous and wants to be the hero. Definitely qualities of a Gryffindor. However, I do see why Dan Radcliffe suggested Ravenclaw – I suspect that his reading, writing and thirst for knowledge may have influenced that decision of Dan’s. However, we know not just Ravenclaws study. Hermione is an excellent example, and I seem to remember a certain Hufflepuff by the name of Ernie Macmillan being very studious as well. However, if we are going from the Hamilton in the musical, who cannot hold himself back from losing his temper at Aaron Burr, Samuel Seabury, Thomas Jefferson…and gets annoyed at George Washington for not letting him fight, and who was determined to do anything to get himself out of poverty and make something of himself – I think that the sorting hat would have yelled out ‘Gryffindor’ pretty darned quickly.

Aaron Burr – definitely a Slytherin. I don’t think there is any case for Hufflepuff at all. Hufflepuffs have pretty much always been willing to stand up for what they believe in, they’ve always been loyal. I think Aaron’s ambition and reluctance to take a stand – he seems to be a follower but one that wants to be at the forefront make him a Slytherin. He’s also pretty cunning in the way he gets elected as Vice-President. There might have been a case for Ravenclaw because I don’t think he is stupid. In fact, I’d even say that there are a few shades of Helena Ravenclaw (daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw) about him…well known parent who was the president of a college?

Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton – I think is a tricky one. I would say Gryffindor, because she too is brave and courageous. But I’d also say a potential case for Hufflepuff – she works hard, is fiercely loyal to Alexander (even when he gives her reasons not to be) and stands up for what is right but doesn’t ask for the limelight. And Hufflepuffs pretty much always rose quickly to join the fight for what is right as I said before – and don’t often get the credit for it.

Angelica Schuyler-Church – I think would be a Ravenclaw. She is highly intelligent, smart and thinks with her head over her heart. Also the fact that people seem to rely on her for help, advice and wisdom. She seems to value intelligence above most characteristics herself too.

What I’m Currently Reading – July edition

As I mentioned, I finally finished Americanah last month. It was such an amazing read, I was both glad I’d saved it and mad at myself for leaving so long to delve into it’s pages. At the recommendation of friends, I started Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? – but of course, I can’t read one book at a time. IMG_7065

Girl Up by Laura Bates – A non fiction book, written by the author of the book Everyday Sexism and founder of the Everyday Sexism campaign. Her style of writing in this book reminds me a little of the pastor, Rob Bell who wrote Velvet Elvis. The decision to bump this recent purchase up the pile is because I’ve booked tickets to see Laura Bates at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August. Laura talks a lot about the gender specific language we use, and how patriarchy has helped belittle women through everyday language words and phrases – hence the title ‘Girl Up’ (as opposed to ‘man up’). It’s very frank, with explicit language in places but extremely thought provoking.

Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George – I stumbled across this book on a table in Waterstones a few months ago on one of my ‘oh, I’ll just pop in because I’m early for work/there’s still a while until the next bus’ wanderings. I opened up and read a few pages and fell in love with the idea of the Literary Apothecary, books being medicine. I recommended it to a few friends before I’d even read it myself, and my lovely friend Dani messaged me to thank me for the recommendation and how much she had been in need of the book. Convicted, I knew I needed to read it pronto as I’ve still not admitted to her that I haven’t read it through completely myself yet! (Dani often gets sent pictures of books I spy in Waterstones and other bookshops – our friendship was founded on a mutual love of books and children’s literature while we studied and roomed together in Germany).

Library Cat by Alex Howard – Library Cat is all about the University of Edinburgh’s most well known resident, the library cat and his library adventures. The library cat wandered in a few years ago, and didn’t seem to have a home. Eventually the library adopted him – he even had his own library ID card! I never saw him in the times I’ve gone to study there (I get access as a postgraduate student to most university libraries in the UK) but my friend Lindsay, who is an undergraduate student at Edinburgh, has seen him a few times and always sent me a text whenever she saw him around. Sadly, a week before this book got published he went missing and his whereabouts are still unknown.