What I read in lockdown…

Book cover of The Salt Path

The Salt Path by Raynor Wynn – A week before lockdown I went into town to get my internet data allowance increased and found myself walking past Waterstones. Sensing that it could be a while before I’d be able to go to a library or buy books, I went in and bought 2 books both memoirs that were nature related. The Salt Path is an incredible story of how Raynor and her husband dealt with grief of losing their home and livelihood, getting news of a terminal illness by deciding to just start walking the South West Coastal Path. It was an eye opening story that made me angry, long for the sights of Dorset and Cornwall that bring me comfort and wish to sit around an open campfire with Raynor to just listen and chat. It felt like I was doing this journey with a kindred spirit.

A copy of a poetry booklet by Vicky Allen

Broken things and other tales by Vicky Allen – At the beginning of lockdown, my beautiful friend Vicky had her very first poetry pamphlet published. She has had poems published as part of collections and in other publications before, but this was the first book of poems that was hers and hers alone. I’ve been lucky enough to be one of her friends that she has shared her art with, and when she first stepped out into sharing her poems publicly. I’ve even been on walks where conversations and things we’ve spotted have become inspiration for the words she has written. Perhaps it’s those memories that made reading these poems over and over make it feel like a healing balm during the days where everything felt overwhelming. But honestly? If you love nature, the sea, the beach and have ever experienced grief of losing someone you love – these poems are for you.

Paperback copy of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – This is by far one of the best books I’ve read in a while. Beautifully and poignantly written, Yaa has intricately and cleverly told a diverse range of stories which begin with two sisters whose lives are impacted by colonialisation but in entirely different ways. As one sister is betrothed to a slave trader, the other sold into slavery and sent across the Atlantic we follow the lives of their descendants through history to the present day. If you’ve been wanting to learn about the history that isn’t taught in schools – this fictional tale based in real life history is a great place to start. An impactful and enriching read that I recommend to everyone.

book cover of This Is Going to Hurt with image of a doctor's labcoat hanging on a peg.

This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay – When I was studying Health Sciences, most of my friends were medical students. With only 8 or 9 of us in my year, we were outnumbered in the medical school library! They got me onto the music of The Amateur Transplants, and I saw Adam and his friend Suman perform numerous times at the Edinburgh Fringe. For a variety of reasons I avoided reading this book for a couple of years, but I ended up reading it not long after moving back to Aberdeen. I’m really glad I did. My interest had always been in maternity care, I’d had so many frustrations with the things I saw while on placement, the stories I would hear from midwives, medical students and parents. Reading Adam’s book reminded me of what led me into my degree and eventually my honours project. An important read for every MP, MSP, NHS Trust manager, medical school deans who have the power to change how we fund our healthcare system and medical school curriculums.

And to follow on from that may I also recommend the next book I read…

I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite Having been a long time follower of Candice on instagram, and so pleased to see her speaking up for Black women everywhere as well as being the founder of Make Motherhood Diverse, this book took me back to my last year of my Health Science degree. Candice’s story is important to hear, and more importantly to listen to and learn from. There are many moments where I felt intrigued, but also moments when I felt very uncomfortable while on placement at a maternity hospital. Reading about Candice’s experience as a first-time mother helped me recognise what had been causing those inner alarm bells to ring in those moments. It has made me regret not taking my Health Science degree further in a way that I hadn’t felt before. If my old supervisor is reading this…I know it’s been 14 years but I’m ready to seek that Masters and potential PhD route you were trying to encourage me down when I was about to graduate. I’m sorry for walking away. And to all the women that I’ve not spoken up for enough – I hope you’ll forgive me. I want you to know I see you, I hear you, and most importantly…I believe you.

If you are a midwife, doctor, health visitor, teacher – I urge you to read this book.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks – I haven’t finished this book yet. This collection of short stories, each unique in its style and format, has been a lovely book to dip in and out of on days where I just needed to escape and read something that didn’t feel so heavy. I’ve really enjoyed it – some of the stories more than others. I really sense the influence that Tom’s own life, his acting work and no doubt the stories he has heard while preparing for roles have made their way into his thoughts as he’s put pen to paper. Each story is set in a different era, with diverse characters and some stories don’t have a neat ending (which I’ll admit, I find a little frustrating sometimes because I want to find out what happens next). If you are looking for a lighthearted read that you pick up in snatched up moments – this is a good choice of book for you.

What I read this winter…

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Last Christmas by various authors (curated by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson) – I started this read before Christmas but in the end didn’t finish it until after I arrived back in Aberdeen. lt is a lovely collection of writings about what Christmas means to people, their memories. Everyone has written with a very different style and purpose. It was heart warming and thought provoking.

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Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis –  This is classified as a young adult novel. When I first started blogging, I ended up becoming friends with a few people who have Cystic Fibrosis. As a result, I often get YouTube recommendations from  CF vloggers many of whom had a lot to say when the trailer came out for this film. It arrived on Netflix, and after watching it I wanted to see what the book (which was created after the film script) was like. It gave a little bit more background to certain story points and characters. I really recommend watching the film if you haven’t already seen it.

If you are frustrated with COVID-19 – well, to be honest, it might give you empathy with those who have CF, and why the guidelines being taken for the rest of us are so important.

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What is a Girl Worth? by Rachael Denhollander – You’ll likely have heard me talk about Rachael before. Rachael was the first person to come forward publicly as one of the many athletes who had been subjected to sexual abuse from the medical coordinator and osteopath at USA Gymnastics. Trained in law, her knowledge helped ensure that he was held to account and Rachael has worked tirelessly to push for institutions to have proper safeguarding policies in place and followed. As a gymnastics fan it has been infuriating to see how the victims in this case and so many others (as there were a huge number of coaches also sexually abusing girls reported to USA Gymnastics but allowed to continue coaching), but I also was appalled (but sadly not surprised) to hear about how Rachael was treated by her church. Her book uncovers more about what happened there, and quite honestly it’s a cautionary tale that anyone in a church, sports organisation or any organisation where adults have influence over children and young people should read. And hopefully be moved to know that it’s everyone’s job to ensure the safety of others.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – I am not a fan of the ‘classics’. I am not a fan of period drama. However, seeing the trailer for Greta Gerwig’s take on Little Women, I was for the first time interested. Like most I knew the basics of the story, I think I had a sort of abridged illustrated version of the book when I was a child and just thought it was a big yawn. However, seeing the film I wanted to go back and read the original. In UK the book is published as two separate books. I felt the film was pretty true to the story, and having read into the history of Louisa May Alcott, I  loved the way that’s been written into this latest film. It felt far more real and true to history. I only wish there had been more of the Laurences in the film. I would have loved to see how Laurie was protective of Beth and integral to her learning piano and his protectiveness of Amy when she had to go live with Aunt March.  Also in reading the book, I’m struck by how ‘old’ is not in fact old at all. It’s actually pretty darned young.

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The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – The sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, I put off reading this book for a while as it felt like the West has been slipping very much into this story being very, very real. In fact, the book though still quite harrowing, is far more hope giving. It was interesting to revisit familiar and new characters and have a different perspective on the ‘history’ of Gilead uncovered by the scholars of the future. I highly recommend it if you like The Handmaid’s Tale. However, if you are waiting to follow the series, you may wish to wait off reading the book in case it gives you some spoilers to how the TV show may pan out.

I know many of my friends around the world are now self-isolation or having to spend a lot more time at home than is usual due to a certain strain of Coronavirus.

Are there any books keeping you company in the meantime? Let me know in the comments!

Keep others safe.

Wash your hands.

And as Nurse Barb would say – ‘Six feet apart at all times’.

BK x

Summertime Reading…

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The Colours of all the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith – early summer is always the time when the latest paperback edition of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series comes out. If you are looking for a lighthearted read to bring you some joy and encouragement, I will always recommend these wonderful books. No one brings me more solace in literature than the quiet, thoughtful, assertive ‘traditionally built’, Mma Ramotswe. I love that we are seeing the growth of Charlie in this book, and a little more of Mr Polopetsi.

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The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett – I bought this a few years ago as part of those ‘Buy One Get One Half Price’ deals at Waterstone’s. It’s small size make it the perfect book to have in your handbag just in case you get stuck waiting for a bus, train or friend that is running late. Essentially it’s a series of journal entries throughout the years recounting the author’s experiences of having a fairly eccentric but very characterful woman living in a van parked outside his house (and eventually in his garden). I have to say that it felt like quite a lazy printing of her story and although interesting, I would be rushing to recommend it as a ‘must-read’.

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Mother Ship by Francesca Segal – However, this is a must read. I heard about this book through the charity Bliss, as the author is going to be speaking at one of their conferences later in the year. Having had several friends experience life on a neonatal unit (not to mention a family member many years ago) and my university studies on maternity care, I found this a fascinating, heart wrenching read. It is written, honestly and beautifully.

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Why this book wasn’t taught at school I don’t know. Did I miss that day in Higher English? I had bought copies years ago when it was the Our Shared Shelf book of the month, but never got round to reading it. There isn’t a plotline in this book that isn’t describing a parallel of real history or present day political landscapes. I think particularly with the USA taking away rights for LGBTQ+ and women’s reproductive health though, not to mention families who promote unqualified midwives and eating with disposable cutlery, and then this week our British PM doing some unconstitutional like politics… it’s a good time to read this book. And be inspired to take some action like Offred’s Mum and Moira advised.

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Mama’s Boy by Dustin Lance Black – There’s a reason why that man won an Oscar for scriptwriting. Lance’s memoir telling his Mum’s story of surviving and defying all odds after contracting polio as a toddler, domestic abuse and trying to deal with realising he was gay after being taught in the Mormon church that gay people were evil and going to hell is a must read. Not just for the inspiration of overcoming odds in his Mum’s story and his own journey but for how stories bring humanity into debates. One of my favourite passages in the book is him describing his Mum visiting him at his student apartment and meeting his diverse group of friends who did not realise his Mum held Conservative opinions and how their honesty and openness with her built a bridge. In a time where we spend time polarising people and writing off anyone who is flawed in their viewpoint rather than trying to find common ground, it’s an important read. I really hope it can be made into a film one day.

 

Springtime Reading

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Becoming by Michelle Obama – This book didn’t disappoint, and was an inspiring read. I hadn’t known that Michelle had been involved with Public Allies – a community organising non-profit that a couple of my fellow Comm Ed buddies had been part of when they lived in the USA. It felt real, authentic and how I would love to sit and chat over some cake with this woman to ask more questions and gain more wisdom. Needless to say my copy has now been passed onto friends at work who have been reading it too!

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The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry – It was fascinating to read this take on why the feminist movement is so important from a male perspective. I’ve seen Grayson Perry interviewed on TV a couple of times, and if I’m totally honest I judged him by his fashion and make up choices and I really shouldn’t have. What he has to say is clearly from a process of thought from listening, observing and great self awareness. Qualities which are lacking in our society as so many of us are too busy being adamant about our experience = everybody else’s.

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Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo – I really enjoyed this book and my only complaint would be I would have liked to have found out more about how it all ended for these characters. The story was interestingly crafted bringing together a number of different characters from varying backgrounds into one story. Definitely recommend!

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Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine – Holy crap – this book was amazing. Attracted at first by the beautifully wrapped copies, the teal cover and the mention of seas and beaches…I picked it up and finding out it’s connections to the Scottish folk tales I was immediately intrigued. It brings a folk tale, a tale from a great grandmother and her present day grown up great-grandaughter’s work together. I bought a copy, stayed in the bookshop cafe to have breakfast. When I got home I was angered by anyone entering into my space because I didn’t want to stop reading as desperately wanted to work out if my theories were correct as the stories unravelled.

What reads have you enjoyed so far in 2019?  Leave your recommendations in the comments!

What I read last Autumn

You know that thing where you dream and do something in your head…but actually you haven’t done it in real life? It happened to me last week. I came home from a Girlguiding meeting. It was -5 degrees out so I was freezing when I got in, and just jumped fully clothed into my bed and wrapped myself in blankets to warm up. Only problem is I fell asleep…and I dreamed that I got out of my bed, took off my uniform, put on my pyjamas and climbed back into bed. At 2 a.m. I woke up…and slowly realised that I wasn’t in my pyjamas. I was still wearing my Girlguiding uniform.

Anyway, I thought I’d written this post MONTHS ago. Turns out…I hadn’t. I had uploaded the pictures of the books and that was all I had done. Forgive me blog readers…for now I’ve got to remember the content of these books 2-5 months later. Doh!

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Ask Me His Name by Elle Wright – I’ve followed Elle’s blog for a while after a few friends starting tagging me in her instagram posts. I think because I work to find help for families whose babies are born needing neonatal care like Teddy was, coupled with the fact that Elle’s favourite place is Constantine Bay (also my favourite place in Cornwall) my friends thought I would be interested in what she was posting. They were right! Before I worked for the charity I work with now, I worked in a pregnancy centre that did a lot of work with women and men who were struggling after pregnancy loss. Historically how we dealt with baby loss was to pretend it never happened, and I think we are still dealing with the legacy of that. Elle’s honest account of trying to get pregnant, experiencing pregnancy, giving birth, being a neonatal parent and then a bereaved parent is something I hope lots of people read. If only to know that saying something is better than avoiding or saying nothing. I can’t tell you how many times I have had parents tell me how much it has hurt them when friends and family have cut them out of their lives because they are not sure what to say when their baby has died.  Everyone will be different, but I think Elle’s book will help so many people support bereaved parents better. And remember that just because their child isn’t with them, does not make them less of a parent.

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Auggie & Me by R.J. Palacio – This summer, I based a lot of my ‘thought for the day’ breakfast moments at surf camp on R.J. Palacio’s book, Wonder. Wonder tells the story of Auggie Pullman’s first year in a school from a few characters’ perspectives (including Auggie’s). This book tells stories from 3 more characters in the book to give a bigger insight to why they acted the way they did. It’s a wonderfully accurate portrayal of the life of those ‘tween years’ in terms of the friendship politics of school. It also gives nuance to characters you may automatically have just hated in the original book and helped you to empathise better.

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In The Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende – I saw this book on the buy one get one half price section of Waterstone’s and had a memory of someone telling me how amazing Isabel Allende is as a writer. I really feel that growing up in Scotland, we are not suscepted to enough writers of colour, so it has been something I’m actively trying to rectify! I began reading this book one rainy day and immediately got caught up in the characters and the story. I utterly loved it.

It wasn’t until one night I was re-watching an episode of Jane The Virgin on netflix that I realised the person who had been telling me about Isabel Allende was Jane Villanueva. Who is Jane Villanueva? The main character on Jane The Virgin. Isabel Allende even has a cameo on one of the Season 4 episodes.

Jane Villanueva has great taste it turns out. Thanks Jane The Virgin writers!

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Life’s Too Short, Don’t Wait To Dance by Valorie Kondos Field – Ever since Miss Val started her blog, I’d hope she would write a book. Then she told us that’s exactly what she was doing. I had to wait a few weeks for it to be published in the UK, but one day I went down to get some lunch to hear a satisfying THUNK as a parcel got pushed through the door. It was publication day, and my pre-ordered copy had arrived. You don’t need to be a gymnastics fan to get something out this book. I think it’s a fantastic tale of mentoring and making good choices to find the joy in life. Even if I don’t agree with Miss Val on every single little thing, I find her hugely inspiring and a fantastic role model for women. She talks about her journey to becoming the head coach of UCLA, her experiences of coaching student athletes as they try to find who they are as people and her experience of being diagnosed and going through treatment for breast cancer. So many of her mantra’s are ones I share with people and try to live by. Read it (I’ll even lend you my copy!)

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by J.K. Rowling (screenplay) – After a lot of overtime working on a fundraising event, I treated myself to a copy of this book and going to see this film the day after it was all over. I won’t lie, the main thing I LOVE about this book is simply gorgeous cover. The details in the illustrations that tie in with the story, the teal, the gold…oh, I how I love a good book cover. I thoroughly enjoyed the next episode in this film series, even if elements were very upsetting. My friend’s 8 year old and I had A LOT to talk about after the film and since about our theories of how the story will continue (and what the unknown backstories could be).

What I read this summer…

I’ve realised that I’ve been reading but not writing in the last month. Needless to say that while on holiday I managed to buy 5 books in 10 days, sooooo….maybe need to find space for another bookcase this Autumn.

Here’s what I’ve been reading this summer!

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I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell – This incredible memoir by Maggie O’Farrell (who wrote a book I loved called After You’d Gone) talks about 16 moments in her life where she came close to death and one where her daughter almost died. It’s written in a way where you are right there with her, feeling every moment and I utterly recommend it. For me, it brought back some memories of my own life and encouraged me to pause and reflect on them.

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The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith – This is the latest paperback in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series. I’m always tempted by the hardbacks because it’s so tough to wait another year for the next installment but then they wouldn’t all be perfectly lined up on my bookshelf. This story is my favourite for a while, as Mma Ramotswe makes an accidental discovery that changes life forever. It’s also incredible how these books touch on subjects with only hints and not directly talking about them due to the nature of the way the characters think and talk to one another.

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Maggie and Me by Damian Barr – After going to a workshop that was led by Damian on writing biography (which turned out to be all about memoir – maybe I’ll make Learning From Sophie into a book after all 😉 ) it seemed only right that I should read his own memoir. Damian is not too much older than me, and a lot of the talk and settings of his memoir was familiar. It was a difficult read as a youth worker – there were multiple encounters with the church, a Christian organisation I’ve volunteered with in the past, high school teachers and it really made me look back at every young person I’ve worked with worrying what I may have missed. Again, it was well written and honest.

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Undivided by Vicky Beeching – When I first started playing guitar and leading worship Vicky’s songs were the ones I went to because (praise God) they were written in a key I could sing in. She was a friend of one of my friends from Aberdeen, so have had a number of interactions with her on social media over the years. I was incredibly saddened to the reaction of so many when she came out publicly a few years ago. I had the privilege of hearing her speak at Greenbelt while on holiday, and immediately started reading her book. It’s stemmed a lot of discussion I’d already been having with friends over the years about homophobia in the church, the power of leaders to spiritually abuse others, and the way we do prayer ministry at youth events. Vicky’s story highlights exactly why I have had concerns for a long time, and I also admire the graciousness she has shown in writing. It also touches on theology and church history. My only concern is  a story she shares involving rape threats which she blames on not being able to be ‘out’ hurting a guy who wants to date her – which actually I think is more to with a wider issue of misogyny and toxic masculinity. An important story that needs t be read by many in the church (along with watching Season 2 Episode 1 of Queer Eye so you can listen to the wisdom of Mama Tammye). Especially as many LGBTQ+ Christians were there at Greenbelt, some of them courageously sharing their own stories of experiencing hate and homophobia.

What have you been reading this summer? Let me know in the comments!

 

Springtime Reading

As much as I miss youth work, no longer working late nights means I’ve had more time for reading books. Which is good because my ‘to read’ pile was starting to do a leaning tower of Pisa. In fact, a couple of months ago I got woken up in the middle of the night by an almighty crash…the sound of that leaning tower of books collapsing to the floor.

It’s rare that I don’t have a book in my handbag, and of course it means that people see the books you are currently reading and tell you about others they believe you’re going to love. So that’s made a few trips walking past Waterstone’s (who am I kidding, I can’t walk past) result in some dents to my bank account.

So what have I been reading in the lead up to summer?

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The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell – this book caught my eye when I was in the shop for some reason or another in March and knowing that World Penguin Day was coming up in April, how could I not purchase this tale? It was a delightful story of how Tom was walking on a beach during school holidays when he saw 100s of penguins washed up on the shores due to an oil slick. One miraculously had survived and followed Tom back to his apartment…and a friendship between man and penguin was born, and the tales continued as the penguin went to the boarding school where Tom worked. The only disappointment is that there are no pictures of said penguin.

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Bittersweet by Shauna Niequest – My friend bought me this book as a gift for a birthday or Christmas and it shows how high my to read pile is that it’s taken me this long to get around to reading it. Shauna writes beautifully and honestly. Although it’s written from a very middle class white privileged perspective, there are such great nuggets of wisdom and real life doesn’t care how much privilege you have. There’s tales of friendship, death, loss, struggle and it’s just real. You will likely cry while reading. This book caused me to text my friend several times while reading it.

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The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George – I can’t remember which book I was buying, but while I was buying it I spotted this book. I utterly loved Nina’s book The Little Paris Bookshop and still dream of wandering into a Literary Apothecary. So this book well and truly jumped the queue. It took me a while to get into it, as it began with the main character attempting suicide. I started reading it during a difficult week, so that wasn’t the best thing to be reading and was put off wondering if I should continue. However, I’m glad I did. In the end, I was left on a sunny Saturday afternoon close to the end of the book aware that a few friends were on their way round and me yelling out loud at the book (and hoping friends might be late so it would give me time to finish it, because I was ready to give full on BK ranty lectures to certain characters folks if they didn’t get their acts together). Luckily my friends DID run later than expected and all ended well. Phew.

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No. More. Plastic. by Martin Dorey – This is a short book with lots of brief to the point information about how we can all make a difference to reduce our plastic consumption and encourage others (like big industry) to do the same. As someone who has been a long time supporter of Surfers Against Sewage and really fed up of seeing plastic nurdles, crisp packets, lollipop sticks/cotton buds on our beaches (even the ‘clean’ ones) I’m challenged because I can make some lazy choices on the plastic front at the same time as being smug about my better choices (like I’ve long been taken my own shopping bags, and I never bag my fruit and veg…). But I use loads of cottonbuds. I don’t do enough to campaign for change. I use plastic toothbrushes. I buy stuff that’s got the worst kind of plastic packaging because it’s yummy. There was also a lot of stuff I wasn’t aware of, and it had loads of little tips that all of us can do to help make a little bit of difference to a big problem. So buy a copy, get inspired and let’s reduce our plastic!

And yes, I’ve bought my Book Festival tickets! I’m looking forward this year to seeing Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, Maggie O’Farrell, Laura Bates and going to some intriguing debates and workshops. This year all my events will be in the evenings and weekends so I hope that I manage to sort my workload so I don’t miss anything from staying back to get tasks finished. 🙂

What have you been reading lately?

 

What I’ve been reading…

Ok. It’s been a couple of months since my last blog. But I’ve now got a computer with a screen that isn’t cracked, so this makes blogging a heck of a lot easier. I need to ease into this, so I’m going to begin with a BookPouch post. These are the books I’ve read so far this year…

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Born A Crime by Trevor Noah – I love autobiographies, and I love stand up comedy, so you’ll find a lot of autobiographies from my favourite comedians on my shelves. Thanks to the fact the Edinburgh International Book Festival coincides with the Fringe, quite a few of them are signed by the authors too. But this book, is one for everyone. Perhaps because my experiences and conversations before, during and since my trip to South Africa are still so vivid, I really appreciated Trevor’s observations from a sociological point of view into the history of South Africa which every chapter begins with. This goes beyond simply telling a ‘my life so far’ story. It’s about understanding power, the importance of education and being taught to question and think critically. For this time we are living in now, where we see us moving backwards into being more prejudiced, more racist…it’s an important read.

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A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle – My American friends will probably be shocked to learn that I had never read A Wrinkle In Time, which I believe was a staple of people’s childhood in the US, much like books such as Matilda or The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe are here in the UK. I had seen the trailers for the movie version, and interviews with Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey about it. I was buying books for my godson and this was on a Buy One Get One Half Price deal in Waterstone’s. And so it became my travel book. I really enjoyed it, and was surprised to see elements of Christian teachings in there. If I’m honest, it felt like the ending was rushed, but I can totally understand why so many people hold this story in great esteem. I especially loved the characters of Meg and Calvin.

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In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It by Lauren Graham – Yep, you knew I’d be reading this, because you know I’m a huge fan of Lauren and the fact she has played roles in two of my all-time fave TV shows, Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. I saw the book was coming out the day before I was travelling to London to go see Hamilton, so I pre-ordered as a birthday present to myself. It is a short book, and a bit like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, is adapted from a speech she gave. In this case, her commencement to the graduates of her old high school. It was perfect to pop in my handbag, and read in bits as I was waiting to meet up with various pals in and around London. I love Lauren’s ability to impart a little real life wisdom with her quirky wit, anecdotes and sense of humour.

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How To Be Champion by Sarah Millican – Yep, it’s another comedian. I told you I loved autobiographies and comedians! I’ve been a long time fan of Sarah’s. She wears specs, she loves cake and doesn’t hold having to have a new outfit for every occasion as a matter of life and death. Hurrah! I remember applauding her when she wrote this article when she got ripped by shallow “journalists” who like pick apart what people wear to award ceremonies. There may have been yelling out loud of agreement and raging at whoever was on Lorraine. What I didn’t expect is to have so much in common with her. She also loves books, writing, buying stationery (several mentions of Paperchase), doesn’t drink alcohol much, cats (and now dogs) and has had very similar health issues to me too. At the end of each chapter she imparts little nuggets of advice for life, some more serious than others, but all of it worth sharing. This was a fun read, and if you are a Sarah Millican fan, you won’t be disappointed.

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The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher – I haven’t quite finished this yet. I have to confess I slightly skimmed the middle section reading through her verbatim journal entries as I didn’t really get what she was writing. That might be my lack of patience with people when they are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. If you’re getting drunk, I’m likely going to head home because I just get irritated. Sorry Carrie. It has been interesting to hear her thoughts on the early years of her career, her lack of confidence in some ways balanced with her chutzpah in others. I really miss having Carrie Fisher around on our screens, because man was she smart, funny and I especially loved her way of doing things her way and cutting through the BS. It still feels unreal that we’ll never see Princess (General) Leia in another Star Wars film.

What have you been reading lately?

I’d say give me some recommendations, but I currently have a pile of about 20-30 books to-read. Eek!

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.

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!