Summertime Reading…


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.


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’.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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?!


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*


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!

What I’m Currently Reading… August Edition

This Saturday the Edinburgh International Book Festival begins – my favourite time of summer! The first event will be taking my friend’s daughter to see Jacqueline Wilson and we are both very excited about it (Jacqueline is her favourite author and she often gives me updates on what knowledge she has gained from her monthly subscription to the Jacqueline Wilson magazine). The challenge will be not spending all my savings in the Book Festival bookstore as I’m booked up for several events over the next few weeks!

So going into August – what I am currently reading? Here is the list of books I’ve been reading since I finished my last pile.


A book + cake = a contented koala

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper LeeTo Kill A Mockingbird is a book that had failed to make it to my bookshelf as a teenager as it was recommended by a school teacher. Most of the books they seemed to recommend I found deathly boring, so I never read it. The furore Go Set A Watchman has created, made me realise that I really needed to give it a go. I enjoyed the read, can understand why people love it but I would be lying if I said I thought it’s the best book I’ve ever read. It took several chapters before I felt the story got started, and I felt like it jumped around too much, I started to get confused who was who and how they were related in one chapter. I found the ending a little disappointing…just as the story became interesting, it felt like it came to rather an abrupt end. I almost want to go and edit the book to include more story.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling – I have a bit of a girl crush on Mindy Kaling, and though I don’t watch The Mindy Project and have never seen an episode of the American version of The Office, I do think this woman is hilarious, clever and I’m like…thank the Lord for some diversity on our television screens. This book is a collection of essays that are a mixture of thoughts and memoirs written by Mindy. I’ve found the book really easy to read, related to a lot of what she has shared and it’s been my ‘handbag’ book for the last week since finishing To Kill A Mockingbird. I’ve almost finished it, and it’s totally made me want to write more. Oh, and Dear Mindy…I’m so glad that we have almost identical writing offices and uniforms. 🙂

Friends, Lovers and Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith – since reading The Forever Girl at the start of the summer, and realising that I was lacking some fiction in my life, I decided to give Isabel Dalhousie another go. She’s the only main protaganist created by Alexander McCall Smith that I’m supposed to like but struggle to. I’m not sure what it is. I do find the storyline always interesting, but something about this character irritates me slightly and I feel terrible about that. I love Bertie, and Precious Ramotswe, I loved La and felt for Clover, Freddie De La Haye is the best dog in the fiction world since Hairy McLary  and I even feel like I would know how to handle Prof Von Igelfeld. I have two friends that love Isabel, and I don’t understand why I don’t. This inner turmoil and guilt seems to be distracting me from actualy enjoying reading a book by one of my favourite authors (There’s a joint third position here between Alexander McCall Smith, Jacqueline Wilson and J.K. Rowling).

Only When I Laugh by Paul Merton – The realisation that I’m going to be seeing Paul at the Book Festival next Monday (as long as I’m able to get the day off…!) and that I’d almost finished Mindy’s book found me back in Waterstone’s this week buying Paul’s memoir. I read the first couple of chapters in a comfy chair in the store before I got too cold and hungry to sit there any longer and headed for home where there was bread and fleecey blankets. I like it so far, and I love reading and hearing about people’s life stories. His anecdote about the wonders of a supermarket with automatic doors had me pondering over what inventions today’s kids will consider weird that we ever lived without (my suggestions during a discussion about this with my friend are: wifi, smartphones, DVDs).

As always, you can follow my reading habits on Goodreads. I even track down my favourite quotes there! 🙂

Any books that you’ve been reading this summer? Leave a note in the comments…