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.