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’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’m Currently Reading…

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My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem – As previously mentioned, my fellow Guide leader and I decided to join Emma Watson’s bookclub as it seemed like a path we were already on. I am supposed to have finished this book by now, but as per usual have been distracted by work, sleeping, Girlguiding prep and got a little sucked into re-watching Season 1 of Gilmore Girls when I was too cold to do anything but wrap myself like Lenny Kravitz in multiple blankets. But oh.my.word. This book. The stories. The reflections. Gloria is a community organiser, journalist and traveller and just has so much wisdom that she has gained from just being in the moment and meeting everyday ordinary people that politicians often ignore. So much of what I’ve read so far has matched up with my own frustrations and discoveries in my years of Community development work. Basically you need to all read this book.

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan – A collection of short stories and non-fiction essays from a Yale student. Tragically Marina died in a car accident shortly after her graduation, but what has come out of that is her friends, mentors and teachers putting together this collection of her writing pieces. It is worth reading, especially if you are a young single woman trying to navigate life and discover your purpose. Marina writes in such a real and authentic way, not trying to be older than she is – which is refreshing.

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler – I didn’t really know who Amy was until she voiced the lead character of Joy in Inside Out. Since then I’ve watched more interviews she has done and I know that Mindy Kaling (whose first book of memoirs/essays I read last year) is a fan of hers. So I figured it was worth a read. I’ve only read one chapter (sorry Amy, you did get put the side so I could attempt to finish Gloria’s book in time for the bookclub discussion) but I like it so far and will definitely be picking it back up again.

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai – I started this book when it first came out in paperback, and it is an incredible story. The only issue I’ve had is that is seems very badly edited so you have to really concentrate to follow some sections of her story (just basic grammar and sentence flow that has not been picked up on so you sometimes have to read a paragraph a couple of times to work out what they meant to say). Unfortunately, the book was in my handbag and a bottle of water I was carrying leaked and totally ruined my copy thus halting my reading of it. I now have a new copy and am continuing on from where I left off.

BK’s Book Pouch: Recipe For Life

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In February, I started working in a café. When it’s quiet in the cafe I read in between serving customers (unless we are playing scrabble – a cafe staff tradition). Being on my university placement for the past four months has meant that I’ve not had an essay to do in a while and it’s given me more time for reading. The first book I finished was Mary Berry’s autobiography.

I confess, I’m not a fan of the Great British Bake Off. I think it’s a decent enough TV show, it’s just not my thing! I love to bake but I get bored watching people cooking. Even when I’m baking I get bored and have to have music or a TV show on while I’m doing it to keep me entertained! But I have seen several interviews with Mary Berry on talk shows (cough cough Graham Norton cough cough) and I really liked her. Then I found out from somewhere that she had been a Girl Guide. When my friend Holly and I met one of the GBBO contestants at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, he spoke so warmly of Mary Berry. And so when I saw her book on the shelf in Waterstone’s I knew at some point I had to get a copy!

It didn’t disappoint. Mary writes very honestly, doesn’t hold back with her opinions and has had an interesting life, and not one that’s been free of heartache or challenges despite growing up fairly privileged. I didn’t always agree with her opinions, but there was plenty that I did agree on. And as someone who always grew up wanting to work even if I had my own family, I found Mary’s example so encouraging. She didn’t get married young (at a time when most women did), finding a husband was never a focus. Her focus seems to have been on working hard at something she loved doing, and creating opportunities to have adventures. Friends are clearly important to her (as is her family) and that’s something I could relate to as well.

Oh, and for the bakers and cooks out there – Mary puts some of her favourite recipes at the end of each chapter!

And so I give ‘Recipe for Life‘ the koala stamp of approval. Thank you Mary for being willing to share your story so far with us all. I really loved reading it, and I reckon I will re-read it in years to come. 🙂