Books I’ve read, the July-October edition.

For my birthday this year I got a whole load of books based on a list compiled from shouting out on Facebook for my friends to share their recommends of the year. It was a great list and a brilliant selection arrived on my doorstep in July. I’ve finally finished working my way through them so here you go:

How to Stop Time- Matt Haig. 

I love Matt Haig, I love his thoughts on living in this world and think there is much wisdom in how he approaches life. This is a great read, a love story over many generations, imagining a world where a few people live for a whole lot longer than the rest of us. We follow someone who hung out with Shakespeare and is now dealing with life in the 21st Century. It was a book that helped me grasp again that people back in history were still people, with the same emotions we experience today. It made me want to join the dots more and learn a bit more about how humans have grappled with living life over the centuries. I really enjoyed the read, even if it did make me think it was a bit of a younger brother, simpler version, of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks (which you should go and read right now if you haven’t already..)

Notes on a Nervous Planet- Matt Haig. 

Have I mentioned that I love this man? Anyways, this book is full of practical wisdom as to how to get off your phone, stop worrying about what everyone thinks around you and live life differently. I really liked this book but thought there was something missing all over it. Obviously as a God botherer I’m going to think that there was another few dots to connect us back to our Maker, the source of our love and worth in this world. I wish that something like this could be written with a few of those connections made to a stronger better love and a Spirit who has power to help us live a different way. Ah well. Putting that slight grumble aside it’s still a fantastic read and worth getting and giving to those around you.

My Name is Leon- Kit de Waal. 

Really good novel from the perspective of a mixed race foster kid growing up in the 80s. Heartbreaking. Definitely worth a read.

The End We Start From- Megan Hunter. 

Really sparsely written post-apocalyptic book, almost too sparse. I wanted slightly more detail and a friend who read it wanted more geographical accuracy. I think worth a read though because it was beautiful. Maybe borrow it from the library and see what you think.

Everything I Never Told You- Celeste Ng

Another good novel, themes of motherhood, identity, putting pressure on yourself and your kids to be something you or they aren’t. Pretty sad but a good read.

The Lido- Libby Page. 

I really loved this gentle story of how saving a Lido gives friends and family to an anxious young reporter new to London life. It’s a bit too everything can be lovely in the end but who cares, sometimes you need sunny optimistic books that are real about the hard stuff but offer light as well as shade.

Lucy Mangan – Bookworm

A beautiful journey through the books she loved as a child. I related to much of this book, and skipped through the ones I didn’t know so well. A lovely, funny read, especially if you are around my age or a bit older and can remember with great fondness Milly, Molly, Mandy or The Family From One End Street.  Also interesting seeing her grapple with trying to let her son discover a deep love of books without too much pressure from her.

Educated- Tara Westover. 

Oh my word. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this one. It’s a heartbreaking memoir of a girl growing up to be a woman in the midst of a religious family living off the beaten track in the heartlands of America. It explores what it means to be educated and live differently from the assumed culture around you or in your family life. It’s a fairly traumatic read in places but one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I didn’t want it to end. Absolutely worth reading.

Dear Mrs Bird- AJ Pearce 

Set in World War 2 in the blitz with the protagonist working out how to respond better to those who write into the agony aunt column of the magazine she finds herself working for. Also explores themes of friendship and love in the midst of a city being bombed each night. Not amazing but pretty enjoyable.

Nobody Told Me- Hollie McNish. 

The book that *almost* made me regret not having a third child (almost being the key word there) It’s a document of Hollie’s first 3 years of motherhood with poems she wrote along the way. It’s an incredible read, one that had me shouting in agreement and sobbing all over again at the way the small people turn your life upside down and inside out. I read it during the time I realised that my world, which I had carefully crafted over the last 6 years of being a stay at home mum, was changing once more. It helped me grieve the loss of what I had come to love. I spent so many of those years wishing they would end and now I’m sad they have. This is a beautiful read and perfectly encapsulates the early years of small people so well. I think the whole wanting another baby again was a longing for the chance to do it better, or right or give it another go now I’m more used to it. Then I remembered the stuff I found so unbelievably hard about the early years and why we stopped at two. For me the smallest years are done and I am at peace with that, whilst being amused at my brain for getting nostalgic for a time I found quite so tricky. I guess there were good things in the midst of those sleepless nights after all.

Quiet- Susan Cain. 

Written in a totally US context this is a fantastic exploration of the importance of introverts in a world that values extroversion to a crazy degree. It kind of made me glad I didn’t grow up in America and it made me wish someone would translate this into a UK context. I wonder what the differences would be. It contained a fairly terrifying documentation of how the rise of the extrovert happened and the affects on business and society. It’s a good book to affirm you if you are an introvert and to make you think if you think being an extrovert is an ideal we all need to aim for. Most relevant felt the end chapter on raising introvert kids. Although, again, it is most suited for a US context it did remind me of the importance of being kind to my introvert boys and helping them through social situations rather than instantly expecting certain behaviours. I also felt very nurturing of my introvert tendencies and allowing myself to create healthy margins so I don’t get exhausted.

The Moth Snowstorm – Michael McCarthy

I have much more to say about this one, but in a different blog post. Michael’s point is that we need to feel the joy and wonder of the natural world in order to be motivated to care for it. (He reminded me of some Christian writers on joy and the need to feel the joy and wonder of God before we are in anyway motivated to live God’s ways). The book is a memoir of where he has tasted the wonder and joy of nature and the affects it had on him throughout his life. It’s also a beautiful tribute to the role his mother’s breakdown and eventual restoration to the family had on him and his brother. There are some heartbreaking chapters of the loss caused by humans ploughing on with industrialisation and I’m still in shock over the loss of sparrows from London. It’s a brilliant read and has inspired me to write more on my own relationship with the natural world over the years. (more to come soon.)

Right, I’m off to ask Facebook for more recommendations for my Christmas list…

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