What I’ve read: The August-October Edition

I think my reading mojo has disappeared somewhere in the busy nature of life in this autumn term. Thankfully as November rolls on I can feel my inner need to hibernate growing.  I’m putting down a marker for the books I’ve managed to get through in the last few months and hoping for more quiet reading moments as winter kicks in and my sofa becomes more and more appealing. 

Ordinary People- Diana Evans

This is a very very well written book, it follows the lives of two couples with young children and their lives within the landscape of London, or having left London. It’s a fascinating insight into the strains on marriage, racial identity and what love means in your late 30s. It’s a Good Book. All that said it felt all a bit too close to life here, it messed with my head, I absorbed too many of the characters issues within their own marriages and I had to mentally pull myself out of their lives and stop being grumpy with the lovely husbandface for things he hadn’t done. I guess that’s a sign of good writing but it should come with a bit of a health warning. It was a bit like Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ but for people my age, and with better characters. I’ve no idea if I’m recommending it or not based on that description as I really didn’t like ‘Normal People’. Ah well. It’s a good book but not essential.

The Great Alone- Kristin Hannah

This follows the life of a family relocating to Alaska to give them a chance of doing life well despite the Dad’s PTSD and trauma from Vietnam. It doesn’t go all that well. It’s a beautiful, brutal read, I wasn’t that convinced, then became hooked, then wept loads, then sighed with joy. It’s big, vast and complicated, much like living in Alaska I imagine. Wonderful descriptions of life up there and a story to keep you guessing. I recommend.  

The book you wish your parents had read and your children will be glad you did- Philippa Perry

I loved this but also felt it came up short towards the end. I love her child centred approach, the acknowledgement of the valid feelings of your child, the sense of seeking to understand what’s going on with your child. I loved the freedom she gives to see things from your child’s point of view. The book is worth it alone for the first couple of chapters on owning your own past and how that affects your feelings towards your kids, and the hope of knowing that ruptures in relationship can be repaired, that there is a way forward through the times we get it wrong. I would have loved a chapter on siblings and how to help them with their understanding of each other and how to do this child centred approach when another child also needs our full attention at the same time. (If anyone knows of a good book along similar lines with that sibling stuff in it I’d love to know about it.)

Inspired- Rachel Held Evans

A great read, made all the more poignant by the horrible knowledge that there will be no more books from her. I loved her take on the Bible, her passion for the content and God, I loved her retelling of stories and I love her writing. Having read some Peter Enns earlier in the year I think I pretty much knew what I was getting but it was still refreshing to read. A book that added to the books this year which have helped me love the Bible more and want to read it more. 

Beast Quest- Adam Blade (can’t remember the title but it was something along the lines of Magma the bone cruncher) 

I read this because son1 is slowly working his way through every Beast Quest book ever written, we constantly trawl the libraries of Brighton and Hove to discover ones he hasn’t read. I’m astonished he can remember which ones he has and hasn’t because they all have the same awful title. I can kind of see why he likes them. They are trash for 7 year olds. Easy to read, basic plot, a beast, a quest, some heroes and a happy ending every time. They are SO badly written though. Thankfully I don’t have to read them out loud and I’m hoping the phase will pass soon. Meanwhile I have to try and hold my feelings in check (I’m not very good at that..) 

Cressida Cowell- Knock Three TImes (Wizards of Once series) 

Ahhhh. Such a joyous wonder to read this out loud to the boys, we’ve loved this new series of hers and I refused to let son1 skip ahead by himself so me and son2 could enjoy it at the same pace as him. She can write, her characters are interesting, her plots gripping and she’s funny. So different from the awful Beast Quest. But I guess we all need some good writing and some trash in our lives right? 

Walking Away -Simon Armitage

I read this because I went on a long walk on the South Down’s Way for a couple of days back at the end of September and was looking for inspiration. It’s his recounting of walking the South West Coast Path, seeing if he could survive on poetry readings and the goodwill of people along the way. It’s ok, ish. The trouble is I want my walking books now to have the redemptive power and wonder of The Salt Path, this just feels dull in comparison. There isn’t much personal redemption joy and I skipped through the book rather uninspired. Sorry Simon. 

When I lost you – Merylin Davies

My own personal Beast Quest style trash. A rambling cop story trying to work out whether the pathologist in baby loss cases was causing the wrong people to be convicted. Gripping enough but fairly forgettable.

The Confession- Jessie Burton

I like Jessie Burton books, she’s got good at the duel time frame vibe in a novel. This one follows someone in the present day searching for her mother, and then follows her mother in the past and we see how their lives take shape. Really engaging and a good read. 

The Power of Belonging – Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller 

I bought this at a Mind and Soul Foundation conference recently, I sensed the message of working through shame in leadership might just hit the spot. I wasn’t wrong. It’s a book which takes lots of the Brene Brown shame and vulnerability stuff and applies it to church leaders. I found it so helpful to start to think through my own shame around my work, the ways I retreat when I perceive myself to have failed and my strategies to avoid feeling embarrassed or found out. It helped me remember that life is best lived when I’m secure in my belonging to God and so able to work without the gripping panic of failure. When my core is at peace I can fail and know forgiveness and ways through rather than it being catastrophic. When I know I am beloved I can then be open about my weaknesses and live life without a fear of the ‘real me’ being found out.  Good reminders in an easy to read format. 

Walking back to Happiness- Penelope Swithinbank

I jumped at the chance get a free copy of this, I’m always happy to read anything in the walking to redemption genre. This one had the added promise of a God perspective on the redemptive power of nature and walking outside. Penelope and her husband Kim walked across France to try and regain a sense of who they were in their marriage after some very difficult years. I lapped it up in a couple of days. It’s a really gentle lovely book. Penelope recounts the steps that led them to the decision to walk, she talks beautifully about the journey and the people they stayed with and drops in what she’s learning and discovering about God’s call to love and what that means within her marriage and in wider life. I am always fascinated by other people and this was a lovely insight into their life together with really simple insights into how life with the Maker of the world affected her on a personal level. A warm nourishing hug of a read. I’m grateful to people who share their stories like this. It encourages me to keep on blogging and putting down what I’ve been learning through the everyday moments of life. There is so much value in gazing into someone else’s world, seeing how they have made sense of it and the ways God has been working in them.

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