Books I’ve read Jan- Feb 2021

A Manual for Heartache- Cathy Rentzenbrink

A lovely book, really helpful words on what helps when your world has been devastated or doesn’t look like you ever thought. Practical, earthy, real, hopeful and easy to read. 

The 10,000 doors of January- Alix E Harrow

I adored this novel following a girl called January through doors into other worlds. A story of love, commitment, hope and wonder. It altered how I looked at the world around me and I don’t think there is a much higher compliment I could pay to a novel. So good to immerse yourself in. 

Diary of a Young Naturalist- Dara McAnulty

I loved this journey through a year with Dara, a teenage boy who loves the natural world and who also lives with autitism, as do many other members of his family. It’s such a wonderful read. I really appreciated seeing the strategies he uses to live well in the world. I loved the portraits painted of his family and the love and care his Mum clearly has for him. I love how she’s helped him learn how to experience and live well with the things which overwhelm him. It gave me great hope for my boys, a greater desire to be gentle with them and help them with the situations they find hard. Also it made me ache to be back over in Northern Ireland with our family over there and the Mourne Mountains. Dara loves this beautiful world of ours and it was brilliant to journey with him and his reflections on it. 

Everything is Spiritual – Rob Bell

Oh I wanted to love this a lot. Really good friends described how helpful it was and I wanted to delight in it too. But I just didn’t connect with it. Ah well. Maybe a good lesson in how different we all are and what works for some won’t work for others. 

The Wild Silence – Raynor Winn

This however I adored. I love her writing SO much, she also helps me write better as my internal monologue soaks in her prose. This is the wonderful follow up to The Salt Path and I think I liked it more. It’s the story of how they returned to a stable life, how The Salt Path was written and a journey into learning to trust people again. Essential reading I reckon, (but then people said that about the Rob Bell book so take my words with a pinch of salt…). I also loved how much of the divine I found in the book (not that she would call it that on any level..) but the ending resounded loud of the God I know and love. 

Ask Again Yes- Mary Beth Keane

A beautiful novel following the life of two neighbouring families and the lives of two of their kids who grow up together, stay together and form a life together whilst trying to grapple with an incident which tore the families apart. It’s a tale of redemption, hope and the power of real love. Such a good hopeful book. 

Utopia Avenue- David Mitchell

I love David Mitchell. This is a sprawling tale of the band Utopia Avenue and their journey of recording two albums in the middle of the 60s. It’s full of nods to other bands and artists of the time, full of his usual slightly twisty turney plots, full of the normal and bizarre together and any fans of his will love the story arch which turns up in most of his books. I really want to read them all over again to appreciate the depths and intricacies of the world he has created. No idea what you’d make of it if you’d never read any David Mitchell but I loved it. 

Dear Reader- Cathy Rentzenbrink

Another beautiful memoir (I seem to have read loads over the last couple of months) based around her love of reading, how books have held her and been her companions throughout her life so far and some of her story told through the books she was reading at the time. A book which made me want to keep on reading and reading. Beautifully written as well. 

Lectio Divina- Christine Valters Painter

Really helpful book taking you through the different stages and types of Lectio Divina (sacred reading) . I found it gave me a sense of wanting to sit more with the things I read, to notice and be aware of God in the world around me, in the books I read, in the words of the Bible I read. It helped me want to slow life down and take notice. Really easy to read and absorb and one to come back to again and again. 

Once Upon a River- Diane Setterfield

I didn’t love this as much as I know others have, probably because I read it in a fairly disjointed way on my kindle, it might have been more absorbing in a couple of good deep sessions of reading. A great story though of what happens in a local community on the river Thames when a man enters a pub one night carrying what seems to be a dead girl. A fascinating journey of several people connected to the girl and seeing their interconnected lives play out to a surprising conclusion. 

Rumblestar- Abi Elpinstone

This is my pick of the books the boys have read either with me or on their own this month. She might just be my new favourite author. This is a brilliant book of magical worlds but really it’s about friendship, loyalty, how to make friends and keep them and how to deal with anger and sadness without it spilling out on everyone around you, all in a brilliantly fun adventure story. It has a fair few moments of tension but isn’t that scary. (we leave the super cliff hanger chapters for when we read in the day time!). It might just be better than The Land of Roar which was our book of the year last year.

This month they’ve also loved The Boy who Sang with Dragons by Andy Shepherd (the end of a wonderful series which is great if you want some lovely stories without much tension), Pizazz by Sophy Henn (amazingly sarcastic superhero who does some excellent eye rolling), Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve (a fun adventure story without any scaries).  Son1 loved the start of The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson but it has some pretty horrid bad guys early on that gave son2 nightmares, he’s decided to save it for a few years time, probably best aged 8/9 and up. They adore The Phoenix comic which arrives on our doorstep every Friday and it’s always a sweet moment when they break off from fighting each other and son1 reads it to son2. 

And you? What good reads have rocked your world this month? 

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