Time to round up some Shiny New Books reviews I’ve had published recently and also highlight the new additions that have come into my life.

I was very lucky to be sent “Into the Tangled Bank” by Lev Parikian by the lovely folk at Elliot & Thompson after I’d retweeted my Shiny review of their “The Seafarers” when it came out in paperback.

Lev Parikian is a conductor and, more recently, a birdwatcher, and you might have seen or read his book on birds, Why do Birds Suddenly Disappear? which was published on Unbound, so it’s nice to see he’s found a traditional publisher for this one. This is a very pretty and enticing book with a lovely cover which includes birds, butterflies, insects, plants and a … crisp packet, because it’s essentially a book about British people’s relationship with nature.

Read my full review here.

I was also asked to revisit my review of Candice Carty-Williams’ “Queenie” to celebrate its paperback edition, so I rewrote it to be a bit less personal and a bit more universal.

This Sunday Times bestseller, which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, has been touted as being “The Black Bridget Jones”. While it might also be the iconic book that defines a generation of women of a particular time, I think it goes much further than Helen Fielding’s novel, and is more shocking and perhaps more valuable for that. Certainly it’s a must-read for the person staring at a Black Lives Matter reading list (and let’s face it, lots of us have been poring over those) and offers a great complement to the theoretical books helping us thing differently. Here, we’re right in the action, right in someone’s life, finding out what the Black London community thinks of mental health issues, or about just how diverse that diverse, welcoming workplace really might be. And if you want to understand what a micro-aggression is, go directly to this novel.

Read my full review here.

Carty-Williams became the first Black author to win book of the year at the British Book Awards.

Right, a varied set of incomings now.

First of all, a while ago I spent the book tokens I’d accumulated on a lovely pile of books from Foyles’ website and six of them arrived while the last one didn’t (and I had to eventually buy it from Amazon, because they were the only people who I could it from, and I needed it). Anyway, this all meant that part of one of my book tokens and some Foyalty points were refunded to me, so I had BOOK MONEY hanging around. Reading the gal-dem book the other day gave me some ideas for some books I wanted to read (the Windrush one and a different trans history one) so I went a clicking and only had to spend £15 of my own money by using the refund and the rest of the Foyalty points I’d accumulated …

In my usual way I tried to leaven the more ‘worthy’ thought-provoking books with a lighter one, but of course Nadiya Hussain is known for her frank discussions of mental health issues so her book “Finding my Voice,” is not necessary going to be that fly-away and non-profound. “Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows” ed. Christine Burns is a collection of essays by trans people about their own experiences and their relation to the slow changes in society which have afforded some more positive visibility and freedoms, but have also allowed a lot of phobia and bigotry to remain. While I am committed to supporting trans rights, I felt I didn’t know enough of the history, so this should be ideal.

Afrua Hirsch’s “Brit(ish)” is another seminal BLM book that went out of stock and has only just come back in, though it’s been on my wishlist for a good while. This memoir unpacks systemic racism, prejudice and disadvantage and how the impact of historical issues plays out on lives today. “Mother Country: Real Stories of the Windrush Children” edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff tells 22 real-life stories of people who came to Britain on the Windrush ship, their children and grandchildren. So four lots of direct voices telling their lived experience in this batch.

Here’s a funny thing I noticed when I was shelving these – they’re all lovely and bright in purples, yellows and red, and the spines the same …

… yet when I went to shelve them (and yes, they DO fit on my TBR shelves!) (just), I noticed that the whole front row is grey, green, blue and white. How odd! I know I do have a load of Persephones and Viragoes waiting to be read next month but that’s by no means all of them!

On to the next one, and the people at the British Library Women Writers series have kindly sent me a lovely paperback to review of “Dangerous Ages” by Rose Macaulay, which looks at three women of varying ‘dangerous ages’ and what life throws at them. This is a gorgeous object of a book, with a lovely patterned and textured cover, a silhouette of the author and French flaps. It’s out next month in their new batch and I hope to have it reviewed on publication date. Thank you to the lovely British Library Publishing folks for sending it to me!

And finally, we’ve obviously been in lockdown here in the UK and all non-essential shops were shut, which was a Good Thing. Then they’ve been gradually opening up, but I’ve been feeling very timid and risk-averse and sticking to my usual two-supermarkets-plus-savers routine. Then I was running with a friend on Sunday who mentioned that the local charity shops are being very good, controlling entrance to the shop, having someone on the door with hand sanitiser, and generally feeling OK. So as I had to go to Holland & Barrett (also safe and well-organised; you scan your own items and the staff are behind plastic screens), I girded my loins and went across the road to Oxfam Books (I was thinking that there are only books there, so less backing into racks of clothing, etc.). It was absolutely fine, there was hand sanitiser at the door and a note of how many people could be in the shop at any one time, everyone who came in after me used the sanitiser as did I. I was careful not to pick up and put down books, although this meant I took one down to browse, couldn’t work out how to put it back (do I tell the staff I’ve touched it? there’s no trolley to put them on as apparently Waterstone’s has) and bought it anyway, although I do think I did really want it! I paid by card using contactless and the volunteer was behind a screen. I did quarantine the bag of books in the spare room for 72 hours, so feel pretty safe.

So what did I pick up?

A lovely hardback of Armistead Maupin’s “Logical Family: A Memoir” – I’ve had this on my radar for a while and can’t wait to get to it. Damian Le Bas published “The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain” a while back and it has been on the back burner of my wish list. I did think that if I’m doing all this reading around Black and Asian British lives I should devote some time to the very criticised and abused Traveller and Gypsy communities so it’s good I found this. Tristan Gooley’s “How to Read Water” is about the patterns in water from a puddle right up to the sea, and looks fascinating – I think this will also appeal to the wild swimmers I know.

What a lovely haul, and exactly the kinds of finds I was envisaging when thinking of all those lockdown clearouts and donations that have been going on. I can’t say I’ll be trawling the charity shops all in one go like I used to, but this felt like a new return to something normal.

Have you read any of my new acquisitions?