Anita Rani – “The Right Sort of Girl”

In this excellent memoir, Anita Rani, lately of Strictly and Countryfile, but I’ve been watching her since she presented Desi DNA back in the day, tells of her crisis of confidence in her 40s and her need to address the issues of her life and culture which may have held her back.

In case you’re worried it’s all protest and journeys, this book is also warm, funny (she makes much of the “Illuminaunty” network of bossy, nosy women who know everything) and endearing (she’s excited when she makes friends with John Craven, who she used to watch on Newsround). She’s very proud of her Yorkshire roots and extols the virtues of her home county – and when she learns to drive, the first place she goes is up on the moors, away from everyone, on her own and free in nature.

Read the full review here

Shon Faye – The Transgender Issue”

An important book I also reviewed on here in a more personal capacity (see link below)

It’s a very human book, certainly not all facts and figures. Faye interviews people from the trans community, from parents of a young trans child who knew nothing, but could access a lot of information and support online to a man running a shelter for homeless trans people who provides support and information to them. In addition, various news stories are carefully debunked and the people they are about honoured, and myths such as trans people and their doctors being in cahoots overturned with an explanation of the long and fraught process of having gender transition needs recognised and progressed. It’s very interesting to see that a lot of the media narrative about trans people echoes almost exactly the narrative about gay people from 30-odd years ago: in terms of a claim of cults who are trying to turn everyone’s children gay/trans, and all sorts of other hysteria.

Read the full review here and I have reviewed this more fully on this blog here.

Lev Parikian – “Light Rains Sometimes Fall”

Parikian, writer, birdwatcher and conductor, had already started this project to map British nature against the 72 seasons of Japan in February 2020. Yes, you get a chill when you see those dates, don’t you! So it didn’t start as, but did turn into, a sort of coronavirus lockdown project, and we’ve seen a few of these lately, but this is very nicely done and certainly not all about the lockdown, or made difficult to read because of that aspect.

Each Japanese mini-season has its name and a lot of the joy of the book comes from Parikian’s alternative British names for the sets of days. For example, the Japanese name for 9-13 February is “Bush warblers start singing in the mountains”, which Parikian replaces with “Dunnock song defies traffic noise”. In fact, I can contribute my own here, as I finished reading it during what the Japanese call “White dew” for the larger season and “Swallows leave” for the smaller, Parikian calls “House martins leave” and I term “Large electrical goods are replaced” as this has happened in this week two years running.

There’s a lovely recognisable moment when a blackbird sings the beginning of a tune and he always answers in his head, as we used to have “the Toreador bird” who would sing the first few notes of the song from Carmen repeatedly.

Of course I learned things; did you know Flying Ant Day isn’t when the ants hatch, but when they mate? There are pleasing moments when the seasons coincide and he does indeed see some wagtails during the “Wagtails sing” season, and he’s great on the privilege of seeing tiny details, crows mobbing a hawk, a flower growing in a crack, without being mawkish or sentimental (and there is some death and decay and some worry about fledglings, but nothing too challenging in that regard). He acknowledges that this year of observation has given him more insight into his patch and into the human-constructed context and its interplay with nature, a lovely positive to draw from a time of constraint, and he states it has made the year more bearable.

Read the full review here.