I’ve had a couple of reviews published in the Shiny New Books online review magazine recently, and I have some incomings to report (yes, I know this is the time of year when I’m supposed to be refraining from such things; there are (sort of) mitigating circumstances (honest, guv!).

Jan Morris – “Allegorizings”

I’ve been reading Jan Morris’ travel writing for years and years, and I was a little nervous approaching this, her last volume, designed to be published after her death. Book-ended by pieces entitled “Pre-Mortem” and “Post-Mortem” (I did nervously flick to the latter, but it was s super piece about the celebration of her and her very long-term partner Elizabeth’s civil partnership), there’s everything from sneezing to marmalade to the wonder of the hot water bottle, as well as more trenchant pieces and travel writing. I said, “The book is soaked in Wales and the Welsh, thankful for small pleasures and looking out to the world with a sometimes naughty grin. It’s a very worthy final book and memento of one of the great travel writers of our age.” Read the full review.

Annie Nightingale – “Hey Hi Hello”

Annie Nightingale was already a successful music journalist – and friend of the Beatles! – when she lobbied to be and became the first woman DJ on BBC Radio One. Here she reviews her long career since then, sharing interviews (charmingly annotated – something I often long to do when I’m transcribing other people’s!), memories and some previously published pieces taking in so many musical genres and artists. I said, “Her close relationships with all sorts of artists mean she can share intimate discussions and details, all done with good sense and a sense of the sometimes ridiculous nature of her world and job.” and you can read the full review here.


First off, early in the month I had an amusing day where two books arrived that were a tiny bit sweary on the covers. Huda Fahmy writes the “Yes, I’m Hot in This” cartoons (I’ve bought a cartoon book previously) and this is a YA graphic novel. “Birmingham, It’s not Shit: 50 Things that Delight about Brum” by Jon Bounds, Jon Hickman and Danny Smith is a fun book about my city which I and several friends and more acquaintances subscribed to (Bill was amazed on Facebook that the book subscription model is alive and kicking, having more of a Jane Austen / Johnson’s Dictionary feel about it; this was on a Kickstarter but I do a lot of subscribing to Unbound books, too).

Then this pile developed. It goes from oldest at the bottom. I went to visit Heaven-Ali last week on a sort of round trip delivering, collecting and delivering secret santa parcels for a book group we’re in, and somehow came away with Rumer Godden’s “Black Narcissus” (nuns go wrong in the Himalayas and perfect for a LibraryThing Virago Group themed read in January), even though I forgot to take up a book I was passing to her. Shucks! Then I had two parcels on Saturday. Thomas Harding’s “White Debt” covers a personal quest by the author to discover the truth about the money made from slavery by his ancestors and to share the story of the Demerera Uprising. That one’s to review for Shiny, and thank you to Weidenfeld & Nicolson for sending it to me for review.

It’s all the fault of these bloggers, really, see (well, I’m friends with Ali separately from book blogging) – the lovely Bookish Beck has got into a kind habit of keeping aside books she can part with that I’ve shown interest in on her blog and sending me a box in December. Said box arrived on Saturday (crossing paths with one I sent her full of some authors I’m no longer reading but she likes), and included “Dad: Untold Stories of Fatherhood, Love, Mental Health and Masculinity”, curated by Elliott Rae; “Gifts of Gravity and Light”, edited by Anita Roy and Pippa Marland, which shares nature writing by a variety of diverse voices; Lucille Clifton’s “Generations”, a memoir of an African American family through slavery and beyond (which will fit nicely into Novellas in November next year!); Caleb Femi’s “Poor”, his tribute in poetry, prose and photography to the North Peckham Estate; and Lola Akinmadé Akestrom’s novel “In Every Mirror She’s Black”, profiling what it’s like to be a Black woman moving through White Swedish society.

And then my lovely friend Gill had given my husband (it turned out, oops: I spent them!) gardening vouchers a good while ago now and me a made-up voucher to spend on books at the super Bookshop on the Green in Bournville (see their Facebook page here and Northern Reader’s super review and photos here) and we finally got to visit the shop (I’ve been sending them my bookshop percentage via Hive and Bookshop.org since they opened). It was just as lovely as it looks from the outside, with a superbly curated stock, so deep and wide, lots of adults’ as well as children’s books, and I selected “The Book of Pebbles” by Christopher Stocks and Angie Lewin” which is a beautifully illustrated book on, well, pebbles, Cat Jarman’s “River Kings: The Vikings from Scandinavia to the Silk Roads” which is apparently a radical rethinking on the Vikings; and James Rebanks’ “English Pastoral: An Inheritance” which I really should have got before, in a nice Penguin edition. Only that last one was on my wishlist and my friends have been good at telling Matthew what to take off it, so I THINK I’m safe … Well, I do have arriving today “The Chinese in Britain: A History of Visitors and Settlers” by Barclay Price which was suddenly on a huge price drop on Amazon, so I clicked yesterday … I’m out of control!