Book review – Jeanette Winterson “Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere” #20BooksOfSummer20 plus one more #BookConfession


Can you see this book sitting tiny and neat above “Literary Landscapes” in the pile? A pretty purple, green, white and gold hardback from Canongate running to 72 pages, consisting of a printed lecture and a reprinted talk, this just about counts as a full book, right?

Jeanette Winterson – “Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere”

(25 December 2018, from Meg)

A lecture by the redoubtable Winterson (I loved “Oranges are not the Only Fruit” but have found I admire her as a person more than I love her other books) on the suffragettes, a great justification for violent action and a brisk run-down of the inequalities women still face today, turned into a readable and entertaining essay, along with a reprint of Emmeline Pankhurst’s “Freedom or Death” speech of 1913, introduced by Winterson.

I loved her witty asides and footnotes and her careful enunciation of the facts while celebrating those campaigners from the North and the working classes who she particularly admires. In her plea for boardroom equality she cuts through the statistics with the brilliantly argued claim that women can bring into the boardroom the traits that they have been raised to have of listening, caring, etc, (“I am not talking biological essentialism here” (p. 31). Very intelligent and a lovely morning read.

This was Book 8 in my 20 Books Of Summer project.

Book confession!

I was working on editing a brochure for an Eastern European client when I noticed the group of representative people in a graphic was somewhat monocultural. I started to write a note to please make it more multicultural, then thought I’d better look up said country and see what the ethnic mix actually was. Oh. And that reminded me that I don’t know much about the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic populations in Europe (I know a bit about France having been in the south and encountered people from former colonial North Africa there and having read about the Paris banlieus, and lived in South London when it welcomed a wave of Francophone African people, and I have encountered and read up on West African traders in the Canary Islands, but that’s about it) and I had Johny Pitts’ “Afropean: Notes from Black Europe” on my wishlist. So I ordered it from Hive and it arrived this week. And of course it doesn’t talk about Eastern Europe, but it still looks fascinating!

State of the TBR July 2020 #20BooksOfSummer20 #Paulmagrsathon


Whole TBRGiven the number of books that have come into the house this month, I’m quite surprised that I’ve managed to fit everything on to the TBR shelf with only one pile (I have taken the review books from their position balanced on top of the front row, but you’ll see those in a minute. I did read thirteen books this month and of those, I took seven plus one DNF off this shelf, which has helped – and I’ve also taken off one of the ones I’m reading at the moment.

Currently reading

Two Queer Eye BooksThe book I took off to read was the (new) Queer Eye book – it’s a big, square volume that nothing could fit in front of, so was effectively taking up two spaces on the shelf. The new series has started and is excellent as ever, and I also, as you can see, have the ORIGINAL book! So I’m going to read the new one then re-read the original. I think there are quite a lot of differences between the two series and the two sets of experts, so it’ll be very interesting to compare the books.

I’m also finishing up the huge book on Grayson Perry  by Perry and Jacky Klein for review in Shiny New Books, and one of my older ones from NetGalley “Company of One” by Paul Jarvis, which is about the value of keeping your business small (but also about being a “company of one” in a corporation.

Definitely coming up this month

Four books to read this month

As well as my next six 20 Books of Summer, I’ll be reading these review and project books. Lev Parikian’s “Into the Tangled Bank” is an exploration of the British relationship to nature and is a review copy from Elliott and Thompson that comes out early this month, so this will be started soon. Nick Hayes’ “The Book of Trespass”, kindly sent to me by Bloomsbury, is out in August but a mighty tome, so I will start it this month, too. In my Paul Magrsathon I will be reading “All the Rage”, his book about a two boys / two girls band in the 80s. I think I last read this in May 2002 and I have a dim memory of a scene in a shopping centre … (I sent “Exchange” off to its Australian winner a few weeks ago and will schedule to read that when he has it ready to read). Then “I will not be erased” by the gal-dem collective, “Our stories of growing up as people of colour” which I bought in September last year will be the next on my Black Lives Matter reading theme – I’ve decided to read a few books about people’s experience in the UK to get more of the background before going on to “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” and “White Fragility” to underpin and explain how I feel reading and working through “Me and White Supremacy”.

I will also add in at least two of the lovely volumes Dean Street Press have sent me which are coming out in August.

Up next / 20 Books of Summer Month 2

next on the TBR

The front (older) end of the TBR is looking very different to how it looked in June (and, indeed, for a good few months before that). 20 Books of Summer 20 is really shifting those older books and I’m up to 25 December 2018 now! So next up around the books above will basically be anything that’s not a Persephone / Virago / Dean St Press in this picture (the Persephones and DSPs will be read in August; the Viragos are waiting for more Thirkell reprints in late August that come before and around these two). Once I’ve got to Tim Parks’ “Where I’m Reading From” which was originally Book 13, I have one to choose to finish the month out of “A Brown Man in Russia”, “Our City” and “Naturally Tan” – whichever I choose will at least be contributing to diversifying the 20Books pile a bit! I’ll see how much time I’ve got at the end of the month.

So there we go: a successful reading month in June and some really good reads to look forward to in July. How’s your TBR?

Book review – Ammon Shea – “The Phone Book” #20BooksOfSummer20 plus #BookConfessions


On briskly to another book of my 20BooksOfSummer and this is the one that should have been Book 8 and starting July, were it not for the DNF on Book 7.

Ammon Shea – “The Phone Book”

(25 December 2018, from Gill)

I will admit that after having read this author’s “Reading the OED” (take a moment to view that review and marvel over the empty wastes on the front shelf of June 2013’s TBR!) I thought this was going to be more of the same and a book about reading the phone book. But even Ammon Shea stops short of that excess, although he does have an interesting time reading part of the white and yellow pages from his youth, reminiscing about the people and places of which he’s reminded. This is mainly a history of the (US) phone book and yellow pages, well done and informative but lightly written as usual. I liked the pieces about collectors and artists best.

A bit oddly arranged with some strange repetition or re-mentions, maybe because the book was re-ordered at the last minute or something. And I couldn’t work out why he went all coy when mentioning other people’s reading quests without mentioning his own OED read. But it was entertaining and I’m glad I was given it and read it.

This was Book 7 in my 20 Books Of Summer project.

Book confessions!

I had fun times spending a load of book tokens from lovely friends on the Foyle’s website (while I would have loved to buy some of these books from Black-owned independent bookstores online I could not find any that had stock and took book tokens at the time I wanted to spend them. You can find a great list of Black-owned independent bookshops in the UK here. It’s great that books around anti-racism and helping the world heal and grow are selling out at the moment; I do hope people are reading them.

I didn’t want this to be a performative post about my great anti-racist book-buying antics, because a) I’ve always bought a range of books b) there’s no need to virtue-signal, so I did order a decent wider range of titles, then I’ve been waiting and waiting for my other book on Iceland to arrive and I just gave up, photographed what I had so far and put it on the TBR. So imagine there are four books on Black history, race, class and Empire and dismantling racism, one on gender and TWO on Iceland …

Six books from Foyles, all titles and authors in the textI’m going to read “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo after I’ve read “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” which I bought a month or so ago, and then I’ll read Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” and work through the workbook questions. I might not read these one after another but that’s the order as I think it will help to work through any knots I get into with the workbook. We watched David Olusoga’s TV series “Black and British” and I can’t wait to read the much more detail there looks to be in this lovely large tome. Akala’s “Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire” has been recommended to me by several very different people, which is always a bonus.

Moving on to gender and transgender, I picked up Juno Dawson’s “Gender Games” idly as it sat on the dining table after coming out of quarantine and before it got upstairs, and then could not put it down. It reads very accessibly and makes difficult topics clear with personal experience and input from experts.

Finally (for now), Tory Bilski’s “Wild Horses of the Summer Sun” is about Icelandic horses and the author’s relationship with them and her horse-loving friends. I have been fortunate enough to go riding on an Icelandic horse once, the fulfilment of a long-held dream, and yes, it felt like I was in a saga. So this looks very enticing.

Amazingly, with only one pile remaining on the back shelf, I have managed to fit all these and my other new acquisitions onto the TBR shelf, thanks to a lot of movement at the older end of things. You’ll be amazed at my photo of my TBR tomorrow (if you follow such things).

Have you read any of these books? How has your first month of 20BooksOfSummer/Winter gone?

Book review – Laura Thompson – “The Last Landlady” plus a slightly shocking DNF #20BooksOfSummer20


Yet another from my 20BooksOfSummer pile (pictured, although it’s already been read in a different order AND now there’s a change of book due to a Did Not Finish and a substitution for July. Shocking all round!). This is a book that I picked up from the outside shelves of Any Amount of Books on Charing Cross Road when doing a pre-Christmas visit to Emma, and I think the last from that set. I might even make it out of 2018 at some stage!

Laura Thompson – “The Last Landlady: An English Memoir”

(13 December 2018, Any Amount of Books)

An interesting Unbound book (and is it an early Unbound as it’s a proof copy and also explains the concept on a page at the beginning), that’s both a memoir of her pretty amazing, resourceful and strong pub landlady grandmother, Violet, and a potted history of the English pub. The pub is in the middle of the countryside and offered a challenge to an urban woman who had failed to be able to secure the licence for her father’s pub (“the old pub”) when he passed away: she became the first English landlady in her own right.

Thompson’s childhood memories and those of the time when she slid over to the pub side of the sitting room door are vivid but authentic-sounding, and while Violet seems like a typical pub landlady in many ways, she carefully unpicks her from the stereotypes. It’s perceptive on the English being “not at their best with unregulated pleasure” (p. 119) and the usefulness of opening hours and carefully distinct bars within a pub.

A rich and fascinating portrait of a redoubtable woman and an interesting history.

This was Book 6 in my 20 Books Of Summer project.

Simon Winchester – “Outposts” (DNF)

(20 December 2018 – BookCrossing Not So Secret Santa gift)

This was on my wishlist although looking at my spreadsheet of my reading journal pre-blog, I read this from the library in December 1998 (I think I’d forgotten that) and I have also read his “The Map that Changed the World” in 2001. Interestingly, my first read of this would have been the old edition, lacking the updated introduction that sent up red flags this time around.

So it’s a book about his travels around the islands that are still (or were in 1985) part of the British Empire. OK, so far, so neutral. But the introduction to the revised edition of 2003 basically starts lavishly apologising for Empire, stating that we “meant well” and helpfully pointing out that we did some good stuff and helped the colonies to organise themselves. Hm. He also usefully (!) points out that “our” former Empire has done “better” than those of, for example, the French and Dutch.

So far, so problematic.

I started reading and we had Tristan de Cunha, where he apparently got a bit too misty eyed over some Tebbibly British Scout who welcomed him onto the island, then he goes for Gibraltar, has to get a ferry there from Morocco and describes the ferry captain as “a fat and unshaven Moor” (p. 98), at which point I laid the book aside.

I am sure I would have found all this problematic anyway, as I do keep an eye open, certainly in books from earlier times, for jingoism and Empire-praising. But in a book revised in 2003 and read in these times? Unpalatable and grubby and not to be read by me. Ugh.

So that was supposed to be Book 7 in my 20 Books of Summer. Instead, I read Ammon Shea’s “The Phone Book” which was going to be Book 8 starting off July. I will either add “A Brown Man in India” or “Our City” to the list in July – I’ll see how I’ve done through the month and if I’ve already read one of those anyway!

Book review – Neil Isaacs and Rose Zimbardo (eds.) – “Tolkien and the Critics” #20BooksOfSummer20


Hungry Hobb CafeAnother of my 20 Books of Summer and although I don’t think I’ll have seven finished by the end of Tuesday, it will be six and a half at least, which keeps me on track. Still can’t share my Foyles incomings as I’m waiting for one of them to arrive and of course it’s one of the ones that gives balance and dilutes the performative aspect of having bought a few from my wishlist that were also on BLM recommended lists. So come on, Saga Land, and hurry up and arrive! This book jumped into my hand from the outdoor shelves at Any Amount of Books on the Charing Cross Road on a pre-Christmas trip to London to visit my best friend Emma and to stock up on Persephone books).

And the photo is to prove that I do indeed live quite near the Shire! This cafe is close to Sarehole Mill, which is slap bang in the middle of the Shire and about two miles from where I live. Note the name: it was called the Hungry Hobbit for years then the film people (not Tolkien’s people!) slapped an order on it.

Neil Isaacs and Rose Zimbardo (eds.) – “Tolkien and the Critics”

(13 December 2018, Any Amount of Books)

A 1968 volume so very early in Tolkien criticism, and this gathers together published and new essays by the likes of C.S. Lewis (on the dethronement of power), W.H. Auden (on the quest hero) and Marion Zimmer Bradley (on the levels of hero-worship in the books) and other less well-know critics, covering everything from Tolkien’s theory and practice of fairy tale to a Freudian reading. Zimbardo’s own essay on morality takes a religious frame that is mentioned elsewhere (the same quotations do tend to crop up repeatedly but that’s bound to happen in a volume like this) with even Sauron being a sort of fallen angel rather than inherently evil. John Tinkler brings out all the Old English in the land of Rohan and makes a rather snooty point that there’s an extra level of enjoyment in the books for those of us who know OE. Mary Quella Kelly does a close reading of the poetry of the various men, hobbits, elves and dwarves and Burton Raffel says the poetry is bad and the books not literature in a very narrow definition (but actually they are, at the end); his piece is notable for foregrounding Tolkien’s assertion of Reception Theory, in that he only sketches in mountains and landscapes because the reader will see the words and immediately see their own favourite example in their mind’s eye. Charles Moorman does a good job of defining the work as springing from Nordic myth.

A good read that makes me want to go back to the books, and I am also keen to read that great big exhibition catalogue volume I bought a couple of years ago.

This was Book 5 in my 20 Books Of Summer project.

Book review – Philip Marsden – “Rising Ground” plus some #BookConfessions #20BooksofSummer20


The fourth book in my 20 Books of Summer challenge and I bought this in the Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance (website here and a lovely shop it is, too) on our holiday to Penzance and the Isles of Scilly in October 2018 (here‘s the post I wrote about the books I bought there, now all read, hooray!) as a very appropriate local read set in the West Country from Somerset westwards. And appropriately enough, there will be some book confessions after the review!

Philip Marsden – “Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place”

(12 October 2018)

A wonderful book going West from Somerset via Glastonbury and Tingagel into Cornwall, with lots of time spent on Bodmin Moor and a trip on the King Harry Ferry, and then getting into well-known and beloved places like West Penwith and the Morrab Gardens and Library, then on to the Isles of Scilly themselves.

Interspersed with the restoration of his own dream house and his parents selling theirs and moving on, he walks, camps and trespasses, spending time alone, in present-day company and with literary figures (the chapters on these last, while interesting, were the least engaging for me, reminding me of my struggles through Iain Sinclair’s “Edge of the Orison” about John Clare, although they came more alive when meeting people now who knew of them). His walks along the Fal reminded me of a fellow-blogger Tredynas Days‘ nature walks in lockdown.

I found it fascinating when Marsden explained the new idea of the ‘sacred landscape’ that is coming into play in archaeology and pre-historical studies, tracking the changes from seeing ridges as ramparts to seeing them as places of ritual. The standing stones, figures and landscape alterations now lead to a

focusing on the monuments’ position, what would have been visible from them, how they relate to nearby rivers and ridges and prominent hills. (p. 33)

and he walks some of these sight-paths with notable outcomes and effects.

He treasures incursions, whether that’s of foliage inside his house, by humankind into their environment or himself when dropping down to rivers through china clay workings both operational and abandoned, and I love that about the book, which is tightly structured in one way, loosely wandering in another. His comments on West Penwith, having described the area through a few different people’s eyes with its agglomeration of ritual landscapes and mysterious stone circles, seem very apt to this outsider but lover of the area:

All the ages are rolled into one, a post-modernist bundle of residual beliefs, re-interpreted customs, hazy site-myths, ancient stones, recollections and folk tales. (p. 230)

How I wish I’d been able to read this book sitting on my favourite bench on Penzance prom, by the bandstand in the Morrab Gardens or in the cosy cottage we’ve stayed at a few times. But it was a lovely evocation of this land even read in the very middle of England.

This was Book 4 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.

I’m currently reading “Tolkien and the Critics” and “The Last Landlady” for 20Books, plus Camryn Garrett’s “Full Disclosure” from NetGalley because I was eating a pizza last night and needed a book I could read on Kindle and didn’t have to hold (true reason!). And I need to report on some books in, although this isn’t all of them!

I went to visit my dear friend Ali (of the Heaven-Ali blog) the other weekend – it was so exciting to see her and our friend Meg, even though it was an 8.5 mile round trip of a walk for me and I caught the sun a little. I had taken a book gift over to Meg and was delighted to have these two thrust into my bag (from a safe distance, naturally). Francesca Wade’s “Square Haunting” about Meckelburgh Square and five overlapping residents is a hefty hardback that she was having trouble with, wanting to justify picking up an easier-to-handle Kindle copy, and she knew I was keen on reading it, and she’d somehow ended up with two copies of “My Husband Simon” by Mollie Panter-Downes in that very enticing new British Library Women Writers series which Simon/Stuck-in-a-Book is curating so kindly passed one to me (everyone seems to have been reading this one!).

Then Bloomsbury have been supplying us Shiny New Books reviewers with some temptations and the first of the three I’ve bagged arrived recently. Nick Hayes’ “The Book of Trespass” chimes nicely with the book I’ve just been reviewing, as it’s about the efforts folk have made to open up some of the 98% of the UK that is privately owned and not accessible to the general public. This looks like a lovely big satisfying read.

And THEN you might remember that the lovely Dean Street Press sent me a review copy of Ruth Adam’s “A House in the Country” which is one of the lovely set they’re bringing out in August, and that they had offered me “Miss Mole” which I had already read. Well they have very kindly sent me two more from this batch to read and review – Dorothy Evelyn Smith’s “Miss Plum and Miss Penny” and Celia Buckmaster’s “Village Story”. You can read about all these new ones on the Furrowed Middlebrow blog post about the August reprints.

Finally, I have had half of a lovely Foyles delivery, entirely paid for by book tokens I’d gathered over Christmas and birthday and a few Foyalty Points; however I was very careful about not being “performative” and only buying and sharing books with a Black Lives Matter theme and had made sure to buy some in that area, one on transgender matters and then two on Iceland. And of course I’m now waiting for the two on Iceland to arrive so I can share the whole lot with you!

How are your 20Books or other projects going? Have you bought anything recently?

Book review – Nancy Marie Brown – “The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman” #20BooksofSummer20


Third book in my 20 Books of Summer and although I’m currently still reading Book 4, I have gone off-piste a little with some novels in between. We’re only half-way through the month, though, so what can go wrong? I think my friend Cari recommended this one to me, however that would have been almost two years ago so who really knows. It was right up my street, anyway – travel in the footsteps of a previous traveller, in Iceland and Greenland …

Nancy Marie Brown – “The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman”

(01 October 2018)

Ostensibly a biography of Gudrid, a Viking woman who made several voyages to Greenland and America from Iceland and gave birth to the first European born on American soil, as well as going on pilgrimage to Rome, because of the lack of clear evidence from the sagas or archaeology (although they have found and Brown works in some of her possible houses), it covers general issues around exploration, the origin of the Icelandic and Greenlandic settlers, the coming of Christianity, etc. It also brings in other sagas than the Vinland ones, carefully explaining how they all fit together.

The book opens memorably with the author standing on the threshold of Gudrid’s house, looking at a view she could have looked at, but is honest about the debate over the historical accuracy of the sagas, as well as the shifting attitudes to them and their locations by Icelandic archaeologists. I loved her assessment of events in the sagas that happened contemporaneously (for example, Gudrid would have known Gudrun the Fair from Laxdaela Saga), and also her use of several historical documents or travelogues from different centuries about the same place in Iceland or Greenland. She certainly knows her sources. I also enjoyed the details from the scientists and experts on weaving etc. (although some diagrams on how looms worked might have been useful), adding in what would have been found of these looms in the archaeological record.

There’s a great annotated bibliography which would be a brilliant guide to the topics covered, although a bit out of date now as this book was published in 2007.

The book is summed up almost at the end:

Digging that summer at Glaumbaer, I didn’t find anything Gudrid had dropped. But as I explored the archaeology of Gudrid’s days, the economy of the farms where she lived, the technology of her time – how to make cheese, how to weave, how to sail a ship and build a wall – I learned new ways to tell Gudrid’s story, to pick up where the sagas leave off. (p. 265)

This was Book 3 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.

I’m currently reading “Rising Ground” but haven’t really read long enough chunks to get a proper feel for it – it is excellent, though, as far as I can tell. One light Cornwall novel done and I’m going to go for Brit Bennett’s “The Vanishing Half” before continuing with the 20Books.

How are your 20Books or other projects going?

Book review – Alex Horne – “Birdwatchingwatching” #20BooksOfSummer


My second 20BooksOfSummer book, read alongside “Tahiti” as I thought that one might contain not-suitable-for-mealtimes passages (in fact, this one was more likely to in the end!). The picture is from the post in October 218 where I shared the books I’d bought in Penzance, and I’m pleased to say I have now read three of them, with “Rising Ground” coming up on the 20BooksOfSummer TBR very soon, so well done, me.

Alex Horne – “Birdwatchingwatching”

(12 October 2018. charity shop, Penzance)

Horne is known to us as the writer and co-presenter of “Taskmaster”, a TV show we really enjoy, and I wish I’d realised he’d done a stand-up show based on this year of birdwatching, but the book was a real treat anyway.

A really sweet book about Horne doing a Big Year of birdwatching, which basically involves spending a year seeing as many bird species as you can (with some rules – none in captivity mainly), in competition with his dad, in order to learn something more about his dad’s hobby and prepare himself for not-yet-impending fatherhood. He’s a gentle and timid soul, in awe of ‘real men’ who know things about trees and nature and can mend things, and it’s a nice read as he discovers birds and the birding community – he discusses a couple of other books on birdwatching sociology I have on my TBR, which made me think I should have read them first (but I bought them in 2019!).

It was odd and a bit uncomfortable-feeling that the year in question was the year when the bird flu pandemic hit the world, not quite along the lines of this current one of course, but there were enough parallels to be a bit uneasy! But anyway, he experiences all the joys and frustrations of birdwatching and indulges in a bit of proper twitching (something I have only done once which involved a walk of about a mile, and which he finds both exciting and boring). I loved the descriptions of his mum’s experience of a birding holiday (it was nice, but …) which echo my own, although everyone seems to have enjoyed Bird Fair in Rutland more than I did the one time we went! His frustration with a million seemingly identical warblers was something I could identify with, too.

So a nice and warm book, gently funny with some read-out-loud moments and I’m hoping Matthew will find time to read this paperback as he will enjoy it, too.

This was Book 2 in my 20BooksOfSummer project.

Book review – George T. Eggleston – “Tahiti” plus @ShinyNewBooks reviews, incomings and current reading #20BooksOfSummer @eandtbooks @ThamesandHudson @DeanStPress


A bit of a gallimauphry of catching up with bits and bobs today. And when I went to dig out this photo from when I acquired the book I’m reviewing, I was cheered to note that I have actually read all the books on this pile (these are books that Cari gave me when she came to visit in August 2018 and two that I bought on my trip round Stratford with her (I can’t remember how many I ‘encouraged’ her to buy …)). So a quick review of the first of the #20BooksOfSummer I’ve read, recaps of two wonderful reads for Shiny New Books, one incoming from a lovely publisher and a note about what I’m reading now as I accidentally left it a bit late after the publisher kindly sent it to me …

George T. Eggleston – “Tahiti”

(23 August 2018, Blue Cross charity shop, Stratford-Upon-Avon)

For a book published in 1956 this is not toooooo colonialist or patronising, although it does need to be read through a careful and modern-day lens. We tour the Society Islands of French Polynesia (still part of France even now) with an enterprising couple who think nothing of popping over to Tahiti to find a yacht to crew / take them island-hopping. They note that French has not really taken hold as the language of the country (and do attempt to learn the local language and even include a vocab list in the back of the book) and also point out the “ravages of ‘civilization'” – and I hadn’t realised that Tahitians and others participated in World War I and II and that many lost their lives in France in those wars. However, George’s wife Hazel does have to do all the supplying and cooking and is only allowed to get a  bit comically cross when she’s castigated for having a rest while he and their captain do the washing up, even though she is marked out as a highly competent sailor elsewhere in the book.

There are nice little maps at the start of each chapter, and cheerful and respectful descriptions of the islands and the islanders, as well as some good sailing narratives. A sweetly outdated guide to how to repeat the journey is included in the back of the book. He’s no Harold Nicolson but this was a pleasant read. I also loved the list of authors on the back flap of the book. The Travel Book Club reprinted this book, but the list of authors is so lost to me now – Freya Stark and J. B. Priestley yes, and a vague memory of a Tschiffely horse book, but what about all the others? My social media friends were similarly baffled!

This was Book 1 in my #20BooksOfSummer

Other booky loveliness …

I read two fantastic books from Thames & Hudson in June to review for Shiny New Books. I’m so fortunate that they give me the run of their catalogues twice a year. I read one other which hasn’t been published yet and am in the middle of my fourth at the moment!

“Tracks: Walking the Ancient Landscapes of Britain” by Philip Hughes is the ideal art book for the nature, archaeology, history, geology and/or map enthusiast. I said, in part,

Being a Thames & Hudson book (the paperback edition of an initial hardback, and lacking the endpapers of the former edition), the quality is high, the reproductions lovely, and all the details there, author biographies, lists of his exhibitions and a decent index.

This is a fairly short review as it’s an easy book to read quickly, not much text, lots of images. However, it’s a book you will want to return to again and again. The spare images, with no fussy detail, are calming to view and the notes charming. Highly recommended.

Read the full review here.

Then I read the first of the two Grayson Perry books in the set (hooray Grayson), “Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years”, edited by Catrin Jones and Chris Stephens, which was a great introduction to the artist’s early life, inspirations and themes. I said,

I loved reading Perry’s dialogue with his earlier self and his earlier work. He admits in his essay that he hasn’t seen many of the works since they were sold decades ago, and had often not kept records of them – “it has been wonderful to be reacquainted with the outpourings of a different me”, and he notices that he is more forgiving of them and compassionate about himself than he was at the time … What a treat to read the artist’s reactions to his own former self, seeming now so distant.

Read the full review (and see some images from the book) here.

Then I was fortunate enough to receive Lev Parikian’s “Into the Tangled Bank” from the super publisher Elliott & Thompson. They published the wonderful “Seafarers” by Stephen Rutt, which I reviewed for Shiny last year and came out in paperback this week and were kind enough to offer me a couple of new reads to say thank you for me writing that and sharing about the paperback. This is about the relationship the British have with nature and looks fab, and I’ll be sending in my review to Shiny soon (it’s out in early July). What a clever cover, with the inevitable crisp packet woven into the image of nature at its finest.

And finally, although I’m still reading the big monograph on Grayson Perry, having just finished Book 2 of my 20Books as well and having seen the announcement about their new books coming soon (in August), I realised with horror that I’d never got to the third book that Dean Street Press kindly sent me in January from their selection they were publishing then (I reviewed and Miss Read’s “Fresh From the Country” and D.E. Stevenson’ “Vittoria Cottage” from that batch earlier in the year, the Miss Read having arrived in physical paperback form for my birthday from my best friend!). So I pulled Doris Langley Moore’s “Not At Home” (the cover is so super and I will need to be buying a paper copy!) up on the Kindle and have enjoyed starting this just-post-WWII novel of household battles.

So, art, more art, mid-century women and travel – not a bad representation of my usual reading. And while we all try to get to grips with how we can approach Black Lives Matter awareness-raising and support in a meaningful way, I am thrilled to say that I’m chatting with a couple of friends about having them guest-post on here about the books by and about People of Colour that they’ve been getting hold of and reading. This is particularly useful when I can’t add to my collection due to the popular books going out of stock all over the place (which is a Good Thing).


State of the TBR June 2020 #20BooksOfSummer


I finished 13 books in May, one of which was 908 pages long, and also read parts of two more, plus have three on the go, so not a bad reading month. And after having a lot of the shelf piled up, most of the back and one pile in the front, I’m now down to one pile at the back, so pleased with that.

I’m currently reading “Don’t Touch My Hair” by Emma Dabiri, which is a fascinating book I won on NetGalley about the sociology and cultural importance of black and dual-heritage women’s hair written by a Black Irish woman. I’m over half way through and learning a lot. Because my 20BooksOfSummer list is quite monocultural, I’m trying to explore the experiences of people who are different to me in the gaps between project books.

I’m also working my way through Jacky Klein’s wonderful monograph on Grayson Perry, which is worth lingering over. This is for Shiny New Books but I might review it in full on here, too. It’s the last of my books from Thames & Hudson for that publication, and I’ll be sharing my first two reviews next week.

Coming up of course are the first swathe of my #20BooksofSummer (read about my Pile here and find links to all my reviews as I write them up here). So I have books about Tahiti, an Icelandic travelling woman, the sociology of birdwatching, West Penwith, a pub landlady, Tolkien and the last remaining parts of the British Empire to enjoy this month (it seems to make sense to split them up into a seven, a six and a seven) and I’m looking forward to them, having succeeded in removing a book about the Inklings (DNFed) and a Pamela Brown book from the 2018 books already.

At some point in proceedings I will be continuing with “Rewild Yourself” by Simon Barnes, which I’m reading alongside my best friend and which I really need to get on with, and Paul Magrs’ “Lost on Mars”, which is proper sci fi but I am sure I’m in safe hands with Paul.

Let #20BooksOfSummer commence, and let’s hope I continue reading at this rate! Are you doing any challenges this month? Have you read any of these?

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