My 2021-2022 TBR project


When I admitted a week or so ago to Mr Liz that I’d ordered Dave Grohl’s new book, “The Storyteller” for myself and it was going to arrive on his birthday he set me a weird challenge. Now, he’s set me a challenge before, to ONLY read 104 books in a year – that was horrible and all I did was read magazines and watch rubbish TV so it didn’t achieve anything. I gave up in the June. This time, however, it’s a good one.

Can I read the WHOLE* of my print TBR by the time the book arrived next year, i.e. 5pm on 05 October 2022?

There are 85 books in this photograph. We have the normal TBR in acquisition order running top left to bottom right of the vertical ones (if you want to count them, Robin di Angelo’s “White Fragility” is hiding at the extreme top left. Then we have horizontally, books in series where I haven’t got the other books (but, how long have I had them?), an Icelandic trilogy that was in that pile even when I DID get the other books, the rest of my Maya Angelous and two loans, a great big Tolkien exhibition catalogue and an even bigger Icelandic Saga book I got excited by YEARS ago, a load of light novels I’ve bought when buying other things or to read around Christmas, and a loan from Matthew and the first in a series.

So 85 books doesn’t seem so much when you consider I finished 18 books last month and am on 126 for the year already. However, the oldest book in just the normal TBR is from June 2020, way over a year ago, and the project doesn’t include the following, which I will also be reading as normal:

Not included in the TBR project:

  • Other annual reading challenge books – so Anne Tylers this year and … next year
  • Review books sent by the publishers to review on my blog or for Shiny New Books
  • Review books from NetGalley
  • Other e-books on my horribly bloated Kindle
  • Books I’m reading along with Emma (we take a while to read each one so it seemed unfair to include them)
  • Any books that come in in any way from today onwards

Can I do it? Dunno. What do I get at the end of it? I told you so and clearer shelves (maybe!). Fancy joining in in some way? Comment below and commit to something.

I’ll be updating progress in my State of the TBR post every month, probably with a total, maybe with a photo … Wish me luck!

Review and acquisitions round-up


Hello! I have two reviews that I’ve recently had published on Shiny New Books to tell you about, and just a few new books in (oops, not oops)

Robyn Lea – “A Room of Her Own: inside the Homes and Lives of Creative Women” looks at a set of women from various places in the US, Europe and Australia who have created interesting and stunning interiors as part of their life’s work, whether they’re artists, interior designers or other creatives.

Not all the women started out as wealthy as they appear to be now. Some are descendants of big designing or European aristocratic families but others started out more middle or lower class. All seem uncompromising in their attitude to creating their surroundings, whether that’s making interesting collections, showcasing their own art works or introducing highly modern pieces into ancient interiors. We do start out with a woman in a castle; but a woman who was very reluctant to up sticks and move into her husband’s ancestral castle. Many of the women’s stories are unexpected and interesting. The pandemic plays a part and the texts do not shy away from the panic attacks, bereavements, family conflicts and complex paths some of these women have experienced.

Read more here

“Your Voice Speaks Volumes” by Jane Setter is a fascinating look at voice and accent, of course looking at regional accents and the sociology around them (and around people who are perceived to change their accent) but also about artificial voices, the way trans people might wish to change their voices (with a very interesting case of a trans woman who complained she came out sounding like a straight woman, not the lesbian woman she was) and other aspects:

Changing voices are covered in a chapter about professionals who use and think about their voices – chiefly singers and radio announcers, and also the voice coaches who work with actors and the like. The chapter on criminology and phonetics is fascinating, too, looking in detail at the work of speaker profiling, and using auditory and acoustic analysis to work out and back up whether two voices on two tapes might be the same voice (or not).

Read more here


So, last week, I had to go and pick up some medication from one local pharmacy and then pop to another in search of some elusive new and different rapid-flow Covid tests (which I did not find). And between these pharmacies, its door passed as I went, was Oxfam Books. Oops. I don’t know how I’m going to fit these on my TBR shelf, but you can’t leave good books in charity shops, can you; they’ll be snapped up the second you leave the place ..

We’ve been enjoying watching Stacey Dooley’s documentaries where she stays in someone’s house, as well as her “This is My House” gameshow but have missed her earlier investigative journalism work with women in difficult circumstances, so I was pleased to spot “Stacey Dooley on the Frontline with the Women who Fight Back”.

The next one down the pile will please Brona of This Reading Life. She hosts the wonderful AusReading Month every November, and I was bemoaning the fact that I had no Australian books to read and talk about in my TBR, as I was trying to do all my challenges this year from the TBR. Well, this is NOW on the TBR … Sven Lindqvist’s “Terra Nullius” is a searing indictment of the way Native Australian people have been mistreated and abused, so I will be learning as well as taking part in the challenge (more about the challenge here). More travel: Sara Wheeler’s “The Magnetic North” is the Arctic companion to the Antarctic book of hers I’ve had for years.

Then in diaries and memoirs, David Lodge’s “Writer’s Luck: A Memoir 1976-1991” covers the period when he was working at the University of Birmingham and overlaps with the time I was there in his department but he was just an esteemed visiting professor as his literary career had really taken off by then. “The View from the Corner Shop” by Kathleen Hey is a Mass Observation Diary from 1941-1946 covering, well, oddly enough, life in a British corner shop and should be fascinating.

In novels, Cathy Kelly is a favourite Irish writer who has taken on the mantle of Maeve Binchy and writes good, woman-centred stories; I think “The Family Gift” is her latest (I might save this for Irish Reading Month next year if I remember to). I have seen Tsitsi Dangarembga’s “Nervous Conditions” reviewed by Imogenglad recently so I was very pleased to find it as it had been in my mind ever since (it was the first book by a Black Zimbabwean writer to be published in English). And “Miguel Street” by V.S. Naipaul is a classic novel based on his own childhood and had to be picked up, too.

So there we go, eight books to jam onto the TBR shelf – but could I have left any of them behind?

Books in, Shiny linkiness and 20 Books of Summer pile #20booksofsummer21 @WolfsonHistory @ShinyNewBooks @VertebratePub


I seem to be posting reviews of NetGalley books, blog tours, books from my own challenges or other people’s, and there’s not really been room to round up what’s been coming in, plus an important decision about my 20 Books of Summer. So I thought I’d put it all in one place!

Books in

First off, I’ve been very fortunate to be asked to take part in the Wolfson History Prize shortlist blog tour, for the third year in a row. I reviewed “Birds in the Ancient Word” in 2019 and the large (and prize-winning) “The Boundless Sea” last year and this year I was able to choose Richard Ovenden’s “Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack”. Ovenden is director of the Bodleian Library and he looks at the long history of destroying libraries and archives and how this is gathering pace as history progresses – and what this means for history and civilisation. It’s already been a Radio 4 Book of the Week and I can’t wait to get started with it. Watch out for my review on 1 June.

Having already ordered one book from them, on the back of an email from the lovely indie publisher, Vertebrate Publishing, I ordered this gorgeous book by John D. Burns, “Wild Winter” in which he travels into the wild north of Scotland in winter looking for the area’s wild animals. We had a memorable bird-watching holiday in Inverness and north a few years ago so I’m looking forward to reading about some places I’ve been to. Do check the publisher out, too – they seem genuinely lovely.

Of interest to any editor readers I might have, “Respectful Querying with NUANCE” by Ebonye Gussine Wilkins looks at how we work with people who are not from the same ethnic/cultural background as ourselves and raise those queries that editors always have to raise when we don’t know the context as well. It’s a slim volume from the American Editorial Freelancers’ Association and I will get to it soon.

And lastly (I think – I bet I’ve forgotten an ebook) I managed to get myself into our local Oxfam Books on Sunday – I’ve been keen to get hold of some of those lovely books people have been donating furiously, and although I don’t think they had a lot of new stock out, I managed to find in the sport section Anna McNuff’s “The Pants of Perspective” in which she runs the length of New Zealand, and Alex Hutchinson’s “Endure” which looks at how athletes get the mental and physical strength to undertake greater and greater feats of endurance.

Shiny link fun!

I love reviewing non-fiction for Shiny New Books and very much enjoyed reading Mike Pitts’ “Digging up Britain”, which is a look at new archeological techniques applied to sites in Britain going backwards from the Vikings way into prehistory. He has a lovely engaging way of writing and makes all the technology very clear and easy to understand.

Many of us have watched Time Team and various other TV archaeology shows; many of us have seen or heard of some of the sites discussed here (I was particularly pleased to find the Staffordshire Hoard featured), but how many of us have been able to keep up with the enormous strides that archaeological science has been making over recent decades? Pitts is able to take an admirable long view over most of these sites, showing how knowledge has increased and dates have gone back in time or been refined as often generation after generation of archaeologists have studied, pondered, hypothesised and published. Read more.

20 Books of Summer 2021

And finally, it’s almost time for 20 Books of Summer again, hosted as ever by Cathy from 246 Books and people have begun sign-up posts already. I usually decide what to read right at the end of May and pick books off the start of my TBR. This year I decided to go a bit different and have a theme, particularly for the first two months.

I’ve always read diversely, especially since those days mining Lewisham Library for their LGB (as it was then) and “Black and Asian” sections. In the last few years, more and more publishers have been making books available that honour more diverse own voices and centre voices that have been marginalised. And of course, after the Black Lives Matter movement came to prominence last year, even more books have been written, taken on and published, which has been brilliant and inspiring. I have been reading the books I bought then and before, drip-feeding them into the blog, but I’ve decided to do an “othered voices / own voices” theme for June and July in my 20 Books of Summer this year. August has to be put by for All August / All Virago [and other books that celebrate mid-20th century lost women writers] and that worked out well as I had 6 or 7 Virago et al. books and 14 or 15 books in my othered/own voices category still waiting to be read (ones I have read include “Don’t Touch my Hair“, “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” and “Trans Britain“).

It’s quite an ambitious pile as it doesn’t include any of my Anne Tyler re-reads (there will be six during the period of the challenge), review books or ebooks (I never like including books I can’t physically see in 20 Books, no idea why!). So I’m not actually sure I can do it! I’ll share the full title list when I start the project, but here’s my exciting pile for the time being, with Black African, European and British, Asian British, gay, trans, working-class and Gypsy voices represented in the first two months, and some lovely indie publishers in the third. Don’t worry: I’ve left myself some diverse reads on the shelf (a couple of novels and an academic book on white privilege), have a load on the Kindle and am always buying more, so I won’t suddenly plunge into the white middle class for the rest of the year!

Are you doing 20 Books of Summer/Winter and have you created your pile yet?

Incoming books – a pile so big it had to have its own post! #bookconfessions


I have, thankfully, been reading quite a lot and quite quickly recently. Because although only a few physical books have come into the house, the e-book pile has grown quite horribly. And while they don’t seem to really EXIST somehow, do they, not forcing their way into your peripheral vision as you get ready for bed by a bulging TBR, they are there and they do need to get read.

Shall I do the paper books first?

These two beauties have arrived from the lovely folks who produce the British Library Women Writers series. They’re their two new ones – “Mamma” by Diana Tutton, which looks at the relationship between a woman who was widowed when her daughter was a baby and her new son-in-law, nearer to her than her daughter in age, and “Tension” by E.M. Delafield, which puts into opposition a woman of the old guard, titled and secure and a new professional woman, looking at women’s roles in public life and gossip and reputation. I’m on the blog tour for “Tension” so will be reviewing it later on in May – there’ll be a blog tour for “Mamma” too and I’m sure you’ll see lots of familiar names on both.

Then two I’ve bought for myself recently. When I was reading Adharanand Finn’s “The Rise of the Ultra Runners“, Damian Hall popped up a few times, a man who’d gone from unfit to fit and was running ultras and setting Fastest Known Times (the time it takes to run a big known route which isn’t a race, basically your own timed run). Then I saw Damian’s book, “In it for the Long Run”, was coming out on the indie publisher Vertebrate Publishing (they always have good discounts, by the way) so I pre-ordered a signed copy. And “Pandemic Solidarity“, edited by Marina Sitrin and Collectiva Sembrar, came about because I had a Waterstone’s voucher calling to me, I spent that on another book entirely, which isn’t coming out until August, on world feminisms, but bought this one to get the free postage (I know, I know). It’s a collection of positive stories of community action on the pandemic from around the world.

Now here are the NetGalley wins just from April. Fortunately, they will be published across the upcoming months!

Bernice McFadden’s “Sugar”, published 05 August, is a novel set in 1950s Deep South America, where a growing friendship between an incomer treated with suspicion and a resident changes their lives and the small town’s they live in. “Fit for Purpose”, Richard Pile looks at the physical, mental and spiritual well-being we need to build to cope with modern life (I’m more interested in the physical and mental side and hope they’re the emphasis, as I’m not a spiritual person though I do have strong principles I live by. That’s out on 25 May. That one comes out on 24 June. “My Mess is a bit of a Life: Adventures in Anxiety” by Georgia Pritchett is a memoir about living with anxiety by a TV writer and producer which has had praise from Miranda Hart and Sara Pascoe among others. It’s published on 01 July.

In the novel “The Mismatch”, Sara Jafari writes about two very different people falling in love, with the setting the lives of Iranian people in the UK. That one comes out on 24 June. “Ms. Adventure” by Jess Phoenix is the memoir of a vulcanologist (that’s one of those ones you have to read in the Shelf app which is slightly annoying) and came out on 02 March. “Conversations on Love”, out on 15 July and edited by Natasha Lunn, caught me with its mentions of Candice Carty-Williams and Philippa Perry and is a collection of musings and essays on love of all kinds. Dany Asaf’s “Say Please and Thank You and Stand in Line” is the story of four generations of Canadian Muslims and looks at both history and hope for the future as multiculturalism is strained and is published on 10 May.

And my Amazon book (one) ebook purchases. I try not to buy books on Amazon these days: I use and divert the profit to one of three independent bookshops I use in real life, but the first one in the image is published by the US Editorial Freelancers Association and I couldn’t get it any other way. I don’t really like ebooks at full price but will pay a couple of pounds for them – I love a book! But sometimes there’s a special offer and then I click away!

“Respectful Querying with NUANCE” by Ebonye Gussine Wilkins is a book for work which helps editors working with people from different cultures to their own to keep the author’s voice and experience centred while working on their text and understand when and how to raise a query on matters of content or explanation. I was alerted to this book by a fellow editor and it looks like a useful resource. I will review this on my work blog when it’s arrived and I’ve read it.

A.I. Shoukry mentioned his memoir about running in Egypt, “It’s not Just About Running”, in the Runners’ Bookshelf group I’m in and a few of us bought it: it sets running in the country against the backdrop of its political and social change. Elizabeth Acevedo’s “Clap When You Land” is the two countries / two families novel-in-verse that’s been talked about a lot and was on my wishlist then popped up for 99p. A.M. Blair (a fellow book-blogger) has written several novels taking Jane Austen as her inspiration – “A Case of First Impressions” “Pride and Prejudice” and “Nothing but Patience” “Sense and Sensibility”. The latter at least is set against a backdrop of the author’s own background, the Sri Lankan community in America, and while apparently some have criticised this (WHY?), I am looking forward to this twist on the classics. And Ritu Bhathal‘s (who hails from my city of Birmingham) “Marriage Unarranged” is a novel about a woman turning down her arranged marriage and going on the pre-wedding shopping trip to India anyway.

So, volcanoes, at least seven different ethnicities, novels, non-fiction, running, editing, physical and mental health – I’m missing nature but apart from that I’d say … these conform to my collection development policy, amiright?

What have you acquired this month? Have you read any of these?

State of the TBR – April 2021 plus a few #bookconfessions


I finished or read 14 books in March, a total I’m very pleased with, and it’s shown up in my TBR, as well (some books came from the front shelf and some from the back shelf, which is why the front shelf seems to have shortened from both ends compared to at the beginning of March). A couple of these were review books for other sites, one is up now on Shiny and linked below.

I did also read some e-books but I’m pleased the pile tottering on top of the books is now at least to the side (and two of the books in he pile are the same book, an ARC and a finished copy.

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “Expiation” by Elizabeth von Arnim, which is a real page-turner of a story about a woman who’s disinherited for being Bad – our sympathies lie very much with her and my heart is in my mouth at the moment wondering what’s going to happen to her. My other current read is “The Rise of the Ultra Runners” by Adharanand Finn: I’m enjoying his discomfort as he moves from the safety of road running to the excitement of off-road stuff (knowing I’ll never have to do that myself again!). These were both books I was given for my birthday in 2020 and I’m relieved to say I’ve read all my 2019 books at last!

Up next

I have three lovely review books to finish and review for Shiny New Books: Sathnam Sanghera’s “Empireland” is an investigation of how Britain’s imperialism has shaped the country itself, “Field Work” by Bella Bathurst is about farming and working on the land and its effects on people and the land, and Mike Pitts’ “Digging Up Britain”, about new developments in archaeology, has had its publication date moved back a couple of times but is aiming for this month now.

Then I have my two Anne Tylers for the month, “Earthly Possessions” and “Morgan’s Passing” – again, I don’t recall much about these but I’m sure I’ll enjoy them.

Coming up

These are the next books at the front of the TBR, and as I’m trying to get as up to date as possible, I will be concentrating on these.

Stella Martin Curry’s “One Woman’s Year” completes my longest-outstanding Persephones, I may skip Sathnam Sanghera’s novel given I’m reviewing him this month, then we have some round the world travel, discussion of East Germany, invention in Africa and a book I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to read on the Internet’s influence on language.

I realise I should have read the ebook “Between Worlds: A Queer Boy from the Valleys” by Jeffrey Weeks last month for Dewithon – it’s published today so I will get to it soon, and one of my most recent NetGalley wins is out this month, too, so those will hopefully be in the mix as well.


I have been quite careful this month and not too many books have come in. A couple of recent NetGalley wins (OK, a few) – I was offered Phillipa Ashley’s “An Endless Cornish Summer” by the publisher and have read it, ready for review at the weekend, and I have Greg McKeown’s “Effortless” which is about sorting your life out and doing the most important things, and Natasha Brown’s “Assembly” (a novel in which a young Black woman gets sick of it all and tells it how it is – this is described as shocking and might be out of my comfort zone but it does look important).

Past me also pre-ordered Debbie Macomber’s “Welcome back to Cedar Cove” which is an ebook of stories from the fictional town she wrote a whole series about (will I remember who’s who) and I got too excited about Emma Dabiri’s (of “Don’t Touch My Hair” fame) new book, “What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition” to wait. I’ve also got Anne Tyler’s “Redhead at the Side of the Road” arriving in paperback to complete my collection.

Shiny Fun!

Last but of course not least, I have reviewed two books for Shiny New Books recently.

The “Grayson Perry’s Art Club” exhibition catalogue was a lovely memento of the first series of the televised art club, with all the interviews and pieces by the celebs and other guests, and images and stories from the members of the public who exhibited, too. Of course the exhibition never opened (or hasn’t yet) so this is a lovely thing to have and helps the gallery, too.

Read my review here.

And “Hyphens & Hashtags*” by Claire Cock-Starkey was an excellent read about the history of symbols and glyphs, mostly found on the keyboard, some not, with a good theme pulled out of how these settled in the first place and have changed since.

Read my review here.

So that’s it, March in review and April to come. What was your best read of March and what are you looking forward to reading in April?

State of the TBR March 2021 plus many book confessions #ReadIndies #Dewithon21 @atilatstokbroka


In February I read 13 books, a great total for me, out of which five were published by independent publishers for Kaggsy and Lizzy Siddall’s #ReadIndies month. The date for submitting reviews has been extended to 6 March (read more here) which makes me glad as I do have one (and one non-indie) book left to review that I read in February!

I realise with horror that the TBR starts with the same book it started with in February – however, I read books from all through the front shelf for #ReadIndies and so it definitely has a few extra on the right-hand side of the front shelf and has lost the mini-pile on the back row caused by there not being enough room for everything. So, all good. Honest. I did read a couple of Kindle books, too.

Coming up I have quite the reading roster! As well as the three review books in the right-hand pile to get finished and reviewed, I have Attila the Stockbroker’s new Collected Poems, “Heart on my Sleeve” which is launching on March 06 – I purchased it direct from his Bandcamp page although you can pre-order from all the usual outlets. Then I have my two Anne Tylers for the month, “Celestial Navigation” and “Searching for Caleb” (I have a new copy of the latter on its way as this one is really tatty and has an inscription from someone who is no longer in my life!).

I’m very happy to be able to take part in Dewithon21, otherwise known as Welsh Reading Month, in March (I can only seem to do one out of this and Read Ireland every March). More info here from BookJotter. Mike Parker’s “On the Red Hill”, about two gay couples who inhabit a house in the Welsh hills, I bought a good while ago when it came to my attention, and I purchased Will Hayward’s “Lockdown Wales” from indie publisher Seren Books earlier this month because I’ve been working on a book project about Wales and the Lockdown came up a lot, so I thought it would be a good memento – I’m not buying many lockdown books but this seemed very apt.

I’ll also be reading “Unspoken” by Guvna B, from NetGalley. Subtitled “Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the Man”, it’s the story of his upbringing on a London council estate and his engagement with the masculinities found there, and looks to be a profound and interesting book.

I’m not sure what else I will be reading apart from these nine books!! But I will definitely try to read some from my print TBR and some from my electronic one, both of which have grown, one a little more than the other …


I had a lovely book post day on Friday when my Attila book arrived, and so did two books from lovely Kaggsy of the Bookishramblings (thank you!)

“Life in Translation” by Anthony Ferner is a novel about a translator which Heaven-Ali originally read and sent to Kaggsy, but I’d also put my name in the hat for it and so here it is! And Charlie Hill’s “I Don’t Want to go to the Taj Mahal” is a memoir of his upbringing in Moseley, the next-door suburb of Birmingham to mine (he’s also a friend of a friend) is one that Ali and I both want to read … Actually I must remember that at least one of those will work for Novellas in November when that rolls around …

Then I have won another NetGalley book, even though I’m trying to be careful with how many I request, having got my reviewing percentage safely above 80%. Anita Sethi’s “I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain”, published in June, details her recovery from a racially motivated attack when she was walking in Northern England via keeping on getting out there and walking the Pennine Way, as a reassertion of her right as a brown woman to live in the UK and tread its open spaces. What a lovely cover and I’m very much looking forward to this, as I don’t feel I’ve explored much nature writing by Global Majority People.

And then, even though I very rarely use Amazon for print books, those 99p Kindle sales do appear to have got me rather, recently. Just this month, this has happened.

All but one of them are memoirs; I do have a thing for memoirs. “Boy Out of Time” by Hari Ziyad is a memoir of growing up Black and queer in Cleveland Ohio; Louise Wener’s “Just for One Day: Adventures in Britpop” and Bruce Dickinson’s “What Does This Button Do” offer very different music memoirs, the first about being in the band Sleeper (this was previously published as “Different for Girls”) and the second about being the front man of heavy metal band Iron Maiden as well as a pilot and radio presenter). Uzma Jalaluddin’s “Ayesha at Last” is a “Pride and Prejudice” retelling based in the Toronto Muslim community, Lee Mack’s “Mack the Life” is the comedian’s memoir and Pete Paphides’ “Broken Greek” tells of a life in music journalism that starts off in a chip shop a couple of miles from where I live. Fairly varied, then!

How was your February reading? Are you taking part in Dewithon or Reading Ireland Month, or any other Months?


State of the TBR February 2021 and Book Confessions #AnneTyler2021 #ReadIndies


I completed ten books in January, not too bad, as I certainly had a lot of work to do (I mean, hooray, Brexit hasn’t scuppered my business, but I’m hoping I can rein the hours in a little bit this coming month). Two of those I haven’t reviewed yes, so watch for notes on those this coming week. I also managed to continue my trend of running just over 100 miles in the month, something I was really pleased with given the snow and ice we had in the second half of the month. And I had a lovely birthday.

I have had some incomings (see later) so the TBR is looking like this at the moment, no real proper piles but a small one on the back shelf of the newest books. Some have come off the pile that was in the oldest part of the TBR last month so all good progress I feel, and my NetGalley review percentage is back over 80% again.

I do have a slight issue in that a few books at the start of the TBR aren’t really suitable for reading over meals, so I’m darting around in the order a bit. Also, it’s all a bit monocultural at the front end so I’m hopping between the older and newer ones on the front shelf (and into the Kindle) to maintain some diversity. I’m currently reading “Girl” by Kenya Hunt, which is a set of very interesting essays by a Black woman who has lived in both the US and the UK, on the Kindle.

Next up

Next up I have these lovelies.

I’m already reading Isabella Tree’s “Wilding” a chapter a week with my best friend. Some of the chapters are proving quite “chewy” and full of theory and biology, but others are simpler to get through and we’re certainly enjoying and learning. Two review books: “Digging up Britain” by Mike Pitts is an examination of British archaeology through the lens of new techniques and theories, and I’m reading it for Shiny New Books, and I’ve been asked to read Peter Whitfield’s “Iris Murdoch: A Guide to the Novels” for the Iris Murdoch Society Review as it’s a book about her novels by someone just outside academia, as I am and was when I wrote my book about Irish Murdoch and the Common Reader.

Then, I have my next Anne Tyler 2021 project read, “A Slipping Down Life” – and I do actually remember reading this one first time round! If you’re interested in joining in with my Anne Tyler (re) reading project, do have a look at the project page and join in when/where you can – no pressure but I’m loving chatting about her novels and seeing what other people think of them! And the next book from the shelf is Danny MacAskill’s “At the Edge”, which is the story of his life as a trials cyclist and adventure / trick cyclist extraordinaire.

I also intend to read some books by independent publishers to join in with Kaggsysbookishramblings and LizzySiddal’s “Read Indies month“. So many of my books AREN’T by independent publishers, but just on the front shelf, I have one from Lonely Planet, a reprint from Jane Badger Books, three Persephones, a Dean Street Press, a British Library Publishing book and an Unbound book, plus a self-published one that came in recently, so hopefully I’ll be able to get to a few of those. Are you taking part in this challenge?

New books in

These four books rather bizarrely arrived on the same day! I have mentioned the Iris Murdoch one already. “Grayson’s Art Club” is Manchester Art Gallery’s catalogue of the Grayson Perry’s Art Club exhibition which was put together in association with his TV programme during Lockdown 1 – unfortunately I don’t think it ever went live but this lovely book details the pieces there and reproduces the conversations he had with various artists and arty celebrities during the show and is a lovely memento.

Paul Magrs has a new novel out, “Hunky Dory” about a cafe in Manchester and the diverse folk who haunt it and I cannot wait to read it, and lovely Ali gave me Dorothy Whipple’s “Random Commentary” from Persephone Books, which is a slim volume suitable for those who have read all her novels and need more – it took its time arriving but was very much appreciated.

Did you have a good start to your reading year? Doing any fun challenges?

Christmas / end of year book haul #bookconfessions


I usually share my Christmas book haul at the very end of the year, however I have high hopes that a) we will actually have our new boiler fitted tomorrow, b) while I have a day off for that I finish and review one more book. So here it is today. This is a combo of actual books I was given for Christmas and a lovely parcel from a fellow book-blogger as a sort of Christmas / ooh I have a birthday coming up / end of year package of joy. I’d love to know if you have read any of these and loved them, AND I am going to try to have read these by this time next year (I am ashamed to say I have some from last Christmas still to read).

So here are my Christmas books. From the top, my BookCrossing Not So Secret Santa (which we exchanged via the post and opened on a Zoom this year rather than bringing to a venue and swapping and opening) from the lovely Sue included two from my wishlist, Sally Magnusson’s “The Sealwoman’s Gift” (Icelanders are captured and taken to Algiers to try to make a life) and Ursula Le Guin’s “The Other Wind” (the ‘new’ Earthsea novel). There was also chocolate and a BookCrossing pencil.

Lovely Verity sent me Raynor Winn’s “The Salt Path”, having cleverly noticed that I kept yearning for a copy (once I knew there was a sequel, ahem) and I can’t wait to read this narrative of a couple made homeless by circumstance treading the South-West Coast Path.

I seem to have a tradition of presenting my best friend, Emma, with a list of Dean Street Press’s Furrowed Middlebrow imprint at Christmastime, and she came up with D.E. Stevenson’s “Music in the Hills” and “Winter and Rough Weather” which are the sequels to “Vittoria Cottage” which I read (in e-book form, so need to buy myself a copy) last January.

Then we have my LibraryThing Virago Group not-so-secret santa, which was from friend first, fellow book blogger later Heaven-Ali. What a lovely selection. I knew it would be from her as I was one of the organisers and I predicted there would be a Daphne du Maurier (“My Cousin Rachel”) as she will be keen for me to take part in her DdM reading week in May! I was also thrilled to receive “The Half-Crown House” and “Yeoman’s Hospital”, two Helen Ashtons she has also enjoyed (in lovely pre-loved editions, “Half Crown House” a Boots Circulating Library copy!) and Stella Gibbons’ “The Bachelor”. What joys those all hold! And there was some Christmas tea, too!

And my friend Gill, always a reliable wish-list burrower, provided me with wildflower seeds, hand-made honey and beeswax products and Jeffrey Boake’s “Black, Listed” about Black masculinities in the UK, and James Ward’s fascinating looking “Adventures in Stationery” which is, well, just that.

My super parcel from Bookish Beck included a set of books I’d expressed interest in as she read and reviewed them through the year. How lovely and thoughtful! Oh, there’s an Iris Murdoch in there, too, “The Italian Girl”, which I’ve obviously read, but she pops me paperback editions I might not have when she happens upon them. So the novel “Three Women and a Boat” by Anne Youngson includes scenes travelling through Birmingham on our canals, and lots of people have read Eley Williams’ “The Liar’s Dictionary” which is a dual-time narrative about someone inserting fictional words in a dictionary and a modern lexicographer searching them out. “The Group” by Laura Feigel riffs off and updates the seminal 1960s Mary McCarthy novel and “Silver Sparrow” by Tayari Jones is another wonderful-looking novel of Atlanta. Ruth Pavey’s “A Wood of One’s Own” is the story of four acres in the Somerset Levels. Lucky me!

Have I seen your Christmas book pile yet? How’s it looking? Of course I also received a good number of book and bookshop vouchers, which I will be saving for after my birthday, when I can have a lovely splurge to mop up, well, a tiny slice of the rest of my wishlist …

State of the TBR December 2020 and Book Confessions #DiverseDecember #Magrsathon @PaulMagrs


I have been trying to clear the decks and not buy new books in order to prepare for the Great Christmas and Birthday Influx and I don’t feel I’ve really succeeded at either! I did finish 12 books in November, six of which were off the physical TBR (the others were a mix of review books and Kindle ones). I set out to read one book for Australia Reading Month, which I read (“The Three Miss Kings“) and I took part enthusiastically in Non-Fiction November – I set out five books to read, finished three and started one, and read a bit more non-fiction through the month, and posted my four themed posts and enjoyed linking up with more non-fiction readers.

So this is how the TBR stands, at least it’s not two full shelves, I suppose, and has moved along. The pile to the side is Christmas books which will be read between Christmas and New Year (apart from one of them, see more below) and the ones on top are my remaining Thirkell war novels and three lovely British Library books I haven’t been able to get to yet.

I’m currently reading these three. Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race” has been a thought- and discussion-provoking readalong with my best friend Emma – we took to reading books together during lockdown and enjoy a bit of time on a Thursday evening. We’re quite slow with these as we sometimes have a chat rather than a read, but it’s a lovely thing to do. We have one chapter and the afterword left of this. I just started “The Good Immigrant USA” to go with my read of the UK version, and am learning new things with this one, too, and Jonathan Gornall’s “How to Build a Boat” is just getting started. The first two will be contributing to the DiverseDecember reading challenge hosted by The Writes of Womxn (thank you to Ali for alerting me to this one) – they will be blogging about Black Brown and Indigenous writers who identify as women but we’re free to read anything and use the hashtag. More on that below – including not pushing myself to read loads and feeling I’ve failed!

Up next, Emma and my next read together will be Isabella Tree’s “Wilding” which was discussed in “On the Marsh” which I’ve just finished and I’ve been looking forward to reading for ages. Of course those BL books will be devoured, too. For my LAST BOOK in my Paul Magrsathon I was going to re-read his lovely “Stardust and Snow” which I read on Christmas Day last year, but then he brought out this “Christmassy Tales” volume which includes that one and a host of other short stories. I have already dipped into it to read his Fester Cat story (from the book he wrote by his late lovely pet) and I am not going to be able to resist it now we’ve got into December – there’s a story about a Christmas Trilobite! I will be reading the four light Christmas novels I bought in October between Christmas and New Year, and I have assigned myself Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan novels to read for DiverseDecember. Yes, I have “Brit(ish)” and “Black and British” and various other books but I don’t want to force the issue or read all my BLM books in a rush, so I will enjoy these and see what else I can add in.

New books in

The aforementioned “Christmassy Tales” arrived last week and I also bought my friend Katharine D’Souza’s new novella “Friend Indeed” on the day of publication. I wish I’d got it read for Novellas in November but it will be a Novella in December instead. Bizarrely, Past Me decided to do some Amazon pre-orders in August and September and I was somewhat surprised to receive Jane Linfoot’s “Love at the Little Wedding Shop by the Sea” (book five in her series) and Sairish Hussain’s “The Family Tree” (shortlisted now for the Costa First Novel Award” following the fortunes of a family emigrating to the UK. Both obviously “me” but do I recall ordering them? I do not.

Did you have a good reading month in November? Tempted to join DiverseDecember? Bought anything new or holding off? Is there room on your shelves for Christmas incomings???

State of the TBR November 2020 plus incomings and the schedule for All Of Anne Tyler next year #AnneTyler2021 @DeanStPress @BL_Publishing #BLWomenWriters


Well, the standard TBR has actually gone down, although not as much as I would have wished. An actual gap, right? “Motherland” is still at the end of the front row.

I completed 13 books in October, even though I had a week off at the beginning of the month, which was a little disappointing, especially as only four of them were from this physical standard TBR (the rest being made up of Kindle, usually NetGalley, books and review books that came in, plus two off the pile of Books Where I Have Another One In The Series). I did also DNF two books from this shelf, which is why the gap is so substantial. Anyway, 13 books is not nothing and I read some great ones of course!

New in!

I’ve been very lucky in terms of review books coming in this week (mostly on one day, actually!). British Library Publishing have kindly sent me two more of their beautifully patterned and tactile Women Writers series. Mary Essex’ “Tea is So Intoxicating” has a village divided when a man suddenly decides to open up a tea-garden, and in “O, The Brave Music” by Dorothy Evelyn Smith, we have a coming of age story set just before World War One. Both of these have the usual marvellous introductions and afterwords as well as being lovely objects in themselves.

I was also offered a look through the British Library’s publishing catalogue and chose Polly Russell and Margaretta Jolly (eds.) “Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights” which is a truly glorious book published to accompany the exhibition but a marvellous object and record in its own right:

From personal diaries, banners and protest fashion to subversive literature, film, music and art, no topic is too taboo: Unfinished Business presents how women and their allies have fought for equality with passion, imagination, humour and tenacity.

The exhibition is on at the British Library until 21 Feb if you can possibly get there (info here, lockdown will alter this of course).

Thank you so much to British Library Publishing for sending me these – “Unfinished Business” is destined for a Shiny New Books review and I will share about it here, too.

The lovely folks at Dean Street Press are publishing a lovely new tranche of books in their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint in January, concentrating on the works of Margery Sharp and Stella Gibbons, and while I was busy adding them all to my wishlist, I’ve received e-book copies of Gibbons’ “A Pink Front Door”, about a woman who can’t say no to a series of misfits who need her help, and Sharp’s first novel, eye-wateringly rare to get hold of before this publication, with a highbrow family dealing with a decidedly middlebrow sister. You can read about all the new novels on the Furrowed Middlebrow blog here and I cannot WAIT to read these!

Currently reading and coming up

When I got to the end of my last NetGalley book and got into a sort of state of being totally unable to make a decision (review book from the physical pile? NetGalley book? Angela Thirkell, oldes book, newest book?), I decide to pick off two lovely Dean Street Press books, “Mrs Tim Gets a Job and Mrs Tim Flies Home” – I finished the first earlier today and the second is the current read, along with the very interesting “Work” from Bloomsbury, which is a lovely hardback and not suitable for lounging over a pizza with. Watch this space for notification of my Shiny review of that one.

Coming up, I am taking part in two challenges this month. Australia Reading Month, run by Brona, is what it says, and I’ve been saving up Ada Cambridge’s “The Three Miss Kings”, published by Virago, for AGES so I could join in.

I doubt that’s the only novel I’ll be reading this month (see above!) but I will also be concentrating on nonfiction for NonFiction November, which I so enjoyed doing last year. I have prepared my initial post for tomorrow and laid out some books I will definitely be reading – “The Good Immigrant” UK and US editions, edited by Nikesh Shukla, with Chimene Suley for the US one, which are collected essays on the immigrant experience in the two countries, continuing my reading of direct lived immigrant experiences; “The Secret Teacher” which opens the lid of a school and a young teacher; “On the Marsh” by Simon Barnes, which follows his owning and care for some marshland with an element of rewilding; and “Homesick” by Catrina Davies, which mixes sociology and nature, exploring why she ended up living in a shed on her parents’ land in Cornwall. Some good themes there, I thought, and there will be more nonfiction, too.

All of Anne Tyler in 2021

I’ve been talking about this for ages, but I’ve finally got round to setting out a project page to support my re-reading (and some new reading) of all of Anne Tyler’s novels in order next year. Exciting! I’m going to read two per month and people are totally free to join in with as few or as many as they want to do. I need to wait for “Redhead by the Side of the Road” to come out in paperback then I’ll do a new picture. Meanwhile, see the page here for the schedule and do let me know if you’re joining in / my instructions are clear.

Whew, a busy post and a busy upcoming month. What are you getting up to in November reading-wise? Any more challenges?

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