Amit Katwala – “The Athletic Brain” and some book confessions #20BooksOfSummer #amreading

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I’ve managed to read the second book in my #20BooksOfSummer challenge, even though I’m slightly frantically alternating challenge books and other stuff I need to read and review for Shiny and NetGalley. A little bit of acquiring has gone on, too (oops, not oops) with two books from different publishers coming in for Shiny review and one being bought yesterday at a talk and book signing (rude not to, right?). But first let’s have a look at this book, enticingly subtitled “How Neuroscience is Revolutionising Sport and Can Help You Perform Better”, superimposed on a graphic of a running track. Oh – you’ll notice from the date that I’m JUST keeping to a year’s gap between acquisition and reading. I’m going to say that there will be a jump forward in that, because I know how “good” I usually am in the late summer, autumn, but we’ll have to see, won’t we …

Amit Katwala – “The Athletic Brain”

(12 June 2017)

I apparently ordered this one because someone mentioned it in the Runners’ Bookshelf Facebook group I’m in (although I can’t now find that mention of it). It’s written in an informal and accessible style and is obviously a work that has grown out of a great interest of the author’s; it’s just a bit of a shame that, for me, it overlapped a bit too much with other books I’ve read fairly recently, most notably Matthew Syed’s “Bounce”. He credits that very book in the bibliography and notes, so I’m in no way suggesting anything nefarious, it’s just that something must have been in the water and lots of similar research came out and got mulled over and informed these two books and probably others.

So the talking about training versus talent, and flow and the unconscious, automatic responses and movements that come with hours of practice was all stuff I kind of knew about already – however, nicely done and with good reference to a wide variety of both academic sources and interviews Katwala has done as a sports journalist. As well as the important sections on the role of brain research on visual acuity and the ability to make decisions rapidly through a variety of tools, and the way in which sports clubs of various kinds are using these techniques to train their athletes to do better, there’s also quite a lot about scouting, risk-taking and brain injuries, which, while important and interesting, make the book feel a little disjointed. But again, the research and synthesis is done really well.

I particularly like the author’s handiness with an analogue: for example, and there are lots of examples, the allocation of neural resources is described as being

on the general principle of ‘use it or lose it’, like overlapping games of cricket in a crowded public park.

and w meet some interesting and different people during the book, like the snowboarder, Billy Morgan.

Notwithstanding the running track on the front cover, there’s not that much for the runner here, as visual acuity and fast decision-making are more important in team sports or ones with an opponent. For our rugby, football and tennis playing friends, the most important things seem to be keep flexible, train your peripheral vision and have a go at focusing your attention more on, for example, the hoop in basketball before you shoot for the goal. The main bit about runners, apart from some interesting stuff about VO2 max capacity in twin studies and grit in general is about resilience and keeping going, with a suggestion that you train when tired (for example doing your long run after a day at work). I know that I used that tactic during my winter training for my last marathon and it worked well, so was pleased about that.

So, the author seems really nice and enthusiastic and has done a good work of research. I only felt a bit “meh” about this book because I’d read “Bounce” first. If I’d read them the other way around, I would have felt the other way around about them.

This was Book #2 in my 20BooksOfSummer challenge.


New in, first off my Shiny books. “Sacred Britannia”, by Miranda Aldhouse-Green and sent by Thames & Hudson, is about the clash and mixture of religions in Roman Britain. Sally Bayley’s “Girl With Dove” from William Collins has been popping up all over and was sent kindly along with another book, however I don’t feel I’m the best reviewer, so I’ve sent it along to one of the Shiny editors. And “King of the North Wind” by Claudia Gold is about Henry II. What do you know about him? Nor me – but I’m looking forward to finding out. Some beautiful books here and out in June and July so reviews coming relatively soon.

I was lucky enough to attend a talk and book signing by Blind Dave Heeley, the Black Country marathoner, ultrarunner, triathlete and all-round amazing and entertaining chap. I shared my story with him where I’ve seen him at so many races and cheered him on as he’s stormed past me that when I encountered him at the Road Relays earlier in the year, I assumed I knew him and greeted him with an “Orright, Dave,” as I ushered him down the funnel in my role as Official in Training. He said to give him a shove next time so he knows I know him. OK! Anyway, book purchased, massive guide dog patted, and here’s another good read (and his co-writer is listed on the front cover!).

I’ve just started reading “The Life and Times of Benjamin Zepahaniah” which is SO GOOD. I’m going to be reviewing it here and for Shiny, as it’s one of those books I think I will have a personal and a more academic reaction to. Oh, but it’s good. So entertainingly and honestly written. The first words? “I hate autobiographies” …

 

Book review Jane Austen – “Teenage Writings” plus something in the post and a Dull But Necessary thing #amreading #bookconfessions #20BooksofSummer

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A bumper post today full of fun … well, and a Dull But Necessary Thing. Shall we get that over with first? Some of my lovely readers receive my reviews and other blog posts by email because they’ve signed up for it. And although it has a double opt-in and you have an unsubscribe message on every email, I had to put it on my GDPR Compliance and Privacy Policy statement, so if you want to read that, pop to the link and otherwise I’ll never mention it again. There’s more to my statement than just this blog, because I run a business and have customers, but I thought I ought to mention it. Now to the review and Acquisition.

Jane Austen – “Teenage Writings”

(06 June 2017 – from Kaggsy)

Kaggsy at The Ramblings kindly sent me this nice Oxford World’s Classics edition of Austen’s Juvenalia – I think she reviewed it for Shiny New Books but am not sure, although I half remember seeing her blog about it. Anyway, here we have those three volumes of Austen’s early, unpublished works that were circulated among friends and family, and the reading experience is a little patchy, I have to say – they were obviously packed full of in-jokes that now need explaining, and some of the very youthful stuff is a bit silly – but it’s still an insight into how she developed her craft and her ability to keep people amused and spellbound. I prefer the later pieces where she doesn’t rely so much on drunkenness and very weird punctuation and opens out into more of herself. “The Three Sisters”, though it does have drunkenness, is very funny especially on what one should expect from a husband, and Lesley-Castle has some sharp and funny comments about friendship, especially epistolary forms where you’ve long tired of the person but keep writing jolly letters to them.

The asterisks marking notes are a bit intrusive – the notes are great but of course cater to the greatest need. I wonder if just putting the notes under their page numbers but leaving off the asterisks and letting the reader decide what to look up might have worked a bit better. Of course, there are introductions, notes on the text, bibliographies, etc. enough to satisfy the most demanding reader. A necessary and good collection that will appeal to a wide range of people.

Now another book in, this time “The Maiden Dinosaur” by Janet McNeill, which I won in a competition (which I have to admit I entered slightly by accident. And look, not only the book but a lovely postcard AND a Seamus Heaney bookmark, all from the lovely Cathy at 746 Books (here’s her review in case the pic whets your appetite: you know this will have got behind all those books from Tuesday unless I alter my book choosing pattern!). Thanks, Cathy!

I owe you and NetGalley a review of Dan Hancox’ “Inner City Pressure” which is a simply wonderful book situating the music genre grime in its sociopolitical context in a way that’s much more readable than I’m making that sound. That’ll come on Sunday, I think. I’ve just opened Paul Theroux’ “Deep South” and am actually enjoying it so far (phew).

Oh, and talking of Cathy from 746 Books, I’m going to be doing her 20 Books of Summer challenge again this year, starting from 1 June. Cathy’s posted a teaser here but the proper sign-up post will come out on 1 June and that’s when I’ll be announcing my Pile. I know I have eight Viragoes and Persephones to add for my August reading but will see where I am in the TBR before I make up the rest of the pile. I’m looking forward to the camaraderie and linkiness, though.


Does one more book break the camel’s back or not? Have you had anything exciting in or won any competitions recently? Are you doing 20 Books of Summer this year?

Shiny new review, Chase E. Robinson “Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives” and, well, shiny new books! @shinynewbooks #bookconfessions

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I’ve got another review up on Shiny New Books, Chase F. Robinson in “Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives” has written an accessible introduction to the lives of some of the founding figures and important people in the first 1,000 years of Islamic culture and civilisation, with lovely illustrations and a good solid academic framework without being hard to read. Read more here and thank you to Thames & Hudson for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

I’ve got another full review to publish tomorrow so I’ll add to this by sharing my wondrous Foyle’s bounty from yesterday. I gathered together all the book tokens in the house, including some half-used ones with very odd amounts on, and as the TBR was sort of getting under control and I’d seen loads of things I wanted to buy last time I was in the shop, had a bit of a splurge. But look what I got!

From the bottom upwards …

Simon Napier-Bell – “Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay: The Dodgy Business of Popular Music” – Napier-Bell is a legendary rock manager and this is full of anecdotes and naughtiness. In the sale for 75% off but also exactly the kind of book I enjoy.

Benjamin Zephaniah – “The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah” – I heard about this being out the other day and had to get it, after all, he’s local and I love his novels and poetry. This is BRAND NEW (shocking for me) but had £5 off the hardback price.

Garth Cartwright – “Going for a Song: A Chronicle of the UK Record Shop” – one I’d identified as needing to be bought the other day.

Vybarr Cregan-Reid – “Footnotes: How Running Makes us Human” – this one has been on my radar for a while and read by a few running friends, and I couldn’t not have ONE running book on the list. It’s an investigation of why we run and get so much out of it.

Clair Wills – “Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Post-War Britain” – a fascinating and important subject and right up to date, but also one of those lovely new Penguin non-fiction books. As is (its partner in the Buy One Get One Half Price deal) …

Harriet Harman – “A Woman’s Work” – had to be bought and will form an interesting contrast / companion to Jess Phillips’ autobiography.

Dave Randall – “Sound System: The Political Power of Music” – a Left Book Club publication which was also 75% off in the sale, finding the ways in which music has been a force for social change as well as a way to keep people in their place. I’ve just been reading a fascinating history of grime music which situates it very much in its socio-political context, so this seems a good buy.

Alan Hollinghurst – “The Sparsholt Affair” – quite a left-field one here, but I dimly remembered the author saying he’d been influenced by Iris Murdoch and this does look like a very Murdochian plot, with a group of friends from university staying in touch down the years. The only fiction book in the pile!

Neil Gaiman – “Norse Mythology” – his retelling, I have been feeling faintly guilty about not having bought this since I bought that other book on Norse mythology in December, so redressed that. These two were also Buy One Get One Half Price and yes, I chose the black cover for this one – more practical than the white.

… and finally, I was in town to meet up with the lovely Claire from the LibraryThing Virago Group, who was up here for a conference. She kindly passed me a Virago Green of Enid Bagnold’s “The Loved and Envied” as an extra acquisition for the day.


Have you read any of these? Which of them should I put first in the (back end of the) TBR?

Book reviews – Georgette Heyer – “April Lady” and Diana Wynne Jones – “Charmed Life”, a #1977club fail and a confession

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Gosh, that’s a long title isn’t it! Two old favourites and multiple re-reads to review today, one of which was for Kaggsy and Simon‘s 1977 club and the other of which is an appropriate title for the month it’s read in, quite by accident (they’re small books, so shorter reviews), an epic fail on a re-read (I was warned! Kaggsy in fact warned me!) and a super acquisition from a lovely friend.

Let’s get going, then …

Georgette Heyer – “April Lady”

(03 June 2017 – Oxfam books)

From 1957, this is slightly later period Heyer, which surprised me when I read it, as there’s such a slew of cant and argot and jargon that slightly obfuscated the plot that I thought it was a less mature one.

It’s also interesting in that I think it might be the only (if not, it’s one of a very few) of her novels where the hero and heroine are already married at the start of the action. However, although they both married for love, Lady Nell Cardross believes her Earl married her for convenience, and still has Another, and the Earl believes she married him for his money. All very sortable-outable were it not for their respective brother and half-sister, both pretty silly, who get Nell involved in all sorts of plots and businesses, so there’s not time or bandwith to manage it. A very short but enjoyable read with all the London atmosphere and detail you’d want and an interesting ending. Although she’s slight, she writes well and I always recommend a Heyer for a comfort read.

Diana Wynne Jones – “Charmed Life”

(1980s – soon to be replaced. An Unfortunate Incident with a long-gone cat in the 1990s which I thought had been cleaned up has left a lasting stain (no odour) on a few of my children’s books, which I’m going to have to spend vast amounts of time and money tracking down and rebuying. So be it!)

This book was published in 1977 and represents my contribution to the 1977 Club (unfortunately, Bruce Chatwin’s “In Patagonia”, which I also have, was too substantial to fit into a very busy reading week, and see below for the other candidate).

A boy who is an orphan and doesn’t think very much of himself, overshadowed by his remaining family and domineering ward, finds out he has something to do with magic. There’s a powerful enchanter whose name must NOT be mentioned, a turrety castle with magical shape-shifting grounds and all sorts of spells designed to annoy other youngsters. Hmm … yet written in 1977, you say?

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to persuade Harry Potter fans to embrace the (in my eyes) superior Diana Wynne Jones books. Her Chronicles of Chrestomanci are well written, funny, engaging and short! This one was a re-read and I hadn’t read it for ages. I remembered some details, like the magic book of matches that has something to do with our hero, Eric “Cat” Chant and the violin that’s turned into a cat, but had completely forgotten the brilliant Janet Chant, brought in effectively from our world as a rapid replacement at a pivotal moment, more used to wearing trousers than Cat’s original sister’s fancy Edwardian style clothes and very down to earth. Love her!

One interesting feature I had forgotten is the magic garden which allows people to slip through into different worlds – this contains things from “the dawn of all the words” and includes a magic doorway which is like a rough stone lintel – reminding anyone of bits from C.S. Lewis’s “The Magician’s Nephew” and “The Last Battle”?

A DNF

I had originally picked Angela Carter’s “The Passion of New Eve” to re-read for the 1977 Club. I loved it (I thought). I’d read it a few times in my younger, brand-new-feminist years and loved the themes of gender identity and gender reassignment. Then I saw Kaggsy hadn’t been keen and asked why. “The unremitting rapes”. Oh, right. Well, I didn’t even get to the unremitting rapes; I gave up in the sado-masochistic manky rat-infested flat in post-apocalyptic New York. I hated the way black people were portrayed, I wasn’t keen on the wish-fulfilment acts of violent Women roaming the streets, and it was just pretty horrible. Sorry, Angela Carter, I’m going to leave you there.

A lovely book confession

I’m still not entirely sure how this happened, but my lovely friend Cari got hold of a print and e copy of this book by the amazing runner, Deena Kastor, and then happened upon her at a race expo in Washington DC and a book event in New York, and somehow she has ended up with a copy she’s read and a signed bookplate to keep and I’ve ended up with the hard copy book signed to me by Deena! Thank you so much Cari! I’ve just discovered Wendy from Taking the Long Way Home’s Book Club and this is her April book, so I’m hoping to fit it in after this weekend (I do have that Readathon I’m doing the last weekend in the month but I fear that’s going to be a Tardis of books shoehorned into not enough time!) and I’ve also requested her May book via NetGalley.


Phew, that’s a lot of stuff, hope you’re still with me! I’m currently reading Christopher Booker’s “The Seven Basic Plots” (which is going to take me some time) and “The Lido” by Libby Page, which comes out today and has had a lot of chatter and which is ABSOLUTELY LOVELY so far (I sat down to read it at breakfast and tore myself away at 33%) – it’s the story of two women who have got a bit lost in life battling to save a Lido, and is set in Brixton and Brockwell, beautifully realised). I really hope it lives up to this first third. I also need to start “Running the Smoke” which is 26 tales of running the London Marathon, a must-read as I go down to spectate for the first time in years, and support my lovely friend Bernice, running her first marathon.

What are you reading? Have you had a booky pinch point this year yet where there are just TOO MANY BOOKS to read in one week?

Book review – Katarina Bivald – “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” plus book confessions and challenges #readathon @readathon #amreading

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Look at me getting through the books on the shelf with another paperback taken off … and I’ve picked up that HUGE one to start, too. However, there are three confessions under this review. To be fair on me, two of them (with I think two more to come) I ordered on a pre-order thing (a bit like the old subscription model for publishing books) in September 2016, so I can hardly be castigated for clicky-clicky sins committed that long ago … can I?

Katarina Bivald – “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend”

(03 June 2017)

This was bought as a random purchase in Oxfam and I’m very pleased with it. I do love a small-town America story and so does the Swedish author, and this has the added deliciousness of being seen from an outsider’s perspective. It opens very notably with shy Sara standing on the main street of Hope, Iowa, nose in a book, waiting for a lift to an epistolatory friend’s house in Broken Wheel. But something seems to have gone wrong.

Now, this is a romance to an extent, but a very quirky one, and it fulfils the criteria of two women talking about something other than a man very nicely. Because Sara’s a bookaholic and the one thing she wants to do for the residents of Broken Wheel before her visa runs out is get them reading. She sets up a bookshop, adds brilliant labels to the shelves, and waits to see what she can do. And whether it’s a pillar of the church sniffing out the gay erotica or a broken and pitied man getting a taste for chick lit, it starts to work.

There are the usual quirky small-town characters – I loved Grace from the diner and her outcast tales, and there’s an ex-teenage mum and the owner of the general store, but all seen, as I said, by an outsider. I loved the way it very subtly pushes an integration and diversity agenda into the reader’s mind and the town’s habits. There are some very pertinent points here – the book was published in 2013 but written earlier, and at one point in the action, the gay couple in the book consider a plan for a marriage:

Andy and Carl looked at one another, amazed by how simple it was for heterosexual people to say those words. “She has to get married,” they said to each other quietly.

It’s also blisteringly honest on the microscope of small-town life and the price that’s paid if you go against the norms, whether as a teenage mum or a single woman who had one embarrassing moment early on and has steered clear of men forever more. I liked how the men in the book were caring and vulnerable as much as the women, very balanced but not in a lectury way.

The links and musings on books are lovely, from a random list of first lines that everyone will get something out of to mentions of books you might love, too – I was particularly pleased to see mention of Fannie Flagg’s “A Redbird Christmas” and there’s praise from Flagg on the back, too. Oh, and Iris Murdoch’s “The Sea, The Sea” is inserted into the text on the shelf of books that gives this novel its title – hooray! This isn’t all spoon-fed to the readers – some books and characters are inserted very subtly into the narrative.

Only one shocker – and this made me laugh, after reading this post on Hard Book Habit a few days ago – when I got to the end it turned out to be a Richard & Judy book club choice!


On to the CONFESSIONS. First off, I went to a new hairdresser on Tuesday, having been with my previous one for about eight years. Closer at hand and run by someone from my running club, but it’s still nerve-wracking changing hairdresser, amiright? Anyway, all went very well, I have my hair back to how I like it and it was SO QUICK getting there and back compared to the old one that I somehow fell into the Oxfam Books shop and spotted this one. A book about music by favourite poet and travel writer Simon Armitage? Had to be done.

Then just LOOK at these lovelies. Back in September 2016, I found out that Lethe Press were reprinting author and friend Paul Magrs’ earliest novels, the Phoenix Court series. Think magical realism set around North-Eastern tower blocks and precincts. I loved these and realised a while ago that I’d read them when they were new, getting them out of Lewisham Library when I lived in New Cross Gate. I have such happy memories of reading them and finding a great, new – different, very different – writer, and then a few years later got in touch with Paul after reading his book “Exchange” in 2006 (here’s my 2012 review) and have met him and count him as a friend. ANYWAY, Lethe Press were doing a pre-order thing, kind of like the subscription model that publishing used to use, and what is hopefully the first two of a series have now arrived – what fabulous covers! They have additional material, too, short stories and the like. What a treat!

Finally (sorry for the long post) some challenges. Yes, I know I’m not doing challenges this year.

It’s nearly time for Simon and Karen’s [year] club and this time round it’s the 1977 Club. As I’ve wanted to re-read Angela Carter’s “The Passion of New Eve” forever, I have earmarked that to read on Monday. Hooray!

I’m also going to be reading as much as I can in the 24 hours from 1pm on 28 April to 1pm on 29 April as I’ve realised I’ve got space in my schedule to do Dewey’s Readathon, which I know a few bloggers I follow do. All very exciting. FAQs here and do join in if you fancy it.

Oh, and actually finally, I’ve started reading Christopher Booker’s “The Seven Basic Plots” which is that basically humongous book you can see in my TBR pic at the top. It’s impossible to read apart from in bed, so I’ve also started Georgette Heyer’s “April Lady” (topical!), having finished another NetGalley book which I’ll review over the weekend.

Book Review – Felicity Hayes-McCoy – “The Library at the Edge of the World” #amreading #readireland18

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Another book for Reading Ireland Month, co-hosted by Cathy at 746 Books, and you can read all about the reading challenge here. Shockingly, I’m going to have to double-post today as I have another Reading Ireland Month book I’ve read plus another to review this month, before I even get to my Iris Murdoch round-up on the last day of the month! That’s what you get for having a reviewing lull but not a reading one.

Anyway, I was attracted to this book because it’s about a rural library, and what librarian hasn’t wanted to run a library in a small town or by the sea? OK, I’m not a librarian now anyway, but that kind of thing sticks. Read on to find out about a lovely feed-good book with a real sense of community and a range of characters – a bit like Cathy Kelly’s novel, actually!

Felicity Hayes-McCoy – “The Library at the Edge of the World”

(18 June 2017, possibly The Works)

Hanna ran away home to Ireland when her marriage went wrong: things are a bit better now her daughter’s living independently, but she’s still trapped in her mother’s garish bungalow and still pretending the divorce was amicable. Can Hanna reclaim her own life, possibly in the cottage her grumpy great-aunt left her, even though she, too, has distanced herself from the community? Will she and optimistic Conor the library assistant ever agree on what’s appropriate use of a library space?

When budget cuts and cronyism threaten her library and other services on the imaginary Finfarran Peninsula, the whole community does come together, but in a plausible and realistic way, and I liked this big most. There’s local youngsters and their fancy deli pulling together with young mums, incomers and old families, resourceful OAPs, glad to be useful again, and the odd nun. We get the full range from meddling priests with power to hold on to to the isolated lord of the manor and (yes) his giant nightmare boiler.

Not everything is tied up neatly, and there are a few hiccups along the way, but there’s the possibility of a new beginning for Hanna – especially when her intractable and exasperating builder, along with his horrible little dog, deigns to return her own house to her.

It took me a few chapters to warm to this book but the author, who lives in Ireland herself and has written non-fiction books about settling in and doing up her home, has a great feel for communities and the people in them and it’s a warm and positive book that ended up a joy to read.


One more book confession, which arrived from pre-order today. I follow Lynne Murphy’s “Separated by a Common Language” blog so I just had to order her new book, “The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between British and American English” – useful for my work as a localiser, of course!

Book review – Julie Creffield – “The Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running” and some book confessions #amreading @JulieCreffield @RunBookshelfFB

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A book read out of order? What’s going on? Well, I’m running my next marathon in, erm … eleven days’ time (hope my cold goes in time!), and I do like to read a running book or two in the run-up to a race. Under this review, some horrific book confessions from a NetGalley account gone very, very naughty … But first an inspiring book that talks about things no other book talks about!

Julie Creffield – “The Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running”

(21 January 2018 – at the National Running Show)

I met life coach and running guru for the larger lady Julie at the National Running show and couldn’t resist buying this book – she was very engaging and is doing some genuinely inspiring work and activism. I’ll say straight off that I’m not the exact audience this book is aimed at – not because I’m some whippet myself, I’m definitely on the more solid side of the runner spectrum, but because it’s very squarely aimed at the new (marathon) runner and also speaks loud and clear to running mums about claiming their time and fitness. And that’s brilliant.

It’s funny, frank and a bit sweary, really like having one-to-one coaching or grabbing a coffee and a chat. Julie addresses the reader directly, helping her face her fears, reassuring her that everyone’s felt whatever she’s feeling at some time. She has quotes from famous and ordinary runners, and what’s brilliant is that when she says she’s a slow runner, she actually is – hooray! I get a bit tired of people saying they’re slow then talking of their 10 minute miles, something I can sustain for maybe a mile, but certainly not comfortably. I know that being relatably slow and middle-aged and non-whippety has helped me to inspire other people to believe they can run long, and Julie does the same but to a wider audience.

The book is packed with great advice for the marathon newbie, and I learned a great tip about weeing (honestly) and picked up an idea for fartlekking (speed play, behave!) where you pick a trigger like red cars or seeing a plane in the sky for your speedy bits. You can always learn from every running book! Julie also talks about chafing, being worried about having an accident in public and dealing with catcalls, something not many running books talk about in depth (Alexandra Heminsley and Lisa Jackson are similarly open, see my reviews of their books under the links, but it’s still rare). There are some great tips on using visualisation to help you when the going gets tough, and even though I’m famously The Runner Who Never Needs The Loo On the Way Round, I couldn’t help identifying with this quote:

Perhaps think about potential toilet stops on long runs, one of my friends says she can plot 18 miles around East London purely by Wetherspoons toilets.

We’ve all been there. Not to mention the Magic McDonalds at the top of That Hill.

One tiny point that I feel duty bound as an editor in the rest of my life to mention. Julie is quite upfront and clear about how she decided to write this book and got it out as soon as she could. A few editing issues got under the radar in the hurry to publish, and some of my friends who have read this book thought that would bother me. But you know what – if she inspired one more woman who was scared to pull on plus-size lycra and get out there to embrace the joy of running by missing a stage in the production process, then so be it. However, if Julie’s reading this and would like a donated line edit, because I REALLY believe in what she’s doing, then she should feel free to get in touch.

Frank as anything and like a friend holding your hand, this reminded me to be mindful of the fears the new runners I encounter face, and will inspire all sorts of people. Good luck to Julie in London next month, too!


Right, confession time.

First off, in “tree” books, my friend Sian has passed me Robert Ferguson’s “Scandinavia” – she’s a bit of a Swedophile (Swedenophile?) and runs a Scandi meetup in our city, and she rates this highly as being quite serious and full of good information, and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I’ve also had a flurry of NetGalley “wins” recently, so here goes …

“A Grand Old Time” by Judy Leigh is about an “elderly” lady who gets sick of being in a care home and decides to go on an adventure to France. There have been a few of this kind of book recently and I hope it’s not too sappy, but it looks jolly. (Published 03 April)

Paul Theroux’s “Figures in a Landscape” is a new (I hope) collection of essays and musings, including an encounter with Oliver Sacks. I was so hoping to win this and was thrilled to do so. (Published 08 May)

“Inner City Pressure” by Dan Hancox is a history of grime music – very useful in my other day job as a transcriber, part of the time for music journalists. (Published 17 May)

Yusra Mardini’s “Butterfly” is her story of her escape from Syria and dream to swim in the Olympics – which she did as part of the Refugee team in Rio. To be honest, I’m not sure how I got this one, I seemed to be pre-approved then it was there, and I fear I may have to skim a little at the start.

I’ve also had a (rare) Did Not Finish. NetGalley win “Something Like Happy” by Eva Green did not say in the blurb that it was about someone with a terminal illness – or that it was relentlessly positive and live every day as it comes-ish, like those Tuesdays with Morrie type books, and reading the reviews people were alternately uplifted and in big tears. I just couldn’t deal with that so put it to one side. Also it was set mainly in a hospital and I spent enough time around those at the start of last year. So even though it looked well done and well written and lots of people will probably love it, not for me.

What are you reading? Any confessions? Do you like to read a certain type of book before a certain type of activity, for example books set where you’re going on holiday or running books before a race if you’re a runner?

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