State of the TBR January 2021 and reading stats / best books of 2020 #AnneTyler2021

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It’s finally time! I never do my Books of the Year until the first day of the new year, just in case I read something a-maz-ing in the bit between Christmas and the New Year. I’m aware you’ve already had a book review to read today – I meant to write that yesterday after finishing the book but we were having our boiler replaced and I was sitting in my study with two cats and reading on a chair rather than typing on a swiss ball. So one review for 2020 came out in 2021 which is untidy but unavoidable. More horror to come when you see how  many books carried over into this year when I claim I like to finish a book with the end of the year …

So here is my TBR as it stood at the end of December. Actually not too bad, although in one of a run of slight disappointments (I mean, having no hot water or central heating for a week over Christmas makes light of reading issues but still) I had not achieved one-shelf-TBR status or even “I have read all the books I received for Christmas last year” status as I had hoped. But I was down to one and a half shelves and no piles.

This is after I added all my lovely acquisitions from Christmas (they go on the back shelf and everything else shuffles round). So it all still fits, right??? I have added “Digging up Britain” to the pile to read first – this is a lovely review book I’ve received and probably not mentioned. Anyway, there it is, State of the TBR.

Even worse than all this excess is the fact that I’ve found myself reading THREE books over the turn of the year. Three.

“Homesick: Why I Live in a Shed” by Catriona Davies, bought at the Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance in October 2019, is a great read but a bit raw for dinner time, hence starting a NetGalley book published today, Ryan La Sala’s “Be Dazzled”, set in the fascinating world of cosplay crafting. “Wilding” by Isabella Tree is my latest readalong with best friend Emma; we started it on New Year’s Eve and it will take us through a few months I would expect.

Up next is of course my first Anne Tyler of my (re) reading project for this year! The project page is here and I will add links to people’s reviews to the page as we go and enjoy the chat in the comments, too.  I’ll be reading two of the novels a month, in order of publication, adding in the final two at the end of the year (once I’ve got “Redhead at the Side of the Road” in paperback to match the others!

This is a deeply odd copy of “If Morning Ever Comes” which I bought in April 2000 – what’s with all the Edwardian ladies. Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to re-reading this one which I must have read a few months after acquisition. I hope a few of my readers will be joining me in one or two if not all of them!

2020 stats

For the second time, I’ve kept breakdowns of various book stats. I will try to compare them with 2019 as I go.

In 2020 I read 159 (116 in 2019) books, of which 83 (62) were fiction and 76 (59) non-fiction. So just a bit more fiction, unsurprisingly as I hid in some when times got tough! 94 (79) were by women, 56 (35) by men, 8 (1) by both (multiple authors) and 1 (1) by a non-gender-binary person.

Where did my books come from? Lots more from bookshops online this year, which was down to the pandemic with the new ones I read, I would imagine (not just Amazon, but Hive and Bookshop.org). Lots of gifts still.

bookshop online 31
gift 26
netgalley 21
charity shop 18
publisher 17
from publisher 11
bookshop physical 8
bookshop online secondhand 8
bought from publisher 5
Bookcrossing 4
bookshop secondhand physical 3
lent 2
book signing event 1
author 1
from shelves 1
won 1
bought from author 1

Most books by far were set in the UK 99 (74) with the US second 24 (17) and then 12 other countries plus  fantasy worlds and the whole world.

I read books by 76 (53) different publishers, the most common being Virago (13, down to Angela Thirkells) and Dean Street Press (10 – review copies (thank you!) and gifts) .

I read most books published in 2020 (39), which is down to Shiny and NetGalley. I read books from many different years, recent ones a lot but a little bump from 2009 and 2010. All decades from the 1890s were represented.

Onto diversity of authors and themes. 79.25% (88%) of the authors I read were white (as far as I could tell), with 12% People of Colour (I put everyone who was non-white in this category after a lot of fretting) and 1.26% a mix of White and POC authors. The UK is apparently 87% / 13% so I was pleased to increase my diversity count this year. 121 authors were British and 26 American, the others from 9 other countries or a mix. Out of the 159 books I read, I assigned a diversity theme to 43 of them (39/116 last year but I changed what I recorded, not counting Women’s Issues), so 21 (8) about race, 8 (6) LGBTQI+ issues and 10 covering both, 3 disability and 1 LGBTQI+ and disability, none about class. This doesn’t meant such themes didn’t come up in other books, just that they weren’t the main theme. As I wished last year, my intersectional reading has gone up.

Top 16 books of 2020

And finally, my top sixteen! Well, that represents just over 10% of my reading, so I think that’s OK. Links to reviews. 12 women and 4 men (about right), 10 non-fiction and 6 fiction (although I read a lot of fiction this year and it was all good, a lot of it was light escapist reads). These are in order of reading in fiction then non-fiction, not of rating!

Abi Daré – “The Girl with the Louding Voice” – astounding, poignant and optimistic portrait of a young girl creating herself

Bernadine Evaristo – “Mr Loverman” – what a memorable character, but his wife gets her own story, too

Candice Carty-Williams – “Queenie” – you love her, you fear for her, you grow with her

Brit Bennett – “The Vanishing Half” – updating “Passing” for the 21st century, an astounding work

Dorothy Evelyn Smith – “Miss Plum and Miss Penny” – the dark undertones beneath staid village life

Paul Magrs – “Christmassy Tales” – I’ve so enjoyed my Magrsathon this year, but this was an outstanding collection of stories I absolutely loved

Lennie Goodings – “A Bite of the Apple” – her story and the story of Virago Press

Helen Lewis – “Difficult Women” – a great work of synthesis and reclamation of women’s stories

Margot Lee Shetterly – “Hidden Figures” – so much more than the film, but complementing it beautifully

Emma Dabiri – “Don’t Touch my Hair” – the personal and the historical come together: I learnt so much from this book

Philip Marsden – “Rising Ground” – love of landscape and fascinating information

Jacky Klein (with Grayson Perry) – “Grayson Perry” – the definitive massive book of his career, with input from the artist

Jon Bloomfield – “Our City” – and my city, too, a magnificent work on the immigrant populations of Birmingham

Stephen Rutt – “Wintering” – made me think of geese in a new way

Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené – “Slay in your Lane” – such an important survey of young Black women’s lives and experiences, done so well

Reni Eddo-Lodge – “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” – a readalong with Emma that benefitted from a slower read – uncomfortable in places; vital

Honourable mention to the lovely publishers Dean Street Press for their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint (one represented here; many more read and enjoyed) and British Library Publishing for their Women Writers series – both are reliably excellent and I’m also grateful for the review copies as well as the gifts from friends, it’s been a year with big stand-outs but there’s a joy in knowing you can go for an imprint and know you will have a good time. Thank you for that.


So there we go. I know you’ve already published your books of the year if you’re a book blogger and I promise I’ll look at them soon! Happy new year!

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

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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?

State of the TBR October 2020

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We have no piles! I finished eighteen books (EIGHTEEN BOOKS!) in September (one was one I’d been reading for months with my best friend and one was a cartoon book, but still) and even though only five of those were from the physical shelf (five were ebooks, three review books that came in during the month, four were off the piles on top and one was from my main shelves) and I took one off that I just did not fancy reading (“Julian Grenfell” by Nicolas Moseley, a Persephone I bough in Oxfam, which I will gift onwards) it was enough to shift things around so that everything can stand up.

In fact, can you see, at the end … there’s a GAP! I can’t remember when I last had a space for one book on the TBR without creating Piles! And there aren’t many balanced on the top now, either, just three WW2 Angela Thirkell novels left to go!

I’m just finishing off the wonderful “Kitted Out” which I am reviewing for Shiny New Books, that will be done by the end of the day, and I’m currently reading “Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey” by Madeleine Bunting, which is a wonderful book taking its time on each of about 20 islands, with history and reportage and nature, and Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” is my current readalong with best friend Emma. We’ve covered the first chapter so far – I did know a fair bit of the history it covers, much thanks to David Olusoga et al’s excellent Alt HIstory strand “Black British History We’re Not Taught in Schools“, but not all of it by any means, so I learned a lot about Black support organisations and fascinating individuals and I’m looking forward to reading more tonight.

Next up I need to read “Slay in Your Lane” by by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené, which shared stories of successful Black British women and offers advice to Black women wishing to follow their paths, because I won their follow-up book, “Loud Black Girls”, where 20 writers ask what’s next on NetGalley and that’s published today. Then my Paul Magrsathon carries on with “666 Charing Cross Road” which I’ve selected because Bookish Beck can get hold of a copy and it fits into her plan for spooky October reading. Also recently published in Arvin Ahmadi’s “How it All Blew Up”, another NetGalley win, which is described thus: “A nuanced take on growing up brown, Muslim and gay in today’s America, HOW IT ALL BLEW UP is the story of one boy’s struggle to come out to his family, and how that painful process exists right alongside his silly, sexy romp through Italy. “

And after that, as I’m now beautifully almost only a year behind myself, and as the books on the start of my TBR, with one notable exception, are a bit samey – monocultural to an extent, and mainly about nature! – whereas the newest ones are a bit more diverse in all ways, I think I might start alternating again, especially now I can get to the back shelf without moving Piles. I do of course still have a million books on Kindle too, so those will feature as well, and I know of at least two review books winging their way to me. Fun times!

I have a week off work next week so hope for a good batch of reading then. Not going anywhere as I’m in the middle of the Midlands extra lockdown region and very near some big hotspots, so no day trips or meeting up with friends in their houses or gardens, let alone holidays, but some clearing out and, yes, lots of reading …

Have you read any of these featured books? What are your October reading plans? Any challenges?

State of the TBR September 2020 and only a tiny #Bookconfession #20BooksOfSummer20 #paulmagrsathon

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I’m very pleased with the state of my TBR at the moment – yes, there’s a Pile and some Loose Matter, but that’s not major and there were two Piles last time. As I reported in my round up of my 20 Books of Summer project (here), as well as completing my 20 Books of Summer reading with days to spare, I achieved my aim of getting a load of books acquired in 2018 off the shelf and read. Let’s not mention how many books I’ve acquired in lockdown – they might just fill the whole back shelf! In total I read 13 books in August (or finished, as one of them I’d been reading in sections since May) and nine of those were from the physical TBR.

September 01 2020 TBR

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “Horse Crazy” by Sarah Maslin Nir, which the publisher kindly made available to me on NetGalley. It combines a social history of horse-lovers in the US with a memoir of the author’s own obsession with horses. Each chapter is named after a horse she’s loved so I hope it’s not too heart-rending!

I’m also going to be continuing with my reading of Angela Thirkell’s wartime novels, which she wrote and published as the war was going on – so there’s an immediacy there which will be fascinating. I want to have them all read by the end of the year, or earlier if I can, now that I finally have them all! I’ve already discovered the resolution to the cliffhanger from “Cheerfulness Breaks In” in “Northbridge Rectory” (review to come) – phew!

Coming up next …

I need to be reading Kevin Maxwell’s “Forced Out” soon, not least because my friend Gill has loaned it to me and needs to lend it to a police officer next! It’s about the experiences of a Black, gay man who had always wanted to be a police officer but ended up having terrible experiences of homophobia and racism. And my re-read of Paul Magrs’ “Exchange” will be my Magrsathon book for this month (did you read my interview with him yesterday?).

On top of “Horse Crazy,” I want to pick up some other NetGalley reads. I will then make a start on the beginning of the TBR and I’ll be starting “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge, which is the new book my best friend and I will be reading together over the next few weeks (watch out tomorrow for a review of the one we read in May-August).

Then, further in the future, apart from continuing with my reading of Angela Thirkell’s wartime novels, this is the start of my TBR – the oldest books on it. Not hugely diverse, I have to say, apart from “A Brown Man in Russia” and “The Good Immigrant” but that aspect should be covered in my NetGalley reading. I was quite clearly in a nature phase during this part of 2019!

Book confession!

I was delighted to receive a copy of Elizabeth von Armin’s “Father” in the post from the lovely folk at the British Library Women Writers publishers. It’s out on September 03 and I won’t have it read and reviewed by then but I will get to it asap! What a pretty copy, too!

State of the TBR August 2020 plus one more #Bookconfession #20BooksOfSummer20

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Although some might say that this TBR shelf has gone a bit extreme again, with its not just one but TWO piles of horizontally stacked books to fit them all in, I’m actually really chuffed with this.

TBR shelf August

What I’m chuffed with is the beginning of it. And yes, I’ve acquired a lot (see all posts with book confessions here), but thanks to my 20BooksOfSummer project, I have finally shifted a load of the books that were sitting at the beginning/oldest point of the shelf.

This was my June TBR right at the start of the project, and books from 2018 stretch to pretty well half-way along the shelf. Those have pretty well all gone, just the Angela Thirkells waiting for the reissue of the books that come before and between them, and a good chunk of early 2019 also gone.

June TBR

But also, those books at the start had been stuck there for aaaaages! This was April 2020:

and this was January 2020, with that Tahiti book still prominent quite near the beginning and not much leaving the shelf between Jan and March.

So on the whole I’m very pleased, I’ve acquired some smashing books and I’m reading more than I have for months, so should be able to maintain the momentum.

I read (or should say finished, as one of them was the Grayson Perry book I’ve been reading for ages) 17 books in July (18 if you count the Spanish children’s book with about 100 words), nine of which were from the physical TBR (the others were review books that sit separately so I get to them in time or e-books).

Currently reading

Oxford illustrated history of the bookI’m currently reading “The Oxford Illustrated History of the Book”, edited by James Raven, which is as sumptuous as you can imagine. Although I’ve got a pdf review copy (I’m reading it to review for Shiny New Books), the illustrations have come out beautifully in that and it’s still a good reading experience. I’ve just finished reading about the first iterations of books across the world and am about to dive into Byzantium, and I will spend quite a lot of this weekend on it as I have three review books to read by the middle of the month. How lucky I am – and how diverse they are (one on trespass and one a republished woman writer, see below …)

Coming up next …

Three books coming up, described in textSo coming up very soon will be Nick Hayes’ “The Book of Trespass” which is the story of trespass in the UK and how that was instrumental in setting up and maintaining rights of way, plus information about land ownership. That’s a review copy from Bloomsbury (thanks, again!) and then I also have “Dangerous Ages” by Rose Macaulay, which is one of the new British Library Women Writers publications.

My Paul Magrs for the month I THINK is going to be “Exchange”, a lovely re-read, however I need to check that Bill in Australia, who won the copy in my competition at the start of the year, is able to access his copy to read! Otherwise I’ll be sharing a great interview I’ve done with Paul, and I’m considering which of his books on writing to pick up for a later month.

Vriagoes and PersephonesAfter/among these will be the last 7 books in my 20BooksofSummer project. I’ve been doing so well, got up to Book 13 yesterday (a low viewing and commenting rate on that review, though, so far, really not sure why!) so on track. This section has changed slightly in that “The Three Miss Kings” is going to wait for AusLitMonth in November, and I’ve swapped in “There’s a Good Girl” by Marianne Grabrucker (which is a lot shorter, and also covers Women In Translation month!). You can see one Dean Street Press book on there and once I’ve read this pile for 20Books and All Virago (etc.) / All August, I will be picking off some more of those (I also have one more ebook of their new set to read and review) plus some Virago Angela Thirkell reprints to round off that challenge.

On the Red HillAnd one book confession to round things off, and sorry it’s a picture of me (with my long lockdown locks, which I quite like and am keeping, even though my hairdresser is being terribly safe and careful), but I had shelved the book behind that right-hand pile before I realised I didn’t have a flat pic of it) – my friend Liz shared that she was reading this book about two gay couples who live sequentially in a house in Wales, and how moved she was by it, and I had to get a copy!

State of the TBR July 2020 #20BooksOfSummer20 #Paulmagrsathon

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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?

State of the TBR June 2020 #20BooksOfSummer

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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?

State of the TBR May 2020 and Shiny fun @ShinyNewBooks

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I read 11 books in April, which I was very happy about, as I was working very much full time and did not have a week’s holiday and flights like I did in March. I had a few acquisitions, one of which you’ve not yet seen but will in a moment, and everything has miraculously just fit onto the TBR shelf!

and things have moved around a little bit, at least. Honest!

One new book just in is Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” which I bought with a token for the rather lovely Topping and Company Books which my friend Helen from my photo-a-day group gave me (we have a “thing” for pay it forward acts of kindness in the group at the moment; I sent another friend some hot cross bun flavoured chocolate!). It was a slight challenge to use the token remotely but we got there in the end and the book popped through the post this week (shown with the other arrival, my RED January 2020 medal, as I did a bit of fundraising for Mind as part of RED January again this year). It looks like I will need to swallow my “But I’m not like that” reaction and pay attention to what the author’s lived experience is, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of reading it.

I really enjoyed doing a few readalongs last month and thank you to those who suggested books for me to read. I haven’t added enough books to make the TBR different enough again, but I will certainly consider doing that again in the future. I’ve kept “Rewild Yourself” out of sequence while I wait for my best friend to finish “Difficult Women”.


Talking “Difficult Women”, my review of that marvellous book was published on Shiny New Books yesterday. I did review it here, too, with a more personal reaction, whereas my more book review-y reaction makes a slightly different statement.

There is a powerful call to action at the end of the book:

 Ultimately … the cure for feminist ennui is feminist campaigning.

The patriarchy is outlined as the main culprit, pressing men as well as women into repressive and uncomfortable roles. She uses a series of demands sets out at the Women’s Liberation Conferences in the NINETEEN-SEVENTIES (for goodness’ sakes) to show that there’s still a lot of work to get our teeth into, some partially achieved, some where we need to look at the intersection of gender, race and class, some that are still so far away. The description of a Difficult Woman at the very end is a masterpiece and I wish I could quote the whole thing: I encourage you to go and get a copy and read it! [read the full review here]

I also had my review of David Crystal’s “Let’s Talk” published last week.

In a series of main chapters and shorter vignettes, we learn about what conversation is, and isn’t, about discussions on conversation that have been going on for millennia, about taking turns, not taking turns, what we talk about and how we talk about it. The shorter pieces include fascinating notes about topics from battle rapping to conversation cards shared in Victorian times and break up the text nicely – although it’s never heavy-going or overly academic: Crystal is sublimely good at making things readable and understandable. [read the full review here]


What’s up next? Well, excitingly, it’s my dear friend Heaven-Ali’s Daphne Du Maurier Reading Week coming up this month. I won a copy of “Rebecca” in her giveaway last time she did this (she swears it wasn’t a fix!) and then Cornishgirl from the LibraryThing Virago Group sent me “Jamaica Inn” for my Not So Secret Santa gift last Christmas and even though I promised Mr Liz I would read “Where the Crawdads Sing” soon, I do want to try to get both of these read in the first part of the month. I also have my next Paul Magrs, “Fancy Man”, his lost novel, unpublished until Lethe Press did their reprints in 2016 – how exciting!

I have to admit also to a very long queue of NetGalley books waiting to be addressed. Here’s the full stack and I know it’s not too many but it’s also not none! I did really well chipping away at the older books on our holiday, but I need to keep going with the up to date ones while working at the older ones. Any strong recommendations here? I know I have a few reviews saved for “The Authenticity Project” …

Work should (please!) be a little less frantic this month, so hopefully I’ll both get some physical books moved off the TBR and some electronic ones consumed (this of course is by no means all that is on my Kindle!

Are you doing any reading challenges this month? Any NetGalley books there I should immediately grab and make a start on?

State of the TBR April 2020

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I was discussing with my best friend whether we fancied reading a book ‘together’ at this time of isolation, and decided to get it ALL out (and this isn’t even all of it actually as I’d put the Piles to one side. I’m not getting it all out again though!

and here’s the more usual view of it. In fact, it’s doing quite well (a bit well), because the books on the back aren’t all in horizontal piles any more, just two piles and a normal row of books.

That might be down to the fact that I read FIFTEEN books in March, although a lot of those were on Kindle on our holiday at the beginning of the month. FIFTEEN though. And I’m still working very much (very, very much) full time at the moment.

apr-2020-up-next.jpgComing up next are these four lovelies. I’m just finishing Jane Linfoot’s “Christmas Promises at the Little Wedding Shop” (I’ll be reviewing the three in this series I read in March together next) and then it’ll be on to Ada Leverson’s “Love at Second Sight”, which is the third volume in the “Little Ottleys” trilogy. Volume two was a bit nail-biting as the Ottleys’ marriage is threatened, and I had a little change before going back to the third. I’ll be reviewing those together, too, and was reading them along with Heaven-Ali so we will try to link our reviews when they’re done.

Then it’s on to my Paul Magrs of the month: “Could it be Magic?” which is the third in the Phoenix Court series and features a man giving birth to a leopard-skin furry baby, as you do. After that comes Helen Lewis’ “Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights” for which I did the transcriptions; I want to read it anyway and am reviewing it for Shiny New Books. Hopefully I’ve persuaded a couple of other people to read it alongside me, too – hooray! And then Delia Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing” for which I have seen both glowing and scathing reviews but which Matthew read recently on audio book and absolutely loved, so exhorted me to buy and read.

There have been some more incomings on the Kindle front, via NetGalley, which I am always forgetting to update on here.

Clare Pooley’s “The Authenticity Project” is a cafe-based random acts of kindness novel that appealed in January.

“Diary of a Confused Feminist” by Kate Weston is a YA book about trying to be a feminist as well as everything else in today’s times (well, not today’s actual times right now: that would involve sitting in your house being a feminist at Joe Wicks’ PE or something, wouldn’t it).

Catherine Sanderson’s “The Bystander Effect” is about the effect peers / crowds have on helping behaviour and will hopefully have hints on how to stand up for what is right, because that’s how it was advertised.

“Our House is on Fire” is by Greta Thunberg’s parents about what it’s like raising and living with a world icon in climate change activism.

Beth Moran’s “How not to be a Loser” is a novel about a come-back to running with an inspirational group, I saw it on another blog and requested it.

And Brit Bennett’s “The Vanishing Half” is a novel about twin sisters who grow up together in a small southern American black community but then take wildly different paths, one remaining at home and the other moving away and passing as white.

That’s only the most recent ones but I am looking forward to everything there!

A readalong a readalong a readalong a readalong?

So I was wondering, does anyone have any of these lovely books coming up and would like to read along with me? I’m going to share the whole TBR now, apart from two really old 2nd hand books no one is going to have, and I managed to miss Madness’ “Before We Was We” off the photos below but am up for that one, too. I hope you can see these, let me know in the comments if you’d like to draw together and do a shared read of any of these in April/May. Something to look forward to.

 

State of the TBR March 2020 plus new acquisitions #bookconfessions

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Well, I have got all the TBR on one shelf apart from my little pile of Paul Magrs’ Phoenix Court novels and Icelandic trilogy. But there are Piles. And I’m going to reveal the back row …

Piles of books

Of course, my little challenge for myself still means I just have to get down to one above Rebecca Front’s “Curious” by the end of the year … Anyway, here’s it all put together.

Piles in the back neatly obscured by piles on top of the front row!

I’m currently finishing “Windblown” by Tamsin Treverton Jones, a book about the Great Storm of 1987, telling the story of the storm in great detail and then talking about its aftermath and the remarkable regeneration that has gone on in the places that were destroyed. Not entirely the best book to read in public (on a train, going down to a book launch) as, having been in the middle of the storm, aged 15, it brought it all back in horrible, visceral detail and quite shocked me. I have read another two books this month which will be reviewed next week, taking my total for February to ten, which is not too bad.

These are the oldest books on the TBR so will be picked up next. I can’t really get at the newest ones at the moment, although I might be able to sneak the very newest off the back shelf at some point. Odd that I ended up with two Tolkien books quite close together. At least this has changed a bit since the picture last month!

Also next up will of course be my next Paul Margs – second in his Phoenix Court series, “Does it Show” is another I really don’t remember as I read it last in 1996! And I really need to dive back into the NetGalley backlog on my Kindle, although that does work against the white male writing I’m seeing a lot of right here. So it’s all good, right?

And new books in …

New books in

OK, so I picked up Rakesh Satyal’s “Blue Boy” at our BookCrossing meetup last weekend: my friend Sian brought it and recommended it. Set in Cincinnati in the 1990s, our hero, Kiran, lacks the knack for fitting in – but some divine intervention is just around the corner. Lovely Kaggsy from the Ramblings sent me “Motherland” by Jo McMillan as she knew it was on my wishlist but had been unable to locate it in her stacks. A mother and daughter, the only Communists in Tamworth, go behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany – sounds fantastic. Everyone seems to be reading Lennie Goodings’ “A Bite of the Apple” which is about her work at Virago Books, ending up their editor, and I was pleased this published earlier than expected, as I’d pre-ordered it (why is that such a thing with me when I have so many books? However, this is the one most likely to slip off the end of the TBR and into my reading hands very soon). David Crystal’s “Let’s Talk” is a book about conversation OUP have kindly sent me to review for Shiny New Books. I love Crystal’s books so am so looking forward to this (which will obviously be read and reviewed soon).

Finally, Helen Lewis’ “Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights” I picked up at the book launch, to which I was invited because I worked on the transcriptions of the interviews Helen did for the book. I don’t just work for ghostwriters and this was one of my favourite books I’ve worked on, and I was honoured to find myself in the Acknowledgements! (I only looked on the train home from London, of course). It’s set to be a fabulous book and I was thrilled to meet a couple of the interviewees, as well as Helen, at the launch – I hardly ever get to meet my clients, let alone the people whose interviews I transcribe, so this was a massive treat.

Have you read any of these? Or are you planning to? What’s your March reading looking like?

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