State of the TBR June 2018 and #20BooksOfSummer TBR


Hooray, it’s that time of year when we all put our 20BooksOfSummer TBR piles together – I like to know where I am before I start taking the front of my TBR into it, so always save it up until the last minute to plan. First of all, though, here’s the current state of the TBR.

Of course, its magnificence is due to my book token spending spree the other week, and is absolutely FINE.

I’m currently reading Paul Theroux’s “Deep South”. After not enjoying many of the essays in his later book, I was approaching this with concern, but you know what? It’s BRILLIANT. It’s so good. He goes back to places, something he’s not really done before (OK, he did his “Ghost Train to the Eastern Star” trip, which retraced “Riding the Iron Rooster”, but this time it’s over the course of a year) and is humane, concerned and warm. It’s the only book I’m reading at the moment, but coming up next will be Iris Murdoch’s “The Italian Girl” for my #IMReadalong and the first book in my 20BooksOf Summer. Here’s the traditional start of my TBR, what’s coming next pic. Oh, and this is important, see how absolutely TINY the next Iris Murdoch is.

20 Books of Summer 2018

Run by the lovely Cathy at 746 Books every year (here‘s her introductory post), 20BooksOfSummer sees a whole load of us reading, well, 20 books from 1 June to 3 September every year. I’ve been taking part since 2015 (not always successfully) and you can see my master page, where I pull together my reviews and round-up here.

I’m being really quite ambitious this year. My PILE is drawn solely from my TBR and doesn’t include Kindle books (I know I have at least three or four to read for NetGalley) or the three Iris Murdoch books I’ll read for #IMreadalong. I am including eight books for August which will also participate in All Virago (and Persephone) / All August, which I do with the LibraryThing Virago Group every year. And I reckon I can do it, especially as I’m trying hard to address my work/life balance, so HAVING to read is a good thing.

So, here’s the pile, I’ll be reading it from bottom up, so it’s lucky it lives sensibly on my shelves, not lounging around on the duvet, as here …

William Sitwell – “Eggs or Anarchy” – The story of how Lord Woolton, Minister for Food, fed Britain during WWII

Amit Katwala – “The Athletic Brain” – About how neuroscience is revolutionising sports science and can apparently even help amateur sportspeople at all levels.

Vikas Swarup – “The Accidental Apprentice” – His more famous novel is Q&A, filmed as Slumdog Millionaire. In this one, an ordinary sales assistant is swept up to become a CEO by a billionaire, but why and will she pass his seven tests?

George Eliot – “Scenes of Clerical Life” – One of the few Eliots I haven’t read now, her earliest stories of religion, power and love.

David Weir – “Weirwolf” – The autobiography of the amazing athlete who’s won everything from the London marathon multiple times to Paralympics medals at different distances.

Robert McFarlane – “The Old Ways” – I think everyone in the world except for me has read this, where he follows the old tracks, hollow ways, drovers’ paths etc. of Britain.

Clare Balding – “Walking Home” – Not a second volume of autobiography but more walking, this time around modern Britain, meeting people. This will either go really well with / contrast with the McFarlane or I’ll get heartily sick of all the walking and have to swap the order!

Gillian Tindall – “The Tunnel Through Time” – Looks at the archaeological and sociological evidence uncovered by the building of Crossrail in London as well as historical sources to show who walked those routes and when.

Christopher McDougall – “Born to Run” – I think all runners who read have probably read this seminal text on barefoot and ultrarunning (and barefoot ultrarunning), something I really don’t want to do but find fascinating.

Peter Ginna (ed.) – “What Editors Do” – Includes a chapter by my friend Katharine O’Moore-Klopf and loads of detail about the work of the editor.

Prajwal Parajuly – “Land Where I Flee” – Phew, another bit of fiction at last! Three expats fly back to Sikkim for their grandmother’s birthday. Will they gain her blessing and retain their sanity and escape again?

Becky Wade – “Run the World” – Reports on running cultures from around the world, some of which I’ve already read about, some of which will be new to me. I see that I skipped over another expat fiction work in the TBR to read yet another running book …

And the Viragoes and Persephones for August. First some Viragoes:

Ellen Glasgow – “Barren Ground” – A 1925 novel detailing the life of a Virginia woman who survives an early disappointment to build her own life.

Ann Bridge – “Peking Picnic” – Her first novel, a diplomat’s wife realises the contrast between China and England, along with a cast of fellow English people. She’s such a witty writer and conveys place so well.

Angela Thirkell – “Summer Half” – New teacher Colin Keith encounters the terrifying Tony Morland and comedy in the school and village ensues.

Angela Thirkell – “The Brandons” – More Barsetshire comedy, with widow Lavinia Brandon batting away suitors while trying to matchmake for the vicar.

Then three Persephones

Tirzah Garwood – “Long Live Great Bardfield” – Wood engraver Garwood wrote this in 1942 as German planes circled overhead, telling of her art and her marriage to Eric Ravilious and the circle of artists around them. I hope this is good because it’s really thick! I’ve just realised this might just fill another year in my poor old Century of Books!

Joanna Cannan – “Princes in the Land” – The mother of the Pullein-Thompson pony-book sisters on a woman whose life is centred around her children, who gradually move away from her. Ali reviewed this back in 2016 and was very enthusiastic.

Diana Tutton – “Guard Your Daughters” – The One Simon from Stuck-in-a-Book is always pressing onto people (rather successfully!) so I had to get it when Persephone published it. A young girl in a family of sisters narrates their odd life – hard to resist anyway!

Enid Bagnold – “The Loved and Envied” – Set in France, Lady MacLean is a fading beauty, still with her courtiers. A slim Virago, received just the other week.

What do you think of my choices? Do you think I’ll get through them all? Are you doing 20BooksOfSummer, too?

State of the TBR May 2018


Well, I read 14 books in April (OK, one was a children’s book, one was a Georgette Heyer and one was a Debbie Macomber, which helped, and I also had marathon taper time and a cold and marathon recovery time to do Reading). So the TBR isn’t looking too shoddy (the red and white book on a slant represents the end of the front shelf.

I would say I’m currently reading both of these, but in fact I finished the second story in the Debbie Macomber over lunch today, after I’d done my TBR photographing. I still have one from April to review, too (Yusra Mardini’s “Butterfly”, about her journey from Syria as a refugee determined to continue her swimming training). Halldor Laxness’ “The Fish Can Sing” is a bit of an odd one, about a boy growing up in a weird boarding house in pre-development Reykjavik, but it has lovely echoes of the sagas in it so I’m persisting with it.

Up next are these four, well, I’ve started “Oh, my God, What a Complete Aisling” on the Kindle already as it’s out on Thursday. Marian Keyes apparently loves it and it’s a country mouse turns city girl transformation story and amusing so far. I added Beverley Nichols’ “The Tree that Sat Down” to my somewhat ill-fated Dewey’s Readathon pile and didn’t get to it; it’s one of the replacement copies I have recently treated myself to after finding the anti-cat pee treatment didn’t QUITE work in the 1990s and it’s tempting me. The next Iris Murdoch is the marvellous “The Unicorn”, one I remember loving each time I’ve read it (for more, see my preview post here). and I have “Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives” by Chase F. Robinson, which I was trying to save until I’d finished a job in a similar subject area, but is out this month and being reviewed for Shiny New Books.  A nice varied set of books, though, right?

Coming up after those and two more out-in-May NetGalley books (Paul Theroux’ “Figures in a Landscape” and Dan Hancox’ “Inner City Pressure”, so a book of travel pieces and a history of UK grime music respectively) I have these lovelies (yes, indeed, you wait for a Paul Theroux for years and then two come along). So, classics (Jane Austen’s Juvenalia is the first one), travel, social history (cooking in WWII), sport, novel set in India, classic (Eliot’s “Scenes from Clerical Life”) and sport.

No challenges in May that I recall, just my own Iris Murdoch Readalong, which I am still loving.

What are you reading now? And next? Any challenges?




State of the TBR April 2018


Well, hooray, the TBR has actually shifted a bit! Compared to last month, which was rather hideously exactly the same as the month before, somehow, a lot has come off the front row, and a bit but not too much has been added – the yellow Norse Myths book is part of the back row and you can see that the PILE is once more able to fit on the shelf!

I read some smashing books in March – 13 in all (7 fiction and 6 non-fiction) and 5 of them were from my Kindle and the other 8 from various bits of my TBR, as I took the Reading Ireland ones off the middle of the front row. Not all of them are on this blog yet, as one is being reviewed for Shiny New Books. I enjoyed reading three books for Reading Ireland in the end (maybe four).

I’m currently reading this wonderful book by Neil Taylor – “Document and Eyewitness: An Intimate History of Rough Trade” which is the story of the record shop, distributor and label through mainly oral and also documentary history. It was published in 2010, before I’d started being a transcriber, but it’s a book I would LOVE to have worked on. The time period overlaps with other projects and individual transcriptions I’ve done as well as fitting in with my general interest in music, and it’s really well done. I’m so glad I had that little phase of picking up some books from my wish list second-hand back in May!

I’m about to start Iris Murdoch’s “An Unofficial Rose” as the next read in my lovely Great Iris Murdoch Readalong (all info on its main page here if you’re interested in dropping in to take part). I’m feeling a bit conflicted about this as it’s not traditionally been a favourite, but I’ve drawn such joy out of the readalong so far that I’m pretty sure it will be fine.

Next up on the bookshelf are these lovelies – very representative of my reading in general, half fiction, half non-fiction, one large, a few small, sport, social history, travel, Iceland, classics, Georgette Heyer and a light, small-town novel. I’m looking forward to all of them, interspersed with ebooks from the Kindle. And I will try to keep up with the reviewing so my lovely readers don’t get another slew of reviews like in the last few days – I’m all caught up now, you’ll be relieved to hear!

This is my list of upcoming NetGalley reads – I know it’s low-tech but I find keeping a slip of paper in my Kindle case makes sure I start the right one without having to poke around in my NetGalley account to check. I have four books published in April there so will have to get a move on, but I have a couple of weekend trips and a day trip coming up this month, all travelling by train, so that should help.

What are your reading plans for April? Have you read any of my upcoming ones? How’s your TBR doing?

State of the TBR March 2018 #readireland18


Oh dear, oh woe, oh dear. This TBR, dear blog readers, is in EXACTLY the same state it was in at the start of February, give or take a few books balanced on the top. How did this happen? I only finished five books in February (wah) and of those, two had been taken off the TBR already and were being currently read, one was an e-book, thus invisible, one was read for Shiny New Books and had been balanced on the top, and one was Iris Murdoch’s “The Bell”, from the Murdoch Pile.

To be fair on me, I’ve also made progress through Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” which had to have a pause while I waited for my new glasses to come through, and I’m also wading my way through the marvellous but very detailed “Rise Up, Women!” for Shiny.

On to jollier things. It’s Reading Ireland Month, co-hosted by Cathy from 746 books – read about it here – and I’ve actually got three books by Irish authors to slot into my March reading! Thankfully they’re all fairly small or light, so I should manage it. One of them is Iris Murdoch’s “A Severed Head” (although Murdoch was of Anglo-Irish parentage, she identified very strongly with her Irish side and at least two of her books are set there; I asked Cathy if it was OK to use her for it and it is). I’ve done an introductory post about that one with some lovely covers of books I own, and am very much looking forward to re-reading it.

Then I have two more books which fit the category perfectly – in fact Cathy Kelly is on Cathy the blogger’s list of Iris authors. I’ve been reading her for years; she writes great stories about women and this one, “Between Sisters” is about sisters, as is obvious, with very different lives. Cute cover, too. Felicity Hayes-McCoy’s book “The Library at the Edge of the World” was a random buy in The Works because it had the word Library in the title and is about a woman escaping to small-town Ireland to start a new life. They both look like fun reads.

Hopefully I’ll be getting more time for reading in now I’ve dealt with a bit of a work backlog and I’m also in the final phases of marathon training – the ones that involve going to bed early and getting plenty of rest. These books are, once again (it is a new photo!) waiting for me when I get to that point.

What are your reading plans for March? Are you taking part in Reading Ireland? Any other challenges?

State of the TBR – February 2018


Oh, the terrible state of the TBR, post-Christmas and -birthday! In fact, it was worse than this, but I pulled a few books off it that were either BookCrossing registered or quick reads to take with me on a trip, so there is at least some wiggle room at the end … But The Pile has had to encroach onto husband Matthew’s shelf (shock, horror!).

I’m currently reading Veronica Chambers’ “Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women are Changing their Nation” and a book on at in Iceland, and you’ll see a review of Jenni Murray’s “A History of Britain in 21 Women” later today, otherwise I won’t get all my reviews in. I’m also getting on with Jaron Lanier’s “Dawn of the New Everything” for Shiny New Books (and I have a fab book on women’s suffrage activists to go for Shiny next; there’s a whole crop of these to celebrate the centenary of people like me being able to vote in the UK). Then coming up, I didn’t do a photo because it’s pretty well the same as last month, with seemingly just two books having left the shelf, so Bruce, Frazzled, The Hate U Give and the history of Rough Trade all jostling for attention. First to start after finishing any of the current ones will, however, be Iris Murdoch’s “The Bell”, this month’s #IMReadalong novel.

What are your February reading plans?

State of the TBR January 2018 and Best Books of 2017 PLUS my First Book of the Year


Welcome and Happy New Year! It’s a busy post today so let’s get on with it …

Best books of the year 2017 and reading round-up

I read 141 books in 2017 (up from 126 in 2016). 78 (77) were fiction and 63 (49) non-fiction and I didn’t finish 1 (6). 86 (84) were by women and 54 (42) by men, with 1 by both.  I didn’t record the locations this time round. So more reading, which was probably bumped up by my down-time in May, and possibly more non-fiction by men.

Here are my top ten reads from 2017 (in order of reading, not merit):

Anna Kessel – “Eat, Sweat, Play” – brilliant book about women and sport

E. Nesbit – “The Lark” – glorious, delightful novel about two sisters trying to set up home and business together

Kory Stamper – “Word by Word” – essays from a dictionary-maker

Jess Phillips – “Everywoman” – the wonderful Labour MP’s life story and life lessons for us all

Francis Brett Young – “White Ladies” – man falls in love with house

Nick Baker – “Rewild” – helps us reconnect with nature (link leads to a short review linked to my Shiny New Books review)

Amber Reeves – “A Lady and her Husband” – I loved this story of a woman’s re-animation at the advanced age of [my age] when she has a Project

Simon Armitage – “Walking Away” – in which he walks in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall

Elois Jarvis McGraw – “Greensleeves” – how I loved this re-printed coming of age tale!

Bill McKibben – “Radio Free Vermont” – unputdownable satirical tale with a big heart and a positive message

Did you read any of these and love them as much as I did? Five fiction, five non-fiction; the non-fiction modern, the fiction mid-20th-century, with a Persephone and a Furrowed Middlebrow reprint among them – sounds about right!

State of the TBR January 2018

You will have hopefully already seen my TBR snapshots from 2017. And the Christmas Acquisitions. Here’s the full horror (the Pile has moved down to Mr Liz’s section of the shelves; it remains the same as always):

Just to be clear, the Rough Trade one used to be the end of the front shelf, so everything right of that used to be on the back shelf and has moved forward to join the front to fit the Christmas Haul in. Oops.

I’ve just finished “Happiness for Humans” by P.J. Reizin, a NetGalley read published this week which was a wonderfully fun and exciting tale of AI beings messing with human beings’ lives, a real page-turner.

I’m currently reading Matthew Syed’s “Bounce”, which is about the role of practice rather than talent in a whole range of achievements, with a lot about sport, and David Goldblatt’s “The Games” which is a rather large history of the Olympics, and very readable and interesting.

Next up have to be these two, once Iris Murdoch’s “The Sandcastle” (see below and my preview post) as they are to be reviewed for Shiny New Books. I am looking forward to getting into Gordon Brown’s autobiography and finding out more about virtual reality.

After all those, I hope I’ll get to this little section of non-fiction fun and important fiction, from Springsteen’s bio through Sue Perkins’ to living Danishly and unfrazzledly (that’s a word, right), finding out about islands and going into the history of the iconic Rough Trade record label and shop. I really hope I’ll get through a few of these as they’ve been taunting me from the shelf for a while now.

I only have seven books on my NetGalley TBR at the moment, and none due out soon – six from last year and one publishing in April this year. So I think I can concentrate on print books, although I did download some other things onto the Kindle …

First book of the year

Sheila over at Book Journey does a fun post at the start of each year where she has people send in pics of themselves with their first book of the year (I’m taking this as the first book I’ll be starting). Can you spot me in her post?

What are you reading first this year? Did you come to a nice stop at the end of a book and the end of the year? I failed mightily in that one!

A year in first lines


I think I read about this first on Beyond Eden Rock: write a blog post composed of the first lines of the first blog post of each month. I think I did this last year in this way, too, sharing instead images of my waxing and waning (OK, waxing) TBR! Watch as books work their way to the top (front left) and disappear … very slowly! Links on the month names give you the actual posts and more detail.




TBR shelf March 2017


To be read April 2017










I thought this was quite fun: I hope you enjoyed it, too!

Older Entries