State of the TBR – October 2021

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Row of books on a shelf, filling the shelf

Well, I finished EIGHTEEN books in September, which must be some sort of a record (when I lived alone in London and didn’t know many people, wasn’t running or volunteering and had a long-distance partner, I read more than that, but not in (vaguely) normal times). Eight of those were NetGalley books so I did almost reach the target I set myself at the start of the month (I have started reading one of those and one is left to read; I didn’t read “Sugar” by Bernice L McFadden in the end as the opening scene was so horrific, I couldn’t read on). I also finished two books to review for Shiny New Books, the reviews for which I’ll share when they’re out) and read “Roots” (I did it!) which I’ll be reviewing for 1976 Week in the second week of October. I have a bit of a review lag so you will read about four of these books in due course!

I have taken a few off the beginning of the shelf late in the month, which I am now currently reading. Well, I took Michael Chabon’s “Telegraph Avenue” down to read, which I’ve been looking forward to for aaaages, then realised when having a flick through that I really didn’t like the style (too masculine or something) and put it aside!

I thought I’d do my incomings first today as then it gets less repetitive with the “coming up” section. So …

Incomings

Four print books, all spelled out in the text below.

Well this looks very good on the print incomings until you recall that I fell into the Oxfam Books shop earlier in the month, which I talked about here. Paul Magrs’ “The Panda, the Cat and the Dreadful Teddy” came out yesterday and my copy from Hive.co.uk arrived a few days early so that’s already read and reviewed. Ali passed me “The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line” by Ruth Thomas, a novel about palaeontologists in London, and I couldn’t resist picking Adam Nicolson’s new one “The Sea Is Not Made of Water” which is about life between the coastal tides. Then Nova Reid’s “The Good Ally: A Guided Anti-Racism Journey from Bystander to Changemaker” arrived upon publication, ordered ages ago by Past Me.

I’m also thrilled to report that two new books in the British Library Women Writers series have also arrived (thank you, Thomas) – Winifred Bogg’s “Sally on the Rocks” features a village love triangle and in Edith Olivier’s “The Love Child”, for which I’m part of the blog tour, reviewing in early November, a woman’s childhood imaginary friend appears to come to life and needs explaining. There are two more of these coming out soon; these two are available now from the British Library Shop and other book retailers.

In NetGalley wins, I feel I’ve been quite restrained this month. I’m managing to retain my over-80% reviewed status and only a few of them are published in October. Charmaine Wilkerson’s “Black Cake” (published 3 February 2022) features a dead mother who moved in a hurry from a Caribbean island to California trying to reunite her estranged children through post-funeral instructions to share an old cake recipe. “Toufah” by Toufah Jallow (October) documents the life so far of the woman who founded the African #MeToo movement. “Skylark” (November) is the new Alice O’Keefe; I enjoyed her multiracial London novel “On the Up” and this is a fictionalisation of the police infiltration of activist groups, so a bit different. Lisa Z. Lindahl’s “Unleash the Girls” (published in August 2018 but on NetGalley now) is the story of the invention of the sports bra, and Kelle Sandman-Hurley’s “The Adult Side of Dyslexia” (also November) looks at adults’ experiences and advice on the condition.

Currently reading

I’ve just picked Thurston Clarke’s “Islomania” off my physical TBR yesterday – it looks at a series of islands around the world based on different categories and seems good so far. I’m very much enjoying “Of This Our Country”, which is a set of essays by 24 Nigerian writers about Nigeria, whether that’s the land, the diaspora or both.

Coming up next

Four print books, descriptions in text.

In print, up next of course I have my two Anne Tylers for the month, “The Beginner’s Goodbye” and “A Spool of Blue Thread” – the latter I remember quite well as I only read it about five years ago. One more to go after these and I’ll be onto my two as-yet-unread ones. Best friend Emma and I finished our Together Read, “The Salt Path”, last night, and we went through and selected our next four or five books in the week; we’ve decided to start with Afua Hirsch’s “Brit(ish)”, which I’m really looking forward to reading. I’m going to try to work my way through Layla F. Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” this coming month, too, with a notebook.

As well as these, I’ll be reading Annie Nightingale’s “Hey Hi Hello” about her music journalism on the radio, and Jeevan Vasagar’s “Lion City” on Singapore, for Shiny New Books. I wasn’t able to review James Aldred’s “Goshawk Summer” as there were too many grim animal death scenes in it, unfortunately (Beck stepped in to fill the review slot and it’s a good book just not for me).

In NetGalley reads, I just have “The End of Bias” by Jessicca Nordell, left over from September (I really want to read another book on bias I have before I do it!) and Toufah Jallow’s book as detailed above. I also have Christine Pride and Jo Piazza’s fascinating looking novel “We Are Not Like Them” which looks at what happens when a neighbourhood racial divide hits a multiracial friendship. I will try to slot the sports bra book in as well, I think, so it doesn’t get forgotten.

That makes nine to read and two to finish in the month, so I reckon I’ll be able to slip some off the normal TBR, too …

To choose from next

My five oldest books, once you discount ones I’m saving for Novellas in November or to read with Emma in good time (I don’t worry to save things for Non-fiction November as I have such a lot of that anyway), I have two books set in Iceland, on horses and saga locations, one on how to read different kinds of water, a hefty academic tome on white privilege and Nimsdai Purja’s memoir of climbing all 14 8,000m mountains in record time. In the newest ones I have David Lodge’s diaries, a Cathy Kelly Novel and the Northern Line novel from above, Stacey Dooley’s book on women who fight back and “The Good Ally”.


How was your September reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection?

State of the TBR September 2021

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It’s State of the TBR time again and things are … pretty much where they were at the start of August but with definitely a smaller bottom part of the Pile (three Angela Thirkells and a Maya Angelou gone) and some shuffling on the main part as I took off two D.E. Stevensons and a Persephone book.

I finished reading 13 books in August (two you haven’t seen reviewed here because I read them for Shiny New Books and the reviews aren’t out yet). That’s a bit down from my May, June and July totals but I had two weeks of very long work hours which cut into my reading time! I finished my 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy from 246 Books with a day to spare.

Currently reading

I’m still currently reading Raynor Winn’s “The Salt Path” as my readalong with Emma, and we’re about half-way through. I’m also reading Richard Osman’s “The Thursday Murder Club”, partly because I went for and won the sequel on NetGalley, partly because Matthew wanted to do a readalong. I like that it’s not too explicit as I’m not keen on that sort of thing and it is amusingly written. I don’t think we’ll get to the sequel in September as I don’t think Matthew will want to read them sequentially. “Sugar” I’ve not really got into yet as the Kindle edition went weird and I had to mess around raising it on NetGalley Shelf but it’s a story of race and the American South. “Black Joy” is another NetGalley read and is so far a rewarding read by and for Black British people about the joy that doesn’t have to be predicated on adversity but can be there for itself. I need to be careful to keep reading these books for the blog so I have something to tell you about, alongside review reads for Shiny!

Up next

My most important reads up next are my books to review for Shiny New Books. I’m not sure I’ve checked all these in as incomings below, so I have Jeevan Vasagar’s “Lion City” which is about the city of Singapore and the rise of modern Asia, memoirs by Anita Rani and Annie Nightingale, James Aldred’s “Goshawk Summer” about the first summer lockdown and the nature of the New Forest, and Lev Parikian’s “Light Rains Sometimes Fall”. Thank you to their publishers for all of these – I will talk about them and link to their Shiny Reviews on this blog in the fullness of time.

In NetGalley reads, this is the set I have published in September. A history of a bit of books, sociology, psychology, inspiring sport, Black joy and a refugee’s journey. Not sure I’ll get to all of them, but I’ll give it a go! “The Transgender Issue” will be for Shiny New Books though I will probably post a full review on here, too, and I think I’ve promised them to read “Children of Ash and Elm”, too, which is recently out in paperback. So some of these will drop off (I’ve already picked up “Black Joy” to start).

I also have the next in my Maya Angelou readalong with Ali and Meg and then of course I have my two Anne Tylers for the month: “Digging to America” and “Noah’s Compass” (both of which I sort of remember) and then Alex Haley’s “Roots” which I’m going to be reading alongside blogger Buried In Print for Kaggsy and Simon’s 1976 Club in October (pre-event post here). Does anyone else fancy reading “Roots” with us?

I’d better get reading, hadn’t I!

Books in (many, many books in, again!)

I’ll divide this into print and e-book incomings.

I’ve won some great books from NetGalley in August. Christine Pride & Jo Piazza’s “We are Not Like Them”, published in October, is a novel based around two old friends, one Black, one White when a racially charged incident threatens their friendship and community. “Wahala” by Nikki May looks at three Nigerian British friends in London, is apparently a biting satire and is published in January 2022. Hassan Akkad’s “Hope not Fear” is his memoir of his journey from refugee to NHS worker, film-maker and activist. Shon Faye’s “The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice” looks to be the trans version of the amazing “Invisible Women” and I’ll be reviewing that for Shiny New Books as well. Those two are both published in September. And in “Of This Our Country” by various authors, also published at the end of the month, writers of Nigeria talk about their home, identity and culture. I mentioned winning Richard Osman’s “The Man Who Died Twice” earlier as I’m reading the first book now, and in late additions I won yesterday “The Arctic Curry Club” by Dani Redd, a romance set in the Arctic (ooh!) published in December (phew) and Michaela Cole’s “Misfits”, a personal agenda to encourage people not to fit in (published this month, too).

In print, as well as some of the review copies shown above, Lucy Delap’s “Feminisms: A Global History” has arrived on publication from my Waterstones order (thank you, Sian) and what a lovely Pelican edition it is. Mark Atkinson’s “Ducking Long Way” arrived from the publisher and I’ve already read and reviewed it. “Roots” I’ve already mentioned above, being used for the 1976 Club, and Sue Anstiss’ “Game On: The Unstoppable Rise of Women’s Sport” is another Unbound campaign I contributed to. “Black London” by Avril Nanton and Jody Burton is a guide to public art, places and history in London which I might have left in my Amazon basket when I was buying something else and bought slightly by mistake (I try not to buy books from Amazon). But it will be a good one for Emma and me to look at when I visit her next. In addition, I might just have picked up Heaven-Ali’s copy of Paula Byrne’s “The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym” when I was helping her sort out the books in her new flat …

What are your reading plans for September? Have you read any of these lovelies? Are you joining me for some Anne Tyler? Or perhaps reading “Roots” through the month?

State of the TBR August 2021

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It’s State of the TBR time again (a bit late in the day because the whole day keeps getting away from me, and because I keep putting off posting about incomings, I end up doing lots of weird mosaics etc in one go. So here we go.

So it’s slightly “fuller” than at the start of July but not tooo bad, not right along the shelf at least. The wonky pile to the right is review books publishers have kindly sent me, and most of those will come up for reading this month, but you might not hear about them for a little bit, until the reviews have come out. I finished 15 books in July again – that’s the same number three months running, which is pleasing. Quite a few have come in, though: see below. I read all but two of my 20 Books of Summer (but have altered my list!) and five of my seven NetGalley reads (one left to review) plus one ebook I was reviewing for Shiny New Books, and I finished my readalong with Emma book. I wasn’t too disappointed with that.

Currently reading

I’m currently reading Raynor Winn’s “The Salt Path” as my new read with Emma, certainly an easier read (though a more emotional one) than “London Underground”! Then Armistead Maupin’s “Logical Family” is my new Book 13 in my 20 Books of Summer (see notes below), and Maya Angelou’s “Singin’ & Swingin’ & Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas” is both Book 14 and next in my Maya Angelou readalong with Ali and Meg.

Up next

I’m still working my way through my 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy from 246 Books with her sign-up post here. My first two months were all about people’s lives that are different from mine, but I felt that I was burning myself out reading so many Black autobiography and allyship (or not!) books in a row, and also burning my readers out. I had Afua Hirsch’s “Brit(ish)” and Jeffrey Boake’s “Black, Listed” on the list and I’ve swapped them out (don’t worry: I will come to them, read them and review them when I’m back working through my TBR in order) for, respectively, the Armistead Maupin (LGTBQIA+ lives) and the second D.E. Stevenson above, which adds one book to my All Virago (and Dean Street Press and Persephone) / All August themed final month of 20 Books of Summer. I needed some fiction and I needed some lighter reads, and this felt like the right thing to do.

So I have Maya Angelou, who I’m already reading, then Dorothy Whipple’s “Random Commentary” which is her notes on her writing of the novels Persphone also publishes. Then the two D.E. Stevensons, “Music in the Hills and Winter and Rough Weather” are the two loose sequels to the wonderful “Vittoria Cottage” and the three Angela Thirkells, “The Headmistress”, “Miss Bunting” and “Peace Breaks Out” finally bring her Barsetshire series to a close (I’ve spent a while getting round to these).

In NetGalley reads, this is the set I have published in August (“The Reading List is a July book I don’t want to miss):

“The Reading List” by Sara Nisha Adams is an intergenerational story on the power of reading, “Sugar” by Bernice L. McFadden is a reprint of a book set in a small town in the American South, and Naomi Shragai’s “The Man Who Mistook his Job for his Life” is about the effect your real life has on your work life.

I do have a couple of other June/July stragglers but these are the books I really want to read this month. don’t want to overload myself, either!

Books in (many, many books in, again!)

I’ll divide this into print and e-book incomings. I did trip up and buy two bargains on Kindle. The print books are a mix of gifts and review copies, sorry to have mixed them all up but I took the photos as they came in

First those slightly naughty Kindle books. Emmanuel Acho’s “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” has been on my watch list for a while, and looks at how he has had to discuss various matters with White colleagues and friends. “Kiley Dunbar’s “The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday” was a recommendation I had to snap up. I need to find another ebook source as am becoming more and more disillusioned with Amazon (“thank you to my customers and staff for sending me to space” – eugh).

I’ve not done too badly this month as in I haven’t “won” a million NetGalley books … There’s the aforementioned “The Man Who Mistook his Job for His Life by Naomi Shragai, out this month, then Bobby Duffy’s “Generations”, which looks at boomers, Gen Xers, etc, Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff’s (ed.) “Black Joy” – stories of Black joy which are important to read as well as stories of pain. Then Dennis Duncan’s “Index, a History of the” (great title) and finally Richard Osman’s “The Man Who Died Twice”, of course the sequel to “The Thursday Murder Club” which I’ve had to pick up (cheap from The Works).

OK, here we go with this mishmash (sorry!). Rob Deering’s “Running Tracks” is an Unbound book I subscribed to about running and music (hooray!). Jane Setter’s “Your Voice Speaks Volumes” is a review copy and looks at accents in English. Carola Oman’s “Nothing to Report” and “Somewhere in England” are two Dean Street Press books I bought with my Book Token Splurge. Paul from HalfManHalfBook kindly sent me Nicholas Royle’s “White Spines: Confessions of a Book Collector” and Karen from KaggsysBookishRamblings also kindly sent me “Dancing on Ropes” by Anna Aslanyan which is about interpretation and translation. Ali from HeavenAli gave me “I Am Not Your Baby Mother”. “Goshawk Summer” by James Aldridge was a lovely surprise from Elliott & Thompson, who thought I might like it, and I have “Lion City: Singapore and the Invention of Modern Asia” by Jeevan Vasagar to review, too. Thank you to the publishers for the review copies!

Of course I have my two Anne Tylers for the month: “Back When we were Grownups” and “An Amateur Marriage”. That makes a few books on the TBR for August, but I think I can do it …

What are your reading plans for August? Are you joining me for some Anne Tyler?

State of the TBR July 2021

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It’s State of the TBR time again and there’s a lot of reading to report, a few missed targets (oh no!) and a great big lovely pile of Incomings with more on their way.

First off, how is the TBR shelf looking (pre-Incomings)? Not bad, and certainly shorter on the front shelf than at the start of June, even though some have joined the end!

I finished 15 books in June, the same as in May (and I’ve reviewed 15, too, but one was a May read and one is coming up at the weekend. I managed to read and review five of my planned six 20BooksOfSummer reads and have started the sixth (“Black and British” which has over 600 pages and will work its way through quite a lot of July, I think). I read and reviewed four out of the six NetGalley books that I had that were published in June (I have a lot for July but will try to squeeze the last two June ones in) and of course I also managed my two Anne Tylers, a couple of lovely Dean Street Press review copies and a Maya Angelou for my and Ali’s relaxed readalong (that’s the review that’s still to come). As well as reviewing Richard Ovenden’s “Burning the Books” for this blog on the Wolfson Prize Blog Tour, I also reviewed it with a slightly different angle for Shiny New Books.

Currently reading

I’m currently reading Stephen Rutt’s wonderful nature writing in “The Eternal Season” which Elliott & Thompson kindly sent me to review, and David Olusoga’s “Black and British” which goes into far more detail than his TV series could about historical and sometimes surprising Black British figures. It’s a big book but an important one and I am finding it fascinating and of course very well-written so far.

Up next

I’m working further through my 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy from 246 Books with her sign-up post here, and I’ve added in EIGHT books for this month in my two months of “The One With All The Diversity”. Of course I usually read pretty diversely but this year, instead of just picking the first 20 books from my TBR shelf, I’ve gone through picking out a special pile. Fortunately, two of these are very small books so I should get them all read. Afua Hirsch’s “Brit(ish)” will give me the female experience to mirror the male on in Akala’s “Natives” read last month, and also Jeffrey Boakye’s “Black, Listed”, which again takes an insider look at Black British culture. Nadiya Hussain talks about overcoming anxiety and finding her place in the world in “Finding my Voice” and Stormzy takes his place in music and publishing in “Rise Up: The Merky Story so Far”. Damian Le Bas’ “The Stopping Places” will educate me about Travellers in Britain, and Sophie Williams’ “Anti Racist Ally” and Emma Dabiri’s “What White People Can Do Next” are two slim volumes which help me to do the work rather than asking others to explain it, but give valuable pointers (I’m hoping they include personal as well as corporate allyship that I can actually practise.

In NetGalley reads, this is the set I have published in July (How We Do Family is a June book that I accidentally missed):

So here we have Otegha Uwagba’s “We Need to Talk About Money” (money and its intersections with race, gender and class for young, particularly Black women); Anisha Bhatia’s “What are We Doing About Zoya” (a comedy of manners set in Mumbai); Sara Nisha Adams’ “The Reading List” (an anxious teenager and her lonely grandfather find joy in a reading list tucked in a library book); Natasha Lunn’s “Conversations on Love” (various authors including Philippa Perry write on love; Bella Osborne’s “The Promise of Summer” (romcom revolving around returning a lost engagement ring); Tyrstan Reese’s “How we Do Family” (LGBTQ family adoption pregnancy and parenthood); and Georgia Pritchett’s “My Mess is a Bit of a Life” (subtitled Adventures in Anxiety).

Books in (many, many books in)

I can share a charity shop buy and one from The Works in Shirley (I innocently went to the opticians and meandered into there so I wasn’t early for my appointment).

“Usain Bolt” was written by one of the writers I work with (acknowledged on the title page, hooray), sadly before I started working with him as I would obviously have loved to transcribe Mr Bolt’s words. Craig Revel Horwood’s “In Strictest Confidence” is the follow-up to “All Balls and Glitter” which I read in 2014 (I note I said that one brought us right up to date, that date being 2008, so not sure how much overlap there is but oh well!)

I’ve also received the rather glorious “A Room of Her Own: Inside the Homes and Lives of Creative Women” from Thames & Hudson to review for Shiny. Of course taking as its title Virginia Woolf’s assertion that women writers need a room of their own, it highlights young creative women from around the (admittedly Western) globe and their sumptuous interiors.

I can also share that this month I’ve won from NetGalley Bella Osborne’s “The Promise of Summer”, Otegha Uwagba’s “We Need to Talk About Money” and Anisha Bhatia’s “What are We Doing About Zoya?” described above as they’re published in July, Johnny and Becki Agar’s “The Impossible Mile” (Johnny, born with cerebral palsy, goes on to complete an Ironman triathlon), and Jessica Nordell’s “The End of Bias” (how the unconscious bias I need to read about in “Sway” can be worked against).

And then because the TBR had gone down quite a lot, I decided it was time for my Book Token Splurge. I had Christmas and Birthday vouchers to spend (thank you, Meg, Ali, Sian, Matthew and Laura!) and as I usually get a lot of books around those two months, love spending them all in the middle of the year. Now Bookshop.org take book tokens I was able to spend them and send the profits to three indie bookshops, which felt good. Here’s what’s arrived so far …

In no particular order, in fiction I have Buchi Emecheta’s “Second-Class Citizen” which details the life of a Nigerian woman in 1960s London, oppressed by the city and her husband and Angie Thomas’ “On the Come Up”, a story about hip hop, prejudice and fighting for your dreams. In what I’d vaguely call nature and travel, Nick Hunt and Tim Mitchell’s “The Parakeeting of London” discusses just that (and is published by tiny indie press, Paradise Road), Richard King’s “The Lark Ascending” covers music and landscape in 20th century Britain, in “Wanderland” by Jini Reddy, a London woman with multicultural roots goes looking for the magical in the British landscape, Christiane Ritter describes Arctic life in “A Woman in the Polar Night”, republished by Pushkin Press, Joshua Abbott explores the modernism of London’s “Metroland” in another Unbound book I missed and A Kendra Greene explores “The Museum of Whales You Will Never See” and other peculiar Icelandic collections (I’m betting I’ve visited a few of these myself). Then in intersectional feminism, which I need to read more about, Mikki Kendall gives a searing picture of how that’s not yet worked in “Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women White Feminists Forgot”. And a running book: “Running in the Midpack” by Martin Yelling and Anji Andrews, a launch even for which I went to a while ago, finally talks about those of us who are practised runners and racers who still want to improve and protect ourselves against injury.

Quite a nice variety there, I think.

I’m still waiting for a few which I have pre-ordered or are on back order: Carola Oman’s “Somewhere in England” and “Nothing to Report” (on back order from Dean Street Press), “Your Voice Speaks Volumes” by Jane Setter (published 22 July), Paul Magrs’ “The Panda, The Cat and the Dreadful Teddy: A Parody” (published 30 Sept) and “Mixed/Other: Explorations of Multiraciality in Modern Britain” by Natalie Morris (published 14 Apr 2022 in paperback)

Of course I have my two Anne Tylers for the month: “Ladder of Years” and “A Patchwork Planet”. That makes something like 19 books on the TBR for July, but I do have a week off coming up …

What are your reading plans for June? Are you joining me for some Anne Tyler?

State of the TBR June 2021

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It’s State of the TBR time again and I know I’ve already thrilled you with one post today but I can’t possibly not post a State of the TBR on the first of the month, can I?

I managed to finish 15 books in May (not all reviewed yet: one to come tomorrow and one Shiny New Books review shared below), which I was very pleased with, including four from the physical standard TBR shelves pictured here, so that has shifted things along a bit and allowed me to fit in a couple of new ones.

Books in

I have had both physical and e-book incomings this month, since the last round-up. In e-books, first, I have “In Our Own Words: Queer Stories from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Writers” which I have to admit I thought was more non-fiction than fiction; “Windswept” by Annabel Abbs which is about the effect of nature on various female writers, and Sara Nisha Adams’ “The Reading List” which is a feel-good novel about reading and community. All NetGalley and – oops – all published in June.

In physical books, I had a lovely trip to see my dear friend Ali the other week which resulted in her passing me “The Virago Book of Women Travellers” – a reprint of a book published in the 1990s I had managed not to read at the time, and a heavy hardback she fancied reading in a different format. And I got home to find one of my Unbound (subscription model publisher) books had come good – “Cut from the Same Cloth” edited by Sabeena Akhtar is a book of essays by British women who wear the hijab, and looks brilliant. Those two fitted on my shelves at the back, though I don’t think they’ll stay hidden for long!

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “Motherland” by Jo McMillan, which Kaggsy from The Ramblings kindly sent me last year – it’s a novel about the only Communists in Tamworth and what happens when they have a trip to East Germany. It’s really good, but a bit visceral for mealtime reading, so I’ve also already picked up one of my Dean Street Press reads for the month.

A challenging read for Shiny New Books

There are no easy solutions to the plight faced by farmers in the face of consumers demanding cheap food and Brexit removing subsidies (some are for and some against this). What we do have at the end is a section about the Covid crisis which mentions the parts of social behaviour which interacted with the farming industry – demand for products, small farms pivoting to provide food locally they would have sent to restaurants, etc. It was interesting seeing that from the other side, so to speak. It’s clear that the author’s intention is to explain what goes on on farms, and she does that, and to help people learn and understand, and perhaps regard farmers with more respect. I hope she achieves that aim, too.

Bella Bathurst’s “Field Work” is not an easy read but it is an important one. Read my full review here.

Up next

Thought I had a busy May? Now it’s time for 20 Books of Summer hosted as ever by Cathy from 246 Books with her sign-up post here, and these are my first six in what I’m calling “The One With All The Diversity”. Of course I usually read pretty diversely but this year, instead of just picking the first 20 books from my TBR shelf, I’ve gone through picking out a special pile. Some pretty meaty ones here, hence only expecting myself to read six.

“Over the Top” by Jonathan Van Ness is the stalwart hair and beauty guru of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s chance to tell his story. I do kind of wish I had the audio book which he narrates himself but I’m sure this will be great, too. Bryan Miller helps William Kamkwamba tell his story of “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind” and brought wind power to help his region of Africa. “Common People” edited by Kit de Waal is a collection of pieces by self-described working-class folk. Akala’s “Natives” tells of race and class and his own story in the UK, and David Olusoga’s “Black and British” tells Black British stories going right back to prehistory and accompanied the brilliant TV series. Juno Dawson writes compellingly about experiencing life as male and female in “The Gender Games”.

In NetGalley reads published in June, I have two of the books outlined above, “Windswept” and “In Our Words” plus Natasha Brown’s “Assembly”, a short novel of a Black woman in a White space making a stand, Sara Jafari’s novel, “The Mismatch” tells stories of Iranian families in the UK, and Anita Sethi’s “I Belong Here” takes the author into the British countryside after a jarring experience of racism.

I then have two lovely Dean Street Press novels, Molly Clavering’s “Mrs Lorimer’s Quiet Summer” (which I’ve started already: large family gathers in the Scottish borders) and Ruby Ferguson’s “Apricot Sky”. Aaand of course I have my two Anne Tylers for the month: “Breathing Lessons” and “Saint Maybe”. So that makes 15 books again plus one to finish …

What are your reading plans for June? Are you joining me for some Anne Tyler?

State of the TBR May 2021

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It’s time to take a look at the state of my To Be Read shelf again!

So not that much movement on the physical TBR, although probably more than it looks – two have left the front shelf but only one from left-hand end, and I pulled one off the back shelf, which, along with moving one out I knew would be needed this month, meant I had room for a couple of new physical additions (see link below). Other than that one, I finished two I had already taken off the shelf and my co-read with my best friend, Emma, which I had had on my bedside table for a few months, read some e-books and read a couple that came in but were for a book challenge or a Shiny New Books review. One came off the Pile for Shiny, too. More on the review that’s already out in a bit …

Books in

I have already written about my Massive Influx (of mainly ebooks) earlier this week as there were so many they had to have a post of their own (here). The eagle-eyed will have noticed these beauties … my dear friend and fellow-book-blogger Heaven-Ali read and reviewed Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” recently, which a) reminded me I’d loved it years ago, too and b) inspired me to ask her if she was going to do the rest of the autobiographies. And that’s led, in that way that these things have a habit of doing, to us undertaking to read them all together, to a relatively free-form and undemanding schedule, fortunately!

Currently reading

On ebook I’m reading Jess Phoenix’ “Ms. Adventure” which I saw reviewed by Anjana from Superfluous Reading and requested successfully from NetGalley. It’s one of those you have to read on a special PDF system or NetGalley’s frankly annoying Shelf app which is a little frustrating (you can’t mark passages, only bookmark pages, for example) but it’s a good read about a career in vulcanology. Bella Bathurst’s “Field Work” I’m reviewing for Shiny New Books (hence the proliferation of post-it tabs!) – it’s a raw and sometimes hard read about modern farming in the UK, but necessary as well as a bit shocking. Finally, Iain Sinclair likes to shock, too, and his “London Overground” which is my new co-read with Emma, opens a bit ickily but we like his work and are persisting with it!

A great read for Shiny New Books

A short interlude here – although I read 13 books in April, not all of them have been reviewed here, as I have firstly got a slight reviewing lag with one to review still, and secondly read three books to review first in other places (one on Iris Murdoch for the IM review and, as well as this one, Mike Pitts’ “Digging Up Britain” which should appear soon in Shiny).

“Empireland” by Sathnam Sanghera is an excellent book that helps explain who we are as British people, how we came to be how we are in some respects, and why the country is as multicultural as it is. It’s a powerful and sometimes challenging read and as one person commented on my review, it would be good if it was read by “the sort of people who wouldn’t want to”.

An extract from my review:

The book opens with a half-serious exhortation to reintroduce Empire Day and ends with a serious exhortation to include the history of empire in our national curriculum, and in between takes a wide-ranging look at how Empire is defined (it isn’t, it can’t be and he devotes some time in the Acknowledgements to explaining what he’s not going to define), how it affected British life at the time (more mixed than you might imagine) and how it affects British life today (more mixed than you might imagine, with a lot of echoes he cleverly draws out, as well as the more well-known legacies of slave-owners’ money (more complicated than you might imagine)). and you can read the full review here.

Up next

I have a busy, busy May coming up! Before I can go anywhere near my physical TBR I have my two Anne Tylers for my project (“The Accidental Tourist” and “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant”, two classics of hers that I hope lots of people will join me in reading), then I have two lovely review copies from British Library Women Writers – Diana Tutton’s “Mamma” I want to read soon so I can enjoy all the blog tour entries, and “Tension” by E.M. Delafield I will be reviewing on the blog tour at the end of the month. And I am sure Ali will be itching to do the next Angelou so I need to catch up and stat “Gather Together in My Name”. AND it’s Ali’s Daphne du Maurier Week 10-16 May, and as she bought me this copy of “My Cousin Rachel” for Christmas, it would be rude not to, right?!

In NetGalley reads I have Dany Asaf’s memoir of being a Muslim Canadian, “Say Please and Thank You and Stand in Line” and Dr RIchard Pile’s “Fit For Purpose” which are both published in May so I’d ideally like to read them, too.

So that makes two books to finish and eleven books to read in May even before I get to anything else. Fortunately there are a few novels and bits of memoir in there which should go along nice and briskly … wish me luck!


What are your reading plans for May? Are you joining me for some Anne Tyler?

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

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

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

Currently reading

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

Up next

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

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

Coming up

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

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

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

Incoming

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

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

Shiny Fun!

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

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

Read my review here.

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

Read my review here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Incomings

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Next up

Next up I have these lovelies.

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

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

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

New books in

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

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


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

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!

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