State of the TBR – March 2019 #readingirelandmonth #dewithon19


Well, I read FIVE books in February. How dreadful, and something that must be addressed. The TBR only has that gap really because I have taken some books off it for challenges!

But it does have a gap, right?

Currently reading

I am enjoying my new policy of reading one from the oldest end, one from the newest end and one from the Kindle in a cycle. So I’m currently reading this one, “Live at the Brixton Academy” by Simon Parkes, which is fascinating, especially as I went to quite a few gigs there myself in my London days. I haven’t really warmed to the author, but it’s an interesting read so that’s fine.




Next up

Very excitingly, I’ve managed to find books for two nice challenges this month: Reading Ireland Month (read about that one at 746 Books here) and Wales Readathon (the first ever one, hosted by BookJotter here).

Cathy always generously lets me use Iris Murdoch as an Irish writer, so the wonderful “A Word Child”, which is up next after the Brixton one, will count towards it, and I also have Janet McNeill’s “The Maiden Dinosaur” which I think I won in her giveaway during this month last year.

For the Wales Readathon I have the light novel, “The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness” which is set in West Wales; the author, Laura Kemp, lives in Cardiff. So I’m hoping that counts!

Both of these were off the middle of the front of the TBR, so a win all round!

Coming up on the TBR

Here’s the beginning of the TBR – fortunate that I have a Kindle book to come between the two music books, unless I chose Dave Grohl’s mum’s one about rock mums. Some good travel, novels, language, memoir and Norse gods here.

… and at the end, some nice birthday books with a bit of National Trust and Alabama and a lovely Persephone. Let’s hope I get to more than five books this month.

Have you read any of these? Any ones I can look forward to particularly enjoying? Are you taking part in any challenges this month?


State of the TBR February 2019 plus birthday book bonanza (and one more confession)


First off, sorry if you’ve commented on my running or books posts this week; I’ve got myself all behind like a cow’s tail, but I have a weekend off this weekend and am going to spend at least some of it doing blog admin – also including reading the blogs I’ve fallen behind with.

I’m going to tell you about my birthday book bonanza first. Lucky me (I also have book tokens, honey, ear warmers and Lush vouchers and my lovely husband has paid for various items of deeply attractive and flattering officiating wear). Here’s the pile, then I’ll reveal whether I burst the TBR shelf …

From the top, I have …

Angela Thirkell – “Grown Up” – one of the ones Virago haven’t reprinted, in a lovely ex-Library edition

Robert Arthur et al. – “The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot”, “The Mystery of the Talking Skull”, “The Mystery of the Green Ghost” – three of the Three Investigators Mysteries I was missing – all lovely early ones

Anne George – “Murder Runs in the Family” – one of the Southern Sisters cosy mysteries, set in Birmingham, Alabama!

Mary Mackie – “Cobwebs and Cream Teas” – the year in the life of a National Trust property

Edith Ayrton Zangwill – “The Call” – A suffragette novel published by Persephone

Mark Mason – “Walk the Lines” – walking the London Underground lines above ground (ooh!)

Elizabeth Eliot – “Henry”, “Mrs Martell” – two more quirky novels; I loved her “Alice” – all republished by Dean Street Press

And another confession -all those books in and I popped into the newish Acorns charity shop to look again for the bookcase I know will eventually appear there that fits in THAT space just perfectly (next to the bathroom door, left-hand side) and they have their book stock in there and here’s a history of the Brixton Academy music venue, where I’ve seen Green Day, Eels, Foo Fighters and Lamb (Simon Parkes’ “Live at the Brixton Academy”), so I couldn’t leave that there, could I? Right?

Did these books all fit on my TBR shelf? Well, with some fiddling. I finally finished and reviewed my Iris Murdoch of the month (must do better and start the next one at the weekend) and could take a new book to read off the start of the TBR. Then I took Malala Yousafzai’s “I am Malala” off the middle of the TBR because I’ve won her dad’s book on NetGalley and hadn’t yet read this one, so grabbed a BookCrossing copy Gill was waving around. And the Three Investigators Mysteries went on the separate Three Investigators Pile on the shelves, and then I put the books on the shelf (the Thirkell with the Christmas Thirkells as it comes in the middle of them) and this happened …

So along with the associated piles (books in series where I’m waiting to get the next one; big Icelandic sagas book on the back row, those Christmas Cornwall books waiting for Cornwall or Christmas …) I have exactly the right number and size of books to double stack my TBR shelf exactly. Which is some kind of achievement in itself, of course. I’m sure.

Currently reading and up next: I’m enjoying Ian Thorpe’s “This is Me” – a bargain in Foyle’s last January from the front of the TBR. Then up next is Iris Murdoch’s “The Sacred and Profane Love Machine” which is February’s IM Readalong book, and “I am Malala” so I can have a sort of February Malala Fest.

How’s your TBR looking? As robust, at least, as mine, I hope!

Christmas acquisitions, state of the TBR January 2019 AND books of the year 2018


Sorry, not sorry, you were either going to get two posts close together or one ginormous one … so here’s the ginormous one. We need to cover Christmas acquisitions, the current state of the TBR caused by these, and my books of the year or I’ll never get them done. Ready?

First of all, I want to share the brilliant state my TBR got into before the influx. Look at it! That’s what having a cold does for your reading …

At least this meant the acquisitions could fit in …

And here they are. Arriving on 20 December were three lovely books from my BookCrossing Birmingham Not so Secret Santa (Lorraine):

David Leboff and Tim Dermuth – “No Need to Ask!” about London Underground maps before the famous one.

Simon Winchester – “Outposts” – about the last pieces of the British Empire.

Stella Gibbons – “Conference at Cold Comfort Farm” – a sequel to “Cold Comfort Farm”!

Then from the lovely Cate for my LibraryThing Virago Group not so Secret Santa (along with a great Virago mug):

Angela Thirkell – “Miss Bunting”, “Northbridge Rectory”, “Marling Hall” and “Before Lunch” – all lovely Virago reissues.

From lovely friends:

Pamela Brown – “Golden Pavements” in the lovely Blue Door Theatre Company reissues.

Diana Wynne Jones – “Howl’s Moving Castle”

Sheila Wilkinson – “Too Many Ponies” – novel set at a horse rescue

Annon Shea – “The Phone Book” – I do love a ‘quest’ book and here he reads and discusses, yes, you guessed it …

Jeannette Winterson – “Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere” – her and original suffragette essays

Tony Wilson – “24 Hour Party People” because there has to be a music book in there somewhere

John Sutherland (ed.) – “Literary Landscapes” – about the landscapes novels and novelists inhabit

Dorothy Whipple – “Young Anne” (Persephone) – how did I not have this already?

Lucky me!!

And after they went onto the TBR shelf …

Uh-oh. So a double-stacked shelf NEARLY to the end on both stacks, plus a million Iris Murdochs and the Pile relegated to the lower shelf (large fancy Tolkien book just seen, too). Ulp.

My next two books to read are Tirzah Garwood’s “Long Live Great Bardfield” (the Persephone) and to be fair on me that’s my last Christmas 2017 book to be read, and Iris Murdoch’s “The Black Prince” which I will get read and reviewed earlier than the 26th of January, after December’s failings …

Then I do have some books on the Kindle to read, including one more lovely Dean Street Press book (I have read Elizabeth Eliot’s fabulous “Alice” now as my last book of the year: watch out for the review tomorrow.

Coming up after / amongst those, here’s the beginning of the TBR shelf, so I have a book about swimming (Ian Thorpe’s “This is Me”), a book about kayaking (and nature and personal life changes: Alys Fowler – “Hidden Nature” which was a birthday book), a book about the Riot Grrrl movement in music (Sara Marcus’ “Girls to the Front”), a book about a charlady in New York (Paul Gallico – “Mrs Harris Goes to New York”), a retelling of a Shakespeare play (Anne Tyler’s “Vinegar Girl”) and a book about Greenland (Gretel Erlich’s “This Cold Heaven”) so a representative range of my reading tastes (maybe).

Moving on to …

Reading stats and BEST BOOKS of 2018

Are you still with me? Sorry about this …

OK, so in 2018 I read 115 books, down from 141 in 2017 (however, I wasn’t laid up for a month after an operation this year). I read 59 non-fiction books and 56 fiction, which is the first time I’ve read more non-fiction than fiction for years and years (I wonder if it’s down to my non-fic reviewing for Shiny New Books). I read 39 books by men, 75 books by women and one by one of each and this is slightly more balanced than last year, where I read twice as many books by women as by men.

So here’s my TOP 10 this year, with two highly commended reads and one reader I will be reading more of. I’m not sure why there are more books by men than women here, or why the novels are all by women. Maybe I just read more (good) non-fiction by men. Here they are, in the order in which I read them. No re-reads on there and The Works of Iris Murdoch are a category in themselves of course!

Lucy Mangan – Bookworm – childhood reading experiences that almost matched mine in terms of the books read – magical

Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run – amazing autobiography, open, honest, funny and detailed

Angie Thomas – The Hate U Give – astoundingly good YA fiction on such an important topic

Neil Taylor – Document and Eyewitness – the story of Rough Trade Records, beautifully put together

Dan Hancox – Inner City Pressure – excellent work on the story of grime music

Benjamin Zephaniah – The Life and Rhymes Of – wonderful autobiography

Peter Ginna (ed.) – What Editors Do – essays that were so absorbing and wonderful

Thomas Williams – Viking Britain – undoes all the prejudices, absorbing and fun to read

Barbara Kingsolver – Unsheltered – she’s always in my top 10 and this zeitgeisty novel was brilliant

Kevin Crossley-Holland (and Jeffrey Alan Love) – Norse Myths – because how can a book on this topic, written like that and illustrated like that not be there?

Highly commended:

Katherine Findlay – The Icelandic Adventures of Pike Ward – commended for an amazing job of editing and putting together an excellent book

Ben Smith – 401 – commended for being a brilliant bloke who did a marvellous thing, is lovely, and mentions my running club and has a photo in the book that includes one of my friends

Will read more:

Robert MacFarlane – I read The Old Ways this year and loved it, then was discombobulated by him being younger than me. Why, I don’t know. But I am going to seek out his other works because they’re just magical

So there we go. I read a million running books and none of them makes it into the Top 10 – but then almost all the books I read this year were good, so do go back and have a poke around through the archives!



State of the TBR – December 2018 (and a small confession)


Well I’d been doing very well with my reading, having read all my paper books for review that were previously reclining on top of the TBR shelf and eight books in total (and took one off that I didn’t want to read). And actually the problem I  have of more TBR is a lovely problem, because dear Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings has just sent me a Lovely Parcel (see below).

So here’s the current state of the TBR.

I mean, I’ve still got room for the pile, right, so it can’t be that bad.

This is the reason for it all moving around a bit:

So we have Margery Sharp’s “The Eye of Love,” Ellen Wilkinson’s (her of the Jarrow March) “Clash”, and two Henry Handel Richardsons: “Maurice Guest” and “The Getting of Wisdom”. All lovely Viragoes, too!

Reading at the moment and coming up shortly, I’m very much enjoying Samantha Ellis’ “How to be a Heroine” and would have finished it already were it not for my strange hobby of standing in muddy fields pointing the way or writing down numbers. Next up is “The Icelandic Adventures of Pike Ward,” edited by the lovely Katherine Findlay, and then it will be the next Iris Murdoch Readalong read, “An Accidental Man” (14th out of 26 of her books, so I feel we’re already sliding towards the end!).

I’m aware I haven’t addressed the horrendousness of the Kindle TBR recently and I know there are some books on there I won from NetGalley and need to work on. I’m also behind on reading everyone’s blog posts (sorreeee!) and as I’ve got heaps and heaps of work on at the moment, I think I’m just going to have to give up on watching TV in December or something to get everything read!

Then the next books on the shelf, which still include some from Christmas last year, include “The Little Bookshop of Big Stone Gap”, “The book for Forgotten Authors” and “Long Live Great Bardfield (the great big Persephone) as well as Stella Gibbons; “Westwood”, kindly sent to me by Verity. Then we have two I picked up between Christmas and my birthday before we start on the birthday books.

What are you reading this month? Do you have any special December reading rituals?

State of the TBR – October 2018 #amreading


Apologies for posting twice in one day – I know it’s all feast or famine with me at the moment. I got behind with my Iris Murdoch post but I don’t like this one not to be on the first of the month! I’ll not keep you long …

Well, I don’t think the TBR is that bad at the moment, although I’m not sure how that’s happened (OK, I moved two Paul Magrs novels to the Pile so I have the set together) as I only read SIX BOOKS last month. Shocking! I have almost finished another two, and one of those and one of the six was quite a hefty non-fiction read, but still. I will have to remedy that.

I’m currently reading Dean Karnazes’ “Run” (I will just say here that he is the complete polar opposite of me as a runner in every way there can be – not a bad thing, but sometimes an uncomfortable reading experience, however … I might be becoming more similar to him in one way quite soon (no that doesn’t involve running with few clothes on!), watch this space for my next Book Confessions. The other read is Charles Thomas’ excellent and learned book on the archaeology and history of the Isles of Scilly, homework for our trip later this year, and I’m almost finished with that one, too. Very good, with some interesting annotations, too!

Up next we have a couple of November purchases (I’m slightly pushing back against “Run Fast” as that’s not my schtick, but maybe there are some hints for running strong, which I do like to do) and then Christmas books, with some lovely and surprising not so secret Santa books and the last one from dear Verity’s parcel. Plus, early on, “Bruno’s Dream” as I felt terrible reviewing my last Iris Murdoch so late!

How was your September reading? What have you got planned for October? Have you somehow booked yourself to run an ultramarathon next summer? No, only me and Bernice …?

State of the TBR – September 2018 #amreading


Oops. Well, I have read nine books from the standing-up books and one from the Murdoch pile but I’ve also had quite a few book confessions this month. Oh well, my new plan of trying not to work at the weekends is going well, so I do have more reading time, and I can’t wait to get stuck into lots of these. Actually, it’s not as bad as it has been, as I note I can fit the whole Pile in at the side in its normal order, not with the shorter books carefully at the bottom and the bigger ones overhanging!

What’s up next? Gurjinder Basran’s “Everything was Good-Bye” is literally waiting on the kitchen table for me to start. It’s the final book in my #20BooksOfSummer project (see the list and all the reviews here) and it seems fitting that I did manage to fill August with Viragoes and Persephones (and one Iris Murdoch) as I’d planned, for All Virago (and Persephone) / All August, and am starting this final read in time to (hopefully) finish it by the end of Monday, when the challenge ends.

Then, although I’ve got lots of lovely books coming up (and some to review, see below), I can’t help but think that I’ll be diving into Murdoch’s “The Nice and the Good”, one that I adore and am really looking forward to re-reading again. Whatever happens, it will be read and reviewed early in the month.

I’m not sure whether I’ve shared these three brilliant review books with you. Kindly sent by the publishers to review on Shiny New Books, they all look like the kind of read I’m going to have a personal, emotional connection to, so I’ve arranged to do a full review on here and then a more serious and literary review for Shiny (thank you, lovely Editors, for allowing me to do that). Thomas Williams’ “Viking Britain” deals with the history of the Vikings in Britain (oddly enough) and looks fascinating and readable. Cathy Newman’s “Bloody Brilliant Women” deals with unsung heroines of the 20th century, and Joni Seager’s “The Women’s Atlas” (which I know I haven’t told you about, as it arrived yesterday) looks at various reproductive, safety and health statistics for women worldwide and presents them in an accessible infographic form – it will be of course both depressing and uplifting, but it’s certainly an important book and looks to have been done excellently.

I have also got a few NetGalley books that are coming out soon; notably, Ingrid Fetell Lee’s “Joyful” (about being more … joyful, taking joy from small things etc.), Roxane Gay (ed.) “Not that Bad” (a book of essays about rape and sexual assault, again, necessary if uncomfortable and dispiriting), Nancy Campbell’s “The Library of Ice” (travel in the ice of the Far North, I saw this reviewed on Bookjotter’s blog and she kindly gave me a link when I couldn’t find it myself!) and “Life Honestly” which is a collection of essays and writings from the writers at The Pool (I love their honest articles so this looked great). These are all not out yet; I do have a shameful backlog of books published a while ago now.

Coming up apart from all these review copies, this is the beginning of my actual TBR – running, memoir, light reading, mid-century reading, a book on E Nesbit (ee!) and two books that got a lot of blogspace when they first came out but I’ve come to later in their lives. And yes, anyone with an eagle eye or the patience to search or an eidetic memory will note that in this picture I get up to CHRISTMAS 2017! So there’s an achievement of sorts.

As I’m usually in a few Not-so-secret Santas which start building up in September/October, this is traditionally a time of reading and not buying, but I’m not going to limit myself in that way as we all know what that leads to.

Anything catch your eye here? Anything you’ve read and can’t wait for me to read?


State of the TBR – August 2018 #amreading


Well, due to only somehow reading eight books last month, even though I had a week off work (although to be fair, the Henry II one, the editing one and “The Old Ways” were all pretty substantial), five of which came off the physical TBR, and having made some acquisitions, the TBR shelf is not looking all that tiny and delicate at the moment.

Oops! Still, as you can see, I can still fit the Pile on the shelf, with a bit of room to spare (the last book on the front row is the red one with a band of black across it), and Christmas 2017 is now almost all on the front, which is exciting.

I haven’t been doing brilliantly with #20BooksOfSummer – you can see the full list and progress here, but basically it runs 1 June – 3 Sept and the book pictured here is Book number 11. I wanted to have finished Book 12 by now and be ready to go into All Virago (and Persephone) / All August. Anyway, this is a fab read that I’m half-way through already: Becky Wade graduated from university and got a travel scholarship to go around the world visiting different running cultures and she’s in Switzerland at the moment, having visited the UK and Ireland, and it’s as much about the club and competition structure as it is about running styles, so really interesting.

Coming up soon will be my IMReadalong project book for this month, the deliciously weird and creepy “The Time of the Angels” (failed priest runs deconsecrated church in foggy London: scared me silly the first time I read it in my teens). This is Book 10 in my Iris Murdoch readalong and I’m SO enjoying it and am really glad I’ve done it again. There’s plenty of time to join in; I’ve made a collection of all my reviews and roundups on this page and I really don’t mind when people read the books as long as they read them! I think I’ll try to get to this fairly soon, as I do like to leave a nice lot of room for debate and discussion.

After that (or around that), we have this lovely lot for All Virago (etc.) / All August. I did panic a bit when I reviewed their size, but actually all except one (OK, the heftiest tome) are novels, and two of them are Angela Thirkells, for goodness’ sakes! I think I can do it, do you? Then there will be one slim novel left to do right at the beginning of September as the 20th Book of Summer. Hm.

Did you have a good reading month in July? What are you getting up to in August? I know a fair few other people are dipping into AV / AA even if they’re not doing it totally, and lots of people are doing Women in Translation month, while I appear to have precisely no Women in Translation on my TBR shelf!

Happy reading!


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