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?