State of the TBR – January 2022

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It’s time to share the state of my TBR after the addition of my December incomings (which were many and various). After sharing incomings paper and e-book, I’ll talk about the reading challenges I’m working on this month. There’s a report on what I’m reading now and next and I’m also going to share the position of my special TBR 2021-2022 project, to read all the pre-05 October 2021 books by 05 October 2022 at the end of the post.

First, the horror …

I read 20 books in December, which was really quite pleasing, including all of the print books and all but 2.5 of the ebooks I planned to read (I added an e-book and started one of my two Dean Street Press books out on 06 January; Matthew has only just got to “The Man Who Died Twice” so I’m starting it today. However, all the incomings are now on the shelf and yes, that is a pile at the front and three piles at the back plus some vertical books. I think that might be the worst it’s ever been! (now I’ve removed a pile of books to read for challenges, the front shelf is all vertical again, like that makes it any better). There are some small additional piles with those books in series etc, but they have gone down a lot.

Incomings

I shared my interim incomings part way through the month after a lovely, generous BookCrossing Not So Secret Santa, a super parcel from the lovely Bookish Beck and various naughty purchases. Of course several of my lovely friends provided books for me to open on Christmas Day, too (as well as some book tokens for mid-summer joy!).

From the top, Tessa Wardley’s “Mindful Thoughts for Runners” which is quite a comprehensive look at mindfulness and being in the moment when running which I had somehow never encountered but Meg cleverly found. Margery Sharp’s “Fanfare for Tin Trumpets” (a boarding house novel), Stella Gibbons’ “The Swiss Summer” (a 1950s trip to the Alps) and D. E. Stevenson’s “Smouldering Fire” (Scottish man lets his home, romance and mystery ensue), plus Jokha Alharthi’s “Celestial Bodies” as the story of three Omani sisters, adds a new country to my list and is a Woman in Translation month candidate, too – all from Ali. Emma kindly sent me two Molly Claverings, “Near Neighbours” (cheerful tale of an older woman liberated to enjoy life) and “Dear Hugo” (woman moves into small Scottish village, becomes one of the community) – I came to love this gentle Scottish writer last year, and five of those last six books are Dean Street Press ones, hooray! And Sian found me [Susie] “Dent’s Modern Tribes”, about the specialised language used by experts in various fields.

In ebooks, I both went a bit naughty in the sales on Kindle (and the free e-book I get every month with our house Amazon Prime account), and also requested and won a good few NetGalley reads. Oopsie. First the NetGalleys …

Symeon Brown’s “Get Rich or Lie Trying” March) is about the Influencer economy online and how it works. In Bonnie Garmus’ novel, “Lessons in Chemistry” (April) a woman teaches America to cook in the 1960s but teaches women more, too. Honoree Fanonne Jeffers’ “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois” (November 2021) is an epic tale of a Black US family from slavery to now (it’s massive, too!). Jane Linfoot’s “Tea For Two at the Little Cornish Kitchen” (Jan) returns us to St Aidan’s in Cornwall for gentle reading. Donna McLean’s “Small Town Girl” (Feb) tells the real life behind the spy cops scandal I read about in “Skylark“, and Warsan Shire’s “Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head” (Mar) is poems by a British Somali woman.

… and then the Kindle books. Chandra Blumberg’s “Digging Up Love” was the free one through Amazon Prime and has an American woman moving cities to work in a bakery and meeting a palaeontologist (I do love that cover); Sue Cheung’s “Chinglish” was on special offer and is an illustrated “almost entirely true” memoir about growing up in Britain with Chinese heritage. I’ve already read Louise Lennox’s “Merry Kiss Me” and ordered a boxset of the first three “Love Heart Lane” novels after enjoying Christie Barlow’s “Heartcross Castle“.

Currently reading and coming up first

I am hoping to get through a few books this month, especially as I have a week off work around my birthday (I was going to go somewhere but I’m now going to do more local fun things and see friends individually). I’m currently still reading Afua Hirsch’s “Brit(ish)” with Emma, but we’re nearly done so will start another one this month. The next Maya Angelou is “Mom & Me & Mom” and will be read this month. Thomas Harding’s “White Debt” is a book on slavery legacies to read for Shiny New Books, and Larry McMurtry’s “The Last Picture Show” is my first read in my Larry McMurtry 2022 project (I will be reading “Lonesome Dove” but want to fit this in first).

Coming up next

My main print reading this coming month will be for Annabookbel’s Nordic FINDS challenge, although I’m going slightly off-piste and interpreting it in my own way – I’ve pulled all the Nordic or part-Nordic books off my shelf, including the huge “Sagas of Icelanders” books, and will try to read and review them all in the month. So I have Jon Kallan Stefansson’s “Heaven and Hell” trilogy (Iceland), Christine Ritter’s “A Woman in the Polar Night” (Svalbard, thus Norway), A. Kendra Green’s “The Museum of Whales I will Never See” (Iceland), “The Book of Reykjavik” (short stories, Iceland), Sara Wheeler’s “The Magnetic North” (Svalbard and Lapland, not sure whose bit), Kari Gislason’s “The Promise of Iceland” (Iceland) and Cat Jarman’s “River Kings” (Vikings, so various bits).

I will also have a few NetGalley out this month to read, plus “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois which seems to be out this month but NG says November last year):

So there’s Nikki May’s “Wahala” (Nigerian English women in London face a threat from a fourth friend), Johann Hari’s “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention”, Daphne Palasi Andreades’ “Brown Girls” (a group of young women of colour growing up in Queen’s, New York, should be a good comparison piece to “Wahala”) and the “Little Cornish Kitchen.

So that’s 19 books in total: which is doable, right?!

TBR 2021-2022 challenge report

A quick update on my TBR Challenge, I have got the numbers all wonky so I’m calling it Quarter 2 with 53 books to read. Here they are:

Far fewer than in the original picture and I’ll count down from 53 and hope it works this time. Several of the ones above are from this category, so I should be able to keep on track (at least 6 per month to get done by 05 October).


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

State of the TBR – December 2021

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It’s time to share the state of my TBR and report on all those November reading challenges. And at the very end of the post, an announcement of my 2022 reading challenge!

I read 26 books in November, which was probably an all-time record, at least since I lived alone in London in the 1990s (one was for Shiny New Books and one for my other blog, so haven’t appeared on here yet). It was down to a) doing Novellas in November, so 15 of the books were under 200 pages, b) not having a huge work schedule so time to read in the daytime, and c) having the Terrible Cold which gave me 2 weeks of milling around feeling a bit rubbish and not spending time running. I’m thrilled to report I’ve taken a total of 23 books off the TBR for my TBR project 2021-22 (one DNF, the others read) so I only have 62/85 left to read (this may be a bit wonky: I will reassess when they’ve gone down a bit more) and am ahead of target (in fact a month ahead of target). I read 16 titles (two in one volume) for Novellas in November and really enjoyed doing that project, and 15 for Nonfiction November, as well as doing all five NonFicNov prompts (one to come out on Friday), and two for AusReading Month. Phew! I read four of my planned NetGalley reads for the month, I didn’t get round to “Unleash the Girls” and didn’t finish “Carefree Black Girls” (it was a valuable read for the author’s experiences but so rooted in a cultural milieu of American contemporary and older TV programmes and musicians etc. that I was having to look up more than I read).

Incomings

Some incomings first. So many incomings. From the woman who doesn’t buy books in Oct/Nov/Dec in case other people buy them for her (to be fair, only one of these was on my wishlist …

In print incomings, first of all I saw mention of Sam Selvon’s “The Housing Lark”, a sequel to his marvellous “Lonely Londoners” on Ten Million Hardbacks’ blog and had to order it, and at the same time, there was mention in “Saga Land” of Kari Gislason’s own book about his search for his Icelandic father, “The Promise of Iceland”, so an order went off to Hive. Then, I went to Oxfam Books to buy presents for a Not So Secret Santa recipient and found they had some brand new social justice type books I couldn’t leave behind – “Rife” ed Nikesh Shukla, which is a 2019 collection of memoir pieces by young people, Kehinde Andrews’ “The New Age of Empire” about the effect of empire around the world, “This is Why I Resist: Don’t Define my Black Identity” by Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu which is a rallying call for anti-racism, and Remi Adekoya’s look at multi-heritage people and their place and experience in the UK, “Biracial Britain”. Then I saw mention of Amrit Wilson’s “Finding a Voice” on The Market Gardener Reader’s My Year in Nonfiction post and realised this classic of oral history / sociology with Asian women in Britain had been updated, and Lenny Henry has edited “Black British Lives Matter” with essays by leading Black British writers, so that was a must-buy, too (more ordering from Hive).

In ebooks, first of all I was so lucky to be sent two lovely D.E. Stevenson novels by Dean Street Press, “Five Windows” and “The Fair Miss Fortune”. They’re out very early next year so I’ll be reading them soon. Then I got a bit tempted by Kindle offers and picked all these up for 99p each – Elizabeth Acevado’s “The Poet X”, a coming of age story told in free verse about a young woman of Dominican descent in New York, Farhad J. Dadyburjor’s “The Other Man” about a closeted gay man in Mumbai dealing with a doomed arranged marriage, British Malaysian comedian Phil Wang’s memoir, “Sidesplitter” and Elise Downing’s run around the British coast in “Coasting”.

I got a bit excited on NetGalley this month: as well as winning several books I’d requested a while ago, I went a-clicking on the main website (I do try not to do this!). Kodo Nishimura’s “Ths Monk Wears Heels” is an inspiring book by a Japanese monk who featured on Queer Eye (out Feb); Christine Barlow’s “Heartcross Castle” is a Christmas reawd about a woman inheriting a crumbling castle (Dec); Janet Pywell’s “Someone Else’s Dream” has the heroine having to take over the cafe her (soon ex-) girlfriend dreamed of running, and finding support in the community (end Nov; reading now); Emily Kerr’s “Meet Me Under the Northern Lights” is a Christmas novel (Dec); Shellee Marie’s “Influenced Love” has an online influencer finding that world is not all it’s made out to be (Feb); Monica Ali has a new one out, “Love Marriage” is apparently a gripping tale of what happens when people from two cultures try to blend their families (Feb); Kasim Ali’s “Good Intentions” has a similar theme (Mar); Daphne Palasi Andreades’ “Brown Girls” is another New York coming of age novel and a love letter to women of colour everywhere (Jan); and Celia Laskey’s “Under the Rainbow” has a group of LGBTQIA activists descend on a US town that has been declared the homophobia capital of the US (Dec).

Currently reading

I’m currently reading Tristan Gooley’s “How to Read Water”, which is about different forms of water, their clues and patterns, apparently not prioritising the organic over the inorganic in talking about things around the water that help shape it. I’m not very far in yet but it’s very interesting. I’ve also started the NetGalley read “Someone Else’s Dream”, which is pretty enticing so far.

Coming up next

I’ve got quite the variety in paper books to get read this month. Two Christmas novels (Sophie Pembroke’s “The Wedding on Mistletoe Island” and Jenny Colgan’s “An Island Christmas”, both parts of series and hopefully that won’t matter) that have lingered since last year and a Christmas bird book originally given to Matthew which is languishing on the TBR, Stephen Moss’ “The Twelve Birds of Christmas”. Then there’s my last Anne Tyler, “Redhead by the Side of the Road”, which is a really short one, another volume of Maya Angelou, “A Song Flung up to Heaven”, one last British Library Women Writers book, Winifred Boggs’ “Sally on the Rocks” (women fight over a man in a village), and then as we’ve been watching Strictly Come Dancing this year, Craig Revel Horwood’s “In Strictest Confidence” felt appropriate to pick up!

I will also have a few NetGalley and other books on the go. I think I’ll just keep the Kindle on the go for downstairs reading this month and get these read and hopefully a few more.

So I have a good few of my November acquisitions on here, plus “The Arctic Curry Club” by Dani Redd (more light Christmas novel reading), Matthew finally has a space for Richard Osman’s “The Man Who Died Twice” in his audiobook schedule coming up so I’ll read the equivalent of an hour’s worth of audio a day on that at some point, and then I have those lovely D.E. Stevensons.

One last, very important thing … my 2022 Reading Challenge!

I’ve chosen my reading challenge for 2022 (this year it was Anne Tyler, last year Paul Magrs, before that, Iris Murdoch (again)) … and it is … Larry McMurtry. Click on the link for details and how to take part. Fancy joining me?


How was your November reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection? And thank you for bearing with me while I posted and posted and posted – it should be a bit quieter in December!

State of the TBR – November 2021

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Well I completed 15 books in October, not as good as other months but still OK. Two I haven’t yet mentioned here because I was reading them for Shiny New Books and one I have yet to review (coming out on Wednesday, I think). I’m really pleased to say I’ve taken 8 books off the TBR for my TBR project 2021-22 (one DNF, the others read) so I only have 77/85 left to read and am nicely on target, especially given my Novellas in November project coming up.

Incomings

Some incomings first.

In print incomings, first I’ve had another lovely book from the British Library Women Writers series – Theodora Benson’s “Which Way”, then I had to get Dave Grohl’s “The Storyteller” as he’s such a favourite musician and person (and getting that triggered my TBR project – oh-oh!) and “King City” about the independent music scene in Birmingham arrived from Unbound. Jon Mills’ “Utility Furniture” is a catalogue of Utility furniture from 1943 with a long introduction – I have a much-loved Utility tallboy, which can indeed be found in the catalogue. Ali passed me Jane Rule’s “Desert of the Heart”, a lesbian classic novel, I had to buy Alex Haley’s “Queen” (915 pages!!) after reading “Roots” and I couldn’t resist “My Hair is Pink Under this Veil” by Rabina Khan – essays by a British woman who wears a hijab. “Make Mine a Double” by Ed Hodge is the story of St Johnstone FC’s double cup win in Scottish football, an odd choice for me until you know I did the transcriptions for it (and am thanked in the acknowledgements!) and Fannie Flagg’s “The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop” was a gift from my lovely friend Cari after a difficult weekend.

In e-books, I bought two from Amazon – Natalie Morris’ “Mixed/Other” is about the struggles of being dual-heritage in the UK and Kajal Odedra’s “Do Something: Activism for Everyone” is to help my continued search for how I can best support marginalised communities. Moving over to NetGalley, Zoe Playden’s “The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes” (published November) is the story of a 1960s court case involving a transgender person and his inheritance, Johann Hari’s “Stolen Focus” (January) looks at why we can’t pay attention and what to do about it, Zeba Blay’s “Carefree Black Girls” (October, whoops, should have read it in October!) is a collection of essays about Black women in pop culture, and Lizzie Damilola Blackburn’s “Yinka, Where is your Huzband?” (March 2022) is a fun-looking novel about a South London woman with Nigerian heritage fighting against the Aunties’ expectations.

Currently reading

I’m currently working my way through Layla F. Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” which is a challenging and interesting read but I am having to view it through the lens of my own way of operating in the world (e.g. I just don’t shout anyone down or tone-police anyone; I can of course see a lot of familiarity in other aspects of the book); Emma and I are enjoying Afua Hirsch’s “Brit(ish)” and her lovely readable way of writing as our readalong book. I’ve picked up Richard Fidler and Kari Gislason’s “Saga Land” to start off my Australian Reading Month (and because taking it off the TBR made room for some acquisitions) and I’m part way through the delicious “The Love Child” by Edith Olivier, which I’m reading for The British Library Women Writers’ series blog tour (review due out on Friday).

Coming up next – Reading challenges galore!

I’m taking part in three challenges this month. Nonfiction November sees us all reading non-fiction and talking about it on Mondays (first warning there are going to be lots of posts from me this month!). I don’t have a specific pile for this, as my two piles for the other two challenges include plenty of nonfiction, but I’ll be joining in with the prompts and adding some more if I have room.

Novellas in November is run by 746 Books and Bookish Beck and encourages people to focus on books (fiction or nonfiction, hooray!) that are under 200 pages. And without even trying or saving stuff up, I’ve got FIFTEEN! Ten are nonfiction, and all but two are included in my TBR project, so all good! I won’t list them all, but you’ll hopefully see reviews for all of them this month!

And finally, for AusReading Month, hosted by Brona at This Reading Life, I have two books (both nonfiction) to read (two!). “Saga Land” counts because Richard Fidler is Australian, even though he’s writing about a country on the other side of the globe to his home (thank you to Brona for spotting this on my TBR and letting me know). Sven Lindqvist’s “Terra Nullius” is an exploration of Indigenous Australian peoples and their treatment at the hands of White settlers and now, and will be a hard but important read.

Image of books

I will also have a few NetGalley books on the go but only the six … (mind you, I had three to read last month and read two of them)!

I will also have two review books to read (Annie Nightingale’s “Hey Hi Hello” and Theodora Benson’s “Which Way”, and my two Anne Tylers. But so many of the books are small, I’m bound to manage them all, right?!


How was your October reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection? And important question: would you prefer to see lots of posts, each about one book, or fewer posts gathering a few books at a time from me, this month?

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?