If the book you’re reading isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, do you a) abandon ship – life’s too short for sub-par books, or b) plough on regardless – it might get better, after all? Until relatively recently, I couldn’t bear the thought of ditching a book partway through; I’ve slowly come to accept that if a book isn’t ticking all the boxes for me, it’s fine to put it down, to return it to the library half-read. But, as ever, the latest instalment in this series isn’t about the books that didn’t float my boat: it’s about those that did.
Becoming – Michelle Obama
I love memoirs, and Becoming is a real cracker: it’s the sort of book that makes you ponder life as you know it. In Becoming, Michelle Obama chronicles her journey from the one-bed apartment she grew up in on the South Side of Chicago, to the leafy campuses of Ivy League colleges and her years as a high-flying executive, to the White House. She relates her triumphs and losses with candour, speaking not only of finding her feet in a corporate world dominated by white men, but also of the gaping hole in her life when her father and friend passed away within months of each other, and of how she opened the doors of the White House wider than any First Lady had done before. In the latter part of the book, she makes more than a few well-fired remarks about the current state of affairs under the United States’ tangerine-coloured president; words which, I suspect, echo many a reader’s thoughts. If you haven’t already read Becoming, do so – and if you have, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.
At Risk – Stella Rimington
“The stunning debut novel from the former head of MI5,” promised the book’s jacket, and boy did it deliver (and at 49p from my local Oxfam shop, it was a bargain too). At Risk sat on my TBR list for nigh-on two years; it was worth the wait. MI6 have caught wind of an ‘invisible’ – secret service speak for an enemy of the state who can move around with ease – and the task of tracking this person down falls to intelligence officer Liz Carlyle. Liz must sift through the evidence, filter the important from the unnecessary and figure out what is going to happen and when. Suffice it to say, I’m looking forward to digging into the next book in the series already.
France: A History from Gaul to de Gaulle – John Julius Norwich
I studied French, but here’s the caveat: I didn’t study French history. I took one look at those modules and ran a mile – towards the modules on literature (which inevitably necessitated some historical context), popular culture and communication. Consequently, I could tell you lots about medieval France and Charlemagne and a fair bit about France during the Holocaust, but very little about anything that happened in between. Enter, John Julius Norwich’s highly readable and witty France: A History from Gaul to de Gaulle, which in the space of four hundred-odd pages brought me up to speed. Norwich takes readers on a whistle-stop tour through two thousand years of history: from the explorations and crusades of the medieval era through to the rise and fall of the monarchy. It’s a book that deserves a place on any Francophile’s bookshelf.
The World of Cycling According to G – Geraint Thomas
Geraint Thomas’ love of life on two wheels is infectious, to the point that even the reader with a limited interest in cycling can’t help but be drawn into his world. Laurence had picked this book out at the library but when, two weeks on, he still hadn’t opened it, I pilfered it. Although The World of Cycling According to G is ghost-written by Tom Fordyce, it’s Thomas’ voice which shines through, as he recalls racing around South Wales as a kid, training in the velodrome alongside cycling legends-to-be Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Ed Clancy, and riding up the Champs Élysées at the end of the Tour de France. Thrown into the mix are chapters on café stops, the unsung heroes of cycling and never taking the stairs (now I know why Laurence asks me to go upstairs and fetch his clothes after a long ride!). Trust me: such is the wit and humour in these pages, you don’t have to be a cycling nut to enjoy it. Now excuse me while I see if Cambridge Central Library has a copy of The Tour According to G . . .
Titles | January – March 2019
The Yorkshire Vet: In the Footsteps of Herriot (Peter Wright) / Insidious Intent (Val McDermid) / Becoming (Michelle Obama) / The House (Simon Lelic) / The Clocks (Agatha Christie) / The Art of Failing (Anthony McGowan) / Daphne (Will Boast) / House Rules (Jodi Picoult) / Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn) / Love Anthony (Lisa Genova) / The Dressmaker (Rosalie Ham) / The Choice (Edith Eger) / At Risk (Stella Rimington) / France: A History from Gaul to de Gaulle (John Julius Norwich) / Globish (Robert McCrum) / The World of Cycling According to G (Geraint Thomas) / Book Commissioning and Acquisition (Gill Davies)