My Bookshelf #13 | March 2020

What a month it’s been. Exactly a month ago, I was admiring King Tut’s treasures at the Saatchi Gallery. Today, I’ve read a few chapters of Unnatural Causes, been on a rather brisk walk across Grantchester Meadows for my daily dose of exercise and eaten half a packet of Tangfastics. Pre-lockdown, I found some gems in Cambridge’s charity shops: Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild; The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion; Celeste Ng’s début Everything I Never Told You; The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling); and Peter Crouch’s autobiography How to Be a Footballer. I also stocked up on books from Cambridge Central Library, and bought a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd from Heffers (ahead of what turned out to be our first virtual book club). Wherever you are, I hope you’re keeping well. If you’re after some book recommendations to get you through the next few weeks, you’ve come to the right place.

The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken – The Secret Barrister

‘Most of you reading this will never expect to be plunged into a criminal courtroom – never expect to hear the constabulary knock on the front door, never expect to be a victim of crime, never expect to be accused of a crime you didn’t commit. But the one thing I have learned about criminal justice is that it doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can be reeled in. And if you are, (…) you want the system to work. When it doesn’t, the consequences can be unthinkable.’ (p. 17).  The Secret Barrister masterfully exposes the inner workings of our criminal justice system and the injustice(s) faced by victims and defendants – and their families. Chapter by chapter, s/he takes us through the system: a journey from the magistrates’ court to trial, sentence and appeal. Anecdotes from a decade of advocating for the guilty and the innocent reveal how things work, how they don’t, and why we need to stop thinking that ‘such things don’t happen to people like us’ (p. 338) before it’s too late. (If you enjoyed The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken the follow-up, Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies, is out next month.)

Wild – Cheryl Strayed

Many moons ago, LC from Birdgehls shared a selection of inspirational memoirs by long-distance hikers. On it was Cheryl Strayed’s account of her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, Wild. Several weeks back, those four letters caught my eye as I browsed the shelves of Sally Ann’s. 70p well spent, in my view. After her mother’s death, Strayed’s life falls apart at the seams. With nothing left to lose, she decides to hike the PCT – alone. On paper, the PCT is nothing more than a line on a map. For Strayed, it’s a source of hope, a chance to heal, a turning point. I devoured every page, every step through mountains, meadows and pine forests.

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Looking for a feel-good read? Look no further: The Rosie Project is laugh-out-loud funny. Don Tillman, a thirty-nine-year-old geneticist, has never been on a second date. His solution? The Wife Project: a carefully curated questionnaire which is designed to weed out incompatible other halves and find him the perfect partner.

The number of books I own is:

(a) 1: My preferred religious tract … 0 points

(b) Less than 5, excluding recipe books … 2 points

(c) Between 3 and 20: I get the rest from the library or internet …5 points

(d) Between 30 and 100 … 3 points

(e) More than 100 … 2 points

(f) I don’t read … 0 points

And then, along comes Rosie. Before long, Don’s schedule – standardised meal plan and all – is thrown off kilter. In his quest to find love, it may just have found him.

Titles | January – March 2020

The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken (The Secret Barrister) / Here and Gone (Hayden Beck) / Murder Mile (Lynda La Plante) / Do No Harm (Henry Marsh) / Wild (Cheryl Strayed) / The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion) / The Perfect Wife (J.P. Delaney) / The Tour According to G (Geraint Thomas) / Gotta Get Theroux This (Louis Theroux) / Black Dahlia, Red Rose (Piu Eatwell) / Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng) / The Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith) / How to Be a Footballer (Peter Crouch) / Lullaby (Leïla Slimani) / The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Agatha Christie)

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