Blink and you’ll miss it. That’s 2020 for me – and for you, too, I imagine. (I can’t be the only one looking at a sea of blank squares on the calendar and wondering how it’s the end of June already.) Although I’ve not motored through quite as many books as usual, I’m not short of gems to recommend. Dip in – there’s something for everyone on this shelf – and share your recommendations in the comments.Continue reading “My Bookshelf #14 | June 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.
I’ve only read a handful of books over the past three months; fatigue from my (too) long commute set in and had me reaching for the crossword or a copy of Time Out instead of a book, and a string of busy weekends left me with few opportunities to re-stock at the local library. That said, those I did find time to read were well worth the brainpower – and the three titles below are my top picks. If you’ve got any recommendations, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Merry Christmas one and all, and until next year!
Earlier this summer, one of my colleagues had the inspired idea of setting up an informal book club. Three Doodle polls later and we’ve read Normal People (did the economical verging on unimaginative prose grate on anyone else?) Educated (which I loved; more below) and are soon to discuss My Year of Rest and Relaxation (which I wasn’t overly keen on, but am still weighing up). I’ve not enjoyed every book, but I have enjoyed reading outside my crime and memoir comfort zone. If anyone has any book club recommendations, I’m all ears!
On my trains, there’s a fairly even split of bookworms and people who treat their commute as an extension of their working day. I can’t help but sneak a glance at others’ books. What are they reading? Why are they reading it? What made them pick Reservoir 13, Nox or Sapiens? (I haven’t read any of them. Should I?) Was it the eye-catching cover design, or the pithy blurb? Was it the Goodreads rating, or a friend’s recommendation? Or plain old FOMO?
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.
If I actually owned all the books I’d read this year, my (real) bookshelf would be overflowing, creaking at the joints under the weight of masses of thrillers and autobiographies. Fortunately, between Cambridge Central Library and the book swap box at work I rarely need (or have cause) to buy a book, so my bookshelf is, for the time being at least, under control. (That said, I did bag a few bargains, including Nelson Mandela’s Dare Not Linger at a charity book sale at work earlier this month.) Honourable mentions for this quarter go to Kristen Lepionka’s What You Want to See (an electrifying sequel to The Last Place You Look) and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere (which completely lived up to the praise it had received).
If there’s one teensy, tiny silver lining to the big, black cloud that is delayed trains, it’s more reading time. I’ve read some truly cracking books over the past three months, and inevitably not all of them could be included in this post. As such, honourable mentions go to: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (an immensely enjoyable read and a worthy winner of the Pulitzer), Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (the definition of a literary masterpiece) and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (a truly heart-warming and hilarious page-turner).
Once a fortnight, or thereabouts, I head over to my local library, re-usable bag in hand, to stock up with a fresh pile of books for my commute. (When you devour two or three books a week, it’s hard, if not impossible, to justify paying £7.99 for a book that you’ll finish in a couple of train journeys.) True to form, I’ve read a lot of crime fiction over the past few months – but I’ve also squeezed in a (token) classic (which reminded me why I usually avoid them, sorry F. Scott Fitzgerald), crossed a few books off my lengthy TBR list and finally got round to reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Since starting this series, I’ve endeavoured to read more widely, to hop out of my crime fiction comfort zone and dip my toes into short stories, memoirs and other unfamiliar genres. I’m willing to give almost any book a punt, but if there are typos, shallow characters or plots that make watching paint dry seem like a more promising proposition, I’m very rarely prepared to give that author a second chance. (I gave one to Jo Nesbo, in the hopes that Blood on Snow was a blip, but sadly Midnight Sun was no better.) I’ve been ever so tempted to abandon a couple of books partway through, but there’s always a niggling voice in the back of my head telling me to just plough on and see if it improves: in for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes – or in for a page, in for the whole printed work, as the case may be.