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Jackie's 2019 5 star category challenge Part 2

This is a continuation of the topic Jackie's 2019 5 star category challenge.

2019 Category Challenge

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Edited: Jul 4, 2019, 1:41pm Top

Welcome to my 4th year of the Category Challenge! My name is Jackie, I am English but have lived in beautiful Scotland since 2005. I have a significant birthday in 2019, so will be planning a year of fun things to do to try to take the edge off the number a bit!

I'm keeping all the same categories as previous years (these are the categories that my mountain of TBR books broadly fall into), but I have chosen a new theme for 2019 - and one which is pretty apt (though I say so myself!). I am going to name each of my categories after a book which I have read in previous years which I consider to be an outstanding 5* read. The books I read in 2019 will mainly be from Mt TBR, but I am continuing my personal challenge to read at least a book a month from my local library as well.

I will continue using my Jar of Fate, which is a jar containing colour-coded slips of paper with every title of every TBR book I own, which (other than books I've chosen for particular challenges) I will pick out to decide my next read. The colour codes relate to my 11 main categories (I always have 12 categories, with the 12th one being CATs and challenges).

My categories (and their colours and 5* books) are:

1. (red/Stalin's Nose) Central/Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union. This could be travel writing or academic stuff, but equally could be Bosnian war fiction or a book on Soviet propaganda posters.
2. (dark blue/On the Front Line) Non-fiction (general). Non-fiction that doesn't fall easily into any of my other categories.
3. (yellow/The Sparrow) Contemporary fiction (1969-present). Contemporary with me, so fiction from the year of my birth onwards.
4. (dark green/Hurrah for Gin!) Sexual/reproductive health/rights; parenting; children; gender. This reflects my academic interests and experience, and also my work. This will mainly be academic, but also includes some popular non-fiction and maybe the odd bit of fiction. There is quite a lot of crossover here with my academic and central/eastern Europe categories.
5. (light green/Sea Room) Celtic. Fiction and non-fiction relating to the Celtic lands (primarily Scotland, but also potentially including Irish, Welsh, Cornish and Breton-related books).
6. (light blue/To Kill a Mockingbird) Vintage fiction (1900-1968). Fiction from the 20th century BJ (Before Jackie).
7. (pink/The Politics of Duplicity) Academic. Some of the academic books that I've acquired over the years - text books, research methodology, stuff that I've just thought looks interesting.
8. (orange/Wild Swans) Biography/autobiography/memoir/true events. Occasional overlap with other categories, but otherwise pretty self-explanatory.
9. (light brown/David Copperfield) Ancient fiction (pre-1900). Lots courtesy of Project Gutenberg, plus other bits and bobs I've picked up over the years.
10. (purple/Journey to the Edge of the World) Travel. Anywhere in the world - mainly but not exclusively non-fiction.
11. (dark brown/Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger) Religious. Mainly related to Christianity, but not exclusively. Primarily non-fiction.
12. (no colour/The Shepherd's Life) CATs and Challenges. I'm not going to go mad on CATs, but will try to complete the whole Non-Fiction challenge in the 75 group and will do CATs those months where I have a book which fits.

Note to self so I don't have to look everywhere - code for inserting a picture (surrounded by less than and greater than signs): img src="URL" width=200 length=150

Edited: Aug 27, 2019, 10:13am Top

1. Stalin's Nose (Rory MacLean) (CEE/FSU)

Stalin's Nose tells the surreal and fictionalised story of a journey by Trabant in the early 1990s throughout the newly-transitioning countries of Eastern Europe, from East Germany south to Romania, then ending up in Moscow. But that doesn't begin to do justice to this bonkers and funny yet incredibly profound book. I went to Romania first in 1993, and lived there for a few months in 1994 teaching English, and even though this account is totally madcap in presentation, I recognised so much of it. A brilliant book.

Since first going to Romania in 1993 I've spent a couple of extended periods there and also in Moldova, and visited a few other countries of the region. Along the way I've picked up quite a number of books!

1. Slavoj Zizek & Nadya Tolokonnikova - Comradely Greetings. Finished 23.2.19. 4/5.
2. Timothy Garton Ash - The File: A Personal History. Finished 27.4.19. 4.5/5.
3. Mark Holborn & Torsten Nystrom - Propaganda: Photographs from Soviet Archives. Finished 22.7.19. 4.5/5.
4. Zvi Feine - Jewish Communal Service in Romania and Poland 1986-2006. Finished 27.8.19. 3.5/5.

Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 4:43pm Top

2. On the Front Line: The Collected Journalism of Marie Colvin (Non-fiction: general)

I read On the Front Line in 2017 and felt bereaved when I finished it. Marie Colvin was the veteran Sunday Times foreign correspondent who was killed in 2012 whilst reporting from Syria. This book contains every piece she ever wrote, and is an extraordinary testament to a remarkable woman.

This category is for all my non-fiction that does not easily fit into my other categories.

1. William Zinsser - On Writing Well, 30th anniversary edition. Finished 9.1.19. 4/5.
2. Aaron Swartz - The Boy Who Could Change the World. Finished 4.3.19. 4/5.
3. Peggy Shinner - You Feel so Mortal: Essays on the Body. Finished 2.5.19. 3.5/5.
4. Peter Wohlleben - The Hidden Life of Trees. Finished 30.5.19. 4/5.
5. Andi Cumbo-Floyd - Love Letters to Writers. Finished 24.7.19. 4/5.
6. Rebecca Solnit - Hope in the Dark. Finished 25.7.19. 4/5.
7. Anne Janzer - The Writer's Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear. Finished 22.8.19. 4/5.
8. Elementum Journal: 3: Roots. Finished 4.9.19. 4.5/5.
9. Elementum Journal: 4: Shape. Finished 15.9.19. 5/5.
10. Elementum Journal: 5: Hearth. Finished 19.9.19. 5/5.
11. Sage Gordon-Davis - Silk Flower Goodbye. Finished 3.10.19. 4.5/5.
12. Ilya - How to Draw Absolutely Anything Activity Book. Finished 6.10.19. 3/5.
13. John Berger - Ways of Seeing. Finished 16.10.19. 3.5/5.
14. James Meek - Dreams of Leaving and Remaining. Finished 22.10.19. 4/5.
15. David Quammen - The Song of the Dodo. Finished 24.11.19. 5/5.
16. Anne Janzer - Writing to be Understood: What Works and Why. Finished 30.11.19. 4.5/5.
17. Kozo Yamamura - Too Much Stuff: Capitalism in Crisis. Finished 22.12.19. 3.5/5.
18. Stephen Clarke - Annoying the French Encore. Finished 26.12.19. 3/5.
19. John McPhee - Draft No 4. Finished 31.12.19. 4/5.

Edited: Dec 19, 2019, 12:59pm Top

3. The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell) (Contemporary fiction: 1969-present)

The main character in The Sparrow, Catholic priest Emilio Sandoz, is my biggest literary crush. This is also a book which broke my heart. Life is discovered just outside of our solar system, and the Jesuits send a team to make contact (basically, if you think of the film The Mission and make it sci-fi and slightly in the future, this is it). The end result is tragic and brutal, and I've still not dared pick up the sequel, Children of God, because I know I'll have my heart broken all over again.

This category is for the fiction that is contemporary with me, so published from 1969 onwards.

1. Julian Gough & Jim Field - Rabbit & Bear: Attack of the Snack. Finished 4.2.19. 4.5/5.
2. Christopher Francis - I Don't Want to Go to Sleep!. Finished 11.3.19. 4/5.
3. Mark Stay & Mark Oliver - Back to Reality. Finished 26.3.19. 4.5/5.
4. Mark Stay - The End of Magic. Finished 14.5.19. 4.5/5.
5. Max Porter - Grief is the Thing with Feathers. Finished 2.6.19. 3.5/5.
6. Catherine Doyle - The Storm Keeper's Island. Finished 5.8.19. 5/5.
7. Jayne Davis - Captain Kempton's Christmas. Finished 19.12.19. 3.5/5.

Edited: Dec 23, 2019, 2:15pm Top

4. Hurrah for Gin! (Katie Kirby) (Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights; parenting; children; gender)

Although many of my books in this category are academic and/or professional in scope, Hurrah for Gin! is the hilarious book by one of my favourite 'mummy bloggers'. Sweary stick people tell it like it is.

1. Rima D. Apple - Mothers & Medicine: A Social History of Infant Feeding, 1890-1950. Finished 3.4.19. 4/5.
2. Ellen Lewin - Lesbian Mothers: Accounts of Gender in American Culture. Finished 11.5.19. 3.5/5.
3. Katie Kirby - The Daily Struggles of Archie Adams (Aged 2 1/4). Finished 12.9.19. 3.5/5.
4. Katherine Twamley & Rachel Rosen (eds) - Feminism and the Politics of Childhood: Friends or Foes?. Finished 16.10.19. 3.5/5.
5. Joanna Mishtal - The Politics of Morality: The Church, the State, and Reproductive Rights in Postsocialist Poland. Finished 23.12.19. 4.5/5.

Edited: Dec 26, 2019, 11:57am Top

5. Sea Room (Adam Nicolson) (Celtic)

Sea Room is a wonderful book - the author was the hereditary owner of the Shiants, three islands just off Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, and this details a summer spent living alone there; in effect a love letter to the islands. It complicated my rather trenchant views about rich landowners (generally I disapprove, but he was so sympathetic and thoughtful and respectful of the land and of the island population that saying 'I disapprove' suddenly felt too simplistic).

Most of my books in this category are Scotland-related, with a significant minority related to Ireland, but this category is aimed at all the Celtic lands.

1. Lorna Main - First Generations: The Stirling Area from Mesolithic to Roman Times. Finished 24.2.19. 3.5/5.
2. Ian Crofton - Scottish History Without the Boring Bits. Finished 8.6.19. 3/5.
3. Jayne Stephenson - The Home Front Stirling 1939-1945. Finished 18.7.19. 2.5/5.
4. Hubert Butler - The Eggman and the Fairies. Finished 20.7.19. 4/5.
5. Alistair Moffat - The Hidden Ways: Scotland's Forgotten Roads. Finished 25.8.19. 4.5/5.
6. Allan Wright - Scotland's Islands (no touchstone). Finished 13.10.19. 4/5.
7. Jim Crumley - The Nature of Spring. Finished 16.11.19. 4.5/5.
8. Scottish Book Trust - Journeys (no touchstone). Finished 26.12.19. 3.5/5.

Edited: Dec 16, 2019, 11:59am Top

6. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) (Vintage fiction: 1900-1968)

I know there are all sorts of reasons that mean To Kill a Mockingbird could be considered as problematic as it is classic (the black experience being told by a white author, for one, plus its negative portrayal of the white working class), but nevertheless, this book, which I first read in the early 1980s at school, opened my eyes for the very first time to issues of racism and injustice, and for that I'll be always so grateful.

This is for all my 20th century fiction prior to my contemporary fiction category, so published between 1900-1968.

1. Goscinny & Uderzo - Asterix and Cleopatra. Finished 28.1.19. 3.5/5.
2. Alexander Solzhenitsyn - The First Circle. Finished 16.12.19. 4/5,

Edited: Oct 19, 2019, 1:14pm Top

7. The Politics of Duplicity (Gail Kligman) (Academic)

Gail Kligman's The Politics of Duplicity: Controlling Reproduction in Ceausescu's Romania was one of two academic books (the other one being Michele Rivkin-Fish's Women's Health in Post-Soviet Russia: The Politics of Intervention) which blew me away during my own PhD research. If I'd stayed in academia, and in the same research field, these are the books I would have loved to have written.

This category is for all my academic books.

1. Sally R. Munt - Queer Attachments: The Cultural Politics of Shame. Finished 16.3.19. 3.5/5.
2. Alena V. Ledeneva - How Russia Really Works. Finished 24.6.19. 4/5.
3. Alison Phipps - The Politics of the Body. Finished 29.8.19. 4.5/5.
4. Stephanie Springgay & Sarah E Truman - Walking Methodologies in a More-than-Human World: WalkingLab. Finished 17.10.19. 3.5/5.

Edited: Oct 11, 2019, 10:48am Top

8. Wild Swans (Jung Chang) (Biography/autobiography/memoir/true events)

Wild Swans details three generations of a Chinese family at the same time as charting the events of 20th century China including the rise and rule and profound impact of Chairman Mao. I read it in the mid-90s, and I think it is one of the first non-fiction books that absolutely took my breath away.

1. Joanna Cannon & others - Three Things I'd Tell my Younger Self. Finished 18.2.19. 3/5.
2. Amanda Owen - The Yorkshire Shepherdess. Finished 23.5.19. 3.5/5.
3. Marcia Kester Doyle - Who Stole my Spandex? Life in the Hot Flash Lane. Finished 9.6.19. 3/5.
4. Patrisse Khan-Cullors & asha bendele - When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. Finished 23.9.19. 4.5/5.
5. Matt Lucas - Little Me. Finished 10.10.19. 3.5/5.

Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 4:43pm Top

9. David Copperfield (Charles Dickens) (Ancient fiction: pre-1900)

David Copperfield is the first Dickens I ever read, and it remains my favourite (and the only one I have reread, several times). I always cry in the exact same place every single time I read it, even though I know exactly what's coming (it's the chapter where Dora dies). A lot of the books in this category are classics, but I must admit that few if any come close to David Copperfield for me.

1. William Makepeace Thackeray - Vanity Fair. Finished 31.12.19. 2.5/5.

Edited: Nov 22, 2019, 4:37pm Top

10. Journey to the Edge of the World (Billy Connolly) (Travel)

A good TV travel series tie-in book is one of my guilty pleasures, and none is finer than Journey to the Edge of the World. Billy Connolly is the most wonderful and generous travel companion - he was interested in everyone and everything he saw, and infused throughout is his wonderful humour.

I love armchair travelling with a good book.

1. Colin Thubron - In Siberia. Finished 26.3.19. 4.5/5.
2. Dea Birkett - Off the Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers. Finished 24.6.19. 4/5.
3. Mark Carwardine - Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams. Finished 2.9.19. 4.5/5.
4. Nick Griffiths - Who Goes There?. Finished 22.11.19. 4/5.

Edited: Dec 26, 2019, 11:58am Top

11. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (Ron Sider) (Religion)

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger really opened my eyes to my responsibilities towards humanity from a faith perspective, and is another I've reread several times. I fall short all the time, of course, but the longing for justice and equality never goes away.

Most of my books in this category are related to Christianity, but not all.

1. Dan Papworth - The Lives Around Us: daily meditations for nature connection. Finished 20.4.19. 4.5/5.
2. Richard Holloway - Godless Morality: Keeping Religion Out of Ethics. Finished 27.8.19. 3.5/5.
3. Brian McLaren - A Generous Orthodoxy. Finished 18.10.19. 4.5/5.
4. Anthony Hurst - Diocese of Southwark 1905-2005: A Centennial Celebration. Finished 25.12.19. 3.5/5.

Edited: Dec 18, 2019, 5:03pm Top

12. The Shepherd's Life (James Rebanks) (CATs and Challenges)

I read The Shepherd's Life in 2017 when the RandomCAT and my real life book group's summer theme (the Animal Kingdom) coincided, and I was blown away by this account of an increasingly precarious way of life, of environment, of education, and of farming. An absolutely extraordinary book.

This is for all my CAT and challenge reads this year.

1. Jackie Kay - Red Dust Road. January RandomCAT (Your Name in Print). Finished 12.1.19. 5/5.
2. Robert Macfarlane - The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot. January Non-Fiction challenge (Prizewinners & Nominees). Finished 25.1.19. 4.5/5.
3. Tim Peake - Ask An Astronaut. February Non-Fiction challenge (Science & Technology; Innovation & Innovators). Finished 4.2.19. 4/5.
4. Svetlana Alexievich - Second Hand Time. February group read. Finished 9.2.19. 4.5/5.
5. Dana Stabenow - Alaska Traveler. February RandomCAT (We Need A Break). Finished 16.2.19. 4/5.
6. Roger Hutchinson - Calum's Road. March TBRCat (Books acquired for/during trips or special occasions). Finished 8.3.19. 4.5/5.
7. Chris Moon - One Step Beyond. January TBRCat (First in, Last out). Finished 11.3.19. 3.5/5.
8. Helen Russell - The Year of Living Danishly. March RandomCAT (Brexit Madness). Finished 17.3.19. 4/5.
9. Emma Mitchell - The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us - A Diary. April Non-Fiction Challenge (Comfort Reads). Finished 4.4.19. 5/5.
10. Tara Westover - Educated. April TBRCat (Book originally acquired for a challenge or group read). Finished 13.4.19. 5/5.
11. Julia Blackburn - Thin Paths: journeys in and around an Italian mountain village. April Non-Fiction Challenge (Comfort Reads). Finished 19.4.19. 4.5/5.
12. Paul MacAlindin - Upbeat. April TBRCat (Book originally acquired for a challenge or group read). Finished 27.4.19. 4/5.
13. China Mieville - October: The Story of the Russian Revolution. May Non-Fiction Challenge (History). Finished 25.5.19. 4/5.
14. Monica Connell - Gathering Carrageen. May TBRCat (Book I keep looking at but never manage to open). Finished 26.5.19. 4/5.
15. Kate Evans - Threads: from the Refugee Crisis. June Non-fiction challenge (Non-fiction told in images). Finished 4.6.19. 5/5.
16. Various - Migrations: Open Hearts Open Borders (?no touchstone). June Non-Fiction Challenge (Non-fiction told in images). Finished 5.6.19. 5/5.
17. Pete Souza - Obama: An Intimate Portrait. June Non-Fiction Challenge (Non-Fiction told in images). Finished 12.6.19. 5/5.
18. Robin Sloan - Mr Penumbra's 24 hour Bookstore. June TBRCat (Book bullets). Finished 1.7.19. 3.5/5.
19. Anne Lamott - Bird by Bird. July RandomCAT (All about Birds). Finished 6.7.19. 4/5.
20. Trevor Noah - Born a Crime. July Non-Fiction Challenge (Biography/Memoir). Finished 11.7.19. 5/5.
21. Isabella Tree - Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm. July RandomCAT (All about birds). Finished 14.7.19. 5/5.
22. Jasper Fforde - Lost in a Good Book. July TBRCat (books by an author with more than one book on your TBR shelf). Finished 28.7.19. 4/5.
23. Alexander McCall Smith - Morality for Beautiful Girls. July TBRCat (books by an author with more than one book on your TBR shelf). Finished 30.7.19. 4/5.
24. Evelyne Bloch-Dano - Vegetables: A Biography. August Non-Fiction Challenge (Animal, Vegetable, Mineral). Finished 1.8.19. 3/5.
25. Jane Brown - Tales of the Rose Tree. August Non-Fiction Challenge (Animal, Vegetable, Mineral). Finished 8.8.19. 3.5/5.
26. Susan Calman - Cheer Up Love. August TBRCat (books bought with great enthusiasm, still on your TBR). Finished 8.8.19. 4.5/5.
27. Andrea Wulf - The Brother Gardeners. August Non-Fiction Challenge (Animal, Vegetable, Mineral). Finished 15.8.19. 4/5.
28. Douglas Adams & Mark Carwardine - Last Chance to See. August Non-Fiction Challenge (Animal, Vegetable, Mineral). Finished 18.8.19. 4.5/5.
29. Mohammed Omer - Shell-Shocked. September Non-Fiction Challenge (Books by Journalists). Finished 2.9.19. 4.5/5.
30. Chitra Ramaswamy - Expecting: The Inner Life of Pregnancy. September Non-Fiction Challenge (Books by Journalists). Finished 12.9.19. 5/5.
31. Arthur Conan Doyle - A Study in Scarlet. September TBRCat (Classics I ought to have read). Finished 23.9.19. 3/5.
32. Alan Rusbridger - Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible. September Non-Fiction Challenge (Books by Journalists). Finished 25.9.19. 4.5/5.
33. Nick Bantock - Griffin and Sabine. October TBRCat (Books bought for their visual appeal). Finished 1.10.19. 4.5/5.
34. Nick Bantock - Sabine's Notebook. October TBRCat (Books bought for their visual appeal). Finished 2.10.19. 4.5/5.
35. Nick Bantock - The Golden Mean. October TBRCat (Books bought for their visual appeal). Finished 4.10.19. 4.5/5.
36. Brian Hayles - The Moon Stallion. August RandomCAT (Back to School). Finished 19.10.19. 4.5/5.
37. Rowan Williams - Silence and Honey Cakes. October Non-Fiction Challenge (Other Worlds). Finished 2.11.19. 4/5.
38. Stephen King - On Writing. November Non-Fiction Challenge (Creators and Creativity). Finished 7.11.19. 5/5.
39. Cary Elwes with Joe Layden - As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. November TBRCat (Book given to you as a gift). Finished 9.11.19. 4.5/5.
40. Philomena Cunk - Cunk on Everything. November TBRCat (Book given to you as a gift). Finished 20.11.19. 3.5/5.
41. Julian Barr - The Way Home (Ashes of Olympus). October RandomCAT (Knock-offs, follow-ups, tributes, parodies). Finished 5.12.19. 4.5/5.
42. J.J. Green - Mission Improbable. December TBRCat (Book bought because it was so cheap). Finished 10.12.19. 3.5/5.
43. Rory MacLean & Nick Danziger - Back in the USSR: Heroic Adventures in Transnistria. December Non-Fiction Challenge (I've Always been Curious about...). Finished 18.12.19. 5/5.

Jul 4, 2019, 1:58pm Top

Welcome to my new thread for the 2nd half of 2019! Looking forward to more book chat :)

Jul 4, 2019, 2:24pm Top

Happy new thread!
May I just say I love the juxtaposition of To Kill a Mockingbird as a category containing just the one book: Asterix & Cleopatra. Two books I think I'd stuggle to say had a lot in common, but there they are. >:-) Isn't it great how reading throws these things up.

Jul 4, 2019, 3:36pm Top

>15 Helenliz: Haha, I know! I am actually currently reading a more 'highbrow' book for that category (although it's a chunkster so I doubt I'll finish it for another 2 or 3 months). I suppose that depending on how you define your categories, some interesting combinations of books will get thrown together!

Jul 4, 2019, 6:56pm Top

Happy new thread! Looking forward to seeing what else fills your thread this year.

Jul 4, 2019, 9:37pm Top

Happy new thread, Jackie.

Jul 5, 2019, 3:31am Top

Happy new thread!

Jul 5, 2019, 3:55am Top

Happy new thread, Jackie! Copperfield is one of the few Dickens I haven't read yet ...

Jul 6, 2019, 10:15am Top

>17 rabbitprincess: >18 Robertgreaves: >19 Tess_W: >20 MissWatson: Thank you all!

Category: The Shepherd's Life (July RandomCAT: All About Birds)

No sooner bought than read! Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is a book about writing, and so much more, and I've meant to get to it for ages. Short chapters cover all aspects of the writing process, from deciding to write, first drafts, plot, writing groups, publication, and all sorts of other things. This isn't a book about improving your writing per se - it doesn't have writing exercises, or millions of examples - I suppose it's more about the philosophy behind why we write, and how to make the most of the experience if we decide that's the direction we want to take. I did find some of it a bit too hyperbolic and overblown for my taste (especially the penultimate chapter on publication), but there were plenty of bits which I absolutely loved, and in particular towards the end when she talks about writing as giving. I think this is one I will dip in and out of often. 4/5.

Jul 7, 2019, 11:22am Top

I'm going to be offline for the next week and a half, we are heading to England for the annual family visits. I'm hoping to get plenty of reading done, as well as all the social stuff. I can't wait - even though it won't be particularly relaxing, I feel like I'm running on empty, so a bit of time away from it all is just what I need.

Jul 7, 2019, 4:37pm Top

Have a fun time on your annual trip south! I like Billy Connelly a lot, but I always need awhile listening to be able to understand him.

Jul 7, 2019, 4:41pm Top

>22 Jackie_K: It's been nice down here recently, obviously in honour of your visit. Have a nice trip and hope the change is as good as a rest.

Jul 8, 2019, 5:16am Top

Have a good trip and a nice time with your family, Jackie. I just spent Sunday at my aunt's 80th birthday and it was great to meet her great-granddaughters for the first time.

Jul 8, 2019, 3:23pm Top

>22 Jackie_K: Enjoy the family visits and recharge!

Jul 16, 2019, 12:31pm Top

>23 RidgewayGirl: >24 Helenliz: >25 MissWatson: >26 VivienneR: Thank you all! I did have a nice time, and also managed to visit Triangular Lodge (star of one of Helenliz's categories!) which was very interesting. I also got a couple of books finished, and a few more still on the go (as per usual!).

Category: The Shepherd's Life (July Non-Fiction challenge: Biography/Memoir)

Trevor Noah's memoir of growing up in South Africa around the end of the apartheid regime, Born a Crime, was absolutely brilliant, I loved it. He is an absolute master storyteller, and could teach fiction writers a thing or two about writing characters, about crafting scenes, and evoking a time and place. He discusses family, politics, identity, and race, both through stories of his family and in short sections explaining how the politics of apartheid impacted on daily life. A couple of the sections had me laughing out loud (for those who have read it: the bit where he takes a dump in his grandma's kitchen instead of using the outhouse, and also later on his break-dancing friend Hitler). But amongst all the absurdity, he doesn't shy away from the more violent side of life, with an abusive and violent stepfather, and the realities of living in a police state. An absolutely wonderful book. 5.5.

Category: The Shepherd's Life (July RandomCAT: All about birds)

Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm by Isabella Tree is currently shortlisted for this year's Wainwright Prize (my absolute favourite literary award - I've never read a Wainwright nominee I didn't love). The author and her husband owned a dairy and arable farm in Sussex in southern England, but increasing financial precarity led to them selling their livestock in 2000 and gradually letting the farm return to a wilder state. They introduce some free-roaming grazing animals (longhorn cows, Exmoor ponies and Tamworth pigs), and stop spraying and weeding the land. Over the years they see the resurgence on their land of animals that had disappeared (or were close to disappearing) from the English landscape - such as the Purple Emperor butterfly, turtle dove, and nightingale - and muse on alternative ways to farm sustainably whilst not destroying biodiversity. They are also open about the resistance they faced, certainly in the first decade, from neighbouring farmers and landowners, and the frustrations of political caution and obstruction. This is a really important book, and I'd urge everyone to read it. 5/5.

Jul 16, 2019, 2:11pm Top

Can't get much better than two 5 star books in a row!

Jul 16, 2019, 5:25pm Top

>28 DeltaQueen50: Even better, two 5 star books in a row whilst on holiday! :D

Jul 16, 2019, 5:53pm Top

>27 Jackie_K: Wilding goes on my wishlist!

Jul 17, 2019, 1:58am Top

Glad you had a good time, with some very good reads. I'm pleased to have hit someone with a building bullet >:-)

Jul 17, 2019, 5:47am Top

>30 Tess_W: Hope you enjoy it if you get to it!

>31 Helenliz: Excellent, 'building bullet', I love it! It was a great building - so much in such a small building. I made sure I bought a guidebook, which definitely helped me see some details I might otherwise have missed.

Edited: Jul 17, 2019, 4:11pm Top

I look forward to reading Wilding! It won't be available in the U.S. until September so it will be cool enough for outside reading by then.

Jul 18, 2019, 1:17pm Top

>33 clue: I read quite a bit of it outdoors on our holiday last week, and you're right, it does lend itself to outdoor reading!

Category: Sea Room (Celtic)

Jayne Stephenson's Home Front Stirling 1939-1945 was a short book from the library detailing local memories of WW2 in Stirling. The city only saw one hostile action (two bombs dropped on Kings Park in 1940), otherwise this just mentions things like rationing, evacuees, and changes in employment, plus memories of the VE Day celebrations. It's a thin volume (30-odd pages) which reflects the lack of action here - it would be of interest I presume to local historians. 2.5/5.

Jul 19, 2019, 1:01am Top

Wonderful! Your two five-star books have become two five-star books on my wishlist! Thank you.

Edited: Jul 20, 2019, 6:35am Top

>35 VivienneR: I'm confident you'll enjoy them both, Vivienne!

Category: Sea Room (Celtic)

I've acquired a few essay collections recently, and amongst those were a couple of collections of essays by Hubert Butler. This one, The Eggman and the Fairies, is a collection of his Irish essays (the other one I bought is of his essays about the Balkans). He was writing throughout much of the 20th century, and I found that many of the essays were pretty timeless. I liked some more than others, of course, but throughout I appreciated his focus on the importance of the local, as well as his discussions of nationalism and history. The essays I particularly liked were one on Irish literature (a hastily-written but impressive talk he gave to the Union of Writers in then-Leningrad in 1956), and an essay from 1941 called 'The Barriers', about nationalism and small nations, and the importance of diversity to national culture. There was also a quote in the final essay which really made me think nothing has changed at all really, however much things change - this was written in 1956, but could have been written yesterday:

Speed of communications has increased, and we are expected to have strong feelings about an infinite series of remote events. But our powers of understanding and sympathy have not correspondingly increased. In an atmosphere of artificially heated emotionalism truth simply dissolves into expediency.

I'll look forward to reading the Balkan essays when I eventually get to them. 4/5.

Jul 22, 2019, 6:18am Top

Category: Stalin's Nose (Central & Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union)

Propaganda: Photographs from Soviet Archives (curated by Mark Holborn and Torsten Nystrom) is a coffee table book of photographs from the Novosti Press Agency archives in Sweden. Mostly from 1960-1990, it details the vast scale of Soviet enterprise in many domains, from forestry to space. It made me think how exciting it must have been in the 1960s and 70s to see so much technical innovation, even if a lot of the hardware today looks slightly ridiculous. A really interesting set of photos, recommended. 4.5/5.

Jul 26, 2019, 11:37am Top

Category: On the Front Line (non-fiction: general)

Author Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a member of a number of online writing groups, including the one that I am part of, so I was happy to buy this to support a very supportive writer. Love Letters to Writers is a series of 52 short letters (so you could read it one a week for a year, which I might well do, although I read it in a couple of short sittings this time) covering various aspects of the writing life, and has plenty of wisdom and down to earth advice. 4/5.

Category: On the Front Line (non-fiction: general)

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit is a series of essays, originally published in the early 2000s around 9/11 and Iraq invasion time. This features a foreward and afterword from 2016, and could clearly be updated again (sigh). She discusses activism and protest, and ways of looking at it, and at a time when I'm feeling politically quite impotent I needed this shot in the arm. I freely admit to being her target audience, but I did really like it. 4/5.

Jul 28, 2019, 11:14am Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (July TBRCat: books by an author with more than one book on your TBR shelf)

Lost in a Good Book is the second book in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, and it was just as fun and silly and clever as the first one. This time, the dastardly Goliath Corporation manage to 'eradicate' Thursday's new husband, Landen Parke-Laine, and she embarks on an adventure jumping between books in an attempt to a) get him back, and b) save the world. In order to do this she is apprenticed to ace JurisFiction agent, Miss Havisham (yes, that Miss Havisham). I loved this, and the explanation of the Well of Lost Plots (which, as it happens, is also the title of the next book in the series) made me laugh out loud. 4/5.

Jul 30, 2019, 4:30pm Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (July TBRCat: books by an author with more than one book on your TBR shelf)

It's not like me to race through a fiction book in 2 days, but that's what I've just done with Alexander McCall Smith's Morality for Beautiful Women, the 3rd in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. As with the previous books, detective Mma Ramotswe gently goes about solving mysteries (in this case the alleged poisoning of the brother of a Government official), and observing daily life in Botswana. And as with the other books, this was just the gentle read I needed. 4/5.

Aug 1, 2019, 5:08pm Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (August Non-Fiction Challenge: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral)

Vegetables: A Biography by Evelyne Bloch-Dano (translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan) is a short book which covers the history of various vegetables - where they came from, where their names come from, how they ended up where they are now. It includes some recipes and extracts from historical literature. An interesting book, but it felt a bit unsatisfying. 3/5.

Aug 5, 2019, 5:22am Top

Category: The Sparrow (contemporary fiction: 1969-present)

Catherine Doyle's The Storm Keeper's Island is a middle grade (ie younger-than-YA) chapter book which I got from the library, but it was so wonderful I'll definitely be getting my own copy and I can't wait until my daughter is old enough that we can read it together. I'll also definitely be looking out for the sequel which is out any time now. Late primary/early secondary school me would have been all over this book 40 years ago - it has magic, mystery, foreboding, humour, adventure - I loved it. 5/5

This is the blurb:

When Fionn Boyle sets foot on Arranmore Island, it begins to stir beneath his feet...

Once in a generation, Arranmore Island chooses a new Storm Keeper to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has come for Fionn's grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. Soon, a new Keeper will rise.

But, deep underground, someone has been waiting for Fionn. As the battle to become the island's next champion rages, a more sinister magic is waking up, intent on rekindling an ancient war.

Aug 8, 2019, 11:14am Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (August Non-Fiction Challenge: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral)

Jane Brown's Tales of the Rose Tree was one of the books I bought recently as part of my research for something I'm planning on writing soon. It (this book, not what I'm going to write!) is a history of the rhododendron, and details the various plant collectors, gardeners, explorers and financiers involved in the spread of the rhododendron and its various hybrids as a popular ornamental plant around the world. It was a bit plummy and breathless in tone, but somehow that was really fitting for the subject. There were so many different characters that it was sometimes hard to keep up, but it was interesting and there are a few things in it which have changed (or deepened) my thinking about what I plan to write myself. I thought the penultimate chapter, on ecology, was the most interesting. 3.5/5.

Category: The Shepherd's Life (August TBRCat: books bought with great enthusiasm but still on your TBR)

Cheer Up Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate by Scottish comedian Susan Calman was a frank but fun look at mental health. I had already heard her podcast series "Mrs Brightside", where she discusses mental health with eight different comedians, and in a way this was more of the same, but as I absolutely loved "Mrs Brightside" (and am happy to hear there's likely to be a second series in the pipeline), that's no bad thing - I really enjoyed this, if that's not a weird thing to say about a book about depression. 4.5/5.

Aug 8, 2019, 1:21pm Top

>43 Jackie_K: I love rhododendrons, although I understand the problems they pose the native flora. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) we live on the wrong type of soil. That's a maybe if I see it kind of bullet. Half a wing, if you like.

Edited: Aug 8, 2019, 7:25pm Top

>43 Jackie_K: So, is rhododendron honey really poisonous?

Aug 9, 2019, 10:01am Top

>44 Helenliz: Yeah, it's got a huge foothold in the west of Scotland, so we clearly have the right sort of soil!

>45 Robertgreaves: Now, she did say something about that, but I've been to sleep since reading it so can't remember it all! I think there's a yellow flowered rhododendron that can be a bit dodgy, yes. But I think most of them are fine, honey-wise.

Aug 10, 2019, 10:46am Top

>45 Robertgreaves: Thank goodness for a decent index! You prompted me to look up the poisonous honey thing - I was right, it's the Chinese yellow azalea that's the main culprit, most rhododendron honeys are fine. There was one experiment which described people being nauseous etc, but they had ingested 50g of honey, which seems quite a lot to me.

Aug 10, 2019, 7:39pm Top

>47 Jackie_K: Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs by Adrienne Mayor has a couple of pages on this comparing the experiences of Greek and Roman soldiers in Anatolia and Armenia and later experiences of hippies seeking natural highs and getting more than they bargained for.

Aug 15, 2019, 10:23am Top

>48 Robertgreaves: I think the search for natural highs often leads to getting more than one bargains for, whatever the source!

Category: The Shepherd's Life (August Non-Fiction Challenge: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral)

Andrea Wulf's The Brother Gardeners (subtitled Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession) is the account of a group of gardeners, plant collectors and botanists who led the search for more and more exotic and far-flung plants to fill the gardens and estates of Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. As expected, a number of the men included in Tales of the Rose Tree feature here, such as Bartram and Collinson, with a really detailed account of their friendships, rivalries, arguments, journeys, and finds, all among the backdrop of the growth of the British Empire. Really interesting, and very readable. My only very mild complaint was that the formatting of the glossary was off in my epub version - not that I would have read every word of a humungous glossary, but I would have flicked through it if I could. 4/5.

Aug 15, 2019, 2:39pm Top

>49 Jackie_K: I've meant to read Andrea Wulf forever but just haven't gotten to her. I'm going to make sure I do that before year end. Not only does the book look good, I love the cover!

Aug 15, 2019, 3:26pm Top

>50 clue: I'll definitely be trying some more of her books at some point, I really liked her prose style - even though it was clearly really well researched, it was never dry and academic. And yes, it's a great cover, isn't it?

Aug 16, 2019, 5:06pm Top

>49 Jackie_K: That one sounds interesting.

Edited: Aug 18, 2019, 5:08pm Top

>52 thornton37814: It really was!

Category: The Shepherd's Life (August Non-Fiction challenge: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral)

Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine was a wonderful read - yet another reminder of the deep loss to the world when Adams died so suddenly and so young. Back in the late 1980s Adams joined Carwardine (who is a zoologist) and a BBC sound recordist on a number of trips to various countries around the world trying to track down some super-rare animals and make a radio documentary about the trips, and this is the book of that project. They go to Madagascar, Zaire (as it was then), New Zealand, China, Komodo, and Mauritius, and Adams' writing is just a joy. He manages to perfectly portray the difficulties inherent in conservation of such endangered species, the interesting characters involved in conservation, and the bureaucracy facing them at every turn. The scene near the beginning where they visit an Australian academic who's the world expert on poisonous snakes had me howling with laughter (for Brits of a certain age who remember "The Fast Show", this was straight out of a "That's Amazing" sketch). Some years after Adams' death, Mark Carwardine did a TV documentary series with Stephen Fry visiting some of the same places, and I have the book of that series lined up for reading next month.

I ended up leaving this book with the friend we were staying with this weekend - he was absolutely bemused that there was a Douglas Adams book that he hadn't heard of, so I thought it was the least I could do! 4.5/5.

Aug 23, 2019, 2:30pm Top

Category: On the Front Line (Non-fiction: general)

Anne Janzer's The Writer's Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear covers some of the cognitive and behavioural science behind writing, and suggests how to have more of an idea what's going on through the process of writing. She contrasts the Scribe and the Muse, which I found a helpful way of picturing the different but complementary tasks of researching and getting the words down on the page with the incubating ideas and getting inspiration (I tend to spend a *lot* of time in the incubation stage!). 4/5.

Aug 26, 2019, 5:13am Top

Category: Sea Room (Celtic)

Another great book from the library - hooray for local libraries! - Alistair Moffat's The Hidden Ways: Scotland's Forgotten Roads is his account of walking ten of the now largely forgotten but previously important roads within Scotland, including Roman roads, drove roads, and abandoned railways. This is just my cup of tea - armchair travel at its finest. As well as writing about what he sees, he includes a lot about the history, and I learnt loads. Also: what a gorgeous cover! 4.5/5.

Aug 26, 2019, 5:54am Top

>55 Jackie_K: sounds wonderful!

Aug 26, 2019, 8:37am Top

>55 Jackie_K: If my mum doesn't have this, she needs it! It looks great.

Aug 27, 2019, 10:15am Top

>56 Tess_W: It really was!

>57 rabbitprincess: I'm sure as a Scotland-phile she'd enjoy it!

Category: Stalin's Nose (Central & Eastern Europe/Former Soviet Union)

I received Jewish Communal Service in Romania and Poland 1986-2006 by Zvi Feine from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer programme - thank you to the author and publishers for providing me with the chance to review the book.

I requested this because I have worked in various positions related to civil society/non-governmental organisations in Romania over the past 20 years, but have little knowledge of Jewish organisations there (although I did have the chance to be shown round the beautiful Sibiu synagogue during a 'Doors Open Day' in 2007 and loved meeting some of the community during that).

This book details the 20+ years the author spent working with the American JDC as Country Director for Romania (plus around 7 years concurrently as Country Director for Poland); the programmes that were supported and established both pre- and post- the 1989 fall of communism in both countries (including what worked well and in some cases less well); and the various people and communities involved. The work in Romania was covered more extensively, probably due to the author's greater experience and knowledge there, although I did find the information on the Polish community very interesting and would have liked to have read more about that.

I found the structure of the book a bit clunky - it sometimes looked at specific issues and used examples from both countries, but then towards the end had sections specifically and separately about the work in Romania and then Poland. This meant there was some repetition, and I found it sometimes hard to put my finger on the nub of the work that was being described. This was a feeling I had throughout the book, but particularly in the opening chapters - whilst the author describes in some detail issues he had to overcome, people he had to negotiate with, skills he needed to do his job, I just didn't always feel like I fully understood what the programmes involved. I would have appreciated a further concluding chapter where the achievements of the work undertaken by Dr Fiene and his organisation were concisely presented; that would have helped me to have more of a handle on the wide range of projects undertaken.

That said, Dr Feine is clearly an accomplished negotiator and manager, and the work he was involved in clearly improved the lives of both individuals and the Jewish community in the two countries more widely. 3.5/5.

Aug 27, 2019, 10:17am Top

>55 Jackie_K: Sounds like a great book. Not available at my libraries though. Added to my wish lists at Amazon (ebook) and Book Depository (print).

Aug 27, 2019, 2:32pm Top

>59 thornton37814: Thank you, I enjoyed it very much and hope it gets a wider audience!

Category: Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (Religion)

Richard Holloway's Godless Morality: Keeping Religion Out of Ethics is a fairly old book (late 90s) by one of Scotland's premier thinkers. He used to be Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the premise of the book is that invoking 'God' in moral debate is problematic and meaningless in a pluralistic society, and we need an approach that is more human-centred in considering contemporary morality. He then goes on to talk about various ethical issues - sex, homosexuality, addiction, abortion, euthanasia, and assisted reproduction.

I broadly agree with him about these issues, but I'm not entirely sure that this book succeeded in its aim of proposing a morality without God/religion. It was a very good broad overview of the ethical issues, and in places he showed how religious opinions on them can be problematic, but I didn't find that consistently throughout the book. This is a very accessible and readable introduction though to some thorny ethical subjects though, and I'll happily read more of his work. 3.5/5.

Aug 28, 2019, 2:08pm Top

>60 Jackie_K: would be difficult for a person with a Christian worldview to keep it out of ethics....at least for me!

Aug 28, 2019, 2:09pm Top

>55 Jackie_K: this looks gorgeous!

Aug 29, 2019, 1:27pm Top

>61 Tess_W: Yes, although I think his point is more that when discussing with people who have no religious belief, it's counter-productive to use God as the basis for ethics and morality.

>62 Helenliz: It was, and it's such a lovely cover!

Category: The Politics of Duplicity (Academic)

The Politics of the Body by Alison Phipps is one of many academic books I bought full of enthusiasm in my PhD/post-PhD days and then have struggled to find the time to get round to reading. I'm glad I finally made it to this one, it was very much my bag! She covers issues such as sexual violence (using the cases of Julian Assange, Roman Polanski and Dominique Strauss-Kahn as case studies), gender and Islam, sex work, and reproduction (specifically 'normal birth' and breastfeeding campaigns) and looks at them from a political sociology perspective, looking at their various links with neoliberalism and neoconservatism. I particularly liked the reproduction chapter and its focus on the values- and class-based assumptions of many supposedly morally neutral interventions (something which I picked up in my PhD study too). 4.5/5.

Sep 2, 2019, 11:21am Top

Category: Journey to the Edge of the World (Travel)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - a good TV travel (and wildlife) show tie-in book is one of my not-so-secret guilty pleasures. And this one was another absolute delight. Last month I read Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams, which was the book of a series of trips with zoologist Mark Carwardine which became a radio series in the late 1980s. For this book, Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams, Mark Carwardine returns 20 years later to several of the places that he and Douglas Adams had visited (and a couple of others), this time with Douglas Adams' good friend Stephen Fry, and a TV crew in tow. This book accompanies the resulting TV series, and I loved it. Mark Carwardine is actually a pretty good writer himself, and the book is only enhanced by al the beautiful photographs throughout. Like the first book, this is pretty sobering though - despite the many valiant efforts being made across the world, we seem as a species to be generally making a right old mess of conserving what's left. Two of the animals that they had visited in the 80s (the northern white rhino, and the Yangtze river dolphin) were extinct by the time they returned for the TV show, and although some populations (such as the kakapo in New Zealand) were making valiant efforts at increasing their numbers, they're still very fragile populations. And 10 years on from when this show was made, I expect there will be further species which are now extinct, or close to it. 4.5/5.

Sep 2, 2019, 3:10pm Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (September Non-Fiction Challenge: Written by a Journalist)

Mohammed Omer is a Palestinian journalist living in Gaza, and this book, Shell-Shocked, is a collection of all his reports during the 51 days of Israel's Operation Protective Edge, their assault on Gaza in 2014. Most of the reports are for Middle East Eye, but there are some for Al Jazeera too. They detail the impact of the war on Gaza's civilian life, and the whole book is pretty harrowing. The main feeling that I had - similar to when I see other injustices such as the effects of austerity in the UK - is of the pointless cruelty of it all. Very highly recommended, but far from an easy read. 4.5/5.

Sep 4, 2019, 2:14pm Top

Category: On the Front Line (Non-fiction: general)

One of my excellent birthday presents this year from my excellent husband was a subscription to Elementum journal. It's a literary journal which features nature writing, art and photography, and each edition is an absolute work of art. As well as the subscription for this year, he also bought me last year's back copies, and so I've just been reading through one of those, Elementum Journal: 3: Roots. It features writing from some of my favourite writers - Jim Crumley, Robert Macfarlane, Annie Worsley, Kathleen Jamie - and some I wasn't so familiar with. One of the pieces was from a volunteer in Mauritius who had worked with the people that Douglas Adams, Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine met in the two Last Chance to See books. The whole thing was beautiful, and I can't wait to read the others now. 4.5/5.

Sep 5, 2019, 9:33am Top

What a fabulous gift!

Sep 11, 2019, 7:03pm Top

>64 Jackie_K: I was just reading that there are two northern white rhinos left, both female. Using IVF, several of their eggs were fertilized with frozen sperm saved from males, of which none remain. They were able to produce two viable embryos that will be carried by surrogate southern white rhino females. I wish them success but believe our conservation efforts are too little, too late.

Happy belated birthday. I know someone who would like Elementum Journal too.

Sep 12, 2019, 2:09pm Top

>67 MissWatson: Yes, it really is!

>68 VivienneR: That's interesting re the rhinos - it's so sad that we've got to this point. And thanks re Elementum - I'm reading issue 4 now and it's just as good as issue 3. I want to just stroke the pages.

Category: Hurrah for Gin! (Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights; parenting; children; gender)

The Daily Struggles of Archie Adams (Aged 2 1/4) is the second book by Hurrah for Gin's Katie Kirby. This time, rather than discussing babyhood and parenting, she turns her attention to the challenges and joys that having a toddler in the family brings. The familiar sweary stick figures are joined by Archie's diary as he makes sense of life, parental choices, and a new sibling, amongst other things. I didn't enjoy this as much as Hurrah for Gin!, but bits of it did really make me snigger with recognition, so it's still a solid 3.5/5.

Sep 13, 2019, 11:12am Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (September Non-Fiction Challenge: Books by Journalists)

Whenever I start a new reading year, I always wonder if (and hope that) I'll be blown away by a book that's just wonderful in every way. This year was no exception, and unless the reading gods have something else in store for me, I'm pretty sure that my book of the year this year will be Expecting: The Inner Life of Pregnancy by Chitra Ramaswamy. She writes so beautifully and powerfully about her pregnancy - I so wish this book had been around when I was pregnant. This is no ordinary pregnancy book - usually they are full of 'at this stage the baby is x cm long and the size of a {insert relevantly-sized piece of fruit here}'. This one though is full of all the raw emotion and paradoxes and general weirdness of pregnancy that none of the books tell you about, and she weaves it in effortlessly with her wider life, alongside bereavements, journeys, chance encounters, work, place, and daily life. Absolutely fantastic, and I'll be buying this for everyone I know the second I find out they're pregnant! 5/5.

Sep 15, 2019, 1:58pm Top

Category: On the Front Line (non-fiction: general)

After thoroughly enjoying Elementum Journal: 3: Roots, I was excited to carry on with the 4th journal, Elementum Journal: 4: Shape. If anything, I think I liked this one even more - every single article was beautifully written and illustrated. I particularly liked the ones where the writers explained the link between the nature they saw and their creative process. The final piece, by lacemaker Jane Atkinson, about how she tries to render the patterns in the water of her local coastal marshland in lace, was fascinating. 5/5.

Sep 15, 2019, 10:43pm Top

>53 Jackie_K: Coincidentally, a friend had just recommended this Douglas Adams book to me. I'd not known about it until now, but it sounds like I definitely need to add it to the TBR stack!

Sep 20, 2019, 4:25pm Top

>72 mathgirl40: I hope you enjoy it! I loved it.

Category: On the Front Line (non-fiction: general)

I'm now caught up with my Elementum reading, with Elementum Journal: 5: Hearth which came out earlier this year. I already can't wait for edition 6, which comes out towards the end of the year (there are two editions a year, and my birthday present was last year's back issues plus a subscription for this year). This was just as good as the previous ones - I think my favourite article was by Nicola Davies, about how she uses sketching to exercise her creativity as she looks to connect with landscape and write about it, I related a lot to that and I really want to get back to sketching to try and connect with my inner creativity. Not that I have any talent whatsoever, but it's just an hour or so that I can completely immerse myself in creating something and it gives me enormous pleasure, and I think sparks my imagination and creativity at a very deep level. I was also really surprised to see an article by Colin Taylor, who is better known as the author of The Life of a Scilly Sergeant. 5/5.

Sep 23, 2019, 12:52pm Top

Category: Wild Swans (Biography/autobiography/memoir/true story)

When They Call You a Terrorist is a memoir by one of Black Lives Matter's co-founders, Patrisse Khan-Cullors (co-written with asha bendele). Most of the book is actually a memoir of her life and her family before the founding of BLM, and is a blistering account of everyday institutional and structural racism. Heartbreaking, hopeful, angry. A must-read. 4.5/5.

Sep 23, 2019, 1:01pm Top

>74 Jackie_K: I read that a few years ago and it's still on my mind. Such a powerful memoir and one that taught me so much.

Sep 23, 2019, 1:07pm Top

>75 RidgewayGirl: Yes, I agree. Actually it might be you I got the BB from for it!

Sep 23, 2019, 4:43pm Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (September TBRCat: Classics I ought to have read)

A Study in Scarlet is Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes mystery. It's also the first Sherlock Holmes book I've ever read. I quite enjoyed it, although it's not really my thing. His sarcasm towards the bumbling detectives in the first half of the book did make me smile. 3/5.

Sep 23, 2019, 6:50pm Top

Hope you had a great weekend -- Stirling was in my thoughts because of all the Bloody Scotland festival coverage :D Did you make it out to the fitba?

Sep 23, 2019, 8:50pm Top

>74 Jackie_K: What a terrific book, and one I'll never forget. I often press it onto others because it was such an eye-opener.

Sep 24, 2019, 10:18am Top

>78 rabbitprincess: Thank you! We actually went on a museum trip on Saturday to Irvine (Ayrshire coast - the Scottish Maritime Museum - fab museum) so I didn't make it to the fitba in the end. I'm guessing it was a bit of a grudge match after last year! Just checked on twitter, looks like England won again (3-0). And the weather was gorgeous, so it would have been a good day for it.

>79 VivienneR: Yes, I agree. Although there was a bit near the end, when she was talking about the US election result and comparing it to Canada, who had relatively recently elected Trudeau, and wondered what she'd say about the current revelations about him and all the blackface stuff. (well, it's probably obvious what she'd say, but you know what I mean!)

Sep 24, 2019, 4:51pm Top

>80 Jackie_K: Ooh, I'm going to have to add the Scottish Maritime Museum to the bucket of attractions we use to put together trip itineraries ;) Also kind of want to go to Ayr, because Shaun Bythell (owner of The Book Shop) posted a photo once of the exquisitely named music store "Ayr Guitar".

Sep 25, 2019, 1:00pm Top

>81 rabbitprincess: It has two sites - the one we went to in Irvine, and also one in Dumbarton (which has an excellent castle on a rock).

Also, to return to the fitba, I was amused to see author Emily Dodd tweet that she'd been part of the Scotland team. She actually did an author visit the day before to A's school for the younger children - her 'crime' book is Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief (which is excellent - we had it for bedtime story last night!). I love that that still qualified her for the team! :D

Sep 25, 2019, 5:10pm Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (September Non-Fiction Challenge: Books by Journalists)

Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible by Alan Rusbridger is a book I've wanted to read for ages. By day (and much of the night as well, it seems) he was the Editor of The Guardian, but is also a keen amateur pianist, and he challenged himself to learn in a year Chopin's Ballade No. 1. As the blurb puts it, "His timing could have been better". As well as trying to carve out 20 minutes a day to practice, and meeting and interviewing professional pianists, neuroscientists, and well-known amateurs (including Condoleezza Rice), he also has to deal with two massive stories that year - the News of the World hacking scandal, and WikiLeaks - as well as assorted other major news stories, including one of their own journalists being kidnapped in Libya. As a (very very very out of practice) amateur musician myself, who like him was a pretty decent player at school but has not really gone beyond that, I found this account absolutely fascinating, and I really admired his efforts. He didn't choose any old piece - as his annotated score at the back of the book shows (and the many professional pianists he speaks with attest), this piece is absolutely fiendish. To even have considered it he must be a pretty decent player already, but that doesn't diminish the achievement, as he documents the highs and lows, the errors and agonising over fingerings and techniques, the nerves and the frustrations and the occasional triumphs. There were aspects that I was less able to relate to (not least his second country home with a specially built music room in the garden, and being able to splash out several thousand pounds more than his original budget on a second hand Steinway grand piano for that music room), but even still, this is a very very readable account of a bonkers challenge taking place during a bonkers year. 4.5/5.

Sep 25, 2019, 5:47pm Top

>83 Jackie_K: Total BB for me on this one! I'm also an amateur pianist who took lessons up through college but haven't played seriously since then. And I love the Ballade No. 1! Maybe I will attempt the same challenge...but I'd love to read the book first! :)

Sep 25, 2019, 7:47pm Top

>82 Jackie_K: Ahaha that book sounds great! We have a running joke at work about squirrels :D

Dumbarton is on Mum's list of places to visit, so we'll have to try to get there for sure!

Sep 26, 2019, 8:11am Top

>83 Jackie_K: A BB for me! I took piano lessons even in college; but what with kids and a career, I'm reduced to hymns and Christmas Carols. I have been seriously thinking of either Fur Elise or Moonlight Sonata as a challenge beginning in 2020--which is going to be my year of challenges...losing 40-50 pounds, joining a gym, and getting back to the piano. Of course all those things will take me away from reading as much as I do; but the payoff will be worth it. (I hope!)

Sep 26, 2019, 5:16pm Top

>83 Jackie_K: I played as a kid-- until I was about 8-yo and basically had my first nervous breakdown. For the recital, I really, really wanted to play Beethoven's Fur Elise but instead, I was told I was to play Chopin's Valse No 8/Op. 64. The pressure mounted and I just couldn't get it down much less memorize it! During the final dress rehearsal, I ended up playing only a few measures before getting up and walking away. My parents were furious! I've often wondered why they applied so much pressure on me at that age for for something that was meant to be an extracurricular activity. Anyway, I might go back to it one day, when I have the space for a piano and the time-- though if I do, Chopin is definitely off of the playlist! :-)

P.S. - Also taking the BB!

Sep 27, 2019, 4:03am Top

>87 Tanya-dogearedcopy: that's awful! I used to have such bad stage fright that I'd be sick before every time I had to stand up in front of anyone and do anything. But it was always self induced pressure, not external pressure. I was never in the position that I had to do something that far outside my comfort zone. I played the flute & sang in the school choir, but never that well at either.

I've been trying to resist the BB, but I fear it has got me eventually. Making time in your life for you and the something that matters is a really good way to change things. Since I changed job almost 2 years ago, I've made time for some exercise, and go up to bed to read for 30 minutes before going to sleep, to give some time away from the screens. Neither of itself is a big change, but they've made a big difference to my health, sleep and mental state. I'm not going to play the piano any time soon (and I gave the flute away years ago) but the idea is a sound one.

Sep 27, 2019, 8:55am Top

>84 christina_reads: >86 Tess_W: >87 Tanya-dogearedcopy: >88 Helenliz: I'm delighted to have hit so many targets this time! My main instrument was the clarinet, and I did actually do a music degree for my first degree (which is where I lost interest, if I'm honest). But I had to have the piano as a second instrument - I was never that brilliant at it, but I enjoy noodling about on pianos when I find them. Our best man (who in fact was the person who gave me the BB for this book in the first place) and I often have a go at some piano duets when we go and stay with them. It's pretty much the only time I play now, so it always sounds a bit ropey (especially my end of the piano!), but it's fun.

>85 rabbitprincess: I don't remember an awful lot about Dumbarton Castle, but I do remember fantastic views! It's not that far from Loch Lomond and all the stunning scenery round there.

Sep 27, 2019, 3:10pm Top

>80 Jackie_K: I know we don't usually talk politics here but I have to say the photo would never have surfaced if we were not in the middle of an election campaign. In Trudeau's defence, he was at an "Arabian Nights" costume party at a Sikh temple where he dressed as Aladdin. The temple congregation have also spoken in his defence. Calling it blackface probably made his opponent, the source of the photo, very happy, but was misleading. In any case, it hasn't affected my opinion of him.

Sep 27, 2019, 3:38pm Top

>90 VivienneR: Yes, I'm very sure it's election muck-raking too. It hasn't really made the news here that I'm aware of, I only know about it because a Canadian friend posted a couple of articles on facebook. It's pretty unfortunate though, and as you say, a very convenient distraction for his opponents. It's certainly no worse than the ugly politics this side of the Pond right now :(

Edited: Sep 27, 2019, 6:21pm Top

>91 Jackie_K: My news source of choice is The Guardian, it seems to be the most trustworthy (according to my journalist son and my own experience) but they didn't go into any more details than the shocking headlines. I'm following the UK news too because as a Northern Ireland expat the outcome is of particular interest.

>83 Jackie_K: That looks interesting! I'll have a look for it. My daughter-in-law just gave me This Is Your Brain on Music: the science of a human obsession by Daniel J. Levitin, which should keep my musical side occupied for a while. She doesn't read music or play an instrument so it didn't mean much to her.

Sep 28, 2019, 6:39am Top

>92 VivienneR: Ooh, I'll have to look out for that Levitin book, it sounds like another one up my street! I also have a copy of Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks which I'm keen to read at some point.

Edited: Sep 28, 2019, 2:00pm Top

>93 Jackie_K: LOL Jackie, whenever I stop by your thread I see that we have many of the same books, as far as non-fiction goes. That is striking because I'm not in general (except for work) a non-fiction reader; while I know that's what you prefer. I have Musicophilia on my book shelf

Sep 28, 2019, 8:05pm Top

>92 VivienneR: >93 Jackie_K: My book club enjoyed Musicophilia last year.

Sep 30, 2019, 12:37am Top

>95 Robertgreaves: That's good to hear. Maybe we should have a music category next year.

Edited: Sep 30, 2019, 4:25pm Top

>86 Tess_W: I love that idea! :-)

Oct 4, 2019, 1:19pm Top

I'm enjoying the music love on this thread! :D

Category: The Shepherd's Life (October TBRCat: Books bought for their visual appeal)

These beautiful books, Griffin and Sabine, Sabine's Notebook, and The Golden Mean, by Nick Bantock, have been on my shelves for a LONG time. Precisely, since July 1995, when I remember buying them in a bookshop in Vancouver during a fantastic holiday to Canada. The trilogy (which hasn't finished - now I really want to get the next installments after the cliffhanger of the 3rd book) is of the correspondence between lonely artist Griffin in London and Pacific Islander artist Sabine, who sees Griffin's drawings as he draws them, although they've never met and they live across the world from each other. It takes the forms of postcards and letters that you remove from the envelope and read as though you're reading the actual correspondence, beautifully illustrated. It's never entirely clear what is reality and what is imagination - is Sabine merely a fevered imaginary lover to assuage Griffin's loneliness and growing madness, or is there a more concrete mystery going on? Needless to say, in each book (including the final one) just when you think you might get an answer the plot thickens and the mystery grows. Weird and beautiful. 4.5/5 for all three of them.

Category: On the Front Line (Non-fiction: general)

Silk Flower Goodbye (no touchstone) is a collection of poetry just published by one of my online writing friends, Sage Gordon-Davis. I pre-ordered it and read it in its entirety for National Poetry Day (3rd Oct). Short poems about life, love and loss, I really liked these. I'm not a big poetry fan, but these were profound without being poncey, and didn't make me feel like I was thick for not understanding what on earth is happening, which is how I feel about a lot of poetry. A couple of the poems on loss really hit me with their simple beauty. 4.5/5.

Oct 7, 2019, 10:44am Top

Category: On the Front Line (Non-fiction: general)

How to Draw Absolutely Anything is an activity book by the artist Ilya. It doesn't go into detail on every possible thing you could draw, but does look at techniques, equipment, stuff to think about and then encourages you to get sketching and drawing every day. I think the ebook version missed a bit of an opportunity because I found the formatting quite annoying - especially the different font sizes - and I found his chatty style didn't always work for me. That said, there were some useful sections on things like shading and use of different width drawing implements to get different effects, and I will try those out. 3/5.

Oct 11, 2019, 10:48am Top

Category: Wild Swans (auto/biography/memoir/true story)

Matt Lucas, the comedian probably best known as one half of Little Britain, and as George Dawes in Shooting Stars, presents his memoir Little Me in A-Z form, and this is a surprisingly effective way to cover many aspects of his life. He's known triumph, tragedy, absurdity and great success, and I found this a really readable and entertaining account. It's both funny and sad, and (considering I'm not a gay Jewish actor-comedian) very relatable. As well as the highs of his career, he very sensitively talks about his split from, and the subsequent death of, his partner Kevin, and the profound effect that had on him. This isn't my usual kind of read, but a friend of mine who is even more of an unlikely audience for this book than me read it recently and said how much she'd enjoyed it. It's certainly worth a read if celebrity memoirs are your thing. 3.5/5.

Oct 19, 2019, 1:17pm Top

Category: Sea Room (Celtic)

Scotland's Islands (no touchstone) by photographer Allan Wright is a beautiful book I got from the library this month. It's mostly just photos, with minimal captions by journalist Marianne Taylor. Unashamedly going for the coffee table market, I'd quite happily get my own copy and leave it around for browsing. 4/5.

Category: On the Front Line (Non-fiction: general)

John Berger's Ways of Seeing is a book I got related to a module of my current creative non-fiction writing course. It's based on the 1970s documentary series of the same name, where Berger discussed paintings and other art and how to 'read' them. Sadly because I was reading this in an ebook version, the pictures were really difficult to make out, but other than that an interesting read. 3.5/5.

Category: Hurrah for Gin! (sexual & reproductive health & rights; parenting; children; gender)

Feminism and the Politics of Childhood: Friends or Foes?, edited by Katherine Twamley and Rachel Rosen, is an academic book which draws (as the title suggests) on both feminist scholarship and childhood studies to explore how the two disciplines might more productively work together and mutually support, rather than antagonise, each other. Some of the chapters were by academics, others by practitioners from organisations around the world. I found the chapters on domestic violence and international commercial surrogacy particularly interesting. I did get really cross with one of the essays (about schools) though - it felt like the author was criticising education in schools despite their own educational privilege. 3.5/5.

Category: The Politics of Duplicity (academic)

I bought Stephanie Springgay and Sarah E Turner's Walking Methodologies in a More-than-Human World: WalkingLab recently with great expectation following someone I know's enthusiastic endorsement, as I thought it sounded like it would have a lot to add to stuff I'm thinking about in my own writing. I'm pretty sure it does have a lot to add to stuff I'm thinking about, but unfortunately the writing was so couched in academese that I found it really hard to penetrate. There was enough there to make me think that now I've read it, once I've had a bit of a break I might go back to it and maybe I'll see a bit more clearly what they're saying. But I'm a bit disappointed at how inaccessible it felt. 3.5/5.

Category: Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (religious)

Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy is a book I've had on my shelf for well over a decade, and I'm so glad I finally got round to reading it. He writes about his Christian faith, why he believes what he believes, how his beliefs have been shaped by many different denominations and ways of thinking, and the implications of all of this for living his faith. I know many conservative Christians think he's a dangerous heretic, personally I felt this was all pretty mainstream (probably because I agreed with a lot of what he wrote). This was published in 2004, and I think particularly his thoughts on the environment and climate change were very prescient. 4.5/5.

Oct 19, 2019, 1:55pm Top

>101 Jackie_K: I think I would enjoy browsing the island book!

Oct 19, 2019, 4:52pm Top

>102 thornton37814: It's one of those lovely books you can open at any page and just gaze for ages.

Category: The Shepherd's Life (August RandomCAT: Back to School)

The Moon Stallion by Brian Hayles is a real blast from my past! It is the novelisation of a TV series for children which was shown on British TV in (gulp) 1978. I remember watching it at the time (I would have been 9) and being absolutely gripped by it, and then a few years later finding this book in the library and getting it out several times over the subsequent years to read. I don't know what made me think of it again but I got a 2nd hand copy of the book a few years ago (the cover states on the back 'UK price 60p' which makes me feel really old!). I'm always a bit apprehensive reading books I loved as a child, in case they don't have the same magic, but this was just as good as I remember. Considering I was only 9 when it came out, both TV show and book are quite creepy, but it's not gratuitous and it never gave me nightmares!

It's based in the early years of the 20th century, around the bit of the Ridgeway that includes Wayland's Smithy and the White Horse at Uffington. A mysterious and untamed white stallion is coveted by a rich landowner and his surly stablemaster, for different reasons, and the stallion appears frequently to Diana, a blind girl who is staying with her father who is employed by the landowner to do historical and archaeological investigations into the King Arthur myth. The stallion links past, present and future, the realm of the Moon Goddess, and pagan myth, and it is Diana who holds the key to the cosmic battle that will play out at the pagan festival of Beltane.

Great literature it isn't, and the ending was really quite rushed, but this is a cracking story which holds up well. Plus a piece of trivia for the Dr Who nerds out there - as well as writing The Moon Stallion, Brian Hayles also wrote a number of Dr Who episodes, and Sarah Sutton, the actress who played Diana, also appeared in Dr Who as Nyssa (companion first to Tom Baker and then to Peter Davison). 4.5/5.

Oct 24, 2019, 8:43am Top

Category: On the Front Line (Non-fiction: general)

Given the tumultuous (or ridiculous, depending on viewpoint) political shenanigans currently going on in the UK, I felt an urge to read something vaguely current about Brexit. Dreams of Leaving and Remaining by journalist James Meek sees him going to various parts of the country and looking at why people voted as they did, what they expect, and how things are playing out. So he visits high Leave vote areas like Grimsby (former fish workers, potential new hub for offshore wind) and Norfolk (to talk to farmers), plus looks at the NHS in Leicestershire, and the area of the West Midlands where Cadbury closed its factory in 2010 to move to Poland. Initially I found myself a bit irritated because he seemed to be saying 'England' when he meant the UK (I'm English, but have been in Scotland long enough to find this tendency very frustrating!). However, once I'd accepted that this is basically an account of Brexit from an English rather than UK perspective, I was able to settle in and found this very interesting (and very sad). I liked his point that by appropriating the St George and the Dragon myth, the Leave campaign was able to tap into a narrative that resonated with voters in a way that the Remain campaigns simply weren't. This isn't going to convince anyone to change their minds (arguably it's too late for that anyway), but I did find it a useful, albeit thoroughly depressing, addition to the debate. 4/5.

Oct 29, 2019, 9:35pm Top

>103 Jackie_K: I lived for three years in a converted barn on the Ridgeway a little east of where the book is set, near Wantage. It's a gorgeous part of the world.

Nov 2, 2019, 1:50pm Top

>105 RidgewayGirl: It's a lovely part of the world, and somewhere I'd like to explore some time.

Category: The Shepherd's Life (October Non-Fiction Challenge: Other Worlds)

Silence and Honey Cakes, by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, is a slim volume containing a series of lectures he gave about the 4th and 5th century desert fathers and mothers (men and women who lived out their monastic calling in the desert of Egypt), considering their wisdom and insight for life today. Plenty to think about, and (for a man who was often - unfairly in my view - considered overly academic and waffly) readable and accessible. 4/5.

Nov 2, 2019, 6:01pm Top

>106 Jackie_K: Sounds like a lovely read!

Nov 3, 2019, 2:29am Top

>107 Tess_W: I am thinking this would fit with your Reading In Time category for next year? Maybe?

Nov 7, 2019, 1:14pm Top

>107 Tess_W: It was a nice gentle read, yes!
>108 JayneCM: Must admit I've let Reading in Time pass me by - I've got enough categories to be getting on with! :)

Category: The Shepherd's Life (November Non-Fiction Challenge: Creators and Creativity)

As a card-carrying literary wimp, there is normally no way that I would let a Stephen King book (or film) anywhere near me. On Writing though is an exception - subtitled "A Memoir of the Craft", it's all about how he writes and what he's found helpful. It's not so much a how-to book though - there aren't millions of exercises or formulae - but it's largely a memoir of his life, to show how aspects of his life have made him the writer he is today. I thought it was absolutely terrific, and will be dipping in and out of this often. 5/5.

Nov 7, 2019, 1:39pm Top

>109 Jackie_K: I had a conversation with VictoriaPL yesterday where we discussed books about writing (I'm reading a substandard one now) and we talked about how they tend to either be inspirational or instructional. King's book is definitely inspirational - every time I read it, I want to start writing immediately.

Nov 7, 2019, 1:41pm Top

>110 RidgewayGirl: Oh yes, absolutely! The instructional ones have their place (sometimes I just need to be told what to do!), but it's the inspirational ones that put the fire in your belly to have another go at it.

Nov 9, 2019, 4:23pm Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (November TBRCat: Book given to you as a gift)

The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favourite films, and Cary Elwes, co-author (with Joe Layden) of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the making of The Princess Bride was, of course, the actor who played Westley in that wonderful film. This is his recollections from initial audition and first read-through to all the filming and then beyond after the film was released, and as well as his narrative it also features comments from many of the other actors throughout the book. To start with I thought it was going to be a bit "luvvie", but within a couple of chapters I was completely charmed - what comes across here is just how much fun everyone involved with the film had, and how much they genuinely liked and respected each other. Utterly delightful. 4.5/5.

Nov 16, 2019, 1:45pm Top

Category: Sea Room (Celtic)

This month's library book was the wonderful The Nature of Spring by one of my favourite Scottish nature writers, Jim Crumley. It's part of a tetralogy of books (he's previously published books on the nature of autumn and winter), and I now want to own all of them so will be adding all 3 to my wishlist before Christmas. This is just beautiful writing which always transports me to wherever he is writing about, and it means I've also added a couple of locations to my bucket list (particularly after this book the Isle of May, off the Fife coast). This book covers the area near where he lives, in Highland Stirlingshire, and a number of Scottish islands, but also this one includes a chapter on Lindisfarne in northern England. Highly recommended, as always (and also: another gorgeous cover!). 4.5/5.

Nov 17, 2019, 3:15am Top

>113 Jackie_K: These books are going straight on my list!

Nov 20, 2019, 3:11pm Top

>114 JayneCM: If the other two are as good as this one was then you're in for a treat!

Category: The Shepherd's Life (November TBRCat: Books bought for you as a gift)

Cunk on Everything features the wonderful comedy creation Philomena Cunk. For those who don't know her, she's basically a spoof journalist/documentary presenter, and her recent TV series was hilarious, sending up a very particular type of British documentary which always takes itself far too seriously. This book is in the form of a dictionary, with alphabetical entries and Philomena's, um, unique explanations. I'll be honest, I didn't find this anywhere near as funny as the TV series (I think it needs her deadpan presentation), but there were a few places where I did laugh, and I think this would be a great toilet book. It was a bit much reading from start to finish, but randomly dipping in and reading a couple of entries would keep it much fresher. The entry on 'Nigel Farridge' was great, and the entry on Doctor Who was savage, but very clever. And the deliberate over-use of 'it was very much the internet of its day' was also pretty funny. 3.5/5.

Nov 20, 2019, 5:37pm Top

For anyone who hasn't experienced the sheer delight of Philomena Cunk, here's a very short taster.


Nov 21, 2019, 9:30am Top

>116 RidgewayGirl: Haha, that's brilliant! Actually, her voiceover for the first bit (before the interview with the Science Man) was pretty much word for word the entry for 'Time' in this book. It just works better I think with the whole visual experience.

Nov 22, 2019, 4:37pm Top

Category: Journey to the Edge of the World (Travel)

Nick Griffiths' Who Goes There? (50th anniversary edition) is the tale of a Dr Who nerd visiting various locations where both classic and new Who episodes were filmed, and discovering weird and random places in southern England and Wales. It took me a couple of chapters to warm to him (he was a bit 'grumpy old man' to start with, despite only being a couple of years older than me), but the more I read the more I was won over. The book was accompanied by a website with all his photos, but I can't find that however much I google, so that's a bit frustrating as I'd love to see the pictures. Other than that though this is well worth a read, and it's not just for the diehard Who fans. 4/5.

Nov 22, 2019, 10:30pm Top

>118 Jackie_K: Sounds like a fun one for TravelKIT for next year!

Nov 23, 2019, 4:15am Top

>119 JayneCM: Yes, there are spots in Wales and England in this book which will not appear in many other travel books, that's for sure!

Nov 24, 2019, 11:29am Top

Category: On the Front Line (Non-Fiction: General)

David Quammen's The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions is a hefty tome which has taken me some time to get through, but it was well well worth the effort. It's not a new book (published late 1990s), but is still highly contemporary in its concerns. In it he traces the academic, theoretical and practical conservation story of understanding evolution, extinction, and conservation through looking specifically at flora and fauna of island groups around the world (including 'islands' on the mainland, eg mountain habitats cut off from other populations). He travels all over the world, interviews the major players from the 1960s onwards, carefully considers the impact and legacy of those who went before (eg Darwin and Wallace), and has produced an absolutely brilliant book. As well as bringing the wildlife and habitats to literary life, he also manages to make academic spats, discussions, debates and agonisings into a fascinating story. I can't remember who on LT read and reviewed this and hit me with a BB, but I'm so grateful - this is an absolutely terrific read, and I highly recommend it. 5/5.

Nov 24, 2019, 8:03pm Top

>115 Jackie_K: and >116 RidgewayGirl: - Well, you both have definitely caught my interest in the Philomena Cunk comedy series, since I have never heard of it before now. ;-)

Nov 25, 2019, 2:05am Top

>121 Jackie_K: Well, I am going to take a BB on that one and slot it into 2020 NonfictionCAT right now!

Dec 2, 2019, 8:19am Top

>122 lkernagh: I think she's definitely worth a watch (probably more than a read) - she is hilarious though!

>123 JayneCM: I hope you enjoy it! It's a bit of a chunkster, but worth the effort!

Category: On the Front Line (non-fiction: general)

I read Anne Janzer's The Writer's Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear a couple of months ago and liked it, so decided to try another one of her writing how-to's, Writing to be Understood: What Works and Why. If anything I think I liked this one even more - it is aimed at non-fiction writers, and looks a lot at the psychology and physiology of how readers react to certain types of writing. I'll be dipping in and out of this one quite a lot, I suspect. 4.5/5.

Dec 5, 2019, 9:37am Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (October RandomCAT: Knock-offs, Follow-ups, Tributes, Parodies)

Julian Barr's debut novel The Way Home (Ashes of Olympus) is the first in the Ashes of Olympus trilogy, a modern retelling of Virgil's Aeneid. I bought it because Julian is yet another online writing buddy, I was a bit daunted because this sort of thing is a bit out of my comfort zone, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. The action starts just after the Greeks have entered Troy in the Trojan Horse and destroyed the city, and Aeneas and the remnant of the Trojan people escape, steal some Greek boats and sail away to try and find a new homeland. Behind the scenes - and sometimes centre stage - the gods are scheming. Battles earthly and heavenly ensue. This book finishes with the Trojans arriving at Queen Dido's Karkhedon. The next in the trilogy, The Ivory Gate, has just been released recently, and I'm really looking forward to carrying on with the story. 4.5/5.

Dec 5, 2019, 10:36am Top

>125 Jackie_K: This sounds very promising!

Dec 5, 2019, 12:30pm Top

>126 MissWatson: It was very readable! Some people have it tagged as YA, but I'm not sure why - I suppose because it's not very graphic, despite lots of death, so I guess it would be suitable reading for younger adults. But it worked fine for this 50 year old!

Dec 6, 2019, 3:38am Top

>127 Jackie_K: Just ordered it from my bookstore after a peek inside. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Dec 6, 2019, 12:13pm Top

>125 Jackie_K: Looks good. I'm a sucker for retellings, but I'll have to get to The Aeneid first.

Dec 6, 2019, 6:16pm Top

>125 Jackie_K: Definitely a BB for me! I love anything about Troy and retellings in general.

Dec 7, 2019, 3:16am Top

>125 Jackie_K: Not real familiar with Greek/Roman epic poetry, but is Achilles in this one?

Dec 7, 2019, 3:36am Top

>131 Tess_W: Not if the conventional story of Achilles' death is taken, where he died before the end of the Trojan War after being shot in the heel by Paris. So I would say he would not be in this book.

Dec 7, 2019, 5:04am Top

>131 Tess_W: No, although he is mentioned in passing. As it happens, I'm not really familiar with the epic poetry either, but didn't find that a problem reading this.

>130 JayneCM: >132 JayneCM: Thanks Jayne! I think you'll enjoy this (and he's an Aussie author too!).

Dec 8, 2019, 4:41am Top

>133 Jackie_K: A fellow Aussie - yay!

Dec 10, 2019, 10:48am Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (December TBRCat: Books bought because they were so cheap)

Mission Improbable by J.J. Green was a book I got as a freebie from Bookbub a couple of years ago (I've since got book 3 in the series as well. Will buy book 2 to say thank you to the author!). It's the first in a series of 5 featuring Carrie Hatchett, Space Adventurer, and is a nice, silly, easy read. Carrie drifts from dead end job to dead end job, but life is suddenly made a lot more interesting when she is sucked in to a green mist appearing from her under-sink cupboard and finds herself reluctantly recruited to be a Transgalactic Council Liaison Officer. Carrie, her new work colleague Dave who is accidentally brought along as well, Carrie's Transgalactic Council boss Gavin (a ten-legged, hundred-eyed giant bug), and another Liaison Officer Belinda (who is brought in as Carrie is deemed to be so inept) have to try to sort out a dispute between two alien species, the ootoon (a giant yellow custard) and the placktoids (giant paperclips). As the dispute escalates, will our heroes succeed and survive to return to Earth? (well, spoiler alert, there are 4 more books in the series...). This was a fun and diverting read, and it's nice and short too so I didn't feel like I was committing to something that would end up being a drag (not that I'm looking at Vanity Fair here or anything. Sigh. I *will* finish that this year, but it might finish me off first). 3.5/5.

Dec 10, 2019, 6:43pm Top

>135 Jackie_K: wishlisted

Dec 11, 2019, 7:34am Top

>125 Jackie_K: Found a copy of The Way Home Ashes of Olympus. One library in my state has it, so it will be making a 350 kilometre journey to get to me! Putting it on my list for the mythology BingoDOG square.

Dec 16, 2019, 12:01pm Top

>136 Robertgreaves: I hope you enjoy it - it's not the most literary thing I've ever read! But it was fun.

>137 JayneCM: Good that they found it - have fun! I'm hoping to get to the sequel early next year.

Category: To Kill a Mockingbird (Vintage fiction: 1900-1968)

The First Circle by Alexander Sozhenitsyn is a huge book which took me ages to read, but don't let that put you off - it's very absorbing. Based over 3 days in 1949 in the Mavrino special prison just outside Moscow, the book follows the prisoners, prison staff, and even Stalin briefly, looking at every small and insignificant detail and providing a chilling insight into the surveillance culture and pointless incarceration of so many during Stalin's regime in the USSR. It also features a diplomat, Innokenty, who at the start of the book takes the risk of phoning a colleague to warn him about the danger of arrest, and looks at how the work going on in the prison is key to how Innokenty is identified and subsequently arrested. This is stifling, unremitting, but a brilliant look at human nature and this particular period in Soviet history. 4/5.

Dec 18, 2019, 5:03pm Top

Category: The Shepherd's Life (December Non-Fiction Challenge: I've Always Been Curious About...)

Rory MacLean wrote one of my all-time favourite books, Stalin's Nose, in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A semi-fictionalised travelogue, I thought it captured eastern Europe in the very early 90s beautifully. Since then he has continued to blur the boundaries of travel writing, and in this book, Back in the USSR: Heroic Adventures in Transnistria, with photographer Nick Danziger, he turns his attention to the unrecognised state of Transnistria - officially part of Moldova, but in reality a breakaway republic which is trying to reunite with Russia, and which is functioning as though the Soviet Union still exists. As the author blurb puts it, "In sleight-of-hand Transnistria he found at last a place where there was no need for invention (or at least not much)." This journey around Transnistria, hosted by an unnamed rich business man he refers to as New Soviet Man, highlights the reality and absurdity of daily life, and the everyday paradoxes that characterise life there. Nick Danziger's photos are great. I loved this book, it was fascinating. I suspect the feeling of 'is that real or is he making that up?' is a pretty accurate reflection of how I'd feel if I were able to visit. 5/5.

Dec 18, 2019, 10:26pm Top

>139 Jackie_K: Oh, this sounds interesting!

Dec 19, 2019, 1:00pm Top

>140 RidgewayGirl: It really was! I love a good armchair travel book, and the photos were a bonus.

Category: The Sparrow (Contemporary fiction: 1969-present)

Regency romance is not a genre I think I've ever read before (unless Jane Austen counts? I'm not sure), and I can't say it's something I'd normally rush to read, but this novella, Captain Kempton's Christmas by Jayne Davis, is short enough that I was prepared to take the risk! And actually, I quite enjoyed it! I've no idea how it compares to classics in the genre, and it wasn't at all demanding, but it was a nice way to while away an hour or so. Captain Kempton is visiting his aunt for Christmas having returned home from his Naval posting in the Caribbean. Also staying there is family friend Anna, the woman who had promised to wait for him 4 years ago when he first went to sea, but who had married someone else shortly afterwards, breaking his heart. Anna is now widowed. Will Philip forgive her, and understand her reasons for breaking her promise? Will their romance be rekindled? Or will Philip's cousin, who has designs on him herself, succeed in driving a more permanent wedge between them? 3.5/5 (but I might revise that upwards if I ever read any other regency romance authors I can compare it to!).

Dec 19, 2019, 4:18pm Top

>141 Jackie_K: Oh, fun, your first Regency romance! For me (and many others), Georgette Heyer is the gold standard, so I would highly recommend her romances! Some of my faves are Cotillion, Sylvester, and Frederica.

Dec 19, 2019, 6:34pm Top

>142 christina_reads: I used to read all my mum's Georgette Heyer when I was a teenager. That is where my love of historical fiction began!

Edited: Dec 20, 2019, 3:36am Top

>143 JayneCM: Whereas I shunned them as they were cissy! When we cleared their house I did make sure I hung onto the entire shelf, having seen the error of my ways.
>141 Jackie_K: Heyer pretty much invented the genre and remains it's class act. Now you've dipped one toe in the water, maybe dive right in? Come on in, the water's lovely!

Dec 20, 2019, 2:35am Top

>144 Helenliz: Oh you are lucky - mum got rid of all hers! And I never see them at op shops. Maybe people keep them. I have a book on my to read list, Georgette Heyer's Regency World. This chat has inspired me to move it up the list! And maybe I will have to start from the beginning and read them all again. An idea for 2021 category challenge!

Dec 21, 2019, 3:06am Top

Some great reads, Jackie! I have yet to read my first Heyer, but it's on my e-reader--maybe 2020!

Dec 23, 2019, 2:17pm Top

>142 christina_reads: >143 JayneCM: >144 Helenliz: >146 Tess_W: I'm loving all the Heyer love! I have far too many books still on my TBR, but if I see a Heyer book in the library I might pick it up.

Category: On the Front Line (Non-fiction: general)

Too Much Stuff: Capitalism in Crisis by Kozo Yamamura is a book written by an economics professor for a non-academic audience, and his main point (as I understand it) is that because of the developed nations' insistence on pursuing supply-side economics, economic growth and equality has been poor, and instead he advocates a system investing much more in societal needs in order to stop ever-increasing inequality and protect democracy. He mainly illustrates his thesis with examples from the US, Japan and Germany, although he does consider more briefly the economies of the UK, Italy, France and Spain as well. For this non-economist, this was an accessible and readable account, although I'm not sure how much of it I will retain (my problem, not the book's!). 3.5/5.

Category: Hurrah for Gin! (sexual & reproductive health/rights; parenting; children; gender)

Joanna Mishtal's The Politics of Morality: The Church, the State, and Reproductive Rights in Postsocialist Poland is a book that is very strongly related to my own PhD (on reproductive health in Romania and Moldova), so I was really interested to read her take on the issues in Poland. If I'd had the same amount of time to do my research that she had (23 months of fieldwork over a 14 year period for her, versus a single 5.5 months of fieldwork for me), maybe I could have written something this good too (sigh). This was a really excellent and fascinating look at legislation, activism, history and politics around the forever contested arena of women's reproductive health and rights in Poland. There are some similarities in what I found in Romania and Moldova, but significant differences (not least the pervasive influence of the Polish Catholic Church). This is an extensively researched and really well analysed book which was a joy to read and should be read by anyone interested in reproductive rights, gender and culture in eastern Europe. 4.5/5.

Dec 24, 2019, 1:59pm Top

Wishing all my lovely LT friends a very happy Christmas! I hope that you have a peaceful, happy and safe Christmas, with lots of lovely reading!

Dec 24, 2019, 3:15pm Top

Wishing you too a very Merry Christmas and all that is good in the New Year. I've really enjoyed reading your thread - and adding to my wishlist - and looking forward to more of that in 2020.

Dec 24, 2019, 4:42pm Top

Merry Christmas, Jackie! :D

Dec 25, 2019, 2:55am Top

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, Jackie. May it be filled with good fact filled books and love.

Dec 25, 2019, 6:15am Top

>150 rabbitprincess: >151 Helenliz: Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you too! (my resolve to not go online on Christmas Day went well, as you can see - *ahem*). Central Scotland is mainly foggy today - I'm sure some places are having a white Christmas, but those places will mainly be the tops of mountains.

Santa has brought me 8 books from my wishlist, I am so excited as they are all excellent! (I got quite a lot of socks as well, am also quite excited about them!)

Dec 25, 2019, 12:12pm Top

Merry Christmas, Jackie.

Dec 25, 2019, 3:02pm Top

Merry Christmas, Jackie! I was lucky enough to get eleven books, three of which were from my wishlist and all were well chosen, so we both did very well. No socks for me, however.

Dec 26, 2019, 11:59am Top

>153 DeltaQueen50: >154 RidgewayGirl: I hope you both had a lovely Christmas too!

Category: Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (Religious)

My final year in London (2005) coincided with the centenary of the Church of England's Diocese of Southwark, and for my final two years there before moving to Scotland I went to a lovely church in the diocese. Anthony Hurst's Diocese of Southwark 1905-2005: A Centennial Celebration is a look back at 100 years not just of diocesan history but of South London's history, and was very interesting - he considered all sorts of things, from housing and employment, immigration and racism, education, the role of women, as well as what was happening in the Church. 3.5/5.

Category: Sea Room (Celtic)

Each year during Scottish Book Week for the past many years, the Scottish Book Trust has given away a free book as part of its mission to encourage reading and access to books. When I first moved here they gave away already published books (I remember one year they gave away Small Island by Andrea Levy), but I think 2015 was the first year when they encouraged people to submit their own themed short pieces for inclusion in an anthology, which is what they've done every year since. The end result was this collection of short stories and reminiscences, some fictional, some non-fictional, some poetry, on the broad theme of Journeys. A few of the pieces are by already-established writers, but most are by unpublished people who just felt inspired to submit their work. As is always the case with this sort of collection, some pieces were better than others, but I enjoyed reading it, and love that this is a chance for unknown writers to see themselves in print. 3.5/5.

Dec 27, 2019, 6:01am Top

Category: On the Front Line (Non-fiction: general)

A few years ago I read Stephen Clarke's 1000 Years of Annoying the French, which I remember quite enjoying although it did feel like he was trying a bit too hard to be Bill Bryson. Annoying the French Encore is a short sequel which he brought out about a year after the first book, because there were a few other events that year which highlighted French/British differences (the Royal Wedding, David Cameron walking out of a European summit, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's downfall, amongst others). This was in much the same vein as the original book, an amusing diversion, although it's not very long - a fair chunk of it is actually the first chapter of his latest at the time 'Merde...' novels. 3/5.

Dec 31, 2019, 4:44pm Top

Category: On the Front Line (non-fiction: general)

John McPhee is an essayist and long-time writer for The New Yorker magazine. In Draft No 4 he presents a series of eight essays on the writing process, particularly focusing on creative non-fiction. I didn't enjoy the first two so much (focusing on structure), but really enjoyed the others, and will dip in and out of this book many times in the future, I am sure. 4/5.

And with less than 3 hours to go till the end of the year, this final one means that I have managed to complete my full 2019 Category Challenge:

Category: David Copperfield (Ancient fiction: pre-1900)

It's taken me since April, when I started Thackeray's Vanity Fair, to the end of December to finish it - what a slog! I try to read at least one classic every year, because I'm aware that there are many that I haven't read and I think I am missing out on a number of literary references. This one is populated with an unpleasant cast of toxic and selfish characters, and I really struggled to care what was going to happen to pretty much all of them. I think my problem with many 'classics', and definitely my problem with this one, is the constant simpering towards the upper classes, and the equation of money with worth. I don't think this one will be going on the reread pile any time soon! 2.5/5.

Dec 31, 2019, 5:50pm Top

It is very hard to feel much for Becky Sharp!

Dec 31, 2019, 5:56pm Top

>158 JayneCM: Yes indeed! Although my least favourite character was actually George Osborne (not helped by the fact that he shares a name with one of our recent not-very-pleasant politicians).

Dec 31, 2019, 6:38pm Top

>159 Jackie_K: Just a cast of unlikeable characters! I found it hard to care about any of them or what happened to them. Sometimes unlikeable characters are a good thing, but in this case just made me feel 'meeeh' about the whole book. And it was one of the few BBC series that I didn't want to watch! I tried but couldn't get into it.

Edited: Jan 2, 6:34am Top

>157 Jackie_K: I found Vanity Fair rather a slog as well. I still can't see why it's such a popular classic. Did you have a good Hogmanay?

Jan 2, 6:39am Top

>161 Robertgreaves: Thank you Robert - Hogmanay for us was quiet but very nice. We just stayed indoors and I must admit I was in bed by 12.15! We could hear fireworks though (I presume from the big Stirling display up at the castle). Happy new year to you and yours!

Group: 2019 Category Challenge

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