Reading in 2022

Most memorable reads

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Fiction

The School for Good Mothers – Jessamine Chan

Read in 2022

Some favourite words: ‘She thought she would’ve become a different person if she’d grown up near mountains, believed that where you grew up determined your destiny.’

4.5/5

Femlandia – Christina Dalcher

Read in 2022

Began promisingly with a woman and her daughter navigating a dystopian world. Exclusionary tone and couldn’t maintain the intrigue for me.

0.5/5
They – Kay Dick

Read in 2022

The author creates the most beautiful scenery that is entirely and wonderfully at odds with the disturbing and sinister activities taking place. It took me a while to decide what I thought about the book, my love for it crept up on me. Two years after its original publication in 1977, ‘They’ was out of print. Lost for 40 years, I for one am grateful for its discovery and re-publication.

Some favourite words: ‘The day was light-hearted. A wind, slight and soft on the skin, enhanced rather than reduced the sun’s warmth. Plumes of foaming waves surfaced like fresh paint on the sea. A day for falling in love.’

5/5

Olive – Emma Gannon

Read in 2022

A throughly readable book, Olive providing that rare character of a woman who doesn’t want children. Unfortunately, she falls in love with a man with a teenage daughter who apparently provides Olive with ‘a newfound responsibility, something she’s been forever running away from’ and that kind of ruined it for me.

Some favourite words: ‘the answers to modern life’s big questions were normally found in Boots.’

3.5/5
Pessimism is for Lightweights: 13 Pieces of Courage and Resistance – Salena Godden

Read in 2022

I came to this collection of poems thanks to the podcast, The Poetry Exchange, where one of the poems was chosen as a friend to one of the guests. Reading the collection and its easy to see why any one of them might become a friend. The words will resonate with anyone who has recognised injustice and found a way to fight it. The collection reminds us of the power we have to ignite change, if only we can connect with our courage. The poem red, in the centre of the collection, is the best poem I’ve read on periods to date with vivid imagery and wry humour. The collection contains an additional pamphlet where the ‘Pessimism is for lightweights’ poem is translated into Old English. What I loved most about this were the set of notes provided in the back where Emily Cotman describes the language choices they’ve made since any translation requires careful decision making to locate a suitable word that expresses the original intention. All translations should be accompanied by the transparency of one’s choices.

Some favourite words: 

‘There is power and strength in optimism

To have faith and to stay true to you’

5/5
Transcendent Kingdom – Yaa Gyasi

Read in 2022

I might have enjoyed this even more than homegoing. So strong is the characterisation and setting that I feel as though I’ve been and met all of these people.

Some favourite words: ‘I started to feel like I didn’t have a self to gather ahold of, or rather that I had a million selves, too many to gather.’

5/5

Standard Deviation – Katherine Heiny

Read in 2022

A funny and enjoyable read. Thank you to @whatsarahreadnext for the recommendation.

Some favourite words: ‘Tracing a memory back to its source. Like following a stream through the woods and up a mountain until you find the spring trickling from a rock and you clear away the dead brown leaves of the intervening years and the water flows as sweetly as ever.’

3.5/5

Talking to the wild – Becky Hemsley

Read in 2022

A selection of bedtime stories for adults.

Some favourite words: ‘and she sat there for hours / not wanting to leave / for the forest said nothing… / it just let her breathe.’

2/5
Before the Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Read in 2022

I committed the worst error of not packing enough books for holiday. I ran out and had to raid the stock in the cottage. I recognised this title as one oft recommended to me and one long-resisted to avoid the hype. I couldn’t have loved it more. Time-travelling with heart.

Some favourite words: ‘Water flows from high places to low places. That is the nature of gravity. Emotions also seem to act according to gravity. When in the presence of someone with whom you have a bond, and to whom you have entrusted your feelings, it is hard to lie and get away with it. The truth just wants to come flowing out. This is especially the case when you are trying to hide your sadness or vulnerability. It is much easier to conceal sadness from a stranger, or from someone you don’t trust.’

5/5
Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe – Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Read in 2022

Having run out of books on holiday and reading the first in this series, I was thrilled to find the second in a local bookshop and devoured more tales from this cafe immediately. When can I visit?

Some favourite words: ‘We can never truly see into the hearts of others. When people get lost in their own worries, they can be blind to the feelings of those most important to them.’

5/5

No One Is Talking About This – Patricia Lockwood

Read in 2022

I spent most of this book feeling disoriented by the fragments of social media goings on and real life happenings. This was at least representative of modern life where nothing is fully committed to, complete presence of mind and body is rare, and actual life makes a mockery of what we choose to invest so much of our time in.

Some favourite words: ‘When a dog runs to you and nudges against your hand for love and you say automatically, I know, I know, what else are you talking about except the world?’

2.5/5

Metamorphosis – Charlotte Lunn

Read in 2022

Some favourite words: ‘be frugal with things

and not with feelings.’

2/5
How Beautiful We Were – Imbolo Mbue

Read in 2022

Gifted by Mainstreet Trading Company, Scottish Borders, as part of their Diverse Voices Book Subscription.

Set in the village of Kosawa, this is a fictional tale of corruption and colonialism, of justice, identity and legacy. Its echoes of the present mean that whilst its characters are imagined, its message is all too real.

Some favourite words: ‘…we don’t believe in such absolutes. What sense is there in having total certainty that something is one way and no other way? Who has lived through all the years the earth has existed and seen all possibilities?’

5/5
Tokyo Ueno Station – Yu Miri

Read in 2022

Some favourite words: ‘To speak is to stumble, to hesitate, to detour and hit dead ends. To listen is straightforward. You can always just listen.’

5/5

Apples Never Fall – Liane Moriarty

Read in 2022

One of those reads that provide the perfect easeful distraction in the moment, with a forgettable storyline and predictable ending.

2.5/5
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison

Read in 2022

Gifted by Mainstreet Trading Company, Scottish Borders, as part of their Diverse Voices Book Subscription.

An unflinching exploration of the various oppressions of beauty within a context of systemic racism, poverty and gender discrimination.

Some favourite words: ‘Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do.’

5/5

The Golden Enclaves – Naomi Novik

Read in 2022

The concluding book of the Scholomance trilogy takes place primarily outside of the school and redefines how magic can be used for equitable ends.

Some favourite words: ‘So I wasn’t at sea, but I was on a random uncharted island with a broken compass and a fragmentary map, and good luck getting to my destination.’

4/5

The No Show – Beth O’Leary

Read in 2022

Some favourite words: ‘That sort of kindness, it gets into your bones. Once you’ve felt it, you can’t help but look for ways to pass the feeling on.’

3.5/5
The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa

Read in 2022

The beauty of numbers, human connection and a book that has cemented Yoko Ogawa as one of my all-time favourites.

Some favourite words: ‘I needed the sense that this world was somehow propping up the visible one, that this one, true line extended infinitely, without width or area, confidently piercing the shadows. Somehow, this line would help me find peace.’

5/5

The Shape of Darkness – Laura Purcell

Read in 2022

Some favourite words: ‘People did say, when photographs first appeared, that there was danger in having your image captured. Part of your soul would remain forever imprisoned in that glass lens. Sit for too many and you might be… depleted.’

4.5/5

Effin’ Birds: A field guide to identification – Aaron Reynolds

Read in 2022

Gifted by secret santa, this guide to sweary birds made me giggle. My favourite birds were the ‘abdicating sparrow’, the ‘deprecating goose’, and the ‘reasonable pigeon’.

Some favourite words: ‘…while very few people will have access to the advanced computational power needed to understand birdsong precisely, the hope is that the knowledge contained in this book will allow you to look directly into a bird’s eyes and understand it when it tells you to f*!k off with that s&#?t.’

4/5

For Every One – Jason Reynolds

Read in 2022

Some favourite words:’One thing I am now certain of / is that this / road less travelled has / in fact / been traveled by more suckers / than you think.’

3.5/5

An Act of Defiance – Irene Sabatini

Read in 2022

An intimate and painful story of love in a climate of political conflict.

Some favourite words: ”The only thing you can change about the past is the impact it has on you now. That’s the only power you have over it.’

4.5/5
There’s no such thing as an easy job – Kikuko Tsumura

Read in 2022

A woman seeking an ‘easy’ job to recover from burnout in her social work profession discovers that there’s no such thing, though there are intriguing adventures to be had along the way to finding out where we belong.

Some favourite words: ‘Which is more important, I wonder – not to be lonely, or to live the life you’ve chosen for yourself?’

5/5

Quiet girl in a noisy world: An introvert’s story – Debbie Tung

Read in 2022

First found at the house of a friend and later, gifted, this comic book was filled with comfort and familiarity for someone who is learning to learn their introversion.

Some favourite words:  ‘I feel like I’m always searching for a deeper meaning in everything I do. Sometimes I worry that even though I keep looking… There is actually nothing beneath the surface. Ad I’ll spend the rest of my life searching for something that isn’t there.’

4.5/5
What The Road Said – Cleo Wade

Read in 2022

As the main character takes a journey on a road, you learn quickly that their travels won’t necessarily be easy but that there will be lessons and beauty to be discovered along the way. The book is one to return to when a reminder is needed that you have all the strength you need to continue your own journey through life, whatever it may entail.

Some favourite words: ‘The road then raised me up and said, all things grow and change. That is the magic of being alive. You, too, will find your wings. You, too, will bloom. No living thing is meant to stay the same.’

5/5

The Rebound – Catherine Walsh

Read in 2022

2.5/5

Seven Days in June – Tia Williams

Read in 2022

Strongly recommended by @whatsarahreadnext, I chose to give it a go and I don’t regret it. Immersive characters, environments, and beyond steamy moments.

Some favourite words: ‘The whole afternoon was delicious – so much so that Shane as already nostalgic for it before it had even ended.’

4.5/5

The Perfect Find – Tia Williams

Read in 2022

4/5
Tomorrow is Beautiful – Various (chosen by Sarah Crossan)

Read in 2022

Described as a collection of poems to ‘comfort, uplift and delight’, it didn’t disappoint. It will forever be a special book as it contains my first poem friend. Read more about my encounter here.

Some favourite words: too many to mention!

5/5
The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried and True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul – Various (Edited by William Sieghart)

Read in 2022

Some favourite words: ‘when we’re grieving, when we’re broken-hearted, and when we find ourselves struggling to understand the things we’re feeling, we long for the connection poetry can provide. To provide the right poem at that crucial moment, one capable of expressing our situation with considerably more elegance than we can ourselves, is to discover a powerful sense of complicity, and that precious realisation: I’m not the only one who feels like this.

5/5

Non-Fiction

Wish We Knew What to Say – Dr Pragya Agarwal

Read in 2022

This book addresses how to talk with children about race in a way that doesn’t shame, silence or allow colour blindness to take hold. There are practical suggestions and age-related sections to navigate conversations. The children most often marginalised by society are centred in this text and there is an emphasis throughout on talking and learning ‘with’ rather than ‘to, an approach that in itself would  go some way to dismantling some of the inequities in society.

Some favourite words: ‘We cannot just introduce diverse books and media. We also have to model these behaviours and dismantle and contest racism and ingrained biases in our own words and actions.’

4/5

Wanderers: A History of Women Walking – Kerri Andrews

Read in 2022

Learning about these women’s walking lives spoke to my soul. Felt disappointed that it was predominantly Western white women doing mammoth walks rather than the joyful wandering I’d anticipated.

Some favourite words: ‘…access to profound and unsettling questions about identity, about the nature of self, and the essence of our purpose as human beings on this earth. This introspection is facilitated by the physical act of walking.’

3/5
The Gifts of Imperfection – Brené Brown

Read in 2022

A map for exploring the soul. I took my time reading this over a few months, permitting myself to sit with each of the guideposts. I also listened to the ‘Unlocking Us’ podcast episodes as I went. This is a book to return to repeatedly over a lifetime.

Some favourite words: ‘When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves.’

5/5
Misfits: A Personal Manifesto – Michaela Coel

Read in 2022

Personal memoir that packs an emotional punch and a clear call to action.

Some favourite words: ‘I’ve decided to embrace as many perspectives as I can, and be brave enough to update my beliefs, and discover I’m not always right. What a brilliant thing, to discover we’ve been wrong about some things, what a brilliant thing it is to grow.’

5/5
The How – Yrsa Daley-Ward

Read in 2022

Every word pierces a feeling felt but not yet unearthed. A text to be returned to time and time again.

Some favourite words: ‘I can’t hear myself, nor can I think what to do next. I flip-flop. I second-guess myself. I feel unsure. My lack of confidence causes others to lose trust in me.’

5/5
Coasting – Elise Downing

Read in 2022

A tale of adventure that makes you laugh out loud, and dream of your own adventures powered by willpower, generosity and courage.

Some favourite words: ‘In a way that I struggle to fully explain, but which remains very true, the more time I spend outside and the more I moved, the more the world made sense to me.’

5/5

It doesn’t have to be crazy at work – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Read in 2022

This book, whilst written from the perspective of a technology company, contained a multitude of sane advice for leaders and organisations. I blogged about it here.

Some favourite words: ‘chaos should not be the natural state at work.’

4.5/5

The Panic Years – Nell Frizzell

Read in 2022

‘You can never climb into the skin of it, feel the weight of it, taste the flavour of it, without doing it yourself.’

2/5
All Boys Aren’t Blue – George M. Johnson

Read in 2022

Gifted by Mainstreet Trading Company, Scottish Borders, as part of their Diverse Voices Book Subscription.

A currently banned book in at least 8 different US states, this biography highlights the struggle for identity in a world that rejects you.

Some favourite words: ‘You’ll find that people often use the excuse “it was the norm” when discussing racism,homophobia, and anything else in our history they are trying to absolve themselves of. Saying that something was “a norm” of the past is a way not to have to deal with its ripple effects in the present.’

5/5

Silence in the age of noise – Erling Kagge

Read in 2022

A beautiful ode to silence that will leave you desiring it.

Some favourite words: ‘I now know it is possible to reach silence anywhere. One only need subtract.’

4.5/5
Keisha the Sket – Jade LB

Read in 2022

Structured in three parts, this book revisits a novel first published on the internet. Written in colloquialisms, Jamaican patois and text speak, it’s an authentic coming of age story set in the ‘endz’ of London. The accompanying essays highlight the importance of representation in literature and art.

Some favourite words: ‘And Keisha the Sket too is etched into our storytelling, has crumbled the borders around literature and moved others to pull the nuances of local and personal experiences into words, its pieces lingering in the songs and the new authors of today. They are staggered generations meeting in quiet communion, waves lapping at a stubborn shore, eroding the coastline and gradually moulding the texture of a land that has long resisted us.’ 

5/5

Radically Condensed Instructions for Being Just as You Are – Jay Jennifer Matthews

Read in 2022

Some favourite words: ”It is possible to experience the mystery of our dissatisfaction itself – to be intimate with it – and to refuse to abandon it. We are not very good at this. Instead we follow this feeling like a Pied Piper. We allow it to hoodwink us with the illusory promise that if we give it what it wants, it will go away.’

4.5/5
Delight – J. B. Priestley

Read in 2022 

Priestly writes of returning home, the coming of an idea, blossom, not going, our servitude to time, hot baths and woodland paths.. Even amidst moments that were filled with lack or loss of one thing or another, there perhaps, if you were lucky, shone ‘delight like a crumb of gold’, like the exquisite enchantment of a fountain.
5/5
A Field Guide to Getting Lost – Rebecca Solnit

Read in 2022

A book about the beauty of nature, the joy of adventure, and what can be discovered in getting lost.

Some favourite words: ‘for life is risky and anything less is already loss.’

‘Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery.’

5/5
Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World – Various

Read in 2022

This collection of essays provides commentary on the politics, conflict and life in parts of the Arab world from the perspective of Arab women. The courage, dignity and resilience of these Sahafiya – female journalists – move us beyond the singular narratives of Western reporting that narrow our view of the world. Seen through the eyes of these 19 Shafiya, the parts of the Arab world represented here are filed with love and a commitment to truth. How much better news coverage would be if it were decolonised.

Some favourite words: ‘Starting anew is daunting. It’s more than I can bear. There are questions I carry with me every second…. Is this me? Am I doing what others want from me, or what I want?’ Asmaa al-Ghoul.

5/5

Walking in the rain: Setting out on two feet can lead to wonderful journeys of the mind – Various

Read in 2022

A collection of essays that speak to the everyday joys of walking, mirroring my own experiences in unexpected ways.

Some favourite words: ‘If anxiety has a rhythm, then it is the constant, uneasy pitter-patter of consciousness circling itself. I found the rhythm of my walking to be its partner, and its antidote. My own footsteps. Steady, slow, repetitive. When I move this way, something shifts inside me.’

4.5/5
Women on Nature – Various

Read in 2022

This is a collection of fiction and non-fiction excerpts and poetry from over 100+ women on the natural world in the UK. So much of the story of our landscape and its creatures has been narrated by men that it’s beyond refreshing to engage in an entire anthology packed with the voices of women.

Some favourite words: ‘I am off Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for a while. I will not be releasing these moments out into the ether as any post of Insta-story; no tweets will pin this moment to any wall. I want to see how it feels to just be in the place – free from the weight I have come to feel on my chest – free from the burden of clenching it all up into a living memory of light; or whatever it is I think that I am doing when I hold that small machine so close to me in my tight and tightening hands.’ Kerri ní Dochartaigh.

5/5
My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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Reading in 2022

Most memorable reads Fiction The School for Good Mothers – Jessamine Chan Read in 2022 Some favourite words: ‘She thought she would’ve become a different person if she’d grown up near mountains, believed that where you grew up determined your destiny.’  4.5/5 Femlandia – Christina Dalcher Read in 2022