April 2017 reading round-up

Selfridge’s 1942. (Imperial War Museums)

I am so behind on my reading this year. I guess I’ve been prioritising other things. Life has been busy. This month has included trips to the Forest of Dean, Lacock Abbey and Tintern Abbey. Plus within Bristol I’ve been to the Wild Place Project, Spike Island, no less than five breweries in East Bristol, and the SS Great Britain. Oh, and we marched for science. And I can’t even remember what we did back at the start of the month.

Being behind in reading means not only that my TBR is growing as I buy books faster than I can read them (usually it’s pretty evenly balanced); it also means that review copies and books borrowed from friends are piling up too. So apologies if I’ve borrowed a book from you and don’t get to reading it for a while. I will eventually.

Hopefully, I’ll book myself at least one free weekend next month, when I’ll just read. That would be really really nice.


Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
This is a beautiful book, and also educational. It introduces 50 women from Ancient Babylon to the current day who have made significant contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s a perfect eye-opener for the young person in your life who maybe thinks they’d like to be a scientist but don’t belong in that world. Ignotofsky has made sure to include women of a variety of nationalities, races and religions, as well as covering a broad range of science disciplines. I really liked this book.

My Beautiful Shadow by Radhika Jha
This was a strange book, accessibly written, but about a character I didn’t find accessible. Kayo is a bored lonely housewife who turns to shopping to fill the empty hole in her life. So far, so dull (though the writing is great) but then it goes to a very different, dark place that was much more interesting.

The Colossus by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath was such a great writer. This was her first poetry collection and it’s amazing that someone so young produced it. It’s also a little gruesome, with several poems describing things such as animal death from a purely physical unemotional perspective. I still love her, but I’ll admit I preferred the poems in Ariel.

Nowhere People by Paolo Scott
translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn

I’m struggling a little to write a review of this book, as I don’t want to reveal too much plot. It opens with a rich Brazilian student driving from one city to another and spotted a poor indigenous girl at the side of the road. Stopping to give her a lift sets in motion events that reverberate through two decades of relationships, politics and activism. It’s a fascinating insight into a country I don’t know much about. It’s also densely written, full of amazing life-filled characters who I really felt I had come to know.

Can-cans, Cats and Cities of Ash by Mark Twain
A travelogue in Twain’s familiar humorous tongue, at times witty and sarcastic, at others filled with frank awe. And also, sadly, at times pretty horribly racist. Still worth reading, but it did make me feel a little less warmly of Twain.

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The story of a woman living in New York at that point in life (39, turning 40) when she interrogates her life choices – how she stopped pursuing art and took a job in advertising that she’s somehow still doing 10 years later; how despite a string of love affairs she is basically single and basically fine with that; how she has fallen away from friends and family who have got married and had children. It’s told in an unusual style where each chapter is almost an isolated short story, so information gets repeated, time jumps around. I was initially confused but ended up loving it.


“Crazy they call me” by Zadie Smith (New Yorker The Writer’s Voice podcast)

“Red” by Annie Kirby (from Thought X: Fictions and Hypotheticals)

Happy May!