August 2018 reading round-up


It’s going to be a short list this month. Mostly because I have been too tired to read, partly because I have been wolfing down soapy high-school TV dramas on Netflix instead of reading. But that does use far less brain. I’m also most of the way through the final part of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, so maybe the September book list will be longer than two. Maybe.

Most notable this month was mine and Tim’s 16-year anniversary. We went for a delicious meal at Root in Bristol, which I highly recommend (see pic above). It started life as a chicken shack but they couldn’t get a supply of free-range chicken that they were happy with so they switched to a mostly vegetarian menu. It’s a brave move and I think it’s paid off. I hope they manage to stick around.


After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry
A case of mistaken identity leads a man to stay at a mysterious remote house, wearing another man’s clothes and getting to know the house’s motley crew of occupants. The story has a fairytale air and an unreliable narrator. I mostly read it because it’s set during a heatwave, which back in late July seemed appropriate. It’s a slow, strange book, that I think I would have much preferred if I could have read it in one sitting.

Litmus: Short Stories from Modern Science edited by Ra Page
This collection from Comma Press pairs short stories with essays on the same subject – the general topic being “Eureka” moments in science. Unlike the last time I read a book in this series, Thought X, these short stories are all about scientists – either the actual real-life one who made the discovery in question or a fictional scientist in the same field. There’s some good historical fiction such as Lise Meitner figuring out nuclear fission in the story “Crystal night” by Zoe Lambert and essay by James Sumner. Among the modern settings there’s a heartbreaking look at Alzheimer’s in the story “Bride Hill” by Kate Clanchy and essay by Sarah Fox. But the quality isn’t always high. In “The special theory” by Michael Jerks, a grieving physicist mansplains Einstein to a waitress. The essay by Jim Al-Khalili attempts to be kind by drawing a parallel between the way grief can warp our sense of time and Einstein’s special theory of relativity, but even Jim can’t save a weak story. It’s a concept that succeeds or fails on the strength of the writers selected and ultimately this is a mixed bag.