Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?


Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

Let’s start with a beautiful example of nominative determinism. Isabella Tree’s Wilding has affected Wellfitbooty “more than any book I’ve read in many years”:

It’s the story of a large farm in Sussex, England, which chose about 20 years ago to stop intensive farming and allow its lands to return to nature. It is now home to many threatened species, including the turtle dove and emperor butterfly; is home to all 5 species of British owl, 11 species of bats – and countless other insects and birds.

The author is one of the owners and the style is very readable and engaging – in fact I couldn’t put it down. The principles in the book can be applied to gardens of any size … I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Taking me back to my childhood when I borrowed this off my older brother and thought it was hilarious… It still stands up as a funny and enjoyable read. I’ve got the next couple of books in the series and will move onto them at some point.

For the 15th time I think. I call it my summer book. It never fails to delight me.

An incredible true-story romp about an English spy hired by Lenin’s Cheka to capture himself. Bailey a national treasure who deserves more recognition.

It’s a quiet, understated book, but every line is so well crafted and has such power. The lessons it teaches are, when you write them down, obvious. Everyone needs love, physical contact, to feel wanted and like their company is a pleasure, not a burden. And yet it’s so easy to forget that everybody else feels these things in the cavalcade and clamour of everyday life.. Elizabeth Taylor’s empathy, compassion and ability to portray the irreducible human core of her characters are utterly remarkable and I thoroughly recommend Mrs Palfrey … to anyone who hasn’t read it.

It’s a series of linked short stories about a high-school class in Texas, most of them troubled, and their teacher who is equally so, being confined in a sort of capitalist asylum where they give Wellness Points(TM) for fulfilling various therapeutic tasks. The construction is ingenious – you might say gimmicky, but I like that kind of thing: the title story, for example, consists of the essays written by the students on how their favourite mythical creature might solve some world problem (though a lot of the problems chosen, inevitably, are on a more personal scale). Funny and moving. I love the fact that the most feared teacher is referred to simply as “The Sir”.

I picked this up on a whim in Foyles because it was a beautiful, signed copy. It’s a fast-paced story of three Pakistani young people (one of them British-Pakistani), negotiating their culture, religion etc. One of them is gay and struggling to accept it, another is from a very privileged background, another is from a slum of Karachi. I can’t say too much about the plot without giving it away. I was absolutely loving this and was about to praise it to the skies but I wasn’t too sure about the ending. Still, very good.

Not quite as good as The Corrections and Freedom, but then that might only be because of how the account of Tom and Annabel’s relationship makes me feel. It’s awful – the feeling of dread I felt throughout that section, the nerves, the butterflies, the absurd behaviour. It’s been a long time since a book made me feel that way.

He is amazing at threading stories together. It doesn’t even matter that it’s occasionally haphazard – realising things in a non-linear order affects the way you realise them (and changes what you thought you knew). There have been two or three moments that made me sit up and exclaim “FUCK” or “OH MY GOD”.

Catch-22 attracts all the plaudits but this is well worth checking out as a study of the office environment and the feeling of ‘Is this all there is?’ It’s as sharp as TV’s Mad Men, which I suspect was influenced by it. I read about one third of the book in a single evening until the early hours. It’s that good.

Toni Morrison’s essays and criticism in the New York Times.

“Pour another gallon into the bucket of our national grief, David Berman is gone.” A moving tribute to the great man.

This American Life’s Ira Glass on narrative storytelling.

The novel F Scott Fitzgerald never wrote.

“Even though the letters were from David Foster Wallace, Susan says that the letters as physical objects didn’t seem particularly special at the beginning.” They seem pretty special now.

200 years of Herman Melville.

It is not reassuring to know that a Supreme Court judge was a Shakespeare conspiracy theorist. (Hat tip to Swelter.)

Continue reading…



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