Who better to talk about the surrealists?

The Lives of the Surrealists by Desmond Morris Surrealism was originally more than an art movement, it was a philosophical code – a way of living that rebelled against the establishment.  Originating in  1920s Paris, following the Dadaists in WWI, it spread world-wide. The term ‘surrealism’ was coined by Apollinaire a few years before two Read More

Shiny Linkiness

I don’t always have time to link to my reviews over at Shiny New Books, but I have to share this one far and wide. Viv Albertine’s second volume of memoir was published in April. I saw her talk about it at the Faber Spring Party, and she was funny and lovely, and through writing, Read More

Book Group Report: ‘White’

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson While a spirited pitch for Hari Kunzru’s White Tears was made when we selected our ‘white’ book, we went to a draw and this book from 2003 came out of the hat. Subtitled ‘Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America’, Larson’s book is Read More

Two books about fashion and design…

Vogue Essentials: The Little Black Dress by Chloe Fox This book arrived and I couldn’t stop myself from immediately becoming totally immersed in it. The idea is simple – stunning photography from the Vogue archive – from Beaton to Demarchelier via Bailey, models Shrimpton on the cover to Moss and Lily Cole, plus Coco Chanel Read More

‘A Life in Death’

All That Remains by Sue Black As one of the world’s foremost anatomists and forensic anthropologists, Sue Black’s life in death has been full of interest. She has been a professor based at Dundee University for years, and, she was appointed as a Dame in 2016 for services to forensic anthropology and she is a Read More

Six Degrees of Separation: The Tipping Point

Hosted each month by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest, Six Degrees of Separation picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps.Our starting book this month is the non-Fiction bestseller… The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell This book, first published in 2000, (which I reviewed here in 2009) was one of Read More

A Wild Swans for this generation?

Once Upon a Time in the East by Xiaolu Guo It is inevitable that Guo’s memoir, which was shortlisted this year for the Rathbones Folio Prize (which I wrote about here), will be compared with Jung Chang’s brilliant family history and memoir Wild Swans, with Guo adding her story as a young woman from the Read More

“17 Brushes with Death”

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell Subtitled “17 Brushes With Death” O’Farrell’s memoir was recently longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize, and I (and others on our shadow panel) were devastated when it wasn’t shortlisted. For me, it could have replaced Ayobami’s Stay With Me or perhaps Rausing’s Mayhem, although I can Read More

Wellcome Book Prize Blog Tour

Today, it’s mine and Paul’s (Halfman, Halfbook) turn on the Wellcome Book Prize Blog Tour. Each day two bloggers are covering one of the books on the shortlist for this prize which will be announced on Monday. One will review, the other will host an extract, so head over to Paul’s blog (Halfman, Halfbook) to read a Read More

Wellcome Book Prize #2 – The Butchering Art

The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris This is the second of my reviews of books shortlisted for the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize, read as part of the shadow panel. Lindsey Fitzharris is an American with a doctorate from Oxford in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology, and a post-doc Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust Read More

Wellcome shortlist #1

To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell The second book in my shadow reading from the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist, (the first was The Vaccine Race which I’ll be reviewing for the official blog tour in a couple of week’s time). I loved this book from the front cover to the back, starting with its Read More

Get ‘Educated’ in Abingdon

Coming soon – an evening with Tara Westover The next book I’ll be reading will be Educated by Tara Westover (right). Published this week, Tara’s memoir is of growing up off-grid in the hills of Idaho sounds fascinating. Her father spent his time preparing for the end of the world, her mother worked as an unqualified Read More

Bookselling highs and lows…

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell A couple of years ago, my fantasy of buying a bookshop could have come true – one of my local indie bookshops was up for sale. I just about had the money and the shop was ticking along nicely (thanks to the hard work put in by Read More

An artist’s memoir of childhood in London and Hollywood …

Unaccompanied Minor by Alexander Newley My review of this memoir by the son of Joan Collins and Anthony Newley is my first of the year for Shiny New Books. Newley is an artist and frequent self-portraitist, and this account of growing up in this dysfunctional story was illustrated and enriched by many of his pictures Read More

Year End Review #3: Non-Fiction

I decided to give Non-fiction it’s own review this year because I’ve read 20 titles – the highest number I’ve read in a year, making up fractionally under 15% of books read. This is a trend I hope to continue, for I’m enjoying non-fiction more these days, but as you’ll see below – the areas Read More

PFD Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year shortlist – Minoo Dinshaw

Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman by Minoo Dinshaw I think I can be forgiven for going ‘Steven Who?’ when faced with this doorstop of a book to read as a Shadow Judge of this prize. History has never been my strong suit, and I’d never heard of Runciman – who turned out Read More

This year’s Hygge is Lagom…

Lagom by Lola A. Åkerström Last year’s bestseller  The Little Book of Hygge showed us one Scandinavian aspect of living well and being happy. That book was well-designed and a cozy pleasure to read. Not for nothing are the Danes known as being the happiest nation (read my review of Helen Russell’s The Year of Read More

An Exploration of What We Eat and How we Cook

The Science of Food by Marty Jopson You may be familiar with Marty Jopson from the occasional science films he does for programmes like The One Show.  He may have become an entertaining science boffin on telly and stage with his live show, but he has a PhD in cell biology and his mother was Read More

My August Shiny posts…

This month I wrote quite a few posts for Shiny New Books, here’s a summary of those I haven’t already mentioned: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce Although a more conventionally plotted ‘will they ever get together’ type of romance than the bestselling The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, (see my review of that here), Read More

The Importance of Music to Girls

By Lavinia Greenlaw I adore books that cover musical memories from the 1970s and 1980s, the formative years of my teens and twenties. The 1970s in particular, despite all the horrors they’ve thrown up since, are my musical heartland. Lavinia Greenlaw is a poet and author and is just a couple of years younger than Read More

Opening the doors of perception…

Deviate by Beau Lotto You’d be forgiven for thinking that the improbably named Beau Lotto was a surfer dude from his photo (left). But, perceptions, and assumptions made from them are rarely what you think. Dr Lotto is a renowned neuroscientist attached to UCL in London and Berkeley in the US. He specialises in perception. Read More

An evening with Richard Beard at Mostly Books

Last night I was at a rather special author event at my local indie bookshop Mostly Books with local(ish) author Richard Beard.  Mark in the shop had long ago persuaded me to buy Beard’s last novel, Goldsmith Prize shortlisted, The Acts of the Assassins, but sadly I’ve not read it yet – I know I’ll have a Read More

‘Don’t go breaking my heart…’

Fragile Lives by Professor Stephen Westaby I love doctors’ memoirs and those of surgeons in particular. Stephen Westaby’s contribution to the oeuvre, while I’m not accusing him in any way of lacking humanity – far from it, his book is full of emotion and care for his patients – his approach to the challenge of Read More

Book Group choice for April: Egypt

To War With Whitaker The Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly 1939-45 This month, our topic to choose a title was ‘Egypt’ – any book set in or about anything to do with the country. The nominations were: Death on the Nile – Christie Ice Cold in Alex – Christopher Landon Palace Walk by Read More

The Horrible History of Historical Hospitals

A Cabinet of Ancient Medical Curiosities by J.C. McKeown I’ve been dipping into this book for some weeks since it arrived unannounced, and each time I’ve picked it up it has entertained magnificently. I took heed and  loved the warning at the end of McKeown’s introduction: For best results, read not more than two chapters Read More

Meanwhile at Shiny…

…I’ve had several reviews published recently. In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant Sarah Dunant’s latest novel chronicles the last year of Pope Alexander VI’s life. He was, of course, head of the Borgia family in Renaissance Italy. His mad and vicious soldier son Cesare, and daughter about to be thrice-married Lucrezia complete Read More

Meanwhile, over at Shiny…

I have two reviews from the past couple of weeks, I haven’t shared here yet… The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott Jake Arnott’s novels are moving back in time. He started in the 1960s and 1970s with his Long Firm trilogy, (the first of which I reviewed here), then he moved back to WWII followed Read More

The new look Shiny is here!

The new style Shiny New Books is back with new reviews for you We have a new site design and a new way of sharing our content with our readers. We’re changing from our former ‘magazine’ format, in which we published lots of new pages in big batches every couple of months (and giving you Read More

Why being ‘Messy’ is good for you…

Messy by Tim Harford Tim Harford is a senior columnist at the Financial Times but radio listeners may know him from his programme on BBC Radio 4 – More Or Less – in which he explores, explains and debunks the statistics in everyday life.  His programme is one of my favourites. (Try this episode in Read More

‘Carrison’ and ‘A New Hope’

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher Like the whole world, I was totally shocked to hear of Carrie Fisher’s heart-attack, then death over Christmas, followed by her mother Debbie Reynolds just one day later. I’d bought this volume the week it came out, and had just started to read it when I heard of her Read More