‘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

‘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

A Talking Head talks about music

How Music Works by David Byrne This book was the highlight of my splurge of non-fiction reading in December. David Byrne, founder and idiosyncratic front man of Talking Heads – one of the best punky/art-rock bands there has ever been, friend and collaborator with Brian Eno and Robert Fripp amongst others, could never be expected Read More

All that remains… in the charnel house.

A Tour of Bones by Denise Inge Denise Inge was an American who married an English clergyman. When he became Bishop of Worcester they moved there, and Denise found that they would have to share their new home with a ‘charnel house’. Wikipedia defines it thus: “A charnel house is a vault or building where Read More

Books Are My Bag & a local book sale – My super Saturday book haul

It’s Books Are My Bag BAMB day at independent bookshops in the UK. Each year the BAMB team commission a limited edition bookbag. Last year was Grayson Perry’s typically challenging but great fun design – see right. This year, however, they have commissioned a bag you can take out without having to check which side Read More

Shiny issue 12 published today

One of the reasons I’ve been quieter here, despite reading like mad is the number of books I’ve been reading and reviewing for the next issue(s) of Shiny New Books, and Issue 12 is published today! I’ve reviewed an eclectic mix of books for this issue, and would like to highlight the two non-fiction titles Read More

Book Group Report: Travel

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby In an effort to get more variety into our reading, we’ve started a subject cycle. We pick a topic to research, then next month everyone comes with a suggestion or two on that subject and we whittle them down to a handful to draw a Read More

Learning to let go …

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink Shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize (read more about that here), Cathy Rentzenbrink’s book about her and her brother is the kind of memoir that hits you with a wallop. Once started, it won’t let go – I read it in one sitting, going from shock to being Read More

The making of Mary (Queen of Shops)

Shop Girl by Mary Portas Mary Portas is one of those TV presenter/gurus you either love or find profoundly irritating. I love her and her championing of the high street and independent retailers. Her TV programmes where she helps ailing businesses are full of common sense and good advice jazzed up with her team’s design Read More

Capturing her memories

Republished into its original place in my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher In my review of Fisher’s previous slim volume of anecdotal memoir, Wishful Drinking, I wished she would write a full memoir a couple of years down the line. Instead, she has done more of the same, but you know what, I don’t care Read More

A man of letters…

This post was edited and republished into my blog’s original timeline from my lost posts archive. Dear Lupin… Letters to a Wayward Son by Roger Mortimer and Charlie Mortimer Memoirs told in letters are an endangered species these days. Who still writes letters to their nearest and dearest?  We tend to send a quick e-mail Read More

Life with the Hawkings

This post was edited and republished into my blog’s original timeline from my lost posts archive. Firstly, a brief note about time… On Jan 25th, I went to see the film The Theory of Everything – the story of Jane and Stephen Hawking, based on Jane’s memoir.  It was bloody brilliant!  And its two young stars – Eddie Redmayne Read More

Reviving his thirst for reading…

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller What do you do when you seriously lose your reading mojo? I tend to retreat into trashy fiction, but I have always managed to recover it after a short hiatus. This wasn’t the case for Andy Miller. He has a great job in publishing, a happy marriage Read More

My Books of the Year 2014 – Part One – the Shiny Edit…

This year for the first time, I’ve split my best of list in two. Having read around 130 books this year, there are too many to feature in just one post and there is an obvious split – today’s first part will feature those books that I’ve reviewed over at Shiny New Books.  Forgive me for continually Read More

Three Slightly Shorter Reviews

I’ve got a series of posts lined up for the week in between Christmas and New Year with my hits, misses, finds and stats, so it’s time to catch up with my review pile backlog and some shorter reviews… The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield For anyone who loved the TV series Six Feet Under, Read More

Poor but mostly happy …

This Boy by Alan Johnson Politicians’ memoirs are not the norm for me to read when I choose non-fiction. Alan Johnson may be a fine politician, (and many think that Labour would be in a much better place if he had stood to become leader) but this volume doesn’t cover his later career, just his Read More

Hitch’s last essays

This post was republished into my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive. Mortality by Christopher Hitchens I’m a long-term fan of Vanity Fair magazine for it’s in depth articles, photo portfolios and reportage, (OK, I don’t read the bits about obscure US politicians). One of the highlights most months though was to read the Read More

Anderson & Zweig; Thorn and Morrissey

I know – it’s too long since you had a proper book post – they will come soon, promise. Life is so busy at the moment, and for the next couple of weeks it’ll be the same – as I have the Abingdon Science Festival to go to/help at, several trips to the Oxford Literary Read More

Nannying in the 1980s

Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe This volume of memoirs in the form of letters was the perfect reading for me in the past couple of weeks, when life has been so hectic. I’ve just finished a couple of weeks of full-time cover teaching, and then with all the usual Christmas events from Read More

‘November spawned a monster’?

This post was combined from two and republished into it’s original place in my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive. Autobiography by Morrissey First thoughts: Is anyone planning to read Autobiography by Morrissey? I’ve got a copy, and am admitting to feeling daunted by it. The opening lines go like this: My childhood is streets upon Read More

Nice little surprises

It’s lovely when you get a nice little surprise (or ‘pleasing’ as Lynne at DGR would call them). I’ve had a couple of good bookish ones this morning. Firstly, I unpacked my acquisitions from the charity shop yesterday. I know I don’t need books, but my daughter was having her hair cut, and what was Read More

The Women of Madison Avenue

Mad Women by Jane Maas Mad Men still ranks amongst my favourite TV programmes ever. I love everything about it – the clothes, the campaigns, the decor, the lifestyle, the cast, (especially John Slattery as Roger Sterling). But how true is the series? I’ve already read one book by a guy who was there – Jerry Read More

A master class in the art of stand-up

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin In the 1970s, Steve Martin was one of the US’s top comedians, playing sell-out tours to huge audiences, and regularly appearing on Saturday Night Live and the Johnny Carson Show. After eighteen years, worn out by it, and noticing the first empty seats in an audiences Read More

A body’s life, a life’s memories

Winter Journal by Paul Auster I’ve been an Auster-fan ever since I first read The New York Trilogy in the late 1980s, which I re-read and reviewed here a couple of years ago. Between writing his novels, Auster also writes essays and volumes of memoir. Winter Journal is a memoir largely told through the things that Read More

Scenes from a humorist’s life …

Our book group is having a short story July, concentrating on two authors renowned for their wit: Saki and Thurber.  I’m working my way through Saki, so I’ll deal with him in another post; here I’ll talk about my first experience of reading James Thurber. My Life and Hard Timesby James Thurber James Thurber (1894-1961), Read More

Hot Rats, it’s Zappa …

This post was republished into my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive. The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa. with Peter Occhiogrosso Not so much a memoir as an appealing opportunity to “say stuff in print about tangential subjects” this book is an absolute hoot.  Forthright,  and by turns and hilarious and serious, Read More

It’s. Bill Shatner’s. Autobiography. Yes. Captain Kirk…

Up Till Now: The Autobiography by William Shatner with David Fisher I can’t remember if I’ve confessed up to it since I’ve been blogging, but I used to be a full-blown Trekker – a Star Trek fan.  I managed to stop just short of buying a uniform, but had all the videos of all the Read More