First Quarter of 2020 in Books

Firstly, news. I discovered a blogger and YouTuber who has been a positive influence on my reading life in many ways. I discovered new books, new literary websites, new literary genres through her channel. I also finally took the plunge to sign up for a Goodreads account and spent two-plus days logging every book on my bookcases and in my Kindle. I have been listening to two book podcasts, one from the Slightly Foxed literary magazine (an all-women crew), the other called Backlisted (all-men; one of them called Andy, and sounds exactly like Andy G). Both focus on books from bygone eras and ‘out of the beaten track’.

The conclusion from absorbing information and knowledge from all of the above? In theory, there really are too many good books out there so I can give up trying to keep up. The main reason I still love watching/listening to them is for their enthusiasm and persistence for words and paper that I share and do not wish to go cold. In reality? I ordered some physical books online (I didn’t order them from Amazon on purpose as a small gesture to support bookshops).

I read most of the books in the first quarter of 2020 (January to March) on my Kindle. So the pile in the cover photo is deceitfully short. The Kindle Daily Deals continue dictating my reading schedule.

The Ones I Enjoyed

Never Let Me Go

A novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Many of you have probably seen the film (featuring Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley). It’s a subtle sci-fi about the life journey of three friends from childhood to their 30s. The discussion about ‘being human’ is a difficult one for me! See my full review here.

Rainbow Garden

A children’s story by Christian author Patricia St John. This was the second book I read from her. The first was Treasures of the Snow (See my thoughts on that one here). Patricia Mary St. John (1919–1993) was an English writer who was known as one of the most prolific British Protestant evangelical writers of fiction in the latter part of the 20th century. Rainbow Garden is about a spoilt little girl who moved from London to a Welsh village to live with a big Christian family, and there she found the “fullness of joy”.

This Is Going to Hurt

The secret diary of a junior doctor. I read this one just before the pandemic swept into the UK. It was hilarious but also painful to read. I can never look at a junior doctor in the same way ever again, especially now. See my full review here.

Is This It?

A book on Christian living, especially during your quarter-life crisis. It’s quite hard to put down so I finished it in eight days, which is quite an achievement for a non-fiction book about godly living! See full review here.

Walking Home

A poet walks the entire Pennine Way, supported financially only by his poetry reading and the kindness of strangers. I can’t go walking anywhere at the moment. But even if I could, I would not see what Simon Armitage saw, I would not think what he thought, and I would not be able to write what he wrote. So in a sense, it’s better for him to do the walking and writing and I just do the reading. I experience the walk, the landscape, the story and the people deeper and wider this way. See full review here.

Unleash the Word

Karen Soole on leading Bible study groups. See full review here.

I Capture the Castle

A bit of an unexpected one thanks to Kindle Daily Deal. The novel is the diary of the 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, about her life in 1934 England, living in a castle that is falling apart with an unusual family makeup. The story itself can be summarised as a cheesy love story between two English sisters and two American brothers. But as one of the Goodreads reviewers commented, Cassandra spoke “delightful nonsense”. It reminded me of Anne of the Green Gables. The author, Dodie Smith, also wrote The 101 Dalmatians (the original basis for the Disney movie), which might ring a bell to you.

 

Not So Keen

The Paper Menagerie

‘Menagerie’ is “a collection of wild animals kept in captivity for an exhibition”, just in case you don’t know the word like I didn’t. It’s a short sci-fi by Ken Liu. I have a pretty high opinion on Ken Liu because of his brilliant translation of The Three-Body Problem. The Paper Menagerie was the first work of fiction to win the Nebula, the Hugo and the World Fantasy Award. So my expectation was high but I was a bit disappointed. It was a short story, fair enough. But I wasn’t blown away by it.

Normal People

Ah, here’s a book I can’t make my mind up about. Did I enjoy reading it? If you mean did I ever stop between pages and think ‘oh dear shall I give up’, no that never happened. I enjoyed it alright. But did I like the story? Did I like the main characters? Not sure. I think I do like Connell, even just for the fact that he got a driving license and saved up working in a garage so he could buy a car and drive his mum to work. That sounds really nice to me. But the relationship is definitely toxic. And the story is a bit depressing. Would I recommend it to my friends? Maybe not. It’s like eating instant noodles. It’s tasty and I would reach for it all the time but it’s not healthy.

 

Happy reading guys!

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