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Wednesday 30 January 2013

What have we been reading this month?

Need a little reading inspiration after you bought all of those Albatross bookmarks yesterday? Curious about what we've had our noses in this month? Here's a little look at the books that kicked off 2013 for us.

Sian: I've been flitting between novels and non-fiction this month. My mind is being blown by Steve Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From. It's such a simple book that's making me look at everything in a very different way. It's strange being consciously aware of how ideas form as you're scribbling in a notebook. But too much non-fiction makes me an insomniac so I've put that to one side to get stuck into Great Expectations  I've never read it before and I was lucky to get one of the gorgeous Drop Cap editions. It's bright orange! Loving the book so far. Mrs Havisham is fabulous.

Next on the reading list? Dan Rhodes' new short story collection Marry Me and after two people who have never met telling me how brilliant it is, I'm after a copy of Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookshop.

Frances: I've just devoured Peter Høeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, perfect for these icy times. It starts off with a young boy's suspicious death from a Copenhagen rooftop. So far, so Scandi thriller. But it expands into much more than that, and the storyline pulls in geometry, politics, meteorology and everything else besides. If that makes it sound dry, it's far from it. Høeg is one of the most sensual writers I've ever read, whether he's talking about ice, cooking eggs and, yes, a few sex scenes that made me a enjoyably hot and flustered on a very cold day.

I'm moving to sunnier climes for my next book as I'm extremely overexcited about my holiday to Cuba in a few weeks. I'm going to dig out Oscar Hijuelos's The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, the story of two musicians who move from Havana to New York in 1949 to get me in the mood.

Laura V: This month I've been getting a bit lost in Cecelia Ahern's If You Could See Me Now. Pleasantly bizarre in plot, it's rather good to curl up with on cold nights and is cleverer than your average 'Chick Lit' (whoever came up with that phrase should have a word with themselves, but that's a whole other topic). I can't wait to get to the end of it - this is something I cannot help but find with all of her books.

I've also been doing unladylike guffaws to Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart, who seems to write as animatedly and hilariously as she talks, and in a completely identical tone - something I find charming and rather addictive. Encouraging us to be delightfully silly, it's a book I think everyone should read.

Lastly, I've reread the ever-brilliant The Age of Absurdity. A non-fiction fave of mine, it compiles philosophical teaching from throughout the millennia concerning what it is to be happy, and how we can or cannot get there. A great lesson in perspective, and basically chilling the hell out. A must-read, especially in January.

Hazel: I was given Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries II for Christmas which has entries for almost every day of the year. I started on January 1st and read each day's recipe as I'm making my morning coffee so I always start my day with a little food inspiration. It's beautifully written and the simplicity of his recipes always instills a sense of calm in me. Today's recipe is "Marmalade chocolate chip ice cream", sounds like a winner to me!

In my bag I carry a copy of Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman, which if I had my way would be on the national curriculum reading list. I'm probably the last woman I know to finally get around to reading it but it I keep it in there for the rare opportunities I get to go for a coffee and read for an hour. It's brilliantly funny and articulates the vast majority of my feminist views in such a way that makes me want to stand on my chair in the cafe, clutch my chest and shout "O Captain my Caitlin", but I haven't... yet.

Laura H: As a general rule, I usually try to read books before I watch TV or movie versions of them, yes even Dickens, although ploughing through Bleak House before the BBC adaptation was a challenge. Since the film is due out in February, I decided to finally give David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas a try. (He's not the comedian by the way, that must get annoying for them both) I honestly don't know why it took me so long to pick it up - seeing as it's been a bestseller forever - other than it always seemed a bit incomprehensible. I'm not normally one to believe in hype about something, but... I can't argue with this hype. It's a remarkable book, half pastiche and half epic journey that will linger with you long, long after you finish it.

Other than that, I'm also wading into classical waters and journeying to the centre of the earth with a beautiful Leatherbound Classics edition of Jules Verne: Seven Novels. Look at that beast. It's a sight for sore, e-reader weary eyes and perfect for a stormy, winters night, especially if you happen to have a fireplace, a brandy and a Victorian library to hand.

Sara: I got Cats Are Weird, an observational comic book by Jeffrey Brown, from my Domestic Sluttery Secret Santa. It's affectionate and funny, and captures just how strange and stupid cats can be. I'm trying to use it as a reference book to encourage my cat to go outside (she's not keen).

I'm also reading 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, a brilliant book that debunks some of the myths of capitalism. It's broken into bite-sized, accessible chapters called things like "The washing machine has changed more lives than the internet". Recommended if you're trying to make sense of this world but don't know where to start.

Caleigh: I've been reading three books this month. I started J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy months ago and I'm still making my way through it slowly. It's a great read, but it's not a page-turner. The story is utterly heartbreaking at times and the narrative is character driven, so I feel like I need to devote some quality time to properly get into it. I re-read Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages, by Tom Holt because it's such a silly, funny story and I'll never get bored of his books.

I dip in and out of Nigel Slater's Eating for England, anytime I have to get on a train, plane or bus, and every time I find myself in a doctor's waiting room. It's a series of short essays on different aspects of British food and traditions and it's an easy read thanks to Slater's conversational writing style and I learn something every time I read it. He's my food writing hero and I'm smitten by anything he writes.

I have just bought Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, by Sean Howe, about the behind-the-scenes goings on at Marvel. As a massive Spider-Man, Avengers and X-Men geek, I can't wait to get to get stuck in!

What books did you start the new year with? Share you favourites with us!


  1. 24 hour bookshop is a cracking read. I'd also recommend The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Got me completed hooked.

    1. It was strange that two people I know and love (but live on opposite sides of the world) recommended it in the same week! Alas, it's out of stock on Amazon so I'm going to wait a while or see if I can find it in a real book shop. It sounds cracking.

      I think I've read Shadow of the Wind. I know I have a copy...

  2. Flippin eck Frances, you absolute superhero, you. I'm going to Cuba in April!

    Now, I need NO encouragement to get excited - I may well need tranquilising by the time April comes around - but there's no way on this planet that I'm not reading this book.

    AND hubby's birthday is in March. He loves latin music. We dance to this stuff twice a week at salsa. We went to see Buena Vista Social Club play. Seriouslsy, can this get any more perfect?

    So, that'll be two of those please Amazon (no, I'm not sharing!). THANK YOU Frances THANK YOU!!!

    1. Oh my pleasure Adele - I'm so pleased you found the recommendation useful, it sounds perfect for you both. I'll let you know (and you must let me know!) if you come across any more fab Cuban reads (I'm shying away from the Hemingway).

      Have you watched the film Chico and Rita? That sounds right up your street too.

      EEEE! Cuba! I'm now bouncing up and down on my chair with over-excitement.

    2. EEEE! CUBA! Me too!
      Will of course let you know if I find any more good Cuba related reads. No I have not watched that film! To Amazon! Thanks!

  3. In Canada, the CBC does an annual thing where five Canadian novels are chosen and then five important Canadians get together over the course of a few weeks and defend their particular novel choice as the novel that best speaks to the Canadian experience.

    This year my friends and I are doing a parallel book club with the Canada Reads book selections so I've been reading through those. I'm defending "February" by Lisa Moore, which is AMAZING and beautiful, but I don't know if it's a more Canadian novel than "Indian Horse" by Richard Wagamese or "Two Solitudes" by Hugh McLennan, so I'll have my work cut out for me.


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