It’s been some time since I shared a reading update on here, between lockdown and taking a break for the school holidays. I’ve also found that (sob!) my bookish posts aren’t as popular as some of the other posts I write here – sadly there’s that effort-reward balance in terms of deciding how much time to spend on something that doesn’t seem to engage with people in the same manner as some of my other stuff. With that in mind, I’ve tried to thread more of my reading material into the posts I write here on a (roughly) weekly basis, with a view to sharing a bigger round up at the end of every season. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I often share bookish posts on my grid, or on Stories, and occasionally over on Facebook too. With all that in mind then, this is a quick highlights reel of some of my favourite reads from the summer – a combination of the huge pile of library books I borrowed before lockdown, a couple of books I was given, and the results of my scouring every bookshelf in the house for any previously unread material (which led to an odd dystopian phase, possibly not the best idea for a year like 2020).
All in all, it was a very good season of reading.
Without further ado, then, let’s talk about the books….
My earliest reads of the season were The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon and The Province of the Cat by George Gunn, which you can read about in this post. Technically, I probably read these books in Spring, but this year, I’m not sure such details really count. Next, I moved on to Quiet by Susan Cain, a powerful book on introversion, which I covered in more detail here – essential reading for anyone seeking to validate their discomfort with society’s extrovert obsession. Up next was Peter May’s Coffin Road, a thriller set against the backdrop of the Outer Hebrides, and connected to the fragility of bee colonies, leading naturally, to my worrying about the future of bees in the world (as if there wasn’t enough to be anxious about this year.)
Lost Connections by Johann Hari was a powerful read on the causes of anxiety and depression, made particularly poignant by the compounding effect of lockdown on many of the contributing factors outlined. Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner was a fascinating memoir of a life lived on the fringes of royalty (the author was a Maid of Honour at the Queen’s coronation, and also served as Princess Margaret’s Lady in Waiting). I found it a hugely readable account of royal life, drama and devastating personal loss.
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility were my nod to the classics this summer (Sense and Sensibility wasn’t my favourite Austen novel, but I found myself blubbing away wholeheartedly at the film adaption starring Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson). Book-wise, I preferred Jane Eyre – probably due to the feisty, memorable nature of the central character. That, and the film adaption starring Michael Fassbender – perfect Sunday afternoon fare for lockdown, or indeed, at any other time.
Soon, I was onto my dystopian phase, with Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale all on the agenda. Of these books, my favourites were by far the first and the last, with Animal Farm taking us on a homeschool detour around the Russian Revolution, and The Handmaid’s Tale sending me in search of the (fantastic) 2017 television show. When our local library re-opened to a new ‘pot luck’ click and collect service, the librarian delighted me with two books she picked out for me. The first was Polly Clark’s Larchfield, a gorgeous time-slip tale of two poets, one a fictional WH Auden, the other a Mother struggling with the isolation of her new home in Scotland. The second was Amy Sackville’s Orkney, the story of an aged professor and his mysterious young wife on honeymoon on an Orkney island – I loved it. A wonderfully mesmerising tale of watery obsession and the sea.
With the kids, I read Uki and The Outcasts by Kieran Larwood, one of my younger son’s favourites in the Five Realms series of plucky humanoid rabbits and their adventures. We also enjoyed Fir for Luck, Barbara Henderson’s evocation of the Highland Clearances in Sutherland aimed at a young audience – a useful insight into history for any young (or not-so-young) readers interested in learning about this sad period in Scottish life. We gratefully received two dyslexia-friendly books from the lovely people at Barrington Stoke – a wonderful retelling of Wuthering Heights by Tanya Landman and Eve Ainsworth’s Just Another Little Lie, a sensitive, compassionate portrayal of a young girl’s experience of life with a parent battling alcohol addiction.
Finally, I read Our House is on Fire, by Malena and Beata Ernman, Svante and Greta Thunberg, an urgent manifesto on climate change, which I wrote about in this post.
Evidence, as if we needed it, that books change lives – and sometimes, might just even save the world.
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