Thursday, 28 July 2016

Books I’ve read lately

I don’t do book reviews on my blog very often.  This is for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I think the books you read say more about you than almost anything else; that looking through someone’s book shelves is, for me, one of the quickest ways to learn anything about them – similar to the way I used to go on potential boyfriend’s iTunes top 25 songs when they weren’t looking. It’s somehow intensely private. And secondly, I read vociferously and endlessly and constantly, and while I’m not ashamed of that – I’m obsessed by people who read, they’re always the most interesting people to me – I also don’t have any particular interest in showing off about it. I studied English Literature, I like books, I read, I don’t want a fucking medal. Also, randomly, I spend a lot of time reading quite heavy science books (I read so fast that spending money on books is a genuine problem for me and they slow me down – I know that’s a weird problem to have) which I don’t think I will talk about!

However, getting to the point, lately I have read a few books that I would definitely recommend picking up if you’re going on holiday or just in the market for a decent read:

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

I have mentioned this on the blog before – I have also recommended it to practically everyone I know. I started reading this on a Sunday morning when my husband was hungover in bed asleep and he woke up to find me trying to hug him, in tears, because this is the kind of book that makes you feel that way. It’s the autobiography of a brain surgeon who discovers he has incurable lung cancer in his thirties, and how his view of medicine changed, it’s – I’m not doing it any justice here, please just go and read it. And if the last paragraph isn’t one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever read in your life, and if it doesn’t bring you to tears, you’re made of stone.

Good quote (I won't use the last paragraph, you can wait for that one...) “You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.” 

The Shock of The Fall, Nathan Filer

This is a fiction about a man who is involved in an accident when he’s younger and his declining mental health, which sounds really depressing but actually it isn’t – it’s beautifully written, incredibly sensitively presented and in the end, very uplifting. I love the characterisation – it’s very realistic and it isn’t black and white – and for once, it’s a book that gets the ending right; conclusive without being trite. Definitely worth a few hours of your life.

Good quote:  "But there are different versions of truth. If we meet each other in the street, glance away and look back, we might look the same, feel the same, think the same, but the subatomic particles, the smallest parts of us that make every other part, will have rushed away, been replaced at impossible speeds. We will be completely different people. Everything changes all the time." 

The Girl on The Train, Paula Hawkins

When a book is really hyped up I tend not to want to read it (I absolutely cannot bring myself to sob over ‘Me Before You,’ although I know I would, and I haven’t got round to ‘The Room’ yet either although I’m promised it’s worth it.) This is even truer of thrillers, because I think so many of them either have disappointing endings (looking at you, Gone Girl and Daughter) or don’t have endings at all (Sisterland) so I have put off reading The Girl on the Train for ages. But when I saw the trailer for the film I thought I’d quite like to see it, and I hate seeing a film before I’ve read the book, so I downloaded it and read the entire thing on my balcony on a sunny Tuesday evening – and it’s great. It’s fast moving and the characters have depth, and I did work out what had happened slightly before the end but it was satisfying anyway. This, I would say, is the perfect read for a plane journey, where you want to start reading and then look up, startled, to realise you’re in Gran Canaria already. It’s on offer practically everywhere, as well, which is a bonus!

Good quote: “I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing? It is pure egotism, a selfishness to conquer all.” 

Getcha Rocks Off, Mick Wall
I’m obsessed with autobiographies of rock stars (my favourite is Slash – Appetite for Destruction, which I reread recently and is genuinely brilliant – Nikki Sixx’s is also worth a read although a bit stomach churning) and I’ve almost exhausted them all, so I really enjoyed this. Mick Wall is a music journalist who has met and interviewed basically everyone you’ve ever heard of, and this is a no-holds-barred run through his life of drugs and rock n’ roll. Unlike some rock star autobiographies there’s no pretension – it’s just an easy read and it’s good fun.

Good quote: 'I was good at getting wasted but I hadn’t perfected the ‘elegant’ part yet.'

You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense – Charles Bukowski

I didn’t know whether to include this as Charles Bukowski’s poetry isn’t particularly accessible and I haven’t even finished it – I dip in and out every now and then, mostly on the train – but it’s so incredibly clever, every other poem makes me either laugh or raise an eyebrow or just in some way appreciate the way he structures sentences or presents ideas. If you’re into poetry it’s worth picking up.

Good quote (bit longer, it's poetry so it kind of has to be...)

"You are a bum," he told me, "and you'll
always be a bum!"

and I thought, if being a bum is to be the
opposite of what this son-of-a-bitch
is, then that's what I'm going to

and it's too bad he's been dead
so long
for now he can't see
how beautifully I've succeeded

Have you read any of these books? Any recommendations to add to my wishlist? 


  1. Oooooh, I'm definitely going to pick up When Breath Becomes Air! x
    Sophie Cliff

  2. I haven't read any of these - to be honest I haven't been reading at all this year

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

  3. I 100% agree that rifling someone's book shelf is a brilliant way to find out what you're dealing with (and I'm always incredibly self conscious if I'm standing by when someone noses at mine!)

    I read the Shock of the Fall last year on a recommendation and loved it very much. I also gave into the Girl on the Train hype and really enjoyed it, definitely not dull.
    And thanks for the recommendation - When Breath Becomes Air sounds incredible.
    M x Life Outside London

  4. I'm going to pop the first book on my to-buy list! Along with the new Harry Potter.. can't resist!
    I tried to read The Shock of the Fall but I couldn't get into it. Maybe I will give it another whirl. Vxx


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