I use Goodreads to record the books I read and rate them, but I don’t tend to write reviews. I struggle to explain to someone else why I have or haven’t enjoyed a book, because I would have to describe myself and that’s a long story and generally impossible! But here are a few books I read and loved in 2014. Perhaps you’ll find something to enjoy and I’d like to hear any recommendations of books you think I might like.
The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaraonvitch. The Rivers of London series was recommended to me by a friend as we were discussing Harry Potter and how the underhand division found in that universe between the magic world and the muggle world was always a bit hard to believe and stomach. These books work the other way round; magic exists in the world I live in which as a reader makes for much fun. The series details the adventures of Police Constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, intelligent, witty, and dangerously brave. The 5th book was released in November 2014 and the next should be out in 2015. Adult content – not for kids! Find out more at The Folly.
“Knowing your limits is not an aspiration in magic – it’ a survival strategy.”
“The night might be dark and full of terrors, I thought, but I’ve got a big stick.”
Matt Haig’s To Be a Cat. I came across author Matt Haig at Greenbelt Festival last summer and have devoured his published works ever since. The Humans drew a lot of praise and rightly so. I am really looking forward to his next release, Reasons to Stay Alive which Matt talks about in this blog. Matt has a way of writing about the painful and hysterical human condition which I envy and adore. I bought To Be a Cat for my niece and nephew at Christmas, which I found in the children’s section of the book store, but I read it and recommend to all ages. Did you know something like 1 in 4 people have been a cat, and conversely, 1 in 4 cats have been people? Neither did I!
“You see, the space in your brain for ‘things you are prepared to believe’ gets smaller as you get older. Each year the area shrinks, like the age rings of a tree in reverse and Barney’s Mum was now forty-three years old which left her with quite a small circle of believability.”
“And you know when people say ‘I just don’t know where she (or he) gets it from’ – the ‘it’ meaning imagination or talent or nastiness?You ca be pretty sure he (or she) gets it from having been a cat somewhere along the line. Or knowing or loving someone who used to be a cat.”
Clare Balding’s Walking Home.
Clare Balding presents a show on Radio 4 called Ramblings in which she joins interesting people on walks through the British countryside. I’m a long distance walker, but a frustrated one following a knee injury this year, ironically sustained by walking across the Lake District in six days. Walking for me an exercise that produces health, both physical and mental so while I was unable to ramble much myself, I enjoyed listening to the show and reading this book which is autobiographical as well as a record of some of the most moving and fun encounters and adventures Clare has had on the series. Her insights will ring true with anyone who likes people, the outdoors and walking:
“Day three of a long-distance walk, it starts to hurt. You are over the feeling of invincibility and the novelty has worn off.”
“Walking. It can be a medicine for grief, a key to love, a therapy for illness. It can lift your spirits from the depths.”
A Director’s Cut: An Abbot Peter mystery by Simon Parke
I came across Abbot Peter in Desert Ascent and was overjoyed when I heard Simon was writing more of the Abbot’s adventures. Simon Parke is one of my favourite author’s and his trilogy (so far) of murder mystery novels are no exception. Abbot Peter used to run a monastery in the desert in Middle Egypt but moved to Stormhaven, a coastal town in Southern England. In 2014’s thrid installment, A Director’s Cut, he joins again with his niece, DI Tamsin Shah to investigate the murder of the director of a local theatre group. Abbot Peter views the world in a way very few people do. You can also follow Abbot Peter on Twitter.
“It seemed unlikely to the Abbot there was comedy in heaven. He wouldn’t be telling Reggie’s family this, but how could there be? Most jokes arise out of sadness, anger, self-importance or the misfortune of another – this is the stuff of comedy, yet not the stuff of paradise.”
Sane New World: taming the mind by Ruby Wax
I was unaware that comedian Ruby Wax had given up stand up and retrained at Oxford University in a field that helped her tackle her severe depression. In Sane New World she thoughtfully her education, her experiences of poor mental health and the benefits and methods of mindfulness based cognitive therapy. To use a cliché, I laughed and cried while reading this book. Mindfulness is gaining importance in mental health care. If you’ve ever suffered from any mental health condition, I highly recommend this. If you know someone who has, I also recommend it.
“There is a big difference between experiencing something and being aware.”
“Another reason [paying] attention is the road to freedom is that it allows you to see things as if for the first time, and novelty is a component of happiness.”
“The opposite of self-criticism is self-compassion and this can be cultivated.”
“On the toilet, no one is a star. Remember that and you will go far in life.”
Other books I really enjoyed in 2014:
Fathomless Riches: Or how I went from pop to pulpit by Richard Coles
Walking Backwards to Christmas: Stephen Cottrell
The Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbø