Library Checkout: March 2018

Last month I rejoiced that reservations would once again be free through my library system. On the very day the policy came into effect, what did I do? Went into the online catalogue and placed 15 reservations (the maximum). And then when some of those arrived for me, I placed more to get back up to 15. And then when some of those arrived… You get the picture. Why this compulsive placing of holds when I already have massive stacks of books to read? I have nothing to say in my defense. At least books are a benign addiction, right?

This month I also resumed using a library system I haven’t used in several years. I had a few hours to kill in Reading town center before a routine hospital appointment, so decided to take advantage of the library’s stock, which seems to be particularly good on memoirs by women.

So as not to overwhelm you, and because so many books are still hanging on from previous months, I’ll only feature the new to-be-read arrivals since last month’s Library Checkout post, and in photo form. As usual, I’ve added in star ratings and links to Goodreads reviews of books I haven’t already featured on the blog.




  • With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix – I now own a copy that I will revisit for the Wellcome Book Prize shadow panel.


  • To the Is-Land: An Autobiography by Janet Frame
  • Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively
  • Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn
  • The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman
  • Island Home: A Landscape Memoir by Tim Winton


(Cut off in middle photo: Cold Earth by Sarah Moss and The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar)


  • The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley
  • The Wonder Down Under: A User’s Guide to the Vagina by Dr. Nina Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl
  • Anecdotal Evidence by Wendy Cope
  • The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig
  • Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis
  • The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
  • Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith
  • Leap In: A Woman, Some Waves, and the Will to Swim by Alexandra Heminsley
  • Morning: How to Make Time: A Manifesto by Allan Jenkins
  • The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood by John Lewis-Stempel
  • The Executor by Blake Morrison
  • To Be a Machine: Adventures among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death by Mark O’Connell
  • Brainstorm: Detective Stories from the World of Neurology by Suzanne O’Sullivan
  • Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border between Life and Death by Adrian Owen
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  • Tin Man by Sarah Winman
  • Not that Kind of Love by Clare Wise and Greg Wise


  • Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society by Cordelia Fine – I lost interest and have plenty of other medical-themed reads on the pile thanks to the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist.


  • The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young – I read the first 33 pages out of 137. I had two problems with the book: the twee anthropomorphism (“almost every day, we see daughters consulting their mothers about impending confinements, or maybe just discussing the weather”), and the fact that the author, a family farmer, can be compassionate enough to call intensive animal-rearing “iniquitous criminality” yet raises animals and lovingly observes their behavior only to see them killed.

What have you been reading from your local libraries? Does anything appeal from my stacks?

21 responses

  1. You really are an addict! I try not to reserve more than 1-2 at a time.


    1. Yep, it’s a compulsion alright! But even if I don’t get around to reading the books before they’re reserved by someone else or they hit their renewal limit, I’m still supporting the library service.


      1. That is an excellent way to think about it!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. If you enjoy Island Home you might like to read Land’s Edge if you haven’t already. I remember it as strikingly beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m enjoying Island Home very much. It’s my first book by Winton; perhaps a strange choice to read his nonfiction before his fiction, but it was what came to hand at my local library. I would like to read Land’s Edge too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not such a bad place to start!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know how you keep track of all these! I adored the O’Connell (review coming soon), I’ve gone on a lot already about how much I liked the Shamsie and Hermes Gowar, and McKeon is also excellent. Having loved Jane Harris’s two previous books, I’m keen to read Sugar Money.

    I’m also reading The Vaccine Race at the moment – it strikes me so far as solid but not brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Literally, I keep track of these via a pile of library receipts in my in-tray, due dates written on my calendar, automatic e-mail reminders, and frequently checking on whether reservations are on the way. Metaphorically, I hardly do! I just stack them all on or around my bedside table and pluck some up as the mood takes me. But often, especially for university books, I’ll let them sit around for months and months before I start reading them. Two of the ones I finally finished this month I had been reading off and on since about October!

      I’m enjoying The Vaccine Race, though I can only find the motivation to read a couple of chapters at a time and really need to pick up the pace. It’s reminding me of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, though perhaps with less memorable storytelling and prose (those two were both 5-star reads for me).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m having the opposite reading experience with The Vaccine Race. I have managed to find a copy in Cambridge central library but forgot to bring my old Cambridge library card with me while visiting, so I’m having to sit in the library and read it in big chunks while on lunch break from my actual academic research! I think this is helping me keep it all in my head, though.


    2. Oh wow, that is definitely an unusual reading experience! I hope it’s a nice ‘break’ from your other historical research?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely – it makes me feel like a teenager again (I took A Level Biology – I remember studying bacteriophages and haploid and diploid cells etc.!)

        Liked by 1 person

    3. I loved my AP Biology and Genetics classes in high school. Every so often I wonder what would have happened if I’d stuck with science.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Carolyn anthony | Reply

    My Book Club and I read The Woman in the Window. I loved it. Can’t wait for the movie, which is in the pre-production phase.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really enjoyed Carry On Warrior by Melton and I’ve heard good things about Tender. Love that you’re such a powerhouse library user!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My sister went to see her and got a book signed.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally get that compulsion to put on the books on hold at the library! But it’s so good… 1) for preventing me from adding them to a cart at the bookstore instead, and 2) to support the libraries (even if I don’t get them all read!). The only downfall about it is having to take books back unread – but I’m getting a little better at it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They’ll be waiting for you another time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I used to be TERRIBLE when I worked in libraries and could a) as a teenager, reserve books for free and do ILL for free too, oh, dear, my shelf, my WHOLE SHELF, and b) as an adult working in acquisitions in an academic library, i) take out a million books, ii) borrow books from the to be processed shelves.

    I want the new Wendy Cope. I’m not keen on Sarah Moss as didn’t love her book on living in Iceland, and hope you enjoy your lovely tottering piles!


    1. I was even more of a library fiend when I worked in one and could borrow 20 books from mine plus another 15, I think it was, from Senate House.

      Oh, that’s too bad, I would have thought her Iceland book would be perfect for you. I thought it was a great travel book. Cold Earth is now the only one of her books I haven’t read, and it’s set in Greenland — still can’t tempt you? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I enjoyed it because it was about Iceland but I just found her attitude to the place quite annoying, half-heartedly trying to learn the language and being very critical. I know there’s such a thing as culture shock but lots of the things she spoke about weren’t really correct, e.g. the lack of fruit and veg in shops – not true! So it was interesting but not what I’d hoped for. Now you’re tempting me with your Greenland talk, however …!!


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