Library Checkout: August 2019

Lots of buzzy books this month, some of which lived up to the hype and some of which did not entirely. Many of these were requested after me, so I’ve had to be snappy and read them within three weeks. Most I’ve already written about here, but I give links to reviews of any that I haven’t already featured, and ratings for the ones I’ve read or skimmed. What have you been reading from your local library? Library Checkout runs on the last Monday of every month. I don’t have an official link-up system, but feel free to use this image in your post and to leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part.



  • The Science of Fate: Why Your Future Is More Predictable than You Think by Hannah Critchlow
  • The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy by Rachel Cusk
  • The Garden Jungle: Or Gardening to Save the Planet by Dave Goulson
  • The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton


  • Time Song: Searching for Doggerland by Julia Blackburn
  • Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife before It Is Too Late? by Mark Cocker [set aside temporarily]
  • Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene
  • Bodies in Motion and at Rest by Thomas Lynch [university library]
  • The Electricity of Every Living Thing: One Woman’s Walk with Asperger’s by Katherine May
  • Because: A Lyric Memoir by Joshua Mensch
  • Dark Glasses by Blake Morrison [poetry; university library]
  • Old Toffer’s Book of Dogs by Christopher Reid [poetry; university library]


  • The Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry
  • The Porpoise by Mark Haddon
  • The Hidden Ways: Scotland’s Forgotten Roads by Alistair Moffat

I’ve also had a recent stock-up on university library books via my husband – not that I needed any more books!

  • Intoxicated by My Illness by Anatole Broyard
  • Meet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Autumn Journal by Louis MacNeice
  • Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette


  • The Lost Art of Scripture by Karen Armstrong
  • If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman
  • The Easternmost House: A Year of Life on the Edge of England by Juliet Blaxland
  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
  • The Confession by Jessie Burton
  • A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
  • The School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton
  • Akin by Emma Donoghue
  • A Short History of Falling: Everything I Observed about Love whilst Dying by Joe Hammond
  • Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley
  • The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy
  • I Never Said I Loved You by Rhik Samadder
  • The Poetry Pharmacy Returns: More Prescriptions for Courage, Healing and Hope by William Sieghart
  • Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead


  • Multitudes: Eleven Stories by Lucy Caldwell – I enjoyed the short opener, “The Ally Ally O,” which describes a desultory ride in the car with mother and sisters with second-person narration and no speech marks. I should have given up on “Thirteen,” though, a tired story of a young teen missing her best friend; she tries drinking, boys and parties, but her heart’s not really in it. I couldn’t face any more stories of troubled adolescence.
  • How to Treat People: A Nurse’s Notes by Molly Case – I read the first 77 pages. Her writing about her nursing training and the patients she encountered is pleasant enough, but I found the structure (Airway – Breathing – Circulation – Disability – Exposure) clichéd and too similar to the Aoife Abbey book I DNFed earlier in the year. If you’re going to read a book about nursing it might as well be Christie Watson’s The Language of Kindness.
  • I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro – I read the first two stories, a total of 18 pages. “Decomposition,” about a woman’s lover magically becoming a physical as well as emotional weight on her and her marriage, has an interesting structure as well as second-person narration, but I fear the collection as a whole will just be a one-note treatment of a woman’s obsession with her affair. The same goes for Fire Sermon, which I’m taking off my TBR.
  • Three Women by Lisa Taddeo – I read the Author’s note and Prologue; I skimmed the Epilogue. That was enough. I feel about this book the way I did about My Absolute Darling: so many have acclaimed it as brilliant, but I don’t feel any need to expose myself to the disturbing content. Many trusted reviewers have concluded that, despite her stated aims, Taddeo doesn’t say anything original about female desire.


  • How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne – lost interest; wasn’t drawn in by the first few pages.
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz – This was a university library book that sat on my bedside shelf for … months? Maybe even years? I finally decided it was time to let it go. Perhaps another time.
  • When All Is Said by Anne Griffin – Well, this is a first: The book is so heavily perfumed from its last borrower’s wrists that I can’t bear to read this paperback; I’ll have to place a reserve on the hardback instead to ensure I don’t encounter this copy again.
  • The Wall by John Lanchester – lost interest; wasn’t drawn in by the first few pages.
  • Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon – Just glancing at the first few pages was daunting enough. I thought this historical fiction epic about the eighteenth-century surveyors’ travels sounded like the Pynchon I’d enjoy most and would make a good doorstopper. But it hung around for so many months unread that, like Oscar Wao, I finally gave up on it.
  • The Farm by Joanne Ramos – lost interest; wasn’t drawn in by the first few pages.

Does anything appeal from my stacks?

17 responses

  1. I’ve seen a few brave souls put their heads above the papapet on social media and criticise the Taddeo. I hope you manage to find a fragrance-free edition of the Griffin. Very much enjoyed that one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would love to join in with this but my local library authority has just changed its system and to say chaos reigns would be an understatement. ‘It will only take two days’, the librarian assured me, six weeks ago. ‘We’ve thought of all the possible problems’. Presumably all the email notifications being translated into Chinese wasn’t a ‘possible’ problem.


    1. What a shame! I hope it will all settle down and become usable again. I’ve been very pleased with my library system — especially since they made the reservations free again, after charging 50p each for a year (my requests went down to 0 at that point). For a small system it has impressive holdings of recent releases, and for the older and more obscure stuff I get a top-up from the library of the university where my husband works.


  3. It sounds like you enjoyed Expectation a bit more than I did, although yes I think I was misled by the marketing – it’s basically very good chick lit. I struggled through The Brief Wondrous Life… and got nothing out of it, so I think you made the right decision. I just finished the Burton and am reading Chevalier at the moment – both really engrossing, interesting on childless and/or single women, and IMO, a step up for both authors (I liked some of Chevalier’s v early work but haven’t really loved a book of hers since 2003!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So encouraging to hear that about Burton and Chevalier. Falling Angels is still my favourite from Chevalier. I’ve rated several of her books 2 stars, but still I persist with her!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She’s so readable, even after a run of duds 🙂 The last one I really liked was Lady and the Unicorn, but two-thirds of the way through her latest, it’s looking very promising!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha – I read about the first tenth of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz on holiday one year and lost interest. Matthew started it and has all but about the last tenth left, for years!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s too funny! I know people who adore the novel, but now I’ve also heard from a few who think it isn’t worth the effort. I have a few books like that that have hung around half-read for probably over a year now — it really is time to let them go, or just skim to the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I want Naomi Wood’s book for the cover alone 🙂

    I have the Taddeo in my TBR stack and will start it when I can give it my full attention (although it won’t seem like many to you, I have four books on the go at the moment and it’s one too many. I’m okay if they’re in different formats ie. one ebook, one hardback novel, one nonfiction, one audio, however I have three hardbacks and one ebook at the moment and I don’t know what to pick up when).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think your interest in Germany makes The Hiding Game a must for you.

      I’ll be curious to see what you make of the Taddeo. Very different opinions have come up in my reviewing community so far!

      Your limit of three or four books of different genres/formats sounds very sensible; I can see how you’d fit different ones into different parts of your life (commuting, lunch break, etc.). My current 25 is completely un-sensible!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You enabler, you 😬

        25?! 😨


    2. Yeah, it’s gotten out of hand. It’s a mix of library books, books for various summer projects, ARCs, and e-books.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s happened to me before – the library book being so perfumed that I can’t stand to read it. I can’t imagine how much perfume you’d have to wear to make that happen!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The new Chevalier isn’t one of her best unfortunately. Had the elements of a good book but needed jazzing up a little.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never had a book be too heavily perfumed to check out – you would think that the librarians would have tried to air it out (we try to air out smoky books before we put them back out on the shelves.) Maybe they did and it was beyond hope!


    1. I’m pretty sensitive to smells. I once had a book from a thrift store that smelled a bit like cat pee and I put it in a bag of kitty litter for a while (probably weeks; I forgot about it!) and that took the smell right out. What are your librarian tips for getting a smell out quick?


  9. […] feel like I’ll get back on track with reading soon. It comes and it goes. Thanks as always to Bookish Beck for hosting this monthly meme celebrating library […]


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: