Library Checkout: September 2019

A quieter month of trying to finish up some books that I’ve had on the go for quite a while. I give links to reviews of any books I haven’t already featured, and ratings for ones I’ve read or skimmed. What have you been reading from your local libraries? 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 Lost Art of Scripture by Karen Armstrong
  • The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey [university library]
  • The Hidden Ways: Scotland’s Forgotten Roads by Alistair Moffat


  • Time Song: Searching for Doggerland by Julia Blackburn
  • A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
  • The Envoy from Mirror City by Janet Frame [university library]
  • The Electricity of Every Living Thing: One Woman’s Walk with Asperger’s by Katherine May
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead


  • Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon: The New Science and Stories of the Brain by Rahul Jandial


  • The Hoarder by Jess Kidd
  • The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
  • The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

+ Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame [university library], The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing


  • 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
  • The School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton
  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
  • Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley
  • A Half-Baked Idea: How Grief, Love and Cake Took Me from the Courtroom to Le Cordon Bleu by Olivia Potts
  • Chances Are by Richard Russo
  • The Poetry Pharmacy Returns: More Prescriptions for Courage, Healing and Hope by William Sieghart
  • My Name Is Why: A Memoir by Lemn Sissay
  • Grand Union: Stories by Zadie Smith
  • Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong


  • The Porpoise by Mark Haddon – I read “The Flight,” the excellent 10-page prologue, which is almost like a stand-alone short story and features a terrifying plane crash and its aftermath. But after that I found I had zero interest in continuing with a Pericles update.
  • The Well-Beloved by Thomas Hardy [university library]
  • Dark Glasses by Blake Morrison [university library] – I read all but the final and longest poem, “The Inquisitor,” so about 50 out of 79 pages. I have trouble remembering now what the book is about, beyond, well, everything: life, family, seasons, choices, regrets.
  • I Never Said I Loved You by Rhik Samadder – I read the introduction and part of the first chapter (about 12 pages). I’m not sure how I heard about it or why I thought I wanted to read it. I guess it sounded like it would be an amusing family memoir that employed humor as well as pathos when dealing with serious subjects like depression. I’d never heard of the author, though (a broadcaster and Guardian columnist), so I had no specific interest in his life story and the writing had nothing to recommend it.
  • Some Hope by Edward St. Aubyn – I read the first chapter, skipped forward to read the first few pages of Chapter 10 (when Patrick tries to be more mature and nuanced in his thinking as he searches for peace of mind; it’s too simple to just loathe his father), and skimmed to the end. This is more like Never Mind than Bad News in that it returns to that shallow, glittering world of the rich partying set. I found I had trouble keeping all the secondary characters straight, and didn’t care about them; I only wanted to hear about Patrick.


  • If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman – I tried the first few pages and didn’t enjoy the style. It felt awfully portentous for what is essentially women’s fiction.

Does anything appeal from my stacks?

14 responses

  1. No one could accuse you of being narrowly read, Rebecca! Always interesting to see what snagged your attention even if it didn’t work out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Usually literary fiction and memoirs will outweigh everything else, with some poetry and nature books smattered in there, and medical themes wherever possible 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I see you have the Zadie Smith short story collection ion on hold. The reviews haven’t been very positive. I enjoyed her early work but nothing from more recent times.


    1. I haven’t been so keen on her recent work, either. What I might do is pick and choose the few best stories based on the broadsheet and blog reviews.


      1. That’s a sound plan…there are bound to be some good ones, its just the collection as a whole that is felt to be lacklustre

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve enjoyed the Chevalier recently, and would like to read Blackburn’s book. I see Karen Armstrong only qualifies for 2 stars. I haven’t read that particular book, but she’s normally better than that, don’t you find?


    1. I’ve read 10 of her previous books; although I really rate her historical studies of religion (A History of God is one of my absolute favourite books), her work has started to get really samey — similar points, similar examples. There’s only so many times you can recount the basics of the world’s religions. You could just read the 30-page epilogue of this book to get the gist.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t read any of her more recent books, so thanks for the hint.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m currently listening to Single Thread on my commute. I love seeing others have wide-ranging eclectic reading lists, too. I don’t read sci fi or fantasy but otherwise, I read all sorts of things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s similar for me, though I also tend to avoid crime and romance.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Julia Blackburn is a wonderful writer – Searching for Doggerland is great but an earlier book called Threads is even better!
    I was disappointed in The Easternmost House. It’s an area I know well (I was born in Suffolk) and it sounded interesting but it didn’t work out for me.
    Currently reading Hollow Places by Christopher Hadley. Think this falls firmly in the ‘not for everyone’ category but I’m loving it!


    1. I’d only ever read Blackburn’s Thin Paths before. I think Time Song is splendid, so I may well go on to Threads soon.


  6. Absolutely loved A Single Thread! Now reading The Confession, that’s really good so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m loving A Single Thread. I think it’s her best since Falling Angels, if not her best ever. I pick up a copy of The Confession from the library tomorrow.


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