Library Checkout: October 2019

The R.I.P. challenge plus a bunch of in-demand reservations coming in for me at around the same time meant that I had a lot to read from the library this month. I give links to reviews of any books I haven’t already featured, as well as ratings for all.

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 Prison Doctor: My time inside Britain’s most notorious jails by Dr Amanda Brown with Ruth Kelly
  • Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon: The New Science and Stories of the Brain by Rahul Jandial


  • 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


  • Nightingales in November: A Year in the Lives of Twelve British Birds by Mike Dilger
  • Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame [university library]
  • Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem
  • Critical: Science and Stories from the Brink of Human Life by Dr Matt Morgan
  • Grand Union: Stories by Zadie Smith


  • Five Ingredient Vegan: 100 Simple, Fast, Modern Recipes by Katy Beskow
  • The Easternmost House: A Year of Life on the Edge of England by Juliet Blaxland
  • Ring the Hill by Tom Cox
  • Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
  • The School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton
  • Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley
  • My Name Is Why: A Memoir by Lemn Sissay
  • Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
  • The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout


  • The Hoarder by Jess Kidd
  • The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong – I read the first chapter (11 pages), which, had it been a short story, would have been a 5-star stand-alone. But I felt that this was a novel that would be characterized more for its beautiful language and observations than for its plot, and as such the reading experience might be akin to eating a three-course meal made up entirely of toffee – just too much. I’d be happy to stand corrected and try this again another time, though.

Does anything appeal from my stacks?

19 responses

  1. Very interested by your remark about the Vuong which I was quite keen to read. I do sometimes read purely for use of language but you’ve made me wonder if it’s a case of style over substance. I like your toffee analogy – mine is usally wolfing a box of chocolates which it’s not been unknown for me to do!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you may be a more patient reader than I … try the first chapter and see how you get on.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was looking at ‘Mudlarking’ in our bookshop last week. At school, I had a friend who found all sorts of stuff in the Thames, and I even wondered if she’s get a mention as her career was not unrelated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s an index — I’m happy to look her up if you like.


      1. I already have! No luck.


  3. I’m glad that you also enjoyed the Burton and the Chevalier (though I agree with you about Burton’s title, but not the cover – I hate it!) Without spoilers, I found Rose’s decision at the end of the novel deeply refreshing because women in fiction usually make the opposite choice.

    I’ve read the Vuong and your summary very accurately sums up my feelings about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see what you mean about Rose’s being the less predictable choice. I think it made me sad that she felt she ‘had’ to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I’m going to be borrowing the mudlarking one from a friend. A nice eclectic collection, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mudlarking was very good – but such a shame there were no illustrations of her many exciting finds. Seems she wants us to look at Facebook instead!


    1. Hmm, I haven’t gotten far in at all but I wonder if the endpapers are supposed to show some of her finds?


      1. Apparently the endpapers show another mudlarker’s finds!


  6. Snap! I’ve just borrowed The Confession. Looking forward to it. I’m also in the middle of The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs, which I think you read some time ago?? Anyway, loving it so far and quite sure it’s going to smash my heart into a million pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really enjoyed the Vuong but I also find your assessment very astute. If you need more than pretty language, it leaves a lot to be desired. I think if it had been any longer I would have grown weary of it, but for its short length I appreciated what he was able to do. Definitely three courses of toffee, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m pleased people like my toffee metaphor 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. the Olivia Potts Courtroom to Cordon Bleu appeals. I enjoy reading cookbooks & cooks’s memoirs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m enjoying it a lot. She was a barrister in London but after her mother’s death found herself turning to cooking and baking for comfort. I’m halfway through now, when she’s in her first few days at the Cordon Bleu.


  9. Have you managed to read Alain de Botton’s The School of Life? I read two or three of his books and I’m conflicted about them. They seem too easy, as if he had predigested too much of the content. They’re good but they’re not satisfying enough. Hardly any grit. And yet I’m always tempted to read something he’s written.


    1. I skimmed this one. Be aware that it’s not one of his actual books; it’s a collection of unattributed pieces from the School of Life blogs, grouped under thematic headings. As you might expect, the book contains a lot of wisdom, but is not very compelling to read as a narrative. It would be one to dip into, or to turn to one particular chapter for advice. (I’ve read most of de Botton’s works and they can be hit and miss for me. I most enjoyed his books on travel and Proust.)

      Liked by 1 person

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