Tag Archives: library books

Some 2022 Reading Goals

First of all, I need to give some proper attention to the books on my set-aside shelf (nearly 40 of them), preferably clearing this in January – while also catching up on review copies from last year and continuing with the January releases.

Thereafter, I’d like to concentrate on backlist books for the year. This may seem ironic given that I review new ones on the blog and for various other outlets, and that I’m going to be featuring my 20 most anticipated titles of 2022 in a post tomorrow, but I have a few reasons for wanting to focus on older material.

One is that backlist reading consistently produces new favourites. Another is that every time I shelve in the library’s back room rolling stacks, I see novels that I’ve always meant to read, or that look fantastic, and think, “I really should borrow more from in here” … then forget all about them and place holds on (sometimes disappointing) new books instead.

A final reason is that, as I pack up my library in preparation for moving and get a good look at the ~500 unread books all over again, I hope and expect that I will be inspired to read them – and also to revisit some long-neglected favourites. (Of course, I may also cull some before the move, which would be fine.) The plan is to eventually replace our fleet of white Billy bookcases with built-in shelving either side of the decorative fireplaces in a few rooms of the new house.

As always, I’d like to get to more classics, doorstoppers and literature in translation (I own hardly any translated titles, so most of this will have to be from the library). I’ll participate in all the usual annual blogger challenges plus any new ones I can fit in, including Annabel’s #NordicFINDS – I’m currently reading Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder to review later this month.

I’m sure to follow a similar set of literary prizes as last year, including the Young Writer of the Year Award, the Barbellion Prize, the Rathbones Folio Prize, the Wainwright Prize, and (to a lesser extent) the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Women’s Prize and the Booker Prize. And, of course, I’ll be carefully monitoring the later stages of the McKitterick Prize judging after sending off my own longlist for the unpublished manuscripts. These prize lists plus various review copies will ensure I have a regular influx of recent releases to counterbalance the backlist reads.

Brand new or backlist for you in 2022?

Love Your Library, December 2021

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! It’s the third month of the new Love Your Library feature. I’d like to start out by thanking Margaret and Rosemary for their recent posts. Margaret’s compares libraries then and now through her experiences as a teenage library assistant in the late 1960s versus as a volunteer these days. Rosemary’s is about rediscovering the joy of browsing her local library.


It’s been a quieter library month for me: I could only go in for volunteering a few times before I flew to the USA for Christmas, and I was focusing more on returning books than on borrowing them, though I do have this small stack awaiting me when I get back. Two from the Costa poetry shortlist (I’ve already read 1.5 of them, actually), a collection of short stories I’ve had recommended several times now, and a novella to reread for January’s book club.

Since last month, these are the library books I’ve read (three poetry books and a doctor’s memoir):

 

A Blood Condition by Kayo Chingonyi

The Cure for Good Intentions by Sophie Harrison

Conundrum by Jan Morris (a reread)

The State of the Prisons by Sinéad Morrissey

The Moon Is Always Female by Marge Piercy

&

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

A book club read. Russell moved to rural Denmark when her husband got a job at the Lego headquarters and used her first year there as an excuse to investigate the Danish way of life and try to determine why everyone seemed so happy. My book club enjoyed the blend of information and experience and found this as light and entertaining as a novel. Although there must have been a lot of research and networking involved, Russell makes her discoveries seem effortless. A few of us felt the book was too long, or incorporated too many statistics, but there was a lot to admire about Denmark (the social safety net, the education system, childcare, clubs for adults across classes, etc.). And it made us laugh!


Do share a link to your own post in the comments, and feel free to use the above image. I’ve co-opted a hashtag that is already popular on Twitter and Instagram: #LoveYourLibrary.

Here’s a reminder of my ideas of what you might choose to post (this list will stay up on the project page):

  • Photos or a list of your latest library book haul
  • An account of a visit to a new-to-you library
  • Full-length or mini reviews of some recent library reads
  • A description of a particular feature of your local library
  • A screenshot of the state of play of your online account
  • An opinion piece about library policies (e.g. Covid procedures or fines amnesties)
  • A write-up of a library event you attended, such as an author reading or book club.

If it’s related to libraries, I want to hear about it!

Love Your Library, November 2021

It’s the second month of the new Love Your Library feature.

I’d like to start out by thanking all those who have taken part since last month’s post:

Adrian shared lovely stories about the libraries he’s used in Ireland, from childhood onwards.

Laila, Lori and Margaret highlighted their recent loans and reads.

Laura sent a photo of her shiny new library copy of Sally Rooney’s latest novel.

Finally, Marcie contributed this TikTok video of her library stacks!

  

As for my recent library experiences…

 

A stand-out read:

The Performance by Claire Thomas: What a terrific setup: three women are in a Melbourne theatre watching a performance of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days. Margot is a veteran professor whose husband is developing dementia. Ivy is a new mother whose wealth hardly makes up for the devastating losses of her earlier life. Summer is a mixed-race usher concerned about her girlfriend during the fires rampaging outside the city. In rotating close third person sections, Thomas takes us into these characters’ inner worlds, contrasting their personal worries with wider issues of women’s and indigenous people’s rights and the environmental crisis, as well as with the increasingly claustrophobic scene on stage. In “The Interval,” written as a script, the main characters interact with each other, with the “forced intimacy between strangers” creating opportunities for chance meetings and fateful decisions.

 

Doorstoppers: A problem

Aware that I’m heading to the States for Christmas on the 14th of December (only a couple of weeks from now!), I’ve started culling my library stacks, returning any books that I’m not super-keen to read before the end of the year. A few I’ll borrow another time, but most I decided weren’t actually for me, even if raved about elsewhere.

I mentioned in a post last week that I’ve had a hard time finding the concentration for doorstoppers lately, which is ironic giving how many high-profile ones there have been this year – or even just this autumn. (For example, seven of BookPage’s top 20 fiction releases of 2021 are over 450 pages.) I gave up twice on Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, swiftly abandoned Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (a silly bookish attempt at something like Cloud Atlas), didn’t have time to attempt Tenderness by Alison Macleod and The Magician by Colm Tóibín, and recently returned The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard unread.

Why so many chunky reads this year, and this season in particular? I’ve wondered if it has had something to do with the lockdown mentality – for authors or readers, or both. It can be awfully cozy, especially as winter advances (in this hemisphere), to sink into a big book. But I find that I’m always looking for an excuse to not engage with a doorstopper.

 

I generally enjoy the scope, detail and moral commentary of Jonathan Franzen’s novels; his previous two, Freedom and Purity, which also numbered 500+ pages, were fantastic. But Crossroads wasn’t happening for me, at least not right now. I only got to page 23 on this attempt. The Chicago setting was promising, and I’m there for the doubt and hypocrisy of church-bound characters. But with text this dense, it feels like it takes SO MANY WORDS to convey just one scene or conversation. I was finding the prose a little obnoxious, too, e.g.

Of Santa the Hildebrandts had always said, Bah, humbug. And yet somehow, long past the age of understanding that presents don’t just buy and wrap themselves, he’d accepted their sudden annual appearance as, if not a miraculous provision, then a phenomenon like his bladder filling with urine, part of the normal course of things. How had he not grasped at nine a truth so obvious to him at ten? The epistemological disjunction was absolute.

Problems here: How many extra words do you need to say “He stopped believing in Santa at age 10”? When is the phrase “epistemological disjunction” ever anything other than showing off? And why did micturition present itself as an apt metaphor?

But anyway, I’ve hardly given this a fair shake yet. I daresay I’ll read it another time; it’ll be my eighth book by Franzen.

 


Do share a link to your own post in the comments, and feel free to use the above image. I’ve co-opted a hashtag that is already popular on Twitter and Instagram: #LoveYourLibrary.

Here’s a reminder of my ideas of what you might choose to post (this list will stay up on the project page):

  • Photos or a list of your latest library book haul
  • An account of a visit to a new-to-you library
  • Full-length or mini reviews of some recent library reads
  • A description of a particular feature of your local library
  • A screenshot of the state of play of your online account
  • An opinion piece about library policies (e.g. Covid procedures or fines amnesties)
  • A write-up of a library event you attended, such as an author reading or book club.

If it’s related to libraries, I want to hear about it!

Love Your Library Begins: October 2021

It’s the opening month of my new Love Your Library meme! I hope some of you will join me in writing about the libraries you use and what you’ve borrowed from them recently. I plan to treat these monthly posts as a sort of miscellany.

Although I likely won’t do thorough Library Checkout rundowns anymore, I’ll show photos of what I’ve borrowed, give links to reviews of a few recent reads, and then feature something random, such as a reading theme or library policy or display.

Do share a link to your own post in the comments, and feel free to use the above image. I’m co-opting a hashtag that is already popular on Twitter and Instagram: #LoveYourLibrary.

Here’s a reminder of my ideas of what you might choose to post (this list will stay up on the project page):

  • Photos or a list of your latest library book haul
  • An account of a visit to a new-to-you library
  • Full-length or mini reviews of some recent library reads
  • A description of a particular feature of your local library
  • A screenshot of the state of play of your online account
  • An opinion piece about library policies (e.g. Covid procedures or fines amnesties)
  • A write-up of a library event you attended, such as an author reading or book club.

If it’s related to libraries, I want to hear about it!

 

Recently borrowed

Stand-out reads

 

The Echo Chamber by John Boyne

John Boyne is such a literary chameleon. He’s been John Irving (The Heart’s Invisible Furies), Patricia Highsmith (A Ladder to the Sky) and David Mitchell (A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom). Now, with this Internet-age state-of-the-nation satire featuring variously abhorrent characters, he’s channelling the likes of Jamie Attenberg, Jonathan Coe, Patricia Lockwood, Lionel Shriver and Emma Straub. Every member of the Cleverley family is a morally compromised fake. Boyne gives his characters amusing tics, and there are also some tremendously funny set pieces, such as Nelson’s speed dating escapade and George’s public outbursts. He links several storylines through the Ukrainian dancer Pylyp, who’s slept with almost every character in the book and has Beverley petsit for his tortoise.

What is Boyne spoofing here? Mostly smartphone addiction, but also cancel culture. I imagined George as Hugh Bonneville throughout; indeed, the novel would lend itself very well to screen adaptation. And I loved how Beverley’s new ghostwriter, never given any name beyond “the ghost,” feels like the most real and perceptive character of all. Surely one of the funniest books I will read this year. (Full review).

 

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

I was one of those rare readers who didn’t think so much of Normal People, so to me this felt like a return to form. Conversations with Friends was a surprise hit with me back in 2017 when I read it as part of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award shadow panel the year she won. The themes here are much the same: friendship, nostalgia, sex, communication and the search for meaning. BWWAY is that little bit more existential: through the long-form e-mail correspondence between two friends from college, novelist Alice and literary magazine editor Eileen, we imbibe a lot of philosophizing about history, aesthetics and culture, and musings on the purpose of an individual life against the backdrop of the potential extinction of the species.

Through their relationships with Felix (a rough-around-the-edges warehouse worker) and Simon (slightly older and involved in politics), Rooney explores the question of whether lasting bonds can be formed despite perceived differences of class and intelligence. The background of Alice’s nervous breakdown and Simon’s Catholicism also bring in sensitive treatments of mental illness and faith. (Full review).

 

This month’s feature

I spotted a few of these during my volunteer shelving and then sought out a couple more. All five are picture books composed by authors not known for their writing for children.

 

Islandborn by Junot Díaz (illus. Leo Espinosa): “Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else.” When the teacher asks them all to draw a picture of the country they came from, plucky Lola doesn’t know how to depict the Island. Since she left as a baby, she has to interview relatives and neighbours for their lasting impressions. For one man it’s mangoes so sweet they make you cry; for her grandmother it’s dolphins near the beach. She gathers the memories into a vibrant booklet. The 2D cut-paper style reminded me of Ezra Jack Keats.

 

The Islanders by Helen Dunmore (illus. Rebecca Cobb): Robbie and his family are back in Cornwall to visit Tamsin and her family. These two are the best of friends and explore along the beach together, creating their own little island by digging a channel and making a dam. As the week’s holiday comes toward an end, a magical night-time journey makes them wonder if their wish to make their island life their real life forever could come true. The brightly coloured paint and crayon illustrations are a little bit Charlie and Lola and very cute.

 

Rose Blanche by Ian McEwan (illus. Roberto Innocenti): Patriotism is assumed for the title character and her mother as they cheer German soldiers heading off to war. There’s dramatic irony in Rose being our innocent witness to deprivations and abductions. One day she follows a truck out of town and past barriers and fences and stumbles onto a concentration camp. Seeing hungry children’s suffering, she starts bringing them food. Unfortunately, this gets pretty mawkish and, while I liked some of the tableau scenes – reminiscent of Brueghel or Stanley Spencer – the faces are awful. (Based on a story by Christophe Gallaz.)

 

Where Snow Angels Go by Maggie O’Farrell (illus. Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini): The snow angel Sylvie made last winter comes back to her to serve as her guardian angel, saving her from illness and accident risks. If you’re familiar with O’Farrell’s memoir I Am, I Am, I Am, this presents a similar catalogue of near-misses. For a picture book, it has a lot of words – several paragraphs’ worth on most of its 70 pages – so I imagine it’s more suitable for ages seven and up. I loved the fairy tale atmosphere, touches of humour, and drawing style.

 

Weirdo by Zadie Smith and Nick Laird (illus. Magenta Fox): Kit’s birthday present is Maud, a guinea pig in a judo uniform. None of the other household pets – Derrick the cockatoo, Dora the cat, and Bob the pug – know what to make of her. Like in The Secret Life of Pets, the pets take over, interacting while everyone’s out at school and work. At first Maud tries making herself like the others, but after she spends an afternoon with an eccentric neighbour she realizes all she needs to be is herself. It’s not the first time married couple Smith and Laird have published an in-joke (their 2018 releases – an essay collection and a book of poems, respectively – are both entitled Feel Free): Kit is their daughter’s name and Maud is their pug’s. But this was cute enough to let them off.

Coming Soon … A New “Love Your Library” Meme

I know that lots of my readers are dedicated library users. Some of you even work or volunteer in a library, too. Whether or not you blog about books yourself, you’re welcome to join in this simple meme designed to celebrate libraries. Use ’em or lose ’em, after all.

This challenge is entirely open-ended, but here are some things you might consider posting on your blog or to social media:

  • Photos or a list of your latest library book haul
  • An account of a visit to a new-to-you library
  • Full-length or mini reviews of some recent library reads
  • A description of a particular feature of your local library
  • A screenshot of the state of play of your online account
  • An opinion piece about library policies (e.g. Covid procedures or fines amnesties)
  • A write-up of a library event you attended, such as an author reading or book club.

(Image by StockSnap from Pixabay)

 

If it’s related to libraries, I want to hear about it. I’ll post on the last Monday of each month (unless a holiday interferes), but feel free to post whenever you wish. Do share a link to your own post in the comments of my latest one, and use the above image, too. I’m co-opting a hashtag that is already popular on Twitter and Instagram: #LoveYourLibrary.

Get thinking about what you might want to post on Monday the 25th!

 


Love Your Library has grown out of the monthly “Library Checkout” meme – created by Shannon of River City Reading and previously hosted by Charleen of It’s a Portable Magic, I then hosted it for four years starting in October 2017. Here’s an archive of my past posts.

If you want to continue using this framework to keep track of your library borrowing, the categories are Library Books Read; Currently Reading; Checked Out, To Be Read; On Hold; and Returned Unread. I sometimes added Skimmed Only and Returned Unfinished. I usually gave star ratings and links to reviews of any books I managed to read.

Library Checkout, September 2021

My library has been closed for a few weeks while a new lighting system is being installed, so I’ve had fewer opportunities to pick out books at random while shelving. Still, I have quite a stockpile at home – a lot of the books are being saved for Novellas in November – so I can’t complain. Meanwhile, I’m awaiting my holds on some of the biggest releases of the year.

This will most likely be our last September in our current rental place as we’ve started house-hunting in the neighbourhood, so I’m trying to appreciate the view from my study window while I can. I’m taking one photo per day to compare. The first hints of autumn leaves are coming through. (Look carefully to the right of the table and you’ll see our cat!)

As always, I give links to reviews of books not already featured, as well as ratings. I would be delighted to have other bloggers – not just book bloggers – join in with this meme. Feel free to use the image below and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (on the last Monday of each month), or tag me on Twitter and Instagram: @bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout & #LoveYourLibraries.

 

READ

  • Medusa’s Ankles: Selected Stories by A.S. Byatt
  • Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson
  • Everyone Is Still Alive by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • September 11: A Testimony (Reuters)
  • Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell [graphic novel]
  • Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich [graphic novel]

 

SKIMMED

  • The Easternmost Sky: Adapting to Change in the 21st Century by Juliet Blaxland
  • Gardening for Bumblebees: A Practical Guide to Creating a Paradise for Pollinators by Dave Goulson
  • An Eye on the Hebrides: An Illustrated Journey by Mairi Hedderwick
  • A Walk from the Wild Edge by Jake Tyler

 

CURRENTLY READING

  • Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler
  • Darwin’s Dragons by Lindsay Galvin
  • Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs
  • Anarchipelago by Jay Griffiths
  • The Cure for Good Intentions: A Doctor’s Story by Sophie Harrison
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  • Fox and I: An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven
  • Cut Out by Michèle Roberts
  • Yearbook by Seth Rogen
  • A Shadow Above: The Fall and Rise of the Raven by Joe Shute
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

 

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • The Sea Is Not Made of Water: Life between the Tides by Adam Nicolson

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • October, October by Katya Balen
  • Winter Story by Jill Barklem
  • Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica
  • The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx by Tara Bergin
  • Barn Owl by Jim Crumley
  • Kingfisher by Jim Crumley
  • Otter by Jim Crumley
  • Victory: Two Novellas by James Lasdun
  • Jilted City by Patrick McGuinness
  • His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
  • Conundrum by Jan Morris [to reread]
  • The State of the Prisons by Sinéad Morrissey
  • Fox and I: An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven
  • Before Everything by Victoria Redel
  • The Performance by Claire Thomas
  • Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

 

Plus a modest new pile from the university library:

  • The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers
  • The Takeover by Muriel Spark (for 1976 Club)
  • The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • The Echo Chamber by John Boyne
  • The Blind Light by Stuart Evers
  • Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan

 

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
  • Manifesto by Bernardine Evaristo
  • Spike: The Virus vs. the People – The Inside Story by Jeremy Farrar
  • Mrs March by Virginia Feito
  • Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
  • Matrix by Lauren Groff
  • Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  • Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
  • The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
  • The Book Smugglers (Pages & Co., #4) by Anna James
  • The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
  • Metamorphosis: Selected Stories by Penelope Lively
  • Listen: How to Find the Words for Tender Conversations by Kathryn Mannix
  • Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
  • Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
  • Oh William! By Elizabeth Strout
  • Liv’s Alone by Liv Thorne
  • Sheets by Brenna Thummler
  • The Magician by Colm Tóibín
  • Still Life by Sarah Winman (to try again)

 

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • Something out of Place: Women & Disgust by Eimear McBride – I hadn’t gotten on with her fiction so thought I’d try this short nonfiction work, especially as it was released by the Wellcome Collection and based on research she did at the Wellcome Library. However, it was very dull and just seemed like a string of quotes from other people.
  • 12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next by Jeanette Winterson – I looked at the first essay to consider reviewing this one, but Winterson’s musings on technology and Mary Shelly feel very familiar – from her previous work as well as others’.

 

RETURNED UNREAD

  • I Give It to You by Valerie Martin – I’ll get this suspenseful Tuscany-set novel out again next summer instead.
  • Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff – I ran out of time to read this before the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, but I wouldn’t rule out reading it in the future.

 

What appeals from my stacks?

Library Checkout, August 2021

I’ve read a little of everything this month, including a Booker Prize nominee and one from the Wainwright Prize longlist. A few reads were good enough to make it onto my growing “Best of 2021” list. (Full reviews of the Green and Thirkell coming soon.) In September one of my usual foci is short story collections, so I plan to get through the Butler and Byatt next month. Cathy and I have also been plotting about Novellas in November, so I’ve checked out a number of short works in advance.

As always, I give links to reviews of books not already featured, as well as ratings. I would be delighted to have other bloggers – not just book bloggers – join in with this meme. Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (on the last Monday of each month), or tag me on Twitter and Instagram: @bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout & #LoveYourLibraries.

 

READ

  • Autumn Story by Jill Barklem (a children’s book – these don’t count towards my year total)
  • Second Place by Rachel Cusk
  • What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition by Emma Dabiri
  • Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse by Dave Goulson (for Shelf Awareness review)
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a human-centered planet by John Green
  • The Rome Plague Diaries: Lockdown Life in the Eternal City by Matthew Kneale
  • Nothing but Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
  • When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
  • Heartstoppers, Volume 3 by Alice Oseman
  • Heartstoppers, Volume 4 by Alice Oseman
  • Earthed: A Memoir by Rebecca Schiller
  • Forecast: A Diary of the Lost Seasons by Joe Shute
  • August Folly by Angela Thirkell
  • The Lost Soul by Olga Tokarczuk (a mostly wordless graphic novel, so I didn’t count it towards my year total)
  • Ice Rivers by Jemma Wadham

SKIMMED

  • I Belong Here: A Journey along the Backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi
  • Plague: A Very Short Introduction by Paul Slack

 

CURRENTLY READING

  • Medusa’s Ankles: Selected Stories by A.S. Byatt
  • Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs
  • Anarchipelago by Jay Griffiths
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  • Everyone Is Still Alive by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • Cut Out by Michèle Roberts
  • Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

 

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • The Easternmost Sky: Adapting to Change in the 21st Century by Juliet Blaxland
  • Gardening for Bumblebees: A Practical Guide to Creating a Paradise for Pollinators by Dave Goulson
  • An Eye on the Hebrides: An Illustrated Journey by Mairi Hedderwick
  • September 11: A Testimony (Reuters)
  • Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • Winter Story by Jill Barklem
  • The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx by Tara Bergin
  • Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler
  • Barn Owl by Jim Crumley
  • Kingfisher by Jim Crumley
  • Otter by Jim Crumley
  • Darwin’s Dragons by Lindsay Galvin
  • The Cure for Good Intentions: A Doctor’s Story by Sophie Harrison
  • Victory: Two Novellas by James Lasdun
  • Jilted City by Patrick McGuinness
  • His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
  • Conundrum by Jan Morris [to reread]
  • The State of the Prisons by Sinéad Morrissey
  • The Sea Is Not Made of Water: Life between the Tides by Adam Nicolson
  • Fox and I: An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven
  • Before Everything by Victoria Redel
  • Yearbook by Seth Rogen
  • A Shadow Above: The Fall and Rise of the Raven by Joe Shute
  • The Performance by Claire Thomas
  • A Walk from the Wild Edge by Jake Tyler
  • Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim
  • A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds by Scott Weidensaul

 

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • Notes from a Summer Cottage: The Intimate Life of the Outside World by Nina Burton
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • The Echo Chamber by John Boyne
  • Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman
  • Spike: The Virus vs. the People – The Inside Story by Jeremy Farrar
  • Mrs March by Virginia Feito
  • Matrix by Lauren Groff
  • Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
  • The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
  • The Book Smugglers (Pages & Co., #4) by Anna James
  • The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
  • Listen: How to Find the Words for Tender Conversations by Kathryn Mannix
  • I Give It to You by Valerie Martin
  • Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
  • Something out of Place: Women & Disgust by Eimear McBride
  • Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan
  • Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
  • Sheets by Brenna Thummler
  • The Disaster Tourist by Ko-Eun Yun

 

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • August by Callan Wink – The first few pages were about a farm boy working out how to kill all the cats. No thanks.

 

RETURNED UNREAD

  • Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews – Luckily, I remembered that Laila said it was awful!
  • The Summer before the Dark by Doris Lessing – I should have learned from Memoirs of a Survivor that I don’t get on with her vague dystopian stuff.

 

What appeals from my stacks?

Library Checkout, July 2021

As seems to happen every few months, I felt the urge to cull my library stack and only keep out the books I’m actually excited about reading right now. So you’ll see that a lot of books got returned unread in July. I did manage to read a handful as well, though, with the list looking longer than it really is because of a lot of undemanding children’s and YA material. My summer crush is the super-cute Heartstoppers comics series.

As always, I give links to reviews of books not already featured, as well as ratings for reads and skims. I would be delighted to have other bloggers – not just book bloggers – join in with this meme. Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (on the last Monday of each month), or tag me on Twitter and Instagram: @bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout & #LoveYourLibraries.

 

READ

 

SKIMMED

  • Consumed: A Sister’s Story by Arifa Akbar

 

CURRENTLY READING

  • Second Place by Rachel Cusk
  • What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition by Emma Dabiri
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson
  • The Rome Plague Diaries: Lockdown Life in the Eternal City by Matthew Kneale
  • Nothing but Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
  • When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
  • Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich
  • Ice Rivers by Jemma Wadham

 

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • I Belong Here: A Journey along the Backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi
  • Plague: A Very Short Introduction by Paul Slack

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • Autumn Story by Jill Barklem
  • The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx by Tara Bergin
  • Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler
  • The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
  • The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
  • Gardening for Bumblebees: A Practical Guide to Creating a Paradise for Pollinators by Dave Goulson
  • The Summer before the Dark by Doris Lessing
  • Jilted City by Patrick McGuinness
  • The State of the Prisons by Sinéad Morrissey
  • Stiff by Mary Roach
  • August Folly by Angela Thirkell
  • August by Callan Wink

 

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • The Easternmost Sky: Adapting to Change in the 21st Century by Juliet Blaxland
  • The Sea Is Not Made of Water: Life between the Tides by Adam Nicolson
  • Heartstoppers, Volume 4 by Alice Oseman
  • Earthed: A Memoir by Rebecca Schiller
  • Forecast: A Diary of the Lost Seasons by Joe Shute
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews
  • The Echo Chamber by John Boyne
  • Medusa’s Ankles: Selected Stories by A.S. Byatt
  • Darwin’s Dragons by Lindsay Galvin
  • Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs
  • Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse by Dave Goulson
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
  • The Cure for Good Intentions: A Doctor’s Story by Sophie Harrison
  • An Eye on the Hebrides: An Illustrated Journey by Mairi Hedderwick
  • Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
  • The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
  • The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
  • Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
  • His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
  • Heartstoppers, Volume 3 by Alice Oseman
  • Fox and I: An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven
  • Before Everything by Victoria Redel
  • Everyone Is Still Alive by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • Cut Out by Michèle Roberts
  • Sheets by Brenna Thummler
  • The Lost Soul by Olga Tokarczuk
  • A Walk from the Wild Edge by Jake Tyler
  • 12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next by Jeanette Winterson
  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
  • The Disaster Tourist by Ko-Eun Yun

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley
  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
  • Still Life by Sarah Winman

None of these captivated me after 10–30 pages. I’ll try the Shipstead and Winman again another time.

 

RETURNED UNREAD

  • Misplaced Persons by Susan Beale
  • This Happy by Niamh Campbell
  • Heavy Light: A Journey through Madness, Mania and Healing by Horatio Clare
  • Lakewood by Megan Giddings
  • The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley
  • A More Perfect Union by Tammye Huf
  • Joe Biden: American Dreamer by Evan Osnos
  • The Dig by John Preston
  • Dreamland by Rosa Rankin-Gee

The last of these was requested after me; I (at least temporarily) lost interest in the rest.

 

What appeals from my stacks?

Library Checkout, June 2021

I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things after my trip to the USA plus 10 days in quarantine. I sent my husband to pick up my latest pile of library reservations, and tomorrow I’ll get the chance to go in for one volunteering session before we’re off to Northumberland for 10 days (our major vacation of the year). It looks like Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle, at over 600 pages, will form the bulk of my holiday reading.

I would be delighted to have other bloggers – not just book bloggers – join in with this meme. Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (on the last Monday of each month), or tag me on Twitter and Instagram: @bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout & #LoveYourLibraries.

 

READ

  • Under the Blue by Oana Aristide
  • Blue Dog by Louis de Bernières
  • Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

SKIMMED

  • How to Be Sad: Everything I’ve Learned about Getting Happier, by Being Sad, Better by Helen Russell

CURRENTLY READING

  • Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette [set aside temporarily]

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • This Happy by Niamh Campbell
  • Heavy Light: A Journey through Madness, Mania and Healing by Horatio Clare
  • Lakewood by Megan Giddings
  • The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley
  • A More Perfect Union by Tammye Huf
  • The Rome Plague Diaries: Lockdown Life in the Eternal City by Matthew Kneale
  • Elegy for a River: Whiskers, Claws and Conservation’s Last, Wild Hope by Tom Moorhouse
  • Joe Biden: American Dreamer by Evan Osnos
  • The Dig by John Preston
  • Dreamland by Rosa Rankin-Gee
  • Broke Vegan: Over 100 Plant-Based Recipes that Don’t Cost the Earth by Saskia Sidey [to skim only]

Plus a cheeky new selection from the university library – graphic novels, poetry, and a bit of fiction. No photo as of yet, but this is what my husband is bringing back for me later today.

  • The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx by Tara Bergin
  • Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler
  • James Miranda Barry by Patricia Duncker
  • The Kite Runner: Graphic Novel by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Summer before the Dark by Doris Lessing
  • Jilted City by Patrick McGuinness
  • The State of the Prisons by Sinéad Morrissey
  • Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel by Mary Shelley
  • Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich

 

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • Misplaced Persons by Susan Beale
  • Second Place by Rachel Cusk
  • The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
  • The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis [to skim only]
  • Nothing but Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
  • Demystifying the Female Brain: A Neuroscientist Explores Health, Hormones and Happiness by Sarah McKay [to skim only]
  • Heartstoppers, Volume 1 by Alice Oseman
  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
  • Ice Rivers by Jemma Wadham
  • Still Life by Sarah Winman

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Consumed: A Sister’s Story by Arifa Akbar
  • Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews
  • Medusa’s Ankles: Selected Stories by A.S. Byatt
  • Darwin’s Dragons by Lindsay Galvin
  • When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
  • His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
  • To the Island of Tides: A Journey to Lindisfarne by Alistair Moffat
  • The Sea Is Not Made of Water: Life between the Tides by Adam Nicolson
  • Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Everyone Is Still Alive by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley
  • Earthed: A Memoir by Rebecca Schiller
  • I Belong Here: A Journey along the Backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi
  • Forecast: A Diary of the Lost Seasons by Joe Shute
  • Plague: A Very Short Introduction by Paul Slack
  • August Folly by Angela Thirkell
  • A Walk from the Wild Edge by Jake Tyler
  • August by Callan Wink
  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

 

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers – The first few pages didn’t draw me in, and I’ve seen very polarized responses.
  • Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal – I read the first 40-some pages and skimmed up to p. 90. Victoriana by numbers. None of the characters leapt out at me. Such a disappointment after how much I loved The Doll Factory!

 

What appeals from my stacks?

Library Checkout, May 2021

Another big library reading month for me as I scrambled to get through the books that were reserved after me and then wrangle the remaining pile under some semblance of control before heading back to the USA for my mother’s wedding. I’ve also suspended any holds that look like they might arrive imminently – the first time I’ve taken advantage of this option. Once I’m back I’m sure I’ll quickly build up another goodly stack to last me through the summer.

I give links to reviews of books I haven’t already featured here, as well as ratings for most reads and skims. I would be delighted to have other bloggers – not just book bloggers – join in with this meme. Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (on the last Monday of each month), or tag me on Twitter and Instagram: @bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout & #LoveYourLibraries.

 

READ

SKIMMED

  • After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond by Bruce Greyson
  • The Ministry of Bodies: Life and Death in a Modern Hospital by Seamus O’Mahony

CURRENTLY READING

  • Blue Dog by Louis de Bernières
  • Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette [set aside temporarily]

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • Under the Blue by Oana Aristide
  • Summer Story and Autumn Story by Jill Barklem
  • This Happy by Niamh Campbell
  • The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble
  • Lakewood by Megan Giddings
  • The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley
  • A More Perfect Union by Tammye Huf
  • The Rome Plague Diaries: Lockdown Life in the Eternal City by Matthew Kneale
  • His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
  • Dreamland by Rosa Rankin-Gee
  • How to Be Sad: Everything I’ve Learned about Getting Happier, by Being Sad, Better by Helen Russell
  • Earthed: A Memoir by Rebecca Schiller
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker (to reread)

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews
  • Misplaced Persons by Susan Beale
  • Civilisations by Laurent Binet
  • Medusa’s Ankles: Selected Stories by A.S. Byatt
  • Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
  • Heavy Light: A Journey through Madness, Mania and Healing by Horatio Clare
  • Second Place by Rachel Cusk
  • Darwin’s Dragons by Lindsay Galvin
  • Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny
  • The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
  • Nothing but Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
  • Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal
  • Demystifying the Female Brain by Sarah McKay
  • When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
  • Elegy for a River: Whiskers, Claws and Conservation’s Last, Wild Hope by Tom Moorhouse
  • Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan
  • Heartstoppers, Volume 1 by Alice Oseman
  • Joe Biden: American Dreamer by Evan Osnos
  • The Dig by John Preston
  • My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley
  • I Belong Here: A Journey along the Backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi
  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
  • Broke Vegan: Over 100 Plant-Based Recipes that Don’t Cost the Earth by Saskia Sidey
  • Still Life by Sarah Winman
  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
  • The Last Migration by Charlotte McConaghy – I read the first 22 pages. The plot felt very similar to Ankomst and I didn’t get drawn in by the prose, but this has been a huge word-of-mouth hit among my Goodreads friends. I’ll try it again another time.
  • Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley

RETURNED UNREAD

  • Failures of State: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle with Coronavirus by Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott – I think I’m finally tiring of Covid stories.
  • Life Support: Diary of an ICU Doctor on the Frontline of the COVID Crisis by Jim Down – Ditto, though having now seen him at a Hay Festival event I might give this a try another time.
  • Life Sentences by Billy O’Callaghan – I can’t even remember how I heard about this or why I put a request on it!

What appeals from my stacks?