September in books

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it” P. J. O’Rourke

A bit of a mixed bag this month – I’ve been branching in to non-fiction and really enjoyed reading outside of my comfort zone…

Tim Spector, The Diet Myth

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-20-35-43I’ve been reading this book for ages, probably about six months, dipping in and out every now and then. Written by Tim Spector, a Professor of epidemiology and lead of the British Gut Microbiome Project (i.e., someone who is *qualified* to talk about health in the way no modern food writers seem to be) it breaks down a whole lot of myths around food, nutrition, the way our bodies process what we eat and drink, and how these all relate to being ‘healthy’. I picked the book initially in the hope it’d help me stay healthy after my move into vegetarianism, particularly given there’s a variety of stomach issues in my family. While it wasn’t ground-breaking for me as someone who is fairly clued up anyway (the highlight was having my criticisms of Paleo and low carb diets vindicated), I enjoyed it and I’m sure I’ll come back to certain chapters in future as it’s nicely laid out according to food group (carbs, proteins etc.). It’s an easy read, in a chatty and accessible format – definitely worth a gander for anyone looking to improve their knowledge about health and food.

Robin Stevens, A Murder Most Unladylike

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When I saw Janet’s review, I knew I’d enjoy this – and I did. Harking back to the days of boarding school tales, it’s a rather tongue in cheek pastiche of both the ‘girls adventure’ genre, and cosy murder mysteries. Published as a children’s/teen book, it’s funny enough to appeal to adults, and the mystery itself is actually pretty decent – plenty of red herrings, some minor scandal, and some excellent lead characters in the glamorous Daisy, and her slightly frumpy best friend Hazel. I thoroughly enjoyed my year at Deepdean School For Girls.

Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

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I’m late to the party with this one but I suspect part of the reason I enjoyed it is because I’d forgotten pretty much everything I heard when it was published. Emily, a depressed young woman, finds herself entangled in a missing person case. Her alcoholism making her a particularly unreliable witness and it would have been easy for Hawkins to stumble on her characterisation here, using stereotypes and prejudices, but I found her handling of Emily’s mental health sensitively done. The slow reveal of her demise as the book progresses allows the reader to empathise with the situation, despite being as frustrated with Emily’s narrative as she is with herself. It’s hard to review without spoilers, and the ending itself was gripping but a minor let down (maybe I have a particularly dark mind or was expecting a final twist), and I’m not sure the film will do the nuances of the plot justice.

Curtis Sittenfeld, Eligible

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I didn’t have high hopes for this one. Given to me by a friend who knows how much I enjoy an Austen, I was a little worried – I’ve detested all of the other Austen Project rewrites so far. But. I was wrong. Now – there are caveats to this. Primarily, the reason I liked Eligible was that it really wasn’t a retelling, more a reimagining and so to an extent, I was able to detatch myself from the original. The scandals and desperation of women in the early nineteenth century don’t really have modern equivalents, so Sittenfeld has been clever in the way that she’s used the plot as a guide and reinterpreted the characters (something some of the other Project rewrites could have benefited from). This does mean some of my favourite elements of the originals were missing, Mr Bennett for example was missing his resigned intelligent nature, but the general ‘feel’ and pace have been retained and it’s still pretty amusing. Daft, and enjoyable.

Susan Calman, Cheer Up Love

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Part biography, part self help book, Calman has adapted one of her best known standup comedy shows into a short book about herself, her career and her experiences of depression. As a fan of her standup and  her Radio 4 programmes I looked forward to picking it up after hearing positive reviews from a friend, and I wasn’t disappointed. Warm, honest and funny, her writing is very easy to read and I found her honesty and vulnerabilities refreshing.