I’m sharing my reading update a bit early this month, for various reasons, including 1) it’s the school holidays and you have to take the chance when you get it, and 2) I’ve just started Dragonfly in Amber (the second book in the Outlander series), and there’s no way I’m finishing THAT 960 page baby in less than a week 😉 . So here I am with a surprisingly bumper July round up – I’ve read some fantastic books this month and the slower holiday season is proving to be fertile reading ground 🙂 . It’s an eclectic mix as always – so hopefully you’ll see something that might end up winging its way onto your bookshelf or your screen 🙂 .
My first book for July was A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, the first in a young adult fantasy series I had heard about from Hayley. This first instalment tells the story of Feyre, a young huntress who lives in a world inhabited by both mortals and faeries. When Feyre mistakenly kills a faerie during one of her hunting expeditions, she is given the choice of giving up her life or going to live with Tamlin, a shape-shifting faerie and ruler of a Fae realm known as the Spring Court. Initially repulsed by Tamlin and everything he stands for, Feyre seeks escape from his manor and a return to her impoverished family in the human realm. But as she learns more about her captor, and a blight that threatens both faeries and humans, Feyre decides on a course of action that will jeopardise her very existence – and ultimately determine how far she’ll go for love. I absolutely loved this book, the Fae imagery and the epic romance, and although it’s classed as a young adult novel, it’s actually more adult than some of the ‘adult’ books I’ve read! It’s edgy, dark and Maas’s writing jumps off the page from start to finish. If you like the sound of a Beauty and the Beast/Twilight/Hunger Games mash up, this might be a perfect fit for your future reading list.
My second book for July was Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, a sort of instruction manual on writing which was recommended at the writing retreat I went on back in May. I loved the many anecdotes which made up the book, not least of which was the story behind the title – the author’s brother sitting overwhelmed by a report he had to write on birds and his father telling him just to take it ‘bird by bird.’ Some of the American cultural references scattered throughout the book eluded me but I don’t really think that mattered. I was actually as affected by Lamott’s observations on life as I was the wonderful writing advice she shares throughout the book.
Talking of being affected, my third book for July was one of the most affecting things I’ve read for a long time. When Breath Becomes Air is the memoir of Paul Kalanithi, a gifted young neurosurgeon who died in 2015 after a diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer just 22 months before. The memoir charts Paul’s transition from doctor nearing the end of a decade’s worth of training to terminally ill patient trying to find meaning in the face of an unthinkable reality. I read this book in less than 24 hours – it’s short and utterly compelling. The fact that the book was left unfinished at the time of Kalanithi’s death (noted in a heart-breaking epilogue written by his wife Lucy), really drives home the crushing reality of his clipped existence. Yet Paul’s final words in the book seem anything but incomplete – instead offering hope and meaning amongst the devastation. Reading this left me feeling raw for days after I finished it, but despite this, I can’t help feeling this is a book that everyone should read.
My fourth book for the month was one I picked up in a charity shop after running out of reading material (gasp!) on a campervan trip. Ikigai focuses mainly on Blue Zones, longevity and wellbeing (in particular drawing on the experience of those living in Okinawa in Japan). It’s a short, positive read with lots of tips on living well from Japanese culture. I loved one quote from a 111 year old man when questioned on the secret to living so long: ‘I just haven’t died yet.’ A great little read if you’re intered in health, self-improvement and generally living life to the max.
My fifth (FIFTH! *happy dance*) book for July was The Outrun by Amy Liptrot, a frank memoir of addiction played out between the bright lights of London and the wild landscape of the Orkney Isles. I loved this book, not least because of the many parallels between life in Orkney and my home in Caithness. Amy tells her story of falling into alcohol addiction – and finding a way back to living – with the kind of stark honesty that’s mirrored in Orkney’s relentless landscape. This is a fantastic, well written and absorbing memoir – definitely one to pick up if you like books about people, nature and connection to home and place.
My sixth and final book for July (give or take a few chapters of Drangonfly in Amber 😉 ) , was Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. I loved reading about Brené’s research on vulnerability and shame and her advice on showing up and having the courage and willingness to engage with life. It made me think a lot about my writing – I also got a lot from the section on ‘wholehearted parenting’. I particularly like Brené’s answer to anonymous critics: ‘If you’re not in the arena with the rest of us, getting your a** kicked on occasion I’m not interested in your feedback.’ This is a woman from whom there is an awful lot to learn!
So that’s it for my July reading round up – I think that’s probably enough to be going on with 🙂 . Do let me know if it’s given you any inspiration for your summer reading pile. As for me, I better get going – I have approximately 912 pages of Drangonfly in Amber left to read….. 🙂
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