I am an avid reader and normally have at least three or four books on the go. My desire to read non-fiction continues! Here is a round-up of my January reads. You can see all my reviews on my Good Reads page.
MY BOOK OF THE MONTH is Sixteen Days by Victoria Wilson-Crane . Victoria describes the devastating days after her 22-year-old niece suddenly dies. She is grieving but also supporting those in the epicentre of grief. She has used these experiences to create an intimate, moving and useful guide to supporting someone through grief. There are tips at the end of each chapter for how to deal with certain situations, and what to do (or not do) when someone has been recently bereaved. Despite the subject matter, I found it easy to read, and I finished it in one day.
It’s a book everyone should read, ideally before they think they might need it. For some, it may be too soon after their own bereavement to read it. I will be filing away the sage advice it contains to refer back to, and I’m sure it’s a book to dip back into. I am very grateful to Victoria for sharing her experiences, and to her sister and family for supporting her to do so.
The Farthest Shore by Alex Roddie. Alex takes us with him as he walks the Cape Wrath Trail in Scotland, in Winter, in a bid to escape a jittery feeling of being ever connected to the internet, and to be soothed by nature. He is a proficient outdoor writer, and I did feel I was on the path with him. My favourite line – “The real world is moss and bark and mud and the puff of a robin’s breath condensing in the air at dawn”. It was his exploration of connection vs connectivity, and the human encounters I enjoyed the most. Alex talks about grieving, mental health and the climate crisis, ending the book with a manifesto which really spoke to me. It echoed some of the themes in my own book about getting up close with nature and really noticing it.
What I Wish People Knew About Dementia by Wendy Mitchell. This is a book which will change your perspective about dementia and how you think about those living with dementia. Wendy is an inspirational character, who guides us through everything from the impact dementia can have on relationships to one’s senses. It’s no nonsense and I’ve no doubt it will help an awful lot of people to come to terms with a diagnosis. I liked the inclusion of thoughts from others living with dementia which allowed us to look through a wider lens. It’s a great follow up to her memoir, Somebody I Used To Know, which I also enjoyed a couple of years ago. It’s always useful to learn about health conditions which all of us are likely to come across at some point.
Struggle by Grace Marshall. This is an easy to read self-help guide, each page packed with pearls of wisdom. I marked a lot of pages to go back to, both for myself and to share with colleagues. I liked the loose structure and the sense that each short section is full of quotes or take-home messages. You can read each one by itself which means it’s a book to dip in and out of when you feel you are struggling and need to lift yourself up. My natural inclination is to help others fix things, so I particularly liked these lines which will encourage me to step away from fixing. “The fixer wants to take our burden. The witness gives us strength”. I’ll definitely be adding her other books How To Be Really Productive and 21 Ways To Manage The Stuff Which Sucks Up Your Time to my wish list.
The Green Grocer by Richard Walker. Richard is the CEO of Iceland, and this book charts his efforts to make Iceland more sustainable. This is extremely relevant to me, as I try and tackle sustainability in the two garden centres I run with my two brothers and my Dad. I ended up with many post-it notes marking things to go back to; organisations I want to look up, ways of thinking, examples of how much effort you need to put in to make high impact changes. He said business leaders should all be activists, and he also gave me confidence that there is a place for smaller businesses to lead on this. Whilst Iceland is way bigger than my businesses, he is leading one of the smaller grocery chains, and he uses this as a positive – acting as a disrupter and going where bigger chains wouldn’t, encouraging them to follow. I was disappointed to then read in Which? that Iceland was one of the worst supermarket chains for sustainability, as this didn’t fit with my impression having read the book. It was a reminder to be cautious about my reads, and not to take everything at face value.
Energy Aware by Ildiko Spinfisher. Ildiko explores ‘a hidden domain which is the vibrational database of all life. A powerful, invisible force you didn’t realise you had’. This book took me out of my echo chamber, out of my realm of understanding, and sometimes outside of what I currently believe to be true. I enjoyed being challenged and regardless of whether I fully understood it or not there were many pieces of sensible advice and guidance. For example, the section about being a guard dog and wanting to live out our own failed dreams and goals through someone else. As parents we have to be very careful not to do this. In recognise the mirror Ildiko encourages the reader to think about the emotion someone else may be triggering in them.
The Broken Wand by Denise Tyler – Denise and I grew up in the same village, so I was fascinated to read her debut novel. After her two characters Angelique and Mike meet, they find their lives rapidly changing, but will it be for the better? A contemporary tale, exploring how to stand up for yourself, find your way in the world and picking yourself up to try again. We all know a ‘Mike’ who has become a bit complacent with life and lost their mojo. We all know an ‘Angelique’ who has to fight for more than most people, in her case due to Achondroplasia. I’m not particularly a fan of magic but this really didn’t matter, as it was merely a starting point for the story and the characters were the star here.
Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew-Bergman. Last year I decided to read some collections of short stories with a view to maybe writing some myself. This collection came recommended by a Twitter friend, and whilst I’m not raving about it I can see why. The stories are all based around elements of nature, particularly animals and birds, which I really enjoyed. The stories were extremely quirky, such as a trip across American states to find the parrot who mimicked the main character’s dead mother. Some of the American references passed me by and it wasn’t a book I could relate to but the way she crafts her short stories is exquisite.