Three Non-Fiction Books About Medicine

Pale Rider Laura SpinneyPale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed The World by Laura Spinney probably isn’t what most people consider to be cosy festive reading over Christmas but it is somewhat seasonal. Much of what has been written about the Spanish flu tends to focus on the impact it had on Western countries in the aftermath of the First World War but Spinney’s book is a refreshingly global account of how the virus reached all corners of the earth from Alaska to Rio de Janeiro to Samoa to China. Estimates remain vague but the Spanish flu is believed to have killed at least 50 million people worldwide, possibly as many as 100 million, and its rapid spread is likely to have been partly exacerbated by soldiers returning home at the end of the First World War. Continue reading

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My Most Anticipated Books of 2018

Happy new year! Without further ado, here is a selection of 20 upcoming titles I will be looking out for in 2018 (publication dates where known apply to the UK):

Feel Free Zadie SmithAmong non-fiction titles, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari will be out in August as the historian turns his attention to issues in the present day following the success of Sapiens and Homo Deus. I have a particular interest in non-fiction concerning healthcare and medicine and two books I will be looking out for are Shapeshifters: On Medicine and Human Change by Gavin Francis and Brainstorm: Detective Stories from the World of Neurology by Suzanne O’Sullivan. Elsewhere, Feel Free by Zadie Smith is a collection of the celebrated author’s essays on a variety of subjects due in February. Continue reading

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Elmet by Fiona Mozley

Elmet Fiona MozleyLast year’s Man Booker Prize longlist was largely dominated by established authors apart from the surprise inclusion of PhD student Fiona Mozley with her debut novel ‘Elmet’ which made the shortlist but lost out to Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders for the overall prize. Set in Yorkshire, it tells the story of teenage siblings Daniel and Cathy and their father Daddy (also known as John) who relocate from their red-brick house in town to secluded woodland where they have built their own home by hand and living according to ethical principles. However, they soon come into conflict with the rich landowners, putting their way of life in danger. Continue reading

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My Books of the Year 2017

I have read a lot of great books this year, some new and some not quite so new. Here are some of my favourites:

The Nix Nathan HillAmong new fiction titles, The Nix by Nathan Hill and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng were both memorable stand-outs. I also reread His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman ahead of the publication of La Belle Sauvage, the first part of the Book of Dust trilogy – a thrilling and imaginative story which did not disappoint. Solar Bones by Mike McCormack was an unexpected delight from this year’s Man Booker Prize longlist – beautifully written, gripping, funny and inventive. Continue reading

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Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson

Emotionally Weird Kate AtkinsonMy first review of the year was of Kate Atkinson’s debut novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum which prompted me to make more of an effort to read the back catalogues of my favourite authors. It therefore seems fitting to end the year with a review of Atkinson’s third novel ‘Emotionally Weird’ which was first published in 2000 and tells the story of Euphemia (Effie) Stuart-Murray and her mother Nora who live on a remote Scottish island. Effie is telling Nora about her life as a student in Dundee living with her Star Trek-obsessed boyfriend Bob. However, Effie also has questions about her family history and what she really wants is for Nora to disclose who her real father is. Continue reading

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The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The Diary of a Bookseller Shaun Bythell‘The Diary of a Bookseller’ is Shaun Bythell’s account of running Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop which he bought in 2001 in Wigtown, Scotland’s national book town. While many book lovers may dream about spending all day every day working in a rambling Georgian townhouse stuffed with over 100,000 books, Bythell’s diaries from 2014 to early 2015 dispel a lot of the romanticised myths about running a bookshop, particularly when it comes to the realities of competing against a certain online retailer. Continue reading

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere Celeste NgIn the opening chapter of ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ by Celeste Ng, the Richardson family home in the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights near Cleveland, Ohio, is burning to the ground in a fire believed to have been started deliberately by their rebellious daughter, Izzy. The story looks back at the events which led to this catastrophe, ultimately beginning when the Richardsons’ tenant, Mia Warren, becomes a part-time housekeeper for the family and Mia’s fifteen-year-old daughter Pearl, befriends the Richardson teenage siblings Lexie, Trip, Moody and Izzy. Continue reading

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