Since starting this blog, I have read various memoirs by medical professionals – a genre which provides thought-provoking insight into the practical and emotional side of modern medicine. From Atul Gawande to Suzanne O’Sullivan to Kathryn Mannix, each has offered new insight into their work and area of expertise, often through the stories of individual patients. I have recently read two more books which broaden the scope of the genre beyond case studies and explore other aspects of the author’s personal lives, careers and their specialties.
In his memoir ‘Face to Face’, Professor Jim McCaul, a consultant surgeon in maxillofacial surgery at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, recounts cases in which he has restored patients’ appearances following accidents, violence and the removal of tumours from the head and neck (which take up around 80% of his work). Continue reading
’Transcription’ is the latest stand-alone novel by Kate Atkinson in which eighteen-year-old Juliet Armstrong is recruited straight out of school by MI5 in 1940 not long after her mother has died. Initially given secretarial tasks as well as the roles usually left to women such as making the tea, she soon begins transcription work monitoring the conversations held in a flat in Pimlico between Fascist sympathisers and an undercover British agent named Godfrey Toby who poses as a member of the Gestapo. A decade later, she is working as a radio producer of children’s programmes at the BBC believing that her wartime activities now lie in the past. However, a chance encounter with Godfrey (also known as John Hazeldine), some threatening notes and a sense that she is being followed remind her that the world of espionage is not one easily left behind and there are some who want Juliet to know that her actions have had far-reaching consequences. Continue reading
‘Melmoth’ by Sarah Perry tells the story of Helen Franklin, a British woman in her forties working as a translator in Prague where she has lived for some twenty years in self-imposed exile. Her friend Karel has come into possession of the papers of fellow scholar Josef Hoffman who has recently been found dead in the National Library. Among the papers is a manuscript which tells of Melmoth the Witness, an obscure legend in which, according to superstition, Melmoth travels through the ages, persuading those wracked with guilt to wander alongside her on a journey of eternal damnation. Helen’s initial scepticism of the legend wanes when Karel disappears and she is forced to confront the reasons why she cannot forgive herself for the outcome of events in her own past.
I have an ever-growing list of books I want to read which will be published in 2019, even though it is extremely unlikely I will get round to all of them in the next 12 months and more will inevitably distract me as the year goes on. Here is a selection of some I will be looking out for. All publication dates where known apply to the UK only and may be subject to change.
Among fiction titles, there are numerous sequels and instalments of series due in 2019. Spring by Ali Smith is the third book in the Scottish author’s seasons cycle following Autumn (2016) and Winter (2017) with Summer presumably following in 2020.
A part of me wonders if The Testaments by Margaret Atwood would ever have been written if the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale hadn’t been so successful. Set 15 years after the original book, the new volume won’t be based on the grim storylines of the second season broadcast last year, but it’s safe to assume that it won’t be a light and cheery read either. Continue reading
Is it possible not to have a good year for books? Thankfully, I don’t think this has happened to me yet, so here is a list of the books I enjoyed the most in 2018.
I have read more non-fiction than ever this year, partly due to shadowing the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist in March and April which I hope to do again in 2019. To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell won the official prize and was also our shadow panel winner – it’s a fun, informative and pretty terrifying book about transhumanism. , Yet while transhumanists are trying to avoid death at all costs, With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix explores the practical side of dying and what a “good” death can look like from her work as a palliative care consultant and this was a stand-out title for me this year. Another book I would happily press into the hands of everyone I meet is The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken which is an eye-opening account of the inner workings of the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom. And Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar is a book I am still thinking about regularly months after I finished it mostly because the stories of extreme do-gooders are actually more unsettling than uplifting in many cases. Continue reading
I’m back from a month-long blogging break after moving house this month. Thankfully, everything has gone smoothly and I managed to fit in some reading (albeit at a much slower pace than normal) with non-fiction being the order of the day in the run up to Christmas.
Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth won this year’s Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award earlier this month and documents Weymouth’s 2,000 mile journey by canoe along the Yukon river through Canada and Alaska to the Bering Sea in a highly original and ecologically aware travel memoir. The remotest areas of the world tend to be where the effects of climate change, globalisation and industrial fishing are felt most keenly and the far north-west of North America is no exception. Local communities relying on King salmon (also known as chinook) for their livelihoods now face huge uncertainty with rapidly dwindling numbers of fish now spawning there. Fishing quotas might not sound like the most fascinating topic but the lyrical descriptions of the landscape alongside tales of the people he meets along the way, help put the worrying statistics into context. I doubt I would have come across ‘Kings of the Yukon if it hadn’t been shortlisted for the Young Writer of the Year Award and I hope that the extra exposure from winning the prize will see Weymouth’s audience expand much further. Continue reading
I will be taking a short break from blogging in December while I sort out moving to my new flat but I have been to two great book events this month to take my mind off some of the stress. Rebecca at Bookish Beck has been on a roll winning free tickets on Twitter recently and after our trip to see Wise Children at the theatre last month, we went to see Barbara Kingsolver in conversation with Samira Ahmed at the Royal Festival Hall in London a couple of weeks ago where we also met up with Laura from our Wellcome Book Prize shadow panel. Continue reading