Tag Archives: Non Fiction

Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss

Names for the Sea Strangers in Iceland Sarah Moss‘Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland’ is Sarah Moss’s account of living in Reykjavik for a year between 2009 and 2010. Moss first visited Iceland as a child and later with a friend when she was nineteen during a university summer holiday. Some fifteen years later and now married with two young sons, she applied for a job at the University of Iceland teaching Romantic poetry and creative writing as a visiting lecturer and fulfilled a childhood dream of moving to the country with her family. Continue reading

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Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker

Skyfaring Mark Vanhoenacker‘Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot’ is Mark Vanhoenacker’s unique account exploring the wonders of flight and his day-to-day work as a long distance airline pilot. After abandoning his postgraduate studies in African history followed by a few years working as a management consultant, Vanhoenacker pursued his childhood dream of learning to fly aeroplanes. He is now a senior first officer with British Airways flying Boeing 747s across the world.  Continue reading

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Bookshops in Hay-on-Wye

As well as hosting one of the biggest literary festivals in the country, Hay-on-Wye is the official book town of Wales and home to over twenty bookshops. It was somewhat inevitable that I would end up visiting a few and making some purchases during my time at the festival last month…

Hay Cinema Bookshop

Hay Cinema Bookshop

One of the first bookshops I visited was the Hay Cinema Bookshop with Francis Edwards Antiquarian Books on the top floor. I made three more visits during the week and still feel like I barely scratched the surface of this enormous shop which has been based in a converted cinema since 1965. It’s a bit like Baggins Book Bazaar – another very large second-hand bookshop in Rochester, Kent – but with a much wider range of fiction including a large amount of brand new remainder stock. I bought seven books from the shop which has an excellent range of translated fiction and literary biographies. Continue reading

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Five Books I’ve Read Recently

I normally write a post about books I have read but haven’t reviewed at the end of the year but I may start doing review round-ups a bit more frequently so I don’t fall too far behind. Here are my thoughts about five books I’ve read in the past three months or so:

Kiss Me FirstDubbed as a “Facebook thriller”, Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach tells the story of socially awkward Leila, who is approached by Adrian Dervish to impersonate Tess Williams online to create the illusion that Tess is still alive after she has committed suicide. It’s not uncommon for me to have mixed feelings about a book but I usually have some idea of whether I either liked it or disliked it overall. However, the reason I didn’t review ‘Kiss Me First’ around the time I read it back in March was because I genuinely had no idea how I felt about it. The concept was cleverly manipulated but I still felt the  implausible elements of the story generally outweighed the plausible ones, particularly the pretence of keeping Tess “alive” online. Either way, it would certainly be an interesting novel to discuss in a book group. Continue reading

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Hay Festival: Helen Macdonald and Tracey Thorn

On Saturday, my final day at the Hay Festival, I went to see Helen Macdonald deliver the Samuel Johnson Prize lecture at the Tata tent about ‘H is for Hawk‘ which has won both the Costa Book of the Year and Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction awards. ‘H is for Hawk’ was one of my favourite non-fiction books of 2014 and was the first memoir to win the Samuel Johnson Prize since its launch in 1999. The book comprises of three strands: Macdonald’s experiences of grief following the death of her father in 2007, her attempt to train a goshawk called Mabel and a biography of T. H. White. Her lecture focused on the former two aspects rather than T. H. White’s story. You can watch a clip of the event here where Macdonald describes meeting Mabel for the first time.

Helen Macdonald and Tracey Thorn

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Hay Festival: Jessie Burton and Jon Ronson

I went to two events during my second day at the Hay Festival on Monday. First up in the morning was Jessie Burton in conversation with Georgina Godwin about her novel ‘The Miniaturist’ in the Tata tent. The event was the last day of the official tour to promote her novel which was on of the biggest debuts of 2014. As Godwin noted in her introduction, the book “went viral in an analogue way” becoming a word-of-mouth bestseller and has since been published in 34 countries.

Hay Festival Jessie Burton Jon Ronson

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One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

One Summer America 1927Happy new year to you all! I have been continuing my recent spell of non-fiction reading over the Christmas holidays with Bill Bryson’s latest book ‘One Summer: America, 1927’, whose title is about as self-explanatory as it gets. As you might expect, it is indeed about the people and events which dominated the summer of 1927 in the United States of America. While it isn’t perhaps the most recognisably significant year in modern history in the same way that 1945 and 1989 are etched in the collective memory as turning points in the twentieth century, Bryson shows that this particular summer was a very important one in the social and economic history of the United States.

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Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

Do No HarmNow approaching retirement after working as a senior consultant at St George’s Hospital in London since 1987, ‘Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery’ is Henry Marsh’s reflection on a long and distinguished career in neurosurgeon. Yet the first sentence of the opening chapter is rather disconcerting to say the least, especially coming from one of the most experienced neurosurgeons in the UK: “I often have to cut into the brain and it is something I hate doing.” Having encountered a significant number of highs and lows throughout his career, it is soon clear this isn’t something Marsh has ever taken for granted. Continue reading

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H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H is for HawkAs a commuter in London, I automatically assume that strangers who are trying to talk to me or distract me are probably attempting to pickpocket me. However, for the first time ever on my way home from work recently, I was briefly stopped by a stranger at a train station who commented on the book I was reading. He noticed I was holding a copy of ‘H is for Hawk’ by Helen Macdonald and just said “Great book! Really great book!” At the time, I was just over half way through it and had already arrived at this conclusion. I quickly said “Yes, I’m really enjoying it!” before we went our separate ways. Continue reading

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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusI enjoyed ‘The Circle‘ by Dave Eggers earlier this year but it has to be said that the core message about the evils of the Internet was pretty overdone. However, what Eggers lacks in subtlety, he makes up for in irony and it’s therefore unsurprising that he gave his memoir the title ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’. First published in 2000, this was Eggers’ first book which is a loose account of his life following the deaths of his parents from cancer in the early 1990s within six weeks of each other. At the age of twenty-one, Eggers found himself to be the unofficial guardian of his eight-year-old brother Christopher known as Toph. They moved from the suburbs of Chicago to California where Eggers later co-founded the satirical magazine ‘Might’. Continue reading

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The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

The Year of Reading Dangerously‘The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life’ is Andy Miller’s account of his journey through reading fifty books he had always intended to read. After years of pretending to have read classic novels he had never even glanced at and realising that the only book he had read was ‘The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown in the three years since becoming a parent, Miller set about finally getting round to some of the great works of literature which had passed him by for so long. Continue reading

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Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hard Choices‘Hard Choices’ is Hillary Rodham Clinton’s account of the challenges she faced as America’s 67th Secretary of State between 2009 and 2013 during Barack Obama’s first term as President of the United States. Covering major world events including the global financial crisis, the Arab Spring, wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East and the continuing global challenges of climate change and poverty, ‘Hard Choices’ charts Clinton’s first-hand experience of foreign affairs and outlines her approach to diplomacy based on “smart power” using a combination of “hard power” in the form of actions and “soft power” through discussions. Continue reading

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Moranthology by Caitlin Moran

MoranthologyThe ingeniously titled ‘Moranthology’ is a collection of Caitlin Moran’s columns, reviews and interviews originally published in The Times. Following the success of her guide to modern feminism, ‘How To Be a Woman‘, this collection covers a broader range of topics including Boris Johnson, cannabis, tax, Doctor Who, holidays in Aberystwyth, burqas, World of Warcraft, party bags and pandas to name a few. Continue reading

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