My Book Book

I’m an avid reader and since 1994 I have kept a ‘Book Book’. I had to do this because I would find myself half way through a new book thinking, “this is a bit familiar” and of course, I’d read it before! So I started to write a short paragraph for each book I read. I’m now obsessive, I can count how many books I read in a year, I tick off my favourite authors, making sure I devour all their books. I also score them all out of ten!

My lovely Irish Mother was a fertile source of books, she had stacks of them and guarded them like a fierce librarian, doling them out fairly between her three daughters. We are all obsessive readers, who in turn recommend and share our books.

My Ma was a terrible sleeper, she would roam around the house at night, we would always know where she had settled because of the various piles of books we found in the morning. She would always have two or three on the go, I can only do one at a time.

There are many authors, all of whose work I have read with great delight, I want them to live forever and carry on writing: Terry Pratchett, Elizabeth George, Robert Goddard, Angela Huth, Donna Leon, William Horwood, JK Rowling, Robert Harris, Carl Hiassen, Peter Robinson, Minette Walters, Joanne Harris, Kathy Reichs, Phillip Pullman, Stephen Booth, Val McDermid, Nicci French, Anita Shreive, Kate Mosse, Mark Haddon, Kate Morton, Jodi Picoult, Rose Tremain, Andrea Camilleri, Stieg Larsson (RIP), Lindsey Davis, Jo Nesbo, Susan Hill, M R Hall, Sophie Hannah and more.

There are authors whose early work I loved; Tom Sharpe, Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell, Michael Connelly, Alexander McCall Smith, Patricia Cornwall and more.

These are just some of the books I have loved (9 and 10/10s) and one or two I have hated.

2012

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Stepped Out of The Window and Disappeared: Jonas Jonasson

  • Quirky, clever, neat.
  • Makes sense of the history of the 20th century

Italian Neighbours: Tim Parks

  • Easy to read but fascinating insight into Italian people
  • Explained such a lot!

Magnus: George Mackay Brown

  • Poetic, Spare, extraordinary; a clever tale of the Orkneys and sacrifice
  • It haunts me

2011

A Fine Balance: Rohinton Mistry

  • I think I have only read a few books of this magnitude, it is one that changes you forever. Its made my image of the globe bulge and seethe where Indian is.
  • You must read it!

The Woman in the Fifth: Douglas Kennedy

  • I thought this was a serious read….
  • I enjoyed its unexpectedness

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: Susanna Clarke

  • 1006 pages of genius, a believable mad and wonderful invention.
  • I want it to be true

The Girl with Glass Feet: Ali Shaw

  • Magical, beautiful, Ida is turning to glass, feet first. Some captivating images here.
  • Recommended by @NiceLittlePlace on Twitter, thank you

2010

Our Lady of the Forest: David Guterson

  • Deeply atmospheric and wet- rain rain rain. A moving book about characters in a backwater and possibly hopeless community where astonishing things happen- in the rain.

On Green Dolphin Street: Sebastian Faulkes

  • Set in USA during the Kennedy /Nixon election, a personal story of Mary
  • Can’t explain why I enjoyed this so much, but I did.

2009

Testament of Youth: Vera Brittain

  • A life changing book, for the first time I read what it was like to grow up in the 1st WW, Vera and her generation lost so much.
  • A very inspiring book.

The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Mary Ann Shatter and Anne Barrow

  • Delightful, light and moving story involving Gurnsey and the Nazi occupation.

The Secret Scripture: Sebastian Barry

  • In Ireland, a 100yr old lady, a patient in an asylum has her story told by a gentle and distracted doctor.
  • A beautiful, moving story. My lovely Mum recommended it.

19th Wife: David Ebershoff

  • Astonishing story of the founding of the Mormons, Latter Day Saints.
  • Shocking story linking the past and present

The Rose of Sebastopol: Katharine McMahon

  • Evocative story, behind the scenes of the Crimea War.

A Quiet Belief in Angels: R J Ellory

  • Brilliant book, shocking early events for a little boy take over his life.
  • Excellent!

2008

Room for a Single Lady: Clare Boylan

  • Lovely involving tale, poor irish family rent out their spare room to a succession of single ladies.

The Book Thief: Markus Zusak

  • Wow! What an amazing book- such exquiste language- read it please!

Confessions of a Gambler: Rayda Jacobs

  • Extraordinary book about 49 yrs old S African muslim woman- captivating and shocking, brilliant!
  • I didn’t mean to read this but I ran out of books while working in Sweden and this was the only English book on offer, then I couldn’t put it down!

Stargazing: Peter Hill

  • Mild, Quirky and interesting, art student Peter becomes a temporary lighthouse keeper in the 1970s.

What Came Before He Shot Her: Elizabeth George

  • Excellent explanation of how dysfunctional families affect London’s gangs.
  • This has stayed with me.

Notes from an Exhibition: Patrick Gale

  • What is says really, a wonderful story, partly told through exhibition notes, poignant, moving and clever.

The Thirteenth Tale: Diane Setterfield

  • A dying storyteller needs to tell the truth, her last story. Lots of twists and turns.

The Kite Runner: Khaled Hosseni

  • Uncomfortable but unputdownable, made me care about Afghanistan.

My Brilliant Career: Miles Franklin

  • A boystrous, ebulliant, energetic book. In the out back of Australia is a girl with huge pretensions and ambition. She wrote this at the age of 16 in 1800s.
  • A classic and brilliant book.

The American Boy: Andrew Taylor

  • Involved and Dickens like, a tale of intrigue in vile Regency London and freezing cold Gloucestershire, lots of murder and violence.
  • My daughter’s book, I have very fond memories of this, read when I was fever ridden with pluerisy.

A Round Heeled Woman: Jane Juska

  • Amazing, real and rather disturbing, at 66 Jane put an ad in the NY Literary Review, “Before I turn 67 I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like”- this is the story.
  • I heard her interviewed on Woman’s Hour and had to read the book.

2007

Crow Lake: Mary Lawson

  • Kate looks back on her journey to where she is now, from an isolated farming community
  • Readable and thoroughly involving book

Elizabeth and Her German Garden: Elizabeth von Arnim

  • Adorable, witty book full of lovely relationships, I loved it!

A Life in Secrets: Sarah Helm

  • An amazing biography of Vera Atkins, born in Romania she became the head of SOE French section in WW2.
  • This is a truly remarkable book, recomended to me by my lovely friend Ann Sutton, who lived through it.
  • Bizarrely, I ended up reading the Romanian part in Romania, the French Part in France and the Dutch part in Skipol Airport.

The Farm: Richard Benson

  • The story of a failing family farm in Yorkshire.
  • Charts agriculture over the last 40 yrs, excellent.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian: Maria Lewycka

  • Ukranian Valentina hits a UK family like a bombshell with superior breasts!
  • Fabulous book.

Bertie May and Mrs Fish: Xandra Bingley

  • Very immediate and lively childhood memories of a small country girl. A lovely lovely book!

The Inbetween Life of Vikram Lall: MG Vassanji

  • Fast paced, wide ranging epic, India, Kenya, Mau Mau rebellion, I learned so much.

2006

The Red Tent: ?

  • Amazing, excellent book, what life was like in Biblical times.

Miss Garnett’s Angel: Salley Vickers

  • Lovely book, partly set in Venice, beautiful.

Ten Seconds from the Sun: Russell Celyn Jones

  • He murdered someone when he was a child, found a happy life, but then….
  • I learned a lot about London and the Thames, excellent book

Man Overboard: Tim Binding

  • CommanderBuster Crabb, WW2 diver and what might have happened to him.
  • Fascinating!

We Need to Talk About Kevin: Lionel Shriner

  • Its a horrible book, hated it, didn’t like the writing but I couldn’t put it down- its awful but I’m glad I read it.

Invitation to Married Life: Angela Huth

  • Modern Jane Austen (I think) wonderfully written, amusing, warm but sharp.
  • I have loved all of the books I’ve read by Angela Huth.

Carter Beats the Devil: Glen David Gold

  • Excellent tale of Carter the great magician, love, tragedy, magic, and lots of bizarre things.

The Time Traveller’s Wife: Audrey Niffenegger

  • They met when she was 6 and he was 40, married when she was 25 and he was 30
  • A brilliant re-invention of the story, a gorgeous book, couldn’t get it out of my head!

2005

Absolute Friends: John Le Carre

  • Excellent, a real comment on our times, shocking and readable.

At all Costs: John Gilstrap

  • A rollicking, fast paced gripping book, innocents on the run, phew!

Atonement: Ian McEwan

  • How something innocuous and innocent can wreck lives- amazing book.

A Year in the Merde: Stephen Clarke

  • A hysterical year in France, an Enlish man trying to set up English Tearooms , very funny.

The Sixth Lamentation: William Brodrick

  • The life story of Agnes who lies dying. Shocking, intricate and excellent.

The Colour: Rose Tremain

  • Fantastic epic settling in New Zealand, marvellous adventures, death, sex, gold, love, hate, friendship and more- breathtaking!

The Probable Future: Alice Hoffman

  • Wonderful, magical book about a history of women in the Sparrow family, a happy book
  • Given to me by my lovely Mum.

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things: Jon McGregor

  • A street in a city where something awful happens- very moving and unusual.
  • Recommended by my lovely Norwich sister.

2004

The Good German: Joseph Kanon

  • Post war Berlin, during the conference, learned so much and a rattling good story!

How Steeple Sinderby won the FA cup: JL Carr

  • Lovely book, not too much football just ‘a tale of human endeavour and determination’

The Little Friend: Donna Tartt

  • Well crafted, unputdownable book.

A Season in Sinji: JL Carr

  • A north country farm boy ends up on coast of Africa as an RAF photography technician in WW2, fascinating.
  • JL Carr was a modest but deeply gifted gentleman who set up his own publishing house at home, in Kettering near the friend who recommended him to me- Pear Tree Press. My 12 yr old daughter wrote to him once asking if she should read ‘What Hetty Did’ (a book with some rather adult themes.) He suggested she should wait a few years. He was a wonderful chap.

The Secret Life of Bees: Sue Monk Kidd

  • Wonderful, shocking and magical story.

2003

Chance Witness: Matthew Parris

  • Fascinating autobiography covering unusual childhood and Maggie Thatcher’s years in Downing Street.

After You’d Gone: Maggie O’Farrell

  • Heartbreaking story- I don’t think I could read again it was so painful, but beautiful and clever.

Spies: Michael Frayn

  • Beautifully told story by old man looking back at his childhood.

A Jarful of Angels:?

  • Wonderful story about Children in Wales, lovely.

ella minnow pea: Mark Dunn

  • Such a clever book- where the letters start dropping off- brilliant!

Touching the Void: Joe Simpson

  • A short and breathtaking book, Joe falls into a mountain crevass and is left for dead- but he survives.

2002

Prodigal Summer: Barbara Kingsolver

  • A lovely book involving woods and coyotes.

Into the Forest: Jenn Hegland

  • The survival of two sisters in an isolated forest- amazing!

Holes: Louis Sachar

  • A short book; Stanley Yelnats gets sent to Camp Green Lake to dig holes- a fairy tale, I loved it!

A Painted House: John Grisham

  • A lovely book about 7yr old Luke growing up in the cotton fields.
  • A really satisfying read.

Drowning Ruth: Christina Schwarz

  • The story of a family by a lake in Wisconcin and a baby born on a fateful night.
  • Brilliant!

In the Place of Fallen Leaves: Tim Pears

  • A very hot summer in a Devon farming valley.
  • Atmospheric and beautiful.

2001

Like Water for Chocolate: Laura Esquiel

  • A life story through recipes, amazing, magical S American/Mexican.
  • Recommended by Woman’s Hour, I think.

Eleni: Nicholas Gage

  • Amazing, harrowing, touching, unputdownable book by an investigative journalist about the Greek civil war.
  • I knew nothing about this time before, everyone should read this!

Staying On: Paul Scott

  • An absolutely brilliant short book about the English in India after the English left.

Winterdance: Gary Paulsen

  • The story of the demented passion to run the Iditarod dog sled race.
  • Its a short book I read at one sitting, often with tears of laughter running down my face, amazing, hilarious and awesome! (A great recommendation from my Californian sister-in-law).

Dancing at the Rascal Fair: Ivan Doig

  • Lovely characters emigrate from Scotland to Montana- a wonderful tale of life and loves and the weather and farming.
  • For me, this book filled in the history of people emigrating to the US- fascinating.

2000

The Peak District, A Landscape Through Time: John Barnatt and Ken Smith

  • Easy to read, a wonderful explanation of where I live, helped me to start to read the landscape.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller: Italo Calvino

  • I hated this book with a passion- it was maddening and infuriating, must have been fun to write but was vile to read.
  • However it has stayed with me, and the memory gets worse with time – being the epitome of an AWFUL read! (My daughter recommended it).

Memoirs of a Geisha: Arthur Golden

  • Brilliant book about Geisha society with a love story too.
  • I’m very lucky to have a sister-in-law in California who also loves to read, she recommended this to me.

The Poisonwood Bible: Barbara Kingsolver

  • The Congo, a fanatical preacher and his family. I learned so much and was devastated when it finished…

The Drowning People: Richard Mason

  • A dark story of love and death, very good.

1999

The Amethysts: Frank Delaney

  • Brilliant thriller, very good.

Blackwater: Kerstin Ekman

  • Set in isolated atmosheric Sweden, dark forests. Also some beautiful educational concepts.
  • This book is still living in my head.

The Bear Comes Home: Rafi Zabor

  • The weirdest book I’ve ever read, Jazz, love, sex and the wonderfully attractive, intelligent sax playing bear.
  • unputdownable.

1998

The Global Trap: Hans Peter Martin &Harald Schumen

  • Globalisation and the threat to democracy explained simply, a scary and helpful book.
  • Recommended to me by a guest who turned out to be the Minister of Agriculture for New Zealand.

Borderliners: Peter Hoeg

  • Children in an experiemental school, a powerful book that has stayed with me…

The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman: Louis De Berniers

  • Two books- terribly brutal and very funny, mystical, magical, the cats, the torture, the whores, the army, the jungle, the spirits and the mountains- excellent!

The God of Small Things: Arundhati Roy

  • Fantastic circular tale!
  • Finishing it left a ‘The God of small things’ shaped hole in my universe.

1997

Waterland: Graham Swift

  • Sex, murder, and mystery woven with the atmospheric history of the fens.
  • Another book that once read stays with you….

A Very Long Engagement: Sebastien Japrisot

  • Mystery, history, love story involving a 1st WW soldier.
  • A haunting story that has stayed with me- beautiful…

The Story of an African Farm: Olive Schriner

  • An amazing and unusual book, 1st published in 1883. Full of adventures, spirit dreams and S Africa.
  • It was lent to me by Oliver Shriner’s great great niece and for me, was the earliest published book to express feminist ideas.

1996

Our Game: John Le Carre

  • The usual wonderful writing of John Le Carre, about the Ingush peoples, very gripping.

Lost Continent: Bill Bryson

  • Bill travels small town America, sardonic and amusing.
  • I read this while on a train travelling across the US from Boston to Sacremento, it magnified and intensifed my experience of America- wonderful.

City of Djins: William Dalrymple

  • The Story of Delhi told through a year of living there, captures it perfectly!

In Xanadu: William Dalrymple

  • Brilliant, funny travel book about a journey following Marco Polo.

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush: Eric Newby

  • In 1956 Eric and Hugh, ill-prepared explorers go to climb MirSamir and travel through Nuristan- amazing! Incredible to think of in today’s context.

The Hellfire Papers: Derek Wilson

  • A mystery involving Francis Dashwood, the Medmenham brotherhood and their modern equivalents.
  • Interesting to learn about the Hellfire Club! Later I visted the real caves- spooky!!

Children of Men: P.D. James

  • Starts like a 6th form essay- is exceedingly depressing and grim, but prophetic.
  • Saw the film years later, very glad I’d read the book.

Snow falling on Cedars: David Guterson

  • Island of Seattle, fishing and strawberry farms, American Japanese people.
  • Gripping – an involved pleasing tapestry.

Crazy in Alabama: Mark Childress

  • Fast and strange, PeeJoe and Martin Luther King, funerals, heads in tupperware.
  • Very good!

Animal Dreams: Barbara Kingsolver

  • Codi’s story, blue eyed babies, isolated community in Nicaragua.
  • A beautiful, beautiful, wonderful classic book!

1995

Interesting Times: Terry Pratchett

  • Rincewind and his sentient, many footed luggage.
  • Its a mad mad disc world, wish I could visit!
  • Obviously wouldn’t want to live there all the time- too smelly!

An Ice Cream War: William Boyd

  • Disparate characters come together in WW1 in East Africa, unputdownable tale.

The Bean Trees: Barbara Kingsolver

  • Semi-road story, Guatemalen refugees and Cherokees- 1st part of Pigs in Heaven.
  • Loved it.

Pigs in Heaven: Barbara Kingsolver

  • Ace! Cherokees, motherhood- funny and magical.

To Kill a Mocking Bird: Harper Lee

  • Warm, sensitive amazing book, classic, funny and tense.

Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club: D.L. Sayers

  • Wonderful Whimsey mystery.

The Daughter’s of Cain: Colin Dexter

  • Reading this was like getting into a warm cosy bed- bliss.
  • Morse and Lewis solve the crime, witty and wonderfully written.

Men at Arms: Terry Pratchett

  • Its the chaps from Guards Guards- brilliant.

Brazzaville Beach: William Boyd

  • Hope Clearwater tells life, maths, monkeys, Africa; completely brilliant!

1994

Soul Music: Terry Pratchett

  • Rock music and poor old Death….

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow: Peter Hoeg

  • Involved and gripping with strong Greenlandic woman pursuing the truth.

The Stone Diaries: Carol Sheilds

  • Wonderful, all about Daisy Stone Goodwill, her life and times.

The Blue Afternoon: Willaim Boyd

  • Female architect, long lost father, Philippines- compulsive reading.

1990

Skallagrig: William Horwood

  • A life changing book- couldn’t put it down, celeral palsy and computers
  • This book inspired us to develop The Cottage by the Pond
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One Response to My Book Book

  1. jenny walter says:

    thanks for your comments I think you and I like the same kind of books and I look forward to reading from your list. You may like ‘The Help’ sorry cannot remember the author. ‘The Princes’ once again cannot remember the author sorry. The Island by Hislop I think. best wishes Jenny

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