I’ve read quite a mix of books this time, still mainly non-fiction, but as I’ve almost finished my library book pile it may be a bit different next time as I start to work my way through my own bookshelves!
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult; I have mixed feelings about this book, Jodi has tackled a sensitive and very personal topic in a well researched book about a siege in an abortion clinic in America. Of course you get the complete mix of hostages, from the young girl who wants contraception to the older lady wanting to talk through an ovarian cancer diagnosis, an activist, as well as someone who’s just had an abortion and the staff who work there. It did make me realise how lucky we are here in the UK that within strict guidelines it is the woman’s choice. I like Jody Picoult’s style of writing but I found this one confusing as she started almost at the end of the seige and worked backwards, one chapter on each hour. I kept getting confused as to what happened next, I never did work out why one lady was shot! Some of the coincidences in the storyline were just a bit too far-fetched too.
The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson; Christie was a nurse for 20 years, this is her story of what it’s like and what it takes out of you to be a nurse, the good times and the bad times. Having been a nurse myself for well over 30 years, so much of it rang true, it made me smile and it made me cry. I really liked it, I’m tempted to look out her other books too. Interestingly it’s my daughter’s book , she’s 22 and has just qualified as a nurse, she got bored half way through, but I think she was expecting a nurses version of the Adam Kay books. I read this before the current crisis started, with all the press about frontline nurses, some of them giving their lives, it would be quite a poignant read now.
Yes that’s me as a newly qualified nurse, receiving my certificate from the Duchess of Gloucester! I trained at a hospital that still wore starched linen aprons and caps made from a square of linen (round a shortbread tin!!) in the 1980’s.
Bred of Heaven by Jasper Rees; Jasper always wanted to be Welsh, he had Welsh grandparents, but that’s where it stopped, he is English through and through. He set out to achieve his goal by learning to sing, play (rugby) work (mines and sheep!) worship and the big one, to speak like a Welshman. Welsh is a notoriously difficult language to learn. He meets all sorts of Welsh people along the way, it’s amusing, entertaining and informative too as he brings Welsh history and culture into it as well. I did laugh at his account of walking Offa’s Dyke, a long distance walk, so much of it rang true from my own experience of walking these paths, especially the comment that any tourist place more than a metre off the path was not going to get visited! He has a similar style to Bill Bryson I think, an enjoyable and easy read.
And now for something completely different…
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. I should think everyone has heard of Malala, the young girl shot by the Taliban for standing up for a girl’s right to an education. This is an inspiring book, she describes her childhood but weaves into it Pakistan’s unsettled history. I also found her father to be a very brave and inspiring person, he was prepared to stand up and be counted, risking both his livelihood (he started up and ran schools) and his life for his beliefs that everyone should be able to have an education. Malala grew up being encouraged to question and speak out, she became a spokesperson under a pseudonym for the press, talking about how life was for a young girl under the Taliban, though I didn’t feel she was ever under pressure from her father to speak out. It is a fascinating book, it’s one of those books that everyone should read, if only to realise that one voice can make a difference and how lucky we are to leave in a democracy.
My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears; Ray has a passion for bushcraft, how to survive outdoors with minimal equipment, using what nature provides. He has presented several survival TV programs where he visits people living in extreme environments, learning from them about both their way of life and their culture, from the Arctic, to Africa and Australia, he loves working and living with native communities, gaining their respect and discovering their traditional ways. It’s an interesting read, if not the most gripping, his personal ethics and ethos come through strongly, as one of the reviews says ‘the qualities he admires in others: fortitude, understatedness, loyalty, above all stoicism, are the same ones we admire in him’. Interesting his other passion is martial arts, he talks about Kingsley Hopkins and the Budokwai judo club in London, this is the second, if not third book I’ve read which has mentioned Kingsley and the club as being a huge influence in their life.
Are you managing to get much reading done in this difficult time, escaping into books?