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What I read in October 2017



Well October sped by didn't it! Here are my thoughts on the books I finished this past month.

Let me know what you've been enjoying reading lately :)

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE - JK Rowling (audio)
★★★★★
This year I'm working through the Harry Potter books for the first time (yes, I know). As with all of them so far I loved this, but especially the nature of the tournament and things getting darker and grittier.

HOW NOT TO BE A BOY - Robert Webb (audio)
★★★★
Robert's memoir is cleverly crafted and heartfelt. He moves between periods of time to tell the story of his life, while exploring the pressures of masculinity and gender roles generally.

I feel like his honest discussion, as a man, of his experience with grief, mental health and his relationship with alcohol, will help so many. It's also an enjoyable read with the humour you'd expect from him.

THORNHILL - Pam Smy
★★★★★
I read this all in one go over an evening, and it was such a wonderful, unique reading experience.

Flitting between illustrations and diary entries to tell the stories of two young girls across two different times - Thornhill is a haunting and sad tale of loneliness and escape.

It'd be a brilliant read any time of year but obviously especially at the moment. It's spooky and atmospheric without being too scary.

THIS IS GOING TO HURT: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor - Adam Kay (audio)
★★★★½
For a book about the life of a Junior Doctor I did not expect this to be one of the funniest books I've read! This was so enjoyable to listen to, with fascinating anecdotes and so much humour.

It's also a brilliant insight into what it actually means to be a Junior Doctor, practically and emotionally. I feel so thankful to those that choose this relentless, demanding career.

Just a heads up that a lot of the book centres around work on maternity wards and gynaecology, and with that does come some sadness, and also some gory details. And the humour is dark! Prepare to be a little shocked at times.

THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT - Jen Campbell
★★★★
I found this short story collection so calming to read, which feels slightly strange to say as the stories can be pretty dark. I think it's that it was so beautifully written, and amidst the darkness there is a sense of innocence and curiosity - characters craving, and creating, ways of finding connection and meaning in their lives.

The stories are imaginative, with modern takes on fairytale and folklore, but the characters are believable and their encounters are intimate. It's a really lovely combination.

I also loved how performative these stories felt. I wanted to, and indeed - did, read a lot of the first story aloud because it just felt like it should be appreciated in this way. Strong character voices made me imagine performed monologues, perhaps especially as I was reading having returned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. And the vivid settings of these little worlds made me imagine short films too.

So you can imagine how pleased I was when Jen read from the first story in a video, and I've also just seen she's put up a new video with another story. She reads so brilliantly, and I would love to listen to an audiobook version of this as a reread.

Both this and Jen's other recently released book (she's a busy lady), Franklin's Flying Bookshop, gave me such comfort when I needed it. They both celebrate stories, and are in themselves wonderful stories you can escape into that make me remember why I love books and reading. So if you're in need of a de-stress, definitely check out both of these enchanting works of fiction.

This was also a helpful book to read as with studying I'm finding it harder to keep a novel on the go - it seems short stories are a good solution to that. Any recommendations very welcome!

BRAVING THE WILDERNESS: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone - Brené Brown (audio)
★★★½
I've loved Brené's previous books - Rising Strong and Daring Greatly are two of my favourite reads from the last few years. Because of that I went into this with really high hopes, and then felt slightly let down. As much as I loved hearing Brené speak, and think how she writes is brilliant, I found this to be a less substantial work that left less of an impact on me.

Still, there is interesting discussion on the nature of belonging, being comfortable in ourselves and having a sense of integrity, navigating these uncertain times, and finding connection when society feels so divisive.

A highlight of the book was the idea of writing yourself a permission slip as a way of holding yourself accountable - a tangible promise, or at least a commitment to trying. Brené's example was "I give myself permission to have fun today", and it got me thinking what I could do with giving myself permission for, in different aspects of my life.

Also a warning: there was an unexpected spoiler for the penultimate Harry Potter book. I know I've done well to avoid them so far but that felt frustrating and unnecessary! So just a heads up if you are also still working through them.



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