Tuesday 3 October 2017

Monthly Muse – September

Had been hoping to read quite a lot of books in September, but only managed 17. Quite a lot, but still have somewhat of a backlog! Bar the single book, they were all really good this month. Here they are in all their splendour:

September is the month where the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2017 is announced. I had already read two from the shortlist of six, read one in August and that left three to read. First was Beyond Infinity by Eugenia Cheng an exploration of the mathematics behind the largest numbers that humanity can imagine. For a maths book, it wasn’t bad, but she didn’t have the clarity of someone like Marcus du Sautoy. In Pursuit of Memory by Joseph Jebelli is his personal and professional story about the debilitating disease that is Alzheimer’s. In Other Minds, (thanks to William Collins for helping me out with a copy) Peter Godfrey-Smith looks at the way that our minds have developed when compared to an Octopus and how evolution has solved the same problems in two different ways. I thought that the best of the shortlist was In Pursuit of Memory, but the prize was won by Cordelia Fine and her book, Testosterone Rex and the exploration of gender.

I had quite a UK centric month in September. Mychael Barratt has compiled a book full of facts in London: Maps of Days. Each day of the year has an event or anecdote that has taken place and all are accompanied by his artworks. From Source to Sea by Tom Chesshyre is an account of his walk from the first place that the Thames emerges from the ground to the edge of the estuary where it empties into the North Sea. Surrounding London and other cities is an area of land that has been designated Green Belt. In Outskirts, John Grindrod looks at the way this has been developed from a Victorian idea to a fundamental part of our built environment. Woven in this social history is Grindrod’s own family history and the memories of his childhood growing up on the edge of urban Croydon.

I joined Jonathan Bennett on his surfing journey in Around the Coast in Eighty Waves. I can’t surf but really enjoy reading about the lifestyle and the vibe. That was one of my #WorldfrommyArmchair reads. The other was Travels in a Dervish Cloak about Isambard Wilkinson’s time spent in Pakistan. It is a wonderful set of stories as he tries to find if the original culture is still present after the draping of Islam over the country.

Coronet kindly sent me Megan Hine’s first book, Mind Of A Survivor. She is an outdoor adventurer who has scaled mountains and survived jungles and worked as a consultant on some of Bear Grylls TV series. In this book, he looks at the ways that a learning survival methods at a weekend can be applied to everyday situations in the home and office. Ruth Fitzmaurice has her hands full. Not only does she have five, yes five children, but her husband suffers from Motor Neurone disease and is wheelchair bound and can only communicate with his eyes. I Found My Tribe is a poignant account of her family life and the tribe of women that she swims in Greystones, Co. Wicklow with to maintain some semblance of balance in her life.

Only managed to read two fiction books this month. The first was sent to me inadvertently by Granta (thank you) and was the debut novel by Eli Goldstone, Strange Heart Beating. Seb loses his wife Leda in a freak accident and in the process of grieving realises that he knew less about her than he thought. He travels to Latvia to uncover her past and find the man who sent her the letters that she never opened. Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent is a story about an author who is not the person people think he is. The book starts with a brutal attack, and from this savage event, his own personal life unravels as we discover the history behind his deception.

Managed to read three natural history books. A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Wild Gatherings by Matt Sewell is an art book combined with the collective names we give to all sorts of animals. So if you want to know what a load of crows or sparrows is called, then this is the book for you. Every Little Toller Book that I have read so far has been with it for the time invested and the reprint of Island Years, Island Farm by Frank Fraser Darling is no exception. For each seaon on the equinox or mid summer and winter I have been starting the series of season books published by Elliot and Thompson. They are delightful collections of themed writings of classic and contemporary work edited by Melissa Harrison. On the 21 st September I started Autumn and it met all my expectations again. Buy them if you can.

The Internet Is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen is an an interesting take on the state of the net and some of the subjects reported in the book are quite eye opening, worth reading. My miss of the month was A Mile Down by David Vann, though the description of the two storms he went through read like a thriller, but his naivety was quite shocking.

Solid month of reading there, and October is shaping up to be great too and I am endeavouring to work my way through my massive backlog of review books (and the odd library one).

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