A Bagful of Barter Books

It’s the time of the year for lists of ‘what I read in 2017’ and ‘what I’m looking forward to in 2018’, but here at Dog Eared Reads a slightly different tradition seems to have found its footing. The end of the year had me once again at Barter Books, even cosier than usual with a Christmas Tree made of books and people milling about in the festive spirit.

Now before I travelled back North for the Christmas season I had been VERY busy. My sisters partner is an architect and after a visit to my flat he admitted to being slightly worried about my abode being structurally unsound now due to the weight of books I’ve brought in there. I knew I’d be going to Barter Books soon so I would have been having a quick glance over my shelves to see if there were any books that were now read but didn’t warrant holding a permanent spot on the bookcase. Some kind of fever must have hit me as I did something rash, something unplanned, something…pretty stupid. I pulled ALL the books off the shelves in my flat, ALL OF THEM. As soon as I’d done it I wanted to weep. I’d made the decision to re-shelve in some new kind of order. Two weeks it took, two whole weeks of not being able to walk across my living room floor due to piles of book blocking my every step. This is a photo of the scene when I was beginning to feel hope as I was nearly finished…

So you can pop round to my flat now and basically have a guided tour of the different book sections, sad to some but immensely pleasing to me. The other result of this is an IKEA bag filled with 200 odd books to take to Barter. I’ll be taking them bit by bit for a while as they don’t allow you to turn up with such an absurd number, quite sensibly. So with two bulging carrier bags in hand is how I found myself arriving there this week.

As usual I filled a shopping basket with too many books and had to settle down on one of the many comfy landing spots in the shop to work out what I could sensibly afford. So here they are, ready to travel South with me and move into their new home!

‘Peter Schlemihl’ is published by One World Classics and as I always enjoy their chosen stories and translations I decided to have a look at this one. The blurb informs me that this sees the character for whom the book is named entering into a pact with the Devil, swapping his shadow for the everlasting riches from the purse of Fortunatus. Have you ever heard of a pact with the Devil working out well? Exactly! Combine this dark story with the fact that it was actually written as a cautionary tale for the children of the authors patron and, kerching, sold. The Grimms through to Dahl, I’m always here for authors who are disapproved of by the grown ups for being that bit too scary for children.

Barbara Pym is an absolute treasure, taking the everyday and sardonically pointing out the absurdities that go hand in hand with it. Constantly charming but never saccharine, the wit within her pages will always have me coming back.

Some Russian short stories and essays to be had here, as my love affair with all things Ruski continues (always there but definitely inflamed by the glorious Teffi – read her!) this is a collection translated into English for the first time which explores the tumultuous 20th century had by the country.

There is no real depth to my answer to ‘Why did you choose this read?’ simply, I already own a novella by Antal Szerb which is as of yet unread but looks fantastic, and I spotted this novel and fancied this too. A very simply blurb is given of a young man on honeymoon in Italy being forced to confront his past as his life begins to crumble around him. Published by Pushkin Press, one of my all time favourite publishing houses, I know I’m in good hands.

‘Ruby’ made the shortlist for the Baileys Prize in 2016 and also made for a lot of differing of opinion amongst my book loving friends, some loved, some loathed. Well, it really is about time I made up my own mind and head over to East Texas to uncover the story of Ephram Jennings and Ruby Bell.

I’ve ended up collecting these little Penguin Popular Classics when I find them, usually part hidden due to their size, in a charity shop. I haven’t actually read The Scarlett Letter and thought that as well as a nice addition to my previous finds, the pocket friendly edition means it will be perfect for reading on the flight back to Bath. A little drink to have along side goes perfectly, oui?!

I was introduced to David Sedaris and his wicked sense of humour when I started working at Mr B’s. I’ve always wanted to read this collection so when I saw it on the Barter shelves it was a definite to take home. With my mam getting a Fitbit this Christmas I had to show her his often quoted piece on what happens when you become a bit too keen on meeting your daily step goal, read it by clicking here and if you like his style you can’t go wrong with any of his books.

Oh Daphne, Daphne how I love thee, let me count the ways. Another collection I am amassing are these specific editions of her novels and short stories. It’s so exciting finding a new title, as ‘Rebecca’ and ‘My Cousin Rachel’ steel all the thunder it means I come to them knowing very little, a gothic turn full of surprises will always be a book I’ll curl up with.

Another author I was introduced to at Mr B’s, by my friend and colleague Kate, who is a huge fan of ‘Orkney’ by Amy Sackville. This beautiful cover immediately grabbed my attention (and although I know it is very exciting for a novel to be chosen for ‘Book at Bedtime’ PLEASE STOP PUTTING STICKERS ON MY BOOKS!!) and a quote from Francis Spufford on the back about Sackville saying

If Virginia Woolf had had a younger sister with a passionate interest in icebergs, she might have written something like this beautiful, unearthly novel

These three things combined would always result in me buying this copy once it had found its way to me.

Again another book grabbed with little knowledge of the contents, purely on the basis of loving what publishers ‘and Other Stories’ do (click here and scroll down to the Deborah Levy book to read all about them) and never having read a collection of short stories by Czech women writers at the Fin de Siecle, deciding it was time to do so! I shall report back.

I am not a huge football fan, I am a follower of the egg chasers, but I love the idea of this collection of stories and poems all inspired and written by those who were involved with the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow. Sport can bring people together like nothing else and the chance for those who can be so brutally and cruelly ignored by society to take centre stage and join together in a team can only be a positive it seems to me. Another I will come back to on here once read.

Regular readers may notice I have not given the usual price details for each edition this time, but with all of the books being second hand and many of them having been published some time ago the information would all be a bit hodge podge if you were trying to find the exact edition featured, so I would suggest the best thing to do would be to ask your local, friendly independent in person or online if it can be sourced using the authors name and title.

Did you get books this Christmas? What did you find under your tree? As usual you can leave a comment below or tweet over on @dogeared_reads If you would like to receive an email letting you know when there is a new post on this site, simply get in touch on dogearedreads1@gmail.com with ‘Subscribe’ in the subject line and you’re done! Don’t worry, no tiresome spam from us! So until next time…

Happy Reading!

A Bagful of Barter Books

Listen Closely and Hear the Singing

I’ve just finished a book a matter of seconds ago and I’m sitting here reeling, an uneasy feeling inside of me as I recover from an emotional hit so strong I don’t really know how to go about the rest of my day normally.

‘Sing, Unburied Sing’ is by American author Jesmyn Ward, a writer who has won many a prestigious award over in her home country, all of which have somehow passed me by until this outing. In some ways I am sad that I didn’t come to this author earlier but then the silver lining is that I now have her entire back catalogue, both fiction and non fiction, to work my way through, and I intend to do so, every single word she has written will be consumed.

The story takes us to a fictional town in Mississippi and we are living in a post Hurricane Katrina world. Unfolding before us is a tale of a family scarred deeply by grief, injustice and complicated love. We are given different perspectives of the time we spend with this family, one being from young Jojo, a boy who is a parent figure to his younger sister and who hero worships his grandfather Pop. Next we hear from Jojo’s mother, Leonie, a woman who struggles with maternal instinct and an overwhelming passion for a partner who isn’t exactly one to take home to the parents. Last but by no means least we hear from young Richie, a boy whose life is entangled within Pop’s but is nothing but a vague story to Jojo and the family.

Jojo stole my heart from page one, I physically ached for him as we see him bearing far too much for young shoulders and always trying to do the very best he can. Ward shows amazing talent making every character completely whole, I felt I could reach out and touch them, so even though initially I found myself railing against Leonie, she became so much more than a one dimensional ‘bag guy’ to me and as I understood more about her I found deep sympathy for her situation. The dynamic between each member of this tale is so complete, so honest and raw, it is totally immersive.

As we gradually learn the story of Richie and Pop, the family also have to struggle with the suffering of Mam, Jojo’s grandmother, as cancer eats away at her body she remains in bed, the one constant in the book, the nucleus that the family move around.

This is an intense, demanding read, it took everything out of me in the best possible way. I feel so deeply moved because those people became real to me, their story of struggle the story so many are living now, the writing a whole other level to what I often read. To enter their world is painful but also beautiful, and Ward guides you through landscapes both physical and spiritual.

I’m about to make a very bold claim here but stick with me. The story is different but I believe has some of the same central themes, and something about the voice of this book, well…well it reminds me of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. I do not say that lightly, I now hold both books in extremely high esteem.

I know I always bang on about how you should get the book I’ve been typing away about, but really, I implore you for this one, it needs to be shared and loved.

For me, I now have a book hangover. I don’t know how to move on, I’m not ready to shake those characters off. I think I’ll just go sit in a dark room for a while and gather myself, see if I can hear the voices singing.

‘ Sing, Unburied Sing’ by Jesmyn Ward £16.99 (Bloomsbury Circus)

Happy Reading!

Listen Closely and Hear the Singing

If You Go Down To The Woods Today…

Magic, fairy tales, folk lore and all who sail in the ship these live in will always be welcomed on to my bookshelf. From innocent childhood tales right through to the real dark stuff, I will dabble in it all, giant tomes like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell being an all time favourite read as well as a wisp of a tale such as The Red Shoes. I’ll read these books all year round but  Autumn and Winter just seem to suit them that much more, flames flickering from the candles in your room and the world outside blanketed by thick, velvety darkness meaning any kind of spirit could be lurking in the shadows. 

A collection of short stories has utterly captivated me recently. Jen Campbell is a prolific booktuber (just search her name on YouTube for excellent content) and she has an envious knowledge of all things fairytale. When she announced she was bringing out her own book I was counting down the days to get my hands on it. Eerie and beautiful, she leads you down paths never before trodden but with signpostings of classical myth and legend that add extra layers to be found within each new story. With 12 short stories in the collection Campbell never falters, each one as wholly imaginative and novel as the last, her language is playful and she knows the importance of the unsaid in these twisted tales. It is unbecoming to giveaway any   significant amount of plot when a huge part of the joy in a new, magical world is having it unfold before your eyes, so here I give you a snippet from the blurb to wet your whistle 

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.

A boy is worried his sister has two souls.

A couple are rewriting the history of the world.

And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

If you can hold out I think this book would make a great present to find wrapped under the tree, the stunning cover design certainly adding to the treat, but if like me you just want to tuck into something great right now – get yourself to your local bookshop with no hesitation! (A quick added note, if you are getting this for a present I believe Jen will happily sign copies if you order on her website! http://www.jen-campbell.co.uk/shop.html )

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell £14.99 (Two Roads) 

Now this next book I bought as soon as it came out, in fits of excitement after hearing it was a Russian fairytale. I then did a very Dan thing and put it on my ‘TBR’ pile and it sat there far longer than I wanted it too, so now I’m totally late in the game writing about it here, but when has that ever stopped me?! ‘The Bear and The Nightingale’ follows a wild, spirited girl called Vasya, living in rural and untamed country side with her family. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to Vasya, making her husband promise to care for the girl as she knew she would lead a special life, something her own mother had done which resulted in royal connections for the family. An elderly woman who has worked for the family her whole life raises Vasya and her siblings, and they spend many a night huddled around the fire listening to her tell folklore of frost demons and winter spirits. 

Eventually a new step mother is brought from Moscow to hopefully be a calming influence on strong willed Vasya, but soon the family begin to doubt this woman’s mental health as she claims to see evil spirits around the home and can only find relief when locked away in the church. Vasya immediately becomes dangerous and suspicious to her when she realises that she too can see these spirits, but welcomes them and treats them as friends. 

This book has swiftly become one of my favourite reads, it gets satisfyingly dark and the characters are so real they jump out of the page, one in particular being the Priest, he is so wonderfully written. As I didn’t want the book to end I am delighted that it is the first part in a trilogy, I long to go back to Russia and spend more time with Vasya, who has quickly become something of a hero to me. 

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden £7.99 (Ebury) 

These two books are everything that is perfect to me for a night of winters reading, get under a blanket, get a hot drink and get completely lost in these other worldly tales, you’ll be in bookish bliss! 

Until next time, happy reading! 

If You Go Down To The Woods Today…

Let’s Get Factual 

As Autumn has well and truly found its feet and the nights are getting darker that much earlier, it’s tempting to always head towards the fiction shelf for a break from some of the realities of life. As we head into the new month though we see the arrival of  Non Fiction November, which aims to get readers picking up something a little more factual than fictional. I tend to have a few books on the go at once, with one usually being non fiction, and over the past few weeks and months I have read some great books that cover a wide range of subjects. I thought it would be an idea to give you a summary of some of these, and then if you’re looking for inspiration you may find something that takes your fancy. 

I’m currently reading ‘Hamlet, Globe to Globe: Taking Shakespeare to Every Country in the World’, and although only three quarters of the way through it is holding up well enough to make me confident enough to pop it in this list. In 2012 The Globe invited theatre troups from every country in the world to come and perform a Shakespeare play in their own language on the hallowed stage. This was a resounding success, so much so that when the season had ended all those who worked on the project felt a little flat and were left asking ‘what now?’ They decided for their next project to do the travelling themselves, taking one Shakespeare play to every country on the globe. The book is written by Dominic Dromgoole, the former director of The Globe, and is an enjoyable look into the stresses and strains that go into planning such a tour, as well as the farcical moments that can only happen when travelling. Dromgoole gives fascinating insights into why they chose ‘Hamlet’ to be the play they toured, talks about the text itself and how differently it is received depending on the country the company currently find themselves in. There are also some great giggles to be had at the adventures the actors encounter which each new touch down. I’m not particularly a huge devourer of the Bard but I think this makes for an enjoyable read whether you dabble in his works or not.

Hamlet, Globe to Globe: Taking Shakespeare to Every Country in the World by Dominic Dromgoole (Canongate) £16.99 

Now I’ve always been a fan of Maggie O’Farrell’s fiction, you know when you pick up one of her books you are in safe hands, so when I saw she had a memoir coming out my ears immediately pricked up. Word spread fast on bookish twitter about how this was a must read, and when I found out the extra titbit that this wasn’t your standard memoir but actually 17 accounts of brushes with death, to say my interest was piqued would be an understatement, I ended up getting it on the day it came out. Never have the first two chapters of a book had such an effect on me as these two, they were visceral and have stayed with me to this day. The whole book is pitched perfectly, as you read about these close encounters with death you are simultaneously overwhelmed by the beauty of life. I talk about this book to anybody who will listen now, it is simply stunning and oh the language she uses, so gorgeous I was constantly reading sections out to myself. The last line of the book saw me crying, and last month I was lucky enough to see Maggie O’Farrell speak and discuss this last chapter. As she repeated the last line goosebumps covered me, every hair stood on end and I burst out crying once again, much to the alarm of the audience members sitting either side of me. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, without a shadow of a doubt one of the best reads I’ve picked up this year. 

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press) £18.99 

Often with non fiction I’ll happen upon a book that will teach me something new, maybe about a historical event or figure, or open my eyes to a situation, political or otherwise, in the world. It is rare that one comes along that deeply makes me question how I’ve been looking at the world and the privilege I have as much as the following book did. ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ is truly a transforming, and that old cliche, eye opening read. Starting life as a blog post by Rene Eddo-Lodge, the reaction the original piece received then planted the seed for this polemic. Every chapter revealed new layers to me of the systemic racism in Britain today. I think this is a hugely important book I’d encourage all to pick up. Eddo-Lodge is a captivating and informative writer, and the fact that so many reached out to her in recognition after her original blog post shows just how needed this book is.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Rene Eddo-Lodge (Bloomsbury) £16.99 

So there are some options to be getting stuck into. I’ll be posting another blog with some more great non fiction offerings as we go deeper into the November days, so keep a look out! Let us know in the comments below or over on twitter @dogeared_reads if you will be joining in with the months theme! 

Until next time, happy reading! 

Let’s Get Factual 

Story Telling (Or; Bore off You Attention Seeking Misery)

Just as often as you will find me with my nose stuck in a book you are likely to come across me scrolling through Twitter. I love the fast paced interaction, hearing what people have to say, somebody I have never met making me laugh with exemplary use of their 140 characters. I do appreciate Twitter can become something of a bubble, as you are generally choosing to follow people on there who hold similar opinions to your own and create a little online world in which you would like to live. Every now and then you can click that follow button on somebody less than savoury without quite realising what you have done. Now I think it is great to branch out and hear new voices (maybe the results of the general election and the Brexit vote might not have come as such a painful shock to me if I had done so) but also there are some who are just so tiresome in their beliefs you really don’t need their toxic views filtering into your day. I’ve never done the inexcusable and followed Katie Hopkins, you are just asking for the headache then, but there have been others who I thought were harmless enough before being pulled up short one day realising their negativity and plain mean spiritedness to others is working its way into my daily consciousness and I am the one who can choose to stop this with the quick click of an unfollow button. 

For some time now a columnist for The Times has been sending out tweets that leave me feeling angered and frustrated, but I still didn’t press that button, I don’t really know the reason why, is there a part within us that enjoys having a foe? In this last week two of her tweets have caused my mind to tick over in such annoyance I felt like I had to respond, I am a terrible one for letting anger boil away within and getting my feelings out on paper is often enough to take the heat out of that.

The tweets by Camilla Long were in response to the announcement that Kazuo Ishiguro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. Before I go any further I will confess I am a huge fan of the work of Ishiguro and am delighted at him receiving the award which I believe to be more than well deserved. Despite my stance on this you could switch in any author to the comments made by Long about the win and my response would still be the same. Here follows her tweets:

“Sorry but Kazuo Ishiguro is just lame as a Nobel choice. His books are made into films FGS!”

I read this and just thought ‘oh heavens, here she goes again’ but did give her some benefit of the doubt thinking it could be a really poor joke. Other readers clearly thought along the same lines and questioned her on this, her answer:

“It’s not a joke. Film adaptations are a lazy form of art and not one Nobel prize winners should entertain”

I wonder if she made that opinion known when she got the job as The Times FILM CRITIC – yes, really. Apart from this being more than a little ‘one does not become a Nobel Prize Winner but is born one’, what utter, total bullshit! I won’t take up your precious time listing all the winners of this award who have had their work adapted into a film, take my word for it, there is A LOT.

The real thing that gets up my nose? The snobbishness of it all. I live and breathe books, to, some would say, an unhealthy point. When I am not reading I like to be talking about reading, or book jacket covers, or genre, or…well you get it, the written word is my love. BUT. I do not believe that literature is some godly like art form that all must kneel before. I know some who think TV, film, music or videogames cannot compare with the hallowed book. I disagree entirely. That may be where my passion is and the talent that goes into producing a great work of fiction is a thing to admire, but not one of these forms can be held above the other. Their success lies in what they are to the person who is engaging with them at that time.

We have always been a story telling animal and we will always tell our stories across many different mediums. I think it is important we just cherish that the story is told and that we gain pleasure from it, not imposing some worthy rating system as to who engages in these tales in the most ‘pure’ way. Musicians have been inspired by authors who have inspired movies which have inspired plays which have inspired poems, if you follow the theory of there only being seven stories in the world, with different ways of them being told, do we all not absorb these and then bring them back into the world in an altered form coloured by our own experience? It gives me nothing but pleasure to think that somebody who is not a fan of reading could get to enjoy a story that has absorbed me in a different form, why miss out? One of my most favourite authors and general Wise and Respected Person, Philip Pullman has said…

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the things we need most in the world”

I hope, as humble as my opinion is, he would agree with me, get lost in the story in which ever way you want to.

So, the annoyance has now cooled off, I am heading to my sofa to read some more. Later I am going to watch a film, I expect both experiences to be pretty damn good. You know what will be even better though? Before I do either of these things, there is a narrative I don’t want to be involved in any more, and all I have to do is hit that unfollow button.

Story Telling (Or; Bore off You Attention Seeking Misery)

Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee 

When the Man Booker long list was announced I had not heard of one of the entries, ‘Elmet’ by Fiona Mozley, and I must confess in all the following conversations about the roster of Big Names who had secured their places once again, I didn’t dig too deeply to find out about it. Although I may have anticipated some of the names on that long list, what I certainly had not forseen was a long delay in an airport as we were told it was in no way safe to get on our plane that had just bumped along the runway to collect us. 

Time + bookshop + forgotten national book token in purse = another paperback struggling to find a place to be housed in my flat. The bookshop had a section for the Booker offerings and although I hadn’t intended to stop there my eye was immediately caught by the cover of Elmet. Clean white lines with a central design by the artist Vanessa Lubach showing an Autumnal scene ticked my book boxes and I decided to go for it with little attention given to the blurb. 

Reader, I take pride in myself here, I made an EXCELLENT decision. This book was read in a couple of sittings but I could easily have lost a whole afternoon to seeing it off from start to finish if time had allowed. When I’d reached the end I was recommending it to others saying how much I enjoyed it, but what I did not anticipate was how much the book would stay with me. I have not been able to stop thinking about it, and with every passing day my enthusiasm for it grows. 

Now I must confess ignorance in that I did not have a clue as to what ‘Elmet’ means, assuming it would be revealed in the novel itself, but those who hark from God’s Own Country and wear the White Rose upon their chests may not be so blindsided by the word. Between the 5th and 7th century Elmet referred to an area of Yorkshire and this is the scene for our story to unfold, but in a contemporary setting. We are told the story by our young protagonist Daniel, who is currently travelling northwards, as he looks back to a time with his sister Cathy, their Daddy and a night that changed everything. 

The three are a solid unit, needing no others, living in an isolated fashion that confirms this to the outside world. They live in a secluded, wooded area in a home their Daddy has built himself. Attuned to and respecting nature, they have left formal education and rely on their father to advise and provide them with all they need. Daniel appears to be a gentle soul while Cathy has more of an untamed spirit that knows of future battles that will lie ahead for them. 

Always ‘daddy’ to the children, their father is a character I could read about for hours, a beautiful study of the light and shade that can exist within one person. I found the book to be almost a quiet contemplation on violence, how it can live within a person with a need to sometimes be purged. Their Daddy is somebody who holds violence in him, a man who is a huge, hulking presence and is widely known to be the best fighter in the country. He doesn’t live his life within the lines of the law but he does believe in a code of ethics within the world he inhabits, doing things the right way. Paperwork, legal business and suit and tie living may not be his area, but he will defend his children to the last and will work hard for those he loves. The contradiction in his behaviour is strikingly played out as we watch violence pulsing from his every fibre as he fights in a forest to the next moment the calm, tender time as he lays his body back to have his hair washed by his children, vulnerable and at peace.

The way this family conduct their lives does not sit right with all those around them, and a dispute over the land they have built their home upon soon starts to cause tension not only for them but within the whole community. The story slowly burns and builds like blood boiling before a moment of unbridled aggression.

Beautifully written throughout, the language is lyrical with local dialect slipping on to the pages. I’ve rarely found myself so taken aback by the final quarter of a novel and so thoroughly satisfied with how a story played out, I feel like Mozley hasn’t put a foot wrong with this piece. 

Will it win the Booker? I’m not sure to be honest, a lot of people think it is Ali Smiths time and George Saunders is up there too, but if her name is called out from that podium I will be cheering on a very well deserved win.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley £10.99 (John Murray Originals) 

Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee 

The Sun is Shining, The Books are (mainly) Sweeeet 

Birds are chirping away outside my window, the sun is shining down on my little village and my flat is LIKE A SAUNA! Oh I love its brightness, the big old windows, but I had forgotten the grand old temperatures it can reach as it warms up outside and I feel as if I am potted at my desk in a greenhouse. Anyway, glorious weather means for certain you need some glorious books for those moments you can relax outside and read, so today I am bringing you a bumper edition of the good, the ok and the damn right ugly to see if any take your fancy!

So get settled, maybe grab a pimms for this one, you know, get us really in the spirit, and away we go.

We’ll start with a book that will be out in about two weeks or so by Gail Honeyman. This debut writer entered a competition for new novels and then lo and behold has had the book published to acclaim all around, it cheers my soul to see new writers being discovered like this, bravely pressing the submit button after spending the previous chunk of their working life in completely different job roles. 

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ introduces us to, you guessed it, Eleanor. A woman who likes things just so, she gets through her working week quietly in the corner, not interacting with anybody around her if she can help it. When Eleanor finds herself in conversation with others her blunt, straight forward way of looking at the world immediately casts her as ‘an odd one’, somebody who is perhaps not so subtly laughed at behind computer work stations in the office. When not at work she keeps herself very much hidden away at home, vodka and pizza seeing her through from the moment she shuts the door on a Friday evening until she has to leave again Monday morning. Her solitary situation is only broken by a weekly phone call from her mother, which does not seem wholly welcome to her, and her crush on a local pop star who she religiously keeps up to date with online.

This ground hog day feeling is broken when walking home from work one day, Eleanor is witness to an elderly man falling in the street. Her first instinct is to carry on homeward bound, seeing that a fellow colleague has spotted this accident and is on his way to help, but when he shouts for Eleanor to join him in the rescue mission she feels duty-bound to go. This one small moment provides a catalyst for changes in her life that can often feel overwhelming and push her into situations she could never have imagined.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, finding Eleanor completely and utterly loveable. The plot line itself is engaging although I did guess where it was going, but it really didn’t matter to me as I just wanted to spend time in her company. I think with a character like Eleanor she would so often be presented to the reader as ‘other’, somebody odd who the reader laughs at, the strength of this novel is that it never strays into this territory. Eleanor is funny, yes, but her observations are astute and perfectly reasonable from the life she is living, she is a whole character, never a caricature. I really recommend you spend some time seeing life through her eyes and pick this up for a summer read.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman £12.99 (Harper Collins)

Two very quick shout outs here for a couple of books that were quick to read but leave an impact deeper than the mightiest of tomes. The latest book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was always going to be something I snaffled up the day it was released bearing in mind I think of her as something of a QUEEN. ‘Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’ is a thought provoking, kind and outright smart letter from Adichie to her friend who had just recently given birth to a daughter. Her friend had been in touch after Adichie’s now famous TED talk titled ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ (and my god, if you haven’t read that do so NOW, it will honestly take 5 minutes and should be essential reading, as should all of her fiction…) and wanted to know how best to raise her daughter as a feminist, how Adichie would advise her to go about doing this. These fifteen suggestions, if applied by all, would make the world of difference with boys and girls, men and women, living to their full potential in a much more respectful environment. She rocks – read it!

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions £10.00 (Harper Collins)

The next call out is one a lot of you will know and which I have been incredibly tardy getting round to, but now realise is an essential book to have in my house as something of a balm for my soul in case love ever cuts deep. ‘Milk and Honey’ by Rupi Kaur is a collection of poetry that charts her journey through love, pain and healing. The collection is also illustrated by Kaur with simple line drawings throughout. It is raw and honest, although if you like poetry to be stanza after stanza with imagery to work through that is not what you will find here, simple and often only three or four lines long, these feel like they have been written in the moment as the emotion has flowed through her finger tips. Amazingly this was self-published at first but word of mouth did its job, a publisher picked the book up and now it is something of a worldwide phenomenon.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur £9.99 (Andrew McMeel Publishing)

I guess we better get to the downright ugly bit yes? I am sorry to any Hanif Kureishi fans out there but URGH, his new novel ‘The Nothing’ did not sit well with me. I have enjoyed movies made by him in the past, having studied ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ and being struck by the performance from Peter O’Toole in ‘Venus’. I read his book ‘Intimacy’ a couple of years ago and was incredibly irritated by that, not that the writing was bad, I simply found the main character abhorrent (and I can easily enjoy a book with a character I do not like) I don’t really know what made me pick up ‘The Nothing’, I think Kureishi has always held intrigue for me, always being touted as ground breaking, pushing boundaries in new ways, well blah blah blah, NO LONGER Kureishi, you are OUT of my system. This book was so misogynistic I wanted to hurl it out of the window so it was no longer polluting my flat. There is some story line in there, if you look hard, about our elderly protagonist’s younger wife having an affair. The man she is having this affair with is trying to run a scam to take their fortune and run when her husband dies, our protagonist knows all this and makes half-hearted attempts to stop it. Really this is all by the by, it is never engaging and all seems to serve as a lazy vehicle to have this character listen in to two people having sex and make comment on what women want and who they are (as a collective whole, remember, according to Kureishi we women are all one homogenous being) and what the take away message from it was, what we want is his penis and his money. Now excuse me while I go and scrub my skin off with a wire sponge. I am reluctant to give you the details, but I must so…

‘The Nothing’ by Hanif Kureishi £14.99 (Faber & Faber)

Now let’s end on a much, much better note! That there Ruby Tandoh, Bake Off legend, and her partner Leah Pritchard decided some time back to begin a Kickstarter project to raise money to produce a one off zine on mental health. They got writers of amazing calibre to sign up who all, in some way or other, have had their lives effected by mental health problems. I knew this was something I would want a copy of so happily contributed to the project. As I say, this was a little while a go so it had somewhat drifted out of my mind. Last week I was really struggling with my own mental health and was having a day that was the deepest shade of blue. I made it down to my post box which was something of an achievement and found a package waiting for me. When opened, lo and behold it was ‘Do What You Want’, the zine itself! It was exactly what I needed. Can I just say, to all you fellow book sniffers out there, this zine smells gorgeous! It has illustrations throughout by a whole host of artists, some of which I wouldn’t mind prints of to go up in my flat! It covers so many topics, gives excellent hints and advice and generally just made me feel a little less alone that day, reminded me there are others out there who know what it can be like. A total bonus I didn’t expect was a collection of recipes in there as well, all delicious and all to be tried out in the Dog Eared Reads kitchen! I am really impressed with what Tandoh and Pritchard have done, the proceeds of the zine have all gone to mental health charities and there is not a doubt in my mind they will have helped many out there. Three cheers to them!

‘Do What You Want’ by Ruby Tandoh & Leah Pritchard £7.00 (Do What You Want)

In ‘oops I bought a book’ news – you may recall one of my favourite novels of the last couple of years (and if all time now I mention it) was ‘My Name is Lucy Barton’ by Elizabeth Strout. Well her latest offering is out, ‘Anything is Possible’, a collection of stories all set in Lucy Barton’s home town, with a couple of familiar faces appearing within the pages. I’ve had a proof copy of this for a while but almost can’t bring myself to read it as I don’t want it to be over, if that makes sense?! Anyway, despite owning it already I spotted a signed first edition in a shop recently and we all know what happened next! A review will be appearing soon, I promise I’ll try not to drag it out too long to make it last!

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout £12.99 (Penguin)

Ok, I think I will leave it there for today guys, I actually have MORE books to talk about but I am guessing your eyes are going blurry and starting to water a little bit by now! As always, feel free to leave a comment below, if you’ve read any of the above, what you are reading at the moment or if you just want a general chat! You can also get in touch via email, dogearedreads1@gmail, with anything you want to see on the site or just pop ‘Subscribe’ in the subject line if you would like to receive an alert each time a new post pops up on here. Until next time…
Happy Reading! 

The Sun is Shining, The Books are (mainly) Sweeeet