Winner of the James Tait Black Prize for Biography A true original. In this stunningly unusual prose debut, Doireann Ni Ghriofa sculpts essay and autofiction to explore inner life and the deep connection felt between two writers centuries apart. In the 1700s, an Irish noblewoman, on discovering her husband has been murdered, drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary poem. In the present day, a young mother narrowly avoids tragedy. On encountering the poem, she becomes obsessed with its parallels with her own life, and sets out to track down the rest of the story. A devastating and timeless tale about one woman freeing her voice by reaching into the past and finding another's.
Part nature writing, part memoir, On Gallows Down is an essential, unforgettable read for fans of Helen Macdonald, Melissa Harrison and Isabella Tree. Nicola Chester won the BBC Wildlife Magazine's Nature Writer of the Year Award - this is her first book. The story of a life shaped by landscape; of an enduring love of nature and the fierce desire to protect it - living as part of the rural working class in a 'tied cottage' on a country estate - and what it takes to feel like you belong. On Gallows Down is a book about hope - from the rewilding of Greenham Common after the missiles left to how, as a new mother, Nicola walked the chalk hills to give her children roots, teaching them names and waymarks to find their way home. It is about the songs of the nightingale and cuckoo - whose return she waits for - the red kites, fieldfares, skylarks and lapwings that accompany her, the badger cubs she watches at night and the velvety mole she finds in her garden. And it is also the story of how Nicola came to write and to protest - unearthing the seam of resistance that ran through Newbury's past, from the Civil Wars to the Swing Riots and the women of the Greenham Common Peace Camps and to the fight against the Newbury bypass. A resistance that continues today against the destruction of hedgerows, trees and wildlife through modern farm estate management. On Gallows Down is perfect for fans of H is for Hawk, The Salt Path and Featherhood. 'It is impossible to write with integrity about nature without protesting and resisting and waving a desperate red flag. Isn't it?'
This is an incredibly inspiring exploration of the sea's role in the wellness of people and the planet, beautifully written by Easkey Britton - surfer, scientist and social activist. She offers a powerful female perspective on the sea and surfing, explaining what it's like to be a woman in a man's world and how she promoted the sport to women in Iran, surfing while wearing a hijab. She speaks of the undiscussed taboo around entering the water while menstruating - and of how she has come to celebrate her own bodily cycles. She has developed her own approach to surfing, which instead of seeking to dominate the waves, works in tune with the natural cycles of her body, the moon and the seasons. In a society that rewards busyness, she believes that understanding the influence of cycles becomes even more important - and we all have them, men and women. For Easkey, the sea is a source of mental and physical wellbeing. She explores the mental toughness needed in big-wave surfing, and presents surfing as an embodied mindfulness practice in which we can find flow and connect with the movement of the waves. She stresses the need to recognize the ocean as our most powerful ally when addressing our greatest global challenge: the climate crisis. Above all, Easkey's relationship to the sea has taught her about the need to meet life and evolve with it, rather than seeking to control it. By such wisdom our planet might just survive and thrive.
A spiritual memoir ‘Return to the light within’ by Dmitria Burby tells readers of the author's journey from corporate executive to rediscovering herself. Written to share her story of self-enlightenment in the hopes it will resonate and help others on their own journey. This book is succinct and well constructed, broken down into easy to digest chapters and sections that works through the author’s initial questioning of ‘who am I?’ to reconnection with her spirit and finding her purpose as a spiritual guide and healer. I liked the conversational and open tone used to write this book, it felt as though I was listening to someone’s journey without feeling directly instructed. I think that this would be an interesting book for someone looking for their own spiritual advancement, or perhaps those caught at a crossroads and looking for a more spiritual alternative to a more traditional self-help book. Regardless of personal beliefs there are plenty of lessons that can be taken away from ‘Return To The Light Within’. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Meticulously and compellingly curated by his daughter, Amber Marks, Becoming Mr Nice presents a personal, kaleidoscopic visual compendium of Howard Marks’ life, from the Welsh Valleys, to the spires of Oxford, to life on the run, to court transcripts of his Old Bailey trial, and beyond. Through the likes of gig tickets, Oxford University paraphernalia, family photos, official documents, private letters, handwritten notes and Marks’ previously unpublished account of his fugitive years, this offers fresh, fascinating insights into the life of a truly fascinating - and funny - character. For example, Howard’s description of applying for the newly created position of UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office (Drugs Czar, in his words) is characteristically comic: "Realising that by legalising all drugs, I could fulfil the brief easily and quickly, I wrote to the Cabinet Office". Though his application (and qualifications for the post) were mightily impressive, he wasn’t shortlisted for interview, but the whole exchange is hilarious, and superbly presented. Related, Amber Marks’ background as a researcher and barrister is very much in evidence throughout - the book has been put together perfectly, and she and her father worked on preserving many of the artefacts featured in the book together during the final years of his life.
A heart-warming and hilarious look at life in the classroom from the teachers who host the most popular UK education podcast, Two Mr Ps in a Pod(Cast). Have you ever wondered what really happens during the day when your precious little angels are at school? In this book, The Two Mr Ps will take you on a side-splittingly funny journey through the weird and wonderful world of primary schools. It will also explore the pressures of modern-day teaching, revealing exactly what it takes to wrangle a chaotic classroom (or seven) on a weekly basis. From the absolute characters found in the staffroom to school-trip mishaps and everything else inbetween, Put A Wet Paper Towel on It is a must-read for teachers and parents alike. So sit up straight, four legs on your chair, fingers on lips and get ready to take a trip down memory lane. And remember - when in doubt, just put a wet paper towel on it.
Told in engaging, personable style by mother and daughter, Jeanette and Lauren Manning’s Walking Away from Hate is a powerful, un-put-down-able account of a teenager being drawn into criminality, violence and extreme white supremacy through an online recruiter. In Jeanette’s words, “this is the story of Lauren’s journey from ordinary kid into the world of hate and white supremacist ideology, but it’s also the story of a newly-widowed single parent who had to learn the most difficult lesson of all - how to keep the door open”. Indeed, one of this memoir’s defining, pervasive powers is the dual mother-daughter narrative that relates how Lauren was drawn into this appalling ideology and situation, how her family struggled with it, and how - ultimately - she came back from the brink. It’s a brave book, suffused in unwavering honesty.
From the indie rockstar Japanese Breakfast, an unflinching, powerful, deeply moving memoir about growing up mixed-race, Korean food, losing her Korean mother, and forging her own identity. In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humour and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian-American kid at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the east coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, performing gigs with her fledgling band - and meeting the man who would become her husband - her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her. Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Michelle Zauner's voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
The hole in Royd Tolkien’s bucket is his beloved brother Mike who should have been with him to complete their adventure bucket list together. When Motor Neurone Disease hits it does so cruelly and without mercy. After a long battle Royd was alone, but Mike had bequeathed him an unusual gift which would push his risk-averse nature to the limits. There’s a Hole in My Bucket is Royd’s hilarious inheritance journey to complete 50 new and unexpected tasks that Mike has left him. The brief is comprehensive and mischievous, sending him all over the world and including everything from getting a tattoo to taking a terrifying bungee jump. It’s a truly Tolkienesque quest but instead of power, Royd’s reward is that Mike is with him every step of the way, cheering him on and helping him navigate his own grieving process with thrills and laughter. Mike has left Royd the greatest gift of all. Life.
The Comfort Book is just that. A beautifully packaged, beautifully comforting hug in a book. Haig’s lists, aphorisms, quotes, case studies and recipes are an antidote to today’s busy lifestyles, medicine for our crazy lives. It is suggested that you should read it how you want; “it’s as messy as life”. And there is something incredibly liberating about being told there are no rules on opening a book. So then I flicked. Because I could. Because I was given permission to. I came to a chapter: Short. Life is short. Be kind. And it make me stop and think about when I last displayed kindness. Am I too busy in my life juggling. existing. coping. to show kindness as much as I should. We need to give ourselves space. To breathe. And I spent 15 minutes on that page. Six words. Another page with 10 words I laughed out loud at. Pasta, is all I have to say. This book really made me stop. And think. And breathe. The pace of my life stopped each time I picked it up. And that space was so needed. The book is filled with Haig’s reflections on hope, survival and the messy miracle of being alive. He shares his collection of consolations learned in hard times and suggestions for making the bad day’s better. For now, I’m still enjoying it but know I’ll keep it by my bed or maybe next to the toilet for people to share. It’s a book to be savoured. To be enjoyed. To come back to. It’s a marathon. Not a sprint. He includes quotes from Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, Nietzsche, existential philosopher Rollo May, Bruce Lee. Haig’s witty. He’s wise. I love the way he writes, the way he imparts wisdom, shares his nuggets on life and I recognise that I haven’t got a routine baggy enough to live in. Thank you Matt for the comfort. I’m off to make Matt’s hummus. And eat crisps. And get some “baggy” in my life.
What a voice, what a story, what experiences, and what a vital record of the Windrush Generation experience, as told by a skilled teacher who came to Britain to be confronted with racist colour bars in place of the anticipated welcoming arms of the colonial Motherland. Black Teacher is an important, engaging and eye-opening piece of social history, and its author, Beryl Gilroy, has outstanding literary flair - her dialogue and evocation of character is first-class. Born in British Guyana in 1924, Beryl Gilroy arrived in Britain as an experienced, respected teacher and yet, “Here I was, over twenty years later, feeling and acting like a novice. I was afraid to go to school.” So Beryl said to her husband ahead of beginning her second term as the Headmistress of a North London infants school (in 1969, she was Camden’s first black headteacher). And the reason for her trepidation? The school was “full of tense, fighting people,” its pupils disruptive due to boredom and a lack of purpose, with parents who mutter that there’s “nothing but blacks everywhere.” And all this followed years of battling to secure a teaching position - Beryl moved to Britain in 1958 to study Child Development, but found herself continually overlooked for teaching positions. As a result, she took work as in an office, then as a lady’s maid, while never giving up on her vocation. Throughout the author is an inspiration - a loveable, valiant pioneer whose story, resilience and dedication had me enthralled from start to finish.
When the opening line of a personal account starts “For those of us who leave our country for a better future, memory stands still.” you know that you are in the hands of a writer who has a hinterland, both geographic and experiential. Hassan Al Kontar is such a writer. Bright, brave and boundless in his desire for escape; from compulsory Syrian military service and an uncivil war, then from entrapment in Kuala Lumpur airport, Al Kontar tells a tale of determination and courage that encompasses so much more. He seasons his story with perceptive and astute observations, from how the Gulf States have fuelled extraordinary growth to how to marshal the global power of social media and the world’s press. He charts his journey from his familial Syrian home with its olive grove, almond trees and grapevines, through Emirati workplaces and police cells, via various flights to the ‘refused entry’ that results in his being visa-less, stateless and unwanted in Malaysia. He also records the useless futility of those we imagine to have the power to offer him salvation. This is not the glossy Tom Hanks “The Terminal” movie version of airport ensnarement. This is the real, “bright young man in an impossible situation” version, complete with hellish "Catch-22 meets Orwellian system" scenes, the complete and shameful "failure of international humanitarian agencies" subtext and with Canadians and Canada as the heroes of the piece. Al-Kontar is a wonderful young man with a wise old soul. He is also a gifted storyteller telling important truths in a hugely readable style.