I’m now entering week seven of working from home thanks to the coronavirus pandemic (I think? It could be week thirteen-hundred, I’ve lost track of time). I’m an asthmatic, so I was always going to be on isolation and lockdown. Like everyone else in the UK, not being able to go out or see fellow human beings has been pretty tough, and I’ve been succumbing to moments of boredom (there’s only so long you can stare at Red Dead Redemption II for). Then I remembered – my TBR Reading Jar! So, I plucked an origami star out, unfurled it, and let the star pick my next books for me. As such, I’ve gone through quite a few books this lockdown, so I thought I’d share what I’ve been reading, and what I thought of said books. Here we go!
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy – This was the first book out of the jar, and I devoured it. It is essentially a coffee table book, made of beautiful pictures and quotes, tied together by a sweet storyline about a young boy and his animal companions. I picked it up on a particularly anxious day, when we were at peak confusion about lockdown, and I non-stop wept whilst reading it. The book said everything I needed to hear during a tough time. It’s currently waiting on my bedside table to be picked up again when I need it most.
A Streetcat Named Bob by James Bowen – I’ll admit, when this was first picked out of the jar, I wasn’t overly-thrilled. I was hoping for something a little gritty or a classic I hadn’t read yet. But, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book! A Streetcat Named Bob is a memoir about James Bowen’s time as a homeless addict trying to get clean, and how a street cat walked in and helped to change his life. It was pure, heart-warming joy. The book was also an easy read, even with some of the darker topics that were covered, and it only took me a few sittings to complete it. In all honesty, I am glad I read it and for the joy it gave me, but I can’t imagine picking it up again. If you are looking for a short, cheery book, give it a go.
Rating – ★★★☆☆ (more like three and a half!)
Educated by Tara Westover – Oh I love me a good memoir, and this one has gone straight to the top of my favourites list. This book is about the life of Tara Westover, who grew up in a survivalist, end-of-the-world Mormon family, and only started education at the age of seventeen. It’s a very powerful and moving read – there were moments where it did get quite heavy and I had to take a pause. However, it was such an interesting and jarring read, in a way only the real world can be. For me, it’s joined Just Kids by Patti Smith and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou in the ‘Best Memoirs/Autobiography’ section of my books!
Rating – ★★★★★
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac – I had been wanting to read this book for years, so I was so excited when this came out of the jar! That also meant I was thoroughly disappointed when I started reading it. The semi-autobiographical novel follows two men on their journey to self-discovery. I only got a third of the way through before stuffing it at the back of my bookshelf. What I thought would be a book about philosophy and Buddhist thinking, turned out to be about men finding themselves and having orgies along the way. Whilst I am sure it was an important novel in some aspects of history, I found myself bored. Maybe I should have read On The Road first, and maybe I’ll give the book another read one day. But for now, it’s a no from me.
Rating – ★☆☆☆☆
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Having been published in 2015 and immediately made into a film in 2016, this is one of the most hyped up books I’ve ever read. Luckily, I knew nothing about the story and just went straight in. I started it at 6pm on a Monday, and finished it by 4pm on the Tuesday, staying up into the early hours of the morning and spending my lunch break inhaling it. I don’t want to give any spoilers away so I’ll just say this about the beginning of the narrative – the story centers on Rachel who takes the same train each day, and what she sees from the window of the train; it then gets rolling from there. This book kept me on my toes the whole time, and was truly thrilling. The delivery of the novel is excellent, told through a few different voices and verges on the non-linear. It kept me guessing all the way until the last chapter, and I can’t say that about a lot of books. Whether you are into thrillers or not, give this one a read.
Rating – ★★★★★
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This was an Audible credit as opposed to getting taken out of the reading jar! I chose this book simply due to the hype it was getting on social media (that, and the fact it sounded right up my alley). This book follows the story of a fictional seventies band (think Fleetwood Mac), their rise to fame, and brushes with love and drugs along the way. Honestly, if you didn’t know this was fictional, you would think this is a real band with real interviews. The voice acting in the books is just great, it really brings the larger-than-life characters to, well, life. Just from the tales told in the book and the lyrics written, I really want to listen to the fictional songs! Thank goodness there is a TV series in the making. Whilst it’s not groundbreaking, it’s an excellent listen, and I am considering getting a physical copy to read too.
Rating – ★★★★☆
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – And we’re now onto what I’m currently listening to – it’s another Audible credit! Purchasing this book was almost on a whim – I had heard good things about it and there it was, recommended for me on Audible. The novel is really about two families who are very different, but who end up becoming intertwined when their children become friends. At first, the book came across as a nice, easy, joyful listen, but it’s getting grittier (in a good way)! It excels in realistic characters – I’m constantly thinking ‘oh I know someone like Mrs Richardson, like Mia, like Moody’. I’m excited to see where this book takes me, especially as it’s getting more and more thrilling. With only two hours to go, I’m currently rating it at four stars – but the ending may change that for better or worse…
So those have been the books I’ve read in lockdown, and I already know what ones are up next! The ones recently pulled out of the jar are Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down by Alice Walker – both books that have been on my shelf for a while. Next up on Audible, I have Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat to feed my lockdown passion for cooking, and The Five The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold.
Let me know what you’ve been reading whilst in lockdown, and hit me up with some recommendations!