What We're Reading

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Neil

Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago , by Patrick Barkham (Granta 2017)

In Islander, Patrick Barkham, travels to and reports on 11 islands of the coast of Great Britain, from the known - Isle of Man, St Kilda, Barra - to the small, unknown and uninhabited - Bardsey, Osea, Ray. It's an evocative and vividly observed book, and Barkham investigates history and culture and seeks to discover what it's like to live on an island, and what it means to be an islander.

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Neil

An Atlas of Countries That Don't Exist, by Nick Middleton (Macmillan 2015)

This atlas is in the same style as the recent Atlas of Improbable Places, and the Atlas of Untamed Places - highly designed 'books as objects', a selection of unusual places illustrated and mapped; rather superficial perhaps, but enjoyable diversions nonetheless. This example asks 'What is a country?' and describes parts of the world where independence has been declared but not recognised by anyone, or short-lived nations and places whose definition is unclear. Entertaining, informative, and stylish.

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Neil

Between Them: Remembering My Parents, by Richard Ford (Bloomsbury 2017)

Between Them is a memoir of Richard Ford's parents, in two parts written 30 years apart. The one about his mother was written in the aftermath of her death in 1981, the other he wrote recently, 55 years after his father's death in 1960. He attempts to understand what their life was like before Richard was born, when they were young and carefree in the early to middle part of the Twentieth Century. I think many of us wonder what their parents were like when they were young, but the past is out of reach, filtered through hazy memory and old photos.

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Neil

Talking to My Country, by Stan Grant (HarperCollins 2016)

Stan Grant is an Australian journalist who has worked for many Australian and international TV networks. He identifies as Wiradjuri, and was brought up in a rural community, and suffered poverty and racism in childhood. This book is a meditation on race, identity and history, it is at times angry, passionate, personal and honest. He may not have all the answers, but his perspective is unique, and he asks if Australia is the country that Australians want it to be, and can it be better at comforting its past.

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Neil

Home Fire, by Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury, 2017)

This new book by the multi-award winning Kamila Shamsie, a Pakistani-English author, was long-listed for this year's Man Booker Prize. Apparently, it's a contemporary reimagining of Sophocles'Antigone, but don't let that put you off. It's an extremely tense literary thriller, telling the story of a Muslim family in London and the pressures they find themselves under, from within and without the family, in this age of Islamic State. It's a story of divided loyalties, love and terrorism.

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Neil

S.T.A.G.S, BY M.A. Bennett (Hot Key 2017)

The title of this YA novel refers to the ancient school in which it is set - St Aidans The Great School. It's a kind of younger version of Donna Tartt's The Secret History. A girl called Greer MacDonald wins a scholarship to attend this prestigious school, where most of the other students are incredibly wealthy. She is invited away for the weekend to the house of one of the wealthy students, and that's when the manipulation and yes, murder, begins. It's a high quality thriller, with sufficient twists and turns to keep you guessing. Highly recommended.