Book of the Week, February 6th, 2016

When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

Just published here, this book became an instant bestseller when it was released in America a few weeks ago. Paul Kalanithi was just 37 years old, a neurosurgeon with a brilliant career ahead of him when he finally went to a doctor himself with pain in his spine.  Diagnosed with lung cancer with secondary tumours … Continue reading Book of the Week, February 6th, 2016

Just published here, this book became an instant bestseller when it was released in America a few weeks ago. Paul Kalanithi was just 37 years old, a neurosurgeon with a brilliant career ahead of him when he finally went to a doctor himself with pain in his spine.  Diagnosed with lung cancer with secondary tumours he was forced to swap his surgeon’s coat for a patient’s gown. He died last year having spent much of his last months writing. He mixes his knowledge of medicine and his speciality, neurosurgery, with reflections on his own experiences and on ‘what really matters in life’. For him medicine was a moral mission rather than just a job and he explores the ethical questions that have to be faced when considering how to handle illness and the end of life. He calculates that there is only a 0.0012 per cent chance that a 36-year-old would get lung cancer but there is no sense of self-pity in these pages. Rather he looks at what lessons can be learned and what is the best way to spend the time we have left. His decision to spend his last months writing means that he has left this remarkable book, a life affirming legacy.

Book of the Week, January 30th 2016

The Outrun

Amy Liptrot

The Outrun

Amy Liptrot

People in London are either looking for a job, a house or a lover. This is what Amy Liptrot had heard – but she didn’t realise how fast and easily she could lose all three. She had come to London to escape from the small farming community in Orkney where she had spent her childhood, … Continue reading Book of the Week, January 30th 2016

People in London are either looking for a job, a house or a lover. This is what Amy Liptrot had heard – but she didn’t realise how fast and easily she could lose all three. She had come to London to escape from the small farming community in Orkney where she had spent her childhood, but drink and a sense of hopelessness overtook her. Realising that alcoholism and self pity were in danger of destroying her life, she returns to Orkney determined to stay sober. There she throws herself back into the simple farming life on the island and realises the power of nature to heal. She describes her wonder at the soaring, spiralling flocks of starlings, the ‘merry dancing’ of the northern lights and the day to day life on a small sheep farm. Her attachment to the Orkneys grows and the book combines the history & traditions of the islands with brilliant descriptions of the landscape and wildlife. But through it all runs the personal story of the authors own journey through addiction making this a book of rare power and beauty.

Book of the Week, January 23rd 2016

The Book of Strange New Things

Michael Faber

The Book of Strange New Things

Michael Faber

I’ve just caught up with this extraordinary novel of extra terrestrial colonisation published in paperback last year. Peter Leigh is a Christian missionary with a chequered past who takes on the ultimate challenge of bringing the word of god to an alien race. The Osans are the native population on Oasis, a planet many light … Continue reading Book of the Week, January 23rd 2016

I’ve just caught up with this extraordinary novel of extra terrestrial colonisation published in paperback last year. Peter Leigh is a Christian missionary with a chequered past who takes on the ultimate challenge of bringing the word of god to an alien race. The Osans are the native population on Oasis, a planet many light years away, where a mysterious but enormously wealthy US corporation is establishing a human colony. Everything about the planet is strange though not in the spectacular way of most science fiction. Most surprising perhaps is the thirst of the Osans for the Christian teaching and Peter is intoxicated by the apparent success of his work as he learns their language and they help in the building of a their own church.

But undertaking this mission has meant leaving Bea, his wife and soul mate, behind on Earth. Via interstellar email they exchange letters and Peter hears the unfolding story of the breakdown of life back home. Climate change is no longer a theory; it has happened. Floods and earthquakes are provoking political and economic crises and for Bea, day by day, life becomes tougher.

On Oasis life is calmer but there are unanswered questions. What are the motives of the secretive corporation, USIC, in setting up the base on Oasis? Can the natives really understand the Peter’s religion? And what really happened to Peter’s predecessor who mysteriously disappeared. These and other mysteries give drive and pace to this haunting novel which at its heart examines communication and the emotional space between people.

This may be science fiction but not as we know it!

Book of the Week, January 9th 2016

In the Artist's Garden

Ronald Blythe

In the Artist's Garden

Ronald Blythe

He may now be in his nineties and living alone in his ancient farmhouse in the Stour Valley, but Ronald Blythe is no reclusive writer. His latest collection of short pieces, written originally for the Church Times, demonstrates once again how involved and connected he is to life outside the peace and quiet of his … Continue reading Book of the Week, January 9th 2016

He may now be in his nineties and living alone in his ancient farmhouse in the Stour Valley, but Ronald Blythe is no reclusive writer. His latest collection of short pieces, written originally for the Church Times, demonstrates once again how involved and connected he is to life outside the peace and quiet of his house and garden. Connected to history, to literature, to the life of the church and to the many friends who visit.

As a young man in the fifties he mixed with many East Anglian artists and once said that he ‘longed to be a painter’ as well. Instead he paints pictures with words and his graceful prose is a joy to read. He writes of nature and of the small wonders of village life; the Wormingford flower show, the discovery of an ancient axe head in a local farmer’s field or visiting the Minories art gallery in Colchester.

Each piece is illuminated by a lifetime’s love of poetry and literature making this wonderfully rich and rewarding collection.

Book of the Week, December 19th

A Village Christmas and Other Notes on the English Year

Laurie Lee

A Village Christmas and Other Notes on the English Year

Laurie Lee

Laurie Lee’s boyhood years growing up in a small Gloucestershire village were immortalised in ‘Cider With Rosie’, one of the most loved books of the twentieth century. Now, eighteen years after his death, this collection of essays, newly discovered by his daughter amongst his papers, has finally been published. Here is further evidence of the … Continue reading Book of the Week, December 19th

Laurie Lee’s boyhood years growing up in a small Gloucestershire village were immortalised in ‘Cider With Rosie’, one of the most loved books of the twentieth century. Now, eighteen years after his death, this collection of essays, newly discovered by his daughter amongst his papers, has finally been published. Here is further evidence of the enduring appeal of Lee’s writing as he describes the innocent pleasures of village life now long past. As an old man he remembers an idealistic childhood when the snow was always fresh and white at Christmas. He recalls the carol singing expedition up to the big houses along the valley, making a slide on the frozen pond and the goose, too large for the oven, cooked on a spit over a roaring fire. The memories stretch through the rituals of country life as the seasons roll around the year, gracefully written with affection and humour.

Book of the Week, December 12th, 2015

Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way

Lars Mytting

Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way

Lars Mytting

This must be our most unlikely Christmas hit, yet it is flying out of bookshops all around the country and setting the bestseller lists on fire! In part it is a detailed practical guide to everything you might need to know about cutting, splitting, drying and storing wood as well as how to burn it. … Continue reading Book of the Week, December 12th, 2015

This must be our most unlikely Christmas hit, yet it is flying out of bookshops all around the country and setting the bestseller lists on fire! In part it is a detailed practical guide to everything you might need to know about cutting, splitting, drying and storing wood as well as how to burn it. There is a chapter on axes and chain saws and how to use them and there is a guide to different kinds of trees and their uses. But this is also a kind of meditation on the relationship between mankind and wood. Through history, in the colder Scandinavian winter, wood was the difference between life and death and to this day a man is judged by the size of his woodpile! In Norway they make an art of stacking wood. There are wonderful pictures of wood stacked in squares, circles, ridges and even artistically sculpted – the most spectacular is a pile in the shape of an enormous fish. In Britain we have seen a move back to burning wood. Open fires are back in fashion and nearly a quarter of a million wood burning stoves are now installed every year. For all those who love the smell and sight of burning wood this is the perfect book to read at the fireside.