Sunday, 13 March 2016

Book Advisor: Bibliomaniac designs a reading list for Rachel's trip!

My friend Rachel is doing something amazing this Easter! She is running the Palestine Half Marathon for the Amos Trust. Rachel is not a runner. She only went on her first run in October! She has never been to Israel. This is more than a holiday, and more than just a run.

Rachel has just commandeered her daughter's kindle ready for the flight (Rachel has not travelled on a plane in over 20 years) and for the week she will be away from her family, doing last minute training, travelling around the Holy Land taking in historical sights, running and recovering. She hasn't had time for much reading lately. What should she load onto her kindle to accompany her on this once in a lifetime trip?

Books about Running
I can't personally vouch for these titles as haven't read them - but have researched and considered their appeal as a runner and reader myself before including!
26 Reasons to Run Inspirational Running Stories from Women Like You
This is currently free on kindle so really, what's not to try?! It is 26 very short stories about running and is designed to inspire you to get up from the sofa, get your trainers on and get out. The reviews are a little mixed but all say it does inspire you to run and motivate you to jeep going. The stories are criticised for being a little too short but maybe for Rachel's trip, a short burst of motivation at the end of each evening or over breakfast might be just what she needs as the big day looms nearer?

Running Like a Girl
This has much better reviews and is highly praised for being "wonderful", "hilarious" and "inspiring." Heminsley couldn't run around the block - now she can run marathons. I think this would be perfect for Rachel - maybe she could write about her own running journey after reading about this one? One reviewer posted the following comments:
this isn't just about running: it's about achieving more than you ever thought was possible. It's really inspirational. My favourite line: when people asked her how she managed to start running, she answered: "I decided to be able to." Couldn't we apply that to everything in our lives?
I think this sums up what Rachel is doing as well and therefore think she would enjoy this read. I'm tempted to order it as well!

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
This is just 180 pages long and is comprised of training logs, travelogue and memoir. It is about Murakami's preparation for his 2005 New York Marathon and is reviewed as "inspirational". From the comments I've read about this book, it sounds as if the writing style might be a bit impenetrable at times but generally worth pursuing as it appears to be regarded as a bit of a "classic" amongst the running community.
Product Details
Unfortunately this book isn't out until June but it sounds like a great read for all female athletes and sports fans. Anna Kessel is a  sport's writer and this is her "engaging and inspiring call to arms for women and girls to reclaim sport on their own terms." Kessel asks as exercise for women has finally gone mainstream, why are there still so many obstacles in their way? Why is there still a distinct lack of female sport celebrities, lack of women in the stadium audience at football matches and missing from the park during friendly kickabouts?

Books about Travel / Lifetime Goals

Eat, Pray, Love
Alright, this wasn't a big hit at Book Club (even after we had treated ourselves to the film afterwards!) and it is a bit cliched. The narrator is a bit self involved with not as much insight as the blurb and reviews imply, but it is about a woman searching for a deeper meaning within her life and answers to the "big" questions. It is a book about travel and meditation. It felt like it ought to have a position in this reading list. It's a very straight forward read which you'll fly through. It was a bestseller and was very popular when it was first published, receiving lots of press coverage so there is obviously something within it that appealed to people! Some of you may enjoy it.......!!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

This is much more well received with 4/5 star ratings on Goodreads and a 5/5 star rating from a friend who is widely read and whose judgement I trust implicitly so even though I haven't read it, I feel confident including here. I have added the blurb from Goodreads which seems to sums up the novel about the 22 year old author's journey of self discovery:
Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Books Set in "Foreign" Locations

A Thousand Splendid Suns
I read this in 2008 for the BookClub I was in at the time. It made a terrific impression on me. I was recovering from a minor op and with childcare in place, I was left to lie in bed reading- absolutely gripped and completely transported to the world it was describing, totally bound up in the lives of the characters. Some of it is harrowing, a lot of it thought provoking and all of it is beautifully written. Engrossing. It was a hit with BookClub and scanning through Goodreads, it has 5 star ratings from nearly all of my friends - and all the reviewers too! A tremendous accomplishment. This is a stunning novel about women, friendship and love. It is haunting, spellbinding, heartbreaking and a must read.

Notes from an Exhibition
Patrick Gale's novels are always to be relied on for an intelligent, thoughtful, tender story. This is the story of Cornwall based artist Rachel Kelly and her family as they come to terms with her death. Each section is told from a different viewpoint as they piece together the mystery of her life and the legacy of secrets that she has left behind. It is touching, humane and witty. I recommend any of his books.

The Road Home
This was another "BookClub" read from a while ago, but actually it was the discussion I had with a friend about it which really sticks in my mind and reminds me that this is a book worth recommending. Rose Tremain is a talented, skilled and much admired author whose books often take an interesting idea or explore marginalised or ostracised groups of people. This book is more conventional and accessible that some of her others and tells the tale of Lev, a 42 year old immigrant from Eastern Europe who comes to London to seek his fortune. Seeing London through his foreign and unfamiliar eyes is really thought provoking and the novel is full of insight. It is a great book for discussion and also as a reflection on our changing society.

The Secret River
I am drawn to novels set in Victorian Australia that deal with the arrival of the colonials. It is an emotive period in history but I'm fascinated by the harshness of the country, the absolute fight for survival in a country not designed for the Western World and the daily futile struggle of the white people to try and make a living there. This book has haunted me since I read it. It's set in 1806 and tells of William Thornhill who is deported, with his wife, to New South Wales. The story is about their adaption (and the adaption of the whole colonial community) to their new life and the attempts to secure a successful way of life there. There are some traumatic events portrayed in the book but what is really resonant is the complete lack of understanding between the two groups of people; it wasn't just a language barrier that separated them from the indigenous people but an entire way of life. A fascinating, thought provoking, historical read.

The Tea Planter's Wife
All three of Dinah Jefferies novels are beautifully told stories set in exotic locations with convincing historical detail and well crafted characters. Set in the 1920s, this is about 19 year old Gwen who arrives to join her new husband at his tea plantation in Ceylon and sets out to be the perfect wife. But life on the plantation is not as she expected. There is resentment, secrets, hidden pasts and Gwen has to try and make sense of her new role, her new relationship, her new position and her new life in a new, foreign country.

I would also add "The Help", "Americanah", "A Man Called Ove" and "Shoes for Anthony" here - all previously recommended on earlier posts!

Books on 99p Offers  / Gripping Thrillers for a Complete Slice of Escapism and Relaxation! 

Here's a list of thrillers currently on offer that I highly recommend for a great, fast, psychologically thrilling read!

"The Hidden Legacy" GJ Minett
"Into the Darkest Corner" Elizabeth Haynes
"Chosen Child" / "The Attic Room" Linda Huber (£1.99 currently)
"The Good Girl" Mary Kubica (99p)
"The Good Girl" Fiona Neill
"The Girl in the Ice" Robert Bryndza (99p)
"The Good Mother" A L Bird (99p)
"The Accident" C L Taylor (99p)
"After You'd Gone" Maggie O'Farrell (99p)
"The Girl with No Past" Kathryn Croft (£1.99)

Fiction Books inspired by the Bible

The Last Testament
A  fast paced, sensationalist religious conspiracy thriller which will be an easy, page turning read full of twists, mystery and excitement. This will be something to caught up with during the flight or moments of nervousness!

Pope Joan
This book was published in 1996 and I borrowed it from the library a couple of years later to take on a holiday to Rome. It's light, contrived in places, romanticised at times and full of cliffhangers, secrets, revelations and adventurers. It's probably more one to borrow or buy second hand but as these escapist "guilty pleasures" reads often are, it's memorable and enjoyable. It's a significant 430 pages long but I remember becoming immersed it in and that it a very quick and easy read. Here's the blurb to see if it tempts you!
For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine.

The Red Tent
This book was an absolutely massive success when it was published in 2005 and to be honest I don't know many people that haven't read it! It is based on Dinah from Genesis and is an affecting story about the lives of biblical women. It is one book which everyone I know has rated a 5 star read. It is incredibly well written, evocative piece of work full of masterful story telling and historic detail. Well worth a reread if it's already on your shelves!

The Testament of Mary
This is a mere 81 pages long - easily a one sitting read, from the talented Colm Toibin. This novel explores Mary from a more unique and unheard perspective as she reflects on her torment and grief over her time as a mother and tries to reconcile herself with events and her emotions. Toibin can always be relied upon for a provocative and haunting read.

While we're talking about different interpretations of Mary, I want to include this poem by the great Carol Ann Duffy here - it's based on a Max Ernst painting showing Mary smacking the infant Jesus. Food for thought........

The Virgin Punishing the Infant
He spoke early. Not the goo goo goo of infancy,
but I am God. Joseph kept away, carving himself
a silent Pinocchio out in the workshed. He said
he was a simple man and hadn’t dreamed of this.
She grew anxious in that second year, would stare
at stars saying Gabriel, Gabriel. Your guess.
The village gossiped in the sun. The child was solitary,
his wide and solemn eyes could fill your head.
After he walked, our normal children crawled. Our wives
were first resentful, then superior. Mary’s child
would bring her sorrow … better far to have a son
who gurgled nonsense at your breast. Googoo. Googoo.
But I am God. We heard him through the window,
heard the smacks which made us peep. What we saw
was commonplace enough. But afterwards, we wondered
why the infant did not cry, why the Mother did.
A bit of a mammoth list but hopefully lots for Rachel to choose from - and something to suit whatever frame of mind she finds herself in!
www.amostrust.org
www.justgiving.com - Rachel Wakefield

For more recommendations, reviews and bookish chat, follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacUK) or sign up for email notifications of future posts

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