August books

It’s now October and I’m a month into my new course at uni and feel I’ve done more reading and notes in this month than in the whole two years on my old course, so because of this (as you may have noticed), I didn’t get a lot of writing done over the last month or so, but now I’m into the swing of things I’m hoping to get back to posting a few pieces every month. First I’ll start by catching up on my monthly reads posts, starting with the month of August. I ended up reading a wide variety of books in all genres (and sizes) and since my plants were looking particularly bangin’ in the bath last watering day I thought they’d make a good background for the photos so things are looking a little plant themed this post, making me dream of some tropical weather (not through climate change though, I mean a holiday rather than converting Scotland to a tropical climate).

Now, I started the month with a rather tiny little book to get me out of my reading slump, The New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli, a writer and LGBTQIAA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, ally, plus – he sees the plus as opening it up to anyone no matter if they don’t identify fully with any letter, or aren’t out for example) activist. On the morning I was lying reading it in my bed, there happened to be a rainbow shining across the top of the stairs through the glass of the banister- all I’m saying is, god isn’t real but if he was he’s gay as heck. The book provided a short, to the point, easily understood but incredibly thoughtful and moving look from Eli’s own experiences at where the movement goes from here, collectively and looking out for one another. It felt like a breath of fresh air given the divisiveness that feels to be clogging up everything at the moment, one of love and togetherness, or as Eli puts it,

“Queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere. Queer people anywhere must fight for queer people everywhere. After all, wouldn’t you want someone to fight for you?”

Next was a book I knew very little about, Kate Weinberg’s The Truants. I finished the book in a day as it really sucked me in with its mysterious and dark storyline with characters to match. If you’re looking for a strange university-set mystery with big Agatha Christie vibes through the classes, this is quite the twisty novel however I found it overall really quite dull and depressing by the end and with the addition of some very typical tropes it left me quite disappointed-although I don’t think everyone will feel the same about such tropes, I’ve just read too many novels with such a plot device in the past so don’t let that be the thing to put you off. All that being said I thought the writing was really great as it still kept me needing to read more (although possible I just wanted through it) and had such power to it in order to leave me with that icky heavy feeling afterwards.

And after that, it was definitely time for some laughs with Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You. A glorious and charming book of essays in her usual hilarious, open and self-deprecating (just the right amount I’d say, as if am I have some authority) fashion, that I absolutely adore. The essays cover a broad range of topics and I went between cringing and snorting throughout, think her and I have the same talent for embarrassing ourselves. Speaking of cringe, I watched Irby’s appearance at Edinburgh book festival online, which was great apart from when the host was going on about Irby’s age being 30 in regards to a question she was asking and in the answer Irby literally says she just had her 40th birthday. You could see the pain on the hosts face, it wasn’t even that bad but I had to pause and sit for a second. Anyway go read the book with its cute bunny on the cover if you’re in need of a break that’s still filled with substance and thought.

After my lockdown birthday I got stuck into the gift of a book that is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. As always it was easy to read while diving headfirst into a very difficult topic through an abstract concept. A library between life and death filled with books containing all the lives you could’ve lived turns out to be a pretty good way of looking at regrets, doubts and ultimately severe depression. Who would’ve thought. I finished the book sitting outside on a rather cold day, so cold my fingers went a bit purple and I didn’t even notice till I’d finished, it was that engrossing. It felt really good finishing the book as even though it was filled with worries and confusion it left so much hope and wonder for our wide world with all its many possibilities by the end. I thought it was gorgeous, and although saddening at parts it was still so warm and promising when it comes to us humans, and well worth the read for absolutely anyone, no matter your genre of choice.

My boyfriend got me Prince’s unfinished memoir The Beautiful Ones for Christmas, and it’s stunning (as to be expected) but for some reason I just didn’t get into reading it. I think partly because I knew how great it could’ve been and how likely it was this wasn’t how he would’ve wanted it, but either way by August I thought it was time to read it. I’ve seen some reviews complaining about Dan Piepenbring’s introduction being so long but I actually really liked it and felt it gave a nice lil insight into where Prince was at when he decided to write this book and also what it was like working with such an elusive man who left mystery and intrigue wherever he went. I loved all the unseen photos and Prince’s just about readable writing, not much worse than my own, fitting for a man who even in his own memoir is still so very unreadable. Over all I loved it and spent the day after finishing it just sitting in my thoughts listening to Nothing Compares 2 U and imagining what the book could’ve been, especially with all his hefty ambitions for it, like ending racism- because if anyone could do it, it would of course have been him. Truly the most beautiful one.

After tearing up at the last book it was nice to get into Talia Hibbert’s Get a Life, Chloe Brown, a fun compulsively readable romance. It was everything I needed at the moment, just so damn gloriously funny with plenty of drama that left you itching to know more. I loved the character of Chloe Brown with her bubbly yet strong and determined personality (even if she hadn’t realised it herself), and the romance was everything you could ask for with the undeniably intriguing Redford. Both entertaining and heartwarming, the book follows the two as they learn to really live as they please and the joy that comes once you trust someone enough to let them in. The best bit though is that the next two books are going to follow the other Brown Sisters (whose appearances in this book I loved), in the books Take a Hint, Dani Brown and Act Your Age, Eve Brown, the first of which is already out, with Eve Brown coming next year. I need to order Dani Brown ASAP as I have a feeling I’m going to love the story even more than this one. Also, the coordinated covers, BIG yes.

And the last book I read in August, The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off! by the Gloria Steinem (whose recent episode on Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail podcast was perfect). This book is mainly made up of quotes under different chapter headings with introductions, essays and some pointers inbetween, so definitely a book you can finish in one short sitting. I would’ve loved more essays than quotes, but I still really enjoyed it and felt so much of Steinem’s never ending passion through the look back on her many, many quotable moments. She could be a walking Pinterest board, but of course she’s so much more than that. Also I just love the title, reminds me a lot of Florence Given’s book, both full of uncomfortable truths and ways for women to really live and be who they truly want out with the glaring eyes of the patriarchy. Given the US election is coming up next month I’ll leave you with this quote from the book,

“Voting isn’t the most we can do, but it’s the least.”

—T

books to leaf through this autumn

As we come to the end of summer, I thought it was about time I made another post on books I’m looking forward to over the next couple of months, and let me tell you there is a LOT. My physical ‘to read’ pile is big enough as it is so I’m gonna need to hurry my ass up and get through it because I can’t wait to get stuck into the new reads coming from September onwards. This is gonna be a long one I imagine, so let’s get started.

First up, The Betrayals by Bridget Collins out on the 12th of November which already has the most beautiful cover as it is but there is also a Waterstones exclusive gold foiled hardback version with a matching burgundy sprayed edge, and well, I’m a sucker for a hardback that puts the effort in ya know? I loved The Binding which had the perfect mix of magic and mystery, this time however, there’s less books with an intriguing institution and some sort of peculiar game instead. So I’m expecting yet another deep winding story to get truly lost in and forget all about this dreary weather.

My favourite comedian, Grace Campbell, has recently announced her new book, Amazing Disgrace, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it and it’s wonderfully illustrated cover on the 29th of October. I’ve went to see Grace twice in Edinburgh and nearly bumped into her coming out of a toilet cubicle, which I will say isn’t really the funnest of anecdotes (Alan Cumming’s the one for that). A book about shame sounds right up my street, and as well as likely making me snort throughout I expect that I’ll have to sit with it for a bit and rethink my own shame, especially as, to quote the blurb, “being graceful is no fun anyway” and I can confirm right now, I am the furthest thing from graceful, you wouldn’t believe the number of drinks I’ve spilled down myself.

Next up, we have my man David Attenborough with A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a vision for the future out on the 1st of October which I preordered the moment I saw it not least because of the beautiful hardback and end papers that I’m sure I’ll take photos of for the blog as soon as it arrives. I adore Attenborough and have done for quite some time, and if you happened to ask me what point in time I’d go to in the past, my third choice- after seeing Queen live at Wembley stadium in ‘86 and just about any prince show where he performed Nothing Compares 2 U- would be to pop in just in time to accompany Attenborough on his travels for the very first zoo quest expeditions. Anyway, because of him I wanted to be a naturalist from an early age and felt so in awe of all aspects of nature, so I’ll greedily consume any of the work he puts out. This book looks to be his call to action, one of sadness and fear for what we have lost and will lose but also one of hope and motivation because we have no other option but to sort this shit out.

Back to some good fiction though with Ghosts, Dolly Alderton’s first novel, out on the 15th of October. From her memoir and newsletter, to her articles and longform essays (like that for the pound project), I just absolutely adore Dolly’s writing so I expect this to be just as bloody wonderful. Now the title may mislead you into thinking this is a supernatural book, but the only spooky thing is men’s behaviour on dating apps. It looks to be funny and ever-observant with Dolly’s signature warmth and wit while covering an oh so relatable modern life through all the messiness of dating, friendships, family, work and success. Also, Elizabeth Day’s quote on the cover “Nora Ephron for the millennial generation” basically confirms I’m going to love it.

Next I have a current favourite of mine, Michael Spicer with The Secret Political Adviser, out now. Coming from his much loved room next door series, where he makes listening to our somewhat idiotic politicians the slightest bit less awful, this looks to be as hilarious as he is with his family friendly insults and moments on the verge while being the man in the ear of everyone from Trump to Priti Patel. It’s the lighthearted (fictional, although it’s not hard given that most of the time the real stuff doesn’t even seem real) look at the state of politics I think we all need right now, especially with the likelihood of a second lockdown. Here is an old room next door video which was so perfect you’ll hardly be able to believe the prince of noncing wasn’t following the script.

Then we have The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton, out on the 1st of October, who’s first novel The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle has to be one of my favourite mysteries of recent years. It felt like a truly original story and one that kept me both creeped out and desperate to know more so it’s guaranteed to be a damn good mystery again. Perfect suspenseful halloween reading, with murder of a possible demonic nature out at sea and a shortening amount of time to work out the truth, it’ll be anything but simple and yet perfectly satisfying I’m sure- much like the Waterstones exclusive edition with a stencilled sprayed edged to match the cover.

Next up the wonderful Jamie Windust with their first book In Their Shoes, part memoir part advice on navigating non-binary life- out on the 21st of October. I’ve been following Jamie on Instagram for a while now and taking in all that god damn talent from writing to modelling (I’m also a big fan of the insta story hotel room tours). In this book though, Jamie observes all parts of life through fashion, mental health and just existing in this binary loving world. As said on the blurb, “there is no one way to be non-binary” as the very act of being non-binary is to not fit in one of our lil heteronormative boxes, and that’s amazing, as is the fact we get to hear these wondrous stories we’ve been missing out on in mainstream dialogue for far too long.

Now for one of my favourite artists at the moment, Amber Fossey, (also known as zeppelinmoon on Instagram and Etsy) with the beautifully illustrated Be Wild, Be Free, out on the 29th of October I’d say this book would be in the same genre as the much loved The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy, as it follows a set of characters along side poetry often with a similar impact to fables. I already love the colourful fun art, and have ordered prints from Amber’s shop before so can’t wait for a collection of more joyful, thoughtful and downright hilarious takes on all of life’s little moments, with plenty of sloths along the way.

Just recently announced, Otegha Uwagba’s Whites: on Race and Other Falsehoods– out on the 12th of November– is a new longform essay stemming from this moment and the ongoing movement in light of the horrific murder of George Floyd and the protests that came after. Through Otegha’s personal story and observations the essay takes a look at the reverberations across all parts of society and the enormous ask put on Black people during this time, from interracial friendships to allyship and what that really means- especially given all the anti-racism work supposedly being done. I love Otegha’s straight talking and ever compelling writing (and speaking in her podcast, In Good Company) so I look forward to this timely piece.

This next one, A Secret of Birds and Bone is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s newest middle grade children’s book, out now. I loved her first dive into adult fiction in The Mercies and have heard great things about her YA novels so felt I should give this a read. With yet another intriguing historical storyline, this time set during a plague in Italy, it follows two children in search of their mother following clues across the city through the carvings their mother made in bones. Set to be yet another firm favourite in children’s fiction, I can’t wait for more perfectly enticing writing.

Elizabeth Day has a new book out on the 1st of October, Failosophy, filled with everything she’s learned while making the hit podcast How to Fail. It looks to be a familiar and enjoyable read for fans of the podcast with insights from everyone from Malcolm Gladwell and Phoebe Waller-Bridge to everyone’s (well most of us who like the podcast anyway) favourite modern philosopher Alain De Botton, who is also giving the book great praise on the cover. A handbook for when things go wrong, I’m sure it’ll be both insightful and easily readable, a quick read to make you think.

And last, but certainly not least, my woman, Jane Fonda with her new book, What Can I Do? – out now. With the wonderfully to the point subheading “The truth about climate change and how to fix it”. Jane takes us through how not to get bogged down with the sadness and grief of it all and how instead to find our drive and activism to provide hope and fight for our planet while we still have this great, but fleeting, opportunity for change. Being a well known activist throughout her life, and now with her new Fire Drill Fridays fighting for action this book allows Jane to invite us in through her own personal story but is also filled with all the facts from the leading climate science, managing to discuss a large number of the most pressing issues AND tell us what the hell we can do to sort it out.

So that was a lot of books, which means I should probably stop writing and get back to reading to give myself a better chance of actually ever getting to read the ones above. I’m currently about half way into On The Come Up by Angie Thomas and it’s just as compulsively readable as her last book so there’s a good chance I’ll accidentally end up lying in this bath till I finish it. I hope everyone’s managing to have a good September even with restrictions tightening, and for those of us back at school/college/uni, I wish you no technical issues on the ever stressful online classes. I’ll be back next week with my August reads, I know, at the end of September, can you tell Uni’s taking up all my brain already? However they’re too good not to talk about it, so I’m sure I’ll manage. Till next time.

—T

Matt Haig

I’ve been thinking for a while about doing a series of posts where in each, I pick an author I love and go through my collection of their books. Some authors I already have in mind are Jon Ronson, Nora Ephron, Talia Hibbert, David Sedaris and Jessie Burton, but today we’re starting with Matt Haig since his new novel The Midnight Library came out just a few weeks ago and I’ve finished it (and as to be expected, it was beautiful) so I’m in the mood to talk all things Matt Haig.

I’ll start with how I came to Haig’s work in the first place, through his non-fiction, I don’t think I knew much about his book Notes on a Nervous Planet when I first picked it up and it’s likely I was drawn to it simply because of the truly wonderful rainbow hardback hidden beneath the sleeve. But I soon realised just how much the book had to offer, I read the book at a strange time when I was in the middle of dropping out of my old course at uni and spending a lot of my time hanging around campus and the city of Edinburgh reading. Always having a book on the go was a love I had abandoned for a time, but felt a deep need for again. Haig touched upon so many of my thoughts and the inner dread and panic that had started sprouting up before I had the chance to realise what was happening or stop it. And in that way brought some comfort while I worked my way through this realisation (even more so when I went to see his live show a few months later). I’m not sure Haig’s writing can be summed up in any meaningful way or understood without simply reading it, but in short the book looks at how the world, and in particular technology, is evolving far too fast for our brains that haven’t changed since we were cave dwellers possibly committing mass genocide on every other human species (honestly, what are we like). This fast paced world where we are expected to be constantly aware of everything going on around the world while also analysing and bettering every part of ourselves has led to a crisis in loneliness, stress and anxiety. Haig takes a personal look through his own struggles and their connection to the world at large, then applies this to how we stay sane and find our humanity in the contemporary world. I later picked up Haig’s memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive, which goes through his struggle with depression, both how he learned to live with it and overcome the worst and darkest parts of it. The book takes a look at mental health not from the perspective of a psychologist or a doctor, but from someone who’s been through it and continues to live with it which allows for so much more depth and understanding, particularly in living with it day to day. So many people adore this book, whether it’s for the hope and light it can bring or for the learning for those who want to understand. As he says in Reasons to Stay Alive,

“The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.”

Nowhere however does Haig’s ability to find the best in humanity and what it means to be human shine through more than in his fiction work. He has to my knowledge 7 adult novels and 10 children’s books, and as you can see from my book pile, I only have 4 of his novels so I still have some back catalogue to look forward to. Through all of Haig’s easily readable fiction he manages to take a look at the human experience through an outside perspective which provides a unique lens for looking at the human condition. With a great deal of care he allows for fresh ideas, hope and a rewiring of how we look at the world which feels needed every once in a while to remind us of the beauty of the planet and our fragility within it that can add more meaning to our existence rather than fear. Whether through an alien taking over the body of a man in order to complete his mission in The Humans, or a hundred year old man who looks to be in his 40s struggling to find meaning in How to Stop Time or even through a family of vampires trying to explain their bloodthirst to their teenage children in The Radleys, Matt Haig always manages to bring the readers focus back to what really matters in life through vulnerability and connection.

And lastly, his new novel The Midnight Library, which I read in one day and was so engrossed by that while sitting outside till I finished it, I hadn’t noticed how bloody cold it had gotten and in turn how purple my fingers were. The Midnight Library is a library between life and death where the protagonist Nora Seed ends up after trying to take her own life. While there Nora gets to go through all her regrets and through each book, gets a chance to live all the lives she could’ve lived if she’d made different decisions along the way. Nora is completely consumed and weighed down by all her regrets, but through each book she realises the lives she had imagined she’d missed out on weren’t everything she hoped they’d be. Just as she’s beginning to make some progress through her regrets however, she begins to lose her way finding herself jumping from one life to the next with no idea what she’s looking for and what makes a life worth staying in. With the help of the all knowing librarian she soon realises that each decision she makes has completely unknown consequences, some bad, some good but mainly a mix of both, as most lives are, and after one encounter with a polar bear (usual), well suddenly things start to fall into place. I thought the book was utterly perfect and as usual Matt Haig managed to take a rather odd concept and make it into something lovely and moving, it felt so very thoughtful and absolutely necessary, especially as it is impossible to read without ending up reflecting on your own life and the decisions you’ve made along the way. It was also rather damn motivating.

So yeah, I quite like Matt Haig’s books. With their accessible and thought provoking subjects, hopeful and inspiring outlooks and many surprising laughs, what’s more to love.

—T

July books

Last month I struggled to read much and did most of my reading in chunks of time when I suddenly got in the mood rather than spread out everyday like I usually do, that being said, I read some fantastic books when I managed so let’s get into it.

The first book this month was Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner, a fun romance between a Hollywood icon and her assistant that kicks off when a rumour starts to spread about them being a couple that ends up being not quite so much of a rumour after all. As the tabloids spread more stories it starts to have more of an impact on their work relationship and friendship as they begin to wonder about the other person’s feelings as well as their own. There’s lots of will they, won’t they and assuming how the other person feels then questioning those assumptions with a heck of a lot of miscommunication (as always). Although it wasn’t the most flirty, or well, overly romantic romance novel I’ve ever read I still found it to be a lovely light read which managed to dive into a few darker topics but remained amusing and sweet.

Next I read My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay, a much heavier book than the last, but nonetheless beautiful. It covers the story of Sissay’s life within the British care system, one that he didn’t even fully understand until he eventually got a hold of all the documents on him and how he got there years later. The book takes us alongside him- with excerpts from the documents alongside his writing- as he finds out all these new details including his own name, what happened to his biological mother and the many, many injustices and cruelties he faced eventually leading to the system imprisoning him. The book explores many questions around race and family, really highlighting the amazing outlet which creativity is and ultimately the strength and determination of Sissay. The writing is vivid, moving and altogether hopeful, as although I felt angry reading many parts, no matter the atrocities the young Sissay faced, he always found the light.

My favourite read this month had to be The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a truly unmissable book which I so wish was required reading in schools instead of books like Lord of the Flies which I really don’t think can help humanity much. This edition has a snazzy yellow sprayed edge and the abbreviation for the title, THUG, on the spine which is in reference to Tupac’s point that THUG LIFE stands for ‘The Hate You Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone’ (something I had no idea he’d said even though in my teens I had the rather unoriginal poster of him above my bed with his thug life tattoo visible, a fake fan, I know) which is a central message in the book but even more prevalent in the world right now. The book centres around Starr, who near the beginning of the book witness’ a police officer shooting and killing her childhood friend, a young Black boy, who supposedly has a gun which is in fact a hair brush. The story then follows the aftermath of this for Starr and the surrounding Black community. This book is the exact reason why folk shouldn’t knock YA because it’s absolutely astounding, covers so many much needed topics, is super readable and I honestly couldn’t fault a single thing about it.

Then I read my much anticipated read of the month, How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? And Other Essays On Modern Life by Pandora Sykes. The book contains 8 essays covering everything from wellness and fast fashion to authenticity and the new culture of being constantly on. While reading it felt like Sykes had taken many of the little nagging thoughts on the modern world and in particular the digital age from inside my head, put them down on paper and then thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly) analysed them with her own musings and research, plus facts and stats, to basically give me even more to think about. And yet it was still a great comfort, I think in part due to the warmth and thoughtfulness of Sykes’ personality that shone through her generous writing. I loved the writing on the problem with empathy and the call for, what the psychologist Paul Bloom calls, radical compassion which felt very apt, as it’s put in the book, “compassion is objective and allows decisions to be made with a level of remove, rather than from within the eye of the storm”. The book left me with lots to unpack and think over about both our collective consciousness and also the way I’ve been living my own life in this divisive digital world.

And lastly, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett which as you can see has the most gorgeous cover and matching sprayed edge. The book follows two siblings as they go through life forever looking back at their childhood and in particular their attachment to the crazily beautiful house they grew up in. It takes an interesting look at how people can remember the same experiences differently, especially the difference that time makes through intriguing time jumps which, although very different to most, were not at all jarring and didn’t remove me from the story. I thought the writing in this book was so all consuming and absorbing, just like the relationships within it, and although it wasn’t my favourite or most enjoyable read, it left me with such a heavy weighted feeling, particularly like I needed to lie down for a while, that is testament to the skill of Patchett in what I’d say is a pretty masterful piece of storytelling.

I’m looking forward to getting back into reading a bit more this month, as I know I always feel far better when I make time for reading and prioritise it. Now I’m going to get back to reading more of Matt Haig’s beautiful new book The Midnight Library from the comfort of my bath. I hope you have a lovely sunny August, well, what’s left of it anyway!

—T

Edinburgh book festival 2020

It’s August which means Leo season and in turn my birthday month, but more importantly, festival time in Edinburgh. From the fringe, the tv festival and the book festival, there’s festivals all round and considering the number of amazing books out this year it would have been disappointing to have had no book festival at all, but thankfully it’s going ahead online from the 15th to the 31st of August AND it’s all free. I thought, since those of you who read my book recommendations likely have pretty similar tastes to me that it would be handy (and fun) to make a list of all the events I’m planning on watching.

The first event I’m interested in on Sunday the 16th at 16:00 is Rutger Bregman’s There is Hope for the Human Race. Bregman is the author of Humankind, an optimistic look at human nature through history contrasting with the commonly believed idea of humans being innately selfish, which I’ve referenced before from his episode on Pandora Sykes podcast. His book has just arrived in the post so I might manage to have it finished by Sunday, but if not I’ll be tuning in anyway as I’m so desperately in need of more of the hopeful outlook Bregman has and i’m more than ready to hear more of his thoughts, ideas and many a positive story.

The next event on Wednesday the 19th at 19:00 is the wonderful Marian Keyes’ Family Matters, her equally wonderful new novel Grown Ups was a favourite of mine this year and one I’d love to be reading for the first time now after months of lockdown because it’s filled with all the signature comfort that Keyes seems to manage to so easily sprinkle throughout all her writing. Covering all sorts of topics centring around family dynamics with no beating around the bush and far too many laughs to count, I know I’m in safe hands when I open a new book from Marian Keyes so I can’t wait to hear more from her in this conversation.

On Saturday the 22nd at 17:30 we have two out of the three hosts of the podcast Outrage and Optimism, Christina Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac on How We Can Survive the Climate Crisis. This year Figueres and Rivett-Carnac brought out a book called The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis which covers the two very different futures facing humanity depending on what we do now, how we can get to the more positive, greener world (and avoid the other more hellish future) while also outlining the importance they find in having both outrage and optimism in order to drive change and make a difference.

Later on Saturday the 22nd at 20:30 brings my most anticipated event, Bernardine Evaristo in conversation with Nicola Sturgeon, The Triumph of Girl, Woman, Other. As well as loving Evaristo’s Booker prize winning novel (and being ready to gobble up the rest of the back catalogue) I adored listening to the interview on Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail podcast therefore know this conversation is going to be no less entertaining and thought provoking. Evaristo took on so many different identities within the book and managed to show all the different complex aspects of each character and their lives, it was truly one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read, so I can’t wait to hear more of her thoughts alongside our First minister Nicola Sturgeon, a fellow book lover.

For this next event on Tuesday the 25th at 17:30 we move on to some YA novels with Retelling Tales, featuring the authors Joseph Coelho, Juno Dawson and Kiran Millwood Hargrave. All three of these authors have books which weave some sort of retelling into a new original story; Coelho with The Girl Who Became a Tree, Juno Dawson with Wonderland and Millwood Hargrave with The Deathless Girls. I have yet to read any of these books but I’m a big fan of the authors, particularly Millwood Hargrave with her enchanting book The Mercies, and I absolutely love a retelling so i’m intrigued to hear more from the three wonderful writers and hopefully pick up the books sometime in the future.

On Friday the 28th at 19:00 we have the writer of the much loved The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett with How the Other Twin Lives. I haven’t got the chance to read The Vanishing Half yet, but I’m going to make sure I do before this event as I’ve heard so many good things and it sounds utterly breathtaking and timely. In this event Bennett is in conversation with the co-founders of Black Girls Book Club, Melissa Cumming-Quarry and Natalie Carter, and they’ll be answering audience questions so I can’t wait to hear what is bound to be an insightful and much needed discussion.

For Saturday the 29th I have 3 events, starting at 17:30 is Should Capitalism Survive Climate Change, a discussion between the aforementioned Christina Figueres (former UN secretary for climate), Julian Aguon (international human rights lawyer) and Somini Sengupta (New York Times international climate reporter). They’ll tackle head-on the reasoning behind many leaders for not taking the drastic and much needed climate action, whether this will change in a post pandemic world, and what we’re going to need to do to pull through and help the most vulnerable and in turn save the planet.

The next event for this day at 19:00 is Samantha Irby’s Bitches Gotta Eat. I’m currently in the middle of reading Irby’s fourth book Wow, No Thank You, and it’s just so damn truthful, blunt and downright hilarious, the type of funny that makes me snort. As well as her books, and many published essays, Irby began writing on her blog ‘Bitches Gotta Eat’, so there’s something for us bloggers. I love reading and hearing Irby’s thoughts as she examines modern life in all its grossest and most glorious parts (the two are often one in the same), so I’ll jump at the chance to hear more.

And the 3rd event of the day at 20:30 is Elif Shafak’s Writing the World’s Wrongs. Shafak’s new widely praised novel 10 minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World, sounds utterly intoxicating from what I’ve heard and I’m also going to need to make sure I read this before the event as I can’t wait to hear more from such a beautiful writer. Even in non-fiction Shafak is utterly captivating and I’ve enjoyed her recent writings on the divided times we’re living through and why she thinks stories are what we need to bring us all together through “wisdom, connectivity, and much-needed empathy”. Something we could all do with right now.

On Monday the 31st 14:30 we have my last event of the festival, Matt Haig, whose new book The Midnight Library is out today and he’s talking about the The Library of Second Chances. From his wide ranging story telling both through fiction and his more close to home non-fiction work, Haig never fails to explore what it means to be human in new and meaningful ways which are truly good for the soul. His new book about a library between life and death filled with second chances of lives unlived seems like the perfect opportunity for Haig to get us all thinking deeply and challenge our outlook on life. I know from past shows that Haig is a delight to see live so I can’t wait for this one.

So, that’s all the events I have bookmarked so far, but already there’s a few more intriguing me so do let me know if there are any events you are looking forward to that I’ve missed, I’ve always got time for more conversations around books.

—T