Posts Tagged ‘books’

Sophie’s summer reading

Friday, August 14th, 2015

I confess I am an avid, if eclectic reader. I do use books, not kindles or tablets, I like the satisfaction of finishing them and handing them onto friends  – if I’ve enjoyed them – and most of them end up in charity books, as our house isn’t big enough to cope with all the books I read.

This is a selection from books I’ve read this July and going into  early August. A very select few remain in the house. Here’s a selection of some of the books I’ve read this summer, it’s not exhaustive. The list is the ones that have stayed with me – in my head – as opposed to having left me the minute I finished the book.

Some of the books read by Sophie this summer.

Some of the books read by Sophie this summer.

Let me know of books you’ve enjoyed and if you’ve read any on this list what you’ve thought of them. I’m a member of two book clubs so that adds to the variety of the books. They are in no particular order, just the order I remembered them in.

The Rector’s Daughter – FM Mayor – missed opportunities
Fatherland – Robert Harris (brilliant writer, also recently read an Officer and a Spy in that one kept having to remember it was based on real life – truth was definitely stranger than fiction.
Virginia Woolf in Manhatten – Maggie Gee (concept of Virginia Woolf in 21st century New York)
Amy Snow – Tracy Rees (Richard and Judy’s first winner for finding new writers)
Kingmaker – Toby Clements – very readable novel based on the war of the roses having lived near Tewkesbury for 18 years of my life and now in Yorkshire, particular interest. 1st in a series
My Family and other Animals – Gerald Durrell – time to reread an old family favourite
2 of the Cherub series – teenage spy series, lent by our son on holiday when I’d miscalculated how many books I’d read by a factor of 3 – interesting to see what he has been reading
Rafa my story by Rafael Nadal and John Carlin (another one lent by our son)
The Architect’s apprentice –  Elif Shafak (novel based on Turkey with intrigues and power struggles by the most widely read women novelist in Turkey )
The Angels’ Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (from the author of Shadow of the Wind)
In a Summer Season – Elizabeth Taylor (never really got into this writer, but keep being lent books by her from various sources)
Dominion – CJ Sampson (similar concept to Fatherland but different result)
Daring Greatly – Brene Brown (read this as a result of a recommendation from Ximena Del Castro as part of our Time for Tea series – the importance of being vulnerable).
Nathaniel’s Nutmeg – Giles Milton (So glad that I’m a spice merchant now and not then)
Nora Webster – Colm Toibin – widow refinding herself after her husband’s death

Summer books 2015 read by Sophie

Summer books 2015 read by Sophie

We will come back to the cookery books we’ve enjoyed most this summer in a future blog.

Some Good Books on the Environment

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

I have recently read Al Gore’s “Earth in the Balance” which is a pretty good overview of the environmental issues facing the world.  It is lucid and comes up with some sensible political strategies to managing the potential ecological issues impacting our planet.  It is a pity that while it was written in 1992, little progress has been made and a current review of the situation would be “little has changed”.

So here are the very few books that have had an impact on the way I see the planet and our impact on it:

  • Carson, R. “Silent Spring” Hamish Hamilton 1963
  • Gore, A. “Earth in the Balance” Earthscan 1992
  • Lovelock , J.E. “Gaia:  A New Look at Life on Earth” Oxford University Press 1979
  • Schumacher, E.F. “Small is Beautiful” Blond & Briggs 1973

What I am really disappointed by is that there are no good books that I have so far come across about the environmental impact mankind is having on water.  This is poor, since the amount of chemicals that we are pouring into our oceans and rivers and lakes is truly frightening.  There are books of course, but nothing that offers any profound insight into the damage we are causing, nor how we should address this major environmental issue.

Some of the books that have inspired us

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Both of us (Sophie and Axel) are avid readers of books – both fiction and non fiction. This is the first in an ad hoc series of books that have made us sit up and think. We would be interested in hearing books that have influenced you and also your views on the books chosen here.

1) “Not on the Label”: what really goes into the food on your plate by Felicity Lawrence.

This was an interesting book not least because of the different things we both got out of it. There was one particular chapter on salads which equally appalled us both but for different reasons – Axel, because of the complete lack of nutrition from the pre washed via chlorine salads, and Sophie because of the complete lack of hygiene and sanitation and living habitats of the workers.  After reading this book, I tried an experiment at home; I took a packed of prepared vacuum-packed washed salad from Morrisons and Sainsburys (I rarely, if ever, go to Asda, Tesco or Waitrose because they are not near us) and the same salad ingredients from our local grocer, The Fruit Basket, and put then on a plate in the kitchen and waited to see how long they took to go off.  The leaves from the supermarkets started turning brown on the first day and were rotten within 3 days whereas the leaves from the local grocer lasted a full 10 days.  What this tells me is that much of the food that is chilled and/or packed with inert gases is simply controlling or delaying the rot of the physical structure of the food, while the goodness is probably just decaying inside the cells.  Perhaps we are kidding ourselves about the nutritional value of the chilled and gas-packed foods.

2)  “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson.

Sophie quite by chance discovered this book when visiting a friend who is a keen fundraiser for a school in Namibia.  Sophie happened to see it and picked it up intrigued by the title which relates to one of the customs of the Balti people, then bought it for Axel as a birthday present.  The book is a celebration of what can be achieved through pioneering grit and sheer determination, particularly when you realise that Greg Mortensen is an American and Baltistan is in Northern Pakistan just beside the Afghanistan Border.  He was even kidnapped for a time.  It is incredibly humbling and has taught us more about the political and social issues of the Middle East, inspiring us to direct our personal charity towards education in the developing world.  Find out more at or buy the book.

3) “Imperfectly Natural Women” by Janey Lee Grace. 

 A few years ago a friend of ours came to lunch and mentioned this book which had been given to her by her sister.  We were intrigued and bought a copy soon after as it appeared to be very in line with our own personal aims – and so it is. Janey Lee Grace appears on many TV and radio items including Steve Wright in the afternoon (Radio 2) and is great at pointing the way and the pitfalls of living a greener (but fairly normal) life.  Since we first read this book we’ve met Janey Lee Grace and have often been interested and inspired by our research.  She’s since then written two other books – Imperfectly Natural Baby and Imperfectly Natural Home.