Here are the five books I read in October, featuring a mix of fiction, autobiography, memoir and children’s books.
A Life Like Other People’s by Alan Bennett
I’ve never actually read any Alan Bennett before, which is pretty shocking considering how much of a prolific writer he is.
This one is mostly about his parents, their extended family and his childhood. It’s delightful.
Blurb on the back:
A Life Like Other People’s is Alan Bennett’s poignant memoir of his parents’ marriage and his own childhood in which he recalls Christmases with Grandpa Peel and the lives, loves and deaths of his unforgettable aunties, Kathleen and Myra. His mother’s descent into depression and, later, dementia, results in the uncovering of long-held tragic secret. This is a heart-warming and at time irresistibly funny work of autobiography by one of the best-loved English writers.
It is, of course, impossible to read this without hearing Bennett’s distinctive voice in your head, which makes it all the more pleasurable.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Yes, yes this is a children’s book and I am 47 years old but a good book is a good book, OK?
It’s a beautiful book with such a thrilling and engaging story that made me want to read it in just one sitting.
Stylistically, the book blends elements of graphic novels, movies, picture books and cinema into a brilliant reading experience, unlike anything else I’ve ever read (although the way the illustrations are blended into the story reminded slightly of Phoenix by S F Said).
It is 1931, and Hugo secretly lives inside the walls of a Paris train station, making sure all the clocks are wound up and set to the correct time. His father gives him a notebook with a mysterious drawing in it, which looks like a mechanical man. Hugo vows to uncover the mystery of the drawing, but his secret life is discovered and everything is put at risk…
It was made into a movie in 2011, although I’d not heard of it until now. Think I’ll stick with the book for time being, and can’t wait to read it again with my children.
Somebody I Used To Know by Wendy Mitchell
This is a memoir unlike any other.
Wendy Mitchell also has a blog where she shares her experiences of living with dementia, and this book is an expansion of that.
I’ll let her introduce herself:
On the 31st July 2014 I was diagnosed with Young onset dementia. I may not have much of a short-term memory anymore but that date is one I’ll never forget…
…What I want is not sympathy. What I want is simply to raise awareness.
I’m now the proud author of the Sunday Times Best Seller, Somebody I Used to Know, which just goes to show, you should never give up on yourself.
Somebody I Used to Know is her account of being diagnosed with the onset of dementia and how it has impacted her life, as well as being a memoir of life as a single mother and dedicated NHS employee.
Here’s the blurb on the back:
How do you build a life when all that you know is changing?
How do you conceive of love when you can no longer recognise those who mean the most to you?
A phenomenal memoir – the first of its kind – Somebody I Used to Know is both a heart-rendering tribute to the woman Wendy Mitchell once was, and a brave affirmation of the woman dementia has seen her become.
This books provides fascinating insight into how an individual can adapt and live with dementia as opposed to suffering from it. Wendy Mitchell does more for raising dementia awareness than anything else I have ever read.
Here she is explaining how she has adapted her home to make it more dementia-friendly:
Somebody I Used to Know is essential reading.
Dare To Be You by Matthew Syed
I bought book this for my kids at the weekend but of course I had to read it first!
It’s a sequel of sorts to Syed’s previous children’s bestseller You Are Awesome, which also resides on my children’s bookcase alongside Marcus Rashford’s You Are A Champion. Yes, we’re all for boosting self-esteem and self-confidence in this house. I wish I’d had books like these when I was young.
So, is Dare To Be You any good?
The short answer: Oh yes.
The longer answer: Oh yes indeed! The book offers top advice for tweens & teens, based mostly on these mindset ideals:
be yourself; celebrate what makes you different; be curious; be your own hero; be kind, be resilient, & follow your own path.
Each chapter is peppered with tales from Syed’s childhood, mentions of famous people who overcame their self-doubt, as well as engaging illustrations and big dollops of humour.
My children (11 and 8) are probably a bit below the target audience age but I’m happy that this book is on their bookshelf ready for when they need it.
Here’s what Matthew Syed says about his two children’s books:
Dare To Be You and You Are Awesome are such important books for me. I want children to believe in themselves and have the confidence to follow their own path to success, whatever that might look like for them. Irrespective of background, every child has potential but sometimes I think that they can struggle to know what is possible. I wanted to write something, grounded in science and research, and (hopefully) humour, that children (and adults) could read, enjoy and use to grow in confidence.http://www.matthewsyed.co.uk
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by by Christy Lefteri
“It’s impossible not to be moved” said The Observer.
Here’s the blurb on the back:
Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live happily in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens and they are forced to flee. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain.
As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all – and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face – they must journey to find each other again.
Published in 2019, I’d heard nothing but good things about this book but hadn’t had opportunity to read it until now. I can confirm that it is a beautiful and powerful work. This story really stays with you and is worthy of all the praise.
It’s one of those books where you want to find out what happens next but you don’t want the story to end.
What have you been reading recently?