Reading for pleasure in 2022: January’s books

January always feels like the longest month of the year but thankfully I had a stack of books to see me through!

The first book I read in 2022 was this medical memoir by an NHS intensive care doctor.

As the title suggests, Seven Signs of Life is divided up into seven chapters, based on the themes of grief, joy, fear, distraction, anger, disgust and hope.

Published in 2019 a few months before covid reared its ugly head, Aofie Abbey‘s book is full of wisdom and insight into what life (and death) is like on the NHS frontline.

Her anecdotes deal with a wide range of patients who all have one thing in common; they were admitted into intensive care. Some survive, many do not.

The stories of these patients are woven skillfully into a rich tapestry in which Abbey analyses and unpicks her own ethics, beliefs and approaches to her stressful and demanding job.

Yes, this is one of those popular life-affirming non-fiction books, but it packs an emotional punch that others can only dream of.

There can be no better advertisement or justification for our NHS.

#SaveOurNHS

See also: This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

1666. As the city burns, the hunt for a killer begins… The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor.

This is an engaging historical thriller, set during The Great Fire of London. If you’re a fan of C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series then you’ll enjoy this.

The story is told from two alternating perspectives; a third-person narrator and from the point of view of James Marwood, who is trying to hunt down a murderer.

The descriptions of London are so vivid that it is easy to picture yourself there, walking among the smouldering ruins after the Great Fire has ripped through the heart of the city.

The blurb:

The noise was the worst. Not the crackling of the flames, not the explosions and the clatter of falling buildings, not the shouting and the endless beating of drums and the groans and cries of the crowd: it was the howling of the fire. It was the voice of The Great Beast itself.

London, 1666: a city in flames…

As the Great Fire consumes everything in its path, even the great cathedral and as the embers smoulder, the body of a man is found in the ruins of St Paul’s – stabbed in the neck, thumbs tied behind his back.

A woman on the run…

The son of a traitor, James Marwood is a reluctant government informer, forced to hunt the killer through the city’s devastated streets. There he encounters a determined young woman who will stop at nothing to secure her freedom.

A killer seeking revenge…

When a second murder victim is discovered in the Fleet Ditch, Marwood is drawn into the political and religious intrigue of Westminster.

At a time of dangerous internal dissent, Marwood’s investigation will lead him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined and vengeful woman.

This month I treated myself to the wit and wisdom of Ruby Wax in this outstanding memoir.

This book explores two versions of Ruby Wax; the exaggerated loud and funny TV persona that we’re familiar with, contrasted with the real Ruby who survived a dark and disturbing upbringing which she openly explores here.

The Sunday Telegraph review quoted on the cover, “Dark and dazzling”, sounds like an oxymoron; I mean, is anything ever dark and dazzling?

But if I had to sum up this book in just two words, the phrase “darkly dazzling” fits the tone of both this book and Ruby herself perfectly.

It reminds me somewhat of Carrie Fisher’s memoirs Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic, both of which are most definitely “darkly dazling”. I know that Fisher and Wax were great friends, but I was still surprised to discover in the introduction that Fisher had helped Wax to edit this book.

Both Fisher and Wax write so openly and with great humour about their upbringings and struggles with mental illness. I jumped into How Do You Want Me? knowing I would be entertained with funny anecdotes; what I didn’t expect was to be so moved by Wax’s tales of family life with her seemingly-monstrous (and damaged) parents.

I cannot recommend this book enough; it’s one of the best memoirs I have ever read.

That’s right, I’ve finished tucking in and tickling my taste buds with Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh. Is this book worth the indulgence of your time? Read on to find out…

This is a delicious feast of a book, packed full of literary nutrition blended with autobiographical morsels, favourite recipes and juicy descriptions of dishes that will make your mouth water.

Eat Up! is a glorious manifesto that has the simple aim of giving you permission to eat whatever you like, whenever you like, because food is meant to be enjoyed!

This book brings the fun back into food, whether you’re craving a favourite bar of chocolate, a simple bowl of homemade soup or the satisfying fizz of a can of soda.

Tandoh has serious points to make despite the surface frivolity of sharing her favourite foods.

She discusses topics such as eating to soothe mental health, the cruelty of the diet industry, the appropriation of foods from different cultures, the complexity of eating disorders as well as the importance of enjoying what you eat no matter what other people may think of you (yes, she’s talking about that Pot Noodle you secretly scoffed last Tuesday).

Warning: this book will make you hungry, and perhaps hanker after an ice-cold Coke from the fridge to go with your pile of waffles and bacon.

Subtitled The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed this book explains how the teenage brain is special. Morgan combines fictional scenarios, humour and scientific findings to explain why life can be so challenging for teenagers (and their parents).

Why did I read this book?

My own children are still at primary school, but I work with 16-19 year olds in my job at a college of further education. As I spend all my working hours in the company of awesome teenagers I thought I’d better get to know their brains better!

Lots of adults are intimidated by the idea of working with teenagers, let alone teaching them, but I really enjoy their company. They are at that exciting time when they are starting to take control of their lives and are on the cusp of reaching adulthood.

Being a teenager can be a terrible experience; awkward at best, fully depressing at worst. This book tells us why teenagers behave and think the way they do, and it’s all down to how their brain is changing and developing during puberty.

Although aimed at a teenage audience, every parent and teacher needs to read this book. We owe it to our teenagers to get a better understanding of what happens to their brains during this tricky stage of life, to enable us to have better relationships with them and to support them in more appropriate ways.

Morgan is an expert in teenage wellbeing, having written lots of books on the subject. Here she is talking about her work.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But enough about me! What have you been reading this month? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments below…

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