Wednesday Whip-Round

April 29, 2009

We’re a nosey lot over here at the Book-It List, so please tell us what you’re reading at the moment!


Source: Charity Shops
Cost: variable, prices usually start from a £1 upwards
User friendly: 9/10
Overall Rating : 7/10

It’s not hard to pop into your local charity shop and browse through the books on their shelves.  I’ve had differing levels of success with these, from picking up some new / classic reads to finding a minuscule pile of books that look like they’ve been there since the 1960’s.  That said, they’re cheap, usually starting from around a £1 and you can always recycle the book afterward.  I tend to take any hard back books I have to charity shops as the postage is always too high to sell.

Goes without saying, you are also supporting a charity and what do you lose?  Five minutes browsing and you just might get a bargain.

What’s been your best charity shop book find?

Top 5 : Recession Reads

April 27, 2009

As the recession sinks its teeth in a little bit deeper and we’re increasingly feeling the effects of belt-tightening and economic insecurity, we might be able to find solace and inspiration in the humble book for living a more frugal, less consumer-hungry life.  Here are our top picks for when you’re feeling the pinch:

1.  The Money Diet by Martin Lewis
As a true thrifty missus, I didn’t actually buy this book but read through a friend’s copy after spotting it lying on her coffee table.  You may have seen Martin Lewis on GMTV, or perhaps have stumbled across his website.  Well, he continues his good work in his book.  Stuffed full of Martin’s practical tips, it dispenses no-nonsense advice for those who are finding themselves overwhelmed by the day-to-day task of keeping on top of their spending.  Please note this book is geared towards a UK audience.

2. Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton
Why are we all spending so much anyway?  Alain de Botton investigates the social and historical reasons for our buy-now-pay-later society and provides us with the tools to break away from our desire to spend-spend-spend.  It’s more of a philosophical study than self-help guide, but there’s no better start to changing habits of a lifetime than to understand the root cause of them.  Written for the masses, it’s an easily accessible philosophy book, peppered with humour and a scarily accurate observation of our world.

3. The Kitchen Revolution by Rosie Sykes, Zoe Heron & Polly Russell
This is the meal planner’s bible.  As the website says “The Kitchen Revolution is the life-saving cookbook you’ve been waiting for – home cooking using fresh, seasonal produce, with weekly planners, recipes and shopping lists that will enable you to maximise the weekly shop for you and the family. It’s the ‘back to basics’ approach, minimising waste through thoughtful shopping and a little preparation. Each week features a Big Meal from Scratch (a delicious, filling meal for the whole family); Something for Nothing (two easy meals that use leftovers in a tasty and inspiring way); a Seasonal Supper (a quick, simple supper made from seasonal ingredients); Larder Feast (for when the fridge is bare, a whole meal just from storecupboard ingredients) and a 2 for 1 meal (a comforting meal that freezes well so that you can eat half immediately, and store half in the freezer)”. 

4. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Okay, I might be dabbling in a bit of schadenfreude here, but no matter how bad you think you have it, there’s always someone out there who has it worse.  Frank McCourt’s memoirs take us through his poverty-stricken childhood in Limerick, surviving such dangers as an alcoholic father, malnutrition and a typhoid-induced stay in hospital.  This is a moving story of desperate poverty and provides some important perspective in these times of recession.

5. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
What on earth has this got to do with a recession?  Well you know what, when the world’s economies are crashing down around our ears and all anyone can talk about is doom and gloom, there is nothing better than a bosom-heaving, breeches-wearing romantic romp to make you forget your woes.

Don’t forget to tell us about any of your suggestions for great recession reads – we’d love to hear from you!

runningwithscissorsTitle : Running With Scissors
Author: Augusten Burroughs
ISBN : 9781843544852
Rating : 8/10
Great for : Holidays; Book Groups; Humour

Running With Scissors came my way from a colleague who promised me I wouldn’t put it down.  They were right.

Augusten Burroughs’ memoirs start at the age of 12 when his mother gives him away to her psychiatrist, an individual who would benefit from therapy himself and his family whom are quoted as “The Brady Bunch on Viagra”

Running With Scissors follows Augusten to the age of 17. Despite the obvious realisation that Augusten had an unconventional and at some times, horrific childhood, the story is relayed in his own humorous fashion, daring you not to laugh out loud at times.  From his relationship with the paedophile who lives in the garden shed, to pursing his dream of being a hairdresser, dealing with his mother’s regular psychotic episodes and bible dipping, this book is a train wreck of events and strangely gripping.

If you’re read Running With Scissors, please let us know what you thought of it.

I defy you not to read this book and experience a raft of emotions, not least a thankfulness that your childhood was relatively ‘normal’ and as you reach the end, I’d put money on you being down your local bookstore or library looking for the next installment.



Title : Suite Francaise
Author: Irene Nemirovsky
ISBN : 9780099488781
Rating : 7/10
Great for : Book Groups; Curling Up With a Cuppa

Suite Francaise caught my eye as I was scuttling through Heathrow Airport, ready to jump on a long-haul flight.  I wanted something absorbing, something I could read easily, something that would make me feel like I hadn’t wasted 13 hours of my life.  This novel delivered on all counts.

Irene Nemirovsky was already a celebrated French author when she decided to write about the events happening on her very doorstep – events which would shake the earth, forever alterating the course of history.  As a Russian Jewish immigrant, and having fled Paris in 1940 to a small village in occupied France, she was writing from the eye of the storm. 

Suite Francaise is set during the fall of France to the Third Reich.  Don’t be mistaken however, in thinking that it is a novel about war.  It isn’t.  While there are oblique references to battles and military operations, this is a primarily a novel exploring how terrible events of great magnitude effect the lives of ordinary people.  It is a novel about human nature, and the fragile, tenuous thread of human relationships. 

The novel is populated with a number of characters, and I think the biggest flaw is that there are perhaps too many.  This doesn’t however detract from character development  – it is great credit to Irene Nemirovsky’s skill that we always feel like we understand the person we are reading about.  The reader flips from one protagonist to the other, following their stories as they firstly flee Paris becoming refugees in their own country, and subsequently as the inhabitants of a small rural village are are forced to submit to an occupying army. 

What really takes my breath away is that while this is a work of fiction, Irene Nemirovsky in essence based Suite Francaise on real life.  The horror, the tension, the loss is made completely real to us because the author is doing nothing more than holding up a mirror to the terrible events going on around her.   

As horrific as the ficticious events may be however, the reality is even more disturbing.  Irene Nemirovsky was arrested by the French police in 1942.  She died in Auschwitz later that year.

red-tentTitle : The Red Tent
Author: Anita Diamant
ISBN : 9780330487962
Rating : 8/10
Great for : Book Groups; Holidays

I first read Anita Diamant’s beautifully written story several years ago, drawn in by great reviews and the intriguing marketing-savvy description splashed on the cover “the oldest love story never told”.  It’s now one of the novels that I reach for again and again.

Anita Diamant weaves a rich tapestry, telling the tragic story of Dinah, daughter of the biblical Jacob and sister of Joseph.  Overshadowed and subjugated by the men in her life, Fortune hands Dinah a rocky path which she walks with incredible strength and sagacity.  The author’s skill is making a modern-day reader relate to a character and events of ancient times, and despite graphic descriptions of childbirth and death, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the beauty of the language.   The heroine’s voice is frank, warm, and enticing.  The plot moves swiftly, the descriptions of the minutae of every day life are incredibly evocative.

I very rarely find books “unputdownable” but The Red Tent certainly is (yes, even after the fifth re-reading!).  Hearbreaking and intimate, the story draws you in from the first page and doesn’t let you go until the very last.  Above all else I think The Red Tent can be described as a celebration of womanhood. It’s a book written by a woman, about women, for women.  And it’s a bloody good read.

If you’ve read The Red Tent, please let us know what you thought of it.