Lucy Calkins Retreats on Phonics in Fight Over Reading Curriculum – The New York Times

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Lucy Calkins, a leading literacy expert, has rewritten her curriculum to include a fuller embrace of phonics and the science of reading. Critics may not be appeased.

For decades, Lucy Calkins has determined how millions of children learn to read. An education professor, she has been a pre-eminent leader of “balanced literacy,” a loosely defined teaching philosophy.

In a classic Calkins classroom, teachers read aloud from children’s literature; students then chose “just right” books, which fit their interests and ability. The focus was more on stories — theme, character, plot — less on sounding out words.

Her curriculum, “Units of Study,” is built on a vision of children as natural readers, and it has been wildly popular and profitable. She estimates that a quarter of the country’s 67,000 elementary schools use it. At Columbia University’s Teachers College, she and her team have trained hundreds of thousands of educators.

But in recent years, parents and educators who champion the “science of reading” have fiercely criticized Professor Calkins and other supporters of balanced literacy. They cite a half-century of research that shows phonics — sound it out exercises that are purposefully sequenced — is the most effective way to teach reading, along with books that build vocabulary and depth.

With brain science steadily adding to that evidence, there is a sense — at least for many in the education establishment — that the debate over early reading instruction may be ebbing. Phonics is ascendant.

More than a dozen states have passed laws pushing phonics, and Denver and Oakland, Calif., have moved to drop Professor Calkins’s program. In one of her largest markets, New York City, a dyslexic mayor and his schools chancellor are urging principals to select other curriculums.

So after decades of resistance, Professor Calkins has made a major retreat. A rewrite of her reading curriculum, from kindergarten to second grade, includes, for the first time, daily structured phonics lessons to be used with the whole class. There are special books and assessments to track students’ progress with decoding letters.

Thalia Juarez for The New York Times

And it swaps light reading assignments for more rigorous texts: arctic exploration, female deep sea divers in South Korea, the architecture and culture of Islam.

The curriculum, which goes on sale this summer, also includes a 20-page guide for teachers summarizing 50 years of cognitive research on reading.

“All of us are imperfect,” she said in an interview at her office, perched above Columbia’s campus. “The last two or three years, what I’ve learned from the science of reading work has been transformational.”

It may not inspire political campaign ads the way critical race theory does, but the debate over how to teach children to read — perhaps the foundational skill of all schooling — has been just as consuming for some parents, educators and policymakers. Through decades, classroom practice has lurched back and forth, with phonics going in and out of style.

Margaret Goldberg, a Bay Area literacy coach and leader in the science of reading movement, said Professor Calkins’s changes cannot repair the harm done to generations of students. Even before the pandemic widened educational inequality, only one-third of American fourth and eighth graders were reading on grade level. Black, Hispanic and low-income children have struggled most.

“So many teachers like me have believed that a professor at Teachers College, an Ivy League institution, should be up-to-date on the reading research,” she said. “The fact that she was disconnected from that research is evidence of the problem.”

How Professor Calkins ended up influencing tens of millions of children is, in one sense, the story of education in America. Unlike many developed countries, the United States lacks a national curriculum or teacher-training standards. Local policies change constantly, as governors, school boards, mayors and superintendents flow in and out of jobs.

Amid this churn, a single charismatic thinker, backed by universities and publishing houses, can wield massive power over how and what children learn.

Some children seem to turn magically into readers, without deliberate phonics coaching. That has helped fuel a mistaken belief that reading is as natural as speaking. In fact, functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain demonstrates that humans process written language letter by letter, sound by sound. Far from being automatic, reading requires a rewiring of the brain, which is primed by evolution to recognize faces, not words.

But that finding — by cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists — is often disconnected from the work of training teachers and producing classroom materials.

Indeed, Professor Calkins, 70, is far more typical in the world of curriculum development: She is a teacher, a writer and a theorist.

Evelyn Freja for The New York Times

After several years teaching in her 20s, she entered academia in the late-1970s, part of a circle of thinkers developing the process-oriented approach to teaching writing. Intended for adults, it emphasizes keeping a journal to find one’s voice, receiving feedback from peers and revising drafts.

Professor Calkins became a revolutionary leader in education by bringing these practices to young children at a time when penmanship, spelling and sentence structure were often a bigger focus. At Teachers College, she began training educators in New York City schools, prompting them to give children “writers’ notebooks” to chronicle their lives. For many students, her method was empowering, although critics have said it was too loose for those without strong grammatical skills.

Still, Professor Calkins and her team were widely lauded for offering teachers respect and support. At workshops on Columbia’s idyllic campus, educators were encouraged to see themselves and their students as intellectuals. Eventually, a vibrant online community developed.

Professor Calkins expanded into reading instruction, using similar principles. A goal was to help children to build a joyful identity as a reader. Even then, she said she never doubted the importance of phonics. In sample classroom schedules, she told schools to set aside time for it.

But her influential 2001 book, “The Art of Teaching Reading,” warned about what she saw as the risks of too much sounding-it-out. She praised one teacher for avoiding “an intricate series of activities with phonics,” and argued that a simple way to build “lifelong readers” was to allow children to spend time with books they chose, regardless of content or difficulty.

For children stuck on a difficult word, Professor Calkins said little about sounding-out and recommended a word-guessing method, sometimes called three-cueing. This practice is one of the most controversial legacies of balanced literacy. It directs children’s attention away from the only reliable source of information for reading a word: letters.

Three-cueing is embedded in schools. Online, novice teachers can view thousands of how-to guides. In a 2020 video, a teacher tells children to use a picture to guess the word “car,” even though simple phonics make it decodable.

Professor Calkins said word-guessing would not be included in her revised curriculum. But in some ways, she is offering a hybrid of her old and new methods. In a sample of the new materials that she provided to The Times, teachers are told that students should first decode words using “slider power” — running their fingers under letters and sounding them out — but then check for mistakes using “picture power.”

Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, said that while he found some of the revisions “encouraging,” he was concerned that “objectionable” concepts remain.

Thalia Juarez for The New York Times

There is little controlled research of her methods, and two recent studies come to conflicting conclusions: One, funded by Teachers College and Professor Calkins’s publisher but conducted independently, found students in her network outperform others on reading tests. Another saw no statistically significant improvements.

Some parents say no revision from Professor Calkins could earn their trust.

Diane Dragan, a mother of three dyslexic children, aged 9 to 14, has spent years pushing the Lindbergh school district in St. Louis to drop the Units of Study. She said she paid $4,500 a month for intensive tutoring, to help her children catch up on foundational skills overlooked by the curriculum.

When children don’t learn to read, she said, “They doubt their ability to do anything in life.”

When Professor Calkins was asked what changed her mind about the science of reading, she cited, without defensiveness, several experts who have criticized her work: Professor Seidenberg, author of the influential book “Language at the Speed of Sight,” and Emily Hanford, a journalist who has investigated the shortcomings of reading instruction.

She said studying learning disabilities like dyslexia also led her to accept that all children would benefit from more structured phonics.

“Dyslexia is a spectrum,” she said.

Margaret Goldberg, the literacy coach, said Professor Calkins should offer a fuller statement of regret — and send a correction to schools using her old materials.

Professor Calkins does not believe she has anything to apologize for. She pointed out that some partner schools, like P.S. 249, a high-poverty, high-performing school in Brooklyn, have embraced a separate phonics supplement she published in 2018.

And, she asked, shouldn’t the phonics-first camp apologize? “Are people asking whether they’re going to apologize for overlooking writing?” she said.

Teachers College said in a statement that among its faculty, there was no disconnect across subjects like cognitive research, curriculum development and teacher preparation. Elementary educators and literacy specialists are required to take courses, it said, that “engage with science of reading concepts such as sequenced, research-based instruction in phonics and language patterns, phonetic reading and linguistic structures.”

Professor Calkins has described the organization she founded in 1981, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, as a “not-for-profit think tank.” But the project is also a business, encompassing domestic and international companies. It provides training to some 700 schools across the United States and in countries like Japan, Jordan, Spain, Singapore and Brazil.

According to a 2016 contract between New York City and Teachers College, schools paid up to $2,650 for a seven-hour visit from a consultant with Professor Calkins’s group and were encouraged to purchase 20 visits a year.

In reality, Professor Calkins said, most schools paid less. In total, the district paid $31 million between 2016 and 2022 for services from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

Thalia Juarez for The New York Times

The project has about 165 partner schools across the city, which may now be under pressure to reconsider the program.

“Lucy Calkins’s work, if you will, has not been as impactful as we had expected,” the schools chancellor, David C. Banks, said in March.

Teachers College would not detail its revenue from Professor Calkins’s activities but said her contribution to its bottom line was “modest.” A review of school contracts across the country showed that much of Professor Calkins’s work outside New York City was funneled through her businesses. That structure, she said, allowed her to pay competitive salaries to her 75-person staff. She and her co-authors also earn royalties for her books, published by Heinemann, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Heinemann declined to share sales figures for the Units of Study. But schools that purchased the old curriculum within the last three years can fully deduct that cost from the list price of the revised units, which would mean they would spend $186 per classroom.

That deal, Professor Calkins said, will allow schools to afford her more science-based approach. Her organization will also push the new methods at training sessions, which are a significant expenditure for schools. Purchasing student books that accompany the curriculum costs hundreds to thousands of dollars more.

“Certainly, I am not about the money of this,” Professor Calkins said. “We’re trying to get the word out as best we possibly can.”

Classroom practice is notoriously slow to evolve, even with revised curriculum. And some of Professor Calkins’s methods are sure to remain divisive. She still believes in peer collaboration during phonics lessons, and in silent reading for kindergartners who are primarily looking at pictures. Critics see those activities as a waste of precious classroom minutes.

But because Professor Calkins has been so trusted by educators, her shift on the science of reading could drive real change, despite what some see as a long delay.

The question for Professor Calkins and schools nationwide is whether her new curriculum will show better results for students. Research points to a broad set of skills necessary to become a literate person — including phonics, vocabulary and knowledge of current events, history, art, sports and nature.

The stakes are high, said Tracy White Weeden, president of the Neuhaus Education Center, a nonprofit that trains educators in reading strategies.

“We have schools,” she said, “that have not benefited from understanding how to do the most important thing we do — ensure students leave literate.”

Kirsten Noyes contributed research.

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A Library, a Pigeon and a Cruise – The New York Times

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Our critic recommends old and new books.

“Lezende jongen,” by Frans Hals

Dear readers,

The Thomas J. Watson Library might be the quietest place in New York City. You can hear a person’s stomach rumble at a distance of 20 feet. This jewel is found inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art and features a staggering array of rare manuscripts, monographs, pamphlets, letters, journals and so forth. To gain access, you simply register for a free library card online and fetch it in person. Easy. (Well, easy if you’re in N. Y. C. If not, check out the library’s Instagram for a steady drip of riches. )

I initially joined because I thought it would be fun to create a “themed” section of my garden containing herbs used in medieval medicine — wormwood, hedgenettle, etc . — and wanted a crack at primary, or at least secondary, sources. In the process I picked up many useful poison recipes. And in a moment of unrelated whispering with a fellow patron, I was recommended the Patrick Süskind book below — proving, once again, that libraries are the ultimate serendipity machines.


Fiction, 1988

Jonathan Noel is on the other side of 50, and has spent recent decades enjoying a period of “total uneventfulness. ” An upsetting childhood left Jonathan with a mania for monotony, and he wishes that no events should intrude on him other than death, which is the sole event he anticipates because it signals the end of all other events.

Jonathan’s island of security is wrecked on a Friday in August by the titular pigeon. The unassuming bird appears outside his apartment door one morning. It does nothing besides blink, yet it lights a fuse of mental chaos within Jonathan. He imagines the pigeon attracting other pigeons, and those pigeons mating, resulting in a bird siege that will blockade Jonathan’s quarters until he is forced to hurl himself out a window.

A blurb on the back of the copy describes this as “a bizarre story about a nobody, ” and compares it to Dostoyevsky’s “Notes From Underground . ”

Read if you like: Agota Kristof , Thomas Bernhard, shrinking from the nihilistic abyss of existence, William Blake
Available from: Check the collection or your used bookshop of choice (online or otherwise)

Fiction, 2022

Many years ago, a travel magazine sent me on a cruise for an assignment. It was tremendously exciting. At the buffet there were rolls shaped like a frog, with a mouth cut into the bread so that you could insert butter and/or make the frog “talk” by manipulating the upper and lower halves. Every surface on the ship was wipe-clean. Other than an outbreak of norovirus, it was an idyllic voyage.

The underbelly of the cruise experience is the backdrop of this novel, which is about a woman who begins working on a ship after her marriage implodes. When we meet Ingrid, she has been aboard the same vessel for five years, rotating through jobs: caterer, croupier, gift shop worker, librarian, manicurist. One day she is selected for a “mentoring program” (cult) led by the ship’s captain, named Keith. Keith asks Ingrid to do some very bad things. She performs these diabolical acts in what seems like a Xanax daze but is actually just her disaffected personality.

I love books and movies that take place largely within a vehicle, whether it be a plane (“ Con Air , ” “ Non-Stop ”), boat (“ Dead Calm , ” “Moby-Dick”), bus (“ Speed ”), train (“ Unstoppable , ” “ The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 , ” “Murder on the Orient Express”) or car (“ Locke ”). The nesting of a physical container (vehicle) inside a conceptual container (movie/novel) devised by a human container (director/author) is often a recipe for fun.

Read if you like: Ottessa Moshfegh’s “ My Year of Rest and Relaxation , ” artificial flavors, avoidant behavior, wondering what a “lifestyle” is and whether you have one
Available from: Zando

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Writers to Watch This Summer – The New York Times

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Three authors discuss their new novels and what brought them to write about a young woman in trouble, three brothers from Staten Island and an anxious parrot.

Marissa Leshnov for The New York Times


Leila Mottley’s first novel, “Nightcrawling,” will be published by Knopf in early June. Days later, Mottley will turn 20.

She is aware that her age can come as a surprise.

“People don’t expect much from young people — especially from Black kids,” Mottley said.

“But I also think that ability to feel everything at a heightened level,” she added, “is part of the reason that teenagers are really innovative and can be so brilliant.”

“Nightcrawling” follows a 17-year-old Black girl named Kiara who lives with her brother, Marcus, in an East Oakland apartment complex. While her brother dreams of becoming a rapper, Kiara, who has dropped out of high school, tries to earn enough money to pay their rent.

She falls into sex work, and is abused by a group of Oakland police officers.

Mottley, who grew up and still lives in Oakland, said she was driven to write the book by a similar case that saturated the local news a few years ago of a young woman who was sexually exploited by police officers in the area.

“The lack of protection of young women, and especially young women of color, isn’t just about whether police are looking out for us, but about whether anyone is looking out for us,” she said. “I hope that this book allows people to think about how they can contribute to allowing Black women and Black girls to be our entire fragile, vulnerable, soft selves.”

She started working on “Nightcrawling” shortly before her 17th birthday, and finished the first draft in a few months. She shared a draft with one of her professors at Smith College, which she attended early, Mottley said, who then connected her with an agent. Mottley said “Nightcrawling” sold to Knopf in a 13-way auction.

A former Youth Poet Laureate of Oakland, Mottley is taking time off from college to write.

While much of the story is grim, Mottley said that she didn’t want to “fall into the pit of writing about Black tragedy and forgetting all of the other human experiences that we have.

Even when we are in the worst of circumstances and undergoing tremendous trauma, we also are always in pursuit of other things,” she said. “Dreams and joy and delight and love and freedom and breathing room. And I think that the book contains a lot of that, too.”

Stacy Kranitz for The New York Times


Zain Khalid’s first novel, “Brother Alive,” is full to bursting with imagination and literary references, and so is the author’s conversation.

Describing the book, he said, “You have something of a bildungsroman, and then you have an epistolary memoir and a leftist political thriller, and it’s kind of,” before trailing off and heading into another multilayered thought.

In a brief conversation, Khalid mentioned the influences of the writers Don DeLillo, Tao Lin, Barry Hannah, Toni Morrison, Italo Calvino, Atticus Lish, Fernanda Melchor, Malcolm Lowry and Thomas Bernhard. In the book’s acknowledgments, he thanks more than 50 writers for what he has “borrowed,” from Edith Wharton to Octavia Butler. “For me, the boundary between art and myself,” he said, “it’s not healthy.”

Despite all these influences — or perhaps because of the sheer volume of them — “Brother Alive” couldn’t be confused for the work of anyone else. The story of three brothers related by adoption, it moves from New York to Saudi Arabia, considering themes of family secrets, geography and fate, utopianism and much more.

Khalid, 32, grew up on Staten Island until he was 12, the child of parents with lineage in a “smattering of places,” he said, including India, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East. The borough, he said, is often reductively caricatured as the city’s “weird conservative sibling,” but its diversity of immigrants is part of what appealed to him in rooting the book there.

In a large Muslim family like his, Khalid said, “lines blur between cousins/brothers, sisters/mothers. It’s almost like the traditional taxonomy isn’t really applicable.”

Family is a blurry concept in his novel as well. The narrator, Youssef, is one of three unrelated brothers adopted in Saudi Arabia and brought to the United States by Salim, an imam who runs a mosque in Staten Island.

“I was considered and considered myself of indeterminate Semitic origin,” Youssef says.

He has someone else in his life, too, a double called Brother who looms beside him, supporting and frustrating Youssef by turns.

Brother is described as “more than incorporeal but less than living.” He can take the form of various animals or a scent. Youssef temporarily silences or placates him by “force-feeding” him books. (“He was uniquely vulnerable to the virus of literature.”)

Khalid was excited about the idea of writing the double, he said, because “we’re always searching for a part of ourself. Is the self knowable? It allowed me to ask that question.” An additional benefit, he said, was that writing Brother “felt like a free pass to go wherever I wanted with my prose.”

The three brothers eventually return to Saudi Arabia as adults, where they encounter the building of a futuristic city called HADITH, which will be made up of 99 sustainable “microcities.”

The sections in the Middle East allowed Khalid to show “how tied we are to the geopolitical,” he said.

“I wanted to collapse the distance between the facade and the plumbing,” he said, referring to our daily lives and the global forces the influence them. “It’s not an answer to anything, I simply want to give voice to the reality.”

At fewer than 340 pages, “Brother Alive” has enough incident for a book twice its size. It’s the kind of ambitious debut that might inspire other writers in turn.

Samuel Aranda for The New York Times


You’d think that writing about a man who invented vomiting dolls, or a woman who lost her legs after a leopard bite, or an affliction that drove people to kill pets that became too adorable might help Adam Levin escape the question authors are almost inevitably asked: Would he consider his work autobiographical?

Levin is known for wild and prodigious stories, with characters that often find grace in the midst of demented scenarios — but that does not preclude occasionally ransacking his own biography in his fiction.

The Instructions,” his 2010 debut, tracked four days in the life of a Chicago adolescent who wondered if he was the messiah. (That was briefly true for Levin once upon a time.)

Levin is upfront about the life experience that he shares — and that he doesn’t — with the characters in his new novel, “Mount Chicago.” The book, coming Aug. 9 from Doubleday, follows a comedian named Gladman in the wake of a freak catastrophe. A sinkhole opens up under the Art Institute of Chicago, killing dozens — including his family. What keeps him alive in the aftermath is the knowledge that his parrot would pluck himself bare, torturing himself without Gladman.

The book was a chance to experiment with a looser, more conversational tone, and working on a book with “more declarative energy” interested him, he said. Writing about a character forced to contend with a nearly unimaginable tragedy was a way for Levin, 45, to explore some of his own emotions.

Levin has long been interested in what he sees as a kinship between comedians and writers. “As opposed to directors or people in other narrative forms, they’re one voice — one human speaking, in a performative role.”

And comedy is one of the most rewarding parts of reading, Levin said. “It’s hard for me to see why or how I should or could love works of fiction that don’t frequently make me laugh.”

Categories: books

Books to bring us together: Jennifer Egan, Howard Jacobson, Monica Ali and more share their picks – The Guardian

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Can books unite us in divided times? Writers appearing at this year’s Hay Festival recommend the best reading to reconnect us

Jennifer Egan: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier

Lanier’s provocatively titled book may in itself appear divisive, but the tools for unity are abundant within this brief and lucid volume. Chief among them is Lanier’s reminder that strife and division –– conflict, in other words –– are encouraged, incited, stoked and rewarded by the online platforms that many of us use to communicate. Lanier is a longtime tech insider (he coined the phrase “virtual reality” in the 1980s) who still works for Microsoft, but he pulls no punches when it comes to indicting his industry. Insisting that we call “engagement” by its true name, “behaviour modification”, Lanier argues that we are being nudged into discord by the seemingly neutral conduits of our online communities – all to the profit of data-gathering systems in which we, the users, are actually the products. There is a silver lining to this frightening vision: we are not as far apart as we may think. Walking away is possible, and awareness itself is a useful tool. Lanier’s book provides that.

Raymond Antrobus: The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

This is the book I have gifted most over the past few years. It is a gratitude journal: the poet, gardener and teacher Gay sets down his vignettes/mini essays during his 43rd year. He writes openly, honestly and is not afraid of sentimentality. In fact he embraces it, dances with it, but with such astute self- and societal awareness that it in no way feels like fluff. This book is a reminder that gratitude is a practice and can offer an antidote to the emotional and philosophical damage caused by our turbocharged information culture.

Tessa Hadley.

Tessa Hadley: Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

It’s music that really brings us together, makes us forget we’re one and feel we’re many. Reading books is more solitary; and so many of the books I like are written by odd people who don’t fit in, for odd people who don’t fit in. The Victorians were better at writing novels for everybody, encompassing whole worlds: Dickens especially. There’s Little Dorrit, with its wondrous teeming creation of characters and places, its darkness and its comedy, its rage at injustice, its psychological subtlety and sentimentality helplessly entangled. A book for sharing; as readers shared it when it first came out in monthly instalments in the 1850s, reading the latest part aloud to family and friends. No wonder it translates so well to television. I’m a fan of the 2008 BBC version scripted by Andrew Davies, with Claire Foy as Little Dorrit and Matthew Macfadyen as Arthur Clennam. What communal pleasure and togetherness, watching it with my family over several evenings, one recent Christmas past.


Howard Jacobson: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Over this most wonderful of novels hovers the spectre of loneliness. Anne Elliot’s overly considered rejection of Captain Wentworth, many years before the novel begins, looks certain to have doomed them both – or at the very least Anne – to a life of forlorn singleness. That a reconciliation is at last effected is little short of miraculous. I read it as Jane Austen’s ex machina gift to her protagonists and us. In granting Anne and Wentworth the “high wrought felicity” that comes with the renewed expressions of affection, she satisfies their barely expressible desires and the tremulous hopes of her readers. Division and estrangement are at an end, happiness hangs by a thread as happiness always will, and we close the novel in a high-wrought condition ourselves, scarcely daring to breathe.

Amia Srinivasan: Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky

Ilya Kaminsky.

I read this book-length poem for the first time sitting still, transfixed, afraid to break its spell, and certain that here was something important and real. Deaf Republic is a work of astonishing power and lyricism. It is a narrative poem set in a fictional occupied town, evoking Kaminsky’s childhood home Odessa. It sings a story of war, death, love, conscience, resistance, language and silence. Somehow, Kaminsky makes the pain of it all bearable – indeed, more than that: it is ravishingly beautiful.

Monica Ali: The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostaseski

Ostaseki is a co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco and this book is a distillation of the lessons he has learned over the course of his career, working with people on the edge of death. There are heartbreaking stories here, but also a surprising amount of light and hope, and an unblinking focus on what truly matters in life. One of the key “invitations” is to “cultivate a don’t know mind”. In this age of hot takes and hotter opinions, this is a much-needed antidote and a recipe for connection and compassion. Ultimately, this is a book that asks us to understand death as an integral part of life, and in doing so be better able to live fuller, less fearful lives.

Oliver Bullough.

Oliver Bullough: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked revulsion all around the world and it is hard to see many grounds for hope that Russia will change its ways. However, there is and has always been a different Russia – one that is humane, sceptical and fiercely intelligent – and this darkly hilarious account of the devil’s visit to Stalinist Moscow, written by the Kyiv-born Bulgakov, is the best guide to it. While we condemn the criminals that launched this terrible war, it serves as a reminder to keep a light burning for Russians who loathe it as much as we do.

Rose Tremain.

Rose Tremain: How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell

In a world characterised by a clamouring “festival of the self” let’s all cease posting and pasting and posturing on the internet for a day and turn to Sarah Bakewell’s inspiring distillation of the life and meditations of the wisest blogger of them all, Michel de Montaigne, who died in 1592. In this beautiful, accessible book we’re tenderly reminded that although time unfolds in “an endless slow turmoil”, once we turn our attention to the dance of the individual human mind – its restless trickery, its fear of death, its ordinariness, its mercy and its cruelty – then we begin to understand how much we share and how paramount is our need for the understanding of the other.

Robert Macfarlane

Karen Joy Fowler: Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane

This book is about everything we humans share – that this is the planet we live on, this the universe, these our fellow travellers, and death our destination. That much of our past is underneath us and we find our remotest ancestors by descending. That humanity is brief and yet, here in the Anthropocene, dangerously consequential. This nonfiction book worked on me like poetry, taking me somewhere beyond (or below) words – stretching me outwards and inwards, downwards and upwards, and into the future as far as it’s possible for mere humans to imagine. Profoundly philosophical, but vividly imagistic. One image that has lingered is of an infant buried centuries ago in the cradle of a swan’s wing.

Javier Cercas: The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati

I recommend the Italian writer’s best-known novel but I could also recommend his extraordinary stories too. Buzzati – who is often compared to Kafka – is above all a writer of fables, and The Tartar Steppe is a fable about waiting, which begins brilliantly and concludes with one of the best endings I know. Robert Louis Stevenson – another fabulist – famously wrote: “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” Like Stevenson’s, Buzzati’s writing is one of the forms of happiness.

Lemn Sissay.

Lemn Sissay: The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr

This book saved my life and countless others by unhooking us from the most addictive substance on planet Earth: nicotine. I smoked for 43 years an average of 10 cigarettes a day, which works out at a grand total of 160,950 cigarettes; nicotine delivery mechanisms. But the time is most revealing. At an average of five minutes per cigarette I have spent 559 days of my life smoking. On these statistics alone you can make an educated guess that I spent at least a year of precious life disappearing. This book certainly does bring us together. You don’t have to buy it yourself. Buy it as a gift for someone. Someone you don’t want to disappear.

Lady Brenda Hale: East West Street by Philippe Sands

East West Street by Philippe Sands

A book that can bring us together, in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, in understanding the rich and complex history of central Europe, and in support of the ideal of a rules-based international order. This is a fascinating tale of how the author came to discover his family history, much of it featuring the historic city of Lemberg, which is now Lviv in Ukraine, interleaved with the stories of two prominent international lawyers, influential in the Nuremberg war crimes trials, both of whom came from the same small place. And an excellent read!

Devi Sridhar: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Fey is a fountain of wisdom about living life with joy and meaning – and with a wry smile. In her book she details her rise to fame and success in the comedy world and how she stayed focused on what she wanted to achieve, regardless of those trying to get in the way or tell her that women can’t be funny. I particularly like her insight, “Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.” Whether it’s fixing a blocked toilet, or dealing with Covid-19, it’s a truly valuable life lesson.

Joanne Harris: A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

This is ostensibly a sci-fi tale, in which a restless tea monk, trained to listen and to offer comfort to passers-by, and a “wild-built” robot (a descendant of the sentient machines who left their bondage to live in the wild) come together to explore nature, humanity’s responsibility for the world and what it really means to be alive. It’s a marvellous, compassionate, healing book, poetic and inclusive; the literary equivalent of the perfect cup of tea.

Geoff Dyer: The Trouble With Being Born by EM Cioran

The temptation is to choose Camus’s The Plague, with its stirring conclusion – “there is more in men to admire than despise” – but since we all wolfed that down in the first month of the pandemic I’ll err in the opposite direction and go for something wilfully non-communal and anti-rousing on the grounds that a diverse idea of togetherness requires an annex for those who insist on being included out. So let’s give a warm welcome to EM Cioran’s cheery volume of aphorisms, The Trouble With Being Born.

Marcus du Sautoy.

Marcus du Sautoy: The Thirteen Books of the Elements by Euclid

It might seem rather perverse to recommend a maths book – not the most obvious choice to bring people together, except perhaps in an act of mass loathing. But bear with me. One of the joys for me of being a mathematician is that mathematics is a language that transcends geographical, cultural and historical boundaries. I’ve travelled to distant parts of the globe where my hosts and I share no language. And yet we are still able to exchange mathematical stories because of their universal nature. Indeed, many science fiction writers speculate that mathematics is the only language that will transcend cosmic boundaries and allow us to communicate with alien life. After all, 17 is a prime wherever you are in the universe.

I Didn’t Do The Thing Today Final Cover

Emilie Pine: I Didn’t Do the Thing Today: On Letting Go of Productivity Guilt by Madeleine Dore

We’ve all had a difficult couple of years, and over this time I have needed reminding of the power of self-compassion. No one helped me more with this than Madeleine Dore (who is perhaps best known for her podcast, Routines & Ruts). Her new book, I Didn’t Do the Thing Today, eschews guilt and shame, suggesting that we might all be happier – and more together, in the many meanings of that term – if we hold our expectations of ourselves more lightly. There’s so much in this book that it’s hard to single out any one piece of wisdom, but my head nearly exploded (in a good way) when I read her chapter on the “myth of balance”. And I love that she opens with a manifesto on not doing: “I didn’t do the thing today. I didn’t rise before seven. I didn’t change … I didn’t achieve. I didn’t progress. And it didn’t matter.” Perhaps nothing unites us more than our insecurities?

Caryl Lewis.

Caryl Lewis: The Science of Hate by Matthew Williams

If we want to come together, we must take a cold hard look at what is keeping us apart. The Science of Hate does just that. It is a forensic exploration of the patterns of thinking that we inherit or absorb or cultivate, and how prejudice tips over into hate. Matthew Williams’s genuine curiosity and disarming writing style make for a truly engaging read. Bringing a scientific sensibility to such an emotive subject takes out the heat a little, and allows us to reflect on our conscious and unconscious biases in what feels like a safe space; after all, hate is an inside job.

Learning to Love you More by Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher

Claire Fuller: Learning to Love You More by Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July

Back in 2009, when I’d recently met Tim, my future husband, we did many of the 70 assignments that July and Fletcher set out in their book and website, Learning to Love You More. From a one-person demo on a four-lane highway (Less Driving More Walking), to displaying an encouraging banner in public (Life Is an Adventure), we did things that were out of our comfort zone and it got us meeting and talking to strangers. Although the website no longer accepts submissions, the book lives on as a way for people around the world to create their own answers to these quirky assignments.

On This Day She

Kate Mosse: On This Day She: Putting Women Back into History, One Day at a Time by Jo Bell, Tania Hershman and Ailsa Holland

In these challenging and splintered times – the dismantling of many of the rights and gains we’d thought were secure, the eroding of decency in public life, the assault on principles of equality – what better book to bring people together than one that celebrates the extraordinary achievements of women of the past, as a reminder of what is possible in the present? On This Day She … began life as a social media campaign, started by Bell, Hershman and Holland, after Holland had been given a calendar of historical events and realised that women were barely mentioned. This is a joyous and celebratory tribute to all those who battled to be heard, who fought for their achievements to be recognised and honoured, who simply kept going.

Elizabeth Day: Any Human Heart by William Boyd

A novel of such encompassing humanity that I can’t imagine anyone reading it and not feeling more connected with what it is to be alive. Written as the biography of Logan Mountstuart, a writer whose life spanned most of the major events of the 20th century, this novel reminds us of what it is to love and live and try to leave one’s mark, while also providing a first-hand account of key historical moments. As such, it’s a book that brings us together in multiple ways: it explores the connective tissue of our desires, our hopes and fears, while also telling the story of how we got here.

Alan Titchmarsh

Alan Titchmarsh: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

I think there can be no finer book to bring us together than an old favourite. The Wind in the Willows was published in 1908 and it still offers so much to the reader. The pastoral setting reminds us of our connection to the countryside, and in the main characters of the book we have personalities and traits we can attribute to those around us: the shy and retiring Mole who eventually finds hidden resources within himself; the boastful and vainglorious Toad; resourceful Ratty; gloomy stay-at-home Badger and those wicked weasels and stoats from the Wild Wood. I love it as much today as I did when I first read it as a child.

Fernanda Melchor: Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes by Jazmina Barrera

I would like to recommend this book, written by Mexican author Jazmina Barrera and translated by Christina MacSweeney. It is a beautiful and lucid essay about the journey across motherhood seasons – pregnancy, childbirth and first months of parenting. Far from mythologising motherhood as an idealised state, Linea Nigra sheds light on the complex and contradictory nature of gestation: a state crossed by terrors, but also by hopes and love; a biological and spiritual mystery that concerns all human beings, as individuals and as a society. The book is published in English this month.

Nell Frizzel

Nell Frizzell: Adrift by Miranda Ward

It is sometimes suggested, sometimes assumed, that there exists a great divide between women who have children and women who do not. The mothers and the unmothers. The child-free and the child-heavy. But that is not and never has been a binary; many millions of women exist somewhere in what Miranda Ward so brilliantly calls “almost motherhood”. Documenting the six years she spent in and out of a state of something like motherhood – coming off contraception, miscarriages, awkward work picnics, fertility treatment, an ecotopic pregnancy, a soiled car seat and more – this book shows from the inside that motherhood is never a single state. And so, in reading it, we can bring together everyone swimming through those murky, unfathomable waters.

The Master’s Tools

Hanan Issa: The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde

If I could, I’d attach a copy of this essay to every email I ever send. This work, written by the self-described “Black, lesbian feminist”, is not an easy read. It could, frustratingly, be referring to an incident in 2022 and not 1984, when Lorde penned the essay in which she describes her experiences of an academic conference and the de facto segregation she witnessed there. Her powerful and unflinching call for feminists to acknowledge and examine the racism and homophobia that exists within the feminist movement is, and will always be, absolutely necessary reading for any individual interested in social reform. Lorde writes: “In a world of possibility for us all, our personal visions help lay the groundwork for political action. The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.” An intolerance of difference is just as likely to cause hatred today as it did back in 1984. Lorde’s words simultaneously shame our inaction and invigorate the cause now more than ever.

Lianne Dillsworth: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint


New retellings of old myths invite us to question our shared assumptions and the things we thought we knew. In offering the princess’s fresh and persuasive perspective on the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne gives us permission to make sense of our world in different ways. I am hopeful that it can bring us together by inspiring a sense of curiosity about those whose voices have been marginalised, or who are absent or elided from the record. And that if those voices are then reclaimed, we can move towards a more inclusive understanding of the history and traditions that bind us.

Simon Kuper: The Anatomy of a Moment by Javier Cercas

Anatomy of a moment

Cercas tells a story that brings a country together – modern Spain. It’s a nonfiction account of the failed coup of 1981, when a group of far-right civil guards stormed into parliament. When they fired their guns, all the politicians dropped to the floor except three: the communist leader Santiago Carrillo, prime minister Adolfo Suárez (a former franquista) and deputy prime minister General Gutiérrez Mellado. Cercas presents these three men – former enemies, all with antidemocratic pasts – as the saviours of Spanish democracy. I’m spending this year in Madrid and reading the book, I wondered which British event might unite the country around democracy.

  • The Hay festival takes place between 26 May and 5 June in Hay-on-Wye with select events livestreamed. Tickets are available now at

Categories: books

Roger Angell’s Best Books – The New York Times

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A look back at some of The New Yorker writer and editor’s most beloved books.

Roger Angell, who died at 101 on May 20, 2022, was best known for his books about baseball — most of them essay collections, as clean and sharp as a perfectly batted line drive. But he also wrote humorous articles, parodies and autobiographical pieces, many of which were collected elsewhere. If you want to read some of his work, any of these books would be a fine place to start.

“Finely observed and finely written reportage on Major League Baseball during the past decade,” The Times said in its review. “Page for page, ‘The Summer Game’ contains not only the classiest but also the most resourceful baseball writing I have read.”

As The Times’s review of these baseball essays — which were published in The New Yorker between 1983 and 1987 — notes, “One does not ordinarily encounter such poetry in discussions of home runs and knuckleballs.”

“Mr. Angell makes baseball sound like an art form,” The Times said. “He demonstrates that writing about it is an art form, too.”

“Roger Angell surely had no intentions of writing an essay on defeat, humiliation or grace when he arranged to follow David Cone across the many innings of the 2000 baseball season,” Pete Hamill wrote in The Times’s review.

“The 17 autobiographical chapters of ‘Let Me Finish’ reflect the welcoming sheen of The New Yorker, in whose pages most of them appeared during the past decade or so. It is the perfect book to read with one of Angell’s vodka martinis,” The Times said.

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Categories: books

Brian Morton on ‘Tasha: A Son’s Memoir’ – The New York Times

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Brian Morton, an accomplished novelist, has turned to nonfiction for the first time in his new book, “Tasha: A Son’s Memoir.” On this week’s podcast, he discusses his mother’s life, the difficulties in taking care of her toward the end of her life and what led him to write a memoir.

“I started writing a few pages about her, and I relished the freedom to write directly, to write without having to invent any characters,” Morton says. “I love to write about fictional characters, that’s my favorite part of writing. But it takes me a very long time to sort of give birth to them. And here was my mother, perhaps the most colorful character I’ve ever written about, who was right there.”

Rachel Careau visits the podcast to discuss her new translation of Colette’s “Chéri” and its sequel, “The End of Chéri.”

“One of the problems with her spare style is that the sentences can lack some of the words that usually oil a sentence,” Careau says of the task of translating the books. “So they can sound a little bit bare, sometimes a little syncopated. And the sound was very important to me, and I really let the sound guide me. But it’s difficult to make that bone-on-bone style flow.”

Also on this week’s episode, Lauren Christensen and Joumana Khatib talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host.

Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected].

Categories: books

40 Most Life-Changing Books That You Need to Read 2022 – Good Housekeeping

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life changing books


Some of us like to unwind with a great fiction book that transports us to places we’ve never been, into lives that differ from our own. Others love the shiver that goes up your spine when you crack open a creepy ghost story that makes you think twice before turning off the light to go to bed. And who among us can resist a juicy romance novel that reminds us that chivalry isn’t dead? Of course, the best nonfiction books can also open our eyes to lived experiences far beyond our own perspective. Needless to say: books can change lives, whether they’re intended to be inspirational or just come to us at the moment we need them most.

I’ve always been a total bookworm. I was that kid with a thriller hidden under my desk during Math class, who’d rather curl up with a novel at recess than run around after a ball. Because I was painfully shy, the characters I met within those pages kept me company on lonely afternoons. They showed me I wasn’t alone when bullies tried to shatter my spirit and gave me context for experiences my still-maturing mind didn’t understand. As I grew older, I found my people, gained self-confidence and didn’t need that literary solace as much anymore. But they never lost their magic. I’m still a firm believer in the power of the page. These wonderful life-changing books will make you one too.

Note: We’re just scratching the surface with these recommendations and will continue to update this list. Leave a comment below to let us know what books have changed your life.

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1 Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

This novel about two men who have a secretive love affair that ends in tragedy was groundbreaking at the time, and it remains canonical in LGBTQ+ literature today.

RELATED: 40 Fantastic LGBTQ+ Books

2 The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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This parable about following your dreams no matter what obstacles get in your way will get your brain churning. Buy a copy so you can reread it whenever you need its message the most.

3 When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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This memoir by a neurosurgeon grappling with his own terminal cancer diagnosis is both gutting and illuminating. In this day and age, its message of making the most of the time you’re given is more impactful than ever.

4 Beloved by Toni Morrison

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One of Morrison’s most treasured novels, this one follows a formerly enslaved woman who escapes to Ohio. But the traumas she experienced, especially the loss of her baby, follow her in the form of both literal and figurative specters. It’s a stunning book that will stay with you forever.

RELATED: 20 Powerful Black History Books to Add to Your Reading List

5 Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

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This searing memoir follows a woman confronting the grief of losing her mother, her marriage and her own sense of self by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on her own. It will remind all of us that we’re more resilient than we think.

6 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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A friend of mine loves this quirky, honest look at growing up so much, he used to buy a copy before every flight and leave it in the seat back pocket for others to read. It’s a gift of a book, no matter where it finds you.

7 Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by Admiral William H. McRaven

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Sometimes, it’s not big, sweeping changes that can really make a difference. It’s the little things that start from the ground up. The wisdom in this book that started with a viral graduation speech will inspire and energize you.

8 Untamed by Glennon Doyle

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What would happen if you listened to that little voice inside yourself, instead of trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations? This memoir is both an account of what happened when Doyle began following her truth and a rallying cry for people everywhere to do the same.

9 How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

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In our frenetic, productivity-obsessed society, focusing your attention on what really matters feels like a revolutionary act. This book is part self-help, part manifesto and totally perfect for our current moment.

10 Harper Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

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If you’ve ever wondered what it is that makes humanity tick, Harari turns a wide historical lens on the question. It begins when consciousness does, and works its way toward the modern day on a sweeping journey that will broaden your mind.

11 Becoming Better Grownups: Rediscovering What Matters and Remembering How to Fly by Brad Montague
Brad Montague

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So many of us supposed adults spend our days just going through the motions. This inspiring book uses wisdom from kids, the elderly and everyone in between to help inject a little magic back into our lives. You’ll find yourself dog-earing every other page.

12 The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

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Once again, the title of this one tells you just about everything you need to know. It’s a self-help book for people who hate self-help, and it’ll keep you laughing even if you realize you need to make a change.

13 Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

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A riveting account of his time in Auschwitz and what keeps humanity going in spite of everything, this book embodies hope. When you need something to get you through tough times, give it a read.

14 Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change by Maggie Smith

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With elements of meditation woven throughout inspiring essays, this beautiful little book will keep you moving forward, no matter what’s holding you back.

15 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

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A meditative and often funny guide to writing, life and being human, this book will guide you through whatever you’re facing the best way the author knows how: one bird at a time.

16 The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

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Anyone who’s ever white-knuckled their way through a hard period of time (and that’s probably all of us) will find solace in this book about how Didion made it through a truly horrible year.

17 Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

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With elements of memoir, cultural criticism and plenty of wit, this essay collection explores Hong’s own reckoning with her identity as the daughter of Korean immigrants, as well as the role race plays in America as a whole.

RELATED: 30 Entertaining and Enlightening Books by Asian Authors

18 A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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Tackle the big questions with a grin on your face as Bryson tries to figure out how everything came to be, well, what it is. Even if you’re not a science buff, this book will convert you.

19 Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom
Mitch Albom

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When Albom reconnects with his former college professor, Morrie, in the final months of his life, he’s given a rare chance to absorb some of the old man’s wisdom before it’s too late. With this book, so can we.

20 The Book of Delights: Essays by Ross Gay

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Poet Ross Gay challenged himself to notice one thing that delighted him every day for a year and this insightful, uplifting book of essays is the result. Read them in order or pick it up and absorb one at random whenever you need a lift.

21 1984 by George Orwell

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A chilling look at an imaginary future in which the government is always watching, this sci-fi masterpiece will remind us of the dangers that can arise when we stop paying attention.

22 The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Frank documents her life in hiding during World War II in this enduring classic. When you read it, you’ll get an intimate look into all that she went through and find inspiration in her outlook despite impossible circumstances.

23 A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

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Two Afghan women born in very different times are connected by circumstances beyond their control in this unforgettable novel about love, fate, friendship and the resilience of the human spirit.

24 In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado

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This genre-bending memoir tackles domestic abuse through a lens that will break open your understanding of not only the topic, but the form a story can take. It’s a feat, and one every reader needs on their bookshelf.

25 Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

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If you find yourself clicking over to social media or mindlessly staring off into space in the middle of a task without even realizing you’re doing it, this book will help change the way you look at work.

26 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

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With “life-changing” right there in the title, this book clearly belongs on the list. But if you haven’t yet tried asking whether items in your home spark joy, discover the philosophy here.

27 The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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While technically for children, this gorgeous and philosophical little book has plenty of lessons for adults too. Read it on your own or gift it to a young reader to grow up alongside it, like so many have before.

28 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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In this dystopia, firemen don’t put out fires – they set them. Houses that contain highly illegal printed books are set alight in this thought-provoking book about the power of the written word.

29 Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

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The National Book Award-winning author contends with losing five men in her life in as many years in this heart-wrenching account of living through so much death.

30 Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Whether you consider yourself a creative person or just want to start thinking (and living) outside the box, the advice here can help inject a little magic into your life.

31 The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

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Perhaps one of the most widely read coming-of-age stories, the adventures of Holden Caulfield will feel familiar to many of us. If you haven’t read it since high school, give it another go to see how it lands now that you’ve got adult perspective.

32 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

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Even therapists need therapy, as Gottlieb shares in this book that explores her perspective as both a clinician and a patient. If you’re not already a therapy convert, you might be by the end.

33 Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

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A sharp, incisive look at what it means to live in a body with needs, this memoir takes on food, consumption, body image, size and the social baggage that comes with all of the above.

34 Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine

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In a collection of essays, poems and images, Rankine takes a hard look at how we stay in the room together as citizens of a culture rife with racial tension. It’s a searing, challenging book that asks us all how we live alongside it.

35 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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A powerful, heartbreaking book about prejudice, abuse, loneliness and the strength Angelou finds in herself and literature to survive it all, this memoir is a must-read.

36 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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When my fourth-grade teacher handed me this book, my reading life changed forever. The story of four sisters helping each other through in their father’s absence is as timeless as they come.

37 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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A story about justice, prejudice and growing up, this classic story is beloved for good reason. Seen through the lens of current events, it’s a more important read than it ever has been.

38 Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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A fantastical tale of a shipwreck, a boy, a tiger and the will to survive, this book takes readers on a journey in more ways than one. It’s not just a wonderful adventure, but a look at how powerful storytelling can be.

39 How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

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Using personal accounts of his own journey to antiracism as well as dispatches from history, ethics, law and science, Kendi leads readers on their own path to realizing the role racism plays in society and our lives and how we can all work to oppose it.

40 Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom

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These insightful, often transgressive essays dive into topics from beauty to pop culture, money to media using both personal accounts and political analysis. It’s a broadening of perspectives so ingrained, many of us don’t even realize we hold them.

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Categories: books

27 New Books You Need to Read This Summer – TIME

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There’s plenty to look forward to this summer, including a new crop of books that will transport you far away, regardless of your vacation plans. The best books arriving over the next few months take place in coastal Maine, an isolated part of Alaska, East Africa—and even a post-apocalyptic world, among other riveting destinations.

Some of the season’s greatest hits are by already beloved authors, like Tom Perrotta, Taylor Jenkins Reid, David Yoon, and Mohsin Hamid. Others are satisfying introductions to debut writers such as Joseph Han and Rebecca Rukeyser.

Here, the 27 best books to read this summer.

City of Orange, David Yoon (May 24)

David Yoon’s haunting new novel opens with a man lying supine in a desert, clueless as to what happened to him and where he is. The world has ended. The apocalypse has happened. As pieces of his memory slowly return, it becomes evident that he had a wife and daughter who are now lost forever. As the man figures out how to survive in this new barren land, he transitions from isolation to fear to, finally, acceptance. City of Orange is Yoon’s second book for adults, following Version Zero; he’s also written the young-adult novels Frankly in Love and Super Fake Love Song.

Buy Now: City of Orange on Bookshop | Amazon

Either/Or, Elif Batuman (May 24)

In Elif Batuman’s second novel, a piquant sequel to her 2017 Pulitzer Prize-nominated debut novel The Idiot, protagonist Selin Karadag, a relentlessly curious Harvard student, ponders the value of love and lust as she mines her life for her burgeoning, semi-autobiographical creative writing. Drawing its title from Kierkegaard’s seminal work, with which Selin is obsessed, the narrative is a hyper-cerebral romp that is as brainy as it is charming.

Buy Now: Either/Or on Bookshop | Amazon

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty, Akwaeke Emezi (May 24)

Akwaeke Emezi delivers a fresh summer romance with their latest novel, You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty. After the devastating loss of her partner, artist Feyi Adekola has nearly rebuilt her life, tentatively easing back into the dating scene. While Feyi begins dating a man who checks off every box, an unexpected spark with someone who’s off-limits makes her reconsider everything she thought she knew about love.

Buy Now: You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty on Bookshop | Amazon

Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris (May 31)

David Sedaris’ signature wit has always thrived on the macabre, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that his latest collection of essays, Happy-Go-Lucky, written in the wake of the pandemic panic and the social and political unrest of 2020, is some of his darkest—and most astute—writing yet. From the death of his 98-year-old father to mask mandate drama, no topic is out of bounds for Sedaris’ acerbic humor and sharp observations.

Buy Now: Happy-Go-Lucky on Bookshop | Amazon

Yerba Buena, Nina LaCour (May 31)

Nina LaCour is well-known for her YA books, including Watch Over Me and We Are Okay. In Yerba Buena, her first adult novel, she introduces two women—Sara and Emilie—who cross paths while trying to figure out who they really are. Both are flawed, with family trauma to sort through, and they’re instantly drawn to each other. Their pasts, however, might interfere with their newfound love in this slow-burn, heartfelt story.

Buy Now: Yerba Buena on Bookshop | Amazon

Counterfeit, Kirstin Chen (June 7)

If you appreciate a good caper, you’ll want to pick up Kirstin Chen’s novel about two Asian American women who turn a counterfeit handbag scheme into a big business. The book is written as a confession, which helps readers get to know protagonists Ava and Winnie, and how their lives detoured toward crime. Counterfeit is fast-paced and fun, with smart commentary on the cultural differences between Asia and America.

Buy Now: Counterfeit on Bookshop | Amazon

Cult Classic, Sloane Crosley (June 7)

Magical realism meets romance in downtown New York in Sloane Crosley’s witty second novel, Cult Classic. Protagonist Lola is forced to confront her romantic past after she runs into a string of ex-boyfriends, all within the same five-mile radius in Manhattan’s Chinatown. But these occurrences are hardly coincidental, leading Lola on a mysterious and mystical chase to uncover what exactly is happening to her.

Buy Now: Cult Classic on Bookshop | Amazon

Nuclear Family, Joseph Han (June 7)

Migration, family secrets, and memory collide in Joseph Han’s gorgeous debut novel, Nuclear Family. For the Chos, a Korean American couple living in Hawaii, life has finally settled into comfort—that is, until their son, Jacob, who’s teaching English in Seoul, goes viral for attempting to cross the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea. Little does his family know that Jacob has been possessed by the ghost of his late grandfather, who still has unfinished business on earth.

Buy Now: Nuclear Family on Bookshop | Amazon

The Seaplane on Final Approach, Rebecca Rukeyser (June 7)

Mira heads to remote Alaska to spend the summer working at a floundering wilderness lodge. While there, she obsesses over her step-cousin and watches as the lodge owners’ dysfunctional marriage implodes. The Seaplane on Final Approach is a snappy character study and a meditation on sleaziness.

Buy Now: The Seaplane on Final Approach on Bookshop | Amazon

Tracy Flick Can’t Win, Tom Perrotta (June 7)

Twenty-four years after he published Election, Tom Perrotta revisits his cult classic antiheroine Tracy Flick in Tracy Flick Can’t Win. Picking up decades after Election left off, the ever-ambitious Tracy returns to navigating the turbulent waters of high school politics—but this time, on the other side of the student-faculty divide. As an assistant principal at a suburban New Jersey high school, Tracy is balancing a new relationship, single motherhood, and the demands of her job when an unexpected career opportunity pops up and promises to change life as she knows it.

Buy Now: Tracy Flick Can’t Win on Bookshop | Amazon

Horse, Geraldine Brooks (June 14)

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks turns her attention to the true story of a 19th-century racehorse named Lexington, one of the greatest in history. The story jumps between centuries: in Kentucky in 1850, an enslaved man bonds with a foal he vows to ride to victory. In New York City in 1954, a gallery owner becomes fixated on a mysterious oil painting of a horse. And finally, in Washington, D.C., in 2019, an art historian and a scientist make discoveries that lead back to Lexington. Horse isn’t just an animal story—it’s a moving narrative about race and art.

Buy Now: Horse on Bookshop | Amazon

Flying Solo, Linda Holmes (June 14)

When Laurie returns home to Maine to clear out her beloved great aunt’s estate, she’s only recently removed from calling off her wedding—and is coming to terms with the idea that a conventional relationship might not be in the cards. When she finds a mysterious wooden duck buried in her aunt’s belongings, she embarks on a wild goose chase to figure out its origins, getting reacquainted with her first love along the way. The novel—which follows Holmes’ 2019 summer hit Evvie Drake Starts Over—is a refreshing reminder that “happily ever after” doesn’t have to look one specific way.

Buy Now: Flying Solo on Bookshop | Amazon

Learning to Talk, Hilary Mantel (June 21)

Hilary Mantel is a literary legend: she’s won the Booker Prize twice, and garnered wide acclaim for her Wolf Hall trilogy, which concluded in 2020 and was adapted for television. In Learning to Talk, Mantel dispenses a series of semi-autobiographical short stories. The collection—a re-release from 2003—features a new preface. Many of the stories center on childhood, and Mantel brings England alive, writing with detail and intellect.

Buy Now: Learning to Talk on Bookshop | Amazon

Lapvona, Ottessa Moshfegh (June 21)

Ottessa Moshfegh transports readers to a medieval fiefdom in her new novel, which follows 2020’s Death in Her Hands. The book is about Little Marek, who was abused by his father, the village’s shepherd, and never knew his mother. He ends up in a power struggle that exposes the depravity of human nature and juxtaposes the difference between religion and manipulation. Lapvona is violent and provocative, and a departure from Moshfegh’s previous work.

Buy Now: Lapvona on Bookshop | Amazon

Thrust, Lidia Yuknavitch (June 28)

The protagonist in Lidia Yuknavitch’s new novel is Laisv, who’s a “carrier”—which means certain objects can help her travel through time to connect with interesting people from eras past. Laisv’s ultimate goal is to save these people, including a dictator’s daughter and an accused murderer. As in her previous work, including The Book of Joan and Dora: A Headcase, Yuknavitch’s writing is moving and incisive.

Buy Now: Thrust on Bookshop | Amazon

Life Ceremony: Stories, Sayaka Murata (July 5)

Sayaka Murata—a Japanese writer whose previous novels include Convenience Store Woman—delivers her first collection of short stories translated into English. Life Ceremony consists of 12 engrossing entries that probe intimacy and individuality while turning norms upside down. In one, for example, a curtain in a young girl’s room spirals into jealousy as she watches—and tries to stop—her owner’s first kiss. The stories are strange and bold.

Buy Now: Life Ceremony on Bookshop | Amazon

Crying in the Bathroom, Erika L. Sánchez (July 12)

Poet and young-adult novelist Erika L. Sánchez turns to the struggles and triumphs she’s experienced over the years for material for her latest book, the memoir Crying in the Bathroom. Touching on a wide range of topics that run the gamut from the deeply personal, like Sánchez’s bouts of depression, to the political, like immigration policy, each essay feels like a conversation with a good friend, thanks to Sánchez’s warm and vulnerable writing.

Buy Now: Crying in the Bathroom on Bookshop | Amazon

The Man Who Could Move Clouds, Ingrid Rojas Contreras (July 12)

Magic is not just a multi-generational occurrence in Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ family—it’s their legacy, something she details with both wonder and care in her memoir The Man Who Could Move Clouds. Growing up in Colombia, Rojas Contreras witnessed her mother telling fortunes and her grandfather, a renowned curandero (or healer), predicting the future, healing the sick, and moving clouds. Rojas Contreras was unsure of her place in this world until a head injury caused her to have amnesia—an experience that her family believes may be key to her accessing her own magic.

Buy Now: The Man Who Could Move Clouds on Bookshop | Amazon

Upgrade, Blake Crouch (July 12)

Blake Crouch’s inventive new novel, equal parts thriller and sci-fi, examines how far our humanity can stretch. It’s about Logan, a scientist whose genome has been hacked—which alters him in unsettling ways. To stop these so-called upgrades from rolling out to the rest of the world, Logan has to spring into action. Readers who enjoyed Crouch’s previous novels, such as Dark Matter and Recursion, will find Upgrade just as thrilling. Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Partners has snapped up the film rights, and Crouch is attached to the project as an executive producer.

Buy Now: Upgrade on Bookshop | Amazon

Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional, Isaac Fitzgerald (July 19)

Isaac Fitzgerald’s life has zigged and zagged: He used to work at a biker bar, and he’s the author of the children’s book How to Be a Pirate. He’s been an altar boy and a “fat kid.” He’s also had stints as a firefighter and smuggler. In his memoir Dirtbag, Massachusetts, Fitzgerald reflects on his origins—and coming to terms with self-consciousness, anger, and strained family relationships. His writing is gritty yet vulnerable.

Buy Now: Dirtbag, Massachusetts on Bookshop | Amazon

The Last White Man, Mohsin Hamid (Aug. 2)

What is the value of whiteness, if it ceases to exist as we know it? That’s the question at the heart of Mohsin Hamid’s The Last White Man, where Anders, a white man, wakes up one morning to find that his skin has turned dark. As other similar cases occur throughout the land, Hamid poses larger questions about how we really see each other and ourselves.

Buy Now: The Last White Man on Bookshop | Amazon

Mika in Real Life, Emiko Jean (Aug. 2)

In Emiko Jean’s Mika in Real Life, Mika Suzuki sees a chance to not only reinvent herself, but also reimagine what her life could look like outside of her dreary reality. At 35, Mika’s situation is bleak: her love life is in ruins, her family is perpetually disappointed in her, and her living arrangement is less than ideal. But after she gets a phone call from the daughter she gave up for adoption, a tiny white lie turns into an opportunity for a second act—as long as her secret doesn’t come to light.

Buy Now: Mika in Real Life on Bookshop | Amazon

Autoportrait, Jesse Ball (Aug. 9)

In his first memoir, Jesse Ball—whose previous work includes March Book and The Divers’ Game—helps readers understand who he is and what shaped him. He reveals personal tidbits, like that one of his shoulders stands higher than the other, and that his left hand is quicker but weaker than his right. He also reflects on love and loss. Autoportrait was inspired by the memoir French writer Édouard Levé wrote shortly before dying in 2007.

Buy Now: Autoportrait on Bookshop | Amazon

The Women Could Fly, Megan Giddings (Aug. 9)

In Megan Giddings’ dystopian novel, The Women Could Fly, the mystical collides with the familiar when it comes to women’s autonomy. Josephine Thomas lives in a world where women are mandated to be married by 30 or forced to enroll in a registry that monitors them; with her 30th birthday around the corner, Jo finds hope for her freedom in the extraordinary last request of her long-lost mother, rumored to be a witch, who mysteriously disappeared when Jo was a child.

Buy Now: The Women Could Fly on Bookshop | Amazon

Afterlives, Abdulrazak Gurnah (Aug. 23)

Germany’s brutal colonization of East Africa (what is known as Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda today) provides the backdrop to Abdulrazak Gurnah’s arresting novel, Afterlives. Centering on the intersecting lives of Ilyas, Afiya, and Hamza, three young people who return home after being separated by war and slavery, the novel explores what is gained and what is lost in the name of survival. Gurnah, who won the 2021 Nobel Prize for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism,” employs sensitivity and tenderness in each storyline.

Buy Now: Afterlives on Bookshop | Amazon

Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution, R.F. Kuang (Aug. 23)

The Poppy War author R. F. Kuang tackles dark academia and imperialism with her latest novel, Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution. Centering on a plucky unnamed protagonist—a student at Babel, Oxford’s Royal Institute of Translation—and his rag-tag cohort, the book uses magic and agathokakological lessons to make a case for a post-colonial future.

Buy Now: Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution on Bookshop | Amazon

Carrie Soto Is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid (Aug. 30)

Taylor Jenkins Reid has collected a devoted following for her made-for-summer books like Malibu Rising and Daisy Jones & The Six. She returns with a novel about tennis star Carrie Soto, who won 20 Grand Slam titles with her father, Javier, as her coach. Six years into retirement, Carrie’s record is shattered by a player named Nicki—so she leaps back onto the court for one final season to reclaim what’s hers. Don’t worry if you’re not big on sports stories; this is, ultimately, a heart-filled novel about an iconic and persevering father and daughter.

Buy Now: Carrie Soto Is Back on Bookshop | Amazon

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Deborah James’s second and final book tops Amazon chart ahead of publication – The Guardian

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Deborah James’s second and final book tops Amazon chart ahead of publication

The columnist and podcaster’s How to Live When You Could Be Dead is out in August heads the bestsellers list

Pre-orders of Deborah James’s second book have soared within days of it becoming available. The podcast host’s memoir-cum-self-help volume is topping the Amazon UK bestsellers list, ahead of Richard Osman’s popular crime novel The Man Who Died Twice.

The publication of How to Live When You Could Be Dead was brought forward this week, after the news that the author hasn’t long to live. It will now come out in August, rather than January next year, as first planned.

James, who is 40, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in 2016, and was told by doctors that she had a less than 8% chance of surviving the next five years. Since then, the former secondary school deputy headteacher has hosted BBC Radio 5 live’s You, Me and the Big C podcast about cancer, and has raised more than £5.7m for Cancer Research UK through her Bowelbabe fund on JustGiving.

Last week she was made a dame for her campaign work, and presented with the honour by the Duke of Cambridge at her parents’ home. This came just days after she revealed that she had moved into hospice care with her family.

“Every now and then, someone captures the heart of the nation with their zest for life and tenacious desire to give back to society,” the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said in a statement, which named James as “one of those special people”. They praised her “tireless efforts to raise awareness of bowel cancer and end the stigma of treatment”.

James’s husband, Sebastien Bowen, arranged for her to visit RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey to celebrate the launch of How to Live When You Could Be Dead, which she described on Instagram as a “bit of a mission but worth it!” She explained that she hadn’t been able to leave the house in 10 days because of her health, and while, after the visit, she planned to “snooze for most of the day”, she loved being reminded “of vibrant green life all around, despite the sadness of knowing the state of my body inside”.

She added that she was “blown away and utterly grateful” to those who have pre-ordered the title.

While James’s first book, F*** You Cancer, acted as a kind of “cancer coach”, helping readers to navigate a cancer diagnosis, How to Live When You Could Be Dead promotes the growth mindset theory, in which James is a passionate believer. Drawing on her own experience of living longer than doctors expected, James explores the benefits of living “in the now” and learning “to value one day at a time”.

Announcing the change of publication date on Instagram, James described the book as a way to share what she has learned about “how to have a positive mindset when we are faced with life’s biggest challenges”.

The new publication date will still be, she said, long after she’s “flying high” but “hopefully a little less longer for you to wait”.

For every copy sold in the UK, £3 will go to the Bowelbabe Fund.

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‘Don’t be afraid of life,’ writes Ruskin Bond in his latest book – Mint Lounge

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Normally, I avoid ‘how to’ books like the plague. But this one comes from Ruskin Bond, and promises to be a departure from the usual preachy ones that populate this genre. How to Live Your Life, published on the author’s 88th birthday, is journal-like, filled with gentle reflections. It’s as if Bond is writing to a friend, and you, as a reader, are getting a glimpse of the inner workings of his mind and soul.

The author has always been a lifelong student of human nature. As he wrote in Tales of the Open Road, “Human beings and the worlds they make for themselves are as fascinating as the wonders of nature.” In this book it seems like he is studying himself—his habits, his memories—and that makes for a wonderful subject too.

Also read: How Tom Cruise survived the end of the star era

One can relate to so many instances from this book, illustrated and designed by Shamika Chaves. For one, Bond writes about the joy of writing with pen on paper, and the way the violet ink from his gel pen flows on a page. “I love the words that by some fusion of thought and action appear on this sunlit paper,” he writes. In the digital age of homogenised fonts and the constant ‘tap-tapping’ of the keyboard, there is something rather comforting in reading about slowing down, and putting pen to paper. It takes one back to the time when the best pens were reserved for pouring one’s heart out in a journal or the joy when you could recognise a letter by a friend’s handwriting.

How To Live Your Life: By Ruskin Bond, HarperCollins India, 124 pages, <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>399″> </div>
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How To Live Your Life: By Ruskin Bond, HarperCollins India, 124 pages, 399

Given the book’s title, it is obvious that there shall be words of advice and worldly wisdom within. But Bond delivers them with his trademark wit and unaffected writing style. There are no lofty ideas of finding inner peace discussed here. Rather, he picks up small everyday things. And that has always been his strength—of making the invisible and ignored in our lives visible. Take breakfast, for one. He takes the reader back to the time in London, when as a 19-year-old, he would miss the morning meal as he had to catch the train to reach his workplace on time. The result was malnutrition, poor vision and a month in the Hampstead General Hospital. Since then he has never ever missed breakfast. “There is nothing worse than a fried egg gone cold,” he writes. Truer words have not been spoken.

These stories and the resulting advice might seem simplistic at times. However, at many points in the book, it may seem as if a particular chapter is speaking to you directly. My daughter, for one, found the chapter on talent very engaging. She read out aloud excerpts from it, especially the one in which Bond’s mother finds the idea of him wanting to become a writer rather silly. Rather, she felt he should have joined the army. “Parade and early morning PT were not for me. I could not even load my stepfather’s guns let alone fire them….And yet I was quite happy reading John Buchanan’s The Thirty Nine Steps, or Graham Greene’s This Gun is For Hire, or any thriller packed with murder and mayhem. I lived vicariously through the characters in books and stories. So why not write a few,” he writes.

I found the ‘Don’t Look Back’ section particularly touching. Adulthood is often riddled with regrets and ‘what-if’ scenarios. However, Bond writes about not letting these memories stand in the way, but to face them and put them aside. “I regret failing an exam. I regret being rude to one of my teachers. I regret letting down a friend. I regret breaking the classroom windows. In other words, I was a horrible boy. But I admit to all these failures, and I carry on trying to be a better person,” he writes.

Most ‘how-to’ books paint pictures of finding sunshine, joy-filled meadows, and more. However, this book talks about feeling comfortable with the dark as well. The night brings with it a different kind of magic, with fireflies, moths and stars. There is nothing lonely or scary about the dark. “Don’t be afraid of life. It’s out there, yours to do with as you wish. Take it. Cherish it,” signs off Bond.

Also read: A project that is bringing Kodava culture back into focus

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