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Nonfiction November Week 3: Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert

Published November 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the third week of Nonfiction November! If you’d like to find out what it’s all about, please see my post two weeks ago where I revealed my Nonfiction November TBR. my post for Week 1 where I talked briefly about my year in nonfiction so far and Week 2 where I paired up three nonfiction books alongside similar fiction tomes.

This week as the title suggests, it’s all about Be The Expert/Ask The Expert/Become The Expert and is hosted by Julie at JulzReads, check out her post HERE.

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Today I’ve decided to focus on “becoming the expert.” I love reading a variety of non-fiction but my particular favourite topics include: feminism, animals/nature related books, psychology, historical time periods like World War II and the Russian Revolution and lastly, popular science and more specifically, neuroscience and the brain. I’ve chosen three brain-based books from my extensive TBR to show you today and I’d love to know if you’ve read any of them or would be interested in reading them.

Here We Go!

1.) How The Mind Works – Steven Pinker

What’s it all about?:

In this extraordinary bestseller, Steven Pinker, one of the world’s leading cognitive scientists, does for the rest of the mind what he did for language in his 1994 book, The Language Instinct. He explains what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows us to see, think, feel, laugh, interact, enjoy the arts, and ponder the mysteries of life. And he does it with the wit that prompted Mark Ridley to write in the New York Times Book Review, “No other science writer makes me laugh so much. . . . [Pinker] deserves the superlatives that are lavished on him.”  The arguments in the book are as bold as its title. Pinker rehabilitates some unfashionable ideas, such as that the mind is a computer and that human nature was shaped by natural selection, and challenges fashionable ones, such as that passionate emotions are irrational, that parents socialize their children, and that nature is good and modern society corrupting.

I’ve heard great things about Steven Pinker as an author and I have his other work of non-fiction, The Language Instinct on my shelves but because I find the function of our brains absolutely fascinating, this one is calling out to me a bit more, just waiting to be read!

2.) The Idiot Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains What Your Head is Really Up To – Dean Burnett

What’s it all about?:

It’s happened to all of us at some point. You walk into the kitchen, or flip open your laptop, or stride confidently up to a lectern, filled with purpose—and suddenly haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re doing. Welcome to your idiot brain.

Yes, it is an absolute marvel in some respects—the seat of our consciousness, the pinnacle (so far) of evolutionary progress, and the engine of all human experience—but your brain is also messy, fallible, and about 50,000 years out-of-date. We cling to superstitions, remember faces but not names, miss things sitting right in front of us, and lie awake at night while our brains replay our greatest fears on an endless loop.

Yet all of this, believe it or not, is the sign of a well-meaning brain doing its best to keep you alive and healthy. In Idiot Brain, neuroscientist Dean Burnett celebrates blind spots, blackouts, insomnia, and all the other downright laughable things our minds do to us, while also exposing the many mistakes we’ve made in our quest to understand how our brains actually work. Expertly researched and entertainingly written, this book is for everyone who has wondered why their brain appears to be sabotaging their life, and what on earth it is really up to.

The synopsis of this book really intrigues me, especially as my brain still has the power to surprise me with how idiotic it is at times! There’s also a line on the back of my edition that really makes me chuckle: “Why do you lose arguments with people who know MUCH LESS than you?” Looks absolutely brilliant and I simply must read it soon.

3.) Mapping The Mind – Rita Carter

What’s it all about?:

Today a brain scan reveals our thoughts, moods, and memories as clearly as an X-ray reveals our bones. We can actually observe a person’s brain registering a joke or experiencing a painful memory. Drawing on the latest imaging technology and the expertise of distinguished scientists, Rita Carter explores the geography of the human brain. Her writing is clear, accessible, witty, and the book’s 150 illustrations—most in color—present an illustrated guide to that wondrous, coconut-sized, wrinkled gray mass we carry inside our heads.

Mapping the Mind charts the way human behavior and culture have been molded by the landscape of the brain. Carter shows how our personalities reflect the biological mechanisms underlying thought and emotion and how behavioral eccentricities may be traced to abnormalities in an individual brain. Obsessions and compulsions seem to be caused by a stuck neural switch in a region that monitors the environment for danger. Addictions stem from dysfunction in the brain’s reward system. Even the sense of religious experience has been linked to activity in a certain brain region. The differences between men and women’s brains, the question of a “gay brain,” and conditions such as dyslexia, autism, and mania are also explored.

Looking inside the brain, writes Carter, we see that actions follow from our perceptions, which are due to brain activity dictated by a neuronal structure formed from the interplay between our genes and the environment. Without sidestepping the question of free will, Carter suggests that future generations will use our increasing knowledge of the brain to “enhance those mental qualities that give sweetness and meaning to our lives, and to eradicate those that are destructive.”

Of course it was my obsession with everything brain-like that led me to pick this book up initially but I have to say the 150 illustrations made me take it to the counter and buy it! This is an absolutely gorgeous edition and I look forward to seeing how the pictures will compliment the text. Hopefully it will be another interesting and illuminating read about one of my favourite subjects!

Coming up next week on Nonfiction November Week 4: Reads Like Fiction hosted by Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction): 

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Nonfiction November Week 2: Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings

Published November 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the second week of Nonfiction November! If you’d like to find out what it’s all about, please see my post last week where I revealed my Nonfiction November TBR. and my post for Week 1 where I talked briefly about my year in nonfiction so far.

This week as the title suggests, it’s all about Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings and is hosted by Sarah from Sarah’s Bookshelves – check out her post HERE.

“It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.”

Today I’ve decided to choose three pairings with three very different themes, hopefully one of these pairings will be intriguing to you!

Here we go!

PAIRING ONE – Historical fiction/historical nonfiction

Fiction – The Tattooist Of Auschwitz (based on a real story) by Heather Morris

This is the tale of Lale Sokolov who is transported to Auschwitz in the 1940’s and employed as the Tätowierer, marking the prisoners with their infamous numbers, falling in love with a fellow prisoner, Gita as he tattoos her with her personal number. I read this book with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads recently and we both really enjoyed it. Check out our review HERE.

PAIRED WITH

Nonfiction – The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz: A True Story Of World War II by Denis Avey

This book has been on my TBR for the longest time! I’m intrigued by the synopsis which follows a British soldier who willingly breaks into Auschwitz and swaps places with a Jewish inmate for the purposes of witnessing and then telling others on the outside of the brutality that he saw.

PAIRING TWO – historical fiction/fantasy and biography

Fiction – The Looking Glass House by Vanessa Tait

This story, told by the real-life grand-daughter of the Alice who inspired Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland investigates what may have happened BEFORE Alice fell down the rabbit hole through the eyes of a naive and deceived governess. I received this gorgeous book through my regular Book And A Brew monthly subscription box and mean to get to at at some point in the near future!

PAIRED WITH

Nonfiction – The Story Of Alice: Lewis Carroll And The Secret History Of Wonderland by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

This does what it says on the tin really, need I say more? This is the story of Charles Dodgson and his alter ego or other self, Lewis Carroll and the history of what made Wonderland and Alice so special to him. I’m a big fan of the classic children’s tale and looking forward to diving into this after The Looking Glass House.

PAIRING THREE – historical fiction/romance and psychology/popular science

Fiction – The Ballroom by Anna Hope

I adored this novel when I read it in winter last year! It’s the story of Ella, a woman committed to an asylum in Yorkshire in the early part of the twentieth century for a “slight misdemeanour” at work in her own words. She meets a young man called John (in the asylum on the men’s side) whilst she is there so there is some romance but what I found most fascinating was how it touched on mental health and the apparent fragility of women at this period in our history. Check out my review HERE.

PAIRED WITH

Nonfiction – Mad, Bad and Sad: A History Of Women And The Mind Doctors From 1800 To The Present – Lisa Appignanesi

What better way to explore how “madness” in women has been approached historically speaking than to read a giant nonfiction tome about it? This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we conceive of them today, from the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. It looks like an absolutely fantastic and illuminating read and I can’t believe I keep putting off reading it!

 

So there you have it, my fiction/nonfiction pairings for the second week of Nonfiction November, I really hope you enjoyed these and found something that interests you!

Coming up next week on Nonfiction November Week 3 – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (hosted by Julie @ JulzReads)

My Non-Fiction November TBR

Published November 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to a very exciting month ahead – Nonfiction November! I really wanted to take part in this last year but had so many commitments for review copies that I just couldn’t fit it in but this year I’m determined. I still have a few ARC’s to read in November so I won’t be reading solely non-fiction but I’m hoping the majority of my reading will fall into that genre.

First, a little bit about Nonfiction November – it’s hosted by Katie of Doing Dewey, Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness, Rennie of What’s Nonfiction, Julz of JulzReads, and Sarah of Sarah’s Bookshelves. Each week of the month there will be a discussion question and link up related to non-fiction on one of the host’s blogs above and I can’t wait to join in! There is also an Instagram challenge going on starting today with various prompts for each day of the month and I’m going to attempt to join in with as many as I can (bibliobeth on Instagram if you fancy giving me a follow). I can’t promise the world’s most beautiful pictures but I can promise some interesting non-fiction recommendations for sure! The Instagram challenge is co-hosted by Kim (@kimthedork) and Leann (@Shelf_Aware_). and if you’d like to join in, they’d love to see your pictures using the hashtag #NonficNov.

But back to today’s post. I thought that today I’d talk about my Nonfiction November TBR or what I HOPE to be getting to this month. I’ve chosen eight books, which is quite optimistic considering the other fiction books I’ve promised to read so perhaps I won’t get to all of these but I’m going to give it a good go. Any that I don’t read will be read soon enough as I often read a non-fiction book alongside my current fiction read and an old favourite.

Here we go!

1.) The Diary Of A Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

What’s it all about?:

Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost … In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.

Why do I want to read it?:

I’ve heard SO much about this book and now I just can’t help myself, I have to submit. It sounds cosy, amusing, interesting and is a book about books. What could be better for a bibliophile like myself?

2.) The Education Of A Coroner: Lessons In Investigating Death – John Bateson

What’s it all about?:

An “entertaining” (Booklist) account of the mysterious, hair-raising, and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths and serial killers to inmate murders and Golden Gate Bridge suicides.

Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts celebrity residents and thousands of visitors every year, yet the county also is home to San Quentin Prison, one of the oldest and largest penitentiaries in the United States. Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health, yet it is far above the norm in drug overdoses and alcoholism, not to mention the large percentage of suicides that occur on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—one that is far different from the forensics we see on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, and preparing testimony for court to how to notify families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena, such as autoeroticism.

Why do I want to read it?:

This book appeals to the morbid, scientific side of me. I was always intrigued by forensics and this book came up on my recommendations when I bought another book on this Nonfiction November list. Of course as soon as I read the synopsis I couldn’t resist buying it!

3.) The Secret Lives Of Colour – Kassia St. Clair

What’s it all about?:

The Secret Lives of Colour tells the unusual stories of seventy-five fascinating shades, dyes and hues. From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso’s blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, acid yellow to kelly green, and from scarlet women to imperial purple, these surprising stories run like a bright thread throughout history.

In this book, Kassia St. Clair has turned her lifelong obsession with colours and where they come from (whether Van Gogh’s chrome yellow sunflowers or punk’s fluorescent pink) into a unique study of human civilization. Across fashion and politics, art and war, the secret lives of colour tell the vivid story of our culture.

Why do I want to read it?:

This book was taunting me from bookshops for months. I used to always see it as I walked past a particular bookshop in London Waterloo station where it held a very prominent position and I was instantly entranced by the cover. I eventually pre-ordered it in paperback and it’s just as gorgeous, with rainbow coloured pages to illustrate the particular colour being talked about. I’m intrigued – particularly with the historical information behind the colours.

4.) Dark Banquet: Blood And The Curious Lives Of Blood-Feeding Creatures – Bill Schutt

What’s it all about?:

For centuries, blood feeders have inhabited our nightmares and horror stories, as well as the shadowy realms of scientific knowledge. In Dark Banquet, zoologist Bill Schutt takes readers on an entertaining voyage into the world of some of nature’s strangest creatures—the sanguivores. Using a sharp eye and mordant wit, Schutt makes a remarkably persuasive case that vampire bats, leeches, ticks, bed bugs, and other vampires are as deserving of our curiosity as warmer and fuzzier species are—and that many of them are even ­worthy of conservation.
Schutt takes us from rural Trinidad to the jungles of Brazil to learn about some of the most reviled, misunderstood, and marvelously evolved animals on our planet: vampire bats. Only recently has fact begun to disentangle itself from fiction concerning these remarkable animals, and Schutt delves into the myths and misconceptions surrounding them.

Examining the substance that sustains nature’s vampires, Schutt reveals just how little we actually knew about blood until well into the twentieth century. We revisit George Washington on his deathbed to learn how ideas about blood and the supposedly therapeutic value of bloodletting, first devised by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, survived into relatively modern times. Schutt also tracks the history of medicinal leech use. Once employed by the tens of millions to drain perceived excesses of blood, today the market for these ancient creatures is booming once again—but for very different reasons.

Among the other blood feeders we meet in these pages are bed bugs, or “ninja insects,” which are making a creepy resurgence in posh hotels and well-kept homes near you. In addition, Dark Banquet details our dangerous and sometimes deadly encounters with ticks, chiggers, and mites (the ­latter implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder—currently devastating honey bees worldwide). Then there are the truly weird—vampire finches. And if you thought piranha were scary, some people believe that the candiru (or willy fish) is the best reason to avoid swimming in the Amazon.

Enlightening, alarming, and appealing to our delight in the bizarre, Dark Banquet peers into a part of the natural world to which we are, through our blood, inextricably linked.

Why do I want to read it?:

I read Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, Bill Schutt’s second non-fiction book as a buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. As a result, I was determined to read his first book which sounds just as fascinating and of course, Nonfiction November is the perfect time to get down to reading it!

5.) The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life In Death, Decay & Disaster – Sarah Krasnostein

What’s it all about?:

Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife…

But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.

A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.

Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead—and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.

I call my dad from the car and ask him about his morning, tell him about mine.
‘What kind of hoarder was she?’ he asks.
‘Books and cats, mainly,’ I tell the man who loves his cats and who I know is now actively considering his extensive book collection.
‘What’s the difference between a private library and a book hoarder?’ he wonders.
We are both silent before we laugh and answer in unison: ‘Faeces.’

But the difference is this phone call. And the others like it I could make—and how strong we are when we are loved
.

Sarah Krasnostein was born in America, studied in Melbourne and has lived and worked in both countries. Earning her doctorate in criminal law, she is a law lecturer and researcher. Her essay, ‘The Secret Life of a Crime Scene Cleaner’, was published on Longreads and listed in Narratively’s Top 10 Stories for 2014. She lives in Melbourne, and spends part of the year working in New York City. The Trauma Cleaner is her first book.

Why do I want to read it?:

The Trauma Cleaner was the book that prompted me to buy The Education Of A Coroner earlier on this list. It’s my fascination with the forensic world again that makes me want to pick up this book but also I like that it has a transgender element which I’m also interested to read and learn more about.

6.) Animals Strike Curious Poses – Elena Passarello

What’s it all about?:

Beginning with Yuka, a 39,000-year-old mummified woolly mammoth recently found in the Siberian permafrost, each of the sixteen essays in Animals Strike Curious Poses investigates a different famous animal named and immortalised by humans. Here are the starling that inspired Mozart with its song, Darwin’s tortoise Harriet, and in an extraordinary essay, Jumbo the elephant (and how they tried to electrocute him). Modelled loosely on a medieval bestiary, these witty , playful, provocative essays traverse history, myth, science and more, introducing a stunning new writer to British readers.

Why do I want to read it?:

Along with science, nature writing (particularly anything that involves animals) is something I love to read about and this book looked too good to pass up. I love that it’s a series of essays and I adore that it follows “famous” animals. I’ve got high hopes for this one!

7.) When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

What’s it all about?:

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

Why do I want to read it?:

Similar to the next book coming up on my Nonfiction November TBR, this is one of the books that has been on my shelves the longest. Everyone keeps telling me how great it is (and I LOVE reading about neurosurgery/the brain) but this one also has a bitter-sweet emotional aspect that I wasn’t sure I was in the right place to read about in the past eighteen months or so. Now however, I am stronger and I am ready! This WILL happen.

8.) Bad Science – Ben Goldacre

What’s it all about?:

Have you ever wondered how one day the media can assert that alcohol is bad for us and the next unashamedly run a story touting the benefits of daily alcohol consumption? Or how a drug that is pulled off the market for causing heart attacks ever got approved in the first place? How can average readers, who aren’t medical doctors or Ph.D.s in biochemistry, tell what they should be paying attention to and what’s, well, just more bullshit?

Ben Goldacre has made a point of exposing quack doctors and nutritionists, bogus credentialing programs, and biased scientific studies. He has also taken the media to task for its willingness to throw facts and proof out the window. But he’s not here just to tell you what’s wrong. Goldacre is here to teach you how to evaluate placebo effects, double-blind studies, and sample sizes, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it. You’re about to feel a whole lot better.

Why do I want to read it?:

I think this is probably a work of non-fiction that I’ve had the longest. As a scientist in my daily life, I really need to get round to reading this – it’s a travesty I haven’t read it before now!

 

So, there we have it! My TBR for Nonfiction November has been revealed. What I’d love to hear from you guys is if you’ve read (or want to read) any of these books and what you thought? Let me know if you’re participating in Nonfiction November and what you’ll be reading – links welcome down below in the comments. 

COMING UP TOMORROW ON bibliobeth – Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year In Nonfiction. 

 

Book Tag – Books Beginning With A.U.T.U.M.N.

Published September 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Autumn as today marks the beginning of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. I came up with this idea after seeing one of my favourite book tubers, Lauren from Lauren And The Books do a video at Christmas. She took each letter of the word CHRISTMAS and presented a title from her bookshelves that began with that letter. I’m going to nab that great idea and today I will be taking each letter of the word SUMMER and showing you a book from my TBR that begins with that letter which I hope to get round to very soon.

Check out my books beginning with S.P.R.I.N.G. HERE and my books beginning with S.U.M.M.E.R. HERE!

So without further ado, let’s get on with it!

A

What’s it all about?:

Science historian Laurel Braitman draws on evidence from across the world to show, for the first time, how astonishingly similar humans and other animals are when it comes to their emotional wellbeing.

Charles Darwin developed his evolutionary theories by studying Galapagos finches and fancy pigeons; Alfred Russel Wallace investigated creatures in the Malay Archipelago. Laurel Braitman got her lessons closer to home — by watching her dog. Oliver snapped at flies that only he could see, suffered from debilitating separation anxiety, was prone to aggression, and may even have attempted suicide. Braitman’s experiences with Oliver made her acknowledge a startling connection: non-human animals can lose their minds. And when they do, it often looks a lot like human mental illness.

Thankfully, all of us can heal. Braitman spent three years travelling the world in search of emotionally disturbed animals and the people who care for them, finding numerous stories of recovery: parrots that learn how to stop plucking their feathers, dogs that cease licking their tails raw, polar bears that stop swimming in compulsive circles, and great apes that benefit from the help of human psychiatrists. How do these animals recover? The same way we do: with love, medicine, and above all, the knowledge that someone understands why we suffer and what can make us feel better.

I adore non-fiction about animals and this book, which I won in a giveaway on Twitter has been sitting on my shelves for far too long. I’m hoping to put it on my TBR for Non Fiction November so will hopefully be reading it very soon, as I read the synopsis, I’m too excited to leave it any longer!

U

What’s it all about?:

A dark enchantment blights the land

Agnieszka loves her village, set in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she is everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he takes.

There was SO much hype around this book when it first came out and I can’t believe I still haven’t read it yet. I know my sister, Chrissi Reads didn’t get on too well with it and I’ve heard mixed reviews but I’m determined to find out what I think myself – what a gorgeous synopsis!

T

What’s it all about?:

During the long, hot summer of 1976, a young Cambridge mathematician arrives in a remote village in the Lake District and takes on a job as a farm labourer. Painfully awkward and shy, Spencer Little is viewed with suspicion by the community and his only real friendship is with scruffy, clever ten-year-old Alice.

This book wins the award for the shortest synopsis ever! Anyway, I’ve heard great things, particularly from my favourite book tuber, Savidge Reads so this definitely has to be read. At some point. #toomanybooks

U

What’s it all about?:

‘According to his mother, Jack Burns was an actor before he was an actor, but Jack’s most vivid memories of childhood were those moments when he felt compelled to hold his mother’s hand. He wasn’t acting then.’

Jack Burns’ mother, Alice, is a tattoo artist in search of the boy’s father, a virtuoso organist named William who has fled America to Europe. To fund her journey, she plies her trade in the seaports of the Baltic coast. But her four-year-old son’s errant father can’t be found, and soon even Jack’s memories of that perplexing time are called into question. It is only when he becomes a Hollywood actor in later life that what he has experienced in the past comes into telling play in his present……

Confession time. I haven’t read any John Irving before despite owning a few books by him on my shelves. This looks like a perfect place to start though. Intriguing synopsis and potentially fascinating characters I think!

M

What’s it all about?:

A twenty-four hour whirlwind of death and life.

In the depths of a winter’s night, the heart of Simon Limbeau is resting, readying itself for the day to come. In a few hours’ time, just before six, his alarm will go off and he will venture into the freezing dawn, drive down to the beach, and go surfing with his friends. A trip he has made a hundred times and yet, today, the heart of Simon Limbeau will encounter a very different course.

But for now, the black-box of his body is free to leap, swell, melt and sink, just as it has throughout the twenty years of Simon’s life.

5.50 a.m.

This is his heart.
And here is its story.

Also published as The Heart, this book won the Wellcome Trust Book Prize in 2017 and as a scientist who loves science non fiction, this seems like the perfect book for me. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book!

N

What’s it all about?:

Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.

To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things.

Ian McEwan. Contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Told from the point of view of a foetus. Enough said, right?

Here ends my Books Beginning With A.U.T.U.M.N! What I’d love to know from you guys is if you’ve read any of these books before and what you thought? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you’d like to do your own books of A.U.T.U.M.N. from your TBR, I’d love to see them so please feel free.

Hope you all have a cosy Autumn/Fall!

Love Beth xx

It’s All In Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness – Suzanne O’Sullivan

Published September 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘Even if medical tests cannot explain your pain or tiredness or disability, it does not lessen your suffering. The pain of medically unexplained illness is every bit as real as any other and, if anything, is multiplied by the lack of understanding.

Most of us accept the way our heart flutters when we set eyes on the one we secretly admire, or the sweat on our brow as we start the presentation we do not want to give. But few of us are fully aware of how dramatic our body’s reactions to emotions can sometimes be.

Take Pauline, who first became ill when she was fifteen. What seemed at first to be a urinary infection became joint pain, then food intolerances, then life-threatening appendicitis. And then one day, after a routine operation, Pauline lost all the strength in her legs. Shortly after that her convulsions started. But Pauline’s tests are normal; her symptoms seem to have no physical cause whatsoever.

Pauline may be an extreme case, but she is by no means alone. As many as a third of men and women visiting their GP have symptoms that are medically unexplained. In most, an emotional root is suspected and yet, when it comes to a diagnosis, this is the very last thing we want to hear, and the last thing doctors want to say.

In It’s All in Your Head consultant neurologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan takes us on a journey through the very real world of psychosomatic illness. She takes us from the extreme — from paralysis, seizures and blindness — to more everyday problems such as tiredness and pain. Meeting her patients, she encourages us to look deep inside the human condition. There we find the secrets we are all capable of keeping from ourselves, and our age-old failure to credit the intimate and extraordinary connection between mind and body.

What did I think?:

Oh, the thoughts. Oh, the feelings. Let me try and start at the beginning and I’m hoping my words make some sort of coherent sense. If not, I apologise. I have a couple of non fiction shelves at home (which you’ll see in due course if you enjoy my Shelfie by Shelfie book tag), and never seem to get round to reading them until this year, I began a new venture where I read three books at once – a current “main” read, a non-fiction read and a re-read of an old favourite. I’ve been eagerly anticipating many of my non-fiction reads, well….apart from this one. Let me explain. I’m a sucker for an interesting title, cover and synopsis and I don’t shy away from potentially controversial subject matters if it means I can educate myself about particular topics but I really wasn’t sure whether this book might hit a little too close to home, even for me.

Neurologist and author, Suzanne O’Sullivan who won The Wellcome Trust Prize in 2016 with It’s All In Your Head.

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you might have seen in a previous review/post that I’ve been struggling for the past eight years with a chronic illness. Basically, my diagnosis is fibromyalgia with chronic fatigue syndrome and hypermobility. It’s got to the point in my life now where I’m managing to cope really well with it. I still have my bad days of course, and at the end of the week, it’s still a mission to keep myself standing upright but I’m absolutely determined  to stay positive and that it’s not going to take my life away from me. This is why I still continue to work full-time, even if it is quite a struggle at times, I have to be honest. If you want to read more about my story, I wrote a personal post HERE.

As I was FINALLY picking up this book, I felt nervous and excited in equal measure. I didn’t know whether this book was going to make me feel horribly angry or completely vindicated about my own chronic health issues. I posted a picture of the book on Instagram and had some amazing and very interesting responses, many of whom were reacting the same way as I did when I first saw that title. Of course, a title like It’s All In Your Head seems to have been deliberately chosen to be controversial and raise a few hackles and, job done, my hackles were well and truly primed. Nobody with chronic illness likes to be told “it’s all in your head,” especially considering the amount of pain, suffering, physical and emotional turmoil we go through on a daily basis. There is literally nothing else my doctor can do for me and how to manage my pain myself has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.

However, as I soon came to realise as I made my way through this fascinating and insightful book is that we don’t have to take that title literally and assume the author is saying something she is clearly not. As I’ve learned myself through my chronic illness journey, sadly a lot of my condition is psychological but a) that does not mean I’m going crazy, b) that does NOT mean I’m imagining it, c) my pain IS real and will probably always be there and d) I have to find the best way to cope with it (with the help and support of my loved ones) that will mean I have a fulfilling and enjoyable life. The author does briefly touch on illnesses like fibromyalgia and like she confirms, there is no definitive test for diagnosing it which makes it hard for both the patient and the doctor to ensure that the treatment offered is correct. Obviously more research desperately needs to be done and is ongoing but various studies have shown that although the pain is felt physically in different regions of the body, one theory is that the actual problem may lie in the pain receptors of the brain. In this sense, when you take the phrase “it’s all in your head,” might not mean what I initially assumed it to mean when I looked at the cover of the book and was instantly offended!

In this book, O’Sullivan follows a number of different patients, all with medically unexplained symptoms ranging from tiredness and pain to numbness, paralysis and even violent seizures and when nothing is discovered in blood tests, scans etc, suggests that there may be an emotional connection to the terrifying (and often debilitating) symptoms they are experiencing. She explores some intriguing ideas, including the age-old question – when did it become such a stigma to be psychologically unwell? As a society, we have an undeniable determination to pin everything down with physical evidence of malaise, only accepting cold, hard figures and scientific facts to prove that we are genuinely unwell. However, the individuals she talks about are truly exhibiting physical signs of illness and even if there isn’t a test yet that can decipher exactly what’s going on, O’Sullivan is simply suggesting all possible avenues, even psychiatric ones should be explored so that the patient can get the most appropriate, effective and individual treatment for them alone.

I’m so glad I read this book. Not only was it an absorbing and informative read but personally, I felt like it made me look at my own health problems in a whole new light. I came to this book determined to be angry with it and sceptical of the author’s own thoughts and feelings. However, at the end I felt slightly ashamed when I realised that they were perfectly sound and sensitive, particularly in her reactions to people who are genuinely suffering. Of course there are always going to be “those” people who are attempting to cheat the system and fake illness which is a real shame for those of us who are in very real pain and torment but I loved that O’Sullivan takes each one of her patient’s ailments seriously and compassionately, ensuring all the relevant boxes are ticked before suggesting that there might be an alternative explanation for their symptoms.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

It’s All In Your Head: True Stories Of Imaginary Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan was the forty-sixth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Under The Knife: The History Of Surgery In 28 Remarkable Operations – Arnold van de Laar

Published September 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In Under the Knife, surgeon Arnold Van de Laar uses his own experience and expertise to tell the witty history of the past, present and future of surgery.

From the story of the desperate man from seventeenth-century Amsterdam who grimly cut a stone out of his own bladder to Bob Marley’s deadly toe, Under the Knife offers all kinds of fascinating and unforgettable insights into medicine and history via the operating theatre.

What happens during an operation? How does the human body respond to being attacked by a knife, a bacterium, a cancer cell or a bullet? And, as medical advances continuously push the boundaries of what medicine can cure, what are the limits of surgery?

From the dark centuries of bloodletting and of amputations without anaesthetic to today’s sterile, high-tech operating theatres, Under the Knife is both a rich cultural history, and a modern anatomy class for us all.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to John Murray Press and Book Bridgr for sending me this review copy at a time when I was delighted to have a new, shiny book to delve into. Who am I kidding? I’m ALWAYS happy to have a new, shiny book as a bibliophile, right? But seriously, I was going through a tough time and Under The Knife came as a pleasant surprise as I had requested it some time ago and thought that I had been unsuccessful in getting it so when my cheery postman brought it round, it was a very welcome addition to my collection. Personally, I found it was easier to read this non-fiction tome in shorter sections to be able to absorb all the information the author was throwing at the reader and to avoid becoming over-saturated in medical jargon. Although, don’t get me wrong, this piece of popular science is highly accessible to people who may not necessarily have a scientific background. Everything is explained methodically, without ever seeming patronising. It just may be a bit too much medical/surgical descriptions to take if you try to binge read it all at once, in my opinion.

Arnold van de Laar, author of Under The Knife.

Under The Knife can be explained as a history of surgery, but more specifically, twenty-eight particular operations that have been carried out on notable figures through history and have changed the face of medicine as a result. One of the more horrifying cases that van de Laar explores is lithotomy (translated as “stone cutting,”) which involved a Dutch man, blacksmith Jan de Doot (with NO prior surgical knowledge) in 1651 who performed an operation on himself to cut out his own bladder stone when the agony of it became too unbearable for him to suffer anymore and he didn’t trust anyone else to do it. Staggeringly enough for those times, he survived and over the next fifty years, doctors learned much more about what causes these particular types of bladder stones making it a relatively rare condition now. We also investigate the story of Bob Marley who because of his beliefs, flatly refused to have his cancerous toe amputated and died as a result, the tendency for obesity in Popes and how Queen Victoria pioneered a new movement in the realms of anaesthesia.

Jan de Doot in 1655, proud owner of a bladder stone and survivor of surgery by his own hands.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of surgery which was one of the reasons I requested this book for review. This book wasn’t exactly what I expected but I think that was a good thing. It was less of a time-line through our past and how surgery has developed but a more in-depth look at specific instances where surgery has changed individual lives or advanced the field as a whole to improve survival rates in the future, even paving the way for better, more efficient technologies. As you might expect with a book all about surgery, it has quite gruesome, detailed moments including graphic descriptions of surgery so if that’s in any way unpalatable to you, just letting you know! For me, I found it to be an interesting insight into the world of trauma and illness, how our body copes, the pressures that the surgeon is under to “fix us,” and how the body heals itself after the process is completed.

It’s amazing and quite frankly, mind-blowing to see how much surgery has advanced through the years – can you ever imagine having to have an operation without any anaesthetic? Or how about when blood-letting was considered a normal procedure for someone who was gravely ill? Arnold van de Laar uses his vast experience as a specialist laparoscopic surgeon to present us with facts, statistics and precise, engaging information about surgery and how it’s changed over the years, thankfully for the better!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

September 2018 – My Boyfriend Chooses My TBR!

Published September 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to something a bit different on bibliobeth today. I’ve been with my boyfriend coming up to sixteen years now and he’s well aware of my “little problem” with books. To bookworms like us though, it’s not a problem right? It’s a necessity! Anyway, for something a bit fun, I asked him if he would mind picking out five books for me to read this month from my shelves and I gave him free rein to run amok. At first, he rubbed his hands in glee (I think he was preparing to be a bit devilish and pick some HUGE tomes) but in the end, he picked a fabulous list with some great reasons for doing so which I’ll share with you in this post. This is what he picked and why:

1.) The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat And Other Clinical Tales – Oliver Sacks

What’s it all about?:

In his most extraordinary book, “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century” (The New York Times) recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders. Oliver Sacks’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents.

If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks’s splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine’s ultimate responsibility: “the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject.”

Why did he pick this?:

This is one of the books that my partner has already read and thoroughly enjoyed and he wanted to know what I thought about it too so we could compare notes. I’m delighted he chose it as I was considering it for Non Fiction November but if I’m honest, other books would probably have beaten it to the eight coveted spots that I’m considering. Hey, I have a lot of non fiction on my shelves. Now however, I can get to it sooner than expected, hooray!

2.) Cop Town – Karin Slaughter

What’s it all about?:

Karin Slaughter, author of the bestselling Will Trent novels, is widely acclaimed as “one of the best crime novelists in America” (The Washington Post). Now she delivers her first stand-alone novel: an epic story of a city in the midst of seismic upheaval, a serial killer targeting cops, and a divided police force tasked with bringing a madman to justice.

Atlanta, 1974: As a brutal murder and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way—wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are pushed out of the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach the boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

Relentlessly paced, acutely observed, wickedly funny, and often heartbreaking, Cop Town is Karin Slaughter’s most powerful novel yet—a tour de force of storytelling from our foremost master of character, atmosphere, and suspense.

Why did he pick this?:

Now I didn’t know this but ever since I suggested to my partner that he could do this for September he’s been making little notes on his phone every time I moan about a book that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. This is especially true of Karin Slaughter who I am woefully behind with her books and because I’m such a stickler for wanting to read things in publication date order, Cop Town is the next one I need to read. I won’t go on and on about how much I love him for listening to me and putting this on the September TBR (I don’t want to make you all nauseous) but I’m SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW.

3.) A Brief History Of Seven Killings – Marlon James

What’s it all about?:

Jamaica, 1976. Seven gunmen storm Bob Marley’s house, machine guns blazing. The reggae superstar survives, but the gunmen are never caught.

From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a dazzling display of masterful storytelling exploring this near-mythic event. Spanning three decades and crossing continents, A Brief History of Seven Killings chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – slum kids, one-night stands, drug lords, girlfriends, gunmen, journalists, and even the CIA. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century.

Why did he pick this?:

We did this little thing after he chose the September TBR where he hid the books from me then brought them out, one by one and told me his reason for choosing them. When he brought this one out, my reaction was so mixed it was funny. I’ve been wanting to read this book for AGES, ever since it won the Man Booker Prize in 2015 and I heard all the hype about it. My other half actually listened to it on audiobook and hasn’t stopped going on about how good it was so I know I need to get round to it. I don’t know why I’m feeling a bit anxious about it – perhaps it’s the size at 688 pages? Or maybe it’s the fact that it won a huge prize and I’m worried I won’t agree with the hype? We’ll soon see.

4.) Buried In Books: A Reader’s Anthology – Julie Rugg

What’s it all about?:

For bibliophiles, life is full of tricky problems: wondering whether a small trunk full of reading material can be taken on board as hand luggage; how to smuggle yet another guilty stash of tomes past the nearest and dearest. But as Julie Rugg shows in this anthology, bibliophiles are by no means new. For centuries bookish types have been delving in bibliophilia. Buried in Books is a compilation of more than 350 literary extracts, quotations, and bon mots arranged in 14 chapters that cover every aspect of bookish behavior: reading, buying, borrowing, recommending, hunting, even defacing. The selections range from short, pithy quotations to more extensive extracts, and they are taken from diaries, memoirs, novels, plays, and letters by authors from Samuel Pepys to Iain Sinclair, Laurence Sterne to Lucy Mangan. If you are an obsessive reader, stroke this book lovingly, listen as you riffle through the pages, and be proud: you are in good company.

Why did he pick this?:

In his words, he wanted to pick something that “you wouldn’t necessarily pick for yourself,” and he’s absolutely right! Not that I’m not looking forward to this book but there’s so many books on my shelves that this one does tend to take a bit of a back seat to others that excite me a bit more. Books about books are really wonderful but are almost books you want to dip in and out of rather than read in a couple of sittings. I’ve decided that’s exactly what I’m going to do with this one and perhaps read a little from it each week.

4.) My Name Is Leon – Kit de Waal

What’s it all about?:

It’s 1981, a year of riots and royal weddings. The Dukes of Hazzard is on TV and Curly Wurlys are in the shops. And trying to find a place in it all is young Leon.

Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, a belly like Father Christmas, and mutters swearwords under her breath when she thinks can’t hear. Maureen feeds and looks after them, and claims everything will be okay.

But will they ever see their mother again? Who are the couple who secretly visit Joke? The adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing pretend faces. They are threatening to take Jake away and give him to strangers. Because Jake is white and Leon is not.

As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.

Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we somehow manage to find our way home.

Why did he pick this?:

Once again, I was really delighted when my partner pulled this out from behind his back. He picked this as it’s a book he’s actually interested in himself and he didn’t realise I had put it on my latest Five Star TBR Predictions TBR. (Which by the way, I’m getting on dismally with – I’ve only read two of the five books so far – Dadland and NOS4R2). I’m relieved he chose it as it will push me to get to it that bit sooner. Although I was planning to read this in the next month or so anyway – promise! 😛

I really enjoyed having my boyfriend pick out my TBR for the month and to tell you the truth, I think he really enjoyed the process too! It’s something we’ll definitely be doing in the future but probably not until early next year as I now have “ARC/Netgalley” month in October, Non Fiction November in November and Chrissi Cupboard Month in December to look forward to. 

What I’d love to know is have you read any of these books? Which were your favourites? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Love Beth xxx