My 2018 reading challenge: What I read in July
Last month was a selection of good books, but not really a stand-out book. This month, almost everything I read was absolutely sensational and I want to shout about them from the rooftops!
45. This is Going to Hurt (Adam Kay) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Adam Kay used to be a doctor, and This Is Going To Hurt is a write-up of his diaries during his time spent working for the NHS. He documents the long days and nights, the patients he sees, some of the cases he worked on and ultimately his reason for leaving the job behind. He talks frankly and openly about money and exhaustion and he details individual cases and the impact the job had on his personal life. He moved through the ranks, specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology and his stories range from hilarious to heartbreaking.
There are helpful annotations throughout the book explaining some of the medical jargon. If you can be a bit squeamish about blood, or are pregnant/have recently gone through childbirth you may find some of it a little too raw, but I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is absolutely amazing, well-written, funny and charming but also tough going and almost unbelievable at times.
46. Surprise Me (Sophie Kinsella) ⭐⭐⭐
Sylvie and Dan are happily married with twin daughters, but on their ten-year anniversary they pay a trip to the doctors to renew their medical insurance. The doctor tells them that they will both live long lives and can expect to be married for another 68 years. They both feel panicked about this as it seems like such a long time, and so the two of them decide to come up with little surprises for each other to keep their marriage exciting. Sylvie discovers that Dan is keeping something from her and sets out to uncover what it is…
This book was a strange one for me. The ‘surprise’ element of the book seemed a bit of an afterthought, rather than a focus point, and the real story didn’t come to light until much later on. I admit I found the whole idea that a doctor ‘predicting’ they would have another 68 years of marriage a bit odd, and their reactions seemed a bit over-the-top. I remember when Sam and I were applying for a mortgage, the broker kept using the phrase ‘locked-in’ with regards to the length of our mortgage, and we jokingly said that it seemed like forever, but it didn’t cause us sleepless nights or a panic about the future in the way that Sylvie and Dan reacted.
The book was easy to read, and not as predictable as I’d expected, but I don’t think it was as good or as funny as some of Sophie Kinsella’s other books.
47. Reasons to Stay Alive (Matt Haig) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
A memoir about Matt Haig’s depressive disorder, Reasons to Stay Alive is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s relatable, tough and heartbreaking but ultimately it is positive and uplifting, exploring how to make the most of every day and how to feel alive.
“I want life. I want to read it and write it and feel it and live it. I want, for as much of the time as possible in this blink-of-an-eye existence we have, to feel all that can be felt.”
It is a book I feel that everyone should read. It is not a long book, but it is a book I wish went on for longer. There are conversations between past and present Matt and imagined conversations with depression. Depression can be a very difficult thing to explain, but Reasons to Stay Alive does it extremely well. The sections are short and manageable, and I know from personal experience that when my anxiety is bad and I’m struggling to concentrate, short sections are ideal. There are elements of humour throughout, and I honestly think it is a book that everyone should read.
48. The Party (Elizabeth Day) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Party is the story of Martin, Ben and their wives. It looks at corruption, hypocrisy and the class divide. As a young boy, Martin was an outsider at his school, and he struggled to fit in, but became friends with Ben, a popular, wealthy boy in his year. The story switches between their school days, Ben’s 40th birthday party and Martin being questioned by the police.
I really enjoyed this book. I think it is brilliantly written, suitably dark and mysterious, and I was intrigued about what terrible event had happened. I didn’t like, or relate to a single character in the book, but that actually made the read more enjoyable.
49. Why Mummy Swears (Gill Sims) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This book was my book of the month so I’ve written a much longer, more detailed review in a separate blog post. All I’ll say here is that this book is definitely worth a read!
50. Girl Meets Boy (Ali Smith) ⭐⭐⭐
Part of the Canongate series, The Myths, Girl Meets Boy is a retelling of Ovid’s myth of Iphis. Girl meets boy, a tale as old as time, but this time, there are new circumstances. Two sisters, Anthea and Midge (Imogen) live in Inverness, and work in the marketing department of a company that produces bottled water. The story tells of relationships and love, of self-esteem and self-doubt, of fluidity that can’t be ‘bottled.’
I’m actually not sure how I felt about this book. It is beautifully written, but I struggled with the narrative sometimes. I felt it jumped around a lot which left me struggling to find understand the context. I enjoyed how Anthea’s narrative was fluid whereas Midge’s was very stop and start as she struggled with her own self-esteem, and her sister’s new relationship.
What have you been reading this month?