The Midnight Library (Matt Haig)

We all make choices and move forward with our lives. But what about the choices we didn’t make?

When you think about it, life is a long sequence of choices, interspersed with decisions and life events that we have no control over. How would our life have turned out had we made different choices?

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig tackles this very issue.

I’ve read a couple of thrillers recently that feature the concept of infinite universes and individuals interacting with them, this book takes a different angle. It deals with the main character’s dissatisfaction with life, but that’s as much as I’m going to give away.

Our life circumstances and frequent questions so easily drag us down and negatively affect our mental health, but this life-affirming book is a positive tonic.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link) and see all my 2021 books here.

The Thirty-Nine Steps

The Thirty-Nine Steps is an adventure novel by the Scottish author John Buchan. It’s the first of five novels featuring Richard Hannay, an all-action hero with a stiff upper lip and a miraculous knack for getting himself out of tricky situations. This much-loved novel is very much of its time, but is rightly considered a seminal spy adventure and has been the basis for several movie adaptations and a stage play.

Recently returned from South Africa, adventurer Richard Hannay is bored with life, but after a chance encounter with an American who informs him of an assassination plot and is then promptly murdered in Hannay’s London flat, he becomes the obvious suspect and is forced to go on the run. He heads north to his native Scotland, fleeing the police and his enemies. Hannay must keep his wits about him if he is to warn the government before all is too late. Source

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link) and see all my 2021 books here.

Matters of Life and Death

Matters of Life and Death by Philip Stuckey is an excellent anthology of short stories, with lots to think about and plenty of ideas to reflect on.

It’s a collection of stories filled with elements of horror, fantasy, personal experience, and (obviously) matters of life and death. The stories, some short and some longer, are captivating and intriguing to read.

This is an enjoyable and thought-provoking collection. Although a cliche, it’s like a box of chocolates, you don’t know what you’re going to get. As the author says of his book, it’s a glimpse into the lives of others, and an invitation to consider the true nature of our world and our place in it.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link) and see all my 2021 books here.

Note: Philip Stuckey is also a musician in the band Stuckfish. Stuckfish began in 2017 with the collaboration of two musician friends: singer-songwriter, Philip Stuckey and guitarist/composer/producer, Adrian Fisher. Joined in 2020 by experienced and talented musicians, Gary Holland (keyboards), Phil Morey (Bass) and Adam Sayers (drums), Stuckfish has created melodic rock songs with a progressive twist. Source

How To Be Right (James O’Brien)

This fantastic book confronts lazy thinking, populist assumptions, and downright lies. James O’Brien forensically and ruthlessly demolishes populist statements and beliefs, opinions which have no basis in fact, but ones that many people cling on to. He seeks out truth in the fine tradition of true journalism. He believes that holding truth to power should be at the heart of democracy.

He adresses the lies people believe about Islam, Brexit, LGBT, ‘Woke’, Feminism, the Nanny State, Liberalism, and the Age Gap, as well as the pronouncements of populist leaders like Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and Nigel Farage.

If you believe any this populist nonsense, then read this book at your peril. You may need to change your opinions. Sadly, many still believe the lies, even when presented with the truth.

An exceptional broadcaster with a peerless ability to calmly point out the absurdity of certain viewpoints. The Guardian.

On the back cover there is some trolling of the very highest calibre: O’Brien is the epitome of a smug, sanctimonious, condescending, obsessively politically-correct, champagne-socialist public schoolboy Remoaner. The Sun.

Anyone who cares about the future of democracy should read this book.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link) and see all my 2021 books here.

Dark Matter (Blake Crouch)

I’d previously read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I decided to read it again in 2021 after reading Recursion. Blake writes mind-bending novels, and so what I wrote about Recursion also applies to Dark Matter:

What can I say about this mind-bending book without giving anything away? It’s a breathless, sci-fi thriller with so many twists and turns it often left my head spinning. After reluctantly putting the book down at bedtime I would settle down trying to work it out, often struggling to fully comprehend all the existential and philosophical questions raised.

Dark Matter’ is a bestselling tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human – a relentlessly surprising thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of. Source

Note: I understand that both of the books are being made into movies, but I would recommend you read them first rather than waiting for them on the big screen.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link) and see all my 2021 books here.

Lying (Sam Harris)

I read this excellent book in 2021. In Lying, best-selling author and neuroscientist Sam Harris argues that we can radically simplify our lives and improve society by merely telling the truth in situations where others often lie. He focuses on “white” lies—those lies we tell for the purpose of sparing people discomfort—for these are the lies that most often tempt us. And they tend to be the only lies that good people tell while imagining that they are being good in the process. Source

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link) and see all my 2021 books here.

Books Read in 2021

Particle Physics (Ben Still)

A Response to Grace (Stephen Poxon)

Thesaurus of the Senses (Linda Hart)

Ghost Stories (Henry James)

Lady Chatterley’s Lover (D. H. Lawrence)

The People’s Songs (Stuart Maconie)

15 Days of Prayer with Saint Francis of Assisi (Thaddée Matura)

Love Sonnets of Shakespeare

Arcadia (Tom Stoppard)

Matters of Life and Death (Philip Stuckey)

Dark Matter (Blake Crouch)

The Midnight Library (Matt Haig)

The Thirty-Nine Steps (John Buchan)

Lying (Sam Harris)

How to be Right (James O’Brien)

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link) and see all my 2021 books here.

Note: I’ve also read three anthologies and two yearbooks making a total of twenty.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

A controversial reading choice perhaps, but a book that is far more than its infamous descriptions of sex, and one that is extremely well written. By comparison, I had to force myself to read page 2 of Fifty Shades of Grey before giving up, it was so badly written.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a novel by English author D. H. Lawrence that was first published privately in 1928 in Italy and in 1929 in France. An unexpurgated edition was not published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960, when it was the subject of a watershed obscenity trial against the publisher Penguin Books, which won the case and quickly sold three million copies. Source

The edition I read (above) had one section missing that is particularly explicit, but I only found out because I was occasionally reading from a different Kindle edition. It doesn’t really contribute much to the book, and it’s not for the easily offended.

Arguably, not his best novel, but a classic of modern literature nevertheless.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2021 books here.

Love Sonnets of Shakespeare

I love Shakespeare’s sonnets and post them regularly on this site, they are listed on this page or you can use the search box.

Naomi recently bought me this little book containing a selection of his sonnets, and I’ve just finished reading it.

I guess Shakespeare is best known for his plays, but it’s likely that his sonnets were what earned him the admiration of his contemporaries. Writing plays was the way to pay the bills, sonnets were the way to gain literary prestige. They were shared privately to impress, and were only later collected and published.

This book is an excellent anthology, with each sonnet presented on two facing pages, a lovely edition to have lying around to easily dip into.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2021 books here.

15 Days with Francis of Assisi

I’ve just finished this helpful devotional book, and I’d like to share it with you.

One of a series, 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Francis of Assisi aims to lead you (over fifteen prayer periods) to a place where prayer is possible. But, if you already have a regular experience and practice of prayer, to lead you to a deeper place, a more intimate relationship with the Lord.

The following prayer and reflective questions (which end each chapter of exposition) will give you a taste of the book:

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no one is worthy to praise your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to your creatures.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

How do ecological issues such as global warming, famine, air quality and nuclear detonations affect the quality of your spiritual life and the survival of our planet? Is it easier to find God in the beauty and harmony of creation than it is in the suffering and struggles of our dark nights? In the sufferings of the poor, the dying, the hungry? As you ponder the beauty of creation, what does this mean for your spiritual life? “Beauty will save the world” (Dostoevsky), what does this mean for you? Of all the elements (earth, air, fire, water) which is the one to which you most relate? Is death a sister or a friend for you?

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2021 books here.