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Books on my bedside table,
May 2016 :
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Books on my bedside table,
May 2016

Nothing quite compares to the feeling of climbing into bed after a long day, resting our tired limbs, pulling the duvet up to our chins, turning on the bedside light and letting the cat(s) nestle in. And then the real treat: scanning the tottering pile of books on our bedside tables and picking one out.

Every night I get a tingle of excitement at the thought of opening the pages of these new books – and also a little pinch of disappointment when I realise that, soon, my eyelids will grow heavy and I won’t be able to stay up all night. I’ve taken to going to bed earlier and earlier so that I can squeeze in as much reading as possible – it feels a little old-fashioned and counter-cultural but the rewards are rich.

My bedside table reflects my interests, tastes and character as a reader.

I love adult fiction, Young Adult fiction and children’s books. Although stories always capture my interest more than factual accounts, I do love non-fiction books too, especially books on the creative process on on leading more wholehearted lives. I also try to have a book on the go which teaches me about the area I’m writing about – in this case adoption for my novel, Before I Was Yours (out in 2017). I’m a sucker, too, for reading books that I think will solve my current problems – for example, how to manage my gorgeous little girl who has just turned two and is as stubborn and impatient as her mother:).

I hope you enjoy the eclectic mix and find some inspiration on the way.

The Green Road by Anne Enright

I was inspired to order this when I heard the novel reviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row on the night the Bailey’s Women’s Prize For Fiction shortlist was announced. Reading Anne Enright is like watching Frederick Federer play tennis: it’s effortless. She uses words with skill and precision but her touch is light. Her characters are achingly real and her balancing of pathos and humour is pitch perfect. This is a beautiful and tragic tale of an Irish family, scattered across the globe and now, brought together for one last Christmas in their family home.


Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

I was given this awesome YA book by a publisher at HaperCollins and it’s a complete joy . Lies We Tell Ourselves has recently been shortlisted for the Carnegie Award – and rightly so. A moving and fascinating story, set in 1959, of the first black students who attended the all white Jefferson High School. And there’s a pretty special love story at the heart of it too.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

A darker, edgier Anne Tyler is the best way I can describe the talented Liane Moriarty’s work. This kind of novel ticks every box for me: a gripping, contemporary, family drama which tackles some of the most important issues of our age – the loss of child, infidelity, murder… It’s well written but not showily so and Moriarty’s characters, as with Anne Enright, are absolutely real.


The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp & Sara Ogilvie

Tennessee, my little girl, was given the sequel to this, Sir Lilypad, by some dear friends of ours and we loved it so much we just had to get this one too. It’s a wonderful, feminist revision of the classic – girl meets prince and falls in love and lives happily ever after trope. Here, the princess (with messy hair and dirty clothes and a fierce will), decides to ditch her prince (the twit) for a life of tea drinking, cake eating and knight fighting with her new best friend, a gorgeous orange dragon. (See my post on what novelists can learn from picture books.)


The Primal Wound: understanding the adopted child by Nancy Verrier

If anyone wants to understand the complex psychology of an adopted child, this is the book. A moving, well researched and thorough account of adoption which has helped and inspired me in writing Before I Was Yours.


The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

Not strictly on my bedside: I bought if for my husband and then borrowed it before he had the chance to read it…One of those gifts:). I Alain de Botton interviewed about how he tries, in this novel – which, as always with de Botton, straddles the fiction-non-fiction divide – to take an honest look at love and romance. I fear he might prick some bubbles in the heart of this hopeless romantic.


Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell

A gift from Hugh (he’s a more genuine gift buyer – he doesn’t steal my books, or not until I’ve read them anyway…). He bought me Eleanor & Park when he was on interview in America and I swallowed it whole so he went straight out and bought me this one too. I haven’t started it yet but I can’t wait.


Mindfulness and Creativity by Dr Danny Penman

I took a mindfulness course back in the autumn and learnt so much about how my mind, heart and body work and how this affects every aspect of my life, including my creativity. The book we were asked to read was the prequel to this one: Mindfulness by Danny Penman and G.Mark J. Williams. I immediately contacted Danny to ask him about the relationship between mindfulness and creativity and he told me he’d just written a book on it – and sent me a copy! One of those wonderfully serendipitous moments. I hope to interview Danny soon, so watch this space.

Calm Parents, Happy Kids by Lauren Markham

A recommendation from my optician as the one book to read on how to handle tricky toddlers. It’s an alternative to the Super Nanny naughty step approach and focuses, instead, on what’s happening in the mind and heart of a little boy or girl when they behave in ways that we find difficult. It’s all about understanding and diffusing. I’ve only read a few chapters so far but I’m hoping it might help me be a better mum to Tennessee:). And as a novelist, I’m fascinated by the parent-child dynamic, so I’m sure it will inspire my fiction too!


On The Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

The editor of my adult fiction, Manpreet Grewal from Sphere of Little, Brown, sent me an advance reader copy of this novel signed by Carrie Hope Fletcher. Carrie is an infectiously enthusiastic and authentic human being and that energy definitely comes through in this quirky, modern fable about the afterlife.