Running Free: A Runner's Journey Back to Nature (Richard Askwith)
This book sat on my shelf for a good while as the opening chapter irritated me and I couldn't get past it. I thought it was going to be all 'isn't it terrible that people wear GPS watches', and I quite like my GPS watch, and didn't want to feel told off. However, I'm glad I got past that as the rest of the book was actually quite charmingly enthusiastic about running in fields and listening to the birds. Made me want to run a bit more.
Purple Hibiscus (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
I found this via a friend, who suggested this Ted Talk about the dangers of telling a single story about a place and the people who live there (for example 'Africa = famine'). Do go and listen to it. I took on board what the speaker said, and decided to start with her own first novel, and got her second out of the library at the same time as I know what I'm like for finding an author and reading everything they've ever written. This is an evocative story of a young Nigerian girl who ends up living in her aunt's house, much poorer but free from her abusive father. In places it's quite disturbing, but overall positive. This is the book she refers to in the talk, which someone told her wasn't 'authentically African'.
Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
This is the author's second, much more involved novel, and tells the story of the outbreak of war in Nigeria in the late 1960s. This is a place and period of history I knew nothing about, and I always learn about historical events better through novels and the stories of individual people. This gives a vivid picture of the lives of people both before and during the war and the famine that followed. Highly recommended.
Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters (Laura Thompson)
I don't quite know how I ended up with this book, which is a brief biography of the six upper class Mitford sisters in the 1920s and beyond. Fascinating, disturbing, and rather odd.
The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year (Sue Townsend)
I'm still not sure what I thought of this. Rather daft, although I confess I identified with the desire to just stop doing things and take to my bed at the start. Increasingly sad and disturbing (and quite ridiculous) towards the end.
Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (Maya Angelou)
This is the kind of book you can't really write until you get into your sixties I don't think - full of tales and advice and snippets of wisdom acquired over a long eventful life. I read the first volume of Maya Angelou's autobiography at school, and read the other six volumes since - but I've just discovered all manner of other things I didn't know about her in this wikipedia entry. Incidentally, she was good friends with one of the Mitford sisters.
Fruit of the Lemon (Andrea Levy)
Another holiday charity shop find, and continuing my theme of reading in detail about individual lives, whether real or fictional. This one is fictional, but is about a young woman being sent from London to Jamaica to learn about her family and background.
So a fairly random assortment, as usual. I'm not much of a literary critic... but it's proving interesting to keep track of what I'm reading over the months and it's making me more aware of finding new authors I think, and encouraging me to put aside more time to read, which can only be a good thing.