Souvenir by Rolf Potts

Reviewed by Liz Dexter This book is part of the Object Lessons series, which exists to highlight the hidden lives of ordinary things. This one is about travel souvenirs brought home by fairly standard people; other volumes consider, for example, rust, dust, traffic and luggage. If they’re anything like Souvenir, they’re a series to rush…

Rex V. Edith Thompson: A Tale of Two Murders by Laura Thompson

Reviewed by Karen Langley The Thompson-Bywaters murder case (also known as “The Ilford Murder”) is notorious, but I think most of my previous knowledge of it comes from two sources: F. Tennyson Jesse’s magisterial fictional reworking of the story in A Pin to see the Peepshow; and reading about his journalistic dealings with the case…

Rosie: Scenes from a Vanished Life by Rose Tremain

Reviewed by Harriet I’m a huge admirer of Rose Tremain’s brilliant novels, and very fond of childhood memoirs as a genre, so this one was a must for me. It’s the story of growing up in a world that might seem comfortable and privileged, but one with many uncomfortable spikes under its apparently smooth surface.…

The Vintage Shetland Project by Susan Crawford 

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton The Vintage Shetland Project has had quite a journey into print, one that I’ve followed with interest for the last 3 years from when I first heard about it and subscribed to the crowd funding campaign to get it published. It was 2015, I’d finally given in to the idea of…

How Shostakovich Changed My Mind by Stephen Johnson

Reviewed by Karen Langley Readers of Shiny New Books will know of my love for Notting Hill Editions books; I’ve reviewed their Beautiful and Impossible Things and The Russian Soul volumes, and so the promise of a new book covering the impact of Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich’s music on author Stephen Johnson was impossible to resist.…

To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel Already shortlisted last year for the Baillie Gifford and Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prizes, Mark O’Connell’s book, now available in paperback, has also been shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2018, which will be announced at the end of the month. This prize celebrates, ‘the many ways in which literature can…

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton What She Ate looks at ‘six remarkable women and the food that tells their stories’. It comes at a time when food-centred biographies, or food books that frame themselves around biography are common, but as Shapiro points out in her introduction this is a relatively recent development. She began writing about women…

Diary of a Bipolar Explorer by Lucy Newlyn

Reviewed by Jean Morris This book is both useful and beautiful. Lucy Newlyn, recently retired Oxford professor of English literature, author of a lovely book, among others, about Dorothy and William Wordsworth (reviewed here at SNB by Harriet) and poet with two collections to her name (Ginnel, Carcanet, 2005, and Earth’s Almanac, Enitharmon, 2015), has…

A Chill in the Air by Iris Origo

Reviewed by Terence Jagger This is a fascinating book, written during the year or so preceding Italy’s entry in to the 1939-45 war, when whether she would join – and even in some people’s minds, on what side she would join – were open questions. Iris Origo was a young woman at the time, an…

Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth Here’s a confession: I am envious of Zadie Smith.This is not only a case of casual, low-level, everyday envy, the kind you might feel over someone’s new wardrobe, but a full-blown envy that warrants its place among the seven deadly sins. I may be risking victim blaming here – if the…

Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry

Reviewed by Terence Jagger Japan suffers multitudes of earthquakes every year and is among the best prepared countries in the world. Tsunami, too, are common, and both are planned for meticulously. But March 2011 was different. This is a staggering book, intensely moving, and a wonderfully penetrating insight into modern Japan, both its resilience and…

Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan

Reviewed by Liz Dexter This is a truly delightful book which is a MUST if you’re a 35-55 year old British person and a great read for everyone else, too. Enjoy a lovely journey through children’s books as Mangan takes you through her reading childhood from The Very Hungry Caterpillar to Judy Blume, with stops…

The Good Mothers by Alex Perry

Reviewed by Max Dunbar Operation Shame Nowadays, when we think of the mafia, it’s with a sense of nostalgia. David Chase captured the feel in classic mob drama The Sopranos. New Jersey don Tony Soprano is very much the modern crime boss. He’s real and frightening, the threat he poses is palpable, but his finances…

Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story by Lulah Ellender

Reviewed by Gill Davies Lulah Ellender’s book – subtitled “A Family Story” – is part biography, part family history, and it includes reflections on her own family which gradually emerge from the broader narrative. At its centre is the life and early death of her grandmother, Elisabeth Knatchbull-Hugessen, who was born in 1915 into an upper-middle-class English…

Solo: The Joy of Cooking for One by Signe Johansen

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton When I look at my collection of cookbooks it’s clear that there’s one truth that isn’t being universally acknowledged; they’re all geared towards cooking for family and friends despite the growing number of people who live alone. Despite spending most of my time cooking only for myself, I hadn’t given it…

Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington

Review by Peter Reason Miriam Darlington’s first book, Otter Country, recounted her search and study of otters in Britain. I reviewed this book with enthusiasm in Resurgence & Ecologist, noting in particular how she described startlingly close encounters with otters with a vividness that took me deeply into the experience. So I opened her second…