I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

Reviewed by Harriet I’ve always admired Maggie O’Farrell’s fiction, and greatly loved her most recent novel, This Must Be the Place, which I reviewed on Shiny last year. I didn’t know much about her personal life, though, so I seized on this recently published autobiographical work hoping to fill in the blanks. Well, let me…

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Reviewed by Simon Thomas Many book lovers have fantasies about what it would be like to work in a bookshop – perhaps particularly a secondhand bookshop. There is an aura of nostalgia, romance, and indulgence put together by the picture. How could it be otherwise, surrounded by books all day long? Now, I happen not…

Admissions by Henry Marsh

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster Brain surgeon Henry Marsh’s first book, Do No Harm, was one of my favorite reads of 2015. In short, enthrallingly detailed chapters named after conditions he had treated or observed, he reflected on life as a surgeon, expressing sorrow over botched operations and marveling at the God-like power he wields over people’s quality of…

Theft by finding david sedaris

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster I’ve read six of David Sedaris’s humorous collections of personal essays. A college friend first recommended him to me in 2011, and I started with When You Are Engulfed in Flames – which I still think is his best book, though Me Talk Pretty One Day is also very good. Sedaris…

The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jocker

Reviewed by Annabel Imagine that you train a computer to read and analyse books, input a mix of hundreds and ask it to predict which books are most likely to be bestsellers, and amongst the results, it gives one book a 100% score. Well in essence, that’s what this book is about and, no, I’m…

Secret Sisterhood Midorikawa Sweeney

A Secret Sisterhood by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney

Reviewed by Harriet The subtitle of this book is ‘The hidden friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf’, which sounds very promising. I’ll start by saying that I found some of the sections worked better than others, but that might have been a matter of how well-informed I was to start with. Overall, though, this…

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards

Reviewed by Harriet Here at Shiny we love our classic crime, and we have been delighted to review a number of excellent novels that have recently made available through the British Library’s Crime Classics series. The editor of the series is of course the indefatigable Martin Edwards, who also manages to be a bestselling author,…

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Reviewed by Harriet If you’re a watcher of historical TV documentaries, you won’t need introducing to Lucy Worsley, who presents history programmes for the BBC, in which she often dresses up in the costumes of the period. She’s also produced a number of popular history books, frequently tied in to the series she’s been presenting.…

Rewild nick baker

ReWild: The Art of Returning to Nature by Nick Baker

Reviewed by Liz Dexter Nick Baker is a well-known naturalist, writer and broadcaster, whose work here, described by the publisher as a memoir of sorts’ but really very different from a memoir, aims to help the curious and well-intentioned person who is keen to get closer to nature but is not sure how to do…

No Cunning Plan: My Story by Tony Robinson (pbk)

Reviewed by Laura Marriott Like many people I first came to know Tony Robinson through his role as Baldrick on Blackadder, before following him as he helmed Time Team. This autobiography, though, shows that there is so much more to Robinson than that. Starting out as a child actor he has led an exceptional life,…

The Santiago Pilgrimage by Jean-Christophe Rufin

Translated by Malcolm Imrie and Martina Dervis Reviewed by Terence Jagger Monsieur Rufin is an impressive man, having founded Médecins sans Frontières, been an ambassador for France in Senegal, written extensively in various genres, winning the Prix Goncourt, and was one of the youngest ever members of the Académie Française. I reviewed a novel of…

Aphra Behn: A Secret Life by Janet Todd

Reviewed by Harriet ‘Aphra Behn was a woman who wore masks’. So says Janet Todd at the beginning of this monumental, newly revised biography of Behn, who was a prolific dramatist, poet, novelist and translator, and ‘the first English woman to earn her living solely by her pen’. Born sometime between 1637 and 1643 (though…

Deaths of the Poets by Paul Farley and Michael Simmons Roberts

Reviewed by Harriet The deaths of poets matter to us because they become a lens through which to look at the poems. So say the authors, both poets themselves, in this satisfying, thought-provoking book about – well, about the deaths of poets. It’s structured as a series of journeys the two of them made, in…

Holly Madison: The Vegas Diaries (pbk)

Romance, Rolling the Dice, and the Road to Reinvention Review by Laura Marriott Holly Madison is best known for her seven years at the Playboy Mansion and for her position as Hugh Hefner’s ‘Number One’ girlfriend. With The Vegas Diaries, the second instalment of her autobiography, she sets out to change perceptions of herself and…

The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington by Joanna Moorhead

Reviewed by Karen Langley This year is the centenary of the birth of author and artist Leonora Carrington, and we’re being treated to a wonderful array of issues and reissues to celebrate that fact. However, Carrington has often spent years out of the limelight quietly plying her trade, and it’s only because of the determination…