Letter From Birmingham Jail – by Martin Luther King, Jr

5 10 2018

I picked this up last Saturday having seen it for £1 (It’s only 51 pages), and having had a couple of friends recommend it previously.

The book comes in two parts – firstly, a letter MLK wrote from his prison cell to eight white clergymen regarding whether the racial segregation debate should be in the courts or the streets. The second half is a sermon he preached in 1967 called “The three dimensions of a complete life” – inward for ourselves, outward for others, and up for God.

I was worried that although it was short, it might be a bit hard to read, but because one is a letter and one a transcript of a sermon, the style is quite easy to get through. When reading the sermon, you can almost hear him at times.

Some wonderful quotes that you’ve probably heard before (though I’m not sure they’re all originally his!) pop up in this book – here are a few:

  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • “The question is not where we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?””
  • “Right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
  • “The good Samaritan came by and he reversed the question Not ‘What will happen to me if I stop to help this man?’ but ‘What will happen to this man if I do not stop to help him?'”
  • “I do not know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future.”

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Boy, Tales of Childhood – by Roald Dahl

1 10 2018

I read a lot of Roald Dahl’s fiction in 2016, but never got round to Boy or Going Solo. After it popped up in conversation a couple of times lately, I thought it was about time I gave this a go.

He states that it is not an autobiography, but I’m not quite sure why given that that is exactly how I’d describe it! Dahl’s parents were Norwegian though he was born and raised in Wales. The book covers his childhood and teenage years at home and boarding school, up until the age of 20. (When I presume Going Solo must pick up the story).

When he was at boarding school he regularly wrote home to his mother, and she kept everything she ever sent – so in a rather sweet addition, all the writing in the boarding school chapters is interspersed with images of handwritten letters from those times.

It’s funny as you read it, you can see the inspiration for some of his characters and stories as he talks. There was a lady who I’m sure has part of Mrs Twit about her, and then when at school the boys were each sent boxes of chocolate bars to test for Cadbury, which is when he first started thinking about the idea of “inventing rooms” in chocolate factories.

It’s really just a collection of stories from home and school (including an awful incident when he nearly lost his entire nose!), but told in such a warm and I guess child-friendly way. As a Roald Dahl fan I’d definitely recommend this as a way to get to know him better!





Why I Follow Jesus – by Adrian Plass

24 09 2018

After the last book I felt I needed something a little more edifying – and fairly short to help with my reading target for the year… this had been packed for holiday with the other Adrian Plass book so it was still near the top of the pile, and seemed like a good choice!

Definitely more serious than his Sacred Diary, but still with a handful of entertaining anecdotes, this looks beyond the core reason many of us follow Jesus (His death and resurrection to save us from an eternity of separation from God), and at some of the other reasons he continues.

Each chapter title starts with “I follow Jesus because”, and continue with all sorts of things including, “He’s so good at Judo”, “He’s interested in the heart of worship rather than the form”, “He offers hope for the future” and “you’re allowed to even if you’re useless with practical problems, general technology and especially computers.” So you can tell it’s a bit of a mixture of the light and heavy – always light enough to read but heavy enough to make a point.

I will leave you with one of the lighter parts – the “Post Office Queue Game”:

“When the people in front of me in the queue moved forward a yard or so, I pretended not to notice because I was so absorbed by a notice on the wall. There was a lull in the dialogue behind me. I sensed the minor frustration of these two ladies as they willed me to move into the space that had been created, thus allowing them to move forward as well I waited until the queue in front of me had progressed yet another pace before appearing to notice for the first time that a gap had opened up. Then i moved on at last – but only about 12 inches. At this, billowing waves of annoyance began to wash over me from behind. Why hadn’t I moved right up behind the people in front of me, leaving room for the rest of the queue to do the same? I sense that a major component of this frustration was the awareness that no logical complaint was justified because we would all be serve at exactly the same time, regardless of gaps in the queue.”





How to be a Woman – by Caitlin Moran

16 09 2018

I’ve always enjoyed following Caitlin Moran on Twitter so I picked this up in a charity shop to try out. Essentially it’s her autobiography from puberty onwards, crossed with a book about Feminism.

She writes in a way that’s very easy to read, she’s fun and chatty, though some of her descriptions of puberty got a little graphic in places!

That said, I really disagree with a good chunk of what she’s trying to say – I’m not anti-feminist as such, but on specific topics like abortion and porn, I definitely disagreed.

I’m not looking to start a whole debate on here, but just to pick up on one point – in her chapter on abortion she says the following:

“I cannot understand anti-abortion arguments that centre on the sanctity of life. As a species, we’ve fairly comprehensively demonstrated that we don’t believe in the sanctity of life. The shrugging acceptance of war, famine, epidemic, pain and life-long grinding poverty show us that, whatever we tell ourselves, we’ve made only the most feeble of efforts to really treat human life as sacred.”

That just makes no sense to me – yes we don’t deal with some of those things as we should, but we agree that they’re wrong and bad. They’re all things I’m against, this argument doesn’t line up at all.

Definitely an interesting read to get you thinking, but not one that has earned a permanent spot on my bookshelf.





The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass (aged 37 3/4) – by Adrian Plass

1 09 2018

I’ve been an Adrian Plass fan for a long time, so to have not read possibly his most famous book, seemed ridiculous!

This book is so much fun, I laughed out loud so many times, but it has points to make too. It’s essentially a fictional diary which pokes fun at the things we do in church that are just a little bit odd, while maintaining respect for the things that are important.

I’d recommend this book to every Christian out there for when you need some light relief – at only 156 pages, it’s a very quick and easy read!





The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak

22 08 2018

I nearly gave up on this during the first 100 pages, but it was so worth persevering!

The narrator of the book is Death, and that’s what made the beginning so strange, I got into it once it settled into a more normal narrative, with Death’s thoughts and opinions just popping up from time to time.

We’re in Germany during WW2, Liesel arrives at the home of her new foster parents who are in one of the poorest areas of town, she spends her time helping her Mama collect and deliver laundry, and playing (and a bit of stealing) with Rudy from next door. She’s known as The Book Thief because that’s what she does. For example, at one point there’s a Nazi rally in town, and a bonfire of all sorts of propaganda, but she realises the books at the bottom aren’t burning, so she sneaks in and takes one. At the start, she can’t read, and so with these books and help from her Papa, she learns, but it’s a habit she continues!

I won’t go any further as I don’t want to give spoilers but as I say, once it settled down I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it!





This Is Going To Hurt – by Adam Kay

24 07 2018

This book is many things: hilarious, revolting, moving, uplifting, motivating, to name but a few.

Adam used to be a Junior Doctor, and at a simple level, all this book is is a collection of his diary entries during that time. But really what this book shows is the state of the NHS. I truly love the NHS, but I also truly hate the state they’ve found themselves in thanks to the government.

This isn’t Casualty, Scrubs or Greys Anatomy, but a realistic look at what life is like for the first years after med school – the lack of sleep, the low pay, the pressure, the lack of social life, the damage to relationships, but also occasionally showing us some joy.

The writing style is light and humourous mostly, since leaving the NHS Adam now writes for TV so it’s clearly a gifting of his, and it’s so easy to read an enjoyable. I read it in 5 days!

His speciality was in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and it gets really gross in some places. What was really well thought through though was all the little footnotes explaining what different conditions, procedures or measurements all mean in laymens terms, so I felt like I learnt a little too!

I’d love everyone in the UK to read this book, so that next time we see a doctor having a bad day, we leave our frustrations to the system, and not the human in front of us who is doing the best they can with what they have.