Sunday Shelf, Vol. 4

Three Recent Reads

Something I did a whole lot of in lockdown, not surprisingly, was reading. There were plenty of times when I needed an escape from the stressful scenario we found ourselves in (arguably, that we haven’t left yet!) and my crammed bookshelves were the ideal respite. So for this Sunday Shelf, I thought I’d do a bit of a highlights reel of what I’ve been reading of late. I’ll warn you now, they’re three entirely unrelated choices and may appear an eclectic mix!

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse ~ Charlie Mackesy

This book was bought for me by the parent of a child I taught in my NQT class. It already held a special place in my heart for that reason alone, but once I sat and read it (in a single sitting, on the evening I received it) it became clear that place was well-earned. This book is a masterpiece, and I don’t throw that word around lightly!

You’ve probably seen pages from this book being shared around on social media – if not, then you’re missing out on a treat. The book tells a simple story of (unsurprisingly) a boy, a mole, a fox and horse. Each one needs the others for different reasons, but the important thing is that they are all needed and all important. The message the book sends out is a peaceful one, that the reader too is important and needed. Though the snippets of life advice are directed to the characters in the book, you feel drawn in and as though they are speaking directly to you.

It’s a hug in a book, for children and for adults because there are different layers of understanding to the profound lines in the book. (If you’re feeling in any way emotional before reading, bring tissues – I should have!)

“I’m so small,” said the mole.

“Yes,” said the boy, “but you make a huge difference.”

Charlie Mackesy – The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

All The Bright Places ~ Jennifer Niven

This book has recently been released as a Netflix film, so if the title seems familiar, you may have scrolled past it (or even watched it, it’s a quite faithful adaptation that adds rather than takes away from the original story.)

Everything about this book is wonderful. It came under scrutiny when it was released, and has been criticised again since, for its portrayal of mental illness (as someone who lives with mental illness and has struggled with grief, another major theme of this book, I’m not in agreement with the criticism at all.) The line on the cover is a succinct but accurate summary: The story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die.

I enjoyed this book for its attention to detail: the intricacies of grief, the fantastic character development for Violet (the female protagonist) and the minutiae of Finch’s struggle with his mental illness. Another tissue warning, and potentially a trigger warning, but I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It’s a star of the Young Adult Lit scene, and not without good reason.

Secret Service ~ Tom Bradby

This was an off-piste choice for me – I don’t do thrillers, I don’t do spies, I don’t do politics!

What I do do, is recognising names on covers and thinking I’ll try it because I recognise the author… I bought this not long after watching Bradby’s ITV documentary with Harry and Meghan, appreciating his apparent decency in his journalistic role.

And I wasn’t disappointed by the book in the least. It’s intelligent, sharp and extremely current. It was clear while reading that Bradby’s experience in the newsroom had a large input to the novel, as he knew what he was talking about with all the political processes that were the undercurrent of the whole book.

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