SWFT Wellbeing Reading Group’s book reviews and recommendations

This wasn’t technically a Christmas present, but it was something one of our readers acquired in December. It is the story of three characters, Opaline, Martha, and Henry and how their lives are tangled up in the secrets of a mysterious vanishing bookshop.

One of our readers, who is also a member of the GEH Wellbeing Reading Group, re-recommended the book they had been reading – a biography of Shane MacGowan, the late lead singer of The Pogues. The book is fascinating, and shows what a multifaceted person he was – reading James Joyce as a ten year old, and being influenced by him throughout his life (the Pogue’s original name came from Joyce’s Ulysses).

Dark Matter was a Christmas present for one of our group who has a science background. The book explains the the delicate ecosystem of gut bacteria (microbiomes), and their influence and effect on a range of health conditions. The book is very engaging and accessible for non scientific minds.

The Long Shadow by Celia Fremlin was a gift to one of our readers. Written in 1976, this classic novel enthralled our reader as they weren’t sure where the plot was going but found that they were getting emotionally involved. Described as a nightmare Christmas holiday, our member said that they barely noticed that it was a Christmas book or murder mystery as they were so caught up in people’s relationships.

Although not a Christmas book, one of our group members with an interest in theatre has recently been involved in the play The Welkin by Lucy Kirkwood. The play revolves around a woman sentenced to hang for murder. She tells the jury of 12 women that she is pregnant, but is she just trying to stop them hanging her?

Neil Gaiman was the reason that one of our book group bought this book, as his comment on the front cover read: “Unfortunately I have lost the book in question.”

With eccentric colleagues, random book collectors, and a ghost (maybe), this factual (allegedly) description of life in the antiquarian book world makes great reading for anyone interested in books or just want to read something a bit quirky.

Spending Christmas vouchers enabled one of our readers to purchase Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell. Admittedly part of the reader’s attraction to this hardback novel were the beautifully decorated sprayed edges (the phrase ”don’t judge a book by its cover’ is not something this particular reader adheres to).

This magical story with its descriptions of mythical fantasy creatures was fascinating, and the plot transported you to a magical hidden world. Thoroughly recommended. The bonus short story at the end was a read-out-loud delight.

This book choice was a bit of a change in mood for the group as it looked at the big picture from the past to the modern day.

One of the authors was previously the head of the CIA, the other is a historian. They have worked together to create this contemporary history of war, although our reader noted that they have different writing styles, with one heavily reliant on footnotes! The book was described as fascinating and interesting to read.

“Some men fight for glory. Others fight for coin. The Essex Dogs? They fight for each other.”

Set during the 100 Years War, with King Edward and his armies marching through France, this is a tale of medieval warfare and of camaraderie. The Essex Dogs are a tight knit group of ten men, individuals who will fight to keep each other alive, and will fight to see their homeland again. This enthralling book takes you from the beaches at Normandy to the Battle of Crécy. Highly immersive and historically accurate, this is the 15th century with a contemporary feel.