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A fresh start

Happy new year! Here's hoping for better times in 2022...

One thing we can be sure about in the coming twelve months is that there'll be many more great new books released for us to read!

Of course, 'so many books, so little time' is a common refrain. And how to choose what book to read next...

I've mentioned before that when I first started working, I found that I wasn't reading at all so set myself a challenge to finish a certain number of books a year. I think it must have been one a month to start with, but then it soon turned to one a week. And now I'm reading a few times that number - 126 in 2021.

I like to think I read fairly widely in research for my journalism, preparation for author visits, and for reviews and recommendations, as well as just plain interest and curiosity. It means, though, that these days I hardly ever read any literary classics or poetry.

In the blog compiled for Pan Macmillan, we are encouraged to set out our own reading challenge this year, trying books we might otherwise overlook. There are some interesting suggestions: travel the world; prize winners and losers; a poem a day/week/month; overcome prejudices and dip into an unfamiliar genre. 

Meanwhile the Agatha Christie website has its own challenge for 2022 with twelve prompts to pick up a different Christie novel each month. You can sign up for a postcard which will suggest, for example, that you start reading one of her books set in a hot climate, or one featuring train travel or a story she wrote while abroad.

And one blogger I discovered has set herself the task of reading as many books as she can this year, putting a pound in a jar for every title she completes. At the end of the year she will give the total to charity. 

Lots of ways we can shake up our habits, but however you make your selections, I hope you enjoy your reading in the coming year.

Diego Rivera
by Francisco De La Mora
Illustrated by Jose Luis Pescador

I've not been one for graphic novels, as a rule, but was prompted to take a look at a few of the creative releases in the past year. I was particularly taken by this title from the publisher Self Made Hero, about the artist Diego Rivera.
Rivera is probably best known today for having been the husband of the artist Frida Kahlo. Her life was brilliantly presented in the film 'Frida', which first fired up my interest in her life and work. She said of Rivera's influence on her: 'There have been two great accidents in my life...Diego was by far the worst.'

Not the greatest endorsement.

This book tells the story of Diego in his relationship with Frida but much more. It is grim in parts - he wasn't a particularly nice man. But it's also fascinating and enlightening.

Every page is rich and heavy with illustration sometimes like cartoons, sometimes beautiful and intricate, always in keeping with the characters whose lives and works are being represented.

Rivera’s murals, in his native Mexico and the USA, were commissioned by people such as Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller, but his associates included Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky. His extensive artistic output was matched with his 'zest for life' accumulating hundreds of lovers and four wives – including Frida Kahlo, whose partnership is considered one of the great love stories of art history.

This is a powerful and mesmerising book which provides an excellent way in to the turbulent life and times of this artist.

For recommended non-fiction titles, take a look here.
Breaking news
by Nick Sheridan

This may be aimed at 8-12-year-olds but I think we could all do with a few tips and reminders on deciphering the messages we're receiving in the various media sources today.

The chapters comprise fun, lively text with illustrations, and a few tasks and challenges along the way to check you're picking up the advice.

We have extraordinary access to the news today through TV and radio, newspapers, magazines and billboards, and of course all the different avenues in social media. We are being fed information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but with more and more news available, it’s hard to know what to trust.

Where do stories come from? What’s real news and what’s fake? And what role does social media play in all of this?

This dynamic, entertaining and informative new book encourages young people to interrogate the stories they read. And it gives them tips on how to write articles themselves. The key questions still stand - what, when, where, who, why, how. There are all the basic details of what is needed to be a reporter as well as a consumer of the news today.

It's a book which keeps you turning the pages but is also a great guide for the all important reminders on how to assess the stories we're being fed. A book to keep close by in these challenging times!

Read about more recommended children's books here.

Browsers Bookshop Book Group

Monday 31 January 8pm
talking about...

Small Pleasures
by Clare Chambers

Compared to the writing of Barbara Pym or Anita Brookner, this is the story of a local reporter in 1950s east London who has been sent to discover the truth behind a rather unusual revelation. Miracle or fraud, the investigation threatens to turn Jean's  life inside out. What will we make of it?

Buy your copy from Browsers Bookshop at the book group discount. There'll be details about how to join in the discussion nearer the time. 
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VISIT MY WEBSITES for details of my journalism and an archive of my published articles, past and present. on books and authors with recommendations, reviews, conversations, broadcasts and events.
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