Books I loved in November

I read 16 books in November and that is nearly back to the level of reading I did pre-pandemic. And I don’t think it is a coincidence that I read more in November because weirdly this second lockdown had a more of a routine feel to me than any of the months before. Maybe it’s because Covid has become normal and I have created new routines that I manage to feel a bit more me.

This year has taught me that I am a very routine-driven person. I need to know what happens when and how and, yes, I can be flexible and stuff, but only within that framework. Take my framework away and I flail big time.

I am not going to talk about all 16 books but just those that were highlights, however, there were many, so let’s get going.

How to Live Korean by Soo Kim

I am still (and probably will for decades to come) get every book by a Korean author. Once I am obsessed, I am obsessed. The book pretty much does what is stays on the cover, it deals with all aspects of Korean life such as traditions, family, food, culture. I knew a lot of it, but there were still a few things in there that I had not heard before. Naturally, this kind of book is just a general type of overview, never make the mistake of looking at any place or country as a homogeneous entity. If you are interested in Korea and don’t know where to begin, this is definitely a good start.

Death and the Brewery Queen by Frances Brody

To think that I almost did not read on after reading the first book in the series! I love this series so much and look forward to every new installment. Set in Yorkshire in the late 1920ies, Kate Shackleton investigates crimes of any nature for her clients, such as possible fraud, threats etc. So much of historical mystery writing is focussed on London, let me tell you, it’s fab when there is a series that is set somewhere other than the capital. My love for mysteries will never stop (see above with regards to obsessions).

The Biscuit by Lizzie Collingham

This is my 3rd book by Lizzie Collingham and I have no regrets whatsoever. I do love a good social history book and especially “food and history” is my favourite combination. Lizzie Collingham takes us through the ages with the help of biscuits and let me tell you: it’s fascinating.

Antlers of Water by Kathleen Jamie

Nature writing has been a favourite of mine for a long time and Scotland is a particular love of mine, so a combination of the two will always end up on my TBR. Canongate kindly sent me a copy and I devoured it in a few sittings. I love books that stretch the definition of nature writing and I hope we see a lot more. Not all of us can wander “wild, remote places” but we are all beings in surroundings and to write about it is nature writing. We are nature, all of us and I love this collection – beyond the wonderful writing – for allowing voices to emerge that take that into consideration.

A Little Annihilation by Anna Janko

Anna Janko’s mother witnessed the murder of her parents, her entire community at the hands of German soldiers in their Polish village. Now that Janko’s mother is starting to forget, Anna Janko is remembering for both of them. She talks about the inherited trauma, the forgetting of history, the ranking of horrors and what is remembered and what is not remembered. An important book, a difficult read, but I am grateful to my Read Around the World people for voting for this book, as I am not sure I would have picked it up otherwise.

Poor by Caleb Femi

Best poetry collection I read this year and also, let me mention the amazing photography within the collection. Themes centering around growing up on a London estate and all growing up entails: Love, friendship, pain, grief. Loved it.

Shame on Me by Tessa McWatt

If you have known me for a while you will know that books about belonging are something I will always choose. And for Tessa McWatt belonging has always been a difficult question considering her multi-racial background. I loved how she explored her own belonging through parts of her body in a conversation with herself and her ancestors. The writing is so beautiful, her search for answers to her own questions often very painful but also so deeply insightful. There are so many sentences that keep spinning in my head like this one:

“I hold on to the image of my Indian ancestor squatting not because I don’t trust the science of DNA, but because it doesn’t account for all the songs or symphonies we are, or for literature, or for out of body experiences, for my father in the birds, my mother’s awe of the trees, for the perfection of being in the right life, the right body.”

Tessa McWatt

Give the Devil his Due by Sulari Gentill

Book 7 in one of my favourite mystery series, set in 1930s Australia. I love how Gentill weaves together actual historical figures and events with her mystery plots… so seemingly effortless, so brilliant. I have learnt so much about Australian history, social issues and the viewpoints of what was going on in Europe at the time through this series. And yet it never once feels like an information dump, no they are just brilliantly plotted novels. Every single one of them.

Not like a Native Speaker by Rey Chow

Academic essays about the impact of colonialism and post-colonialism on language. If you are interested in language, then this is a must read.


Underland by Robert Macfarlane


I was wary of Underland at the beginning, as I normally reach for Macfarlane’s books when I cannot go exploring myself. Sort of a stand in adventure while bound to my desk for work or asthma keeping my indoors in winter. How would it work reading about him exploring terrain that I have absolutely no interest in exploring myself? Would I love it or would I be detached and disinterested?

Right from the beginning, I was greeted by the high level of writing. It is a bit like meeting up with an old friend, you sit down and pick up where you left off, even when it has been years. The writing is sublime. And the introduction to the Underlands is gentle, sharing his fascination, his motives for writing, he slowly guides us into the book. I loved visiting underground spaces in this way without the need for myself to get uncomfortable, wet or in a dangerous situation. Armchair travelling at its best.

Not all journeys take you literally underground, some are just left you wondering what’s underfoot and I certainly took that with me on my walks last week on holiday in Scotland. Oddly, I thought most about his words after climbing the hill to an old Iron Age Hillfort, pondering what lay beneath me and what memories the stones held that I was standing on. I don’t think, I ever really gave that much thought to what is under my feet than that what lies before my eyes when out walking. And quite frankly that change in perspective was refreshing.

It also got me thinking about my own place in the world, what legacy I will leave behind. What impact I can have to safeguard, to protect and to pass on. And this is where the real strength of any good book comes from: The moment you put it down, it still occupies your thoughts, you carry its wisdom with you and phrases pop into your head when you are doing other things.

Certainly a book for me that I will revisit over and over again, preferably reading out passages to my husband, because the writing is just so wonderful. And we shall keep going out and find beauty and be still.

Underland by Robert Macfarlane
Hardcover, 280 pages
Expected publication: May 2nd 2019 by Hamish Hamilton