Friday, 24 June 2016

Guest Post by Anna Caig

By day, Anna Caig manages the media relations team at Sheffield City Council, walks up hills in the Hope Valley and takes care of her two amazing and very cheeky children. But by night, she loses herself in the world of reading, and writing about reading, that is Murder Underground Broke The Camel's Back, her beloved book review blog.

 How Murder Underground Broke The Camel's Back

In March 2015 I visited the amazing Salts Mill bookshop in Saltaire, and bought Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay. It looked fantastic, so up my street it is untrue.

But I took it home, and it joined a shelf of ‘to read’ books. Which was just one of many shelves of 'to read' books.

I have a house full of books. Bookshelves in nearly every room, crammed with hundreds and hundreds of books, some of which I have read and loved (and would happily read again), and many of which I have never read but thoroughly intend to (in some cases I have been thoroughly intending for up to 20 years, yes 20). Books that I read and wouldn’t read again, I give to a charity shop. But in my last ‘really ruthless’ clear out, I managed to get rid of six.

But still I was buying more. And more.

I realised that day that it had to stop. Murder Underground broke the camel's back. I resolved to read the books on my shelves, and only the books on my shelves. And my beloved blog was born.

The original plan for the blog was to give focus and structure to my attempt to read the house dry, and to provide an incentive to keep to my self-imposed book buying ban. I review each book I read with a non-spoilery post not just on its contents, but also any musings it provokes.

But over the past 14 months or so, my blog has become much more than this. It is a celebration of one of the most enriching parts of my life. An exploration of the many ways that the books I read impact on the life I live. In just one year, I reduced the amount of meat I eat; I gave to different charities; I survived a mini mid-life crisis; I lost some of my greatest heroes, but reflected on and reaffirmed the best of what they taught me; I laughed my head off, and cried several rivers. All as a result, direct or indirect, of reading these books.

And… have I kept to the vow? Well, the answer to that is of course is a big resounding no.

But I have only bought 6 books in the last 14 months (although I have borrowed many more than that), and I have made inroads into the 'to read' pile for the first time in many years. By my conservative estimate, I will have read everything in my house in 16 years' time! Not too bad.

Rae has asked me to chose the five top reads of the blog so far. Which is spectacularly hard, as I have read some absolute crackers. But these are my recommendations for you.

Possibly cheating as this a trilogy, but these are the books that I was reading when I started the blog. All three are incredible, and the final installment, Monsters Of Men, is a rollercoaster of constant action bringing it all to a spectacular conclusion.

An absolute no-brainer. This is my favourite book of all time, ever. I reread this in January when I took my daughter to Haworth for the first time, and as always I got something new from it.

I feel like I should have a claxon to sound when I read a book this fantastic by a new (to me) writer. There is a huge amount going on in Boy, Snow, Bird. Oyeyemi’s writing is so good that she can take on huge themes, and make them feel entirely personal and encapsulated in her quite frankly outstanding characters and their experiences.

Yes, I loved Go Set A Watchman. I know not everyone felt the same, but I absolutely loved it. More than anything though, I loved the event that the publishing of this book became: it was shocking; it was exciting; it was controversial; it was emotional. It was a giant kick in the teeth for anyone who says the book is a dying medium.

This book is wonderful. It feels like this generation’s A Christmas Carol, even dare I say it this generation’s nativity story. It is at once bang up to date and incisively political, whilst also feeling utterly timeless.

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