A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner, by Chris Atkins (Atlantic Books, 2020)

The prison diaries of a fraudster, focusing on an initial nine months in HMP Wandsworth. A privileged perspective as the author notes (a middle-class documentarian), but a vivid account nevertheless, evidencing the UK penal system as chronically underfunded, dysfunctional, and counter-productive towards rehabilitation. Darkly funny throughout, though more focus on the regime mechanics would have been interesting.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Put Your Ass [Where Your Heart Wants To Be], by Steven Pressfield (Sarsaparilla Media, 2022)

Another of Pressfield’s motivational books on creativity and overcoming barriers to getting work done, this time prioritising focus, place, and effort. The same but different: core messages from Pressfield’s other books are repeated, but the effect is cumulative. Plenty for those who think they’re struggling to be creative to reflect on.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Cervantes’s Don Quixote: A Graphic Novel, volume 1, by Rob Davies (Self Made Hero, 2011)

A delusional bibliophile believes himself to be a knight on a quest. Excellent graphic novel adaptation of the Cervantes classic (the first half here, with Volume 2 to follow). An emphasis on slapstick humour throughout, on the value of stories, and on there being no harm in following your dreams. Lots of fun, and great to look at too.

My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Hostage, by Guy DeLisle [trans. Helge Dascher] (Jonathan Cape, 2017)

An NGO administrator in Chechnya is kidnapped: he spends the next months cuffed to a radiator. Low-key biographic study (of Doctors Without Borders worker Christophe André) of resilience: effective, moving, and at times hypnotic in its study of rhythm, of being alone, and of working up to take the opportunities and relish the details that even the worst circumstances may bring. Recommended.

My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

In Praise of Walking, by Shane O’Mara (Vintage, 2020)

Why walking is good for you, and why we should all walk more. An interdisciplinary popular science approach is offered, linking health in both physical and mental terms, town planning, social interactions, and evolutionary theory. Basically, humans are built and socialized to walk – it’s a key distinction between homo sapiens and other animals – and so we should. Takes a little time to settle into its pace, but worth your perseverance. Recommended.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Walking: One Step At A Time, by Erling Kagge [trans. Becky L Crook] (Penguin, 2019)

Philosophical musings on walking, drawing on both personal experiences (both poles and Everest included) and wider literature. Maybe a touch whimsical for some readers, but nevertheless a useful first-hand perspective about how and why walking is necessary for being both human and centred.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

The Hungry Years: Confessions of a Food Addict, by William Leith (Bloomsbury, 2006)

A shambolic writer investigates the diet industry while facing up to his own issues. Funny in places and well-written in confident journalese, this kinda autobiography is as 00s as it gets, dated in some respects (a reliance on James Frey), padded at times, but is good on self-loathing. The secret? Therapy: food and other substance issues are linked to unresolved psychological problems, per this account.

My own books here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Quarantine Comix: A Memoir of Life in Lockdown, by Rachael Smith (Icon Books, 2021)

A diary of mental health and struggling to cope during the initial phase of the coronavirus, told in comic strips. An interesting personal record of the first half of 2020, with a focus on the ways that the pandemic fed into individual anxieties. Might have benefited from dates by the entries: documents like these will have value in the years to come, and it’d be useful to have that context to these responses.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Why We Eat (Too Much), by Dr Andrew Jenkinson (Penguin Books, 2020)

An overview on current thinking on diet and nutrition. A clear, comprehensive and accessible account of contemporary science related to diet, obesity, and weight control. As might be expected, there’s a lot of bad advice/science to overcome, and a radical rethinking of nutrition advice given made, so the Western obesity epidemic might be approached. Recommended.

My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Lowborn, by Kerry Hudson (Vintage, 2020)

A writer revisits her younger life and self. Excellent autobiographical exploration of how class, gender, substance abuse, poor mental health, homelessness, poverty and related issues may intersect and inform each other. Neither sentimental nor sensationalist, but clear and compassionate throughout. Plus, a Proustian moment (involving banana-flavoured vitamin drops) for me. Recommended.

My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.