Digging up Mother: A Love Story [AKA The Long Version of a Suicide Post-It Note: A Love Story], by Doug Stanhope (Da Capo Press, 2016)

The stand-up comic’s autobiography, focusing on his relationship with – and the death of – his mother. A million miles from the “dead dad” comedy trope of a few years back, this is a scabrous, honest, and funny account of Stanhope’s life, loves and borderline criminal experiences to date, and of the influence of his mum on his worldview. 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.

Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss (WH Allen, 2013)

An exploration of processed foods, in product formulation and marketing terms, and the health implications of reliance on prepackaged convenience eating. This US-centric discussion is detailed and clear on the ways major companies structure desire (the “bliss points” of food) through chemistry and psychological manipulation. Recommended.

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

Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales, by Penn Gillette (Simon & Schuster, 2016)

A stage magician’s account of his weight loss, and the unorthodox methods used to achieve this. A forceful, loquacious, funny and quite possibly at times too-salty-for-some diet memoir. Interesting and a fun read into the bargain, even if the approach used might not translate. As the author notes, though, this is a case study, not a recipe to follow.

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

Downsizing, by Tom Watson & Jo Lake (Kyle Books, 2020)

The former Labour politician’s account of his eight-stone weight loss, and the reversal of Type 2 diabetes. A scrappy book: equal parts name-droptastic autobiography, diet book (keto, basically), and Big Sugar polemic. While the core messages are sound, the scattershot approach – which reads as padding –  might be frustrating for some looking for focus.

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

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind, by Shoukei Matsumoto [trans. Ian Samhammer] (Penguin Books, 2018)

A Buddhist monk’s guide to keeping home, head and heart clean. A clear and simple guide to living frugally, respectfully, and peacefully, though consideration of daily and other rituals of cleaning, care, order, and respect for one’s possessions and environments. A beguiling mix of household tips and zen philosophy; recommended.

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

Laika, by Nick Abadzis (First Second, 2007)

The story of Laika (AKA Kudryavka), the first dog in space, plus those of her lab tech Yelena and of Soviet space programme chief Korolev. Excellent, touching canine biography, blending fancy and fact in detailed and intricate ways. A love story and one of Cold War pride, balanced with a plea regarding unnecessary animal experimentation. Recommended.

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

Billionaires: The Lives of the Rich and Powerful, by Darryl Cunningham (Myriad Editions, 2019)

Three case studies of extreme wealth and power: Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers, Jeff Bezos. A confident blend of biography and polemic, clearly making the argument that power corrupts, and that money distorts. Lots to ponder on here, rendered in a  chirpy and accessible graphic format. Recommended.

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

Landscapes of Detectorists, edited by Innes M Keighren & Joanne Norcup (Uniform Books, 2020)

Academic essays on the BBC single-camera comedy Detectorists, plus context from writer/star/director Mackenzie Crook, and original producer Adam Tandy. Focusing on the programme’s engagements with landscape, history, and gender relations, this is a fine introduction to the thematic richness and blokeish pleasures of the series. Volume II, please!

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