January Reading List

Ma’am Darling by Craig Brown

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We’ve been watching Netflix’s The Crown, so my wife gave me this book for Christmas. It’s a lighthearted look at the life of Princess Margaret, as seen in 99 short chapters (some are less then a page long). This is a quick, fun read, and a nice companion to The Crown. I should point out that I’m definitely not a monarchist, and there is much in this book to suggest that perhaps the monarchy is not such a great idea. Margaret comes across in this book as a complete snob, and not someone you would have wanted to have had as a friend.

Fatherland by Robert Harris

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A thriller set in an alternative past where Nazi Germany won WWII. It is 1962, and Germany is preparing to celebrate Hitler’s 75th birthday as well as welcoming President Kennedy on a state visit. Detective Xavier March gets caught up in a political scandal, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader turning those pages. Thrillers are not usually my thing, but this was very, very good.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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Where do I start? This book is amazing. Teenager Lydia Lee has been found drowned in a lake; how did she get there? Did she jump or was she pushed? This is the story of her family, both before and after her death, as well the story of Lydia herself. Highly recommended.

Hitler’s Canary by Sandi Toksvig

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You could say that I’ve had a bit of a fascination with WWII recently; within the past few months I’ve read Fatherland, Early One Morning, Das Boot, Code Name Verity and Fireweed, all of which have been set during WWII. I haven’t sought these books out; all of them have been donated to our Little Free Library and I happened to pick them up. Hitler’s Canary is a children’s book, about how Danish people formed a resistance to fight against the Nazis after they invaded Denmark. Based on true events and stories her father told Toksvig about his family’s experiences during the war, this is an engaging, moving and inspiring book. Everyone knows about the French Resistance, but the Danish Resistance has been less celebrated, until now. Outstanding.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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This had been on my to read pile for quite a long time; for some reason, it seemed like an intimidating prospect. I knew what the actual Underground Railroad was in American history, so I had some preconceived notions about what to expect from this book.

This is an important book, and will stay with me for a long time. Whitehead re-imagines the Underground Railroad as a literal underground railroad, carved out beneath the earth, whisking escaped slaves to safety, via secret stations that open out into different states. We follow Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, who attempts to escape, in pre-Civil War America. The Guardian described it as luminous, furious and wildly inventive and it is hard to disagree with that. I was compelled to keep reading, to reach the conclusion of Cora’s story.

December’s reading list is here

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