One of the main things I found hugely beneficial for my mental health last year was reading. It was a chance to escape not only from the crap that was going on in the world, but also my own thoughts too. While listening to music and watching box sets was a great way to relax and unwind, there was nothing stopping me from picking up my phone and doom-scrolling while loosely concentrating on whatever I was watching/listening to. With a book, I have no choice but to focus on the text in front of me. My mind and thoughts are quietened where I’m having to picture the events of what I’m reading in my head and I find myself having the next chapter to look forward to when I have to go and do something else. I’ve been finding that reading during my lunch break – rather than scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and falling down what I call a “Covid News Hole” as a result – has meant I generally feel happier throughout the day. Some may say that sticking your head in the sand isn’t exactly the healthiest way to go about things, but look, we’re in our third lockdown in the UK, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Anyway, after I smashed through a fair chunk of my book shelf during the later half of 2020, I ended up writing a ridiculously long Reading Wrap Up at the end of the year. Realising that my love of reading has well and truly been unlocked, I’ve decided to turn my 6 monthly reading round-ups into monthly ones, in the hopes that I can keep up the momentum of regular reading for the sake of my health, and also to take some of the heat off of my 6 month wrap up posts! Every month I’ll be sharing with you what I’ve been reading, along with my thoughts. I hope you find some inspiration for your next reads from these posts, and please feel free to give me any recommendations in the comments!
The Flat Share – Beth O’Leary (Quercus, 2019) ★★★★★
From the Back:
“Tiffy and Leon share a bed. Tiffy and Leon have never met…Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work during the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, wrongly imprisoned brothers, and of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, it seems this flatshare is more complicated than expected…”
The Flat Share had been on my TBR list since last year, and I’d read countless reviews from fellow bloggers that told me this would be a read that was right up my street. I had high hopes for it and was so excited when I moved onto it. I LOVED IT. I liked how the story was told from both Tiffy and Leon’s perspectives, and just the whole idea of two essentially polar-opposite characters were thrown together. It’s your typical rom-com style novel, and as things progress you can start to see where things are going, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, and to be honest, there were occasions where I didn’t want to put it down. It was funny, light hearted and it had a similar feeling to Our Stop by Laura-Jane Williams, which I read early last year.
The typical “two main characters haven’t even met” trope puts me in mind of movies like You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle, yes, they can make things a little bit too predictable, but there’s no denying that it’s proper feel good stuff. It was a wonderful, happy and light-hearted distraction from all of the shit going on as we entered 2021, and I loved it right up until the final page. I have The Switch, Beth O’Leary’s next novel on my TBR list for this year, so I’ll be looking at diving into this later on in the year too.
Life In Pieces: Thoughts From a Year That Changed Us All – Dawn O’Porter (HarperCollins, 2020) ★★★★
From the Back:
“‘Dear 2020 – can we just start over? Love Dawn.’
Dawn O’Porter has been thinking about life. In lockdown. Mostly from a cupboard. The highs and lows, finding comfort in the chaos, and the new normal that is anything but. Life in Pieces is a book for anyone who’s been thrown into a life they didn’t plan, or who just wants to stick it to 2020. When everything’s falling apart, we’ll piece it back together.”
I loved The Cows, which was one of Dawn’s earlier novels, and I love her style of writing, so when I saw she’d written a memoir-type book during lockdown, I jumped at the chance to read it. Documenting life in lockdown with her husband Chris O’Dowd, their two young sons and their pets, Dawn gives a hilarious and painfully honest look at lockdown parenting alongside everything else that happened in 2020. Whether you’re a parent or not, I think much of this is incredibly relatable in terms of how we all dealt with lockdown – from the inevitable emotional breakdowns on bad days to pouring a margarita at 4pm, it was actually pretty comforting reading that someone else was coping in the exact same way I was. In fact, I loved how much she spoke about how booze was getting her through overall – same. Dawn also focused quite a bit on her close friendship with Caroline Flack, documenting the experience of losing her and the grief that followed throughout the year on top of everything else that happened.
I think overall, this is a book we can all relate to following the events of 2020 – whether you dealt with parenting during lockdown or just ended up coming up with novel ways of coping in general. It was funny, poignant, and incredibly comforting to read.
Trust Me, I’m a (Junior) Doctor – Max Pemberton (Hodder Paperbacks, 2008) ★★★
From the Back:
“A roller-coaster journey from idealism to bewilderment as medical novice Max Pemberton realises that his heady ideals of ‘saving people’ come a distance second to signing forms, placating tyrannical consultants and working out if people are actually dead – it’s not as easy as you think. Max and his fellow NHS juniors grapple with these and many other complicated questions of life, love, washing and mental health in this funny, bittersweet and revealing look into a hidden world of life and death, and everything in between.”
After reading Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt, I developed a bit of a taste for the non-fiction medical genre. I’ve always had this weird fascination with what goes on behind the scenes in hospitals (I have absolutely no idea why), so I find this sort of thing really interesting to read. This came up in my recommendations a while ago and it had some really good reviews so I thought I’d give it a go. While it’s not as funny as This is Going to Hurt, I still enjoyed this, and it gave a real insight into how much is expected of junior doctors and the toll it can take on your mental health and get you questioning your life choices. In addition to the main focus being on Max’s journey in his first year as a junior doctor, there were also some minor sub-plots to the story, including his flatmate Ruby’s affair with one of the consultants (aka. Housewives’ Favourite).
In addition to some difficult moments, there were also a few funny stories throughout too – it almost felt like a great balance between the two, it almost reminded me of Scrubs in a way because you not only had the medical side of things, but there was also a focus on the doctors’ personal lives too. It certainly tells an honest account of what being a junior doctor is about, and in some places it’s not recommended that you read it while eating your lunch! While this wasn’t my favourite book I’ve read this month, I still enjoyed it and I’m aware of a few follow-ups to this, which I’ll be adding to my TBR list.
Shagged. Married. Annoyed – Chris and Rosie Ramsey (Penguin, 2020) ★★★★★
From the Back:
“Shagged: Saturday nights out on the tiles, underlying crushes, dating like it’s a competitive sport, awkward tales of dating woes, one-night stands, the walk of shame, ghosting, tears and break-ups.
Married: Finding “the one,” meeting their parents, first holidays and romantic weekends away, engagement rings, big moment proposals, wedding bells, the hen do, the stag do, the much anticipated – and feared – best man’s speech, the honeymoon of a lifetime.
Annoyed: Who stacks a dishwasher like this? Empty milk cartons placed back into the fridge, pregnancy, sleepless nights, toilet seats up, toothpaste everywhere, less and less frequent date nights, DIY weekends, divorce.
Whether you’re shagged, married, annoyed, or all of the above, Chris and Rosie Ramsey, hosts of the number one podcast write hilariously and with honesty about the universal highs and lows of life, dating, relationships, arguments, parenting, and everything in between.”
I’ve mentioned before how much I love the podcast, so when comedian Chris Ramsey and his wife Rosie announced they were releasing Shagged. Married. Annoyed in book form, I instantly pre-ordered it. Rest assured, you don’t have to have listened to the podcast to enjoy the book either. This is one of the rare books I’ve read that’s had me actually laughing out loud. Fans of the podcast will be familiar with Chris and Rosie’s bickering, and it’s a recurring theme in the book too – if you’ve heard it before it’s incredibly difficult not to read it in their voices! They cover pretty much everything in the world of relationships, so whether you’re single, in a relationship or married, there’s something for you to relate to. There’s painfully honest accounts of what parenting is like, as well as past anecdotes from Chris and Rosie’s relationship, including the night they got engaged, their wedding day, and the first time they decided to fart in front of one another.
Featuring a handful of “questions from the public,” which podcast listeners will be familiar with, there’s some hilarious stories in there sent in by listeners that will either have you cringing or feeling better about your life (or sometimes both). It was a light-hearted read that was incredibly well needed at this shitty time, and I actually finished it in one weekend. Regardless of whether or not you’ve heard the podcast, give this book a read – it will 100% cheer you up.
Believe it or not, this January I’ve read more books than I probably have done in three months. It’s safe to say that I’ve rediscovered my love of reading in this third lockdown, and I’m so grateful for it. It’s kept me sane and it’s saved me from the endless doom-scrolling that has seriously started to impact my mental health. I intend to keep up this momentum throughout February, so we’ll see if I can smash through another four!
What have you been reading in January? Have you read any of the above? What did you think? Let’s chat in the comments 🙂
All images courtesy of Amazon.