What’s a summer holiday without a good summer reading list? Here are five exciting new titles to cram into your suitcase this summer.
Summer holidays are upon us and an abundance of compelling newly published books to choose from. From ‘Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland’ by Lisa Schneidau, an exploration of how plants shape the British and Irish landscape and provide food and medicine, which we often take for granted to ‘Stress in the City’ by Enoch Li; to ‘Mayhem: A Memoir’ a powerful memoir family by Sigrid Rausing, about the affect of addiction on a family; to Between Stone and Sky: Memoirs of a Waller, the entertaining memoir of American academic Whitney Brown,’ who turned down a prestigious job at the Smithsonian to move to Wales and learn how to build how stone walls.
Are you dreading returning to the unrelenting pressures of work and patients after your glorious Summer holiday? In her new book ‘Stress in the City’ high-achieving Enoch Li expounds how playfulness can be one of the most potent vaccines against stress and depression. Growing up in the break-neck pace of Hong Kong, ambitious Li rocketed up the competitive corporate ladder, but burnt out aged 28. She was surprised to find that although success brought great material rewards it made her feel even more anxious, unhappy and empty, as well as completely drained. She reflects on the warning signs of her break-down and how “rediscovering” her “inner child” and “playfulness” “helped save her”. Li warns that “social media increases stress” as people feel inadequate when comparing themselves to their friends’ glamorous photos, or postings of their impressive achievements and milestones on Facebook or Instagram.
Only a generation ago an important part of childhood seemed to be collecting plants, leaves and seeds and knowledge concerning the folklore of plants was commonplace. Recently this aspect of education seems relatively neglected, which is a shame. Lisa Schneidau’s fascinating book Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland visits this lost world with a compelling collection of folk tales of wild flowers, trees and plants throughout the seasons, which have been passed from generation to generation. She draws on the rich heritage of plant folklore and superstition of Britain and Ireland from the “magical yew tree” to the “bad-tempered stinging nettle” and half-forgotten sayings such as “it isn’t Spring until you can plant your foot on 12 daisies,” once frequently heard in Yorkshire. Suitable for anyone with an interest in botany and folk history, these stories explore the complex relationship between people and plants, in lowlands and uplands, fields, bogs, moors, woodlands and towns. The reader is transported back in time when such rhymes as ‘First of May is punch a bum day” didn’t raise an eye. Ideal reading for both children and adults alike.
Occasionally chance encounters change your life – but rarely as dramatically as American academic Whitney Brown, as she recounts in her unpretentious memoir. At the age of 26, Brown turned down a dream job at the Smithsonian University to move to Wales with a dry-stone Waller she’d met at a folk-life festival in Washington DC. Within weeks he was teaching her to build stone walls in the rugged, beautiful Welsh countryside ‘with many bruises and nettle stings along the way.’ As an intellectual she had ‘never thought of learning a manual trade’ or ‘imagined she might enjoy it.’ Far from the stresses of her academic life she discovered deep pleasure and fulfilment in working with her hands in the ancient ‘heft of the stones’ and ‘ring of the hammer.’ Brown’s passion for Wales and stone-walling endured and she now walls full time. Her passionate book makes you want to throw away your oyster card and run for the hills!
A hit in Sweden, ‘Fruit of Knowledge: The vulva vs. the patriarchy’, an educational book by Liv Strömquist will be published for the first time in English on 21st August. Fans of populist feminist authors such as Caitlin Moran and health professionals working with young people, as well as teenagers should find this book useful. It provides an informative and funny guide to the female reproductive system, with a historical perspective and examines society’s love-hate relationship with women’s sexuality from the Stone Age and the Ancient Greeks to Freud and Stieg Larsson and anatomy. Graphically illustrated.
Sigrid Rausing’s ‘Mayhem’ is a bleak and powerful account of a family destroyed by addiction. For years Sigrid Rausing watched helplessly as her brother Hans (heir to the multibillion Tetra Pak fortune) and his wife Eva became addicted to drugs. The couple had grown up in the 1960s in an atmosphere of freedom and privilege, with drugs easily available. Their addiction afflicted huge stresses on the family and led to Eva’s early death – but her relatives’ suffering didn’t end there. Her sudden death led to an inquest and media frenzy as the tabloids seized on the story with lurid headlines. Her body had been discovered hidden under a tarpaulin in her bedroom, which had been sealed with tape. It was found that she had been dead for three months and the well-staffed Chelsea mansion was strewn with discarded drug paraphernalia. The tragic couple had been happily married for years and had four children. This riveting, haunting memoir reveals the destruction addiction wreaks in the lives of addicts and their loved ones alike. Not a suitable read for the squeamish.
Good luck with trying to squeeze all these fascinating books into your suitcase.
The Oldie magazines. She also works for the NHS and is the Hippocratic Post's roving reporter.