Archive for ‘Non fiction’

August 13, 2022

We’re Hiring!

by Team Riverside

Talented part time Bookseller required!

We are looking for a PART TIME Bookseller to join our team.

Bookselling experience is essential.

As a key part of our small, friendly and enthusiastic team, you will provide excellent customer service and help keep our well curated stock interesting.

You would need to be available to start late August/early September, to work weekend shifts every week, and to work flexible weekday shifts as needed.

To apply, please send your CV and a covering letter, by email or post or by hand as soon as possible. If you’d like more information email info@riversidebookshop.co.uk

August 8, 2022

Bestsellers 1st August – 8th August

by Team Riverside

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

John Spurling – Arcadian Nights

Julia Donaldson – Counting Creatures

Kaouther Adimi – A Bookshop in Algiers

Cecily Gayford – Murder By The Seaside

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Alice Oseman – Heartstopper Volume 2

Charlotte Higgins – Greek Myths

Tom Chivers – London Clay

Oliver Burkeman – Four Thousand Weeks

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Selby Wynn Schwartz – After Sappho

Michael Bond – A Bear Called Paddington

August 2, 2022

Spring Tides by Fiona Gell

by Team Riverside
cover of Spring Tides book

Hardback, W&N, £16.99, out now

What is it like to be a marine scientist and conservationist in the time of the climate emergency and the increase in species becoming extinct?  How do you keep going? Spring Tides is a well written combination of natural history and memoir that helps answer this question. “My energy comes from looking down into clear water through glossy kelp, studded with blue-rayed limpets, striped with iridescent blue; from swimming on my back at night making glowing wings of phosphorescence; from diving down into the magnetic blue beyond the reef; from drifting at speed past a carnival of coral in the company of mirrored jacks; from learning from a laughing fisherwoman how to find clams with my toes in the soft sand between the seagrass on a remote Indian Ocean shore”.

Fiona Gell left her childhood home on the Isle of Man to travel the world working on marine conservation projects, before returning to do the same work where she grew up.  Spring Tides is a useful primer for lay readers on the impact of climate change on our seas and sealife.  Her love for marine environments is infectious, and makes you want to get out onto the beach or dive “under water to get out of the rain” (as Trevor Norton had it in his wonderful book about diving, rightly subtitled “a love affair with the sea”).  Spring Tides appealed to me in the same way that The Gospel of the Eels by Patrik Svensson did, combining nature writing and memoir.

I liked reading about a woman scientist doing cutting edge work around the world, and also her candid accounts of dealing with family life alongside her work in recent years.  Gell explains that engaging with conservation successfully is complex.  I found her account of securing a Marine Nature Reserve compelling.  It is a story of doing the hard work of listening, advocating, and compromising.  She shows how a previous unsuccessful attempt in the Calf of Man area, which had failed to engage successfully with the concerns of local people who earnt their livings from the sea, had left scars: “It had become an example of how the most well-intentioned conservation plans can go awry and had left rifts between people.  I wanted to use what I’d learnt about marine protected areas to make protecting the sea possible again”.

Gell also gives a glimpse of Manx culture, and is clear about the impact of the sea on everyday life.  I am very envious of anyone who gets to go to the beach almost every day, as she does.  And as Olaf Falafel’s endearing new book Blobfish reminds us, we can help clean it up while we are there.

Review by Bethan

July 31, 2022

Bestsellers 24th July – 31st July

by Team Riverside

Delia Owens – Where The Crawdads Sing

Taylor Jenkins Reid – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Jessie Burton – The House of Fortune

Sayaka Murata – Life Ceremony

Kaouther Adimi – A Bookshop in Algiers

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Pat Barker – The Women of Troy

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Mieko Kawakami – All The Lovers In The Night

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Malcolm Gladwell – The Bomber Mafia

Yaa Gyasi – Transcendent Kingdom

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

Colleen Hoover – It Ends With Us

Marion Billet – There Are 101 Things To Find In London

July 17, 2022

Bestsellers 10th – 17th July

by Team Riverside

Pat Barker – The Women of Troy

Oliver Burkeman – Four Thousand Weeks

Malcolm Gladwell – The Bomber Mafia

Miranda Cowley Heller – The Paper Palace

Sally Rooney – Beautiful World, Where Are You?

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Keith Ridgway – A Shock

Charlotte Higgins – Greek Myths

Tom Chivers – London Clay

Kaouther Adimi – A Bookshop in Algiers

Cecily Gayford – Murder By The Seaside

Ruth Ozeki – The Book of Form and Emptiness

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

July 10, 2022

Bestsellers 3rd – 10th July

by Team Riverside

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Sally Rooney – Beautiful World, Where Are You?

Tom Chivers – London Clay

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Adam Hargreaves – Mr Men in London

Kaouther Adimi – A Bookshop in Algiers

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Malcolm Gladwell – Blink

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

Lea Ypi – Free

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

Miranda Cowley Heller – The Paper Palace

John Le Carre – Silverview

Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

July 3, 2022

Bestsellers 26th June – 3rd July

by Team Riverside

Ruth Ozeki – The Book of Form and Emptiness

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Eliot Higgins – We Are Bellingcat

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Cecily Gayford – Murder By The Seaside

Malcolm Gladwell – The Bomber Mafia

Lea Ypi – Free

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

Daniel Kahneman – Noise

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Katherine Rundell – The Explorer

Lauren Groff – Matrix

Maggie Shipstead – Great Circle

Gwendoline Riley – My Phantoms

Agatha Christie – And Then There Were None

June 28, 2022

Handmade: Learning the Art of Chainsaw Mindfulness in a Norwegian Wood by Siri Helle

by Team Riverside
cover of Handmade book

Hardback, Granta, £12.99, out now

A Norwegian woman inherits a tiny cabin in a remote location.  There’s no running water, but there is a river.  There’s no electricity, but there is a woodburning stove.  And there’s no toilet, but there is Siri Helle’s determination to make a loo in a hut, with her own two hands.

Don’t be put off by the ‘mindfulness’ in the title: I like mindfulness probably much more than the next person, but there is enough discussion of chainsaw technique and what proper tool sharpening consists of to make it clear that this is not a ‘wellness’ book.  It really is about building a toilet shed, and learning how to do it along the way.

Helle is a journalist and agronomist in Norway.  There are thoughtful reflections on the lack of practical and manual skills taught in formal education, and what this might mean about our relationship to making and to our hands.

I am not really sure how to classify this book – it is nature writing, crafts, travel?  Culture or philosophy?  Probably all of these things.  I do like a genre-defying book.  I borrowed it from the library on spec and really enjoyed it as a good holiday read.  It’s very relaxing to read about other people working hard outdoors!

This is definitely one that I will be buying for multiple people come Christmas.  It’d be great for anyone who: is a maker or who wants to be one; has a love of the outdoors; is thinking about their relationship with their own body, and how they use it. 

Review by Bethan

June 19, 2022

Bestsellers 12th – 19th June

by Team Riverside

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Ruth Ozeki – The Book of Form and Emptiness

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Tee Dobinson – The Tower Bridge Cat

Richard Osman – The Man Who Died Twice

Pat Barker – The Women of Troy

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

Sally Rooney – Normal People

The Secret Barrister – Nothing But The Truth

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Tom Chivers – London Clay

Tom Burgis – Kleptopia

Bernadine Evaristo – Girl, Woman, Other

John le Carre – Silverview

June 12, 2022

Bestsellers 5th June – 12th June

by Team Riverside

Pat Barker – The Women of Troy

Jonathon Lee – The Great Mistake

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Sally Rooney – Beautiful World, Where Are You?

Oliver Burkeman – Four Thousand Weeks

Malcolm Gladwell – The Bomber Mafia

Richard Osman – The Man Who Died Twice

Elif Shafak – The Isand of The Missing Trees

Miranda Cowley Heller – The Paper Palace

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Alice Oseman – Heartstopper: Volume One

Phil Knight – Shoe Dog

Marion Billet – Busy London

Elizabeth Mcneal – Circus of Wonders

June 5, 2022

Bestsellers 29th May – 5th June

by Team Riverside

Bob Mortimer – And Away…

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

Akwaeke Emezi – You Made A Fool of Death With Your Beauty

Mieko Kawakami – All The Lovers In The Night

Douglas Stuart – Young Mungo

Lea Ypi – Free

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

Brit Bennett – The Vanishing Half

Kazuo Ishiguro – The Remains of The Day

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Alice Oseman – Loveless

Tom Burgis – Kleptopia

Mary Wollstonecraft – A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Bella Mackie – How to Kill Your Family

June 1, 2022

Do Right and Fear No-One by Leslie Thomas QC

by Team Riverside
cover of Do Right and Fear No One

Hardback, Simon and Schuster, £20, out now

This autobiography of an outstanding civil rights lawyer, who has specialised in inquests, doubles as an incisive and detailed account of many of the most important human rights cases of the last 30 years.  Thomas always puts the people involved at the heart of his account.  I felt that the book, while being candid about his own story including his legal learning curves and sometime errors, was an opportunity for him to foreground the lives of those whose stories are often ignored.

This is the story of a South London working class Black man who gets to the top of his profession doing cutting edge legal work.  Much of Thomas’s early life was lived in Battersea, Clapham and Balham, and Riverside readers will find many places they know.  As a Queen’s Counsel (senior barrister) Leslie Thomas has represented bereaved families in inquests in many deaths in custody and police shootings.  His work includes landmark cases such as those of Azelle Rodney and Mark Duggan.  He has also played a critical part in legal examinations of disasters including such as the Grenfell Tower fire and Hillsborough, as well as developing a practice in the Caribbean, and all of this work is discussed in detail.  The chapter dealing with the second inquest into the New Cross Fire, moving in itself, also shows a moment of revelation for Thomas: “…it made me realise that what mattered wasn’t the lawyers’ political spin on the case, which is sometimes very easy to do, but what was best for the clients”.

One of the things I liked most about Do Right and Fear No One was its accessibility.  Areas that may be unfamiliar to readers, such as what the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights are and how they apply to real life, or how inquests work and what they are for, are explained clearly and concisely without this feeling patronising.  I found this so useful.  Demystifying the law is vital, particularly areas that people may feel no connection with until they erupt into their own lives – for example when they suddenly have to attend an inquest for someone close to them.

Thomas gives due credit to families, colleagues and others who he has worked alongside, placing his legal work in context.  For anyone who visited the outstanding ICA exhibition War Inna Babylon – the Community’s Struggle for Truths and Rights last year, Do Right and Fear No-one will be an essential read (see https://www.ica.art/exhibitions/war-inna-babylon). 

Thomas’s mother Pearl sounds like a truly remarkable woman, working all hours and supporting her children to do their best.  Talking about his father Godfrey, who he had a difficult relationship with at times, his account reminded me at times of David Harewood’s story in Maybe I Don’t Belong Here (https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/david-harewood/maybe-i-dont-belong-here/9781529064131).  Both men reflect on the racism their fathers faced, and the long-lasting effects this had on their health, especially in later life.

My one criticism of the book is that the publisher did not include an index.  This detailed book should be widely read and easily searchable.  Publisher: please commission an index for the paperback.  If anyone needs convincing of why indexes are great, see my review of Dennis Duncan’s excellent book on just this subject.

On a lighter note, I really liked Thomas noting that he used to talk fast “as South Londoners do” – this is definitely true of me.  This is a great read.

Review by Bethan

May 29, 2022

Bestsellers 23rd – 30th May

by Team Riverside
Meg Mason - Sorrow and Bliss

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Richard Osman – The Man Who Died Twice

Sally Rooney – Normal People

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Tom Burgis – Kleptopia

Douglas Stuart – Young Mungo

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Natasha Brown – Assembly

Akwaeke Emezi – You made a Fool of Death with your Beauty

May 24, 2022

Welsh Plural: Essays on the Future of Wales – editors Darren Chetty, Grug Muse, Hanan Issa, Iestyn Tyne

by Team Riverside
cover of Welsh Plural

Paperback, Repeater Books, £12.99, out now

The editors of Welsh Plural have gathered some of the most interesting and relevant writers from Wales to consider what Welsh identity means today.  This is anything but niche: for anyone thinking about what identity, belonging and borders mean or could come to mean, this is helpful.  It is no surprise that this anthology has won praise from Nikesh Shukla and Gary Younge.

The book’s cover illustrates a willingness to engage in critical thinking that characterises this collection.  It shows a beautiful section of the Wrexham Quilt, made by a military tailor in the mid-nineteenth century.  “Like this book, it conveys a patchwork of experiences, from religious scenes to tributes to the industrial heritage of Wales.  Other motifs show giraffes, elephants and palm trees – souvenirs of Wales’ part in the conquests of the British Empire, made possible by armies clothed by tailors such as James Williams”.

The range of topics covered and approaches make this a compelling read.  There is a Choose Your Own Adventure style guide to being a Welsh novelist by Gary Raymond.  Charlotte Williams, who is examining outcomes for children of colour in Welsh education for the Welsh Government, discusses this alongside her own experience of being the only child of colour in her Welsh classroom in the 1960s.  Darren Chetty explores Welsh pubs called The Black Boy, both their history and how they handle their name now.  And there is much more.

I felt I had been given a gift of original and challenging thoughts.  Some themes came out strongly for me, particularly the intersection of racialised people and Welshness.  Several writers give valuable and vital accounts related this.  There are also conflicts and disagreements between the pieces, which suggests that the editors intended to allow space for complexity, nuance and difference.  I found this approach invigorating, and helpful.  I was grateful that the book was in English, allowing me as a non-Welsh speaker access.  Diolch yn fawr iawn, pawb.

Reading this on holiday in Wales at the time of the local elections felt important.  I am most envious of anyone who got to attend the related event in Machynlleth (which I heard about from colleagues at the smashing Pen’rallt Gallery Bookshop – it sounded like an excellent evening).  Reading Welsh Plural also brought the small publisher Repeater Books to my attention, whose range looks well worth digging into.

By coincidence, I followed this up by reading Nick Hayes’ The Book of Trespass (paperback, Bloomsbury, £9.99).  Hayes’ investigation into what the idea and law of trespass means in the UK now also engages with the issues of land, walls and identities.  As in Welsh Plural, there are moments of joy and celebration among the sometimes difficult content.  Hayes and his dog see a row of deer appear by magic as they walk through a wood: “This kind of moment is only available off the path.  It is prosaic, but it feels like a miracle, it feels meaningful, and it leaves me with my heart thumping in my throat…  I would swap a hundred nice walks along a pretty Right of Way for this one moment of magic”.

Review by Bethan

May 22, 2022

Bestsellers 15th – 22nd of May

by Team Riverside

Elizabeth Strout – Oh William!

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Marion Billet – Busy London

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Tom Burgis – Kleptopia

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Natasha Brown – Assembly

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Maggie O’Farrell – Hamnet

Mieko Kawakami – All The Lovers In The Night

Douglas Stuart – Young Mungo

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Flann O’Brien – The Third Policeman

May 13, 2022

Bestsellers 6th – 13th May

by Team Riverside

Elizabeth Strout – Oh William!

John Le Carre – Silverview

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Cecily Gayford – Murder by The Seaside

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

Sally Rooney – Conversations With Friends

Daisy Buchanan – Insatiable

Rutger Bregman – Humankind

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Marion Billet – Busy London

bell hooks – All About Love

Colm Toibin – The Magician

Bernadine Evaristo – Girl, Woman, Other

Chris Power – A Lonely Man

May 8, 2022

Bestsellers 1st – 8th May

by Team Riverside

Elizabeth Strout – Oh William!

John Le Carre – Silverview

Emily St. John Mandel – Sea of Tranquility

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

bell hooks – All About Love

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Oliver Burkeman – Four Thousand Weeks

Caroline Criado Perez – Invisible Women

M.H. Eccleston – The Trust

Min Jin Lee – Pachinko

Clara Vulliamy – Marshmallow Pie: The Cat Superstar

Oliver Jeffers – Here We Are

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

April 30, 2022

Sam Sedgman and Sam Brewster – Epic Adventures

by Team Riverside
Book cover of Epic Adventures

Hardback, Macmillan, £12.99, out now

Epic Adventures is a pleasingly large non-fiction picture book for children about great train journeys.  From the Shinkansen bullet train in Japan to the Trans-Siberian express, this colourfully illustrated book inspires the wish to jump on a train and head off on an adventure.  As we are just opposite London Bridge station, this urge is particularly strong just now!

You can tell this was written by a real train fan, as it has excellent facts and is suffused with enthusiasm.  Sedgman is also author of train-based adventure stories for children including The Highland Falcon Thief, and the accessible prose in Epic Adventures shows that he is used to writing for children.  He addresses the colonial heritage of some of the railways concerned, and the displacement they caused, which is important.  I also appreciated the emphasis on rail as a more environmentally friendly form of travel.

My favourite of the many colourful illustrations is the northern lights overhead as the Arctic Sleeper speeds through to Norway.

As a fan of armchair rail travel (see The World’s Most Scenic Rail Journeys and Mighty Trains, on television) this inspires me to do some actual rail travel as soon as possible.  Good for perhaps age 7 and up, Epic Adventures has history and geography, festivals and food.  A nicely exciting gift for a young would-be traveller.

Review by Bethan

April 26, 2022

New Signed Copies

by Team Riverside
Cover of book None of This is Serious

So excited to have all these new signed copies in the shop…

Jessie Greengrass – The High House

Jeremy Atherton Lin – Gay Bar

Emily St. John Mandel – Sea of Tranquility

Maddie Mortimer – Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

Catherine Prasifka – None of This is Serious

Laura Price – Single Bald Female

Ali Smith – Companion Piece

Nina Stibbe – One Day I Shall Astonish the World

Douglas Stuart – Young Mungo

Charmaine Wilkerson – Black Cake

April 24, 2022

Bestsellers 17th – 24th April

by Team Riverside

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Eliot Higgins – We Are Bellingcat

Jeremy Atherton Lin – Gay Bar

Tim Marshall – Prisoners of Geography

Julian Barnes – Elizabeth Finch

Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451

Catherine Belton – Putin’s People

Sarah Winman – Still Life

Bella Mackie – How to Kill Your Family

Emily Danforth – Plain Bad Heroines

Tom Burgis – Kleptopia

Luke Kennard – The Answer to Everything

Albert Camus – The Plague

Sathnam Sanghera – Empireland

April 19, 2022

Jeremy Atherton Lin signed copies

by Team Riverside
photo of Jeremy Atherton Lin with his book Gay Bar

Thank you to Jeremy Atherton Lin for visiting to sign copies of Gay Bar! Nab one before they go.

April 18, 2022

Bestsellers 11th April – 18th April

by Team Riverside

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

Taylor Jenkins Reid – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Stanley Tucci – Taste

Ali Smith – Companion Piece

Douglas Stuart – Young Mungo

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Patrick Radden Keefe – Empire of Pain

Michael Lewis – The Premonition

Sathnam Sanghera – Empireland

Caleb Azumah Nelson – Open Water

Frank Tallis – The Act of Living

Adam Hargreaves – Mr. Men in London

Eliot Higgins – We Are Bellingcat

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Mary Lawson – A Town Solace

April 2, 2022

Bestsellers 26th March – 2nd April

by Team Riverside

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Kae Tempest – On Connection

Taylor Jenkins Reid – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Marion Billet – Busy London

Tom Burgis – Kleptopia

Colm Toibin – The Magician

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Brit Bennett – The Vanishing Half

Matthew Green – Shadowlands

Daisy Buchanan – Careering

Tom Chivers – London Clay

Susanna Clarke – Piranesi

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Agatha Christie – Miss Marple and Mystery

Michael Lewis – The Premonition

March 20, 2022

Bestsellers 13th – 20th of March

by Team Riverside

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Catherine Belton – Putin’s People

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Rutger Bregman – Humankind

Marion Billet – Busy London

Caroline Criado Perez – Invisible Women

Tom Burgis – Kleptopia

John Preston – Fall

Eliot Higgins – We Are Bellingcat

Charlotte Mendelson – The Exhibitionist

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Tim Marshal – The Power of Geography

Rebecca F. John – Fannie

David Baddiel – Jews Don’t Count

Siobhan Dowd – The London Eye Mystery

March 14, 2022

New signed copies in!

by Team Riverside
book cover Your Story Matters

Margaret Atwood – Burning Questions

Lucy Caldwell – These Days

Marlon James – Moon Witch Spider King

Charlotte Mendelson – The Exhibitionist

Graham Robb – France: an Adventure History

Julia Samuel – Every Family Has a Story

Nikesh Shukla – Your Story Matters

March 4, 2022

Bestsellers 25th February – 3rd March

by Team Riverside

Tim Marshall – The Power of Geography

Caleb Azumah Nelson – Open Water

Frank Tallis – The Act of Living

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Maggie O’Farrell – Hamnet

Patrick Radden Keefe – Empire of Pain

Karen McManus – One Of Us is Lying

David Baddiel – Jews Don’t Count

Gertrude Stein – Food

bell hooks – All About Love

John Preston – Fall

Sathnam Sanghera – Empireland

Natasha Lunn – Conversations On Love

Marian Keyes – Rachel’s Holiday

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

February 16, 2022

The Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton

by Team Riverside

Paperback, W H Allen, £9.99, out now

cover of the book The Madhouse at the End of the Earth

The Madhouse at the End of the Earth is an engrossing account of a journey to Antarctica in 1897.  One thing after another goes wrong for the crew of the Belgian whaling ship the Belgica, and they get stranded for the whole of the winter darkness, their ship frozen in a sea of ice.

Among those on board is a doctor, Dr Frederick Cook, who will later be imprisoned in his native USA for fraud.  But as those on the ship suffer the effects of cold, dark, and malnutrition, his innovation and care keeps his colleagues alive.  As things get worse, and the Captain withdraws, Cook seems able to turn his hand to anything.  One part of the story that stayed with me was Cook creating a treatment for crew members suffering from scurvy and depression (among other things) of standing unclothed and in private in front of a fire.  As Sancton notes: “His wild idea to have his ailing shipmates stand naked in front of a blazing fire is the first known application of light therapy, used today to treat sleep disorders and depression, among other things.”

The Madhouse at the End of the Earth works in many different ways.  It’s a story of adventure and survival, failures of leadership, and physical and mental courage.  It contributes to the history of medicine, as Sancton discovers that Cook’s case study is still used by Jack Stuster, a behavioural scientist who works with NASA, among others.  As a study of how people cope, or don’t, under extreme strain, it is fascinating.

Also on the unlucky ship is Roald Amundsen, later famous as an epic Antarctic explorer in his own right.  The insight given here into his early life is intriguing.  He emerges as stoic in himself, and unbending in his attitude to others.

Sancton evokes the harshness of the Antarctic landscape and the claustrophobia of the trapped ship very well.  “Where the water ended, the snow began, as if the ocean had risen half way up the Himalayas”.  The descriptions of sounds of rats eating the crew’s limited food are suitably revolting.  His impressive use of archive materials including the ship’s logs, crew diaries, and accounts published later by those who had been on board lends credibility to his review of the psychological states and emotions of those he is writing about.

He notes the colonial context to this journey, namely Belgium’s grotesque history in Africa at the time of the expedition.  I was troubled by the title, uneasy about the use of ‘madhouse’, but I eventually felt it made sense for the time Sancton was writing about.

I read it over two days while on holiday, and felt lucky to have the chance to race through it.  Because the story was unfamiliar to me, despite my having read a lot about Antarctic exploration, I tensely awaited each new development.  It held me till the last page.

Review by Bethan

February 13, 2022

Bestsellers 6th – 13th February

by Team Riverside

Tim Marshall – The Power of Geography

Patricia Lockwood – No One Is Talking About This

Hafsa Zayyan – We Are All Birds of Uganda

Natasha Lunn – Conversations on Love

Virginia Woolf – Flush

Sathnam Sanghera – Empireland

Stanley Tucci – Taste

Frank Herbert – Dune

Sally Rooney – Conversations With Friends

Abdulrazak Gurnah – Afterlives

Mo Willems – Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus

Lorraine Mariner – Ten Poems on Love

Anna Malaika Tubbs – Three Mothers

Karen McManus – One of Us Is Lying

Peppa Pig – Peppa’s Magical Unicorn

February 5, 2022

Bestsellers 29th January – 5th February

by Team Riverside

Natasha Lunn – Conversations on Love

Frank Tallis – The Act of Living

Susanna Clarke – Piranesi

Tim Marshall – The Power of Geography

Damon Galgut – The Promise

Maurice Sendak – Where The Wild Things Are

Charles Dickens – The Great Winglebury Duel

John Preston – Fall

Caleb Azumah Nelson – Open Water

Claire Fuller – Unsettled Ground

Bernadine Evaristo – Girl, Woman, Other

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Brit Bennett – The Vanishing Half

Francis Spufford – Light Perpetual

Tom Chivers – London Clay

February 1, 2022

London’s Hidden Walks volume 4 by Stephen Millar

by Team Riverside
cover of London's Hidden Walks vol 4

Paperback, Metro, £11.99, Publisher

The pocket-sized London’s Hidden Walks series is well researched and handy.  The latest addition, subtitled Every Street Has a Story to Tell, is a genial and inspiring guide to some hidden London treasures.

Who knew that the Spanish Civil War memorial was right next to Fulham Palace?  Or that the cabman’s shelter in Pimlico, a small green wooden hut serving refreshments, is one of the sole survivors of more than sixty such?  History, architecture, art, literature and generally bizarre things all feature.

South London is especially well represented here, with Clapham, Peckham and Tooting all featuring.  Even in areas I know very well, I’ve learnt to look for some surviving gems because of this book.

Nicely illustrated with quirky photos and useful maps, this is a pleasure to read before you set out, as well as providing suggestions for good restaurants, pubs, and shops on the routes.  The inclusion of notable ghost signs is especially welcome (I used to like the Barlow and Roberts ghost sign on Southwark Street near here, but it seems to be gone now – https://ghostsigns.co.uk/2021/10/barlow-roberts/). This book encourages us to look up: there is often something interesting up there.

Review by Bethan