I turned 24 last Wednesday and when I tell you I died and went to heaven that day, I promise I’m not exaggerating.
Welcome to Coffee Time Tuesdays, our weekly bookish column where we share what we’ve been reading, how we’ve been feeling about books, and a hot new release (almost) every week.
I couldn’t help making this one a birthday special, since this year my birthday was a huge bookish success.
The day started with a cup of coffee at the Corn Exchange, a beautiful historical building, where they serve the best coffee in town. Then, my partner, rather inspiringly, suggested we get some plants to mark my birthday, which is how I got my little work-from-home companion, August, a baby fern who is literally the love of my life right now.
We then went on a quest to find some fancy yarn. As you may know, I’m a knitter, and this year on my birthday, my partner decided not to buy me anything in advance, but instead to make the day a full gift shopping experience.
Well, all the nice yarn stores were closed, so our initial plan of getting one of each: plant, yarn, book, tea/coffee, quickly turned into replacing the yarn with books.
I spent over an hour in Waterstones trying to decide what book I wanted. At first, my partner suggested a signed hardback (‘so it’s special’). But none of the ones available interested me much.
So we shily made our way to the buy one get one half the price table. This table happened to be filled with Women’s Prize shortlists which I’d been eyeing for months. I picked up one after the other, trying to no avail to make my mind up.
My partner suggested I pick up a book I’ve been wanting for a while, but also look for a wild card, a book I’d never heard of that caught my eye on the spot. I picked up Matrix by Lauren Groff, fangirled to him about it, and put it back down. Then I picked up The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak, fangirled some more, then put it down. I then spotted The Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, and I lost my mind completely over it. I couldn’t let it go.
Bear with me, we’re coming to the moment when I died and went to heaven.
So I was set on The Great Circle and thought I’d take his advice and look for a wild card. Shooting Martha, by David Thewlis was by far the worthy winner here.
Lo and behold, dear reader, after an exhaustive hour of browsing for books, I finally had my choices. So as I was making my way to the checkout, my partner turned around, went back to the table, picked up Matrix and The Island of Missing Trees and added them to the stack. ‘You know what, it’s your birthday, if you want them, we’ll get them all’.
And this is how I spent the rest of the day with a stack of books clutched tightly to my chest, labelling it the best birthday I’ve had in years.
I’m so excited to get to all of these books. And the fact that they’re gifts means I won’t ever donate them, which is what I do with most of my physical books. I started Shooting Martha the other day and it’s wonderful. I’ve realised I’m enjoying books with cinematography subplots a lot. Plain Bad Heroines, another successful gift from the legendary partner, started this little niche.
You might think I’m very easily pleased — and that might be true, but this is not the point. I don’t normally go to the bookstore to buy stacks of books. I usually buy one, or two books at the most. So this was a very special experience for me and it’s definitely got me excited about reading again.
Hot New Release
It would be fitting for me to stop losing it over my wonderful birthday book haul now and keep my promise to you: your hot new recommendation of the week.
If, like me, you tend to get a little slower in your reading towards the end of the summer, I’ve got just the book for you. The Family Remains, Lisa Jewell’s sequel to her super popular The Family Upstairs, comes out today.
I’ve read Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell and it’s one of the most haunting thrillers I’ve ever come across, so a duology or potential series from her sounds incredible. I think thrillers are ideal right now, when summer is getting windier and maybe a little chillier, to get out on the balcony in the evenings and feel the changing waters of the weather in tune with your fast-paced book.
And this is it for today’s Coffee Time Tuesday. Have you read any of the books I bought on my birthday? And would you be interested in awards shortlists being featured more often at Coffee Time Reviews? I never know how much influence literary prizes have on readers. Do you trust a book to be good if it won awards? Let me know in the comments!