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What We’re Reading

Bean11 recently had to write a letter from her future self (from the year 2060) as part of an acting creative challenge she’d been set. One part of her letter in particular made me smile and it was this quote:

“In this decade, there are billions of books in thousands of genres. In fact, the first of each month is a ‘reading day’, where everyone, all across the world, devotes their entire day to reading.”

To me, this sounds like absolute bliss!

It’s no secret that we love books in this household and in the cold, dark months of winter (especially during a lockdown), we read more than ever. So, I thought I’d share with you today a new type of post highlighting which books each of us, from the oldest to youngest, are currently enjoying/have just finished.


Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall

This selection is from the worldwide best-selling author of Born to Run, a book both of us found hugely inspiring. So, when I saw his latest book, it took me all of two seconds to decide to purchase it for MrJ.

The book introduces us to a little-known part of history about the Cretan resistance and the British Special Operatives (Churchill’s ‘dirty tricksters’), who fought a guerrilla war against the German-occupying troops in the Second World War. Outnumbered and hungry, the tricksters reinvented an ancient style of fitness enabling them to “catapult themselves to superhuman strength and endurance” and thus master the rugged terrain of the island and stay one step ahead of the Germans.

McDougall travels to Crete in search of these heroes’ methods, putting himself in their shoes to understand the extreme physical challenges they faced and discover their secrets of “natural movement, extraordinary endurance, and efficient nutrition.” He then goes on to uncover where these skills are still practised today from Brazil to Paris. In the process, he inspires us to ditch the gym in favour of more natural forms of movement from skipping to climbing to mud running, providing us with a unique and inspiring mental and physical fitness programme.

I personally can’t wait for MrJ to finish the last few pages so I can devour the insights of this fascinating book.

My Selections

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

I’ve just finished this book, which was recommended by a friend, and now believe that everyone, young and old, should read a copy! It begins by asking a series of questions about the state of the world:

In the last twenty years, how has the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty changed? A: almost doubled, B: remained more or less the same, C: almost halved.

In low-income countries, what percentage of girls finish primary school? A: 20%, B: 40% and C:60%

What percentage of people in the world have some access to electricity? A: 20%, B: 50% and C:80%

How did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last one hundred years? A: more than doubled, B: remained about the same, C: decreased to less than half.

All humans, including some of the most intelligent and well-informed individuals across the world, when asked simple questions about global phenomena, like the ones above, systematically get the answers wrong. In fact, so wrong, that if they didn’t read the question at all, but instead just randomly selected one of the answers, or if a chimpanzee picked one for them, they’d be more likely to get the answer correct.

It turns out that we are much more pessimistic about the state of the world today compared with the truth of the situation based on cold, hard facts. There is much more to be positive about than we instinctively believe.

The answers to the above questions by the way are: 1. Almost halved, 2. 60%, 3. 80% and 4. Decreased to less than half.

Hans Rosling, assisted by his son and daughter-in-law, suggest reasons for why this happens and pull out ten instincts that “distort our perspective,” such as our urgency instinct – i.e., our compulsion to do something -anything – as quickly as possible in reaction to a threat, without first carefully looking at the facts and considering the best course of action. In evolutionary times, this instinct would have saved us, but now it’s hindering our strategic thinking.

Rosling encourages us to consider how these instincts are holding us back, and instead urges us to “embrace a world view based on facts” so that we can worry less and know exactly where to focus our efforts, on the things that threaten us the most: the first on his list of these issues: a global pandemic… (the book was written in 2018).

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

A woman walks into a funeral parlour to organise her own funeral and six hours later, she is murdered. Just a coincidence or did she know she was going to die?

I love the unique concept of this book: a classic whodunnit but with a very interesting twist. The author, Horowitz, writing in the first person, puts himself in the place of a modern-day Watson, following around the genius, but rather unlikeable detective, Daniel Hawthorne, to solve the crime. Working on the pretext that this is his first book about a real rather than fictional murder, he cleverly melds reality about his life and writing career with a fictional case.

Oh, and it’s completely unputdownable – make sure you have enough time to consume within one or two sittings, as once you’ve started, you won’t be able to stop!


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

One of my favourite books of all time, Bean11 is reading this as her ‘stretch novel’ alongside me for some special mummy-daughter time. We’re taking it slowly and once she finishes a few chapters, I quickly reread the same ones as a reminder, both of us annotating the margins with our thoughts on pre-agreed topics, such as creativity and relationships with God. Then, we sit down with a hot drink and discuss our views together. Such a special way to connect with my beautiful girl.

(Following reviews by Bean11)

Villains in Venice by Katherine Woodfine – book 3 of the Taylor and Rose Secret Agents series (which follows Woodfine’s Sinclair Mysteries series)

Sophie and Lil – the heads of the Taylor and Rose Detective Society – have a dangerous mission. They must travel to Venice to find something the Secret Service Bureau – one of their clients – have wanted for a long time. However, with a mysterious double agent working at the Secret Service Bureau, and a dangerous society, who will stop at nothing to get what they want, waiting for them in Venice, this mission could be fatal. Can Sophie and Lil outwit their enemies, find what they are searching for, and make it home alive?

This book is riveting; I couldn’t put it down and I’m now desperately waiting for the release of book 4 in the series!

Fantastic Female Adventurers by Lily Dyu

In this inspiring book, Lily Dyu explores the stories of thirteen incredible sporting women, who ran, swam, biked, skied, climbed, hiked, hand biked, kayaked, sailed, and flew all around the world. These stories show how women can be just as capable and adventurous as men. They portray strong-spirited, ambitious women who will not let anything stand in the way of their goals. Something that I aspire to be one day!


Point Blanc (Alex Rider) by Anthony Horowitz

I’m not sure how we haven’t already read this gripping series of spy novels about a teenage spy named Alex Rider. Bean10 was given book 1: Stormbreaker, for his birthday by a friend and he’s been hooked ever since.

This week, he finished book 2: Point Blanc, and we’ve now had to order the remaining titles in the 13-book collection!

In this second book, Alex is sent by MI6 to the exclusive Point Blanc Academy, owned by scientist Dr. Hugo Grief, to investigate the deaths of two billionaires both of whose sons attend the school. Can Alex discover and foil Grief’s terrifying secret before it’s too late?


This great book, perfect for our sports-loving boy, is packed with a wide range of popular sports from netball to boxing. For each sport, there is a brief description; a summary of the rules of the game; interesting facts about the sport; and a picture of the sport in action, with key terms explained.

Bean10 pours over this book, learning the rules for each sport and asking me a multitude of questions, like “Which sections of the court can Wing Defence go” or “What are your top five favourite sports!”, or peppering me with fascinating facts, such as “Did you know that fencing is one of the only four sports to have been represented in every Olympic Games?”

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O. Brien

Mrs. Frisby is the mother of a family of mice who live in Mr. Fitzgibbon’s field. But she has a problem. She needs to move home, as she and all the other inhabitants of the field do every year before ploughing time, to avoid being ploughed up with their houses, but her youngest son is too sick to move. At a loss for what to do, she seeks the help of some incredibly clever rats. As she does so, she discovers an amazing underground lair, a prodigious plan, and an astonishing story, which reveals not only the secret of the rat’s intelligence, but of her dead husband’s too…

Morning Basket Read Aloud

Stanley and Livingstone and the Exploration of Africa in World History by Richard Worth

We’re nearing the end of our Victorian studies, finishing off with a look at the exploration of and scramble to control the African continent by rival European powers at the end of the nineteenth century.

I’ve written here about our love of supporting historical literature to bring a time period to life and for this topic, we’ve chosen to follow the famous Scottish explorer Livingstone’s adventures through southern Africa, along with his world-renowned meeting with reporter Henry Stanley.

Through this book, we’re learning about Livingstone’s desire to use his medical skills to help the native people; his strong faith to spread Christianity throughout the nation (although with this, he had little success); and his desire to locate a trading route into the centre of the continent to find an alternative to the horrendous slave trade, which he was desperate to see abolished. Sadly, although his intentions were good, the maps he created eventually made it easier for the European domination which was to come.

It’s a good book if you’re studying the topic and it’s improved our geographical knowledge of Southern Africa too, as we’ve looked up each river, lake and desert he explored, as we’ve read along.

So, that’s what we’ve all been reading this week.

What are you reading? I’m always on the look out for new and inspiring books, so if you have any recommendations, I’d love you to add them to the comments below.  

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