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Real-life reads

Muddy's pro-bookworm Kerry Potter is all about real-life stories this month. Well, the truth is often stranger than fiction, after all.

I’ve gone mad for memoirs of late – sometimes you can’t beat a meaty, moving real-life story, right? And there’s something new for every taste this month. Here are my favourite four for February. (I’m hoping the alliteration will distract you from the fact it’s only just still February – hey, I’m a slow reader!). Anyway, let me know in the comment box below if you/your book club give any of them a whirl – I’m always up for a bit of literary chat…

HEALTH KICK QUEEN? Try… Get Well Soon by Nick Duerden

When, aged 42, Duerden starts suffering from a mysterious but deeply debilitating exhaustion and fatigue, he can’t get any straight answers – or indeed help – from the NHS. Fearing a life spent forever more taking door-to-door minicabs to work, sleeping all day and being unable to run a few metres from the playground to the park loos when his young daughters demand he must, he delves deep into the world of alternative therapies to seek a solution. His open-minded quest takes in yoga, meditation, psychoanalysis, a Tao master, kinesiology, a woman who does something strange with a pendulum via Skype and many, many more weird and wonderful experiences. The writing is thoughtful, infused with a wry humour and ultimately uplifting. And it’s a testament to the grit and enduring love of his wife, Elena. Lovely stuff.

 

A RETIRED HEDONIST? Try… Love & Trouble by Claire Dederer

Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert is a big fan of this elegant, lyrical and searingly honest dissection of a midlife crisis and I can see why. Subtitled Memoirs Of A Former Wild Girl, the Seattle writer reflects on her hedonistic, carefree youth and how far she’s come in now she’s in her ’40s; a proper adult with a job, family and responsibilities. But has she changed all that much? Do any of us? Is it OK to be dissatisfied when you have it all? And why is she flirting with that guy who’s not her husband?  The narrative rambles around, pin-balling between different trains of thoughts, and past and present, taking in diary entries, letters and half-buried memories. This one really chimed with me (a bit too much at times, actually), especially when she talks about desperately wanting to stop “doing” all the time and to just “be”. That’s the very thing you absolutely can’t do if you have young children of course.

 

AN ADVENTURER? Try… Departures by Anna Hart

As a travel journalist Hart has had more far-flung adventures than most, although she writes beautifully about the less far flung ones too, such as ditching London for  being beside the seaside in newly-gentrified Margate (it’s the new Brighton, doncha know). Part memoir, part travel guide, her journey takes in Poland, the Amalfi coast, Singapore (her childhood home), Bali, New Zealand, LA and beyond, as she works out what she truly wants from life and ponders when travelling veers into “running away”. It’s interspersed with practical tips too about  nixing jetlag and unexpected ways to get under the skin of your destination (she suggests ditching the pre-holiday pedicure and taking a treatment at a local beauty salon).  Read this and you’ll be itching to jump on a plane.

 

AN INCURABLE ROMANTIC? Try… Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

If you miss Alderton’s Sunday Times Style dating column, then you can console yourself with this witty, wise dip into the world of millennial dating. I especially loved the format changes as she zings from funny lists to social satire to text conversations to more serious musings on what she’s learned about life and love (and her definition of the latter is broad, taking in enduring female friendships too). There’s food for thought here even if your millennial days are long gone (and, er, they hadn’t invented the word millennial back then anyway). “It is no one person’s job to be the sole provider of your happiness. Sorry,” she writes. Ain’t that the truth.

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