comments 28

In which I drink more coffee and ask for more book recommendations

eatingLast Tuesday, I forgot both my lunch and my mug on the way out of the house.  I knew that the missing lunch would be easily rectified by a visit to the canteen and any one of a selection of low-cost/high-carb options. The mug was a different problem.  Now I know that a lot of people do use staff room mugs, and there is probably nothing wrong with them.  I’d just rather not if I didn’t have to.

So my morning petrol stop at the garage turned into a quest for a Costa Coffee, or more precisely, for the paper cup surrounding the liquid ejected from the 2 minute machine next to the doughnut counter.

I went into work clutching my cup, feeling like a refugee from another life, where I was an employee from a high tech company, working all hours on projects to deliver glamorous products to glamorous clients.  Especially as it was still dark when I got in.  Part of these delusions were, I imagine, caused by the coffee.  During the morning, I got unusually excited about the case studies I am writing, and even more excited by my positive data trends, which I was very careful to double check in case I was hallucinating them.

In the evening, while Lovely Daughter #2 was at ballet, I felt like I was in need of something.  This need drew me into town, where I came across the Real Eating Company.  Whenever I’ve passed it, the Real Eating Company has  been impossibly packed, but it seems that in the evening the ratio of staff to customers drops to 1:1.

It was very quiet, and warm, Nina Simone was on the speakers singing one of her best songs, Mr Bojangles, and there was the smell of COFFEE!  Everything was pretty and bright and shiny, and they had cakes on the counter, and on the blackboard, promises of hot apple and ginger toddies, and Apple gin with Fevertree tonic water, which I knew from James meant that it was dead posh.


I wrote quite a lot.  Why is it that you get more done when you are out and about somewhere quiet and warm with Nina Simone in the background?  Is it the lack of wireless distractions?  Or do you feel that having made the effort and spent your £2.30 you need to get your money’s worth? Or it could just be the coffee.

Anyway, today’s question is totally unrelated to coffee.

At work (it’s a school), we do Drop Everything And Read, where we all read for fifteen minutes twice a week.  Following on from this, our Head of English has suggested that some of us might like to apply to be book givers.

Now despite the fact that The History of Western Philosophy is the only book blurb stuck on my door to have been requested by anyone (actually, by two members of staff!), it’s not the sort of book you would actually thrust at anyone going, “You must read this!”  (You’d be in danger of knocking them out for a start.)

The only book I’ve felt that about recently is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  The colleague I gave that to loved it and passed it on to her friends after that.  I’ve read a lot of good books recently but most don’t come with a comparable combination of sensitivity and popularism to Me Before You.

Is there a book you’ve ever felt compelled to pass on to a friend of yours?  And which you were fairly confident they  would love so much that they would want to do the same?




  1. I gave my goddaughter a copy of Stuart Little and she’s been a reader, like myself, ever since. And yes, I think it was the coffee…whatever would we do without it.

  2. He Died With A Felafel In His Hand – a sordid recounting of various terrible Australian flatshares that I still laugh at, 12 years after I first read it. All the drugs and swearing mean it is not necessarily a very suitable book for everyone, but good for anyone contemplating (or reliving) communal living

  3. I’ve had productive episodes in cafes like that before. It hasn’t happened recently though because I tend to have small children with me now but it used to happen in the past. I think it’s partly that you’re in a public place alone and if you don’t get on with some task then you start to look lonely. 🙂

    I quite enjoyed JK Rowling’s recent crime book, Cuckoo’s Calling. It was light, easy reading and the sort of thing you can read over a weekend.

  4. I’m a great passer-on of books. In only exceptional circumstances do I hold onto a book once I’ve read it – anything by John McGregor stays firmly on my shelf. I either drop the book onto our share table in the staff room – we do this so we can pick up someone else’s book, drop a few pennies in the charity tin and keep a reading circle going. It works well. Or, I pass on to a specific friend who I think will appreciate it and tell her/him to then pass on to someone else.
    By the way, just about to finish ‘When I was Five I Killed Myself’ and I’ loving it, so thanks to you for the recommendation.

    • The ending of “When I was Five” is devastating. I think getting into the beginning might not be for everyone though – it’s quite intense.

  5. I love the line: “a refugee from another life” Very nice. And your Real Eating Company sounds great. Yes I always get more done at those places. I think it is because we feel like refugees from our own lives and we can be free! Thanks for your recommendation. On the book.

  6. This cafe looks awesome Denise, it would end up being a very expensive habit for me if it were on my doorstep!

    I also loved Me Before You, and know what you mean by not every book touching your heart the way that one does. I can highly recommend anything by Oliver James, especially They F*** You Up and Affluenza. Brilliant, deep, thought provoking reads. On the other side of the spectrum I’m a big fan of Ben Elton and have enjoyed most of his work. Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone is another favourite of mine… let me know how you get on if you give any of them a go 🙂

    • They all sound good… I remember I liked Ben Elton’s book about traffic wardens, but not read anything else by him.

      • His quite recent (2009 I think) book meltdown is brilliant. Also Chart Throb (about X factor) and Dead Famous (about Big Brother) are fab. He is a very clever man…

  7. When you say you have a “drop everything and read” 15 minutes is that just the staff or the kids too? Your theory about productivity in cafes (particularly writing) must be true because I’m pretty sure JK Rowling wrote at least the first Harry Potter book in one… I always recommend “English Passengers” by Matthew Kneale but I don’t actually own a copy to lend as I borrowed it myself! Also, now I have a Kindle its much more difficult to share…

    • It’s everyone! To show how enjoyable reading can be, and get pupils used to always having a book on the go.

  8. amediablogger

    I understand the mug issue.
    A book that I would recommend is the hikawati by rabih alamaddine. It’s a beautiful story. I’ve passed it on to friends and they’ve passed it on to others. It’s still with someone somewhere. You can read reviews on amazon.

    • That’s such a test of how much a book really grips you – does it do the rounds? I will be checking it out.

      • amediablogger

        It certainly does do the rounds. Hikawati means the storyteller in Arabic. I still haven’t had the book returned but I know it’s been passed on by friends of friends.

  9. I adore Mr Bojangles!! I have never written in a cafe but this setting sounds idyllic, in every sense of the word.

    My friend in the States has been sending me Ann Rule books for years which I devour. They are true crime, in that she (Ann Rule) worked with the Seattle Police Department during the 70s and I love the way she covers the stories which she has some personal knowledge of, and not only due to her meticulous research.

    The psycological aspect of the crimes are fascinating and the tasteful and sensitve yet very gitty and raw way she writes about everyone involved from all aspects makes for a powerful and very emotive insight into what is so often just part of everyday life and which, for me, makes a great read.

    Ultimately, the stories are about the condition of the human heart which no matter what generation or era we live in, never changes. I would highly recommend any of Anne Rule’s books if I knew this was someone’s ‘sort of thing’.

    • I like the sound of that – especially tasteful and sensitive, but realistic at the same time. I’ve become a bit inured to that shock stuff these days…

      • I know what you mean – she doesn’t pull any punches but tells the entire story from all angles and it is most definitely not gratutitious in any way.

  10. I’m so glad that you enjoyed Me Before You so much! It’s definitely one of those books that has mass appeal. I have been recommending The Circle to a lot of people – so far that one seems to be hitting the right notes. The Book Thief is also one of those books that everyone needs to read and I’m a big champion of The Shadow of the Wind. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of my favourites, so beautifully written and full of the right kind of magic.

  11. Ooh tricky to think of books with such wide appeal. Umm, Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle is a favourite comfort read of mine. Just recently I read Lisa Jewell’s The House We Grew Up In and was really pleasantly surprised by how interesting it was – all about a mother who had developed into a serious hoarder and how her problems affected her family. Other than that, I’m a big Anne Tyler fan, and some of her best novels – Saint Maybe, Back When We Were Grown-Ups and The Accidental Tourist are on my all-time great list. Umm, Richard Russo’s Straight Man still reduces me to tears of laughter, and Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter is a briliantly chilling ghost story. And well done you for getting so much writing done in the cafe – I am utterly hopeless at using small windows of time!

  12. I’m the same way at cafes (and libraries) – I think I’m more productive because I think I have a limited time to work and so I dawdle a lot less than I do at home.

    Good question about the recommendations…I’m always reluctant to recommend out of fear the other person won’t like it. I did, though, for years push The DaVinci Code on my brother…I would even pull it out of my shelves and leave it on top of his suitcase or bed whenever we all went back to our parents’ to visit. He finally read it and then thought “meh.” 😉 This year I was recommending The Light Between Oceans but a friend of mine told me she didn’t want to read anything so heavy. I will check out Me Before You. I do remember hearing great things about it when it came out.

  13. Well, I already gave it to you as a recommendation before, but A Monster Calls is one book. And so is Relish by Lucy Knisley, which I bought for my sister. It’s a fun graphic novel/food memoir type thing so it might depend on whether you like that – she did. If you are interested in fantasy (I’m not sure that I’ve seen you review a fantasy book though!), 2013 was the year I first met Patrick Rothfuss and I fell madly in love with his Kvothe of the Kingkiller series. Oh and Jo Walton! I could go on really….

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