I don’t think I’ve got the mid-winter blues, but I’m feeling very pap, as we say in South Africa. ‘Pap’ means listless, deflated, without energy.

So I’ll be taking a blogging mini-break in August. I won’t publish any reviews or recommendations, but will post the usual monthly reading roundup , for those who are wondering: what should I read next?

In my case the answer is: oh! the agonies of choice! There’s my TBR pile simmering on the shelf, plus the monthly Book Club offering, and … and … Perhaps it’s fortunate that I’m going away on a mid-month family visit, because the airline charges the socks off you for over weight baggage, so I’ve included only one novel How to be Both by Ali Smith which I’m struggling to read. Let’s hope a change of altitude and scenery will make it more approachable.

I recently bought an Amazon Kindle device, as an aid to travel reading, but alas! our South African rand is even weaker than ever, so that is a big disincentive to buy dollar-priced books. On past family visits I’ve ransacked the bookshelves, hunting for something – anything – to read, which means I’m striking out into my daughter’s territory of Africana, animal/bush related memoirs and novels, Rhodesian history. Well, it makes a change, if nothing else.

See you at the end of August. Meanwhile: happy reading!




I started the month by reading RL Stevenson classic “Travels with a Donkey”, reckoned to be one  of the first Travel Books written. Stevenson undertook his 12 day , 200 kilometre solo journey through the Cevennes mountains in south-central France in 1878. His book was published the following year, and remains a classic to this day.

I enjoyed the rather old fashioned English, the vivid descriptions of the French countryside, and Stevenson’s  battle of will with Modestine, the donkey who carried his camping gear. For the first part of the journey the donkey  definitely had the upper hoof, but Stevenson finally established who was boss. And, I was able to tick it off my TBR list, which always creates a warm glow of satisfaction.

Purely by chance this month’s reads include two books with Birds in the title:  books which could not be more different. One about life and writing, the other a  charming account of a year’s bird-watching in Britain.

Whilst I was ill, I cheered myself with my favourite Sheriff, Walt Longmire. He’s laconic, resourceful, brave, principled and a hundred other good things: I’m adding him to my Christmas Wish List. If only!

And then Ruth Ozeki’s novel – a rich assortment of cultures and lives.  A book not to be missed. Definitely a contender for my Book of the Year list.

My other 5* read was Christopher Boucher’s Golden Delicious. If you want to try something out of the ordinary, something utterly different: then try Boucher’s crazy novel.

Ratings: 5* – Outstanding!  4*+  –  Good to very good;  3* – average;  2* – run-of-the-mill;  1* –  dismal;  zero * – no comment.   DNF – did not finish;  NF – non-fiction  

5* Golden Delicious – Christopher Boucher. Wildly original, dazzlingly inventive; growing up in the imaginary town of Appleseed. A Must Read. Reviewed on this blog.

5* A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki . Reviewed on this blog.

5* Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott. Advice on writing and life.  A keeper to relish and refer to. Reviewed on this blog. NF

4.5* Why do Birds Suddenly Disappear?  200 birds. 12 months. 1 lapsed birdwatcher – by Lev Parikian. An absolute delight.  Entertaining and charming. Review to follow  on this blog. NF

4*Dry Bones – Craig Johnson.Sheriff Walt Longmire rides again, sorting out politicians, bureauocrats,  baddies and bones  with his usual courageous  aplomb.

4* The Dark Horse – Craig Johnson. Walt Longmire goes undercover (not very successfully) to solve the mystery of a ranch fire, charred equine and human  remains, and a witness protection programme baddie.Justice triumphs in the end.


3.25* Travels with a Donkey – RL Stevenson.  One of the earliest travel books in modern Western literature. Quaint and enjoyable.

3* The Highway Man – Craig Johnson. We have a ghost, a 30 year old robbery, a falsely accused Indian Highway Patrolman ; an explosive finish.

3* Visit Sunny Chernobyl  and other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places –  Andrew Blackwell.  Well written, interesting and timely.  But a bleak read.NF