A May Reading List

This month’s reading list is quite a mixed bag. What with all the commuting I’m doing, I’m getting through roughly a book a week (it’s becoming a very expensive pastime!) With the amount of time I now have for reading, I’ve been making myself pick up books that I would never usually consider. It’s such a great way to discover new favourites and the variety means you can never get bored. Here are my latest discoveries.

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*For a read that feels like a chat: Wildflower, Drew Barrymore. I never, ever read memoirs. But Drew Barrymore’s Wildflower did the rounds on Instagram (with that gorgeous cover) and my attention was caught. This is not a tell-all autobiography, but that’s why I loved it so much. Each chapter tells a different anecdote, fronted by a relevant snap. Some are funny, such as her skydiving experience with Cameron Diaz, some are touching, such as the chapters dedicated to her two daughters and some are quite tragic, such as the stories from her childhood. I’m not a particular Drew Barrymore fan, but you don’t need to be to enjoy her memoir. Curling up with this book feels like catching up with an old friend.

*For a real surprise: We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. This is a Young Adult read, another genre I rarely dip into. I didn’t expect much from this (unfortunately, I’m always a little snobby about YA)  and was proven completely and entirely wrong. I loved it. We Were Liars centers around the beautiful, blonde and very rich Sinclair family. They put up a perfect front but as the narrator, eldest Sinclair grandchild Cady, tries to piece together an accident that she cannot remember and her family refuses to discuss, the cracks start to form. The general confusion builds into an explosive twist which will have you immediately flip back to the beginning to work out how the author had you so fooled.

*For a much needed sweet fix: Life is Sweet, The Hummingbird Bakery. If you’re ever in London, don’t miss The Hummingbird Bakery. Famed for their red velvet cupcakes and rainbow layer slices, this American-style bakery always hits the spot. My sister and I always turn to their original cookbook when we want to whip up something sweet, but Life is Sweet is the newest addition to our collection. With red velvet brownies and pancakes (!), a tunnel of fudge cake and pink champagne cupcakes, it’ll be keeping us very busy over the May bank holiday weekends.

A March Reading List

Supposedly spring is on its way. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still freaking freezing outside. There may be daffodils and even some lambs about, but they are hardly basking in the spring sunshine. So I’m continuing my winter hibernation and, if you are too, these are the books I suggest you occupy yourself with…

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*For something a little special: When God Was a Rabbit, Sarah Winman. I’ve just finished Sarah Winman’s new book, A Year of Marvellous Ways, and to be honest I didn’t love it. The prose is completely beautiful, to the point of being poetic, but the story was lost in the words and I didn’t feel anything for the characters. Happily though, I was reminded of how much I loved her debut – When God Was a Rabbit. Set in two halves with the protagonist Elly as first a child, and then an adult, it follows the lives and loves of her, her brother and their family and friends. The story is  beautifully told and completely captivating, Elly’s voice will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

*For a slice of history: A Dangerous Inheritance, Alison Weir. Anyone searching for historical fiction will be directed straight to Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen. I love Philippa Gregory, but after devouring her entire Cousin’s War series, I was left wanting more – which lead me to Alison Weir. A Dangerous Inheritance follows both Lady Katherine Grey, rival to Queen Elizabeth I’s throne, and Kate Plantagent, bastard daughter of Richard III, who are linked by history’s most famous murder mystery, the Princes in the Tower. It’s a completely absorbing story and you just might find yourself learning something along the way.

*For a bit of excitement: The Bones of You, Debbie Howells. I have just finished this new(ish) psychological thriller and I’m still reeling. Set in an idyllic village, The Bones of You is told from the point of view of Kate, a local mother, as she comes to know the Anderson family following the disappearance of their eldest daughter. Debbie Howells creates and tears apart her characters in a complex story of twisted minds and destructive relationships set against a beautiful landscape. The cleverness of the story and her characters is what makes it such a thrilling read, rather than constant action. But, believe me, there’s still plenty of fast-paced action to keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Magazine Career Must Reads

Journalism careers are always a topic of interest. From the big screen world of The Devil Wears Prada, the retelling of great investigative journalism such as All the President’s Men and, more recently, Spotlight, TV documentaries taking you inside Tatler’s offices and the phone hacking scandal hitting front pages, journalists inspire stories as much as they actually write them.

I’ve wanted to work as a journalist since my Year 5 teacher mentioned the idea to me aged 9, and I’ve wanted to work in magazines since my first work placement at Horse magazine aged 14. But even when you are on a placement it’s hard to get a sense of what it is really like to work there, and films like The Devil Wears Prada are more drama and nonsense than anything remotely real.

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But I have discovered the best way to delve into magazine offices, learn about publishing history and hear stories about the greatest parties with the biggest names is through memoirs by magazine editors. These books are almost impossible to track down. All three I have here I discovered pretty much by accident. I’m still on the search for more, and I promise to report back if/when I find them…

*Mama Mia, by Mia Freedman: Mia became editor of Australian Cosmopolitan at just 24. Her memoir documents her rise to the editor’s chair, her highs and lows as editor and her departure from the world of magazines alongside an intimate glimpse into her personal life. My aunt gave me this book for my birthday, and I became completely absorbed by it. Mia is witty and honest, and gives us a very real look into what it is like to work in magazines. We see the glamorous side of her career but she doesn’t allow it to overwhelm the book and she isn’t a name-dropper, you learn more about her co-workers than the celebs. I would highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in magazines.

*A Diary of The Lady, by Rachel Johnson: This couldn’t be funnier even if it tried. Rachel Johnson’s memoir of her time as editor of The Lady takes on the form of a diary, with almost daily entries documenting the havoc at Lady HQ. I particularly loved this one because I have done placements at The Lady (they are always looking for workies!), so I was familiar with the offices, the setting and many of the characters. She includes hilarious email chains trying to secure cover girls and columnists, past covers (including the one her beloved dog, Coco, “guest-edited”) and daily updates on her in-tray (in which she always laments the lack of chocolate). We don’t see much into her personal life, but I don’t think the book misses this. She is so funny and engaging, you just want to hear about each fast-paced and nutty new day at The Lady.

*The Vogue Factor, by Kirstie Clements:  Kirstie Clements was editor in chief of Vogue Australia for thirteen years when she was unceremoniously fired in 2012, and this is where the book begins. She then goes back to tell all on her career at Vogue, from answering the phones to the editor’s chair. You don’t see as much into the magazine offices in this book as you do with the other two. I felt it was all famous names, luxury travel and big parties, but that wasn’t balanced up with what it is like to produce Vogue every month. Having said that, she has some great anecdotes. I loved the chapters about Karl Largerfeld as guest editor, and when she managed to shoot and interview the royal couple of Denmark (the princess being an Aussie). It doesn’t quite have the lightness of touch of the other two and takes itself a little too seriously at times, but if fashion journalism is more your thing, this is definitely one to read.

If you guys know of any more memoirs like these, then please, please share – I’m desperate to get my hands on them!