In the third part of my literary journey through Advent, I'm going to share the non-fiction books which mean a lot to me.
Paris – Insight Cityguides
For our first year of married life, my husband and I lived in Paris. We had a minute apartment on the top floor in a very posh part of the city called Neuilly-sur-Seine. If anyone has seen the film 'Ratatouille', that was our view – we could see the Arche de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower from our tiny lounge. In the summer it was spectacular, in the winter, the whole city lit up.
This book was invaluable – there is so much to see in Paris, and I’m sure we didn’t see everything, but we certainly gave it our best shot.
A couple of years ago I spent a very happy five days with my daughter Emily, visiting all my favourite places. We called it our ‘literary tour’ and wrote a whole book of poems, stories, letters and every other form of writing we could think of.
Here are a couple of our efforts:
Eiffel Tower Haiku (It was a very cold day!)
I wish I could send
My eyes to the top and leave
My feet in the shop
And a Pompidou Centre Limerick
Pompidou had a great vision
Constructing an ugly old prison.
But when it was done,
It looked far too much fun,
Like a template for nuclear fission.
We did, of course, create far more eloquent and sophisticated poetry and prose, but I thought you’d find these more amusing.
101 Simple Suppers – GoodFood
With five children, providing food was a large part of my life for well over twenty years. I needed quick, healthy meals to satisfy my growing family, and this book was a life-saver. I usually adapt any recipe to suit my taste and needs, so I now have a couple of notebooks filled with Mama Boxall recipes. I should publish them one day.
Shake Well Before Use by Tom Isaacs
My younger brother Tom was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease at the age of 26. Instead of hiding away from the world, he set about trying to beat the disease and spent the rest of his life raising awareness, money and hope.
He set up the charity Cure Parkinson's with some high-profile fellow sufferers, and together they raised millions of pounds for the charity. Tom’s biggest fund-raiser was his year-long walk around the entire coast of Great Britain. How he did it with his debilitating and progressive illness I will never know, but as he walked he took notes. The result was his book, Shake Well Before Use (the title reflects the fact that it wasn’t until his diagnosis that he felt his true purpose in life). It is a funny, sad, moving, devastating and ultimately inspiring read. Tragically, Tom died at the age of 49 and never had time to promote his book properly. If you know anyone in need of a bit of hope and inspiration, this is the book for them.
Have I read it cover-to-cover?
I gave myself five years to do it and achieved my goal. Did I understand it all? No, but I’m trying. More recently I found an app called, “The Bible in One Year”, read by the wonderful David Suchet (Poirot) and explained by Nicky Gumbell who makes lots of sense.
The bible is, according to Guinness World Records as of 1995, the best-selling selling book of all time with an estimated 5 billion copies sold and distributed. It is also the wisest book in the world. A place to find the answers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened my bible at a random page and found a quote meant for me at that moment.
My favourite is Isaiah 41:30
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.
Who doesn’t want to soar on wings like eagles!
Guinness World Records
One of those fascinating books that once you start reading, you can’t put down, or help yourself from telling anyone else in the room something extraordinary, such as the most blindfolded backwards standing somersaults in one minute: twenty-one.
One record that hasn’t been broken, is the tallest man in history. Robert Pershing Wadlow from USA was measured at a whopping 8 ft 11.1 ins of height in 1940. He needed to eat 8,000 calories daily.
I bet you can’t resist telling someone!
If you haven't read The Runaway Children of Chennai yet, please do - the sequel will be out in January. Also, it would make a great Christmas present :) Don't forget it's only 99p on Amazon for a limited time only.
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