May was a more varied literary month than April, with a couple of fiction books and one non-fiction title.
I started off the month’s reading with one of Alexander McCall Smith’s books, Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers. McCall Smith is an Edinburgh-based author who is a prolific fiction writer, well known for his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series set in Botswana.
Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers is part of the 44 Scotland Street series, which follows various characters living and working in Edinburgh. At the heart of the series is Bertie, a young boy who is forced to cope with his pretentious mother’s overbearing approach to child rearing. Earlier in the series, she enrols him in a variety of classes, including yoga and Italian lessons, and sends him to psychotherapy.
McCall Smith’s books are light, filled with cheerful humour and entertaining musings on life. If I had to sum up his writing in one word, I’d describe it as “pleasant”.
I received a review copy of The Secret Language of Dogs: Unlocking the Canine Mind for a Happier Pet, so this was my next May read. It’s by Victoria Stilwell, a popular canine behavioural expert who uses positive training methods.
I know that some of my readers love dogs, and this book is a must-read if you’re interested in canine psychology. Essentially, it’s a book about what we know about how dogs see the world and how they express themselves.
The content is quite basic and each chapter is short, but there’s a helpful list of references at the back if you want to delve deeper. If you’re looking for specific tips on how to train your dog, I think it would be beneficial to read this book alongside a practical dog training manual. Victoria Stilwell’s website, positively.com, also has a lot of helpful training advice.
The Secret Language of Dogs has two main parts: ‘The Secret Inner Experience of Dogs’ and ‘The Secret Meanings of Body and Vocal Language’. I’m not so sure about the use of the word ‘secret’, as a lot of the content is based on canine psychology which is fairly well known. But it was an enjoyable read nonetheless, and many pages have high-quality colour photos of adorable dogs. These certainly contributed to my enjoyment of the book!
Finally, I read My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Strout is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and her books, including Olive Kitteridge, have been on my to-read list for a while. Her latest, Anything is Possible, was released recently to great acclaim.
My Name is Lucy Barton is a short novel told mostly in dialogue between a mother and her grown-up daughter, Lucy, who is in hospital for a long stay. Their relationship hasn’t always been harmonious, and although the reader never fully sees Lucy’s background, we learn that she had a troubled childhood in small-town Illinois.
Through dialogue and Lucy’s first-person narrative, this is a deeply human, poignant story. There is sadness for what has gone before, but also a sense of Lucy’s resilience and hope for the future. Strout’s writing is subtle and it is this understatedness that has the power to move the reader.
You can click here to read an excerpt from the book on the author’s website.
Please note: book cover images in this post are from Goodreads and are used under ‘fair use’ (for illustrative, non-commercial review purposes only).
What books did you read in May? Do you have any recommendations for books I could read in June?