October Book Picnic Recommendations

On the first Wednesday of every month, GWL team members and volunteers share what we’ve read recently at our Book Picnic. In the current climate, our Book Picnic takes place remotely, giving all of us some valuable social interaction and providing us with many excellent book suggestions…

  • The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

    Recommended by Annie, this story is set in Cyprus and London, from the 1970s up until the 2010s. Two teenagers, one a Greek Cypriot, and the other, a Turkish Cypriot, must meet in secret to express their love. Their hideaway is a small tavern with a fig tree growing through the roof. Rife with magical realism, the fig tree is a voice in the story, as it witnesses the turbulent period the island endures. It is a tale of identity, love, trauma, and the cyclical, and often healing, aspect of nature. Annie found the story heartbreaking, and admired the amount of research Shafak had done regarding plants, but felt that she preferred the previous book she read by her (10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World). 

  • An Archive of Happiness by Elizabeth Reeder

    Also recommended by Annie, this book is set in the Scottish Highlands over the course of one day, during an annual family reunion. As always, families are complicated. Little things can brew and grow into monstrous issues, and things are often said when they shouldn’t be, or left unsaid when they are needed most. Featuring unexpected turns, this is an intimate exploration of family and grief. Annie did find the nonlinear structure of the book to be difficult to parse, but enjoyed the slow build of tension through the book as “you could feel that something was going to happen.”

  • The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

    This book was recommended by Anna, who really enjoyed it and felt it was “well worth reading.” 8-year-old Carmel Wakeford is abducted from a story-telling fair in England, leaving her mother, Beth, desperate to find her. There are two stories intertwined here, as you read from the perspective of both Beth and Carmel. Unbeknownst to Beth, Carmel has been taken to an entirely different country, and finds herself immersed in a strange environment that becomes more dangerous as time passes. This is a richly crafted, character-driven story that will have you anxious to know what happens next. 

  • Summer in the City by Fiona Collins

    Recommended by Elaine, who described it as “a well-written and warm read”, this is a story about family, friendship, and facing your fears. Prue prefers to blend into the crowd, content to spend all of her time inside with her father, who is blind. They are in a bit of a rut, simply existing and barely communicating. When something forces them out and into the world, they begin to venture to various London landmarks, with Prue acting as her father’s eyes. Slowly, but surely, they begin to truly live again. 

  • Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

    Recommended by Jenna, this is a brand new read from author Moriarty. Joy and Stan Delaney are newly retired from their family business. When Joy goes missing, their four adult children are unsure what to think. The family are hiding things from both the police, and each other, and Stan has scratches down his face that he can’t, or won’t, explain. A family drama that jumps between the past and present, it gives you little crumbs of the story at a time, keeping you turning the pages. Jenna has read all of Moriarty’s books and finds her writing and humor “just plain fun.”

  • Portals by Rosie Roberts

    Recommended by Doreen, who thoroughly enjoyed reading it, this publication is structured around the five emblems on the Glasgow city crest (ring, fish, bird, tree and bell). Doreen appreciated the author’s efforts to make the book accessible “in her own way”, with short bits of writing, so that you can read a couple pages at a time and then put it to the side. Inventive and engaging, it is a lyrical hybrid of prose, poetry, essay, and more, all interconnecting and resonating with city life. 

  • The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner

    This story of life in rural South Africa, first published in 1883, was recommended by Pauline. Although on the surface it follows the lives of three white children, growing up on a farm, it is a very layered book. It created quite a stir at the time of publication, as it promoted unorthodox views on religion and marriage, and is often touted as one of the first feminist novels. While Pauline did not necessarily agree, she did find the setting fascinating, and the writing of the landscape “absolutely beautiful.” 

  • A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter

    This memoir, published in the 1930s, is currently being read by Gaby. Austrian painter Christiane Ritter is asked to join her husband in a tiny hut on a small Arctic island, far from civilization. Despite her cosmopolitan lifestyle, she agrees to go. What follows is a year of survival, and extremes: both of great beauty and great starkness. Gaby felt that “their day to day life was fascinating”, and enjoyed Ritter’s ability to craft a narrative. It is a haunting and striking account of the power and beauty of the polar landscape. 

If you’re looking to pick up some interesting reads for yourself, GWL is delighted to offer our ‘Select and Collect’ service.

Request up to 6 books in advance, and we’ll have them ready for you to pick up. Or, if you’re not sure where to start, we can select some titles or make up a “book bundle” for you. Click here to find out more!

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