Book Picnic: January 2024

Every month, GWL team members and volunteers share what we’ve read recently at our Book Picnic. Here’s what we’ve been reading over the festive break.

Thank you to our volunteer Aileen who pulled together these recommendations.

Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi

Colourful comic book style illustration of a person standing on a street. They're wearing a big scarf and there are leaves on the pavement. And a shop sign in Japanese in the background.

Pauline recommended this book which is Japanese writer Emi Yagi’s first novel. Fed up of being expected to clean up after the men at her work, as well as doing her own job, Ms Shibata comes up with a creative solution and fakes her own pregnancy, claiming the extra cleaning up is making her feel sick. But outside of her work, she leads a very solitary life.

This is a thought-provoking book which is basically about loneliness, and well worth reading.

Book cover showing a river flowing fast into a large body of water.

To the Lake, A Journey of War and Peace by Kapka Kassabova

Pauline also recommended this non-fiction travel book which she is currently reading. Set in the Balkans, the book describes the history of the people of the region around Lakes Ohrid and Prespa, two vast lakes joined by underground rivers. Kapka, who now lives in Scotland, travels back to the region where her grandmother is from to explore the history and the repression of its people.

Bright yellow cover with a bouquet of grey and blue flowers in the centre,

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

This bestselling novel was recommended by Elaine, who thoroughly enjoyed it. One morning, boxes start arriving on the doorstep of every person over 22 – but nobody knows who is sending them. Inside the box is a piece of string showing them exactly how long they have left to live. They are faced with a choice of whether to open the box or not. The book tells the story of eight different people, whose lives are all interlinked.

The Autism Industrial Complex- How Branding, Marketing and Capital Investment Turned Autism into Bog Business by Alicia A Broderick

Dark blue/great cover with just the title and author.

Aileen recommended this book for anyone with an interest in autism, disability studies or equalities issues and for those who would like to understand more about how the stigma around autism has been unfairly created and what they can do to help overcome this.

Alicia is a Professor of Education in the US and tells the (unfortunately non-fiction) story of how the autism industry has been created to the harm of autistic people in order to generate income for non-autistic people and businesses, using branding, marketing and capital investment to create fear of autism and autistic people and drive demand for products such as Applied Behaviour Analysis. ABA is a highly controversial ‘therapy’ similar to conversion therapy which autistic children are subjected to in order to make them appear less autistic, but which has been linked to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other negative outcomes.

The book is not a particularly easy read as it is quite academic, but Aileen felt it was an important book on a topic more people should know about. There is a linked video on the topic called Raising Awareness of the AIC at as well as a shorter version at

Colourful cover depicting in drawings different types of trains and landscapes: mountains, sea, skyscapers etc,

Around the World in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh

Gaby has been reading the popular Around the World in 80 Trains, which has also featured in previous book picnics – it made her want to travel by train although they never seemed to sleep very well.  

From the cloud-skimming heights of Tibet’s Qinghai railway to silk-sheeted splendour on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Around the World in 80 Trains is a celebration of the glory of train travel. Packing up her rucksack – and her fiancé, Jem – Monisha Rajesh embarks on an unforgettable adventure that takes her from London’s St Pancras station to the vast expanses of Russia and Mongolia, North Korea, Canada, Kazakhstan, and beyond. The journey is one of constant movement and mayhem, as the pair make friendships and swap stories with the varied and eclectic travellers they meet on board, all while taking in some of the earth’s most breath-taking views.

Cover depicting a black cat sitting with their back to us under some branches with red crested birds sitting on them

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

Anna recommended this very funny bestselling novel, featuring a very opinionated cat on a road trip with his owner, who has set out to visit three childhood friends, for reason Nana the cat doesn’t understand. Anna liked it as the story was told from the viewpoint of the cat – it ‘cleans your brain’.

Dark blue cover with a candle in an old fashioned candle holder and a branch with golden leaves curving round the cover.

The Haunting Season: Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights

Anna also recommended this anthology of Christmas ghost stories from eight well-known authors – Bridget Collins, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Jess Kidd, Elizabeth Macneal, Natasha Pulley and Laura Purcell

Book cover: dark blue background with thistles around the edge.

Ashes & Stones: a Scottish Journey in Search of Witches and Witness by Allyson Shaw

Anna recommended this book of creative non-fiction, which explores the stories of those women accused of witchcraft in seventeenth century Scotland. It looks at why they were forced into the situation they were in and offers a new way of looking at their stories.

A completely cream coloured background, expect for a set of inverted comas with no words between them.

A Book of Silence– by Sara Maitland

Anna has also been really enjoying this non-fiction book, in which Sara Maitland talks about her route into silence, why we might need it and the meaning it has in her life.

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