Anna Campbell

September 2020

Recent Reads Part 3

I’ve read so many great memoirs lately, I’m going to talk about another three I really enjoyed this month. If you like memoirs, though, make sure you check out my three recommendations from last month too.

Lately I’ve become a bit of an addict of medical memoirs. Not quite sure why, perhaps it’s because they take me into a world that I’ll never have any experience of, except as a patient. Perhaps it’s because the writers are describing often life and death situations and that automatically adds a level of interest beyond the day to day.

I’m starting with Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor which has been a massive bestseller in the UK. I can see why. It’s funny and tender and heart-rending and disturbing, as Kay works his way through the various levels of training to become a gynecologist and deals with an eccentric cast of fellow doctors and patients. I couldn’t put this one down and in the end, I found it really moving despite the bits that made me laugh out loud.

My second choice of memoir is another medical one, this time Unnatural Causes: The Life and Many Deaths of Britain’s Top Forensic Pathologist by Dr. Richard Shepherd.

Forensic scientists are a mainstay of the murder mystery genre. It was fascinating to read the story of someone involved in real life cases from murders, to accidental deaths, to terrorist attacks. Dr. Shepherd has also been part of a number of high-profile campaigns to improve the treatment of prisoners. Honest, harrowing, heartbreaking and often shocking, this book is a real eye-opener into the life of a dedicated doctor who speaks for the dead with compassion and expertise and principle.

My last memoir in this month’s column isn’t a medical one. It’s Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan. After all that drama and angst and blood and guts, it’s nice to end on something charming and relaxing and altogether uplifting.

Mangan was the sort of little girl who always had her nose stuck in a book and who had read through the kids’ section of the library long before she was officially allowed to graduate to the adults’ section. As you’ve probably gathered if you’ve hung around in my cyber presence for a while, I was just such a little girl myself.

This one’s a real delight as Mangan revisits her favorite childhood reading, from Enid Blyton to Narnia to Alice in Wonderland and pretty much everything in between. Reading Bookworm felt like a holiday and I found myself smiling over and over as yet another wonderful memory of a childhood discovery struck me. If you were a bookish child, I recommend it highly.