Reading has always been a deep passion of mine. One of the reasons why I love it so much is that you can learn so much from a book. Whether it’s an auto-biography, non-fiction story or even a fiction book, there is so much you can take from it. Fiction writing, can offer the reader escapism and distraction, whilst I find that non-fiction holds my interest so vividly mainly due to fascination, exploration, and continued learning.
At the beginning of this year (2020), one of my New Year’s resolutions was to aim to read at least one book a month. I’ve always been well read, but like many, finding the time when working etc, can be a challenge. Due to the current Pandemic, I have easily met the target that I set, in fact I have improved on it, by reading at least two books’ a month, sometimes three. A couple of the books’ that I have mentioned below, I literally read in two days, unable to put them down. During the lockdown, reading has become a form of escapism for me and the books that I have read, I have chosen carefully, as I wanted to read something inspirational and meaningful. To me, nothing can replace picking up a good book to read, away from technology, away from phones, laptops, television etc. I still prefer referring to the good old fashioned ‘Oxford Dictionary’, when checking a word in Scrabble, rather than typing it in Google. Perhaps I’m just showing my age?
As we are still in the midst of this Pandemic, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the books that I have read, which I hope will inspire others, just as they have me. With autumn setting in, the temperatures dipping and the nights’ drawing in, a good book can be a welcome distraction. Therefore, I have listed below six of my favorite reads during lockdown, all non-fiction, with a brief synopsis on each.
1. ‘The Salt Path’, by Raynor Winn.
This is one of the book’s I read in two days. I found it impossible to put down; it held my attention so vividly. Winn writes beautifully, almost poetically, with intense emotion. To me, the book represents resilience, determination, tremendous strength, will-power, and true love. It is also a story of self-discovery, with lessons we can all learn from.
It is the true story of a couple, Raynor and Moth, who lose their family home through no fault of their own, whilst also coming to terms with the fact that one of them has a terminal illness. Faced with homelessness, with nowhere to turn, they decide to walk the stunning South West Coast Path; an amazing 630 miles no less! Winn eloquently describes how both her and her Husband cope, change and grow both as people and as a couple, and how the wildness of the picturesque coast path, becomes their sanctuary and their home, despite the prejudices they come across along the way, due to being homeless. Without spoiling the book by saying any more, it will make you smile, weep and warm your heart. This is such an inspirational and beautiful book.
2. ‘The Wild Silence’, by Raynor Winn.
This is the follow on to ‘The Salt Path’, written a couple of years later, and the story of what happens next. If you read ‘The Salt Path’, I think it’s almost a given that you would want to read this. It catches up where their last book left off and follows their story as they struggle to get to grips with living within four walls again, and also Moth’s deteriorating condition.
Through the extreme generosity of a complete stranger, who read Winn’s first book, the couple are offered an opportunity to live in and restore a farm, still in the South-West (Cornwall), and picks up their story from there. Once again, hugely inspirational, exquisite writing, and totally makes you count your blessings!
3. ‘Things I learned from Falling’, by Claire Nelson.
I read this book right at the beginning of the National Lockdown (end March 2020). I noticed it was one of the most recommended books to read during lockdown, for those that maybe were struggling with isolation and lack of human contact (vast majority of the population I would think?). It covers the story of Nelson, who having had enough of her life and high pressured job in London, decides to travel and ends up in California, to follow her passion of trekking. Whilst on a trek one day, on her own, she falls over 20 feet down a ravine, remaining there for four days.
This is an amazing true story of resilience, self-discovery and endurance. Despite previously never feeling comfortable with her own company, Nelson learns a lot about herself whilst hanging onto life, determined to survive, and in the process ‘finds’ herself through solitude in the depths of that ravine, and her subsequent story of recovery is extremely moving.
4. ‘Bilbo The Lifeguard Dog: A True Story Of Friendship And Heroism.’ , by Steven Jamieson.
For all fellow dog lovers out there, this book is an absolute must! It will melt your heart in so many wonderful ways. Jamieson writes an honest, heart-warming true account of how ‘Bilbo’, a larger than life, chocolate coloured Newfoundland, changed his life in ways he could never have imagined and ended up not just as his best friend, but also his savior.
Bilbo was Jamieson’s ‘saving grace’ through his own personal struggles, and as well as being the most amazing companion, he became the UK’s first ‘Lifeguard Dog’, saving the lives of three people! What an amazing feat! Set in the beautiful location of Sennen Cove in West Cornwall; you will fall in love with this book, with beautiful Bilbo, a gentle giant, and be left with total admiration for Jamieson, who trained, cared for, loved and nurtured his canine soul mate, until the day Bilbo passed away.
Ultimately a story of pure devotion between one man and his dog; unconditional love in it’s purest form.
N.B – Warning …… (have the tissues handy !!)
5. ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’, by James Bowen.
This is one of those book’s that will shock you, surprise you and bring a smile to your face, all at the same time. I have recommended it to so many people, all of whom loved it. It will bring a tear to the eye of even the most ‘tough cookie’!
It tells the story of Bowen himself, who living on the streets’ of London and struggling with life, crosses paths with ‘Bob’ the cat, who he subsequently adopts and takes on, resulting in them creating a unique bond through their numerous adventures, trials and tribulations, and become inseparable.
Bowen’s book explores the harshness of life on the streets’, his own personal transformation and how this adorable ginger tom cat, without a shadow of a doubt, saved his life. Bob gave Bowen a purpose, a reason to carry on, to get himself well, which he succeeded in. Although Bowen credits Bob with being his saviour, Bob’s own life was also in turn saved by Bowen, who took him in, caring and nurturing him, despite living hand to mouth and often forsaking food himself, in order to feed his beloved cat. Ultimately, you could say that they saved each other and fate brought them together. Personally, I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that people and indeed ‘animals’, come into our lives’ when we need them most. I speak from personal experience on that one, with my beloved dog Bertie.
An extremely heart-warming read, proving that anyone can turn their life around, and in Bowen’s case this was aided by his beloved feline companion. Beautiful read.
6. ‘Tsunami Kids – Our Jouney From Survival To Success’, written by the Gandy Brothers – Paul & Rob Forcan.
I read this book quite a few years’ ago now, and again recently. This is the other book that I read within a couple of days. It sits proudly on my book shelf, and I have no doubt that I will be reading it for a third time in the not too distant future. Why, you ask? Simply because, this has to be without doubt, the most inspirational book I have ever read. It goes to show that, if determined and driven and passionate, you can achieve anything you put your mind to!
After losing both of their Parent’s to the Tsunami in Sri Lanka (Boxing Day 2004), miraculously all four siblings survived, and this is their story, from before hand to present day. Having been taken out of mainstream schooling, and travelling the World with their Parent’s for an alternative education to learn about ‘life’ before the tragedy, after losing them, they made it their goal in life to carry on the work and way of life of their Parent’s, in their memory. Despite facing immense grief, Rob & Paul, through sheer hard work and dedication, turned their lives around, and in honor of their beloved Parent’s, formed ‘Gandy’s’ a multi-national, travel-inspired fashion brand, starting with ‘flip-flops’, which they started from their small flat in London; soon becoming a multi-million pound business, and growing exponentially from then on. Every single purchase helps underprivileged children around the globe.
Through this success, they set up ‘The Gandy’s Foundation’, a charitable organisation to supply nutrition, medication and education to those who need it most throughout the World. They have succeeded in setting up four kid’s campuses around the World, a shelter for children in desperate need, in an attempt to break the cycle of poverty. They have totally dedicated their lives to this cause, whilst travelling globally, and helping those in need.
Gandy’s is all about giving back. Their hash tag (motto) is ‘Don’t Just Exist’. I think this is something everyone should live their lives by. I certainly try to. Ultimately, the passion for travel that their Parent’s instilled in them, has lived on and these humble brothers’ are a credit to their Parent’s in every sense of the word. A highly emotional yet amazing true story, of immense bravery, courage, sheer hard work and love.
Everyone should (must) read this book!
I hope you go ahead and read even just one of these books’, (if you haven’t already of course) and indeed recommend to others as well. Enjoy!