What I’m Into (July 2015)

July was all about breathing space and taking a break.  
I handed over the leadership of Compassionate Britain to two incredible and capable people and breathed a sigh of relief.
Tanya Greece cropped

I went on holiday to Greece for two weeks, which was amazing. There are elements that make a holiday complicated for someone with severe M.E. – a two week holiday takes about 6 weeks out – two weeks to prepare by resting, and at least two weeks to recover. It’s the journey that’s so tiring, but we have the routine down to a fine art – a cushion so I can lie down at the airport, noise-cancelling headphones to minimise the over-stimulation, seats reclined as soon as possible, the boy trailing his own suitcase while Jon pushes me in the wheelchair, then full-on emergency resting when we get there.
It costs a lot in terms of energy, but the benefit of feeling the sun on my skin, being warm for once in the year without having to wear ten layers of clothing, being able to see a beautiful view – a different view – is incalculable. It took my heart a few days to adjust to the heat, but once it did, I loved it. I read and sunbathed, and we ate fresh fish by the sea and watched as the boy hopped up and down on the beach, throwing pebbles into the waves. I’m so grateful for the privilege to go.

I’m terrible at all sport, and can’t understand people who like to watch sport – with the sole exception of tennis, which I love to watch. (Anyone who’s ever tried to play tennis with me can confirm that I am indeed terrible at playing tennis). In early July you could find me eating strawberries, cheering Murray on for his excellent Wimbledon performance. The only thing missing was the straw boater – perhaps next year I shall rectify that.
No TV this month, but I did a fair amount of reading. Some GREAT book recommendations!
circling the sun

  • Circling the Sun – Paula McLain. This was my favourite novel of the summer. Set in Kenya in the early twentieth century, it explores the life of an unconventional female character who bucks society’s expectations by becoming a successful horse trainer and then record-breaking pilot – and her various love affairs along the way. Like Khaled Housseini, she writes intriguing characters and describes the world so beautifully that you feel you are transported there, into that time and place. I could feel the dust of Africa on me as I read it. It was a book I kept wanting to read, and I was astonished (and intrigued) at the end to discover that it was based on a true story. So many ‘true story’ novels can fall flat, because life is typically not as exciting as a novel, but this one kept me gripped to the end. Thoroughly and heartily recommended. Currently £9.99 or $16.70 – Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. 

Children Act cover

  • The Children Act – Ian McEwan. Ian McEwan never disappoints. This is a short, intellectually stimulating book, with good characterisation and an interesting plot twist at the end. . The premise of this book is an atheist judge who has to preside over a difficult ethical case – whether a teenage Jehovah’s Witness can refuse a blood transfusion that would save him from dying of leukaemia. Like his previous book Saturday, this book closely follows one character in a short period of time. The writing style is more perfunctory and abrupt than his other works, imitating the efficiency of the judge, and there is a lot of description of ethically difficult legal cases, which I found interesting, but others might find heavy-going. I always appreciate Ian McEwan’s books for his plots and intelligent writing, and this was another good example of it – I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended. Currently £3.85 or $8.42/$5.71 – Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.


  • The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett. This novel is an unconventional love story: from the time they meet, we follow three potential future versions of their story, all interlinking with each other. The premise is interesting, but it is also a disadvantage – as a reader I felt distanced from the characters because it was hard to keep track of which version we were on, and who had had an affair with whom, and which their various children were called. I am in two minds about this book, because I felt an emotional distance from the characters and the plot because of the way it was structured – I was tempted to stop reading midway. However, it is written with lean and exquisite prose and it has some sections which really stood out as beautifully observed (for example the sections on caring for someone with chronic illness), and those scenes have stayed with me. Currently £9.09 or $10.89 – Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. 

night cycles cover

  • Night Cycles – Poetry for a Dark Night of the Soul – Beth Morey. The reason I was drawn to this book was because when people are feeling distant from God, often sermons and theology don’t help as much as story or poetry, genres which tell the truth sideways, in a gentle way. In this collection of poems, Beth Morey perfectly and beautifully articulates the emotions that accompany a dark night of the soul. Beth Morey is a talented poet, and for me the greatest ones were poems such as ‘You say’ and ‘The Beetle’ which combine vivid storytelling with poignant emotion, reminiscent of the late and very great Seamus Heaney. Some of the poems took my breath away, and made me want to read them aloud to a friend. The poems are structured around ‘Descent’, ‘The Dark’, ‘Ascent’, ‘The Light (or something like it)’, so you are taken from a journey from . As well as exploring the questioning of faith, on the way through she also covers themes such as marriage, motherhood and loss, humanity’s relationship with the natural world, and a celebration of femininity. One of the things I love about Beth’s work is her ability to make the physical world large and colourful even while she is describing abstract concepts like doubt, joining emotion and body together in her words. Raw, evocative, powerful, and (what I most appreciate in a poetry collection) intelligible rather than obscure – I thoroughly recommend this book of beautiful words. Currently just £1.99 or $3.10! – Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. 

nonviolent action cover

  • Non-violent action – Ronald J Sider. This is a fascinating, inspiring and engaging book by the author of ‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’  on the history of non-violent action in the twentieth century onwards. Rather than ‘peaceful protest’, Sider chooses the term ‘non-violent action’, because he is making the point that non-violent confrontation of governments and regimes involves more than simply protesting – it is about effecting change through non-violent means. Sider gives a potted history of how individuals and countries have achieved this, with chapters on Ghandi, Martin Luther King, right through to the Arab Spring. I was really surprised by how many dictators and despots have been overthrown through the power of non-violent action. His analysis is thoughtful rather than sensational – he’s not afraid to outline the limitations of nonviolent action – but its his ability to tell a story so well that makes this book so readable. At the end, he makes a case for Christians – both pacifists and Just War Christians – to engage seriously with non-violent action, and I found myself wanting to discuss this book with everyone I saw. Highly recommended. Currently £12.08 or $12.05 – Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. 

walter brueggemann sermons 2

  • The Collected Sermons – Volume 2- Walter Brueggemann. I am halfway through this book, which is structured according to the liturgical calendar, making it easy to dip into. This is the first book by Brueggemann I have read, and although it probably isn’t the best introduction to Brueggeman’s theology, I found it good as a devotional. His sermons are good for getting under the skin of our unwillingness to act, and his exegesis emphasises the communal application of the passage, something I find refreshing, and not done enough in evangelical circles. Though he is American and a lot of his points refer to American society, I found it equally applicable to British society. Some of his sermons deeply moved me, and highlighted the character of God as passionate about justice. The sermons are well-written and engaging to read. Of course, no one theologian or Bible teacher has a monopoly on truth, but you don’t have to agree with his entire theology to hear God speaking through these sermons. I found him particularly skilled at uncovering the hidden idols of our society, and challenging deeply-held motivations, and I recommend this book as an alternative devotional. Bit pricey, so probably one for the fans. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. 

Also – this week, some of my favourite books are on sale!
god behaving badly cover


  • The Mudroom has had an amazing series on grief this month – check it out. 
  • Celebrating light. Video from Gungor celebrating the first birthday of their beautiful girl with Down’s Syndrome – they are right. Contra Professor Dawkins, every life matters

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her magnificent What I’m Into Linkup.
I received a free advanced copy of many of the books above in exchange for my honest review, which these all are. This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click through to Amazon.co.uk  or Amazon.com from this site and buy absolutely anything in the world, you help this site, at no extra cost to you. 
Over to you: 

  • What have you been into this month?



10 Responses to What I’m Into (July 2015)

  1. Rebecka 9th August, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

    It looks like you had an incredible holiday! I’m so glad you could go. 🙂

    I’ve been into two things in July, Matthew Perryman Jones, whose entire discography I downloaded from NoiseTrade without ever having listened to him before, and Great Expectations. I first read it (in Swedish) 15-20 years ago and remember enjoying it, but not a whole lot of details of the story. A few months back I bought the book in English and thought I’d give it a go. Once I started reading I thought it’d be fun to compare the original to the translation so I’ve been reading a chapter in English and then the same one in Swedish. The English version is a lot funnier!

    • Tanya 15th August, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

      Matthew Perryman Jones – I will make a note of that. I’m so impressed that you’ve read Great Expectations in English alongside the Swedish! Dickens is so comic and dark at the same time. Great to see you, as ever. 🙂

  2. Leigh Kramer 7th August, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    Your pictures from Greece are amazing! So glad you enjoyed your time away.

    • Tanya 15th August, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

      Leigh, you’re such a star for always reading so quickly! And I will vox you – I wanna hear all about your new life!

  3. Lisa England 7th August, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    Tanya, I am so happy you had such a lovely holiday. It looks so beautiful. My husband and I have booked to go on holiday abroad in a few weeks time. It’s the first time I’ve felt well enough to take on the challenge of travelling for many years. I am so excited and also nervous about how I will cope with the journey. How will we manage suitcase and wheelchair? Will I cope with the airports? Will people understand that I need a wheelchair when I can walk? All challenges I now feel well enough to take on. I can’t wait to be by the sea & for my husband to have a proper and much needed break. Hearing how you cope gives me much courage. As always I’m in awe of how much reading you do!

    • Tanya 15th August, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

      Oh, Lisa! I’m so excited for you! If you phone up the airport in advance and ask for special assistance, they can often help you. The last time we went to a big London airport, they were really helpful – we got dropped off by a friend at a special place (possibly special assistance HQ?- can’t remember) and then waited for a porter to come and push me while Jon carried the luggage. It was so helpful. If you book in at special assistance, they’re usually pretty good. If you can have either noise-cancelling headphones (expensive) or ear plugs – take them, take them, take them – and consider those sleeping patch things for over your eyes as well, even in the airport, if you are sensitive to ‘overload syndrome’. I see such a range of disabilities in airports now that I think that people must be more used to those who use wheelchairs but can walk a little way. If they’re not used to it, well, then, you get to be part of their education. 🙂 I hope your body adjusts really quickly, that there isn’t too much payback, and that you have a marvellous time. Much love.

      • Lisa England 18th August, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

        Thanks Tanya. That’s really helpful and kind of you. Headphones have been ordered and phone calls will be made to the airport thanks to your advice. Much appreciated

        • Tanya 30th August, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

          I’m very glad! Hope it helps.

  4. Beth 7th August, 2015 at 11:25 am #

    Thank you so much for featuring Night Cycles…high praise!! <3

    • Tanya 15th August, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

      It really is perfect. 🙂

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