Posted by: billpurdue | May 20, 2008

8 Catching up with the latest, grow your own veg and more

I’ve been browsing through book related sites on the internet in the last few days trying to catch up with what’s new and what’s popular. The Publishing News website has Waterstone’s bestselling paperbacks and hardbacks. Top of the hardback fiction list is This Charming Man (1) by Marian Keyes, about “four very different women, one awfully charming man, and the dark secret that binds them all”. It comes under the “chick lit” category, so I don’t think I’ll be reading it myself. Anyone like to comment on it? Top of the Waterstone’s paperback lists, however, is more up my street. I thoroughly enjoyed The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (and the TV film at Easter was good too), so I’m keen to read the latest by him in the 44 Scotland Street series The World According to Bertie(2). However, this is No 4 in the series, so perhaps it might be best to start at the beginning. I’ve got some reading to do!  Also just out from Mr Smith is The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2a) which is the ninth in the No 1 Ladies detective Agency series. No wonder there’s a BBC series coming later this year. Mr Smith has his own website where his fans can find out all about him and his books.


Grow you own fruit and veg.

Earlier this year I took on an allotment – an enormous one, full of junk and weeds. It’s hard work, but I’m getting there, if only very slowly. I didn’t know a lot about growing vegetables, so I looked around for a few books to help me. I don’t need to tell you that there are hundreds of books to choose from. I picked one book and was given two more: Growing Vegetables (4) is in the Royal Horticultural Society’s Encyclopaedia of Practical Gardening Series. As well as telling me how to grow all the common vegetables and some less well known types, there are sections on preparing the ground, pests and diseases (very important), weed control and so on. A no nonsense fairly basic reference book which is the one I refer to most of the time. If you want to spend a bit more money and you’d like something with advice on fruit as well as veg., then try Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (5) by Michael Pollock. This has more detail – it covers over 150 vegetables – and more diagrams and illustrations, but is more than twice the price of the previous book. This is not to be confused with Vegetable and Fruit Gardening (5a) edited by the same chap. It may be just an updated edition, but I can’t say for sure: could it be subtle ploy to get you to buy the same book twice?

 If you want advice from somebody you know  – or rather know of – then how about Carol Klein’s Grow your own Veg, (6) the book of the TV series of the same name. Whenever I see Carol on the TV, she’s always bubbling over with enthusiasm and this comes over in the book too. In one of the programmes in the series she enthused about Jerusalem Artichokes and I’ve wanted to grow them ever since. All the information about them is in the book. A useful book to have and one that’s great to browse through. You can read more about Carol at the Sapphic Central website


Mind the Gap

Christian Wolmar is an author on transport subjects whom I have only come across in recent years: I’ve been reading transport books, particularly on railways for longer than I care to remember. His Fire and Steam (7) is an excellent and revealing history of the railways of Britain, aimed at the general history reader, not the railway enthusiast. The main point of this paragraph though is to tell you about two very different books about the London Underground, which can both be enjoyed by non-railway enthusiasts. I’ve just started reading The Subterranean Railway (8) by Christian Wolmar and the early signs are good. I’m not sure it will be “gripping” as an Amazon reviewer has described it, but it promises to be an absorbing history covering not just the way the Underground was built, but also the effect it had on London and Londoners.

I’m indebted to my friend Daphne of Staffordshire Libraries for bringing my attention to another book on the Underground : One Stop Short of Barking.(9). It’s one of those books full of fascinating facts about the Underground, but it also has travel survival tips – how to behave when you’re sitting in a crowded train for example – as well as some of the more bizarre drivers’ announcements. How about this one – Please move inside the carriages so everyone can board the train.  I know it’s a bit squashy, but you never know, you might make a new friend to spend the weekend with“.  

Enjoy the trip!






1. This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. Michael Joseph £17.99  9780718149123

2.  The World According to Bertie by Alexander Mc Call Smith. Abacus £6.99 9780349120539

2a  Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith. Little, Brown. £14.99  9780316030076

4.  Growing Vegetables  by Tony Biggs  Mitchell Beazley £8.99  9781840001525

5. Fruit and Vegetable Gardening edited by Michael Pollock. Dorling Kindersley £20.  9780751336832

5a Vegetable and Fruit Gardening edited by Michael Pollock. Dorling Kindersley  £20   9781405331265

6.  Grow your own Veg  by Carol Klein  Mitchell Beazley £16.99 9781845332938

7. Fire and Steam: A New History of the Railways in Britain by Christian Wolmar.

Atlantic Books £8.99  1 84354 630 2

8 The Subterranean Railway  by Christian Wolmar  Atlantic Books  £9.99 9781843540236

9 One Stop Short of Barking  by Mecca Ibrahim.  New Holland £7.99  9781843307082



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