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What Hammersmith Books authors recommend for National Reading Day

In honour of National Reading Day on 23rd January, we’re very pleased to share recommendations from Hammersmith Books authors about the books they loved best when growing up, or that got them reading.


Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, says: ‘I am going to say: Alice in Wonderland, which I loved so much that it got my imagination going. I think Peter Pan and all Enid Blyton books (especially The Famous Five) did the same.’


Craig Robinson, author most recently of The Energy Equation with Sarah Myhill, says: ‘Red Shift by Alan Garner. Do read it – all in one sitting! And then leave it and read it again! I have now read it about 8 times (last year being the most recent)… and each time I feel something new……achingly new.’


Caroline Freedman, author of The Scoliosis Handbook, says ‘My favourite childhood book way ahead of any other is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Flemming. I used to wait for my father every evening to come home from work and read to me. I must have been about 3 or 4 years old as I can remember sitting in our old family home in Wembley waiting for him. The most exciting part in the book for me and one I would make him repeat over and over again, in a funny and scary voice, is the line…”These guns belong to Joe the Monster”. We would then discuss the story and what we thought might happen just so I could stay up as long as possible.


Raymond Perrin, author of The Perrin Technique, says: ‘My favourite 2 books as a child were All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot and My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I loved animals and wanted to be a vet or own a zo, so definitely recommend these two if any child has the same dreams.


Trevor Griffiths, co-author of forthcoming Emotional Logic (May 2021) says: ‘For National Reading Day, [co-author] Marian’s first choice is Black Beauty. Mine is Swallows and Amazons. This feels timely, because an 8-year-old granddaughter who is a fast reader is running out of ideas.’


Magnolia Cardona, author of forthcoming When the Time Comes: stories from the end of life (March 2021) says: I can’t really remember THE first book that gave me the love of reading but one of the early ones was The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

I couldn’t have enough of it and read it in three languages over the course of my primary school. However, to get today’s children reading passionately I would highly recommend Matilda by Roald Dahl.

This little book got my daughter reading 10 books per week (she was the public library’s best customer!), and she later moved to another one I highly recommend: George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking (and the rest of George’s series). That book collection led her to join the local astronomy club for years until end of high school.’


Sarah Russell, author of The Bowel Cancer Recovery Toolkit, says: ‘The first book that made an impact on me was the Sports Nutrition Guidebook by Nancy Clark. Even as a young girl I had an interest in health, exercise and nutrition. I used to read and re-read this book over and over again.’


Sandra Hood, author of the forthcoming Feeding Your Vegan Child (June 2021), says: ‘My recommendation for National Reading Day has to be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I remember reading this at school and borrowing it from the book cupboard. I had to write my name in a book that was 

hung up on a string with a pencil attached. You felt like you could go into this wonderful world just through the wardrobe and meet lovely Mr Tumnus at the lamppost and being offered Turkish delight from the witch in a sleigh – magical!’

Antonina Mikocka-Walus, author of IBD and the Gut-Brain Connection, says ‘Too many books to choose the favourite, but The Six Bullerby Children by Astrid Lindgren (author of Pippi Longstocking) was probably one of the first I read myself rather than being read to me by my parents.’


Susan Koten, author of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Giardia, says: ‘I loved reading Just William by Richmal Crompton.’


Martyn Hooper, author most recently of Five-a-Day Plus One: the Vitamin B12 Cookbook, says: ‘My love of books started with Enid Blyton, especially the Secret Series and particularly the Secret of Moon Castle. The books were readily available in my primary school library and we were actively encouraged to take a book home over the weekend. But, I soon tired of the plots that started to sound far too similar. And it was when I was around 10 years old that my grandfather gave me my first proper book; it was a thick hardback complete with a dustcover showing a one-legged pirate, propped up by a crutch looking dangerous, mean and foreboding. A golden hoop earring hung from his left ear. From page one I was not only captivated by the characters but also capitulated into the 18th Century world of Pirates. There was talk of Buried Treasure. Black Spots and Mutiny all centred around a parade of wonderful characters somehow related to Captain Flint and his old shipmate Long John Silver. There was Billy Bones, Black Dog, Blind Pew and Jim Hawkins. And the wonderfully eccentric, intelligent and cheese-loving (toasted mostly) Ben Gunn. It was Treasure Island that led to my first and last nightmare, but none of the above was responsible. It was the cruel, frightening, stealthy and sly Israel Hands who chased me, and Jim Hawkins, up one of the Hispaniola’s masts with a large knife held between his teeth.


Mary Jordan, author most recently of The ‘D’ Word: Rethinking Dementia, says: ‘When I was very young I read a lot of Enid Blyton. I have no idea why she is so frowned upon. She used good clear English and wrote stuff that kept you reading. However, probably the book I would nominate would be The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, together with the other Narnia books.’


Julie Sullivan, author of The Gallstone-friendly Diet, says: ‘Two books are responsible for my early love of reading – Watership Down by Richard Adams, and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis.’


Jo Waters, co-author of What’s Up With Your Gut?, says: ‘I loved Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes , which my mother had loved as a child too . It was about the Fossil family, Pauline, Petrova and Posy, who were all very talented and lived in London and had been adopted by an (absent) professor who was away fossil hunting and were cared for by a nanny. They were left to their own devices a lot and I liked the sound of that . After that I read all her books and joined the Puffin Book Club and ordered a book every month. It was really Ballet Shoes that kicked off a lifelong love of reading.’


Clarissa Foster, author of Understanding BRCA, says:My first favourite book was The Famous Five novel series by Enid Blyton. I first read them when I was around 8 years old and couldn’t put them down!’

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It’s National Read-a-Book Day!

In honour of National Read-a-Book Day this Sunday 6th September, we asked our authors to recommend the best books they’d read during lockdown. This is what they told us:


Dr Sarah Myhill, independent GP and author most recently of Ecological Medicine, says: ‘The Shardlake series by CJ Samson – brilliant!  Also the Cicero trilogy by Robert Harris.’


Craig Robinson, mathematician and co-author with Dr Myhill, most recently of Ecological Medicine, says: ‘For me it would be The Diamond as Big as the Ritz by F Scott Fitzgerald.’


Sue Koten, herbalist and author of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Giardia, says: ‘Company of Liars by Karen Maitland was very interesting as it was about a group of people travelling through the time of the plague.’


Julie Sullivan, author of The Gallstone-friendly Diet, says: ‘The best book I read in lockdown was Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.’


Frances Ive, health journalist and author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis says: ‘I’d like to recommend two because they were so good: The acclaimed Normal People, by Sally Rooney, which I read in three days before watching the TV series which was equally good.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – brilliantly written with outstanding description of the wildlife and swamps in N. Carolina (and has sold 5 million copies).’


Barry Sears PhD, research scientist specialising in inflammation and author most recently of The Resolution Zone says: ‘I read a lot of history and philosophy during these times to put things in perspective. History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, but it usually rhymes. Ancient Roman history especially provides a sense of balance. That’s why I am rereading Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I recommend co-reading a more recent book, Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum, as a companion book.

‘Philosophy (especially Roman Stoic philosophy) lets you make better choices with the current fate you are dealing with. A book that I can recommend is Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations by Jules Evans.’


Erica Crompton, independent journalist and author of The Beginner’s Guide to Sanity says: ‘My mood has been low during lockdown which means concentration is poor. So I read Paragon art books as they’re succinct and easy to read. The last one in the third week of lockdown was called The Life and Works of Constable. It made me notice and appreciate the trees on walks after reading. Next up, Dear Life – short stories by Alice Munro, brought for me as a birthday gift.


Professor Stephen Lawrie, Erica’s co-author, says: ‘I would say Fiction: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.


Associate Professor Antonina Mikocka-Walus, health psychologist and author of IBD and the Gut-Brain Connection, says: ‘Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton and The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow are my latest favourites.’


Jo Waters, health writer and author of What’s Up with Your Gut? says: ‘I read all 880 pages of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light  during lockdown – it seemed topical too as there was talk of plagues and tyrannical leaders and civil unrest. It was a great book to hunker down with in dark days, but it reminded me that dark days pass – although not alas for Thomas Cromwell. I read it in eight weeks and can’t wait to reread it.’


Nat Hawes, health researcher and author of the Nature Cures books and website says ‘The last intriguing book I read was Glittering Images by Susan Howatch.’


Dr Raymond Perrin, osteopath, specialist in neuro-lymphatics and author of The Perrin Technique, about to be published in a greatly enlarged second edition says: ‘I managed to dab onto a wonderful collection of short stories by Stephen King, Bazaar of Bad Dreams, which has the usual Stephen King twists from the master story teller.’

‘And a sort of health book I enjoyed during the past few months was The Reality Slap by Dr Russ Harris to understand how ACT Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps people through life’s stresses and as a useful aid to helping some of my CFS/ME patients cope better with their illness.’


Hanna Purdy, nurse practitioner and author of Could it be Insulin Resistance? says: ‘I am hoping to read Dr Sarah Myhill’s Ecological Medicine next, about PK diet, sleep, exercise etc. It sounds similar to what I think about these things, so I am always very keen to learn more. I haven’t had time to read anything whilst finishing my own book, so I am only planning, but would like to name this book.’


Bridget Sheeran, independent midwife, homeopath, women’s health activist and author of colouring book Preparing for Birth, says: ‘I’ve been reading books that tell me how to do things and think A Taste of the Unexpected by Mark Diacono is brilliant – it tells one everything one would want in a holistic garden. And I’ve been revisiting Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions to make fermented foods. Otherwise the only reading I’ve been doing is for a course but I’ve found Interpersonal Psychotherapy  by Scott Stuart and Michael Robertson fascinating and highly readable.’


Mary Jordan, author most recently of The ‘D’ Word, says: ‘I did enjoy The Infection Game by Sarah Myhill – everything she says is so sensible. I also really enjoyed Pale Rider  by Laura Spinney about the Spanish Flu of 1918. I read it to convince myself that this would all pass as it did 100 years ago and was amazed to learn that the effect of hysteria caused by the media is unchanged.’

‘For escapism you cannot beat Jane Austen and I reread her novels and then enjoyed reading Jane and Me by her great niece, Caroline Jane Knight, about the last days of Chawton House (JA’s brother’s house) as a private residence.’


Sara Challice, teacher, motivational speaker and author of Who Cares? says: ‘I read two great books this summer for my Mindfulness Teacher Training course, both on health and wellbeing. They are Ageless Body, Timeless Mind by Deepak Chopra, which shows we have more freedom and power than we realise, and Essential Spirituality by Roger Walsh, which will have something to offer you wherever you are on your spiritual journey.

‘I’ve also listened to Michael A. Singer’s The Surrender Experiment as an audiobook, about the author living a quiet life of meditation and solitude but agreeing to do what he was asked by others and how this helped him to evolve and grow… and turned into a huge business.’


Fleur Brown, author of Beat Chronic Disease, says: ‘The books I have most enjoyed reading during lockdown are: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, Circe by Madeline Miller, Love is Blind by William Boyd and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. If you want my favourite three, these are A Gentleman in Moscow, The Remains of the Day and Circe.


Caroline Freedman, specialist personal trainer and author of The Scoliosis Handbook of Safe and Effective Exercises Pre and Post Surgery, says: ‘I love reading and have always devoured books and any I have read during ‘Lockdown’ have had to really hold my attention. For a quick-dip-in-and-out book I’ve found Dr Sarah Myhill & Craig Robinson’s The Infection Game fascinating and has made me re-think about how I approach infections.

At The Pond is a bunch of essays by writers including Margaret Drabble and Deborah Moggach, describing their experiences of Hampstead Ladies’ Pond.  I walk on The Heath most weekends with my two dogs Tillie and Oscar and have never dreamt of swimming in the freezing cold outside. The trauma of having to emerge myself in my school outdoor unheated pool at the start of every Summer Term in April probably has something to do with this. Nevertheless after reading these memoirs I am really tempted to have a dip ‘At The Pond’… once ‘Lockdown’ is truly over.

The book I loved reading during ‘Lockdown’ and was really quite upset when I finished it was The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  Every page was a pleasure to read. The story unfolded beautifully and the Hollywood glamour painted so well, I could see the words in colour.  Each chapter was a surprise and I could not guess where the ending was going.  I can usually work out how a novel will finish… not this one.