What’s on my bookshelf? January…

What a fantastic bookish start to 2023! Six books read in January and every one a hit. So, without further ado, here are my January reads…

How To Stop Time, by Matt Haig

My read of the month and, dare I say it, I suspect this might be one of the best books I read all year. There were so many passages in this that I turned corners down for (yes, I’m that person). I can’t say too much without giving it away, but wow.

The Satanic Mechanic, by Sally Andrew

This is the second in the Tannie Maria mysteries set in rural South Africa. Tannie Maria, combines her passion for good food with a weekly agony aunt column in the local newspaper – and somehow ends up involved in solving mysteries.

I loved the series – which is available for streaming on Acorn (and on Acorn via Amazon Prime) -and immediately began digging out the books to read.

A South African colleague of Sarah’s spent Christmas with us last year and it was thanks to Tannie Maria that I made her a South African Melktert… although thankfully she didn’t have the same reaction to nutmeg as one of the victims in the series did.

Miss Aldridge Regrets, by Louise Hare

A cosy crime in the style of Agatha Christie set in the 1930s on board the Queen Mary? Yes please! The perfect accompaniment for planes and trains the other week in Sydney.

Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook, by Celia Rees

Mum read this one first and deciding that I’d enjoy it too, reborrowed it from her local library for me to read while I was visiting them. Thankfully Thursday was a public holiday and way too hot to do much other than read.

Anyways, she guessed right. I loved it.

Most books about WW2 that I’ve read recently stop at the end of the war – this one begins where those stop… in the very early days of what became the Cold War. It dealt with what the Allied forces found when they liberated the camps, the hunt for the perpetrators and the machinations and justifications and manipulation along the way. While I felt it was a tad longer than it needed to be, and the resolution rushed, this was a very good and thought-provoking read. Thanks Mum.

Welcome To Nowhere River, by Meg Bignell

Even though the first chapter painted a picture in a way I wish that I knew how to do, it took me a little while to get into this one. When I did, I enjoyed it, but perhaps not as much as I thought I might.

Still worth a read but in a month where everything was excellent, this wasn’t quite as excellent.


Thinking On My Feet – The small joy of putting one foot in front of another, by Kate Humble

This one made me want to get outside and put one foot in front of the other more. If anything it’s also made me determined to strengthen this ankle, drop some weight and do another long-distance hike. I just haven’t told my husband that last part yet – so that’s our little secret.

Wintering, by Katherine May

I began reading this early last year before setting it aside – not as a DNF (didn’t finish) but rather not for right now. Some books, as are people, are for reasons or seasons. Picking it up this year at a time when I was feeling quite low, and struggling with the sort of existential sort of things I tend to struggle with from time to time, it was the best possible book I could have read.

The writing is beautiful and I highlighted so many passages on my kindle. My favourite tough was her description of the Aurora Borealis, or northern lights. It summed up our experience perfectly.

…as we watched, a wisp of greenish smoke appeared overhead, almost close enough to touch. Untutored, I would have assumed it was a stray emission from one of the surrounding boats, but this, apparently, was the aurora: pale, evanescent, but tangible in a way that I hadn’t expected. …They move slowly, like drifting clouds. Seeing them is an uncertain experience, almost an act of faith. You have to get your eye in, and I honestly don’t think I would ever have spotted them at all had I not been told they were there.

There is nothing showy about the northern lights, nothing obvious or demanding. They hide from you at first, and then they whisper to you…But then, eventually, at a pace set entirely by the firmament, we were given the gift of seeing them, as if in reward for our faith and patience. Then we seemed to see them everywhere.

wintering, by katherine may


Tonight’s Dinner 2, by Adam Liaw

Sarah bought me this one for Christmas. My bookshelf contains every single one of Adam’s books and I cook from all of them, but this Tonight’s Dinner series comes straight from his SBS show The Cook-Up. This means that there’s a video for pretty much everything in the book on the show website… it also means that all the recipes from the book are also on the show website. Anyways, I’m cooking my way through it and will review it on BKD over the next couple of weeks.

River Cottage Good Comfort, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

I’m a massive fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and have a fantasy other life where I have a small holding in Devon and live off the grid making and growing food. I’d grow veggies and herbs and fruit and write and cook and walk. Sarah tells me that it would last until I ran out of wine and it was raining too hard to get the car out to go and buy more. Sad but true.

Anyways, a HFW book is as much about the life and the words as it is the recipes – he’s a great writer/broadcaster. This one is about how we can make the food that makes us feel good inside better for us. Spoiler alert – usually involves adding more veg, more wholegrains, and subbing white flour out where possible. Easy switches, good flavour, and still the same huggy feel.

I borrowed this one from the local library and renewed it twice until they wouldn’t let me renew it again.

Mezcla, by Ixta Belfrage

Another one I borrowed from the library – the best sort of try before you buy. Unfortunately though other people had reservations on it so I couldn’t keep it long enough to try anything from it – and trust me, there’s plenty I want to try.

Belfrage is a protege of Yottam Ottolenghi, is part of the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen (OTK) team and co-authored Ottolenghi’s Flavour. Exciting doesn’t begin to describe this one and I can’t wait to get my hands back on it and cook from it. I suspect it could end up on my bookshelf…maybe the dog can buy it for my birthday? Although I have it on good authority she’s already bought me The Hebridean Baker

Your turn…

DebDonnaSue and I would love you to share what you’ve been reading…the linky is below.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

33 thoughts

  1. I have Matt Haig’s book on order at the library and it will fit with my focus on TIME as my WOTY. So many of your book recommendations I know I thoroughly enjoyed Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook. I used to watch the River Cottage TV series and love his name Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – just so British! I am also waiting for Wintering to be available at the library. Thanks for co-hosting WOYBS and I think it is one of my favourite link ups. x

  2. Some great recommendations here Jo, I love Matt Haig’s writing so will definitely get that one! I really look forward to our monthly WOYBS posts and always get some ideas for new books to read. Thanks for being a stunning co-host!

  3. Hi, Jo – I want you to know that I adore you so much, that even though you fold the corners of pages on your books (insert sound of nails on chalkboard here), I still love you.
    And your library has limits on how often you can renew a book — even if no one else is waiting for it? I need to check if our library system has that as well.
    BTW – That will be very cool if the Haig book (read in January) does turn out to be your favourite book of 2023!

  4. Several books here that I like the look of: I’ve got a few cookery books by Hugh FS, although I’m the world’s worst cook, and I’ve enjoyed Matt Haig’s previous books. Also Kate Humble. She always seems so tuned in to nature and exploring the countryside.

  5. That Miss Alderidge Regrets has a brilliant jacket – and sounds great! And now I have an earworm of the song….And you’ve sold me on the Haig, even though I didn’t like Midnight Library….(and next time you come to Sydney, let me know and I’ll try to meet you for a drink somewhere)

  6. I was a you can’t dog ear books but as I have a gazillion books and now just have to give them away, I am all for turning down corners – it’s like giving the words a hug….

  7. Jo this is a wonderful bookshelf post. I loved reading it and have no reserved You Can’t Stop Time and Cold War Cookbook. I’m not sure about folding over the corners of the page as that’s always been a no no for me. But I’m happy to cut you some slack on that because you wrote Philly.

  8. Hi Jo, your reviews always make me smile especially your River Cottage one. I have similar dreams of an alternative life rearing chickens, growing vegetables and cooking but I can’t stand gardening and like my modern comforts too much to go off the grid 😂. I shall have to continue to live that life vicariously through the likes of Hugh and Kate Humble! Lots of great recommendations- I love the title of the Satanic Mechanic. Thanks for sharing

  9. I added Wintering and Thinking on My Feet to my TBR list. I wish I’d known about Wintering a few years ago, during an especially difficult time in my life. It sounds like it would have resonated then and maybe helped me get out of my own head.

    Thanks as always for these monthly posts!

  10. I loved The Midnight Library so I will definitely check out How to Stop Time… thanks for the tip! I also looked up Recipes for Love and Murder because we are always looking for a good series but, unfortunately, it’s not on Amazon Prime here (insert sad face).

  11. I enjoyed Matt Haig’s “Midnight Library” and it looks like “How to Stop Time” will be on my TBR. The cover for “Wintering” is really pretty. Regarding the Northern Lights, maybe it was cloudy…but I saw them too but it wasn’t green smoke. If you have an SLR with the correct setting, then you’d see the northern lights.

    1. I saw the northern lights in all their glorious colour through the lens of my camera, I’m more talking about how they looked to the naked eye… Thanks for dropping by…

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