The ONE book: Stewart Hotson

Welcome once again, dear reader, to the Littlest Library, where guests get to choose the ONE book they’d like to save and add to the collection. This can be a precious physical copy of a book you own or a book that means something to you personally.

The ONE book rules

  1. You can choose ONE book
  2. see rule #1

That’s it.

It can be any book you like, but in the words of the Highlander, there can be only ONE.

Today I’m delighted to welcome Stewart Hotson to talk about their ONE book.

The library I’d take a single book from to preserve is my own – something like 3,000 books all in (not including cookbooks, textbooks and design books for the architect in my life). It’s not quite every book I’ve ever read, after all the TBR pile is pretty generous and, around my late teens I had to dispose of several hundred that I now wish had never ended up leaving my life. 

What it does contain is a collection of the books that have made me. The non-fiction includes my enduring love of philosophy, economics, physics and theology plus the odd and esoteric. 

In addition, the research I undertake for my own writing can be found here – whether it’s books about cryptocurrency, infosec, the history of Algeria, India, Japan, a natural history of fungi or any other number of disconnected subjects.

I’m a former physicist turned banker by day but a writer whenever I get a moment and this odd selection of influences can be found all across my library. 

There was a battle royale over which book I would save. In the end it came down to the winner and Mary Douglas’, Purity and Danger which literally changed my life. However, as influential as that book was on the way I saw the world, the book that won was The Master and Margarita by Mikail Bulgakov. 

Bulgakov’s book is my favourite novel of all time. I’ve read a reasonable amount of Russian literature translated into English but this is the one that sits at the top of the pile for me. To understand its importance for me I need to talk about how I encountered it and then its legacy. 

The novel arrived in my hands during a period in which I was looking for long novels that addressed the real world but had elements to them that were fantastical. Furthermore, Bulgakov was a famous(ly sly) dissident in the USSR. I found a translation in Waterstones and bought it. Simple as that. 

I was expecting something interesting but then I read the foreword in which I learned that Bulgakov wrote the entire novel then burned the only copy upon discovering the Russian secret police were going to raid his home. 

After they were gone he wrote the novel out a second time. At just over 110,000 words that is no mean feat. When I learned this I realised I had to read it if only to see what kind of story a man who was committed enough to burn his only copy before re-writing it from scratch would create. 

I confess that I found the first hundred pages tough going. I don’t know if it was the translation or the story but, honestly, I didn’t really know what was happening at all. Then, about the hundred page mark, something clicked and I fell into the story in the best way possible.

What is the story? It’s about a day in which satan arrives in Moscow and has a bacchanal in a society that literally exclaims he doesn’t exist. The moment I understood that the novel was about how two competing systems of thought clashed, how stories could never be silenced and how meaning and story are inextricably linked was a moment in which my entire view of the world changed. 

The structure is elegant but complex, sophisticated and knowing, sitting beside itself at times with a nod to the reader that it’s quite aware that it’s talking about how it’s built and how the characters within struggle with the bounds they know someone else has put upon them. 

It is a passionate cry for the freedom to think, to dissent, to try for a better world. It is a clear eyed view into what it means for us to believe, about how the stories we tell reveal what it is we hold dear and what it is that fills us with terror. 

It is also a novel about political control, about oppression and how to survive it. 

Lastly it is two very solid fingers up at those who would silence minorities fighting for justice, for their voices to be heard. Bulgakov was very aware of the violence inherent in oppression but he also firmly believed there was no way tyrants could hold on forever no matter how they tried to tell reality it was something other than what it was. 

I’ve loved this novel for a long time and it feels as relevant today as it did the moment I first encountered it. 

It’s not an easy read but it is profound.

Lastly, I remember being on a journey with a Polish friend of mine who revealed that when she was growing up the novel was a set text for the Polish equivalent of A-levels and she couldn’t understand why I was so in awe of it. We discussed how she loved regency novels (which I hate) and that perhaps for both of us, school had destroyed something precious in trying to draw our attention to its worth.

Anyway. This is the novel I would save and I hope you get a chance to read it one day and find just a fraction of what I did on that first read through.

Thanks Stewart! Definitely one I’ll be adding to my own library, it sounds amazing.

You can find Stewart around the internet at, on Instagram @thestewhotston or at He also writes reviews for Scifi Bulletin and Grimdark Mag, and has six novels published. The last two are The Entropy of Loss, published by NewCon Press and Daybreak Legacy, published by Aconyte.

Would you like to take part in the Littlest Library ONE book challenge?

Drop me an email: with a photo of your book, and some words to explain why it’s your ONE book.

Until next time…

The ONE book: Oli Jacobs

Welcome, dear reader, to the Littlest Library, where guests get to choose the ONE book they’d like to save and add to the collection. This can be a physical copy of a book you own or a book that means something to you personally.

The ONE book rules

  1. You can choose ONE book
  2. see rule #1

That’s it.

It can be any book you like, but in the words of the Highlander, there can be only ONE.

Today I’d like to welcome Oli Jacobs to the blog to talk about his ONE book.

That One Book – House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski

I remember in the early days of my writing career a piece of advice I was given by a fellow peer after the proposal of what would become my book Bad Sandwich. It was, quite simply (and I may be paraphrasing):

“People don’t want to be challenged when reading.”

It was a fair comment as, to its detriment, Bad Sandwich is an incomprehensible mess of words slapped over a basic story. But to me, and those who have managed to enjoy it, it was an attempt to bring something akin to the likes of Finnegan’s Wake – a unique experience that, when understood, gives the reader a feeling of achievement as well as enjoyment.

Consider how that is utilised in other media. In movies we have the likes of 2001 and Tenet. In video games, Dark Souls has invented a genre where difficulty overwhelms basic fun. Music? Listen to the likes of Merzbow or any Prog Rock band and tell me that doesn’t make demands of the listener …

When it comes to literature, though, the one title that I will always hold up as a shining example of a reading challenge that yields great satisfaction is House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski. A completely unique book in terms of presentation, story, and structure, which is equally a mystery, a horror, and according to the author themselves, a love story. The book does not translate to ebooks, is only available (I believe) as a hardback sized paperback, and becomes not so much a challenge as a test of the reader’s own narrative comprehension.

So what is House of Leaves all about? Well, it begins with a drug addict named Johnny Truant who is hired to sort through the files of late film academic Zampanò, specifically those relating to his work on a documentary called The Navidson Record. This then leads us to said documentary, which follows the life of patriarch of the Navidson family and photographer Will as he chronicles the strange goings on within the house his family move into in Virginia. All of which is accompanied by a litany of footnotes pointing towards fictional documentaries, academic materials, and other footnotes.

And that’s not even getting into the presentation of the whole thing.

Effectively this is a story about a story about a story. While Truant is our “main” character, the meat of the tale lies in The Navidson Record and the unfurling of events within the house. The horror here is showcased in abnormal growths of space, and the effect it has on the minds of those around it. What begins as an impossible corridor soon expands into a colossal labyrinth, and the breakdown of sanity and safety Will and his family attempt to endure.

This bleeds into Truant’s tale, as the mental pressure of this story causes him to feel the effects of it in his everyday life, causing him to spiral into his own vices and confront his own familial ghosts in parallel to Will facing his. In the end, there are no clear answers, no reasons tied up in a nice little bow. There is just a resolution that leaves one with the same feeling of pleasurable exhaustion as all the characters in the tale have.

How is this sense of madness conveyed? In the infamous presentation Danielewski chooses to tell his tale. The aforementioned footnotes are the first thing to show a lack of adherence to the established format of literature. They crawl up the sides of the page, consume whole sheets, and slither within themselves to create a verbal ouroboros. You then see how certain elements of the font are equally as off. The word house is always presented in green, the different narrators represented by different typefaces. Then the whole structure collapses to fit the tale, with a single word alone and vulnerable within an empty sheet, or a paragraph cut open by a window whose view is seen when the reader turns the page. All of this contributes to an inherent theme that nearly everyone who has read House of Leaves can agree upon, the Greek myth of the Minotaur and the elaborate labyrinth in which they dwell. Everything in the story loops back on itself, leads to dead ends, and contains a feeling of utter dread that leaks from the characters to the reader. You are hypnotised through that sense of narrative immersion readers crave in a book, and before you know it what once seemed like a crazy looking title has sucked you deep within its maze-like walls.

Suffice to say, I love House of Leaves. I love how it is presented, how its story unravels, and the effect it has on the reader. It has inspired the epistolary style of Wilthaven, the void-like mystery of the hole in Deep Down There, as well as countless other horrors I plan to release in the future. Specifically, it has left a mark on me that only comes from a truly inspirational work of fiction.

But a work that is not an easy read.

Those I know who have read it have treated it like marmite – some love it, some hate it. It is equally seen as genius and pretentious amongst critics. Ideas to adapt it to film or television have been instantly dismissed due to the sheer scope and feel of the story itself. It is, quite frankly, a challenge of a book that will demand a great level of concentration and understanding that those who say reading must be “fun” will balk at.

But like all challenges, once you have conquered the literary beasts, once you have gained even a base level of understanding about what is being presented to you, you will get a level of satisfaction that you will never get from the most functional bestseller.

Oli Jacobs is a bearded anomaly seen around the wilds of Southampton. His best known works include Deep Down There and Wilthaven, the latter being a Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Finalist in 2021. You can find his works on AmazonBig Green Books, or via his website  You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his newsletter. As always, he hopes you enjoy.

This sounds amazing, and I’ll be picking up a copy for sure. Thanks Oli!

Would you like to take part in the Littlest Library ONE book challenge?

Drop me an email: with a photo of your book, and some words to explain why it’s your ONE book.

Until next time…

The ONE book: Richard Wilson

Welcome once again to the Littlest Library, where guests get to choose the ONE book they’d like to save and add to the collection. This can be a physical copy of a book you own or a book that means something to you personally.

The ONE book rules

  1. You can choose ONE book
  2. see rule #1

That’s it.

It can be any book you like, but in the words of the Highlander, there can be only ONE.

We’ve talked Liz de Jager, Adam Maxwell, and Chris McDonald. Today I’d like to welcome my friend Richard to talk about the one book he’d choose.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

Paperback copy of The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

I really want to say this is a book that I discovered in my childhood but I was actually introduced to this when I was 21 and started going out with my wife.

The Dark is Risking is a fantastic book set in British mythology. Technically it is the 2nd book chronologically in the 5 book sequence but the first is really more of a prequel.

Set in the 70’s, in midwinter, it tells the story of Will Stanton, an 11-year-old boy who turns out to be an Old One, an immortal, and powerful being who protects Britain against the forces of the Dark (capital D) but not yet fully realised his power he has to gather the 7 signs of the light.

Essentially it is a short but immensely satisfying read. The reason it is my one book, is the first year we were together my wife read it to me and since then, we read it to each other every Yule, now our daughters now join in, it is our “family” book.

If you ever read LeGuin or Garner you’ll love this. Susan Cooper paints a modern fantasy, the two layers of the “real world” as we know it and then the magical, just below just out of sight.

If you’re interested, the BBC has done an adaption and it will be on the BBC iPlayer starting on 20th December.

ps. Some time ago a film was made of this called “The Seeker” – please don’t watch this. Hollywood took control away from the author and made a terrible film.

Thanks Richard! I love seeing old, battered, much-loved paperbacks that have been read and re-read and re-re-read. There’s a history to those pages, and it’s a perfect choice for my littlest library.

Do you want to take part in the Littlest Library ONE book challenge?

Drop me an email to with a photo of your book, and some words to explain why it’s your ONE book.

The ONE book: Chris McDonald

Welcome once again to the Littlest Library, where guests get to choose the ONE book they’d like to save and add to the collection. This can be a physical copy of a book you own or a book that means something to you personally.

The ONE book rules

  1. You can choose ONE book
  2. see rule #1

That’s it.

It can be any book you like, but in the words of the Highlander, there can be only ONE.

We’ve talked Liz de Jager and Adam Maxwell, and today it’s the turn of Chris McDonald, author of the Erika Piper series, the Stonebridge Mysteries and the standalone story Little Ghost.

Right Chris, what have you got for us?

This was, perhaps, the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. How do you choose ONE book??

I spent a sleepless night thinking about it, going through my goodreads and trying to narrow down a book that I loved so much.

It was futile.

In the end, I’ve gone for Vine Street by Dominic Nolan.

Big books scare me. 500+ pages is an investment, and one usually I cower from.

When Dom Nolan’s Vine Street dropped through my door, it’s hefty bang signalling it’s arrival on my doormat, I ran away scared. And then I read page one, and before I knew it, I was finished.

The story is intriguing and the writing beautiful. I cried a couple of times, and I found myself, when at the shop or at work, thinking about the characters. A year and a half on from reading it, I still think about Geats, and that to me signifies a great book and a great writer. For me, Vine Street must endure!

Fabulous, thanks Chris! I bought a copy of Vine Street a year ago in hardback and agree that it’s a beast of a book. I even picked up a copy on my kindle thinking it’d be easier! I’m bumping it up my TBR list now.

You can find Chris McDonald on twitter @cmacwritescrime, or on the excellent Blood Brothers crime writing podcast

Do you want to take part in the Littlest Library ONE book challenge? I’ve got a few more guests lined up, but the more the merrier!

Drop me an email: with a photo of your book, and some words to explain why it’s your ONE book.

The ONE book: Adam Maxwell

Welcome once again to the Littlest Library, where guests get to choose the ONE book they’d like to save and add to the collection. This can be a physical copy of a book you own or a book that means something to you personally.

The ONE book rules

  1. You can choose ONE book
  2. see rule #1

That’s it.

It can be any book you like, but in the words of the Highlander, there can be only ONE.

Last time we talked Liz de Jager, author of one of my favourite trilogies (start with Banished!) about her ONE book, THE WALKING DRUM by Louis L’Amour.  

Today I’m delighted to welcome Adam Maxwell, author of the Kilchester books. They’re a lot of fun, you should check them out.

Right, Mr Maxwell. What have you got for us?

As a teenager, I was an insatiable reader. I was also an impatient idiot.

I say this up front, hoping you’ll relate and ultimately forgive me for what I’m about to tell you. Part of it, at least.

Before I get into my one book, maybe I should give you some context?

Rewind back to the late 80s and early 90s and the world was a different place for bookish types. In Newcastle and Sunderland in the North East of England, there were the pillars of second-hand bookshops like the Durham Book Centre, but there always seemed to be other shops sprouting weekly.

As a result, myself and my cousin Oliver entered an endless quest to view and purchase ALL THE BOOKS.

On pocket money alone, it was difficult and so we also employed the magnificent local libraries in order to feed our addictions.

I was consuming crime books by Agatha Christie alongside Monty Python’s Brand New Papperbok and one day my Aunty and Uncle said, ‘You should read this. It’s right up your street.’ They handed over a paperback copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and, within two chapters, I knew it was the favourite book I had ever read or would ever read.

Oddly, that isn’t the book I would save.

The great thing about finding a new (to you) author is that they have a back catalogue and these musty bookshops allowed me to fill my shelf with the first four Hitchhikers books.

The library, on the other hand, had a hardback of another of Douglas Adams’ books… on the front cover was a brass plaque and on the plaque were the words:

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

Hardback copy of Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Reader, I practically ran out of the library with it and started reading on the bus home.

I read and I read and then… the impatient idiot took over.

The whole first section is about an electric monk? And a bloke in a car? Where were the jokes on every page? The main character didn’t even turn up for… pages and pages and pages…

See… impatient idiot.

I gave up on it and returned the book, thinking little more about it until a few weeks later when, chatting with my cousin, I mentioned the disappointment.

‘What?’ was his incredulous response. ‘It’s his best book. You should give it another chance.’

And so I did. And in doing so I discovered the ‘one’… because yeah, Hitchhikers is great. It’s a mad, fun, brilliantly written cornucopia of ideas, but plot-wise it’s all over the place. Dirk Gently takes all the best bits of Hitchhikers and all the best bits of Douglas Adams; this big ideas, the humour, the Wodehousian wordplay and crafts it exquisitely together into a brilliant narrative and produces something even better.

Firstly, the concept… a detective who takes the idea of a Sherlock-like detective who sees things we don’t and pushes it to the absurd. Dirk sees nothing in particular. And everything. In a funny sort of way. He’s convinced by the interconnectedness of all things and, although he is clever, he’s also infuriating and inconsistent.

From the outside Dirk Gently seems to be cursed with his powers rather than engaged with them. Then come the ghosts, the hypnotism, the… time travel?

And lest we forget the horse in the bathroom.

A simple case of a lost cat becomes so overblown that Dirk becomes embroiled in events that could prove extinction-level and yet the world he occupies always feels very British… and always very, very funny.

The Dirk Gently books taught me a huge amount about how it’s possible to balance humour with completely contrasting genres and make it work. If you build the right type of fictional world, then anything can happen in there.

I re-read both the Dirk Gently books every few years and they still remain as fun, fresh and brimming with ideas as they were the first (second?) time I read them.

Of course, after I returned my copy to the library, I had to buy my own. And that’s the one book I would save. Thanks to my cousin pointing out that I was an impatient idiot.

These days I’m glad to say I’m not quite as impatient.

But I’m still a massive idiot.

Adam Maxwell is the author of the Kilchester series of novels which have been described as ‘Oceans 11 meets Hot Fuzz… in book form’.

If you like crime fiction with a large dollop of crazy then you might want to give his books a read. And if you head over to his website you can get one of them for free.

Thanks Mr M. It’s a cracking book and a worthy addition to the library (especially as I foolishly sold my own, signed copy many years ago when I was skint. It appears that I too am a massive idiot!)

Do you want to take part in the Littlest Library ONE book challenge? I’ve got a few more guests lined up, but the more the merrier!

Drop me an email: with a photo of your book, and some words to explain why it’s your ONE book.

The ONE book: Liz de Jager

Welcome to the Littlest Library, where guests get to choose the ONE book they’d like to save and add to the collection. This can be a physical copy of a book you own or a book that means something to you personally.

Last time we talked about my own ONE book, my dad’s battered paperback copy of Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat and why it means so much to me.

Today we’ve got Liz de Jager, author of one of my favourite trilogies (start with Banished!).

The rules

  1. You can choose ONE book
  2. see rule #1

It can be any book you like, but in the words of the Highlander, there can be only ONE.

Without further ado, over to Liz to talk about her ONE book.

My name is Liz de Jager, and I’ve written a YA trilogy a few years back.  The other stories I’ve written have yet to find a home, but in the meantime, I’m working as a bookseller at my local high street independent bookshop here in Beckenham.  And yes, I’m writing something new.  Which I’m excited about. 

Right, onto the book I’d grab from my library if I had to choose.  

I’ve chosen THE WALKING DRUM by Louis L’Amour.  

paperback copy of The Walking Drum, by Louis L'Amour

Now, if you know about Louis L’Amour, you’d know he wrote hundreds of Westerns back in the day.  If you don’t know him, well, he’s written loads of Westerns about cowboys, wrangling and range wars. 

The Walking Drum is not a Western.  It is a historical novel set during the 12th Century in Europe, Russia and Constantinople following our hero, Kerbouchard as he goes from slave, to warrior to scholar and also, well, lover. 

This book, shook my world in the 80’s.  I grew up in South Africa, the youngest of six kids. My parents were older than most parents, and so I really didn’t have much in common with anyone, apart from my siblings’ kids.  My dad however, was an avid reader.  But he mostly read Westerns and pulp fiction.  Not anything ‘worthy’ and so, that’s what I read.  In South Africa in the 80’s your world was really limited to what you saw on TV (westerns and American shows like Knight Rider and Airwolf and also dubbed German TV shows) and so it was all very skewered towards white, Westernised ideas of the world. The 80’s were wild.  There were sanctions so we were effectively cut off from the rest of the world and the government controlled the news.  It was a very claustrophobic time, growing up, I realise that now, but at the time, you don’t know what freedoms you lack because you don’t know any better.  


In steps Louis L’Amour with The Walking Drum and the blew my tiny mind.  He introduced me to a Spain under the rule of Moors.  He introduced me to astronomy and astrology, to the other stuff we weren’t every taught in (State run ultra conservative and highly religious) schools.  For instance, I became obsessed with the Steppes and with the Mongols and with Russia.  I became enamoured of Constantinople and Turkey and the precepts of Christianity vs that of the Muslim world.  I needed to know more.  The Walking Drum rocked my known world and I was desperate to find out everything about well, everything, really. 

Sure, it was still Westernised (the book) but heavens, it opened up my mind to how the Arabian world formed such an integral part in our learning: mathematics, astrology, language, storytelling to name but a few.  It taught me that the Mongols were terrifying but that their court held untold wonders and how they had religious freedoms.  It also introduced me to the Old Man of the Mountain in far off Afghanistan by sending Kerbouchard into the Valley of the Assassins.  

I genuinely couldn’t get enough of the world suddenly laid open at my feet.  I credit The Walking Drum as the book that started my fascination with not only travelling, history, but also reading, discovering new cultures and new religions and new thoughts that challenge the staid institutionalised thinking perpetuation by frightened governments that strive to keep us dumb and docile.  It also made me want to become a writer.  

So yes, if there is one book I’d rescue from my shelf, it’s the 1985 paperback, well thumbed and much loved, copy of THE WALKING DRUM. 

My website is currently a mess, so I won’t link to that, but you can find me on Twitter as @LizUK and over on Instagram as @lizdejagerwriter 

Fabulous! Our Littlest Library has its first guest book! Huge thanks to Liz for joining in, and I will be pestering her for this ‘something new’ that she’s writing.

Do you want to take part in the Littlest Library ONE book? I’ve got a few more guests lined up, but the more the merrier!

Drop me an email: with a photo of your book, and some words to explain why it’s your ONE book.

The littlest library: what’s THE book?

I was musing the other day about books, as you do.

I found myself gazing at my bookshelves, and wondering thus: if something happened (natural disaster, vampire attack, you get the idea), and I had sixty seconds to to grab a dozen books to save, which would I pick?

THEN I got to wondering, what if I could only save ONE book.

I thought about this for a while. I had several cups of coffee and more than a few biscuits.

I have, as you may have gathered, a lot of books. But to save only one? Now there’s a puzzler.

There are a lot of books that I love, and regular readers will be well aware of my favourites. But a lot of those books could be replaced, even some of the signed copies or rare proof copies.

So it would have to be a book that really meant something. I started to delve deeper into the bookshelves. Ah, here we go. This is the one.

What we have here is a 1974 reprint of Harry Harrison’s book, The Stainless Steel Rat. Originally published in the UK by New English Library in 1966, this is the Sphere paperback, costing a whole 30p at the time of purchase.

Meet Slippery Jim diGriz

Cosmic criminal, the smoothest, sneakiest con-man in the known Universe. He can take any bank in the Galaxy, con a captain out of his ship, start a war or stop one – whichever pays the most.
So when the law finally catches up with the Stainless Steel Rat, there is only one thing to do – make him a cop. And turn him loose on a villainous lady who is building herself a battleship.

This is one of my all-time favourite books. It’s an absolute corking read which zips along barely pausing for breath. The thing I love about old sci-fi books is that they’re short, skinny little paperbacks that you can get through in a couple of hours, but packed with excitement, adventure and really wild stuff.

This is the story of Slippery Jim DiGriz, ace con-man, and titular Stainless Steel Rat, and his recruitment into the Special Corps, run by criminals to catch criminals. Who better to catch a thief than another thief? Brilliant.

So why this book? When I was young, my dad had a small bookcase in his office at work, and this was one of the books on it. I was drawn to it by the fabulous spaceship on the front and asked if I could read it. I was probably 7 or 8 at the time and so it’s quite possibly one of the first ‘adult’ books that I’d ever read.

I’m not ashamed to say that in my own writing, Monty owes a lot of his heritage to the Rat.

I’d choose this book over the many, many others because of that. It was my dad’s copy and has been with me for a very very long time. It’s ‘just a book’, but to me it’s irreplaceable.

I’m adding The Stainless Steel Rat to the Littlest Library.

Well, dear reader. What one book would you choose? Would you like to take part in this series? Let me know!

Rules of The Littlest Library

  1. You can save ONE book
  2. It can be any book, including your own if you’re an author!
  3. see rule #1

If you want to play, drop me a comment here, an email or DM on twitter. Authors, bloggers, publishers, book lovers, anyone can join!

The Moose Paradox by Antti Tuomainen

Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen has finally restored order both to his life and to YouMeFun, the adventure park he now owns, when a man from the past appears – and turns everything upside down again. More problems arise when the park’s equipment supplier is taken over by a shady trio, with confusing demands. Why won’t Toy of Finland Ltd sell the new Moose Chute to Henri when he needs it as the park’s main attraction?

Meanwhile, Henri’s relationship with artist Laura has reached breaking point, and, in order to survive this new chaotic world, he must push every calculation to its limits, before it’s too late…

The Moose Paradox follows Antti Tuomainen’s Henri Koskinen on his further adventures with his inherited adventure park, YouMeFun. Formerly an actuary, Henri is still a mathematician through and through, and whilst things are starting to settle from the events of The Rabbit Factor, nothing is ever easy for dear old Henri.

I adore Tuomainen’s writing, and the lovely vein of black humour that runs through his recent books. And the adventures (or misadventures) of everyone’s favourite insurance mathematician-turned-adventure park owner are just as much fun this time around. A delightfully heady mix of misunderstandings, shady businessmen, and the quest for the elusive Moose Chute (the answer to all Henri’s financial problems) lead us down a rollercoaster ride of shenanigans that only Tuomainen could pull off.

Enormously enjoyed this book, but you really do need to read The Rabbit Factor first! Do yourself a favour and pick up both books.

Hugely recommended.

The Moose Paradox by Antti Tuomainen is published by Orenda Books and is out now. Huge thanks to Orenda for the advance copy to review.

SOLO: What running across mountains taught me about life, by Jenny Tough

Jenny Tough is an endurance athlete who’s best known for running and cycling in some of world’s most challenging events – achieving accolades that are an inspiration to outdoor adventurers everywhere. But SOLO tells the story of a much more personal project: Jenny’s quest to come to terms with feelings and emotions that were holding her back. Like runners at any level, she knew already that running made her feel better, and like so many of us, she knew that completing goals independently was empowering, too. So she set herself an audacious objective: to run – solo, unsupported, on her own – across mountain ranges on six continents, starting with one of the most remote locations on Earth in Kyrgystan. 

SOLO chronicles Jenny’s journey every step of the way across the Tien Shaw (Asia), the High Atlas (Africa), the Cordillera Oriental (South America), the Southern Alps (Oceania), the Canadian Rockies (North America) and the Transylvanian Alps (Europe), as she learns lessons in self-esteem, resilience, bravery and so much more. 

What Jenny’s story tells us most of all is that setting out to do things solo – whether the ambitious or the everyday – can be invigorating, encouraging and joyful. And her call to action to find strength, confidence and self-belief in everything we do will inspire and motivate.

I saw Jenny Tough talk at last year’s excellent Sidetracked Live: The Creators Tour in Leeds (alongside some other great speakers), so when I found out that she was publishing a book of her challenge to run solo and unsupported across six mountain ranges on six continents, I immediately put in a pre-order.

Short review: it’s a fabulous book. You should read it.

Slightly longer review: Crikey, what an adventure! I’m trying very hard to resist the Tough by name, tough by nature line as I’m sure she’s heard it a million times, but it really is apt here. From the Tien Shaw in Krygystan to the heat of the High Atlas in Africa, the forests and peaks of the Bolivian Andes, down south to the Southern Alps in New Zealand, her childhood home by the Canadian Rockies and finishing in a sprint across the Transylvanian Alps in Romania, Jenny Tough experiences the highs and lows (sorry, I’ll stop with the mountain-related metaphors soon, I promise) of adventure running.

I seem to have read a load of travel books this summer (Sabrina Verjee’s excellent Where There’s A Hill is also worth checking out), and SOLO is right up there at the top of the list. Tough’s writing is deeply personal and supremely evocative as she brings you along on her adventure, showing you the sights and sounds of some of the world’s most spectacular mountains. It’s a fascinating read, following through some very remote landscapes with a tiny backpack. Smaller than the one I took for a weekend camping in the Lakes (but entirely better packed, I’m sure!).

The constant wondering where the next water or food will come from, the warnings from villagers about the dangers up ahead juxtaposed with the generosity of spirit of people along the way all come together in this fantastic account of six incredible journeys. Six very different mountain ranges, six different cultures, six great stories.

After each section of the book I went and watched the short films that she made about her trips. Mountains of Heaven covers the 900km, 25 day run across Krygystan. It was great to see the places that I’d just read about and get to look at the spectacular scenery. Kind of an added bonus feature to the book!

SOLO: What running across mountains taught me about life, by Jenny Tough is published by Aster and is out now in hardback.

Where There’s a Hill – Sabrina Verjee

Sabrina Verjee is an ultrarunning phenomenon. In June 2021, on her fourth attempt, she became the first person to climb the Lake District’s 214 Wainwright hills in under six days, running 325 miles with a colossal 36,000 metres of ascent, more than four times the height of Everest.

Where There’s a Hill tells the story of an outsider who was never picked for a school sports team yet went on to become an accomplished modern pentathlete and adventure racer. After switching her focus to ultrarunning in her thirties, Sabrina moved to the Lake District, where she could hone her mountain-running skills in the local fells. High-profile success in endurance events followed, as she completed the Dragon’s Back Race three times and was the outright winner of the 2019 Summer Spine Race, beating her nearest competitor by more than eight hours.

However, it was the Wainwrights Round which really captured Sabrina’s imagination. Having learnt about the challenge from fell-running legend Steve Birkinshaw, Sabrina began to plan an attempt of her own. Despite multiple obstacles – including lockdown regulations, bad weather, injury and controversy – Sabrina’s grit and determination shone through. Where There’s a Hill is a frank and inspirational account of how one woman ran her way into the record books.

Where There’s A Hill is one of two books I’ve read recently about women who have gone on to do some incredible feats of running, the other being Jenny Tough’s excellent SOLO. Both very different books, and both well worth your time!

In Where There’s A Hill, we follow Sabrina from her childhood, treated as an outsider and picked last for games, through to her move into top level adventure racing across the globe, initially as the token women on a male team but very much determined (and better prepared than many male athletes) to compete on her own terms.

Sabrina moved to the Lake District and her focus changed to ultrarunning. Success at the Dragon’s Back Race in Wales and the Montane Summer Spine Race followed, and her attention turned to a challenge closer to home.

The Wainwrights Round consists of summiting the 214 peaks mentioned by Alfred Wainwright in his Guide to the Lakeland Fells. And Sabrina planned to run this 325 mile challenge in under six days.

It’s a fascinating story of her multiple attempts to complete the challenge, with the added complications of lockdown, weather (surely it’s always sunny in the Lake District?) and the inevitable injuries that she picked up along the way. It’s a story of determination, of a sole focus to complete a task that very few people could ever do, alongside support from a great bunch of friends and fellow fell runners, some of whom had done it before, or others who went on to try the Wainwrights Round themselves.

I can’t even begin to imagine running such distances, having struggled recently to do a 13 mile walk in the Lakes. Huge respect to all the people who chose to run up and down those mountains!

Really enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it.

Where There’s A Hill by Sabrina Verge is published by Vertebrate Books and is out now. Many thanks to the publisher for the ebook copy to review.

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