Philippa Thomas Online

Life and leadership coaching

A dozen summer books


All those words drunk deep along with dusty sunshine, on the red tile verandah of a whitewashed house.

“.. Grasshoppers rattling like dry paper in hot weeds…”

I sat outside each morning to feel the sunlight slide round the side of the house and watch a slinky litter of kittens play in the almond trees below.

“… They were people running from the past, who didn’t look back at much if they could help it, and whose whole life always lay somewhere in the offing…”

Skimmed the surface of the pool of dead rose petals and moths.

The sides were cracked, the water was green but cool.

One day I came nose to nose with a perfectly tiny wriggling S – a lizard that needed scooping from the water.

And I kept reading, more than I have in a long while.

(Fresh squeezed orange juice, two fruits a glass)

“..The markets swooned. Like a beautiful diver, the Nasdaq bounced three times into the air and flipped, somersaulting on the way down…”

I like the way the threads of stories tangle in a mind that’s empty of any work day urgency.

“…There was a sentence that rang down the decades, a very English sentence: ‘Did you hear what they got for the house down the road?’…”

“…A brain is the record of a life… You are the spiritual entity that emerges out of the material networks in your head…”

My head annoys me. I have the kind of mind that reads quickly, inhales the chapters, lives entirely in the world of the book, and then in the days that follow, loses too much of it too fast.  I berate myself even as I plunge into the next first chapter in the pile. Addicted, sometimes sated.

“… the sound of ice cubes hitting the bottom of the glass tracing the very contours of silence…”

“…Petunia was one of those people who stay in character, and whose character sets limits around them like metal bars…”

Sonetimes I slow myself down, deliberately alternating chapters of a juicy novel and some tougher prose.

“We can function in the world only because we are embedded in the scaffold of culture.”

I need to pull up from rushing through impressions, by stepping into the kind of muscular argument that the brain has to chew more slowly.

(Coarse bread, olive oil, fresh tomatoes, salt.)

“…The character of urban public space changed from common resource to the habitat of the excluded and dangerous…”

“…Getting on for a quarter of US debt is held by the Chinese government…”

“..America is sober, Britain is legless…”

(Cold Alhambra beer)

So – hours spent with books high in a village in the mountains in the south of Spain. No watch. No deadlines. No demands.

“… There’s no substitute for the process of trying on different lives, and waiting to find one that fits…”

Only the distractions of food and wine and splashing with a small boy in the water.  Most of the drama comes off the page.

“… A voice shouts ‘Fire!’ Whereupon someone does”.

“…Die then, said Leda, and went on to win the Gold…”

“..I fired. My shot went high.. But it was enough to save John Kennedy’s life…”

No noise unless Atalbeitar’s villagers came out on the plaza below us on a hot night.

The first Sunday, the sounds of fiesta echoed up the valley in the sticky small hours of the morning. It made me think – it’s not my space, it’s theirs; I’m only camping; and soon it will be time to leave.

“…It was cold with the sun off. The night air was sweet as bread. Far away in the fields, cutting was going on after dark. Dim moving truck lights, the swirl-up of dust.”

By the end it was cooler in the morning and at night and it felt like time to go home.

“…And they left the mellow light of the dandelion wine and went upstairs to carry out the last few rituals of summer..”

Capital – John Lanchester
The Fall – Claire McGowan
Canada – Richard Ford
Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury
Mr Peanut
11.22.63 – Stephen King
Skios – Michael Frayn
The Cookbook Collector – Allegra Goodman
The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens – David Brooks
Wicked Women – Fay Weldon
Notes on Them and Us – Justin Webb
Britain etc. – Mark Easton

Author: philippathomas

I've been a BBC newswoman for 30 years: reporting from around the world. Currently to be seen anchoring BBC World News TV. Main interests - politics, psychology, reading, trekking, and all things American. I began this personal blog as a 2011 Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard. You can also find me talking daily news on Twitter at @PhilippaBBC, coaching @positivecoachi3, and life & travel on Instagram at @philippanews. Thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “A dozen summer books

  1. Thank you for reading the news this morning, you’ve made my day, you are my favorite BBC News presenter, I hope that you are on every morning.

  2. Books in paper, or in electronic format?

    • I took them all on Kindle … though there are still some that feel much better in paper. Wish I’d bought Hillary Mantel as a physical book, as I have Wolf Hall on my bookshelf and Bring up the Bodies only in the cloud!

      • Correction – there are some that look better on paper, specifically the more highbrow books. I use Kindle for all of my guilty pleasures/trashy books. I use the physical books for the more serious and worthy/wordy books, the books to impress people with, or to have on my bookshelf. That’s the great thing about Kindle.

  3. Interesting quotes. do you belive in supernatural things?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.