Meet our Book Doctor... Moira Forsyth from publisher Sandstone Press!

Moira Forsyth

In a reading rut? Want to health-check your reading habits? In our Book Doctor feature, we welcome a guest to prescribe just the right read for any mood or occasion.

To celebrate the return of Edinburgh Book International Festival (14th-30th August), Moira Forsyth, Scottish author and Publishing Director at Sandstone Press in the Highlands, has picked five questions – sent in by Caboodlers just like you – to answer. All five Caboodlers will each receive a £15/€20 National Book Token.

Got a bookish bothering of your own? Send your questions in and if we pick yours for the attention of our future Book Doctors, you'll get a National Book Token!

Alice Munro

I don't really read many short stories, but I think they may help me when I am going through a 'dry' period with my reading. Do you have any recommendations that I can have on standby? – Anne, age 47

Hi Anne. Reading short stories is a good idea when you don't have much time, or you feel your reading stamina has flagged a bit. If you’re used to reading novels, you could try any of Alice Munro's collections – she creates a novel-sized world within her stories. I recommend especially Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, and Runaway. If you like short short stories, you can't beat Raymond Carver who packs a huge amount into a few pages: Where I'm Calling From: The Selected Stories. They linger in your mind long afterwards. Among our own Sandstone books, Rosy Thornton's Sandlands is a series of linked stories, all set in East Anglia – beautifully written, poignant and thoughtful. Or there’s Dan Brotzel’s hilarious Hotel du Jack if you need to be cheered up a bit!

Amy Liptrot

I read widely across all genres of fiction, but I find non-fiction really daunting. Aside from a few biographies, I've always found non-fiction a struggle. Can you recommend a good gateway into non-fiction? – Lorna, age 27

Hi Lorna. I read so much fiction for Sandstone I often turn to non-fiction for my private reading. Like you, I enjoy biographies but they can be dense with detail and not easy to get into. Try narrative non-fiction such as memoir. Good ones have the page-turning qualities of a novel. There is a huge range – from classics such as Laurie Lee's As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals to Helen MacDonald's H is for Hawk, and Amy Liptrot's The Outrun. The other thing I find works when I'm looking for new non-fiction is to read a book about a subject I know about and am already interested in. For me the standout read last year was Faber & Faber: The Untold Story by Toby Faber, but then I'm in publishing so I found it fascinating! I also like gardening books – you can tell what interests me. So I suggest going with your passions and searching for what might be out there in those subjects.

William McIntyre

I love Peter May and Ann Cleeves set in the Scottish islands, I enjoy the Scottish series by Alexander McCall Smith but where do I go from here? I like stories with a twist but not too gruesome and something I can pass onto my elderly parents but nothing too romantic – something I'm happy to read on a train. Thank you. – Douglas

Hi Douglas. I love crime series but like you I don’t enjoy the more gruesome stories – I enjoyed the Peter Diamond mysteries by Peter Lovesey, with a traditional, rather grumpy detective who loves all the food that's bad for him, and is eventually taught by his female colleagues to be a little more politically correct. He's kind, but often puts his foot in it… I like the way they’re set so realistically in Bath and Bristol – there’s a strong sense of place. You might enjoy Willie McIntyre's Robbie Munro mysteries too – fast paced plots with wonderful turns and twists, and often very funny. They're set in Scotland. Robbie is a criminal lawyer who sometimes gets a bit too involved with the murky world of his clients. My favourite is Good News, Bad News.

Book Doctor

Does it make sense to finish reading a book even if you are not enjoying it? I always feel guilty if I buy an expensive book and then end up not enjoying it. – Cathy

Hi Cathy. How I sympathise with this! So many books I've bought with enthusiasm and which languish a quarter-read in a pile somewhere (the bookshelves long ago having been filled to capacity). Sometimes they're just not what we thought they’d be (and I blame myself for not browsing enough at the outset), and others that are quite dull when you get into them. Maybe it’s because I'm getting older but I’ve stopped struggling with books I'm not enjoying. There are so many others out there to love. When you’re in a bookshop it's always worth reading the first few pages of a book you're thinking of buying. As for the unread books – charity shops and women's refuges and hospices are all keen to have books so you can find a good home for them. However, it's also worth bearing in mind that there's a right time to read every book. When I was younger I did hang on to books and some of them I read with pleasure much later in life.

Ruth Thomas

Hello! I love reading and used to read a lot of fiction, but have been reading mainly non-fiction the last few years. However, I work as a busy NHS doctor and I am finding it really difficult to concentrate on non-fiction books in the evening when I get home from work. I'd love to read some fiction again to wind down after work and wondered if you could please suggest some calm and relaxing reads? Thank you! – Nuth, age 28

Hi Nuth. My personal reading, when it's in fiction has to be escapist and draw me in to another world. I have to read so much for work, I want to take my editor's hat off when I'm relaxing. One series I found completely absorbing was Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series. As soon as I finished one, I bought the next. They're murder mysteries with clever, absorbing plots, but what really gripped me was the on-off relationship between Ruth and the detective involved in all the cases, Nelson. All the characters are well drawn, most of them endearing, and they're all allowed to develop as the series goes on. If you want to stick to standalone novels, let me recommend The Snow and Works on the Northern Line by Ruth Thomas, a quirky love story with a difference, or anything by the 20th century writer, Elizabeth Taylor, who deserves to be more widely read. I particularly love In a Summer Season and A View of the Harbour. She is so good at capturing atmosphere, and the nuances of human relationships. She has a nice dry sense of humour too.

 

About Moira Forsyth

Moira Forsyth is the author of five published novels, and her short stories and poetry have appeared in magazines and anthologies. Since 2002, as Publishing Director of Sandstone Press, she has selected, commissioned and edited both fiction and non-fiction for Sandstone Press, including books which have won or been listed the Booker Prize, the Man Booker International, the Wainwright Prize, the Betty Trask Award and others. She lives in the Highlands of Scotland.

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