Books of the month: From We Are All Birds of Uganda to Asylum Road

Chief book critic Martin Chilton reviews January’s biggest releases for our monthly column

Monday 04 January 2021 10:56
<p>This month’s books</p>

This month’s books

David Bowie, who died five years ago this month, remains a fascinating subject. When the musician was asked, “Who influenced you as a child?”, his answer was Donald Duck – but not because the Disney character was a particular favourite. “No, I loathed him,” said Bowie. “He made me learn how to hate.” Mark Edwards’s The Tao of Bowie: 10 Lessons from David Bowie’s Life To Help You Live Yours (Allen & Unwin) will suit those in need of Ziggy’s Stardust’s quirky wisdom.

Advice books are as plentiful as showers in January, although few “self-help” publications are as readable as Bryony Gordon’s No Such Thing As Normal (Headline), in which the writer and mental health campaigner opens up about her own problems, offering practical advice on subjects such as anxiety, medication, self-image and mindfulness. On a related theme, James Gibson’s The Octopus Man (W&N) is a compassionate, witty novel about being lost in the maze of the British mental health system.

Oscar Wilde joked that the only thing to do with good advice was pass it on, because “it is never of any use to oneself”. Getting older relatives to listen to sound guidance is sometimes hard. In The Book About Getting Older (For People Who Don’t Want To Talk About It) (Michael Joseph), Dr Lucy Pollock offers useful tips about thorny subjects such as choosing medications and identifying dementia. She cites the example of trainee geriatricians working in Tanzania, who had no formal testing methods for identifying mental decay in the elderly. Instead, they came up with the instructive question: “Is there anyone in this village who used to be someone you would go to for advice, but you wouldn’t ask their advice anymore?”

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