Our members' book club runs four times a year. Mind members and staff share reviews of the books they have been reading, and members can enter a prize draw to win copies of all the books that we've reviewed.
Every once in a while, a book comes along that transforms its readers. A few chapters are all that stands between feeling alone or unseen to finding solace, recognition and hope.
Francesca Martinez, self-titled ‘the wobbly comedian’, has cerebral palsy. In theory, her book is an autobiography about the challenges and struggles to appear ‘normal’ when visibly and audibly disabled. But this is not a pity party – nor is this another inspirational monologue forged behind the PR assistant’s desk. ‘What the **** is normal’ is brutally honest, incredibly funny and forms an unapologetic challenge against unhelpful priorities and values.
“It may be [very] difficult, but creating a society and an environment that is better for everyone is always possible and far worthier of our sustained attention than the thigh gap.”
Gifted to aid my recovery from disordered eating and body dysmorphia, Francesca’s stirring words catapulted me into a new way of thinking. She asks the questions multiple therapists danced around, challenging my intrinsic beliefs about what looked ‘right’ and reflecting on how our lives can become plagued by the ‘shame’ of not fulfilling this warped idea of normal.
Francesca pushes the boundaries of ableist expectations, provokes prejudiced mindsets and stands (albeit with a wobble) strong in the face of discrimination. Her unflinching account of negotiating physical, mental and societal struggles will make you laugh, make you cry and, crucially, ensure you question everything your mind, and society ever told you.
Reviewer: Elizabeth Mullenger, Mind member
In this unique book, part travelogue, part fairytale-reimagining, Sara Maitland travels around Britain’s Forests. Through a series of short diary-form essays, she explores the histories of each place and the role of forests in one of our most ancient forms of stories – the fairytale.
She explores how the places we inhabit consequently influence the tales we tell. She does so by exploring fairytales’ social and cultural development alongside humankind’s past and present relationship to, and influence upon, forests. The book unfolds across a calendar year - with Maitland visiting one forest per month, taking us viscerally through the changing seasons. She follows each forest essay by her own version of a well-known fairytale, influenced by the themes and setting of that particular forest.
This book manages to do something usually reserved to the confines of fiction – to transport the reader to a rich world far away. The descriptions of the forests and the beautifully crafted short fairytale retellings for a contemporary adult audience, conjure a tangible world for the reader to luxuriate in.
Gossip from the Forest is the perfect book to curl up with on a bleak winter’s day when you wish the weather (or your location) would allow you to go wandering through a forest. I particularly recommend it to those interested in forests, folklore and our relationship to the natural world.
Reviewer: Imogen Grant, Policy & Campaigns Officer, Mind
Starting school for the first time is challenging for any child, but imagine doing it having a severe facial deformity? This is what the central character, 10-year-old August “Auggie” Pulman, has to grapple with as he enters the fifth grade (equivalent to Year 6) of a New York public school.
Auggie was born with a rare genetic condition that has left his face disfigured. His favourite possession is an astronaut’s helmet, which he constantly wore to hide away from the world. But there’s nowhere to hide at school, and Auggie has to learn to deal with the looks, the stares, the whispered comments and the inevitable bullies.
‘Wonder’ is split into eight parts and told from the perspective of six different characters. It starts and ends with Auggie, but we also get a chance to look through the eyes of his sister, Via, and his best friends Summer and Jack, among others. It’s an effective device and helps us empathise with each character’s challenges.
I found the book both moving and uplifting at the same time. It’s a feel-good story with messages of friendship, self-acceptance and hope.
Kindness is another central theme running throughout ‘Wonder’. On his first day at school, Auggie’s English teacher, Mr Brown, writes on the blackboard the quote: “When given a choice between being right or being kind, choose kind”. Towards the end of the book, the headteacher Mr Tushman quotes from JM Barrie’s ‘Little White Bird’; at the end of year assembly. In doing so, he encouraged his students 'always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary'.
It’s a message that resonated with me – at a time when many of us have faced another testing year, who wouldn’t say ‘yes’ to a little bit of kindness?
**Content Warning** reference to suicide
Reviewer: Fabian, Membership Officer at Mind and Member
Members can enter our draw for a chance to win a free copy of one of the books included in our book club. All you have to do is click on the button below and fill out the prize draw form telling us which book you would like to win.
The closing date for entry to the free prize draw is two weeks from when we sent our book club email to members. The prize draw will take place within two weeks of the closing date for entry. We will select winners at random. Prize draw entry is restricted to UK residents who are Mind members. Mind employees and their immediate families may not apply, nor may anyone else directly associated with the competition. If the winner is under 18, the prize will need to be claimed by a parent or guardian.
If you have any questions, please contact the membership team via email at [email protected] or by telephone on 0208 215 2243.
You can also catch up with all of the past reviews in our member's book club archive.
Do you have another book you'd like to recommend? Are you interested in writing a review to let your fellow Mind members know what you thought of it? Email us at [email protected]