Book Club with Anna Caig

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Rachael says: I am a busy mum who hasn’t read a book in three years. Can you recommend

some short stories to ease me back in gently to reading?

Anna says: It is hard to find time for reading among all the demands on our time. But when

we do, the benefits are huge. From improved relaxation, to reduced stress, to better memory and concentration, sitting down with a book is good for us in many ways. So, I’m recommending short story collections that should make it easy to get back into the reading habit.

My first choice is a book called The Book Of Happy Endings by Elise Valmorbida. This is a collection of true stories about how people meet, fall in love and find their happily ever afters.

Frequent readers of these pages will just have fallen off their chairs, as I know I usually go for books at the horrible and miserable end of the literary spectrum. But rest assured, this

book is less twee than it sounds. It is optimistic and heartwarming, but these are real stories

of real people, and the result is an unusual and beautiful book to warm your cockles and

remind you of the joy of reading.

It’s a return to form for my second recommendation, but no less comforting. Yes, Miss

Marple: The Complete Short Stories is all about death and murder, but there is nothing

better than a bit of Agatha Christie to get those reading muscles flexing once more.

People often think of Miss Marple as a sweet old lady, but she is far from that. Deeply cynical, she believes us all capable of dark deeds. As she says at one point: “One does see

so much evil in a village.” She starts with the assumption that anyone can commit murder under the right, or wrong, circumstances, and dispassionately assesses the mysteries she faces with all her suspects equally in the frame.

These short stories mark the first time the famous spinster sleuth appeared in print, and the

opening few see Miss Marple participating in a club where each member tells the story of an

unsolved mystery for the others to attempt to solve. This is a neat technique for cramming sometimes surprisingly elaborate plots into the short story form, and the collection is a

masterclass in grabbing a reader by their collar and pulling them right inside a story in just a

page or two. One highlight is The Case Of The Caretaker, which is only fifteen pages long but contains a better plot than most full novels, without ever seeming hurried.

I hope these books reawaken your taste for reading, and bring you plenty of relaxation and