Book Club / Enrichment of Other | TOAST Team

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As part of our campaign this season we are celebrating the ways in which books have enriched our lives. Below we ask the TOAST Team about the books that have enriched them…

Orlando Gough – Writer
Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky

The subtitle of Judith Schalansky’s gorgeous book Atlas of Remote Islands is Fifty Islands I have not visited and never will. And that is why it appeals to me so profoundly, tentative traveller that I am, living in the city where I was born. It’s not a travel book. The islands are real enough, but it’s a book of the imagination. Each of the featured islands is described by its position, its population (often zero), a timeline of its discovery, a mysterious, poetic, often violent story, and an exquisite hand-drawn map. Reading the book is like making the most ambitious journey of all time without leaving your kitchen.

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Neil Hobson – Head of Retail
Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot

I have always been fascinated by the fantastical and the origins of folklore; how stories were passed from generation to generation by way of the spoken word and song.  This book is the story of the Finnish creation myth in the form of an epic poem that was collated by Elias Lönnrot on field trips across northern Finland during the 1830s. The book went on to inspire writers such as Tolkien and CS Lewis. I love Tolkien and Lewis so reading the book gave me a deeper understanding of their work as well as transporting me to another place and time entirely – the hallmark of any great piece of fantastical work in my view.

thekalevala

Helen Clarke – Head of Sourcing & Product Development
Let my people go surfing by Yvon Chouinard

A wonderful thought-provoking book.  I was gripped from the beginning and often refer back to it for inspiration.  Yvon Chouninard (founder of Patagonia) talks about his unconventional business model, but one that shows real passion, integrity and responsibility.  Encourages you to think outside the box, a truly heartening read!

peoplegosurfing

Jessica Adams – Product Developer
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee 

I read this book as a teenager, at a similar age to Laurie Lee in this memoir. Full of youthful optimism, he left his Gloucestershire home on foot and crossed England heading for Spain which was on the cusp of civil war. Once there he wandered the country for a year and the vivid descriptions of the people he meets, the smells, the food and his many adventures filled me with wanderlust. His day to day accounts are filled with nostalgia for a slower more innocent time. He busked for his money, slept under the stars, in stables or in the homes of kind strangers. As you read you fall in love with Spain through his eyes and the sense of freedom is captivating.

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Ridi Santilal – Junior Product Developer    
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho  

This book tells the story of a shepherd boy named Santiago as he steps away from his monotonous life on a journey to see the world. By reading the book I was able to reflect on my own journey and on the different phases in my life. While in Lisbon recently, I read this novel in Portuguese, the original language of the text, allowing me to engage even more deeply with the story.

thealchemist

James Seaton – Co-founder of TOAST
The Box of Delights by John Masefield

The Midnight Folk and its sequel, The Box of Delights, were published between the First and Second World Wars. They tell of the adventures of Kay Harker whom we assume, though it is never overtly stated, to be an orphan. In the first book he is living with a wicked governess, Sylvia Daisy Pouncer, and seeking the lost treasure of his seafaring great-grandfather; in the second he is living with a kindly governess, Caroline Louisa, and battling for possession of powerful magic box. Although, in his adventures, Kay flies on broomsticks and magical horses, sails the high seas, changes size, talks with animals, swims with mermaids and so on, the magic never feels contrived – perhaps because, firstly, the narrative holds together so well and, secondly, the magic feels as though it could be rooted in the reality of a lonely young boy’s imagination. Nothing that takes place seems absurd. The wickedness is just frightening enough while the magic delights. I first came across the books as a very young boy – four or five years old – when they were read to me by my father. I read them myself a few times as a child and then have reread them a couple of times as an adult – never with any of the sense of disappointment that rereading a childhood favourite might bring. Why do I love them so much? Because they opened the door for me, at a very early age, to the thrilling, unbounded possibilities of the unfettered imagination; and to the gorgeous mysteries of nighttime.

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Claire Robinson – Senior Offline Marketing Manager
Atonement by Ian McEwan 

Atonement is not only a novel about love, class and war but also about tragedy and forgiveness. What I learnt from this novel is the power of words and how they can be wielded to distort the truth.

atonement 

Francesca Wade – Writer
Wise Children by Angela Carter

Carter’s last novel is a glorious paean to life lived cheerfully ‘on the wrong side of the tracks’. Spanning the 75th birthday of twin sisters and former chorus girls Dora and Nora Chance, it explores the tangled web of their showbiz family (the highbrow Hazards and the illegitimate Chances). It’s bawdy, brilliant, and infectiously life-affirming up to the exuberant final line:  ‘What a joy it is to dance and sing!’

wisechildren

Emily Mears – Copywriter
Great Works: 50 Paintings Explored by Tom Lubbock

A collection of Tom Lubbock’s weekly essays on a single work of art, written for The Independent from 2005 to 2010. As an art critic and philosopher Lubbock invites you to question what you see, to go beyond the obvious and to delve a little deeper. His writing is lucid, profound and illuminating. Reading his essays changed the way I look at paintings – now I always stop and wonder…

greatworks

Lara Smrtnik – Senior Marketing Manager
Garden Cookbook by Sarah Raven

A book that has enriched my life (and my kitchen) has to be Sarah Raven’s ‘Garden Cookbook’. It is without a doubt my go to book whenever I want to try something a little more interesting and every recipe I have ever created from this book works a dream. Each week I collect my veg box, which usually has some delightful and interesting vegetables that I have never encountered before, so I use my ‘Garden Cookbook’ to identify theme and try out some new recipes. It has made cooking and eating in my house far more interesting and delicious!

gardencookbook

Louisa Thomsen Brits – Writer
Poems & Prose by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I mucked about at school. Endlessly. Until I left the confines of a convent and went to a tutorial college where I discovered Gerard Manley Hopkins. At almost 50, I still keep a dog-eared Penguin edition of Gerard Manley Hopkins Poems and Prose (selected and edited by W.H.Gardner) next to my bed. Some of the poems are almost illegible beneath my A level annotations but I regularly revisit them for comfort and inspiration.

Reading Hopkins for the first time, I discovered a new language that expressed my sense of place and belonging. Ironically, given that Hopkins was a Jesuit priest, his words liberated me from the constraints of Catholicism and invited me back into the fields behind our house. His capacity to describe the delicate beauty and intrinsic quality of natural phenomena has enriched my life and led me to an appreciation of the patterns and rhythms that unite and define all living things.

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Matt Collins – Writer
Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin

As a young gardener this posthumous publication of Deakin’s diaries was a ground breaker for me, in both senses of the word. Not only did the book introduce me to a wealth of brilliant nature writers, but it altered my approach to gardening more generally. It changed the way I observe the living world, opening my eyes to the less conspicuous subplots of nature’s great story.

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Words by the TOAST team and contributors. Illustrations by Jessica Creighton

As part of our campaign this season we are celebrating the ways in which books have enriched our lives. Join in the conversation here or visit a TOAST shop to share a book and take one in return.

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10 Comments

  • Fantastic selection to help me relax on holiday.
    I recently shared ‘how to be a woman ‘ by Caitlin Moran with my daughters…thought provoking,powerful,yet sad at times. Certainly got us all talking .

  • What a wonderful collection of books, so looking forward to reading those that are new to me. Laurie Lee will be the first one.
    Gerard Manley Hopkins will be a real treat down memory lane.
    Many thanks Toadt what a valuable tool you are giving us .

  • Lindsey Shaw-Miller

    Thank you for this truly diverse selection. I admire its span of contemporary and historical literature, of subject, and the disregard for literary trend among your staff and contributors. (No wonder the clothes are so good!) One or two comments on the books I know, even brief ones, bring out aspects I hadn’t emphasized; a gentle beam of light shed on a different part of the page. My own contributions, which may appeal to some of you, would be Sean Borodale’s two recent collections of poems, Bee Journal and Human Work. They absorb thought and reward re-reading.

  • Charles and Joyce Salisbury

    A fascinating and eclectic selection of books – a box of delights – and sharp commentaries on them.
    What an intellectual group of designers and marketers; must be fun working there! We have enjoyed
    past selections and look forward to the next lot. All we lack is time to read them all.

  • How nice to read about books like this . Thank you .

  • As a child my father ( now approaching his 89th birthday) read us The Box of Delights. When I had my tonsils out(aged16), he gave me the Laurie Lee to read in hospital. My son gave me The Alchemist, I gave him Atonement and I have just reminded my father about Gerald Manley Hopkins. All you need is The Blessing by Nancy Mitford for my sister and your list would be perfect. Thank you

  • And having read Great Works by Tom Lubbock you should turn to The Iceberg: A Memoir by Marion Coutts which chronicles the last stage of Lubbock’s life with sensitivity and fascination, exploring the unimaginable but with real insight and no self pity.

  • liz carver richardson

    Thanks so much for this list. Wonderful to get new ideas for what to read. It reminds me of our bookclub session last year when we had to bring a list of our top 10 books of all time. Such a difficult thing to do, to even get down to a shortlist. And even more surprising to have books on other peoples’ lists which I had never heard of. So many books so little time!
    Just picking up on the Laurie Lee : there is a wonderful walk in the Slad valley in Gloucestershire (where Lee grew up) just north of Stroud, where there is a Laurie Lee walk with around 10 of his poems en route. The views are stunning, even in the rain. A walk for body and soul. I am now wondering if there is a Gerard Manley Hopkins walk with his amazing poems en route?????

  • Laura Campbell

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Thank you for the notes on Tom Lubbock’s book: Great Works – sounds great! I have just finished ‘The Vanishing Man’ by Laura Cumming and loved it.

  • Brilliant. I’m going to Amazon now !