The best books to escape from the darn kids

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an astrophysicist. I am a mother. I am an author. I am a cleaner of dishes, a cooker of meals. I am a daughter, a friend on the end of the phone, a reader of bedtime stories, and the one who hugs away the tears and kisses it better. But I am also just me. Emma. And the books I read are always to escape or understand the internal fight I have between identities and the feeling that pursuing one is failing all the others. Lift yourself above it all, breathe, and read yourself into a different world.


I wrote...

First Light: Switching on Stars at the Dawn of Time

By Emma Chapman,

Book cover of First Light: Switching on Stars at the Dawn of Time

What is my book about?

Astronomers have successfully observed a great deal of the Universe’s history, from recording the afterglow of the Big Bang to imaging thousands of galaxies, and even to visualising an actual black hole. But when it comes to understanding how the Universe began and grew up we are literally in the dark ages. In effect, we are missing the first one billion years from the timeline of the Universe.

Incorporating the very latest research into this branch of astrophysics, this book sheds light on this time of darkness, telling the story of these first stars. Emma Chapman tells us how these stars formed, why they were so unusual, and what they can teach us about the Universe today.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Kafka on the Shore

Emma Chapman Why did I love this book?

I could have filled this entire list with books by Japanese authors. It is a generalization but I find the writing from this country to be so very unique. Quirky, perceptive, direct, and utterly enthralling, however mundane the subject. Kafka on the Shore was the book that started this passion for me and remains a masterpiece of surrealist fiction in my mind. It follows the story arcs of a man that can talk to cats and a boy that has run away from home, following them on their spellbinding journey. I haven’t come across many books that manage to lift you so completely out of your life and place you in a world where you escape the unwanted familiar. Perhaps this is cheating but you must also check out Hiromi Kawakami, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Hiro Arikawa.

By Haruki Murakami,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Kafka on the Shore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A stunning work of art that bears no comparisons" the New York Observer wrote of Haruki Murakami's masterpiece, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. In its playful stretching of the limits of the real world, his magnificent new novel, Kafka on the Shore is every bit as bewitching and ambitious. The narrative follows the fortunes of two remarkable characters. Kafka Tamura runs away from home at fifteen, under the shadow of his father's dark prophesy. The aging Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his highly simplified life suddenly overturned. Their parallel odysseys - as…


Book cover of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections

Emma Chapman Why did I love this book?

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was a female astronomer who was prominent in the mid 20th century. Cecilia showed that stars are made predominantly of hydrogen, and thus that stars were not simply ‘hot earths’. This point of view was such a blow to the scientific establishment that she was laughed away and, in the end, added a sentence to her thesis saying her results were probably incorrect. Her results were quickly proved right of course... though she was given no credit. She loved astronomy, knitting, her children, her smallholding of chickens, and she wasn’t afraid to speak of the unfairness she faced… and so I feel some very faint parallels from which I drew strength from. Sexism in science has improved so much since her time, but there remain many, many challenges and so her writings are an inspiration.

By Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin became acclaimed in her lifetime as the greatest woman astronomer of all time. Her own story of her professional life, work and scientific achievements is augmented by the personal recollections of her daughter, Katherine Haramundanis, as well as a scientific appreciation by Jesse Greenstein, a historical essay by Peggy Kidwell and, in this new edition, an introduction by Virginia Trimble. Payne-Gaposchkin's overwhelming love for astronomy was her personal guiding light, and her attitude and approach have lessons for all. She received many prestigious awards for her outstanding contributions to science and in 1956 became the first woman to…


Book cover of The Bone Clocks

Emma Chapman Why did I love this book?

David Mitchell is perhaps more famous for writing the book that inspired the Hollywood film Cloud Atlas. I prefer Bone Clocks though because it is really…creepy. It revolves around a timeless battle between two factions that can achieve immortality by murdering. It got under my skin in a way that made it a page-turner and a book that has always stayed with me. I usually hate horror but this was not gratuitous (though Stephen King did say it was one of the best books of its year of publication!). It was spiritually terrifying if that makes sense… another dose of real escapism.

By David Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Bone Clocks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The dazzling novel from the bestselling author of CLOUD ATLAS.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014

Run away, one drowsy summer's afternoon, with Holly Sykes: wayward teenager, broken-hearted rebel and unwitting pawn in a titanic, hidden conflict.

Over six decades, the consequences of a moment's impulse unfold, drawing an ordinary woman into a world far beyond her imagining. And as life in the near future turns perilous, the pledge she made to a stranger may become the key to her family's survival . . .


Book cover of More Than a Woman

Emma Chapman Why did I love this book?

Despite the title, I think that any gender can draw something from this book. It is the sequel to her phenomenally successful book “How to be a woman”, which quite frankly changed my life and made me decide to have children. This new book can be read as a stand-alone and charts Caitlin’s thoughts on her late 30s and 40s. It begins with her usual hilarious and irreverent tone, speaking about the pressures put on you by children, parents, work, best friends, basically everything. It suddenly becomes very serious in a way I didn’t expect though, and the message of balance is one that is important for anyone to read in this way. I rarely say this and mean it but… it made me laugh and it made me cry.

By Caitlin Moran,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked More Than a Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE SUNDAY TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER

'Exceptionally brilliant and powerful' Marina Hyde

'This book is a hilarious memoir, a passionate polemic, and a moving manifesto on how to be a decent person and try, in the face of countless stresses, to live a full open-hearted, joyous life' Sunday Times

A decade ago, Caitlin Moran thought she had it all figured out. Her instant bestseller How to Be a Woman was a game-changing take on feminism, the patriarchy, and the general 'hoo-ha' of becoming a woman. Back then, she firmly believed 'the difficult bit' was over, and her forties were going…


Book cover of Activate Your Life: Using Acceptance and Mindfulness to Build a Life That Is Rich, Fulfilling and Fun

Emma Chapman Why did I love this book?

This is the first self-help book I have ever read, and I read it in 2019. I have always been honest about my battle with my mental health, from anxiety to depression. This book was recommended to me by an excellent expert in the field and it changed my view of my relationship with mental health as a battle. It sounds corny putting it into words but when you learn to accept the different parts of your personality and how they help and protect you, then it is easier to say “not right now, I need to make dinner, not crawl into bed”. The analogy that stuck with me was pulling a rope opposed by a character representing anxiety on the other side, and a pit in the middle. You can pull and pull, trying to avoid the pit, or you can… let go of the rope and accept that character’s presence, but not their control. Trust me, read it.

By Joe Oliver, Jon Hill, Eric Morris

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Activate Your Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ACTivate Your Life focuses on helping people to be more open, connected and engaged with their lives, demonstrating how Acceptance Commitment Therapy can be used to tackle a range of problems such as low self-esteem, anxiety, anger and depression, as well as providing skills for life enhancement and self-development.

Readers are encouraged to consider what matters to them and will learn techniques to set life directions based on meaningful values. Readers will also be introduced to mindfulness and learn how to use it in everyday life to connect with their actions, experiences and the people around them. The ACT approach…


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The Last Whaler

By Cynthia Reeves,

Book cover of The Last Whaler

Cynthia Reeves Author Of The Last Whaler

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Arctic adventurer Eternal optimist Unrealistic realist Foodie Teacher

Cynthia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This book is an elegiac meditation on the will to survive. Tor, a beluga whaler, and his wife, Astrid, a botanist specializing in Arctic flora, are stranded during the dark season of 1937-38 at his remote whaling station in the Svalbard archipelago when they misjudge ice conditions and fail to rendezvous with the ship meant to carry them back to their home in southern Norway. 

Beyond enduring the Arctic winter’s twenty-four-hour night, the couple must cope with the dangers of polar bears, violent storms, and bitter cold, as well as Astrid’s unexpected pregnancy.

The Last Whaler concerns the impact of…

The Last Whaler

By Cynthia Reeves,

What is this book about?

The Last Whaler is an elegiac meditation on the will to survive under extreme conditions. Tor, a beluga whaler, and his wife, Astrid, a botanist specializing in Arctic flora, are stranded during the dark season of 1937-38 at his remote whaling station when they misjudge ice conditions and fail to rendezvous with the ship meant to carry them back to their home in southern Norway. Beyond enduring the Arctic winter's twenty-four-hour night, the couple must cope with the dangers of polar bears, violent storms, and bitter cold as well as Astrid's unexpected pregnancy. The Last Whaler concerns the impact of…


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