Skip to main content

No results found

Waterperry web banner2 f2suhd
Culture, Literature

OX Reads: The Optimism Issue


The wonderful Kim Harvey, owner of The Madhatter Bookshop in Burford (and Creative Director of The Burford Literary Festival) shares her reading suggestions on this month’s theme.

Let us start on a positive note and welcome January with open arms and a warm embrace. She gives us dark nights so that we may stare longingly over a candlelit table; she brings frosty mornings so that we may breathe deeply and remember the childhood joy of watching our breath fog the air; and plain pure light so that we may admire sky in all her glory and think to ourselves how wonderful it is to be a tiny part of this world.

Allow that mug of tea to warm your hands as we warm our hearts and feed our minds with this months’ book selection.

Roots of Happiness 100 Words for joy and Hope by Suzie Dent

Author Susie Dent recently celebrated 25 years as a celebrated wordsmith on Countdown and her latest book, Roots of Happiness, does exactly what is says on the cover – with beautiful illustrations by Harriet Hobday. Just holding this book will make you smile. Keep it on your bedside table for those moments when you need a little pick me up but can’t be bothered to go to the kitchen for coffee.

Minka and Curdy by Antonia White

This is a stunning re-publication from the author of Frost in May. First published in 1957 this is a gloriously fun story of two little kittens – think Bagpuss meets one of the Siamese cats from Lady and the Tramp. It is witty and charming and a perfect read for January.

Nightwalking by John Lewis-Stempel

Farmer, John Lewis-Stempel is one of my very favourite nature writers, he makes me want to sit in a field all day on a hunt for hares and lay on my back and watch the Spring birds swoop. In Nightwalking we are reminded that when most of our human neighbours settle down and snuggle under their duvets, the world of nocturnal nature prepares to go out. The pages take us on walks through a world normally hidden from sight but positively bursting with life. So, if owls and badgers and foxes, and skies full of stars and moonbows – yes moonbows – interest you, then grab your copy of Nightwalking, pop it in your pocket and leave your lair to go for a stroll. I might see you out there.

With You Every Step by Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield

Strictly speaking this is a children’s book but its message is for everyone – everything I’d do for you, I know you’d do for me, because true friends are always with their friends even when times are tough. This beautifully illustrated contains hope, positivity, and reassurance on every page. To be frank, the message is this; come to Madhatter Bookshop today, buy yourself a copy, buy copies for your friends and let that warm fuzzy feeling fill you up. For every copy sold publishers, Macmillan Children’s Books will donate 50p to be split between Motor Neurone Disease Association and Leeds Hospital Charity.

The Cat Who Taught Zen by James Norbury

You may have noticed that every book from this month’s selection is beautifully illustrated and The Cat Who Taught Zen is no exception. Author of Big Panda and Tiny Dragon, James Norbury introduces us to a very special cat and his remarkable adventure. Come on a journey and meet chattering monkeys and terrifying tigers but, as the title suggests, this enchanting story is told in a calm way which brings wisdom and beauty and – like Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse – you can read from cover to cover or just dip to a page for a little lift.

You can find all these books at The Madhatter Bookshop, Burford or order from our online shop at |


Candace Bushnell 3 ftvwye
Thu 1 Feb 2024

Candace Bushnell has become synonymous with her alter-ego, Carrie Bradshaw, and is widely known as the author and creator of Sex and the City.

Thu 1 Feb 2024

Nedum will be in Oxford next month as the invited guest of Oxford United Football Club, speaking at the world-famous Oxford Literary Festival. Offered the opportunity for an interview, I converted that chance into a goal.

Prue L
Thu 1 Jun 2023

We spoke to Prue Leith ahead of her appearance at Kite Festival in June.

Sara Pascoe
Wed 1 Feb 2023

We got in touch with Sara Pascoe ahead of her show at New Theatre Oxford in March.