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What I'm listening to: Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light

What I'm listening to: Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light

Having worked from home now for nearly 15 years, acclimatising to lockdown has probably been less traumatic for me than for most. 

The extra free time I get has always consisted of a regular diet of books, podcasts and audiobooks.

Now I could regale the reader with accounts of the half-read tomes that sit on my bedside cabinet.

These include: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman; both very impressive reads, and I promise I will finish them one day. 

Meanwhile, I get through around three books a month on the Kindle, a couple of audiobooks and around 10 hours of podcasts.


Podcast listening is coming under pressure at the moment as I cannot do as much dog-walking and because regulars like the Rugby Pod have little to talk about at present.

That said, BBC’s More or Less always has a great deal to offer, and is currently looking intelligently at some of the facts behind the spread of Covid-19 and its impact on A-level results and our shopping habits.


My current audiobook is Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light. This is the final part of her trilogy centred on Thomas Cromwell, though I think Henry VIII continues to get most of the best lines.

The book is produced by the BBC and read by Anton Lesser, who does a great job of bringing the tensions of Tudor England to light.

Any book that starts with a beheading is sure to keep the reader/listener engaged. 


My Kindle content is quite varied. I enjoy a mix of modern-day and historical crime for pure escapism, as well as the odd biography.

The book I am currently reading falls into another genre, which I describe as ‘nothing really happens’.

These stories are almost always set in a warm part of the US and my current read, A Beginner’s Guide to Free Fall by Andy Abramowitz, is no exception. 

A regular feature of the book is the competition between the main character and his sister to come up with the worst idea for a shop: calling it ‘Closed’, with a simple sign advertising it.

The great value of a book where nothing really happens is that the author spends their time building the characters and painting a vivid picture of the events that do take place. Dialogue, rather than action, keeps the story moving. And that’s a little bit like living in lockdown.

Martin Shaw is chief executive at the Association of Financial Mutuals