This is the week when there are so many “best of” lists that it feels like too much pressure to finish the already large to be read pile before engaging with these lists and adding even more to your to be read pile.
So I have decided to revisit books that have given me joy – without searching out books from my bookshelves but going on memory and finding books within easy reach.
What books remain with me, years after reading them…..A small pile. A delightful pile. A pile of well-read and well-worn books that await fresh eyes.
And one book, yes, the faded yellow Salinger at the top of the pile, from my teenage years when I wrote my name and followed it with an exclamation mark! And the second from my childhood – Watership Down. Both of these to hand as I have passed them on to my teenagers. The rest are more recent reads, but diverse and wonderful – poetry, non-fiction, short stories and a novel.
In advance of the 31st December …. Happy Reading and Happy New Year!
This summer I’m trying something new – reading (almost) entirely on Kindle. Yes, as a lover of first editions, beautiful hardbacks and the feel of books, I can’t quite believe it!
Travelling light is part of this decision, as is the newly found ability to highlight and email the highlights to myself! I’m sure this function has been around since Kindle came out but it’s new to me, and suddenly makes the experience of electronic reading a little nearer to the real thing.
I’ve just finished reading An American Marriage on the Kindle and in no way did it impact on my experience of the novel. On the other hand I also finished a gorgeous hardback edition of the most wonderful Consellations by Sinéad Gleeson and Arnold T Fanning’s moving and memorable Mind on Fire. In all cases, the method of reading did not impact on the power of the writing or the stories.
And so, here is my summer reading – a mix of actual paper books and e-books – some on writing, some about writing, some about being human (as the best writing is). Travelling light and travelling far with a great selection of books to hand. Happy reading to you all!
Natalie Goldberg has written a lot about the concept of composting (in publications such as Wild Mind, and Writing Down The Bones) and creative practice.
So it’s about letting ideas filter, allowing characters to grow, permitting narratives to form at their own pace.
Psychologists (such as Sternberg and Lubart) have analysed the role of creativity in society and businesses.
But there is something so simple about moving from the mind to the body in the act of baking…..and you get rewarded for it too. Yes, let those ideas compost, get that body moving, free up your mind, leave those ingredients do their thing and, if you can, get out into the air; let those feet do the thinking.
Later you can enjoy that apple slice and experimental something with the left over pastry and apple. And when you’ve had the coffee and slice, it’s time to return to the work. You will probably have a few lines to get out of your head.
Mel Ulm’s blog about books, literature and writers The Reading Life, rightly declares itself “a multicultural book blog, committed to Literary Globalism”. It often provides insight into short fiction from around the world. In one of his recent blog posts he reviews my short story “Sybil’s Dress”, published this Spring in The Cabinet of Heed (Issue 19). Mel kindly describes it as “a marvelous story”, one which prompted him to find out about the real Sybil Connolly.
I’m currently reading Songs of the Sun Amor by Wade Stevenson (Blaze Vox: New York, 2019) and looking forward to welcoming Wade to my Writers’ Chat series shortly.
Meanwhile I’m almost done re-reading Anne Enright’s great The Green Road, at the same time I’m torn between not wanting to put To Leave with the Reindeer (by Olivia Rosenthal – &Other Stories: London, 2019) on a bookshelf as I find myself returning to it again and again, and wanting to continue reading David Park’s Travelling in a Strange Land (Bloomsbury: London, 2018). This is the joy and the pull of having wonderful books to hand.
I love reading books recommended by readers and writers which means my to be read pile just keeps growing.
These days I’m reading a lot on the kindle. Having ‘turned’ the last page of Stephen King’s The Outsider last week I’m now almost finished with the truly wonderful Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room.
After that I’m going to move through the pile above – yes. I will be revisiting books already read, re-reading and analysing, reading fresh stories, typing, baking and cooking.
I will be allowing my mind compost (as Anne Lamott might say), letting my body rest. As much as I can. Intentions are part of the trick, I think. Oh yes and at some stage over Christmas I will write.
And give and receive presents. And be grateful. And make plans to get that new to be read pile down. Joy, I say, the joys of reading. That ‘portable magic’, as Stephen King calls it. In today’s world of inequality, extreme politics, and violence, we need this magic more than ever.
The book creates meaning, the meaning creates life
(Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text)
It is often difficult for me to get to events and launches so reading and chatting is how I try to stay connected to the literary scene. I’ve recently chatted to Nessa O’Mahony about her debut novel The Branchman and Nuala O’Connor on her feminist Becoming Belle.
I’ve just finished Sally Rooney’s Normal People which was long-listed for the Booker. Now I’m deep into John Boyne’s A Ladder to the Sky, enjoying recognizing streets in Berlin, Rome, Madrid. Next up is Milkman by Anna Burns (not pictured as it’s on my Kindle!) followed by the wonderful new collection from Doireann Ní Ghríofa Lies which launched yesterday (alongside Jessica Traynor’s The Quick – which I will shortly add to my pile). And then the moving memoir Twelve Thousand Days by Éilís Ní Dhuibhne.
What a choice. In these leafy Autumn days instead of writing days, it’s reading days. I may even light a fire.