September/October 2018 Reads
30th Oct 2018 in Books
Ah, September. What a dream you were. I spent the whole month in a Scottish castle. There was a library and an orchard and wild deer. I wrote 45,000 words of a new novel and went for 6-mile walks every day. I’m going to be dreaming about it for a long time.
October was a little more prosaic, as I had to catch up on all the emails and chores I missed in September. But I still had time to do some fun events and workshops – and to read books, of course. Here are the best:
The People in the Castle, Joan Aiken – Oh, Joan. How strange your stories are. How quotable your prose. How unique your worlds. How little the stories make sense, and how little sense seems to matter. This book isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s definitely mine.
The Unaccompanied, Simon Armitage – These poems are sad and funny and the sort of thing you want to keep under your pillow. Armitage is always excellent.
Wintering Out, Seamus Heaney – Reading Seamus Heaney puts me in such a weird floaty headspace. It’s impossible to read these poems quickly or distractedly. They’re like fever dreams made of language.
Notes to Self, Emilie Pine – Personal essays; I know, I know. But these ones are actually good. Not only are they beautifully written and observed, they’re actually about something. Some essay collections feel like the writer thought ‘need to write an essay, hmm, what can I write about…’; Emilie Pine seems to approach it from the other way. Each of these essays feel vital, like she had to write them. I loved this book and I can’t wait to read more from Pine.
How to be Both, Ali Smith – It’s a sign of real intelligence to make difficult concepts seem easy to understand, and that’s what Ali Smith does. I devoured this book in two long sittings; I didn’t mean to, but once I’d started each section I couldn’t stop until I had finished. I preferred the historical section, but both had plenty to offer.
Chattering, Louise Stern – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by a deaf writer about deaf characters, and if this wonder is anything to go by, I’d love to read more. Raises issues of language (signed, spoken, emotional), connection and loneliness.
Bleaker House, Nell Stevens – Sometimes a book can be a companion. I read this while I was on a writing residency working on a novel, so of course reading about another writer on a (much more remote and difficult) residency working on a novel really connected with me. It’s a light, easy, funny read – at times this was frustrating, as there were opportunities to go deeper or smarter, which weren’t taken. But it is what it is, and I enjoyed it. It was exactly the book I needed to keep me company.
The Virago Book of Ghost Stories Volume 2 –I devoured this book in a single night. So many beautifully-written creeps (my favourite kind).
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What are the best books you’ve read recently?