March/April 2019 Reads
Hello, Spring! There’s been a heatwave in Scotland, and sunny days mean sitting out in Mama Logan’s garden with a flat white or a G&T (depending on whether it’s before or after 5pm) and getting lost in a book. I read 35 books in March and April, and it was a great though unplanned mix of non-fiction, novellas and crime fiction.
Here are the top ten:
Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah – WOW. Just wow. This book is a punch in the jaw, in the best possible way. After the first story I had to put the book aside just to breathe, as I think I forgot to in the last few paragraphs. So many of the stories felt like they popped the top of my head off and made everything else I was reading feel flimsy in comparison. It’s a slim book, but it packs so much punch.
The Girl Aquarium, Jen Campbell – Having loved Jen’s short story collection and picture books, I was excited to read her debut poetry collection – and it doesn’t disappoint. Themes of bodily difference, feminism, and whose story ultimately gets to be told, all in lush and complex language.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, Robin DiAngelo – This is the most important and mind-expanding book I’ve read this year, and I don’t exaggerate when I say it’s a must-read for everyone, and particularly white people. Yes, every white person. No, you’re not the exception. It’s relevant not only to race, but to so many of the debates online at the moment (it could easily be called Male Fragility or Cis Fragility and all the same points would apply). Read it now.
What Would Boudicca Do?, E. Foley & B. Coates – I read one or two pieces in this book every morning over a few months, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only did the words inspire me and set me up nicely for the day, but the cover image of tired (but badass) caffeinated redhead inspired me too! I now have it face-out on my shelf so I can get a little boost every morning.
The Blue Salt Road, Joanne M. Harris – You’d think I’d be sick of selkie stories and retold fairytales by now – but just when I think no retelling could surprise me, along comes Joanne Harris. I loved this.
Red Thread: On Mazes and Labyrinths, Charlotte Higgins – I love rambling, well-researched, personal books by smart people. The sort of thing that says it’ll talk about one thing (eg. labyrinths) and ends up wandering labyrinth-like through several other topics connected to the author’s life and interests (eg. Greek myth, the English Midlands, the colour red, the anatomy of the inner ear, the London Underground, Borges, the brothers Grimm, forests) while actually telling you a lot about labyrinths too. I’d read Charlotte Higgins on basically any topic.
The Paper Cell, Louise Hutcheson – This was an unexpected joy. I’ve never heard of it, and only got it because I had an hour to fill, it was on sale, and it’s a beautifully produced small hardback. I loved the 1950s setting, that it was about writers, and the complex gay love story.
Murder in the Crooked House, Soji Shimada – I’m a sucker for claustrophobic/inescapable settings, weird architecture, snowy landscapes, and stuff about dolls/automata – and this novel had all of that in spades. I found the problem-solving part quite tedious and the detective character deeply irritating (luckily he only appears halfway through the book). Overall I liked this a lot, and it’s nice to read a crime novel that’s not about a young woman being tortured.
The Electric State, Simon Stålenhag – I read this in one go, in a dream state. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever read – a mix of the immersive, visual worldbuilding of a computer game, and the introspective prose of a novel. I’ve already bought Stålenhag’s other two books, and I can’t wait to be immersed in them.
Take It As a Compliment, Maria Stoian – The artwork is stunning, and in so many different styles – can’t believe it’s all one artist. The stories are heartbreaking, shocking and deeply relatable. An absolute must-read.
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What are the best books you’ve read recently?