October/November 2019 Reads
This Autumn has been a real mish-mash of reading, with plenty of surprising and excellent books. I’ve fallen in love with glorious-prosed children’s books, sceptical non-fiction, queer graphic novels, tarot-inspired poetry and some very, very dark novels.
Read on for the 11 best books I’ve read recently:
Fire, Bed and Bone, Henrietta Branford –This is one of the most beautifully-written books I’ve ever read. As it’s aimed at children it’s brief in terms of page count, but the depth of character and complexity of theme is worth exploring for everyone.
Fool’s Journey, Jane Flett – A shiny-covered wonder. I’ve long been a fan of Jane Flett’s bold and brutal writing, and this poetry collection was one of my favourites of the year.
Desperate Characters, Paula Fox – A strange and uncomfortable read. It constantly eludes simple understanding and chucks in a bunch of dark humour just when you think it’ll slip into sincerity. I’ll be re-reading this.
Always North, Vicki Jarrett – A woman who might be a polar bear, a polar bear who might be a time traveller. This novel is just as surprising and odd as the cover image suggests.
Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction, Lisa Kröger – Will I ever tire of books about books? (Answer: no.) This one was great fun, and was a pleasant reminder of my favourite course during my English Lit undergrad, on the Female Gothic. I would have happily read this at twice the length.
An Ode to Darkness, Sigri Sandberg & Siân Mackie (Translator) – I read this in a pub in Derry with my girl Heather Parry after a Teenage Scream podcast recording, and it could not have been more perfect. It’s a thoughful, succinct book that had a huge impact on the novel I’ve writing for the past year – in fact, I’m understating it; this book made me realise what I’d been trying to say all along.
Mouthful of Birds, Samanta Schweblin – A short story collection that’s dreamy and nightmarish at the same time.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell – So cute! So queer!
Oligarchy, Scarlett Thomas – An intricate black jewel of a novel. Weeks later I’m still thinking about it.
Haunted Voices: An Anthology of Gothic Storytelling from Scotland, Rebecca Wojturska (editor) – Full disclaimer, I do have a story in here. But ignore that, because there’s so much to love in this book: a Lithuanian folktale about a girl outwitting the devil in a sauna, a story of shadow in the corner of your bedroom (yes, yours), and a midnight motorway urban legend that I now think about every time I’m on a nighttime road.
Strange but True: 10 of the World’s Greatest Mysteries Explained, Kathryn Hulick & Gordy Wright – This book gets straight to my sceptical, X-Files-loving heart. Also the artwork manages to be magical and spooky at the same time.
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What are the best books you’ve read recently?
I’m presently reading Samantha Hunt’s ‘The Seas,’ Kirsty, which is about a girl who adamantly believes that she is a mermaid. However! Her mom and everybody else believes that she’s not, that maybe she’s crazy. Of course, the above is just the bare bones of this story. What’s most important is the prose, is how thoroughly odd Samantha Hunt’s observations are, and also the super eerie long chapter near the end that retells her boyfriend’s wartime experiences in Iraq.