One resolution (if you could even call it that…) for this new year has been to read more for fun. I love books, but with the weight of researching and writing a dissertation on my shoulders, I often feel guilty about reading anything outside that very specific realm.
This year, however, I will make an effort to read the novels and essays that have been sitting on my nightstand forever and take time out of the day to do something nice and engaging that is not connected to additional screen time.
One idea that I found extremely inspiring and feasible came from one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo. Joanna talks about creating an ‘articles club’ where, just like in a book club, you regularly discuss articles with a group of friends. I love this idea!
Books are great, but articles can be prepared ad hoc and related more closely to distinct areas of life or political/cultural/economic world events. You could also relate this idea to short stories or longer essays, whatever strikes your fancy.
So I am thinking about starting a club like this IRL, to make reading more into a social event, but also to keep myself accountable in my efforts to read more.
What do you think?
Guys, I am excited for lots of literary newness!
Today, I am spending the day at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the biggest literature and publishing fair in the world. I am so ready to be inspired and introduced to lots of new works from authors all over the world.
I will let you know about anything that stood out to me and that I am excited to read in the next Bookshelf.
See you soon!
Have you ever put a but down and not known how you feel about it? That’s what happened to me when I finished John Williams’ Butcher’s Crossing.
Now, I am a huge John Williams fan and thoroughly enjoyed what probably is his best known work – Stoner. The language he uses is gorgeous. Concise but subtly poetic while to the point. I found this to be true with Butcher’s Crossing as well but still, it was an effort to work my way through this novel.
I think it was the subject matter most of all. A young man in a frontier town, corralling a group of cowboys to join him on his first buffalo hunt. The men make it through this grueling journey to return to a town changed irrevocably. It is interesting, thought-provoking and touching for sure, but Western settings have just never been my forte.
Still, the book managed to grip me completely in its second half when the men live through the life-threatening winter months after getting caught up in the abundance of buffalo to kill. It is a riveting story with moments of sheer terror and suspense that, after all, managed to stay with me for a good few days.
Once again, Williams managed to lure me in with a beautifully written and sharply constructed story that, had it been concerned with a more relatable subject matter (for me), might have become a favorite of mine.
Nevertheless, I found it a wonderful reading experience because it was a seldom case of conflicting feelings that made me think about the power of literature and confirmed, again, my love for the written word.
It seems that I am on a real streak with biographies lately. While I usually favor fiction, I do occasionally love reading about other peoples’ lives and their own recollections of it especially.
I’ve made my way through several so far, having loved Roald Dahl’s Boy and Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast as well as Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue.
Right now, I’m working through Grace Coddington’s wonderful eponymous memoir which recounts her modelling career as well as her rise in the fashion industry and her life in England and America. It is studded with gorgeous photography and captures her unique voice perfectly. Next on my list then is Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band. As a Sonic Youth enthusiast, I am excited to delve into her story as well.
What biographies have you read lately that have stayed with you? I’m up for recommendations any time!
For this Bookshelf, I thought I’d tell you about what’s currently sitting on my bedside table, waiting to be read.
I have the terrible habit of starting several books at a time, so there are a few novels that I’m a few chapters in already.
First up, Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women. I picked a used copy of this up back in Canada, as I thought it might be fitting to read something from the country’s first female Nobel Prize winner. I love family stories and this seems like a beautiful coming of age story intertwined with an account of a whole family living in Ontaria, Canada.
Next, I am still chipping away at John Williams’ Butcher’s Crossing. This caught is not a new novel, but it caught my eye because I loved his book Stoner so much. Butcher’s Crossing is set at the frontier lines of 19th century America and since I am not the biggest fan of a western setting, it is a bit of a tough one to get into for me personally. Williams’ writing however, is as precise and immaculate as always, so while the subject matter might not be the most gripping, it is still a pleasure to read.
And finally, I picked up the highly buzzed about When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. As an avid reader of A Cup of Jo, I had been following Paul’s story for a good while and it saddened me so much to hear about his passing. Joanna previewed a bit of his book and his writing is beautifully melodic and enticing, so I knew I needed to get my hands on this. The topic of his work (a cancer diagnosis at age 36) is as tough as it is omnipresent and I am looking forward to getting into it as soon as possible.
With my recent trip to San Francisco and not a lot of time to read anything else than research literature, I have been getting into podcasts once again.
They are a great alternative to books when traveling, because I tend to get a bit of motion sickness, especially during long-haul flights. Sometimes it is just nicer to keep your eyes closed, lean back and enjoy a nice story in order to relax and be distracted.
I’ve talked about my favorite podcasts before, but there are two new ones that I have been loving recently.
The first one is the podcast version of the New York Times’ Modern Love column, which, as the name suggests, tells stories around the topic of love, read by celebrities like Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Judd Apatow, or Dakota Fanning. The episodes are around 20 minutes long, so they are nice little heartwarming snippets to throw in during a workout, a quick bus ride or while you’re cooking. I highly recommend.
The second podcast is Dear Hank & John by Hank and John Green of Vlogbrothers fame. If you enjoy their YouTube channel, you will definitely love their quirky and off the cuff podcast where they answer questions and engage in witty repartee that is just plain fun to listen to. Definitely more of a niche podcast, but I have loved their channel and John’s books for years, so it si a definite must for me.
Just before Christmas, I picked up a copy of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I’ve had read Haddon’s other two books in the past (The Red House being a particular favorite), so I decided to give this one a try as well.
The novel tells the story of fifteen year-old Christopher, a boy with what appears to be Asperger’s syndrome, who investigates the killing of his neighbor’s dog. What begins as a murder-mystery (in Christopher’s eyes) turns out to be his story of dealing with the world through his own eyes. During the story, he ventures out into the world on his own for the first time and has to deal with betrayal and disappointment by his loved ones.
It is interesting to read the story from Christopher’s perspective, as his view of the world is so unique and different, shaped by mathematical formulas and a curious understanding of the way people work. Through his eyes, normal tasks of everyday life become burdens while mathematical problems and scientific approaches are a breeze.
While of course, this is Haddon’s interpretation of what it might be like to live with a developmental disorder, it is still so interesting to get acquainted with the storyline not through a character who is in touch with his emotions and understands social queues, but one that is detached and challenged by social interactions.
Having been published in the early 2000’s, this novel sure isn’t a new discovery, but it is one that I have thoroughly enjoyed, much like Haddon’s other works. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly suggest you do so and take it as a starting point into Haddon’s bibliography. The novel has also been adapted for stage and screen.