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Thursday 6 March 2014

What have we been reading recently?

It's World Book Day today. To be honest, most days are book days round Sluttery way, but we'll use any excuse for a celebratory glass of gin (what do you mean World Book Day doesn't involve gin?). Here's what we've been reading recently in celebration of the joy of  books. Cheers!

Sian: After Laura B fought all of her natural instincts and found herself enjoying a book recommended by Richard & Judy, I decided to give The Universe Vs Alex Woods a shot. It's such a gorgeous book. It's about friendship and mortality but it has a lightness and the prose has a tender touch to it. And goodness it's funny. I read this alongside the surprisingly tough going Scribble Scribble (my least favourite of the Nora Ephron essay collections so far) and it was the perfect antidote. You'll power through it in a couple of days, but it'll stick with you for a lot longer.

Now I'm reading Dominion as research for a huge project I'm working on about 50s London. Damn that C.J Samson. This spy novel set during the Great Smog is so bloody enthralling that I've started looking forward to my commute just so I can finish all 717 brilliant pages of it.

Frances: I loved reading Her Brilliant Career by Rachel Cooke - these stories of ten very different women in the fifties is the perfect antidote to feeling glum because you've not yet written that novel or invented a best selling app by the age of 30. I went on a course about Japanese art last month which inspired me to finally pick up Edmund de Waal's The Hare With The Amber Eyes. A family collection of tiny Japanese netsuke is used to convey not only the huge world events of the twentieth century, but also how we interact with art and the value we place on things. Next on my list is Marina Endicott's The Little Shadows - set at the turn of the twentieth century, it's the fictional tale of a set of sisters trying to make it as a vaudeville act and it comes highly recommended by Clothes in Books, which is more than enough recommendation for me.

Alice: I've had a couple of books on the go. First up was Big Brother by Lionel Shriver. I found this book really relevant to what's being discussed at the moment with the obesity epidemic. It's lovingly written, and is about not only our relationships with food, but also relationships with our siblings and how we find it difficult to live in the moment.  I've also been reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, a great book if you're having a bit of an identity crisis.

Caleigh: My life recently has mostly involved working out which side of the nappy is the front so when it comes to actually reading any books, I'm too exhausted. Audiobooks to the rescue! I can listen to a book while I'm feeding my baby and hanging up babygros. I've just listened to Saints of the Shadow Bible, by Ian Rankin, (mostly for James MacPherson's lovely voice) where Rankin pushes his two most popular characters, Rebus and Fox, together. It doesn't disappoint! The various crimes, that Rankin weaves together with wonderful twists, rub together brilliantly with the conflict between Rebus and Fox. The story is dark, humourous and intriguing, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now I'm a couple of chapters into Tom Holt's When It's a Jar. It's a witty and surreal fantasy involving dragons and bread knives. It's early days on this book, but I'm already loving it!

Laura H: This month has been the usual cavalcade of nonsensical choices. I started off by re-reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It's rare that I'll use valuable reading time to revisit the same book, but dear GOD this was worth it. Philip K. Dick is an absolute master and if you like Blade Runner, it's worth reading just to pick up on all of the subtleties that the film misses out.

Next up was Things the Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett (the talent behind Eels). I'm an Eels fan, but I also came to this book through an interest in Everett's father - the physicist Hugh Everett, who proposed the Many World Theory. Regardless of your musical persuasion, it's an absorbing read. Everett absolutely refuses to treat the roller-coaster, and often tragic events of his life with any sentimentality, which makes for an remarkably stripped-back, honest autobiography.

On the graphic novel front, I'm continuing my relationship with Pretty Deadly. Sandman meets Susan Death meets Deadwood. What more do you want? I'm reading it on my tablet but the paperback version's out later this month.

Laura B: I've had another brilliant reading month. I kicked off with The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer's tale of a group of friends who meet at summer camp. We follow them through their lives, witnessing jealousy, unfulfilled love, and the complexities of friendship. I really enjoyed it, but the ending left me feeling a bit empty. I have a suspicion it was supposed to.

I moved swiftly on to The Circle, following Sara's glowing review. According to my diary (where I note down the books I've read, on the day I finish them), I read this in a night, and no wonder - it's so good. Thought-provoking stuff, extremely pertinent to our times, all wrapped up in a damn fine story. I finally got round to reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - breathtakingly clever, and responsible for me becoming obsessed with WWII. Next came Stoner, and Sian sums up exactly what I thought of this quiet, unassuming book. John Lanchester's Capital has been on my to-read list for ages, and it was worth the wait. A portrait of one modern-day London street, the characters are superbly written and I didn't want the story to end.

Now I'm reading Orkney, Amy Sackville's second novel. I'm yet to see where the story will take me, but it's engaging enough a few pages in to make me look forward to sticking my nose in it again tonight.

Kat: I've just inhaled Eleanor & Park by the magnificently-named Rainbow Rowell. It's a completely gripping love story with plenty of family drama and 80s references which I loved, even as a 90s kid. Clever, witty and spot on about obsessive teenage love.

I binged on holiday and read a bunch of books. I cannot recommend Joanne Harris's latest Chocolat book, Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé enough. It's as whimsical and sensual as her previous ones but suddenly takes a completely unexpected route and becomes an entirely gripping feminist thriller. Wonderful. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker was a fascinating look at the idea of the world 'slowing' through the eyes of an adolescent girl, although possibly not the best thing to read when you've just moved several time zones.

My winner was the original Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman. I loved the Netflix show, but this is even better for being completely different. It's an elegant, thoughtful story whose characters are just as interesting for being less dramatic. Also, Piper and her fiancé Larry are infinitely less awful than in the TV show. Thank God. And for something completely different, Horns by Joe Hill. If you woke up one morning to find you had horns and the ability to make people do evil things - well, where would you go from there? A terrific dark comedy. Black. Black as pitch.

What have you been reading recently? We love all of your recommendations!


  1. Ohh this list will keep me busy for ages! Thanks y'all!

    I wanted to comment because out of nowhere the other night, after not being able to sleep and going through the attempt of hot chocolate - sleep, extra wee - sleep, hot water bottle - sleep, I picked up Wind in the Willows in a bid to doze off. And it was so beautiful and wonderful! It made me wonder how many books we read as children and then never come back to, believing ourselves in the wrong age group, when actually they are choc full of useful advice, lovely imagery, and a whole different adult tone that we don't pick up on as youngsters.

    So there we are :) I'm about to embark on Glass books of the Dream Eaters -which should keep me quiet for a bit!

    1. You are so right Claire. Kat's review of How To Be A Heroine made me long to reread some of my childhood favourites - I'm sure I'd find loads in them now I'm an adult.

      Let us know how you get on with The Glass Books!

    2. Ahh will do Lady Frances!


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