Well thank god that is over. January has felt like the longest month in history. It is an extraordinarily dull month at the best of times, thirty one days of dreary, drizzly English weather accompanied by the infamous post-Christmas slump. This year we have also had to endure lockdown 3.0 so to top everything off we have had an uncertain and anxiety driven start to the year.
Reading, as you well know by now, is my escape and the only coping mechanism I know in the current climate. This month I have somehow got through nine books. This may seem like a lot but without many other time commitments at the moment, this is pretty much how I have spent January. Below are the books that I have read and recommend to get you through this last little bit of winter. There is a pretty varied selection so hopefully there are at least one or two that appeal to you from the wrap-up.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
In the Dream House was recommended to me by one of my best friends @izmacniven and it did not disappoint. Although the themes covered in the book are quite heavy, the short sharp chapters make it surprisingly easy to read
Deeply personal, raw and insightful, Carmen shares her story of an abusive same sex relationship.
Carmen is such an exquisite writer and her pretty prose and poetic style is told through an unusual second person lens. This unique and sublimely innovative memoir is unlike anything I have ever read before .
The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey
After an almost fatal car accident a few years ago Caitlin (our protagonist) becomes totally obsessed with death. She believes she only escaped the wreckage of the car by chance and that sooner or later death will catch up with her. She fixates on every possible scenario…she might develop lung cancer from her smoking habit, she might be hit by a bus, murdered on her walk home. She doesn’t know what shape her death will take, all she knows is that it is imminent. Anxiously awaiting her own demise she decides that that there is no point getting in to a relationship, no point maintaining her friendships or seeing her family. She quits her job and works as a waitress to pass the time while she waits for death to catch up to her.
This book is a heart-wrenching story of a girl who is severely depressed and anxious.
As well as shining a much needed light on issues around mental health, it shows us the power of simple acts of kindness, empathy and unshakeable friendships.
A truly profound and beautiful story.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I actually don’t know how to write a review with high enough praise. This book is simply magic. Four pages in to the novel I knew that The Night Circus was going to be special. It is one of those books that is just totally captivating and enchanting in its essence. I have no idea why I haven’t read it before but once I started I just didn’t want it to end. Erin Morgenstern is a serious talent, her writing is evocative and beguiling. The way in which she describes the circus itself is some of the best writing I have ever read. Wow.
The Night Circus is set in the late 1800s and follows two young magicians from rival magic schools who have been selected to compete in challenges within a the magical circus. The circus is unlike any before it, it only opens after dark and closes before dawn, visitors and readers alike are enchanted by contortionists, illusionists and wondrous magic.
The two magicians must create powerful attractions competing against each other until one simply can’t go on anymore.
IF YOU LIKE FANTASY PLEASE READ THIS.
The Boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy
This is honestly one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. It is simply a work of art, both the words and the illustration. If you haven’t heard of @charliemackesy go check him out now.
This is a series of life lessons and profound messages of hope from The Boy and his three unlikely friends. The book is a message of faith in uncertain and scary times, reminding us of the good in the world and humanity alike.
Pine by Francine Toon
Before I started this book I had read so many mixed reviews so was feeling a little dubious going in to it but I totally loved this novel. The writing is absolutely stunning, I found it bewitching and captivating from the very first page.
This creepy novel is set in a remote village in the Scottish highlands, totally surrounded by thick pine forests. The story follows ten year old Lauren and her alcoholic dad who live alone in the secluded village. Lauren’s mother went missing years ago and rumour runs rife within the village about where she might be. One night while driving home from halloween celebrations, a young woman that vaguely resembles her mother steps out in to the road wearing nothing but her dressing gown. Niall seems to know the woman and brings her back to their home. The next morning the woman is gone along with Nialls memory of the encounter. Confused and alone Lauren begins to unearth information about who this woman might be and what connects them to each other.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Vanessa Wye was fifteen when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty two, as allegations emerge against the man she once loved she is forced to rethink her past and acknowledge that the great love story of her life may well have been abuse.
This book is a completed, bold and deeply uncomfortable read, it covers some of the most important and profound issues of our age.
Amazing Disgrace by Grace Campbell
For the entirety of this hilarious and insightful memoir I just felt like I was having a chat with a best friend. I won’t lie to you, I am now slightly obsessed with Grace Campbell.
For those who don’t know who Grace Campbell is, she is the daughter of Alistair Campbell who was Tony Blair’s head of communications. This memoir tells her story of growing up surrounded by politics. She speaks openly about a childhood that revolved around new labour and sharing Saturday mornings with Tony. Despite not having breakfast with the PM on the regs-this book is SO relatable and familiar in so many other ways.
Grace speaks about shame, friendship and sexuality in such a raw, honest and frank manner. She is a woman we all hope to have in our lives.
PS: Amazing Disgrace gave me serious Everything I Know about Love vibes, if you enjoyed that memoir by Dolly Alderton, you will also love this.
Home Body by Rupi Kaur
Home Body is the most perfect little poetry book. It is the third book by Rupi Kaur and a deeply personal creation. Similar to her other collections, Home Body is divided in to four sections, this book is spit in to Mind, Heart, Rest and Awake.
As we head in to the new year we feel innate pressures to restart, change or improve on different aspects of our lives. Rupi reminds us ti be gentle and kind to both ourselves and each other.
Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho
Crazy Rich Asians meets Bridget Jones Diary. I could not love this combination any more if i tried. Last Tang Standing is the book to read if you need cheering up. It is an easy going and hilariously relatable read, even if you dont have an overbearing chinese family. Lauren Ho’s writing is witty insightful and fun. I’ll leave you with a quote from the book which i think perfectly sums up the voice of our protagonist Andrea Tang.
‘Am not crotch to shlong with poker faced blonde cyborg in cycling gear so tight I can see inside him. If the train makes an emergency stop I will fall pregnant. It is not the way I wish to go about it so have placed expensive handbag between us as makeshift condom. Sorry, Prada.’