In December, I welcomed a ton of new-to-me books to my shelves - some via my secondhand book haul and others via Christmas gifts from my friends, family and, admittedly, myself. I've already started wading through them, reading bits here and there, and I'm hoping to have finished the majority of the following books within the next few months. If there are any that you think I should prioritize because they're just that good, let me know and I'll bump them up my to be read pile!
PENGUIN CHRISTMAS GIFT
Jennifer got in touch on behalf of Penguin to ask whether or not I would like to receive a package full of books alongside another package of books to give to a friend to spread some bookish festive cheer and I took her up on that very kind offer. Inundated with bookish friends, I decided to send the extra package to Candice.
Candice is a quite-new-to-me friend but I can tell you that she is just wonderful - so richly talented and in possession of the kindest of hearts and most wonderful sense of humour. I feel very lucky to have her around. Peek at her book channel, music channel and married vlogging channel, yes she does everything, once you have ingested this hefty post. She also did a little video on these books so make sure you watch that too! Credit for the following three picks, and festive photographs, goes to Jennifer.
nora webster by colm TÓIBÍN*
Widowed at forty, with four children and not enough money, Nora has lost the love of her life, Maurice, the man who rescued her from the stifling world to which she was born. And now she fears she may be drawn back into it. Wounded, strong-willed, clinging to secrecy in a tiny community where everyone knows your business, Nora is drowning in her own sorrow and blind to the suffering of her young sons, who have lost their father. Yet she has moments of stunning empathy and kindness, and when she begins to sing again, after decades, she finds solace, engagement, a haven - herself.
As you may remember, I received Toibin's Brookyln earlier this year so I guess I should read at least one of the two titles that I own by him over this coming year! Which do I start with?
how to be both by ali smith*
There's a Renaissance artist of the 1460s. There's the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real - and all life's givens get given a second chance.
Ali Smith is one of those writers that everybody and their dog talks about whilst I sit at the sidelines biting my nails. Alas, not anymore! From what I gather, her writing style can be pretty Marmite-like, so here's hoping that I find a place in my heart for it.
the peripheral by william gibson*
In the near future in a broken-down rural America, Flynne Fisher scrapes a living as a gamer for rich players. One night, working a game set in a futuristic but puzzingly empty London, she sees a death that's unnervingly vivid. Soon after she gets word that it isn't a game after all - the future she saw is all too real, she's the only witness to a murder and someone from that unreal tomorrow now wants her dead.
This was the only book that arrived in the package that I had never heard of before, which is quite something because I tend to hear at least a little something about all the books ever. It sounds like the synopsis to an '80s thriller so I'm obviously intrigued. I might pick it up later this year when I fancy something a little bit out there, perhaps.
book blogger secret santa
Lorna from lorna, literally contacted me last month with news that she was putting together a #secretsantabookswap and I jumped at the chance to join in because I always find it really interesting to see what books people choose to swap with one another. I was paired up with Louise which was great because I already knew her and read her blog. I sent her Carver's 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love' because I think Carver is a writer than stands out for his craft. Louise sent me...
hunger makes me a modern girl: a memoir by carrie brownstein
This book intimately captures what it feels like to a young woman in a rock-and-roll band, from her days at the dawn of the underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s through today.
...And I'm so glad she did! I'm a fan of Carrie Brownstein, memoirs written by women and Sleater-Kinney so I was pretty chuffed when I unwrapped this beautiful hardback edition. Admittedly, I threw all my plans out of the window and read this in bed until I had finished it (with Sleater-Kinney playing in the background). Keep an eye out for my review! Thank you, Louise!
milk and honey by rupi kaur
'milk and honey' is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. 'milk and honey' takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.
I'm writing a poetry collection this year so I wanted to pick up some more contemporary collections for inspiration / to see what is going on within the field. 'milk and honey' had been on my radar for around six months so when my best friend Sophieanne asked what book I would like for Christmas I sent her the link and rabbited on about it for a while and, luckily for me, I found it under my tree come our early bff Christmas Day. I, again, have already read this so expect a review later this month.
harry potter illustrated edition by j k rowling and jim kay
The beloved first book of the Harry Potter series, now fully illustrated by award-winning artist Jim Kay.
I have been avidly waiting for this gorgeous illustrated edition to come out ever since I heard the news that Jim Kay illustrator of A Monster Calls - one of my favourite books that has ever made me cry multiple rivers into my lap - was taking on the gigantic task of illustrating every single book. I patiently waited and didn't look at any illustrations online and my god it was worth it! They're absolutely stunning! I can' t wait to give the story a re-read in this edition.
selected poems by e. e. cummings
The one hundred and fifty-six poems here [...] include his most popular poems, spanning his earliest creations, his vivacious linguistic acrobatics, up to his valedictory sonnets.
Again, I'm wanting to read more poetry this year so I thought I'd ask for an e. e. cummings collection because his work stands out on the page and that's something I am going for. He's not everyone's bag, sure, but I think you can still learn a lot from his work regardless.
the people in the trees by hanya yanagihara
In 1950, a young doctor named Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu'ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a group of forest dwelled they dub ' The Dreamers', who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences.
A Little Life took the book world by storm in 2015 but I'm not entirely sure that I'm emotionally stable enough to read it so I thought I'd do the next best thing and read Yanagihara's earlier work first. The blurb sounds fascinating so I think I'm going to make a special effort to pick this up sooner rather than later.
st. lucy's school for girls raised by wolves karen russell
Charting loss, love and the difficult art of growing up, these stories unfurl with wicked humour and insight. Two young boys make midnight trips to a boat graveyard in search of their dead sister, who set sail in the exoskeleton of a giant crab; a boy whose dreams foretell implacable tragedies is sent to 'Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers' (Cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Insomniacs; Cabin 3, Somnabulists...); a Minotaur leads his family on the trail out West, and finally, in the collection's poignant and hilarious title story, fifteen girls raised by wolves are painstakingly re-civilised by nuns.
I love me a short story collection and after hearing so many good things about this one I thought I'd ask for it for Christmas. I made an excellent decision. I have already read this and, I have to tell you, it was right up my street. I won't say any more but if you are intrigued by the above you should definitely pick it up.
upright beasts by lincoln michel
Children go to school long after all the teaches have disappeared, a man manages an apartment complex of attempted suicides, and a couple navigates their relationship in the midst of a zombie attack. In these short stories, we are the upright beasts, doing battle with our darker, weirder impulses as the world collapses around us.
This is another short story collection that I saw on Goodreads around the start of last year. I haven't heard anyone review it but the cover drew me in right away and the stories sound, again, exactly like my sort of thing. This is definitely high up on my to read list.
the book of strange new things by michel faber
It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment [...] His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness [...] But Peter is rattled when Bea's letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling. Bea's faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter [...] Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.
Jen Campbell spent much of 2015 waxing lyrical about this book so onto the wishlist it went! It's quite a chunker of a book but I'm hoping 2016 will be the year where I take the plunge and try and tackle some of my bigger books. I think I worry about spending lots of time trudging through them when I could be reading other things, which is ridiculous because I am most likely denying myself some wonderful stories. This is also on the 'to read' list for 2016 so make sure I get round to it, please.
the new york four by brian wood + ryan kelly
The ultimate insider's guide to New York City is presented through the eyes of Brookyln-born Riley, who is starting her freshman year at NYU and is about to find out what an adventure - and a mystery - living in the Big Apple can be.
This was a totally unexpected gift from Luke's brother and, weirdly, I had never heard of it! I don't know a lot about it but I liked the monochromatic art inside and it'll be pretty interesting to read something set in New York again. I am a little worried about a grown man writing from the perspective of a teenage girl because they tend to do really bad jobs but I'm holding onto hope for this little comic.
Gifts i bought myself...
the bell jar by sylvia plath
Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowing going under - maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational - as accessible an experience as going to the movies.
I love Plath and I don't care if that's some sort of cliché. This cover is so me just look at it - the pinks, the blues, the everything. I've already started this so I imagine you'll get a review of it next month all being well!
m train by patti smith
M Train is a journey through eighteen 'stations'. It begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. We then travel [...] across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations: from Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico, to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; from the ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith buys just before Hurricane Sandy hits, to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud and Mishima. M Train is a meditation on endings and beginnings: a poetic tour de force.
Patti Smith's 'Just Kids' was one of my favourite books that I read last year, and it became one of my favourite books of all time, so I knew I needed to pop this book on my wishlist. Unfortunately, no one took the bait so I ended up making a Boxing Day order solely inspired by this book. Part of me wants to read it as soon as possible but the other part of me is relishing the fact that I have a memoir by Smith sat on my shelf that is unread and, most probably, something that I will really enjoy. I don't think it'll take me too long to get to it, if I'm honest!
gift card buys
My Aunt and Uncle sent me a Waterstones gift card for Christmas so I got to work ordering some graphic novels to see the new year in with. I tend to buy graphic novels and comics, etc, with gift cards because they are usually more expensive and I'm not going to come across them on my secondhand travels.
blue is the warmest color by julie maroh
Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine finds herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, her own ideas about herself and her identity.
This graphic novel had been sat on my to buy list ever since I watched the film so I thought it was about time that I bought and read it, especially as I'd heard that the source material was different from the adaptation. I have already read this, so I won't say too much, but I did cry once.
wolf volume 1: blood and magic by ales kotLos Angeles, California: Antoine Wolfe, a hard-boiled paranormal detective with a death wish, has to cope with sudden responsibility for an orphaned teenage girl who might be the key to the impending apocalypse. The road to hell and back begins.
Honestly, I no next to nothing about this series other than it is by my favourite comic publisher, Image, and it involves an apocalypse. That's literally all it takes for me to buy something. My comics and graphic novels never go unread for long so I imagine this will, too, feature in my reviews over the next couple of months.