So we started January off pretty strong! For my standards anyway. I read six books. And after December’s somewhat cheeky tactics of reading very thin books (don’t get me wrong, I love a book under 200 pages, possibly my favourite), I was ready to get to some more weighty books. I loved everything I read and I just love when that happens.
Boy Erased – Garrard Conley
Having seen the movie trailer, I knew I wanted to read this book first. I purchased it at the end of last year with a gift card from a friend and I couldn’t wait to start it. This memoir tells the story of a young man who is outed to his very religious family and then must agree to conversion therapy or risk losing the only life he’s known. This book made my heart ache. The repeated imagery of disappearing due to isolation and confusion and oppression is explored really well. Conley speaks with conviction as he relives his brutal journey trying to find his place in his community and faith without losing who he is.
Weight – Jeanette Winterson
This is a retelling of Atlas and Heracles. The imagery in the book is stunning. I really enjoyed the mythology aspect of the narrative; it’s the old story but told again, still with similar problems we find in today’s world though. The themes of isolation and loneliness are beautifully explored. I found Atlas a really interesting guy. I rooted for him. I found Heracles to be a bit of a dick. Massively so. Oh well, can’t win them all. Definitely worth a read.
bone – Yrsa Daley-Ward
This poetry collection is bloody brilliant. Everyone needs to stop what they’re doing right now and go and buy this book. Daley-Ward’s writing is blunt, it’s raw, it’s poetic, it’s stunning. It hurts but it has to be read. The poems are autobiographical yet she can make you feel them even if they’ve not been your experience. She was a way with words. She explores themes of womanhood, race, abuse, religion, depression, grief and more.
The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly – Jean Dominique Bauby
My brother gave me this book last year for my birthday. We’d never heard of it but he said it sounded interesting. It also had an iridescent cover so I was on board. This memoir is charming and unapologetic. Bauby found himself unable to move or speak after suffering a massive stroke in the prime of his life. He had locked-in syndrome which meant his mind was completely sound. He could, however, only communicate moving his left eyelid and so this book was spelt out letter by letter. He doesn’t hide how horrible his situation is yet he manages to write beautifully about what it is to be human. Read it.
Art Matters – Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell
This short book is a necessary read for any creative. It will inspire you to hone your craft and it will motivate you to lift that pen or paintbrush or microphone, whatever. Make good art. That’s all Gaiman is asking you to do. He tells you it’s okay to fail and it’s okay to not have a clue what you’re doing. Just keep trying. Keep making magic. Riddell’s illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to help convince you to conquer the world.
Astray – Emma Donoghue
I’ve had this book on my shelf for years and I’m making a conscious effort to minimise the old tbr. So I picked this up. Shows how much I knew about it, I assumed it was a novel, it’s actually a collection of short stories. I really enjoyed it. The stories are all based in reality. They are stories of journeys, of departures, of arrivals. They are stories about changing your circumstances and searching for something better. Each story has a page at the end that explains its real life origin, a newspaper clipping, a letter, etc., and I thought that was a nice touch!
Switzerland – Soccer Mommy