January was a fantastic first month for reading. There were so many exciting books to read, including many of those featured on my current reading list. I've mentioned some favourites before, but just to confirm I think the best thing I have read this year so far would have to be The Romanovs
by Montefiore. Simply because it is one of the most exciting and well written works of non-fiction I have come across in a while. Probably since reading Foxes Unearthed
in early 2016.
With more book launches and releases to look forward to in the future, I have written a list of a few of the books which I would like to get through in February. Some of them are quite short reads as my deadlines are fast approaching, in less than a month now. Yet in spite of that I do want to make sure I am integrating a little extra reading for fun into my free time. Even if it is only something small like one of the School of Life
books (I highly recommend How to Change the World).
Art does not exist in a vaccuum, and I know that without some form of inspiration outside of my classes I will not be able to think up new ideas which make me want to keep writing. Whilst the process of essaying can be stressful and at times a tad dull, it is also importat that you write because you want to, not because you have to.
And on that note, here are a few of the books which I would like to read in February:
1. Gather Together In My Name - Maya Angelou
After reading the first volume of Angelou's autobiography (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
) I've been eagerly anticipating reading the rest of her life story. However, it wasn't till this week that I stumbled across a copy which reminded me of this. It's funny the little things that happen sometimes. So far I am quite a way into this second volume already, so should have it finished in another week or two. The structure of it is very well built - Angelou had a difficult life, but she makes it sound more of an adventure than a burden. She expresses it particularly well with the use of short chapters and brief sentences. All beautifully written, and effective because of their brief and concise nature.
One of my favourite scenes so far would have to be that of Angelou (or Reets as she was known back then) cooking Creole food in her first job at a restaurant. There is something about how she describes the place that makes it sound like home, in the warmest sense of that word. Capturing an atmosphere isn't always an easy thing to do. Yet somehow she captures it as well as a photograph. She is the definition of time travel through literature because you feel yourself on the very spot she recalls.
2. Cherry Pie - Holly Poetry
One of my favourite reads of last year that didn't make the overall list because it is quite a small book. Yet the poems within it resonate deeply with modern issues that you catch on the radio, in conversation or on the cover of the newspaper. Some of these poems are traditionally written, others have a more sombre tone or emotional depth. But the best part about them is that they are highly original, creative and witty. Many of them make me laugh out loud every time I read them, let alone the first time. For instance, a poem about feminism with Tinkerbell at the heart of it. Yes I mean the one from Peter Pan
! It is high time I re-read this to cheer myself up until spring is officially here.
None of the poems are short enough for me to feature here unfortunately, and it wouldn't be justice to just provide you with one stanza of them. So here instead is the short free form poem which the book opens on (an explanation of the title and also the dedication) :
My Gran used to call me
When I was a baby
Cherry Pie is one
of the first memories
I have of my grandad
When I was a teenage I worked
in Little Chef
I have a long relationship with cherries.
For Gaga and Papa.
3. Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
This short story collection features Metamorphosis
at the top of the list and I am really looking forward to reading this. Largely because last semester, right back at the very beginning, we studied Ovid's Metamorphosis
in my narrative class. Some of my earliest memories in education link back to the lessons I was taught on Greek mythology when I was quite small (or smaller than I am now at least) Whilst those were closer to Virgil, Ovid's ideas are still some of the most foundational. There are several stories in his great collection that have no original elsewhere, suggesting he too was an assistant in creating, shaping and recording the many myths/legends we now know so well today.
Kafka will not be writing in the style of an Ancient Greek scribe, that I know. But his ideas are more befitting of the present day. They will definitely tie in to my recent interest in how politics are represented through literature and also the idea of utopia to an extent. Kafka was quite a private man and upon his death, he was insistent that his works be burnt. However, many were saved and this is why we have access to and can read these today.
4. 1917: Stories and Poems From the Russian Revolution
The Montefiore has me in the spirit for yet more Russian literature. This poetry collection will go quite well with my re-reading of the Holly Poetry anthology previously mentioned. The mix of poetry here is ranging from the new to the old, and focusing on pretty much every key event to have occurred throughout Russian history. For those of you who don't know, this is one the many books which is being published to commemorate the Russian Revolution of 1917. There are several works following this theme which will be published throughout the year, this being one of the earliest.
5. Autumn - Ali Smith
I've been meaning to read this since it very first came out. The worst thing is, I almost bought a signed copy but ended up not doing so. I know, what was I thinking! But at the same time, any copy of an Ali Smith book is a good thing and should not be taken for granted. If you haven't read any of her work before, go and read some. Trust me, you'll see the effect.
In a way that Angelou was capable of, Smith is also able to capture perfectly an atmosphere and an environment. Autumn is the theme of the novel and is at the heart of it, although it is not solely based on this. Her stories often begin with the simple, crescendo to a peak at the middle of the novel and then dim back to the simplicity that they began with. Often they leave you with a new insight of the world around you and the people within it. She understands so much about people and her writing is a great asset to any book shelf and mind.
6. A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
It's almost time for the Oscars, which means we are officially in Oscar season! A lot of the nominated films aren't out yet. La La Land
and A Monster Calls
are two of the movies currently out. I'm also really excited to go and see Jackie
(about the life of Jackie Kennedy) on Friday. But before I do go and see this in the cinema, I want to read it. There are several reasons for this.
Ness explains at the beginning that he carried on to an extent the work of a childrens writer who passed away from cancer mid way through a new piece. Whilst he was flattered to have been asked to carry on what she was working on, he didn't want to marr it or turn it into something which would have been any different to how she would have written it. Instead, he was inspired by her own children and the work she had produced so far to create a new piece. The result of which is this so far extremely moving and poetically written work.
That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016/17 - it is an achievement I am really proud of and it makes me smile to just thinking of it!
Thank-you also for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!
If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!