What book(s) are you reading right now?
I’ve just put down a novel, which will remain nameless, that was too depressing to finish… and picked up Stephan Fry’s Mythos again which is brilliant; very readable and detailed study of the Greek myths. It’s pretty dense, so suits reading in chunks. I tend to have a few on the go, poetry and non-fiction in the daytime and a good story at night. I just finished Jenny Kleeman’s Sex Robots and Vegan Meat which is eye-opening: four articles really, on some disturbing and bewildering tech alternatives to sex, birth, food and death. And Adrian Duncan’s excellent Love Notes from a German Building Site, so good. Started Girl, woman, other last night.
A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend.
The very few books that I’ve bought more than once (or twice) are really stand-out, most recently Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward, which is just stunning: gritty, ghostly, illuminating and beautifully written. Ghosts, crack, slavery and the prison system in the southern USA. My House in Damascus by Diana Darke, for its straightforward picture of Syrian life, pre-destruction. Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, which I only read for the first time fairly recently and blew me away, unfortunately I then bought it for someone who absolutely hated it! Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky, a poetry book that gets better and better every reading. And Reality Is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli, for bending the brain. Oh and I’ve bought several Sarah Waters for friends as I absolutely love her storytelling, so well-constructed and written, and always giving a proper treatment of the women characters.
A book yet-to-be-released which you are looking forward to reading.
Una Mannion’s novel A Crooked Tree; I’ve heard extracts and it’s mesmerising. Sarah Waters’ new book, whatever it is – long overdue!
A book that you feel is underrated and deserves more attention.
Columbus and Other Cannibals by Jack D Forbes, a short and uniquely explained view of the European invasion of the Americas. Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, an unforgettable novel about Europe and Russia and essential reading if very necessarily dark. Enderby, a series of comedy novels by Anthony Burgess, great for laughing out loud.
A book with personal resonance.
I was just introduced to Elskie Rahill- her short stories “In white ink” and novel An Unravelling – and her descriptions of motherhood, particularly single-motherhood, really struck me. Perfectly understood and brilliantly conveyed. Oh, should have put her in the books I’m looking forward toparagraph!