Books books books

Here’s a sort of review of my year in books, in reverse order.

First, books that are still waiting to be read…

Next, the books that I’m still in the process of reading. It was only once I’d gathered them from around the house for the purpose of this photograph, that they really began to reproach me. Now I’m suffering book-guilt…

And lastly – and quite satisfying it is too – the books I have read, or reread this year. Not included in this picture are Jane Shilling’s The Stranger In The Mirror, because I’ve loaned it to someone, the first four Harry Potter books (I’m working through them with my daughter), or The Hobbit, which I’ve read to my daughter at least twice this year.

I enjoyed ALL of them. I can recommend all of them too. Thoughts have been provoked, wonder evoked, and one of them (Nik Perring‘s Not So Perfect) even staved off the onset of madness while I was stuck at Charles de Gaulle airport waiting to find out if Heathrow would become sufficiently unfogged so I could return home. (It didn’t, but we eventually flew anyway.)

What have you been reading this year?


How to while away the hours…

I am perched on the horns of a dilemma. Not a terribly big dilemma, and certainly, in the grand scheme of things, an unimportant one. But still… in a few days we’re packing ourselves off to Bulgaria; I’ll be away from my desk, from my Mac, from the WIP – that’s always a bit of a wrench – and I can’t make up my mind about what I’m going to take with me to read. I don’t need to worry about the journey – I usually sleep through most of it. But all those long hours of rich golden light – varied with cracking great thunderstorms that break the deadlock of heat – with what shall I fill them?

These are some of my possible options;

George RR Martin A Game Of Thrones – actually that one’s a given as I’ve already begun it.

Roland Barthes Camera Lucida – I’ve been meaning to read this since March.

Téa Obreht The Tiger’s Wife – it has a Balkan setting appropriate to the holiday, making it a strong contender.

Edmund De Waal The Hare with the Amber Eyes – not sure about this one, although people keep telling me I should. The thing is, I don’t much care for being told that I should do something… hmm.

Alison Weir The Lady In the Tower – good historical biography; I love her writing, and her detailed research really does enable her to reconstruct her subjects’ lives into a lively narrative. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Alison Weir has subsequently turned her hand to writing historical fiction as well.

DH Lawrence Women In Love – haven’t read this in years. Watching the recent BBC adaptation made me realise how little of it I remember.

Salley Vickers Aphrodite’s Hat – a collection of short stories by a writer whom I greatly admire.

Keith Richards Life – how is he still alive?!

Michael Ward Planet Narnia – another one that I’ve been meaning to read for a while.

Jay Lake Green – I’ve had my eye on this one for a while…

There are other contenders, but these are the ones that spring immediately to mind, and are also in paperback. Perhaps that indicates a subconscious whittling of possibilities into this shortlist. Except that it isn’t a particularly short list. I have until Sunday night to decide. Which would you choose?

In the meantime, the WIP’s First Draft is at last winding towards its ending. I completed the penultimate chapter in the early hours of this morning, when the Principle Heroine took advantage of my weakened state to become an ipso facto fairy godmother. The edit will tell whether she gets to keep that or not. Can I write the last chapter before we leave? Now that’s a challenge!

An evening just after Midsummer

Lose some, lose some. After rewriting the thing I was rewriting, it has been rejected by a different editor from the same zine. This editor didn’t get the beginning, although she says my writing is ‘ambitious in a good way, but…’ <head desk>… Ah well. I’ve already sent it on elsewhere, more for the sake of something to do, than in any real hope. Moving on.

It occurred to me recently that my writing seems to involve shoes a great deal. Not a conscious decision, they just seem somehow to become important to the narrative they find themselves in. I even wrote a poem about shoes, way back in 2006 – a golden year when I discovered that I could write, although I’m certainly no poet. Am I a shoe fetishist? I’d certainly like to be! I have been known to while away the time gently browsing Manolos on the Neiman Marcus website, especially these… One day I will own a pair, preferably while I’m still able to walk in them – it’s important to have dreams, yes?

After some umming and ahhhing over whether to have a bash or not, I have decided to at least attempt something for the Terry Pratchett Prize. I have a little something emerging from the echoing caverns at the back of my head. Even if I decide not to submit it, it will at least be another iron in the fire, and will have got something out of my head and onto screen/paper that has been niggling me for nearly a year. So, another week or so to percolate, and then writing in earnest will begin in July. In which case I may as well do this. In for a penny, etc.

The weather has been rather lovely here this month. Last night I had the pleasure of listening to the blackbird’s evensong; he was perched on the top most branch of the ash tree behind our garden, and above him rose the golden moon, three-quarters full. The scent of philadelphus wafts from other gardens, and mingles with the honeysuckle and roses in ours. Midsummer is one of my favourite parts of the year. It was in Midsummer, back in 1979, that I first read The Wind in the Willows. And it is at this time of year that my favourite romantic novelist, Katie Fforde, annually brings out a new book. I am lucky enough to know her, to count her as a friend – she is truly lovely – and, in my bookselling capacity, I get to run the Stroud Bookshop stall at the Farmers’ Market, where Katie signs her latest hardback. We had a particularly good event this year; the advance publicity was excellent; the weather was good, so plenty of shoppers and fans were out and about, and this year Katie’s husband Desmond was also signing the book he’s edited. (And my small daughter helped me to set up the stall, then quietly drew some lovely pictures until it was time to pack up the stall again, in between hugging me whilst no-one was looking. We had a lovely lovely time.)

And finally, to bring this rather long post to an end, this week I finished reading Alison Weir’s excellent biography of Katherine Swynford, and Katie’s latest, A Perfect Proposal. The former is a fascinating account of 14th Century romance, politics and intrigue; the latter a delightful romp set in the West Country, New York and Connecticut (with shoes), that exactly hits the right spot for an enjoyable light read with some laugh-out-loud lines. And now I must fetch in the laundry.