January has a history of being a good reading month for me. Last year, the amount of pages I read in those first few weeks spurred me on to nudge my goal of seventy books to a full one hundred, and as I lose my taste for the festive season it’s becoming more and more of an important time of year.
This has been the first year in a while that I haven’t set myself an aspirational numerical goal for what I’d like to read in 2018 (more on that later, I'm sure) and I worried at first that I’d use this as an opportunity to slack on my reading. Thankfully it doesn’t seem to have had that sort of negative impact; I’m tearing through the most wonderful books, and motivated as ever.
On Writing by Stephen King
I don’t think I could have chosen a better book to kick-start my year if I’d tried. After finishing everything I’d brought with me to read while visiting family over Christmas, I picked this up on New Year’s Eve to keep me company on the train journey from Leeds to London King’s Cross. On Writing is part memoir and part actual useful advice for writers and aspiring writers. Honestly, a must-read for anyone who wants to write, or write more, or write better.
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
Undoubtedly my favourite of the fiction I read this month. This novel follows the life of its eponymous heroine over a number of decades, through a devotion to writing, commercial success, marriage and motherhood. It’s a fascinating case study of one woman’s life, sparking thoughts on the way we look at and judge self-professed ‘career women’, and what we expect of women as mothers. Loved.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
Since graduating from university, I don’t tend to read plays very often. This was my first encounter with Tennessee Williams, and a text that proved extremely helpful for the first draft of a short story I was working on towards the start of the year.
Peach by Emma Glass
Barely a hundred pages, Peach was a strange little read. Glass’ prose-poetry narrative style reminded me of Eimer McBride’s A Girl is Half-Formed Thing - a delicate, child-like voice delivering a haunting and oftentimes disturbing sentiment.
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
Art, loneliness, New York City. Add that to Olivia Laing’s gorgeous prose, and you have an incredibly rich and researched exploration of the relationship between isolation and creativity. As if I could pine for New York more than I already do.
All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan
I’ve enjoyed a lot of literature set in Ireland or by Irish writers recently - Colm Tóibín has been a particular favourite, and Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends was one of the best books I read last year. All We Shall Know is the first novel I’ve read by Donal Ryan. Morally, this book is challenging (our antihero is a thirty-three year old married woman, pregnant with the child of her seventeen year old student), but nonetheless extremely readable.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
I decided up front that this would the year in which I finally took on the great tome that is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Expect a post in the near future where you can read some of my thoughts on this notoriously difficult thousand-page novel.