July came and went. We had a fantastic week in Sicily and were rewarded with sunsets like this
Didn’t get quite as much read as I wanted, the story of my life, but did read 17 books in the end and I think that they were as varied as ever
Unusually I read four fiction this month. I have read all of Ben Aaronovitch’s books. and The October Man is his latest novella. Set in Germany, this book introduces some new characters and a new magical challenge. I was recommended The Stolen Bicycle by the author Jessica J. Lee. This book by Ming-Yi Wu is about man who is looking for traces of his father after he disappeared two decades ago. Whilst in Sicily I read one of Norman Lewis’ fiction books, The March of the Long Shadows. didn’t think that it was as good as his non-fiction, but he did capture the atmosphere of the island very well. The final fiction book was Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. I have read Backroom Boys by him a few years ago, so was looking forward to this and it was quite a romp around a very early New York.
I haven’t seen the tv series, but the book about Chernobyl is a fascination account about the worst nuclear accident so far. Serhii Plokhy has had access to the archives and in here reveals just how close we got to it being far worse than it already was.
Paul Kingsnorth has been an environmental writer for years and he hopes that moving to Ireland on a small plot of land will help him to find a purpose. He enjoys the work but he realises that the tools that made him a writer have begun to ebb away. Savage Gods is his musings on the loos of words and how he sought them out again. I have read Mike Parker’s books on maps and this was recommended to me by Jon Woolcot of Little Toller. On The Red Hill is the story of being gay in rural Wales seen from his life and his partner, Preds and from the perspective of Reg and George who were a couple when it was still illegal. A multi-layered book of life, love and landscape.
Another recommendation from the people over at Caught at the River was The Lark Ascending by Richard King. In this book he looks at the interwoven links between the music we create and listen to and the landscape around us. It takes us from the classical Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams to the modern rave scene.
I read two Poetry books this month. First was The Girl Aquarium a new collection by Jen Campbell. There were some that I liked in this, and there were some that I struggled to elicit meaning from. Karl Tearney’s new collection, Second Life is rooted deep in the PTSD that he suffers from. It is much more black and white and very raw at times.
I read a lot of travel books this month! Mike Carter is another author who I have read all his previous books and this new one was kindly sent by Faber. In All Together Now, he repeats the walk that his father took from Liverpool to London in 1981 as a protest about the lack of jobs in the north. As he walks he takes the political pulse of the country as we were about to vote in the 2016 referendum. Around the same time that this walk was taking place, Jonathan Raban was sailing around the coast of the UK. His brilliant writing cuts through the political noise around the Falklands War and the miner’s strike that was taking place at the time. Emma Bamford is also on a boat and her travels take her from America to the Carribean and around Malaysia. it also forces her to reconsider her priorities as she contemplates the stressful job she has in London.
As we were going to Sicily, I had collected all the books on the island that I had. I had read and loved, Mary Taylor Simeti’s book, On Persophy’s Island years ago and found Bitter Almonds in a charity shop. This is the stories and recipes that she collected from Maria Grammatico who grew up in a convent and learnt to cook the most amazing pastries. I have read a couple of Norman Lewis ‘ books before, and Eland kindly sent me this. Sicily was an island that he loved, he married the daughter of a mafioso and spent a lot of time there. He is travelling around the island, catching up with old friends and familiar places. Quite a wonderful book from a wonderful writer. Matthew Fort is also travelling around Sicily on a scarlet red Vespa in his book, Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons. He is not really there for the culture, though it is inescapable on this island, but is there to discover the delicious foods from locals. A book that makes you very, very hungry. Horatio Clare is another fan of the place and he has curated a select set of writings about the island in Sicily: Through the Writers’ Eyes. A really enjoyable book, and we even made it to one of the places mentioned in the book.
I had two books of the month in July, All Together Now? and Savage Gods and would recommend that you read them if you had a chance.