When hard times hit, we do what we can to cope. My safety space, my go-to, will always be books and music. To fellow readers out there reading this, I know you will sympathize, perhaps even nod knowingly, when I say the only New Year’s resolution I’ve made this year is to level off my TBR (to be read) pile, because it is seriously getting out of hand.
I thought, because of its enormity, that I, in turn, wasn’t reading enough. I mean the piles are just overflowing to a few rooms and areas of my home. In an effort to try and keep tabs on what I’m doing, I thought I’d list down the ones that are/were notable, at least for me, and perhaps will get you guys to check them out. I am neither a literary critic nor writer in any way shape or form, and I’m just sharing ones that stayed with me these last couple of months.
So, okay! Here we go:
One of the things I do when I’m at a loss with how the way the world is working is reread books. Around November, I went back to reading the short stories of one of my favorite American writers, Ernest Hemingway, whose third wife, Martha Gellhorn, is an interesting figure in her own right. It was his collection of short stories called Men Without Women.
It is basically stories about machismo, men and women’s relationships, war and sports at its finest. I love the visceral way Hemingway describes things, even awkward things, and makes it almost romantic. It brings you back to a time when aviation was still a novel and terrifying thing to do, and wars were just won or about to brew. An interesting backdrop of history, to be sure.
The Midnight Library
By Matt Haig
This is one of the best and most surprising books I’ve read. I was just recommended this title out of nowhere as I was scrolling Goodreads while waiting in line for something. I clicked on the book and, lo and behold, after 48 hours I finished it. The story is not for everyone for sure: a lot of philosophy and a sense of what if? Also trigger warning: there is talk of suicide. Admittedly, the title was what grabbed me first. Anything that happens in a library for me is magical so that was why I first turned the page.
The Lost Apothecary
By Sarah Penner
This was recommended by those in a book group I am part of on social media. I was looking for a holiday read and the word “apothecary” was always one that sparked my interest because, for me, it’s the crossroads between science and nature. The premise is about an apothecary in London (squee!) that was handing out poisons to women who needed saving. I mean, right? I’ve heard of a story like that but it was happening in the Renaissance in Italy. Oh, and yes, the places in the book are ACTUAL places you can look up in old and new maps online.
Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad
By Austin Kleon
I’m really not one for self-help books (but if they help, why not?) but this easy read was just what I needed to light the bonfire under me and get moving the first week of the year. It is mainly for those in the creative field, but as the author says in the first few pages, it can really be for anyone. The thoughts and ideas expressed here stayed with me days after I read it. So, if you feel the need to light a fire under your butt, read this!
A Dead Djinn
By P. Djeli Clark (aka Dexter Gabriel)
A recommendation of one of my best friends, this was the short story of the series at 38 pages so I don’t know if I can call this a book. It was a fun read though. For those who just need that quick break and read in between things, this is it. A murder mystery that occurs in turn of the century Cairo, featuring mystical and steampunkish characters. I cannot wait to find time to start the bigger brother, “A Master of Djinn.”
By Won-pyung Sohn, Joosun Lee (Translator)
I am still ARMY and this was one of the books that the BTS boys were reading in their show In the SOOP 1, and I was really interested in knowing what it was about. Considering this was a short book, this was a heavy story. If you can, please read this! Trigger warning: Bullying and mental health.
A Tale for the Time Being
By Ruth Ozeki
This book is split into two timelines — one is set in a remote island in Canada and another is in the streets of Japan. Another interesting story interspersed with each other that starts off with a woman finding a lunchbox on the shores of a remote island in Canada where she lives with her husband and reading a diary left by a 16-year-old who wants to kill herself.
The author, Ruth Ozeki, is a known Zen monk. It brings up fascinating thought processes about death. Trigger warning: the bullying here is intense.
The books I’ve just listed are all pretty heavy. I suppose this is just me trying to make some sort of sense in my own way about the heaviness of our realities. I hope that you are all staying safe and healthy, and that you had a wonderful holiday in the company of those you love. Happy new year!