New Year, New Books

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At the beginning of last year I resolved, among other things, to read more and I’m happy to say it’s one of the few resolutions I’ve maintained long after the last embers of 2016 died out.  Now that 2017 has rolled around my love of books has only intensified and I thought I’d share some of the titles I’m looking forward to reading with you.

My most recent job has seen the last part of my commute home take place from London’s Waterloo station, which just so happens to have a Foyles book shop.  I often have around 20 minutes to spare between trains and the lure of this branch’s bookshelves is too much for me to resist.

Here are some spoils from my most recent inter-train haul.

1.THE MOTH SNOWSTORM, NATURE & JOY by Michael McCarthy

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I spied the spine of The Moth Snowstorm poking out from between the natural history tomes on the first floor.  I read a pretty renowned natural history book last year and really struggled with it so I was feeling somewhat despondent about delving further into the subject matter.  However, something about the cover appealed and when I began reading the first paragraph I realised: this is my kind of nature writing.

As you can see my copy is already a bit dog-eared because I’ve been carrying it around in my handbag for the past few weeks, snatching the chance to read chapters when I get a seat on the Tube, which is rare these days!

When author, Michael McCarthy, was seven years old his mother Norah – to whom the book is dedicated – suffered a breakdown.  The year was 1954 and mental health was treated away from everyday life in asylums and, in this instance, on the say-so of the Catholic Church.  While Norah was undergoing radical treatment, Michael and his brother John went to live with their Aunt in Sunny Bank, Liverpool and it is here Michael’s unlikely, yet enduring, love affair with nature was born.

…I ran out of the house at Sunny Bank to play and encountered the tall bush covered in jewels, jewels as big as my seven-year-old hand, jewels flashing dazzling colour combinations: scarlet and black, maroon and yellow, pink and white, orange and turquoise.  The buddleia was crawling with butterflies…in their greedy quest for nectar.

Electrifying, they were.  Filling the space where my feelings should have been.  And so, through this singular window, when I was a skinny kid in short pants, butterflies entered my soul.

The book makes the case for protecting nature because of the joy it gives us and why that joy is important to preserve.  Themes of love and loss permeate its pages and refer to the natural world and the author’s own family life.  In the midst of species and statistics, references to the human emotions they elicit have me hooked.  This is a world I can relate to.  I’m about 2/3 of the way through – so far, so good.

2.AN UNNECESSARY WOMAN by Rabih Alameddine

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I’m more ignorant than I’d like to be about life in the Middle East so when I read the blurb on the back of this book I was instantly intrigued.  As I gaze at my own bookshelf I imagine the one our protagonist, Aaliya must see in her Beirut apartment.  Described in the blurb as Godless, fatherless, childless and divorced, Aaliyah is her family’s ‘unnecessary appendage.’

A lover of language, every year she translates her favourite new work into Arabic and then hides it away for no one but her to be pleasured by its pages.  I’m really curious to find out more about her character, particularly exploring the rebellion against a sense of worthlessness imposed on her by her family; by society and that deeper connection with literature and how it can take her beyond her apartment walls and the social constraints imposed upon her by others.  The novel promises flashbacks to Lebanon’s Civil War as well as to Aaliyah’s own turbulent past and I’m interested to see how the character will develop.

3.THOSE WERE THE DAYS by Terry Wogan

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I picked this up as soon as I saw the author’s name emblazoned on the cover.  If you’re from the UK or Ireland you’re bound to have heard [of] Sir Terry Wogan – veteran radio and television broadcaster with a quick wit and devilish sense of humour.  If you’re not from these shores see if you can find him on YouTube or the BBC radio iPlayer – he is – was – a delight and a riot in equal measure.

Terry Wogan tragically passed away at the beginning of 2016 making this – his first foray into fiction writing – all the more poignant.  I’m a wee bit hesitant to read this, lest I love it and lament the stories he could have shared with us, had he only had a little more time.

Those Were The Days is a collection of short stories set in the Cattle Market bank branch, recounted by Bank Manager Tom as he reminisces about the lifelong customers who have since become his friends.  I’m looking forward to settling down on the settee with a blanket, a glass of wine and some tissues.

4.A QUIET PLACE by Seicho Matsumoto

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I’m a fan of stories that keep me guessing right til the end and the premise of A Quiet Place is right up my street.  Set in Japan the tale of a wife who dies suddenly while her husband is away on business unfolds.  When he returns something about his wife’s death doesn’t sit quite right with Tsuneo, who begins to probe into where she died – a shop in an area she, to the best of his knowledge, didn’t know.

As the story progresses it seems that Tsuneo may not have known as much about his wife as he initially thought and her recent past indicated a secret double life.  I’m excited to get stuck into this one.

5.THE NAKANO THRIFT SHOP by Hiromi Kawakami

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Another Japanese story here, which I picked up after reading Kawakami’s Strange Weather In Tokyo.  You can find out what I thought of that here.  Although I have been attempting to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, (who am I kidding when I buy 6 books in a row?) I remain a devotee to the cult of pruck.  Pruck is the Northern Irish term for items that catch your eye in a shop, which you buy and bring home, even though they serve no discernible purpose.

Mr Nakano’s thrift store is packed to the rafters with other people’s pruck, each item and its owner with a story to hide or tell.  The blurb promises a beguiling story of love found amid odds and ends, which makes a nice change from the earth-shattering love stories which so often dominate the bestsellers’ list.

6.AUTUMN by Ali Smith

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Full disclosure, I picked this up purely on the basis that its cover is beautiful, #sorrynotsorry.  It reminded me of the books I used to see on my Nanny’s bookshelf when I’d visit her after school, all leather or fabric bound with the titles painted or stitched into the covers.

The first in a series of four books, Autumn is particularly timely in the wake of the millennials’ summer nightmare that delivered us our impending Brexit.  In fact, it has been termed the first ‘Post-Brexit’ novel thanks to the speed at which Smith wrote and published it following the EU Referendum.

From what I can glean on the paper top cover, the story flits between Daniel – age 100 – and Elisabeth -my age – 32.  Smith dips in and out of past and present day to look at where we’ve come from, where we’ve ended up and what, if anything, we’ve got to look forward to. I’m excited to read this one and wonder how much I’ll resonate with Elisabeth. I hope I haven’t lost my hopefulness by the time the last page turns.

And so we come to the end of this book haul.  I hope you enjoyed taking a peek into my shopping bag.  Have you stumbled across any good reads lately?  I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to feed my literature habit so do let me know in the comments below.  There’s a new post coming your way on Wednesday.  If I can remedy my current tech woes it will be a travel vlog.  If not, I shall have to put that on the long finger and give you a wee surprise post instead.

Until then,

LX

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21 thoughts on “New Year, New Books

  1. itchyfeetsblog says:

    I love to read as well and think if I ever get a hold of one of the books, I would really like to read. But none the less, I am jealous of you, as I mostly (almost only) read in English and although you can get quite a few English books here in Bremen you don’t really have that much to choose from. Anyways, good luck with the whole process of reading more!

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    • Laura says:

      I loved the book shop in Bremen train station – I think you have a couple if I can remember correctly? I always try and pick up whatever’s on the Spiegel bestseller when I’m visiting and then I challenge myself to read it in German. Although, it seems strange sometimes to read a book that was originally written in English and then translated into German You get a different sense of the story sometimes! Who are your favourite English-speaking / German authors?X

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      • itchyfeetsblog says:

        Oh yes that is true, we have a few that are quite good. That is really good, in the beginning I found so hard to read in another language but now it is all I do.
        And I would definetely agree that it can have a very different feel to it!
        On to your question … puh I always find it so hard to pick favorites and I seldomly pick out book by their authors although it is habbit I am trying to get into more. One of my absolute favorite English-speaking authors has to be Khaled Hosseini aswell as Kate Tempest, I really like all the books by J.K.Rowling, Anna Quindlen. Read a few good books by John Green, Ernest Hemingway.
        So, German authors … I don’t really have favorites but some good ones (in my opinon) are: Andreas Steinhöfel, Antonia Michaealis, Gudrun Pausewang … I know I forgot about many. I probably should do a list, but now I really am interested. What are yours? x

        Liked by 1 person

      • Laura says:

        Some great authors in there! I don’t have favourite authors as such but I really enjoy books that spirit me away or look at the ordinary through a different lens. One book I have recommended to all my friends is a book I read last year called The Bees by Laline Paull. It’s fiction and looks at the life of bees in the hive. It’s so different to anything I have read before and it really fired up my imagination. Other than that I really rate Margaret Atwood . I tend to gravitate towards feminist literature. That’s to say I enjoy reading books where both the male and female characters lead interesting lives. I hate when female characters only exist as the love interests the more interesting male ones.

        In terms of German authors I suppose I have to say Hermann Hesse whose writing I’ve always enjoyed but I also really enjoy Wladimir Kaminer. Admittedly he is Russian but I fell in love with his book Russendisko. I read it when I lived in Germany and could empathise with some of his encounters as an outsider. I’d love to know more contemporary German authors so will definitely look out for the ones you mentioned! Thank you!X

        Liked by 1 person

      • itchyfeetsblog says:

        I can only agree with the points you mentioned, many reasons why I read aswell. I will definetely check out the books and authors you told me, especially the book about the bees sounds like something I am intersted, so thank you for the recommendations! Hermann Hesse really is a good author. I always find it really nice to find new authors and books to read. Thanks a lot! x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Joanne S says:

    I’m intrigued by the McCarthy and Alameddine novels. I was hoping to get to the book store today if the roads are snowplowed clear. Two names to add to the list! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laura says:

      I’m delighted to hear that Joanne! Parts of McCarthy can be a bit tough going but I feel as though I’m learning about a world I took for granted as I read so I stick with it. Some parts are so beautifully written I almost swoon! I’m excited to read about Beirut in Alameddine’s novel too. Do you have any favourite books you’d recommend?X

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  3. phillywanderlust says:

    That’s a great assortment of books you’ve created! I appreciate how unique they are. Haven’t heard of any of them (and I like to consider myself a big book junkie!) but they seem like such good reads. Thanks for sharing!

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