It all seems a bit silly to even consider anything as frivolous as reading at the moment. But given there is evidence that those who read fiction are more empathetic than your average person, maybe now is more important than ever to talk about books.
Black Lives Matter
I widen my perspective through reading, and listening. Here are some voices I’ve enjoyed over the past few years:
- Lesley Nneka Arima – What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky
- Tananarive Due – Ghost Summer: Stories
- Chesya Burke – Let’s Play White
- The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen
- Langston Hughes – The Ways of White Folks
- Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah – Friday Black
- ZZ Packer – Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
- Victor LaValle – The Changeling
- Nalo Hopkinson – Skin Folk
- Danez Smith – Don’t Call Us Dead
Here are some ways you can help. Donate, protest, vote, read, educate, do whatever you can.
I’m glad to report that I’ve made time to get back into graphic novels. They’ve been a big part of my life; my first literary memory is reading a Rainbow comic in bed when I must have been around four years old. I’ve read a variety of great things recently:
Shame Pudding by Danny Noble – Graphic memoir from a very distinctive illustrator. Moving, hilarious. Highly recommended.
Flake by Matthew Dooley – I’ve waited for a novel from Matthew Dooley since he won the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize in 2016. Flake is a low-key, well-drawn, beautifully colored story about ice cream men at war, among other things. Well worth the wait.
Gast by Carol Swain – This was right up my alley. Small rural town, a mysterious death, incredibly quiet. The color palette was tremendous. It invoked a tone that made me feel at home, as I’m sure it would with a lot of my fellow Brits.
Bad Gateway by Simon Hanselmann – Oh my word, I love the Megg and Mogg comics. They are hilarious, crude, and surprisingly full of heart. Don’t get me wrong, these books are frequently gross, and they are absolutely not for everyone, but I just love them. The gorgeous black hardback edition currently on sale through Fantagraphics is beautiful.
Let’s face it, independent publishers seldom have an easy ride, but 2020 must be almost impossible for some. I try and sponsor as many as I can on Patreon, and the rewards are immense.
I’m currently a patron for literary horror/sci-fi/fantastic publications, The Ghastling, Uncanny Magazine, and Bourbon Penn. Each one has a variety of tiers, offering some great work , immediate delivery of new issues, and access to some of their back issues, all for a couple of dollars
Bourbon Penn is a particular favorite, as they produced two of the best short stories I’ve read this year, She Would Walk Them by Daisy Johnson, and Hoo Hoo by Camilla Grudova.
I also sponsor bookish podcasts Backlisted, and Books in the Freezer. Podcasts give me so much enjoyment for free, so the least I can do is gift them a pint (beer, ice cream, whatever).
I romped through Samanta Schweblin’s new novel, Little Eyes, in about four sittings. Little toy robots called kentukis are everywhere, and their owners are either watching, or being watched. Schweblin crafts fascinating tales concerning these machines, and the lives into which they are welcomed. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while, and I suspect this will become a yearly read for me.
I also finished the audiobook of A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet. Short, terrifying, brutal, and, as a parent, made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I won’t give too much away, but I highly recommend this book. Listen below to Millet on Bookable podcast for a taster.
My current audiobook listen is Boys of Alabama by Genevieve Hudson. Coming-of-age tale with supernatural elements? Welcome to my wheelhouse!
I am very impressed by Souvankham Thammavongsa’s collection, How to Pronounce Knife. Each short story is a completely new world, and Thammavongsa’s prose has immersed me every time. I’m currently reading at least one story every day, they’re just perfect.
In the next week I WILL Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. I’ve also started Wonderland by Zoje Stage. Family moving from New York City to an old cabin in the middle of nowhere; what could possibly go wrong? I can’t wait to find out.
Let me know what you’re reading, listening to, enjoying. And feel free to check out my Goodreads.