You can never get a cup of tea large enough, or a book long enough to suit me
Winter is setting in and despite the mild weather, it’s making me want to curl up in the old armchair, put the reading light on and listen to the rain lashing the window as I disappear into a good book. Here are five books I’ve read this year that suit a Sunday afternoon of cosied up reading.
Much With Body
Find it here, at the Seren Books Website: Seren Website
If you’re familiar with Polly’s work you’ll know how her poems fold you into them, how they open worlds. If you ever get a chance to see her read, do it, don’t hesitate, do it. I’ve been lucky enough to have her read as part of a course I ran and double lucky in that she has run a zoom course for Spelt, which has been a big hit. I read this one in January. I read a little bit each day and each day it was like being given a gift. She’s an extraordinarily gifted poet. Much With Body is Polly Atkin’s second collection. These are poems that explore the connection to nature, in particular the authors connection to her own place in nature, in the Lake District. There’s a thread of found poems running through the collection that use Dorothy Wordsworth’s diary entries to explore the body through the lens of chronic illness. Every poem in this collection pulls at something in the brain, every description captures something unusual and special. I can’t recommend it enough. Pour yourself a cup of tea and settle in, you’ll not be able to put it down.
Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands
Find it here, at the Bloodaxe website: Bloodaxe website
Sarah is a Leeds poet, brought up in Doncaster. She has a very earthy, no nonsense and yet somehow magical way of putting a poem together. Again, if you get the opportunity to hear her read, do it. She has such a gentle manner about her, but it’s underscored with something steely and indefatigable, and I think that comes through in her poems. We were winners of the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Award together and I remember hearing her read at the launch event and being absolutely blown away. I knew of her pamphlet, Blood Lines, which won the Mslexia poetry competition – genuinely one of the best poetry collections I have read – and was so excited about this full collection. It did not disappoint. In this collection Sarah explores her roots, her traveller heritage and her Yorkshire heritage, it’s a fantastic collection.
Black Car Burning
You can buy Helen’s novel from all good bookshops.
I’m a big fan of Helen’s poetry so I was delighted when she published a novel. I’m always interested in how a poet will write a novel, the two genres are very different. Sometimes I think the voice of the poet is lost in the transition between poet and novelist, and then sometimes you find that a writer is equally adept at both genres, whilst keeping their own style, and Helen is one of those writers. This is a fantastic novel, it is gripping and cool and beautifully crafted and strange and unusual and all of the things I like about a novel. It’s a book about trust, and about human frailties, it’s about identity and how we build our identities, how fragile we are as people and how easily damaged; how trauma can live in the bones of a person. It made me want to climb. I loved the naming of the landscape, the precise and familiar descriptions of rock climbing, the way that Helen knows her landscape. This is a writer who knows how to write the lived landscape and, again, I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. I’ll re read it at some point, I’m sure.
The Living Mountain
This was one of those books that I’d heard about and never read. I’m not sure what stopped me, perhaps an already teetering TBR pile? Though that has never really stopped me bringing more books into the house. It is a surprising read. I am so used to people writing about landscape in an almost clinical, distanced manner, that to read someone who is focussed not only on the nature and the landscape itself, but the spiritual connection to the landscape and to the mountain. She’s not afraid to consider the communion between landscape and person and ask why and how that happens. It is well worth a read. I felt very connected to Nan Shepherd as I was reading it, in particular the descriptions of sleeping outside. I had a real thing about sleeping outside as a child, it’s quite a strange and magical experience. There are so many people in love with this little book, and rightly so, something about it makes you feel like you are talking to a friend, rather than simply reading a book. A wonderful exploration of landscape and connection.
Wild – Tales from Early Medieval Britain
You can buy Amy’s book from all good book shops.
What a joy this book is. The illustrations, the design, the feel of it in the hands. I do think reading, as an experience, is more than just what happens in your head. The sheer joy of a good book in the hand, with a cover you just want to touch is magical, it adds to that magical experience, and this book really doesn’t disappoint. I felt like I was literally walking a journey with the author. The book took me into the dark ages and shone a soft light to illuminate the context of the stories being told. Amy Jeffs is a Somerset based artist, author and print maker. She has a PhD in art History and a special interest in early Medieval literature. Each story in this book is a journey. The book is beautifully researched and presented. Each chapter has a short contemporary version of an early medieval story, which is then followed by context and explanation. This is the one that you want to get the log burner going for and may I suggest a glass of red and a cat on the lap to add to the experience. A beautiful book. I haven’t listened to it, but I also hear that the audio version is excellent, combining music and story telling.
Thanks for reading
Until next time