Editor’s note: Have you been missing our book editor Anushree Kaushal—who left us to wander off and chase new dreams? The good news is that we’ve persuaded her to do a list of her popular reading habit list once a month. So yay! As always you can reach out and say hello at email@example.com.
Hi, all. What’s everyone been reading? For the past month or so, I have found myself immersed in essays about the behind-the-scenes of books and the publishing industry, talking about what our relationship to books is like outside of reading them. Let’s dive into some of those.
As someone whose entire life and career path was changed by a bookstore, I loved this bookseller’s view of the many types of customers she sees every day, documented on Book Riot. I am very much “The One Who Comes for One Book and Leaves with Five.”
On CrimeReads, one editor of mysteries and crime novels talks about her journey to becoming an editor and creative-space owner in a town which was itself mired in crime. Hers was not the most conventional path to editor-dom, but it’s a fun-to-read-about path nonetheless.
Over on Longreads, a writer talks about their relationship with collecting and keeping physical books, and on Psyche, a lovely and exhilarating meditation on how to nurture a personal library and how that shapes you as a person. This essay, with its thorough and detailed yet loving and gentle look at the creation of a library collection, made me giddy with delight and hopeful for my future.
Writer and artist Austin Kleon leads the most inventive life—creating zines, writing blackout poetry and teaching all of us to become our best creative selves. In this post, he talks about how to read like an artist to develop a more enriched reading life for yourself. My favourite lesson that I’ve myself had some difficulty learning over the years: “If you aren’t getting anything out of a book, put it down and pick up another book.”
On Reasons to be Cheerful—a site I have bookmarked for when I’m feeling especially gloomy about the state of the world—a note on Finland’s landmark Oodi Library, a place which is more than a temple for readers, but also a haven for all, a “free and egalitarian public space.” It makes you think about what a well-made, well-managed library with a mission of service at its heart can be to a city and its people. Plus, Oodi is beautiful to boot. Just look at these damn pictures.
Finally, let me bring to your attention some of the many end-of-year Best Books lists that have graced us so far.
Here are roundups from the Washington Post, the New York Times and TIME Magazine. If you’re looking for a list based more on reader reviews, check out the Goodreads Choice Awards Nominees (and maybe vote). Finally, if you want bookseller opinions, here’s Barnes & Noble and Waterstones. One book that seems to have made it across most of these lists is ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ by Bonnie Garmus, which was a personal favourite of mine this year, a top-notch, five-star read, recommended to all!
Books on my radar
Some books that recently caught my eye and jumped on to my TBR:
We Spread: by Iain Read. This novel of philosophical horror follows Penny who, in her old age and after one too many incidents, finds herself in a care residence like no other. While she initially enjoys her new surroundings, she soon finds her memory—and time—slipping away from her, but she is not sure if it’s her age that’s causing these disruptions or something more sinister. This book made it on to my list quite rapidly after one of my favourite BookTubers bawled endlessly on camera once she’d finished reading it.
Our Wives Under the Sea: by Julia Armfield. I discovered recently that I adore all media about the great, mysterious unknown that is the depth of our oceans. No wonder, then, that this story of Miri, whose wife, Leah, returns from a disastrous deep-sea mission a changed person, gripped me instantaneously. Whatever Leah encountered on that mission she has brought back with her on to dry land.
Bonus watch: I enjoyed the first season ‘Vigil’ on Prime Video, an excellent locked-room mystery that takes place on a submarine.
The Half Life of Valery K: by Natasha Pulley. The Cold War and Soviet Russia intrigue me to no end. In this novel, Dr Valery Kolkhanov is plucked from a Siberian gulag and taken to a small town containing a set of nuclear reactors, expected to study the effects of radiation on small animals. But Valery is driven by a moral compass, and the novel becomes more than the story of mysterious ongoings and political adventures.
Lastly. . .
I finished watching ‘Wednesday’ on Netflix last week and I was surprised to find that I was a total sucker for it. I have a particular fondness for the girl detective trope, and Wednesday Addams was such a perfect vehicle for that, with her crisp, wonderfully witty one-liners (delivered in glorious deadpan by Jenna Ortega) and her razor-sharp focus on solving the mystery above all else (especially trivial things like boys). Her relationship with Thing—who stole everyone’s heart—was a treat to behold.
So that this gothic party never ends, I recommend this list on Book Riot of books to read if you loved the grumpy-sunshine duo of Wednesday and her reluctant best friend, Enid Sinclair. Additionally, this essay on Longreads is an excellent throwback to when Wednesday Addams made an impression on the world at large with her logical cynicism.