Supermassive Book Haul!

You know the feeling. You’re on Amazon and put a book in your basket. Just one. Your recommendations show another one that sounds interesting… plus one you’ve been meaning to read for ages is on sale, and….the next day a large box turns up at your door bursting at the seams with new reads.

So this isn’t really supermassive, I just liked the word play. I got 9 books recently; a few at a charity shop, and the rest on Amazon (I’m not wading in on that debate, of course I support indies but I don’t have any independent bookshops near me. It would be the dream to open one, though). I got some that I know will be absolutely brilliant, and some I’ve never heard of; some classics and some contemporary. I think I got a pretty good mix and I’m excited to get to reading!

So far I’ve only read one of them. Seeing them all in front of me made it so hard to choose which one to read first, so I did the only logical thing… numbered them all and used a random number generator to make the choice for me.

That choice was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. You have no idea how many people have nagged me to read this. Published in 2003, I’ve been told to read this since about 2006. I spotted this in a charity shop and knew I had to finally pick it up. I’ll review it at a later date, but I certainly don’t regret reading it.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

My current read is the first in Maya Angelou’s autobiographical series. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings depicts Angelou’s early years in 1930s/40s Arkansas. I’m about half way through and am really enjoying learning about such a remarkable, strong woman. Again, I don’t want to review it right now (especially as I haven’t finished it) but it’s a winner so far.

Several books I bought are classics. They’re books I’ve meant to read and should have read before but haven’t. If you’re looking to get into some classics I would recommend looking on Amazon around now; they seem to be selling them cheap around this time, presumably for students. Be warned that your recs will include GCSE/A level study books for the popular ones, though!

Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway.jpg

I’ve been told to read Virginia Woolf for years. Several people have been surprised that I’ve never read any of her work, so when I found this gorgeous copy of Mrs Dalloway in Oxfam I knew I had to pick it up.

The Great Gatsby

Okay, confession time. I did start to read it as a teenager, but I didn’t really engage with it. We’d watched a film adaptation in my GCSE English class but didn’t actually study it. When I say we watched the film adaptation, not that anyone at that age paid a whole lot of attention. I had very little idea of what it was /actually/ about, so when I tried reading it I got distracted easily and I don’t think I actually finished. That is to say, I don’t actually remember. I know how important the book is though, and adult me is ready to give it a second chance. I’m also loving retro fashion at the moment so some 20s vibes would be cool.

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men

I feel like this and Gatsby are both texts everyone in the country seems to have studied at school…except me. I don’t really know what this is about but I know that I’m bored of getting funny looks for being the English grad who’s never read Steinbeck!

Nineteen Eighty-Four

One classic (or, modern classic at least) I have read is Animal Farm. I’ve wanted to read Nineteen Eighty-Four for a long time and so seeing it on my recommendations and on sale felt like a bit of a sign.

Now, The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t exactly a classic yet, but I have a feeling that’s where it’s heading. Another I’ve been nagged and nagged to read, this was another on sale that I had to get. I can’t wait to read it (then binge the TV show). I loved Atwood’s narrative voice in The Blind Assassin and it’s almost certain I’ll love The Handmaid’s Tale, perhaps even more.

The last two books I got recently are ones I’d not actually heard of.

The Blue Manuscript is a book surrounding an Islamic treasure of the same name, a fictionalised version of the Blue Qu’ran – an ancient text from the 9th/10th century, likely created in North Africa. As we all know, I’m a bit of a history buff, but I don’t know much about Islamic history. This is fiction, but I’m excited to learn about the truth behind the novel as much as I am about reading the novel itself.

The Blue Manuscript.jpg

The Lost Dog is a novel set in both present-day Australia and mid-20C India. The protagonist Tom Loxley is writing a book on Henry James (AKA my first Victorian Literature love) when his dog goes missing. Historical setting, Henry James AND dogs? It’s like this book was made for me.

That’s my haul, y’all! What’s on your TBR? Done any big book buys lately? Any recommendations for the next time I go on a binge?

See you soon,

New Signature

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Why Are We So Averse To Poetry?

I recently finished reading Dart by Alice Oswald (Review here). Dart is a narrative about the River Dart in Devon. It is also a 48 page long poem. If you’d have told me even a few months ago that I’d be able to sit and read 48 pages of poetry and actually enjoy it, I’d definitely have laughed at you. It’s not that I don’t like poetry- I love it- but the idea of a poem that long is definitely off-putting. It sounds daunting, and like a lot of effort, as any poem that long would, but you’d be surprised. It seems to me that a lot of us have an aversion to reading poetry of any length – I suppose many people believe that it has to be difficult to understand and inaccessible, but this simply isn’t the case.

I think most people first experience ‘traditional’ poetry in school – poets like Dylan Thomas, Keats and T.S Eliot are probably what springs to mind if you were to ask most people what poets they’ve read; along with images of boring English lessons in stuffy classrooms (if my A Level teachers are reading this, I love you and remember that I did an English degree because of you – bear with!).

GCSE Anthology
Just looking at it makes me panic and I sat my GCSEs 5 years ago!

What most people forget is that this isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of poetry. Poetry isn’t just the GCSE anthology or Shakespearean sonnets. If you don’t enjoy this kind of poetry, there’s plenty more out there. Poetry can be fun and light hearted, and even for children – take this excerpt from Roald Dahl’s ‘Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf’:

’That’s wrong!’ cried Wolf.
‘Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway.’

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head,
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.

A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, ‘Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.’

Of course, a lot of poetry is serious, and for adults, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining. The first time I properly felt like I engaged with ‘grown up’ poetry was in listening to a spoken word performance by Sarah Kay, entitled ‘B’ (If I Should Have A Daughter) (the actual poem ends at about 3:40 in this video). Yes, it’s a little bit pretentious, but it’s so engaging and optimistic. Poetry can be simple and fun, as well as deep and thought provoking.

Spoken word poetry also allows theatricality and performance to become part of the poem – it becomes more three dimensional. In the discussion after she performs, Kay mentions her introduction to spoken word poetry, and the ‘indignant’ first poem she ever performed, as a fourteen year old. I think if anyone thinks about teenagers writing poetry they probably think of angsty goth kids writing about death and destruction – but this isn’t the case either. Take these four girls, for example. ‘Halloween’ is political and yes, indignant, but it makes a point in an engaging way.

Sarah Kay
Sarahhh ❤ 

Poetry is powerful and unlimited, and can be about anything. Poetry can touch you in the same way that prose or music can, so why is there such an aversion to it? I believe everyone could find a poem that speaks to them in some way, even if that poem is simply an Edward Lear limerick that makes you laugh. Poetry doesn’t have to be complicated and elitist, and we don’t have to be scared to read it. Like most literature, poetry reflects life back to us; this might not be obvious in Romanticist poetry or Breton lais, but it’s by no means an art form that should be written off, if you’ll pardon the pun, just because we don’t always enjoy studying it at school.

I’ll leave you with a few of my favourites;

‘Still I Rise’ – Maya Angelou

‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ – W.B Yeats

‘OCD’ – Neil Hilborn

‘Pangur Bán’- Anonymous – This is a really cool website I found yesterday if you’re struggling to find new poets to read. You can type in the name of a poet you like, and the website will give you a list of recommendations for similar poets to check out!

See you soon,

Ro x

PS – I know this is two days late and I need to stick to my own schedule!!
PPS – Featured image & image of Sarah Kay taken from videos linked above.