I can’t think of a better year to turn to plastic-free, (relatively) low carbon footprint Christmas gifts like books. They generate hours and hours of pleasure, can be enjoyed over and over again, can be given away and are recyclable. We have thought long and hard about which books we think will make good gifts and here is our selection for Christmas 2019. Spread the love!
It is always strange when a foreign book published more than 20 years ago is suddenly picked up by an English-language publisher and goes on to receive rave reviews. This recently happened with the book Love by Hanne Ørstavik, an author who, with numerous novels, essays and short stories under her belt, has long been one of Norway’s most respected writers. Her 1997 breakthrough novel Kjærlighet was translated as Love by Martin Aitken last year and published in America, where it was shortlisted for the National Book Award. Now, Ørstavik’s strongest work has finally been published in the UK by And Other Stories.
Lily just graduated with an MA in Modern Languages and is our first American reviewer. She has a soft spot for meditative and nature writing and her reviews Things That Are by Amy Leach and Tessa Hadley’s latest novel The Past are brilliant examples. Reading David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth changed her outlook on the climate crisis as her passionate review shows. You can read more about Lily (and the rest of us) in our About section (scroll to the bottom).
Yes, it is as bad as it sounds. And yet, despite the depressing title, The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells lifted me out of my climate apathy and into hopefulness. After years of trying my best to escape the anxiety of looming climate change and focus on solving the worries inherent in career and personal development, I could not put this book down, so convinced was I by its insistence on action and the hope that awaits if we do act. David Wallace-Wells, the deputy editor at New York Magazine, delivers an incredibly well-researched and well-written analysis of the effects of climate change.
Toby Fleishman is divorcing. He’s had enough of his absent, high-flying talent agent wife, Rachel, who never seems to be satisfied with his job as a doctor, their flat in Manhattan or indeed have time for their two kids. He’s fed up. In his new-found freedom he’s going through a sort of sexual renaissance. New York, it appears, is full of middle-aged horny women who will do anything to get laid by someone like Toby, or, actually, just anyone. Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner has descriptions of the befuddling world of online dating that had me, literally, screaming with laughter. But there’s more to this book than clever comedy and the turn to a more serious tone is both its strength and weakness.
I had the pleasure of seeing artist Olafur Eliasson’s Tate Modern exhibition In Real Life on the weekend and loved his selection of books on the environment which I thought I’d share with you here. As fans of Eliasson will know, environmentalism is central to much of his work as seen in his melting ice blocks displayed in London, Paris and Copenhagen. Some of these titles sound unbearably depressing so I would probably begin with the more solution oriented sounding ones. For an initial call to action, Greta Thunberg’s book is a inspiring place to start.
The assault on young women as an act of war is nothing new as the epigraph from Euripides’ The Trojan Women reminds us in Girl by Edna O’Brien. After a year of research including first-hand testimonies from survivors, O’ Brien brings this forcefully into the present as we confront the imagined traumatic fall-out from a schoolgirl’s kidnap and rape by Boko Haram in Nigeria in 2014. In Girl, Edna O’Brien has produced a work that sharply distils language into a reduced and banal form, journalistic in its savage editing and brutal in its delivery. Language is manipulated to transmit emotion, to reveal how men use it to assert power and how trauma denies it space.
Bookstoker Young Readers
A collection of twenty-six essays like nothing you’ve ever seen before, Things that Are by Amy Leach manages to bring together seemingly opposed ways of approaching the natural world in a brilliant, moving, and hilarious victory. For the scientific and literary alike, for the philosopher and the poet in your life—or in your soul—this collection is a must-read.