Odes by Sharon Olds

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One to make you love yourself

I’ve come across a little treasure of a poetry collection that I wanted to share with you. Odes by Sharon Olds, an American T.S. Eliot Prize winning poet is one worth reading. With poems such as ‘Blow Job Ode’, ‘Ode to the Tampon’ and, ‘Ode to the Penis’, don’t tell me you’re not curious. There are also the more melancholic ‘Ode of the Withered Cleavage’ and ‘Ode to Stretch Marks’. Olds celebrate women’s bodies in all their gore and glory, in youth and old age. If this little collection doesn’t put a smile on your face and make you love (and forgive) your body just a little bit more, nothing will.

Odes by Sharon Olds is published by Jonathan Cape, 128 pages.

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The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

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The Bridge of San Luis Rey

A small book about the big things in life

Five people plunge to their deaths when an old Inca bridge across a gorge in Peru snaps. Who were these people? And why these five? That’s what Brother Juniper, a Catholic priest, sets out to investigate in the glorious little novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder.  ‘Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan’ Brother Juniper reasons. So which one is it?

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Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini

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Snow, Dog, Foot

Darkly comic little gem

Adelmo Farandola lives by himself as far up a rocky Alpine valley as possible. He hasn’t showered or changed clothes for as long as he can remember and he’ll do anything to avoid people. When a stray dog starts following him, Adelmo reluctantly takes it in and a strange relationship develops as they struggle to survive the brutal winter. Anyone with a soft spot for books set in wild mountains will love Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini. A bestseller in Italy, this quirky, darkly comic book about a grumpy loner losing his mind is a surreal little gem.

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The Magus by John Fowles to hit the small screen

The Magus by John Fowles has an almost mythical place in my literary memory. I read the 670 page long novel in my mid-twenties over two intense days, skipping meals and hardly sleeping. Such was the power of this mysterious, hypnotising book about a young English teacher on a remote Greek island who comes under the spell of a wealthy recluse. I’ve since been hesitant about re-reading it, fearing that my older, more cynical self will find faults with it and spoil the magic. Now there is fantastic news for all The Magus fans, of which there seems to be many. None other than Sam Mendes will direct a TV-series based on the book. I, for one, can’t wait! If you haven’t read it yet, hurry up!

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Read With Your Teen in 2020

I first came across On the Road by Jack Kerouac at the tender age of sixteen. Revisiting it recently, it felt like a somewhat different novel, my teen reading self dazzled by impressions and emotion, the older me searching for nuance and (sadly?) with a good deal more cynicism.

It occurred to us that it would be a very interesting experiment to tackle key influential novels as a team: adult reader and keen teen. What difference would there be in your final analyses? If your teen finds you jaded and you think them naive, what fiery debate may ensue!

Here’s a handful of challenging Bookstoker favourites to get you started and throughout 2020, we’ll add more titles for your family’s stimulation and delectation.

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Poems From the Edge of Extinction by Chris McCabe

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Poems from the Edge of Extinction

An exceptional collection of translated poetry

Poems from the Edge of Extinction edited by Chris McCabe is a small cross-section of world poetry with a difference; every poem in this collection is written in a language that is endangered, at risk of extinction. It began with the idea to collect poetry written in the world’s dying languages and became an exhibition at the National Poetry Library in 2017, The Endangered Languages Project.

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The Five - The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack The Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

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The Five – The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

A meticulously researched and moving piece of social history

The Five – The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold won the Baille-Gifford prize for non-fiction in November. And what an incredible book this is, despite its miserable subject matter. Thankfully, there’s no revelling in the gruesome murders at all, in fact, this book is all about humanising the victims who’ve been so despicably treated by history. I was glued to the page from the start, impressed by the incredible research Rubenhold has undertaken and moved by the terrible plight of poor women in Victorian times. Highly recommended.

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