Looking for a book recommendation? Below, staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month.
Even better, this month, in conjunction with the Emerging Writers’ Festival, Readings will be running a book concierge service! For the duration of this year’s festival, the service will provide you with literary recommendations from emerging writers to help you discover your next great read!
Send your questions by email ([email protected]), Twitter (@ReadingsBooks) or snail mail (Readings Book Concierge, PO Box 1238, Carlton VIC 3053). The answers will be published on the Readings blog. For best results, please provide as much as detail as possible about what you like to read and the kind of book you’re looking for! (Answers will be printed anonymously; Questions will be answered at Readings discretion.)
Mark Rubbo, Managing Director
I’ve been dipping into Oliver Sacks’ memoir, On the Move. What a fascinating man he is and what an interesting life he has led. A brilliant neurologist and communicator, he struggled to come to terms with his homosexuality, fought a raging addiction to amphetamines and became obsessed with swimming, weightlifting and motorcycles. As an undergraduate at Oxford he nearly flunked anatomy. Fearing the wrath of his surgeon mother he went to the pub. He stumbled out of the pub and decided to have a crack at the Theodore Williams Scholarship in Anatomy. The exam had already started and with a flourish he answered only one of the seven questions. He dumbfounded everyone by winning. This is a great book!
Nina Kenwood, Digital Marketing Manager
I first heard about Single, Carefree, Mellow from a colleague who called it ‘the best book I read this year’. Then another colleague, Stella, wrote about how she couldn’t wait to read it, and her excitement further inspired me. I rushed out and bought it that day.
Single, Carefree, Mellow is a book of short stories about women in relationships (infidelity is a big recurring theme). One character, Maya, appears in three of the stories, and her first story, ‘Single, Carefree, Mellow’, is one of my favourites of the collection – it made me cry. Another favourite, ‘Blue Heron Bridge’, is a delightful, near-perfect short story, complete with humour, melancholy and moments of genuine surprise. ‘The Rhett Butlers’ takes an idea I am rather tired of – a teenager girl having an affair with her older, male teacher – and makes it funny, and smart, and brutal, and real.
This book is wonderful. I love it. It’s one of those books that feels like it was very specifically written to appeal to me. Heiny’s language, her characters, her humour, her tone and style – it may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s perfectly, utterly suited to mine. All I can say is: read this book. As a bonus, it’s also beautifully produced, with a gorgeous cover and lovely gatefolds.
Chris Somerville, Online Team Member
After reading less than half of an excerpt from Grégoire Chamayou’s Drone Theory on the Longreads website, I’d made up my mind to purchase the book itself. (You can find the excerpt here.) Drone warfare – a hallmark of the Obama administration – has raised profound ethical and constitutional questions, both in the halls of Congress and among the public. Recently translated from the original French by Janet Lloyd, Chamayou’s philosophical investigation into these attacks, and what they mean in terms of warfare, is at once enlightening, terrifying and completely absorbing. I’ve only just begun but the opening, a transcript of a conversation between drone operators about a potential target, has left me chilled.
Alan Vaarwerk, Editorial Assistant for Readings Monthly
Amelia Gray writes deliciously weird and punchy flash fiction, and her latest book, Gutshot, is more of the same. Gray’s writing dances along the lines of magical realism and absurdist humour, with elements of sci-fi and body horror. Often her fiction reads like a joke told in reverse, beginning with a punchline and extrapolated outward. Fans of Kelly Link, Etgar Keret or flash fiction in general should definitely seek her work out.
Alison Huber, Bookseller at Readings Carlton
I just finished reading Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish. This book was recently announced the winner of the PEN/Faulkner award and has been getting fantastic reviews all over the place. The story follows the fragile beauty of a relationship between Zou Lei, a Muslim from northwest China who is living illegally in New York City, and Brad Skinner, a recently returned Iraq War veteran. These are two people out of place, only just holding onto existence in a city that exploits and devours those on its edges. It’s a grand writing achievement, and an amazing reading experience that is tough and emotionally draining (even upsetting) at times. The ending totally did me in. It’s not too early in the year to say that this book will be a highlight of 2015 for me.
Amy Vuleta, Shop Manager at Readings St Kilda
I’ve just finished reading Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids. All of the contributors are writers who have actively decided not to have children and the title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to how people choosing a ‘child-free’ life are often labelled (selfish, shallow and self-absorbed). What struck me the most about this collection is how diverse these writers’ experiences are, and how varied their reasons for not having children are. Given that I’m in my early thirties and therefore surrounded by friends around my age, who are themselves surrounded by babies that they’ve made (who I love, don’t get me wrong!), I was incredibly grateful and impressed by the considered and consciously crafted reasons detailed in this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes to live a thoughtful life – with or without kids by your side.
Bronte Coates, Digital Content Coordinator
I’m a big Jaclyn Moriarty fan but I’ve been apprehensive about reading her two most recent books, which are part of The Colours of Madeleine series. There’s probably a German word for the particular worry that you feel when a beloved author takes a risk by venturing into new territory and whatever it is, that’s how I felt. The premise of the series – a crack opens between two worlds (the real world and Cello) which allows two characters (Madeleine and Elliot) to communicate via letters – marked a new phase for Moriarty and I was nervous.
This month I put aside my concerns and started book one: A Corner of White. At first, the situation was similar to what I’d imagined. Unlike the immediate rapport I’d felt with Moriarty’s Feeling Sorry for Celia (I’d picked it up in a bookshop, read one page and laughed out loud), I felt out-of-step with A Corner of White. Maybe, I thought to myself secretly and sadly, I’ve outgrown Moriarty. I sought out my colleague Emily Gale (a steadfast and loyal Moriarty fan) who assured me that I should stick with it. And, as usual, she was right.
As I read on I fell in love with the characters, got caught up in the mystery of the narrative, and was enchanted by the magic. On finishing the first book, I realised how clever Moriarty had been. I hadn’t been quite able to believe in the Kingdom of Cello – just like Madeleine in the story – and my faith in this magical world had grown incrementally, along with hers. And when I read the wonderful, wonderful ending of book one and Madeline’s truly believes for the first time, I felt my own little burst of faith along with her.
After finishing book two, I can confirm that Moriarty’s Kingdom of Cello is the most marvellous and unique version of ‘Narnia’ that I’ve read in recent years. I can’t wait for book three.