Sitting with these trees, I realise I’ve been reading less books recently. In the past there have been so many I wanted to dive into I ended up with twenty books next to the bed that I was reading simultaneously. It became stressful trying to keep up with it all. When we moved into the van I sold or gave away all my 700+ books (except for about 20) and I made a pledge to only have three books going at any one time: one fiction, one non-fiction, one poetry. I buy them on iBooks and take my time reading them. Sometimes I go back and read pages or sections to really understand what the author is getting at. I’m in no rush. I’ve stopped subscribing to so many review publications (sorry LRB) and I don’t have any in print, preferring instead to subscribe to a number of magazines that have digital only options (hello: Resurgence, Adbusters, The Atlantic, Planet Magazine).
I’m happy to pay for online news/blog content to support writers and read voraciously on my iPhone: Guardian, Medium as well reading news from other sites such as Al Jazeera to get a less ‘western’ news perspective. I used to fetishise the feel of print, but that’s a lot of trees cut down (and I prefer trees in their more natural forest state – see photo). It’s also too much storage space, so I’ve shifted to predominantly digital.
Now I’m 30,000+ words into writing this first novel I’m more aware of the work and dreams that go into creating one; the hours of pushing yourself to get the most from characters and to creating a strong storyline whilst being able to weave in philosophies on life and existence; to make social commentary on feminism, war and technology; how widely a writer needs to read in order to weave real depth and insight into their work. I don’t want to write a beautiful novel, I want to write a book that makes people think. When I first read Steppenwolf, The Outsider or The Word for World is Forest my brain did somersaults – I want people to feel that about this book. Whether they do or not is not something I can control, but I can give it my best shot.
Reading authors from countries outside Europe/America is a favourite approach at the moment. Here’s my current top four: swipe for screenshots of covers and read in comments for the list. Each of these books gripped my heart and imagination, encouraging me to see the world differently. I’d love to hear any novel recommendations from authors outside of U.K./USA as I’ve just finished Hotel Silence which is sad and beautiful and quite brilliant. Books are:
Hotel Silence: By Auđur Ava Ólafsdóttir; translated by Brian FitzGibbon.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. (I loved this so much more than The God of Small Things).
The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddin.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith.