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Over the past four or five months, my social media feeds have been full of the many books that everyone seems to have finished since the beginnings of social distancing and stay-at-home orders. It seems everyone has been running through their reading piles, picking up everything from light escapism to those books that people feel they ‘should’ read but have never got around to and now have time for (the literary equivalent of those odd house jobs that everyone else also seems to be doing …).
With new restrictions keeping Melburnians indoors a while longer, and the winter months keeping us indoors generally anyway, the NLA Publishing team got to chatting about what they had been reading recently and what they were hoping to squeeze in before the world opens up to us again (see my own list at the end). We hope this provides some inspiration for the next few months!
Despite grand intentions upon the onset of quarantine to plough through piles of books while in isolation, I have not managed to get through much! However, I have managed to finally pick up a book I've been meaning to read for ages—Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. I'm about halfway through it and the further I get, the more I am enjoying it! At first it seems an easy, light read, but as the reader is fed glimpses into Eleanor's troubling past the novel starts to take on a darker undertone which gives depth as well as serving to highlight, in their contrast, some really touching moments. The themes of loneliness and isolation also feel very fitting for these current coronavirus times!
I have enjoyed Marian Keyes’s books, particularly her latest one, Grown Ups. If you want a good laugh and an engaging page turner, her titles will get you through the winter hibernation. On a more literary note, my next read will be David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue, followed by Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light. After that I recommend The Flight by Julie Clark, questioning identity and whether it is possible to run away forever.
I’ve been on the non-reading side of the fence recently, but my aspirational reading list is:
Radio Girl by David Duffy: The story of Violet McKenzie, Australia’s first female electrical engineer, who founded the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps and campaigned to have some of her female trainees accepted into the all-male (at the time) Navy. She trained thousands in morse code and visual signalling, and even corresponded with Albert Einstein.
Plastic Free by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and Joanna Atherfold Finn: I’m hoping this book will give me some easy to implement tips on reducing my plastic waste and living a more sustainable life.
Ellis Rowan: A Life in Pictures by Christine Morton-Evans: I am consistently in awe of women in the 1800s who travelled all over the world seeking out plant and animal life to document. Ellis Rowan is one such remarkable woman and I’m keen to get stuck into tales of her adventures and her glorious illustrations.
For my part, when the stay-at-home order first hit us at the end of March, I was reading Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. I devoured it. Set in the Britain of today and spanning back the past century, through the lives of 12 women, it is about being a woman and being black, and about power dynamics, sexuality and identity. Each woman’s story slips effortlessly into the next—a testament to the universality of their experiences as much as Evaristo’s skillful choice of juxtaposition.
Since then I’ve ripped through Heather Rose’s Bruny (outlandish in many ways, to my mind, but compelling nonetheless), Christian White’s The Nowhere Child (another book I found hard to put down, so much so that I influenced image coordinator Jemma into picking it up as well!) and Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The Hate Race. I’ve also listened to Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race as an audiobook. I’m now onto Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble, having not been able to stick with Sally Rooney’s Normal People (apologies to fans of both the book and tv series). How to Raise a Plant and Make it Love You Back, Dopesick, Pain and Prejudice and The Uninhabitable Earth are on my list for the weeks (months!) to come. And don’t get me started on the list of books I’ve requested from my local library—I can't keep up and am having to send them back unread!