Gut — I heard about this book when I was listening to Women’s Hour with my Mum a few months ago, because I just live a dangerous lifestyle like that. Anyway, the segment was basically this charming German medical student talking about what an interesting system the digestive organs make. My interest was piqued because I have IBS, and so anything to do with the gut is interesting to me partly in a knowledge-is-power-and-maybe-hopefully-a-cure way, but also because part of me despairs of ever finding a cure so in the mean time let’s just laugh at how funny-gross poo and farts are.
Giulia Enders is basically a more sophisticated gut evangelist than me. Her book is direct, never shying away from the accurate details or the comical aspects of her subject, but she never goes all-out crude or sensationalist either. If you’re a proper scientist, you might find it a bit too popularist, but for whimsical humanities grads like me who are only just getting interested in How Stuff Works, it’s brilliant.
What I didn’t expect: Enders sister, an illustrator, decorates the book with off-beat drawings which could have come straight from my own imagination.
Presence — I’m kind of cheating here because I haven’t actually finished this book, but it’s basically about how much more we could all get from life if we stopped writing blog posts on our phones while watching Strictly Come Dancing and were actually, you know, present in the moment. It’s written by a drama practitioner who noticed how people basically ‘switch on’ when they spoke about something they were passionate about, and also how, people hide away or force their energy into the world when they aren’t comfortable. All this talk of ‘energy’ and ‘circles’ is a bit new agey for my liking but Rodenburg gives examples and anecdotal evidence which I can relate to, so that keeps me on board.
What I didn’t expect: To actually enjoy a self help book. Ever.
Over land, Over sea — poems from those seeking refuge, an anthology — A variety of writers contributed to this anthology, and crowd funding meant that the printing costs were covered, so any profits will be donated to local charities helping refugees. Though an East Midlands based project, the anthology has attracted contributors based all over the UK, including some refugees and asylum seekers. The premise of the book being this, I couldn’t help but hope that more of the poems would be written by writers who have experienced displacement first hand, but then, I’m nosey and I want to hear everybody’s life stories in the medium of poetry. If anything, this collection is testament to the human imagination. The poems I’ve read so far feel neither melodramatic or idealistic –they are understated, genuine, and all the more heartbreaking because of it.
What I wasn’t expecting: Such good and varied poems, to be honest, because I think it can be difficult to write convincingly about an emotive subject. That said, these poems are about humans, basically, and humans are varied and good, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley — I read this for BooksQuad, my book club, then didn’t go to the meeting because a pub dinner with a friend who was about to fly out of the country beckoned. But good God, I was hooked. (Or should I say Good Ford?) I started to read this when I was in year 9 but I think I was basically traumatised by the bit about sex play and didn’t read any further (too close to home perhaps?) Of course now it is too close to home and that’s exactly why it is so compelling. Of course, all the characters sound like they’re from Downton Abbey, but I guess it was written in that era, so that was what sounded convincing. Yes it’s a caricature rather than a photograph of modern Europe, but caricatures are uncomfortable because they bear a likeness. Rampant consumerism? Check. Unpoliced recreational sex? Check. Reliance on drugs, and an obsession with sterility and hygiene? Check. Religion as a dirty word? Check. Aldous Huxley, how did you know?
What I didn’t expect : To be so addicted. My inner adolescent hears ‘Classic’ and thinks ‘hard work’, but for me Brave New World practically read itself.
Reliquaria, RA Villanueva — This is a collection of poetry by one of the writers who will be taking an Arvon course which a group of Mouthys, including me, will be going on tomorrow. I got the collection as an ebook and although I normally find poetry reading tricky on a small screen, Villanueva’s poems suck you right in — they are complex poems, poems you really need to spend time with, and doing so is rewarding. Tiny details are zoomed in on, events captured so vividly it’s like being able to peek at someone’s memories, and just as you’re letting one image soak in, Villanueva moves onto another. These poems make me want to really study them, memorise them even.
What I wasn’t expecting: Recently, I’ve been enjoying poetry about the every day, the recogniseable. So being plonked into the middle of poems where I’m not totally sure where I am has been invigorating.