A Year of Reading Frugally: Months Eleven and Twelve

A line of book shelves, mostly full, runs from the left of the picture away into the distance. Bulbs hang from the ceiling illuminating them.

There will be one final post after this, where I sum up the year and the challenge, pick the twelve books I’ve most enjoyed over these 365 days to recommend to you all, and talk about where I’m intending to take my reading next. For this post though, I’m simply going to share what I’ve read in the past two months and my favourites from that selection.

Once again, I found myself doing more re-reading than new reading so whilst I read twenty nine books during September and October, only 10 of those came from The List:

  1. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott
  2. Thinking on My Feet: The small joy of putting one foot in front of another by Kate Humble
  3. The Vanished Bride: by Bella Ellis
  4. Jew(ish): A Primer, a Memoir, a Manual, a Plea by Matte Greene
  5. The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid
  6. Ghostways: Two Journeys in Unquiet Places by Robert MacFarlane, Stanley Donwood and Dan Richards
  7. The Thing About Claire by Imogen Clark
  8. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
  9. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
  10. Radical Wordsworth by Jonathan Bate

Three of these really stood out from the rest, one fiction, one nature and one biography.

Firstly fiction and The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid; a deftly woven tapestry of folklore, fairytale and theology (from Jewish, Hungarian and Russian roots) that is barely contained by the thundering plot. It holds a mirror up to history and does not cut away the unpleasant bits to make it fit, instead taking the jagged and bitter edges and turning them into the centre of something vivid and raw. It will not be for everyone but it captivated me and I am looking forward to reading other stories from this author.

Secondly, nature writing (of a sort, writing of place really), is Ghostways; a collaboration between Robert MacFarlance, Stanley Dogwood and Dan Richards. These two stories, Ness and Holloway, are explorations of human exploration and understanding of place. They are liminal, touch on the poetic and feel at once fully rooted in the spaces they are describing and entirely untethered from normal experience. In the introduction it is mentioned that they are meant to be read aloud and I would agree wholeheartedly, in fact I found it impossible not to speak the works, whispering the book to myself as I read.

Thirdly, the biography, Radical Wordsworth by Jonathan Bates which happened to be the last book I finished for the challenge. Jonathan Bates spends 608 pages (or 16 hours worth of audiobook, which I how I chose to consume it) dissecting not only Wordsworth’s personal life and work but providing significant details of the broader backdrop of the history he lived through. It left me a sense of not only the man but the time and space he inhabited and not once did I feel that the text was dragging. It is a period of history that I had not really received any formal education in and one that I had not spent much time reading about myself (I felt especially ignorant when it came to the French Revolution) but the melding of history with biography and lightness of the prose meant that I never felt lost or overwhelmed. Even if you are not particularly interested in poetry I would recommend this as an excellent insight into a period of English history with is often pictured as bucolic but was actually a time of significant change and uncertainty. It is also a fascinating portrait of a man who could write sublime poetry but was altogether human and relied heavily on his family and friends for his work.

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