Thursday, 23 July 2015

My Guilty Book Confession

Back in January, I joined Eva Stalker's #TBR20 which meant wandering around my flat looking for 20 unread books. The idea being that I would read these before buying anymore. Eva completed her task and here is her final update. You can find out more about the original project here.

I haven't completed the task and I am not going to post excuses. At night I began dreaming about #TBR20 and the unread books. The task was supposed to have had the opposite affect and relieve the guilt of books that hadn't been read. To date I have read half the #TBR20 pile. Plus due to a few festivals and author events I now have another pile of #TBR books. You'll have to excuse me for a moment while I have a quick hunt and take a photograph.

Here they are! Now be honest, if you had attended the 17 events at this year's Finchley Literary Festival, would you have come away empty handed? Not only was I attending, I was organising too. I had to buy books, it would have been rude not to! One book, pinched by my Sci-Fi boyfriend is missing: The Ship by Antonia Honeywell who gave a fabulous talk. I've read this and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the rebellious Lalla. And in case you can't read the title of the book on top of the pile, that's The Hungry Ghost Festival (2012), a collection of poetry by Jen Campbell about her childhood and adolescence in the North East. 'Kitchen' and 'Lobster Girl' are my favourites.

And there's more...almost immediately after the festival, Greenacre Writers Book Club got involved with this year's Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction which meant reading one of the shortlisted books, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters and reviewing the book

Myself and Meral Mehment were then nominated to attend the shortlisted readings at the Royal Festival Hall which was great fun. After listening to the six readings, I wanted Sarah's book to win, but felt sure that How to be Both by the outstanding Ali Smithwould be the winner. Whilst listening to her reading, I was reminded of James Joyces' stream of consciousness style in Dubliners (1914). The judges must have had a very difficult task as nearly all the books were captivating and I especially enjoyed an excerpt from The Bees, a debut novel by Laline Paull. And of course, I bought more books.

And then three writers, one of whom, gave a reading at the festival, decided to publish debut books in the same week. I had heard an excerpt from Irenosen Okojie's novel, Butterfly Fish at FLF and I found myself intrigued and fearful for the characters almost immediately. Greenacre Writers Helen Barbour and Anna Meryt also published books. I attended Helen's launch, The A-Z of Normal at The Phoenix Cinema. She gave a very interesting talk about her path to publishing which included all sorts of visual aids. Anna Meryt, came along to the Greenacre Writers Meet-up and brought a few copies of her book A Hippopotamus at the Table. Unfortunately, others beat me to them, so A Hippo is definitely on my To-Be-Bought (TBB) list. I hope to do this at her forthcoming book launch to be held at The Big Green Bookshop September 11th, 7pm. Just waiting for Irenosen's next reading to get my copy signed too.

As well as festivals and debut books, I've also been attending some writing events: The Tinder Press line up with Maggie O'Farrell Instructions for a Heatwave, Sarah Winman A Year of Marvellous Ways, and Sarah Leipciger The Mountain Can Wait, where yes, I bought even more books.

A couple of weeks later, last week in fact, I attended another event at Foyles, Charing Cross, to hear Matt Haig and Cathy Rentzenbrink discussing Cathy's The Last Act of Love. Cathy had the audience in tears with her friendly welcome especially for the broken people. I was particularly pleased to meet Cathy as she is the Project Director of book industry charity Quick Reads. I always choose Quicks Reads for my World Book Night choice. Did I buy books?

Well, I'm starting a PhD in September and living in a fictional world is one of the core themes, so I'm beginning to collect books that have reading as part of their narrative and in particular books that help to save people lives. Cathy and Matt write about how reading and writing helped them deal with personal tragedy and illness and continuing to live. 

And then I heard about Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, just the title had me intrigued. And although at it's core it is about belonging, it is also about a love of books. I can't wait to read it!

It seems I have shifted from not buying books to buying even more. Whether that is a problem, well, I'll have to wait and see... if they get read. 


evastalker said...

Great post, Rosie. So interesting to hear how other people got on with TBR20.

Your PhD sounds fascinating, all the best with it!

Rosie Canning said...

Thanks Eva, #TBR20 was a fun idea.