Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month.
Chris Gordon, events manager:
I’m calling it: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am is one of the best books of the year.
The novel took Safran Foer 10 years to write and the result is a beautiful portrait of a family. I read sections of the book out loud to others. I cried and I laughed. I put the novel down at times and walked around thinking of metaphors and paradoxes. This is the story of one American Jew living his life as best, and as honestly, as he can within a framework of disappointment and a terrible world disaster. Pick up a copy and let yourself be taken into the world that Safran Foer has created.
Amy Vuleta, shop manager at Readings St Kilda:
I recently read Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s debut book, The Love of a Bad Man. Each of the stories in this collection are narrated from the perspective of a woman who is romantically entwined with a notorious, famous, or infamous ‘bad man’ from our recent history: Hitler, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, the Lonely Hearts killer, the brother of Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame, and so on. Woollett express the interior lives of these women with such a strongly resolved sense of their voices. The stories stand up perfectly on their own, and also come together to create a cohesive whole.
Woollett is a new writer of immense talent and narrative poise – I can’t recommend her collection enough. It is disturbing and dark, yet measured and quiet, and it surprised me in so many ways.
Lian Hingee, digital marketing manager:
I saw the Nora Ephron documentary, Everything is Copy, at MIFF earlier this year, and when I waxed lyrical at the office the next day about how much I enjoyed it, several of my co-workers impressed upon me just how wonderful her semi-autobiographical novel was.
Heartburn is a slim volume that’s as chatty and accessible as one of Ephron’s movies, but as whip-smart and acerbic as you’d imagine from the woman who wrote: ‘Summer bachelors, like summer breezes, are never as cool as they pretend to be.’ The story is ostensibly about what happens when the heavily pregnant Nora – ahem! – heavily pregnant Rachel discovers that her husband is having an affair, but really it’s about so much more: love, life, family and taking control of your own narrative, even when your story isn’t quite going to plan. I’m loving it.
Stella Charls, events and marketing coordinator:
This month I picked up a copy of Weightless by Sarah Bannan and quickly discovered her story about a high school in a small town in Alabama was unputdownable. I inhaled this book in one night, so anxious was I to find out what would happen to Carolyn Lessing, the new girl at Adams High.
Bannan’s narrative voice for the most part belongs to Nicole, Jessica and Lauren. These three 16-year-olds dress the same way, talk the same way and crave the same social status – for the majority of the novel they narrate as a collective ‘we’ and it is a convincingly teenage voice, lending a flippant, gossipy tone to events. This clever novel builds in pace and tension so deliciously. While the subject matter is disturbing, Bannan’s take on bullying feulled by social media is fresh and would appeal to both teenage and adult readers.
Bronte Coates, digital content coordinator:
The 2016 longlist for the UK’s most prestigious award for nonfiction writing (recently re-branded as the Baillie Gifford prize after being known as the Samuel Johnson prize since 1999) was announced earlier this week. I’m always interested in what gets nominated for this Prize as have been very impressed by quite a few of the books they’ve praised in the past – books such as Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk which won in 2015. This year’s longlist includes two titles I’ve already read and would highly recommend: Margo Jefferson’s Negroland and Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time. Both are brilliant, important reads about our world.
Scanning the longlist, another title also piqued my interest – Charles Foster’s Being a Beast.
A passionate naturalist, Foster wants to know what it’s like to ‘be a beast’ – and so he tries it out. He lives as a badger for six weeks, sleeping in a dirt hole and eating earthworms. He comes face to face with shrimps as he lives like an otter. He spends hours curled up in a back garden in East London and rooting in bins like an urban fox. I picked up a copy yesterday and am already entranced by Foster’s vivid, often very funny, account of his attempts. Point in case: ‘Wetsuits are condoms that prevent your imagination from being fertilised by mountain rivers.’ I really feel this sentence alone should inspire you to read this wonderfully weird book.
Nina Kenwood, marketing manager:
This is a podcast recommendation, and it’s also a future book recommendation, because the team behind this hugely successful podcast have scored a book deal: My Dad Wrote a Porno (the book) is due out in November.
The title of the podcast is pretty self-explanatory – Jamie Morton reads aloud the self-published erotic novel his father wrote and released as an ebook. Jamie is joined by his two friends, Alice and James, and three of them provide hilarious commentary alongside the reading of the book.
The erotic novel in question is titled Belinda Blinked, and it’s truly, unbelievably, horrifyingly awful. It’s possibly the least sexy erotic novel on Earth, and Jamie, James and Alice alternative between fits of laughter, gasps of horror and genuine bewilderment (with Jamie having the extra shame of knowing his father wrote this book).
I have never laughed so much at a podcast. I am quite certain people on my commute must think I am very strange, because I am regularly collapsing into a fit of giggles as I listen. The book is very explicit at times (I find myself taking off my headphones when I’m on the train and doubling checking no one can hear what I’m listening to) so be warned if you sensitive about ‘erotic’ language.
I really can’t recommend this podcast highly enough though – listen to every episode, and then buy the book as a Christmas gift for yourself.