I often get asked what books I’m reading. I’m really bad at answering definitely (on most things). In part because my memory is shocking. But also because everything is always “for now”.
So, here are five reads I’ve experienced recently that touched me because the author truly went deep into their search or their fear or their desire to share and connect. And in turn took me to my own version of this place. Not in a bash-over-the-head way. But just through the process. You might like them, too.
1. Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest.
A quirky memoir of an eccentric as she grapples with managing her weirdness and various breakdowns via what is almost an ode to her shrink. It’s a tender, sad and real read. It could be accused of being self-indulgent, in a Prozac Nation way. But it dodges such a call with the bravery and rawness of her writing. It’s unapologetic. And this frees it from contrivance. And freed me to dig down deep with her and to feel the freedom of it all. PS a big part of the book is her battle to recover from one particular ex…who is clearly Colin Farrell. Buy it here.
2. This is Not the Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson.
This book started as a Modern Love column in The New York Times in which Laura details how she sticks by her husband when he announces he’s leaving the marriage. She refuses to buy his story. Not because she’s a martyr or damaged or desperate. Instead it’s because she chooses not to do pain. This means sticking by the man she’s always loved. It’s a fascinating and very pragmatic approach to love and I like it. As real as it comes. I interviewed Laura and you can read about it here. Buy the book here.
3. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tovey.
Another raw memoir of a woman who gets sick and waits out her illness watching a little snail that a friend delivered to her in a flowerpot. She learns from the snail about slowness. Her understanding of the snail’s stillness over the course of 12 months mirrors her acceptance of her illness “standstillness”.If you’ve ever been sick or held back from everything that’s defined you for some reason, I reckon you’ll get this sweet journey. Elisabeth Tova Bailey was struck down with a particularly virulent strain of flu while travelling and it developed into a much more serious illness – something akin to CFS – which left her debilitated for almost twenty years. Beautifully unassuming and in the unassumingness I was delicately taken to my own still acceptance. Buy it here.
4. Lovesong by Alex Miller.
This time fiction. Beautifully written and the treatment is clever – aging writer meets a younger man in Melbourne, who tells his story of love found in Paris. We read the story as it unfolds in the telling by the younger man, but also as the older writer takes the tale on as his project. So we get several takes on what is quite a simple and very believable love story. Of course it has raw and real twists and ugliness and catches. Like all lovesongs. Like all messy, needy, exploratory love. Elegant and full of grace. Buy it here.
5. How it Feels by Brendan Cowell.
I just finished reading this. I can’t say I like the characters. A bit like The Slap – I HATED all the characters in The Slap. But it’s the ugliness of these people that brings me closer to me. I recognise a lot of the ugliness, not so much in what the characters say and do, but in the way what they say and do is deposited on the page in such eloquent “thought bombs” by Brendan. The story is of a toe-gazing artistic type who leaves The Shire to be more important than the people who stay behind. He fucks up his life, returns and has mirrors held up to his judgement. It’s suburban-familiar in so many ways. I felt grimy reading it. But had to smile. Mostly at my own attempts to escape my own griminess. Friggen well written! Buy it here.
Reading anything good right now that takes you to a raw/ugly/still/mesmerising place?