26 recommends: February 2023

These Precious Days, Ann Patchett

If you’re a fan, read this. 24 autobiographical stories (they’re called essays, but are much more exciting than that!). By the end I felt I had spent a week with her. We’d gone on long walks, shared dinners and during those occasions she had opened up about all sorts – her (3!) fathers, what she did over the pandemic, book covers, not having children, a year of no shopping, how she writes. Because it’s not chronological – she focuses on things that fascinate her – it feels like you’re in her company, chatting away, swapping notes. Each piece prompted a story in me. For instance, she talks about the importance to her of Snoopy, and the business of being a fledgling writer. I suddenly had a pang for those books again. I collected them as a child but they have long disappeared. I’d love just to flick through them again with her story close by.

– Alastair Creamer

I’m halfway through Oliver Burkeman’s book about time management strategies Four Thousand Weeks. I’m finding it interesting because he says that we can never be at peace with ever increasing productivity drives because there always be something to do. As soon as you achieve Inbox Zero, a new email arrives. He calls it Sisyphus’s Inbox, that made me smile!

– Mike Garner

Halfway through “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James, and it just gets better and better! It was recommended to me by an acquaintance of mine who goes to the same book club as me, who called it his favourite book of all time, and I see why!

– Mugabi Byenkya

Some of us will remember John Yorke talking at our Wordstock Festival a few years ago. John is the author of Into the Woods, one of the best books on narrative structure, and he now has a series on Radio 4/BBC Sounds looking at what makes stories work.Opening Lines takes as its subjects books adapted for R4’s afternoon dramas, and first off was Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Definitely worth a listen. 

– Wendy Jones

A selection of restorative books for creatives of all kinds… 

1.  The Ten Thousand Doors of January; Alix E. Harrow 
A fiction, for writers (and readers) to understand what they are doing when they write (and read).  The blurb on the back says: As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, January Scaller feels little different from the artefacts that decorate his sprawling mansion…but when she finds a strange book – one that tells a tale of secret doors – for the first time, January realises she can escape her story and sneak into someone else’s.

 2. Hagitude: Reimagining The Second Half of Life; Sharon Blackie

I listened to this as an audiobook, read by the author.  Authors are not always good readers but Sharon is.  This was my bedtime book and her voice took me to places inside myself I had sadly forgotten and was achingly missing.  The blurb says: Hagitude unearths the stories of the little-known but powerful elder women in European myth and folklore, inspiring readers to imagine that the last decades of our lives might be the most dynamic of all. This moving and uplifting book will inspire a new generation of female elders: women who have reclaimed their Inner Hag, matured into their own unique brand of hagitude and who are ready to pass down their deep feminine wisdom for the benefit of the wider Earth community.  I don’t expect nor want to become an ‘Elder’, let alone take over the world, but this book helped me to take over myself again.

3.  The Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle; Clare Hunter

This book was recommended to me by our very own Jeannie MacLean.  I am not a stitcher or textile artist.  I knit – or used to. I am an historian and Clare’s lens on the world is both fascinating and salutary.  The book is described as: An eloquent blend of history and memoir… an evocative and moving book about the need we all have to tell our story.  A lovely companion to our 26 Project: Threads of Time.

– Faye Sharpe

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