My highlights include reading Adam Baron’s latest gripping novel Blackheath,a funny, smart relevant book about life after children, the flaws and failures of equal parenting and the price couples pay. Next month’s newsletter will include a Q&A with the sharp, enthusiastic Baron.
Moby Dick, A Monster Calls, Chaos Walking and More Than This
This year I finally finished Moby-Dick, which I’ve had on the go for about two years. I’ve never dedicated myself to a book in that way before, and it was kind of lovely that it became a constant companion. What an astonishing read it is too. Bizarre, convoluted, funny and packed with the most extraordinary phrases, descriptions and ideas. The chapter ‘On the Whiteness of the Whale’ is one of the most gorgeous and visionary things I’ve ever read.
Then I read Patrick Ness’s books, A Monster Calls and Chaos Walking (his trilogy). Very different, but possessed of a similar ferocious energy to Melville. Since I read the astonishing More Than This on holiday this year, I’ve become a Ness fanboy. He tackles enormous themes – the nature of reality, how good people become torturers, that sort of thing – with gusto and compassion, never letting the page-turning thrills drop for a moment. It’s dizzying stuff, and all in the guise of ‘young adult’ literature. Bugger the young adults, this old adult has fallen for Patrick Ness and his characters big time.
A favourite book read recently, topical with the Paris climate change talks is from a climate change pioneer, Gilbert White. His 1789 book The Natural History of Selborne, never out of print records in meticulous but fascinating detail the annual cycle of the daily life of his little patch of England that, in terms of its natural composition, was a single living entity. Charles Darwin was a fan.