Members recommend: November 2023

(Photo by Gerard Albanell on Unsplash)

This year I’ve been avidly reading Lucian James’s Ko Strategies, a newsletter that follows the 72 seasons of the Japanese gardening season. It comes out every 2 weeks or so. There’s a lot of Japanese references, stories, quotes, music and reading suggestions as you’d expect. So my antenna are alive to other Japanese recommendations. It was in one of the Ko Strategies that he recommended Hiroshi Sugimoto’s retrospective (Hayward Gallery until 7 January 2024). I dutifully trotted along and immersed myself in his amazing seascapes. Exactly half sky, half sea with no other distinguishing features to see other than the weather on the water. Mesmeric.

Down in the bookshop was a copy of Shusaku Endo’s ‘Silence’ (“One of the finest historical novels written by anyone, anywhere” says David Mitchell). Bought it, read it, loved it. Thinking that Japanese literature might be my new go-to genre, as I was grazing through Waterstones the other week, what sung to me from the piles of books on those round tables they have was ‘Tokyo Express’ by Seicho Matsumoto. Bought it, read it, really loved it. This is a murder mystery set in 1950s Tokyo with a Columbo-like, down-trodden detective. Without giving too much away, a lot revolves around a 4 minute window of time on the concourse of Tokyo station.

And then today, I discovered two small penguin classics, both gifts, that I have scandalously put on a distant shelf without yet reading: Kenko’s ‘A Cup of Sake beneath the Cherry Trees’, and Kakuzo Okakura’s ‘The Book of Tea’. They’re now firmly back in play. If I keep going at this rate, I might yet get to Japan.

– Alastair Creamer

I savoured every word of The Home Child, poet Liz Berry’s stunning new book. The beautifully-illustrated ‘novel in verse’ follows Eliza, a 12-year-old orphan sent to Canada as an indentured farm labourer. Eliza is based on Berry’s great aunt, one of thousands of disadvantaged British children shipped out under the state’s Home Child scheme.

– Rebecca Dowman

Revolting Women: Why midlife women are walking out, and what to do about it, by Lucy Ryan

Challenging the notion that women get to enjoy an ’empty nest’ in mid-life, how they are penalised for personal commitments in the workplace, why women have caught the entrepreneurial bug and choose to fly solo – and what impact it is having on the wider world of work.

Buy it here.

– Alice Hollis

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