6 Books We’re Looking Forward to Reading
August 23, 2022
So we’re doing this course called Time Genius with Marie Forleo (we stan? Oh we stan.)
We’re doing this to try to get a hold of our time and our work-life balance. It’s difficult, because we’re always so busy (and we’re bad at saying no to things), but we know it’s crucial if we’re going to keep doing the work we want to do without burning out completely.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been resentfully tracking how we spend all our time in little notebooks and thinking about what that data revealed. One of the most important things we’ve realized is how much more time we want to make for reading fun stuff. Sara’s already about a million times better at this than Brittany is, but getting more reading time is always at the top of both of our lists.
(Brittany has identified her phone/scroll obsession as her major time suck and is working on it very diligently – she’s even set it to block all social media and shopping apps until the evening EVERY day. Yeah, the time tracking exercise revealed that she spends a HORRIFIC amount of time on her phone most days, so much worse than she ever imagined, so she is very very much wanting to change that. A few months ago, Sara deleted Facebook from her phone entirely because she decided she’d rather read a book for 5 minutes than doom scroll.)
Here are a few books we’re really looking forward to reading with our reclaimed time!
The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit
When we were in NYC earlier this summer for Shveta Thakrar’s launch party for The Dream Runners, Brittany and I visited the Strand, which is one of my favorite bookstores on the planet. Even though it’s kind of ridiculous to buy a bunch of books when you have to lug them home in your suitcase, I left with a giant stack and had zero regrets about it. I’ve been working my way through that stack for the last several weeks, and so far my favorite book from that haul is Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. In fact, I loved her essay “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable” – a rejection of hopelessness and despair that uses Virginia Woolf and John Keats to illuminate the power of ambiguity, darkness, and liminality – so much that I forced Brittany to read it instantly, whereupon she fell in love with Solnit’s writing too.
Now I just want to read everything that Solnit has ever written, starting with The Faraway Nearby, which apparently uses fairy tales, Mary Shelley, travel tales, personal narrative and more to show how we make our lives from the fabric of story and how humanity is connected through the threads of empathy, narrative, and imagination.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado’s first book, Her Body and Other Parties, absolutely knocked my socks off, especially her disturbing, haunting, weirdly relatable urban legend-retelling of The Girl with the Green Ribbon, “The Husband Stitch.” Last year, she published a memoir called In the Dream House. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:
“Carmen Maria Machado’s prismatic, revolutionary memoir is an electrifying account of a relationship gone bad and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Each chapter is driven by its own narrative trope – the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman – through which Machado holds her story up to the light while also casting a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, iconic works of film and fiction, and a broad swath of queer history. In the Dream House explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.”
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
I’ve been meaning to read this literally since it came out – it’s about a labyrinthine house that goes on forever, full of thousands and thousands of statues, and also there’s an ocean inside it? But I just hadn’t gotten around to picking up a copy until last week, when I stuck my head into Virginia Highland Books, supposedly just for 5 minutes to look around (ha!), and I saw a pile o Piranesi with one of those staff pick cards propped in front, comparing it to The Magician’s Nephew, my favorite Chronicles of Narnia book by a landslide. I’ve always been kind of obsessed with Charn, the dead world full of statues where the White Witch comes from, and apparently the house in Piranesi has strong Charn energy. And at that point, what was I going to do, not buy the book?
In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey
I don’t know if I’ve ever written about this before here, but I absolutely love books about fairy-tale books. Think The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, or The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (which is SO good and then omg I hated the ending so much!), or The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – novels where a book of fairy tales plays a key role in the story. Often these books are pretty darn Gothic too, which makes total sense if you, you know, believe as wholeheartedly in my dissertation as I do :P. In fact, when I was a young and foolish graduate student, I wanted my dissertation to be half nineteenth-century texts and half contemporary texts, in which section I was totally going to have a chapter dedicated to exactly this idea. But luckily my advisors nixed that whole thing before it got too far and said I could only do the nineteenth-century stuff, which probably saved my life? Eh, maybe someday!
Anyway, In the Night Wood is about a guy who is obsessed with a fairy tale (I’m not sure if it’s a whole book or just one, but regardless) and somehow he winds up married to a descendent of the author who inherits her house. Said guy is an academic, because of course he is, and he wants to go to the house and write a book about the author to save his career. Of course, once they get there, all kinds of creepy things start happening. The house seems alive, there’s a strange library, and the woods outside hide something very old and very terrifying. Yep, sign me up.
A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson
Another thing I’m obsessed with in novels is the combination of art and magic, and this one definitely seems to fit the bill. In this story, the protagonist has a gift – her portraits can actually alter people’s real-world bodies. When a governor’s wife discovers her secret, she blackmails her into painting a portrait of her dead son… and thereby (theoretically) bring him back to life. WHAT, right?? Obviously this is another Gothic fantasy novel, but it also apparently includes a bit of a murder mystery, which I definitely enjoy too. Also Olson’s debut novel, Sing Me Forgotten, is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, so I’m obviously going to check that one out too. I think we should be friends, Jessica.
The Little Country by Charles de Lint
We just read De Lint’s short story collection, Moonlight and Vines, for our book club this past month, and rereading that resparked my De Lint obsession. I went looking for a novel of his that I hadn’t read yet, and came across The Little Country. This one also starts with a mysterious manuscript, Brittany catnip, and is supposed to incorporate standing stones, witchery, and the power of music. Hmm… so I guess actually this one is a mixing of magic and art too! I’m nothing if not consistent in the things I’m drawn to? De Lint’s books always make me so hopeful though, so I’m really looking forward to reading something by him that is new to me. He presents a world of magic I can really get behind, all while reminding the reader that real magic is around us every single day, all the time, if we know how to look for it. Reading his work feels like someone understanding me on a deep and complicated level, which sounds a little dramatic, but is nonetheless true.
(Also I’m going to put in another plug for Rebecca Solnit, because oh my gosh, you guys. If we haven’t already made you read it in the “Folklore and Resistance” course, go read “Woolf’s Darkness” right now to see why we’re freaking out about her so much!)
So what books are you most looking forward to reading? Our TBR piles are stacked WAY too high already, but we’re always looking for more! Tell us in the comments!