Never-Ending Summer Reading
Posted on December 24th, 2015
I have said it before. The best thing about summer is reading… Worn paperbacks, pages filled with sand, or even, falling apart in the sun. Lolling in a pool with your book propped on the side. Or placed over your face as a customised hat. Summer = reading for sure.
This year, I determined to take Smart Quill to some far off places – looking for new writers, different voices, and researching cultural narratives. I have had a rather perpetual summer as a result, and an excellent excuse to catch up “must-reads” (when I am not editing, of course).
So here is what I read, and here is what I thought:
1. Euphoria by Lily King – two words: read it. It’s short, and perfect. Dual male and female strands, based obliquely on the rather incredible story of lauded female anthropologist Margaret Mead.
2. Moby Dick by Herman Melville – oh dear. I just could not lose myself in this. The prose is so gargantuan, it really only served to alienate me. At the risk of sounding like a philistine in the face of great literature, no thanks.
3. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – Gregory certainly knows how to spin a tale. I am not sure how much of this I believed was “autobiography”, but it’s an enjoyable and nuanced whirlwind through Bombay nonetheless.
4. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan – this won the Book Prize in 2014. But honestly, I found it a little facile. Flanagan is the most incredible writer and this is beautiful in parts… But not his best.
5. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad – it’s a powerful insight into Afghanistan, but rather thin, and political agenda of the narrator was heavy. I’d rather have seen more facts, more anecdotes, in order to build the story.
6. The Martian by Andy Weir – I couldn’t put it down! The light tone contrasts exactly with the enormity of the plot, and the technical detail is WOW.
7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2015. And rightly so. This is magnificent, with a deft narrative balance between a girl in France and a boy in Germany during WWII.
Book Club Summer: Stoner
Posted on August 31st, 2015
Ending the summer on a high… Possibly the best book I’ve read in years, and an undiscovered classic: Stoner by John Williams.
Book Club Summer: Possession
Posted on July 31st, 2015
Reading by a fountain near a hill… I’m in Palm Springs talking about Possession by A S Byatt – one of those books that has been on my list for years.
Book Club Summer: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Posted on June 23rd, 2015
Summer means reading! The next three book clubs will cover some excellent holiday choices. First up, a surprising novel which defines the meaning of narrative twist…
Book Club Style: The Miniaturist
Posted on April 23rd, 2015
That’s right, the Smart Quill Book Club continues… One of the most lauded debuts in recent years, this month I am discussing The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.
Book Club Style: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
Posted on March 11th, 2015
Running away with Book Club now, here is this month’s instalment. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. Described as: “Challenging. Shattering.”
Book Club Style: Gone Girl
Posted on February 26th, 2015
A smash hit this month for Book Club… Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
Interview with a Prize Winner
Posted on November 21st, 2014
It is a very rare and very wonderful thing when a book you have edited is acknowledged as a success. There are two ways for this to happen: runaway sales, a nod from the readers, or prizes, a nod from the industry. I am delighted to say that Piers Torday last week received a mega nod, by winning the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for The Dark Wild.
So it seemed an opportune moment ask Piers some questions…
What is the first thing you do before you start writing?
The first thing I do before writing is read a poem from the Writer’s Almanac to clear my head/inspire me, choose my playlist and try and get my social media fix out of the way before attempting to concentrate.
Where did you get your inspiration for stories?
From other people’s books, stories in the news and mainly, completely random things other people say that I’m sure no-one else would even notice or pick up on, but which somehow set a trigger off in my imagination.
What advice would you give to debut novelists?
It’s one of the most exciting things that can ever happen, and publishing a book won’t ever quite feel the same again, so soak up the experience and try to enjoy it rather than worrying about reviews or sales. Throw the biggest party you can to launch it and make sure everyone knows. Don’t be disappointed if there isn’t a front page review in the first week or if it isn’t top of the bestseller lists straightaway – a book is around for a long time, and truly is the gift which keeps on giving. The best promotion is author events and meeting readers face to face, and creating a distinct personality for yourself online which appeals to your readership/industry base. But don’t over rely on social media – self promoting tweets will only get you so far. (Not very). Most importantly of all, keep faith in the book, and don’t sit around waiting for miracles to happen but just get on with the next one as soon as you can. That way every good piece of news is a welcome break rather than a drink in the desert.
I love this last point. It is very true. Thank you so much Piers!
Posted on September 27th, 2014
Forget ice bucket challenges and no make-up selfies. This is my kind of enforced facebook fun… I was asked to name my top ten landmark books – not necessarily favourites, but those books that heralded a certain time in my life, and have therefore stayed with me very strongly. It’s an odd exercise, casting yourself back to being little, not so little, a bit troublesome, and then picking up books as a career. In retrospect I have missed lots of important ones – but here is the original list, for all it’s quirks and omissions.
1. The Babysitters Club by Ann M Martin
2. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
3. Middlemarch by George Eliot
4. A Room with a View by E M Forster
5. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
6. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
6. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
7. Eucalyptus by Murray Bail
8. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
10. They Were Counted by Miklos Banffy
Book Club Style: The God of Small Things
Posted on April 29th, 2014
A book that never leaves you; this Book Club covers The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.