Taken from Elle Thinks.
1. What books are you most excited to read over the next few months?
As usual, I have a small backlog of proofs: I still need to read Lisa McInerney’s The Blood Miracles and Colm Toibin’s House of Names, and I’ve also picked up a copy of Laline Paull’s The Ice. (I wasn’t a fan of her debut novel The Bees, but for reasons that were very particular to the story she’d chosen to tell – and I can never resist anything set in the Arctic or Antarctic.) I’m also very much looking forward to the fourth and last of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, The Story of the Lost Child. As for books I’m yet to acquire, SO many, but especially Jenni Fagan’s The Sunlight Pilgrims and Helen Sedgwick’s The Comet Seekers. In crime and thrillers, I’m most looking forward to Susie Steiner’s second novel, Persons Unknown, after loving her crime debut, Missing, Presumed.
2. What book most makes you think of Spring, for whatever reason?
I’m really struggling with this question! I can think of a plethora of summer, autumn and winter reads, but very little for spring. Perhaps Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley, a wonderful Beauty and the Beast retelling that is all about things coming back to life?
3. The days are getting longer – what is the longest book you’ve read?
I’ve no idea how this works out in terms of different translations etc., but my feeling is that it’s either Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Augustine’s City of God or Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. All are well over a thousand pages.
4. What books would you recommend to brighten someone’s day?
This obviously depends on the person, but Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is my top comfort read at the moment (and I know nothing about its two key themes: computer games and the 80s.)
5. Spring brings new life in nature – think up a book that doesn’t exist but you wish it did. (eg by a favourite author, on a certain theme or issue etc)
I used to read a lot of chick lit (as opposed to romance), and although I’ve rather gone off the genre in recent years, I still love really warm-hearted chick lit novels with great characters, like Nicola Doherty’s If I Could Turn Back Time, The Out of Office Girl and Girls on Tour. I’ve been thinking recently about how the gay male best friend has long been a staple of chick lit (at first, appearing in very stereotypical guises, but becoming more sensitively written in later years) but that lesbians or bisexual women never get a look in, even as background characters. (Bisexual men also rarely appear, and if they do, they are written as dangerous womanisers, men to avoid.) It strikes me that it would be brilliant to read a mainstream chick lit novel that fits in with all the genre conventions but is about a lesbian or bisexual woman. Apart from the main romantic plot line, chick lit already tends to deal heavily with relationships between women – conflict with a female boss, sub-plots with female friends or sisters – and it would be lovely to see this fully played out with a woman trying to find the woman of her dreams rather than the man. I would be rubbish at writing this, so I can’t have a go myself, but I wish somebody else would!
6. Spring is also a time of growth – how has your reading changed over the years?
Since records began (around the age of fourteen, when I began tallying all the books I’d read) there have been ups and downs. After getting seriously into adult fiction around the age of sixteen or so, the number of books I read every year dropped but the quality increased. I read more and more every year I was at university, culminating in my Best Reading Year Ever, 2008, when I read 119 books. After entering the world of work in 2009, and then embarking on a PhD, numbers dropped dramatically, and I’ve averaged around 80 ever since. In terms of what I read, I’ve steadily read classics and literary fiction throughout the years, but my ‘what I read when I’m tired’ reading has moved from chick lit (see above) to crime and thrillers, and is now moving more towards sci-fi.
7. We’re a couple of months into the new year – how’s your reading going?
One of the best things about 2017 so far for me is that I’m reading so much and enjoying it so much. I don’t think I realised it at the time, but I’d lost so much pleasure in reading since around 2009/10, and although of course I’ve read so many wonderful novels in the intervening years, I find I’m now coming to new books with a relish that I haven’t felt for a long time. My workload hasn’t significantly dropped, but I’ve already read 42 books this year, which means that I’m definitely going to smash that 80-ish average, and hopefully smash my target of 100 books in 2017. Can I beat THE BEST YEAR EVER? Probably not, but we’ll see…
8. Any plans you’re looking forward to over the next few months?
What I’ve read of the Baileys shortlist so far has hugely impressed me, so I can’t wait to get to the remaining three novels – Stay With Me, First Love and The Dark Circle (although I’m a little dubious about the last). I also still want to read the rest of the Jhalak Prize and Wellcome Prize shortlists – especially Irenosen Okojie’s Speak Gigantular, Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America, David Olusoga’s Black and British, and David France’s How To Survive A Plague.