...and so little time. Being aware of the abundance of good reads that is out there carries a bittersweet tone for me, as it is a reminder of how short life is and that a lifetime is not enough to read all the books I want to read. Browsing bookshops, though one life's greatest pleasures, I often get this visceral sense of panic at the brevity of life. But I digress.
Particularly around this time of year so many good new titles come out. The Guardian's Review section and I are inseparable on a Saturday, and it is one of my main sources of book recommendations. While I sometimes have a problem with critics (particularly when they are downright nasty and have the power to destroy an artist, or when a book/film/CD/artwork is graded. After all, so much of it is subjective - any individual's opinion reflects their individual taste), I love the mostly thoughtful reviews and the palpable enthusiasm of the favourable ones in Review.
Here are some of the books that are currently on my to-read list (just noticed a heavy leaning towards memoirs here) :
Blue Nights by Joan Didion: I read her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking about her husband's death, and this is about their daughter's death shortly after. Certainly no easy read. Grief memoirs have taken a beating recently, but I think Didion's are an exception and among the more powerful ones.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson: I actually haven't read any of her books, only some essays and articles, which I loved. The latest was an excerpt from this memoir, and it was beautifully written. I wonder whether I should read one of her novels first; I tend to read a writer's fictional output before reading the life, the background story (in the same way that I prefer to read the book before seeing a movie version), but it can be interesting to do it the other way around, approaching the fiction with that prior knowledge of what shaped it. And of course art and life are intrinsically linked.
Instead of a Book: Letters to a Friend by Diana Athill: I like her style. I also want to get her book about ageing, Somewhere Towards the End. I love reading books by or about older people, their insights, their wisdom, invariably finding it all reassuring, comforting, somehow; it alleviates my own fear of getting older and death.
Look at Me by Jennifer Egan (written a decade ago, but has been reissued recently): About a model, perception, seeing and being seen. I focused on aesthetics when studying Philosophy and am obsessed with writings -fiction as well as non-fiction- about seeing and looking.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides: I loved The Virgin Suicides (still haven't read Middlesex), and I really enjoyed this interview with Adam Thirlwell.
Clicking on each book cover will take you to the author's website, a review or the book's amazon page (I also always link the book under "Currently reading" in the sidebar. No affiliate links or anything!)