Monthly Archives: October 2019

Books on my bedside table, Q2 and Q3 2019


My new year’s resolution to post quarterly about my reading diet went forgotten in June (as were most of my resolutions). However, I did keep track, so here’s a list to cover my reading-for-pleasure since March.

Some of the below were consumed as audio, after I made a decision to cut down on podcasts-listening in favour of audiobooks. Some people might quibble over whether that counts as ‘reading,’ but I think: sure, why not? There are no rules. Where the audiobooks were in themselves notable, I’ve mentioned that below.

I enjoy writing these notes, as I find it helps me digest and retain what I’ve read. I also love to chat about books. If we’ve crossed literary paths, or if you have a recommendation, then please drop me a line on Twitter.

The Peregrine // J A Baker: A true classic of British nature writing, which I’ve only just gotten around to reading. Beautiful, meditative, meandering – slashed through with the fresh violence of the hunt:

Their rapid, shifting, dancing motion had been so deft and graceful that it was difficult to believe that hunger was the cause of it and death the end… as thought the hawk had suddenly gone mad and had killed the thing it loved. The striving of birds to kill, or to save themselves from death, is beautiful to see. The greater the beauty the more terrible the death.

The Peregrine condenses ten years of sightings into a single year’s diary entries, a glittering work of synaesthetic descriptive bravura. The sky is “peeled white”, sparrows rise in “warning puffs”… Just great.

Trick Mirror // Jia Tolentino: This debut book of essays from the New Yorker writer was ubiquitous on social media and internet literary publications for a time, and happily it lived up to the hype. Very of the moment, and I think it transcends the moment too. Really it’s a book about the media’s reflection and refraction of the human condition. One or two essays fell flatter than others (I’m thinking, particularly, of her discussion of female protagonists in fiction), but her dissections of her own ambivalence about, and complicity in, our age of personal branding and ‘self-optimisation’ (see extract here), were outstanding. Continue reading

The emptied island


The latest entry from my ‘Wild Frontier’ column in Prospect magazine. It’s about a solitary night on an abandoned island, and what it means to be truly alone. Full text here, or after the fold.

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