Eight authors have shared their reading resolutions for the new year, stating that they are looking to bring more light into their lives through books.
In the upcoming year, my goal is to prioritize enjoyable reading.
I am the author of three books about the British empire, and have spent the last five years immersed in history. Out of all the books I read last year, Matthew Parker’s One Fine Day stood out as the best. It was a brilliant concept to tell the story of the British empire’s rise and fall through the events of a single day in 1923. This approach allowed Parker to break free from the common practice of British historians to simply tally up the pros and cons of the empire. Instead, he presents a nuanced and engaging account.
After immersing myself in historical texts, it’s easy to overlook my own novel. I fear that I may have lost my ability to think and write imaginatively. Therefore, in the upcoming year, I hope to dedicate my time to lighter subjects, such as books that don’t center around the British empire, genocide, or colonization. Instead, I want to explore human stories that captivate and amuse me, and bring some joy into my life.
The first one is The Bee Sting by Paul Murray. It’s a comic novel set in Ireland. Everyone’s going on about it, and I feel like I’m missing out. I also want to read You Are Here by David Nicholls, out in spring. I think he’s the funniest writer around and incredibly insightful about people.
I have yet to fully experience the works of Charles Dickens, as my previous exposure to him during university left a negative impression. Every time I have attempted to read his writing, I have found it to be long-winded and difficult to engage with. The closest I have come is through watching The Muppet Christmas Carol, which I enjoyed, but did not inspire me to dive into the source material. However, last year I came across Nick Hornby’s book Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius, which opened my eyes to the brilliance of Dickens. As a devoted fan of Prince, this book made me realize that my reluctance to read Dickens was perhaps due to my own ignorance. Therefore, I have decided to finally delve into one of his works, either Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities. Although I am slightly hesitant about the latter due to a four-hour outdoor adaptation that was unbearable, I am leaning towards Great Expectations as it appears to be more approachable.
One book that I plan to read in 2024 is Welcome to Glorious Tuga by Francesca Segal. It follows a woman’s journey to leave her London life behind and study tortoises on a remote island. This story speaks to our current desire for escape during the Covid pandemic.
According to Ella Creamer, the book “Empireworld: How British Imperialism Has Shaped the Globe” by Sathnam Sanghera will be released on January 25th.
I am interested in reading extraordinary tales from ancient civilizations.
I am compiling a diverse list of readings inspired by the movement of rivers. Currently, I am focused on my latest book, There Are Rivers in the Sky, which explores the themes of rivers and floods. As I delve into the enigmas of water, I have come to recognize the interconnectedness of humanity beyond geographical boundaries.
The renowned Río Secreto and numerous subterranean waterways in Mexico serve as a reminder for me to explore more literature by Mexican authors, such as Valeria Luiselli, Laura Esquivel, Fernando del Paso, Yuri Herrera, and the Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros.
I am captivated by South Korea for numerous reasons. The revitalization of the River Cheonggyecheon, an excellent demonstration of daylighting – the act of uncovering a buried waterway – has motivated me to delve deeper into Korean literature and culture. Therefore, I plan to read works by Kyung-sook Shin, Bae Suah, and Han Kang.
I will be exploring the histories of the Sahara and the people who once lived there, using the clues left by ancient rivers and our ancestors’ footprints. I am particularly interested in the literature of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Sudan, written by authors such as Bensalem Himmich, Laila Lalami, Leïla Slimani, Tahar ben Jelloun, Yasmina Khadra, Leila Aboulela, Ahdaf Soueif, Alaa al-Aswany, Muhammad Aladdin, Rania Mamoun, Jamal Mahjoub, Hisham Matar, and Nesrine Malik. I also plan to revisit works by Assia Djebar and Albert Camus as their insightful perspectives are relevant to our current world.
The gradual decline of rivers in Zimbabwe, similar to the agonizing end of the Tigris and Euphrates, motivates me to explore literature from or related to the area. I am particularly interested in works by Tsitsi Dangarembga, NoViolet Bulawayo, Petina Gappah, and Alexandra Fuller.
This is a varied and expansive compilation, an assortment of reading materials that constantly expands with each passing week, following the course of rivers – both those that remain and those that have vanished.
Elif Shafak’s novel, “There Are Rivers in the Sky,” is set to be released by Viking in August.
I have books about WG Sebald, Jean Rhys, and James Baldwin on my list.
I have always had a fascination with reading about the lives of authors, whether through biographies, diaries, or memoirs. However, I have not kept up with this habit and aim to revive it in 2024. Fortunately, there are some amazing books that caught my eye and will help me get back into the rhythm.
First on my list is Carole Angier’s biography of WG Sebald, Speak, Silence. I find Sebald’s books mesmerising, with their brooding meditation on memory, exile and trauma, and their disconcerting blurring of the lines between fact and fiction. His life seems to have been similarly enigmatic, and, by all accounts, Angier has done a remarkable job of delving through layers of reticence and obfuscation to get to the troubled essence of the man and his work.
Next, another rather slippery character, in the form of TS Eliot. One of my best reads last year was Erica Wagner’s Mary and Mr Eliot, which explores the fascinating relationship between Eliot and his close friend Mary Trevelyan – and incidentally exposes what a self-centred bastard he was. So I’m looking forward to Lyndall Gordon’s The Hyacinth Girl, a study of another of the remarkable women in Eliot’s life, his American muse and confidante, Emily Hale.
Miranda Seymour has recently released a biography called I Used to Live Here Once, which focuses on the life of Jean Rhys. While I am familiar with certain aspects of Rhys’s turbulent life, such as her periods of being exiled, experiencing heartbreak, struggling with alcoholism, and grappling with literary obscurity, I am not well-versed in her upbringing in the Caribbean or the creative process behind works like Wide Sargasso Sea and Good Morning, Midnight. Therefore, I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity to read Seymour’s book, which is said to provide insight into all of these topics and more.
Storm Jameson, a novelist and journalist, was born in Whitby, Yorkshire in 1891 and was almost the same age as Rhys. I am pleased to share that Pushkin will be republishing her autobiography, Journey from the North, which was originally released in 1969. Jameson was a prolific writer with over 50 books to her name. She was also involved in socialist and pacifist politics and played a prominent role in English PEN, aiding refugee writers and their families in escaping from Nazi-occupied Europe. Her writing was sincere, direct, and highly likable, and like many female authors of the 20th century, she deserves more recognition.
Lastly, there is another writer whose experiences and professional journey intertwined with political upheavals and revolutionary societal changes: James Baldwin. Baldwin was a talented commentator on African American culture, and his written works are some of the most exceptional ever created, displaying a keen understanding of the complex intersections of race, social class, and sexuality. His groundbreaking novel from 1956, Giovanni’s Room, is a poignant and powerful portrayal of homosexual desire. I am eager to learn more about his influences, formative years, and involvement in the civil rights movement. Therefore, I am delighted to dive into a new biography by Bill V Mullen titled James Baldwin: Living in Fire.
Sarah Waters is the author of Fingersmith and her latest book The Paying Guests, which was released by Virago in 2014.
I am gravitating towards science fiction and dystopian stories.
I am intrigued by theoretical science fiction, but I am hesitant to actually read it due to the imaginative concepts it may contain. I have not fully embraced the genre because it resonates too closely with the struggles of Black and Brown individuals in our current society, which is still heavily influenced by systems of oppression.
I have a strong affinity for science fiction movies. I had a profound realization when I watched Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin” in theaters. It was incredibly unique, blending alien elements with the ordinary, and combining documentary-style footage with fantastical scenes. I plan on reading the Michel Faber novel on which the film was based next year.
Next year, in 2024, I plan to dive into Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. I spent a considerable amount of time this year watching the film on my laptop, probably around 50 times. Initially, I disliked it, but eventually, I became enamored with it – the way it visually depicted various worlds expanded my perspective. The use of throat singing and nomadic desert tribes could serve as inspiration for the future, but in some communities considered “primitive,” these practices are already in place. It’s a glimpse into the eternal future – a beautiful concept to ponder.
We are constantly exposed to negative visions of the future, making it difficult to read about them in fiction. However, as our world faces challenges, perhaps it is beneficial to explore the perspectives of artists on where we may be headed. Therefore, I will also read three classic titles: Kindred by Octavia E Butler, Solaris by Stanisław Lem, and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin. The current state of affairs may seem grim, and our outlook on the future may seem limited, but without science fiction, how can we imagine and envision potential possibilities?
Sheena Patel’s book, “I’m a Fan,” has been released in paperback by Granta.
I would like to explore additional translated works of fiction.
During the winter, I am most interested in reading fiction, particularly stories that are older or strange. As the year 2023 began, I challenged myself to read books by popular authors that I had previously avoided. I was captivated by Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, the Sea, which completely engrossed me. I also delved into the intricate exploration of time and location in Graham Swift’s Waterland, and was impressed by the concise yet impactful storytelling of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome.
The novel “The Ice Palace” by Tarjei Vesaas reminded me of the way certain Scandinavian literature resonates with me, even though I struggle to put it into words. It could be due to my recent DNA test revealing Viking ancestry within me. Vesaas’s work, “The Birds,” amazed me with its narrative voice, almost making me want to give up my own writing. However, I found solace in immersing myself in 20th-century England through works such as “The Bloater” by Rosemary Tonks, “The Glass Pearls” by Emeric Pressburger, “The Children of Dynmouth” by William Trevor, and “The Slaves of Solitude” by Patrick Hamilton. I also discovered a new author, Mark Hyatt, whose book “Love, Leda” captured my attention with its portrayal of a bisexual, occasionally homeless, and incredibly talented poet who tragically took his own life in a cave in Lancashire.
During the summer, I experienced a decrease in productivity, but now that winter has arrived, I am motivated to read more translated literature. I haven’t had the chance to read works by Olga Tokarczuk or Lucas Rijneveld yet, and I have a whole collection of books by Halldór Laxness that I haven’t gotten to yet. I often think of a character from a Richard Brautigan novel who reads Russian literature and feel like I should do the same. However, I tend to break my resolutions, especially with Ireland producing new and amazing novels every two weeks. I am looking forward to reading The Heart in Winter by Kevin Barry or Wild Houses by Colin Barrett as we transition into spring. Additionally, two other novels, Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry and Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel, have been patiently waiting for me to pick them up for years. Perhaps now is finally the time.
Benjamin Myers’ novel, “Cuddy,” was awarded the 2023 Goldsmiths prize and will be released in paperback by Bloomsbury on February 1, 2023.
“I will attempt to arrange a meeting with the Latin poets I have studied.”
I pursued a degree in ancient and modern literature, with a focus on Latin. Despite my struggle with reading Virgil’s Aeneid and my slow progress with understanding the use of spondees and dactyls, I hope to revisit this text next year if I can muster the courage and energy. Although I may have been the weakest reader of Virgil among all the students, the experience still had a positive impact on my writing skills. Like many others who have completed university, I now have a bookshelf filled with dusty books from my studies that I rarely revisit. Among them are the recognizable red-jacketed Loeb classics, including a few green ones for Greek literature that I never fully grasped.
My good friend Daniel Mendelsohn, a renowned classicist, recently mentioned that he was revisiting rabbinical texts purely out of love for the subject. It reminded me of how he had first delved into Greek as a child and could easily grasp its form and meaning, having an innate understanding of its essence and atmosphere. Unfortunately, my sluggish brain does not offer such assistance. However, I am considering revisiting Propertius and the always modern Catullus (who died at a young age), as well as Horace’s Satires instead of his Odes. Despite being old enough now, I may also revisit the Odes. Plautus and perhaps Terence may also be on my list, even though they didn’t teach me much about playwriting, they did demonstrate that colloquial writing existed 2,000 years before television.
Sebastian Barry’s novel “Old God’s Time” will be released in paperback format by Faber on February 1st, 2021.
I have a strong desire for the all-encompassing experience that a lengthy book offers.
I track my reading using the Notes app. My reading habits this year have been varied: I completed eight books in August, but only one in the following month. I mostly leaned towards fiction, particularly Greek myths, classic novels, and retellings in the first six months. I also read debut novels throughout the year. My favorites include Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks and Nothing Special by Nicole Flattery. I also delved into poetry with works by Louise Glück and Anne Carson, and did some research on science books for my upcoming novel.
One thing is clear: the majority of the books I have read are less than 300 pages, and this is not a coincidence. It could be due to a fear of commitment or a shorter attention span in the era of social media, but I tend to steer away from longer books. When browsing for my next book in bookstores, I tend to avoid thick volumes and (embarrassingly) check the page count before reading the description. I hope to change this habit by 2024.
I have a strong desire for the all-encompassing experience that lengthy pieces of writing often offer, where the setting and timeframe are carefully crafted and the characters undergo significant development. Additionally, reading longer works requires discipline – one must be consistent and read a little bit each day, rather than binging on 300 pages in one day and then not reading at all for two weeks. I would like to incorporate this discipline into other areas of my life, especially my writing, which, like my reading, tends to occur sporadically.
I plan on beginning with Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, as it has received many positive reviews. Other books on my reading list include Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, which I have been wanting to read for a long time, In Ascension by Martin MacInnes, and The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. For nonfiction, I am currently reading American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin, and I am interested in reading Eve by Cat Bohannon.
“Wandering Souls” by Cecile Pin has been released in paperback by 4th Estate.
I am interested in reading nonfiction books about the topics of climate change and motherhood.
Recently, I have been gravitating towards nonfiction, potentially because I am aware of the behind-the-scenes process behind novels. Nonfiction provides a sense of escapism for me. I have a hypothesis that I am better prepared to contemplate climate change during colder weather, so I plan to read The Climate Book, edited by Greta Thunberg, at the beginning of the year. This book is a compilation of essays from over 100 experts. My strategy is that if one essay brings me down, the next one may offer a more optimistic perspective.
Aubrey Gordon co-hosts the podcast Maintenance Phase, which delves into issues of anti-fat bias and the food industry. I enjoy the podcast because Gordon and Michael Hobbes are engaging and humorous, but I also believe that they have helped me become more media-savvy. As such, I am eager to read Gordon’s upcoming book, You Just Need to Lose Weight: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People, which I anticipate will be both delightful and enlightening.
I am a fan of Liana Finck, the cartoonist for The New Yorker. She recently became a mother, just like me. Her cartoons brought me joy, especially when I stumbled upon them on Instagram amidst sponsored posts warning about the potential negative effects of not giving your child enough tummy time. Her latest book, How to Baby: A No-Advice-Given Guide to Motherhood, is said to contain a blend of humorous essays, lists (such as “Nesting. The Comprehensive List of What to Buy and Why Getting Things Used Is Dangerous and Unamerican”), and reflections on motherhood. I am eager to get my hands on it!
While breastfeeding my child, I became engrossed in the Crusades and delved into Steven Runciman’s well-written trilogy on the subject. The book covers a range of interesting figures such as Baldwin the Leper King, Saladin, and cunning Frankish queens. I am now eagerly anticipating reading Amin Maalouf’s The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (1984), which offers a unique perspective on the events through the use of primary sources from an Arab point of view.