It’s time for this month’s chain of reading, set off by Kate’s Six Degrees of Separation, in which we are invited to build a chain of six books where each one bears some form of connection to the one before – be it author, theme, style, location, title, era, language, ….. – all starting from a book suggested by Kate.
This month our starter book is Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through, a tale of human relationships and their changing nature and the unusual ways one person can help others through hardship.
Nunez’s topic of a friend suffering terminal cancer, prompted me to pick up one of Clive James’ books of poetry, Injury Time.
Here James confronts his approaching death with good humour and respect. I could hear his familiar voice and see his smile as I read it. Beautiful poetry, full of positivity not despair. I thoroughly recommend this – some of his best ever poetry.
Moving on from the topic of pending death, I picked up The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina.
Here, death is no longer pending, it has happened. Many times. Much of it due to the Tsunami in 2011.
This wonderful novel features a phone box that is home to an unconnected phone, known as the Wind Phone. People come to use the phone to send their words through the wind to those they have lost. It is a beautifully written story of the ways people cope with loss, told with positivity and humour. It is not a sad or depressing story; it looks to the future not the past.
The story is set in Japan, written in Italian by a woman now living in Japan, and thankfully translated into English. But it still has a Japanese feel to it and the use of some common Japanese words and phrases helped keep me in Japan. The layout of the book is unusual, with some very short chapters, often in the form of lists, scattered here and there. They give a short space to take a breath and then keep reading.
I can’t praise it enough – one of my favourite books this year.
Next, we’ll stay with phone boxes and go for a light read with The Telephone Box Library by Rachel Lucas
It gives us fresh starts, new beginnings and a bit of romance in the beautiful Cotswolds.
Now, I’m sticking with libraries but on a larger scale than the phone box. Here’s a book I love flicking through: Libraries by Candida Hoefer. It has a witty introduction by Umberto Eco, followed by stunning photos of grand libraries around the world.
And time for more books on library shelves together with a wonderful dog: Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp.
It tells the story of a dog helping a child gain confidence in reading, by listening happily to her taking that big step. Listening dogs are now volunteering in many libraries around the world, and sometimes in schools too. The pawfect companion to a good book.
So far, we’ve had poetry, fiction, photography and children’s fiction and now I reckon it’s time for a cookery book. So, we will end with an early Christmas present for this who love cooking: The Little Library Christmas by Kate Young
The recipes here are almost picked from the shelves of a library, inspired by fiction, such as the Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and its sprout festival, The Mill on the Floss, and more from Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. It makes a great Christmassy read even if you don’t want to cook, though I have to say the ginger beer ham on brioche buns is calling me to the kitchen.
I hope my chain of six books prompts some good reading, page turning, dreaming and eating this month.
Next month we’ll be setting off from Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton and I have, as yet, no idea where that will take us.
Note: My book links are to Hive, an online bookseller that gives part of the income to local UK booksellers, and you get to choose the bookshop you’d like to receive the benefit. I’m delighted that my local bookshop, Books on the Hill, is on the list, and have been happily supporting them in this way.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 6 November 2021
(all images apart from book covers are copyright Debbie Smyth)
Posted as part of Six Degrees