Things I’m Reading Thursday #13

A little light reading this week… be sure to let me know what books are on your bedside table at the moment, too!

Listography: your life in lists and Music Listography: your life in [play] lists by Lisa Nola Less reading, more scribbling, really… but as a compulsive list-maker I was overjoyed to discover Lisa Nola’s Listography books. Beautifully illustrated, the former is a journal of your life so far (a pretty cool idea in itself), which offers up challenges like “list all your former addresses” or “list the most important friends from your past.” Not only does it get you wracking your brains, once filled in it will also serve as a nostalgic time-capsule to which you can return later when you’ve forgotten, say, the name of that girl you used to sit next to in Higher English. It feels rather odd to temporarily climb inside the cave of your memory and write down everything you can see — but odd in a good way.
Music Listography also hugely appealed to me, as a geeky vinyl-hoarder and creator of mix tapes. In this case the challenges are seemingly easier — “list your favourite jazz and blues”; “list bands that you do not like” — but in my humble opinion, they’re actually harder. I was driven into a frenzy trying to remember which side of 1980 The Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket” fell on (the far side, by the way), and tied up in knots trying to pick just twenty all-time favourite records (I’m still deliberating, in fact). However, these books have given my bus journeys to and from work a whole new meaning — I’ve loved filling them in. They’re also things of beauty — each list is laid out on a lovely thick cardstock page with hand-drawn type and gorgeous (and sometimes weird) illustrations. If you’re a journal-writer, a list-maker or just plain nostalgic, you will absolutely love these books.

Sisters: An Anthology by Penelope Farmer

I’m also working my way through this strange little book, which (as the title may suggest) is a collection of writings on sisters, siblings and sisterhood (genetic, platonic, political, and so on). I bought the book for two reasons: one because I was in Sam Read’s bookstore in Grasmere in the Lake District, a bookstore so charming and fabulous that I find it impossible not to buy something every time I visit and b) because I thought it might be useful for my PhD thesis. I made the mistake of thinking this was an anthology of literary criticism. In truth, it’s just an anthology of STUFF, and it can never quite seem to make up its mind.
There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of structure. You get an excerpt from Antigone, in which Antigone scolds her hapless sister for refusing to help her bring justice to their slain brother; then on the next page you have a section of Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals in which she describes the fateful Spring day that she and her brother discovered the famous “host of golden daffodils” whilst out on a walk. Elsewhere there are ‘also-in-the-news’ type newspaper snippets — a Siamese twin who had to put up with her conjoined sister’s smoking habit for forty years — and extracts from scientific research papers on things like hymenopteran female bees who share more genes with their sisters then with their own offspring. Palmer interrupts occasionally to give her thoughts on what constitutes sisterhood, to talk about her relationships with her own sisters, and to speculate on what life must have been like for previous generations of sisters in her family and elsewhere. It really is a mental book… but’s it’s chock-full of gold. Every new page brings a new weird and wonderful fact or opinion, a new snippet from a book you suddenly feel the urge to go and read, a new brilliant stanza from a poem or verse from a song. My thesis is all about women’s voices, women speaking through other women, and the desire for female predecessors to show us how to go about things. However, I’m also a devoted sister, an aspiring feminist (it’s one of those things where I’m never sure if I’m doing right or not), a teacher and a writer… so this book captivates me on many levels. It was a chance find, it’s utterly nuts, and I’m only about a fifth of the way through… but I’m already glad this odd little book crossed my path.

So what are you reading this week?

(Photo by Brown Betty)

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6 Responses to “Things I’m Reading Thursday #13”

  1. McGuire Says:

    ‘Awakenings’ - Oliver Sacks: Book about ‘encephalitis lethargica’ and parkinsons disease, and a drug called L-Dopa, which awakened the patients. It catalogues their history before the disease, life while suffering, the reactions to L Dopa. You should read this Claire. Anyone, for that matter. Mind expanding stuff.

    ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’ - Ambrose Bierce: A satirical dictionary that reinterprets English words as the author sees them. i.e. Lawyer
    (noun) One skilled in circumvention of the law, or, ABNORMAL, adj.
    Not conforming to standard. In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested. Wherefore the lexicographer adviseth a striving toward the straiter [sic] resemblance of the Average Man than he hath to himself. Whoso attaineth thereto shall have peace, the prospect of death and the hope of Hell.

    Many more, but those are the two on the bed side at the moment.

  2. Katja Says:

    I love the sound of those listography books! I’m a list-making maniac as well, as well as a questionnaire fan so those sound like a perfect combo! I’d also LOVE to read some excrepts from your lists.

    I’m currently making my way through Outsiders Together by Natania Rosenfeld. I’m a great admirer of Virginia Woolf, and cannot get enough of her, so I thought this book about the relationship and outsiderness of her and Leonard Woolf was interesting. When I began it, I was kind of disappointed by the overly academic style of it; in fact it reads more like an argumentative paper than anything else. But I’m slowly starting to like it as it is, and either way it does offer some new insight into the Woolf’s lives.

    Also happened upon the Charles Bukowski biography by Neeli Cherkovski when I was at the library, and snagged up and started reading that as well. Only about twenty pages in at the moment, so I can’t say what I think about it yet.

  3. Crafty Green poet Says:

    I’m reading Margaret Attwood’s brilliant book about debt, Payback. it looks at the historical significance of debt.

    Poetry is John Burnside’s The Asylum Dance and Bloodaxe’s Earth Shattering anthology of eco-poetry

  4. Claire Says:

    McGuire — I’ve read The Devil’s Dictionary! Bloody brilliant — so much of it is still really funny and relevant today. I’ll check out Awakenings too, ta.

    Katja — I may well share some next week! You should definitely check ‘em out though.

    Juliet — never even heard of Payback… she’s written so much stuff! I’ll have to look that one out. Thanks! Hope the launch went swimmingly, by the way!


  5. David Says:

    Virginia Woolf - To the Lighthouse. I’m going to finish reading it if it kills me, which it might >_<

  6. Ally Gillon Says:

    To the Lighthouse is a great book (and thoroughly life-giving) I thought! But then I read it travelling around SE Asia… I guess a lot depends on circumstance!

    There’s a stack of books on my bedside table at the moment, so here they are:

    ‘Beginners’ by Raymond Carver - picked this up on a whim in the library and I’ve read one story so far. Quite nice.

    ‘The Illustrated Man’ by Ray Bradbury, ‘Foundation and Earth’ Isaac Asimov, and ‘The Sun Shines Bright’ also by Asimov - because I’ve recently moved close to Morningside and one of the charity shops sells sci-fi books 3 for £1! (’The Sun Shines Bright’ is essays not fiction. I read the intro and it’s cool.)

    ‘Celtic Daily Prayer’ - because I like much of the spirituality of celtic christianity.

    ‘Argentina’ - the eyewitness guide (the ones with lots of photos). Picked up on a whim on the library - who knows?!

    ‘Pigeon’ by Karen Solie - Canadian poet who I heard at Stanza this year and really enjoyed.

    ‘Ten Poems to Change Your Life’ by Roger Housdon - borrowed from my sister, haven’t dipped into it yet.

    ‘Writing Down the Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg - a writing method that I’m really enjoying.

    And the one I’m actually reading… ‘All Said and Done’ by Simone de Beauvoir. Never read her before but it’s absolutely packed with insight. And it’s printed small. And it’s got 490+ pages. So it might kill me, but I’m going to keep going…

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