Autumn is drawing in and I don’t know about you, but the idea of standing around a park to catch that elusive Pikachu is becoming less appealing by the day. Autumn is by far my favourite season – not least because it heralds the most important point of the year, my birthday. Crunchy leaves and cardigans and tights and bright cold days. Those are days I wait for all year. And my birthday. Don’t underestimate how much I like my birthday. Tim has been woken up by me daily giving him the days-to-my-birthday tally.
Anyway, back to books.
Many people find they read more once the rare British sun finally says tally ho and retreats back into the ether for another 10 months or so, and luckily there’s a great selection of books you could be reading right now to take your mind off that.
I’m hoping to keep this going monthly, with The Brand New, In Case You Missed It and Because I Said So recommendations remaining consistent. Keep me honest guys.
There’s quite a strong YA leaning to this edition, that for some reason I presume won’t always be the case. Hahahha no. YA forever. I will convert everyone to avid YA readers, I will I will.
So, onto the books.
The Brand New
Arguably one of my favourite non-fictions this year just (quite rightly) won the Wainwright Prize and has just landed in paperback. The Outrun originally hit our shelves in February this year, and after hearing much buzz particularly from the #seatwitter crowd, I decided it was worth a hardback spend – spoiler, it was… is. The Outrun is part rediscovery-of-self memoir, part salute to nature and author Amy Liptrot’s Orcadian upbringing, completely engrossing. Amy words are raw, beautiful and harsh in turns. Named after a section of wild near her family farm, the book follows Amy through dipsomania in London where she chases wild highs and life’s edges, to her return to the islands of the very North, discovering new and old ways of life for herself. If Nature-memoir is your thing, then this is very much your thing.
I have quite literally just put down my copy of the most difficult to put down books for me so far this year. It is still sitting at my feet, warm from my clutching hands, flung down while I (lovingly but) furiously tweeted the author Laure Eve to say that a year was too long to wait for a sequel. The spiritual twin to The Craft has emerged – let all the former 90s witch babies rejoice and dig out black lipstick! The Graces follows River in her quest to be part of the circle of the Grace family – Fenrin, Summer, Thalia. Laure Eve cunningly gives away only minor details as you read, unfurling the plot, the magic and the deception. I only stopped reading to sleep and work, and have been glued to it since I started it 24 hours ago. What a stonker. Read it with some Nag Champa burning and The Craft soundtrack playing. I’d argue it’s probably my favourite YA release of the year.
I say that with it beating out As I Descended by a hair, a very fine hair at that. Because really, how can you beat lesbian Macbeth. You read that right. Robin Talley switches up the setting to a boarding school in Virginia, where Maria dreams of attaining the Kingsley Prize in order to attend a college of her choice. Replace witches with ghosts and a murderous history, and you have Macbeth via Heathers and The Craft. It opens with a ouija board. I cannot honestly explain how intense, brilliant and exciting it is. If you love Macbeth and YA, you have been waiting for this. If you’ve never read Macbeth, let this be your intro – Robin successfully needles into the desires of Macbeth (Maria) and Lady Macbeth (Lily) so well that it would be a great intro. While you are at it, definitely also pick up Robin’s book Lies We Tell Ourselves – desegregation of schools and cross-racial lesbian romance.
I’ve name checked The Craft twice already in this article, haven’t I?
Okay, okay back to books.
Winding our way back to nature, Melissa Harrison has brought out another seasonal anthology of writing – Autumn. The anthologies combine prose and poetry from authors across Britain to celebrate the Great British Autumn. While I’ve not read this one yet, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed dipping in and out of the previous editions of Spring and Summer, and thoroughly expect my favourite season to receive excellent treatment. Melissa is also author of the brilliant At Hawthorn Time, nominated for the Bailey’s Prize and reviewed on my blog earlier this year, here.
In case you missed it
I’m about 50 pages off the end of The Essex Serpent, and I’m not sure I can explain how wonderful this book is. The mystery of the Essex serpent brings opposites Cora Seabourne and William Ransome together in friendship and adventure – she a keen amateur naturalist, he the local vicar. This truly is a great Victorian novel of science and religion, and of enduring friendships. It is beautifully written, seamlessly executed. Definitely one for fans of Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree, due to shared settings, themes and stubborn characters. It’s taken me quite a while to get through The Essex Serpent, namely because on the morning of Brexit, I was so infuriated by the news that I left my copy on the Piccadilly line as it terminated at Rayner’s Lane. No amount of desperate tweeting from myself and lovely Sarah Perry could return my copy to me – though I must truly thank Penguin and Sceptre Books for being so kind to send me a handful of Fingers in the Sparkle Jar bookmarks, as I’d lost my only one in that book.
Yes, so in the end I treated myself on payday to a brand spanking new copy of the book in glorious hardback. Time for you to get on it – its worth the extra pennies I promise.
Because I said so
This is the part where I’m going to mention something that is neither that new or relevant in terms of September but that I haven’t mentioned before. I’m starting it off with the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas (start here). My colleague Kate, who is an avid bookstagrammer, has long recommended me the works of Maas and I figured I’d get around to it eventually. And then, with one week before Empire of Storms landed, I got one of my signature ridiculous ideas and decided to try and read the series before the new one landed. Yes, completely silly. I did manage to read the first three though, which I consider a significant achievement of seven days. For complete transparency, I’m going to admit that I really disliked the first 70 odd pages of Throne of Glass – the focus remains on Celaena as being very beautiful don’t forget guys and setting up her love triangle. It was a little teeth achingly veering into Twilight territory for me and I found Celaena was being built up to be a Mary Sue. Thankfully I didn’t give up, because what people have told me about the books getting successively better really is true. It’s not due to revisionist writing either; Maas grows as a writer and reveals more of who Celaeana is and how her world functions. The writing is quippy, the violence gory, the love triangle contained to the first book, and Celaena herself grows on you, the grumpy little shit that she is.
Also here’s some fantastic fan art of her that keeps floating about on tumblr.
So there you have it, we are wrapped up. Go buy some books from your local friendly bookstore.
I was sent review copies of The Graces (thank you to Naomi Colehurst & Faber Children’s), As I Descended (thank you to Olivia at Harper Collins), my original copy of The Essex Serpent (thank you to Serpent’s Tail). Receiving these copies in no way influences my reviews.