It’s getting to that point of the year when it feels like time to start looking back. Naturally, I record everything I read. I have for as long as I can remember, so when I see eight-year-old T dutifully carrying her evening’s reading down to the table each morning and listing it in her school book-record, toast cooling beside her, it seems completely normal. She adds the books to the teetering stacks on the piano stool behind her & I periodically take them back upstairs or back to the library and change them for something else I think she might enjoy.
My own book record is a hardback notebook which starts in 2002. Before that, I would write the list in the back of each year’s diary. But for the last two years, I’ve simply listed the books I’ve read here and here. I keep meaning to copy them into my notebook too, but it’s a habit that I’ve fallen out of.
But when I looked back over the list, I had a nagging suspicion that I was forgetting something. Then I found myself wondering if it was this year or last that I read Love, Nina — and when I checked it seemed that I hadn’t read it at all. Or at least I hadn’t listed it. Sigh. So, enter some digital sleuthing — it seems my library card remembers, even if I don’t — and I bring you four books, two otherwise forgotten, but nonetheless excellent, and two I’ve just finished.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. I still don’t know who Dunham is (yes, Girls, but I haven’t seen it; yes Lenny which is great but that still doesn’t tell me who she is) but I now know that she can certainly write. Oh, how she can write! These essays are funny and self-absorbed and self-aware in equal measure but they’re also incredibly well-structured, ridiculously brave, and beautifully written. I loved what Kerry had to say about it here.
It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario. I tore through Addario’s brilliant memoir of her years as a photojournalist in pre-9/11 Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Sudan and the Congo. Heartbreaking and informative and written in a briskly readable style. Ever wondered what it’s like to be an imbedded journalist on the front line, and, incidentally, secretly pregnant? Find out here. And, oh, the pictures! See @lynseyaddario on Instagram for a taste of her work.
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe. The sweetest, funniest, bestest book ever. I can’t believe I forgot to tell you about it. Stibbe nannied for Mary-Kay Wilmers, editor of the London Review of Books, in the early 1980s, and these are the letters she wrote home to her sister in rural Leicestershire. Expect lots of Alan Bennett popping round for tea and proffering cooking advice to the ever-observant Stibbe.
The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot by Rebecca Mead. I enjoyed this, but not as much as I’d hoped. Lots of great stuff on Middlemarch and Eliot’s life, but less than I’d expected on how Mead’s own life has been influenced by the book. Published in the US as My Life in Middlemarch.
So, now a birthday weekend for the Pip-Pop (3!); rehearsal of innkeeper lines for the Moose; & T’s ongoing quest for a ‘big’ part in the Christmas play (cue much rehearsing of lines for her audition!). And in other news, I officially declare episode 6 (‘The Strategy’) of the final season of Mad Men one of my very favourite episodes — it has everything! (We’re so nearly done. And very glad we re-watched right from the very beginning. But now watching these episodes we’ve never seen before, it is literally all I can think about.) Wishing you all a lovely weekend!