September has probably been my favourite month so far this year, because it was the month I finally got back into reading. Having read around three books a day for pretty much my entire life, 2015 suddenly knocked me off track—and I found myself going weeks at a time without so much as picking up a paperback. That’s what happens when you accept seven job offers at once, kids, and it ain’t pretty.
So this month I made the decision to throw myself back into my bookworm habits, even if it meant I had to lose one (or four) of my jobs to make it work. Here are a few of the heavenly books I’ve had my nose in this month.
Why Not Me, Mindy Kaling
If you read my article on how loving Mindy Lahiri helped me love myself (and you should, because it’s pretty much my best work, jussayin’), you’ll already know that the fictional Mindy Lahiri is kind of my spirit animal. So you can imagine I have been crazy excited to get acquainted with the woman who created her: the magnificent Mindy Kaling herself. Why Not Me is a collection of Kaling’s essays and anecdotes—and even a fictional parallel-universe element which may have been my favourite part of the whole thing. Aside from being absolutely hilarious, it’s also a super-informative insight into the TV industry, and made me kinda want to pursue writing a hit comedy show. (And also kinda never want to do that, because those poor souls get even less sleep than I do.)
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
This month I did something totally brand new for the first time: I read two books at once. I have always viewed this as a crime against literature, but as part of my drive to fit reading back into a jam-packed schedule, all of my previous reading rules are going out the window. After all, I always have at least three different Netflix shows on the go at once, and I never feel like any of them suffer individually for this. (By the way, the other rule I’m abandoning is never to give up on a book. I decided this is idiotic. Reading is about enjoyment; if you’re not enjoying a book, get outta there and read something you actually like.)
The reason this little anecdote is relevant is to explain why I still haven’t finished The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, even though my best friend gave it to me several months ago. This book is slow and beautiful and raw and every time I read it I have this permanent lump in my throat that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sadness. My friend inscribed the book with a message about what it meant to her and would mean to me, and book inscriptions are not something I can ever take lightly because one day they will end up in a second-hand shop with a young English grad crying over them (no that’s how you spend your Saturday nights), and I want to endow them with the right history to honour this. For all these reasons and more, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is a book I want to savour. So when I finally found time to read this month, it didn’t feel right to waste this novel on that impatient energy that wanted to devour anything I could get my hands on in five seconds flat. So in the background, in between bursts of racing through other books, I’m still reading it.
The Sixteenth of June, Maya Lang
For my birthday this year, my sister gave me literally the best present of all time: a big pile o’ books. And not only that, there’s one for each month, meaning that my birthday (which usually only lasts a day and leaves me feeling hugely unsatisfied) is going to last all the way until Christmas. For someone who loves her birthday, this is a massive win. The craziest part about this whole present is that she had already had the idea, and started collecting the books, before she stumbled across the most insanely perfect book for June: The Sixteenth of June by Maya Lang. Why is that so perfect? Because the sixteenth of June is my birthday.
The Sixteenth of June is essentially Ulysses for anyone who can’t be bothered to read Ulysses (which, if I’m honest, is probably all of you, because Ulysses is no fun at all). Just like the original, it’s entirely set on 16th June, and follows around a bunch of characters with names like Stephen and Leopold, but this time it’s written in full sentences. Phew.
Fourth of July Creek, Smith Henderson
Warning: there is a lot of sad in this book. It’s beautifully written, and packed full of unexpected metaphors that only sometimes get annoying—but the gorgeous words do little to soften the blows dealt from every gritty page. The protagonist is a social worker, so we follow him from tragic case to tragic case, meeting messed-up teens and their hopeless lives along the way (and don’t expect them to get wrapped up with happy endings, either.) The slow-settling sadness is countered, however, by the action-packed central story of a paranoid, evangelical father, violently protecting his son from the antichrist he is convinced is amongst them. Steel yourself before you read it, but definitely do read it.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North
There are two plot devices in novels that I just can never resist: memory-loss storylines, and time-travel. And it’s not because they’re always good; in fact, it’s because they’re usually terrible. But I keep on reading, and I keep on trying, because when these genres get it right, they get it really right. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is an example of a time-travel novel that got it spot-on.
Every time Harry August dies, he is born again right back where he started, and lives his life almost exactly as before. Anything he does differently will change the universe—but only that universe. Once he dies, the world reverts back to how it was when he was born. Think Groundhog Day, but with an entire lifetime instead of just one day. Yeah, that head-spinning feeling you just got is basically how I felt the entire way through reading this. Claire North, serious kudos to you. And also—please come and talk to me over a bottle of wine, because I have so many questions.
September, Rosamunde Pilcher
If I can finish this book today, then I will be up to date with my books-of-the-month present and ready to dive straight into October’s offering tomorrow. This is a 640-page book, but I’m going to do my best. I don’t have much to offer yet in terms of a review, other than that so far reading this book feels overwhelmingly like curling up on my Granny’s sofa watching soap operas with the smell of hot shepherd’s pie wafting into the room. In other words: lush.
What books have you been loving this month? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter! And don’t go anywhere before you follow me on Bloglovin’, or sign up for email notifications by clicking the ‘FOLLOW’ button below.