In which I open a book for the first time in forever*

*18 months

Team. I am sorry. I am embarrassed. What is AOW about, what is our core, if not BOOKS? We are readers; voracious, varied, passionate readers. We have double-stacked bookshelves, we’ve dropped books in the bath, we buy replacement copies of favourites when the weathered spine finally gives up, we sniff the pages of Harry Potter….so that one might just be me?

Anyway.

I know that not all mothers will concur, but holy sherbets my concentration span went.to.shit as a new mum. I was going to say something about not having time to read after Stella and Monty were born, but I’ve realised that it wasn’t time I was lacking - I had a pretty decent amount of that even in the heady days of Colic is Slowly Destroying My Marriage – but focus. In my spare hours I wanted to watch re-runs of Lewis. I wanted to listen to Magic FM and lie in the bath. I wanted to starfish on top of the covers and stare at my bedroom ceiling, or my sleeping baby. I did not want to read. Or rather, I wanted to but I couldn’t fathom actually following a story. I re-read HP, some well-thumbed chick-lit, good old Phillipa Gregory, but nothing new. So many wondrous books passed me by…don’t banish me from the AOW kingdom, will you?

Last year I devoured Station Eleven and was giddy to have my mojo back. Except then I jumped into Life After Life and buuuuuhhhhhhhhhh. Couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. ‘What if I NEVER READ AGAIN?!’ I wailed to my husband. Who didn’t read a single book between finishing Of Mice and Men for GCSE and picking up The Gruffalo for the first time when his daughter was born 14 years later. Wrong audience. Should have come and wailed at you lot.

But! I read a book! Not to go off on a tangent (who, me?) but I learnt to crochet and I genuinely believe this is what helped me re-learn that focus you (I) need to truly read a story. So, yes. I have recently finished a new book. A trilogy, in fact. The Order of Darkness. Yes, it’s written by good old P. Greg but it’s not about the Tudor court so I consider myself to be well-read, once more. And I can feel it coming back. The urge to know another’s story. The need to see a ‘to be read’ pile beside my bed, to feel the heavy comfort of 600 pages of lives lived. And so we come to the point of my rambles. Tell me, dear readers, tell me what I have missed. Tell me who and what to read, tell me where to read them. (I may eschew the latter advice in favour of ‘in bed’ but I am open to suggestions.) Tell me what you’ve loved, what was alright, what sucked (*cough* Life After Life) and tell me, was there a book that changed your life?

I am indebted to you, as ever.

Categories: Books
12 interesting thoughts on this

12 Comments

  1. Linsey
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I replaced books with podcasts for a while but there’s nothing like a good book!
    I LOVED A Little Life (even though I had to google to remember the name) and am currently reading Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish. Following this post for more books to add to the list

    • Linsey
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Would also recommend Bookish Blether (on a break now but plenty of back episodes to listen to) and Richard and Judy Book Club podcasts for getting recommendations.

    • Peabody_Bites
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      I LOVED Nobody Told Me – it took me a little while to get into the tone, but I think she is eerily accurate on the varied experiences of new motherhood, at least for me.

  2. Katielase
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I am with you my friend on the endless HP rereading and easy if excellent chick lit. The book that gave me back my mojo was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, I loved it so much. Everyone should read it, I think. It made me cry, it made me think, it sucked me into the story so that I lost precious sleep and I wasn’t even sorry. Wonderful.

    Have just followed it up with And The Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini which was also excellent. Beautiful and emotive and powerful.

    Currently in my to read pile which has been accumulating like you would not believe are some that have been recommendations from AOW ladies:

    Only Ever Yours, Louise O’Neill
    The Rehearsal, Eleanor Carton
    Life After Life (maybe I’ll wait a bit on this one…)
    The Goldfinch, Donna Tarrt
    Where My Heart Used To Beat, Sebastian Faulks
    Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty

    Looking forward to using the comments of this post to dramatically increase this list!!

    KL xx

  3. Fee
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    There have been multiple re-readings of HP the last few years here. Man, it never gets old.

    I recently went through a big Liane Moriarty phase and read all her books in quick succession – I love that they are at their heart just really good stories. My favourites were The Last Anniversary and Big Little Lies (the latter seems well known now it’s been made it a TV drama where they slightly ruined it by setting it in USA rather than Australia but I DIGRESS).

    I also recently read ‘How To Stop Time’ by Matt Haig after I heard him being interviewed on the radio (do you listen to Graham Norton on Radio 2 on Saturday mornings? He’s a hoot!). I enjoyed it – such a clever story.

    Enjoy your reading rediscovery!

  4. Frances
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    The first books I read (reread) post-baby were the Harry Potter books – sucha good reintroduction to the joys of reading and didn’t need massive focus to enjoy them.

    My go-to recommendation is Corrag/Witch Light by Susan Fletcher. I read it while pregnant but have reread it since – it’s so beautifully, hauntingly written and it made the Scottish highlands really come alive for me.

    I joined a book club (OK mostly wine and cheese, you got me) last year and it’s really helped me get back into reading new things. My favourites so far have been the Handmaid’s Tale, the Mandibles and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Our current book is a tongue in cheek Jilly Cooper and I sound snobby but my god it is actually awful!

    I also enjoy Ben Elton – Time After Time was very good.

  5. Amanda
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I read all the time. I’m baffled by my husband’s bafflement that I read whilst cleaning my teeth – I mean, why would you not? There’s an empty 2 mins, right there. And of course it almost – almost – keeps me sane on the commute of hell.

    You’d think with all that reading, I could come up with an alternative word to ‘bafflement’ (or ‘baffled’(, right? Well, repetition can have its place. Anyway, I digress…..

    I read a lot of books. But. I am wary of giving recommendations. I shun anything worthy or anything that has won/is shortlisted for a literary prize. I guess it could be inverse snobbery but I want Entertainment (baby). So I’m your girl if you like thrillers, magic and/or YA. Not to mention what is disparagingly referred to as ‘chick lit’. But I’ve had people appalled by the sheer frivolity of my choices. So let me know if those genres appeal – I’ll step aside (shiftily) if you want challenging, earnest or high-brow.

  6. Lorna
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Ah this was so me for most of last year (ahem, the last 3 years…) Decided to ban myself from rereading anything for a whole year and see what happened. So I am now trying to read a book a week for the 52 weeks of this year. Because holding myself personally accountable to some absurd standard has always motivated me. Shall discuss it in depth with my therapist at some point, I’m sure…

    Definitely mixing ‘heavier’ stuff with much easier (I love mysteries- the Flavia de Luce series has made up an embarrassing amount of what I’ve read so far) but I also loved ‘The dust that falls from dreams’ by Louis de Bernieres, ‘Rise’ by Cara Brookins (about a lady who built her own house from scratch by watching YouTube videos, and the Hundred Years trilogy, by Jane Smiley, which was recommended by Katy. I now read everything Katy tells me to. She has all the power.

    • Katy W
      Posted August 8, 2017 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      Ha, I’m blushing!

  7. Katy W
    Posted August 8, 2017 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Oh I’ve missed book posts!

    You might like the JK Rowling detective stories (writing as Robert Galbraith) – the first one is Cuckoo’s Calling, and definitely worth a look.

    Also (sorry because I loved Life After Life and wonder if I might have recommended it to you!) you might like other Kate Atkinson books – the Jackson Brodie books (more detective stories!) are good – not as experimental as Life After Life so a bit more enjoyable to read especially when knackered…

    The Rivers of London series are sort of police procedural meets Harry Potter – really easy reads and funny.

    ANY Maggie O Farrell, particularly liked This Must Be The Place which is the most recent one.

    I liked The Miniaturist (set in 17th century Amsterdam) and The Muse (set in 30s Spain and 60s London) by Jessie Burton so quite different but both good.

    Just read The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness which is a YA novel about what happens to the ordinary people who are just trying to go to high school etc when things like Twilight are going on.

    I love love love Neil Gaiman, American Gods is my favourite but is mega long so something like Neverwhere (set underground in London, where a real Baron holds court in Baron’s Court underground station etc) would be good.

    Hopefully good as a starting point!

  8. Lee-Anne Connor
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    I feel your pain with struggling to read after having babies. I am 3 years past having my last and feel I have only my got my reading mojo back in the last year. Not the best for a librarian . I am again addicted to ya fiction and have read some amazing books lately. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven are my favourite books from last year. Both heart breaking but worth it for the feeling they leave with you. In the last week I have devoured the Court of Thrones and Roses trilogy but Sarah J Mass, not my usual genre to read by I loved the story between the main characters. On my to read like in work is Release by Patrick Ness (I love him) and
    Truth or Dare by Non Pratt(total girl crush) and Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Mass. I am also going to see Holly Bourne and Cat Clarke at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with some pupils so will have a quick read through their new books.

    P.s I read Life after Life and found it a struggle to get through, had to go back and reread Case Histories to remind me that her books used to be amazing.

  9. Laura
    Posted August 24, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Late to the party here but A Little Life is one of the best books I have ever read. It is distressing and hard going at points, and you will cry, but you will be thinking about the characters forever. I even named my Son after the main one!

    I also found Life after Life disappointing… I wasn’t blown away by Case Histories though either so perhaps I am just not a KA fan.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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