July and August were the months when my summer was most chaotic, because I was temping in Stratford most weeks, in Cardiff for the not-quite-weekends and then one week I was working down in Somerset and another I was off up to Edinburgh. Regardless, reading was done, but I haven’t kept a very good record of what I read when, so I’m going to arbitrarily divide my list into halves so that my post isn’t ridiculously long, and promise to take better notes in future.
Read: American Gods*, The Magic in the Pool of Making, The Silver Wolf*, Thud*, Lords and Ladies*, The Hobbit*. I also started The Fellowship of the Ring, but then I left it behind when I came back to Cardiff, because I didn’t have room to bring all three books and dividing up the volumes would be asking for trouble.
I’m sure I read more, but I can’t for the life of me think what it was, so I’ll start with what I’ve got. And I think I’m going to start marking re-reads with stars, just for the sake of keeping record.
While I was temping, I worked in a call centre, and luckily for me I worked the weekends when we were allowed to read at our desks. I worked out pretty early on, though, that it was best to read material that you could drop into and out of, which explains the majority of the re-reads on this list.
Terry Pratchett’s Thud and Lords and Ladies helped me to survive many hours of paid boredom on the phones – both beautifully constructed, witty, knowing and hysterically funny. If you haven’t read Pratchett yet, stop being lazy and/or a snob and get on with it. And if you tell me that you don’t want to ‘because they’re fantasy’, I don’t even need to go to the effort of criticising you, because you’ve damned yourself with your pure ignorance out of your own mouth and all I need to do is relax in the knowledge that I have delicious satirical Pratchett books and you do not.
I’m feisty today. Deal with it. You should see my power hair, it’s incredible.
Another re-read that you should get on to reading if you haven’t read it already is Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. It is everything that I have ever wanted from a book, and more, because it is so long yet unwinds like the most perfect of clockworks. It is a tour de force of thought, social commentary and mythology, and its rhetoric is something that amazes me every time and is probably going to wangle its way into my MA dissertation, because some of the things Gaiman does are so subtle and so unusual. It’s also a cracking good story. And every time I re-read it the image of Charles Dance as Wednesday gets stronger.
The Hobbit I re-read after realising that the last time I read it I was considerably shorter and less sophisticated than I am now (that is to say, a child, I don’t mean when I didn’t have my heels on last week) and after a long conversation on the casting of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins (I’m a compulsive caster. I love casting people inside my head. And sometimes in actual productions, too. You know, when I can). And I loved every word of it, again, probably even more than I did when I was a kid. I was also privileged to record a few chapters as part of a personal audiobook project for a friend of mine, and it was so much fun to read out loud. It translates beautifully to speech.
The last re-read on my list is The Silver Wolf, by Alice Borchardt – a book with something of a history among my friends, simply because we either had three copies or one that was passed around, and somehow all of them/it mysteriously disappeared, and none of us are in the habit of misplacing books. I located another copy years later, lent it to a friend, promptly did not see it for a few years until its triumphant return this summer. I had a lot of thoughts while reading The Silver Wolf, the main one of which is ‘But it had so much potential!’. It does have a lot of potential, and some really lovely ideas, but I felt like the book I was holding in my hands was still a second draft. I found myself wishing I’d got my hands on it to do an edit job before it had gone to print, because some poor delivery, a few obvious tropes and a little clunky writing brought down a story that has fantastic concepts, memorable characters and a great attitude. (There will probably be more of this on my Edits blog at a future time. If/when it comes up, I will link it here.)
An impulse-but-more-compulse buy that I am delighted to have on this list is The Magic in the Pool of Making, by Beth Webb. You may or may not know that Beth, author of many books for children and young adults, has been my mentor and great friend since I was but a little brat, and I have worked with her on writing courses for some time now. (Another book of hers, Wave Hunter, has just come out and is sitting looking at me demanding to be read. It is on the September List.)
Anyway, I saw The Magic in the Pool of Making in a charity shop around the corner from my house and realised that I hadn’t actually read it, so I promptly purchased and perused, and I absolutely loved it. It’s a compelling story that contains a complex and unpatronising meditation on value, race, society and ethics, and I read it three times in two days, I enjoyed it so much.
Anyway. That is my summary for July. It’s time to boil the kettle and dig up the notes for August.