Inspired by International Women’s Day I had a splurge at Foyles on Charing Cross Road. I’m not the sort of book buyer who spends hours browsing the shelves in the hope of finding something picking up hundreds of books and staring blankly at the blurb on the back. I usually enter the shop knowing exactly what I’m looking for, a long list in my head that I whittle down into my budget whilst pacing the floorboards. Sounds unromantic, but that’s just how I roll, and it seems whoever is in charge of the Fiction section in Foyles has a very similar taste in books to me, from looking at the ‘Recommended’ stand!
The two final parts of Agota Kristof’s trilogy, The Proof and The Third Lie, that started with The Notebook was the most obvious purchase, as I thought The Notebook was one of the best things I’ve read, perhaps ever, published by the wonderful CB Editions (https://twitter.com/CBeditions). I still can’t quite verbalise how this book made me feel, so all I can say is go and read it. CB Editions is one of my favourite publishers, as their books look unassuming when you pick them up with their minimalist jackets but they are a publisher that has impeccable taste, bringing a diverse set of voices to attention. So this was an obvious purchase, my clammy fingers clawing the cover as I walked around the store.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang was another one that I’d been wanting to read for a while, particularly after Joanna Walsh’s (https://twitter.com/badaude) review in the New Statesman, so as soon as I got inside Foyles I picked it up straight away as if it was going to sell out in front of my eyes. Joanna is a brilliant person to follow on Twitter and if you pay attention to the books she tweets about, you will definitely be on the right path, and I’m really looking forward to reading Han Kang who is studying at SOAS in London, where I studied for my Masters, so I have an obvious affinity with her!
The next two were a little bit more considered, and at one point I had quite a few different books in my hands, a collection well out my allotted budget; do I eat for the next few weeks or have lots of books? I’ve never read any Deborah Levy but always liked the sound of what I have read about her, and had seen Swallowing Geography recommended in a few places so it seemed a good opportunity to check out some of her early work, and I’m in awe of really short powerful novels. Also really like the aqua colour and the composition of text on the cover.
Last by not least is Elena Ferrante. I read Days of Abandonment a few weeks ago, a book which reading is like being punched forcefully in the stomach. She writes with such an unswerving honesty that is both captivating and frightening, so I in some ways was putting off reading the Neapolitan trilogy, as I imagine it will have me in bits for months. But it seemed time to delve into her world once again. There was a fantastic article from Fatema Ahmed (https://twitter.com/hekale) in the latest New Humanist issue (https://newhumanist.org.uk/articles/4834/the-spring-2015-new-humanist-is-out-now) on Elena Ferrante, which I really recommend checking out. The New Humanist is one of my favourite publications out there at the moment, and feels like it has really been turned around by Daniel Trilling, the new Editor, who has curated an amazing cast of commentators and writers.
It seemed apt to buy these books on International Women’s Day as a carrying on of the #ReadWomen2014 campaign that Joanna Walsh started last year. Over the last few years, my reading list has been so dominated by male authors so I am keen to make a more conscious effort to read books from a more diverse pool of authors and have more of a gender balance on my book shelves.