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Sam van Zweden

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a month of reading

A Month of Reading

It’s the end of another month, and we’re officially moving into MWF festival-month. Working festivals is paradoxical – you’re surrounded by writers and books, but have increasingly less time to read the more actual the festival becomes. Never fear though, there’s a massive binge on the other side, and it happens with a renewed passion after seeing many amazing writers speak.

But that’s next month. I got through a few books this month, two of which are by MWF guests.

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl has been such a popular book in the last few months that I couldn’t just ignore it. Like most best-sellers, it was compelling stuff. A murder mystery, which is something I generally wouldn’t be interested in reading. It’s impossible to review, because of its Fight Club-esque twist – you can only do it once, and after it’s done everything is changed. So I won’t go into the plot, I’ll just say that Gillian Flynn has a good eye for society, and I enjoyed this about her book. Some of the writing is a bit icky, you can almost see Flynn at her desk writing around cliches so much that they’re obvious. But the pages turned themselves, and the twist got me.

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Inheritance by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Anything from Sleepers Publishing is generally a good bet. I found Inheritance to be a really strange book, in a good way. It’s just as much about the passage of time within a family as within a nation, following one Indonesian family through Singapore’s coming of age. It’s a bit of a quiet story. While I was reading I wasn’t particularly struck by the beauty of the prose, or the plot, or anything much at all. But when I finished the book and put it down, I felt like I’d just been through something with some very real characters. And that probably means more than the loud books. 

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How The Light Gets In by MJ Hyland

I knew nothing about this book, or MJ Hyland, apart from her presence at MWF 2013. Thought I’d better read it, and I’m so glad I did. How The Light Gets In is about a teenage girl, Lou, who goes to the US on exchange. She comes from a low socio-economic background, and is hosted in the US by quite a wealthy family. Despite her fantasies of escaping her life in Sydney to this new trouble-free zone, Lou manages to bring her problems with her. This book made me question a lot though, like whether Lou was dysfunctional, or just had trouble fitting in and had troublesome coping mechanisms. And what it is about teenage thinking that makes everything sparkle, and how MJ Hyland managed to harness that so well in this novel.
How The Light Gets In is intelligent, quirky and funny. So many passages needed to be read-aloud to people around me. A great many others were written in my notebook, squirreled away. 

 

What did you read in July?

A Month of Reading

It’s been one of those months where the amount of books bought, borrowed and acquired have far outweighed the books I’ve finished reading. I’ve been plugging away at a great many collections and journals, reading a poem, essay or short story from each before I start my own work. This means I’ve read a lot, but I’ve only actually FINISHED reading two books this month. I’m going to blame this on the fact that it’s a short month. YES, those two (possibly three) days make a HUGE difference! 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky pissed me off sufficiently to warrant a rant

The other book I finished was a self-help book by Russ Harris (my self-help hero, because he writes stuff that works!), called ACT With Love, about applying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to relationships. 

I’m nearing the end of two books right now, so March promises more than 2 books read, for sure.

What did you read in February?

A Month of Reading

1st of December means the first day of summer. The last month of the year. 24 days until Christmas. 30 days until New Years Eve.

Here’s what I read in November. What did you read?
Books Bought:
Marionette, by Jessica L Wilkinson
Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A life of David Foster Wallace, by D.T Max
Lucky Peach Issue 3

Reading Copies:
January First, by Michael Schofield
Bloodhouse, by Darcy Dugan Michael Tatlow
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

Books Read:
Little Spines, RMIT Creative Writing Anthology
Street to Street, by Brian Castro
Six Weeks to OMG, by Venice Fulton
Both Flesh and Not, by David Foster Wallace

Currently Reading:
Timepieces, by Drusilla Modjeska

A Month of Reading

NOVEMBER! How the hell did we get here so quickly?! If you’re anything like me, you’ll be feeling a bit panicky and freaked out that the year just whooshed by like that.

The last month has been a pretty active reading month, even though (or perhaps because) it’s been insanely busy. I finished my BA, handing in a 10,000 word manuscript and a 3,000 word exegesis. There’s so much stuff I’ve been putting off reading until those final assessments were in, so in the weeks since finishing I’ve been a bit of a reading machine.

The night that all the final pieces went in was also the night that some of my favourite people in the world celebrated their fantastic achievements writing for, editing, proofing, designing, forewording, etc etc, the RMIT Creative Writing Anthology, Little Spines. It’s super-professional looking, full of amazing, inspiring writing, and it’s available at Readings and the RMIT bookshop.

Along with all this, I was lucky enough to proofread for Karen Andrews’ new book, Crying In The Car, which launches early December. It’s a great collection of Karen’s essays, blog posts and pieces of fiction and poetry. I loved it, so be sure to pick up a copy when it’s out in December.

Books Bought:
Both Flesh and Not, by David Foster Wallace
Little Spines, RMIT Creative Writing Anthology

Reading Copies:
Street to Street, by Brian Castro

Borrowed:
Tell It Slant, by Brenda Miller
The Writer’s Idea Book, by Jack Heffron
The Lost Woman, by Sydney Smith
Are You My Mother? By Alison Bechdel

Books Read:
Crying in the Car, by Karen Andrews
The Missing Ink, by Philip Hensher
The Lost Woman, by Sydney Smith
Are You My Mother? By Alison Bechdel

Currently Reading:
Tell It Slant, by Brenda Miller
Little Spines, RMIT Creative Writing Anthology

A Month of Reading

It’s finally spring! I finally have my reading chair in the sun, and the Melbourne Writers Festival has just finished, so I have time to read again! Which is great, because while I didn’t plan it, I ended up buying LOTS of books at the MWF Dymocks book store.

Reading isn’t really the problem. I’ve read most of lots of things, but I’ve only actually finished one book in August. That means that September’s Month of Reading will have lots of finished books, as I cross the finish line of all the things I almost-finished in August. The final pages of two books are waiting for me today.

What did you read in August?

Books Bought:
Tarcutta Wake, by Josephine Rowe
Gaysia, by Benjamin Law
I Was Told There’d Be Cake, by Sloane Crosley
How Did You Get This Number, by Sloane Crosley
Money Shot, by Jeff Sparrow
Creative Nonfiction, Issue #46, ed. Lee Gutkind
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, by Lee Gutkind
The Big Issue Fiction Edition, ed. Chris Flynn & Melissa Cranenburgh

Reading Copies:
The Memory of Salt, by Alice Melike Ulgezer
The Engagement, by Chloe Hooper
N-W, by Zadie Smith

Borrowed:
On Photography, by Susan Sontag

Books Read:
Our Father Who Wasn’t There, by David Carlin

Currently Reading:
The Memory of Salt, by Alice Melike Ulgezer
Camera Lucida, by Roland Barthes
Gaysia, by Benjamin Law
The Big Issue Fiction Edition, ed. Chris Flynn & Melissa Cranenburgh

A Month of Reading

It’s been a big month, though not so much for reading.

I’ve started my final semester of uni (completing my Bachelor of Arts – Creative Writing), and gotten my teeth sunk into my major project, which is a memoir. I’ve been contacted by the wonderful people at Giramondo, who very kindly sent me a book to review. And I’ve been accepted as an Emerging Blogger for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, later in August.

So the reading has been a bit slower than usual. Also, all my books are all packed up in green bags, in preparation for moving house on Saturday. Tip to book-lovers: green bags are perfect to move books. They’re strong, they’re re-usable (unlike boxes, which you spend months trying to get rid of afterwards) and they fit most paperback books two-across.

The two books I did read this month were fantastic.

Ruth Fields’ Run, Fat B!tch, Run is a no-nonsense guide for people who want to start running, which is what I’ve recently done. Fields’ secret weapon is The Grit Doctor, who (with a heavy pinch of salt, this isn’t a sexist or self-hating book!) whips your arse until you’re hot. This guide is great for those who need a bit of extra motivation, and it’s genuinely hilarious. I laughed all the way through it, and when I finished, I got up and went for a run.

Charlotte Wood’s Love and Hunger blew me away. As a writer, and someone who has a really strong connection with food (both my brother and father are chefs), this book really moved me. Love and Hunger is a strange memoir/recipe book – Wood tells stories about food, about what food does and can do. She tells stories about food’s potential to heal and strengthen relationships, food’s emotional meaning and its connection to our self-identity. At the end of each chapter, Wood shares recipes that are relevant to that chapter. Strangely, the pairing of these stories and recipes made me far more hungry and motivated to cook than any photo-heavy gastro-porn that’s available at the moment. There are no pictures in this book, just the stories and Wood’s ability to write a recipe well work better than any fancy photography ever could. Food is not just sustenance, and in this beautiful book, Charlotte Wood well and truly teases out all this idea has to offer.

What did you read this month?

Books Bought:
A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
Wildwood, by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, by Chris Colfer

Reading Copies:
My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson
The Memory of Salt, by Alice Melike Ulgezer (thanks, Giramondo!)

Gifted:
Whores for Gloria, by William T Volmann

Books Read:
Run, Fat B!tch, Run, by Ruth Field
Love and Hunger, by Charlotte Wood

Currently Reading:
Our Father Who Wasn’t There, by David Carlin

A Month of Reading

A few days late this month, because 1st of July was my birthday, then yesterday I spent the day starting to tidy up my house. It’s not a one-day kind of job, but when I woke this morning I realised it’s July! And I’d not yet posted my Month of Reading!

Half of June was taken up by the Future Bookshop residency and winding-up of Emerging Writers Festival. I’m on university holidays, and I should have had lots of time to read (and write!), but I honestly don’t know what I’ve been doing with my time!

I did re-discover the magical place that is Kew Salvos though, and so I came out with all the “books bought” below for just $10.

Anyway, here’s the books I spent time with this month. What did you read?

Books Bought:
Grave Secret, by Charlaine Harris
Dead to the World, by Charlaine Harris
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
The Hours, by Michael Cunningham

Gifted:
The Emerging Writer, ed. Karen Pickering

Books Read:
The Summer Without Men, by Siri Hustvedt
Bite Your tongue, by Francesca Rendle-Short

Currently Reading:
The Confidence Gap, by Russ Harris
Wabi Sabi Love, by Arielle Ford
Love and Hunger, by Charlotte Wood

A Month Of Reading

This month has been HECTIC. Between juggling a new role reviewing for The Big Issue, the heating-up of the Emerging Writers’ Festival and all my regular uni work, I’m really surprised that I’ve found time to read. Granted, three of the six books I’ve read this month were for one of those roles, but still…

This month I discovered that I don’t like Les Murray’s poetry, but he can write really clearly about depression. I learned that Daniel Handler still has it. I learned, again, that I should really follow up book recommendations more quickly (reading The Lover, and Raf, I love it, thanks for the recommendation! And sorry for being so slow about it.)

A few weeks ago was another Kill Your Darlings‘ literary trivia night. Our team came second, and I won second prize in the raffle, so I came home with a pretty great swag of books (and a free high tea at the Windsor!) which are listed here under “gifted” (minus the high tea).

Books Bought:
Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 18th Edition.
Camera Lucida, by Roland Barthes
Voiceworks: Translate
Kill Your Darlings Issue 9

Reading Copies:
Mary Bennett, by Jennifer Paynter

Gifted:
Love & Hunger, by Charlotte Wood
A Tiger in Eden, by Chris Flynn
What Remains, by Denise Leith
Under Stones, by Bob Franklin

Borrowed:
Bite Your Tongue, by Francesca Rendle-Short

Books Read:
Daughters of Troy, by Euripides
Fire, by Raymond Carver
Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman
Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, by Sigmund Freud
Killing the Black Dog, by Les Murray
Mary Bennett, by Jennifer Paynter

Currently Reading:
The Confidence Gap, by Russ Harris
Wabi Sabi Love, by Arielle Ford
The Lover, Marguerite Duras


What have you been reading this month?

A Month of Reading

It’s freakin’ crazy right now, and that’s about all I have time to say about it.

I didn’t get a chance to post my Month of Reading yesterday, as a new nephew was welcomed to the world and I was out swooning over his cuteness. So here it is. What have you been reading this month?

 

Books Bought:
Affection, by Krissy Kneen
Poppy, by Drusila Modjeska
This Too Shall Pass, by SJ Finn
Iris, by John Bailey
Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls, by Danielle Wood
Wabi Sabi Love, by Arielle Ford
All of Me, by Kim Noble.

Gifted:
Obernewtyn, by Isobelle Carmody*
Our Father Who Wasn’t There, by David Carlin

Borrowed:
The Lover, by Margeurite Duras

Books Read:
Juno: The Shooting Script, by Diablo Cody
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
Phaedrus, by Plato
Running Dogs, by Ruby J. Murray
The Trojan Women, by Euripides
The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James

Currently Reading:
The Confidence Gap, by Russ Harris
Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

 

*Thanks to Tully Hansen for giving me another signed copy of Obernewtyn. Turns out they’re not uncommon. 

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