Currently reading: all the books

Reading all the books | Wolves in London

I haven’t written a ‘currently reading’ post for a few months. But what I have been doing in that time is reading. A lot. Voraciously, in fact.

When I started to make a list of everything that I’ve read since my last post (about the utterly terrifying Marie Kondo book) I was slightly shocked at the volume. Around 20 books in a couple of months.

There isn’t, of course, time to give you my full, frank review on every single one of these, so instead a brief sentence on each one. A Twitter review, if you will.

And to make things really straightforward, I’ve listed them in the order I most enjoyed them:

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

How did I miss the hype the first time round? Peters out at the end, but brilliant, compelling, sharp, intriguing and fantastically-written. If you somehow also failed to read it when it came out, then do so now…

Twenty thousand streets under the sky by Patrick Hamilton

Epitomises the London of a foggy, cold day. Fabulous, bleak, fascinating, unrelentingly “real.”

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt

A story about two contract killers in California during the Gold rush. If that doesn’t sound like something you’d ever read, ditto. Read it anyway. I adored the rather literal narrator’s voice and the prosaic catalogue of bizarre events that ensued.

The complete works of Marian Keyes (re-read)

One week I became obsessed with re-reading everything written by Marian Keyes. It’s chick lit for those who (like me) don’t usually like chick lit. Trashy, yes, but also extremely funny and very much un-put-downable.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

She’s a fantastic writer, there’s no doubt, but that couldn’t quite make me ignore the fact I never love a modern re-working of a classic. If you’ve never read Sittenfeld before, then seek out American wife instead, which remains one of my all-time favourite reads.

The stranger’s child by Alan Hollinghurst

I found The line of beauty one of the most over-hyped books I had ever read, but really very much enjoyed this book, Hollinghurst’s fifth novel. Set in five different decades, I vastly preferred the earlier (1913 and 1920s) sections to the modern day ones. But overall, definitely worth a read…

The man of my dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sparks of brilliance, but a slightly unfulfilling plot. See above…

Under the Tuscan sun by Frances Mayes

Practically porn for a property-fiend and Italophile like me. Will almost certainly make you sell your children in order to finance the purchase of a falling down house in Italy.

The versions of us by Laura Barnett

Has been compared to One Day, which seems fair to me. An enjoyable read, but not something I would remember in five years time. A good holiday book.

Oxygen by Patrick Miller

Perfectly readable holiday literature. Almost instantly forgettable.

The Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels

Page turners, undoubtedly, but I didn’t find them the great literary feat everyone else seemed to. I preferred the descriptions of Naples to the musings on friendship and relationships.

Number 11 by Jonathan Coe

Good god, I thought this was tedious. A “satire” on modern culture (which actually felt especially topical after the referendum), but though I agree with the politics, I found the writing and humour rather schoolboyish. And (*spoiler alert, look away now*) at the very end a giant spider eats all of the bad capitalist conservatives. I kid you not.




Currently reading: Marie Kondo

Currently reading Marie Kondo | Wolves in LondonSo February was the month in which I read that unavoidable book of the moment: Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.

Are you guys fans? It wasn’t something that had wildly appealed to me but I’d seen so many glowing reviews and “this changed my life”s that I bought it on impulse from the shelf next to the counter in the lovely bookshop in Corsham a few weeks ago.

As I was reading it, three prevailing thoughts entered my head time and again:

  1. The person who has written this book might, quite possibly, be insane.
  2. I can’t believe anyone agreed to publish this book.
  3. I can’t believe that this book has become a runaway success, bought by so many people… …and that one of those people is me!

In case you haven’t read it, you might be wondering how on earth someone could write an entire book about tidying. The answer is: she hasn’t. She’s written a (very short) book about why you should throw away almost everything you own (any possession, in fact, that doesn’t “spark joy”) and then repeated each paragraph about six times throughout the book and then printed it in really really large text.

I don’t think there is much I could tell you about my thoughts on the book that wouldn’t be better illustrated by some actual genuine quotes from the book itself. I was so astonished by so much that I read that I turned down the pages in order to return to these particularly bizarre passages again.

“Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type and therefore organising them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.”

“If you are a woman, wear something feminine or elegant as nightwear.”

Have you ever had the experience where you thought what you were doing was a good thing but later learnt it hurt someone? […] This is somewhat similar to the way many of us treat our socks.

“Not long ago, 90 per cent of my thoughts were focused solely on storage. I began thinking seriously about this issue from the time I was five.”

“What do the things in our homes that don’t spark joy actually feel? I think they simply want to leave.”

So, no, it’s safe to say I’m not a fan. I just can’t buy into this whole possessions-have-feelings-too stuff (at one point, she actually tells a story about how her mobile phone, that had been replaced, stopped working after she texted it to thank it for all its hard work in the past, as if it knew it had completed its purpose and decided never to turn on again…) Further, if I followed this method of “tidying” to the letter I would certainly be wandering around semi-naked*.

But, I have to admit that my attitude to my possessions actually has changed since reading this. I’ve started to question why I store so many things “just in case” of x situation arising, when if x situation really arose I would never remember where the thing is and would have to just go out and buy it again.  I do, gulp, intend to apply some of her logic to sorting through all my possessions and having a major de-clutter.

So, insane, yes, ridiculously sexist, yes, but effective? Quite possibly.

*I can genuinely tell you that I not only do not own a single pair of trousers that give me a “spark of joy” but that I positively hate every single pair I do own, since putting on a fair bit of weight in the last year and feeling massively lardy in the leg department. Following Kondo’s orders, I would have to throw out every single pair of trousers and, what? I guess the unspoken suggestion is that I go out and buy a load more. If you’re not swimming in cash that doesn’t seem like a terribly practical way of living…