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Five Books to Read this Winter

By Callum Foulds


It is a cliche, but winter really is the best time to embrace hibernation and spend all waking hours in front of a good book. There’s nothing more idyllic than getting sleepy under a blanket, after indulging in an enthralling book. Below, I will talk about some books I have recently enjoyed, ones that I think suit the upcoming season, and ones that I think are especially rewarding to read when you get a moment to yourself during the relentless business of the Christmas period. I hope this little list inspires you to go beyond the traditional holiday recommendations, and helps you find something alternative to do whiling away the hours.


My Other Spruce and Maple Self by Susan Finlay

I was recommended this little gem of a novel by a friend working at a local independent book shop. Disguised as a story dealing with the declining status of the western art community, My Other Spruce and Maple Self is a fundamentally sad book about the fading success of a once successful musician. The narrative voice is compelling and makes you question your own morality, life decisions, and how your actions affect your surroundings. I thoroughly enjoyed this story; not only for the way the prose is broken up into small chunks, making it a good choice for small reading sessions, but for the dynamic characters Finlay creates in such a short space.


Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Good Morning, Midnight was a book I fell in love with during an English Literature module at university; for it’s stunning language and brutality, but most of all because I could’t fathom how I hadn’t come across this tale in all my years of being a book lover. I felt I had hit the jackpot. Rhys’ ability to make the reader contradict themselves in the way they feel towards a character is nothing short of remarkable. You feel as if you live the life of it’s narrator, making the experience of inhaling this story completely engaging. This is a quick read, perfect for those days after Christmas when you’re craving some much needed alone time and want to throw yourself back into reality.


Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

I was introduced to Joan Didion by my partner when we first met. He bought me the 1970 masterpiece, Play It as It Lays for Christmas, and I have been quietly intrigued by the writer since. Similarly to, Good Morning, Midnight I couldn’t believe how I hadn’t even heard of Didion, let alone come across any of her work. My partner proceeded to show me his almost complete collection of Didion’s work; and although I cannot say that I am a fan of all of her output, Let Me Tell You What I Mean struck me as some of the most striking essay writing I have come across. Made up of a multitude of subjects, Didion treats each theme with equal brevity: she delves into the impact of Martha Stewart upon domestic life; the emotional processes that come from being rejected; the contemporary state of newspapers as a medium of spreading information to the public; the high anxieties felt when presented with idyllic lifestyles within a gamblers anonymous meeting, to name a few. The sheer range of topics covered in this book makes for a jarring, yet completely informative read. It reflects the scale of human life, sharing all the shambolic situations most people find themselves in. I included it on this list for this very reason. It can be so easy to compare your unsatisfactory life with those which are presented as “perfect”; when in reality, it’s books like this that show just how imperfect most people’s circumstances really are. I found this book to be remarkably insightful, and it is one I will surely return to when I’m craving insight into the range of human experience.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Now this choice may not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, but I had to include it here as it is one of favourites reads this year. I am a big fan of Virginia Woolf, but have often been disappointed when faced with contemporary works based on her life. The Hours manages to find a perfect balance between finding intrigue within the non-fictional elements of Woolf’s life, and not over-sentimentalising the tragedies that surrounded her. I couldn’t help but be constantly impressed by the tone of this book; how it deals with multiple characters and timelines, whilst maintaining a consistent pace and delicacy when it comes to subjects such as the HIV/AIDS crisis and mental illness. Those who are familiar with Woolf’s life and works, especially, Mrs. Dalloway, will get the most out of this rewarding tale; however, I do believe that those who are wishing to find themselves transported across continents amidst completely different decades of the twentieth century, will be rewarded with a life changing story, one that’ll make you view fiction in a totally new light.


Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Though I expect many readers will be familiar with ideas put forward by Thoreau, I felt it would be a disservice to this list if I didn’t include, Walden. This is another one I studied at university, one I was very excited to delve into. Since this period, this book has remained a part of my life, often relaying ideas to friends, and constantly finding echoes of the book within contemporary titles. Despite it being hefty tome, I found this book nothing but exciting to read, and I think it would be perfect title to send-off the year. I believe this book has the potential to be completely life changing for many readers; showing how the idea of civil disobedience can be implemented, not only out in the New England woodland, but in many aspects of life. This book made me see the world in a new light, and I think that the holiday season is the perfect time to think about the ways in which you live, and what you might like to change. It is a spectacular read, and I cannot recommend it enough.


I sincerely hope that this list has inspired you to discover your new favourite books, whether it’s from this list, or the titles in the list lead you to find even better ones! I hope moments of quiet are afforded to those who crave it, and I hope that those celebrating with their nearest and dearest this time of year have a wonderful season. Happy reading!

 

About the Writer:

Callum Foulds is a poet and recording artist based in Nottingham, England. They enjoy good food, scary movies and playing with their cat. They can often be found reading on the couch, or agonising over whatever creative venture they are currently embarking on. @cf_oulds

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