Reading List Lately

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I’m trying to write something three times a week in case you hadn’t noticed, and it occurs to me today that I’ve been on a pretty good run in terms of reading interesting books. So, if you’re looking for something to read, here are a couple of things I’ve read lately that I would probably recommend to more or less anybody.

Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk (2003). Just about finished reading this and it’s wonderful. Oddly, I tried to read it last year and was repelled somehow – found Pamuk super irritating as a narrator. But I started it again this year and have been captivated, which is a reminder of how disturbingly impactful the context/time you pick up something to read (or really encounter any media) can be. It’s Pamuk basically doing autobiography but massively contextualised by Istanbul and its history. One particularly nice element are the (unexplained) photographs positioned throughout the book which depict the city, artworks about/from the city, family photos, etc. The chapters are pleasingly short and are both kind of stand alone and charmingly woven together thematically.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (1916). I’ve been meaning to read this forever. First encountered it at high school when I was put into an “advanced” English class and this was the book that we were to read. I hadn’t read any of it coming into the first class and “moocows” and “baby tucko” freaked me the fuck out and seemed to place so much pressure on my to have literary knowledge beyond what I felt I had that I dropped out of the class and went back to “regular English” rather than deal with it. Reading it all these years later, it’s still kind of inaccessible at times, but it’s ultimately a great read and a really interesting way to encounter that period of Irish history and culture especially (I didn’t find it quite so revealing in terms of a portrait of an artist specifically I have to say). People position it as a bridge between Dubliners (kind of straightforward short stories) and Ulysses (famously tough to read). Having read those two books I guess I’d agree – it’s definitely pretty accessible if you can get back the moocows, and another good portrait of a city.

Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin (1985). I struggled with this one and read it over quite a long period, but it’s an unbelievable work of science fiction and world creation, shit. I don’t think I’ve ever called anything a ‘tour de force’ but this is one of those. It’s presented as a kind of anthropological work about a particular group of people living in what I take to be a post-apocalyptic future. They live on and with the land and (without knowing the history of the book), they seem heavily based on/inspired by indigenous cultures from North America? I’m involved in a research project about “imagining indigenous futures” and at least from my somewhat naive position I found this book really inspiring in terms of relating to and thinking more about other ways of living, essentially. The fact it’s presented as a diverse collection of texts, threaded together by one larger story split into three parts, can be challenging in terms of staying with it, but it’s also really beautiful for that too.

There, that’s three books I’ve read lately, all good and worth reading yourself. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

1 February 2017
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