Reading and Books

This page is for sharing my latest reading inspirations. I hope you find them thought-provoking and engaging too!

Julia Glass – Three Junes (debut novel)

Winner of the US National Book Award for Fiction 2003

Time plays like an accordion in the way it can stretch out and compress itself in a thousand melodic ways. Months on end may pass blindingly in a quick series of chords, open – shut, together – apart, and then a single melancholy week may seem like a year’s pining, one long unfolding note. The first day back I recall in fugue-like detail, with perfect pitch, but as for the next few months, the autumn and early winter before my mother’s death, I remember only snatches of a superficial tune.

Barbara Holland – When All the World Was Young

My career goal was to stay unimportant. Underpaid. Fancy-free. If you’re seriously badly paid, you never get fired and you can get away with murder. And I had children and husbands, and the writing I always did late at night when the children were in bed and the dishes washed. Made brazen by my (day) job, I wrote stories and essays for magazines, and then tackled whole books. A competitive job, a New York job, that was the last thing I needed. I have a T-shirt that says WILL WRITE FOR FOOD. That’s me. Rich isn’t me. Frankly – not that I’d know – rich sounds boring.

Nick Hornby – Slam

It was all right if I didn’t want to speak to someone, but who did she think she was, sitting there outing and looking the other way?  She’d probably never even heard of Tony Hawk, or Green Day, or anything cool, so what gave her the right?

I thought about out sulking her. she was sitting on the sofa, sunk down low, her legs stretched out, and looking away from me towards the food table on the wall opposite. I sunk down in the same way, stretched my legs out and stared at the bookshelf by my side. We were so carefully arranged that we must have looked like plastic models, the sort of thing you can get in a Happy Meal.

I was making fun of her, and she knew it, but instead of sulking harder, which would have been one way to go, she decided to laugh instead. And when she laughed, I could feel some part of me flip over. All of a sudden I was desperate to make this girl like me. And as you can probably tell, my mum was right. She was officially gorgeous.

Paullina Simons – The Bronze Horseman

Not only did Tatiana rent a hotel room, not only did she get a key to a room that was warm, that had a bed and a view of the harbor, but it has its own bathroom and in the bathroom was the thing that Alexander had told her about, the shower thing that poured water on her from above. She must have stayed under the hot steam for an hour.

And then she slept for twenty-four.

It took Tatiana over two months to leave Stockholm.

Seventy-six days of sitting on the pier bench looking east past the Gulf, past Finland, to the Soviet Union while the seagulls cried overhead.

Seventy-six days of –

Austere Stockholm was softened by spring. Tatiana bought yellow tulips and ate fresh fruit right from the market vendors, and she had meat – smoked hams and pork and sausages. She had ice cream. Her stomach grew. She thought of remaining in Stockholm, of finding a hospital to work in, of having her baby in Sweden. She liked the tulips and the hot shower.

But the seagulls wept overhead.

Lily Bret – Only in New York

As soon as I pick up a pen or pencil, a sense of calm comes over me. I feel that the pen or pencil is directly connected to my heart, my lungs, my arteries. Nothing separates us. Of course, I type on a computer and an iPad and a smartphone. And I take great care with my sentences on each of those devices…. and I do love keyboards and the sounds they make. But they are not connected to me in the same way as a pen or pencil.

Ruth Park – A Fence Around the Cuckoo – Winner of the Age Book of the Year Award for Non-Fiction 1992

Now and then the maternal aunts descended upon Te Kuiti, usually in pairs. I use the word descended because their visits were exactly like that – a shower of gold or twinkling beads. It was a blissful time for me and many of my classmates as well, because I spent playtime and lunchtime minutely describing what they did, said and wore, right down to the jazz garters with the little golden bells on them…

They were the children of the redhaired Irish Mary Ann McBride, who emigrated at seventeen, and a Scandinavian seaman who’d run away from home in Stockholm because he’d had six sisters who bullied him. Just the same he named his six daughters after them…

‘It just shows you can’t escape Fate,’ said Rosina. the second youngest, who tended to be a bit mystic and read Marie Corelli.

They treated their husbands – and they had quite a number – simply abominably, and were adored in return.

Arianna Huffington – Thrive

Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation. It’s summed up in a quote I love (attributed to Imam Al-Shafi’I, an eighth-century Muslim jurist): my heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.

Mary Karr – The Art of Memoir

…a good story told often enough puts you in rooms never occupied…

….be generous and fair when you can; when you can’t, admit your disaffinity. My general idea is to keep the focus on myself and my own struggles, not speculate on other people’s motives, and not concoct events and characters out of whole cloth.

No matter how much you’re gunning for truth, the human ego is also a stealthy, low-crawling bastard, and for pretty much everybody, getting used to who you are is a lifelong spiritual struggle. Start trying to bring yourself to the page, and fear of how you’ll come off besets even the most forthright. The best you can hope for is to rip off each mask as you find it blotting out your vision.

Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run

‘We hit areas of the highway where eighteen-wheelers were parked, engines running, drivers asleep in their cabs, backed up for miles, unable in the ice and snow to make it up the steep mountain grades.

One night the road vanished before our eyes; there was so much snow it was impossible to tell the location of the highway’s shoulder. We had chains on our tires but we still did plenty of ice-skating over some very treacherous terrain. Our belly-dancing gal pal was getting pretty nervous, so we pulled to a stop… There was just a city of snow falling from the sky and gathering around us. It was quiet, dead desert quiet.  A truly heavy snowfall can be unnerving. Back east we usually experience the freedom that comes with a good snowstorm. No work, no school, the world shutting its big mouth for a while, the dirty streets covered in virgin white, like all the missteps you’ve taken have been erased by nature. You can’t run; you can only sit. You open your door on a trackless world, your old path, your history, momentarily covered over by a landscape of forgiveness, a place where something new might happen….. A lot of snow, however…. is a different thing. that feeling of freeness turns to confinement. The sheer physical weight of the snow becomes existential and the dread of a dark, covered world sets in. …too much quiet, too much weight, too few boundaries and no dimension. The world had been planed down into a snow-blind table you could easily slide off the edges of.

Steve Bisley – Stillways

We stayed at our cousins’ farm for the next two weeks. The shearers came to shear the mobs of squat merinos. Lanky blokes in dusty utes threw their swags on rusty beds in the shearers’ quarters. They rolled skinny fags as they thought of things to say, and then thought better of it and didn’t speak. They stuck pictures of their kids and the missus above their beds, to ease the nights….they never looked at you when they spoke and their words slid out sideways…

We sat at an open fire with them one night after tea, us kids. The fire caught us and held us…They didn’t pay much attention to us, but I loved being around the quiet ease of them. We all did, you could feel it…

Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and  I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. I am stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that’s all there was to read about in the papers – goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like being burned alive along your nerves.

I thought it must be the worst thing in the world.

Eleanor Catton – The Luminaries – Winner of The Man Booker Prize 2013

His old acquaintance was very much changed since their last encounter. His proud face was much disfigured, and a decade in gaol had lent a muscled bulk to his chest and arms. His posture was familiar, however: he was standing with his shoulders slightly rounded, and the backs of his hands against his hips, as in the days of old. (How strange, Ah Sook thought later, that one’s gestures remain the same, even as the body changes, weathers, and gives itself over to age – as though the gestures were the real vessel, the vase to the body’s flower.

Tim Winton – Breath

She was a foot away. She smelled of butter and cucumber and coffee and antiseptic. I wanted to press my face into that belly, to hold her by the hips, but I sat there until she stepped away. And then I got up and left; I didn’t care what she said. I rode home slow and sore and raddled’.