It’s hard to believe three years have passed since I first started this book blog. I’m amazed at the opportunities it’s opened up for me to engage with other passionate readers, interact with authors personally and celebrate literature I love. Some highlights from the past year include being a judge on the Green Carnation Prize, joining rambunctious reader extraordinaire Simon of Savidge Reads to form the Baileys Bearded Book Club, fabulous feminist Naomi of The Writes of Women in shadowing the Baileys Prize and insightful reader of classic fiction Jacqui of JacquiWine’s Journal to organize a Jean Rhys Reading Week. It’s also been interesting starting a booktube channel recently to speak about books on video and finding on Youtube a whole new community of readers to interact with online.
It was a pleasure and thrill being asked to interview Zadie Smith about her excellent forthcoming novel “Swing Time” at the beginning of August. This coming week I’m looking forward to chairing an evening with Baileys Prize and Desmond Eliot Prize winner Lisa McInerney alongside other prize winning authors Andrew Hurley and Jessie Greengrass at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road. Details and ticket info are here if you’d like to come along! It’d be wonderful to see you there. I’m also being commissioned to write articles about literature for publishers. So these things mean I’m earning a bit of money for the first time by talking about books and writing about books. This blog has always just been a passion project I do in my spare time so it’s a nice extra validation to be getting this work.
However, the biggest honour this year and probably the biggest honour of my whole life was when Joyce Carol Oates dedicated her new book “Soul at the White Heat” to me. If you’ve read my blog much or know me at all you’ll know she’s my absolute favourite writer. She’s a supreme artist and genius so it’s truly humbling receiving this dedication. It’s also particularly poignant that this is a collection of nonfiction about the writing life and Oates’ own passion for reading classic and contemporary fiction. Readers are kindred spirits and though reading is a solitary act just patiently engaging with a book connects you to a whole community of invisible readers.
To twist a famous phrase by Virginia Woolf, it’s important to have a virtual space of one’s own. Now more than ever before anyone with access to the internet can make themselves heard by creating a blog or starting an account on social media. It’s important to say what you think and express what you’re most passionate about. It’s also vital that we really listen to each other and exchange ideas instead of closing ourselves off to opinions other than our own. This week I read Donal Ryan’s brilliant new novel “All We Shall Know” and in it he writes “People get wicked vexed unless you agree away with them. There’s no countenancing argument any more.” It feels increasingly that people in politics and the media shout things and want others to simply agree with them. But we need to challenge each other and be challenged ourselves if we’re going to really converse and grow. Otherwise, it’s just noise.
Thank you for reading my book blog. So, have you read anything good lately?