January was a difficult month. It’s been cold and dark here in Serbia, and although we’re not on lockdown here, the Covid-19 numbers are high enough that I decided to minimise my contact with the outside world.
So it should have been an ideal month for doing lots of reading, but it didn’t quite happen that way. It’s one of those months where I look back and wonder where the time went.
Anyway, I did read some good books. Here they are:
The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh
Last year I wrote a post wondering why writers don’t write enough about climate change, and Stefanie suggested reading Amitav Ghosh’s book on this very topic. He refers to the times we are living through as “Great Derangement”—an era when future generations, if they exist, will wonder how we could have faced such a huge, species-threatening problem while writing so many books in which it plays no role.
Ghosh’s answers, like climate change itself, are varied and complex, ranging from the form of the literary novel to the increasing political focus on the individual at the expense of the communal. I plan to write a full review one day—this is definitely a book whose details I want to remember.
The Art of Extreme Self Care by Cheryl Richardson
I think I’ve probably read too many self-help books at this point. This one was quite good, and I picked up a few useful things from it, but a lot of it felt like stuff I’d already read in a slightly different form somewhere else. I implemented pretty much none of it, even though better self-care was exactly what I needed this month. Probably more a reflection on my jadedness than on the book.
Signs by the Roadside by Ivo Andri?
Ivo Andri? is a Serbian writer best known for his monumental novel The Bridge on the Drina, which is both a novel and a history of the Balkans at the same time. Signs by the Roadside is a collection of notes from his journals written over many years, and although it’s a mixed bag, there are enough gems in there to be worth reading. My copy is suitably dog-eared.
Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
This was a fascinating and thought-provoking Japanese novel exploring what it means to be a woman. I wrote a full review of this one last week, so I won’t rehash it here, but I’d definitely recommend this one. Read the review to find out more.
My Inventions by Nikola Tesla
This was another recommendation from the comments section, this time from Erin on my 2020 roundup post. It’s very short—it’s compiled from magazine articles Tesla wrote—so it doesn’t give as much insight as you’d get from a full autobiography, but it does give a fascinating insight into Tesla’s unusual creative process. He simply visualised most of his inventions, working out all the details in his head without writing anything down. That, for him, was the most satisfying part of the process—actually building them was sometimes anticlimactic. The book also has some great anecdotes about his childhood and early life.
What Did You Read Last Month?
Not a bad reading month for me in the end. I also finished off The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, which I’d already mentioned a little prematurely in my 2020 roundup because I loved it so much. And I listened to this wonderful reading of Beowulf by Seamus Heaney:
What were your favourite reads in January? Let me know in the comments!