Posts in Reading

Read to Your Children. They’ll Thank You for It

It’s International Literacy Day today, and I’d like to talk about fostering a love of reading. Recent research by Egmont shows that reading for pleasure has huge benefits for children, and the best way to encourage them to do that is for parents to read aloud to their children. (Thanks to The Author magazine for alerting me to the Egmont study.) The Benefits of Reading for Pleasure Overall, reading for pleasure is declining among kids in Britain, crowded out by other forms of entertainment. But reading has massive benefits, such… Read More

August Reading Roundup

How was your reading month? I had a good one, recovering from my slump in July and making some great discoveries. Here they are: The Troll Garden by Willa Cather Willa Cather is one of those authors whose work I’ve been meaning to read for so long that I’ve forgotten who made the initial recommendation. This short story collection was an excellent introduction, full of poignant plots and fascinating characters, with a noticeable focus on themes of creativity and art, urban vs. rural life, and the yearning for something better…. Read More

What Would Radical Happiness Look Like?

How can you be happy when others are suffering? It’s a question that’s bothered me throughout my life. Part of the problem, I think, is that in Western societies, we have defined the pursuit of happiness as an individualistic endeavour. And so I lived for years in London and New York, doggedly pursuing happiness while stepping over the homeless people on the pavement. In Radical Happiness, Lynne Segal suggests an alternative approach. Radical happiness is essentially collective happiness, achieved not by closing your eyes to other people’s misery but by actively… Read More

July Reading Roundup

I’ve been overwhelmed with work and travel lately and have got out of the habit of blogging. But I’m going to return to my monthly reading roundups now, skipping over May and June and just picking up again in July. Our School Stories 2019: Tales inspired by Dulwich College and P.G. Wodehouse I read this one because I wrote one of the stories in it, and I wanted to see what the others were like. It’s quite a mix of different styles, which is not surprising because the editors gave… Read More

Cultural Time Zones and the Global City

What is a cultural time zone? Think of tennis, says Melissa Tandiwe Myambo in a fascinating essay in New Left Review. On the international tennis circuit, all the courts and facilities must meet certain standards, with only minor local variations. “Thus, the tennis tour allows professional players to circulate globally while remaining inside a specific cultural time zone that is more or less the same everywhere.” Much the same thing is happening to our cities, Myambo argues, especially those that, like Johannesburg, are pursuing “global city” status. Shoreditch is to… Read More

Chernobyl Prayer: Svetlana Alexievich’s Heart-Breaking Oral History

When I visited Belarus last year, I thought I’d read some Belarusian literature, and what better writer to start with than Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. Alexievich’s Nobel win was unexpected because her books are non-fiction, a kind of oral history (although as this New Republic article points out, she takes considerable liberties with the testimonies she collects). After reading Chernobyl Prayer, though, I can see exactly why she won. I don’t think I’ve ever come away from a single book with such a comprehensive… Read More

April Reading Roundup

Time for another roundup. My month was consumed on the blog with the Radetzky March readalong, but in between that, I also read some other great books. Read on to get my reading recommendations, and let me know how your month went in the comments below. Scattered Sand: The Story of China’s Rural Migrants by Hsiao-Hung Pai Wow, this one was powerful. I had no idea that the recent movement of 200 million Chinese peasants is the “biggest mass migration in history”. Hsiao-Hung Pai tells their stories in this book,… Read More

The Radetzky March Readalong: Part 3

Welcome to the third and final part of The Radetzky Mach Readalong, kindly hosted by Caroline and Lizzy. We’re reading Joseph Roth’s famous novel about the decline and fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as seen through the eyes of the Trotta family. This post discusses key plot points from towards the end of the book, so if you don’t want to know the score, look away now. Or if you want to begin at the beginning, you can find the earlier parts of the readalong here: The Radetzky March Readalong, Part 1… Read More

The Radetzky March Readalong: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the readalong of Joseph Roth’s novel The Radetzky March, kindly organised by Caroline and Lizzy. For Part 1, click here. To avoid spoilers, don’t read anything at all. But who cares about spoilers, right? Are there characters you like or dislike particularly so far? Roth has a great knack for making characters feel real, without making them particularly likeable or dislikeable. I feel sorry for most of them, locked as they are into quite horrible lives and seemingly unable to escape from them. I find myself drawn to the… Read More