Christmas Recommended Reads: For the person who writes, creates, experiments and thinks differently
Trying to find a gift for someone who writes, creates, experiments and thinks differently? Look no further! We've hand-picked a selection of books that perfectly fit the bill.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders, recommended by Rachael
For the person in your life who writes or creates, I would recommend A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders which is a book I have read and loved this year. George Saunders is a sci-fi author and also a creative writing professor. In this book he’s pulled together a number of great short stories by Russian writers, including Tolstoy, Chekhov and Turgenev, that he’s taught in his creative writing classes. It gives a special insight into the craft of the short story, whilst also holding your hand as the reader in order to uncover some of the hidden gems within the stories. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone whose interested in writing, reading about writing, or who might have felt daunted at trying to read Russian literature alone.
The Beauty of Everyday Things by Soetsu Yanagi, recommended by Erin
Over the past month I’ve been upcycling a set of chairs, giving them a paint job and reupholstering them and during this project, I’ve been reminded of a book called The Beauty of Everyday Things, which is a collection of essays written by Soetsu Yanagi. It’s this book that I want to recommend today. In these essays, Soetsu Yanagi encourages us to appreciate the beauty of everyday things in our lives, to recognise the sincere craft and use of a thing as the true core of its beauty. In the first essay of the collection, he writes that: ‘We no longer look upon objects as we used to, which is undoubtedly due to their poor quality. In the past everyday objects were treated with care, with something verging on respect. While this attitude may in part have been a result of scarcity of goods in past times, I believe it principally resulted from the honest quality of their workmanship and the fact the more an object was used, the more its beauty became apparent. As our constant companions in life, such objects gave birth to a feeling of intimacy and even affection.’ When I first read this, I was caught off guard by the idea of affection for the objects in our lives, assuming this to be the problem of materialism, but in the last month I’ve worked on these chairs, paying attention to them in a way I haven't before. I’ve come to appreciate their function and to think of them not just as objects, their beauty isn't just in how they look or in how I hope they’ll look once their finished, but in their function of building a space to share meals, a space to work, a space to create. This has led me to wonder that if perhaps a way to be less materialistic is to pay more care to the upkeep and quality of the materials around me. As well as inspiring me as I work on this project, I’ve found these essays thought-provoking as we enter the holiday season. I know that I for one can get caught up in the pressure of giving something out of obligation rather than the careful thought of thing and the use that will be for the person I am giving it to. So, for the person who writes, creates, experiments or thinks afresh, I recommend The Beauty of Everyday Things. It was given to me as a gift and it has inspired me to think with more care, not only about the things in my life, but also in what I create and do and I hope it can be an inspiration for somebody in your life too
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine, recommended in Issue 74 of The Reader magazine
In Beirut after the civil war, 72-year-old Aalya’s increasingly reclusive world shrinks to her book-crammed apartment where she translates a work of great literature each year, only for each of her 37 translations to be packed into boxes and stored away unread by anyone. The voice of the novel is the voice of this woman who lives in her head. She is solitary but alive to everything that goes on around her, in thrall to her city and to literature. A strange novel, bursting with energy and life.
Where My Wellies Take Me by Michael and Clare Morpurgo, illustrated by Olivia Gill, recommended by The Storybarn team in Issue 73 of The Reader magazine
Age range: 5-8 years
Is it a scrapbook? A poetry anthology? One thing is certain, this book is a thing of beauty. With pages to pore over, a pull-out map and an array of textures and styles, the illustrations are exquisite and there’s something new for a reader to discover with each revisiting. Pippa is exploring the countryside whilst visiting her Aunt Peggy and Where my Wellies Take me is a record of her favourite places and poems.
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