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Signal Boost: October Reads
This month finds me derelict in my reading. I’ve been spending about twelve hours a day every day for the past three weeks in an ICU in Albuquerque, New Mexico with my father, and have found it hard to concentrate on anything like a book. However I know that reading books will be an important part of putting water and light and nutrients back into my brain as the acute emergency of the past month and a half begins to fade (hopefully) into the next chapter. There was a long list of books that I was interested in reading that are coming out, or have come out, this month. But so far I have, unfortunately, not been able to read any of them. That doesn’t mean I can’t still tell you about them though—my virtual October TBR pile. I hope you will decide to pick up a few of them, and then maybe we can talk about them together.
The first is Orwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit, out from Viking on October 19th, by all accounts another gorgeous sprawling essay of a book from the celebrated author, inspired by Solnit’s encounter with the surviving rose bushes planted by George Orwell. “Trees are an invitation to think about time,” Solnit writes, “and to travel in it, the way they do, by standing still and reaching out and down. If war has an opposite, gardens might sometimes be it… ” I listened to an audio excerpt of this and felt almost overwhelmed, so potent was the description of Man Ray standing beneath an old chestnut tree in the Luxembourg Gardens at the start of the war, wishing that he could be transformed into a tree until peace came again.
The next is The Mirror and the Palette: Rebellion, Revolution and Resilience: Five Hundred Years of Women’s Self Portraits by Jennifer Higgie, available in the US as of October 5th from Pegasus Editions. “If anyone has the right to depict herself naked, it’s a model: those nameless women whose faces and bodies have sold countless paintings over the centuries, and whose lives we very rarely know anything about,” Higgie writes in an excerpt of the book on Lit Hub. A book about five hundred years of women artists’ self portraiture? It seems like this book was written just for me, and I can’t wait to dive in.
My third pick is The Electricity of Every Living Thing, by Katherine May, published in the UK in 2018 by Trapeze Books, but available in the US from Melville House on October 19th. Her book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, was a New York Times bestseller. In Electricity, May explores the wild landscapes of England’s South West Coast Path, as well as a recent diagnosis in adulthood that she is neurodivergent. I had actually started reading this one before things in my life went crazy last month, and I hope to be able to pick it back up soon. I blew through the introduction’s lucid prose, and look forward to reading more.
Some of the other books coming out in October 2021 that I’m eager to pick up are The Italian by Shukri Mabkhout, translated from the Arabic by Miled Faiza and Karen McNeil, available in English from Europa Editions on October 19th; Madder, a memoir by Marco Wilkinson, out October 12th from Coffee House Press; On Animals by Susan Orlean, out October 7th from Simon and Schuster; Such Color: New and Selected Poems by Tracy K. Smith, out October 5th from Graywolf; and People Want to Live, by Farah Ali, out October 26th from McSweeneys.
I hope you’re all having a pleasant October.