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London dwelling book designer
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With a new baby and two other young children it's probably a good moment to acknowledge that I don't have time to write a books blog. However if you've enjoyed the posts here then fear not, I have the perfect podcast recommendation for you. It's called The Book Club Review and you'll find it on iTunes (or wherever you get your podcasts). Laura, who used to be in What Katy Read and who now runs her own group, and I discuss books and book clubs, what we've been reading and we always have some great recommendations for things you might... Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2018 at What Katy Read
Good discussion of The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen, one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, despite the fact that I was never able to connect with him as a person. Strange, because in films such as the below he comes across as warm and likeable. In one of Matthiessen's final interviews with the NY Times he talked of trying to 'simplify himself'. Perhaps he never managed it; I think human beings are irreducibly complex. But he succeeded in his writing which has a beauty and economy that I found breathtaking. A mixed reaction from the group,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2017 at What Katy Read
We had a great time discussing this on the podcast, and thanks to my lovely book club for agreeing to read it, so that I could then feature it on the show. I loved this book so much when I finished reading it I immediately turned to the beginning and started again. I recommend the audiobook, too – not instead of the print version, but as well as – which has an amazing cast of characters. A taster here and cast list (eyebrow raising). Meanwhile, our book club reviews and scores over on the main site, here. It's a little... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2017 at What Katy Read
Set in 18th-century Greenland this novel follows one Morten Falck, a Christian missionary posted to an isolated Danish colony. We picked this book because it made the shortlist of the Dublin Literary Award, an interesting prize in that all the nominations come from libraries around the world. Prophets was nominated by the Openbare Bibliotheek in Belgium, who called it ‘a novel full of lust, faith, calamity and persecution’; the Aarhus Kommunes Biblioteker in Denmark who said it was a ‘unique and compelling reading experience’; and the Chicago Public Library who said it was ‘crafted in a way that forces the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2017 at What Katy Read
Slightly awkward but very amusing discussion of Margaret Atwood's retelling of The Tempest, Hag-Seed, last night as my book club were ranged against me, the sole person who disliked it. For anyone interested in hearing me unpick the debate tune in to the next episode of our new podcast The Book Club Review, where Laura and I will discuss our respective book clubs' responses to Hag-Seed and Kapka Kassabova's Border (her account of the border zone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece). That episode will be up early May. In the meantime you can listen to our 3 previous episodes. Leave... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2017 at What Katy Read
Latest reviews and scores for Second-Hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich over on the main site. It's an extraordinary work, no easy read, but something that is likely to change the way you think (and aren't all the best things like that?). Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at What Katy Read
January book club was The Vegetarian by Han Kang, winner of the 2016 International Man Booker Prize. Reviews and summary of the discussion over on the main site. I love the precision with which Han Kang weighs her words, both in her writing and in conversation. Watch this lovely short film in which she discusses cover designs with Granta editor Max Porter. Also, as an aside, I now have a serious case of office envy. Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2017 at What Katy Read
Compelling film, nominated for best documentary feature Oscar, that made me view our last book club read, Paul Beatty's The Sellout, in a different, more serious light. Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2017 at What Katy Read
Our Christmas read was this year's Booker winner The Sellout by Paul Beatty. I watched Beatty's acceptance speech when he won the award and aside from all the crying and blushing he amused me with his frank acknowledgment at one point that he hates writing. That he found it tough to write is hard to determine from the novel, however, which certainly has its challenges, but is a warm, funny, character-filled romp around a mostly black and Latino neighbourhood of LA. It's a challenging read, but also a genuinely funny one, and it made a good book club book as... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2016 at What Katy Read
It was on my favourite reading guide, the FT books of the year list and it also won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. I read it back in February and loved it, and so for me it seemed high time to foist William Finnegan's memoir 'Barbarian Days' on the rest of What Katy Read. It's a longish read and unsurprisingly in a book club filled with busy working people not everyone managed to find the time to get through it, but of those who did at least one other was captivated as I was – to my great delight. Reviews... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2016 at What Katy Read
Popping up on various summer-reading lists Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Funnily enough one of the major things to be overcome here is prejudice against anyone daring to rewrite such a beloved classic. Sittenfeld is a good writer (I loved her first book, Prep and quite enjoyed Sisterland) and here she just about pulls off the retelling. But only just, the writing doesn’t feel nearly sharp or incisive enough. Part of the pleasure lies in a compare and contrast with the original – how does a character like, say, Mr Collins transpose to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2016 at What Katy Read
Whether stimulated by the book or the apricot cocktails, we had a great time discussing Sarah Bakewell's book on Existentialism. Reviews and scores here although if you can't bear to look away I can tell you it scored 77, we found it a readable and enjoyable overview of a movement most of us probably would have struggled to define. I was amused by this video that attempts to give a clear overview of Sartre's philosophical ideas. Even the knowledgable tones of Stephen Fry and some eyebrow raising action with a canon in the trousers can't really save this from seeming... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2016 at What Katy Read
A charming short film on 'which' and 'that'. I'm a little bit in love with Mary Norris. She seems to have an enviable sense of clarity and purpose. We read the essays of E.B. White for book club once. And I recently read Charlotte's Web to my daughter. She loved the story and I loved the words. Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2016 at What Katy Read
In the best books it's as if the writer knows us better than we know ourselves. They find the words to describe the fragile, weird, special experiences of our inner lives; the light on a summer morning, the anxiety we felt at a gathering, the sensations of a first kiss, the envy when a friend told us news of their new business, the longing we experienced on the train looking at the profile of another passenger we never dare to speak to. Writers open our hearts and minds and give us maps to our own selves so that we can... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2016 at What Katy Read
For our second reading retreat book we chose I Was Amelia Earhart. First published in 1997 this book made the New York Times bestseller list and was no doubt a bestseller here in the UK also, but both author and book were new to most of us at What Katy Read, and it's thanks to our bibliotherapist Susan Elderkin that we have discovered her. Elderkin said it the perfect book to read on a retreat as it leaves the reader feeling cleansed and changed, too. She was right; we loved it, and gave it one of our highest scores –... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2016 at What Katy Read
... I thought about how physical books are, how you can hold them in your hands. When you’re young, and you read a book, it seems to hold you, creating a world around you, but then as you get older, you can hold onto it; your own world takes on a life of its own, bigger than any book but able to contain many world, many stories within it. Maybe that’s what makes a book great, if you can grow up with it, never outgrow it exactly, but find a way to pick it up over the years and form... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2016 at What Katy Read
May saw us at Sally's parents' house in France for our 'reading retreat', the aim of which was to sit around doing very little other than reading and discussing what we read. In practice there was a lot of driving about doing things like supermarket shops and picking latecomers up from the airport but we did have one completely blissful day in the sun where we were able to do exactly as we'd hoped. So as not to waste a rare weekend away with unworthy books I enlisted the help of School of Life Bibliotherapst Susan Elderkin, who accepted the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2016 at What Katy Read
There's a useful Japanese word "tsundoku" for the accumulating of books yet failing to read them.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2016 at What Katy Read
You know when you go on holiday and you encounter things and you think 'this is so amazing, why don't we have cool things like this at home?' Maybe it's just harder to notice the brilliant things that come along when we are busy with our everyday lives. Maybe we're more open and receptive to things when we are away. I've written about Five Dials (a free digital literary magazine published by Hamish Hamilton) and how much I like it before, but they still manage to surprise me, as with their latest endeavour that is hard to describe but wonderful... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2016 at What Katy Read
Lovely short video in which Anthony Doerr talks about his Pulitzer-prize-winning novel. He's right, it's almost impossible to imagine now a time when you couldn't just pull your mobile out of your pocket and call somebody. And whether a good or bad thing, we forget how much more isolated people used to be, and the importance of radio. All the Light beautifully explores this idea of connection. I shouldn't think there are many London book bloggers who know Boise, Idaho, Doerr's hometown, but I am one of them as I once lived in the nearby town of Emmett for a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2015 at What Katy Read
Subtitled 'A Passion for Life', but unfortunately passion is the one thing this book didn't deliver, despite the fact that Neruda is probably the world's most celebrated love poet. Read our reviews and scores over on the main site, here, although if you'd rather stay I can tell you we found this biography exhaustive but also exhausting; a scholarly achievement on the part of Adam Feinstein, but also unfortunately a rather dry and offputting read. Here is Amanda, communing with the master at his house in Valparaiso, Chile. And below Neruda with his third wife, Matilde Urrutia. Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2015 at What Katy Read
Featured in Penguin's new Happy Reader, we thought this would make a good January read and so it proved. We were all happily immersed in this Victorian spook-fest and awarded it a high score as a result. Full review here. Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2015 at What Katy Read
Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals is a book of fifty photographs of meals from celebrated literature. It's a nice idea, beautifully executed. (I always said The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a book mainly about sandwiches. Feel vindicated.) Website here, and lovely blog. Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2014 at What Katy Read
George, George, how is it I hadn't heard about you till now? (My fault, not yours. Note to self: read New Yorker more.) Review and scores here. Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2014 at What Katy Read
The position of Cormac McCarthy's The Road at the top of our scores list seems unassailable, but The Goldfinch does make it to equal footing with Wuthering Heights in third place (80). Find out what we thought of it in detail over on the main site. Fascinating interview with a somewhat sycophantic Kirsty Wark – but who am I to judge, if I was interviewing Donna Tartt I'd probably be quivering at her feet – online here. I love the part when she's talking about Hemingway's metaphor for writing, and the idea of the 'weight underneath the water' – the... Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2014 at What Katy Read