Chapter Six: Oh Those Winds of Change...
Early 2023 book releases you need to know about, combatting the endless influx of basic books, and a recommendation or two.
I hope you’re keeping well and, not to be too British about it, I also hope that if you’re in the UK you’re managing to find warmth because wow… Yes, I know this country isn’t the coldest place but on a societal level we clearly don’t cope very well with extreme temperatures…
Picturesque wintry scenes aside, I don’t particularly love this time of year -especially this year but every year, really. Come December, everything starts to feel a little gloomier, the days feel like they need to be weathered and those winds of change suddenly feel like they are determined to knock me off my feet, just as I’m running out of steam.
However, if this year has taught me anything it’s that life is extremely unpredictable - sometimes shockingly so- and, although change can be unpleasant, rarely is it only that, nor do we have to be completely resigned to it as though it doesn’t also allow for really positive transformation. So, with this in mind, I’ve been giving some thought as to what I might like to be doing differently in an attempt to be proactive and invite disruption instead of anxiously waiting for it to catch me unawares.
And there are things I’d like to change, there are definitely some new directions I’d like to go in and, as a friend reminded me recently, maybe that’s exciting?
With that said, I don’t believe that the time for implementing change should be dictated to us and there’s no rush, you know. The New Year brings with it such odd pressures and it’s all, quite frankly, meaningless. I think that knowing and wanting (and knowing what you don’t want) are good enough places to start so, for now, maybe rest?
you are free to go. Free
to peel off what’s left of the story and choose
another. It is not
It is definitely worth the trouble…”
(from ‘Halfway There’ by Kate Baer)
Speaking of change
I have been giving some thought as to whether I’d like to make any changes to my reading in 2023: maybe read more non-fiction and poetry, make better use of the library, read more of what I own and find new homes for whatever no longer interests me, maybe buy fewer books… or not.
In spite of everything - or maybe because of everything- I’ve had a surprisingly good reading year so I think the smart move might just be to continue to go with the flow because that seems to be working well. I am planning to share 2022 favourites etc. so keep an eye out for those if you’d like to know which books worked some actual magic for me this year. I’m always interested to know other people’s favourites too so I’d love to hear if you’ve chosen any.
While we’re on the subject of book-related changes, I was recently asked what I’d love to see more of from publishers in the new year (and beyond) and I found myself thinking that, whilst I do think it’s an interesting enough question, and I can see why you might think to ask it, quite honestly I’m not sure I care...
I think I’m more interested in actual readers and how we might continue to (or, in some cases, begin to) see past terrible, lazily produced books with huge marketing budgets and way too much air time, in order to get to the good stuff. If I’d like to see less of anything, it would definitely be bad books blessed with astronomical sales due to the fact that people have convinced themselves, and others, that those books aren’t incredibly basic. I’m all for people reading whatever they want but quality, people, please.
If you are looking to shape your reading in any way next year, or you’re just in need of inspiration, allow me to point you in the direction of the Something Bookish 2023 Reading Challenge. Amyn is one of my favourites and her recommendations are so reliable that I just don’t question them (this is a rare quality). She is also the one-woman show behind at least three book-related Instagram pages, The Indulgent Bibliophile book club, thenewsletter (definitely one to subscribe to), as well as a podcast or two, and her reading challenges, past and present, will definitely steer you in the direction of some incredible reads.
Onto the Books
I recently shared this post of 2023 book releases to look out for and books you can read while you’re waiting but, in case you missed it, I wanted to share a few books being published in the first quarter of 2023 by authors whose previous work I have loved and would definitely recommend:
A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (February 2023). The author of Stay With Me, one of my favourite novels, is finally back with a new story and at this point I’m just waiting for my proof to turn up so I can finally read it.
I Am Still With You: A Reckoning With Silence, Inheritance and History by Emmanuel Iduma (February 2023). Emmanuel Iduma’s A Stranger’s Pose is an excellent piece of travel writing and one I’d definitely recommend (even if travel writing wouldn’t ordinarily be your thing) so his forthcoming family memoir is very high on my wish list. Also, tell me there isn’t something quite poetic about Ayòbámi Adébáyò and Emmanuel Iduma- husband and wife- both having their second books published in the same month.
River Spirit by Leila Aboulela (March 2023) is the latest offering from another of my favourite authors and I cannot wait.
Leila Aboulela has a solid backlist so there are plenty of books you can get stuck into in the meantime, but I was so glad to hear this novel was coming so soon. This might also be one I have to get both editions of because they’re just so beautiful (don’t tell me you’ve never bought more than one edition of a book…)
Dust Child by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (March 2023). A proof of this one arrived on my doorstep just a couple of days ago and if I was the squealing kind I would’ve squealed. I’ve just started it so hopefully I’ll be able to let you know my thoughts sooner rather than later. Also, if you haven’t read The Mountains Sing yet, now is the time!
There are so many more exciting books coming (see here and here if you’re in search of even more titles) but I have no interest in being bombarded with them so I’ll extend the same courtesy to you and leave it there for the moment.
As for my recent reads, I just read The Fat Lady Sings by Jacqueline Roy and I LOVED it. Told in the alternating perspectives of Gloria and Merle, two Black women in a London psychiatric hospital, it is a really touching and, at times infuriating depiction of the ways we can be broken, and just how haphazardly, ineffectively and, at times, dangerously the system attempts to put people back together; how we deny freedom to those who don’t live as we think they should, and how easily we silence people even as we insist we’re trying to give them a voice- how deaf we suddenly become to anything other than what we believe to be true.
I also love stories that depict friendships between women and this was such a tender example of this I found myself sinking right into it.
Another book I’ve read this month and loved was Grief Is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter.
The short tale tells of a man and his two sons following the death of his wife/ their mother and I was captivated by it. Grief is just one of those things, I think: you can only truly know it when you know it and there’s a comfort in being around those who just know. This book felt like that, and as well as touching and moving and all the sentimental things, it was also quite amusing and playful at times and I appreciated that.
In my last letter I said I’d include newsletter recommendations or just general sources for those of you looking for events, book recommendations etc. so this week I wanted to mention Brittle Paper.
They are an absolute go-to for all things relating to African literature, from new writing to upcoming releases, articles and more. They recently published their 100 Notable African Books of 2022, which contains more recommendations than you’ll know what to do with and is definitely worth exploring. Just scroll to the bottom of their page if you want to sign up to their newsletter.
Also, seeing as I’ve mentioned Ayòbámi Adébáyò and Emmanuel Iduma, I feel like it’s only fair that I share this particular Brittle Paper article for any romantics out there. Who remembers when the couple posted a series of Instagram posts- love letters, if you will- charting their relationship from their first encounter to their wedding day, and a little corner of the internet went wild? If you want to revisit that rather sweet moment in time, or you just missed it altogether here you go!
I won’t promise another letter between now and the end of the year because I’m rather tired and preoccupied, so I just wanted to say thank you for reading, subscribing, sharing and even messaging me about these letters. I really do appreciate you taking the time to read them.
I hope you have a restful end of the year and, insha’Allah, a peaceful start to the new one when it comes.
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I have devoured these newsletters with huge pleasure . They are a delightful still joy. Thank you so much. All peace for 23
Oh my love, thank you for your kind words😘
This year has been a potpourri of extremes, and I need to go through my gratitude jare to fully grasp it. Thank you for starting this newsletter, I know how tough it can be starting anything, I smile everytime I see your name in my inbox or when you post on IG. Sending you a truck full of hugs and kisses to keep you warm