For Books' Sake: The Weekend Read

My story 'A Quick Fiasco' has been reprinted today by the brilliant folk at For Books' Sake - shout out to Kerry Ryan! - as past of their 'The Weekend Read' feature; it's online and free, so have a look! I also love the picture they've picked to go with it. Ace!

For Books' Sake are a truly excellent organisation: in their own words, they were 'founded in response to insitutionalised, systemic sexism in the media, publishing and education industries' and their mission is 'to create a community that centres, supports and champions writing by women and girls, challenging inequality and empowering women and girls of all backgrounds to tell their stories and have their voices heard.' Great, right? My story is set in the context of political (and familial) unrest, and features a hardcore campaigning woman, so I'm especially pleased that Kerry asked me to take part. Check out the website- read, support, get involved!

The Forge Literary Magazine

I've been part of an online writers' collective, The Fiction Forge (formerly The Fiction Workhouse) for more than seven years now. It's a workshop group, at heart - we post drafts of our stories and critique them at length, and occasionally hold madcap writing exercises - and some of my most trusted beta-readers are amongst our members. At the moment we've got people here in the UK, in Italy, in the USA and in Singapore, so there's a real spread of voices. Anyway, last year we thought, hey, we write and we read, we're decent editors (I've worked at The Manchester Review, some others have edited Fourteen Hills, somebody else had a brief stint behind the scenes at Granta) - so why not start our own online magazine, eh? And so, we did.

The Forge Literary Magazine launched at the start of January. We've got a team of volunteer rotating editors (me included) so we don't have a house style as such - we're too eclectic for that - though we do all prefer to see pieces come in at sub-3k. We take fiction (short stories and flash fiction) and non-fiction, and we pay our writers. We don't charge for submissions. So far we're running at a turnaround of two or three days, on average, in terms of responding to writers. We publish a new piece each Monday. Every story is read by two of us (randomly assigned) in the first instance, and each month there's a pair of Editors of the Month who get the final call on what they want to publish. So far, we've had work from Janice Galloway, Nona Caspers, Roxane Gay and Kevin Barry, and coming up, we've got Emma Jane Unsworth and more. But it's not a closed circuit of writers-who-know-writers: we've also already got truly amazing work lined up from open submissions, including a fantastic story from a brand-new writer. Along with Sommer Schafer, I'm one of the Editors of the Month reading for our April slots, and I would love to see what you've got.


Reading List 2016

Man, looking over the last few years' versions of this list (see sidebar for links) I'm reading about thirty books fewer a year since I started this PhD - not counting academic texts - which is pretty depressing, really. Anyway, new year, new books. This year's resolution (I have a terrible track record of sticking to these things - still haven't read all of Proust, for instance) is first, to clear the shelves of books that have been building up for years and years, and at least keep the lag to 'within eighteen months of purchase', and second, to get back up to a two-a-week average. What are the odds? Minimal, I reckon - 2016 is chock-full of life-insanity (more details to come, etc. blah blah). Well, still: let's go... [Edit: hey, bet you can't spot when in the year I finally got the thesis submitted, eh?!]

December
72. The New World, Chris Adrian & Eli Horowitz. Not as mind-blowing as The Children's Hospital, but a lovely and complex portrait of marriage and its commitments.
71. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Just as below. An absolute must-read.
70. Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine. Savage, depressing, enraging, invigorating.
69. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff. Didn't live the upper middle-class-ness of it all but it was ultimately incredibly compelling.
68. The Twelve Poems of Christmas, Vol 8, Carol Ann Duffy. Lovely.
67. I Love Dick, Chris Kraus. Amazing study of female subjectivity & the patriarchy.
66. The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson. Fantastic memoir-ish book.
65. You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine, Alexandra Kleeman. Weird but compulsive novel.

November
64. Hearing Voices/Seeing Things, William Wall. Brilliant story collection.
63. The Sellout, Paul Beatty. Booker winner. Impressive but I didn't love it.

October
62. Ferenji, Helena Mulkerns
61. Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood. Disappointing adaptation of The Tempest.
60. The Tempest, William Shakespeare. Good, innit?
59. All the Rage, AL Kennedy. Stories. Some I liked, some I didn't.
58. Serious Sweet, AL Kennedy. Interesting but not quite for me (reviewing coming on Bookmunch).

September
57. Commonwealth, Ann Patchett. Brilliant account of a messed up family.
56. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride. Superb. Outstanding. All the good adjectives.
55. Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland, Mia Gallagher. Ambitious and brilliant novel: worth its 500 pages.

August
54. Fullalove, Gordon Burn. My first of his. Masterful and fascinating, but tiring in a sort of Will Self kind of way.
53. People in Glass Houses, Shirley Hazzard. Linked stories set in a multinational corporation. Brilliant.
52. The Emerald Light in the Air, Donald Antrim. Stories. Good stuff as usual from Antrim.

July
51. Wild Quiet, Roisín O'Donnell. Multi-cultural Ireland finally reaches the short story.
50. All Quiet on the Orient Express, Magnus Mills. Quietly insane, like all his books. Loved it.
49. The Shore, Sara Taylor. A short story cycle set on a trio of islands off the coast of Virginia. Grew on me and by the end I was really hooked.
48. The Wallcreeper, Nell Zink. Bonkers novel about environmental campaigns and a dysfunctional marriage. Snappy, witty, really engaging.
47. The Loney, Andrew Michael Hurley. A horror story set in Lancashire (cheery summer reading, eh?). If you like The Wicker Man, etc.
46. Fell, Jenn Ashworth, Ghost story set in Lancashire. Lovely writing.
45. The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante. Last one. Addictive reads, so intricate and thought-provoking. Got to buy her earlier books now...
44. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante. Part three. Great!

June
43. The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante. Part two - compulsive read.
42. The Vegetarian, Han Kang. Weird, fascinating novel.
41. My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante. First of the series. Pretty compulsive; sort of like a classy soap-opera-slash-crime-family-saga.
40. Harmless Like You, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan. Debut novel.
39. June, Gerbrand Bakker. Thoughtful Faulkner-esque novel about a Dutch family.
38. The Abundance, Annie Dillard. Superb essays.
37. Iron Council, China Mieville. Even looser sequel to the other two. More North and South than sci-fi; politically right-on (for me) but hard to engage with. Wasn't keen.
36. The Scar, Chin Mielville. Loose sequel to the below. A little slower to kick off but equally page-turning.
35. Perdido Street Station, China Mieville. a reread. Creepy and vibrant and weird as hell.

May
34. The Mandelbaum Gate, Muriel Spark. Good, witty as ever, but not my favourite of hers.
33. Solar Bones, Mike McCormack. Stunning second novel.
32. Object Lessons, ed, Lori Stein. Story anthology from The Paris Review. Really interesting.
31. The Way In, John McAuliffe. Poetry collection I've been reading on and off for ages. Brilliant stuff by my friend and colleague and former lecturer.
30. The BBC National Short Story Award 2013. Shortlisted/winning stories. Short but good.
29. The Long Gaze Back, ed. Sinead Gleeson. Collection of stories (new and old) from Irish women writers. Some really fantastic entries - as usual I loved Lisa McInerney's contribution.
28. Forensic Songs, Mike McCormack. Story collection. Decent.
27. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson. Non-fiction classic. Brilliant (if terrifying).
26. Blind Water Pass, Anna Metcalfe. Good collection.
25. Selected Stories, Mary Lavin. Very powerful selection from across Lavin's career.
24. The Magician's Land, Lev Grossman. Final part to the trilogy. Loved them all.
23. The Magician King, Lev Grossman. Sequel to the below; also great.

April
22. *The Magicians, Lev Grossman. A reread; they call it Harry Potter for adults. Gripping and utterly page-turning with great prose. (A post-PhD-hand-in treat; one of several to come!)
21. The Bed Moved, Rebecca Schiff. Short story collection.
20. Black Water, Louise Doughty. Sort of a spy thriller slash love story, but not really: compelling.
19. Hot Milk, Deborah Levy. Intriguing novel about parents and kids.

March
18. The Sunlight Pilgrims, Jenni Fagan. Beautiful novel about the (potential) end of the world.
17. The Panopticon, Jenni Fagan. Grim as fuck novel about a teen in care - really great though.
16. Unthology 8, ed. Ashley Stokes, Robin Jones. Story anthology - decent stuff.

February
15. Pleasured, Philip Hensher. Intertwined lives in Berlin just before the Wall comes down.
14. My Romance, Gordon Lish. Slightly weird meta-fictional text: novel or sort-of-memoir? Not my favourite of his, anyway (Dear Mr Capote takes the top spot, I reckon).
13. The Book of Revelation, Rupert Thomson. Disturbing, thought-provoking.
12. American Housewife, Helen Ellis. Energetic, but a mixed bag.
11. Barbara The Slut, Lauren Holmes. Excellent story collection, very funny.
10. Light Box, K.J. Orr. Short stories: interesting.
9. Where Love Begins, Judith Hermann. Creepy story about stalking in German suburbia.

January
8. Master Georgie, Beryl Bainbridge. Beautiful prose. Sad, elliptical story.
7. Asking For It, Louise O'Neill. Powerful YA novel about rape/consent. Should be required reading for everyone, boys and girls.
6. Dinosaurs on Other Planets, Danielle McLaughlin. Excellent story collection.
5. Daughters of the House, Michèle Roberts. Beautiful, biting prose.
4. MaddAddam, Margaret Atwood. Wasn't too keen; too much summary, not so much on character or forward-moving plot.
3. *The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood. Reread before I hit the final volume of the trilogy. Great stuff - better than I remembered.
2. Falling In Place, Ann Beattie. Fantastic writing but I took too long over it; started to lose interest.
1. Kid, Simon Armitage. Poetry (unusual for me). Quite enjoyed it.