With us still in lockdown and life at a bit of a slower pace, this month’s picks from our librarian Andrea delve into the complexities of human nature and the loneliness that sometimes accompanies it. Things will be get better, but until then there is still good reading.
Top non-fiction: A Grief Observed, Reader’s Edition, by C.S. Lewis
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. Lewis’ observation of his grief, at his wife’s death, notes thoughts and feelings, from jabs of red-hot memory to the monotonous tread-mill march of the mind. In seeking to understand this pain that pulls an invisible blanket between himself and the world, he explores belief, God, love and existence, trying to keep separate what is real and what illusory; what is self and what was the beloved other. Seven Readers offer comment on his work, entwined with the personal experiences, often as painful and repetitive as the punishment of Prometheus, of living with grief.
Top fiction: Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
Think you know this story? This heart-wrenching tale, its Gothic prose overflowing with anxiety and dread, as sublime in its employment of nature, as dreadful in its pursuit of scientific ambition, follows Victor Frankenstein and his abominable creation from Switzerland to the Arctic, in search for justice. Whether you fear the soul’s damnation or the existential void, look, before you cry Monster, at what it really means to be human; what it means to be a creator; a hero; a victim; a slave. Critique the monsters of society and confront the demons of your own heart. At your peril, reach for the stars.
Top audio book: Macbeth – William Shakespeare
Stars, hide your fires; Let not night see my black and deep desires. A warning to traitors, treasonists, those tempted by witchcraft or motivated by greed, to learn from the butcher-king and his fiend-like queen how unnatural desires conjure their own poisoned chalice. Lie, sleepless, with them, beneath the blanket of the dark, taut with tension, seated heart knocking at your ribs. Tremble at their violence; at the dramatic beauty of Shakespeare’s rhetoric and dare to ask if you would be tempted to reach for the dagger, to take your fate into your own bloody hands.
Top children’s fiction: I Go Quiet – David Ouimet
I Go Quiet takes us on a moving journey through the overwhelming world of an introverted young girl and her mouse motif. The loneliness of not feeling understood echoes, in ghostly whispers, around intimidating landscapes, weaves through crowds, across rooms and the expressions of masked and unmasked faces. Yet, through books and her imagination, the world begins to open up and she finds a way to connect. As inner strength and self-belief start to light the way through her dark world, she learns to accept her ‘quiet’ self, and, also, to believe in a future where her beautiful voice will be heard.
I Go Quiet is shortlisted for the East Sussex Children’s Book Award (https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/libraries/activities-and-events/book-award/)
Top children’s non-fiction: Noodlemania – Melissa Barlow
Melissa Barlow’s Noodlemania is a treasure chest packed with pastarific delights. Written in a clear, friendly tone, Pasta-Trivia, Maths, and doodled-on funny food photography bring playful humour to creative learning. From the Totally Tubular to the Twisted Twirly, Barlow works through a range of pasta, offering substitutes for any that are tricky to find. There seem no limits to her ingenious ideas, so, whether your tastebuds are tickled by blue chow mein noodles in your ‘I’m So Blue’ Hula Haystacks, orecchiette pasta in your Green Stink Bugs or ramen noodles in your Crunchy Cinnamon Noodle Ice Cream Sundae, these recipes are little gems; let your culinary apprentices tuck right in!
Have you read any of the books featured this month? If so, we’d love to hear what you thought! Leave your reviews in the comments below. Missed April book reviews? Catch up on them here.
You can find out more about libraries in East Sussex by visiting the East Sussex County Council website.