women readJan 12, 2022
Caitlin reads Rita Mae Brown
Reading: Rubyfruit Jungle, Rita Mae Brown
Why did you want to read this? I was a bit hesitant to read this actually. It’s definitely a product of its time, and in some ways hasn’t aged well. But it is also hilarious and heartbreaking and hard to put down. It's about staying true to yourself and your dreams from the first page to the last, even in the face of hate and judgement.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself on my laptop, in my son’s “book nook” which is just a closet with pillows and books, sweating profusely because it’s 95 degrees here.
Jesse reads George Eliot
Reading: Middlemarch, George Eliot
Why did you want to read this? When I was invited my first thought was, "Well, I can't read Middlemarch because the podcast is probably already 30 women reading the first chapter of Middlemarch." But then it turned out, no one had read Middlemarch! So obviously I had to read Middlemarch.
How did you record yourself? On my laptop at the table by the window.
Eleanor reads Claire Lynch
Reading: Small: On Motherhoods, Claire Lynch
Why did you want to read this? It’s a really beautifully written book about queer motherhood, something that rarely gets talked about. I’ve found myself wanting to read a lot about motherhood recently, and it’s been so refreshing and reassuring to be able to read about it from a queer perspective.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself on my laptop, sitting propped up on my favourite end of the sofa. The curtains were closed, daffodils on the table beside me, and a pizza in the oven.
Jamie reads Jamaica Kincaid
Reading: Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid
Why did you want to read this? I loved this book - Jamaica Kincaid is deft and smart and her wryness made so many passages worth smirking at. She's unapologetic about how messy relationships can be, which I appreciate not being tidied into something that makes people feel like relationships exist for happy endings. And she's never afraid to question the idea of place as its own unique relationship in our lives - what it means to be who we are based on where we're at and where we've come from.
How did you record yourself? I recorded from a big pile on the couch: me (wearing one sock?), a hot water bottle, two blankets, my cat, pillows piled up with my computer on them, and Lucy all in front of the big window in my living room while it rained outside. A few bossy Stellar's jays were fighting for birdseed nearby.
Flora reads Lily Le Brun
Reading: Looking to Sea, Lily Le Brun
Why did you want to read this? I chose to read Looking to Sea because it is a thoughtful, insightful reflection on 100 years of modern art in Britain, written by the brilliant Lily Le Brun. As the daughter of an artist and a painter myself, the work of many of the artists in this book is intrinsic to the fabric of who I am. Le Brun's exploration of the practices and pieces of Vanessa Bell to Bridget Riley provides an insight into more than just the why or how of their art; Le Brun captures the very essences of the artists themselves.
How did you record yourself? On my laptop in bed/on the sofa with my cat curled up beside me.
Freya reads Vigdis Hjorth
Reading: Long Live the Post Horn!, Vigdis Hjorth translated by Charlotte Barslund
Why did you want to read this? I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically when I first read this, and immediately wanted to share it and talk about it with other people. I think I was originally drawn to it as the premise of finding an old diary + defending the postal service made it seem made for me (a bad-diary obsessive and snail mail fan), but really it’s the deadpan, looping inner monologue of the main character clawing to grasp her life, life, meaning, that is such a joy to read.
How did you record yourself? With my laptop at home. You’d think I’d be better at this by now, but I had to redo the opening as I forgot to take off my loudly ticking watch : /
Loré reads Felicia Berliner
Reading: Shmutz, Felicia Berliner
Why did you want to read this? When contemplating what to read, this novel instantly came to mind. I discovered it during the summertime and felt utterly swept up by Raizl's inner life. From religion and familial belonging to sex and friendship to the tension of figuring out one's identity, there are so many themes to chew on. Also, I'm a major slut for good prose and the lines in this book are just decadent. I want everyone to indulge themselves in this story.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself via GarageBand and my roomie's microphone. It was my first time exploring this setup and I instantly (read: obnoxiously!) felt like a pop star.
Amy reads Makenna Goodman
Reading: The Shame, Makenna Goodman
Why did you want to read this? 'The weight of motherhood is a backpack full of stones.' This book messed me up -- but in a good way. I first read it very shortly postpartum. It felt like such consolation, after all the sentimentality and raw emotion of feeling motherhood suddenly happen to my own life, to read this wild, complicated book about a mother who loves her children entirely, and is entirely complicated, disappointed, competent, and failing, all at once. I'm obsessed with the idea of failure within ordinary committed motherhood, and in some ways that feels like the thesis of this book. It felt like it was written in a voice related to mine. Not the same, but recognizable to me. Like being accompanied -- that's a big thing.
How did you record yourself? I recorded sitting in our 'cozy corner' where my toddler and I look at his Richard Scarry and lift-the-flap books every day. It's a big floor pillow under our front window, with lots of extra pillows -- one big and round like the moon. The best light in the house. I had a cup of coffee that quickly grew cold because I didn't want to take breaks to sip it. My toddler is at the Children's Museum with my mom. Just me and the dog in the house, so quiet. I hadn't read this chapter in a while -- reading it aloud was a treat.
Content warning: this episode contains reference to sexual assault.
Yusra reads Robin Wall Kimmerer
Reading: Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
Why did you want to read this? Braiding Sweetgrass is the last book I read. It's beautifully written and very tender, offering a different tone for discussing the climate and ecological emergency. Whilst reading, I found myself reflecting a lot about the phase of life I'm in right now, my relationship with the world and all that inhabit it. Although it is the only book I've managed to read since having my son last year, it has been wonderful to dip in and out of. Relearning is a big theme in the book, so for me it has been very timely. Reading what others have said about it online, the book has been described as “grounding, calming, and quietly revolutionary”. I think that sums it up pretty well.
How did you record yourself? I used my laptop to record myself, whilst my son napped. It took a few sittings but we got there in the end!
Ratnadevi reads Richard Powers
Reading: The Overstory, Richard Powers
Why did you want to read this? The Overstory is the most absorbing, courageous, wise, compassionate and skilfully crafted book I have read in a long time, a gift to the beleaguered world, particularly the trees. The novel weaves people and trees from very different backgrounds and geographies together, like mycelium connects root systems and fungi. It's deep-time sweep makes the heart ache: what are we humans doing, wrecking our beautiful home?
How did you record yourself? I recorded it on my phone, there was no option for quality when saving, hope it's okay.
Lindsey reads Kathryn Davis
Reading: The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf, Kathryn Davis
Why did you want to read this? I read Kathryn Davis’s first novel, Labrador, earlier this year and felt like I was kicking the dirt off some kind of revelation I’d found in the ground. A few months later I was in my favorite used book store and saw this book, The Girl Who Trod On A Loaf; I read the back and though I’m not into opera (the central motif), I was immediately attracted to a story that seemed so unruly. Reading TGWTOAL, my jaw went slack nearly every page, in perpetual awe of Davis’s precision and muscle. I want everyone to read her.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself reading in the floor of my bedroom, wearing my favorite Pepto-Bismol pink shorts, with the curtains open.
Tanvi reads Elif Shafak
Reading: The Island of Missing Trees, Elif Shafak
Why did you want to read this? This book struck that evasive balance between the past and the present. It combines the ambition for a bright future with the yearning for a past we cannot seem to leave behind. It's told through the eyes of characters who are as captivating as they are diverse. It moved me to tears and then took me to new heights of joy. I just wanted to share this bittersweet experience with as many people as I could.
How did you record yourself? I recorded this at my study table with my garden behind me, which is fitting for the nature of this book. Once you read it, I hope you will see why this was true for me.
Laura reads Bob Mortimer
Reading: And Away..., Bob Mortimer
Why did you want to read this? I think that Bob Mortimer is a lovely man. I’m not a huge reader. I sometimes (unfairly) think badly of myself because of this. I enjoy reading autobiographies of people that I admire because I feel like I already know some of the context, so I find it an easier starting point than some other books. This is, of course, a very funny and silly book but he also writes very sensitively about his life, experiences, and being a shy and quiet person.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself using my phone, sitting at my desk at home one afternoon whilst waiting for a colleague to proof read and approve something for me. Bob’s company took my mind off the fear of them finding a horrific, unfixable mistake (there wasn’t one… there never is!).
Jane reads Jackie Kay
Reading: Trumpet, Jackie Kay
Why did you want to read this? I wanted to read this because it remained in my memory so clearly. I loved the story and the clarity of the narrators voice, with the words and images falling like the notes of the trumpet. Her descriptions of the house by the sea and that whole locality, feel very familiar to me as of course do the parts set in Glasgow.
How did you record yourself? I recorded this on my Samsung A50, sitting in an armchair in the sunshine. It was easier, and worked out better, than I had anticipated.
Grace reads Mary Gabriel
Reading: Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
Why did you want to read this? I decided to read this book, as in my own art practice I am heavily influenced by women artists. It’s inspiring to hear the stories of how they challenged a very male-dominated art scene. This book gives an opportunity for these pioneering women artists' stories to be heard, something that is very necessary and needed.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself on my phone and found it to be a very enjoyable experience.
Andrea reads Joan Didion
Reading: Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
Why did you want to read this? This essay is a treasure trove of classic Didionisms: the devoted descriptions of roads and barren lands, the dire plot twists at the end of routine enunciations, profound human truths told with a crisp sense of humor. If you follow Didion to San Bernardino, she will take you to beguiling places...!
How did you record yourself? After some trial and error, I opted for doing it sitting in my (empty) bathtub, since the bathroom turned out to be, funnily enough, the room in my house with best acoustics.
Lisa reads Tiffany McDaniel
Reading: Betty by Tiffany McDaniel
Why did you want to read this? This book touched me in so many ways, it’s brutal, beautiful and poetic all at once. It’s a coming-of-age story based on true events and different to anything I have ever read. I loved how Betty’s dad with his rich Cherokee history used his knowledge of nature and spirituality to sooth her. Betty will always hold a special place in my heart.
How did you record yourself? Curled up on my bed with lots of pillows, dimmed lights and a cup of tea.
Jane reads Ali Smith
Reading: How to Be Both, Ali Smith
Why did you want to read this? I chose this book for my book group last year and I think without the group discussions I would have struggled with it. It is incredibly rich and beautiful and I couldn't fathom how it had been written. We all ended up loving this book.
How did you record yourself? In my kids room with the cat on a cold Monday when I had no energy and needed to do something other than work.
Freya reads Daisy Jones
Reading: All The Things She Said, Daisy Jones
Why did you want to read this? It was our birthday and Mel and I thought fuck it, we should do another reading! Through lockdown I came to miss queer spaces intensely and gulped this down when it came out. We’ve also had lots of queer readers on the podcast so far, but not so many GAY BOOKS, so I thought I’d up the quota with this.
How did you record yourself? Lying on the floor in my studio.
Jane reads Deborah Levy
Reading: Hot Milk, Deborah Levy
Why did you want to read this? Hot Milk is the first book of Deborah Levy’s I read and is my enduring favourite. I loved meeting Sofia as she emerges from the stinging sea, seeking pain relief from the injury hut – one of many incredible metaphors for her life as a young woman, where broken things don’t quite receive adequate repair and bold ambitions are licked by caring responsibilities...and vicious Medusas.
How did you record yourself? Alone at home one Monday evening. I enjoyed being transported back to the Mediterranean on a chilly autumn evening in Bristol.
Hannah reads Judith Kerr
Reading: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Judith Kerr
Why did you want to read this? I chose When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit because it was my absolute favourite as a child and probably the book I've read the most times of any. As an adult, I don't really reread books at all but I used to read this several times a year as a kid. It reads much more poignantly now though.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself on my phone, in bed with a duvet and a hot drink, the best way to read.
Janice reads Lauren Elkin
Reading: Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London, Lauren Elkin
Why did you want to read this? Walking the city was one of, if not most, crucial experiences of my formative years. Like Elkin, I discovered the concept of flâneur during my undergrad and explored in my own ways academically if there was/is, and thus what was/is the flâneuse, a woman who flâner. Could that flâneuse be an East Asian one? I will never forget the excitement, liberation and transhistorical connection I felt reading this first chapter when the book was freshly released.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself sitting on the sofa in my living room after a little walk along my local New River Path.
Sára reads Jennifer Clement
Reading: Widow Basquiat, Jennifer Clement
Why did you want to read this? This is one of my all-time favourite books. It travels well and doesn't age. It was given to me by a musician friend. The atmosphere and the people in the book have a loud pulse that doesn't fade. I love that Clement uses prose to write a memoir so close to the skin. It is also an excellent book to read to someone on a romantic stroll through a cemetery with famous graves - true story.
How did you record yourself? I recorded it first thing in the morning when my speech tends to be at its calmest. I sat by the window overlooking the garden and a school, finishing just before the mayhem of recess erupted in the background.
Jessica reads Shirley Jackson
Reading: We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson
Why did you want to read this? I'm curating a new programme that is centred around issues of place and belonging. Shirley Jackson takes any uneasiness around these things and slowly, skilfully amplifies it into horror. I decided on We Have Always Lived in the Castle because that first chapter does a whole hell of a lot.
How did you record yourself? My bedroom is the quietest room in the house so I do most of my audio recording in bed. I recorded this on a frosty morning with a cup of coffee in my hand and my dog in my lap.
Claire reads Anna Kavan
Reading: Ice, Anna Kavan
Why did you want to read this? Ironically this narrative about the world turning to ice was first recommended to me via a paper napkin scribble by my best friend one hot summer day. Now, due to the oncoming bleakness of a British winter, it feels seasonally appropriate. I recommend the thrill of reading this book on its own terms, and waiting to read about Kavan’s life afterwards – both are strange rides.
How did you record yourself? On my sofa with my laptop, reading from my favourite edition (by "Peter Owen Cased Classics").
Ellen reads Maggie Nelson
Reading: Bluets, Maggie Nelson
Why did you want to read this? Bluets shares the qualities of many of my favourite books – experimental in form, collapsing the lines between prose, poetry, essay and memoir. 240 numbered paragraphs make up this fragmentary, rhythmic meditation, which explores art, literature, grief and female desire through the tinted lens of Nelson’s love for the colour blue.
How did you record yourself? In bed, warmed by morning sun; my favourite place to read – and often to write (desks are overrated, comfort is underrated).
Blue reads Sarah Moss
Reading: Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss
Why did you want to read this? I read this book earlier this year and was totally gripped by the seething suspense, seeing patriarchy and power through the eyes of a teenage girl. It touches upon questions that I feel are incredibly important if you become too enamoured with history or the past as inspiration for art or a way of life. How slippery and sinister it can be.
How did you record yourself? My beautiful partner set up a microphone for me to read the book from the comfy sofa.
Sophie reads Primo Levi
Reading: The Periodic Table, Primo Levi
Why did you want to read this? It’s one of the best books I read in my life so far. It’s extraordinary and stays with you for a long time.
How did you record yourself? Outside, a rare sunny evening, on the steps in front of our house. I hope the road in the distance is not too loud, I think at some point a freight train passes which was not great.
Rebecca reads Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Reading: Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Why did you want to read this? When I first read Aurora Leigh, I felt like this nineteenth century gem had been hidden from me. Elizabeth Barrett Browning beats most of her contemporaries in the vitality of her language, and the poem carries me throughout with the force of its energy. I find the depiction of young Aurora Leigh's grief, and her turn back towards life, moving. It is a politically rich story, a novel in verse which sets Aurora's ambitions as a writer within the social struggles of her time and place. A tour de force, basically.
How did you record yourself? On Zoom audio in my bedroom, with a cup of tea.
Seo Hye reads Cathy Park Hong
Name: Seo Hye
Reading: Minor Feelings, Cathy Park Hong
Why did you want to read this? When I was choosing a book to read, I was considering picking one of my favourite classic literature books, but instead I chose something I have read much more recently and is written by a woman of POC. This book was initially recommended by Asian American friends and I wanted to share something that may be not so familiar in the UK. As someone who lived in US for years, I wanted to show an insight of Asian American experience regarding race and emotional issues with friends and family which resonated with me.
How did you record yourself? I recorded this with my phone in a small living room at my home in Somerset, UK, with a wool blanket over me as it’s been unusually chilly August weather.
Vaska reads Robert Macfarlane
Reading: Underland, Robert Macfarlane
Why did you want to read this? This past year I discovered some beautiful non-fiction books and Underland was one of them. Macfarlane shines a light on places most of us will never have the opportunity to visit and really makes them come alive on the page. He writes beautifully about the underground places themselves, but also explores what the deep, the hidden, means to our cultural imagination, our psychology, and our relationship to the world and to life itself. His chapter on the catacombs in Paris is particularly visceral and unforgettable!
How did you record yourself? This was easier said than done! I had wanted to record myself in a beautiful old churchyard but the wind was too strong and the chatter of other people too loud, so I plumped for my bedroom - which was a challenge as I live next to an unofficial but busy bus station! So it involved me partially hiding under my duvet cover, on the floor, shutters closed, and regularly pausing the tape when the engines got too loud. I think a cheeky seagull and some sirens might have snuck into the recording!
Lindsay reads Annie Dillard
Reading: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
Why did you want to read this? Pilgrim at Tinker Creek holds reverence for nature, yet is unafraid to describe its cruelty. Annie Dillard wrote this in 1974, when she was about 30 years old, my age. I think of her when I walk in the neighborhood or hike outside the city where I live, and I try to locate beauty in the way she does.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself with my laptop on a hot summer evening, sweat trickling down my face, in my bedroom, in low light.
Larissa reads Anne Carson
Reading: Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson
Why did you want to read this? sappho is my favourite poet and anne carson looks at her writing in such a beautiful way. it is such a beautiful way of thinking and writing about poetry. it also talks about love and desire, which are themes i deeply care about.
How did you record yourself? sat on bed, the sun shining on my legs, with the laptop on my lap.
Bettina reads Elena Ferrante
Reading: The Lying Life of Adults, Elena Ferrante
Why did you want to read this? I loved Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and this is Ferrante’s most recent book, set in Naples again. The book allows you to inhabit the inner turmoil of adolescent Giovanna who enters the lying life of adults... I revel in the idea that Ferrante’s prose feels totally uncensored.
How did you record yourself? Sitting on my bed with my laptop and hardback copy of the book.
Sarah reads P.D. James
Reading: Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James
Why did you want to read this? I was given this book as a present from my Mum - the joy at unwrapping a continuation of one of the most beloved stories of all time AND with a detective twist?! The perfect story for anyone who watched the BBC dramatisation of Pride & Prejudice so many times when it came out as a teenager (and probably far too many times since) they could recite most of the show line for line - and loves a Poirot/Dalgliesh etc novel.
How did you record yourself? At home in my new office/yoga space at Heligan Mill in Cornwall. Where the floor slopes unreasonably, the walls and most of the floorboards are painted white, and you can see a tropical woodland garden from the window. Seated on a high stool at my standing height desk, I read from a hardback copy direct into my mac book pro.
Monica reads Clarice Lispector
Reading: Agua Viva, Clarice Lispector
Why did you want to read this? Because I love Clarice and the cryptic power of her introspective, impressionistic worlds! Her novels and their inhabitants are always so bold & strange. I think she’s a writer who is hyperconscious of language, always searching within it, determined to reconcile it with reality and vice versa. Of her works, this search feels most urgent in Água Viva, and I wanted to feel and share some of this fragmented searching by reading it out loud.
How did you record yourself? At my desk at home in London, with a tea and warm water next to me. I also propped up an Ursula Le Guin book that I’m currently reading, with the author photo facing me, as I was told I would sound better if I read as though speaking to someone.
Emily reads W. G. Sebald
Reading: The Rings of Saturn, W. G. Sebald
Why did you want to read this? I was loaned Rings of Saturn on a trip to Norway. At that time, I had never been truly alone in a foreign country. As I was walking along the shore of Sydspissen, Tromsø coming to terms with the loneliness and isolation I felt, The Rings of Saturn proved a curious companion. It combines two of my favourite things; travel and rambling meditations on seemingly unrelated things. It's a book that feeds my curiosity, is thought provoking, poignant and bewildering at times. Essentially, a jumble of things that reflect the jumbled state of my emotions in early 2014 and late 2020.
How did you record yourself? In my very patient boyfriend's makeshift studio in our spare room.
Zanna reads Nigella Lawson
Reading: How to Eat, Nigella Lawson
Why did you want to read this? I wanted to read this, because I love how Nigella talks about her love for food. You so rarely hear people talking about the joy of actually eating, and I love how simple that idea is. I also thought it might be a fun thing to read, and that if I get any of the reading wrong, I can pretend it's pronounced that way, like 'microwahveh'.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself in a music studio, using some quite complicated technical recording gear and absolutely no idea how to use any of it, but it was very fun (mostly due to the patience of the owner of said studio and some very good instructions).
Elizabeth reads Arundhati Roy
Reading: The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Why did you want to read this? I love Roy’s tidal, circular writing, and the textures of her eccentric characters. This was brought out vividly when reading – you might hear me stumble over some of her dizzying, alliterative sentences. When I first read the novel, I was a teenager drawn by the John Berger epigraph, and I remember being spellbound at her use of structure: the overlapping of multiple seasons, memories, people, and breathless monsoon days. I had never read anything like it, and have not since.
How did you record yourself? I was lucky to get access to a small recording studio – so it was a weirdly VIP experience! I was cocooned from the outside world save for getting water from the small kitchen – where like Roy’s characters I was met with the lives of small creatures, could hear birds making nests in the old roof.
Julie reads Virginia Woolf
Reading: The Waves, Virginia Woolf
Why did you want to read this? I chose to read this as I love the sea in literature, as I do in my own life. It always feels a blank canvas on which to project so many thoughts and metaphors. As well as being mysterious and beautiful, Virginia Woolf’s writing is extraordinary to read but not always easy. In the opening to The Waves I am astonished by how she enters the minds of the children and describes their inner worlds and imaginings. And she conjures up the garden, sea, woods and school room on a summer’s day.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself in a comfortable chair looking out onto plants and flowers. I used my phone and found myself aware of every background noise like the clock ticking and next door’s dog barking!
Isabella reads Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Reading: Les Liaisons dangereuses, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Why did you want to read this? I wanted to record this for the pure delicious wickedness of having these words in my mouth. In these last months, I have read so many letter-exchanges: Nin/Miller, Jonker/Brink, Acker/Wark, Bachmann/Celan, Camus/Casares, Bowen/Ritchie, Vita/Violet/Virginia, Kafka to Milena and Shklovsky's Zoo, and I've found great solace in reading how other people write to their distant and impossible loves. But they don't quite match the dubious thrills of a book that was itself condemned by a criminal court...
How did you record yourself? I recorded this in sections over several weeks, as it was almost impossible to get time where some sort of noisy activity was not taking place. I recorded it in my studio, with my dog for company, thinking about my own correspondence.
Fiona reads Isaac R. Fellman
Reading: Breath of the Sun, Isaac R. Fellman
Why did you want to read this? I love the depth of world-building in this book, and the satisfying way it’s spooled out throughout the story, both by the narrator and interjecting footnotes and edits from others. It’s about trying to climb an unknowably tall mountain that reaches into space, and science, and faith, and the complex, intense relationships that the narrator has with the people around her, alive and dead. It’s one of my favourite fantasy novels.
How did you record yourself? Sitting in my kitchen/living room with my laptop. I used my headset from work, since the microphone is (slightly) better.
Viv reads Eileen Chang
Reading: Half a Lifelong Romance, Eileen Chang
Why did you want to read this? I read this a few years ago after a slump in reading non-fiction. I'd realised that all the non-fiction I was reading was by white or Japanese men, I was pretty sick of it, so I made a point of looking for books written by East Asian women. It was also around that time when I saw my mum more often in person. She remembers reading Eileen as a teenager, and is one of the few Hong Kong writers whose work has been translated into English for a long time. It made Eileen a natural starting point, and I loved getting lost in the historical drama of it all - somehow for me it's both 1930s Shanghai and 1970s Hong Kong at the same time.
How did you record yourself? I wanted to play with a new microphone I bought recently when I got myself set up to teach online - so I read from my desk, surrounded by piles of books and scraps of paper. The book has been sat at my right arm for about a week.
Gillian reads Elizabeth Bowen
Reading: A Time in Rome, Elizabeth Bowen
Why did you want to read this? I wanted to read A Time in Rome because Rome is my first city, in every sense (I went aged 17 and lived there for six months; I’d never been out of England before), and Elizabeth Bowen is a peerless writer, a near favourite. Yet I only discovered it before my most recent visit. 1959, 2018, same Rome.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself on Voice Memos on my iPhone, in a nice soft armchair in a carpeted room with the door shut. I struggled how to share the recording but, with persistence, did it!
Catherine reads Jean Rhys
Reading: Good Morning, Midnight, Jean Rhys
Why did you want to read this? I wanted to read Good Morning, Midnight because it has been my favourite book since I first read it, over ten years ago, aged 19. It’s hard to explain why something is your favourite book, like asking why you love someone, but I think the tragedy of the story appeals to me. I’m drawn to Sascha the downtrodden woman, roaming around Paris remembering the humiliations of her youth and railing against other people who seem to be able to keep it together in a way that she can’t.
How did you record yourself? I recorded myself on my phone sitting at my desk in my room.
Stella reads Jane Austen
Reading: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Why did you want to read this? I studied this classic book at school and loved it, aided by an excellent English teacher. I enjoyed the antiquated but relatively accessible language/wit as well as the colourful ensemble of characters. Of course, my naive teenage self fell in love with the lively heroine, Elizabeth Bennet (see also, Jane Eyre!). It's been quite comforting to rediscover this book again!
How did you record yourself? Laying on my sofa using my phone and a mic cocooned in cushions, fighting the sound of seagulls and cars outside.
Kelly reads Ruth Reichl
Reading: Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl
Why did you want to read this? It had been several years since I'd read Tender, but it was the first book that came to mind. A memoir by American food writer Ruth Reichl, it’s filled with stories that make me laugh and at times almost cry. It was maybe the first 'food writing' I enjoyed reading. One of the most tender themes of the book is Ruth's relationship with her mother - something she shares from the first chapter. Many parts of the book resonate with me, even more so since moving 5000 miles away from my family.
How did you record yourself? I sat on my couch with my laptop beside me, propped up on a blanket to bring it a little closer to my voice. I used Audacity (as recommended by you!) since I hadn't previously recorded myself so didn't know how else to do it!
Olga reads Svetlana Alexievich
Reading: Second-hand Time, Svetlana Alexievich
Why did you want to read this? I am interested in the idea of compiling alternative archives and subverting the ‘official’ narratives. The voices in this book belong to a particular time and place, but at the same time speak outside of history; their desires are very human: simultaneous desire for a greater purpose and for a comfortable life, for freedom, for love even when tanks are under the windows.
How did you record yourself? Sitting cross-legged on a cushion underneath Antonioni's Zabriskie Point film poster. I did a few sittings over a Sunday afternoon with long tea breaks in-between.
Fiona reads Maeve Binchy
Reading: Circle of Friends, Maeve Binchy
Why did you want to read this? This is one of the most comforting books I've ever read. It reminds me of my mum; years after she had passed away, I found this on a bookshelf and it opened up a whole new world of books for me. Maeve Binchy has been described as a quiet feminist in the past, and while some of the narratives in this book are a bit catholic guilt'ish and archaic, when I think of it being published and how sex, bodies, and women's roles are fleshed out into stories, Binchy did a lot for Irish women. For me reading it is like going home, and thinking about my mum.
How did you record yourself? I have one of those short attention spans now. It took me three sittings to record this, the first time, sitting at my desk staring out the window. The second and third time in my bed, with coffee surrounded by smoke because I have an addiction to burning Palo Santo.
Jade reads Hazel Waters
Reading: Racism on the Victorian Stage: Representation of Slavery and the Black Character, Hazel Waters
Why did you want to read this? I love reading aloud, and therefore took this opportunity to read aloud for my pleasure, which also, given my anxiety around lack of time, and reading about slavery and racism (which we do so much of alone, and that I can only do intermittently - I am a slow reader of non-fiction), I took as an activity that would allow me to ease into both of these non/work necessities, that is to prioritise reading around my subject area and history that directly effects my lived experience. I read it through aloud, on reading for the first time, and I would say that specialist words are clumsily mispronounced, among other regular hesitations and interruptions (from Hilda, my puppy, occasionally).
How did you record yourself? Because the chapter is so long, I recorded myself at intervals from my drawing desk (an old engineers’ desk), on my MacBook Pro using the QuickTime Player feature, reading with both hands holding the book, but trying not to let it cover my mouth too much.