We fly through books pretty fast here at The Book Club Review. And so we were delighted to be joined by Miranda Keeling, whose book The Year I Stopped to Notice showed us the delights of slowing down and noticing the little things happening all around us. She joined us in the shed to talk about her inspiration, what do do when your Twitter account suddenly picks up thousands of new followers, and what Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman loved about her book.
We also have a think about some other books we love that tap into this spirit of observation. And so listen in and feel inspired.
Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish (Hachette) A mixture of poetry and prose that Miranda loves, connecting with the sense of immediacy and shared humanity in McNish’s work. ‘There were many things that Hollie McNish didn’t know before she was pregnant. How her family and friends would react; that Mr Whippy would be off the menu; how quickly ice can melt on a stomach. These were on top of the many other things she didn’t know about babies: how to stand while holding one; how to do a poetry gig with your baby as a member of the audience; how drum’n’bass can make a great lullaby. And that’s before you even start on toddlers. But Hollie learned. And she’s still learning, slowly. Nobody Told Me is a collection of poems and stories; Hollie’s thoughts on raising a child in modern Britain, of trying to become a parent in modern Britain, of sex, commercialism, feeding, gender and of finding secret places to scream once in a while.’
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (Canongate) Miranda’s second choice, which she loves for Liptrot’s interest in conveying the present moment and the little details that anchor her in her environment. ‘At the age of thirty, Amy Liptrot finds herself washed up back home on Orkney. Standing unstable on the island, she tries to come to terms with the addiction that has swallowed the last decade of her life. As she spends her mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, her days tracking Orkney’s wildlife, and her nights searching the sky for the Merry Dancers, Amy discovers how the wild can restore life and renew hope.’ We talked about this on the pod back when we read Where The Crawdads Sing, so listen in to episode #69 for more. We also mentioned Amy Liptrot’s latest book The Instant.
No-One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury) In this blend of fiction and memoir Patricia Lockwood explores online life in ‘the Portal’, her term for Twitter, seizing upon fragments, details, memes that briefly swirl up and then die away again leaving only strange memories, a half-remembered history that feels dream-like and yet is real. In the second-half of the book the real world and family life make a stronger claim on her attention and the book explores shifting priorities and a new understanding of relationship between reality and the digital world. This book feels like an old friend for us on the pod, having come up when we read the 2021 Women’s Prize shortlist and then again when it was shortlisted for the Booker. So listen in to episodes #99 (The 2021 Women’s Prize) and #106 (The 2021 Booker Prize) for more. Beautifully written, provocative and resonant, we recommend it highly for book club discussion.
Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin (Penguin) Kate loves Elkin’s exploration of women who have taken inspiration from city life, who have found ways to claim it for their own. ‘If the word flâneur conjures up visions of Baudelaire, boulevards and bohemia – then what exactly is a flâneuse? In this gloriously provocative and celebratory book, Lauren Elkin defines her as ‘a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk’. Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between the city and creativity through a journey that begins in New York and moves us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo and London, exploring along the way the paths taken by the flâneuses who have lived and walked in those cities. From nineteenth-century novelist George Sand to artist Sophie Calle, from war correspondent Martha Gellhorn to film-maker Agnes Varda, Flâneuse considers what is at stake when a certain kind of light-footed woman encounters the city and changes her life, one step at a time.’
Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession (Bluemoose Books) Kate loved the way this book celebrates and examines quiet lives lived out of the spotlight, but which are nonetheless important and meaningful. ‘Leonard and Hungry Paul are two quiet friends who see the world differently. They use humour, board games and silence to steer their way through the maelstrom that is the 21st Century. ‘The figure in Munch’s painting isn’t actually screaming!’ Hungry Paul said. ‘Really, are you sure?’ replied Leonard. ‘Absolutely. That’s the whole thing. The figure is actually closing his ears to block out a scream. Isn’t that amazing? A painting can be so misunderstood and still become so famous.’ Leonard and Hungry Paul is the story of two friends trying to find their place in the world. It is about those uncelebrated people who have the ability to change their world, not by effort or force, but through their appreciation of all that is special and overlooked in life.’ It was the 2021 One Dublin One Book club pick.
Over to you. Tell us a little thing you have observed. What book with an observational theme would you recommend? Comments here go straight to our inboxes so get in touch and we’ll reply.