Things To Read


Woman Reading (1922). Boris Grigoriev (Russian, 1886–1939). Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “ “I have been watching and studying the Russian people for many years … and these paintings are the fruits of my observations.” (Grigoriev)

[Woman Reading (1922). Boris Grigoriev (Russian, 1886–1939). Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.]

Sorry I’ve been slacking in my posts. I’d promise to do better but Edinburgh’s about to enter festival season and I’m doing Fringe reviewing and Edinburgh International Book Festival chairing, so chances are I’ll be slightly insane. I will be reviewing the new Alan Warner novel here by the close of August, though. At least that’s my intention.

When I’m not stalking bookstores trying to convince people to buy The Enchanted, by Rene Denfeld (find the review elsewhere in this blog), I am holed up at home reading. Here are some top tips of people I can’t review because they’re pals or can’t review because I feel too biased to do it properly.

Do, I implore you, read Thunderstruck, the new anthology of short stories by Elizabeth McCracken. She is as deft a writer you can ever hope to read, whose work is full of surprises and humour. I read both her collections of short stories — published twenty years apart — back to back and it has enriched my life. Her novel Niagara Falls All Over Again is one of my favourites.


If you, like almost everyone I know, devoured and enjoyed Love, Nina, by Nina Stibbe, then you must get hold of her debut novel, Man at the Helm, which is every bit as funny and charming as her nonfiction debut. A tale of growing up in absurd conditions, its light, bright tone reminded me of novels by Dodie Smith and Stella Gibbon, and I devoured it about as quickly as I’d tuck into the tarts on its dust jacket. Recommended.

Man at the Helm

Finally one I’ve not yet read — though it’s next on my pile: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. Back around the time of the UK publication of Irma Voth (fabulous), I interviewed Miriam and forced her to be my friend when she came to Edinburgh for the book festival. In its wisdom, The Scotsman’s website has deleted or destroyed the story (I re-read it just a week ago, but the only way to find it now is via, which charges). Suffice to say that Miriam is a writer of great power and that her subject matter — family, suicide — is potent stuff. I am slowly working my way through her books not because I lack enthusiasm, but because I am savouring the experience. I know this new novel is going to devastate me, but there’s no one I am more willing to be upset by than this talented writer.

Go forth and read and enjoy.

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