Now is the most wonderful time of the year (for readers)
I know "the most wonderful time of the year" is supposed to be Christmas, according to the song. But as a reader, I must disagree. For me, the days after Christmas, when everything is calmer, more sedate, and quieter are far superior. There is no more rushing to beat the clock for all the holiday shopping, cooking, or decorating. The expectations are eased. All that was to happen has already happened so now I can coast into this magical week between Boxing Day and New Year's Day with ease. My shoulders are slowly melting from my ears down my scapula, where they should be. My brow is less furrowed, and my jaw is subtly unclenching. The time during this week feels elongated, more thoughtful, and restful. For many of us, it's a creative, and dreamy time of the year. I adore the confusion of what day of the week it is, as the formalities of a workweek are banished. I get to pretend I am in retirement, where each day belongs to me to fill as I so desire. (And unlike Anita Brookner characters, I am never at a loss of how to fill the days- I have too many interests, projects, hobbies, and not enough time to savor them.)
As a reader, I find this time to be ideal. For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, it's generally cold with less light, which means it's perfect to lounge around under a blanket with tea and curl up with a great read. The publishing and book press has also hyped the year's best books to help with the holiday purchases so we have the lists of what the experts think. And we may have received a gift or two during the holidays to enjoy. I would wager that any hardcore bibliophile has piles of books just waiting for an uninterrupted time like this to luxuriate into the written word. No time like the present to indulge.
I think it's even more precious to me this year. My mother was not able to visit us as we had initially planned due to the rise of the Omicron variant. We are a cautious lot and opted to cancel her trip this year. But I wasn't emotionally able to rally into doing anything festive without her here with my husband and me. He was the one who saved the entire holiday season- from cooking the Thanksgiving meal, getting me out to buy a tree with him, decorating the apartment, baking pies, and even making the Christmas dinner. He was an absolute gem this year and I am so deeply grateful for his efforts. Because he took care of all of that, it eased the time I would normally spend in preparing for the holidays to think about how I wanted to spend this time that I am off work.
We have the week between Christmas day and the second workday of the new year off this year. So that is is prime reading, dreaming, creating, and planning time for me. I crave this time to just BE. I tend to be incredibly driven all year, and without travel to jolt me from my normal habits and schedule, I resort to going full throttle which is exhausting. This forced time to relax is so needed to clear my head, reset, and determine what new things I want the next year to bring.
So I will be musing on what that could look like for my reading this year. I will post more on that later. For now, I am thoroughly enjoying my yearly participation in Cloak and Dagger Christmas, hosted by some lovely people on BookTube- specifically, Kate Howe, Melanie Martin, Janelle of Too Fond of Books, Kate of The Novel Nomad, and Carolyn of Carolyn's Reading Ramblings. And I am making my way through a list of some of the Best Of lists that I have found on Twitter.
Here is what makes up my pile of possibilities:
Klara and The Sun- Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro is one of my favorite writers, and I have held onto this for a rainy day. It's time to break it out before the year ends. It helps that we are in a much-needed weeks-long rainstorm in the SF Bay Area.
Still Life- Sarah Winman
I loved her previous novel, The Tin Man, and have heard wonderful things about this one, as well. I anticipate an emotional read, brimming with life.
How Beautiful We Were- Imbolo Mbue
Seeing this on some of the Best Of lists has made me proud of my purchase earlier this year. Now it's time to read it!
Beautiful World, Where Are You- Sally Rooney
I didn't get a chance to dive in when it arrived but I don't want to end the year without reading it. And I am pleased that the hype has died down a bit. I have enjoyed her previous work and wonder if the publishing hype on this one was too heavy-handed. could any book live up to that hype?
The Promise- Damon Galgut
If I don't get to this before the end of the year, I will get to it soon as my In Real Life Book Club reads the shortlists of the Women's Prize and the Booker. So it's just a question of savoring it now when I have a lot of time to contemplate it or read it when I also have work, the BookTube Prize judging, and other things going on in my life. I am leaning towards reading it now.
Light Perpetual- Francis Spufford
This is a NetGalley digital advanced readers copy I want to finish this year. I adored his last book Golden Hill, which was a historical novel brimming with rich details of early New York City and a charming newcomer who may be conning everyone he meets. This premise sounds very different, so I want to read it and judge for myself if Spufford is an auto-buy author in the future.
The Magician- Colm Tóibín
This is also a Netgalley digital advanced readers copy that has been on my to-do list for too long. I finished Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann earlier this month so I was more prepared for this fictionalized biography of the famous author. I have started it and am enjoying it tremendously.
The Feast- Margaret Kennedy
This is one that wasn't in the press but was all a buzz on bookish Twitter accounts I follow. Most of the people read backlisted books as I do, and they have exceptional taste. I started this last night and am enthralled already. Plus there was some bookish magic in that the introduction was written by an author I hadn't heard of before, but who had written a book that Leo gave me for Christmas, and that I had opened that very morning. And when I opened the book, it was blurbed by the Grande Dame Anita Brookner herself! It was like it was delivered into my hands by the book goddesses themselves.
Burntcoat- Sarah Hall
This book sounded amazing and it was in one of the most recent Blackwell's orders I made. I have been avoiding the pandemic novel, but this sounded too good and is getting a lot of UK accolades.
Razorblade Tears- S.A. Cosby
I have seen this author appearing on the year-end lists, and it was one of the recent Book of the Month club offerings, so it seems like it would be a great palate cleanser to pick up.
And of course, there are others I would love to read during this time. As you may know, I read a lot of backlisted books and have ordered many from the UK this year, thanks to Blackwell's. I also have Book of the Month selections that I want to read. Then there are ones that I haven't thought about for these piles, but are like whispers in my ear, tempting me away from formalized lists and structure because my reading is always lawless, always whimsical.
I hope your week ahead is as dreamy, magical, and filled with the books that are calling out to you, too.