The Reading List #8 | September - December 2021

By Lucy Harbron - 16:05

I’m trying to not be disappointed by my lack of reading this year. In 2021 I got through 10 books, which feels pathetic compared to 2020’s 25, but I’m reminding myself that circumstances are very different. My new year’s resolution is to bring back to slow mornings of the previous year, I want to wake up earlier and allow myself some quiet reading time in bed with the morning light. But commuting and my TikTok obsession constantly threatens any attempt at reforming the habit.

What I will say is that I think I really engaged with the books I read this year, diving deep into each one rather than feeling like I skimmed past them in a week or so. I ticked off some reads I’d been wanting to tackle for year, and found some new favourites as I finally got round to finishing off the book pile I acquired last Christmas and way back in April for my birthday. 10 books is still good, I’m going to keep saying that over and over till I hopefully feel it, repeating it like a mantra as I start to pick out my selection for next year.

#1 Let Us Compare Mythologies – Leonard Cohen

Everyone knows how much I adore Leonard Cohen so it was about time I picked up his first ever collection. But what I was met with was something vastly different some any other Cohen I’d read. While his later stuff is silly and light-hearted, tossing out all rules of what poetry should be or look like, Let Us Compare Mythologies follows them to the letter. It’s very literary, as though Cohen originally planned to follow the path of the greats like Keats or whoever, before branching off to find his own voice. While it was definitely still beautiful, and still had hints of the classic Cohen voice, it wasn’t as charming as his older works. I’d still recommend Book Of Longing for a first Cohen read, but I’m enjoying diving into his back catalogue regardless. What a man.


#2 Nina Simone’s Gum – Warren Ellis

After a crisis with my original flat in London, I sat down the next day with a coffee and a cookie and read all 200+ pages cover to cover. Hyper-focussed to block out the stress and upset, I couldn’t think of a better book to accompany me. I haven’t read a book like this, maybe ever. So simple and so sweet and so unique, Nina Simone’s Gum tells the story of exactly that. After a performance in 1999, Warren Ellis climbed on stage and stole Nina’s chewed gum right from her piano, and kept it with him ever since. Kept close as a strange little relic or lucky charm, the book follows Warren’s mission to have the gum cast in gold, weaving in and out with tales from his career and anecdotes that will restore all your belief in human kindness. Encountering so many people desperate to help him in his mission to protect and preserve the memento, I couldn’t stop reading. It’s not that the story is gripping in its plot, but the conversational tone made it a page turner as I was eager to continue the cosy conversation me and Warren were having. By the time I finished, 3 hours later, I honestly could’ve gone back to page 1 and started all over again. Immediately joining my best of the best favourite book list, I haven’t stopped recommending it since.


#3 A Theatre For Dreamers – Polly Samson

You would think it would be difficult to get into a book about a sunny Greek island in the middle of winter in London, but the escapism was heaven. Grabbing a book that had been sitting on my shelf for months as I ran out the door to get a train, I realised it’d been ages since I read some proper fiction. A Theatre For Dreamers was recommended to me after watching a documentary about Leonard Cohen and Marianne on Hydra, and the novel finds its setting there. Including Cohen as a character, it fictionalises that circle of artists and writers, finding a home on the picturesque island. Despite the far off setting and climate totally opposite from my own, something about the book really invites you in. You feel like you’ve been welcomed into the friendship group, and my commutes were quickly transformed into sunny moments of transportation, from a rocky train to a beach.

I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, despite being interested in Hydra and it’s circles, I’d been putting off picking up the book for a long time. But when I finally did, I flew through the book within a week or so, constantly wanting to get back to the dramas of the sunny island.

#4 The Favourite Game – Leonard Cohen

Back on the Cohen hype, this was my first foray into his prose as I picked up his first novel. First published in 1963, it fell out of print for a long, long time, only recently becoming accessible again. And thank god it is. The Favourite Games is odd, yet wildly easy to read. Made up of short chapters, and text that flits between short sentences and long winding poetic prose, I flew through it. Semi-Semi-autobiographical, it follows the life of a young writer from Canada, battling between love and artistic calling. The main character Lawrence Breavman is self-involved and complex, all his relationships feel fleshed out and real, every character full and developed. Nothing is missing, as the plot is just busy enough and just slow enough to leave space for Cohen’s poetry.

Criminally overlooked, I’m going to be shoving this novel under everyone’s noses for a long time.

Next up…

The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller

On my list for 2022 (so far)…

My Year Of Rest And Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh

The Fran Lebowitz Reader -Fran Lebowitz

POPism – Andy Warhol

Please send me your recommendations!

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