I seem to have books in most rooms of my house that I pick up, read, and put down at different times of the day. The cache in the lounge is probably the most interesting (and mixed). I started reading short stories – a format I had for years shunned in favour of lengthier, meatier books – a few years ago when I was given Paul Auster’s Collected Prose – a collection that I would unhesitatingly recommend to anyone, as indeed I would his wife’s collection that I came to next – The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis – although I see that I have not quite finished the final story! Or perhaps I did finish it and have just left a tantalising bookmark behind! I am still working my way through the prose writings of Seamus Heaney – Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001 which is a more difficult read: essays such as ‘The Placeless Heaven: Another Look at Kavanagh’ or ‘Yeats as an Example?’ demand slower, more thoughtful study and are perhaps less late-afternoon-lounge than writing-room. I think I shall move the book! Recently I received Tess Slessinger’s Time: The Present – Selected Short Stories – all written, and very much of the age, in the 1930s, they are a fascinating look at the political and, perhaps more to the point, the cultural scene in New York at the time. They are beautifully written in her very identifiable style. As yet untouched and at the bottom of the lounge pile, Alun Lewis Collected Stories is a natural successor to his Collected Poems, which I have in the writing room. The final lounge book – floating at the top of the pile by reason of the subject matter and the ease of reading that makes it easy to dip in and out in spare five minute gaps – is Mo Gawdat’s Scary Smart, which deals with the advance of artificial intelligence into our lives. His style does tend to talk down to his readers and repeat facts to ensure you have grasped them as he emphasises them for the third time – a style seemingly enhanced by the generous line spacing and the comic-book inserts of mid-text comments. But it IS a very interesting book!
There are often – well always – poetry books in the lounge pile and I am currently reading a few poems a day from both Ruth Bidgood’s New and Selected Poems and – only just acquired – Dominic Fisher’s A Customised Selection of Fireworks. Sometimes these make their way up to the writing room, where they join a library of other poets. Apart from Alun Lewis and the Library of Wales Poetry 1900-2000 near my desk you can find Jeremy Hooker – like Dominic Fisher, a one-time Aberystwyth poet – R S Thomas, Idris Davis, Vernon Watkins (encountered again in another lounge book, Iain Sinclair’s wonderful Black Apples of Gower) and a plethora of Anglo-Welsh poets as well as many American beat poets, Malcolm Lowry, Leonard Cohen, Ella Frears, August Kleinzahler and Samantha Walton. A friend once gave me Adonis’ If Only The Sea Could Sleep: Love Poems – a little book to which I often return (I wish that was my title!) and – in the same vein – I have added Attar and Rumi to my library.
Other books that have crept through the lounge over the past few years include James Lovelock’s Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, followed – not too long after – by Kathryn Yusoff’s A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None; Luke Kennard’s Notes on the Sonnets and (by the same publisher, Penned in the Margins, since, sadly closed down) Tom Chivers and Martin Kratz’s Mount London: Ascents in the Vertical City. Having planted apple trees, it was interesting to read Raymond Blanc’s The Lost Orchard and, for a similar reason, Maoko Abe’s ‘Cherry’ Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms – currently unfinished and moving from room to room!
The dining room has fewer books – more actually, if you include the bookshelves themselves – but fewer current or recently current books! And they are a more mixed collection: a book about Leonard Cohen: Harry Freedman’s Leonard Cohen: The Mystical Roots of Genius and Cohen’s own A Ballet of Lepers: A Novel and Stories; Karen Armstrong’s Buddha and Nancy Wilson Ross’ The World of Zen and last, but certainly not least because of the subject’s connection with the farm on which I live, Diary of a Welsh Swagman 1869-1894, edited by William Evans and its companion by Bethan Phillips, Pity the Swagman.
Oh! And there will always be a thriller or novel of some sort on my Kindle that I read as I fall asleep! The latest was the first part of Elena Ferranti’s Neapolitan Novels, My Brilliant Friend, which so immersed me in the life of its characters that I frequently found myself still reading an hour after I had lain down!