When I went to the library at the end of June, my first visit after lockdown, it was not my typical library experience. Instead of spending time browsing the shelves, I had to order my books online and then wait for the library to phone to set up an appointment to collect them. After weeks of being at home with no plans all day, it felt strange to have to be somewhere at a specific time. The library looked closed when I arrived and I had to wait outside. The librarian opened the door, took my name and then hurried back inside, found my book on a table just inside the door and passed it out to me. That was it. I went to the library and didn’t even get to go inside the library.
In May I saw Tana French being interviewed by Anna Carey in Smock Alley. The event was part of the International Festival of Literature. I am a huge admirer of her writing but I’d never heard her speak about it before so I was really looking forward to the event. She didn’t disappoint.
Since the sad news of his death came last Friday, I have read some lovely tributes to Terry Prachett, and often had a little weep. (I really like these two on the Standard Issue website – AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER and DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH, and this one by Frank Cottrell Boyce in the Guardian.) I started reading Prachett’s Discworld books the summer I did my Leaving Cert and fell in love with them immediately. They were recommended by a friend – we’d bonded over a shared love of Red Dwarf and then I sent her off to read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and she sent me off to read the Discworld novels. I am very grateful to her for that – what a gift! All those wonderful stories, all those jokes, all those terrific characters. And now, there’s no more. No more Sam Vimes fighting everyone in sight so he can get home to read his son a bedtime story. No more stories about Tiffiany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegleys (after the final one). The news of his death was very sad, even if it was not unexpected. (That’s a lie – I didn’t expect it, I was hoping for a miracle cure. Surely it was a one in a million chance.) As well as reading other peoples tributes to him, it makes me want to watch The Hogfather and wonder what’s happening with The Watch tv series. But I also feel lucky to have those books in my life, and lucky that despite being a fan for 15 years, I still haven’t read everything he’s written. And even those I have read, I know I will read and enjoy again. They are so crammed full of jokes and clever parodies and wonderful minor characters, along side the great plots, that I know they are worth reading again.
Celebrating all the great books he gave us feels more useful than being sad about his passing. And in the spirit of celebration, I started thinking about other writers that are still with us and still writing wonderful books that make me glad I’m alive to read them!
1. Jilly Cooper is still writing and is working on a new horsey book! I love this article about how Riders is 30 years old and the best erotic fiction of all time! I started Riders the morning after my granny died. I was 15 and instantly hooked on Jilly Cooper. For a long time, her books were my literary drug of choice – the ones I went for when I needed to escape from my own boring life. I’ve probably read Riders, Rivals and Polo at least 5 times. And yes, her books are not as saucy as they used to be, either because I’m not 15 any more or because she’s almost 80, but I am still looking forward to her next one.
2. Caitlin Moran has to included on a celebratory list because she is just a pusher of joy. She’s an enthusiast and somehow manages to be infectiously enthusiastic about the simplest things like fluffy towels. She makes the world brighter and more bearable. I don’t know know if she’s working on a new book but I am looking forward to watching Raised by Wolves over the next few weeks and liked this profile in the Guardian at the weekend.
3. Marian Keyes. I’ve been reading Marian’s books longer than I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s and I still look forward to every single one. I read her most recent book – The Woman Who Stole My Life – just before Christmas and really loved it. I bought it a gift but had to read it first! She’s also an absolute tonic on twitter, another person who is just out to find the joy in things. I really think the people who decry twitter as a rage-filled cesspool are just following the wrong people.
4. Tana French is an Irish crime writer that I heard about from an American classmate a couple of years ago. For some reason she is much better known in the States than in Ireland, though all her books are set in Dublin. And they are wonderful. I don’t read a lot of crime novels but I really really enjoy these. I love getting hold of a new Tana French novel, looking forward diving into that world and knowing that I’m going to be completely obsessed with it for the next few days.
5. Louise O’Neill, another Irish woman, who published her first novel the very creepy Only Ever Yours last year. It’s set in a future world where girls are trained and rated for the sole-purpose of male pleasure. It’s terrifying and heart-breaking, and one that stays with you for days. Her next novel is about rape culture and I’m really interested to see how she dissects that messy minefield.
I’ve also heard great things about The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. And Kate Atkinson has a new book out this year, and so does Judy Blume and Ali Smith and Harper Lee! So many great books that I can’t wait to get my hands on. Not to mention all the writers that I haven’t yet become acquainted with. Yes, I’ve listed loads of women writers, mainly because these are the books I’ve excited about right now. I’ve never had trouble #ReadingWomen but I do read male authors too. I read Funny Girl by Nick Hornby earlier this year and absolutely loved it, I’m looking forward to David Nichols’ Us and I’ve just started This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz.
These are the people I’m looking forward to reading, the books that make me happy.. Any gems that I’ve missed?