2020 wasn’t a big reading year for me. As you might know, I spent most of it sleeping. But I did make it through the books listed below, and they’re here because they gifted me with inspiration, motivation, clarity and a whole lot else besides.
There’s a lot of hate about Big Magic on the internet, but I urge you, if you’re thinking about picking up a copy, to ignore it. There’s much good to be found amongst its pages. I wasn’t creating anything when I read it back in February 2020, but when I was finished reading, there was hardly a page that didn’t have lines underscored. I knew I’d return to them when my creativity decided it was time to come back home.
“It starts by forgetting about perfect. We don’t have time for perfect.”Elizabeth Gilbert
I came to Set Me On Fire in desperation. I’d just finished reading Risbridger’s book Midnight Chicken (a cookbook I won in a Mslexia competition. It’s currently £1.99 on Kindle and there are recipes in it which don’t include meat.) and, while a lot of the recipes were nice and all, it was Risbridger’s voice I was desperately hungry for more of.
I would have read anything she’d published, though it just so happened to be my good fortune that the book she put out after Midnight Chicken was an anthology of poems. It’s as close to perfect as an anthology could be really, and I got as much out of her introduction, afterward and annotations as I did with the poems themselves.
“You see, a poem should work for you. A poem that doesn’t work for you is not a poem that you need. It’s not your failing. It’s not you at all; it’s them. It’s fine. Scrap it. Ignore it. Turn the page.”Ella Risbridger
Probably the most important book I read last year. And the most harrowing. There were countless times I found myself needing to put it down while I mopped up puddles of tears. I’ve had a hot/cold relationship with Foer’s writing (I lapped up every word of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close but struggled to get even a quarter of a way through Here I Am) but I knew this was one book I could not not read. If you eat meat, read it. If you don’t eat meat, read it.
“It’s always possible to wake someone from sleep, but no amount of noise will wake someone who is pretending to be asleep.”Jonathan Safran Foer
I read this at a time when pretty much all of my reading material was depression based. I was frantically searching for a trail out of my illness. While I didn’t find myself on a trail taking me away from depression for several months after I read this book, Journeys With The Black Dog handed me a lantern with helped to light the way.
“No-one enters to labyrinth of depression willingly.”Tessa Wigney
I bought Beyond The Darkness when it was first published nearly ten years ago, but decided to re-visit it last year when I was feeling like my depression was distancing me from the Black Metal scene. It’s an intelligent and compelling overview of the ever evolving beast that is Black Metal by some exceptionally strong voices. It’s also one hell of a visual feast.
Some of the (many) bands you’ll find discussed include: Wolves In The Throne Room, Darkthrone, Burzum, Ulver, Mayhem and Marduk. I think it’s hard to get hold of now…for a reasonable price at least. The prices on Amazon are ridiculous, people are taking the piss. (Says the woman who paid £100 for a first edition of Mortiis’s Secrets Of My Kingdom.) But if you can find a copy that’s affordable, it’s a worthy investment.
“Nobody burns churches anymore.”From the introduction. Not sure which of the writers put this down.
I came to this book (which is the first in a very readable trilogy) after stumbling across the Lore podcast. It was Spring and my creativity had decided to saunter home for a few weeks. I found myself eager to start writing music for Cave Mouth, and thought I’d find what I needed to get started in Monstrous Creatures. And heck, did I. There’s vampires and werewolves and wendigos galore. The following books Wicked Mortals and Dreadful Places are just as good. Just writing about them makes me want to go back and re-read each one, despite having highlighted them to death.
“Death, though, is a reality for all of us, whether we like it or not. Whether we’re young or old, rich or poor, healthy or sick, life is one long journey down a road, and we walk until it’s over. Some think they see light at the end of it all, while others hope for darkness. And that’s where the mystery of it all comes in. No one knows what’s on the other side; we just know that the proverbial walk ends at some point.”Aaron Mahnke
What I Was Listening To While Writing This Post