Reading Myself Back To Life: Books I Read In 2020 (Part II)

Welcome to the second and final part of Reading Myself Back To Life, in which I share some of the books that had quite the impact on me in 2020. If any of these books have found their way into your life too, I’d love to know. Or if you intend on getting any, I’d love to know that too. 

She Is Intimate With Winter; It’s In Her Blood – Katherine May

The Krampus And The Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil by Al Ridenour

Just so good. Do not let the fact that Krampusnacht has passed stop you from investing in this tome. This hefty, meticulously researched book was next to impossible to leave alone. Krampus has intrigued me for ages, but it was only in 2020 that I actually started to delve a little deeper into what he’s all about. Ridenour’s book was so in-depth, so thorough, so god damn engaging I closed it at the end feeling like I was prepared to hold a three day lecture on the subject. (Well, maybe not…but you get me.) It’s worth reading.

“Wolfgang Bohm remembers how his young cousin ‘would always hide somewhere in the attic’ when the devils arrived and recalls ‘stories from people in their 50s or 60s who talk about hiding in the woodshed, or beneath the bed.’” 

Al Ridenour

The Old Magic Of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions For The Darkest Days Of The Year by Linda Readisch

When I found The Old Magic Of Christmas on Amazon, it was one of those ‘yeah, this book was obviously written for me,’ moments. I’d been feeling dismayed at the lack of books written about the old magic of Yule, so I hoped against hope The Old Magic would be everything I needed, and maybe even a little bit more. And it was everything I needed. And a little bit more. 

I wanted to savour it, take in just a little bit every day for as long as the pages lasted. But because it was for research, I finished in two days. Readish’s writing style is such that you feel as though it’s a good friend waxing lyrical about the stomach slitting Frau Berchta and The Wild Hunt. 

If you enjoy your hands-on winter crafts, you’ll be chuffed to know there’s several to get busy with, including Icelandic Snowflake Breads and a White Witch Window Star. (I used to make these at school. They’re an absolute joy to make and display.)

“One thing that can be said for trolls is this: they are excellent timekeepers. There have been several instances in Norway and Iceland when the humans lost count of the dark days of winter and had to ask the trolls when to celebrate Christmas.” 

Linda Readisch

Wintering: How I Learned To Flourish When Life Became Frozen by Katherine May

One of the most beautiful (many readers have used ‘beautiful’ to describe Wintering…and I tried to find a different word to sum it up…but beautiful does such a good job, I stuck with it) and compelling reads of 2020. If I could buy a copy for everyone struggling with their own ‘dark season of life’ I absolutely would. 

I noticed some quite nasty reviews on Amazon, and I implore you to ignore them. Kate Kellaway writing for The Guardian said in a review that ‘If therapy is a talking cure then this beautiful book – Wintering – is a reading cure.’ I wholeheartedly agree.  

“She is intimate with winter; it’s in her blood.”

Katherine May

Winter: An Anthology For The Changing Seasons Edited by Melissa Harrison 

I love this book so much. So. Damn. Much. I really can’t stress enough how much I love it. Of all the works I’ve read about Winter – and I’ve read a few – this sits at the table with the best. Have I made my point? Good.

Harrison did an outstanding job of selecting what to feature in Winter. There’s a thrilling diversity to the writing, and every piece was a gift I didn’t want to put down. And one of the best things? Discovering nature writers whose work I want to pursue with an almost unhealthy obsession. 

The list of writers is too lengthy to include in full here (always a good thing) but it does feature: Roger Deakin, Louis MacNeice, William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and two of those writers I was to follow with an ‘unhealthy obsession,’ Annie Worsley and Christina McLeish. I enjoyed it so much, I’m gathering the other three in the quartet. 

“Quickly, days shorten; somehow we all adjust and welcome the dark, for it is neither threatening nor smothering. Darkness becomes a thing of joy and vivid beauty in its own right.” 

Annie Worsley

What I Was Listening To While Writing This

1 thought on “Reading Myself Back To Life: Books I Read In 2020 (Part II)”

  1. Such a fine list. My familiarity with these works is from your writing about them before. The image is so right for the season. My Northernness is reinforced!

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