Alice: The Freedom Artist by Ben Okri
This year I have loved reading The Freedom Artist by award winning writer Ben Okri. What I most loved about this book is the chapters are short, it seems like you’re in a fast paced, ever moving world, the characters’ emotions are fleeting yet profound. What happens when you live in a post truth world? What happens when artists and writers disappear from the world? The book is a mixture of Kafka, Orwell and a bit of Coelho – all things love, politics and history interweave in this harrowing yet beautiful tale.
Katrina: I Was Somebody Before This by Kitti Jones
I have just finished reading I Was Somebody Before This by Kitti Jones. I think it’s an incredibly important book in such a powerful time while we are experiencing the #MeToo movement. Female empowerment is so crucial in this day and age, and this book highlights the hold money and power can play over someone’s life, so much so they don’t see their own family in years and shows the process of breaking that hold and becoming yourself again. I think I Was Somebody Before This is the first book in a list of many to begin exposing a sickening side to the music industry and will be pivotal in changing the way we all perceive it.
Lauren: Becoming by Michelle Obama
My favourite book I’ve read this year is Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming a brutally honest journey from her working-class childhood in the South Side of Chicago, to the most inclusive White House America has ever known. This heartfelt, warm and witty book is an essential read showing hard work, determination and fair-mindedness. A wonderful insight into the iconic First Lady we know her as today.
Steph: Kingdomland by Rachael Allen
“A girl, large-eyed
pressure in a ditch
grips to a dank and
disordered root system”
I’m currently reading Rachael Allen’s Kingdomland. From the first untitled poem, I was immediately taken by Allen's incredible restraint with language. I think what she’s doing with nature and environments is so impressive and important. The scenes she creates feel both familiar and disturbing, which I think tells us a lot about the vulnerability of our ecological landscapes and current situation.
Growing up in a household where the choice was The Sex Pistols or David Essex it isn’t hard to guess which musical influences I sided with. Sat in my dad’s car I clearly remember the first time I heard ‘The Day the World Turned Day-Glo’. For my dad it may have been his proudest moment, for me, I had just heard a female voice that echoed the angst I felt, growing up in a world that didn’t fulfil my expectations. Poly Styrene’s lyrics are still as important to me today as woman as they were then with lines like ‘When you see yourself, does it make you scream?’ Day-Glo by Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell and writer Zoë Howe is an important reminder of what a pioneer Poly was and how much we still need to challenge today.
Ciarán: Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
I’ve been rereading Scarlett Thomas’ Our Tragic Universe – it’s a really interesting novel of how a story can save a life. The main character, a writer struggling to start her passion project, is being bogged down by doing gonzo journalism features on self-help holistic books. It pulls in really beautiful discussions on quantum psychics, language, Zen stories, psychology and philosophy. At one point it can feel like a domestic drama between the main character and the people in her live, the next an accessible and intellectual debate about narrative and storytelling, the next a guide to holistic remedies and magic.
Madeline: Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Fenton
Longlisted for this year’s Women’s Prize, Yvonne Battle- Fenton’s Remembered is reminiscent of Tony Morrison’s Beloved. Beginning with a haunting, Remembered opens in Philadelphia in 1910 where Spring, a former slave, harbours secrets that must be told for the sake of her son Edward. This is a beautifully written debut novel which attests to the importance of coming to terms with the past, no matter how painful, for progress to be made.
Mike: When the Rivers Run Dry: Water--The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century by Fred Pearce
When the Rivers Run Dry, Water-The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century by veteran scientist, environmentalist and writer Fred Pearce, finishes on a note of optimism, a notion of hope as the last to leave Pandora’s Box, but what precedes it is a devastating and chilling account of the global mismanagement of water on so many levels it is hard to comprehend, and that water, which should flow freely in every household, is a political issue that sees communities cut off and deprived of water if their neighbour upstream deems it better to divert it to irrigate their crops or supply the new towns they have built. There are tales of the water table being drained dry in many regions to supply farms and industry, which is most worrying as this is water gathered over many thousands of years, which will take lifetimes to replenish. A brilliant book, and a ground level view of why, as is the case on virtually all environmental issues, man is the problem, and the only one who can solve it.