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  • Bebe Ashley

Ten Genres across Ten Books

I've made it fully through my first ten books of the year, and it was quite a fun surprise to realise that I'd read ten books across ten different genres.

A few years ago, I'm sure I would've got through ten books in around six weeks but between writing poems, editing poems, learning Braille, British Sign Language classes, reorganising my bookshelves, and working my way through a PhD which is actually priority number one, finishing a whole book really feels like a different kind of achievement than it used to. I have never kept a list of the books I've read before. In recent years, I've seen end of year round-ups, and long lists of the books people have conquered that year, but it was only when my housemate started keeping a list of the books that she'd read that I started too. Firstly, to be competitive and see if I could beat her in number (not going to happen) and secondly because I figured I could probably make a cool infographic or craft activity at the end of the year using the information. So, in order of being read, and therefore not ranked in any other way, the ten books (Title by Author (Genre) [Publisher]) I've read so far this year are:

Recollections of my Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit (Memoir) [Granta]

Americana by Luke Healy (Graphic Novel) [Nobrow] A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit (Essays) [Cannongate Books]

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay (Self-Help) [Hachette USA]

Where the Wild Ladies Are by Matsuda Aoko, translated by Polly Barton (Short Stories in translation) [Tilted Axis Press]

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (Novel) [W&N]

Rendang by Will Harris (Poetry) [Granta Poetry]

Being Various by various authors (Short Stories) [Faber&Faber]

Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai by Nina Mingya Powels (Food Memoir) [The Emma Press]

The Following Scan will Last Five Minutes by Lieke Marsman, translated by Sophie Collins (Poetry in Translation) [Liverpool University Press] It was also only when I decided to put this post together that I realised that these ten are very nearly from ten different presses. This makes sense when I think about the diversity of the form of the books, graphic novels aren't published by poetry presses etc. It's pretty important for me to read books from independent presses, and I try to buy these directly or through subscriptions, as well as those from bigger names that get lots more media coverage but I had in no way set out to read so many different genres or from so many different presses so that was a fun surprise. It was probably because I was reading so many different genres that I found my momentum in reading this year, and why I feel like I'm ready to set a goal of 52 books, one for each week of the year. Going from novel to novel just doesn't suit me and I've found that reading widely is crucial to inform my creative practice, not just in poetry but in all forms. Short-stories have also been great for actually sitting down and getting some reading done. If my attention is wavering, I know it's only a couple of pages until I'll be done with it and I can either read another one or go do something else for a while. That sense of satisfaction has helped pass many hours that otherwise feel the same. I'll try and keep switching between forms and presses up over the year. I have quite a few from independents on my to-read list so it shouldn't be too much of a challenge if I spend my book budget thoughtfully.

I know a lot of people that stick to reading what they know they enjoy, and there isn't anything wrong with that. I would read village-based murder mysteries for days but as a writer, I think it's so important to widen your expectations of what you'll find in a book, and switching between genres is something that really works. I wasn't expecting to enjoy the style of Americana as much as I did and I've started another graphic novel about the history of surfing as I find out more about the graphic novel form. There are a couple of books on my list that I really, really enjoyed and that I'll be reading again for sure. Standouts for me were: The Following Scan will Last Five Minutes, The Defining Decade, Exciting Times, Tiny Moons, and Recollections of My Non-Existence. I'll write more about these at a different time but I would strongly recommend them to anyone out there wanting a good read, and I'm very happy to talk about them in person at length, for the next year at least. I'll keep going with my list for now. At the moment, I'm reading a graphic novel, a selected poetry collection and a music memoir so everything looks on track. Let's hope my poems are heading the same way.

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