My Top Reads January – April 2020

To what purpose, April, do you return again?/ Beauty is not enough… /It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,/ April/ Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

—Edna St. Vincent Millay

April has always been one of my favourite months, symbolising memory and spring. Just yesterday, I wrote: “I will always remember April as a distinct flavour all her own: a cusp; a disappointment and a surprise all at once”. April sections off the first quarter of the year so perfectly. 2020 has been a really busy but fantastic reading year so far, and I’ve come across a few total gems. These are:

Spring, Edna St. Vincent Millay

It seems that I have a new favourite poem about April every year. This year’s is Spring. It personifies April and questions its existence, its purpose, or lack of one. I definitely want to do a proper blog post deconstructing this poem some time soon, but for now I’ll just say that I absolutely adore the final two lines—the personification and imagery of April babbling and strewing flowers like an idiot just completely blew me away the first time I read it. Overall, the way the poet ironically uses a critical tone to portray April in all its subliminal and ephemeral beauty made this poem an instant favourite and top read for me.

No Matter the Wreckage, Sarah Kay

I asked my partner to get this collection for me as a gift some time back after already having my eye on it for a while. Sarah Kay’s Table Games and The Type are probably among my top five most rewatched videos on Youtube of all time. The book did NOT disappoint. Her poetry is really, really beautiful, yet they remain grounded, a welcome reminder of the extraordinary in the ordinary and everyday. I know that the more I read it, I will discover new favourites in it, but currently, the poems I love the most from it are “Grace”, “Poppy” and “Witness”.

This is another text I definitely want to write a proper post on at some time. This story acts as a prelude to Stranger Things and Stranger Things 2, telling the story of Terry Ives and the MKULTRA programme she was a part of that eventually led to the paralysis and madness we see in the show. It’s writing style is very different from the styles I tend to favour. However, the storyline is genuinely interesting, especially if you’re as big of a Stranger Things fan as I am.

Swallowtail, Brenna Twohy

Another poetry collection, by another Button poet. Twohy’s poetry is more biting and wary, as compared to the soft edges of Kay’s poetry. Swallowtail tells the story of trauma, of healing and of coming out the other side stronger and wiser.

Home, Toni Morrison

During my trip to New York in 2016, I stayed in an AirBnb in East Harlem. There, at the foot of my bed, was a metal bookshelf mounted to the wall, on which were several books. One of the books was Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, which I read a bit of at nights. I did not quite enjoy it, but have been waiting for another opportunity to give Morrison another go. This year, it finally happened when I read Home. Home is a novella, telling the story of a young man, his sin and his attempt at redemption. The story is exceptionally written and incredibly powerful. Morrison’s strategic use of symbolism manages to tie the entire story together coherently, connecting seemingly unrelated events and characters to really bring dimension and life to them.

The Fifth Child, Doris Lessing

I wrote about this book in my previous post and it is definitely in my top reads. Its mix of realism, horror and a matter-of-fact tone makes this book for me. It provokes the reader to think about the boundaries of humanness and then it challenges those boundaries. It also questions if class divide and the adherence to tradition can make one more or less human accordingly. Apparently, it has a sequel, Ben in the World, which I’m definitely planning to get my hands on.

The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac

I only started reading this book last night, so this is a bit of an assumption, but I already know that this is going to be one of my best reads of 2020. Kerouac is my number one favourite author of all time and my ultimate literary hero and idol, so I’d expect nothing less. But I’m not just saying this; so far, The Dharma Bums brims with Kerouac’s signature wit and musical prose as it explores the (within its context) esoteric combination of subscribing to Zen Buddhism and being a bum at the same time, ergo: Dharma Bums. Its narrative and bursts of contemplation are absolutely delightful and fascinating and I can’t wait to write on it once I’m done reading it.

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