Another year is winding to a close, and the various members of the takahē team are heading off to their respective breaks. But before everyone disappears on their summer holidays, we thought we’d give you an idea of the sorts of things we’ve enjoyed reading this year, as well as what we’re looking forward to in our New Year’s reading piles.
Juliana Feaver (Competition Secretary)
Highlight of 2015: meeting Michael Robotham, a fav psychological mystery writer. As engaging and entertaining in person as he is on the page. He signed three books, what can I say: I’m a fan.
Looking forward to reading: Raymond Carver’s Where I’m Calling From – The Selected Stories. Sourced from the store room of the public library. A masterclass in short story writing.
Erin Harrington (Essays Editor)
Highlight of 2015: Emily St John Mandel’s remarkable Station Eleven. On the surface it looks like yet another book about the redeeming power of art – capital A art, high culture, and so on – as we (mostly) follow a wandering Shakespeare troupe who bring ad hoc music and theatre to what few tiny communities remain in the aftermath of a global supervirus. Poke around a bit and this is a bit of a smoke screen for a gloriously nuanced, witty and thoughtful take on how we form connections, make sense of the world, and find meaning in things, be those things symphonies or comic books or gossip magazines or cheap, tacky trinkets. It dances beautifully between light and shade and its one of the best post-apocalyptic novels out there.
Looking forward to reading: getting stuck into Eugene Thacker’s Horror of Philosophy books, The Dust of this Planet, Starry Speculative Corpse and Tentacles Longer Than Night, all of which sit right at the heart of my personal and professional interests. They’ve been next to my desk at work for months in a guilty little pile and I finally have the time to wallow through them! Their publisher, Zero Books, combines the intellectual with the popular in a way that I love. Their catalogue is terrific, affordable and worth perusing.
Erik Kennedy (Treasurer and Twitter Maestro)
Highlight of 2015: I have elsewhere recommended Simon Barraclough’s book of poems Sunspots (Penned in the Margins, 2015). These are poems about, to, and by our solar system’s senior member. During the latter part of the year I began seriously reading Louis MacNeice in a way that I had never done before. I find his churning, thing-filled lines remind me of my own ideal verses. The edition to get is the door-stopping 2013 Collected Poems from Wake Forest University Press. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Daphne du Maurier’s novel The House on the Strand (Victor Gollancz, 1969) kept me up for two nights. This tale of an editor who, thanks to a highly addictive hallucinogen, is able to glimpse life in a Cornish village in the fourteenth century moves inexorably toward a terrifying conclusion.
Looking forward to reading: I have given my partner Alexandra Harris’s Romantic Moderns (Thames & Hudson, 2010) for Christmas, which means I’m obviously going to read it, too. Harris challenges the view of interwar England as, artistically, a benighted land of churchyards and tea rooms. Figures from Virginia Woolf to Eric Ravilious to John Piper emerge as champions of a sort of pastoral modernism. Also, I’ll certainly be reading American poet Michael Robbins’s first collection of criticism, Equipment for Living (Simon & Schuster, 2016?), which I’m pretty sure is finally coming out this year. No-one can detonate a mine under a blundering author’s feet like Robbins, but few writers can praise like him, either. Finally, Joanna might be interested to know that I have already written about the latest Les Murray.
Felicity Milburn (Art Editor)
Highlight of 2015: Since 1997, Julie King ‘s Flowers into Landscape has been the go-to source on the life and work of the Canterbury watercolourist Margaret Stoddart. Now King has turned her focus to another important, and equally fascinating, local artist with Olivia Spencer Bower: Making Her Own Discoveries (Canterbury University Press, 2015). Well researched and full of nuggets gleaned from the artist’s letters, photographs and archive, it’s set to become an instant classic.
Looking forward to reading: Actually, looking forward to finishing, as work pressures have limited me to one tantalising half-chapter each night for the last week: Lila (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014), the third instalment in Marilynne Robinson’s remarkable Gilead trilogy. Subtle and luminous, it’s one to savour.
Joanna Preston (Poetry Editor)
Highlight of 2015: hard to go past the final ever Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown (Doubleday), completed only just before Terry Pratchett died. It’s funny, and sad, and brave, and all the things you expect from Pratchett. A fitting rounding-out to the Tiffany Aching arc. With a dedication that will break the heart of any Discworld fan.
Looking forward to reading: Les Murray’s latest poetry collection, Waiting for the Past (Black Ink). One of my favourite poets, and always an interesting read. (And often productive of poems of my own in response.) I’m also hoping that my copious hint-dropping has resulted in my other half getting me Don Paterson’s 40 Sonnets for Christmas … if not, Scorpio can expect me first thing on Boxing Day.