Tag Archives: book recommendations

The Unsung Letter No. 39

This week in The Unsung Letter Ryan Vance speaks on a novel of memory and a kind of unseeing:

 

When reading, all I experience is the printed form of words on the page in front of me, and I find it difficult to totally lose myself in fictional worlds so familiar to our own. So you can keep your meandering realism, your airport thrillers, your meticulous historical memoirs. Give me something so unlikely it sounds ridiculous, even demented, if not outright impossible. Give me something unimaginable. Because for me, literally everything is.

 

Read more here, and subscribe to The Unsung Letter if you have not yet – the letters are on a different book in print by a living author and by a different book lover/critic every time. You won’t want to miss a one, as each brings its own joys and unexpected emotional connections, and of course another contender for your to-be-read pile.

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The Unsung Letter No. 38

Despite several Booker nominations, and other awards, she doesn’t nearly get enough praise. Her most recent novel, [redacted] was a dystopian novel, a concise history of Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios, and an experiment in structure and layout, and yet it feels like it’s gone under the radar somewhat. Yet she doesn’t feel like a cult novelist either (Booker nominations will do that I suppose). Her books couldn’t be more different from one another (her last three have been a romantic comedy, a (non-fictional) novel about an Indian guru, and a dystopian sci-fi), and I wonder if that has something to do with it. People don’t know what they’re going to get from her.

A mysteriously much-accoladed but oddly under-the-radar novelist gets The Unsung treatment this week by Daniel Carpenter. Check the whole thing out here, and sign up here for a weekly missive by a different writer/book lover on an underpraised work by a living author.

As sometimes happens when I am fiddling with links early in the morning, I put the wrong book in the buy-here link (though I think possibly you should buy and read that too?) so here’s where to get the book mentioned in the letter (no peeking until you’ve read that first)

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The Unsung Letter No. 36

I am a Word. I am a Word in Shelley Jackson’s short story ‘Skin’, published on the bodies of 2095 volunteers. You applied and, if accepted, you were sent a word that you had to have tattooed anywhere on your body apart from on a body part that happened to match the word you had been sent. For me – my word was ‘After’ – that wasn’t an issue, and so I got my first (and probably last) tattoo. I had volunteered because…

 

With this strong intro to this week’s Unsung Letter by Nicholas Royle hanging tantalisingly before you, I urge you to keep reading here and subscribe here so you’ll never miss another Unsung Letter, a weekly missive by a different book lover on an underpraised book by a living author.

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The Unsung Letter No. 16

This week’s Unsung Letter is all about teenage passions of the reading kind:

 

The books that I read at fourteen, fifteen, sixteen were just the ones my mum had in the house, those she’d noticed reviewed in The Scotsman or The List in those years. She treated herself to a new book every couple of months and they were almost always by Scottish authors at that time. Janice Galloway, The Trick Is To Keep Breathing. AL Kennedy, Looking For The Possible Dance. Alasdair Grey, A History Maker. Trainspotting, OBVIOUSLY. This was just what adults read, I thought

 

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Flesh of the Peach Publication Day!

 

 

Today’s the day my debut novel is officially out in the world! So many feelings swirling around me.

 

If you’d like to help the book (and me out), here are some things you can do:

 

Read it – obviously I’m going to say this, but I want to say why – to me, a book is only real if it exists in the mind of others. It is a conversation between my mind and yours. And each mind does something different to the text. I’m sure a dozen theorists have said this more eloquently than me (or argued otherwise) but I believe it – readers create the book. Something transpires, and is made when readers engage with a text. It’s why I’m a reader just as much as a writer. For this sort of magic.

 

Review it – given the unique way everyone engages with a book, it can help others to know whether or not they should buy it. If a book is not reviewed, silence surrounds it. Mystery. Sometimes, that’s good – perhaps years from now, a reader will discover a solitary copy of my novel in a library (if we are fortunate to have libraries in the future, and I hope s0 with all my heart) and come to it utterly fresh, and find something good in it. But that’s one, currently fictional person. I’d like it if others could find the book more easily. If you can, leaving reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookshop websites, booktube or your personal blog would make a huge difference in allowing the book to be discoverable by others – this goes too for reviews that are critical. Thoughtfulness is important, and real engagement.

 

Buy it – this is the way I can keep writing – not that my income is supported greatly by writing (as you probably know, most writers make less than minimum wage from their writing, most a lot less) but because it shows future publishers that my next book is worth taking a chance on too. And I get to keep going in this quixotic endeavour.  Obviously, buy the book however you can. If it’s cheaper to do it one way than another, if it means you will have a chance to read it, then do it! But supporting indie presses and bookshops is hugely important to the health of literature, so if you can afford to, support your local bookshop. Booksellers the ones who will help you find something unique next time  you’re stuck for something to read. They’re the ones that know what’s good and what’s hyped. Some of them are on social media too, sharing and singing out about all sorts of books by authors you might never have heard of. If your local bookshop doesn’t have a copy of Flesh of the Peach, you can order it in, supporting both the bookshop and the book by letting others know of it. Or ask your library to get it in. Or buy it directly from the publisher.

 

Help me launch it25th of April in Edinburgh, Blackwell’s South Bridge. I hope to be at other events (TBA shortly). Come out and tell me you want to read it, have read it and loved it (or didn’t – but please, be kind in person!). Party with me. Books don’t have weddings, real birthdays or give birth. They are out in the world and sometimes vanish after a few months or years. Come out with me and fight the hush.

 

All of these of course hold true for other books that have just come out. If you don’t fancy reading mine, pick another, and help it out into the world. If you are a reader and you love books, my hope is this – that you will be your own Unsung Letter. So I can keep reading new and wondrous things too.

 

 

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The Unsung Letter No. 14

Fourteen Unsung Letters out in the world! Fourteen lovely book-pushers! Here’s a taste of this week’s recs:

 

I love recommending books to people, especially when those people want a book recommendation because they’re busy, “don’t have time” for reading, and need something to nudge them back into picking up a paperback instead of the TV remote when they have half an hour to sit on the sofa. And half an hour is the perfect amount of time for short stories. You can zip through one on the train, or waiting for the bus, or sitting in a towel, post-shower, drying. (It’s totally A Thing.) You can go to bed half an hour early to read and give yourself super vivid dreams with a beginning, middle, and end.

 

The Unsung Letter is a weekly and entirely free email recommending an under-beloved bit of fiction, with each UL written from the bottom of the heart by a different writer, critique, or other book-pusher each time. Subscribe here, or if you are still not convinced, read the archive.

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The Unsung Letter No 13

The latest Unsung Letter is now heading to subscribers, in this case on a book that’s just recently been awarded some accolades, lifting it into the spectrum of the heard-of. But it is still deserving of praise, argues Nicholas Hogg:

 

The novel feels as bracing as one of its North Sea waves because, in part, it’s refreshing to read a story that isn’t concerned with pleasing the reader. Characters are not rounded to fit a type, to be likeable, or have their travails in the world neatly understood so we close the book with a lesson learned.

 

Subscribe here for an impassioned, clear-eyed, or exuberant weekly recommendation for an undersung book by a different writer/book pusher every time.

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