BY RAMNA SAFEER ONLINE CONTRIBUTOR
If anything is a clear reflection of shifting seasons, passing months, and the person I am in each of them, it’s what I’m reading. The space between who we are at January’s onset and who we are at December’s end can be gaping. Here’s to mapping this monthly trajectory with words, however different, wherever the year takes us.
January — The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
With the few hours of true daylight and consuming greyness, January is a good time to focus on the warm words. Keegan’s collection of short stories, published shortly after her young death, features stories and essays about being young, no matter what age we are. In a voice that’s unapologetically young yet immeasurably wise, each story and essay has a little bit of warmth for those cold and tiring days.
February — Crush by Richard Siken
This month, thanks to capitalism, is about love. I’ve never read about love like Siken writes about love. His collection of poems are all underlined with chilling eroticism, confession and obsession. Crush is a book about gay love in its rawest form, with poetry that takes the reader on a hurtling ride and strips love to barest bones.
March — The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
When I think of March, I think of essays and assignments and exam prep. My usual bedside table stack of books whittles down to barely anything, but anything that’s still there is easy to read and a perfect escape. Satrapi’s internationally acclaimed graphic memoir Persepolis is an autobiographic story of her coming-of-age in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution. The art is strikingly mesmerizing and the poignant story, threaded with wry humor, is easy to get through and unforgettable in its effect.
April — The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
This book is magic. And when exams end mid-April, some restorative magic that pushes me back into a love of reading is exactly what I need. Ivey’s The Snow Child is a tale of magical realism set in Alaska in 1920. It’s an incredibly spun story about two lonely people who make a child out of snow, only to find that it’s gone the next morning. Soon, they start to glimpse a white-haired child running through the woods. It’s a story that forces you to recall the magic of stories that can get lost in the everyday drudgery of work.
May — A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
During the summer months, it’s easy to curl up with a book in the morning and look up to find that it’s dark, hours have passed, and the characters you’ve become so familiar with aren’t sitting next to you. Yanagihara’s heart-breaking and heart-mending story of 700-or-so pages is about being irreparably broken by trauma and how to live a life that’s haunted by oneself. It’ll bring you tears and deep sighs, but what else are long May days for?
June — Mothers by Brit Bennett
You know the perfect summer evenings where the sky is pink and the air is so still you feel like you can hear the world buzzing? That’s how Mothers makes me feel. Set in a Black neighbourhood in Southern California, Bennett’s debut novel is about the love of summers, which becomes the love of every season, which becomes a love of life-long secrets.
July — The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
By this time, the searing heat and the heavy reads are making my mind go limp. Who better to push some life juice back into me than the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? Wells’s story of fierce, fast female friendship and a lineage of unbreakable women left me with my head held a little bit higher. Read this and then watch the movie with Sandra Bullock and Maggie Smith. You won’t regret it.
August — The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons
If you’re looking for a vacation read that isn’t about a dystopian apocalypse, this one’s for you. Reading The House at Tyneford — the lush and luxurious descriptions of Tyneford, the great house on the bay — is like being on a delicious vacation in the English countryside, even if you’re not.
September — When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi
Welcome to the time of the year where your responsibilities hit you like a ton of bricks. Leisure reading may not be at the top of your priorities, but if you do reach for book, let it be something that will motivate you to keep moving along. Paul Kalanathi’s posthumously published memoir is about his life as a son, husband, father and neurosurgeon, before and after his terminal cancer diagnosis. It’s a book about what makes life worth living and worth loving. After finishing this, I told my mom I loved her and felt like working hard.
October — Autumn by Ali Smith
For obvious reasons. But also because Ali Smith has a voice that is itself autumnal — full, fruitful and all-encompassing. Smith’s book is about time and how we live in its throes. Composed of memories and flashbacks, Autumn is about what ties us together as countries, as groups of lost people, and groups of people looking for their own symphony.
November — No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay
It seems November is a universally busy month for everyone, everywhere. So when I reach for something to dig my teeth into during this month, I reach for something familiar. Sarah Kay was the first poet whose work I fell in love with. Her collection, No Matter the Wreckage, gives me pause and offers me a fresh breath of air during a time that can get real overwhelming real fast.
December — Tinkers by Paul Harding
Much like December, Tinkers is a book about endings. It’s about how much they can hurt but also how much they can spur healing. It traces the memories of a man lying on his deathbed, confined to his living room, waiting for his last breath. It takes us through memories of his father, memories of rural Maine and soft winter. It’ll have you ending the year with an elegiac celebration of life.