Books We Read in 2013 (Part 2)
2014 is nearly upon us! This week, the Icon Books team will be sharing with you two books that we’ve each enjoyed reading in 2013, including one book of our own. Let us know which books you’ve enjoyed this year in the comments or @iconbooks!
Kate (Commissioning Editor)
I joined Icon earlier this year, and one not insubstantial factor in that decision was how much I’d enjoyed Mark Forsyth’s previous books, The Etymologicon and The Horologicon. So getting to work on Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence, about the elements of rhetoric, and how to write with style, was an absolute joy.
Having studied English literature at University, I’ve had parts of speech drummed into my head for years, but I had never encountered the Yoda-like calm of anadiplosis, the elusiveness of merism, the dreaminess of aposiopesis…
And if all this sounds complicated, never fear – Forsyth wears his learning incredibly lightly, and takes you through the elements of style with wit and verve. It really is that rare thing: a book that teaches you something, but makes you enjoy it.
Published in 1978, I somehow hadn’t encountered We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson until this year, when it wormed its way forward from the depths of the communal bookshelf in my house. And I’m very glad it did.
Written in first person, it tells the story of Merricat Blackwood who lives in her old family home with just her Uncle Julian and her sister Constance for company. The other seven members of the Blackwood family were murdered years ago, when a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl. Constance, who did the family’s cooking, is suspected, but something doesn’t quite add up…and when their cousin Charles arrives to disturb the family’s equilibrium, Merricat will do everything in her power to keep them safe.
A darkly gothic psychological horror story, We Have Always Lived in the Castle will send chills down your spine, and live with you long after you’ve turned the last page.
Leena (Digital and Export Sales & Marketing Executive)
It has to be Introducing Marxism: A Graphic Guide by Rupert Woodfin & Oscar Zarate. I’ve read a lot of the Graphic Guides in the past from the Introducing series, but this one is closest to my heart. The illustrations sit perfectly on the fence between ‘informative’ and endearing satire – and the ideas within it explain so much of our world now and its making. Truly infectious ideas expressed with vigour and clarity. I am in love.
My favourite book by far for 2013 was Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland – a blindingly beautiful tribute to the ancient forests of England. Exploring everything from folklore to Monarchy, Maitland provides a mini essay-come-memoir about a walk she’s taken through each forest (usually accompanied by someone of interest – anyone from a fellow author to her grown-up son) and laces each essay with her own research and facts. In between each chapter she re-tells a popular fairy story that has links with the aforementioned forest, often twisting its narrative to reflect the topic she’s talked about in the previous chapter.
A startlingly brilliant concept, expertly executed and with such gentle beauty – she can turn any morning commute into a mental walk through the trees.
I’m now on a mission to visit every forest in England and it’s all thanks to Sara Maitland.
We have four more books to share with you tomorrow!