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What we’re reading: writers and readers on the books they enjoyed in April

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In this series we ask authors, Guardian writers and readers to share what they have been reading recently. This month, recommendations include a memoir that wrestles with singleness, poetry that feels alive and excellent audiobooks. Tell us in the comments what you have been reading.


Table of Contents

Yara Rodrigues Fowler, novelist

Recently I’ve been reading Abolition Revolution by Shanice Octavia McBean and Aviah Sarah Day, both trade unionists and activists in direct action feminist group Sisters Uncut. This book adds to the excellent emerging literature about police, prison and border abolition in a UK specific context (another I’d recommend is Against Borders: The Case for Abolition by Gracie Mae Bradley and Luke de Noronha, and Liberty’s recent Holding Our Own report). Abolition Revolution is very special because McBean and Day combine deep theoretical and historical knowledge with practical organising experience, specifically in the context of violence against women and austerity. If you feel that there must be a better way to deal with harm and violence then this book is for you.

I’m co-writing a play at the moment, called Conference of the Trees, with Connie Treves and Majid Adin, based on the work of poets involved with the Change the Word Collective, Sarah Orola, Lester Gomez Medina, Diyo Mulopo Bopengo, Ian Andrew, Yordanos Gebrehiwot. I’ve spent over a year reading and rereading their poetry, much of which appears in An Orchestra of Unexpected Sounds, and it is still as crisp and alive as the first time I encountered it.

Fiction-wise, I’ve been enjoying audiobooks recently: I loved Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver and am now listening to Guy Gunaratne’s In Our Mad and Furious City (having previously read it in physical form), which is also very well produced.

Yara Rodrigues Fowler is one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2023. Her second novel, there are more things, is out in paperback now. To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.


Hollie Richardson, Guardian writer

Women have been taught that it is a weakness to say we want romantic love. That it’s better to post something positive on Instagram about being a “strong, independent woman” than publicly admit to wanting a relationship while struggling to find the right one. That it is a failure not to find love as soon as you recognise you’re ready for it.

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In her memoir, Arrangements in Blue, Amy Key totally gets this – she’s been single for over two decades. “It scares me to lay out all the ways in which absence of romantic love touches my life,” she admits in the introduction. “I must be brave enough to say aloud, I did want it. I do want it.” And it is her bravery, this vulnerability, that makes it such a generous read for so many of us who haven’t felt comfortable enough to say, “I like my life but I want more”.

Key uses the songs of her favourite album, Joni Mitchell’s Blue, to help guide us through her life without a romantic relationship – and, although I was initially quite sceptical, it works naturally as she writes about being child-free, living alone, travelling solo, friendships and attempts at love. Key’s background as a poet is evident: her writing is gorgeously lyrical, but she is also unafraid to share the colder, harsher parts of being single.

Arrangements in Blue is a short read, but each page feels so full and worth savouring. I already have friends who have sent me screenshots of the parts that made them feel so seen. And I have sent them mine.


Percival Everett.
Percival Everett. Photograph: John Davis/Windham Campbell prize

Paul, Guardian reader

For me, this year has been about discovering writers I’ve never read before. This month’s biggest discovery has been Percival Everett. His most recent novel, Dr No, is a comic masterpiece, but it is his novel The Trees that has been a real revelation to me. The descendants of people who committed lynchings in the past are being murdered, their corpses found with those of their long-dead victims. Everett shows how monstrous these crimes were, and how guilt is passed through the generations, but what makes the book so remarkable is its humour. Much of the dialogue is in the form of repartee between the characters, and it is often hilarious, despite the dark subject.

Patrick Gale is another writer new to me. His most recent book, Mother’s Boy, tells the early life of Cornish poet Charles Causley. It is beautifully written, and sent me back to the work of this very private man.

I’m late to the party, but Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is every bit as good as everyone says, and Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water is beautiful inside and out, a deeply poetic and moving account of a tentative affair between two young people.

Finally, I’ve just finished Play It As It Lays, by the remarkable Joan Didion. An account of the breakdown of a female actor in 1960s Hollywood, it’s beautifully observed and a really powerful book. I’ve read a lot of different writers this month, but all have in common that sense of looking into someone else’s world that the best fiction can convey.

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( With inputs from : www.theguardian.com )

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