Reading on the road #8

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This autumn we've been travelling around Europe by train. Some of these journeys have been long (like, 10 hours long), but it's such a nice way to get around. Wrapped up and cosy, with a stash of biscuits, mountain views and a good book. It's meant I've been reading a lot more lately (so expect another instalment soon).

The books I've been reading lately

Olive Kitteridge

This Pulitzer-Prize winning book is a collection of stories about the residents of a small coastal town in Maine. Spanning 25 years, the stories reveal their sorrows, their fears, the odd glimpses of joy. Each one relates back to Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher with a sharp tongue. There's a sadness at the centre of her life that makes her sympathetic despite the way she treats people. This book is so subtle and there's so much emotional truth in each story. The great thing about discovering an author after everyone else is that there's lots to catch up on; I can't wait to read the rest of her books.

Swing Time

I'm a huge Zadie Smith fan and I've been looking forward to reading this one all year. The book centres around the narrator's relationships with three women – her childhood friend from dance school, her mother and her popstar boss. It's brilliantly written, of course, such a vivid portrait of northwest London, and the characters are so fully formed I felt like I actually knew them. But there's so much more in here as well – questions of class, what it's like to be mixed race, how we view our parents, whether talent is enough to succeed, the power balances in relationships. It's a book I'll be thinking about for a long time.

The Elephant in the Room

I read this before the US election, and although it's about Donald Trump's campaign it's even more relevant now. A short 50-page book by one of my faves, Jon Ronson, The Elephant in the Room is all about Trump's links to the alternative right and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Told with humour and funny anecdotes, it's an interesting read about a truly terrifying situation.

Besieged: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street

I read this a few years ago, but wanted to read it again once we decided to go to Sarajevo this year. It's written by a journalist who followed the lives of the residents of Logavina Street (a quiet street in Sarajevo's city centre) during the war. It's obviously difficult to read in places (and I'm not sure that I'd recommend reading it all in one go, which I did on the train from Zagreb), but it totally transformed our experience of visiting Sarajevo.

Lots more book recommendations here.