In a time when adventure is restricted to the virtual and our everyday routines are playing on repeat within the confines of four walls, the world as we know it is beginning to feel a little small. A great book, however, has the extraordinary ability to transport us to different realms far from our realities (and responsibilities) all from the comfort of our own homes. This month we’ve gathered 9 books, hand selected by our artists that might take you somewhere a little unexpected. Whether it's journeying through the inner psyche, mythical lands or pastoral scenes, we’ve gathered a little something for everyone.
by Kahlil Gibran
Published in 1923, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is one of the most beloved and universal classics widely translated throughout the world. Consisting of a selection of spiritual and philosophical poetic essays, the collection ruminates on topics surrounding love, work, joy, sorrow, freedom, religion, good-evil, even eating and drinking. The Prophet’s 26 prose poems are voiced by a wise man called Al Mustapha. After 12 years in exile on a fictional island, he is about to set sail for his homeland. Before leaving the islanders ask him to expound his wisdom on the greatest questions in life.
Because the poems cover such a breadth of topics, the book is often read from, gifted and shared in important life moments, such as births, weddings and deaths. They’ve even been known to influence artists like The Beatles, and even political leaders like John F Kennedy and Indira Gandhi.
The Greatest: My Own Story
by Muhammad Ali
The Greatest: My Own Story is the 1975 autobiography of the world famous heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali. Collaborating with Richard Durham and edited by the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, Ali’s story covers the battles he faced both in and out of the ring, detailing his experience growing up in Southern American, dogged by racial bigotry and discrimination. In his own words, the heavyweight champion discusses the physical and mental preparation for fights, the philosophy of winning and losing and allows the reader to follow his regime to becoming the champion. The fascinating memoir creates a striking portrait of the hero, straddling the personalities of a sports legend, anti-war advocate, goodwill ambassador, fighter and showman.
Selected by James Connelly
by Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry’s Mythos is a fantastically accessible retelling of the myths of Ancient Greece. The famous comedian, actor and writer injects life into these age old tales, some which may be familiar, whilst others will be first encounters. From Persephone and the pomegranate, to Prometheus and the fire, these trials and tribulations, schemes and affairs of the heart will fill your heart with pathos and humour. With classically inspired illustrations and wonderful storytelling, Mythos is sure to transport you somewhere far from home.
The Denial of death
by Ernest Becker
The Denial of Death marks the life’s work of Ernest Becker and awarded him the Pulitzer Prize in 1974. Synthesising the main currents of psychoanalytic thought, Becker’s stance offers up a more romantic alternative to the tragic Freudian theories that diagnose us with fraught incestuous relationships. Arguing that men and women are the only romantic animals in creation, he suggests that to be conscious, to strive, to love, to create and be aware of death is romantic and gives our life meaning. Refusing to acknowledge our own mortality, we create to become immortal – to produce something separate from ourselves is to be a part of something that will last forever. Becker’s impassioned ode to the “why” of human existence discusses and interrogates the nature of humanity and still resonates decades after it was published.
The Food Lab
by J. Kenji López-Alt
Unlock the secret to cooking your most beloved American dishes with The Food Lab. From the perfect medium rare steak, the gooiest and creamiest mac ‘n’ cheese, to a succulent Turkey, The Food Lab tells you how to make tasty meals with the best results. J. Kenji López delves into the secret relationships between heat, molecules and energy that create great food, offering up often simple but foolproof techniques that go against the grain. With hundreds of easy recipes, this one will get you through to Spring.
by Olivia Laing
During an age plagued by Trump, Brexit and Covid19, each tragedy is surpassed by the next. In such unprecedented times it’s difficult to ground oneself and as we well know, crises breed anxiety. That’s where Olivia Laing’s Funny Weather comes in. Building a case for art as a means for repair, she argues that now more than ever we can look to culture to provide us with the resistance and restoration to take on this challenging age. Art, she explains, affects how we see the world, shedding light on the inequalities suffered and provides regenerative solutions for new modes of life.
Funny weather brings together Laing’s views on art and culture and the role they have to play in our emotional and political lives. Profiling Georgia O’Keeffe and Jean-Michel Basquiat, interviewing Hilary Mantel, and recording love letters to Bowie, the original text acknowledges the power of art. Engaging with themes of loneliness, alcohol, the body and digital, Laing celebrates art as a remedy to a fraught political climate.
Selected by Ben Siekierski
by Legacy Russell
As time goes on, the real world and the digital world have become inextricably linked. Glitch Feminism explores the anonymity cyberspace provides, where we aren’t immediately compartmentalised by gender or sexuality. Instead we are able to slip into different guises or skins which allows us the freedom to explore our identities. This, Legacy Russel explains, is the “glitch”. A glitch is often described as a bug or a fault in the system, Russel argues in a new kind of cyberfeminism, that this liminal space is where we can find liberation. Embracing the glitch, we can break down prescribed, binary descriptions that define and reduce our unique identities. This provocative memoir celebrates these glitches as fertile ground for a revolution of thought.
Selected by Karen Navarro
Who will run the frog hospital?
by Lorrie Moore
Who will run the frog hospital? is a brilliant, nostalgically poignant novel which harks back to a simpler time in a woman’s life which is bursting with the wildness of youth. Looking back, Berie and her best friend Sils spent their time messing around, drinking and smoking as fifteen year olds do. No matter how reckless they were, they always managed to escape without penalty. This disillusioned fairytale explores a time in which the future ceases to hold unlimited possibilities and life finally catches up with you.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
by Annie Dillard
Jackie Leishman’s pick this month is another Pulitzer Prize winner from 1975. In response to a near fatal attack of pneumonia, author Annie Dillard moved to Tinker Creek in 1971, a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. What came out of four seasons in a house clutching the valley, was an exhilarating and invigorating meditation on nature and its seasons, investigating the entanglement of the human and natural whilst reflecting on much bigger questions in the process. Now more than ever, reconnecting with nature has become essential to getting us through these lockdown blues. Whilst the weather isn’t so inviting this winter, explore the valley with Dillard and let your natural curiosity roam free.