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Been reading and about to read…

I recently took advantage of a World of Books Buy 3 Get One Free offer on books under a fiver, and today they arrived – Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, which sounded intriguing, two books by historical fiction writers (research for the blockbuster I’m writing!) and The Beauty, a poetry collection by Jane Hirshfield. Although I’d heard of her, I confess I’d never read anything by her. So when Peter Kenny talked about her work on Planet Poetry it prompted me to find out more. Just looking at the poem titles I’m already sold (eg “A Well Runs Out Of Thirst”).

In fact I had a bit of a buying spree, as I felt I was in need of new poetry So now on my to-be-read pile are the very attractive-looking New & Selected Poems by Ian Duhig, Dalhit Nagra British Museum and Helen Mort The Illustrated Woman.

One book I read recently and enjoyed immensely was Liz Berry’s The Home Child, a ‘novel in verse’, which is actually launched in two days’ time. I got hold of an early copy in order to prepare for interviewing Liz on Planet Poetry. We had a lovely chat about it yesterday, and the episode will go out some time in late March or early April.

I sometimes wonder if listeners think that Peter and I are awash with complimentary copies of poetry books thanks to all the poets we’ve interviewed. Well I’d like to crush that idea once and for all – I think this is the first book I’ve been sent from the publisher. I generally go out and buy a poet’s books, if I can’t get them in the local library.

I love public libraries and support them as much as I can. But the poetry offering is always minimal, and don’t get me started on trying to find novels by subject matter. Everything is lumped together as ‘fiction’, and if you don’t have a name of an author or a particular book in mind, you’re just whistling in the wind. Publishers have a huge array of genres and subcategories for adult fiction such as historical thriller, psychological thriller, domestic noir, procedural, historical crime, cosy mystery (one I learned about recently!), chick lit, contemporary,  etc etc. But how to search for a cosy mystery or a ‘domestic noir’ novel when the only shelf categories are ‘fiction’ or ‘crime’? Answers on an index card please. And another thing… when you do find an author of commercial fiction that you like, I don’t know, let’s say Lee Child… you find that although he’s written about 549 books, and the library has at least three copies of each, they are all permanently ‘on loan’ and not only that, when you try reserving one of them you find you’re 11th in the queue, and since people often hang on to library books for months, waiting to hear when your turn has come is rather like waiting for a rejection from one of our august poetry magazines. Anyway, I love the library service, honestly!

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Robin Houghton 2024