The February Reading List
Magic, adventure & a humbling dose of reality
Winter to me is the only time where I can guiltlessly hibernate and mull over the year in review. I’ve decided that February is the perfect time to hunker down and re-explore the deep, magical themes of winter solstice before I’m catapulted into Spring.
This months reading list is a deep dive into otherworldly adventure, an ode to the strength of women and a humbling look at vengeful mother nature, with two excellent writers taking centre stage; Philip Pullman & Margaret Atwood.
The Book of Dust: Volume Two The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
A jolting throw into Lyra’s uncertain and unraveling world as Oxford becomes an increasingly unsafe environment for the formerly feral child. We join Lyra amidst a crisis where her and Pan’s relationship is fractured and distant, her once unwavering confidence is all but dissipated and she finds herself on the verge of collapse. This emotional journey is about more than coming of age, its about inner struggles, magic and the “world in all it’s pregnant causes mixed confusedly“. An inspiring read, that will make you question your realities and feel open and receptive to the magic that exists all around us. A stunning read.
2. Lyra’s Oxford by Philip Pullman
Lyra’s Oxford is a short story that follows our protagonist as she returns from her journey to the north and settles into her studies and life in Jordan College. Lyra’s adventure begins when she is faced with helping a stray witches daemon, sleepy streets clouded with heady magic and an alchemist. A quick glimpse into the aftermath of His Dark Materials, Lyra’s Oxford is a small window back into the other world I fell in love with as a child. If you, like me, find yourself wondering what happened after the crescendo ending of The Amber Spyglass, this quick read is a satisfying relief.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Late to the party, but glad to have arrived. A harrowing look at a dystopia that uncannily mirrors modern day elements of right wing contemporary society. Moving, compelling and deeply evocative. Not for the faint hearted, but one everybody should read, especially given the direction of world politics and the existing policing of women’s bodies. Atwood’s writing transports us into the mind and eyes of Offred as we sit helplessly along side her as she navigates through Gilead, a patriarchal, terrifying, post nuclear world plagued with infertility, abuse and misquoted overbearing religious beliefs. A difficult read – but a necessary one.
4. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
I started reading this the same hour I put down The Handmaids Tale. The Testaments give us the closure we needed to the aftermath of Gilead. Unlike it’s prequel, it offers hope and redemption for many of its inhabitants. Totally immersive and a satisfying wrap up to an emotionally challenging ordeal. Atwood’s ability to nod at uncanny fears whilst wrapping loosely around aspects of contemporary culture makes for an empathic read – especially when the stories centre so closely around women’s perceived standing within society. As above – a very necessary and heart-wrenching read.
5. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Following Oryx and Crake, the first book of the “Maddaddam” Trilogy, The Year Of The Flood places us firmly in the Pleeblands following multiple characters that interlace with its prequel in a fantastically intricate and pithy way. As ever, Atwood plays with our notions of religion, sex, relationships and the grey area of right and wrong in this entirely jaw dropping sequel. As everything comes together, you’re sure to find yourself wound tightly around each character, hoping and praying that they emerge from this unscathed. Real life turned on its head in that unmistakable Atwood style, full or terror, futurism and sci-fi that feels so close to our immediate future.