Compiled by Michael Bird
What are you reading this month? Our team of international volunteers at Bandit Fiction share with us the highs and lows of the current book scene. Below our readers describe what they find engrossing and disappointing about their choice of novels, poetry and memoirs.
- ‘The Sing of the Shore’ by Lucy Wood
Short story collections can be very hit and miss, but for me it helps when there’s some kind of connecting thread. All the stories in here are based in shoreline communities, ostensibly in Cornwall, which factors in more in some stories than others. There’s this great sense of dull foreboding in all of them though. You’re watching people go about their lives, and you can feel that there’s something off in the air, though it’s rarely dramatic. They’re just little snapshots of lives, not quite upheaved but slightly at an angle to what they should be. It’s a tricky balance to strike – being slow and unhappening without being still and boring – and occasionally Lucy Wood doesn’t quite manage to pull it off, but the joy of short story collections is that when one doesn’t work, it won’t last too much longer. And overall, this collection has hit the mark far more than it’s missed it.
Submitted by Zoë Wells (Geneva, Switzerland)
2. Shirley Jackson and Vietnamese Shorts
It seems that I’m unable to read a novel at the moment. Every time I open The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, I find myself reading the same page again. At this rate, Eleanor will never reach the haunted house, but she is in no hurry anyway, nor am I, apparently. With my current attention span, the only readings I seem to manage are short stories and poems. Fortunately, Jackson’s short stories are collected in Penguins Classics Come Along With Me. The Lottery, included in the collection, is what drew me to her writing, and I’m not disappointed. In between these tales of psychological terror, I am confronting the history of my country, Vietnam. Other Moons is an excellent collection of short stories about war and its aftermath by contemporary Vietnamese writers, many of whom, like Bao Ninh, are veterans.
Submitted by Tam Ho (Toulouse, France)
3. ‘Betty’ by Tiffany McDaniel
The author tells her family history from her mother’s perspective. The language is inventive and emotional. I love her writing style and this multi-generational story that explores trauma, racism, and the role storytelling can play in our lives.
Submitted by Vic Nogay (Columbus, Ohio)
4. ‘My Sister, the Serial Killer’ by Oyinkan Braithwate
What I like about it: Simply written with touches of life in Lagos, but with an extremely dark subject matter about two sisters and how far we’ll go to save the ones we love.
What I’m not comfortable with: Also the subject matter. All of us know we will stand by justice and murder is wrong. But when it comes to the one you love, or your family – say your child or sister, someone you are responsible for – will we still stand by it?
Submitted by Prachi Pati (Pune, India)
5. ‘A Chip Shop In Poznan: My Unlikely Year in Poland’ by Ben Aitken
I’m really enjoying this so far! I love that it’s a mix between a diary and travel writing. He writes it over the Brexit vote and it’s really interesting to see how it all unfolded from the point of view of a British citizen living in Europe. I’m hoping, however, that the political aspect of the book will remain anecdotal. I don’t want the political commentary to take over the more personal experiences of travelling abroad. However, at the moment, it’s clever, self-deprecating and satirical, as well as being the biggest love letter to Poland.
Submitted by Devon Lee (London, UK)
6. ‘Falling Creatures’ by Katherine Stansfield
I am currently enjoying Katherine Stansfield’s Falling Creatures, a historical murder mystery set in Victorian-era Cornwall. Inspired by a true crime, Stansfield’s novel is suffused with elements of gothic fantasy that make for an engaging and atmospheric read. The characters feel truly alive, coming together in a gloomy setting depicted in elegiac tones. It’s also the first in her Cornish Mystery series, followed by The Magpie Tree and The Mermaid’s Call.
Submitted by Nick Dunn (Cardiff, Wales)
Interested in sharing your reading list with us? We’d love you to share your views with us, so we can share them with others. We want to hear from you on the books you’re reading, and what you love and hate about them. We want honesty. Variety. As many different voices as possible, from as many different places.
To share what you’re reading, all you need to do is tell us which novel, short story, poem, anthology, or creative non-fiction you’re reading and two or three sentences about what you think. Send us an email, or leave a comment below, and we’ll include you in next month’s reading list.
About the Author
Michael Bird (he/him) is a Romania-based writer and journalist, with stories published by Bristol Short Story Prize, Storgy, The University of Huddersfield Press and Bandit Fiction, among others. As a journalist, he has investigated the last convicted vampire hunter in Romania, Donald Trump’s dealings with Kazakh oligarchs, home-made killer drugs in Georgia, and, currently, how Covid-19 spreads among migrant workers in meat-packing factories across Europe. https://michaelbirdjournalist.wordpress.com