'Recommended Reading' by David Hayden


On a first meeting with a writer, recently, I was told of a long period of disconnection from writing that had begun in a loss in the experience of reading; a draining away of vivacity in, and connection to, language that had spread to perception and experience away from the page. Hope was expressed that books could be found in which directions back out to life, of this kind, could be discovered. I thought of books that might suit this purpose — too many books — and then, much later, I thought of more books.

Here are some of these books.

Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer. A book of the materials of life. An account of joining together hours, lives, thoughts.

The Sight of Death by T.J. Clark. A book of recovering time in perception and perception in time; through the eyes, through memory, in patience and in hope.

Ban En Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil. A book that is a writing around the unwritten–violence, erasure, racism, the indelible. A book of the remembered and the forgotten that recombines as it is read and recalled.

A Body of Water by Beverly Farmer. A book that makes beauty from a journey out of sterility and isolation, silence and loss.

Kaleidoscope by Eleanor Farjeon, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. A book of recalling life as a child in the eye of the earth – a place of originating and ultimate loveliness. Noticing shifts in shapes and colours and a renewing light pours through it all.

That night, I dreamed of exiting the subway at the interface a car would make with the M25. The commuters were processing around a semi-rural roundabout, their hands on imaginary steering wheels, their wing-backed loafers shuffling on the tarmac, the black road, like wheels. Evening Standards tucked sharply beneath their arms.
— Bhanu Kapil

A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Book by Edmond Jabès. A book about the other, about unity, about names, and values, written in sand.

Dictée by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. A book of speech and memory, the pulse of which moves and makes clear, unclear, the incompleteness of speech and memory.

Love’s Work by Gillian Rose.  A precise and endless book on how hard everything is, how hard the work of all living is, good and bad: love, ending, work, love, ending, love. A book of hope.

Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli. A clear-sighted book about visions, about obscurity, about the ubiquity of haunting, and self-haunting.

Hold, for a little while, and turn gently by J.S. Harry. Knowledge and uncertainty out of the viscera of words and suddenness.

The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas. A book about friendship, about memory, about not returning.

In Night’s City by Dorothy Nelson. A book out of the night, out of cruelty and courage.

DAVID HAYDEN has been a bookseller and publisher for nearly thirty years. He is the Managing Director of Reaktion Books. He is also the author of Darker With the Lights On, a collection of short stories published by Little Island Press.