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Ten Things About “Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love” by Sarah Butler

  1. Reading it took my breath away. The writing is simple but true.
  2. Lists start each chapter with the two main characters, Alice and Daniel, writing their own. “Ten Things I’m Frightened Of”, “Ten Things People Say to You When Your Father Dies”, and “Ten Things I’d Rather Forget” are a few of them. It’s a good writing technique and helps the reader find out a lot about a character’s interior thoughts in a small amount of words.
  3. Daniel has synesthesia so sees words and letters as colors. He describes someone’s name as “the color of sun-warmed sandstone”. The letter D is “a pale orange, like powdered sherbet”. Alice’s name is the color of “milky blue water”.
  4. Butler does a wonderful job of capturing the ache of wanting someone to love you.
  5. Daniel walks around London, collecting things like bottle tops, paper clips, a string of plastic pearls, and an empty photo frame to make found art he uses to express himself.
  6. This sounds weird, but I felt like my heart was also reading and reacting along with me.
  7. “When the whisky is finished, I screw the top back on and slam the bottle into the ground. It doesn’t break. I want something to break.” Those lines perfectly capture the frustration of feeling broken and wanting anything around you to be broken, too.
  8. Butler’s writing style put me so into the novel that when a character was distracted, I felt it, too. A character’s thoughts would interrupt lines of dialogue and leave me with their feelings of uncertainty in my head.
  9. Lines like these: “And I carried on doing what I’ve been doing for years. I have written your name more times than I can remember. Always, at the beginning, I write your name.”
  10. I didn’t want it to be over.

Ten Things I've Learnt About Love

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love is the debut novel of Sarah Butler. Alice is the youngest of three sisters and has never felt a true part of the family since her mother died when Alice was young. She’s off in Mongolia, escaping heartache, when she hears that her father is dying and returns in time to be there when he dies. Daniel is homeless and looking for the daughter he’s never met. We watch as these two slowly come together. As I mentioned before, Butler’s writing is simple but true and shows how the hope of love can root us when nothing else can. I really look forward to Butler’s future work.



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Halfway Through

Blame it on being surrounded by millions of enticing materials everyday, but I just can’t resist the urge to read more than one book at a time. Books teeter on every stackable  surface of my home, and most of them with bookmarks tucked halfway through. Right now, I’m in the midst of several very different and very interesting titles. Every single one is unputdownable (except, of course, to pick up the others).

The World Without Us, Alan Weisman

The World Without UsDo you ever wonder what it would take to erase all traces of humankind from the planet? In this intriguing thought experiment, Weisman walks through the processes Earth would undergo without human interference to deconstruct and decompose  every human creation, from a single house to a landfill to New York City to carbon emissions.

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, David Abram

The Spell of the SensuousI’m still in the introductory, theory-heavy portion of this book, but the perspective of an author who relates to a “more-than-human-world” is refreshing and inspiring enough to keep me enrapt. So far, Abram has discussed interacting with one’s environment with the awareness that we are always both seeing and seen, and that sentience may not be as simple as scientific, objective thought traditionally views it.

The Opposite House, Helen Oyeyemi

The Opposite HouseOyeyemi’s poetic prose is immediately arresting and surprising, even breaking mid-line like a poem in some places. The characters’ position as Cuban immigrants to London, and the tension between the narrator’s mystic, Santeria-practicing mother and analytical professor father create incidents of thought-provoking cultural conflict. The real hook of the novel is that their storyline interweaves with another one, where a Yoruba goddess lives in a mysterious house that opens to both Lagos and London.

Even though I’m only halfway through all of these books, I’m confident that they will continue to deliver on their though-provoking entertainment. It’s possible that I might finish reading faster if I limited myself to one title at a time, but what would be the fun of that?


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Love Belongs to Those Who Do the Feeling

Love Belongs to Those Who Do the Feeling: : new & selected=Judy Grahn herself selected the poems for her collection Love Belongs to Those Who Do the Feeling: New & Selected Poems (1966-2006), making for a personalized retrospective of her career so far.  She introduces each section with personal, philosophical, and historical context, which informs the reading experience. 

Grahn, who wrote much of her work while involved with political movements in the 1960s to 1980s, writes her poetry with the intention of reading it aloud, and employs rhythm, repetition and sound to enrich that presentation. 

The poems are deeply reflective and deal with subject matter that ranges from themes of feminism, lesbianism, and working class experience to mythic interpretations of Helen of Troy and love.  Many are informed by Grahn’s considerable research on mythology, and employ imagery from those sources as well as the natural and industrial world.  Her poems question, rally, rage, inform, inspire and entertain. 

Whatever the subject matter and tone, each poem rings with its own vivid voice that engages the reader with its emotion, wit and heart.


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