The July Shelf

A round-up of what I’ve been consuming and enjoying this month

To read…

Charly Cox, She Must Be Mad

22-year-old Charly Cox’s debut collection of poetry and prose was a real surprise to me. I have decided, upon reading it, that she is the Dolly Alderton of poetry. Do with that what you will. She Must Be Mad is Cox’s a cathartic coming-of-age narrative as a young woman in the city trying to navigate the agony of this transition with combined mental health issues. It is an incredibly relatable portrayal of fleeting romances, and a really fulfilling read. 

The poetry is punctuated with sections of prose, in which Cox articulates her grievances in more detail and sets up the next section of poems. It is a structure that works incredibly well, and paces the text really nicely. It’s a collection to devour in one sitting.  

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Terese Marie Mailhot, Heart Berries

I’ve just got my teeth into this New York Times bestseller and am so far sold. It was a bit of a slow old start but judging from its glowing reviews from the likes of the New York Times, Roxane Gay and Emma Watson, I’ll be invested soon enough. Mailhot wrote this memoir while in treatment for her mental illness, and she reflects on growing up on an Indian reservation in British Columbia with an abusive father before being taken into care. By the age of 17, she was married with a child and was about to give birth to another.

It is a dark and beautiful coming-of-age narrative of an Indigenous woman, exploring the intersections of race, gender and class as Mailhot unpicks the way her upbringing has impacted her life and her mental health.

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Florence Welch, Useless Magic 

It’s been a while since a truly lovely coffee table book entered the mainstream, and finally Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine fame) has delivered the goods. I can’t stop looking at this book – it is utterly beautiful. It features the lyrics from her three albums to date, interwoven with poems, photos, notes and sketches from her scrapbooks, creating a fascinating insight into her creative process.

Reading her lyrics in this way highlights the real poetry of her work. It’s funny that because we no longer buy CDs as we used to, we don’t have access to the sleeve notes with the lyrics anymore in a way that was so intrinsic to our listening experiences. This book allows us to consider her music in a more intimate way. I’m a big fan. 

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Sylvain Tesson, Consolations of the Forest

This was the choice in my book club this month, and I smashed it out in a couple of days in northern Spain in 40-degree heat. As the book is the diaries of a man who lived in a Siberian cabin for six months at -30 degrees, the climate difference was quite the clash. But I have to say, this is the best book I’ve read in a long time. We discover how extreme solitude can affect humans, and Tesson’s narrative is full of nuanced insights on this topic. He is a complex narrator, and often you learn more about him from what he doesn’t say than what he offers up. 

Suggest it for your book club, and then, as we did, buy a bottle of fine Russian vodka and sit and mull over its glory. 

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To listen to…

Philip Treacy on Desert Island Discs

As soon as this podcast landed in my phone, I squealed with joy like a pig in mud. The milliner has long been someone who’s work I have admired, and his life is as colourful as his hats.

The most insightful part of the conversation is his discussions about his friend Alexander McQueen and their patron Isabella Blow, both of whom sadly took their own lives in recent years. He paints a wonderfully vibrant picture of the fashion scene throughout his career, and his journey from a small boy in a tiny Irish town sneaking into weddings to look at the dresses and hats to the milliner to the Royal Family is completely fascinating. 

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