March Reading Plans and Books to Look out For

My apologies if you’ve already heard this story on social media: I was supposed to be in France this past weekend, but for the fourth time in a row we’ve been plagued by transport problems on a holiday: a flat tire in Wigtown, a cancelled train to Edinburgh, a cancelled flight to the States, and now car trouble so severe we couldn’t get on the ferry to Normandy. Though we made it all the way to the ferry port in Poole, our car was by then making such hideous engine noises that it would have been imprudent to drive it any further. We got a tow back to the auto shop where our car is usually serviced and currently await its prognosis. If it can be fixed, we may be able to reschedule our trip for this coming weekend.

The good news about our strange (non-)travel day: I got a jump on my Doorstopper of the Month, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, a terrific read that reminds me of a cross between Midnight’s Children and The Cider House Rules, and also started Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood – though my husband made me stop reading it because I couldn’t stop sniggering while he was trying to make important phone calls about the car. We ended up having a nice weekend at home anyway: going out for Nepalese food, gelato and a screening of The Favorite; doing some gardening and getting bits of work and writing done; and (of course) doing plenty of reading. Waking up with a purring cat on my legs and tucking into a stack of pancakes with maple syrup, I thought to myself, being home is pretty great, too.

What I packed to read in France.


Reading Ireland Month 2019

This will be my second time participating in the annual challenge hosted by Cathy of 746 Books. I recently started The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen and I’m also currently reading two nonfiction books by Irish women: a review copy of Vagina: A Re-Education by Lynn Enright (which releases on March 7th) and the essay collection Notes to Self by Emilie Pine, on my Kindle. I have several other novels to choose from – two of which are set in Ireland rather than by Irish authors – plus a classic travel book by Dervla Murphy.

Irish selections.


Wellcome Book Prize

The second of my ‘assigned’ longlist reviews will be going up on Wednesday. I’m currently reading another three books from the longlist and will post some brief thoughts on them if I manage to finish them before the shortlist announcement on the 19th. At that point I will have read 10 out of the 12 books on the longlist, so should feel pretty confident about making predictions (or at least stating wishes) for what will go through to the next round.


Blog Tours

I have two blog tours coming up later in the month, including the official one that’s being run for the Dylan Thomas Prize longlist.


Review Books

I’ve got a pile-up of review copies that came out in February or are releasing early this month – 9, I think? Some I’ve already read and some are still in progress. So I will be doing my best to group these sensibly and write short reviews, but you may well notice a lot of posts from me.


Blog Anniversary

This Friday marks four years that I’ve been blogging about books!


Here are a few March releases I’ve read that you may want to look out for:


Sing to It: New Stories by Amy Hempel [releases on the 26th]: “When danger approaches, sing to it.” That Arabian proverb provides the title for Amy Hempel’s fifth collection of short fiction, and it’s no bad summary of the purpose of the arts in our time: creativity is for defusing or at least defying the innumerable threats to personal expression. Only roughly half of the flash fiction achieves a successful triumvirate of character, incident and meaning. The author’s passion for working with dogs inspired the best story, “A Full-Service Shelter,” set in Spanish Harlem. A novella, Cloudland, takes up the last three-fifths of the book and is based on the case of the “Butterbox Babies.” (Reviewed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)


The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal (translated from the French by Sam Taylor) [releases on the 26th]: This is a pleasant enough little book, composed of scenes in the life of a fictional chef named Mauro. Each chapter picks up with the young man at a different point as he travels through Europe, studying and working in various restaurants. If you’ve read The Heart / Mend the Living, you’ll know de Kerangal writes exquisite prose. Here the descriptions of meals are mouthwatering, and the kitchen’s often tense relationships come through powerfully. Overall, though, I didn’t know what all these scenes are meant to add up to. Kitchens of the Great Midwest does a better job of capturing a chef and her milieu.


Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor [releases on the 12th]: After she left the pastorate, Taylor taught Religion 101 at Piedmont College, a small Georgia institution, for 20 years. This book arose from what she learned about other religions – and about Christianity – by engaging with faith in an academic setting and taking her students on field trips to mosques, temples, and so on. She emphasizes that appreciating other religions is not about flattening their uniqueness or looking for some lowest common denominator. Neither is it about picking out what affirms your own tradition and ignoring the rest. It’s about being comfortable with not being right, or even knowing who is right.


What’s on your reading docket for March?

23 responses

  1. Im full of sympathy for those travel woes. Twice my husband and I planned to rendezvous when I was travelling on business. The first time was meant to be New York but a storm hit so he had his birthday night on his own inth big apple. Th second time was Paris when the Icelandic volcano put a damper n that. I ended up in the city on my own.. not very romantic

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear, what a drag! Those would have been great holidays. We’re lucky that this didn’t inconvenience us too much, as Brittany Ferries will hold our booking for another time this year — we just have to decide when (we were trying to fit it in before Brexit due to the uncertainty of travel after that … will my husband need a visa? etc.).


      1. good to know you can do the holiday later the year


  2. Sorry to read about your thwarted travel plans, but it sounds as if you made the most of an unexpected weekend at home. I remember our car breaking down a while back (we were towing our caravan too!) and managing to read most of Night Film whilst waiting to be rescued.
    We loved The Favourite! I’m curious about Priestdaddy – were you sniggering in a ‘good’ way?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holidays at home can be wonderful in their own way 🙂

      Priestdaddy — definitely in a good way. It’s hilarious!


  3. Sorry about the travel woes but a weekend at home that’s unexpected so not booked up with STUFF sounds great. We’re negotiating on a holiday at the moment – husband wants to get away to the sun to get rid of his SAD but I’d love a week pottering at home, seeing friends, plucking books off the TBR, not having to pre-choose them …

    Of your books, Holy Envy looks fascinating. I have the wonderful “A Word Child” by Iris Murdoch to look foward to reading this month, plus I’ve just started Laura Kemp’s “The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness” for Wales Reading Month and apart from the Murdoch, I have Janet McNeill’s “The Maiden Dinosaur” for Reading Ireland Month, which I won last Reading Ireland Month!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, so you fancy a staycation. Maybe you can do half and half? Or compromise with a holiday not too far from home?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, unfortunately no, as there’s only a five-day window and it needs to be reliably sunny for his SAD. Not sure what’s happening yet, though!


    2. Hmm, well, I would say that based on the past week or two a staycation would be reliably sunny! But I hear that it may go colder again soon. I hope you work out a nice plan.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so much for taking part Rebecca! Sorry to hear about your cancelled trip – although it sounds like you had a rather blissful weekend nonetheless!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a good weekend: I decided not to be disappointed about the trip and instead enjoyed all the best things about being at home.


  5. So sorry to hear about your holiday, and good work with the Wellcome Prize reading! I’ve only read six of the twelve, but am hoping to at least get through Freshwater before the shortlist is announced, especially now it’s also been longlisted for the Women’s Prize.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder what you’ll make of it — given you’re wary of autofiction and compromised mental states! (I honestly didn’t know about Emezi being trans, though I knew about the use of a ‘they’ pronoun. Knowing that makes me think a bit differently about a point in the novel where the protagonist experiences gender dysphoria.) I think Freshwater stands a better chance for the Women’s Prize than for the Wellcome.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sorry to hear about your travel woes, Rebecca, but it sounds as if you made up for it eventually. Hope you manage to get across the channel this weekend coming up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Should’ve gone on the Eurostar like you did, clearly 😉


  7. Oh, good luck with your postponed travels. Poor you. I’m so sorry Meylis de Karangal doesn’t come out well. I adored both her other books. I’ll have to see if I agree.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked The Cook; it just didn’t wow me.


  8. Fingers crossed for the car and Normandy. My reading this month and into next is prize and theme month driven – from Welsh and Irish reading to the Wellcome and Dylan Thomas prizes. I hope to fit a couple of TBR/library reads in amongst those if I can.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m sorry to hear about your travel trouble! It sounds like you really made the most of the weekend anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Home *is* pretty great, isn’t it? I’m very content at home. 🙂
    So glad you’re enjoying Cutting for Stone. I can see the comparison to Cider House Rules! But I haven’t read Midnight’s Children – how does that one fit in?
    I have read both TransAtlantic and Away (but Away was so long ago I can barely remember it!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually really dislike Midnight’s Children, but I mention it because it starts with the slightly mythical story of the protagonist’s birth in India in the 1940s, which reminded me a bit of the extended backstory we get to the half-Indian twins’ birth in the 1950s.

      I think I’m going to start the Urquhart soon. It’ll be my third novel from her.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Congrats on four years of blogging! I’ll be looking forward to your reviews for Reading Ireland Month. I’m reading Bowen’s The Death of the Heart right now, and I’m definitely curious about her other books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! You’ve preempted my anniversary post that’s going up tomorrow 😉

      Alas, I gave up on The Heat of the Day, but would try another by Bowen someday.

      Liked by 1 person

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