Book Serendipity, November to December 2021

I call it Book Serendipity when two or more books that I read at the same time or in quick succession have something pretty bizarre in common. Because I have so many books on the go at once (usually 20–30), I suppose I’m more prone to such incidents. I’ve realized that, of course, synchronicity is really the more apt word, but this branding has stuck. This used to be a quarterly feature, but to keep the lists from getting too unwieldy I’ve shifted to bimonthly.

The following are in roughly chronological order.

 

  • The received wisdom that, in a medical school interview, when asked why you want to become a doctor, you should NOT say “because I want to help people” turns up in The Cure for Good Intentions by Sophie Harrison and Head First by Alastair Santhouse.

 

  • The fact that long-time couples don’t use each other’s first names anymore is mentioned in The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos and The Cemetery in Barnes by Gabriel Josipovici.
  • A rare and thus precious letter from a father in Generations by Lucille Clifton and The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos.

 

  • The fact that woodpeckers will eat songbird chicks was mentioned in Orchard by Benedict Macdonald and Nicholas Gates and Light Rains Sometimes Fall by Lev Parikian.

 

  • Reading two books with covers featuring a partial head-on face at the same time: Taste by Stanley Tucci and Behind the Mask by Kate Walter.
  • The fact that some of a baby’s cells remain within the mother even after she’s given birth is mentioned in The End We Start From by Megan Hunter and Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg by Emily Rapp Black.

 

  • The author’s body is described as a conundrum in Conundrum by Jan Morris and Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg by Emily Rapp Black.
  • The potoo (a bird like a nightjar) is the subject of an essay in World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil and a poem in The Store-House of Wonder and Astonishment by Sherry Rind (coming out in January 2022).

 

  • Reading a second memoir this year by an English woman whose partner works for Lego in Denmark: first was A Still Life by Josie George, then The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell.
  • A mention of the disorienting experience of going into a cinema while it’s still light and then coming out to find it dark in Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason and then in the 2022 novel Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield.

 

  • A detailed account of making a Christmas cake appears in Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, read late in the year, and the Santa Rosa trilogy by Wendy McGrath, read early in the year.
  • After Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living in November, I read a proof copy of a February 2022 essay collection called Cost of Living, by Emily Maloney, in December.

 

  • Surviving Home by Katerina Canyon has a poem entitled “No More Poems about My Father” while The Kids by Hannah Lowe has a poem (“The River”) that opens with the line “Not another poem about my father”.

 

What’s the weirdest reading coincidence you’ve had lately?

18 responses

  1. I know this isn’t what you mean, but, I just finished Laurent Binet’s alternate history in Civilizations, much of which is set in the 1500s Europe, and I kept wondering what Cromwell would think of all this, due to reading the Wolf Hall trilogy 🙂

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    1. Ha ha, that’s fun! I thought about reading the Binet but never quite got to it this year. Was it worthwhile?

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  2. My most memorable one this year was in Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson where she mentions the book I was about to read next, Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott

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  3. The “disorienting experience of going into a cinema while it’s still light and then coming out to find it dark” I find wondrous (though these days sadly infrequent) — disorientating because those Platonic images on a cave wall essentially took place when time outside should have stood still. It’s completely different from the experience when one wakes after a night’s sleep.

    My serendipitous synchronicities are more generalised, I think: many of my recent fiction titles seem more focused on ‘issues’ — for example feminism, state control, environmentalism, individual or corporate greed, infidelity — than on simple storytelling.

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    1. Is that because you’re on a kick of reading about those topics, or do they coincidentally turn up?

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  4. I had a good one yesterday, my last book was “Sally on the Rocks” by Winifred Boggs, and in “Five Windows” by D.E. Stevenson, a secondary character describes himself as “on the rocks”. I don’t recall seeing that expression for a while, and although they were in a British Library Women Writers book and a Dean Street Press, they were published in 1915 and 1953 respectively!

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    1. Fun! I always like finding instances of sayings that I thought were recent but actually have been around for ages.

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  5. […] note of two Bookish Beck Book Serendipity moments with this one. First off, having just read Winifred Boggs’ “Sally on the […]

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  6. I have one for you! I read three books within a month or two that were all set in Sarnia, Ontario – a town I had never read about in a novel before. It reminded me of when, a couple of years ago, it seemed all the books were set in Thunder Bay.

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    1. LOL Okay, Chemical Valley, and which others? (There’s Brian Francis’ Fruit, but I know you’ve already read that one.)

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      1. Oh, I forgot about that one – I guess I have “visited” Sarnia before! But his newest Missed Connections is one of the ones I recently read (well, I listened to that one), and Ring! Ring isn’t entirely in Sarnia, but that’s where the mother lives, right? The one who can’t leave?

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      2. That’s so cool. And not even taking the born-there card either, like with Mary Lawson (but she was in a small town nearby I believe) and Helen Marshall (whose super creepy books likely aren’t your cuppa, other than in broad daylight high summer)!

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      3. I just looked up Helen Marshall, and you’re right, I think I’ll pass. For now…

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  7. […] good bit of Bookish Beck Book Serendipity with this one. Yes, I’m reading a lot of Icelandic books so it’s not as unexpected as […]

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  8. That songbird sadness reminds me of the plethora of Laika stories (illustrated, her in a short story, so many stories about Laika) at some point. Not in my stacks. No WAY! There was probably some anniversary that brought them all out on market. I don’t want to know.

    I don’t have any to add for this year, but I will say that I spent a lot of time thinking about the Christmas cake in Santa Rosa over the holidays.

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    1. I read a graphic novel about Laika once, but that’s all I can recall.

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