Edinburgh's Radical Bookshop

Lighthouse favourites 2021: Mairi


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"That we must do better for those who struggled and are no longer with us to fight, for those who deserve a better today."

We're at the finish line! Here's our last bookseller round-up of 2021 favourites, coming to you from Mairi:

It should come as no surprise that asking a bookseller to choose just 3 ‘favourite’ books from a year of reading is a special kind of torture. It can't really be done, so I’m going to use this opportunity to highlight three non-fiction works that have moved me deeply, and (re)shaped my thinking this year.

Lola Olufemi’s Experiments in Imagining Otherwise is one of the most exciting works of experimental nonfiction I’ve come across. Through fragments, vignettes, essay and story, Olufemi plays with her own assessment of the world and challenges us to imagine a different way of being/building/existing/loving. Her thought experiments and provocations are rooted in Black feminist and queer scholarship, inviting us readers to delve deeper into Black feminist organising and thinking. I keep coming back to passages, underlining different sections, I’m still carrying it around weeks later, reaching for it over and over to remind myself that though we have lost many feminist giants of late, there is magic in young minds like Lola’s and they will set fires for new generations.

Everybody Needs Beauty : In Search of the Nature Cure is a blend of nature writing, psychology, politics and more that unpacks contemporary claims about the healing properties of nature. It’ll change the way you look at the landscape and how you exist in it. Samantha Walton will make you reckon with the absences in nature, and nature writing- when and where do you see disabled people, poor people, people of colour? I read it not long after finishing Hayes’ Book of Trespass and Jason Allen-Paisant’s Thinking With Trees and they all break open the natural world to new visitors, inviting us to lay claim on the land and reconnect with it. Walton’s compassion and creativity, her insatiable curiosity and original research, and her gift as a poet make this a fantastic read. It’s the perfect book for nature lovers and armchair travellers alike - if you enjoyed Lucy Jones’ Losing Eden you will love this too.

If you're interested in seeking out new kinds of nature writing do check out the brilliant Nan Shepherd Prize!

My final title is an anthology that draws on Jewish, anarchist, and Jewish anarchist tradition, There is Nothing So Whole as a Broken Heart. A couple years ago bookshop regular Alice Ross introduced me to the editor Cindy Millstein through an astonishing earlier collection, Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief.

Alice’s own writing now appears in Nothing So Whole As a Broken Heart - the book is a rich, heartful celebration of the complexity of our world, and it draws strength and hope and myriad stories from broken hearts, from being broken hearted. The contributors seed solidarity and dignity and nurture a vociferous rejection of colonialism, binaries, hetero-patriarchy, capitalism and oppression, in whatever form it takes. You can watch a discussion of the book from the Edinburgh Anarchist Feminist Book Fair earlier this year HERE!

Events and losses of the last year have left me broken hearted, and when I have struggled most I have found great comfort and strength in being reminded of collective loss and resilience, that pain and grief can seed strength and love and remembering. That we must do better for those who struggled and are no longer with us to fight, for those who deserve a better today. I found this message echoed in Salena Godden’s Mrs Death Misses Death, which I have spent much of this year proselytizing about. To be broken hearted - to mourn, to cry, to despair - does not make you broken, it is part of our humanity. Our capacity to care, to continue to care, is revolutionary

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