In the first few months after E’s birth I found it almost impossible to write. Life was full of profound (and funny, mundane, horrible, stressful, bewildering, ecstatic, beautiful) moments that seemed made for poetry, but I was too tired, hungry, busy, or frazzled to capture any of them. Although I was worried that I’d never feel like writing again, I was incredibly lucky to have some seasoned poet parents on hand to reassure me that things would calm down eventually. Happily, they were right. But in the meantime, I just read as much as I could, using every feed, every little nap, and every sleepless night to make up for the ten months that I’d been starved of words.
Here are just a few of the books that I read and loved in those first few months. Some write beautifully about pregnancy, childbirth, and children, while others address climate change and environmental disaster, addiction and recovery, war, race and racism, class, gender and sexuality, loss and grief, love, and selfhood. Some are fiction, while others are poetry collections, essays, and prose. Some are new, while others are established classics. Some I’ve read before, and others are brand new discoveries. All are fantastic in their own way.
Karen McCarthy Woolf, Seasonal Disturbances
Kate Atkinson, Life After Life
Amy Liptrot, The Outrun
Margo Jefferson, Negroland
Sinéad Morrissey, Through the Square Window
Holly McNish, Nobody Told Me
Jon Silkin, Out of Battle
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Kayo Chingonyi, Kumukanda
Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent
Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts
Julia Copus, The World’s Two Smallest Humans
Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe
Clare Pollard, Incarnation
Sarah Moss, Signs for Lost Children
Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
Tiphanie Yannique, Wife
Karen McCarthy Woolf, An Aviary of Small Birds
Michael Hamburger, The Truth of Poetry
Ted Hughes, Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose
Ocean Vuong, Night Sky with Exit Wounds
Denise Riley, Say Something Back
Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins
Sarah Moss, Bodies of Light
This post should really be called ‘
rest read when the baby rests’. When E was born every midwife, health visitor, family member, and seasoned parent gave this (very good) advice. I’m afraid I didn’t follow it. But I think reading also has fantastic restorative properties. For one thing it has the power to keep you sane, adult, and imaginative in those crazy first few months. It gives you something else to talk about in amongst the chat about nap routines and colic.
What other books should be on this list? Let me know the books that keep you company through sleepless nights – baby induced or otherwise.