Month: November 2021

What’s in my Notes App

Posted November 13, 2021 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Writing / 2 Comments

Wanted to do something different, and this is inspired by a note I found in my Notes app regarding my wife from 2014. I am not going to share this note as it is too personal but recently I saw a TikTok trend asking what type of notes do men have on their phone, so it sparked this post. I want to post a few I found and try to see if I can explain them. While looking I have deleted so many notes because I have no idea what they mean.

Megan McDowell
Emma Ramadan
Sophie Hughes
Tina Kover
Hugh Alpin

Natasha Wimmer
Donald Nicolson-Smith
Frank Wynne
Oliver Ready
Deborah Smith

This one is pretty simple, I was working on a list of auto-buy translators. I always see people talk about auto-buy authors and I thought that was too boring, so I wanted to adjust it to suit my needs. I seem to have found five translators that are auto-buys and was brainstorming who else to add before maybe creating a post about this topic. I did also find an auto-buy authors list, but it only contained Mariana Enríquez and Anne Garréta.

conflictatus per aliis libris

Do I need to explain this note? It seems to be my life motto; it is Latin for distracted by other books. I wish I was better at planning my reading habits, I would like to be able to schedule some reading goals, but sadly I know I am a mood reader and am constantly being distracted by other books.

Descriptions of breasts
Love Triangles
First Person Past Tense in Post-Apocalyptic 
Like (comparisons)

I assume this was a list of turn offs in literature, maybe I was planning to write a post about literary bête noires. I have no idea about the first person past tense in a post-apocalyptic one, but it does sound awful, I just cannot think of a single example of when this has happened and why I would put it on this list.

Book adaptations

Norwegian Wood
Belle De Jour
My Brilliant Friend (TV show)
Let The Right One In

It feels rare to find a note with a title, but I am not sure where I was going with this one. Is it possibly a list of book adaptations worth watching?


    1. You don’t want an ereader because you want other people to know what you’re reading
      You see these people pretending to read paper books all the time. But really they’re glancing around the room, to see who’s noticing them.
    2. You like to take instagram photos of your food…with your book casually in the background of the shot
      Actually, I did this the other day.
    3. You now appreciate the works Stephen King produced in the 80s (but everything he wrote in the 90s was terrible)
      “The Shining is a brilliant interpretation of the American ghost story but Rose Madder was meaningless twaddle.”
    4. You are purposefully rough with your books when you read them so that it looks like you’ve read them several times more than you actually have.
      Not only have I read all the books I own, I’ve read them all at least seven times.
    5. You think you’re Hemingway
      You’re not.
    6. You have personalised book plates that say “from the library of (insert name)”
      You do not have a library. You have a bookshelf.
    7. You have a book bag
      Normal people call them ‘bags’.
    8. You like to hang out in independent book stores, but secretly shop on Amazon.
      You probably make purchases on your phone while you’re in there.
    9. You snort derisively at any book that’s popular without having read it
      *cough* 50 Shades of Grey *cough*
    10. Unlike music hipsters, you need authors to be verified by a major label before you’ll read them.
      Hipsters only like authors that you’ve never heard of…who are published by a major publishing house and who are preferably award winners.

I really have no idea. It doesn’t look like I wrote it but past me did not include a source.

Guilty reads?
How are books a guilty pleasure
Are there books that you are ashamed of some books you read
Don’t want to be judged on what you are reading
Sometimes that are a joy in reading for simply enjoyment
Books you’re afraid to read in public

Sounds like I was brainstorming new ideas for blog posts, this was written in 2012 but they might actually be good ideas.

Because I teach literature at the university level, there is, in fact, no way to avoid commenting on books that most of the time I haven’t even opened. It’s true that this is also the case for the majority of my students, but if even one of them have read the text I’m discussing, there is a risk that at any moment my class will be disrupted and I will find myself humiliated.

Obviously not written by me but I like the quote. I googled it and found out that it is from How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard, translated from the French by Jeffrey Mehlman. Yet another time, I wish past me would have referenced his notes.

Чтобы больше иметь больше производств
Чтобы больше производить надо больше знать

Not sure where this comes from because I clearly do not reference my notes, but it is Russian and it says “To have more, produce more. To produce more you need to know more” I am not sure what I was planning here, it was either a revolution or I just like to collect quotes about gaining knowledge.

1788–year of white settlement, rise of novel, encyclopedia, first dictionaries, newspapers

Yet again, I have no idea what was going on here. I must have thought it was useful to know this information. I know 1788 was when the First Fleet arrives at Botany Bay, so I do understand the year of white settlement part of this, but did all the other things really happen in 1788?

I think this is enjoy of a dive into my Notes app, there is a long description of the Norman conquest of England in 1066 and plenty of random book lists, including the World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2020 (thankfully I referenced that one) and the past few longlists for the International Booker Prize, so I can mark off the books I have read. That is an insight into my thought process, I am assuming that most of these were written in the middle of the night because I do not appreciate having no references or titles. Let me know what weird notes are in your Notes app.

Recommend me some essay collections

Posted November 10, 2021 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 2 Comments

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo and in the past I have harvested the desire to write a novel but my brain doesn’t work like that. I don’t have the ability to write anything to pad out an idea; like scenery or dialogue. As much as I want to be a writer, I don’t think I can write fiction. I think non-fiction or blogging is better suited for by writing style, but I’m a little out of practice, I am trying to get back into the habit of writing more blog posts. I want to improve and to do that I need to write more. I’m still reading Not to Read by Alejandro Zambra (translated by Megan McDowell), I read an essay and sit with it for a while, in awe of his writing style and it makes me doubt my abilities. This is a person that I wish I could write like.

I should read more essay collections and just absorb their style and learn from them. I recently picked up Lucy Ellmann’s essay collection Things Are Against Us and really enjoyed it. I loved her novel Ducks, Newburyport, the way she expresses her anger frustration with the world and her life really drove that book and she delivers that same feeling in Things Are Against Us. Ellmann has this amazing ability to blend anger and humour, she expresses her frustrations in such a way that keeps you reading and wanting to know more. These essays give off “angry feminist” vibes and for good reason. She is angry and frustrated with the patriarchy and she wants to express that.

Things Are Against Us is not the reason for this post. What I’m asking for is essay collection recommendations. I love the collections that I’ve mentioned, and I want to read more, I want to learn from their style. For example, I love In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, I think it’s one of the best books I have read in a long time, and I love the way she uses different styles with her essays. I want to learn by reading more essay collections and I want people to recommend their favourites. It doesn’t have to be bookish, there are many great writers out in the world, and I’d like to learn a little from them. If I look at the essay collections I have read, the majority of them are bookish, like Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman, Through the Window by Julian Barnes, The Complete Pollysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornsby and The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel. The only collection that I haven’t mentioned is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which was such a hard-hitting book, but one I still think about.

I know I can read books like The Best Australian Essays, and I probably should read more of them. I am looking more of a collection by a single writer, to allow me to get to know their style and learn more about them. I find that these collections often follow a theme and that really helps me stay invested in the book. I know this is probably not an interesting blog post, but I hope you will recommend me something.

Non-Fiction November Week 2: Book Pairings

Posted November 8, 2021 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

I am going to continue doing the prompts for Non-Fiction November, as one of my exercises in getting back into blogging. This week’s prompt is hosted by Doing Dewey and it is Book Pairings. I am not sure how well I will go with this but I will attempt to pair a few non-fiction books with some other media.

Things Are Against Us by Lucy Ellmann

I will start off easy here, but if you loved Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann you should really check out this essay collection. As it is the same author you get the same anger and frustration in both. Ellmann is not happy with the way women are treated in the patriarchy and she will let you know, however she has this dry sense of humour that really works well in her writing. I enjoy her style and need to read some her older novels.

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Remember the English TV show Black Books? Don’t watch it now if you’ve never seen it because turns out the creator is a TERF, however this memoir is a good alternative. Shaun Bythell owns a secondhand bookstore in Wigtown, Scotland called The Bookshop and he has a bit of a snarky personality. This is a collection of humorous stories about book selling, the eclectic people that visit the store and the constant battle with Amazon. Bythell has written two more similar books but I am yet to read them.

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich (translated by Keith Gessen)

I have not seen the HBO miniseries Chernobyl but it is on my list. I am confident enough to recommend the pairing because this book by Svetlana Alexievich is credited as part of the research material used to write the show. In particular, the book was used to help capture the how the Pripyat locals reacted to this disaster.

At the Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell

If you’ve read and enjoyed any novels by an existentialist then this is worth reading. Novels like The Stranger by Albert Camus, Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre or The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir. This book looks at the lives of these philosophers and the philosophies they created. This is a fascinating read, and a great way to see how their lives, the way and other philosophical ideas, such as Phenomenology, help shaped their ways of thinking.

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

Finishing this list off with another easy one, but if you’ve been listening to the podcast Backlisted then I’m sure you already know about this book. The podcast is hosted by John Mitchinson and Andy Miller and they talk about older, forgotten books. I have to wonder if Miller’s book was a key factor in creating this podcast, particularly when The Guardian described his book as “a heroic and amusing attempt to get back to the classics”.

I know I need to read more non-fiction, there is so much to read but I really struggled to come up with decent pairings. I really wanted to recommend In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado but could not find anything similar and that is part of the beauty of that book.

Non-Fiction November Week 1: My Year in Non-Fiction

Posted November 2, 2021 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 6 Comments

I saw this over at Reading In Bed, and I thought I would join in; it’s this week’s #NonFicNov prompts which is being hosted by Rennie at What’s Nonfiction. I have been really in the mood for some non-fiction and thought it would be a good excuse to join in this event, and hopefully help motivate me to blog more. The prompt revolves around my year in non-fiction, which I admit has not been too great. My whole reading year has been a struggle, and I have read less than I normally would. Which means, I have not picked up much non-fiction, but what I have read, I’ve really enjoyed. So, I thought I would quickly highlight the non-fiction books I have read.

Sex and Lies by Leïla Slimani (translated by Sophie Lewis)

Leïla Slimani is a Franco-Moroccan author and journalist who while on a book tour decided to interview woman about their experiences with sex. When talking about sex, we often only get a western perspective (or this could be a cultural bias), so it was interesting to read some thoughts from Moroccan women. The books offered insights into the thoughts and expectations of these Arab women, while Slimani collected these stories, she also added some relevant statistics.

The Women’s Doc by Caroline De Costa

If it wasn’t for book club, I might have never read this book. Caroline De Costa is a controversial name here in Australia as a reproductive rights activist, mainly for her vocal support towards Mifepristone (RU486) which at the time was not available here. This book is a memoir of her working life, five decades as an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in Ireland, Papua New Guinea, and Australia.

Ex Libris, 100+ Books to Read and Reread by Michiko Kakutani

I love books about books, but there is something about the subtitle of this one that really bugged me. In the 100+ books Kakutani mentioned, there was a large amount dedicated to American history and political. I find this to be a problem with Americans in general; not everyone lives in America! There is a world outside of America, and while some knowledge of your country can be useful, not everyone wants to read and reread these books.

Things Are Against Us by Lucy Ellmann

I loved Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks Newburyport, so I was excited to see this essay collection from her and she did not disappoint. This is a collection of 14 essays in which she unleashes her anger and frustration at the world. Ellmann has a great way of blending humour and anger together, and this collection covers topics on feminism, media, politics, labour, and the environment.

The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen (Translated by Tiina Nunnally & Michael Favala Goldman)

This is a collection of three short memoirs, Childhood, Youth and Dependency, covering a large part of Ditlevsen’s life. Stay tuned because there will be an episode of the Lost in Translations podcast on this book.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

This might be my favourite book of the year; it was such an amazing read. This is a memoir of an abusive relationship, but Machado has done an amazing job in the way she wrote this book. Each chapter is written in a different style, using a series of narrative tropes to tell the story. What I really loved about this book is the way it is told in the second person as a way of letting the reader know they aren’t the only person suffering from abuse.

I am not planning on spending the entire month reading non-fiction but I have a few books lined up that I would really like to read, starting with Who Gets to Be Smart by Bri Lee. I am terrible at planning so I cannot reveal anything more, except the fact that Who Gets to Be Smart did mention No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani (translated by Omid Tofighian) which is sitting on my shelves waiting for me, so I might pick that up as well. As for my other project The Invisible Cities, we are focusing on Sierra Leone and Paraguay in November. December is a catch up month (so no new countries) and we will be back next year, starting with Algeria and Singapore.

Hope you have a great reading month, don’t forget to read some non-fiction. November is also Novelllas in November (#NovNov) if you need an excuse to read some shorter books.