Our literary pick for the month of December for Kat’s Books & Wine Club comes from an old Instagram post of Kat’s. It’s the aptly themed Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons.
Available for the first time since its original publication more than fifty years ago, Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm is a charming collection whose hilarious title story features Christmas dinner with the Starkadders before Flora’s arrival. With Adam playing Santa while draped in Mrs. Starkadders’s shawls, the family shares their traditional “Christmas pudding”-a mélange containing random objects of doom foretelling the coming year: a coffin nail for death, a bad sixpence for financial ruin, and a menthol cone to indicate that the lucky recipient will go “blind wi’ headache.” These lively tales will delight anyone who loves Stella Gibbons and her signature wit.
Our literary pick for the month of November for Kat’s Books & Wine Club comes from Kat’s original list of favourites. It’s Like the Red Panda by Andrea Seigel.
Stella Parrish is seventeen, attractive, smart, deeply alienated, and unable to countenance life’s absurdities. She is not nihilistic; she is prematurely exhausted. Since her parents OD’d on designer drugs when she was eleven, she has lived with well-meaning but inexperienced foster parents, while her grandfather, her only living relative, tries ever more ingenious ways of committing suicide in his retirement home. Here are the last two weeks of Stella’s senior year in Orange County, California: the intensive AP final exams; the childish, celebratory trips; the totemic importance attached to graduation. Beneath Stella’s mordantly funny take on her life is the decisiveness with which she disengages from it, planting clues and providing explanations for those who will try to understand the act she is about to commit. With perfect pitch, remarkable wit, and a spare, vivid prose, Stella turns her farewell to suburbia into a wry philosophical inquiry.
Our literary pick for the month of October for Kat’s Books & Wine Club comes straight for the librarian herself. Last month, Kat posted a video to her Instagram showcasing the Louisa May Alcott section of her library. As she read the description for A Long Fatal Love Chase, she jested about starting a book club… Are we a joke to you?
“I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom,” cries Rosamond Vivian to her callous grandfather. A brooding stranger seduces her from the remote island onto his yacht. Trapped in a web of intrigue, cruelty, and deceit, she flees to Italy, France, Germany, from Paris garret to mental asylum, from convent to chateau – stalked by obsessed Phillip Tempest.
Two years before Little Women, serialized in a magazine under the alias A.M. Barnard in 1866, this was buried among the author’s papers over a century.
Our literary pick for the month of September for Kat’s Books & Wine Club is Silent Snow, Secret Snow, one of Kat’s OG favourites back from the time she blogged, author Conrad Aiken’s best-known short story.
The story tells of a boy named Paul Hasleman, who finds it increasingly difficult to pay attention to his classwork, and grows more distant from his family. He is, instead, becoming more and more entranced by daydreaming about snow. This began when he was lying in bed one morning, awaiting the approach of the postman. Unable to hear the expected footfalls, the boy imagines that they have been muffled by newly fallen snow, and is surprised when he looks out the window and discovers that there is no snow on the ground.
Paul’s increasing distance and indifference to the world around him alarms his parents. He has to struggle to get dressed and converse with others, because of the allure of his daydream about snow. They eventually call in a physician, who makes a house call to examine Paul. After revealing that he likes to think about snow, Paul tears himself away from the meeting with the physician and retires to his room. When his mother pursues him, he tells her “Go away… I hate you!”, and is lost in the dreamworld of the snow.
In anticipation of the upcoming second instalment of Audible’s The Sandman featuring Kat as Death of the Endless, our August pick for Kat’s Books & Wine Club is the first three volumes in Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasy graphic novel. These volumes were adapted into the first instalment of the audio series; the second act, dropping in September, should focus on volumes four and five.
The Sandman is a comic book series written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC Comics. It tells the story of Dream, also known as Morpheus and other names, who is one of the seven Endless. The other Endless are Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium (formerly Delight), and Destruction. The series is famous for Gaiman’s trademark use of anthropomorphic personification of various metaphysical entities, while also blending mythology and history in its horror setting within the DC Universe.
We invite you to enter the Dreaming in whatever form you please. If you go with Audible’s adaptation, you can listen to Kat in episodes eight (“The Sound of Her Wings”), ten (“Men of Good Fortune”) and nineteen (“Façade”).
Additionally, if you are in the USA, you can listen to the audiobook completely for free only at Audible!
Our literary pick for the month of July for Kat’s Books & Wine Club is Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, by essay editor and essayist Sarah Hepola, a book which Kat shared on her Instagram back in September 2015.
Alcohol was “the gasoline of all adventure” for Sarah Hepola. She spent her evenings at cocktail parties and dark bars where she proudly stayed till last call. Drinking felt like freedom, part of her birthright as a strong, enlightened twenty-first-century woman.
But there was a price. She often blacked out, waking up with a blank space where four hours should have been. Mornings became detective work on her own life. What did I say last night? How did I meet that guy? She apologized for things she couldn’t remember doing, as though she were cleaning up after an evil twin. Publicly, she covered her shame with self-deprecating jokes, and her career flourished, but as the blackouts accumulated, she could no longer avoid a sinking truth. The fuel she thought she needed was draining her spirit instead.
A memoir of unblinking honesty and poignant, laugh-out-loud humor, Blackout is the story of a woman stumbling into a new kind of adventure—the sober life she never wanted. Shining a light into her blackouts, she discovers the person she buried, as well as the confidence, intimacy, and creativity she once believed came only from a bottle. Her tale will resonate with anyone who has been forced to reinvent or struggled in the face of necessary change. It’s about giving up the thing you cherish most—but getting yourself back in return.
This month’s summery pick for Kat’s Books & Wine Club is Nightingale Wood by English author Stella Gibbons, a book which Kat shared on her Instagram back in February 2016.
Life is not quite a fairytale for poor Viola. Left penniless, the young widow is forced to live with her late husband’s family in a joyless old house. There’s Mr Wither, a tyrannical old miser, Mrs Wither, who thinks Viola is just a common shop girl, and two unlovely sisters-in-law, one of whom is in love with the chauffeur.
Back in March, during an interview with The Strategist, Miss Dennings revealed a dozen material things she cannot like without. Among them, the book which we now pick as our read for this month at Kat’s Books & Wine Club: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. This is the first title of the juvenile sci-fi series.
Kat’s edition, named The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide, is an omnibus volume containing books 1 to 5 and is a leatherbound edition published by Portland House. She considers it her comfort book and reveals she takes it with her on trips because just knowing it is there makes her happy.
As a tribute to children’s books writer Norton Juster who passed away on March 8, we have selected The Phantom Tollbooth as Kat’s Books & Wine Club as our April pick. Kat did post a homage to Juster on her social media, saying it “is in my top 5 books of all time and I’ve gotten a copy for everyone I care about. If you haven’t read it, it’s the perfect day 📖”
This beloved story -first published more than fifty years ago- introduces readers to Milo and his adventures in the Lands Beyond.
For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams…
In celebration of International Women’s Day, our piece of literature selected for Match does not come from Kat’s bookshelf, but from her pen. Compiled by Scarlett Curtis and published in 2018, Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies) is a collection of feminist essays.
From Kat comes “The Catastrophizer’s Alphabet”, a poem where each letter of the alphabet stands for something that is part of a woman’s life… A short-sentenced cautionary tale that still manages to convey how being a woman in this world feels like.
Celebrate the month of women’s history with this pick from Kat’s Books & Wine Club.