New Books January 2024

January is over, the evenings are drawing out again, and we have another New Books post to celebrate! If you’re starting to flag with your New Year’s resolution to read more books (we’ve all been there), then perhaps one of these will take your fancy. We have a mix of poetry and prose, works from Indigenous authors, even some books on magic – quite the eclectic mix!

As always, if you want to keep track of the EFL’s latest acquisitions then you’re more than welcome to check out our New Books Display next to the Enquiry Desk. If you can’t make it into the EFL, or just want to see the bigger picture, then LibraryThing will be your new best friend!

And now, onto the books.

Owen Davies, Art of the Grimoire: An Illustrated History of Magic Books and Spells (2023)

We begin January’s New Books post with something a bit different, a picture book!   Okay, that’s a bit reductionist perhaps, as Art of the Grimoire is definitely a work of academic rigour. However, it is made accessible (and aesthetic) through the use of full-colour pictures with bitesize, but no less-detailed, accompanying explanations. Owen Davies takes you across time, geography, and genre with his clever use of material; this is a great introduction the magic across history or a refresher if you’re simply tired of reading (The horror! The horror!) and want something easier to digest. From yokai to the Necronomicon and even Coptic magic, this is a delight to the senses – get some knowledge whilst feeding the aesthete within you.

Alexis Wright, Praiseworthy (2023)

Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright (Waanyi) is an apocalyptic novel on an epic scale. Clocking in at over 700 pages, this may not be the lightest read but it certainly is worth it. Set in a post-climate change world (sounds familiar), a haze has settled across the town of Praiseworthy, Australia, bringing with it the reckoning of a myriad of intergenerational traumas affecting the Aboriginal inhabitants of the community and Australia at large. Each character stands not only on their own, but also as metaphors to critique and satirise the various ways in which society refuses to acknowledge the Aboriginal people as the original custodians of the land. Marrying together personal and historical, oral tradition and prose, this is a brilliant piece of mythic realism that’s not to be missed if you’re interested in the ongoing settler-colonialism within Australia, or ecocriticism in general.

Victoria MacKenzie, For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain (2023)

I’m sure many of our readers are familiar with Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, but if not then here’s the tea. Margery was the brains behind The Booke of Margery Kempe written in the 1430s, widely considered to be the first autobiography, which details her pilgrimages and encounters with the divine throughout her life. Julian is a similarly religious figure from the same time period, although she chose to express her faith by devoting herself to life as an anchoress after she received visions from God – becoming her Revelations of Divine Love. The two met in real life according the Margery, with her seeking council from Julian, an encounter that this book hinges on. Rather than dismissing their divine visions as mental illness, MacKenzie treats them with compassion and tells us their stories in their own words, providing insight into the treatment of female mystics during the period in an accessible form.

Evelyn Araluen, Dropbear (2021)

We love Indigenous poetry, as you might have seen in our previous blogpost, and this time it’s coming from Australia, with thanks to Evelyn Araluen (Bundjalung). Her debut collection (and what a debut!) features a mix of stanzaic poetry, free verse, and prose, tackling everything from decolonisaton, to Australiana, and even the pandemic. Rather than divorcing herself from some of these difficult to navigate situations, Araluen acknowledges her own inevitable entanglement in them resulting in a deeply personal collection. Some highlights to get you started include: ‘The Inevitable Pandemic Poem’, ‘Bad Taxidermy’, and ‘The Trope Speaks’. There is grief and rage laced into the poems, but also moments of sentimentality and affection, and through it all a deep love for her community.

Ronald Hutton, The Witch: A History of Fear, From Ancient Times to the Present (2017)

Written by Ronald Hutton, a prolific scholar on the study of witchcraft, we come back again to magic and witchcraft. True to his word, Hutton doesn’t just focus on Europe and the witch trials that took place there, instead, he takes us on a detailed ethnographic survey all the way back to Mesopotamia and its demonology, to Coptic magic (for the second time!), finishing on Britain and its Celtic folklore as well. This is a thorough cross-cultural examination of witchcraft, and perhaps not for the faint-hearted, however it is an undeniably interesting area and a great counterpart to Art of the Grimoire if that interested you as well.

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