Anyone who knows me will be very well aware that my to-be-read pile is often, if not always, a growing mass of unread tomes and tales; many of which I may never get around to reading. The sheer enormity of books I get sent means it would be entirely impossible to read every one in my possession, and often times it’s the cover that hooks my attention. Such was true of Holly Ringland’s beautiful book, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, which I began this afternoon as the rain clattered down against my window pane. A stunning story about secrets and flowers, set in the lush sugar cane fields by the sea, it will no doubt generate a legion of loyal followers for this debut novelist.
I loved finding out which eight reads Holly chose for her Desert Island Books selection; from a seminal book on creativity to a tale that has crossed many continents with Holly, read on to find out more…
Women Who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
When I was 33 and read this book for the first time, I couldn’t have dreamed that two years later I would go to the US and study fairytales, archetypes and trauma with Dr Estes, using Women Who Run With the Wolves as the source. Finding my courage to finish writing the first draft of my debut novel was in part due to following where this book lead me. I return to its pages over and over again. As Dr Estes says, stories are medicine.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on creativity, structured as a 12 week program designed to help readers unblock their imagination and let creativity flow. I discovered it when I was bereaved and looking for creative comfort to help me through foggy days of grief. After reading and following it for a few weeks, something shifted inside me. One day in 2014, I opened a new notebook. Instead of writing daily free-thought pages, I felt something else emerging. I uncapped my pen, and watched my hand write the first line of my first novel as if I knew it by heart.
Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
With a sense of place that is uncanny, and vividly real characters whose lives don’t run smooth and whose stories loop together across space and time, this is a remarkable, haunting and accomplished work from my favourite novelist – an irresistible volume of interconnected short stories about a house for all seasons. I have carried Blackbird House with me across continents. Any time I feel sluggish or hopeless, I can dip into one of the stories inside Blackbird House and come away feeling reignited. It always has a home on any bookshelf of mine.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I re-read Wuthering Heights during my first snowy winter in England in 2009. My first reading was in high school when I was 16 and I’d wrongly remembered it as a love story. Reading it in my 30s I was thunderstruck by how deftly Emily Brontë captured the darkness and madness of lust, and the cruelty and obsession that drives psychological revenge. The first time I walked in Emily’s footsteps on the moors behind the Brontë Parsonage remains one of my most affecting memories of my life in the UK, such is the power of her classic story.
Salt by Nayyirah Waheed
Salt is a journey through warmth and sharpness. This collection of poetry explores the realities of multiple identities, language, Diasporic life and pain, the self, community, healing, celebration, and love. I keep it by my bed and read it last thing before sleep or first thing when I wake up. It is beautiful and vulnerable and mesmerising and medicinal.
Ruby Moonlight by Ali Cobby Eckermann
I read Ruby Moonlight in 2014. The inconsolable yearning it left me with still lingers. This generous and warm verse novel doesn’t pull any punches in telling Ruby’s story of survival after her family is massacred by white settlers. I wish I could visit 16-year-old me and press a copy into her hands. Ruby Moonlight is a profoundly affecting book that reminds me how individual and universal our need for love is.
The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose
‘Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.’ Stella Adler. The first understanding I had of the profundity of Marina Abramovic’s performance in The Artist is Present at MOMA was gleaned from watching video footage online of the moment she looked up and saw the person she was sitting across from was her estranged lover. The silence and eye contact between them brought me to tears. Reading Heather Rose’s remarkable, extraordinary novel inspired by The Artist is Present was electrifying. It is one of the most unique, strange, and beautiful novels I have ever read.
The Friendship Cure by Kate Leaver
In an age of loneliness and anxiety, The Friendship Cure is a nonfiction manifesto calling us to cherish and nourish our friendships across platforms, dynamics and genders, as the solution to our yearnings for fulfilment, inner peace, and well being. Reading this book calms and encourages me and gives me hope through its gentle, powerful, wise and insightful reminders that in a world constantly telling us we’re not enough, if we nurture our friendships, sharing kindness and compassion between us, we have plenty.
About Holly Ringland
Holly Ringland grew up barefoot and wild in her mother’s tropical garden on the east coast of Australia. Her interest in cultures and stories was sparked by a two-year journey her family took in North America when she was nine years old, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. Moving to England in 2009, Holly obtained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her essays and short fiction have been published in various anthologies and literary journals. She now lives between the UK and Australia. To any question ever asked of Holly about growing up, writing has always been the answer.
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