Nicholas Taylor-Collins in front of a bookshelf

Nicholas Taylor-Collins

Literary researcher | Creative reader

Top 5 blogs of 2020

The new year will soon be heralded by new blogs from me. But for now, here’s a list of my Top 5 blogs of 2020 according to views.

Apart from anything else, the list provides an interesting snapshot of last year’s popular and thought-provoking books … Enjoy, and thanks for reading this blog in 2020!

5. Christina Thatcher’s How to Carry Fire (Parthian)

Thatcher’s second collection of poetry sets the persona’s birth family in the USA as a comparator with her marriage family in Wales. I explored how both these families can be considered ‘queer’ by virtue of rejecting the nuclear, heteronormative family, and also giving happiness to the persona in spite of some of the more obvious traumas that take place.

4. Suzanne Collins’s The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Scholastic)

In my review of the book, I focused on the deployment of ‘social contract’ theory in this Hunger Games prequel. From Thomas Hobbes to Emile Durkheim, I proposed that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes provides a timely intervention into how our current society works, and how supposedly ‘democratic’ countries deal with and respond to civil unrest.

3. Niamh Campbell’s This Happy (Weidenfeld & Nicholson)

Campbell’s novel follows Alannah’s parallel journeys in love, from when she was younger, and today. At the heart of both stories, and Alannah’s own emotional state, is the power of space. Using Gaston Bachelard’s ideas from The Poetics of Space to help me read This Happy, I argued that Bachelard’s 1957 ideas about ‘topophilia’—the love of space—continue to be reverberate and echo in this 2020 text.

2. Stephen Sexton’s If All the World and Love Were Young (Penguin)

Sexton’s poetry collection uses the 1990 Super Nintendo game Super Mario as its structure, through which the persona details their mother’s diagnosis, treatment, and death from cancer. In my blog, I wondered whether it’s best to describe the text as postmodern because it prioritises the virtual world of simulacra—copies without originals—pace Jean Baudrillard, or whether If All the World and Love Were Young is better to characterise it as post-postmodern because the poems seek an escape from the world of the game, and also infuse the virtual world with both pain and joy from the ‘real’ world.

1. Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)

Evaristo’s 2019 Booker-winning Girl, Woman, Other has been hugely influential in the twelve months following its award, and this appears true in my blog as well. In my post about the novel, I questioned the strength of the text and the way the stories are sutured together, much like in a tapestry. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t convinced by the way the stories were pulled together, though I did appreciate the text’s representation of queer stories and intergenerational feminism (something Rebecca Solnit asks us to pay attention to).


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