Una Hamilton Helle (Becoming the Forest zine), Emma Warren (Dance your way home – A Journey Through the Dancefloor), Miki Yui (Hallow Ground, TAL), Jan Lankisch (I feel everything you say …), Justin Hopper (Old Weird Albion), Diva Harris (Caught By The River), Anna-Sophie Springer (K. Verlag), Jon Woolcott (Little Toller Books), Mark Pilkington (Strange Attractor Press), Gülsüm Güler & Inci Güler (TDD), Elisa Metz & Nathalie Brum (Grapefruit Zine), Rebeca Pérez Gerónimo (flores degeneradas), Carolin Blöink & Natalia Klaus (Stiftung Buchkunst), Katharina Zimmerhackl (Die Verwechslung der Freiheit), Maike Suhr (hinterlands Magazine), Barbara Collé & Uta Neumann (Chamber of Colours), Elisa & Coco & Lena Astarte (hoops), Gabriella Hirst (battlefield), Wolfgang Zwierzynski (Quichotte Buchhandlung), Holger Lehmann (Nabellieder), Lorena Carràs (Zabriskie Buchladen), Jean-Marie Dhur (Zabriskie Buchladen).
„Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World“, by Tyson Yunkaporta
I find this book by Aboriginal scholar Tyson Yunkaporta really hard to describe. It is a book that affected me deeply, but which will take a life time to sink in and put into practice. It speaks of ways of being in the world, which are rooted in Aboriginal teachings (those he is allowed to convey), especially as ways of meeting the upcoming consequences that stem from of our loss of connection to “nature” and kinship systems. It teaches us that yarning, story-telling, pattern-thinking and symbol-making are key parts of this process of thinking and being-with, and it made me question a lot of the language, rationale and ideas I had about the world.
„Ani.mystic: Encounters with a Living Cosmos“, by Gordon White
Scarlet Imprint, 2022
A stated kindred spirit of Yunkaporta and host of the podcast Rune Soup, White is also trying to redefine how we relate to reality, our surroundings and each other, which he does by looking at how the western magical tradition could benefit from an animist outlook. White takes a sharp look at how western materialist-naturalism (in short; only physical things really exist and the world is governed by blind forces devoid of any purpose and intent) has brought us into a position of distance from our surroundings, hence we don’t comprehend or take responsibility for the effect we have upon them. He delivers a convincing argument for how magical practice can have real consequences in the world, especially when performing our magical workings and daily rituals within the context and acknowledgment of the land we are on and the non-human beings we share these places with.
„The House on the Borderland“ by William Hope Hodgson
First published in 1908. Different publishers (e.g. Source Books)
I have been devouring the work of old British writers of the eerie, such as MR James, Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen for a while, but Hope Hodgson was unknown to me until I recently bought a game based on this story (by Emperors of Eternal Evil). It is a dreadfully existential tale about a man who lives in an ancient house which warps time and space, and who has to withstand a terrifying siege from what he calls “the swine-things”, who keep emerging from unknown depths. Although he only managed to publish a few novels before his untimely death, Hope Hodgson is thought of as the originator of cosmic horror. Imagine a cross between Olaf Stapledon’s ‘Star Maker’ and some of H. P. Lovecraft’s more paranoid house-intrusion stories. Mad but brilliant!
„Parable of the Sower“, by Octavia Butler
Headline , 2019. First published in 1993
This book felt like it mentally prepared me for a slow, degrading kind of societal apocalypse, which in the book is set in 2025 and chimes eerily with recent political developments in the US. My family have an old cabin in the countryside and after reading ‘Parable of the Sower’, whenever I drive there I now imagine how I would make that same route by foot in order to escape the city, the places I would hide, the food I would gather and how and who I would connect with along the way in order to survive, just like the main character Olamina has to. This is a brutal but very human story which one can draw many parallels to in our current climate, and the sequel ‘Parable of the Talents’ is equally worth reading.
„The Weirdstone of Brisingamen“, by Alan Garner
HarperCollins, 2013. First published in 1960
Having been doing research on the notion of “deep England” I’ve been enjoying reading a lot of literature where the English landscape is a prominent feature or character in itself, and this is a common thread through all of Garner’s authorship. ‘Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ is a children’s book, the first he wrote, and references the myth of the sleeping King (Arthur) in the mountain. Set in the Cheshire landscape that Garner’s family has lived and worked on for centuries, it is replete with references to local myth, archaeology and ancestral memory as experienced through place. I also recommend reading Garner’s lectures (for grown ups) on oral culture, boredom, creativity and relationship to place, which are collected in the compendium ‘The Voice That Thunders’.
Writer and broadcaster
Author of „Make some space“ and the upcoming „Dance your way home – A Journey Through the Dancefloor“ (Faber March 2023)
„Brittle With Relics“, by Richard King
You don’t need to be Welsh to love this brilliant oral history. It spans 1962 to 1997, using music, language, culture and community to illuminate the specifics – and the universalities – of the struggle for Welsh identity. A story for all times, chiming through the histories.
„Dance Move“, by Wendy Erskine
Wendy’s stories take place around Belfast, where she lives. They’re deliciously detailed; sometimes funny and other times dark, often in the same sentence. Her characters deal with everyday life in a context that is specifically Northern Irish. This means that sometimes, someone will scratch a key down a car or that individuals will find themselves locked together by secrets they didn’t ask for.
„A Quick Ting… on Afrobeats“, by Christian Adofo
Jacaranda Press, 2022
This slim volume is the first book to tell the story of this relatively new music genre. It written with love and deep knowledge and creates a beautifully broad base for future writers to riff on. There’s Burger Hi-Life that evolved in 1980s Germany and the under-explored role of University Societies to name just a couple of highlights.
Artist and composer
Explores the grey zones of our perception and imagination in the fields of music, drawing, installation and performance
„Quantum listening“, by Pauline Oliveros
Ignota Books 2022, first published in 1999.
A legendary composer and performer who conceived “Deep Listening” (first coined in 1988), a unique praxis of listening, wrote this text in 1999. This single edition includes introductions by Laurie Anderson and IONE – Oliveros’ collaborator and partner, sharing wonderful stories of a pioneer in post-war experimental music. For me, like many other fellow artists and musicians, her Sonic Meditation is a very important teaching. To describe her theory, I would like to quote her words: “As you listen, the particles of sound decide to be heard. Listening affects what is sounding. It is a symbiotic relationship. As you listen, the environment is enlivened. This is the listening effect.” This is a good introduction to her work, a guidebook to find new horizons in “listening” and in ecological ways of living.
„Intermediary Spaces“, by Éliane Radigue and Julia Eckhard
Umland Editions, 2019
The extensive publication of an influential and innovative contemporary composer of our time. The book contains a rare text by Radigue, “The mysterious power of the Infinitesimal”, long interviews and a commented list of her works. The interview by Julia Eckhardt, who is also a close collaborator of the composer, reveals the development of her work and her personal view on the process. What I often find remarkable about innovative (female) artists and composers is that the innovation comes through careful observation in life, and not from theoretical thinking. A quote from her text: “ How can sounds or words transcribe this imperceptibly slow transformation occurring during every instant and that only an extremely attentive and alert eye can sometimes perceive, the movement of a leaf, a stalk, a flower propelled by the life that makes it grow?”
„In Verteidigung der weniger guten Idee“, by William Kentridge
Turia + Kant, 2017
This is a lecture the artist gave at Sigmund Freud Museum in 2017, translated in German. His very unique, precise observation and description of the artist’s creative process is an exciting read. His way of working, i.e. how he “finds the way to bring contradiction and paradox from peripheries to center”, “think through material” or his description “gestures, words and drawings to fill the gap, the emptiness so that they bring us to ourselves and beyond ourselves” are inspiring not only for artists.
„Mind and Nature – A Necessary Unity“, by Gregory Bateson
First published in 1979, read in Japanese translation.
A classic text by an original thinker, who questions the structure “how we think”. His cybernetic way of thinking questions our relationship with nature in the time of climate change. This book is about, as he puts it in the introduction, “The pattern which connects”. A guide to recognise and understand the living world including ourselves through the patterns and their entanglement. Though this is not an easy read (I must confess I have not yet finished) it is a treasure box of many inspirational suggestions, definitions and questions that open not only my eyes but also my mind. His connotation on the aesthetic experience reveals the bridge between nature and human culture. Additionally I recommend the documentary film on Gregory Bateson called “An ecology of mind” that gives good insight to his way of thinking.
„The Cricket – Black Music in Evolution 1968-69″, by David Grundy, A.B. Spellman
Blank Forms Editions, 2022
A collection of the experimental magazine as a document of the „Black Arts Movement“ Scene“ from 1968-1969. For free Jazz maniacs.
„Free Music Production – FMP: The Living Music“, by Markus Müller
Wolke Verlag, 2022
More Free Jazz. Founded in 1969 by musicians Peter Brötzmann, Peter Kowald, Alexander von Schlippenbach and Jost Gebers, FMP documented the vibrant scene in West Germany. A great work on the creation of this scene.
„How to Hum“, by Oliver-Selim Boualam, Lukas Marstaller
Butter Books, 2022
To relax from all the exhausting music, this little book is a handy manual for amateur hummers. With hum poems, hum exercises and hum gestures, it invites you to experience your body in new ways.
„Dub Konferenz“, by Helmut Philipps
Strzelecki Books, 2022
This book takes you by the hand to delve into the depths of dub music. For lovers of this reggea sub-genre with interviews of the protagonists who invented it.
Writer and editor, „The Old Weird Albion“, „Obsolete Spells“, „Chanctonbury Rings“
„Wivenhoe“, by Samuel Fisher
Samuel Fisher’s cli-fi Wivenhoe is a slow-motion noir in which each character, frozen in the ice and snow of a persistent winter, watches their inevitable futures play out. Each has agency over their communal situation, and yet strange emotional politics rule out any attempt to change the array of looming disasters. A warning to the curious.
„The Cambridge Centenary Ulysses“, by James Joyce, ed. by Catherine Flynn
Cambridge University Press, 2022
The beauty of Ulysses is that there can be no ‚finality‘ to anything within its ken; but if this was the end of it, that’d be kind-of OK. A totem-pole of Ulysses scholarship, as well as facsimiles of the original 1922 edition and Joyce’s own errata, makes this both the most overwhelming yet – in the perverse way of all things Ulysses – most readable edition of the greatest 20th-century novel. Yes, I said yes…
„Flourish“, by Michael Palwyn and Sarah Ichioka
Triarchy Press, 2022
A poetic take on a handbook for the future of 21st-century eco-balance, Flourish has been, for me, a bibliography of where to go next as much as a philosophical text for new living. Regenerative design as paradigm-shift in our ways, it is a profoundly human book that still manages to understand the non-human. Those who know Palwyn or Ichioka from their separate work on topics such as biomimicry in architecture will find this revelatory. Those who don’t might, too.
Various articles, by Freya Mathews
Via her website, 1977-2016
To follow-up: Flourish led me, among other works, to the world of Freya Mathews – a new one for me, and a glorious one it is. Her way of relating to the nonhuman, through panpsychism, bio-proportionality and a philosophy of language that inhabits landscape, life and mythology with equal tenacity, is a hopeful and confident one that makes its reader sing.
„Landscape Imaginary“, by Daniel & Clara
Self-published (danielandclara.com), 2022
The East Anglia, UK-based artist(s) Daniel & Clara – themselves a single artistic unit – have spent several years exploring concepts of landscape as well as their home on the small patch of Mersea Island, a river-divided island off the eastern shore of Essex. Theirs is an idea of landscape that little-separates that of geography and of mythology, recognising that the way we feel and inhabit a place is inseparable from our bodily reaction to foot-upon stone.
Editor of arts/nature/culture publication Caught By The River
„Things I Didn’t Throw Out“, by Marcin Wicha
Daunt Books, 2021, originally published in Polish in 2017
A portrait in everyday objects — how uncanny and beautiful it is to meet a stranger through their faded shopping lists; favoured models of BiC ballpoint pen; stones carefully selected for holding unripe pickles in brine. As the granddaughter of a woman who had a complicated relationship with, and often completely denied, her Jewish identity, but unapologetically loved Barbra Streisand, I was deeply moved by Wicha’s observation of a bottle-blonde aunt who had „covered her tracks“ after the war. The author recalls watching the aunt watch Hello, Dolly, and writes: ‚Barbra was her victory I think Barbra was the only person my aunt could be honest with. She didn’t have to pretend in front of her. Barbra knew everything, because some part of my aunt became embodied in her. As if she lived on her behalf, carefree.‘ Though this is a small aside, it perfectly demonstrates the clarity with which Wicha sees people, knows them, brings them into the room.
„In the Dream House“, by Carmen Maria Machado
Graywolf Press, 2019; UK edition published by Serpent’s Tail, 2020
I knew as soon as I read the first story of her collection Her Body and Other Parties that I would follow Carmen Maria Machado into the abyss — and that is what’s required of reading In the Dream House; a memoir detailing a psychologically abusive relationship. Dark as the chasm may be, it is also absolutely spectacular; the luminosity of Machado’s prose and her tendency towards the realm of magical realism building new and fantastic walls from all the destruction.
„Our Wives Under the Sea“, by Julia Armfield
Scaly horror and salt-crusted love creep in concurrent slow motion. A book about knowing, being known, and that which we cannot ever truly know; tender as a bathtub and expansive as all the water in the world.
„The Instant“, by Amy Liptrot
A delicious slice of a book in which moon-boyfriends are more steadfast than man-boyfriends, and drug dealers are approached for intel on Berlin’s elusive raccoons. I love how Amy Liptrot sees the world, as, I think, do lots of other people: in the same way that her first book The Outrun spawned a flurry of cold-water-swimming narratives, I daresay we are about to see an uptick in writing about the moon. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to suggest that she sets the course for contemporary nature writing.
The pandemic lockdowns have brought some big changes to how I now go about daily life. These books relate to this experience in the most positive of ways. Before 2020, I would happily spend a considerable time of the year travelling for research and other “professional” reasons such as lectures and teaching. Since then there still has been hardly any travel and we now live with a wonderful dog called Ruthie. Whereas in the past I would always take my bicycle to get around the city, I’ve meanwhile discovered walking. It’s become a daily practice, a space-time to think about things (especially writing) and to process feelings, meet a friend, or to just notice the world and the weather.
„Hundeblick Berlin: Ansichten einer Schnauze“, by Nadia Budde
As a born Berliner I am familiar and autobiographically connected with many parts of the city. But the relative slowness of walking around has opened totally new views and perspectives. When you walk with a dog you tend to walk and rewalk the same areas a lot. This offers possibilities to notice certain things in specific ways, including things you don’t necessarily want to notice. In Neukölln, that is especially the grotesque piles of trash everywhere. (And the trashy impression is much worse in wintertime.) So, I laughed, and immediately fell in love with the precise perception and humour of Nadia Budde’s caricature Hundeblick Berlin. Starting with the wonderful humanimal metamorphosis at the beginning, this book is simply the best portrait of the Berliner Schnauze.
„Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know“, by Alexandra Horowitz
Alexandra Horowitz’s Inside of a Dog is a lovely, complimentary shift that refocuses away from the communal scenes on the pavement, as in Budde, and lets us imagine even better what it might be like for Ruthie. I pick up this book occasionally whenever a particular behaviour or encounter make me curious for some background information. As a non-fiction book about dogs’ cognitive worlds it is still written in a narrative, autobiographical form, and conveys a lot of empathy for interspecies companionship. One thing I found out is that when dogs kiss you it might be an ancient puppy reflex asking their mom to regurgitate some food for them. This has now become a running joke in my family whenever there is a slobbery doggy kiss.
„Revolutionary Berlin“, by Nathaniel Flakin
Pluto Books, 2022
The other two books, Revolutionary Berlin and The Undercurrents, provide engaging psychogeographic perspectives on the political and literary histories of Berlin. Nathaniel Flakin’s Revolutionary Berlin offers walks with different themes and different stops in various parts of the city (such as its anticolonial history, the history of the Neukölln’s post-WW2 workers’ struggle, 1968, and the legacy of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf queer museum in Marzahn-Hellersdorf since the 1970s). Until reading these chapters with great pleasure I did not know, for instance, how and when the square I live at since 2010 is called Karl-Marx-Platz. The fascinating details in Revolutionary Berlin now often shape how I walk and look around and help to connect some of the dots.
„The Undercurrents“, by Kirsty Bell
Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2022
Kirsty Bell’s book is first of all a seductive read because of how she interweaves, elegantly and with such grace, intensely personal reflections about her life as a woman of a particular age, class and professional background in a deep moment of personal crisis with a literary and site-sensitive investigation into Berlin’s layered history—and here especially through the biographies and struggles of women of different epochs, ages, class, professional, and political backgrounds in contexts of socio-political crises. All the other books I’ve mentioned are scattered in my “leisurely” piles near the sofa, to be picked up occasionally, for a part or a section that suits the moment or the day. The Undercurrents, however, I read cover-to-cover over a few summer days, and then placed it next to Kate Zambreno on the bookshelf—so, not quite next to, but near the great Chris Kraus, Marguerite Duras, and Deborah Levy. And, whenever I now pass Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade next to ugly Potsdamer Platz on route to my parents’ apartment in Westfälisches Viertel, I make sure to glance for the street sign I’d never before noticed, and momentarily reconnect with the haunting, poetic homage conjured by Bell’s text. If I later happen to be in Moabit together with Ruthie, I might specifically loop us around on foot to Cuxhavener Straße 2 in Hansaviertel, where in 1898 Rosa Luxemburg moved into her first Berlin apartment—a fact unknown to me if not for Flakin’s chapter “Rosa Luxemburg’s Berlin.” A walking tour of the same name was actually how I first encountered this historian in January 2020, only weeks before the first pandemic lockdown (the book came out in summer 2022).
These and other books (and walks) have also been important food for thought at K. Verlag, as we are collaborating with the curatorial initiative Owned by Others on a book entitled A Map to Possession Island. Scheduled for release this fall, this walking guide will offer multiperspectival reflections on the psychogeographic history of Berlin—especially through artistic interventions and the ruptured lens of Museum Island and the Humboldt-Forum. So, perhaps we’ll meet for a launch-as-walk later this year (or sooner, on the doggy field in Tempelhof)!
„Churches in the Landscape“, by Richard Morris
J M Dent and Sons, 1986
I spent much of this year researching and writing my book on Dorset, out later in 2023 (Seren Books). I spent a lot of time unlocking the secrets of places, often using churches as my starting point. Morris’ book was revelatory, opening up the relationships between these buildings and their landscapes. It’s out of print, regrettably, but having found it in a university library, I was later able to secure a second hand copy.
„Lolly Willowes“, by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Penguin Books, 2022. First published in 1926
Originally published in the 1920s, this extraordinary novel is usually overlooked. It opens with an air of Nancy Mitford, describing the relationships in an upper class family (although never as upper class at the Mitfords – this family has to work), and the central character, Laura or Lolly, a woman now thought to be too old to marry and the victim of her family’s kindness. But she finds freedom from them, moving to a remote village and discovering, almost by chance, witchcraft, and an idiosyncratic feminism. Beguiling, strange and captivating.
„Bournville“, by Jonathan Coe
Coe returns to the English midlands for his latest family saga, interwoven with politics and his keen sense of Britain today with all its strange inconsistencies, beliefs and its attachment to a royal family. In this novel Coe is at his most ambitious, charting the lives of his characters across seventy years, choosing key moments in history to make his acute and frequently very funny points. If you want to know about Britain and how we got here, Coe is an excellent starting point.
„The Rings of Saturn“, by W G Sebald
Harvill, 1998. First published in 1995
How it took me so long to read this masterpiece is a mystery. Sebald walks the coastal landscape of Suffolk, but draws in European history, memoir, and a sense of dereliction to his beautifully written book. He teases the reader, deliberately makes errors, always to make wider points, but beneath the carefully paced, sometimes lugubrious prose, there’s also a sly humour, and a keen sense of the landscape from a unique perspective.
„brother. do. you. love. me.“, by Manni Coe and Reuben Coe
Little Toller Books, 2022
Are we allowed to pick a book we published? This year we published Manni and Reuben Coe’s extraordinary biography. In a world where most books remind you of other books, this is totally unique. Reuben was living in a care home for adults with learning difficulties, cut off from the world and non-verbal. In desperation he sent his brother Manni a text message – the title of the book. Understanding that this was, in fact, a cry for help, Manni left his home in Spain, took Reuben from his care home and together, living in a cottage in the countryside they rebuilt their relationship, and each other. Manni wrote the words, while Reuben contributed the cover and illustrated the book throughout. It’s an extraordinary story of love, hope and redemption but leavened with dry wit.