Anna Hogarty: What I’m Looking For
Actively looking for: inspirational narrative non-fiction; projects in the area of mindfulness, meditation and yoga; books with an emphasis on empowerment and self-worth; illustrated non-fiction with a strong and current hook; historical fiction with a unusual premise and contemporary feel; upmarket commercial women’s fiction; novels with evocative, unusual settings; a big sweeping love story; a book that makes me cry.
I studied history at university, and historical fiction remains a big love. I’m looking for strong protagonists in this area who can convincingly take me into the past. One of my all-time favourite books is Paullina Simons’ THE BRONZE HORSEMAN – it sweeps you up with its brutal evocation of Leningrad under siege and the heart-breaking love story that unfolds. As an editor in publishing I acquired Cesca Major’s THE SILENT HOURS, which centres around a true-life tragedy that unfolded in unoccupied France during World War Two. I’d like to see more historical fiction in this vein: accessible and emotionally affecting, with relevance to a modern-day audience.
I like novels with a strong sense of place: THE ESSEX SERPENT on the Colchester marshes; MY BRILLIANT FRIEND in tough and vibrant Naples; SHANTARAM in the Mumbai slums; THE PEOPLE’S ACT OF LOVE in unforgiving Siberia; THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES in frontier Canada. I love visiting new places through the stories I read, and am on the look-out for unusual settings and hooks. GATHER THE DAUGHTERS and THE POWER are two recent reads that captivated me both with the strength of their world building, and how cleverly they commented on the lives we lead today.
With women’s fiction, I’m looking for something that goes over and above – novels that make me laugh, cry or approach the genre in a new and unpredictable way. I was impressed with how THE VERSIONS OF US played with different versions of the same couple’s life, and how LIFE AFTER LIFE saw the same life in differing ways. Surprise me with unusual devices and twists. I’d also love to find a contemporary love story with the emotional power of THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE or ONE DAY – I haven’t found one of these in a while.
I’m drawn to magical elements and darker themes. I’m a fan of Sarah Waters’ books, with their sharp protagonists, evocative backdrops and unexpected twists and turns. I also read everything and anything by Haruki Murakami, with the rich, otherworldly atmosphere he creates and his hugely imaginative plots. I love stories with a haunted feel.
Another great passion of mine is yoga, which I teach, and I’m interested in working with new voices in this area: quests to find oneself, to break away from the everyday, live more mindfully and learn from Eastern traditions… If you have a new way of approaching wellness or healing, or have written a memoir in line with Cheryl Strayed’s WILD, I’d love to have a read. I’m also looking for projects on how we can live life more skilfully: be it through nature, sports, and creativity; ways to digitally detox and sleep better; guidance on how we can nourish ourselves through our choices; or strategies for when it all falls apart.
Ten of my favourite recent reads:
- MY BRILLIANT FRIEND Elena Ferrante (+ series)
- GATHER THE DAUGHTERS Jennie Melamed
- THE POWER Naomi Alderman
- A LITTLE LIFE Hanya Yanagihara
- THE ESSEX SERPENT Sarah Perry
- THE RULES DO NOT APPLY Ariel Levy
- BRAVING THE WILDERNESS Brene Brown
- I AM, I AM, I AM Maggie O’Farrell
- THE THINGS YOU CAN SEE ONLY WHEN YOU SLOW DOWN Haemin Sunim
- THE INNER BEAUTY BIBLE Laurey Simmons
Ten of my favourite fiction books:
- THE BRONZE HORSEMAN Paullina Simons
- NORWEGIAN WOOD Haruki Murakami
- FINGERSMITH Sarah Waters
- ANY HUMAN HEART William Boyd
- THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE Maggie O’Farrell
- THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS Isabel Allende
- REBECCA Daphne Du Maurier
- MY DEAR I WANTED TO TELL YOU Louisa Young
- THE GOLDFINCH Donna Tartt
- IQ84 Haruki Murakami
Ten of my favourite non-fiction books:
- WILD Cheryl Strayed
- WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING Haruki Murakami
- INTO THE WILD Jon Krakauer
- THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING-UP Marie Kondo
- RISING STRONG Brene Brown
- START WHERE YOU ARE Pema Chödrön
- WILD SWANS Jung Chang
- THE WISDOM OF YOGA Stephen Cope
- THE ARTIST’S WAY Julia Cameron
- THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY Jean-Dominique Bauby