Discover more from Life Litter
Quality Street 🍫
An update on the pub, some things to read — and some thoughts on the 'stack.
This week’s piece is going to be a bit different, I’ve decided.
Not because I’m listening to advice from certain gurus to write less — and smile more — but because I am neck-deep in a fairly involved application form for government match-funding for our community pub purchase (I shit you not: I’ve written postgraduate theses that were less complex) and I don’t have time to finish editing a long essay I’m working on about the things we leave behind and the dangers of rationalism-induced paralysis (inspired by this great old piece ofthat I read this week).
I’ve no other updates from the pub, apart from that apparently a couple of chefs are interested in buying it and turning it into a gastro-pub. We, the community bid folks, are meeting them next week — a meeting as monumental in our sphere as Chamberlain at Munich — and hope to avoid a bidding war. I will keep you updated as this story develops.
What I want to share this week is that I — like many other Substackers, I suspect — have been buoyed up by the recent news this summer from Our Glorious Leaders that Substack intends to champion quality writing. This is welcome news because, frankly, I had my doubts. You may have picked this up from some recent Notes I’ve posted about curated ‘stacks and content strategists getting hefty plugs from Substack and the weekly “for me” digests.
And then — by glorious coincidence — just as this piece was going to press,launched the new app.
I am *really* looking forward to seeing how the new app showcases quality writing — because, news flash, I love to read.
And I like to read quality writing, not crap.1
It made me wonder how I would define quality — and that in turn led me to consider what I’m reading and enjoying. Because that, for me, is a mark of quality. I am my own arbiter of what I consider to be quality. As is everyone.
I have always loved to read (duh fucking duh). I have *most* books I’ve ever read2, plus a hefty chunk of anti-library (hat-tip toand his piece on the necessity of owning books you haven’t read yet).
I am, and probably always will be, a reader first and a writer second. The first is, for me, an essential prerequisite to the second.
Self-proclaimed “writers" who say they aren’t really readers? I … don’t understand. That’s like a chef with no taste buds; a sculptor with no clay.
Approach with a healthy degree of caution.
My books — most of which I have had for years3 — provide me endless comfort and joy. They are as tangible a representation of my brain as I can imagine. At the moment, I am needling Joel to let me instal floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our bedroom to accommodate these piles bedside (and several more boxes in the closet):
I always have one book I am finishing and one that I am starting:
And I can’t resist placing an almost weekly order with worldofbooks.com for more pre-loved goodies.
Here’s the latest haul:
Substack is fast becoming the source of inspiration for my book reading.
The Book of Trespass was a recommendation from. A Grief Observed by CS Lewis (on my bedside above) came to me courtesy of a recent piece by . The Way We Never Were (above) from a mention by in her recent piece on Trad Wife nonsense. Breakfast at Tiffany’s — recommended by — is in my next WOB order. North Woods by Daniel Mason has also joined my hit list, thanks to ’s book club pick. (It looks to be *right* up my alley — Quality Street — and is endorsed by no less than Maggie O’Farrell who, if she told me to drink bleach, would at least inspire me to consider it.)
I rely on people I trust for recommendations. Motherwell by Deborah Orr (above) was a rec from the same friend who hated the Jia Tolentino book4. Lessons in Chemistry (also above) a rec from another friend, who is one of the smartest people I know.
Recommendation from a trusted advisor? My most important gatekeeper of quality.
I’m not shy about putting aside something I’m not enjoying. Life’s too short.
Anyway: in the interest of keeping this brief and getting to the point, I intend to make good on my promise of not offering you any bullshit or bigging anything up because I feel obligated or because there’s anything in it for me.
I certainly don’t intend to engage with any Ponzi-style subscribe-to-me-and-I’ll-plug-you schemes.
I want you to know that if I recommend something — on Notes or elsewhere — it’s because I genuinely thought it was good.
And that’s… it.
As I’ve written before:
I write what I like to read. If I say I like your writing, you can rest assured: I really do. You don’t need to wonder if it’s because someone paid me or I got told it’s important to be kind or because I’ve got my eye on getting you to like my ‘stack, follow and subscribe. That is my solemn Substack vow.
And — this is crucial — if I like your writing, I want MORE of it. Not less.
I am all-in on’s mission to cultivate a new culture of trust, authenticity — and motherfucking quality.
I want more of it.
So, in the interest of putting my money where my mouth is, I’ve paid to subscribe to some ‘stacks I really enjoy. Because they are QUALITY5, because I enjoy reading them and because nothing good should come for free.
If I want quality, I expect to pay for it. And, at some point in the future, if you want to continue to receive quality writing from me, I’m afraid you are going to have to pay for it too.
That’s the economy we’ve chosen. My time — and my words — have value.
So, without further ado, here are six Substacks that I think are super high-quality writing, that I enjoy reading and that I willingly pay for (or have pledged support, where they don’t offer paid subscriptions yet).
While some of these are already well-known in the ‘stack-iverse, I’m hoping *very* much that the new app helps me to discover more.
If Quality is a Street, I’m happy to pay the toll.
Incidentally: the backlash against crap content and vacant writing is the literary equivalent of the enshittification that is threatening my village pub. It’s a feature of a hollow private equitized world.has a lot more to say about this — and has cracked a way you can support the pub. Because, after all, what is a pub if not a real-world Substack? A place where we can all convene, expostulate, hypothesise and create. Check out his latest piece, which also features (are you ready for this?) a *DANCE REMIX* of Wordsmoke:
Excluding books that I’ve borrowed from someone else, loaned to a pal and never got back or left on a hostel bookshelf in Chengdu. And a few boxes in storage in New York that I’ll recover one of these days.
I only ever get rid of books that I have read/tried to read and really didn't enjoy and don’t foresee ever coming back to. The only one I can think of in this bucket recently is Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, which I tried really hard to like because *hype* — but which I found to be generic and not even a little revelatory. Oh well. Amusingly, the friend I took it from was also getting rid of it because she found it unreadable.
See footnote above.
Having said that: I still mourn the loss of my complete collection of the Babysitters’ Club books from the early ‘90s that my mom made me get rid of when we moved to Ireland when I was 12. So perhaps I’m not as reliable an arbiter of quality as I think...