My Life in Books Part Three

war and peaceCherry picking parts of my reading development is always going to be a bitty bit of business but also stimulating, allowing me to make connections between books whose impact had previously and unconsciously passed me by.  With each book read it means that my  thoughts and viewpoints are constantly in flux:

Nothing beats the feeling of reading something like Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and feeling a huge buzz.  A buzz of learning things, understanding the world that little bit better and knowing that I can go read anything, especially the challenging books, be they intellectually or just size wise.  Which is why I went straight onto War and Peace,  1500 pages of pure awesomeness which really brings home the tiny details of this experience we label as reality,

Two parts of WaP have stayed with me since I read it six or so years ago…the image of sunlight shining through the leaves of a tree at a funeral and also a ride under the stars, neither were key events in the plot but both were delicately described and made me reread the words again .  It’s rare I get that in a book, other than Márquez, I tend not to get the urge to reread passages at length but certain ones just highlight how little we view the simple beautiful things in life.

It was somewhere around this time that the idea of blogging came to me, of talking to like minded bibliophiles and keeping a list of all the books I have read and what I thought of them (in case there is a test later on in life).  The act of blogging seemed simple…write thoughts in a generally coherent way and then launch it out into the great shout fest that is the internet.  It took me a few months to realise that it’s much more complex than that.  It’s a craft, to read, form an opinion and write a post, to put aside time to read the hard work of others..and especially to try to not obsess over the number of visitors per day.

Even my guilty pleasures – Guy N. Smiths crabs series and Leo Kessler Wotan books par examplé which, even though I know time is short n92362and I really have to squeeze all the great books into just one life – take a long time to really get into and understand what the books are trying to say.  Or if not to sift through for something original thoughts on the text.

I have given a lot of books away unread in the past three years simply due to a worry about my mortality and wanting at least 85% of the books I read to have an effect on me, the other 15% being light books to allow me to dwell on the big questions whilst keeping up my reading. Perhaps this makes me a snob, I don’t know.

I owe a lot to the sadly gone Radio Five book review show.  I remember getting in the bath every Thursday evening with the downloaded podcast to discover such amazing books as Fire in the Blood, The Mysterious Inventions of Hugo Cabret, The Raw Shark Texts and never Admit to Beige, amongst others.  I stopped listening when it became a show almost exclusively about historical fiction because I craved choice and quirkyness.

My trusty book collection helped out there, discovering Calum’s Road  a real life account about a man who built his own road on a Scottish island to encourage business and visitors and the raucous Three Men in a Boat which remains my favourite English comedy, although the ending does slightly lack.  The Solitaire Mystery as well was a wonderfully inventive book and reads as a story, within a story within a story.


Umberto Eco furthered my eclectic discoveries, such a wonderfully imaginative writer with such fantastic works as Baudolino and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana…in fact, all the books of his I have read – seven to date – only The Island of the Day before was a struggle although I enjoyed the book it was tough for me at the time.  Proof that perseverance can yield something good.  Bang goes the 100 page rule I used to enforce on myself like some sort of one man police state with one prole who was also ‘The Man’, it was all very confusing.


For some reason I became obsessed a few years ago with achieving something bookish…for one year I didn’t buy a book, just to prove I could go cold turkey, then I read 100 in a year which culminated in a scramble to read Wolf Hall before I hit my 30th year…I made it although bedes-book-coverI believe it was hand-picked to be sadistic as I had to wade through it like some extra sticky treacle.  It was on the 30th birthday that I was fortunate to not only be surrounded by a great bunch of friends but also to be given many excellent gifts including Wasa Wasa, God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations For Modern Science, The Rights of Man, Knowledge of Angels and the never to be recommended What Every Woman Wants.


after all the effort of reading and honing my writing style to something akin to fair and critical I was given, quite out of the blue the tremendous opportunity of reviewing Up in the Bronx from fellow blogger Stephen Baum.  This unlooked for request had me hyped for weeks and a little nervous as this was the first book by a ‘real person’ by which I mean an author who actually would read my opinion.   It was an exhilarating challenge and I believe pushed me on to be a better and more confident writer.


Now I strive to be a more complete writer by pushing my comfort zone of genre and author style as well as doing the sadly (at the moment) neglected creative writing and whimsical observational pieces.  Having said that my local area Mansfield it not all that conducive to to positivity, although there is a post about that on the horizon.  As usual I have probably rambled on for far to long but before I go, honourable mentions go to: The Big Sleep, King Solomon’s Mines, Mountains of the mind, The orange Girl, The Rebel and The old Man and the Sea.

19 Replies to “My Life in Books Part Three”

  1. “my local area Mansfield it not all that conducive to positivity” Oh I don’t know. I’ve never been there but Philip Larkin managed to make a deal out of coming from, and living in Hull.
    You’ve geed me to up to read War and Peace now. I’ve always been too scared before. If you like that sort of thing, have you read ‘A Personal Record’ by Joesph Conrad? It’s a memoir of his aristocratic childhood in the old Russian empire, before disaster struck…


    1. Phil Larkin certainly was a miserable so and so and I think you just explained why…I had not heard of that Conrad book but I will be looking out for it now. I do like Russian literature when I get around to it. War and peace is a great book, strangely the war bits didn’t move me half as much as the ‘civvy’ bits.


  2. I tried to read War and Peace but I only got through the war and not to the peace. Just kidding, I didn’t actually read the war either. I did read a LOT of literature, but now my brain is only capable of digesting stupid stuff because I overworked it. Or at least that is my excuse. Oh, I love how this guy talks about the classics. He actually really has a PHD, but his street talk with high works of literature is hilarious.

    In case it doesn’t accept the link, the youtube show is called “Thug Notes.”


    1. If that was shown in schools kids would learn stuff. I wish I did book reviews like that, although I would seem a bit racist if I recreated this.


    1. I struggled with Allan Quatermain but loved King Solomon’s mines…I have both She books somewhere to be read, possibly this summer.


      1. She is on my Classics Club list but haven’t got a copy yet! (sigh) Have you read Nada The Lily? Alan Quatermain was read ages ago but have it now on my Kindle for PC to be savoured 🙂


        1. I haven’t come across that book yet…perhaps my reading knowledge isn’t half as impressive as I thought it was! Perhaps I will hold off reading She until you start reading it.


          1. By all means go ahead and read it. I still don’t have my copy yet anyway 🙂 I have Nada the Lily as a PDF format. If you can let me have your email so I can sent it over to you. I’m sure you’d love it.


            1. You are to kind, I have many books I need to work my way through before I take on more. I appreciate the offer though and may take you up on that at a later date!


  3. You never cease to impress both with your literary prowess and gift of writing of said same. I may be repeating myself in saying that I am utterly intrigued by how books have such a long reaching and affecting way on each person. Your descriptions (and memory!) of so many various books is more than impressive and exceedingly compelling.

    You know full well how you’ve added a shed load of books to my TBR pile and this post is different only in the sense of how many are now added as opposed to when you do a review on just one book. It is such a thrill to finish a challenging book (in content or size wise), though I’ve not experienced War and Peace yet…it is rapidly making its way up my ever changing order of books to read next.

    I absolutely love that you see no book as too difficult to read, that you assign different challenges to yourself such as not buying for a year or reading 100 in a year and the aforementioned notion of thematic reading dependent on which season of the year you are in. It gives a plethora of ideas (to me at least) in how to mix up the literary adventures of life!

    As a beginner in the reviewing world I feel it safe to say you are my hero and my mentor…you are what I would aspire to be when sharing all that any book in particular can give…or not give as the case may be. Write on dearest sir…and I will learn as much as can whilst continually adding more and more decadence to my TBR. xxxxxx


    1. This I have to say is the uber, of ubermost long comments, it is a magnificent edifice of words to boot. I am amazed that I can recall all of these books, it does help that I have hoarded them somewhat…it is the best type of hoarding though, a lot better than keeping old tyres around the place. As ever i hate to rest on my reading and writing laurels and am looking for more ways to get the most out of my reading life.

      You will love War and Peace for its opulent sprawling mass of seething life in all its emotional forms…a fine tome to tackle but I know you are already polishing off many fine specimens of literature back to back already. well in case you get that TBR pile to a manageable size brace yourself for part four, the final, next week.

      I think a lot of books take a lot of working up to because daily life has u so focused some of these books feel like a challenge to get into and TV, for example, is an easy alternative. Sometimes just reading isn’t enough, so to mix it up with ideas and challenges keeps everything interesting. I think I could easily do the not buying a book for a year again, the question is whether I would want to torture myself…

      It is an honour to help inspire you on the path to reviews, you have a strong sense of each book you read as well as a good eye for analysis and vocabulary so I think your reviews will be very strong. As long as you write with your voice and write with emotion you will do wonders. I shall be covering a bunch more books this month which may interest you somewhat… xxxxxx


  4. I love how you remember the sun shining through the leaves. Although it doesn’t surprise me after your comment on Sandman (the snowy lane). Reading this reminded me of similar memories I have of Proust – I remember the way the sun shines on a church in Combray..

    I thought I will get to War and Peace this winter but some other books interfered. Obviously its time has not come yet.. It will, eventually..


    1. I have heard of that scene in Proust, not sure where, perhaps it was from you…I’m looking forward to picking up his first at some point. Anytime you read War and Peace will be a good time and well worth the wait as well.


  5. “Two parts of WaP have stayed with me since I read it six or so years ago…the image of sunlight shining through the leaves of a tree at a funeral and also a ride under the stars, neither were key events in the plot but both were delicately described and made me reread the words again . It’s rare I get that in a book, other than Márquez, I tend not to get the urge to reread passages at length but certain ones just highlight how little we view the simple beautiful things in life.”

    That. Exactly that. Of all you wrote in the post, that is what I re-read several times. Your words, your feelings, delicately described. I connected with you there. You said it all. I marveled at the grace and eloquence of your stated sentiment. Bravo. xx


    1. Well thank you, I appreciate your words. I think that all I feel is universal, sometimes I find it a struggle to put into words though, I am glad that I connect with you and my other readers it’s what keeps me going and writing…I will be putting up the last part sometime later this week.


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