Method or Madness?

  I know I’m not alone in having my own idiosyncracies when it comes to books, but I caught myself doing something strange the other day when it came to choosing my next book.

This newly discovered and often whimsical, by my standards at any rate, phenomenon, which thinking back has been going on for years without me noticing it which says something for my all round observational skills, I term ‘Method Reading’.

Like the method acting technique that aims to bring about more realistic acting, I do the same with books.  Being keen to immerse myself in each and every book I read, I find it only right to wait for the perfect conditions, like a golfer before each shot.

Sometimes it’s just common sense, I read a christmas book at christmas, otherwise I just wouldn’t be in the mood, I like to save The Famous Five until summer or possibly spring as the books always give off that sunny vibe.  Sci-fi books and horror usually get read at nights, horror is always better tasted alone and sci-fi is always more immersive when not bothered by the actual world. in fact it’s nice to have a little reading light that blocks out everything but the words on the page.

Similarly books based in Africa are only read during Summer as I associate Africa and the sun together, Russian books are read in autumn and winter as Russia is always cold and snowy in my head.  These simple factors are understandable, but then I start to factor in a whole host of different stuff.

  • Authors people have mentioned to me offhand.
  • topical events in the news that remind me of something I haven’t read.
  • Books I feel I should have read but haven’t gotten around too, like a whole host of classics, I really need to allocate one bookcase as a ‘bookcase of guilt’ in the hope I get through all the books I’ve had for years.
  • And of course the most popular one, being annoyed because I didn’t know the answer to a question a friend posed and having to read a whole history or science book just so I’ll know for next time.

So what I really want to know is am I alone in this particular trait or do you guys have some other more fascinating and crazy way of picking what you read next? Or indeed any other bookish ways that you care to share.

Operation Mincemeat – Ben MacIntyre

‘One April morning in 1943, a sardine fisherman spotted the corpse of a British soldier floating in the sea off the coast of Spain and set in train a course of events that would change the course of the Second World War”.

Operation Mincemeat is one of the most audacious true stories of the 20th century if not ever.  Featuring, as it does, Mr Ian Fleming (he of James Bond authoring fame), you may be deceived into thinking this is a fiction book, but that is the first bit of misdirection you will come across in this true story spy thriller.

And thrilled you certainly shall be! The mission, (should you choose to read it, will happily not destruct five seconds after you finish) was to comprehensively hoodwink the entire German hierarchy into believing the Allies would attack Greece instead of Sicily, by deploying a dead soldier with fake plans and forged papers into the seas off of ‘neutral’ Spain.

This dead man however is no soldier, he has a history that is entirely made up and a past life lived for him by British wartime intelligence.  A personal life that is so detailed in its planning that its perpetrators eventually start to believe their own duplicity.

Operation Mincemeat is much more than just a dry retelling of a historical event however, it actually reads like a wartime thriller, and essentially that’s what it is. Ben MacIntyre clearly has a passion for wartime espionage and it shows through here with this rollercoaster historical account which shows the lengths the coverup had to go too, and the paranoia and spy shenanigans that both sides partook in. Continue reading “Operation Mincemeat – Ben MacIntyre”

Vita Brevis – Jostein Gaarder

 ” Vita Brevis is both a classic love story, beautifully told, and a fascinating insight into St Augustine’s life and that of his concubine. It is up to the reader to determine its authenticity”

I find Jostein Gaarder’s books a bit hit and miss, in fact the score is now 4-3 in favour of the ‘hits’ thanks to this book.

Whilst having a potter around a bookshop in Buenos Aires, the author comes across a letter written to St Augustine (author of The Confessions, bishop of Hippo in the fourth century and all round pious chap) from his ex lover Floria Aemiliathe.

Naturally he (Gaarder) buys the letter and wants to get it verified, so sends it off to the Vatican, where it is never heard of again, and all he is left with is a photocopy of the original. The question being how much of the letter you are about to read is true, or is it just an intellectual excerise by the author?

I haven’t got around to purchasing and reading a copy of The Confessions yet but it doesn’t make the book any less enjoyable as Floria quotes extensively from said book and gives us a mini biography of their relationship, his treatment of her, as well arguing with his views on religion.

Floria herself is very intellectual, quoting from various Greek myths and philosophies as well as Roman orators. Although the letter is written from her personal viewpoint, it has a wider aim of asking questions of the way the Catholic church doctrine works and how the church viewed and treated women, especially intelligent women. Continue reading “Vita Brevis – Jostein Gaarder”

The Histories – Herodotus

“the purpose is to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time, and to preserve the fame of the important and remarkable achievements produced by Greeks and non-Greeks”

Whether this is a really good translation, or Herodotus’ style is just that easy to get into doesn’t really matter, the main thing is the readability of the fascinating history he composed.

The Histories is essentially the story of how a bunch of disparate Greek states came together in a barely united way and coalesced together to stop the might of the Persian army.  This in itself would be an epic story but we are also treated to an in depth look around the peoples, geography, geology and ethnography of the Mediterranean as well as the known Africa and Asia of the time.

Straight from page one, you get launched into an alleged kidnapping and from then on it’s all history as they say. The names of people and places are thrown around willy nilly but not in a way that will cause confusion. It’s all neatly done in fact and is a lot less confusing than expected.

There are a lot of maps in the back, detailing everywhere from modern day Russia in the North to Ethiopia in the South, (and for fans of East and West, there is India, Spain and everything else in between) to orient yourself with all the places if needs be.

The whole book is a magnificent treasure trove of stories and a view of the world when things were mysterious and unexplained.  Fun is perhaps not the right word to use but the stories of gold digging ants as big as foxes and the way the Persians (pre Cyrus) decide important matters, by first discussing them when drunk, then reviewing what they said sober (or vice versa) and if they still agree with what they said it becomes law, really add colour and constantly delighted me more than most fiction does. Continue reading “The Histories – Herodotus”

Departure to Melancholy

Today I had a good day, I met a friend in Nottingham, planned to see any one of three film’s but missed them all, went to the Disney shop and then the pub, had a strange yet fun meal, a few drinks and a long chat. Followed by the inevitable dash for the last scheduled train for Lauren and then the usual yoyoing around the platforms for me as each screen was telling me a different departure platform. I Finally got on the train and then I was aware of the idea for this – whatever it is –  post starting floating around my mind.

The feeling must have sneakily crept up on me as I watched Lauren’s train leaving. I watched it go all the way until the last lights had disappeared out of sight. Then it was, that I was aware of a brooding sense of melancholy. Strange, as I know I’ll be seeing her again soon, and before you all start thinking it, we are just friends, that is all and it works well like that. So there.

Now I like the melancholy feeling I felt, strange as it is to say, it’s a pleasurable melancholy I suppose, something brought on by no definable reason and is good to wallow in now and again. It’s more than just the finality of the evening over, the sense of knowing I won’t be seeing a good friend for a while. And I daresay i’d feel the same with any of my close female friends (you know who you are).  It’s more that sense of the city slowing down and closing up, everyone abandoning it for a night in with friends and family that affects me. Continue reading “Departure to Melancholy”

The Man Every Woman Wants – Miranda Lee

 ‘Ryan knew if he did any such thing, he’s have a world of trouble on his hands faster than a world class striker could score a goal – amazingly fast’

In an ideal world, that quote would be all you needed to make a decision on if you truly wanted to read something of this nature. Sadly it’s not an ideal world and I have a little bit more to say on the matter…

First of all, this is not my usual reading material but as my good friend Kirsty purchased it for me as a ‘humourous’ christmas present, I, naturally out of sheer politeness decided to make the time and immerse myself into what could be a hitherto undiscovered genre of fantastic literature for me to explore.

Mills and Boon have been knocking about since 1908 and are written for ladies of a certain age, who want escapist fiction to brighten their day. I suspect Kirsty bought the book for me just to wind me up, unless I really give off that bored middle aged woman vibe.

The cover shows the Sydney skyline and a man who seems to have a nasty itch on his neck. Also there is the offer (bribe to buy the book) of a chance to win £5,000. The about the author bit tells us the author likes to create “stories that are believable, modern, fast paced and sexy” her interests include gambling amongst others. Continue reading “The Man Every Woman Wants – Miranda Lee”