The Other One Hundred

After yesterday’s post, it makes sense to add that the last few pages of The BBC Big Read book listed the books that didn’t make it into the top one hundred.  There are far too many Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Wilson books for my liking, which underlines the major flaw in the survey.

There are some good quality books that didn’t make it, and plenty of choice for the book pile.  After the forty-three that I had read from the top one hundred, it’s even more dismaying to find that I have only read thirty-six of this offering, although I did start Moby Dick, and The Handmaid’s Tale but didn’t finish them.  I trust your scoring will put me to shame. Continue reading “The Other One Hundred”

The Big Read

Here’s a blast from the past!  In 2003 the BBC launched a survey to find the nation’s best loved book of all time.

Although the results are somewhat engaging, by allowing unlimited entries per author the final list clogs up a bit.  The rule of only one book per author in the top twenty-one places, which then went on to the final round of voting, balances this out a little. Below is the final order.

As a retrospective it makes for interesting reading, it’s not a surprise to see the Harry Potter books placing so highly (as well as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials), although that probably speaks more for the demographic of voters and the HP phenomenon being at fever pitch at the time, perhaps.

Now is your turn to play along at home, how many of these have you read? I’ve finished the highlighted forty-three books, which is a bit disappointing, especially as I have owned plenty of the other books at times but never gotten around to reading them when they were within my grasp. Continue reading “The Big Read”

Morning Light Readings

Having various body parts hanging over the edge of the bed and being poked mercilessly for hours by a restless baby, not yet ready to settle in her own sleeping space, I finally gave up and shuffled wearily downstairs at 4am to read Émile Zola’s, La Bête Humaine.

Claude Monet, Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877,

Admittedly, that time of the morning is always pleasing once the mood improves enough to observe surroundings and to be in a position to appreciate the quiet, the chill that settles on bare arms, and, this morning, the fog, illuminated in the glow of the streetlamp, swirling in beguiling patterns.

There are white roses edging along our garden gate, some petals are strewn over the ground at the foot of the fence. This felt symbolic as the book I start is a tale of jealousy, passion, and murder. As the reading light illuminated the pages, I ventured to the soot covered French railways of the late 1800’s…

The unexpected joys of having a baby can prove to be a real bonus, although sleep would be satisfying one of these days.

Not Enough Women

Amelia always watches in fascination as I read, and then gets angry when she can’t turn the thick cardboard pages of her own books.  This got me thinking that much of the literature I read is by male authors, and in the future, I will be wanting to introduce Amelia to a good blend of both men and women.

Winter reading with Amelia, she made sure I was pronouncing all the words correctly.

As most of my readers are of the female variety, this is where your expertise would be greatly appreciated.  I would love some recommendations for good authors, especially beyond the women who wrote the classics.  I have a bit of list of books gathered already but would love to add to it and have a richer reading list.

I am already a huge fan of Virginia Woolf, Irène Némirovsky as well as the recently read Marguerite Yournecar, and Daphne Du Maurier, and plan to read some more Barbara Kingsolver, Dava Sobel, Eowyn Ivey, and Enid Blyton. Continue reading “Not Enough Women”

Token Book Haul

Being gifted some book tokens for my birthday, I naturally went to the nearest bookshop to grab some good books.  Sadly said shop was WH Smiths and despite a smattering of other genres, it largely focuses on bestseller ficton, which on the whole are usually a disappointing bunch.

The next day I found myself up at the High Peak Bookshop (and Café) which had a much better range of stock in, and I plumped for a number of genres I haven’t explored in a while, and endured lots of annoying people passing through my browsing eyeline.

Sci-fi is something rare for me to venture into although when I have dabbled, there have been some corkers namely Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequels.  A story from titan H.G. Wells will surely live up to such names. The Elegant Universe was another choice to continue a ‘science’ theme.  There is something fascinating about the universe, it’s a majestic mystery and well worth the time to explore. Continue reading “Token Book Haul”

The Library Book

Whether brand new or steeped in history, real or imagined, libraries feature in everyone’s lives.  In memoirs, essays and stories that are funny, moving, visionary or insightful, twenty-three famous writers celebrate these places where minds open and the world expands.

Public libraries are lifelines, to practical information as well as to the imagination, but funding is under threat all over the country.  This book is published in support of libraries, with all royalties going to The Reading Agency’s library programmes.

Fetishes, a (natural) death, streakers, and the occasional ram raid by an old lady on a mobility scooter, libraries can sometimes be dramatic places to work, although in the main, peaceful citadels of book worship.  The Library Book, is a celebration of our best free institution, long may it continue.

As books of this nature usually are, this tome ends up being a mixed bag, my favourite essays were the personal reminiscences of libraries from writers such as, Susan Hill, Stephen Fry, Hardeep Singh Kohli, and Val McDermid, to name a few. Even so, many of these memories take on a similar vein and as such are probably best enjoyed over a lengthier time than the two days in which I flew through this book.

The insights featured are mainly focused on British libraries, which makes it as much of a nostalgia trip, as it is a quirky insight into our national character. There are plenty of interesting facts on offer too, for example, during World War Two, a disused tube station in Bethnal Green was turned into a library during the blitz so people could distract themselves with a good book.  Perhaps surprisingly the readers were most interested in Plato’s Republic, Burton’s the Anatomy of Melancholy, as well as Schopenhauer, Bunyan, and Bertrand Russell. Continue reading “The Library Book”

Volume Up

Whilst wandering around the local shops, I couldn’t resist perusing the book titles in the charity shop – just to look of course, not to buy.  Unsurprisingly I came out about five minutes later with four books, and over 2000 pages worth of words, for the princely sum of £1.90.  With that quality bit of business done, I am now able to enjoy more fine literature on the bus to and from work.

I haven’t really dabbled too much in author correspondence before so this will be a pleasant departure from my usual tastes.  I am also anticipating The Forsyte Saga to have the same impact as Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time series, which I absolutely adored.

All being well I shall be around all of your lovely blogs at the weekend, apologies for the long delay, I think i finally have my blog mojo back.

Old Habits…

After spending half a week face deep in a manuscript, a wander into Derbyshire was much called for yesterday.  Inevitably, it was hard to avoid the second hand bookshops, and after going in ‘just to look’, it would have been rude to leave without buying anything.  So I did.

In my defence – as if one were needed – a couple of fine book were unearthed.  Having read, and loved I, Claudius last year it was a pleasant surprise to bump into the sequel in almost mint condition, and as an added bonus with the same cover style as its companion book.

The Dostoyevsky was again close to mint condition and as it’s been a while since I had read anything by him (and the price was right) it made sense to not only indulge again but actually plan write a review for the blog when I’m done reading, as I seem to have missed reviewing all three books previously read by the author.

Now I just have to find the time to get into them as I am taking on a new quest, as well as the usual, but more of that in a week or two.

Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Set on the French Riviera in the 1920s, American Dick Diver and his wife Nicole are the epitome of chic, living a glamorous lifestyle and entertaining friends at their villa. Young film star Rosemary Hoyt arrives in France and becomes entranced by the couple. It is not long before she is attracted to the enigmatic Dick, but he and his wife hold dark secrets and as their marriage becomes more fractured, Fitzgerald laments the failure of idealism and the carefully constructed trappings of high society in the Roaring Twenties.

This somewhat autobiographical novel is an interesting read, not only for the story itself, but also for the extra examination of Fitzgerald’s dependency on alcohol and his wife’s Schizophrenia.  This, his final and favourite novel is certainly a mixed bag but well worth picking up.

The old cliché about Americans who visit other countries is reinforced here as many of the characters retain a strong American identity but seem purposefully oblivious (and superior) to the cultures that surround them.  The locals tolerating their shenanigans partly because of America’s role in the war and, inevitably, the riches brought to a shattered continent recovering from the horrors of the First World War.

There is a vacuous nature to the majority of the characters, at one point I began to wonder if I would be bothered by the fates of any of them.  In a world filled with frivolous parties and empty conversations, the carefully manufactured and cultivated superficial facades mean so much to the characters, who like actors are putting on a well rehearsed show.

“When there were enough Americans on the platform the first impression of their immaculacy and their money began to fade into a vague racial dusk that hindered and blinded both them and their observers.” Continue reading “Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald”

Duly Noted

Picking up my – then – latest read, Alberto Manguel’s A Reading Diary: A Year of Favourite Books, it soon became clear that I needed a new notebook to scrawl my thoughts in, such were the number.  Thankfully the missus had just such a book ready for me, she knows my needs.

After the mini trauma of filling my last notebook it feels good to be able to be expansive again, as opposed to clumsily noting down phrases on a phone whose keyboard is ill suited to my fat fingers.  Sadly, the joy of writing is one often marginalised in the modern technology orientated world.

Enjoying the pristine whiteness of the pages, there was just one thing I had to do first, before inking any of them.  On the inside front cover the words ‘I have a dream’ were printed, so below them I added ‘this book belongs to Martin Luther King, Jr.’.

Hilarity thus achieved I left the first page – I always allow myself this small luxury in case appropriate words come to mind to place there – and the second became the start of my copious note taking.

Ploughing through book lover Manguel’s words with a happy heart, I’ve already made  a page of notes, some of which will probably be left out of the review for another post – or several –  musing on books.  With twenty-two drafts started just this morning, words are begetting words in the best possible way.