Bookending (the right one)

The other week I ended up in Scarthin bookshop, again in Derbyshire but this time in Cromford.  It’s been a long time since my last visit and a lot of new books seem to be creeping onto the shelves, taking over from the second hand variety, so that is something of a concern but there were bargains to be had, of course

Another Émile Zola book was first grabbed because it matched the two from last post, and L’Assommoir according to the introduction of La Bête Humaine,  is supposed to be the best novel of the twenty Rougon-Macquart novels.

A Fine Balance was one that hadn’t really come into my sphere of reading much but as Jilanne was enthusiastic about it, and for a couple of quid its certainly worth it.

Irene Nemirovsky is my favourite female author and finally finding The Misunderstanding after such a long time seeking it, meant I had to splurge on it, after years of hunting for it in various shops and countries. Continue reading “Bookending (the right one)”

Bookending (the left one)

As I am always slightly behind with my posting schedule – and I was out the other week in a bookshop for the first time – it makes sense to mention the last haul from October before I mention that one.

There is a wonderful OXFAM shop devoted to books in Belper, if ever you are that way on in Derbyshire it’s worth checking out.  I haven’t come away disappointed yet, except for how this photo turned out but I have no time to take a new one.

The quality of the authors speaks for itself, any quibbles with that statement, please let me know.  Having finished La Bête Humaine already, with a review in the process, my quest continues with this and Nana to read all twenty books in the Rougon-Macquart series.

I picked up Márquez because it’s Márquez and I’ve gone into numerous reviews of his quality works, with a few more to come.  I’ve read most of his output so anything outstanding is really a must. Continue reading “Bookending (the left one)”

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”

Lists (because that’s what gets the views #shameless)

Whilst we are all appreciating our living room walls as never before, it makes sense to share what has been diverting my attention and hopefully will give you something to do as well.

Found at Pixabay.com

Grabbing some reading time is always handy for a book blog, as well as a mixture of sci-fi, philosophy, essays, I have also been hunting through obscure books thanks to Gutenberg.  Free books, albeit read on a screen, is a treat.

From that I can segue neatly onto the proofreading. Originally conceived to assist Project Gutenberg, Distributed Proofreaders is now the main source of PG e-books.  I do my bit everyday and am bookmarking some obscure works to read once they have been through the various rounds of proofing and formatting.

For those of you with any interest in how I look or sound, I present to you a vlog in which Crissy and I ramble a bit about LDRs and such.  If anyone wishes me to do a book vlog, please let me know, and also feel free to share any ideas for said project.

Keeping with YouTube, we have been watching lots of informative documentaries too.  BBC’s Horizon has some good stuff, as do the mainly literature based documentaries that can be found. Continue reading “Lists (because that’s what gets the views #shameless)”

Murdering Books

There exists in my house a shelf which I call The Bookshelf of Guilt.  It’s reserved for all those really thick tomes that I usually avoid, not because I don’t want to read them but because they are so Big.  It’s easy to spend years shying away from these massive books that sit judging you every time you pick a ‘normal’ sized book.

Reason suggests that reading shorter books will allow you to experience more now, and will also mean more time to read the longer books ‘sometime later on’.  Let’s be honest it won’t happen, with that reasoning.

I set myself a goal to read one such big book a year, mainly because people gravitate to the largest book on a shelf and without fail ask if I have read it.  That was half the reason I got around to reading War and Peace. Choosing this time was fairly easy. The Brothers Karamazov, and The Mysteries of Paris were in the early running, to name but two but I finally I narrowed it down to a couple of philosophy books in the end.

After so many recent fiction reads it seemed sensible to mix things up a bit. My next read was chosen from the non fiction pile, and finally came down to either: Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy or Diarmaid MacCulloch’s A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. Continue reading “Murdering Books”

The Top 100 Stories that Shaped the World

There is something strange about watching the news, specifically when they greet viewers just joining from overseas when it is last thing at night in your mind, now I get to watch the same shows on BBC News that I used to drop off to, with my morning coffee.  Had I been up late watching, I would have certainly forgotten to check out The Hundred Stories That Shaped the World by the next morning.

I’m not sure if this flew under the radar back home or not but for those of you not familiar, here is the catch up.  In April the BBC polled authors, academics, journalists, critics, translators in 35 countries to nominate five works of fiction that they felt had changed or shaped history.  The top ten with the most votes were as follows:

1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)
2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)
3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)
6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)
7. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615)
8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603)
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez, 1967)
10. The Iliad (Homer, 8th Century BC)

The other 80 books of the list, and the author’s reasons for picking the top ten can all be found here and is well worth a look. As I never usually bother to ask pointed questions, as I know you lot are intelligent enough to pick up on my unspoken cues and will always give me good comments, I may as well, for novelty’s sake, indulge in doing just that for once.

What fictional books do you believe have changed or shaped history, and/or the works that have changed or shaped your personal views upon life?  Did the Harry Potter series really deserve to be on the list?  Feel free to add and answer our own questions as well, such is my generosity.

Reading out Loud #2

The second entry in a (very) occasional series of words that caught and held my attention, that are well worth sharing.

https://pixabay.com/en/book-manipulation-nature-fantasy-2152349/

“Human relationships flourish and decay, quickly and silently, so that those concerned scarcely know how brittle, or how inflexible, the ties that bind them have become.”  – Anthony Powell – A Question of Upbringing

“He reached for his pocket, and found there, only reality” – Victor Hugo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame

“He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards, of half-animated abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarize it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment

“Proof is what lies at the heart of maths, and is what marks it out from other sciences. Other sciences have hypotheses that are tested against experimental evidence until they fail, and are overtaken by new hypotheses. In maths, absolute proof is the goal, and once something is proved, it is proved forever, with no room for change.” – Simon Singh – Fermat’s Last Theorem Continue reading “Reading out Loud #2”

Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men – Elliot Liebow

thecornerThe first edition of Tally’s Corner, a sociological classic selling more than one million copies, was the first compelling response to the culture of poverty thesis-that the poor are different and, according to conservatives, morally inferior-and alternative explanations that many African-Americans are caught in a tangle of pathology owing to the absence of black men in families. The debate has raged up to the present day. Yet Liebow’s shadow theory of values-especially the values of poor, urban, black men-remains the single most parsimonious account of the reasons why the behavior of the poor appears to be at odds with the values of the American mainstream.

While Elliot Liebow’s vivid narrative of “street-corner” black men remains unchanged, the new introductions to this long-awaited revised edition bring the book up to date. Wilson and Lemert describe the debates since 1965 and situate Liebow’s classic text in respect to current theories of urban poverty and race. They account for what Liebow might have seen had he studied the street corner today after welfare has been virtually ended and the drug economy had taken its toll. They also take stock of how the new global economy is a source of added strain on the urban poor. Discussion of field methods since the 1960s rounds out the book’s new coverage.

I first became aware of this book through reading the excellent The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighbourhood; which would eventually form the bedrock of so many storylines in The Wire.  In many ways that book is the perfect follow-up to Tally’s Corner, which in itself is a dynamic study of relationships in poorer neighbourhoods and their place in wider society.

This seminal work focuses on a cross-section of a Washington DC street corner society (poor African-American men who work only intermittently if at all) and the local environs.  It gives the reader a glimpse into a different world, where the choices both men and women make have come about through the struggle against poverty through generations. It’s a world where different rules apply exclusively to them no matter how absurd some will appear to outsiders.

It is thus, a book that rewards reading and learning not so much with pleasure as with the painful recognition that American race troubles remain so stubbornly at the center of social and economic life.

The above quote underlines the lack of understanding still prevailing all these years on, or perhaps the lack of interest in solving the problems that affect us all in some way.  Focussing on the men – who pass mostly under the radar – and their relationships – both work and family – the reader is given an intimate portrait into the life of the time. The cast is fairly sizeable and diverse and all the stories are equally fascinating of challenging in different ways. Continue reading “Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men – Elliot Liebow”

Booked Up for a While

It’s been a while and although this is sadly not the review I mentioned in the last post, it is nonetheless a post.  Recently I have been distracted by even more good literature (fiction and non fiction) and I’m really excited to be in the process reviewing.  I will do that as soon as I can but first, here is a bunch of new books that cost less than a tenner.

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There is a sensible reason for these purchases, wanting to downsize my books somewhat this year, It makes sense to buy more books so I can feel inspired to start clearing the ones I don’t want anymore as I read/review them.This is logical as otherwise I would be drowned by paper through my own laziness and/or hoarding tendencies.

these purchases also represent a pile of firsts, which just occurred to me as I was casting around for more to say about them… Continue reading “Booked Up for a While”

Moving On and Up(stairs)

Finally I have returned!  After an absolutely tiring week (a fortnight ago now), which is now thankfully over, I managed to not only pack and move to Nottingham but also secure a job closer to my new home. Since then I have largely loafed about flipping my sleeping pattern which is more challenging than I remember from last year.  I did manage to unpack the majority of my books though…except for these ones pictured here, which are a moving in present to myself and a celebration of an end to seven months of night work.

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I only went in to look for one book (Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies) but not having been around for a while, it morphed from being a secondhand shop with familiar spines to a new treasure trove which combined into a haul faster than those Transformers did to make a really big one in the classic 80’s cartoon and merchandise machine.  I was also delighted to note the addition of some chairs and a roaring fire which will make my stays longer now.

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There are as ever plenty more good books for me to get down and review and will finally be able to catch up with you all in the next couple of days as well.  It’s been too long and there has been little reading in my life of late so I will get back to it soon and hopefully help you out with a few Christmas present ideas.

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