Meandering through 2012
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I decided to wait until I had finished a book before starting a thread. So, my first book of 2012 is.....................
There Are Other Rivers by Alastair Humphreys. The subtitle is "On Foot Across India", but it is not your usual linear account of a walk and it's only partly about India. Alastair takes one day from his walk and gives us an insight into what it's like to go on such a journey and why. As he himself says: " The days are hot, hard and repetitive. I am often lonely, thirsty and tired. " So why does he (and others like him) do it? Alastair is honest about his motivations and his feelings, both positive and negative.
Meanderer's reading list
1. There Are Other Rivers by Alastair Humphreys
2. The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg
3. The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd
4. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L Shirer (audio)
5. Dark Fire by CJ Sansom
6. Pass the Butterworms by Tim Cahill (audio)
7. Rubicon by Stephen Saylor
8. Brute Force by Andy McNab
9. Persuader by Lee Child
10. The American Civil War: History in an Hour by Kat Smutz
11. In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent
12. Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux (audio)
13. Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
14. Nemesis by Jo Nesbo
15. Into the Arena by Alexander Fiske-Harrison
16. On the Beach by Nevile Shute
17. Thud! by Terry Pratchett (audio)
18. White Nights by Ann Cleeves
19. Pecked to Death by Ducks by Tim Cahill (audio)
20. Parthian Shot by David Wishart
21. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
22. The Medieval Anarchy by Kaye Jones
23. A History of the World Since 9/11 by Dominic Streatfeild (audio)
24. The Preacher by Camilla Läckberg
25. Hold the Enlightenment by Tim Cahill (audio)
26. Warrior of Rome III: Lion of the Sun by Harry Sidebottom
27. The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid
28. The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison (audio)
29. The Eagle in the Sand by Simon Scarrow
30. The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge by Harry Harrison (audio)
31. Isles at the Edge of the Sea by Jonny Muir
32. Murder Imperial by Paul Doherty
33. Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason
34. The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison (audio)
35. Past Mortem by Ben Elton
36. The Blackhouse by Peter May
37. The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer (audio).
38. Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden
39. The Reapers by John Connolly
40. The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You by Harry Harrison (audio)
I've had a bit of a book buying splurge over the last couple of weeks thanks to Amazon vouchers and Amazon UKs "12 Days of Kindle Christmas" promotion meant that I managed to get a few books from my wishlist for just 99p each.
2. The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg. Murder mystery set in Fjällback in Sweden. Plenty to keep the reader interested.
It seems like everyone has recommended Lackberg's books and my local library has exactly none of them. Ack.
3. The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd. A trivia or reference (depending on your point of view) book based on the TV series of the same name. If you've seen QI then you know what the book is about. The book sets out to ask some interesting questions (What does the Moon smell of? Where do most tigers live?) and debunk some common misconceptions. It sometimes uses a bit of lateral thinking to support its ideas. For example we all know that Henry VIII had six wives, but if you take into account annulments, illegalities, etc it turns out that only two marriages were genuine. Great for dipping into.
#12 At the risk of adding to your wishlist there are several others in the same series. Also, they've published an expanded edition of book 1 "The Noticeably Stouter Edition". Normally I wouldn't have bothered with another version of a book I already had, but since Amazon UK were offering the Kindle version for 99p over Christmas I thought why not. I'm now dipping into book 2.
Oh no! I didn't know it was a series - I try hard not to add any new series to my wishlists. Sigh. Too late now! :)
4. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L Shirer. The end of an era. This book is long, very long, 57 hours and 13 mins long and I have been listening to this on and off for the past seven months. It is immensely detailed and very well read. The book was originally published in 1959 and the author was witness to many of the events. He also had access to many formally secret Nazi papers. An interesting listen.
5. Dark Fire by CJ Sansom. Second of the Matthew Shardlake novels set in Tudor England. A compelling story with well-drawn characters and an atmospheric setting.
I just finished Dissolution. Sounds like I won't be disappointed in the follow-up!
6. Pass the Butterworms by Tim Cahill. Audiobook. A collection of articles about Tim Cahill's travels around the world. A varied collection read by the brilliant Jeff Harding.
7. Rubicon by Stephen Saylor. As is usual with this series, the mystery investigated by Gordianus the Finder takes place against the backdrop of real events that happened in the first century BC. In this case, I felt that the mystery (who killed Numerius whilst he was in Gordianus' house) definitely played second fiddle to the real events at the start of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, although the solution to the mystery has major implications for the main fictional characters. If I had come to this book as a fan of crime fiction or mysteries I would have been disappointed; luckily I enjoy straight historical fiction (particularly when it is as well written and accurate as this) as well crime fiction and so I enjoyed this immensely.
#20 He is and Jeff Harding is a great narrator - a perfect combination
8. Brute Force by Andy McNab. Thriller, although the pace is somewhat mellow in places. There is one little thing that irritated me however. Two of the characters are supposed to have degrees in Classics from prestigious universities and I did find it annoying that at one point they were discussing the Septimus Severus and Pentinax (instead of Septimius Severus and Pertinax). Like I said, a minor point and I only noticed because I'm interested in ancient history.
9. Persuader by Lee Child. Usual Jack Reacher fun and frolics. There's not much else to say really.
10. The American Civil War: history in an Hour. I didn't know much about the American Civil War so I thought this might give me a decent overview. The book has an account of the events of the war, a timeline and biographies of the main characters. I was a bit concerned when I read in the first sentence that the American Revolution ended in 1883 and I assume that is a typo but given the size of the book I would have expected this kind of thing to be weeded out. I also got the impression that the author was suggesting that the term hooker (for prostitute) came from the name of General Hooker but the term actually pre-dates the civil war and was first attested in 1835, so this is unlikely. Overall a useful (and quick) introduction to the main events of the war.
11. In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent. I have had an interest in languages since I was a child and have learnt one or two natural languages over the years. I have also dipped my toe into the world of Esperanto. However, until I read this book I had no idea of how huge and contentious the world of invented languages is. I knew some Esperanto and had heard of Volapük, Klingon and the languages invented by Tolkien, but there are hundreds more. Some come from the desire to create world peace and harmony, some from a need to get beyond words to a fundamental understanding of the universe. Some of them are just weird and are so complex that they could never be used for fluent communication. The book looks at some of the languages and the personalities and egos behind them. The author has studied the languages she talks about and tells us how she became the proud owner of a pin which identifies her as a speaker of Klingon. This is a well-written, entertaining and enlightening journey through a world of hopes, dreams and obsessions, of success, failure and sometimes sadness.
The invented languages book looks really interesting (and I think it would count for my Dewey Decimal Challenge).
#26. It is. It's also surprising how much of this conlang (constructed language) business goes on.
12. Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux. Audiobook. The overall impression I get of Africa from this book is that things are not as good as they used to be when Paul Theroux lived there in the 60s. He takes regular swipes at the aid agencies, contrasting their shiny white four-by-fours with the beat-up wrecks that pass for local cars and public transport and whilst I agree with his point about the agencies creating a dependency culture he does labour the point a bit. Plus his view might be slightly jaded by the fact that when he is trying to get a lift because his current transport (bus, lorry, etc) has broken down, it's the people in the gleaming four-by-fours who always ignore him. Still, that said, this book was an interesting listen and I am grateful to Paul Theroux for volunteering to travel down Africa by local transport and get shot at, stoned, etc for my entertainment. I must also add that he also met very many interesting, generous and helpful people along the way.
13. Jarhead by Anthony Swofford. A thought-provoking account of one marine's experiences in the war to free Kuwait.
14. Nemesis by Jo Nesbo. Two mysteries for the price of one; who killed one of Harry Hole's former lovers and who is the bank robber known as The Expeditor? I have read a few reviews which say that the plot is boring and predictable. Well, I have to say that I didn't guess the solution to either crime, although I thought I had at one point and the story had me gripped from the start.
15. Into the Arena by Alexander Fiske-Harrison (audiobook). I've lived in Spain and I've been to bullfights and I've enjoyed them. I didn't think I would but I did. I am, for instance, very much anti fox-hunting and was very pleased when it was finally banned in the UK, but I suppose life is full of such inconsistencies. At the beginning of the book Fiske-Harrison talks about the "moral hangover" that some people feel the morning after an afternoon at a corrida and I understand perfectly what he means. Into The Arena is about the author's two-year quest to become a maestro, during which time he immerses himself in the world of the torero and meets and befriends bullfighters and bull breeders. Fascinating.
16. On the Beach by Nevil Shute. I once saw the film version of this book, although the only thing I remember about it was the scene with the car race. The book was a good read, although it shows its age a bit in some of the attitudes of the characters.
"and I am grateful to Paul Theroux for volunteering to travel down Africa by local transport and get shot at, stoned, etc for my entertainment"--love it!!
18. White Nights by Ann Cleeves. Second in the Shetland Quartet, this time set in the summer months, hence the title. An interesting murder story with the characters and locations well drawn. I really must get myself up to Shetland at some point.
19. Pecked to Death by Ducks by Tim Cahill. Audiobook. Usual mix of amusing and serious stories. Entertaining listening.
We were just talking about On the Beach this weekend. I've never seen it or read it. I'll have to put it on my list.
I'm currently reading Nesbo's Devil's Star and I have to say I'm liking it a lot. There are lots of red herrings, so I haven't been able to pin down the killer, but I have many theories. I'll have to pick up Nemesis next.
20. Parthian Shot by David Wishart. It took me a little longer than usual to get into this one, but once there it had me hooked.
21. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon. The first of the Brunetti series set in Venice. An enjoyable police procedural.
22. The Medieval Anarchy: History in an Hour by Kaye Jones. Does exactly what it says on the tin. And has a set of mini biographies and a concise timeline at the end as well.
23. A History of the World Since 9/11 by Dominic Streatfeild (Audiobook). An investigation into how the events of 9/11 and the reaction of the US and other Western Governments to those events affected the world. Streatfeild looks at eight stories; some of these affect individuals (such as the murder of an Asian petrol station owner in Texas), some look at the bigger picture (such as the failure of the programme to eradicate polio). Through a mix of interviews with witnesses, political leaders and other individuals and accounts of official meetings, he builds a picture of incompetence, hypocrisy and opportunism; not just on the part of Western governments but also of political and religious leaders around the world. A riveting listen.
24. The Preacher by Camilla Läckberg. Another fine addition to the Nordic crime genre. An interesting plot and well drawn characters. The interludes involving the unwanted house guests provided a bit of light relief, although I must say that the scenes involving Erica's sister Anna and her problems do get a bit wearing; I might just skip over those next time.
#32: I love Nevil Shute's books. He is an underrated author, IMHO. On the Beach is one of my favorites of his.
25. Hold the Enlightenment by Tim Cahill. Audiobook. As with the other books of his that I have listened to, this one is a good mixture of funny and serious stories. I've now listened to all of Cahill's books that Audible have and I enjoyed every one.
26. Warrior of Rome III: Lion of the Sun by Harry Sidebottom. The third installment of the Warrior of Rome series and up to the standard that I have come to expect. One slight irritation with the Kindle edition is that words or phrases that appear in the glossary are underlined the first time they appear in the text, so at the beginning there are quite a few pages with a lot of underlined words. This would not be too irritating if the glossary note added something to what the reader could deduce from the main text, but this was not the case most of the time.
27. The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid. A well written and compelling crime novel about a serial killer in a fictional town in the north of England. The characters are well-drawn and interesting; there are no pure goodies and pure baddies (except the killer).
28. The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison. Audiobook. I read this book and quite a few others in the series when I was a kid, but I don't remember anything about them, so this was like listening to a new book. This is a classic bit of space opera from the 1960s. On the whole, it has aged well although it this version of the future cameras still use film and instructions are given to computers on tape. It's a simple story and makes a great audiobook.
#50: I have not read The Stainless Steel Rat yet. I am glad to hear that it has aged well, Tony. Hopefully I can get to it one of these days!
29. The Eagle in the Sand by Simon Scarrow. Plenty of action and adventure set in Ancient Near East.
#50 Oh wow, I remember reading Stainless Steel Rat ages ago. Well, it was when I was in high school probably, so I remember nothing about it. I haven't revisited many of my earlier reads for fear of them not living up to expectations, but maybe I'll have to give it a go again sometime.
#53 I don't remember anything about them either, just that I liked them enough to buy and read them all.
30. The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge by Harry Harrison. Audiobook. Another enjoyable adventure.
31. Isles at the Edge of the Sea by Jonny Muir. The author's account of three months spent on the islands off the west coast of Scotland, starting on Arran and ending on St Kilda. Muir is honest about his experiences, the highs and the lows, and he is not afraid to admit when he has made a bad decision or when things go wrong. I bought the book because I am planning to spend time in the Western Isles next year, although I'm staying in holiday cottages rather than in a tent, and because I enjoyed his previous book Heights of Madness.
Edited to put a . after the 31 so that it matches the others. Yes, I know.....you don't have to tell me.
32. Murder Imperial by Paul Doherty. The first time I've read one of this author's Roman mysteries. I liked the detail in the settings but I guessed the identity of the killer fairly early on and the ending was a bit of an anticlimax.
33. Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason. Interesting one this. A story of two dysfunctional families, one in the present one in the past, and a skeleton discovered in a shallow grave on a building site. It seems to me that the mystery surrounding the skeleton is there mainly as a way of telling the stories of the families and the violence suffered by one of the them from an abusive husband. This book had me gripped; I really wanted to find out how things worked out for the people involved.
34. The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison. Audiobook. I didn't enjoy this one as much as the others. The ending was a bit weak.
35. Past Mortem by Ben Elton. Another of those detective-reminisces-about-the-past-whilst-solving-a-crime-in-the-present type of crime books. Quite enjoyable.
36. The Blackhouse by Peter May. What a coincidence - another detective-reminisces-about-the-past-whilst-solving-a-crime-in-the-present type of crime books. In fact, in this one the crime really isn't the focus of the story, rather it is about the consequences of past events and how people's lives are changed forever. The book is well structured and I soon got used to the author's use of 1st person for past events and 3rd person for the present and it worked really well. I really enjoyed this one. I already have the sequel The Lewis Man on the Kindle (and for 20p - what a bargain).
37. The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer. Audiobook. An interesting guide to everyday life in the time of Elizabeth I. This is one of those rare audiobooks that I think I would have preferred in an abridged form because it contains some long lists which don't make the most riveting of listening. However, I really liked the details of individuals' lives; they brought Elizabethan England to life.
38. Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden. A very informative book about sub-Saharan Africa; its history, its problems and its hopes for the future. There are chapters on Angola, Senegal, South Africa and many other countries. Although my overall impression from reading the book was one of lost and stolen opportunities, there are also more positive stories and the book ends on a hopeful note.
40. The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You by Harry Harrison. Audiobook. Back to form after the slightly disappointing previous one.
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