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2019 book reading by PGMCC - Volume I

This is a continuation of the topic 2018 reading with PGMCC - Chapter II.

The Green Dragon

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Edited: Feb 11, 12:05pm Top

Read in 2019

Title; Author; Status; Start/end date; Number of pages

The Fox by Frederick Forsyth 01/01/2019 - 05/01/2019 301 pages
Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them by John Yorke 11/12/2018 - 12/01/2019 230 pages
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami 13/01/2019 - 25/01/2019 681 pages
Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen 26/01/2019 - 08/02/2019 389 pages
The Gifts of Reading by Robert MacFarlane 29/01/2019 - 29/01/2019 47 pages
Birthday Girl by Harukim Murakami 30/01/2019 -30/01/2019. 41 pages
The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty 09/02/2019 -

Edited: Dec 31, 2018, 7:58pm Top

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Edited: Dec 31, 2018, 7:58pm Top

This book covers a very interesting topic and contains a lot of fascinating information. I was disappointed with the writing, editing and proofreading, especially as it was published by Gill Books. The book read like a first draft that needed a lot of editing to put the material in a more logical sequence and remove some of the ambiguity in the sentences.

Despite these serious issues I was interested enough in the subject matter to persevere and read the 230 pages in less than five days; not bad going for me.

The book is supposedly about the involvement of Dr. Richard Hayes in deciphering several codes used by German spies in Ireland during World War II (WWII). It is about much more and contained some surprises for me.

It appears the section in the Irish military responsible for intelligence during WWII was called G2. G2 recruited the services of Dr. Richard Hayes, Director of the National Library of Ireland, to help with deciphering the code systems G2 found being used by German spies sent to Ireland. Marc McMenamin, the author, contends that the services of Dr. Hayes were very significant and contributed to shortening WWII through the breaking of codes at key junctures during the war(such as The Battle of The Bulge).

There is a lot of controversy in the history and detail in this book. Ireland was neutral during WWII and the level of interaction between G2 and the UK’s Bletchley Park would indicate that it was a strange sort of neutrality. The reasons put forward for the co-operation involved threats from Britain to invade Ireland if it did not prevent German spies based in Ireland from communicating with Germany and giving out information on British troop and naval movements.

Irish history is complex and when you look at a period in Irish history when Ireland had recently gained a degree of freedom from the UK but still had elements of the Republican movement active within the state that wanted to extend the freedom further, and add in a world war with two major combatants interested in using Irish territory for military purposes, the political environment becomes even more complex and confusing. This book is about just such a period.

It appears that only one German spy succeeded in travelling to Ireland and being at liberty for more that 24 hours during the entire period of WWII. This book reveals the work behind this that could not have been shared earlier due to the Irish Official Secrets Act and the possibility of the actions taken tainting the image of Ireland’s neutrality.

Dec 31, 2018, 8:58pm Top

Just checking up on your thread. First, congratulations on the new grand baby! Second, I have never read any of the Paddington stories. Maybe I should. They might make good read alouds for my students. I know third graders still like Winnie-the-Pooh. Third, I'm impressed you've already started your 2019 thread!

Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2018, 8:58pm Top

Interesting tidbit there: The reasons put forward for the co-operation involved threats from Britain to invade Ireland if it did not prevent German spies based in Ireland from communicating with Germany and giving out information on British troop and naval movements. I'd no idea that went on. You Irish do have a very peculiar relationship -- at times positive and at other times, not -- with Great Britain.

Dec 31, 2018, 9:16pm Top

>4 catzteach: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I do not know about third graders liking Winnie the Pooh stories but I do know that I like them. :-)

You cannot go wrong with Pooh!

Dec 31, 2018, 9:17pm Top

>5 jillmwo: When you get here on your world tour I will give you a potted history of the relationship. :-)

Jan 1, 10:04am Top

This was one of my wife's presents to me for Christmas. Only about twenty pages in so not in a position to make major decisions just yet. It does, however, appear very factual, i.e. it is presenting facts rather than telling a story. We are still in the scene setting and the introduction of the main characters and the unveiling of the raison d'etre of the story.

All Frederick Forsyth's books are extremely well researched and I am sure I shall learn from this book. Whether the book proves to be a literary masterpiece or not is yet to be seen. I do not think, however, that literary masterpiece status is what one expects of a Frederick Forsyth novel. I expect an exciting rollercoaster ride supported by factual information about current day espionage. The initial pages have indicated that we are talking about a hacker who has hacked into the NSA databases.

Edited: Jan 1, 10:22am Top

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Edited: Jan 1, 10:22am Top

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Jan 2, 5:28am Top

Happy new year and happy new thread! I look forward to following your literary and real-life adventures this year!

Jan 2, 5:45am Top

Sorry to hear about the issues with the Code Breaker book. Given what you're saying about it else it sounds just like the kind of history I'd enjoy getting to know, but maybe just as well as it is not available in Sweden.
(I had hoped for the library, all libraries in Sweden are connected through a common database and if there's only one copy of something somewhere, even if it is in a research library closed to the public, I can get it on inter-library loan.)

Jan 2, 5:46am Top

>11 Sakerfalcon: Thank you, Claire. I shall be looking in on your thread too, and hope 2019 is a brilliant year for you.

Edited: Jan 2, 5:52am Top

>12 Busifer: It is only recently published so it may yet reach the Swedish libraries.

I had the added interest of not only knowing of some of the characters in Irish politics mentioned in the book, but also of having, through work, encountered two brothers who are sons of one of the German agents whose story was told in the book.

Jan 2, 5:55am Top

>14 pgmcc: So it may. I own a number of books in that genre, sometimes sourced from afar, but your verdict on the writing and editing didn't encourage buying it - hence the library. I'll list it for a re-check later in the year, if nothing else. I think the kind of hidden politics that often was at play during wwII is interesting. It says something about both history and humanity. Not always nice things ;-)

Edited: Jan 2, 6:50am Top

>15 Busifer: I think library is the best option for this one.

Your last comment is very true. This book gave me a few pieces of information that had me questioning my views about certain politicians and also wondering about the motivations of the author; was he presenting information in a fashion intended to influence present day voters’ views about present day politicians and their parties.

It also showed the dark side of Irish society, a society that has many parts and appears to be becoming more fragmented and confusing as time goes on.

Jan 2, 7:04am Top

>3 pgmcc: That sounds really interesting. Sorry to hear it is so badly written. I love books about coding and breaking them. I'll keep an eye out for it. I'm also newly interested in things Irish after having recently traveled there.

Oh, and happy new year! May your reading be wonderful and the rest of your life even better.

Jan 2, 9:21am Top

Happy 2019!! May the year be full of great books, adventures, food and whiskey!

Jan 2, 9:25am Top

What Bookmarque said, but my Scottish ancestors and relatives would economise on the "e".

Jan 2, 9:29am Top

Happy New Year! I hope you have plenty of great books this year and the time to read them!

Jan 2, 9:40am Top

>19 hfglen:
Hugh, it is not worth having without the "e". Without the "e" it is only a cheap imitation of the real thing. :-)

Jan 2, 9:41am Top

>18 Bookmarque: Thank you for the great wishes for 2019.

Many happy returns to you and yours.

Jan 2, 9:43am Top

>20 Peace2:

Have a great 2019 yourself.

I think my problem relates to the last part of your message; it is getting the time to read. I already have plenty of what promise to be great books but I just cannot get around to them.

As ever, I shall be lurking around your thread. While I do not say much I am still there. Nothing scary or weird about that at all. :-)

Jan 2, 11:12am Top

>16 pgmcc: Indeed. One of the best books that I've ever read was so good just because it made me rethink some of my own principles, back in the 90's, when I still worked as a designer. In translation the book's title would be something like "Society as Theatre: Aesthetics and politics in Third Reich".

Edited: Jan 2, 12:25pm Top

>24 Busifer: That sounds very interesting.

Could it have been this book?


Fascism and Theatre: Comparative Studies on the Aesthetics and Politics of Performance in Europe, 1925-1945

Edited by Günter Berghaus

Jan 2, 5:55pm Top

Dear Friends,

I personally wish you a blessed New Year.

Nowadays, everyone is overwhelmed by the amount of impersonal messages.

Most people copy and paste stolen messages and send them just to get the job done and impress others. Not me!

I wish you all the best for 2013.


Jan 2, 6:05pm Top

>26 pgmcc: LOL, happy 2013. ;)

Jan 2, 7:26pm Top

>26 pgmcc:

Today marks six weeks without sugar. Running 3 miles a day, no meat, dairy or flour. No caffeine! The change has been fantastic! I feel great! Zero alcohol! A healthy diet, gluten free, caffeine-free, sugar-free, and a 2-hour workout every day.
I don't know whose status this is, but I was really proud of them. So I decided to copy and paste. Feel free to do the same. 😂

Jan 2, 9:05pm Top

>28 suitable1: Well, I'm laughing out loud at that one...

Jan 3, 6:07am Top

>25 pgmcc: No, it's this - Samhället som teater, although the one you linked seems like a good one, too. The publishing dates suggests that maybe the authors of the Swedish book knew about Fascism and theatre.

A further look at it definitely suggests me to find it.
Thank you!

(The Swedish book has not been translated to any other language, as far as I have been able to find out.)

Jan 4, 6:58pm Top

I have about 30 pages left in The Fox. It is ok but it is not The Day of the Jackal. I think I shall finish it tomorrow but it will not rate more than three stars.

Jan 5, 4:40pm Top

I was a bit disappointed in this book. It is a page turner and Forsyth's skill as an analyst of global politics and espionage, and his detailed knowledge of how things work, make his books interesting and informative. If this had not been written by Frederick Forsyth I am not sure I would have stuck with it to the end.

One thing I was particularly irritated by was when describing how the teenaged hacker at the centre of the story worked on his computer Forsyth described what he did as if it were magic and how the computer experts from GCHQ couldn't even work out how he did it. This is just not credible. It suggests to me that the world of computers may be a mystery to Mr Forsyth and his researchers. In everything else in this book and in his other books his writing has demonstrated a level of competence and for him to write about something and basically ascribe it to the realm of a black art is very disappointing.

There was no added dimension of interesting wordplay or sparkles of wit. I did, however, underline one paragraph; it was an observation about the egos of politicians and civil servants.

Sir Adrian had spent his working career as a civil servant in one of the most rigorous disciplines that exists - secret intelligence. He was convinced that most politicians and far too many senior civil servants possessed personal egos of Himalayan proportions. Such vanity could permit self-delusion with little harm done other than the expenditure of huge sums of taxpayers' money to no purpose. Government waste is a fact of life. But if you indulge in self-delusion on a covert mission in the heart of an enemy dictatorship, you can end up very dead."

The political analysis in the book is, of course, of the highest order. Forsyth is an expert in this regard. His key findings in this story are that Putin's aggressive rebuilding of Russian influence is the single biggest threat to the West at the moment, that Iran is secretly continuing to refine Uranium, and that North Korea is only making peaceful advances to buy time while it perfects its nuclear warhead delivery mechanisms in a new secret underground site having destroyed its original test site with too much tunnelling and bomb testing.

A good holiday read but it warrants no more than three stars and half a star might be due to my respect for Forsyth's analytical skills rather than his writing.

Jan 9, 8:23am Top


Jan 9, 8:27am Top

>33 pgmcc: Where's that shop? I need that shop!

Jan 9, 8:32am Top

>34 haydninvienna: That picture was taken in "The Secret Book and Record Shop". I dropped in yesterday to have a quick browse after our discussion.

Jan 9, 9:02am Top

I love new history! The old history is so yesterday.

Jan 9, 9:22am Top

New history is cheap, it's the old stuff that really holds its value!

Jan 9, 9:42am Top

>35 pgmcc: The Secret Book etc must have got rather tidier (and better stocked) since I saw it last, which admittedly was a few years ago.

Jan 9, 10:18am Top

>38 haydninvienna: I wouldn't jump to any conclusions on the basis of one photograph of one bookcase. Hold onto your memories of a few years ago and I do not think you will be disappointed.

Jan 9, 10:19am Top

>36 MrsLee: Very good, MrsLee.

Jan 9, 10:19am Top

>37 SylviaC: An astute observation.

Jan 9, 10:26am Top

Now if we could only get ourselves a new history as easily as that.

Jan 9, 8:59pm Top

Happy New Year and Happy New Thread, Peter.

I'll be tagging along as always. :o)

Jan 10, 3:05am Top

>43 clamairy: Thank you, Clare. It is always a pleasure to have you around.

Edited: Jan 10, 8:06am Top

>8 pgmcc: I loved Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File both read many moons ago but I did reread the second recently. I'll have to look up this one. Oh, and then I see your conclusion regarding it and go hmmm.

Edited: Jan 10, 8:44am Top

>45 majkia:
I have read most of Forsyth's novels and enjoyed them. The Fox is good, and as someone who likes his work I enjoyed it, but it was not as good as the others I have read. It was not a chore to read it but it did lack something that I cannot quite put my finger on. It is still worth a read to get his views on the geo-political situations around the world. A good holiday read but not a definite "must-read" Forsyth.

I hope 2019 is treating you well so far and that it continues to do so.

Jan 11, 5:27pm Top

There was a great Green Dragon meet-up in Dublin today.

haydninvienna and I met

in the Conrad Hotel

opposite the National Concert Hall.

Richard had flown in for a concert. He spent the day browsing bookshops and I will leave it to him to tell you about all the books he did not intend buying.

We met about 16:30hrs, had some Guinness, and had a very convivial conversation about books, work experiences, family, and the joy of the Green Dragon. We were both delighted to physically meet another member of the Green Dragon. We now know that at least two members of the Green Dragon are not computer bots. :-)

Jan 11, 6:24pm Top

Did you introduce him to your handler?

Or maybe he is the new handler?

Jan 11, 8:41pm Top

I'm not a 'bot. I've met up with at least half of dozen denizens of the Pub who can swear to my capacity for buying books. And, given that January is my birthday month, I'm sure there are more due to arrive soon! Beautiful books, books with pictures, books that have won awards, books that have not won awards, books by madmen and/or alcoholics, books written by mad women in attics, books containing cryptic meanings -- need I go on?

Jan 11, 11:11pm Top

>47 pgmcc: Terrific shot of you both! Meetups are the best!

>49 jillmwo: Now don't limit yourself. ;)

Jan 12, 12:05am Top

>47 pgmcc: How wonderful you guys were able to connect! Looks like you had a very nice time together.

Jan 12, 12:38am Top

Yes we did indeed. I rate my visit to Dublin, brief though it was, as a huge success. Pgmcc, enabler extraordinaire, was a huge part of that. Thanks again Peter (and thanks for posting the pictures), but I’m still wondering—you don’t have shares in Chapters, do you? For non-Dubliners, Chapters is a huuuuge bookstore in Parnell Street in Dublin. Used and new books. It’s a bit like a fragment of L-space that found its way into RL. Peter introduced me to it. You could spend days in there.

I’ll post later about what I actually bought. There was a reasonable amount. And one non-book item: a couple of bars of soap from Sweny’s Pharmacy, from which Mr Bloom buys just such soap.

Jan 12, 1:45am Top

>47 pgmcc: not computer bots? We only have your word for it. You might both just be very human-looking bots.

Or this so-called meet up might all be part of your cover story....

Jan 12, 1:49am Top

>47 pgmcc:, >52 haydninvienna: - how nice that you were able to get together. So far my only meet ups are with tardis, which is lovely, but I already know her.

Jan 12, 8:56am Top

Great shot, though I would had had an bitter instead. Stout is too... stout for me ;-)
It's always great to meet digital friends for real! And Chapters sounds enticing, to say the least. We'll see what future travel plans might include.

Jan 12, 12:24pm Top

I've posted in my own thread about what I bought (and of course I intended to ... didn't I?)

Jan 12, 2:44pm Top

>56 haydninvienna: Richard, our chat over a couple of pints was a wonderful start to the weekend. Thank you for meeting up. I had a wonderful time and I enjoyed your bookshop browsing by proxy. I am glad you liked Chapters. There are few enough independent bookshops around these days it is good to see one or two thriving in Dublin. I am so gland I suggested it as a possible watering booking hole for you.

Edited: Jan 12, 5:31pm Top

“Into the Woods: How stories work and why we tell them” by John Yorke Penguin 2013

This is a book I will be keeping near me for future reference. I have pages of notes inside the back cover and there are many underlined passages throughout the book.

Yorke states early in his book that it is not a “how-to” book prescribing how to write a story in whatever format, be it book, play, or film. He even has a few words of warning for readers in relation to books that put forward definitive structures and approaches for preparing any piece of art. He even goes so far as to name a number of “how-to” books and highlights what he sees as the flaws in their advice. All this is, however, incidental to the main purpose of “Into the Woods”.

In this book, Yorke’s hypothesis is that there is an underlying structure to stories and that this is neither the result of conscious planning nor has it been derived from Greek tragedies. He posits that this structure is fundamental to the way humans assimilate the world around us and it is the natural way we will tell a story and the most natural way for us to learn about our surroundings and our relationships with people and our environment.

His approach is to use well known films, books and television shows to demonstrate how they fit the structure he hypothesizes. He also reviews the views of commentators on structure, and discusses the works of writers who have argued against structure but who have, inadvertently, written their works within the structure he hypothesizes.

Yorke is quick to state there are exceptions but he claims they are few and far between.

Having outlined his hypothesis and used examples to demonstrate the structure in action and to provide evidence to support his hypothesis, he then addresses the question of why is this structure so ubiquitous and is there a psychological reason for this. His conclusion is that stories are the way we make sense of the world and learn.

By the way, along the way he gives great analysis of how characterization works, how audiences are engaged, and stories help us survive.

Jan 12, 6:49pm Top

Oh crap. I think you winged me with Into the Woods.

Jan 12, 7:00pm Top

>59 Bookmarque: I hope you enjoy it. I would suggest you will.

Jan 12, 7:23pm Top

>58 pgmcc: Got me too! And the library has it (though it's out at the moment, inevitably).

Jan 12, 7:42pm Top

I am starting Haruki Murakami's latest novel, Killing Commendatore.

Jan 12, 7:43pm Top

>61 europhile: I would find it hard to have read this book as a library book as I was always wanting to make notes and underline sections.

Jan 12, 8:36pm Top

>58 pgmcc: I believe I've been winged by a BB there. But it makes me crazy to discover that all I can get my hands on (if Amazon is to be believed) is a used copy. How is this thing not still in print? It only came out 4 years ago, based on what I can see.

Jan 12, 8:44pm Top

I got mine new on amazon.co.uk. Perhaps it did not sell well in the US. I would be very interested in your take on it. I found it very thought provoking and not just in relation to stories, but also to life in general.

Jan 12, 10:57pm Top

It’s still in print in the UK/Ireland, I think. I saw it in Hodges Figgis before pgmcc showed it to me on Friday.

Jan 13, 8:10am Top

>58 pgmcc: Definitely took a hit, there. Ouch.
>62 pgmcc: I've only read one Murakami, and that was After Dark. I loved it, but everything else has looked like massive bricks of little interest to me, though I've had Kafka on the shore on the TBR shelf for what feels like ages... and it didn't get weeded out when tried to create some shelf space recently.
Would you say After Dark is typical or atypical for him? If you've read it, that is ;-)

Jan 13, 9:07am Top

>64 jillmwo:

I see it has a different title in the U.S.; "Into the Woods: A Five-ACT Journey Into Story".

I checked abebooks.com and there are new copies available from some U.S. sources. The earlier ones on the list were UK based but that might be because Big Brother Internet told abebooks that I was logged on with an Irish IP address. (Note I did not say I was logged on from Ireland. One has to keep the opposition guessing.)

I hope you can gain access to this book as I thought about you a lot while I was reading it due to the nature of your work, as well as your erudite discussions on books. Another one of the people I would like to hear from on this book is Meredy.

As someone without any academic training in literature, literary criticism, and the arts in general, I found the book very informative and intriguing. Given that it is relatively recent, written by a professional academic and TV commissioning editor and producer, and given the author takes several supposed gurus in the art of storytelling to task, made me think it would be an interesting read with some new thinking not just for the novice like me, but also for the professional like yourself. I know this was correct in relation to me and I want to hear the views of someone in the know.

Either way, I really enjoyed the book and have learnt a lot from it. I also see how it ties in with the one day workshop I had on Story and Strategy, a workshop coaching attendees on using stories and story techniques to get across business messages. The facilitator has worked as a stand-up comic and that has helped build up his resilience as well as his knowledge and experience relating to engaging audiences.

If the above is a bit of a ramble I apologize, but it reflects the energy this book has instilled in me.

Jan 13, 9:18am Top

>68 pgmcc: No reason for apology. The ramble confirms the sense that I would enjoy reading this book and I'd already ordered it this morning from the Book Depository so it will arrive likely in another 7-10 days. (Something to look forward to!) I appreciate worthwhile BBs. Don't think otherwise.

Edited: Jan 13, 3:42pm Top

>67 Busifer:
Busifer, below you will find a list of the Murakami books on my shelves and an indication of whether or not I have read them and the star rating I gave them out of five.

I first became aware of Haruki Murakami in 2011. Kafka on the Shore was being widely talked about. I cannot remember if it had won an award or if it was announced it would be made into a film. Regardless of that I made a mental note that I should read that book some day but had not memorised the name of the author. Not long after that I spotted a book with a fantastic cover. It was 1Q84 and I read the cover bunff and bought the book not realising at the time that it was by the same author as "Kafka on the Shore" (KotS). When I got it home I looked at the name and had an inkling that it was the author of KotS.

Well, I loved the first two books and immediately bought Book 3 when I realised it existed.

I have not read After Dark but will. All the Murakami I have read have surreal elements but I see he uses surreal elements to bring out real concepts and ideas. Murakami's work can be very thought provoking and challenging but is always worthwhile. I am convinced that if someone likes any Murakami book they will like the others. His work is not for everyone but if you have read and liked one of his books I think you should try more. I have not found a Murakami that I did not like.

1Q84: Books 1 and 2 Read ***1/2
Really enjoyed these books that read as one.

1Q84: Book 3 Read ***1/2
Change of mood from Books 1 and 2. I do not know if this was because Marakumi changed the mood or if it was because there was a different translator. I still enjoyed it.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: Vintage 21 (Vintage 21st Anniv Editions) Read ****
This was a powerful story. His use of the surreal is subtle and effective.

The Elephant Vanishes To read

Kafka On The Shore Read ****
Another Murakami surreal journey.

Norwegian Wood Read ****
Same comment as Kafka on The Shore

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Read ****
And again.

Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World Read ****
Much more surreal but just as rewarding.

The Strange Library Read ****
A lovely short story that makes you stop and think.

Wind/ Pinball: Two Novels Read ***1/2
These were Murakami’s first two novels and have only recently been translated into English. When I read these I saw the seeds of many of his later stories.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman To read

Men Without Women: Stories To read


Dance Dance Dance To read

A Wild Sheep Chase To read

South of the Border, West of the Sun To read

Sputnik Sweetheart To read

After the Quake To read

Killing Commendatore Reading

In the edition of "Wind/Pinball" that I have there is a note from Murakami and how he started writing. One of the things he mentioned is the method he started to use in order to ensure clarity of meaning. At the time he did not consider his English to be perfect. He decided to write his stories in English, his second language and then translate them back into Japanese. He believed that writing in a second language would ensure his sentences were short and to the point and that he would not fall accidentally into writing florid, complex prose as we can all do when writing in our native tongue. This appears to have worked and Murakami got a reputation in Japan for writing very differently from other Japanese writers and that his language was very terse and focused.

I hope you enjoy any further Murakami books you read. A word of warning; when I finish a Murakami I am filled with ideas and good feelings, but I find I have to wait a while before I read another Murakami. He can be intense.

ETA: Thank you for asking the question as it prompted me to write down some of my thoughts on Murakami.

This is the cover that caught my attention. Yes, I admit it, I judged the book by its cover...but I was write.

Jan 13, 6:07pm Top

Thank you for taking your time to write such a detailed and helpful reply.
After Dark is surreal in a detached yet intense way, and I definitely get you on the ”have to wait a while until next”. This was the feeling I was left with after the very short After Dark, and then I got distracted before getting around to KotS.
I’m currently pecking away on my phone, so am a bit short, but with your recommendation definitely got bumped way up the TBR-list!

And don’t tell anyone, but I, too, judge by cover. Sometimes for the better - it was how I ended up reading Yoon Ha Lee, much appreciated, but it was also how I missed out on C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur books: I definitely wasn’t interested in ”cats in space”, but now they’re among my favourite reads.

I try not to, but, well, whatever catches the eye ;-)

Jan 14, 5:23am Top

I am only about 25 pages into Killing Commendatore and am finding it to be the same captivating style that keeps me alert and focused. I find his writing just takes you by the nose and leads you on. Resistance is futile.

Yes, I am enjoying it.

Jan 15, 3:14pm Top

“…After a while I started to get hungry and went to the kitchen, piled a plate with Ritz Crackers and ketchup, and went back to the studio. I dipped the crackers in the ketchup and munched them as I went back to staring at the painting. Nothing about that food tasted good. It was, if anything, pretty awful.”

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami, 2018

Page 75

Edited: Jan 16, 9:16am Top

>73 pgmcc: :) Add a little cream cheese on the cracker before the ketchup and you will have a decent snack. Weird, I know, but not half bad. Did you know that the creation of ketchup came about as Europeans and New World folks tried to recreate the flavors of fish sauce? It's all about the umami, baby.

Jan 16, 9:18am Top

>74 MrsLee:
I did not know that. You have once again proved yourself a mine of wonderful knowledge.

Jan 16, 11:10am Top

>73 pgmcc: >74 MrsLee: >75 pgmcc: Cream cheese or not, Eeeeewwwwwwwwww!!

Edited: Jan 16, 11:25am Top

>76 haydninvienna: & 74

I think, "Ewwwwwwwwwwwww!!", is the reaction Murakami was going for, both in his character and in his readers.

I love the way this was just slipped into the work. It is typical of him to insert something that just disrupts the narrative (a term I have heard often but now, having read Into the Woods, I have a greater understanding of its effect and meaning and will, of course, sprinkle it generously over all my future reviews and book discussions).

Note: "Into the Woods" has two sub-titles. On my side of the Atlantic it is called, "Into the Woods: How stories work and why we tell them". In the US it is called, "Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story", hence the Touchstone having a title that is different from the book appearing in my posts and my catalogue.

By the way, I am still enjoying my Murakami. I take it rare.

Edited: Jan 21, 6:58am Top

Quick update: I am about 300 pages into the 680 pages of Killing Commendatore and am enjoying it very much.

Carry on!

Jan 21, 5:22pm Top

jillmwo hit me with a directly aimed book bullet a few days ago. The book concerned was City of Brass. It arrived today and I sent Jill a picture of it to give her evidence of her good shooting.

We got to discussing how beautiful the book is and I mentioned that the book I am currently reading, Killing Commendatore, is quite beautiful too.

Jill commented that a good designer is worth their weight in gold in publishing.

This got me to thinking about how often book covers had influenced my book purchases, not that I judged books by their covers, but I may have had my attention drawn to a book, or two, by the cover. With that in mind I have decided to put up pictures of books in my library that the covers have had a role in my purchasing decision.

The first I thought of was 1Q84.

I had heard of Kafka on the Shore and I was intending to read something by Haruki Murakami but when I saw the cover of "1Q84" I did not remember the name of the "Kafka on the Shore" author and did not realise it was by the same author. I read the cover bumf and decided to buy the book. I have never looked back. I am still a keen reader of Haruki Murakami books as you will know if you have been reading my threads or looking at my catalogue.

I have taken other cover photographs and plan to share them over the coming weeks and explain how they influenced my purchases.

Edited: Jan 21, 6:33pm Top

>79 pgmcc: Those are all very eye-catching. I do miss being able to ogle lovely covers. There's only one book store near me, plus I read almost everything on my Paperwhite these days.

Edited to add: I dodged every single one of those Murakami bullets!

Jan 21, 10:38pm Top

>79 pgmcc: I’ll cheer you on with that project, Peter. It’s true that although a good cover is seldom enough reason in itself to buy a book, a bad cover may be a reason not to pick it up in the first place. I’ve ranted about this on Good Show Sir from time to time.

Jan 22, 9:29am Top

I'm looking forward to following your book cover project, Peter! I too loved the cover for 1Q84, it is beautiful and mysterious.

Glad you are enjoying Killing Commendatore. I am waiting eagerly for your review.

Jan 22, 10:13am Top

>82 Sakerfalcon: I am on page 377. Only 303 pages to go before being in a position to write a review.

I made the mistake of starting to read someone's review of Killing Commendatore on Amazon. The reviewer expressed disappointment with the book and then went on to say their problem was with the ending that did not stand up to the promise of the novel up to that point.

While I felt a bit saddened by this I quickly realised that the ending of Haruki Murakami books is not relevant to one's enjoyment of his novels; it is the journey through the book that is important and it is the journey that generates the joy that I feel. I am loving the book and if it ended now I would be happy with it. While Murakami has stories in his novels the stories are only frameworks on which to hang the ideas he explores and the thought experiments he takes the reader through. It is like his use of supernatural or folk lore myths; he is not writing supernatural stories or telling folktales; he is using them as a technique to highlight real life situations and to give us the opportunity to look at the world around us with new eyes, see a different viewpoint.

I ramble, so, to be brief, I am really enjoying the book.

Jan 22, 4:21pm Top

>79 pgmcc: Those are some very nice looking books!

Jan 22, 4:32pm Top

>84 Karlstar: Thank you. Hang around and you will see more. :-)

Edited: Jan 22, 5:01pm Top

BOOK COVERS: Part II (Post >79 pgmcc: is what I would refer to as Part I)

Gormenghast is one of my favourite books, if not indeed my absolute favourite book. That being the case I have no shame in admitting I own two copies. The first, the paperback with the title and author's name embossed in gold lettering on the front and the entire book cover covered with a protective plastic coating, is the copy I first read. I was drawn immediately to this book and its embossed cover with the beautiful art work captivated me. It did not take me long to be drawn in by the story. My favourite book of the trilogy is the second. The characterisation of the shool teachers and others is wonderful and filled me with laughter and admiration for Mervyn Peake. His use of the most unexpected similes was a joy; they just crept up on you and exploded.

In terms of my buying decision, however, the cover did not pick the book for me. I had already planned to read Gormenghast and when I went to buy a copy this is the book that was in the shop. Honest!

When a special anniversary edition came out which included the original illustrations from the first edition I could not resist. The photograph below does not do this book justice and I shall produce more pictures of aforementioned illustrations at a later date. The appearance of this book persuaded me to buy it. Having already read the book I did not judge the book by its cover but judged the cover by its looks. This was pure bibliophilia in action.

I shall finish this post with Baudolino by Umberto Eco. I think this cover speaks for itself. As a hardened enthusiast of Umberto Eco's work how could I resist buying this book when it became available.

Jan 22, 5:28pm Top

Oh, that first one is quite lovely. Where is that 'hearts for eyes' emoji when I need it?

Jan 22, 5:57pm Top

Honestly, those do appear to be delightful inclusions on your shelves. But I'm confused a bit. In >86 pgmcc:, the top photo appears to be in paperback. The second one appears to be hardcover. Both are volumes of the Gormenghast trilogy. Do you *gasp* own multiple versions of the same text?

General Note: I can't decide if that was a worried gasp or a horrified one. One can either be frightened about the weight of the shelves or the weight of one's wallet.

Jan 22, 6:26pm Top

>88 jillmwo: You are correct. I have two copies of the same text; the first being the paperback edition I first read and which is in itself a beautiful book, and the second being a special anniversary edition that I bougt as an indulgence and have been dipping into for focused rereading.

Jan 22, 6:58pm Top

pgmcc and bookmarque need to start a special covers thread!

Jan 22, 8:03pm Top

>89 pgmcc: You must realize that i'm in absolutely no position to even quibble with you about duplicates in one's collection. I can't look at anyone askance, given the number of editions I own of works by Jane Austen.

Jan 22, 10:19pm Top

Those are some beautiful book covers!

I have definitely chosen, or not chosen, a book by its cover.

Jan 23, 3:11am Top

>90 suitable1: I second that. I'd love a thread dedicated to a discussion of covers, with pictures!

I have a few examples of both books that I love but almost never got to read because I disliked the covers so much, and of books I bought because the covers lured me in.

>91 jillmwo: When LT tells you that you already own this book... but you insist on adding it anyway... 0:)

Jan 23, 6:55am Top

>86 pgmcc: I have that same paperback edition of Gormenghast. I agree that the cover is lovely. I too would have found that special edition hard to resist, especially as you say it has the original illustrations.

Jan 24, 9:00am Top

>86 pgmcc: You got me with a bullet for Gormenghast, which I have somehow missed before now. I have added it to my wishlist.

Jan 24, 9:20am Top

>95 MrsLee: :-)

The second book is my favourite. The first one is good too, though I felt I did not get into the swing until the second chapter. The third book was written while Peake was suffering from the illness that was affecting his thought processes and was not as rich as the first two books. That being said, I did read it and was glad I had read it, more for completeness than anything else.

This was the first book I read and enjoyed primarily for the characterisation and the language used. Up to time I read it I had been focused on story and plot. Gormenghast opened my eyes to the wonderful world of character development and use of language, in particular the use of unexpected similes that stopped me in my tracks and made me think.

I hope you enjoy it. I find myself dipping into it every now and again and having a chuckle. I look forward to discussing it with you, especially what you think of the characters in it.

Jan 24, 4:56pm Top

>95 MrsLee: Oh, my dear, you need to head out and find copies of the Gormenghast trilogy. The prose is amazing. At one point, I had a set of the three mass market paperbacks but I cannot lay hands on them now. I considered whether I should buy the Folio Society hardcovers. But being a bear of very little brain...

Jan 25, 11:23am Top

I will probably finish Haruki Murakami's Killing Commendatore over the weekend, if not tonight. I have about sixty pages left and I have enjoyed it a lot.

As it happens, the author had his 70th birthday on the 12th of this month. He has a new book published here today to celebrate his birthday. The book is called Birthday Girl. I pre-ordered it and have just received notification that it will arrive on Monday. Will I jump right into another Murakami immediately? Probably not. While I love his style I find I need a break to absorb the thoughts he has toyed with in a book before I can tackle another of his novels or stories.

Edited: Jan 25, 5:00pm Top

I have finished Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami. I enjoyed this book very much. It is up to his usual high standard.

When I read a book by Murakami I feel transported into another dimension. He achieves this with the simplest of language and a talent for bending the boundaries between the real and unreal worlds. Supernatural elements appear in all the Murakami books I have read and enjoyed, but his stories are not about the supernatural. He uses these elements, some of which are ideas and tropes from Japanese folklore, to create a context and framework to explore the emotions and thoughts of people going through significant changes in their lives. Killing Commendatore is no different. Amongst the life changes dealt with in this novel we find marital breakup, people questioning their whole purpose in life, the on-set of puberty, past secrets, lost loves, art, and classical music. Murakami deals with all these and does it in a smooth and humane fashion while leading his readers through a labyrinth of mystery and intrigue.

Characterisation and character development are a hallmark of his works and it is not just the development of the protagonist that is portrayed but that of every character in the story. To use the terminology and definitions of John Yorke in his explanation of how stories work, Into the Woods, Killing Commendatore is a three dimensional story.

Murakami's work will not be everyone's cup of tea. I believe either people like Murakami or they do not. If you do then you will like this novel.

There are some explicit sex scenes in this book but they are integral to the story rather than gratuitous and this is clear when one has finished the book.

Edited: Feb 9, 4:54pm Top


I showed the cover of Killing Commendatore in post >79 pgmcc:. In that post I had removed the dust jacket. The picture below is with the dust jacket in place.

When on my epic journey to The Shire in 2016 for a Green Dragon Meet-up, I was attracted to the book below by its cover. I think it is obvious why I was attracted to it. On examination I discovered it was works by Washington Irving.

I am not sure where I spotted the book below, "A Treasury of Irish Fairy and Folk Tales". I must read it some day. Shame on me for not having done so before.

Stay tuned for more episodes of "BOOK COVERS". Same book time; same book channel!

Edited: Jan 25, 8:50pm Top

OOOH, those are all lovely.

(I think we used to have a dedicated cover thread, but that could just be my faulty memory.)

ETA: Found one, but most of the photo links are dead. :o(

Jan 26, 10:13am Top

>101 clamairy: Only found 3 or 4 dead links, and have replaced the one I was responsible for. Have revived the thread.

Edited: Jan 28, 11:47am Top

In the year 2016 a meeting of the Fellowship of the Green Dragon was planned. The venue was to be The Shire. It was to be a Saturday, in the domain of Franklin. The Irish based Green Dragoneer, PGMCC, organised to fly with members of his family on a Green chariot, The St. Aoife (Phonetic pronunciation guide – Eefa), across The Western Ocean, over The Labrador Sea, and into the land where the ocean is known as The Eastern Ocean.

The Fellowship of the Green Dragon that originally planned to meet that day consisted of five persons. PGMCC from Ireland; a dragoneer from Cape Cod; another from the distant West where the bears live; and two from the Boston area.

When the designated Saturday arrived, PGMCC and his son-the-older, set out from their hobbit-hole in the village of Medford. His wife, son-the-younger and daughter-the-younger were to remain in Medford while PGMCC and son-the-older followed the mystic trail to Franklin. Before he set out he became aware that the dragoneer from the land of bears had to abandon the plans due to illness that prevent the taking of the voyage.

PGMCC knew that reaching The Shire would have its own rewards and that he had to get there at any cost, even if he were the only member of the Fellowship of the Green Dragon that made it. With this in mind he and son-the-older set out on the journey by foot from the Avenue of Alexander, just west of the Mystic River, and trekked as far as Davis Square having passed Tuft’s University on the way.

At Davis Square they were to use their magic weekly ticket to ride the “T” toward the Tree of Brains. While awaiting their transport they spotted a stranger wearing white plimsoles, tight black trousers, a black jacket, a white shirt and…a dickie bow. That was the clue; that and the Matt Smith hair-do and the face that was the image of David Tenant. It was at that stage PGMCC remembered he hadn’t told son-the-older and son-the-younger that Boston Comic-con was on that day. Pangs of guilt washed through him, but son-the-older was very gracious about it so PGMCC gathered his strength and carried on with the mission at hand.

To this day PGMCC regrets not saying to the stranger, “Dickie bows are cool!” He was sure that would have been the pass-phrase to an interesting conversation about Comic-con and things Whovian. He feared, however, that the Who to whom he would say this might take fright and disappear into another dimension. This fear was born from travelling across an ocean and not being sure if people on a T station would speak to one another without causing alarm. PGMCC still thinks that Who would have liked it. He really looked the part. He was the best Who he had ever seen who wasn’t actually an official Who.


The T arrived and they travelled by Red line to South Station.

Being strangers in this land they were not accustomed to the habits and customs of the people and the transport network. Wandering through the massive hall of South Station they made their way slowly to the platform gates. A friendly Guardian of the Gates directed them to the ticket office where they bought what they needed for their journey There and Back Again.


Edited: Jan 27, 4:24am Top

The journey by commuter rail was pleasant. It was a great way to see this strange land where the house are made of wood and appear to be mostly built in the woods.

Eventually the train arrived at Franklin.

PGMCC’s research revealed that Franklin was named after Benjamin Franklin who had given the town a set of books. Wondering what to do with the books the townsfolk came up with the idea of storing them in a building where the town’s people could come to read the books. That was how Franklin became the location of the first public library in the United States. PGMCC hoped to see this library on this visit, but that was not to be.

Having been attempting communication with the other members of the Fellowship of the Green Dragon PGMCC had heard nothing of one, whom he discovered later had not been well and was in all likelihood not up to the trek. Reports of traffic volumes on Saturday mornings in August hinted at another member being unable to make it to Franklin. A conversation on the previous day when the remaining member had expressed concern about the meet-up being on the same day as Boston Comic-con gave the clue that a case of Comic-conitis would result in the final member of the Fellowship not making it.

PGMCC and son-the-older ploughed on regardless. They triangulated their position with the great Google in the sky and set out to find their way through the streets of Franklin to The Shire.

On their way they took in the sights of small town USA. They even spotted one of the mythical 7-Elevens that they had heard off in dispatches.


Jan 26, 5:40pm Top

At long last, at the side of a railway track, they found a sign. Their reading of the sign told them they were not far from The Shire.

One fat little hobbit uses his tracking skills to read the signs that lead to The Shire.

Turning right they say the path to The Shire and walked with confidence to the entrance to the treasure cave.


Jan 26, 5:45pm Top

The place was wonderous indeed. It was a warehouse full of second-hand books. It was very warm, as there was a heat-wave that August. There was no aircon in the warehouse but there were large industrial style fans fixed to the ceiling which were doing a great job of circulating hot air around the place.

While traversing the many aisles and passageways of The Shire, GPMCC met a fellow country man. They had a convivial conversation about the old sod, whiskey and crocks of gold. On parting they wished one another well and went on their merry ways.

At this stage, and having had limited or no communication for other members of the Fellowship of the Green Dragon, PGMCC decided that everyone who was going to turn up had turned up and so a group picture was taken.

The Fellowship of the Green Dragon


Edited: Jan 28, 11:53am Top

Having browsed the warehouse for a time PGMCC and son-the-older went to the counter were they met a lovely lady who was only too happy to take payment for the goods they had selected and was very quick to point out that there was a 50% discount in operation. This all added to the pleasantness of the day.

The lady in question was delighted that The Shire had been selected as a meeting place for the Fellowship of The Green Dragon. She was also interested to meet someone from Ireland as she had visited Dublin some years previously and have loved her experience. She was a great enthusiast for Joyce’s Ulysses and she had taken great pleasure in seeing the locations he mentions in his hefty tome.

It was now decision time. Would PGMCC and son-the-older seek out the first public library in the United States, or would they get the next train back to Boston in the hope of getting to the MIT Press Bookshop and the COOP before closing time.

The library lost out and so they headed station-wards.

The trip back again was uneventful until they arrived in South Station. By that time they had eaten the rations provided by daughter-the-younger and were thinking food would be interesting. They went to the food court and selected a noodle place to buy some vitals. Having purchased their meal they took it to the upper floor and found a seat. While eating their repast they notice a local staring at them from the nearby wall. The local was just standing there watching them. The cockroach did not move the whole time. Needless to say they protected their food as best they could.

Having eaten up fairly quickly, they took the Red T to Kendall and managed to get to both the MIT Press bookstore and CO-OP at MIT.

PGMCC had a wonderful day. While the other members of the Fellowship of the Green Dragon would fall by the wayside for various reasons he wants to thank them for firstly identifying The Shire, and secondly for giving him the chance to see a bit of the USA outside the city. Visiting Franklin was interesting and visiting The Shire was an experience he thinks every Green Dragoneer should have.


Edited: Feb 7, 6:49am Top

I have started Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day.

Jan 26, 8:11pm Top

Thank you for the wondrous tale. I'm still sorry I missed meeting you.

(>105 pgmcc: I do not see any fat hobbits in any of those photos!)

Jan 26, 8:24pm Top

>109 clamairy: time for an eye test I think. :-)

Edited: Jan 26, 8:31pm Top

Hasn't it been over an hour since you said you were heading to bed? :o)
( I had my eyes tested two months ago and I have a nice new contact lens Rx to prove it.)

Jan 26, 11:03pm Top

>107 pgmcc:

If there was a 50% discount, you should HAVE bought twice the books.

PS: We still don't how well communication will occur when and if the meetup actually has more that one person.

Jan 27, 3:39am Top

>112 suitable1: I refer you to >47 pgmcc:.

Jan 27, 4:02am Top

>112 suitable1: Peter and I communicated by text message. Seemed to work just fine.

Jan 27, 10:43am Top

That was indeed a wondrous adventure. Thank you for sharing it with us poor unadventurous folk.

Edited: Jan 27, 11:50am Top

>106 pgmcc: Perhaps we should all photoshop ourselves into that photo? I feel like I was there now. :)

Jan 27, 12:51pm Top

>116 MrsLee:
At the time I felt you were there in spirit. I wasn’t sure if it was whiskey, vodka, gin or some other form of spirit, but yes, I felt you were there. I also felt Meredy was there too.

Jan 27, 1:01pm Top

What a lovely tale! Glad you found The Shire!

Jan 27, 4:15pm Top

>118 majkia: The Shire was a great place to browse. It also gave me a great opportunity to see more of the country and the transport network than I would have had I simply stayed in Boston.

Jan 27, 5:12pm Top

>47 pgmcc: >113 pgmcc: At first I was wondering how you grew that impressive beard and moustache in only 16 days. Then I noticed that the wondrously described journey to The Shire actually occurred in 2016.

Details, details...

Edited: Jan 27, 5:18pm Top

>120 ScoLgo: Keep them guessing.


Jan 28, 7:41am Top

Thank you for sharing that wonderful account of your Great Quest to The Shire. It looks like you did indeed find treasure at journey's end.

Jan 28, 11:25am Top

Great story, wonderfully told. Thank you for sharing.

Jan 28, 11:41am Top

>122 Sakerfalcon: & >123 Busifer:
I am glad you liked it. The trip was fun. It was a great little excursion along one of Boston’s commuter routes.

Jan 29, 4:42pm Top

The Gifts of Reading by Robert Macfarlane.

This was a reasonable essay about the benefits to people of giving in general, but in particular the benefits of giving books. It is bracketed by a story of the author's friendship with a colleague and this adds a bit of personal interest to it.

While it is a touching essay with worthwhile comments about books and giving without thought of receiving anything in return, I do not see it as something that warrants publication. It read more like a magazine article.

Edited: Jan 29, 5:32pm Top

>107 pgmcc: Another vote here regarding the pleasure of perusing the account of your epic quest.

Jan 29, 5:22pm Top

>126 -pilgrim-: Thank you!

Edited: Feb 7, 6:49am Top

I am coming to the end of Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day. It is about life in London during WWII. Living with the blitz and all news being about the war is the norm. The people who have not been evacuated from London are there for a purpose and most of them are parted from their loved ones for one reason or another. There is a feeling of transience and fatality in the city life.

The story is centred around the life of Stella, a widow with a son in the army. She has been seeing Robert, a wounded soldier who returned to England as part of the Dunkirk evacuation of the British army and who is now working in the War Office.

Stella is approached by a stranger, Harrison, who implies he is working for British counter-espionage and tells her he has amorous intentions towards her. He says he know Robert is a spy but that if she dumps Robert and agrees to live with him he will suppress his reports on Robert and save him from arrest.

Is Harrison who he says he is? Is Robert a spy? What can Stella do?

Feb 8, 5:49pm Top

I have finished The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen.

This was one of four Elizabeth Bowen books I received as a gift from a friend for Christmas. The others are:

Death of the Heart

Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen

Eva Trout, or, Changing Scenes

Feb 8, 6:27pm Top

The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen 1947

This novel follows the lives of two women and two men living in London during the war. The characters are people who have not been evacuated and they remain in the city for work, or lack of anywhere else to live. The main character, Stella, is a widow who has a son in the army. She is seeing Robert, a wounded Dunkirk evacuee who is working in The War Office. Harrison (whose first name we do not learn until near the end of the book) is a strange person who likes to imply that he is somehow involved in counter-espionage. Louie is a factory worker whose husband is off fighting in the war and she finds herself bored and wandering London wondering what to do and what to think. Her character is easily led and rather flighty.

“The Heat of the Day” gives the reader a taste of what it was like for ordinary people living in blitz-torn London. The people remaining in the city are portrayed as having a high level of comradery in which everybody was friends but they never got too close because they knew their friend of tonight might not be around tomorrow after the nighttime air-raids.

There is a lot of internal consideration of feelings and convoluted thinking about that the other person meant by their words or actions, or even lack of words.

The story points of view are those of Stella and Louie, the main female characters. Knowing Elizabeth Bowen’s background I can see she identified with Stella. The scenes in which Stella visits an inherited stately home in Ireland are obviously informed by Bowen’s own family seat, Bowen’s Court, in Farahy, County Cork, which she visited frequently as a child and which she inherited in 1930.

Louie is a rather two dimensional character. She is portrayed as not having a lot of wit. I think her character suffers from Bowen’s attempting to write a working class character from a rather elite status.

Strong points in this book include the explanation, through Louie’s reading and interpretation of newspapers, of how the news media is used to manipulate the thoughts of the masses, especially at a time of national emergency. This element is reminiscent of current times with multimedia channels being used to influence political thought and to lead the masses by the nose. I was amazed at how sharp this element was.

I shan’t discuss the plot as the environment in which it takes place, and the thoughts and emotions of the people involved, are more important in this book than who did what and when.

Feb 8, 7:06pm Top

I am starting The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. This was the result of a targeted attack by Jillmwo. As I hold Jill's opinion in high regard my expectations are high. No pressure Jill. :-)

Well, even if the book does not live up to the very high expectations that Jill has managed to give me for this novel, at least the book cover looks beautiful. Even the end-papers are gorgeous. I must get a picture of those up soon.

Well, Jill, here goes.

Feb 8, 9:25pm Top

>131 pgmcc: my book club almost picked that one as are new read. We couldn’t find enough books, though.

Feb 9, 5:26pm Top


This is the continuing stooooooooory of book covers that may, or may not, have influenced my purchase of the books in question.

Every Short Story 1951 - 2012 by Alasdair Gray. To put this book in context I have to include the cover for Lanark, Gray's apparently surreal story of a young artist growing up in Glasgow. This book has two streams, one is quite normal while the parallel stream is quite surreal. It works very well and it is believed to be at least partly autobiographical.

Now, having loved "Lanark" and having bought it for the story and loved it, although my attention had been drawn to it by the cover, I had to buy the Every Short Story collection when the artwork drew my attention to it. The artwork is the work of the author who is quite an eccentric. When Iain Banks was interviewed about is impending death after he had been diagnosed with a very advanced stage cancer, he commented that he had not expected that Alasdair Gray, who was born in 1934, to outlive him. The writing community in Scotland is very close and the majority of resident authors would know each other to talk to, have a meal with, have a wee dram with.

Bottom line, it was the covers that drew me to Aladair Gray's work but it was the work that brought me back for more.

Dracula by Bram Stoker.

I read Dracula many years before I bought this book. This is the Penguin Classics Hardback edition. I love Penguin's Classic Hardback editions. I love the covers and the fine paper of the pages. This was an indulgence; a good copy of Dracula for whenever I re-read it. The conclusion is that I did buy this book for its cover, but I already knew I liked the story. This book is one of those books that feels beautiful in the hand. It falls open gently and the pages within are smooth and delicate. It was more than the cover but the cover was the first bait that caught my eye.

Dune by Frank Herbert.

A neighbour gave me her copy of "Dune" about twenty years ago. I had seen the film and she told me the book was great. I still have that book but I have not read it. When I was at the Octocon convention in 2017, the Hodges Figgis bookstore had a stall in the Dealers' Room and the cover caught my eye. It is a fiftieth anniversary edition, paperback, but looks and feels well. I had always meant to read Dune but know I knew it was this copy I was going to read. As anyone who follows my reading thread will know, I finally read it last year and loved it.

By the way, there is one irritating element about this copy; there are parts of it where there are quite a few typographical errors that were not picked up by the proofreaders. I understand this edition used text scanners to feed the text into the printing systems and I suspect that is were the errors were introduced. Dune aficionados tell me the original edition did not have the errors I found. I thought they would have put a bit of extra effort into getting the 50th anniversary edition perfect. It seems such a missed opportunity.

This brings us to the end of Part IV of my cover story. Part V will be along soon.

Feb 9, 5:28pm Top

The cover is great! Is that a sandworm silhouette?
Bad about the typos though. You'd think they'd have paid more attention with a special edition.

Feb 9, 5:54pm Top

>133 pgmcc: I do like many of those covers for the Penguin Hardback Classics.

Feb 10, 2:06am Top

>133 pgmcc: >135 jillmwo: Me too. I also have Lanark on TBR, but I don't think it has the same cover--instead it has another of Gray's drawings, I think.

OCRing the text of reprints is something of a 21st-century plague. I have 3 or 4 copies of different editions of Style by F L Lucas. (Yes, I love this book.) I remember the old ones as having, in a quotation from The Duchess of Malfi by the the 17th-century dramatist John Webster, "a foul tettor" (the book isn't at hand). The modern reprint has "a foul terror". Makes something like nonsense of the quotation, and I'm pretty sure it's an OCR error. You would have expected that Lucas, as Webster's editor, would have got the quotation right, but the texts of the Duchess I can find on line have "a foul tetter". Bloody Google Books might have it but it keeps showing me results pages for English books in Arabic, which is useless to me. Maybe I'm remembering the old text wrong. Either way, the 2012 version is still wrong.

Feb 10, 6:37am Top

Beautiful books, though not even a beautiful cover would get me to buy one more copy of Dracula: I already have the Penguin Classics paperback, and I hate the way the story is told.
I have yet to find a book from that era which I can stand. I would not be able to do a painless transfer into Victorian England.

On the OCR issue: yes. Cherryh gained the ebook rights for her book Hellburner, among others, a lot of years ago. She (with the help of friends and fans) scanned the text and turned it into a self-published ebook, and really? I had to open up the epub file to make my own corrections, based on my paper copy. I did send her the proof-read file afterwards; she's good that way, always open to the fandom.
But it drove me crazy every time I had to read "corn" when the text said "com" ;-)

Feb 10, 6:57am Top

>137 Busifer: ... and don't get me started on Project Gutenberg. I wanted to read the novels of Thomas Love Peacock and gave up on the Gutenberg text. But it led me to buy a copy of the Rupert Hart-Davis collected edition.

Full disclosure: I was a Distributed Proofreader for a while. I really should take it up again.

Edited: Feb 10, 3:18pm Top


I have a soft spot for the spines of the Everyman's Library editions and when I saw there was one containing the collected stories of Roald Dahl I had to have it. I have a number of other books from the Everyman's Library, mostly gifts from well wishers and the like, and I try to keep them together to take advantage of the beauty of uniformity. (You can see some of them on a shelf just to the right of the book in the picture below.) This does mean that these side-by-side books are out of sync with other groupings of books on my selves. They do, however, look well together.

I suppose it was the cover that pushed me over the edge in relation to the Roald Dahl collection. I have liked his stories and I was inclined to buy some. The cover did precipitate the realisation of that intention that up to that moment did not have a timescale attached.

Our next cover, Ghostly by Audrey Niffenegger, has to be a purely cover judgement. I saw the cover and the fact it was ghost stories, and decided to have it. It was only after my buying it that I realised it was by Audrey Niffenegger. I loved her The Time Traveller's Wife and would have bought it with any cover if I had realised it was by her. So, a book judged by its cover and it was pure accident that it turned out to be by a writer whose work I admire.

The next book, Leonardo Da Vinci: the biography by Walter Isaacson is a book I had intended to acquire after having read its praises in LibraryThing, possibly even here, in The Green Dragon. Towards the end of 2018 I spotted this lovely paperback edition and dropped a hint, and, hey presto! some kind person gave it to me for Christmas. While it is paperback the cover design is very apt and I think quite elegant.

The Mammoth Book of Short Science Fiction Novels presented by Isaac Asimov is not a book I had planned to buy. The cover art caught my attention and being a reader of Science Fiction, and someone who was fairly keen on Isaac Asimov, I acquired it. While it was a cheap purchase I still think it is a nice looking book. I believe the same art is used for and SF encyclopedia. I suppose it was the suffusion of two of my interests, Science Fiction and Geology, in the image of a stone dinosaur that first piqued my interest.

That is the end of Part V of my BOOK COVERS series of posts. When I have done a bit more tidying up in my study and managed to pull out some more of my more attractive looking books, I shall share their images and bare my guilty heart in relation to my motivation for buying the books and the part the cover played in those acquisition events.

Feb 11, 4:55am Top

>139 pgmcc: I'm sure I've seen the da Vinci book in the library. I'll take that as a BB and look out for it.

Feb 12, 8:53am Top

I'm enjoying this visit with you in your library. :)

I have The Time Traveler's Wife on my TBR shelf. Almost picked it out yesterday to read, but I was afraid it was too dark for my soul at the moment. Having just finished I am the Cheese, I needed something light, so picked a classic murder mystery instead.

Feb 12, 10:26am Top

>141 MrsLee: The Time Traveller’s Wife is more of a love story than SF. I would not call it dark.

I am glad you are enjoying the book tour.

Feb 12, 12:33pm Top

Hi Peter!

Lovely stories, beautiful covers, detailed discussions of Murakami. I hope you're having a good 2019 so far.

My first Murakami was 1Q84 for book club in 2012, then 2 group reads in 75ers land, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore, both in 2017. I don't think I can read more than one per year, but all three were amazing.

I'd agree with you about The Time Traveler's Wife being more a love story.

Feb 12, 12:51pm Top

>143 karenmarie:

Hi, Karen,

Thank you for dropping by. I hope you are well and that 2019 is treating you well.

Yes, I am having a good 2019 so far. I cannot complain about my reading or family matters. Of course, work does get in the way of the real business of living.

1Q84 was my first Murakami too. I then went on to read Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I loved them all but, like yourself, I need a rest after one of his books before I can get into another. I do not know if intense is the right word to use, but I do feel I need to recover, but not in a bad way.

I am due another Dickens. I have found Dickens to be great comfort reads. Thank you for your prompting me to get into them more urgently than I would otherwise have done. I think my last one was Nicholas Nickleby, a book I enjoyed immensely. I have a few lined up and David Copperfield could be the next one.

Feb 12, 1:00pm Top

Interesting that you mention David Copperfield - we're planning a group read, probably in March. I'll keep you posted in case the timing would work for you.

Feb 12, 1:28pm Top

>145 karenmarie: That sounds good to me.

Feb 14, 5:01pm Top


You will have heard me mention The Swan River Press. It is a small press and is the only publisher in Ireland dedicated to the Gothic, Supernatural and Fantastic literature. It publishes high quality, limited edition books of old and new stories of the Gothic, Supernatural, and Fantastic. For my sins I have become a loyal customer of Swan River and have acquired an entire set of its hardback limited editions, the numbered edition. In fact, all my copies have the same number.

I was going to show a picture of my shelves with the line of Swan River Press publications but I decided on another approach. To demonstrate the quality of the publications I have decided to show two sister books, The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return of Fursey written by Mervyn Wall. As you can see from the first picture, the dust covers are pieces of art in themselves, but when one takes off the dust covers one finds the hardback to be just as intrinsically decorated. This is a key element of Swan River's book; the covers are specially designed and one might say some people would buy the books just for the covers. The binding is also of excellent quality with the spines stitched rather than any more vulgar mode of binding.

By the way, these two books are hilarious. They are about a medieval monk in the monastery of Clonmacnoise, which dates back to the fifth century, who is tempted by demons. As it happens he is slightly intellectually challenged which, as you might imagine, means things do not go as well as the demons might have hoped. The book does not make fun of the intellectually challenged but uses the character to represent the weak and vulnerable in society and to highlight their plight regarding prejudice and disadvantage. The books make serious points about society and how it treats the disadvantaged but it does it in a very humerous way. If you can get your hands on reading copies I recommend that you do. You will not regret it.

You may also recall that I am a great fan of Iain Banks's work. (He is still missed.) Well, I discovered his books shortly after his first Science Fiction novel was published. It was Consider Phlebas and I picked it up in a bookshop in Wexford town, the nearest town to where we were spending our Summer holiday. I was looking for something to read and, you guessed it, the cover attracted me. That very copy is pictured below:

Having read this and found it to be a ripping yarn I looked for more of his books and discovered The Wasp Factory, his first published "mainstream" novel. I read that and after that I bought his books as they were published. As a result I have a complete collection of all his published novels and his non-fiction Raw Spirit, a record of his publisher commissioned tour of all the distilleries in Scotland. You can see my Iain Banks collection below:

His final three Science Fiction novels are tucked into the right hand side of the shelf below.

Thus ends Part VI of this little tour of the books in my library. I hope you are enjoying it. Since starting it I have been taking time to look through my books and have come across treasure I had almost forgotten I had.

Until the next time, keep well, and keep reading.

Feb 14, 6:31pm Top

>147 pgmcc: First, are you aware that a Dalek has invaded your library? Have you trained him to keep bugs out of your books? EXTERMINATE!

Second, I don't see why we can't have a shot of your shelf of Swan books in addition to the two lovely ones above. Now you are just being coy.

Edited: Feb 14, 8:00pm Top

>148 MrsLee: You are correct; that is our local EXTERMINATOR.

I shall present Sean River Press shelf soon. Thank you for your request. It gives me an extra excuse for spending time with the books,

Feb 14, 10:06pm Top

I thought that DALEK would be screaming “Illuminate!” rather than “Exterminate”!” ...

Feb 14, 11:49pm Top

He has night vision.

Feb 15, 7:19am Top

Those Swan River Press covers are beautiful. I second MrsLee's request for a shelf photo!

And I love the covers for Banks' work, both with and without the M.

Feb 15, 10:44am Top

>152 Sakerfalcon: There have been some great covers for Iain Banks’ books. The first covers were great and subsequent ones were not bad either.

Ken MacLeod is working on a book reviewing all the Culture novels. I am looking forward to that. Ken was a friend of Iains and they met regularly to discuss their work. They lived just across the Forth bridge from one another. He would, in my opinion, be the best person for such a task.

Feb 15, 11:42am Top

>153 pgmcc: That will go on my wishlist! I agree that MacLeod would be ideal.

Feb 15, 2:15pm Top


This is a Folio Society edition of Uncle Silas by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. The slip case can be seen resting behind the book. Do I need to explain why I went for this edition?

No. I didn't think so.

Now 2666 is definitely a book that I was attracted to by the cover. I had never heard of Roberto Bolano until I found this book. I have not read this one yet, but I have read two of his shorter novels and a collection of short stories, all of which I have enjoyed.

As some of you will know I am an ardent follower of Nick Harkaway's work and order his books as soon they are thought off. I have not been disappointed yet. Angelmaker is a particularly humerous novel which careers important social commentary as well as being an exciting adventure involving international intrigue and some imaginative World War II secret weapons that were not used until the events recorded in this book. Definitely a recommendation.

Why have I included it here? Did the cover influence my purchase? No. I had ordered it regardless of the cover but I did love the cover when it arrived. Also, it had a super promotional video, which you can see here. Enjoy.

To finish today's edition of my library book covers post I have included A Legacy of Spies, John Le Carré's latest novel. It was billed as a sequel to The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, but it is much more than that. It rounds off the whole Karla saga and touches on the back-story of several Smiley novels. It is a great read in itself but if you are familiar with the Smiley novels it will have another layer of meaning and enjoyment for you.

I like the cover of this book, but this particular copy was a gift from a friend. It is a copy signed by the author. :-) Geeky happiness.

I hope you have enjoyed today's selection. Following requests for a picture of my Swan River Press bookshelf I shall be planning that. I think I will have to take a few of them off the shelf to picture separately to give you the benefit of the full cover art.

Feb 15, 9:05pm Top

>155 pgmcc: You have nice friends. I also love that Nick Harkaway cover.

Feb 15, 9:40pm Top

You have some beautiful books! I love the cover of Ghostly. I’ll have to put that one on my list. I really enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Feb 16, 1:45am Top

>156 MrsLee: I have really enjoyed spending time with them taking these photographs. I think being surrounded by books is my happy place.

Did you watch the Angelmaker promotional video? It is worth a watch.

Feb 16, 1:47am Top

>157 catzteach: I really enjoyed The Time Traveller’s Wife too. I must confess to having a tear in my eye at the end.

Edited: Feb 16, 6:45am Top

>155 pgmcc: Drat you! Now Angelmaker has been added to the Pilgrim's search list...

Feb 16, 7:06am Top

>153 pgmcc: Oh, I didn't know that! I haven't got around to any MacLeod, though I have got real good advice on were to start; I thought I should make a dent in Mt TBR before going there... but seeing as how I presently feel about Seveneves I might change my mind...

Feb 16, 11:20am Top

>158 pgmcc: I am bleeding, but only so far as it is on my wishlist. Looks like a very fun read. Loved the video.

Feb 16, 12:26pm Top

>162 MrsLee:
I really liked the crackle at the start to sound like an old vinyl. The music was very atmospheric.

Feb 16, 6:23pm Top

>159 pgmcc: me, too.

Feb 17, 2:11pm Top

>147 pgmcc: Those Swan River Press books look amazing!

>160 -pilgrim-: Mine too. The promo video really piqued my interest.

>107 pgmcc: Have you gotten around to reading the Haldeman trilogy yet, Peter?

Feb 17, 2:22pm Top

>165 ScoLgo:
The only Haldeman I have read so far is The Forever War. I thought it waa great. I picked ip the trilogy on the strength of it, and on the strength of seeing him interviewed at Worldcon in 2005.

Edited: Feb 18, 4:29am Top

Reading update:

I am half way through The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. This was a targeted book bullet from jillmwo which struck home fast and true. I must thank Jill for hitting me with this one. I am exactly half way through and totally enjoying it. The writing flows without effort and the characters are growing realistically and behaving in character. This book is a pleasure to read. I suspect I shall be getting the next book in the trilogy, The Kingdom of Copper. Jill can notch that one up on the strength of her direct hit.

Edited: Feb 18, 1:56pm Top

*insouciantly blowing on and buffing nails* I'm so glad.

Feb 18, 2:13pm Top

Sounds VERY interesting. I need to ask - are the supernatural elements extremely central, or more like background?

(As a rule fantasy makes me roll my eyes, except when it's background noise - think some of Guy G Kay's books, such as Lions of Al-Rassan.)

Feb 18, 2:45pm Top

>169 Busifer: It is a bit like an Arabian Nights tale but the magic is a backdrop to the politics, character interaction and character development. It is allegorical and applicable in so many ways.

Feb 18, 4:31pm Top

>170 pgmcc: Sounds like I would be able to read it without too much eye-rolling, then: politics, allegory, and believable character development are all straight up my alley, unlike the mystic vampire or elf who magically appears to save the day *grin*

Feb 18, 4:42pm Top

>171 Busifer: I suspect we look for the same type of thing on a novel.

Feb 18, 6:06pm Top

>172 pgmcc: I need a huge stack of money so I can retire: it’s the only way I’ll be able to find the time to read all these interesting books.
I’ve added Chakraborty to MacLeod, and more...

Feb 18, 7:22pm Top

>173 Busifer: So, we are looking for the same things in life as well as in books.

Feb 18, 8:20pm Top

Loving all of those covers, Peter.

Yesterday, 3:38pm Top

>174 pgmcc: Yes: now, if there only were a way to find the end of the rainbow... ;-)

Yesterday, 5:09pm Top


MrsLee and Bookmarque are planning a group read of Charles Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Dan Simmons's Drood. This has prompted me to produce a "SPECIAL EDITION" of my Book Covers posts. Featured in this edition you will find pictures of my copies of these two books.

The first book presented is Dickens's unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

This edition is a cheap Wordsworth Classic's copy which sells for less than three euros. While it is an economic proposition it still contains the original illustrations and also has an interesting afterwords which describes the various hypotheses people have put forward with regards to how Dickens intended to, or might have, completed the story. I found this just as fascinating as the main body of the text.

The second book cover is the Subterranean Press edition of Drood by Dan Simmons. Subterranean Press produce more highly priced limited editions with prices in the order of $80 - $150, or even more. Before you think I am a millionaire I have to say this was a review copy that the reviewer put into a charity auction and I was fortunate enough to get it at a reasonable price.

This is not the copy I read. That was a paperback edition (see below) that I gave away (re-homed with a caring family) after reading it.

I shall be lurking in the background as MrsLee and Bookmarque proceed with these books. I enjoyed both these books and am looking forward to seeing what our two Green Dragoneer companions think of the books.

Happy Drooding to MrsLee and Bookmarque and any others who decide to read along.

Yesterday, 5:09pm Top

>176 Busifer: Hear! Hear!

Yesterday, 6:43pm Top

I'm well into the Dickens now, having started it this morning. It's nothing grand - just a Project Gutenberg download to my old Nook. Several branches of my library system have copies of the Simmons so I'll probably get one of those. I've only read The Terror by Simmons so this will be an interesting experience.

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