World of Penguins: charl08 travels the shelves #10
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From the counter at 'my' local Waterstones' branch. Apparently he's stuck down firmly so that he doesn't 'walk' (I was asking for a friend...)
This month: 20
Last month: 23
The Pre-nup (F, US, fiction)
Cry Mother Spain (F, France, fiction)
The Door (F, Hungary, fiction)
Frankissstein (F, UK, fiction) Netgalley
No Judgments (F, US, fiction) Netgalley
Perky (F, US, fiction)
Faces on the Tip of my Tongue (F, France, fiction)
The Art of Dying (Multiple, UK, fiction)
Packing my library (M, Argentina, memoir / books about books)
A Stranger's Pose (M, Nigeria, travel writing)
The Cactus (F, UK, fiction)
A House in Norway (F, Norway, fiction)
Taduno's Song (M, Nigeria, fiction)
Crow Lake (F, Canada/ UK, fiction)
Another Planet: a teenager in suburbia (F, UK, memoir)
They called us Enemy (Multiple, Multiple, Graphic memoir)
Kiss me tonight (F, US, fiction)
All the Way (F, US, fiction)
Sensible Footwear: a girl's guide (F, UK, Graphic memoir)
The Testaments (F, Canada, fiction-we-hope)
Still Waters (F, Sweden, fiction)
The Uncannily Strange and Brief Life of Amedeo Modigliani (M, Bosnia, fiction)
Making it Right/ Staying for Good (F, US, fiction)
The Catalogue of shipwrecked books (M, UK, history)
Almost Famous Women (F, US, short stories)
Tell them of battles, kings and elephants (M, France, fiction)
The Man Who Saw Everything (F, UK, fiction)
Proof by seduction (F, US, fiction)
Court Number One (M, UK, legal history)
The Bookshop by the shore (F, UK, fiction)
The Wallflower Wager (F, US, fiction)
Good Boy (F, US, fiction)
Night Boat to Tangier (M, Ireland, fiction) Booker longlist
Girl, Woman, other (F, UK/ Nigeria, fiction) Booker longlist
The Pisces (F, US, fiction)
The Unhoneymooners (Multiple, US, fiction)
We have been harmonised (M, Germany, politics)
The Summer Book (F, Sweden, fiction)
Stay (WAGs) (Joint, fiction)
Three Imperfect Number (F, Italy, fiction)
The Patient Assassin (F, UK, biography/ history)
Slow Heat (F, US, fiction)
The Surreal life of Leonora Carrington (F, UK, biography)
The King's Evil (M, UK, fiction)
Fluffy (F, US, fiction)
Charlie Savage (M, Ireland, fiction)
The Countess Conspiracy (F, US, fiction)
Unnatural Causes (M, UK, memoir)
Olive Again (F, US, fiction)
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill (F, US, fiction)
Grand Hotel (F, Austria, fiction)
A Plague on both your Houses (F, UK, fiction)
Dear Mrs Bird (F, UK, fiction)
All Grown Up (F, US, fiction)
A Clean Canvas (F, UK, fiction)
The Stopping Places (M, UK, travel)
The Man who was Saturday (M, UK, biography)
The Deaf Republic (M, US/ Ukraine, poetry)
Doing it Over (F, US, fiction)
Coldhearted (F, US, fiction)
Machines like me (M, UK, fiction)
Travellers: a novel (M, Nigeria/ US, fiction)
The Penalty Box (F, Canada, fiction)
The Wife's Tale (F, Canada/Ethiopia/UK, biography)
Gender F 15 M 3 Multiple 2
Country/ Region UK 4 Europe 4 US & Canada 7 Africa 2 Latin America 1 Asia 0 Austalasia 0 Multiple 2
Type Fiction 15 Poetry 0 Non-fiction 5
Origin Library 5 Other (incl mine) 15
Gender F 158 M 49 Multiple 13
Country/ Region UK 58 Europe 44 US & Canada 95 Africa 6 Latin America 4 Asia 4 Austalasia 1 Multiple 11
Type Fiction 175 Poetry 5 Non-fiction 41
Origin Library 81 Other (incl mine) 141
(this is going to be very loosely interpreted, with inclusion rather than exclusion being the focus)
Hiding in Plain Sight (Somalia/ South Africa/ US) Published by Oneworld
My Sister the Serial Killer (Nigeria) Published by Atlantic (UK)
Zeina (Egypt/ US) Published by SAQI (UK)
Travellers (Nigeria/ US) Published by Hamish Hamilton (UK)
The Wife's Tale (Canada/Ethiopia/UK) Fourth Estate (UK)
Chester zoo penguins
Austria: The Second Rider Translator Paul Mohr
Bosnia: The Uncannily strange and Brief life of Amadeo Modigliani Translator Celia Hawkesworth (Croatian)
China: Stick Out Your Tongue Translator Flora Drew
Columbia: The book of Emma Reyes Translator Daniel Alarcón (Spanish)
House of Beauty Translator Elizabeth Bryor
Denmark Lone Crossing Translator Charlotte Barslund
Death of a Nightingale Translator Elisabeth Dyssegaard
Egypt: Zeina Translator Amira Nowaira (Arabic)
Finland: Mr Darwin's Gardener, Children of the Cave and Things that fall from the Sky Translators Emily and Fleur Jeremiah
French Canada: We Were the Salt of the Sea Translator David Warriner
France: The Prague Coup Translator ??
Cry mother Spain Translator Ben Faccini
The Years Translator Alison Strayer
Tell then of battles, kings and elephants translator Charlotte Mandell
Faces on the Tip of my Tongue Translators Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis
Germany: Dreamers when the writers took power, Germany 1918 Translator Ruth Martin
You Would have missed me Translator Jamie Bulloch
Berlin Now Translator Sophie Schlondorff
The Pine Islands Translator Jen Calleja
The Cleaner Translator Bradley Schmidt
Hungary: Katalin Street and The Door Translator Len Rix
Latvia: Soviet Milk Translator Margita Gailitis
Lebanon: Jokes for the Gunmen Translator
The Netherlands: Bird Cottage Translator Antoinette Fawcett
Norway: Out Stealing Horses Translator Anne Born
Russia: The Aviator Translator Lisa Hayden
Sweden: The Forbidden Place Translator Rachel Willson-Broyles
The Wolf and the Watchman Translator Ebba Segerberg
Until Thy Wrath Be Past Translator Laurie Thompson
Read (in order of preference)
Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other
Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier
Deborah Levy (UK), The Man Who Saw Everything reserved
Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive Read
Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer
Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein Netgalley
Out from the library
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities
John Lanchester (UK), The Wall
On the kindle
Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World Netgalley
Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments
Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport
Max Porter (UK), Lanny
Waiting until my reservation queue calms down...
Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte
>1 charl08: How lovely to find a penguin near.
Back to your prior thread, your new reading chair looks pretty comfy. I hope you enjoy it!
>12 BLBera: Beth, sadness
>13 RebaRelishesReading: It's probably for the best, I suspect!
>14 jessibud2: I wish you could too!
>15 Helenliz: Me too. >16 rosalita: I'm sorely tempted to find out if he's available online. (or she, I guess?)
>17 FAMeulstee: I'd not seen him before (or her before), so nice surprise.
Thank you Mary and Mary!
>20 EBT1002: Ellen, I hope it comes out in the US soon.
And thank you Paul and Jim :-)
Phew. Did I miss anyone?!!
This book was right up my street, and I am havering over whether I want it to win more than Night Boat to Tangier - today, yes, tomorrow, maybe I change my mind. The book opens with a first night for a radical playwright at the National - she feels she has finally made it after years in the wilderness. As the book unfolds Evaristo explores the complex and diverse lives of Black British women, from young millennial students dealing with drunken freshers week (when their 'group' doesn't drink, or hardly does) and older women who share the author's radical past (and campaigning present) to elderly women searching for lost roots and connections due to adoption. I loved Evaristo's last book (about an elderly Caribbean couple and change when one comes out) but this book reaches much wider in the characters she chooses to include. I particularly found myself rooting for Carole's mum, who had so much on her plate (not just the giant Nigerian snails!) and such resilience.
I logged onto Borrowbox, the library ebook system last night, and it auto-upgraded. This seems to mean I can borrow two extra audio books.
I'm still reading Frankisstein: a love story - I'm enjoying the humour a lot.
From the Booker website:
One of this year’s longlistees, Jeanette Winterson, has been discussing the fact that, decades after she arrived noisily on the literary scene, she has only now been recognised by the prize. “It’s not being superior,” she told an interviewer, “it’s just that sometimes you have to wait for people to catch up.” Now that the prize judges have caught up, Frankissstein, an interlinking of Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein in 1816 and a modern story of artificial intelligence, cryogenics and sexbots, is one of the most fancied books on the longlist. Times have changed for the better in other ways too: “Literature used to be very much a white male club but it isn’t now,” she reckons. “There’s a diversity of voices and as a working-class woman I’ve been part of that. In the acting profession they’re always complaining that posh, public schoolboys are in the ascendancy. I no longer see that in books.”
Um, isn't that being extremely superior? Or is she joking?!
I am fairly confident that this is the oddest book I'll read all year. It opens as as if a straight novel about a woman having a breakdown after she and her partner agree to split up. She moves to LA to dog sit for her sister, and finds herself on the shore late one night. A guy swims up, but he won't get out of the water. And her partner wants to get back together. The support group she joined seem to be mutually dragging each other further and further astray, and on top of all that she's not sure if she's ever going to finish her thesis...
The former fanfic writers continue their winning formula with this latest romance. A food poisoning bug hits her twin sister's wedding, knocking out the bride, groom and everyone who touched the buffet. There's no insurance on the honeymoon. It makes sense to use the holiday, right? For the most part light and funny, but
And now for something completely different: We have been harmonised...
"Xi and his party are reinventing dictatorship for the information age..."
Pisces I'm not sure about. It might be one that you either love or hate?
We have been harmonised
Well this was terrifying. By the former China correspondent of a German newspaper, and clearly based on years of conversations about censorship and the internet. There's lots here about China's shift right, the complicity of western tech companies and the way the state is heavily investing in surveillance AI, including reports of a terrifying project filming/ watching kids in class all day every day. Did you know if you visit China your face gets added to their recognition programme?
It seems like (at least from this book) that it's so hard to object to the state's plans to join everything up: even trials for a points system based on how good you are eg whether you get fined on the roads or pay your council tax which will determine whether or not you can travel, and how the whole community views you. He mentions Bentham and it does feel a lot like that panopticon idea.
The book ends with a call for European unity in the face of Chinese state attempts (sometimes successful) to buy their way into European support (Hungary and the Czech republic being named as two states who have taken money to echo the Chinese position). It reminded me of Cold War politics. Depressing.
Bizarrely, there is another user of the library who reserves as much as me. Also female, also a Dr, also with a very similar surname (I have a double letter, their's is single). The librarian did wonder if we were the same person, but no, there's two of us. She's an archeologist, apparently. I do wonder about lurking to meet her! But that might be stalkerish and I don't want to be banned from the library! >:-o
Listening to talks at the book festival today.
First up was Amanda Brown talking about her book The Prison Doctor based on her fifteen years of working in English prisons. It was fascinating stuff, and she was clearly very invested in making sure her patients had the best possible healthcare. I was surprised how little interest she seemed to have in the politics of the institutions she worked in. (But on reflection: she's still working in prisons: so maybe not that she's not interested but that she's thinking about having to go back to work ?)
And then Anita Anand who I have heard so many times on the radio that I feel like I know her. Her new book is about a long term revenge mission and was clearly a passion project - she talked so much about The Patient Assassin that there was hardly any time for questions.
Lots of people in the audience arguing for more diverse histories in schools: but given the average age was at least 60, not convinced they were the best thermometer for current school policies. I got my book signed and shared a website designed by academics and the Runnymede trust. I suspect she was being polite, but I hope she looks at it. It's so easy to trash teachers, and not acknowledge that many are trying to share a wider curriculum (in the face of stupid political statements about a mythical British past). She talked a bit about how hard she finds it to write (rather than research) quoting another writer as saying writing a book is just like reading one, except the book is trying to kill you (!)
(Will have to try and restrain myself from looking for them in the bookshops here)
Say Say Say by Lila Savage
"...an intensely serious and careful book, which grapples with an unfashionable subject, the drive to be a good person, while wittily weighing up human fallibility. The narrative voice knows much more about Ella than she knows about herself – her vanity, her self-satisfaction, her laziness and blinkered thinking – but it also tracks, with sincerity and compassion, her attempts at authenticity and self-knowledge, her desire to create art and approach the sublime."
Finger hovers over order now button...
Platform Seven by Louise Doughty reviewed by Alice O’Keeffe
"...claustrophobic and all-too-believable portrait of a controlling relationship. I also love her evocation of place and character; each member of staff at the station has a backstory, creating a complex web of human relationships."
This sounds pretty creepy. Pass.
The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy reviewed by Sam Byers
"Levy’s implied question feels painful and apposite: how can we have any hope of resisting political tyranny when we are so tragically unable to expunge it from our personal lives?
It is at this level, the level of cruelty and complicity, the level at which regimes both large and small cohere, that the bold design behind Levy’s intricate motifs and symbols becomes clear. She is asking us to consider a spectrum of harm, and where along that spectrum different incidences of cruelty might fall. Just as it is easier to study “history” as an entity distinct from our own emotional reality, so too it is far simpler and more comfortable to condemn brutality on a mass scale than it is to accept, and atone for, our own smaller acts of devastation..."
I've read this. Not sure I recognise it from the review (though I liked it).
The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa reviewed by Alex Clark
"A recurrent preoccupation is one of complicity and collusion; throughout The Memory Police, our narrator insists on the community’s strange acceptance of what is being visited upon them. “But what can we do?” she asks. “It’s disturbing to see things that have disappeared, like tossing something hard and thorny into a peaceful pond. It sets up ripples, stirs up a whirlpool below, throws up mud from the bottom. So we have no choice, really, but to burn them or bury them or send them floating down the river, anything to push them as far away as possible.”"
This quote reminded me of the book about China I've just read.
The Offing by Benjamin Myers reviewed by Jude Cook
"Dulcie is a lobster-eating, hard-drinking aesthete with a German shepherd called Butler. By turns verbose, eloquent, motherly and foul-mouthed, she might have come from central casting if Myers hadn’t given her such a richly imagined past and linguistic register. “Scones without proper cream is a disaster of apocalyptic proportions,” she exclaims, and one can sense Myers’ relish in bringing her to life."
This quote has sold the book.
The Summer Book
I've had this one my shelves for ages and as it's summer and the book is light I brought it in my suitcase for the weekend. A gentle read about life on a Swedish island for a grandmother and her granddaughter. Lots of direct questions about life, beautiful descriptions of windswept isolated spaces and dealing with ageing. I liked it. Very season appropriate.
It's funny about me, Sophia said. "I always feel like such a nice girl whenever there's a storm."
"You do?" Grandmother said. "Well, maybe ..."
Nice, she thought. No. I'm certainly not nice. The best you could say of me is that I'm interested.
She extracted a perch and bashed its head against a rock.
It's ok, in October I'm going on holiday in Corsica.
Thanks for the reviews; I am so glad a few of them are already on my list, so I don't have to add more to the WL. :)
>65 BLBera: It is a nice one, Beth. Although I went to the beach today, and it is Crazy Hot for Scotland, and I thought I should have saved it to pose with. Ha!
The beach at Gullane.
>62 charl08: I read The Summer Book a few years ago and quite liked it.
I saw a copy of Ducks Newburyport at the festival and was a bit shocked by how ginormous it is. I might wait to see if it makes the shortlist!
I read another hockey romance in a series and finished Three Imperfect Number the Italian crime fiction. It was an interesting read, with elements of Montalbano (corruption, the "comedy" lower ranks character). This read like the middle of a series (but was the first translated into English in 2012 by Europa). The main detective is legally blind, and is a specialist in audio recordings and atmosphere. Not an author I would look for again
In the book I loved the way we saw inside the Gran's vp as well as Sophia's.
Now reading The Patient Assassin, what my history lecturers would have described as "popular history", I think.
Cute town project - businesses and homes filled wheelbarrow with plants in Haddington.
Bridget Riley exhibit at the National Gallery on Princes St - it moves to London after it finishes in Edinburgh.
Rajasthan (on "loan" from a German gallery)
I was really interested in the exhibit of her prep work - fascinating calculations of patterns and colour. Some of them really made me feel dizzy...
Very surprising weather...
American tourist on train home was complaining she'd not seen proper British weather. Ha!
Then, my love, shall I call it Victor Frankenstein? (Now I was thinking of Tristram Shandy, an old story indeed, and on my father’s bookshelves at Skinner Street for our diversion.)
No, said Shelley , for your story is more than the story of one man: there are two who live in each other, do they not? Frankenstein in the monster. The monster in Frankenstein?
They do, I replied, and therefore the monster has no name, for he has no need of one.
What father does not name his child? asked Shelley .
One who is terrified of what he has created, I said.
Well, then, Mary, it is for you to decide. You are father and mother to this tale. What will you name your creation?
Well, the sunshine has been replaced by pouring rain, and I have a summer cold. Atishoo. Sniff. Happy days.
>83 LovingLit: I don't know how the staff worked there all day - the effect of some of the pieces was like one of those 'magic eye' pictures that used to be fashionable. I felt quite dizzy!
Still feeling grotty. Have been getting home and collapsing with favourite audiobooks, abridged / dramatised (shocker!) versions of Raymond Chandler, Celia Imrie reading Terry Pratchett's witches, and generally feeling sorry for myself. Hoping that a weekend of R&R will sort things out.
Guardian reviews - non-fiction
My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay reviewed by Michael Donkor
"Halfway through the text, Sissay tells of a trip to the twinkling lights of Blackpool. It’s December 1980 and, aged 13, along with others from children’s home, he is taken to see a pantomime starring a young Lenny Henry. In the surreal recounting of this day out – complete with images of Henry crowd surfing – Sissay offers a sobering consideration of both autobiography as a form and the particular challenges he faces as a autobiographer:
"Memories in care are slippery because there’s no one to recall them as the years pass. In a few months I would be in a different home with a different set of people who had no idea of this moment. How could it matter if no one recalls it? Given that staff don’t take photographs it was impossible to take something away as a memory. This is how you become invisible..."
There's an extract from this here:
It's hard reading. How anyone could do this to a child is just really difficult to understand.
Winds of Change: Britain in the early sixties by Peter Hennessy reviewed by Kathryn Hughes
"...a forensic look at the years from 1960 to 64, what one might call "the low 60s", when everyone aged over 35 still wore a hat out of doors and fanned themselves theatrically with a copy of the Daily Herald if the thermometer looked as if it would go over 75F (24C)"
I should probably read his earlier histories first...
Islamic Empires by Justin Marozzi reviewed by Sameer Rahim
"Time and again Marozzi treats us to lusty descriptions of “wine-soaked, hashish-perfumed” parties or the sexual prodigiousness of slave girls. Entertaining enough, if that’s your kind of thing; but the licentiousness is made to bear too much historical weight. He thinks living it large is a quintessential marker of an Islamic empire’s “self-confident pluralism”. He rarely stops to think of what life was like for slave girls wrenched from their distant homes, and whether they were quite so keen on this early form of “multiculturalism”."
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi reviewed by Colin Grant
"...he’s increasingly inclined towards the view held by Martin Luther King Jr – espoused in his Poor People’s Campaign – of the intersection of racism with capitalism. Further, to be an antiracist is to challenge spurious (if perhaps well-intentioned) notions such as the “culture of poverty”, which allegedly traps impoverished black people in dependency – in opposition to, and ignorant of, the “culture of work”."
Hoping the library has a copy of this one, sounds good.
Don’t Look Back in Anger by Daniel Rachel reviewed by Kitty Empire
"...the book’s greatest irritation is its repeated attempts to define Cool Britannia, which leaves everyone floundering or hand-wringing. There was a confluence and a cross-pollination of many creatives in a booming economy under a helpful government. This book is a timely reminder, though, of exactly how much messaging, perception and image counted..."
Nope. I remember it, not terribly tempted to read about it.
Voyaging Out: British Women Artists from Suffrage to the Sixties by Carolyn Trant reviewed by Rachel Cooke
"...bulges with hope for the future: for more research, for more books and, above all, for more inclusive and wide-reaching shows."
>87 charl08: Both the book and the review sound very politically incorrect. Debauched behaviour by non-Westerners? And criticism of that behaviour? I didn't think that was allowed, particularly not in the Guardian.
>89 charl08: Heh, yes. If we've lived through the "history" then presumably we can tick it off the list. OMG - the older we get, the less "history" we have to read!
Thanks for the reviews. I've been looking at the Kendi.
I'm waiting anxiously for Frankissstein!
>94 BLBera: It looks like interesting reading, Beth. I still haven't finished Frankisstein - it was a bit much to be reading in my lunch break at work, I found.
The Patient Assassin
I heard Anita Anand speak about her book last week and have been reading this on and off since. Singh is a hero in India, as he shot the British colonial official in charge during the Amritsar massacre, twenty years after it occurred. Hundreds of civilians were shot without warning and at close range after breaking a poorly announced curfew, and then denied medical treatment. Young children were amongst the dead. Following an enquiry, the army officer who gave the order was sacked. And that was it, as far as the British were concerned.
Singh, who claimed (but cannot be proved to have been) in the garden where the massacre took place, appears to have decided he would hold the British officials accountable. The life of the assassin is fascinating, from abject poverty to international travel, and links to communists and spies. The life of the colonial officials less so, but adds weight to her claim to have sought to understand both sides despite her family link to the atrocity. The book highlights the way that histories can be so differently treated in different states: Singh now has a memorial statue and schools / libraries named after him in India. I had never heard of this assassination until this book.
>89 charl08:, >91 susanj67: I'm more and more in sympathy with my Grandmother. We went to a museum of rural life on one occasion and she annnounced that this couldn't be history, as she used to use one of those thingies on display. Have no idea what it was, but I now completely get what she was complaining about!
Hope you're feeling better soon.
As we get older I'm sure history gets bigger. It's just that us oldies realise it's totally unimportant so as you say we don't have to bother reading about it.
>98 Helenliz: No, not easy, but important stuff. Thanks for the wishes. I was planning another day of doing nothing but in a Major Error I woke up this morning to No Coffee. Argh.
>99 PossMan: Hi, welcome, thanks for chipping in. I'm unlikely to agree that any history is "totally unimportant" though! (I do have a bit of an interest to declare. Me not wanting to read it notwithstanding). I like to think if we'd done a better job of teaching history in our schools we wouldn't be in this mess now.
What makes me laugh about doing these reviews is how hard I sometimes have to struggle to come up with a reason not to get hold of a book. If I had all the time in the world I'd read them all - or at least start them. So sometimes I'm a bit flippant. (Although saying that I really have no interest in reading any more about Keith Allan or Tony Blair).
I read quite a bit of translated fiction this month - I think I most liked the book about Michaalangelo in Istanbul Tell them of battles, kings and elephants.
Also plenty of history (!) about British legal cases, Spanish libraries, colonial cover ups and (contemporary history?!!) Chinese digital surveillance.
And quite a few booker nominees, although I still haven't finished the Winterson. Probably The Summer book was the most seasonally appropriate.
Gender F 15 M 5 Multiple 2
Country/ Region UK 7 Europe 6 US & Canada 9 Africa 0 Latin America 0 Asia 0 Austalasia 0 Multiple 0
Type Fiction 19 Poetry 0 Non-fiction 4
Origin Library 6 Other (incl mine) 17
The plot made me roll my eyes, but a sweet contemporary if you can get past that, with a
Feeling a bit more human, so have ventured into the garden, trimming back the buddleia and moving some ferns and a thistle around (fingers crossed that they survive this process...)
Butterflies have found the garden.
Feel better soon.
August was a good month of reading for you.
>104 Ameise1: That's lovely Barbara: it was such a friendly touch to the town.
>105 BLBera: I had lots of train journey reading time, luxury! Hoping for some more this month.
Thinking my piles of books are getting a bit ridiculous, so have stacked some up to try and read this month. Yes, I did colour code the top shelf. Don't judge me!!
Age of Iron
Stuart Hall autobio
Why this world
Travels with my aunt
Faces on the tip of my tongue
Packing my library
Lifting the veil
Hamid Ismailov The Devil's dance
Whatever happened to Harold Absolom
Bird by Bird
The Ungrateful Refugee
What we're told not to talk about
The German Room
Cry Mother Spain
Stay with me
The invisible Man
Buckingham palace district six
Speak no evil
The Gypsy goddess
One day I will write about this place
New York Burning
Crossing the Mangrove
Beyond the Rice Fields
When we speak of nothing
Season of Crimson Blossoms
Gold boy, Emerald girl
All that remains a life in death
Those all look lovely. And the titles are definitely easier to read on my computer screen than they were on my phone on the bus :-)
I'm starting to see the weight of tragedy carried by the word "national" and how every time it has been bandied about in the past, regardless of the cause...it has inevitably brought violence with it, in France and elsewhere. History is awash with appalling examples.
Well, not exactly a cheerful read this one! José and his sister Montse leave a sleepy village for Barcelona at the height of the anarchist movement before the civil war. On their return, the village has turned communist, but Franco's forces are gaining ground. Montse remembers the year 1937 clearly even as she fades into dementia, telling her daughter what she lived through. The author's parents were Spanish republican refugees to France, so sense she knows what she is talking about, particularly in terms of the insular gossip of the village about anyone different.
My book arrangements are by Chaos. I know exactly where each book is shelved. Well, except the one I happen to be looking for at any given moment. So arranging by color is sensible.
Oh, and I also owe him an apology because I keep getting him confused in my mind with Colum McCann who wrote Transatlantic. That's probably rather vexing to an author.
Hmmm. On second thought perhaps you'd just best not mention any of it!
Went to York for a work thing. So pretty.
(We went with school when I was about 10. Most of it has vanished into the ether beyond limitations on the squash intake - horrors! I went through about 4 glasses per meal - and mean kids from another school. I liked the castle museum though, which I passed yesterday. Real olde time street, with shops from the 1900s. )
And a lovely Carnegie library
On the plus side, it means I can recycle it without heartbreak!
I thought this was such a clever book, I never quite knew what to expect with her playing with modern AI plans, Mary Shelley's story and ideas of what it means to be human. What would happen if everyone never died? How are the ideas of Shelley and the fears of Frankenstein's monster linked to our worries today? I can't say I am knowledgeable about AI, but I loved the way she brought together Turing's Manchester with high tech advances in the US. Maybe some of the advances she mentions are not here yet, but how far off?
We are lucky, even the worst of us, because daylight comes.
And it made me laugh.
How is a man supposed to give a woman a compliment, then? said Ron. You a #MeToo type?
I won’t get into my politics, said Claire, I’ll just tell you that you can say the following to a woman: what intelligent eyes she has. What a beautiful soul she has . What deep understanding she has. What fine dress sense she has.
Is that all? said Ron.
Think of it like practising the piano, said Claire. Get those right and we can try some other pieces.
>119 charl08: OOh, I've not heard him speak in person. Lucky you.
>127 charl08: Ahh, York. Lovely city.
>129 charl08: A fun and interesting jaunt I thought. I heard her read/perform bits of it, if you get the chance, it's worth it Charlotte.
I can't wait to hear him! Really looking forward to it.
Ans I wish I could hear Winterson speak about this one: so many ideas.
I'm wondering if it would be bad form to take all my (second hand, mostly) copies of his books to be signed!
I love the politeness of "please leave my town" ' Johnson visits Yorkshire.
"A non-fiction book" and
"Something with no details on the LT page which other people might be interested in hearing about before they reserve it themselves"
What We're Told Not To Talk About
(I had to look up HTH! Oh dear...)
I hope the Urban Dictionary is saying "Hope This Helps", as that's what I was aiming for :-)
The windows above the doors look nice, with on the outer side those extra lines making it look like a spider web.
>138 katiekrug: Glad I'm not alone. I'm always a bit afraid of what I'm going to find on urban dictionary, too.
>139 susanj67: Yes Susan, my fears were groundless!
>140 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita. They have an art gallery too: there was a deal on train tickets (travel for £1 each way) so I'm going to go back and check it out.
I read No Judgments this evening, which is a new one by Meg Cabot, who every so often writes an adult contemporary as well as her incredibly successful kids books. I really loved her other adult series, which sadly have not aged well (BlackBerry messaging, anyone) but had a host of supporting characters in the various books who worked at newspapers (remember them?) and had reliable jobs. Anyhow, so that's a long winded way of saying I'm a fan of her sense of humour. I found this one to be quite a bit darker: don't panic, it's still a romance, but both characters are mourning and there's a hurricane about to hit their island, plus a #metoo incident in the past that's not going to stay past.
And rather than the romance trope of being stuck in a hotel room/ inn / ice house* Cabot takes the story in a different direction entirely, complete with water damage and community kitchens. I enjoyed reading it, and I'll read the next one set on the same (fictional?) island.
*I've not read this one, but would be willing to bet it exists.
This was a netgalley preview.
Brought to you by the sound of hedge trimming, the occasional bird, the washing machine and a hint of sunshine.
Ed to fix the carnage pointed out by Susan below...
The Second Sleep by Robert Harris reviewed by Clare Clark
"During the course of his career Harris has perfected the art of creating tension within a story to which we already know the ending: the Enigma codes were cracked, the eruption of Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii, the Munich Agreement did not bring peace. In The Second Sleep he turns the tables: this time we do not know the beginning. Twenty-first century civilisation has crashed to a catastrophic end – but why? "
More to the point, will this one make Beth's dystopia course?
(I'm #63 in the queue for this at the library. Fortunately, many many copies are on order)
Lie With Me by Philippe Besson reviewed by Tessa Hadley
"Besson has sometimes drawn on the lives of real individuals – Arthur Rimbaud, Marcel Proust, James Dean – for his novels, and he’s apparently made this one out of his own adolescent love story. Lie With Me is set in the same small town in south-western France where he grew up, and is dedicated to a Thomas Andrieu who died in 2016, just as the character Thomas Andrieu does in the novel. The narrator is Philippe Besson, a successful writer living in Paris, remembering his adolescence. Of course we can’t be sure, finally, how much of the story is invented – and perhaps it doesn’t matter."
This is not a positive review! Although, translated by Molly Ringwald...
The Catholic School by Edoardo Albinati reviewed by Anthony Cummins
"...resembles a true crime novel as told by Karl Ove Knausgaard. “What can explain the fact that yesterday I spent at least an hour online searching for photos of a skinny Belgian model with big tits? Why does sexual freedom so closely resemble slavery?”
900 pages long!
The Institute by Stephen King reviewed by Nina Allan
"The bulk of the novel’s action takes place in the titular Institute, a top-secret facility run by shady operatives whose task is to protect humanity’s future by predicting vectors of conflict before they materialise. So far, so Philip K Dick...."
Even previews of It 2 are freaking me out, so no.
Your Duck Is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg reviewed by Anthony Cummins
"characters tend to be haunted by the past, scathing about the present and fearful of the future. One narrator recalls discovering the murder of her relatives in the Holocaust; someone else says the US today is “really, truly finished”. “It’s not so hard to figure out why I’m not sleeping,” an insomniac tells her doctor, refusing pills: “What I can’t figure out is why everybody else is sleeping.” “Everybody else is sleeping because everybody else is taking pills,” the doctor says."
Well, torn on this one. It's an enormous brick of a book, but the review makes me rethink whether I should just bite the bullet and read it on kindle.
After Sept, though.
The Fate of Fausto
Small in the city
Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street: a collection of recipes to share
I want to buy this book as a gift.
Possibly to myself though.
I never got into using TLAs 1) because they're too confusing and I never know what they mean anyway and 2) a few years ago I was in a community production in Sydney and someone used 'LOL' for something. I do kind of know what it means but the younger folks said 'Oh - not the rude version' and I've never had the inclination to find out what that is. :0)
Funny story about three letter acronyms, which Singapore officialdom seems to love. Shortly after I got married and moved to Singapore, my mum and aunt visited. One day they went out shopping and hailed a taxi to come back. So they gave the address and the taxi driver said 'City?' 'No,' they replied because the city was in the opposite direction but finally, with the language barrier, they decided okay, whatever as long as they got back. We worked out later that he must have been saying 'CTE' which stands for 'Central Expressway'
>158 BLBera: Arent the picture books beautiful? The Jeffers review suggested it might be more skewed to the adults than the kids this time (but I'm not complaining).
>159 EBT1002: I agree. Picture books are lovely.
>160 banjo123: Can post it to you if you like, Rhonda. (Would add the Frankisstein, but it's a digital preview).
I'm glad you're enjoying a clear, warm summer. Everyone who I know who has read Insurrecto has raved about it, so if you happen across a copy, it might be worth adding to your tbr pile.
I'm not sure I'd go as far as 'clear, warm' - but bits have been nice :-)
Thanks for the recommendation, too. (ETA: it's a Fitzcarraldo boring blue cover here. Boo!)
This one was interesting - a translation from a French collection of linked short stories (although the intro says they have been pruned back a bit, so this is still very much a short book). Some are very short - just a few pages. All are told from the perspectives of different people, some recounting similar experiences or shared places. There were some nice quotes about reading, but other than that it really didn't gel with me.
I read in the bath, stretched out, luxuriating, late in the evening. Interminable baths and books with lots of foam, steam, fizzing, tension and darkness. Very hot baths and icy books; softly lit bahts with scented candles all around, and dark, nauseaiting books. Sad, turbid stories told with violence and precision. Perfumed water, warm and comfortable.
Not my favourite of the Pereine ones so far, but like all of them has the advantage that they only take a few hours to read.
(No one examine the timeline of this decision too closely).
Mind you, I can't comment, I am currently reading a shiny new book purchase...
"I would not have thought one so young could sound so weary," Ziegler said. "Instead of seeking an answer to that question, perhaps you ought to be the answer that you prefer."
From The Art of Dying
And also parliamentary democracy. *
The Art of Dying
*But primarily biscuits.
The Art of Dying
From the blurb: "Edinburgh 1848. There's a fine line between kill and cure."
This is the sequel to the equally atmospheric The Way of All Flesh and as it's a new series I had no choice but to read them in order. *Our two investigators are reunited in Edinburgh again, but not before Raven's adventures in Berlin provide a breathtaking opening to the story. In the last book he was a trainee medic, broke, cold and often in trouble with dubious types. Not much has changed (he now has a warm coat).
The book is written by a crime writer and a medic turned historian, and benefits from both. On one hand grisly details of Victorian Edinburgh, from the hospitals to the chloroform experiments to the wynds (narrow walkways between tenements) full of detritus of various kinds, none of them smelling good. On the other the medical details of weird remnants of mystical beliefs and doctors who acknowledged they knew little but were criticised for too much (any?) experimentation at risk of their jobs. James Simpson, credited with the discovery of chloroform (in history, too) and larger than life figure dispensing his time to all who needed it often without charge, makes for wonderful reading. It's a tribute to the authors that the mystery (invented) is still as gripping.
Of the two main characters I love the picture of Sarah, gradually discovering for herself (with help from reading - including borrowing a copy of the Vindication, as well as Mary Clark, who I'd not heard of) more learning and more possibilities.
*A Good thing, she hastens to add.
"Where is this place?"
"Off the West Port. A building in Warnock's Close. In truth I am afraid to go there. It is a notorious part of the Old Town."
Is there any other kind? Raven thought.
When Diodorus Siculus visited Egypt in the first century BCE, he saw engraved on the entrance to the ruins of an ancient library as an inscription: "Clinic of the Soul."Lovely short book full of reflections on Manguel's lifetime of reading, from reading to Borges to directing the National Library of Argentina. Highly recommended to anyone who likes books about books.
The only proven method by which a reader is born is one that, to my knowledge has not been discovered....The discovery of the art of reading is intimate, obscure, secret, almost impossible to explain...
I've read this before. I've even reviewed it (briefly). I didn't realise I had done until I got half way through and clicked that I knew what was going to happen (thought I had just started it and given up).
This is part of a project travelling around the coast of Africa from the West to Europe, with a rotating cast of photographers, writers and other creatives. Included are photos taken during the journey. It felt a bit slight to me, perhaps because I never really felt comfortable with the format: I have really enjoyed Teju Cole's books where he writes about walking through Lagos and New York and Berlin and brings through his own biography and the history of the place. But here we have many cities, and not much sense of them beyond the author's persona, with personal links across the country due to a peripatetic Nigerian childhood, but little added in Mauritanis or Chad beyond disturbing group encounters with local authorities. So a mixed success.
"Like all north Atlantic communities, Britain has depended for millennia on wool as a source of warmth and wealth, and Esther Rutter follows this thread by travelling around the sheepier parts of Britain..."
I love the phrase the "sheepier" parts of Britain!
"...retelling of the East India Company’s “relentless rise” from provincial trading company to the pre-eminent military and political power in all of India. The company’s transition from trade to conquest has preoccupied historians ever since Edmund Burke famously attacked it as a “state in the disguise of a merchant”. Building on foundational research by CA Bayly, KN Chaudhuri and PJ Marshall among others, a new cohort of scholars writing in the wake of the financial crisis (Emily Erikson, Rupali Mishra, Philip Stern, James Vaughn) have studied the company as a forerunner of modern multinationals, intertwined with the modern state and “too big to fail”."
"There’s nothing wrong with his analysis of global corruption, and of the trillion dollars stolen annually in the developing world and elsewhere, and hidden in offshore accounts, often by western fixers. The problem is, Lebedev says nothing about Putin, the person who sits at the top of Russia’s mafia state. Lebedev understands perfectly the rules of the game, as played by Russia’s elite. Yes, you can call out rotten bankers and officials. No, you can’t suggest Russia’s president bears any systemic responsibility. "
Grim reading, anyone?
"...psychologically incisive biography does a superb job of charting Sontag’s self-invention, as the gawky swot from the arid American west metamorphoses into the lofty arbiter of New York taste. "
Lots more here... https://www.theguardian.com/books
I'm trying to practice 'delayed gratification' with the new biographies of Susan Sontag, and Lucian Freud, and waiting until they come out in paperback, as they are both chunksters, and my arm is suffering when I read big hardbacks.
>185 rosalita: Julia, I have successfully avoided reading about Puting for Some Time!
>186 mdoris: No idea, but that sounds like a big question. Having watched endless episodes of Countryfile (beautiful landscape/ farming / gentle Sunday tv watching) farmers get very little for the fleece so there is little or no encouragement to focus on it.
>187 Caroline_McElwee: That sounds very admirable, Caroline. I want to read the Sontag, even if the reviewer is a bit snotty about comparing her to the "greats". Always a bit suspicious of people defending a supposed canon.
This won a Pen award. My friend picked it up and said "this wasn't written in English, was it!". I can't really articulate why, but I do agree with her, it felt like the translation had deliberately kept the style of the original. There's quite a claustrophobic atmosphere: the protagonist is an artist, mostly working alone. She rents out a flat added on to her house to a Polish family. At the same time she is commissioned to do some political work celebrating the anniversary of the Norwegian constitution. On one hand she is researching the history of a local woman who was forced to marry many years before, and in her own life the Polish husband is arrested in a domestic dispute. The book juxtaposes her thoughts on political freedoms and tolerance with her boyfriend's lack of understanding that she works independently and to her own schedule, and with her problems with her tenants. Interesting ideas, especially in her description of the artistic process - I wasn't quite sold completely.
>178 charl08: I should probably also read this, having grown up in a country where there were 20 times as many sheep as people. (There aren't any more, but it was a matter of almost national pride when I was a kid).
Sheep pride! I am always on the lookout for cute sheep accessories: my auntie loves them.
Feeling sub par after a rather indulgent weekend celebrating a friend's imminent wedding. I chickened out of the 30 m zip wire trail, but has fun in a locked room challenge based on a gin distillery theme. ETA oh yes, the reading: A Revolution of Feeling.
THE STIR WAS made by two friars of Gloucester. One drove a cart and the other banged a drum. The priest came to fight them, for none but he had the right to shrive the folk of Outen Green, and he’d rather die than see Christ’s love sold cheap, or for a halfpenny less than he sold it, anywise.
Obviously, it is back up today.
Reminded of Orwell and, more recently, the surveillance state of We have been Harmonised.
The government took my identity away from me and destroyed it. They mutilated me and turned everyone against me - my family, my friends, my neighbours, the entire country. They ground me into the dust. And now even they can no longer recognise me because they destroyed every bit of me.
The children, from Surrey Square primary school, were being interviewed for a new report into representation of people of colour, which reveals that in 2018 only 4% of children’s books published in the UK in 2019 had a minority ethnic hero. The survey included all new books for children aged between three and 11. The proportion is an increase on 2017, when just 1% of main characters were BAME."
This is pretty rubbish. I tried to buy books for kids over the past year featuring characters that looked a bit more like them, and struggled, so am surprised there are this many, tbh.
>204 Helenliz: Yup, me too. There was some interesting stuff around how some publishers had apparently tried to game the system to claim they had improved their stats. Yuk.
>207 banjo123: Is that new books or all those in shops? Because I think if it's just new ones, and if the shops are like they are here, not all the new books make it to the shelves.
>208 BLBera: I think another thing is how many have girls/ females as the lead. Even the animal books apparently are poor at this. Which I am ashamed to say I didn't realise until someone pointed it out. And yes, hurrah for bookshops where someone is consciously curating the stock, not just putting out the big sellers.
Now reading Crow Lake, which I found on a sales table in a book stall today. I'm sure someone on LT recommended it.
On the other hand, the few books that are available now have better content. In my early youth the only books where colored people appeared were colonial mission books, where the poor black and yellow children were happely converted to chistianity by superior whites...
Taduno's Song a pared down story of a man forced to choose between saving his girlfriend from the whims of a dictator or sticking to his principles. Reminded me of Waiting for an Angel, which is a good thing.
Crow Lake I picked up in a book sale in Grasmere, and it was just as wonderful as the LT recommenders suggested. A lovely bildungsroman about a rural family dealing with a terrible situation in a tightly knit, isolated community. Beautifully written and made me care deeply about the characters.
I was at an annual book fair today and Penguin Publishers had a booth. It was very cute and I took some pics, of course, but to be honest, I have no idea if they turned out as, when out in the bright sun, it is literally impossible to see what you are photographing on a phone. I will be able to check later and if they came out as I hoped, I will post on my thread.
And a book fair! You've had a great weekend, it sounds like.
>217 weird_O: That's a fun video, Bill. Thanks for sharing it!
>218 jessibud2: Sounds like fun! Hope your pictures turned out.
>219 BLBera: It was quite a small sale, but I was so pleased to see Crow Lake, a book I've wanted to read for ages. I didn't manage to get to the bookshops in either Grasmere or Ambleside (which I wanted to, the Ambleside one is lovely, and I've never been to the Grasmere one) but hopefully gives me an excuse to head back soon!
Looks like you have been up to some travelling and lots of reading. I envy you your read of the second Ambrose Parry. I really enjoyed the first book and am eagerly waiting for it to come out here. Nothing at all at the library yet and the only thing at Chapters is an e-book. (No end papers there.)
Waiting on the library reservation shelf
The ministry of truth : a biography of George Orwell
How to be an antiracist
Kendi, Ibram X.
A crisis of brilliance; five young British artists...
Haycock, David Boyd
Rebel writers : the accidental feminists
The work of the dead : a cultural history of mortal remains
Before the deluge : a portrait of Berlin in the 1920's
Dancing bears : true stories about longing for the old days
Ottoman odyssey : travels through a lost empire
Stamped from the beginning : the definitive history of racist ideas in America (recommended by Dr Neutron)
The greatest traitor : the secret lives of Agent George Blake
The brief life of flowers
The testaments (now reading: going to the encore view of Atwood's launch talk at the cinema)
The night tiger
You will be safe here
An orchestra of minorities
Things in jars
A perfect explanation
Women who blow on knots
The adult female body was one big booby trap as far as I could tell. If there was a hole, something was bound to be shoved in it and something else was bound to come out, and that went for any kind of hole: a hole in a wall, a hole in a mountain, a hole in the ground. There were so many things that could be done to it or go wrong with it, this adult female body...
"No one becomes a racist or antiracist. We can only strive to be one or the other.... Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires permanent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.
This was every bit as brilliant as I hoped. I avoided the reviews, I'm so glad I did as I had no idea what was coming.
I'm still a bit bemused by To Calais in Ordinary Time: it mixes up voices, including one in a version of early English that takes a bit of getting used to. Alongside that, the elite voice of an accompanying educated cleric. I love the dark humour though.
HAYNE’S ARCHERS, HE said, were part of a cohort assigned to cause destruction in Mantes, some days prior to the confrontation at Crécy between the French and English crowns. The labour, primarily incendiary in nature, was retarded by the city’s lapidary construction, by inter-military discord on the part of the English, and by the French merchants, who positioned containers of wine on the perimeters of their property in the often-realised expectation that the crapulous English would intoxicate themselves till they were incapable of doing further damage.
"Writing the biography called for stamina too. In addition to reading Sontag’s published and unpublished writings, Moser travelled from Hawaii to Sarajevo to interview hundreds of her friends, family, admirers and detractors. He spent months in the archives she sold to UCLA for $1.1 million in January 2002, containing nearly a hundred notebook diaries, photographs, hotel bills, opera programmes and love letters. The archive also included a new biographical category, Sontag’s 17,198 emails. In an essay published in the New Yorker in 2014, Moser confessed that he had feelings of “creepiness and voyeurism” while reading these intimate, impromptu texts. Was it fair to judge anyone by such casual fragments? “A biography is not a life but a life story”, he concluded. “A biographer … knows that whatever he can tell about the subject is only a small selection that fits a narrative chosen according to his own tastes and interests.”"
"The story is narrated by Bergljot, who was sexually abused by her father as a child. Having been long estranged from her parents, and her sisters who sided with them, Bergljot is drawn back into a family argument over inheritance, and specifically who gets a pair of holiday cabins. The real-life media furore stemmed from the fact that Hjorth drew on her own family history, even prompting a rebuttal – in the form of another novel – by her sister Helga Hjorth. But Vigdis Hjorth has also insisted Will and Testament is fiction, and indeed it bears the subtitle “A Novel” on the cover."
Intriguing context, but not sure.
"Readers of Burton’s fiction may notice the continuation of a theme, as The Muse similarly began with a young woman being employed as a typist by an inscrutable female art historian. It’s perhaps also worth noting that Burton herself worked as a PA in the City before the publication in 2014 of her million-selling debut, The Miniaturist, so has first-hand experience of supporting herself in a menial role while quietly composing a piece of art."
"Matthews also happens to be a black cop for whom black lives matter, grappling with the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and marvelling daily “with befuddled anger at what a handful of scared white people could do to a nation”. "
Waiting for this to come from the library.
Spent another day in York, this time with some opportunity to explore properly.
Ye olde Harry Potter Shop... (one of 3!)
Thanks for the book reviews. The Attica Locke is on its way to me at the library, and I've seen so much publicity for the new Philip Pullman that I'm wondering whether I should give His Dark Materials another go.
>247 charl08: I love the description of a PA in the City as a "menial" job. Only at the Guardian :-)
>257 susanj67: Apparently Warner Bros based Diagon alley on the Shambles, which explains the proliferation there a bit. Most of the city centre was narrow, but not as narrow as that.
It was a lovely place to shop, loads of independent places, plus the chains, a food market, five bookshops (that I came across), of which three were independent and plenty of food and drink options. And so much history. Every corner seemed to have a sign up explaining that the building date back many 100s of years. One was the home of the Council of the North (now the centre for the University's medieval history dept, pleasingly) - given that they were bombed in WW2 (that was on a plaque too) amazing that it survived. Somehow they seemed to have avoided the rush to pull things down postwar and put up 60s boxes (my town centre dates back to a market in 11 something, but there are only a few buildings left that are more than fifty years old).
I think Hickling is the Guardian's token unreconstructed male.