psutto's 101010 challenge list

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psutto's 101010 challenge list

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Oct 13, 2009, 8:48 am

sooo its been quite difficult to decide on the categories, my first thought was to choose 10 authors and read 10 works by each one but thought that would just probably restrict me to 10 authors for the year & 100 books (and being new to LT I have no idea on how many books I read per year but reckon its less than 100 usually) and therefore decided to play about with the categories a bit more. By "pieces of writing" in my categories I mean - short story, essay, journal, audio book, poems etc as long as its from a published author... therefore it's slightly more achievable (I hope!) - I'm not planning that far ahead so will add the books to the categories as I go along....

so my categories are:

Top 10 = 10 books from any top 10 lists
10 from 10 = 10 pieces of writing from 10 different authors
10 years = 10 books written between 2000 and 2010
10 times 10 = 10 pieces of writing from the last 100 years
10 minus 1 = 9 Lives (9 biographies)
10th month = 10 pieces of horror writing
10 to 10 = 10 recommendations from 10 friends
10 down to 1 and blast off = 10 pieces of writing about space travel
10 commandments = 10 books from the 1001 books to read before you die
10 feet = 10 pieces of travel writing

Oct 13, 2009, 9:01 am

I like your categories and your titles, particularly '10 Commandments'!

Are you going to start right away or will you wait for January 1 and do it in a calendar year?

Oct 13, 2009, 9:04 am


I thought I'd take 10 months and 10 days and finish on 10/10/2010 :-)

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 9:59 am

so 10 commandments will be (in no discernable order and just because these are all in the library (I have 8 from the list) and TBR):

1 - Heart of Darkness - Conrad - READ
2 - The picture of Dorian Gray - Wilde - READ
3 - The strange case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde -Stevenson - READ
4 - all quiet on the western front erich remarque - READ
5 - cloud atlas - david mitchell - READ
6 - kitchen - banana yoshimoto - READ
7 - the long goodbye - Raymond Chandler - READ
8 - Oroonoko - Aphra Benn - READ
9 - the fall of the house of usher edgar allan poe - READ
10 - Dirk Gently's holistic detective agency - Douglas Adams (Audio book) - "READ"

Oct 14, 2009, 2:19 am

I just read The Picture of Dorian Gray for the first time a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it thoroughly and immediately read one of Wilde's short story collections. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Oct 14, 2009, 4:38 am

5 - yep hope so, its been in the TBR pile for some time....

Oct 14, 2009, 8:54 am

A couple of us are doing a read of The Picture of Dorian Gray the first week in January, would you like to join us?

Oct 14, 2009, 12:17 pm

7 seems like a good idea - you set up a group?

Oct 14, 2009, 12:32 pm

We'll setup a group, probably the end of December but just so we don't lose you, check in at the tandem thread ( and indicate that you are in for the Dorian Gray read. Glad you decided to join us.

Edited: Dec 7, 2010, 10:43 am

Top 10 = 10 books from any top 10 lists

1.The road Cormac McCarthy (Top 10 bestselling books of 2006) - READ
2.big machine Victor Lavalle (top 10 publisher's weekly book of the year) - READ
3. the wild swans - (Ali Shaw’s top 10 transformation stories – The Guardian) - READ
4. rashomon - Ryunosuke Akutagawa – (Julith Jedamus's top 10 Japanese novels – The Guardian) - READ
5. The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson (Carlos Ruiz Zafón's top 10 20th-century gothic novels – The Guardian) - READ
6. the Tiger's bride - Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber) (Ali Shaw’s top 10 transformation stories – The Guardian) - READ
7. The metamorphosis – Franz Kafka (Ali Shaw’s top 10 transformation stories – The Guardian) - READ
8. the makioka sisters - Tanizaki Jun'ichirō. - 10 greatest books of the 20th century David Mitchell, Daily Express (I assume that its David Mitchell the comedian and not David Mitchell the author??) - READ
9. the tell-tale heart - Edgar Allan Poe - Kate Mosse's top 10 ghost stories - READ
10. the garden of forking paths - Jorge Luis Borges - Charles Yu's top 10 time travel books - READ

Edited: May 24, 2010, 10:15 am

10 from 10 = 10 pieces of writing from 10 different authors

1. the canal Daniel Morris - READ
2. sewer, gas and electric - Matt Ruff - READ
3. the prisoner of zenda - Anthony Hope - READ
4. explorers of the new century - Magnus Mills - READ
5. In the miso soup Ryu Murakami - READ
6. The handmaid's tale Margeret Atwood - READ
7. If on a winter's night a traveller Italo Calvino - READ
8. voice of the fire Alan Moore - READ
9. the 13 1/2 lives of captain bluebear - Walter Moer - READ
10. the death of bunny munro audio with music - Nick Cave - READ

Edited: Aug 24, 2010, 7:50 am

10 years = 10 books written between 2000 and 2010

1. city of saints and madmen jeff vandermeer - READ
2. shriek: an afterword jeff vandermeer - READ
3. finch jeff vandermeer - READ
4. The sad tale of the brothers Grossbart Jesse Bullington - READ
5. Kraken - China Mieville - READ
6. how not to grow up - Richard Herring -READ
7. volapuk - Andrew Drummond - READ
8. severance package - Duane Swierczynski - READ
9.maintenance of headway - magnus mills - READ
10.make love! the bruce campbell way - Bruce Campbell - READ

Edited: Sep 13, 2010, 5:33 am

10 times 10 = 10 pieces of writing from the last 100 years

1. fool on the hill matt ruff - READ
2. embers Sándor Márai - READ
3. restraint of beasts - magnus mills - READ
4. we have always lived in the castle - Shirley Jackson- READ
5. Requiem for a wren -Nevil Shute- READ
6. Brodies Report Jorge Luis Borges - READ
7. the worst journey in the world - Cherry-Garrard - READ
8. boxer beetle - ned beauman - READ
9. Sumo -Lyall Watson - READ
10. water planet - Lyall Watson - READ

Edited: Dec 10, 2010, 8:08 am

10 minus 1 = 9 Lives (9 biographies)

1.extreme measures: the dark visions and bright ideas of francis galton - READ
2.wish you were here: the official biography of Douglas Adams - READ
3.the pantomine life of Joseph Grimaldi - andrew mcconnell stott - READ
4.newton and the counterfeiter -Thomas Levinson - READ
5.A path of dreams sherry renmu shepherd phd - READ
6. zarafa - Michael Allin - READ
7. prison diary:Argentina - Simon Winchester - READ family and other animals Gerald Durrell - READ
9. I, Unfortunately, am Borges - Allen B. Ruch - READ

Edited: Oct 4, 2010, 9:19 am

10th month = 10 pieces of horror writing

1. Suffer the Children Sara Jayne Townsend - READ
2.The skin and bone music box - Andy P Jones - Read by dawn - READ
3. And then... - Kim Sabinan - Read by dawn - READ
4. The proposal - Charles Colyott - Read by dawn - READ
5. The outsider - H.P.Lovecraft - haunter of the dark - READ
6. The Witch's headstone - Neil Gaiman - dark alchemy - READ
7. a fowl tale - Eoin Colfer - dark alchemy - READ
8. subway - Joyce Carol Oates - the dark: new ghost stories - READ
9. velocity - kathe koja - the dark: new ghost stories - READ
10. the dead ghost - gahan wilson - the dark: new ghost stories -READ

Edited: Nov 16, 2010, 8:03 am

10 to 10 = 10 recommendations from 10 friends

1. The Mind Gym - gave up - no review!
2. atheist's guide to christmas - various -READ
3. Tender morsels -margo lanagan - READ
4. the drivers seat - muriel spark - READ
5. number 9 dream - david mitchell - READ
6. in praise of shadows - Tanizaki - READ
7. the art of travel - De Botton - READ
8. unbeaten tracks - Isabella Bird - READ
9. the face of another Kobo Abe - READ
10. hiroshima - John Hersey - READ

Edited: Sep 24, 2010, 4:55 pm

10 down to 1 and blast off = 10 pieces of writing about space travel

1. The End – Frederic Brown from the ashes - READ
2. Down down down (short story in purnell's book of adventures in space) - Fred Baker - READ
3. gateway - frederick pohl - tried several times to read this and never got very far - given up, no review!
4. future bristol colin harvey -READ
5. The first time machine – Frederic Brown from the ashes - READ
6. Experiment – Frederic Brown from the ashes - READ
7. Naturally – Frederic Brown from the ashes - READ
8. The monsters – Malcolm Hulke – adventures in space - READ
9. The bad pilot – Fred Baker – adventures in space - READ
10. In Paradise – Bruce Stirling – Year’s best SF 8 - READ

Edited: Sep 2, 2010, 10:31 am

10 feet = 10 pieces of travel writing

1.Travels with Charley Steinbeck - READ
2.secret underground bristol (well its sort of travel) - READ
3.rings of saturn Sebald - READ
4.palestinian walks raja shehadeh - READ I walked out one midsummer's morning Laurie Lee - READ
6. medical london city of diseases, city of cures richard barnett - READ
7. the travels of reverend olafur egilsson olafur egilsson - READ
8. last chance to see douglas adams (reading from the book) - READ
9. last chance to see mark carwardine - READ
10. the lost city of z david grann - READ

Edited: Feb 2, 2010, 4:27 am

as well the lives above I'm thinking of maybe the following (although one may have to sneak into another category - maybe not, I've not actually bought any of these yet!) -

isambard kingdom brunel
wizard:life and times of Nikola Tesla
degrees kelvin
lady jane grey: a tudor mystery
cary grant:a biography
nye bevan and the mirage of british socialism
herzog on herzog
isaac newton

Dec 10, 2009, 4:05 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Dec 10, 2009, 4:06 am

started city of saints and madmen beginning of December....

Dec 10, 2009, 7:39 am

Good luck with the challenge, you are going to get an unfair adavantage starting this early, not that we are competing! :)

Edited: Dec 22, 2009, 11:27 am

City of Saints & Madmen jeff Vandermeer

4.5 out of 5

"New Wierd" collection of stories about the fictional city of Ambergris

This is an uneven collection of novellas, short stories and other literary ephemera such as faux encyclopaedia entries, letters etc.
Whilst the standalone stories are all good (some are very good) the book works best when considered as a whole.
Vandermeer is obviously influenced by Borges & Nabakov and runs with ideas such as telling a story in footnotes that's very entertaining. The accretion of ideas and ever growing number of references build and build so that when you finish you are fully immersed in the city of Ambergris.

Overall a real gem of a book

Dec 22, 2009, 11:26 am

Shriek:An afterword Jeff Vandermeer

4.5 out of 5

An Afterword to a story in city of saints and madmen written by a minor character in the same book

This is effectively the family history of a brother and sister - Duncan and Janice Shriek using the fantastic city of Ambergris as its backdrop.
Ever inventive Vandermeer uses a literary form I've not really come across before sustained for the whole novel. One character narrates the main text and another comments on that narration, the two voices being very different.
This works effectively and the two narrators build a story of some very tumultuous years in the history of the city of Ambergris.
Having read this straight after city of saints & madmen it really made a difference & the book was much more enjoyable with the stories of the first book fresh in my mind.

Overall a gripping story told in two perspectives

Dec 22, 2009, 11:27 am

hmmm for some reason the touchstone isn't working in that first review...

Dec 22, 2009, 11:41 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Dec 27, 2009, 4:38 pm

Great reviews! I utterly adore VanderMeer's Ambergris books, and HERE on your thread is the first place I see that Finch is released (I'm in Stockholm/Sweden, and even though we have a really good fantasy/sci-fo bookstore here, thety must not have got it in before christmas). Yay! I'm salivating. Have no idea how, but I'm going to have to find a way of cramming Finch into my 1010. (Veniss Underground is on my list already)

Starring your thread!

Dec 29, 2009, 4:47 am

27 - thanks - first try at doing reviews...

veniss underground is cool, am going to post a review of finch soon - have just finished it

Dec 29, 2009, 4:51 am

wish I'd done a 1010 category - 10 books I got for Xmas... still it'll be fun trying to think of which category each of the books I got fit which category...

Jan 6, 2010, 12:18 pm

finch jeff vandermeer

4.5 out of 5

Brilliant conclusion(?) to the Ambergris novels. Following on from city of saints & madmen and shriek:an afterword I went straight on to read the latest (which I ordered from the states) in the series which didn't disappoint. An excellent addition to the Ambergris cycle and in yet another style - a noir, spy-thriller war story. It tells the story of Finch, a detective in occupied Ambergris whilst he investigates an odd murder/mystery.

Overall - very enjoyable addition to the Ambergris family

Edited: Jan 6, 2010, 12:33 pm

wish you were here - the official biography of douglas adams

3.5 out of 5

Nick Webb is billed as being the man who commissioned a hitchiker's guide to the galaxy for Pan and was a good friend of Douglas Adams. His book has some good insights into what sort of person Douglas was but not much over and above what I felt I already knew from being a fan. The many references to Don't Panic by Neil Gaiman were slightly annoying - I have the book, and I have read it many years ago but felt that in order to get the full story I had to go and re-read it, which I haven't, as yet, done.

It has made me want to re-read my favourite Adams books - long dark teatime of the soul, dirk gently and last chance to see - although I may do the audio books instead as part of my 101010 and since I got the updated last chance with Stephen Fry for Xmas that serves as a good introduction I think.

last chance original radio series has been put onto the following website -
well worth a listen

Overall - OK, but not brilliant, biography

Edited: Jan 18, 2010, 11:09 am

the picture of Dorian Grey Oscar Wilde

3.5 out of 5

camp classic about art, beauty and sin

An enjoyable read with the well known interesting premise of the fact that Dorian Grey doesn't display signs of aging but the picture he hides in his attic does. Wilde's use of language is very quotable and I like that no-one just sat in the book instead they threw or flung themselves onto seats. The book has aged well and is still very readable even though its over 100 years old.

Overall A fairly good camply gothic horror

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:03 am

sewer, gas & electric Matt Ruff

4 out of 5

hard to summarise - its a book about capitalism, sharks living in the sewers of future manhatten, eco-terrorism from a polka-dot submarine using slapstick, a "dialogue" with Ayn Rand about her philosophy and the book atlas shrugged and much much more

Mark Ruff is a non-prolific author of some really excellent books, I read bad monkeys first (published in 2008) and have slowly accumulated all 3 of the other books he's written since 1988 and have been reading them in backwards order, Fool on the hill is also going on my 101010 list. The public works trilogy (in the one book) is an anarchic, fast paced, old style SF ride (i.e. concentrating on the fiction not the science) through the sewers and mile-high high-rises in a near future manhatten. In no way is the book to be taken seriously although it includes a dig at rampant capitalism and the environment going down the pan. Its a bit uneven, seems to have a bit of a tone change 2 thirds of the way through and there are some clunky bits but its still a lot of fun.

Overall stuffed full of great ideas and fun plot

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:05 am

the road cormac mccarthy

5 out of 5

gripping stark post-apocalyptic dystopian horror

As the film came out recently and the road being on my wish list for so long I bit the bullet and read it prior to going to see the film. I found the sparse dialogue of the book and the simple sentance structure underlined the horror. It ranks as one of the most depressing books I've read (now joining Nevil Shute's on the beach and Orwell's 1984 in my list of incredibly depressing books) but you shouldn't let that put you off. There were elements of the woman in the dunes with instead of sand an all pervasive ash. I read it in one sitting (its about 300 pages long but an "easy" read) because I couldn't put it down. And the film? well it downplayed the horror, there was less a sense of a dead world and people stubbornly clinging to life without hope and therefore it was a bit disappointing.

Overall - Its haunting me, still thinking about it many days later

Jan 22, 2010, 5:58 am

last chance to see douglas adams and mark cawardine

5 out of 5

I listened to Douglas Adams reading from the book on the BBC website (as well as the entire first radio series) -

In life Douglas Adams referred to last chance to see as the runt of the litter of his books and also the favourite book he'd written. It had a profound effect on me when I was given it as a present in the early 90's and was probably one of the factors (certainly not the only one though) that led to me going back to university and to study environmental science. As I mention above I was given the Stephen Fry & Mark Cawardine book of the TV series for Christmas and wanted to remind myself of the original before starting the update. The original premise (for the radio series and therefore the book of the series) was to pair a zoologist - Mark Cawardine with an author - Douglas Adams to create a travelogue of trying to find species on the brink of extinction. Each of the episodes of the series concentrated on different creatures - the Aye aye, the Komodo Dragon etc but as well as describing the creature it was also an amusing account of travel to the remote places they had to go to to find them. I loved the book and am grateful to the BBC for putting up the original radio series which I missed first time round, Its really worth a listen. I now look forward to getting an update via Stephen Fry on whether it really was the last chance to see the creatures from the original series.

Overall - An excellent travelogue/nature programme/wildlife appeal of a book

Jan 22, 2010, 10:40 am

It's welcome to see another positive review of The Road as I also have it lined up for this year's challenge. The bleakness of the story has so far put me off from actually reading it before now but I know I'll get to it sometime this year.

Jan 28, 2010, 9:11 am

36 - yep a very worthwhile read - the film's not so good though!

Jan 28, 2010, 9:15 am

the atheist's guide to christmas isn't really a recommendation but it was a present for Christmas so i reckon it fits bets in this category...

Edited: Jan 28, 2010, 10:23 am

secret underground bristol

3.5 out of 5

part history, part geography of the Bristol area and its secret underground parts

full of interesting facts and forgotten history , the book is divided into chapters covering caves, mines, sewers, underground rivers etc. It also has visiting details for some of the underground features. My only problems with the book were that it was pretty far ranging covering too many places outside Bristol plus it ' s a bit out of date (I read the 2nd edition). It was also uneven so whilst some parts are thoroughly researched and highly detailed, others are pretty vague.

Overall - fascinating but needs updating

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:06 am

Theres probably no god: an atheists guide to christmas

3 out of 5

A very mixed bag of essays, articles and short stories

Its difficult to give this an overall review as it includes contributions from 42 (yep its a nod to Douglas Adams who is also quoted inside) "celebrities" with all royalties going to the Terrence Higgins Trust. There are some gems in here, some very fun articles and some serious pieces but I was left wondering several times what the various authors brief was. It was obviously something so vague that some of the writers didn't seem to know they were supposed to be writing about Christmas. Also I'm an atheist so I don't really need to be told why atheism is better than religon as I already get it - perhaps these authors thought it would be given as a proselytizing gift to theists?

Overall - hit and miss with slightly more miss than hit

Edited: Feb 1, 2010, 10:23 am

the canal Daniel Morris

4 out of 5

filth versus cleanliness, law versus chaos

I got this as a member giveaway and that’s probably the only reason I perservered past the 2nd chapter. The author's style didn't really settle down until the 3rd or 4th chapter when the writing improves and the plot began to get gripping. Before then the prose can be quite purple with some long adjective heavy sentances. The first chapter is a misdirection, seemingly introducing a normal serial killer story but later you find out the story is much much wierder than that. The pace seemed a little uneven but maybe thats because I read it so slowly (on a laptop, a chapter at a time at lunchtimes when I could). I was not really interested the first few chapters but perservered and was quite gripped in the middle section but again lost interest near the end. I would recommend it though and I think it deserves the 4 I give it as I really enjoyed the central weirdness of the canal (a brooding, threatening presence throughout).

Overall - flawed but very enjoyable, an author to watch

Feb 1, 2010, 10:18 am

As I walked out one midsummer morning Laurie Lee

4 out of 5

1930s travelogue

Laurie Lee (best known for cider with rosie) left home at 19, spent a month walking to London from Gloucestershire to make his living playing violin on the streets. Later, fulfilling his wanderlust, he travels to Spain and spends most of a year walking from town to town playing music for his keep. His memories of 1935 are told by the author in this 1960's book. Laurie Lee was a published poet and his prose is littered with wonderfully poetical turns of phrase which paint 1930’s Spain in the run up to the Spanish civil war as a fantasy country in the authors memory. I really enjoyed it as a nice contrast to George Orwell's down and out in London and Paris and homage to catalonia. Although I guess I will have to read the follow on A moment of war to get the full experience (the author returned to Spain and joined the international brigade in 1937) and so have added that to the wish list.

Overall - Evocative glimpse of a past age

Edited: Feb 22, 2010, 8:09 am

Embers Sándor Márai

4.5 out of 5

Hungarian literature classic recently rediscovered and translated into English

Two men in their 70's meet after 41 years apart. Once inseperable friends , one day one disappeared leaving without explanation. Now the General welcomes his long lost friend in his castle and attempts, over dinner, to discover the truth of why he left so many years ago.
The writing is beautiful and the story although eminently guessable still draws you in and plays out brilliantly. It was originally published in Budapest in the 1940's but the book feels timeless although the two men speak of the 2 great wars. I am now going to see if any of the authors other 20 or so books have been translated.

Overall a gripping tale

Feb 22, 2010, 8:10 am

The prisoner of Zenda Anthony Hope

4 out of 5

A classic of the swashbuckling genre

Englishman Rudolf Rassendyl bears a striking resemblance to the Ruritanian royal family so when a burning curiosity takes him to Ruritania, a corination and a kidnap plot thrusts him into a series of adventures
A little dated but still superbly written this is a very good book and one that I'm surprised has not made it onto the 1000 books to read before you die.

Overall a good example of the boys own adventure style swashbuckler

Feb 22, 2010, 8:12 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:08 am

Palestinian walks Raja Shehadeh

4.5 out of 5

This is almost an anti-travel book as the tagline reads "Notes on a vanishing landscape"

The author is a lawyer and founder of the human rights organisation Al-Haq and this book won the Orwell prize in 2008. It is a love song to his native Palestine and recounts a series of walks he has taken in the hills of his country since the 1970's. It is a sad tale that underscores what the palestinian people have lost since 1967 and the frustration of living with the state of Israel.
The walks or Sarha (The purpose of a sarha is to wander freely and aimlessly, to nourish the soul and rejuvenate) do sound interesting but of course are impossible to follow even if you wished to. It is a very personal account of the last 30 or so years of Palestinian history and one that is no doubt supplemented by his other books (which I've not read but are memoirs of his family & country). He writes mostly with sorrow about the situation rather than anger but the understandable bitterness is certainly there.

Overall - eloquent account of one man's love of his native land

Feb 22, 2010, 8:21 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Feb 22, 2010, 9:26 am

I like the of "Sarha" although I am not sure I could wander aimlessy...

Mar 18, 2010, 4:29 pm

been totally remiss on this thread - have read a couple of books that I need to review but have read a few books that are not 101010 challenge lately...

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:09 am

explorers of the new century Magnus Mills

4.5 out of 5

An adventure tale of the Race to the "Agr e ed Furthest Point " from civilization

This book is quite short but packs quite a punch. The story revolves around two teams of explorers both trying to reach the AFP in a race. Very much echoing the Scott/Admunsen expeditions the two teams of interesting characters are Victorian in outlook, something that is exploited for its comic value. The story is darkly humurous and there is a strange undertone that establishes that all is not what it seems. Very hard to review this book without adding spoilers.

Overall - brilliant pastiche of an exploration/adventure tale with a difference

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:09 am

In the Miso Soup Ryu Murakami

4 out of 5

Japanese serial killer novel

The story follows Kenji an unlicensed tour guide to Tokyo's red light district. He is employed by Frank, an American to guide him around the city over several days up to and including New Years Eve. However there is a serial killer at large and theres something odd about Frank, he does "the face" which is described as extremely frightening and he seems to be a pathological liar.

Its quite a short book and one that seems at heart to be about loneliness however its a very easy and enjoyable read.

Overall - not overly complex but thoroughly enjoyable thriller

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:10 am

All quiet on the western front Erich Maria Remarque

5 out of 5

Devastating account of the first world war

"We watch how time disappears before our eyes in the ashen faces of the dying, we shovel food into ourselves, we run, we throw, we shoot, we kill, we hurl ourselves down, we are weak and dulled, and the only thing that keeps us going is that there are even weaker, even more dulled, even more helpless men than us who look at us wide-eyed, and take us for gods who can sometimes outrun death himself"

"We are like children that have been abandoned and we are as experienced as old men, we are coarse, unhappy and superficial - I think that we are lost"

It is the war to end all wars and Paul Baumer and his entire class at school joins up egged on by a jingoistic schoolteacher. The book is his first person narrative of the horrors and meaninglessness that is endured by a lost generation. Haunting in its language with stark images that stay with you long after reading the book. This is a book that should be read by everyone.

Overall - This is a heartfelt exposure of the horror and disillusionment of war.

Apr 13, 2010, 10:47 pm

I remember reading All Quiet On the Western Front quite a few years ago. It made quite an impression, I still think of it often.

Apr 15, 2010, 5:02 pm

@50-52 Great streak there! I love Magnus Mills, and think Explorers of the new century is one of his best books. Funny and disturbing. And the other two titles are ones I've had my eyes on for some time. Nice to see such positive reviews!

Edited: Apr 20, 2010, 11:51 am

53 yep very haunting book
@54 am going to track down some more Mills once my TBR is a little more under control - also I've been reading books and travelling with work so the reviews kind of got stuck in amber for a bit but yes happy with the good read streak :-)

am almost finished on 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear another couple of late reviews below

Apr 20, 2010, 11:40 am

the handmaid's tale Margeret Atwood

4 out of 5

Interesting dystopian novel

This book is about gender and procreation telling the story of Offred, condemned after a military coup and seperated from husband and child. She is forced, as a proven breeder, to produce a child in forced surrogacy for an infertile older woman. Its set in "the future" and a combination of factors such as radiation, drugs etc have created a mostly infertile race. This produces a semi-religious backlash against promiscuous society and thus the society of Gilead is formed in the former United States.

To me this read like a 1960s tale and was surprised that it was published in the 80s (which produced many dystopian visions).
The narrator is believable to a certain extent, enough to carry the plot anyway, and the society is believable as an alternative world rather than an alternative future. The writing is somewhat non-linear but the plot is told through both diary like recounting and flashbacks. I enjoyed it but found it a little far-fetched with relationships being very false feeling (although perhaps in a despotic totalitarian fundamentalist society they would feel that way) and was occasionally jarred by the protagonists choices which neither felt real nor true to character.

Overall - Requires suspension of disbelief to work as a dark future reflection of some aspects of American culture

Apr 20, 2010, 11:43 am

Voice of the Fire - Alan Moore

4 out of 5

cityography of Northampton

Very long Quote from the author's response to his brother late in the novel to the question "Whats it about"
- "Its about the viral message that the stiff lips of decapitated men still make; the testament of black and spectral dogs written in piss across our bad dreams, its about raising the dead to tell us what they know. It is a bridge, a crossing point, a worn spot in the curtain between our world and the underworld, between the mortar and the myth, fact and fiction, a threadbare gauze no thicker than a page. Its about the powerful glossolalia of witches and their magical revision of the texts we live in. None of this is speakable "

The book itself is 12 monologues set in the area of Northampton with some very common themes running through them. Fire is an obvious one, black dogs (Shagfoals), severed heads, duplicity, murder and faith are others. A multi-layered novel and one that was fascinating and entertaining as well. I loved the historical stories set from 4000BC to 1995 and think that Moore succeeded in not only creating a sense of space, but gave that space a character that existed throughout the book.

I thoroughly recommend this book you get plenty of Alan Moore's trademark storytelling in a very accomplished novel. The first chapter could put you off as it is written from the point of view of a prehistoric boy who in this day and age would be said to have "special needs" and is therefore not only in archaic language but in somewhat child-speak too. However someone has "translated" it into English if you don't want to wade through the difficult to follow language -

Overall - Very poetic book which is a biography to Northampton (but you don't need to go to Northampton to enjoy it!)

Apr 20, 2010, 11:56 am

hmmm haven't read any of my horror or SF category yet...

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:11 am

If on a winters night a traveller Italo Calvino

4 out of 5

Surreal metafiction story of searching for a story

Calvino has created a tale within a tale within a tale in this ingenious book. One where he has written the starting chapters for several books and also a search by the book's protagonist for the real story and the search by the author for the perfect reader. Byzantinely convoluted the book works on several levels and if anything lets it down its just a little too clever for its own good. The premise is that the protagonist buys "If on a Winters night a traveller" only to find that there has been a printing error, he returns the book only to get a very different book in the next copy which then leads him on a search for the true story and another several false starts, wrong translations and the like. The reader is meant to share the pain of the protagonist who wants to carry on reading the original story, or carry on reading each of the stories but some of them are not at all the kind of book I like to read. The first chapters are a mixed bunch with my favourite being about the billionaire who collects kaleidoscopes.

Overall - The story itself is like a kaleidoscope, the story is shaken into a new pattern every few chapters

Apr 21, 2010, 6:49 am

Lost city of Z David Grann

5 out of 5

Riveting true tale of exploration in the Amazon

I devoured this book, not wanting to put it down. It had all the ingredients - mysterious lost cities, intrepid explorers, disasters and suspense and real life adventure. The book tells the tale of 2 obsessive searches - Percy Harrison Fawcett, a legendary English gentlemen explorer, and his search for the lost city of the title and the author's obsessive search for what happened to Fawcett. Fawcett was convinced that there was a lost city in the Amazon jungle and spent almost half his life looking for it. In 1925 Fawcett and his son disappeared into the Amazon never to be heard from again. David Grann intersperses the tale of Fawcett in biographical detail with his own story of researching the story and the two tales intertwine. Meticulously researched and engagingly written this is a brilliant book which manages to stay fresh until the end.

Overall - A must read if your at all interested in exploration, the amazon or fringe archaeology

Apr 27, 2010, 11:35 am

started several books and not as yet finished any of them.

started the Grimaldi book but as it was a large hardback didn't take it travelling with me and finding it hard to motivate myself to pick it up again...

started an e-book which is my chapter at lunchtime read so will be a while before I finish that

started an audio book which I'm listening to in the Gym so will be a while before I finish that

almost finished last chance to see though

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:13 am

the 13 and a half lives of captain bluebear Walter Moers

4.5 out of 5

Fantastical adventure story

This is a large book (700+ pages) but an easy read with plenty of comic book style drawings throughout. The story follows the aptly named Bluebear , since he is both a bear and blue, on his many adventures in the fantasy land of Zamonia (which contains the city of Atlantis). It is a richly imagined land, filled with improbable characters and madcap adventures and I really enjoyed it. The story just zips along for the most part but it does slows down when Bluebear reaches Atlantis : there are several pages of what can only be described as lists of inhabitants and food.

However the book then settles down and the "professional liar" section is gripping. I could go on but don't want to spoil it, needless to say you need to explore Zamonia with the minipirates, the hobgoblins, the spiderwitch, genff and all the rest of it right now.

Overall - Brilliant, ageless fantasy. Look forward to picking up some more of his books.

May 10, 2010, 10:46 am

last chance to see mark carwardine

5 out of 5

This is a "return to last chance to see" really with Stephen Fry standing in for Douglas Adams and a TV series rather than a radio series

Mark Carwardine is an engaging writer and the book is very much in the style of the first one. We catch up with some of the same creatures, the ones that haven't gone extinct in the interim, and find some new ones. The overall message is that things have improved in some areas, mostly in the stable political areas like New Zealand, whilst gone downhill in some others, as in the war torn Decomcratic Republic of Congo.

It brings a stark message - it really was last chance to see for some of the endangered species from the first book and the environmental decline and ecological collapse has accelerated since the first book, not improved at all. Combined with the UN report recently it makes sobering reading. Its not all doom and gloom, the book does tell its dire tale with warmth and its not a rant but the overall message cannot help but be depressing. Lets hope its not prophetic and its not the last chance to see some of the species highlighted by the book.

I have yet to watch the TV programme but will track it down now.

Overall - a very good update of the original

May 10, 2010, 10:55 am

so 5 months to go and books left to read:

8 out of 10 commandments
9 out of top 10
0 out of 10 from 10- apart from the Nick Cave one and almost finished that, another couple of gym visits and I'll be done
6 out of 10 years
8 out of 10 x 10
8 out of 9 lives
10 out of 10th month
7 out of 10 from 10
10 out of 10 down to 1 and blast off
4 from 10 feet

hmmm best get my skates on!

29 read
70 to go


Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:13 am

The Death of Bunny Munro Nick Cave

3 out of 5

Audiobook version with "music" by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - a bit of a disappointment

Had high hopes for this book which were not met. Nick Cave is a good narrator, the music (although not much of it & is mostly effects like the closing of car doors etc) is good (audio books need sound effects I think) and there are some good jokes and scenes. However the central character, no in fact all the characters are unlikable. The plot really doesn't go anywhere, even the promising serial killer sub-plot peters out before the end and I'm just not sure what the point is. However there are some good moments and as I said the narration is very good. Not sure I would have stuck till the end if I were reading it though. So 3 stars but only because of the narration and music - as a book it probably deserves much less.

Overall - for fans only probably

May 26, 2010, 5:01 am

How not to grow up Richard Herring

4 out of 5

Enjoyable coming of middle age book with funny mid-life musings

Richard Herring examines his turning 40 with a year of going slightly off the rails. Fans of his stand up comedy and of his blog - "warming up" will know what to expect. It's an entertaining read but has few laugh out loud moments. Having recently turned 40 myself I found I had no common experiences - probably because I'm not a semi-famous comedian and have "grown up" to some extent (do any of us ever grow up?). Herring starts out by saying that he has made a living out of acting childishly but as he approaches 40 he starts acting even more childishly and spins that out into this book.

Overall - chuckleworthy but not laugh out loud

May 26, 2010, 5:02 am

Restraint of beasts Magnus Mills

4 out of 5

surreal adventure of 3 fencing contractors in Scotland and England

This is Mills first book and to some extent it shows but my what a debut. The book deals with 3 men who put up fences in Scotland and England & is very strange, darkly so. They build high tension (not high tensile) fencing and the book describes 3 of their jobs with frequent trips to the local pub. As with the other Mills book I reviewed explorers of the new century it's very difficult to review. It's less accomplished than explorers but I put this down to it being a first novel and the author trying to find his voice. I thoroughly enjoyed it and now I have two Mills books I have to get the rest

Overall - dark, deadpan, surreal and very good

Edited: May 26, 2010, 5:05 am

Travels with Charley John Steinbeck

5 out 5

American travelogue by the author of of mice and men, east of eden etc.

John Steinbeck decides to get to know his country and fellow countrymen. He wants to travel alone and anonymously so he gets a campervan made for him and takes just his dog Charley on a trip across America. Having been to the Steinbeck museum and saw what he lived in on the road and the map of where he'd been I got a real appreciation for the travelogue. Steinbeck's style is very easy to read and his journey is distilled in a short but packed book. As he travelled in the early 60's Steinbeck saw a dark side to the South where there were some dramatic events involving the civil rights movement. He also discovers that once you have left you can never "go home" (to his native Salinas) without discovering that both you, your old friends and the old town have changed.

Overall - highly recommended travelogue

Edited: May 26, 2010, 5:05 am

fool on the hill Matt Ruff

4.5 out of 5

Highly inventive fantasy story set in an alternative Cornell university

Matt Ruff's first book is brim full of great plot, several great plots wound together in fact. There is the story of S. T. George, a writer (or professional liar as Ruff calls him) along with the story of the sprites who live in the belltower of the university, the story of Luther - a mongrel dog on a quest to find heaven and many more. This may be the books only failing, similar to Sewer, Gas and Electric the book is just too full! This book reminded me of Neil Gaiman's Sandman to some extent - its blend of fantastical with real world and the use of ancient mythology. It also has a large nod to Tolkein (but don't let that put you off!) and American counter-culture.

Overall - deserves to be on everyones TBR pile

May 26, 2010, 5:03 am

finally got round to posting some reviews :-)

still some way to go though! back to the TBR...

May 27, 2010, 4:27 am

67 Always great to meet another Mills-fan! In my humble opinion you have the best yet to come - Three to see the king and All quiet on the orient express are my favourite books by Mills. The scheme for full employment is funny, but lacks that casual dark streak that's so hard to pin down.

Jun 14, 2010, 11:29 am

71 is it really that long since i've logged on to LT???

Thats great news will definitely track them down. Restraint of beasts I spotted in the window of a 2nd hand bookshop and had to buy it, so glad I did.

Jun 14, 2010, 11:30 am

3 more reviews on the way big machine, kraken and the pantomime life of joseph gimaldi

Jun 14, 2010, 4:13 pm

Claire made Big machine sound so great. I can't wait to hear what you think!

Jun 15, 2010, 4:07 am

the pantomime life of joseph grimaldi Andrew Mcconnell Stott

3 out of 5

Biography of Joe Grimaldi - UKs first whiteface clown 1778 – 31 May 1837

This biography sounded interesting and there was probably an interesting story in there somewhere but I got a bit bogged down in trying to keep up with who's who in the theatre world of the 1800s and Grimaldi just didn't come alive for me in this book. Unfortunately after Grimaldi became famous the book seemed to just get dull. I never formed a good impression of what he was like as a person, and lets face it thats what biogrpahies are supposed to do. However I gave it 3 stars as the history of the period was very interesting and London was enthusiastically portrayed in the early chapters which were the most enjoyable and interesting of the book.

Overall - disappointing and dull

Jun 15, 2010, 4:08 am

kraken China Mieville

4.5 out of 5

Squid cults, Londonmancers and an impossible theft that starts an apocalypse

Having a bit of a soft spot for tentacular literature imagine my delight upon finding out that Mieville's latest book was called Kraken & involved squid cults. After the city & the city (which is pure brilliance & should be sought out) Mieville is on more familiar "New Weird" ground with this book. It takes the "hidden London" with lots of bizarre cults, happenings and organisations and does it much better than anyone apart from maybe Neil Gaiman (the bad guys Goss and Subby are very Croup and Vandemar, which must be deliberate).

Overall - Brilliant Squiddy fun

Jun 15, 2010, 4:09 am

Big Machine

5 out of 5 Victor Lavalle

Excellent mystery fiction

I knew nothing about this book when I picked it up, I never even read the blurb on the back. It's a hard to categorise book and one that may be better approached from a point of ignorance. Certainly information is eked out throughout the book as you slowly find out about the character's pasts and the underlying mystery of their present employment by the Washburn library. Its a strange journey which can sometimes be dark and sometimes funny but is always interesting. Lavalles short story collection and his other book the ecstatic have immediately gone onto my wishlist

Overall - Beautifully mysterious

Jun 15, 2010, 4:10 am

@74 - as you can see I loved it too :-0

Jun 21, 2010, 7:53 am

3 more reviews on their way (once I write them!)

Jun 25, 2010, 7:41 am

Newton and the counterfeiter thomas levinson

4 out of 5

Fascinating little known part of Newton’s career

After Newton became famous for his Principia he became Warden of the Royal Mint with the responsibility of reminting England’s devalued coin which had been both clipped and steadily exchanged for continental gold. Immediately after post-Cromwell is a remarkable period of UK history and this book often manages to bring the period to life, esp when Newton is in it. His nemesis – the counterfeiter of the title is less “alive” in this biography because I guess there is a lot less written about him in the historical record. Sometimes the book becomes a little bogged down in overlong quotations from the period or technical details of counterfitting coins but these are mercifully short.

Overall – good account of a very interesting period of history

Edited: Jun 25, 2010, 8:14 am

future bristol colin harvey

3.5 out of 5

SF Short story collection set in Bristol

Its been a while since I read this and I find that it was not very memorable as I have to check now what the stories were to write this review. None of the stories were bad, but none particularly stood out either except for maybe “Thermoclines” by Colin Harvey (who also edited the collection) or maybe the superhero style story “After the change” by Stephanie Burgess. To be honest if your not from Bristol this collection is probably not for you – it is made interesting, for me being a adopted Bristolian, only due to the fact the stories are set in what is for me a very familiar landscape.

Overall – interesting but not brilliant

Jun 25, 2010, 8:20 am

requiem for a wren Nevil Shute

4 out of 5

A slice of depressing post-war romantic tragedy

This is the story of an Australian flyer who has an accident during the war and loses both his feet. It is also the story of his brother’s love affair during the build up to D-Day with the Wren of the title and her great tragedy during a training exercise which has consequences for the brothers family and after the war.Its a bit depressing, but then not as depressing as on the beach but extremely readable.

Overall – Fantastic but depressing story of war’s tragedy

Jul 19, 2010, 6:33 am

crow country - mark cocker

4.5 out of 5

Mark Cocker is a man obsessed with the Corvid family of birds and has made it his life 's study. The book is a journal of his investigations into one of the most common yet also unknown species - the Rook but also has a wealth of detail on crows, jackdaws, magpies etc. The author is an engaging writer who covers his house move and some details of his home life into the journal. His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious and the best bit for me was the study he makes of other obsessives including a poignent study done by POWs in WW2. I'm not a birdwatcher or even that interested in birds per se but this book was recommended to me and I'm glad I read it.

Overall - Brilliantly and lyrically written - One man's obsession to understand one of Britains commonest bird species

Jul 19, 2010, 6:34 am

invisible cities - Italo Calvino

4 out of 5

I read this book in a couple of hours as it ' s pretty thin . The story is simply a collection of wonderful vignettes where Marco Polo describes many wonderfully imaginary cities to the Khan. Every few chapters there is a conversation between the Khan and Polo which explores further the cities and the various ideas they spark. At the beginning Polo and the Khan do not speak the same language and the Khan interprets what Polo is saying from mime and the use of various artefacts from the cities he is describing. Later when Polo can speak the Khan's language the Khan finds that he is nostalgic for when he was only limited by his imagination.

Overall - wonderful, but short, meditative prose poem on the nature of cities

Edited: Jul 19, 2010, 7:45 am

we have always lived in the castle - Shirley Jackson

4 out of 5

Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?
Oh no, said Merricat, you'll poison me.
Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep?
Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!

Narrated in the first person by Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood the book is a tale about the remains of the family Blackwood. We find out that the rest of the family were murdered by arsenic placed in a sugar bowl and spread on blackberries at dinner. Merricat having been sent to bed as punishment didn't eat any and her sister didn't have sugar. Their uncle Julien survived the poisoning but displays deep dementia throughout the book. The sister, Constance, is acquitted of the crime but the locals believe she did it and has "got away with murder". The narrator is the only one of the family that has any contact with the outside where she is taunted with the above singsong chant. Their status quo is disturbed by the arrival of cousin Charles who is obviously there to take their fortune but who befriends Constance. The book is an interesting read but its hard to sympathesize with the narrator

Overall - An excellent tale that has been described as a paean to agoraphobia

Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 10:19 am

medical london - richard barnett

3.5 out of 5

The book itself is gorgeous - a guide book, several medical walk pamphlets and a collection of essays go together in a small box set. The guide book is a list of interesting places that the walks take you close to. U nfortunately the essays were not brilliant, however interesting the medical history of London is. I felt tried to do too much - covering the entire history of diseases of the poor of London in a few pages or the history of the royal college of surgeons in another few pages. A shame really as the physical book is superbly printed and an object of beauty.

Overall - worth it for the guide and walks but disappointing essays

Jul 21, 2010, 9:05 am

So many people have been reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle lately. I've just read that they've put together a musical version.

Jul 24, 2010, 6:32 pm

@87 I bounced at that at first, but in second thought it's probably not such a bad idea. A manageble cast, many potential solos, some choir bits and an eerie story. I'd go see it! (I loved the book.)

Jul 26, 2010, 7:03 am

@87 I had to do a double take when I read it too. I expect it could work really well but there is a bad part of me that hopes its an overtop musical thats just plain wrong aka The Producers..

Jul 26, 2010, 10:39 am

And now I've just read this morning that Elton John is writing a musical version of Orwell's Animal Farm.

Jul 28, 2010, 7:08 am

Well I am not a fan of Elton John but I could imagine that it could be a lot of fun. Hmm I wonder what other bizarre musicals are being made out of books? :) I dread an All quiet on Western front but I think I would look forward to something from Jeff VanderMeer, I would expect giant squid tentacles!

Aug 6, 2010, 12:00 pm

how very odd - I'm guessing it would be a bit like Sweeney Todd :-(

Aug 6, 2010, 12:02 pm

got another 2 books to review - am slowing down too much!!

just started a 600 page book too! the worst journey in the world still the introduction is good and I have 2 mediumly long (5 hour) flights coming up so perhaps it won't be too bad...

must get round to reviewing a handbook of volapuk and brodies report

Aug 6, 2010, 12:39 pm

Bumping We have always lived in the castle higher up the wishlist. Thanks for that review.

I've been meaning to read The Worst Journey in the World for a while - I'll look forward to hearing what you think of it. (And I hope your two flights don't end up mimicking the book title!)

Aug 13, 2010, 2:30 pm

@94 the flights were OK - nothing interesting happened

reviews for 4 books on the way... just writing them, probably post them Monday

the worst journey in the world is a must read I think, not sure why its not on the 1000 books to read before you die to be honest

Aug 17, 2010, 10:07 am

Volapuk Andrew Drummond

3.5 out of 5

In the 19th century there was a movement to adopt Volapuk as an international language (in competition with Esperanto, and some other languages) this is a story about the battle between the Volapukians and the Esperantists

Highly original story which unfortunately is a little incoherent at times. Drummond intersperses the plot with Volapuk lessons which to be honest became a little annoying- I for one am unable to learn a language without hearing it and trying to envisage the pronunciations was a little trying and in the end I skipped over the language bits - perhaps that means I missed the point of this book? In addition Drummond introduces a character that is actually a historical inventor of a universal language who, its revealed later in the book, is actually dead - which was a little confusing: was he a revenent of some sort? figment of the main character's imagination? it's never revealed. Plus this character speaks in convoluted deliberately obtuse sentances with many an obscure word - after some dictionary work in the early part of the book I also started to just trying to guess what the words meant later on - consulting a dictionary 2-3 times per page gets a bit tiring.

Overall - lots of problems but the core of the book is a great story

Aug 17, 2010, 10:07 am

severance package Duane Swierczynski

3.5 out of 5

the tagline to this book reads - "ever want to kill your boss? well guess what? - THE FEELING IS MUTUAL"

The boss in question calls a special Saturday morning meeting where the protagonist of the book finds out that he's been working for an intelligence agency which is the bastard child of the CIA and MI6. In addition his boss has instituted a lockdown informing all the workers that their unit is being shutdown and they should all drink some posioned champagne. The elevators are shut down, the fire doors are rigged with chemical bombs and escape seems impossible. Panic and chaos ensue.

The book is in a cinematic style, you can just imagine that the author is imagining the events happening in a film - and as such the characters are a little under-devloped, the action is a little over the top and the plot is a bit unrealistic. Saying that though its an enjoyable enough read although its not going to win any awards.

Overall - entertaining enough action film style read

Edited: Aug 17, 2010, 10:09 am

the worst journey in the world Apsley Cherry-Garrard

5 out of 5

Stunning and humbling account of polar exploration by a member of Scotts Antartic expedition

Apsley Cherry-Garrard was one of the youngest members of Scott's Antartic Expedition and was a member of the rescue party that found the frozen bodies of Scott and his companions who had made the final push to the pole. As everyone knows Scott was beaten to the pole by Amundsen which makes the resultant deaths somewhat more tragic. Cherry (as he's known by the other antartic explorers) tells the whole story from when the explorers left England until they return. Its a long book but utterly gripping, even though you know how it ends! Cherry is an excellently understated author and he manages to not only capture the utter horror of early 20th century polar exploration but also the fantastic cameraderie that exists between the men and the stark and somewhat dangerous beauty of the landscape. The worst journey actually refers to the winter journey Cherry, Bowers and Wilson (both of whom are later to die in the push to the pole) undertake to obtain a few emporer penguin eggs in order to advance the scientific understanding of the birds embryology. On the way the 3 explorers regularly encounter -70+ F temperatures (-56 C) and incredible winds, which end up almost killing them. Told in Cherry's own words and through extracts from various of the explorers diaries you get a full appreciation of what the expedition was like and get to know many of the explorers through the eyes of Cherry. This makes the deaths of Cherry's friends somewhat heart wrenching even though you know exactly what happens in the polar journey.

Overall - a masterful & emotional travel book - the back of the edition I have says - "the worst journey in the world is to travel what war and peace is to the novel - a masterpiece". It really is a compelling masterpiece and is an absolute must read.

Aug 17, 2010, 10:08 am

brodie's report Jorge Luis Borges

3.5 out of 5

Short story collection by the Latin American master of the short story

After a period of 20 years where Borges produced nothing he suddenly churned out these stories contained in Brodie's Report. In brodie's report and in praise of darkness, collected into this one volume, Borges returns to the style of his earliest writings of brutal realism and bloodshed.

Althought the writing is accomplished the ideas are not as fresh as his other, more famous, stories

One for Borges completists really - go try fictions instead if your new to Borges

Aug 21, 2010, 3:57 pm

98 Sounds absolutely brilliant. I've been meaning to read more about polar expeditions ever since I read Ex Libris where Anne Fadiman expresses her passion for this subject. (That was probably something like thirteen years ago, but still...) Excellent review!

Edited: Aug 24, 2010, 7:54 am

100 - yes heartily recommend it

ex libris sounds interesting

Aug 24, 2010, 7:53 am

hmmm so not doing so well with a little over a month to go...

very much looks like "pieces of writing" will definitely turn into short stories ;-o

as perhaps some of the other categories will do also

Aug 24, 2010, 8:41 am

Top 10 = 10 books from any top 10 lists - 8 remaining

10 from 10 = 10 pieces of writing from 10 different authors - completed

10 years = 10 books written between 2000 and 2010 - completed

10 times 10 = 10 pieces of writing from the last 100 years - 3 remaining

10 minus 1 = 9 Lives (9 biographies) - 6 remaining

10th month = 10 pieces of horror writing - 10 remaining (short stories apart from must finish the book I started)

10 to 10 = 10 recommendations from 10 friends - 6 remaining

10 down to 1 and blast off = 10 pieces of writing about space travel - 8 remaining

10 commandments = 10 books from the 1001 books to read before you die - 8 remaining

10 feet = 10 pieces of travel writing - 1 remaining

Aug 24, 2010, 8:43 am

make love the bruce campbell way - Bruce campbell

3.5 out of 5

Fictional account of Bruce's attempt to write a book about relationships

Quirky and full of slightly surreal charm this Bruce Campbell book is sadly not a patch on if chin's could kill. It tells the story of him auditioning and securing a role as a doorman in a film with Richard Gere and Renee Zellwegger called "Make Love". The book's central premise is for Bruce to become a relationship expert (like his character, the doorman, is supposed to be). Along the way he "infects" the film with his B movieness. The humour is of the variety where the author sets himself up in embaressing situations. It was a light read which was entertaining enough but not something I'd recommend to anyone bar his fans.

Overall - One for Bruce Campbell fans only

Aug 24, 2010, 8:44 am

The Travels of Reverend Olafur Egilsson, captured by pirates in 1627 - Olafur Egilsson

3.5 out of 5

Personal account of a priest who is kidnapped from Iceland along with his family and taken to Algiers

In the 17th Century Algerian slavers raided the Westman islands in Iceland and carried away over 200 people (and killed many more) taking them all the way to Algiers. The Reverend Olafur Egilsson was one of the one's captured and this is the tale he wrote after he was sent to ask for ransom from the Danish king. Leaving behind his wife and family he travels from Algiers, through Italy and France to Denmark. As it’s a translation from old icelandic the book is somewhat stilted but still manages to capture his despair at his situation as well as attempting to make sense of it via his religion.

Overall - interesting historical account

Aug 24, 2010, 8:49 am

Maintenance of Headway - Magnus Mills

4 out of 5

Another odd book by Mills, this one's about bus drivers

A meditation on the philosophy of bus drivers. Slightly less accomplished than either restraint of beasts or explorers of the new century and without the sinister undertones I'd expect from a Mills book. Still a very enjoyable read and one that had some resonence for me as the son of an ex-bus driver.

Overall - An enjoyable and quirky short novel

Edited: Aug 25, 2010, 11:39 am

The Driver's Seat - Muriel Spark

4 out of 5

Short but well formed dark story of a woman going over the edge

My first Muriel Spark and one I thoroughly enjoyed. The story is about a young woman who seems to be leaving on a well needed holiday. She appears to be highly strung and has a series of encounters which set her character as a woman at the start of a nervous breakdown. Saying much more would give away the plot. Its somewhat dated (theres some discussion about hippies, the character wears a "psychedelic" outfit, people are allowed to smoke on the plane etc.) but still relevent and not at all distracting or detracting. I really enjoyed the tale and look forward to reading some more Spark.

Overall - filled with character, a well observed tale

Aug 24, 2010, 3:51 pm

@107 So glad you liked it! It's always slightly frightening pushing a favourite writer on someone else...

Aug 25, 2010, 11:41 am

I know what you mean still we have similar tastes I guess- glad I got another recommendation for that category, am doing really badly on this challenge!

Sep 2, 2010, 10:57 am

Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad

0 out of 5

A "classic" story of the evils of imperialism

This was so boring I really can't be bothered to review it

Overall - tedious beyond belief

Sep 2, 2010, 11:14 am

My mother was assigned Heart of Darkness in high school back in the 60s and STILL can rant about how tedious it was. And she complains about remarkably few books. I've never attempted it.

Sep 3, 2010, 8:30 am

111 I may still rant in 40 years time too ;-)

Sep 3, 2010, 8:32 am

Rings of Saturn W G Sebald

5 out of 5

an account of a walking holiday in Suffolk, that encompasses history, philosophy, art, and so much more

Utterly brilliant and like nothing I've ever read before Sebald is quitessentially Sebald and nothing else. This is a long meditation of all sorts of subjects that seem un-connected and jumbled together. However what Sebald creates from this medley of thoughts is not a dissonance but somehow a cohesion. I see from reviews elsewhere that I'm not the only one who a) loves it and b) cannot describe it. Can't wait to read more of his books.

Overall - as it says on the back - ‘A great, strange and moving work’ (James Wood, Guardian)

Sep 3, 2010, 9:24 am

>105 psutto:. Well, that's sad. It's not available even at Gutenberg!

Sep 6, 2010, 6:34 am

114 - :-( I bought it in a bookshop in Iceland...

Sep 6, 2010, 8:30 am

>115 psutto:
Well, for anyone who can read Icelandic, Google has scanned a version into their database:

Sep 13, 2010, 5:32 am

wonder if theres a good enough translation website...?

Edited: Sep 13, 2010, 6:29 am

Sumo - lyall watson

4 out of 5

UK's Channel 4 once used to show Sumo and this is the book to go with the series

I guess its because this is the book to go with a series that its a very brief introduction to the sport. Its designed to give the newcomer a brief overview of the traditions vocabulary and art of sumo wrestling.

Overall - Very well explained, if brief with fantastic pictures.

Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 9:30 am

water planet - lyall watson

5 out of 5

Watson's meditation of the most vital of the 4 classical elements

A heavy coffee table book with stunning water and weather pictures by Jerry Derbyshire. Watson covers the chemistry of water and its impact on life and the history of the human race. It turns out that water is a very odd chemical indeed and theres a few things that are not common knowledge (apparently you can die of thirst if you drink only heavy water and seeds won't germinate in it).

Overall - Really interesting meditative exploration of something we all take for granted

Sep 13, 2010, 6:30 am

number 9 dream - david mitchell

4.5 out of 5

fish out of water tale (yet so much more too) of a boy from the country looking for his father in the big city

This is a big book flitting between reality, the dreams of the central character and the character reading some children's stories and a WW2 journal apparently written by a relative. It ' s somewhat disjointed and I didn't really understand the point of the children's stories or even like them (why it gets 4.5 and not 5) but the rest was a very entertaining read. The journal about the Kaiten ( a manned torpedo) was particularly good (which prompted a quick search on wikipedia as I'd never heard of manned torpedos only to find that there were 9 deployments of such torpedos). As many people point out it appears that Mitchell tried hard to write a novel like Murakami would do and there are plenty of Murakami references in the book. Its littered with numerological references, its never 100% clear whether its all a dream sequence or what exactly is reality but ultimately the story itself grips you and keeps you turning the pages until the very end.

Overall - masterful and thoroughly entertaining storytelling

Sep 17, 2010, 10:09 am

Amazed to see all these titles by David Mitchell popping up here, there and everywhere. How old are his earliest works? I'd never heard of him six months ago, and now appetizing book after appetizing book just keep presenting itself....

Sep 20, 2010, 4:28 am

definitely going to read more of his works (there are a few on the shelf just waiting)

Edited: Sep 24, 2010, 5:03 pm

The End – Frederic Brown from the ashes – brilliant inventive short time machine story

The first time machine – Frederic Brown from the ashes – a time travel paradox short

Experiment – Frederic Brown from the ashes – another Time travel paradox short

Naturally – Frederic Brown from the ashes – playful short story about demon summoning gone wrong

The monsters – Malcolm Hulke – adventures in space – twist in the tale short about a neutral planet caught up in a space war

The bad pilot – Fred Baker – adventures in space – single space pilot saves planet through stroke of luck

In Paradise – Bruce Stirling – Year’s best SF 8 – babel fish like mobile phone facilitates a love affair

collectively I'll give the Fredric Brown stories 5/5, he's the master of the SF short
I was give Purnell's adventures in space as a prize in school and it was fun to revisit some stories that made a big impression (and feulled an early love of SF) - although aimed at younger readers still pretty good stories on the whole - 4 out of 5
Year's best SF8 - dipped in and am disappointed, if this is the best then short SF has sunk very low - not reviewing as didn't read very many stories

Sep 27, 2010, 5:08 pm

The skin and bone music box - Andy P Jones - Read by dawn - spoiled kid gets a new toy short story

And then... - Kim Sabinan - Read by dawn - clever word play short

The proposal - Charles Colyott - Read by dawn - a mutually needy and twisted love triangle short story

The outsider - H.P.Lovecraft - haunter of the dark - short story of the graveyard with a twist in the tale

The Witch's headstone - Neil Gaiman - dark alchemy - short graveyard story - also in the graveyard book

a fowl tale - Eoin Colfer - dark alchemy - a short and predictable fable

subway - Joyce Carol Oates - the dark: new ghost stories - not really sure what the point of this story was - girl is murdered on the subway, the end

velocity - kathe koja - the dark: new ghost stories - artist is haunted by a larger than life, famous father

the dead ghost - gahan wilson - the dark: new ghost stories - what would you do if you were almost incapable of movement due to sickness/injury in hospital and were being haunted?

the read by dawn series is quite good 4 out of 5, I've a soft spot for a good Lovecraftian tale - 4 out of 5 (although there was no squamousness in this story!) the dark alchemy sert of shorts were more fantasy than horror 3.5 out of 5 an the dark: new ghost stories was a bit disappointing 3.5 out of 5

Edited: Sep 28, 2010, 11:03 am

extreme measures: the dark visions and bright ideas of Francis Galton -

4 out of 5

entertaining biography about the father of eugenics

Galton was a true Victorian polymath who had a huge influence on many areas of science but is best known as the father of eugenics. This book goes some way to repair his reputation in the areas where he made such an impact but doesn't shy away from exploring his eugenic theory . This explains the tagline of the book - the dark visions and bright ideas of Francis Galton. I feel that the book was a thorough exploration of Galton's character and fits him neatly into Victorian history. Good book to read as a companion to any book about Darwin (to whom he was related). There is also a small coda at the end where the author visits, or tries to visit Galton's historial home and draws a blank at the Tourist info centre proving that the dark visions which some way gave birth to the horrors of WW2 led to Galton being vilified and much more obscure than his other contributions would lead you to expect.

Overall - very competent biography of an almost forgotten genius

Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Stevenson

4.5 out of 5

classic gothic tale of a mad "scientist" (doctor) who invents a potion that makes his "evil" side manifest

It ' s a well known story but as with other classics e.g.8294::frankenstein there is no substitute for reading the source novel rather than its many many adaptations. Suitable creepy and atmospheric the writing is a brilliant example of the gothic genre.

Overall - definitely a must read and worthy of being in the 1000 books to read category

Oct 12, 2010, 11:51 am

doh - guess I failed the "finish by 10:10:10" bit then - lets see if i can finish by end of the year!

Oct 13, 2010, 4:52 am

the wild swans – Hans Christian Andersen - (Ali Shaw’s top 10 transformation stories – The Guardian)

3.5 out of 5

Classic fairytale of the princes transformed into swans

It has all the usual fairytale tropes – the evil stepmother who is actually a witch, the fairy godmother who gives the heroine of the story the way to fix the evil spell cast on her brothers, transformed princes etc. I get the impression that the Hans Christian Andersen version was a tranlation or transcription from an earlier tale as some sentances seem to be oddly out of place.

Overall - An enjoyable fairytale

Oct 13, 2010, 4:53 am

rashomon - Ryunosuke Akutagawa – (Julith Jedamus's top 10 Japanese novels – The Guardian)

4 out of 5

Collection of stories from a Japanese author

Rashomon was made famous by the Kurasawa film of the same name, although confusingly it isn’t about the title story but another in the book “in the Grove”. It seems like the e-text version is a cut down version of the book translated into English as Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories as it only had six tales within it. The tales themselves are quite dark and are mostly well written and the collection is worth reading. In the Grove is his best story.

Overall – interesting and dark collection of japanese tales

Oct 13, 2010, 4:53 am

Suffer the Children - Sara Jayne Townsend

3.5 out of 5

YA supernatural fiction

Taking as its central premise that young adults on probation would not be missed. The central character moves from inner city to suburbs to live with her aunt when her mother dies. One of her cousins has previously gone missing and she, her other cousin and his girlfriend track down what happened to her. Drawing upon myth and built around a creepy house this is a supernatural thriller at heart. The writing is good but I do wonder at the depictions of the “yoof of today” although as its been a while since I was said yoof it may be totally accurate for all I know. It gets a 3.5 for me as YA supernatural fiction is not my cup of tea but if your into that genre you should give it a go.

Overall – entertaining enough YA supernatural story

Oct 13, 2010, 4:54 am

The haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

4.5 out of 5

Classic ghost story with a twist of madness

A group of people are gathered together by a paranormal researcher to stay in a haunted house. Very creepy portrayal of a dysfunctional family that spawned a poltergeist with a house where all the angles were wrong. Also brilliant decent into madness by one of the characters. Would have got 5 out of 5 but the Doctor’s wife who turns up to conduct seances etc was an annoying intereference in the plot. I think the film adaptation (the original B&W) actually improved on the book in this respect.

Overall – brilliantly understated novel about fear

Oct 13, 2010, 5:19 am

@130 I will eventually need to read everything by Jackson, that much I already know. This one will have to wait until 2012 though, I have her short story collection lined up for 2011.

Oct 15, 2010, 11:00 am

131 - yep me too (on reading the short stories that is), its sat somewhere in the TBR book pile

Edited: Oct 18, 2010, 8:04 am

10 to 10 = 10 recommendations from 10 friends

1. The Mind Gym - gave up - no review!
2. atheist's guide to christmas - various -READ
3. Tender morsels -margo lanagan - READ
4. the drivers seat - muriel spark - READ
5. number 9 dream - david mitchell - READ
6. in praise of shadows - Tanizaki - READ
7. the yellow-lighted bookshop - lewis Buzbee - READ
8. the 100 autumns of jacob de zoet - david mitchell - reading

Oct 18, 2010, 8:06 am

cloud atlas - David Mitchell

4.5 out of 5

Nested storytelling where each story references the previous story

This was shorlisted for the booker prize but don't let that put you off! - Its a grand sweep of time where each story is read (or watched) by the main character in the next story. All but one of the stories is interrupted by the next and this interruption techinique is also referenced within at least one of the stoies. It ' s a metafictive tour de force apparently inspired by Calvino's if on a winter's night a traveller and is a stunning achievement. There are negatives, I didn't really like the middle, bridging, story, as much as some of the other stories and the book is just not as good as number 9 dream (probably as its a series of short stories not a grand narrative). hmmm I'm tempted to go back and re-rate number 9 dream as a 5

Overall - A metafiction masterpiece

Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 9:34 am

the yellow-lighted bookshop - Lewis Buzbee

5 out of 5

"Every bookstore has it's own delights and that is why we can never have too many"

Lewis Buzbee has worked in the book selling industry as an employee in book stores, a publisher's sales rep and as a writer and this is his memoir of his life in books and the the history of book selling. It ' s lovingly told with real passion for books (or book lust as the author puts it himself) that strikes a few chords in me as a fellow bibliophile. His anecdotes of having too many books to fit on extensive shelves, a giant to be read pile that he has no hope of reading and the compulsive need to visit every book store and purchase books merely to own them feel very familiar. He talks about bookstores he loves, his personal history as a book seller and the long long history of bookselling from ancient egypt to modern day interpersed with lots of interesting little facts. A depressing statistic is the fact that if you read 1 book every week from age 5 to age 80 you would only be able to read a small percentage of the books published in just 1 year. He's a very engaging writer and carries you along with his own enthusiasm but I guess it helps that its a subject very close to heart.

Overall - A book by a bibliophile, for bibliophiles

Oct 18, 2010, 9:11 am

You know I now have it in writing that you buy too many books that you can never read....

Oct 19, 2010, 6:32 am


Oct 19, 2010, 7:36 am

so with a forthcoming holiday I'm going to have to try to crowbar my reading into the challenge...

Edited: Oct 19, 2010, 7:52 am

19 books (or pieces of writing) left

10 commandments = 5
top 10 = 5
9 lives = 5
10 from 10 = 4

I am going to read art of travel by De Botton whilst travelling which is a recommendation so thats 1 down and kitchen by banana yoshimoto is on the 1001 books before you die so thats another 1

Oct 19, 2010, 7:45 am

so thats 2 books a week until the end of the year to complete this challenge :-(

Oct 21, 2010, 11:34 am

the thousand autumns of jacob de zoet David Mitchell

5 out of 5

Stunning historial fiction

Mitchell has proven that he is a writer that goes from strength to strength in this book. The story is set in Deijima which is intrinsically interesting but also where Mitchell has woven an utterly compelling story. Unlike his other books there is no cross-referencing earlier novels or characters so it may be a disappointment if that is the main reason you read Mitchell. For me though Mitchell's strength is in his storytelling and the metafictional touches are no more than garnishes. The story takes place in the late 18th, early 19th century when the world was changing fast and Japan was desperately trying to remain as isolationist as possible with their only concession being Deijima (a Dutch trading post). To this isolated place comes Jacob De Zoet, a principled and somewhat naive clerk who acts as the book's lens to throw light on the encounter between the two cultures. Some reviews describe this as a love story but to my mind although there is a love affair element there is much more to it. The story, through one man's life, shows the world of Deijima in its historical setting and Edo period Japan.

Overall - my favourite Mitchell book so far

Oct 21, 2010, 11:35 am

the Tiger's bride - Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber) (Ali Shaw’s top 10 transformation stories – The Guardian)

4 out of 5

fairytale like short story

Carter describes a young girl who is lost, by her father, in a game of cards to "the Beast". Set in Italy (although the girl is Russian) this story is a striking and memorable transformation story.

Nov 16, 2010, 7:49 am

the art of travel - Alain De Botton

2 out of 5

yawningly bad book about the reasons why people travel

I really thought I'd like this book from the recommendations given. Some even compared De Botton to Sebold but I just didn't get it. It seemed overly pretencious and somehow pointless. De Botton strings together some vague and trite insights about travel using small biographies of some famous writers and artists. The chapters that worked best were the ones on Van Gogh and Huysmans but only becuase the biographical info was interesting, not that the point De Botton was trying to make was at all relevent. Other reviews state that this is De Botton's most readable book which means I won't be reading any of his others!

Overall - the best thing I can say about this book is that it wasted a couple of hours of a long flight

Nov 16, 2010, 7:49 am

kitchen - Banana Yoshimoto

3.5 out of 5

two modern japanese tales about love and tragedy

Although I enjoyed this book I don't see why it is on the 1001 books to read list and don't really think its at all "startingly original" (like it says on the back) - The two stories are, at heart, about bereavement and love but the two stories are not particularly deep. Its quite a short book and I read it in one (on the same long flight as the Art of Travel). The first story centres on a female protagonist's struggle to cope with the dead of her last relation as she is taken in by a transexual and his/her son. The second tale is also of a female protagonist struggling to cope with the death of someone close, this time of her boyfriend. If I'd just picked up this book and there was no hype i would have enjoyed it and thought it good and soon forgot it, however because it was lauded and on the 1001 books I was expecting more and was disappointed by it.

Overall - very readable but over-hyped quick novella

Nov 16, 2010, 7:58 am

unbeaten tracks - Isabella Bird

3.5 out of 5

travel journal by a victorian traveller, the first western woman to travel to Hokkaido

Isabella Bird was a famous, in her day, a woman traveller whose life sounds utterly fascinating. She was sickly and spent most of her life struggling with various ailments but these ultimately proved to be psychological for when travelling she was almost never ill , she travelled the world and sent letters back to her sister which then became the basis for her many travel books. She travelled to Australia, Hawaii, Colorado (a wild place in the 1800's), India, China, Korea etc. This particular book is about her travels in Japan where she travelled alone, apart from her translator, into parts of Japan that had rarely been visited by foreign travellers during a time when Japan was just beginning to modernise. During her time in there she spent some time with the Ainu (Yezo or Ezo) people of Hokkaido , with the majority of the second half of the book being an anthropological examination of these natives of Japan. The book was fascinating for capturing this tumultous time in Japan's history and the Victorian view of its author although there is a little too much repetition in the tales of bad accommodation, fleas and bad food etc. This repetition did spoil the book somewhat for me as the author spent many many pages describing the flea ridden poor inns she stayed at and a lot less describing the country itself.

Overall - Fascinating historical travel writing

Nov 16, 2010, 7:58 am

the face of another - Kobo Abe

4 out of 5

An exploration of the identity of the self and the nature of masks

The narrator of the book is a scientist hideously disfigured by a laboratory accident, effectively losing his face with the fact that it is covered with keloid scars. The book is divided into different journals which are written for the narrators wife chronicling his creation of a perfect mask, which then grants him an alternative personality. The book is occasionally difficult to read (being overly philosophical) but is an utterly compelling psychological horror story that does keep you turning the pages and does pay off the effort of struggling through some of the more difficult passages.

Overall - compelling and provocative

Nov 16, 2010, 7:58 am

hiroshima - John Hersey

4 out of 5

a magazine article (later made into this book with a follow up some years later on what happened to the people in the original article) about the dropping of the atomoic bomb on Hiroshima Japan

The article and book describe in detail the events following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima by taking the stories of a number of survivors and following them in the hours, days and weeks immediately after the bomb dropped. The book consists of 5 parts - chapter one describes the moment of the blast, chapter two the fire and devastion immediately after the blast, chapter 3 the days after the bomb, chapter 4 the weeks after the bomb and chapter 5 written 40 years after the original article the author tracks down the people in the original article and what happened to them. The tone is dry and journalistic but that only underlines and accents the utter horror of the bombing and its aftermath.

Overall - Upsetting and disturbing reading

Edited: Nov 16, 2010, 10:23 am

so whats left? -

4 books from the 1001 list
4 books from any top 10 list
5 books of biography

time to hit the TBR pile...

Nov 18, 2010, 5:51 am

A path of dreams sherry renmu shepherd phd

3.5 out of 5

One woman's journey to become a Buddhist priest

The author has a dream of a buddhist monk who tells her "go to my mountain, drink of the water" which she then identifies as Kobo Daishi (kukai) and travels to Koya San in order to learn about Shingon buddhism and eventually be ordained as a buddhist priest. Throughout the book the author is guided by her dreams which help her in various situations. The book is written in typical "fish out of water" style where as an american woman who doesn't speak Japanese she struggles to fit in a community of Japanese male monks. Its an easy read but, to me (having never really had an even slightly prophetic dream and am not religious) I can't help but be skeptical of the main premise.

Overall - Interesting account of one woman's unusual spiritual journey

Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 9:38 am

the metamorphosis - Franz Kafka

3.5 out of 5

Kafka's famous novella

This is often held up to be one of the greatest ever short fictions. It tells the story of a salesman, Gregor Samsa, who is inexplicably transformed into a giant insect. It tells the story via his point of view of the effect this has on his family and their methods of coping with both the loss of income (Gregor was the breadwinner) and the fact that there is now a giant insect in the apartment - albeit one that seeks to shield the family from his insect form. The story famously suffers from some translation problems (the very type of creature that he has become is in some debate) but is generally well written although I feel that there were other obscure passages in the version I read which were perhaps due to poor translation.

Overall - enjoyable short novella

Nov 25, 2010, 10:18 am

the makioka sisters - Tanizaki Jun'ichirō.

10 greatest books of the 20th century David Mitchell, Daily Express (I assume that its David Mitchell the comedian and not David Mitchell the author??)

3 out of 5

A novel set in early 1940's Osaka about 4 sisters and their continuously doomed attempts to get the third eldest married

A languid meandering tale told in an elegiac style highlighting the fading of traditional Japanese culture as the author saw it being replaced by modernization .This was a common theme for him it seems as it was the same theme of in praise of shadows which was my prompt to read this. Apparently this was a serialised work which may explain the somewhat episodic nature of the chapters which seemed to jump from topic to topic sometimes. It may also explain why the book has no real plot. The writing was OK but very repetitive and the most interesting character (the youngest daughter) is under explored with the main protagonist being the second eldest daughter. I'm guessing that he wanted to concentrate on the most traditional of the sisters and not on the most "modern" but since all the interesting plot (actually plot is too strong a word to use in regards of this book!) happened to the youngest daughter the narrative would have been much better if it was from her point of view.

Overall - long and ultimately went nowhere

Nov 29, 2010, 8:54 am

prison diary, argentina simon winchester

3 out of 5

the diary of a journalist thrown into jail on a spying charge during the Falkland war

Simon Winchester and two other journalists were in the Falklands covering the build up to the war when they were arrested for "spying". His diary is written in prison during the 3 months of the war in 1982. It briefly covers the time immediately prior to being arrested but is mainly his thoughts and feelings whilst they are locked away. It was written as the war happened and the prisoners got their news from Arentine TV and BBC radio but the diary is written with the assumption that the events of the war would be immediately familiar to the reader and does not describe the war in much detail. This is a small problem reading the diary some 25+ years after the war as my memory of the time is a bit hazy. Winchester is an engaging writer and includes many of the letters he received whilst in prison and the book is an easy read.

Overall - interesting but not enlightening

Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 9:39 am

the long goodbye Raymond Chandler

5 out of 5

classic noir from the master of the genre

This is proper hard boiled detective fiction by the man who , for most people, defines the genre. Philip Marlowe returns and ticks all the trope boxes (I guess thet're only tropes because so many people have tried to emulate Chandler) - PI taking on jobs for little to no money, copious drinking, femme fatale, being beaten up in the course of an investigation etc. The story is suitably impressive with plenty of mystery ( which I won't spoil if you've not read it ) - needless to say Marlowe takes on a case, against the wishes of the police, that takes a number of surprising twists and turns until it reaches its not entirely successful conclusion. Even if your not a fan of Noir this book has been described as Chandler's most literary and ambitious work where he tried to stretch the detective novel and I'd recommend this to anyone.

Overall - a fantastic story by a fantastic writer

Nov 29, 2010, 8:55 am

hmmm 7 books remaining

Nov 30, 2010, 5:04 am

Hang in there! You'll make it!

Dec 1, 2010, 9:05 pm

>151 psutto: (actually plot is too strong a word to use in regards of this book!)

Ohhhh...someone who reacted like me! :) I slogged through the book one summer when the adult summer reading program was reading Japanese fiction. I've since heard The Makioka Sisters compared to Jane Austen's books, and I want to vociferously disagree...

Dec 2, 2010, 9:26 am

zarafa Michael Allen

3.5 out of 5

The tagline to this book is "A Giraffe's true story from deep in Africa to the heart of Paris"

In 1826 Muhammid Ali, the Ottoman ruler of Egypt, sent a 12 foot tall Giraffe as a gift to the King of France, this is the story. However Allen tells you the story of the giraffe in the introduction and then takes the first third of the book to set the scene of Egypt in the 19th Century. Its a compelling story but its not told particularly well - leaving me with lots of questions. It was a fascinating period of history but in order to get a sense of the time you'll have to read about it elsewhere. On concentrating on the giraffe sent to France he mentions briefly that at the same time one was sent to KIng George IV. Apparently the giraffe sent to Paris was a sensation whilst the one sent to England was lambasted ("cruelly" caricatured in cartoons hostile to the king) and died shortly after arriving. This giraffe's story is told in less than half a page. The author includes, in the ackowledgement section a very brief account of his search for the truth about the giraffe by travelling to the Sudan, Egypt & France which also sounded interesting but sadly not interwoven with the story of the giraffe.

He also, as an aside, tells us about other exotic animals sent as gifts, such as Hippos, Rhinos etc... The Rhino was sent as a present from India to Portugal and from Portugal as a preseent to the Pope, although sadly the ship carrying it sank and the Rhino's carcass washed up on the coast of Italy where it was promptly stuffed and sent to the Vatican. He also points out that most of these animals had not been seen in Europe since Roman times and includes a brief account of the Roman gladitatorial and animal versus animal combat that drove the first market in exotic animals.

Overall - light and too brief history

Dec 2, 2010, 10:00 am

the fall of the house of usher Edgar Allan Poe

3.5 out of 5

classic gothic tale first published in 1839

The story follows the un-named narrator visit a childhood friend, Roderick Usher, who had fallen into melancholy in order to try and lift his spirits. Whilst at the House of Usher Roderick's sister, who is prone to cataleptic trances, dies and the two friends bury her. During a great storm Roderick who has become increasingly mad since his sister's death comes to the narrators room in a near panic. The narrator attempts to calm him by reading a story which somehow mirrors what happens in real life as he reads it to some extent. I'll leave the rest of the plot for you to discover. A key Poe story (obviously why its in the 1001 books to read before you die) and a classic of gothic storytelling its a bit over the top and an obvious influence on the likes of Lovecraft.

Overall - A finely crafted darkly gothic tale

Dec 2, 2010, 10:14 am

156 - not read Austen (I know I know and I live near to Bath!) so can't comment...

Dec 3, 2010, 7:50 am

the tell-tale heart Edgar Allan Powe - Kate Mosse's top 10 ghost stories

3.5 out of 5

Short tale of a muder

Poe's short story deals with the confession of a murderer who slays an old man because of his "vulture's eye" that he cannot stand and dismembers and hides the body. The story deals with the murderers carefully laid plans and the murder itself, as well as the guilty conscience that is his ultimate downfall.

Overall - dated but well written tale

Dec 3, 2010, 7:50 am

I, Unfortunately, am Borges - Allen B. Ruch

4 out of 5

short biography of Borges on the garden of forking paths website -

Brief but covering all the salient points of Borges life this piece was mostly lifted from Borges own "Autobiographical essay". Borges was a highly influential writer in his own lifetime and this biography covers the major works as well as grounding them in the time they were written. As yet I haven't read the entire Borges canon and I was interested to note that he wrote a couple of works in collaboration under a combined pseudonym that I hadn't known before. So In addition to the missing Borges books these will go straight on my wish list.

Overall - very interesting summary

Dec 7, 2010, 11:21 am

the garden of forking paths - Jorge Luis Borges - Charles Yu's top 10 time travel books

4.5 out of 5

Borges classic short story about the possiblity of alternative worlds

The short story follows a fairly standard spy format but the protagonist in his effort to reveal to the Germans the name of a city to be bombed enters into conversation with a Dr. Albert. This man is in the process of translating a book, coincidently by the protagonists ancestor. This ancestor set out to undertake 2 tasks - to write a vast and intricate novel and also to construct an equally vast and intricate labyrinthe. Dr. Albert's breakthrough is that he has realised that they are one and the same - the labyrinthe is the novel. People have argued that with this vision of a text that can be read in multiple ways creating "different future's" Borges invented the first hypertext novel. Now I didn't really get that from this story - to me it seemed like a "choose your own adventure" style story but one which you read all possible outcomes - it also seems to be a "multiple universes" style story - a classic si-fi trope where decisions that are made change the future and that all of these possible futures exist simultaneously. Neither of which seem like hypertext to me which is the ability to, whilst reading one piece of text, jump to another referenced piece of text. Perhaps I'm missing something? Anyway its a typically Borges story with the description of the labyrinthine book as the central idea and a good story to boot. However the spy story for me lacked some verisimilitude in that the mechanism of conveying a message to the Germans was equally as labyrinthine as the book at the heart of the story.

Overall - Great short story and good example of Borges at his best

Dec 10, 2010, 8:03 am

my family and other animals - Gerald Durrell

4.5 out of 5

Amusing tales of the naturalist's growing up on Corfu

This was a re-read, albeit one with about a 30 year gap so almost like reading fresh! I found that the parts of the book that were quite clear in my memory, e.g. the scorpion in the ear incident, were actually ver small incidents in the book which was a bit of a surprise. The Durrel family (including the novelist Lawrence Durrell) went to live in Corfu in the 1930s when the author was a young boy with a passion for wildlife. The book recounts in amusing fashion his wildlife adventures such as keeping scorpions in a matchbox and getting an adult black backed gull as a present from a convict. Durrell is a writer with a deft touch drawing you into his world and with a great eye for the amusing incidents that happen to the eccentric family.

Overall - light-hearted amusing reminiscent tales of the impressions of a young boy growing up in an unusual place, with unusual animals and an unusual family

Dec 10, 2010, 8:10 am

Dirk Gently's Holistic detective agency - Douglas Adams (audio book read by the author)

5 out of 5

Humorous and surreal detective story

Including ghosts, electric monks, the music of life, time travel and the fundamental interconnectedness of everything its hard to give a plot synopsis without it including spoilers. Its a very multi-layered work and probably Adams's best book (although I also very much like the long dark teatime of the soul). This book was another re-read (probably after a 10-15 year gap) but since I listened to this whilst at the gym or on bus/train/plane journeys over a period of a few months it gave me a fresh perspective on the book. Adams has often been described as having a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything and this book has some rather profound ideas albeit delivered within a comedy detective tale. This rightly deserves to be on the 1001 books list and if you've not read it yet you should immediately go out and buy a copy!

Overall - utterly brilliant & works on many levels

Dec 10, 2010, 8:15 am

and that completes my 1010 challenge :-D

gone onto a bonus book nerd do well Simon Pegg's autobiography - ironic really as the 9 lives category was one of my most difficult!

Dec 10, 2010, 8:29 am

# books read (not including audio or short stories) = 68 should be able to do the step challenge for 1111 challenge then

# short stories = 24 so should be able to complete the 11 short stories for the 1111 challenge

# audio books = 3 which is a surprise, never really got into audiobooks before as my attention tends to wander when listening to the spoken word - listening in the gym works or on journeys where I don't need to concentrate (e.g. public transport) seems to work though

Dec 10, 2010, 8:45 am

Congratulations on completing the challenge! I've enjoyed reading your reviews.

Dec 10, 2010, 9:14 am

Well done! See you in the 11-11

Dec 10, 2010, 9:30 am

167 & 168

many thanks

Edited: Dec 10, 2010, 10:45 am

Congrats on completing the challenge, and with such a fun book! It has been years since I read Adams' books and I remember loving them all, including the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Must be time for a re-read.

Dec 10, 2010, 12:05 pm

Congrats, psutto! I loved Douglas Adams as a kid. I also think he's one of those authors I would have a completely different experience with as an adult... so it's probably time for a re-read for me too.

Dec 10, 2010, 5:05 pm

Congratuations on completing your challenge.

Dec 11, 2010, 5:40 am


Dec 12, 2010, 5:27 pm

Big congratulations! Looking forward to following you in 2011 as well!

Edited: Dec 16, 2010, 12:32 pm

thanks for all the congrats

have read nerd do well and palimpsest and will post reviews at some point - have decided to read a few non-challenge books before getting down to the 1111 challenge which will start with whatever I'm reading on New Years day...

am currently reading the end of alice by A.M. Homes

Dec 16, 2010, 1:38 pm

Congratulations! See you in the 11 in 11!

Dec 20, 2010, 4:48 am

Nerd do well Simon Pegg

4.5 out of 5

Biography of star of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead

Simon Pegg was born in the same year as me and grew up in Gloucester (where many of my friends live) and went to Bristol university (which is in my adopted home city ) so the majority of this book is very familiar. Pegg, for the most part, sticks to recounting his formative experiences and how they have influenced his career such as his love for horror films like Dawn of the Dead - hence making Shaun of the Dead which led him to meet and work for George A Romero (there are many such instances in the book with Pegg working with many of his heroes). Interspersed with the biography is a sci-fi story of Simon Pegg the international adventurer and his faithful robotic sidekick and threaded throughout is his love/hate relationship with Star Wars. Fan boys will pick up lots of info about his TV and film work influences but this is not a kiss and tell memoir and Pegg steers away from revealing much about his working relationships. It ' s his first book and the pacing of the book is occasionally off with a couple of chapters seemingly out of place but the writing itself is good.

Overall - Very good early life biography with lots of good info for fans of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, less info on Hot Fuzz and what came after

Dec 20, 2010, 4:48 am

Palimpsest Catherynne M Valente

5 out of 5

Dream-like novel about a city that can only be visited in dreams and the access to it is passed on like a sexual transmitted disease

Valente describes the book: "Palimpsest is an urban fantasy about a city that lives on human skin, a viral city whose citizens consist of those who bear parts of the city on their flesh, and visit it in their dreams. The story follows four such people as they search for others like themselves and a way to enter the city permanently"
As the visitors to the city can only visit it at night in a dream-like state the writing matches the plot in a baroque prose that is occasionally cloying. However the structure of the book and the writing really contribute to the overall experience of reading about the city. There are many inventive passages during the night time visits and Valente seems full of ideas. It reminded me a little of Vandermeer or Mieville and is therefore encouraging me to seek out her other books. Like Finch there is an album of music to go with the book

Overall - brilliant premise, endlessly inventive fantastic story

Dec 20, 2010, 4:52 am

the end of alice A.M.Homes

3.5 out of 5

a contraversial novel about paedophilia

Apparently when it was published in the UK (a year after its US publication) the NSPCC (National society for prevention of cruelty to children) complained about it and made an appeal to bookstores not to stock it (which only W.H.Smith complied with). It ' s a very explicit book detailing many scenes of incest, prison rape and child sexual abuse. Narrated by a convicted child killer who has been in prison for 23 years who receives a letter from a 19 year old woman who is intent on seducing a 12 year old boy. The narrator then enters into correspondence with the woman and encourages her seduction of the boy whilst berating her for her poor grammar. It turns out that she lives down the road from his victim, the Alice of the title, and every child in the neighbourhood grew up in an atmosphere of fear because of what he did. The un-named woman eventually succeeds in her seduction but it appears to be a one off not the start of a "brilliant career" like the narrator's. When the woman leaves for some time traverlling in Europe and stops writing the later part of the book deals with the story of Alice and the circumstances of her sexual abuse and death.
As it is written from the point of view of the paedophile he of course sees nothing wrong with the sexual abuse aspect of his crime and this I guess is what caused the controversy. However Homes is no Nabakov and "Chappy" (her paedophile) is no Humbert Humbert and sometimes she appears to be deliberately aping Lolita so the book suffers by comparison. Also she appears to be going out of her way to shock and disgust (and yes several scenes are very disgusting) but in doing so somewhat compromises the story. As the narrator tells it he was sexually abused by his mother, took a sexual pleasure from working in a shoe store (getting children to wiggle their toes in his crotch) and sexually abuses a customer when she is unconscious causing him to quit his job and hire a holiday cottage where he meets Alice. The cottage is in New Hamphire with a lake so that he can be away from temptation and performs exercises (swimming in the lake being equivalent to taking cold showers) to lessen his sexual desires - all of which fail when 12 year old Alice "seduces him".

Overall - flawed but well written story

Dec 20, 2010, 5:57 am

@178 That does it. How the hell am I going to fit this into my 11 in 11, hm?

Dec 20, 2010, 7:57 am

I'd say it would fit your doggy bag, fringes or spilikin categories

Dec 21, 2010, 4:45 am

@181 Ha! :) It's not really the issue of which category it could go in, but rather of what to bump from my already full lists...

Dec 21, 2010, 6:53 am

@182 OIC - ah well I'm sure you can make room somehow :-)

Dec 21, 2010, 6:58 am

got my secret santa gifts :-)

2001: A space Odyssey and Eels:An exploration

great choice santa :-D

I think 2001 will make it to my bonus books this year and Eels will make it to one of my categories in 2011 (natural world most likely)

Edited: Dec 31, 2010, 7:25 am

wildwood;a journey through trees Roger Deakin

3.5 out of 5

A set of loosely connected essays dealing with all things woody

The first half of the book was very interesting detailing such woody topics as how to make a good cricket bat and what happens when the author sleeps outside near a rookery. However when Deakin starts to dedicate whole chapters to artists I've never heard of giving them a rapturous, almost reverent write up I confess I lost interest. He then goes on to write a series of chapters about his journeys into Basque country, Australia and Kazakhstan and he lost me further. The last few chapters picked up my interest however when he returns to the main topic discussing such subjects as hedging and coppicing (not inherently interesting topics for everyone I admit!).

Overall - Full of fascinating facts but ultimately too long and disjointed. Disappointing - read waterlog instead

Dec 31, 2010, 7:27 am

the audacity of hype Armando Ianucci

No stars - gave it the standard chance of reading 50 pages and failed to be interested or amused by the collection of writings, most first printed in newspapers - YAWN

Dec 31, 2010, 7:29 am

Cages Dave Mackean

4 out of 5

Collected series of comics from the illustrator of Sandman & Batman;Arkham Asylum

The Theme to all the collected stories is creativity and it chronicles the lives of an artist, a musician and a writer living in the same apartment block. The art is recognisably Mackean although more sketchy and monotone than e.g. Arkham Asylum and less multi-layered than his cover arts for Sandman. The interconnecting stories are a "rumination on Art, Cats, God and the cages we build for ourselves”. I sense I missed a lot on first read through and that it will reward a re-read.

Overall - Not an easy read and not a standard narrative.

Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 9:59 am

predator: south china seas Jeff Vandermeer

4 out of 5

Enjoyable enough romp set in the predator universe

Vandermeer dabbles with working to someone else vision and still manages to get a very Vandermeer touch in there. A Predator kills a number of pirates and then moves on to an island owned by an ex-Khmer Rouge colonel who has created a game reserve for rich men to shoot a collection of animals. One of the rich men has spent a huge amount of money to lure the Predator there in order to extract revenge on it for killing his wife and child. The pirates also seek revenge and also make their way to the same island. Much carnage ensues.

Overall - Nothing spectacular but very readable and fun

Dec 31, 2010, 7:31 am

And that wraps up 2010 for me - you'll be able to find me on the 11/11 challenge here: