Firestation Arts Centre @ 7:45pm on Thursday 17th April.
Joining us will be Stephanie Butland and Robert Shore.
Click the link above for more details. Entry is £5.
Ted Hughes: The Iron Man
I was quite enjoying this until the space dragon turned up and then it all got a bit too silly. (***)
Leah Price: Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books
A bunch of authors answer questions about their book collections and allow their shelves to be photographed. Great book porn. (****)
Charles Bukowski: Pulp: A Novel
His last novel is a far-fetched private eye novel that is completely daft but good fun. (****)
George Saunders: Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness
A short speech about kindness Saunders gave to graduating students at Syracuse University. It is born of good intentions and has been turned into a very handsome little volume. Sweet but slight. (***)
Thomas Christopher Greene: The Headmaster's Wife
Great story. Beautiful prose. Amazing twist. (****)
Matt Rudd: The English
A very funny field guide to our (my) great countrymates. Great social commentary, manages to make serious points and subvert your expectations while making you laugh. (****)
Jack Standing: The Bug - Episode 1
First instalment of a horror novel being released in six parts for 77p each. A neat idea and, although horror is not a genre I bother with normally, I really enjoyed this. Would make a great TV drama. (****)
Barry Webb: A Book About a Matchbox
At times this was brilliant. At times this was frustrating and in need of a jolly good edit. A novel about a sentient matchbox and the lives of the people who own it. A bold experiment that almost comes off. (***)
Danny Rhodes: Fan
A novel about the Hillsborough disaster, or rather its aftermath. A Nottingham Forest fan who has moved down south finds himself reliving that awful day when, years later, he receives news of two deaths back home. Rhodes holds nothing back. This is an important and unforgettable book. (****)
Julian Barnes: Levels of Life
A study of grief. I confess I did have uncharitable thoughts that he was dwelling rather too much and I preferred the earlier portions of the book which are all about the early pioneers of ballooning. (***)
Nik Perring: Beautiful Words: Some Meanings and Some Fictions Too
An alphabet book for grown-ups with just the hint of a story across its pages. Clever stuff. Quite charming. (****)
Malcolm Lowry: Ultramarine
A posh bloke tries to write about working men and doesn't really pull it off. Somewhat tedious with just occasional flashes of quality. (**)
Richard Hughes: In Hazard
Written just before the outbreak of WW2 this story of a steamer caught in a hurricane is a real thriller and, dare I say it, a bit of a lost classic. (****)
Kent Haruf: The Tie that Binds
His first novel, and the only one I hadn't got round to reading. Definite signs of the genius that was to come. Not quite as spare and economical as his very best work but still quite marvelous. (****)
Lucy Inglis: Georgian London: Into the Streets
A wonderful history which really brings to life the inhabitants of 18th century London to life. (****)
Éric Faye: Nagasaki
A middle-aged Japanese man becomes convinced someone is sneaking into his house and drinking his orange juice, among other things. A real little gem of a book. I finished it in one sitting. (****)
Igort Tuveri: 5 Is The Perfect Number
Some great images in this graphic novel about a retired mafioso who returns to the game following the death of his son but the writing isn't really of the same quality. (***)
Osamu Dazai: Schoolgirl
Japanese post-war existential novella that, I am guessing, has a bit more impact in its original language. Interesting but slight, and lacks any real clout. (***)
Junichiro Tanizaki: In Praise Of Shadows
An essay on aesthetics from the author of The Makioka Sisters. Some interesting passages and he makes a considered argument against electric light and the way it ruins the look of things. Mind you, this was written in 1933. (***)
Ben Watt: Romany and Tom
A memoir of his parents. Contains some beautiful writing. (****)
Cynan Jones: The Dig
Short, intense novel about a farmer trying to get through lambing season and a badger baiter attempting to evade the law. Told in short poetic bursts. Some wonderful lines in this. I read it in one sitting. (****)
Magnus Mills: Three to See the King
A wonky, wonderful parable. As if The Woman in the Dunes had been rewritten by The League of Gentlemen. (****)
Alejandro Zambra: The Private Lives of Trees
An interesting novella from Chile. First half is better than the second half. (***)
Charles Lambert: The View from the Tower
Published by Exhibit A books, a specialist crime imprint, but not perhaps the sort of crime novel you'd expect. Romantic and political intrigue in a troubled Italy. (****)
Banana Yoshimoto: Lake, The
As I find with most of her books, this is enjoyable but slight. (***)
Diogo Mainardi: The Fall
An unusual, experimental memoir. A father writing about his son who has cerebral palsy. He does so in 424 numbered paragraphs, many of which go off on tangents but all seem to find their way back to the subject somehow. Clever without showing off. Moving without being sentimental. (****)
Joan Lindsay: Picnic at Hanging Rock
A dark and haunting modern classic. A real shame that the author didn't write any more novels. (****)
Wesley Stace: Misfortune
Oh I loved this. A foundling baby boy is raised as a girl by an eccentric lord in this tale of family secrets, incest, libraries, ballads, forgotten poets, hermaphrodites and sweet revenge. Imagine Middlesex crossed with Crimson Petal and the White. (*****)
Heðin Brú: The Old Man and His Sons
A classic novel from the Faroe Islands. An old man gets drunk and bids too much for a load of whale meat. Most of the book is him trying to raise the funds to pay the impending bill. A black comedy. (****)
Sophocles (Translated by David Grene): Oedipus the King
This is the translation I read for A-level. Brought back memories. The centre of the play, when the secret is revealed, remains incredibly powerful. (****)
Natalie Haynes: The Amber Fury
A teacher in a school for expelled pupils wins over the older kids with some Greek classics but then, after all, these are the Greek classics so it is unlikely to end well. A promising debut novel which inspired me to re-read some Sophocles and Euripides. (****)
Ingrid Winterbach: The Book of Happenstance
A lexicographer is working on a dictionary of lost Afrikaans words when she is distracted by the loss of something closer to home: her collection of rare shells. An unusual novel which deserves a wide audience. (****)
John Banville: The Sea
I tried, I really did, but most of this just washed over me (pun noted but not intended). Interesting in places but ultimately a bit dull. (***)
Robertson Davies: The Lyre of Orpheus
The final part of the Cornish trilogy. Perhaps not quite as joyously entertaining as the first two but still marvelous in its own way. (****)
Barbara Graziosi: The Gods of Olympus: A History
Charts the history of the Greek gods from their origins through to the present day. Informative and entertaining. (****)
Roberto Bolano: Monsieur Pain
Short Kafka-esque romp which becomes somewhat vague and rambling in the second half. Started well, and promised much, but didn't quite deliver. (***)
Stephen Grosz: The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves
A collection of stories from the psychoanalyst's couch. It was interesting to take this peek into other people's lives (and minds) but it did get a tad repetitive by the end and the lack of any real resolution in most cases left me feeling short changed. (***)
Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch
This is good, very good in places, but I had some issues with it. Also, it is 250 pages too long. (****)
Lawrence Wright: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
A study/expose of the Scientology 'religion'. I think it tries to be even handed but it is hard when the founder is quite clearly a con-artist and the beliefs are so fucking daft. Mind you, not much different to all the other religions out there. An absolutely riveting read. (****)
Charlie Hill: Books
Patchy, and sometimes very silly, satire of the book world but I couldn't help but enjoy it immensely. (****)
Plato (translated by Walter Hamilton): The Symposium
A bunch of Greek blokes, nursing hangovers from the night before, decide not to get pissed and chat about love instead. Quite sweet really. Nice accessible translation too. (****)
Ray Robinson: Jawbone Lake
Robinson seems to reinvent himself with each book. This time he has written an exemplary literary thriller. The clever bastard. (****)
Rosa Liksom: Compartment No 6
Translated from the Finnish.
Neel Mukherjee: The Lives of Others
This cover is the most splendid shade of purple.
Shani Boianjiu: The People of Forever are not Afraid
Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013.
Roy Hattersley: The Devonshires: The Story of a Family and a Nation
A biography of those folk who live at Chatsworth House.
Joel F. Harrington: The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death in the Sixteenth Century
Biography of Franz Schmidt, an executioner who kept a diary about his job.
Robin Black: Life Drawing
People already nudging me online telling me how good this is.
George Saunders: Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness
A graduation speech given by the author to students at Syracuse University.
Nicholson Baker: Travelling Sprinkler
Excited about this.
Aeschylus: The Oresteia
Translated by Robert Fagles who is responsible for two excellent translations of Homer.
Richard P Feynman: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
This has been on my wishlist for a while. It appears to have a lot of complicated diagrams.
Tony Black: Artefacts of the Dead
Irvine Welsh's favourite crime writer.
Manuel Rivas: All Is Silence
The best writer in Spain today, it says here.
Stuart Neville: The Final Silence
Crime novel plastered with praise from high profile crime writers.
Nick Harkaway: Tigerman
Our most recent Book Swap guest.
William Boyd: Solo: A James Bond Novel
It can't be any more misogynistic than a proper James Bond novel, can it?
The Dodo Collection
Both my Dodos titles in one handy ebook omnibus.
Christmas Dodos: Festive Things on the Verge of Extinction
My new book is out now. It will definitely fit in a Christmas stocking.
It Is Just You, Everything's Not Shit
My first book was published way back in 2007 and is an optimist's encyclopedia, of sorts.
21st Century Dodos
A guide to the many inanimate objects that are sadly on the verge of extinction. The Guardian called it ‘chummy 1970s and 80s nostalgia’.
Robert Shore: Fifty Great Things to Come Out of the Midlands
What do Watchmen, 2Tone, The Archers and Land of Hope & Glory have in common? You've guessed it...
Andrew Fish: Erasmus Hobart and the Golden Arrow
Only free for a limited time. It's about a time-travelling history teacher who goes back to see if Robin Hood really existed.
Tom Reynolds: Blood, Sweat and Tea: Real Life Adventures in an Inner-city Ambulance
The book that inspired the TV series Sirens.
Benjamin Gilmour: The Saint of Pakistan: An Extract from Paramédico
A remarkable look at the work of one unsung medical worker in Pakistan. This is a free sampler of a much longer book in which the author travels the world to work as a paramedic.
Darren Craske: The Equivoque Principle
We've just published the fourth book in this series. This is the first one and is completely free to download.
Trick Mammoth: Floristry
Velocity Girl meets The Go-Betweens. Playing this a lot at the moment. Especially when the sun is out. (****)
Rjurik Davidson: Unwrapped Sky
I managed to get a third of the way through this fantasy novel but it really started to drag and I just couldn't summon up the resolve to keep going. Three parallel narratives were perhaps one too many when only one of them really sustained my interest. (***)
Maria Semple: This One Is Mine
Every sign of being as funny as Where'd You Go Bernadette. (****)
Sarah Henshaw: The Bookshop That Floated Away
This woman opened a bookshop on a canal boat. Bonkers, certainly, but also quite charming. (****)
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: A Short Ride in the Jungle: The Ho Chi Minh Trail by Motorcycle
I don't read too many travel books. I should, I tend to enjoy them. This one may well get be back into the swing of things. An account of the authors trek across Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia on a pink motorbike. (****)
Seth MacFarlane: A Million Ways to Die in the West
I suspect it is a lot harder to be funny on paper than on screen as MacFarlane proves here. Mildly amusing novel based on the screenplay for his new movie. I'm sure the movie will make me laugh but this didn't. (***)
Chris Pavone: The Accident
A thriller that pits a literary agent against a CIA agent. Good fun. (****)
Laura Lippman: After I'm Gone
An intriguing crime novel - convicted businessman vanishes, his mistress found dead, cold case resurrected decades later - given a most un-crimey cover. (***)
Andrew Solomon: Far From The Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity: A Dozen Kinds of Love
A terrible, terrible cover for what appears to be, so far at least, a fascinating study of parenthood and what we pass on to our kids. Awful cover though, just awful. (****)
Sally Gardner: The Double Shadow
Teenage rebellion in 1930s high society. Great fun so far with a splendid central character in Amaryllis Ruben. (****)
James Wood: The Fun Stuff and Other Essays
On reading the opening sentence to his essay about Never Let Me Go - 'Works of fantasy or science fiction that also succeed in literary terms are hard to find, and are rightly to be treasured' - I knew this was going to piss me off, and it did. Elitist and pompous. (**)
The Queen of Versailles
What starts off as a documentary about excess and the fact that money can't buy taste becomes something quite different. (****)
The Grand Budapest Hotel
I find quite a lot of Wes Anderson's films to be style and silliness over substance (see a couple of entries down) but this was simply glorious and Ralph Fiennes hilarious. (*****)
Sort of OK. The acting was a bit too obvious and mannered for my liking and the script a bit lightweight. Not bad but not great. (***)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Most Wes Anderson films are more silly than interesting and this is definitely one of those. Enjoyable, but daft. (***)
Trippy comedy set during a computer chess tournament in the early 80s. Not entirely successful but captures the era brilliantly. (***)
A bit confused and definitely the least rewarding of the revenge trilogy. Has its moments though. (***)
Second time I have seen this. It loses none of its impact really. A real classic. (*****)
Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance
Relentlessly grim but brilliantly realised revenge drama from Korea. (****)
The Lego Movie
Not actually as good as I was led to believe although certainly better than most animated kids movies. (***)
Beautifully written and acted. A proper delight to watch it again. (*****)
Very dark. Very funny. (****)
Australian indie film from a decade ago. Spellbinding central performance from Abbie Cornish. Well worth seeking out. (****)
John Freeman: How to Read a Novelist: Conversations with Writers
A collection of pen portraits based on interviews with famous writers the author has conducted over the years.
Anya Lipska: Death Can't Take A Joke
The second Kiszka and Kershaw mystery.
Robert Shore: Bang in the Middle
A humorous tour of the Midlands.
Stephen Bayley: Charm
An essay about charm. Why we value it emotionally but not financially, its importance throughout history. Available only as an ebook.
Charles Lambert: With a Zero at its Heart
24 chapters. Each with 10 numbered paragraphs. Each paragraph with precisely 120 words. The story of a life.
John Lenahan: Shadowmagic Trilogy
All three books in one volume.
Brian Aldiss: Supertoys Trilogy
His three Supertoys stories, which inspired the movie A.I., in one low-priced ebook.
Steve Berry & Phil Norman: A Brief History of Chocolate
It is short. It is about chocolate. Does exactly what it says on the wrapper.
Christopher Nuttall: Ark Royal
Terrible cover but pretty good SF story. A bit Starship Troopers but without the satire. Definitely worth the sub-£2 asking price. Can't go too wrong there. (***)
Scott Lynch: The Lies of Locke Lamora
I wanted to try out some fantasy fiction so asked for recommendations on Twitter. This was one that was suggested to me and I thought it was pretty good. Not sure if I will go on to read the rest. I might though. It is on the shortlist. (***)
Mircea Cartarescu: Blinding: Volume 1
I couldn't hack the procession of dream sequences that start off this book. All a bit too vague for me. (**)
Daniel Lieberman: The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease
How our bodies have evolved, what they have evolved for and how they may change in the future. (****)
Noson S. Yanofsky: The Outer Limits of Reason: What Science, Mathematics, and Logic Cannot Tell Us
This sample was fascinating. The book looks at things that our brains simply cannot comprehend because they defy logic and reason in the worlds of science, maths etc. I just about managed to follow it so felt very good about myself. (****)
Tim Teeman: In Bed With Gore Vidal
Gossipy and entertaining look at the bits of Vidal's life he decided to gloss over in his memoirs. All the sex, basically. (****)
Natsume Soseki: Kokoro
Reading this in preparation for a visit to the Soseki Museum in London.
Alexander Monro: The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of the World's Greatest Invention
I am reading this on ebook. Does that make me evil?
Robert K. Massie: Catherine The Great
Have borrowed this from the Kindle Lending Library.