It is time to get festive on the blog. I hope your Yuletide trip down the pub turns out just like this one.
Miss Read: Over the Gate
My bank holiday reading will include the next in the Fairacre Chronicles.
Andrew Porter: In Between Days
An affluent American family - husband an architect, names such as Elson and Cadence - is disintegrating. Porter manages to stop this being an annoying tale of unsympathetic rich folk. Nothing earth shattering here but not to be dismissed either. Potentially interesting. (***)
Sylvie Simmons: I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
I guess one sign of a good biography is if you are keen to read more of it even if you aren't a fan of its subject. I don't own any Leonard Cohen records but having dipped into this I am tempted to read more. (****)
Toni Morrison: Home
Wasn't too sure about this but then the dialogue kicked in and it came to life a bit. (***)
Darren Craske: The Equivoque Principle
'Boisterous comedy and hairpin plot twists.' THE TIMES
Matt Delito: Confessions of a Police Constable
The next in the successful series of true life stories. Over 500,000 of them sold so far.
Harry Karlinsky: The Evolution of Inanimate Objects: The Life and Collected Works of Thomas Darwin (1857-1879)
Paperback edition of the Wellcome Trust Book Prize longlisted novel.
Brian Aldiss: Dracula Unbound
Brian's take on the Dracula story.
Rosie Dixon: Confessions of a Night Nurse
Reissue on ebook of a 70s sex comedy.
Brian Aldiss: Finches of Mars
He claims this will be is final science fiction novel.
Hermione Lee: Edith Wharton
Massive fucking brick of a biography.
Karl Ove Knausgaard: A Death in the Family: My Struggle Book 1
A long, slow, detailed autobiographical novel. The first of six volumes. Sometimes up its own arse, other times quite compelling. (***)
Miss Read: Miss Clare Remembers
A bit like Wolverine: Origins but with a 70-year-old schoolteacher instead of a hairy Huge Action. Wonderful standalone book for one of the supporting cast from the Fairacre series of books. (****)
Charles Lambert: The Slave House
Slightly disturbing Kindle Single (short ebook) about a gay man who embarks upon a straight affair while teaching in Portugal. Captures the greyness of the 1970s perfectly. (****)
Miss Read: Winter in Thrush Green
Comfort reading? Perhaps, but there is nothing wrong with that. Miss Read revisits Thrush Green for the first time in this novel from 1961. Some wonderful lines but not as much of the barbed sentiment of her previous work. (***)
J M Coetzee: The Childhood of Jesus
When this isn't being allegorical it is being philosophical. Neither approach really goes anywhere. (***)
Marc Leverton: Glastonbury Festival Myths and Legends
Fun little pocket book with snippets of stories from across the many years of the festival. To be honest, it could have all been covered in a magazine article but might be a nice memento of your visit. (***)
Miss Read: Fresh from the Country
A standalone novel, outside her two main series, about a young teacher's first job in a big school in a large town. Good story, lots of great characters. Surprised she didn't follow this up with any more. A shame. (****)
Brian Aldiss: Frankenstein Unbound
A somewhat bonkers sequel which is hugely more entertaining than the original. (****)
Mary Shelley: Frankenstein
God, what a disappointment. Plot holes the monster could walk through without having to bend down. Ridiculous. (**)
Will le Fleming: Central Reservation
A remarkably measured and accomplished debut. A story about loss, families, survival and that awkward transition into adulthood. A writer to watch. (****)
Kerry Hudson: Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma
Best first line I've read this year: 'Get out, you cunting, shitting, little fucking fucker!' were the first words I ever heard. And the rest of it is just as good. (****)
Jen Campbell: More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops
It arrived in the mail, I opened it up to dip in, next thing I knew I had finished the whole thing. (****)
Peter F. Hamilton: Misspent Youth
What a science fiction novel would be like if written by Judith Krantz. Utterly ridiculous but actually quite good fun. (***)
Miss Read: Thrush Green
Part of my Reading Miss Read challenge. The first in a parallel series to the Fairacre books and of an equally high standard. Looking forward to finding out what happens next. (****)
Miss Read: Storm in the Village
Latest instalment in my quest to read all the Miss Read books this year. This one moved away from the school setting somewhat and focused more on goings on in the village. A bit more gossipy and less social commentary as a result. Enjoyable comfort reading. (***)
Angela S. Choi: Hello Kitty Must Die
A novel about traditional Chinese families in modern America with a bit of hymen reconstruction surgery and serial killing thrown in for good measure. (****)
Carlene Bauer: Frances and Bernard
An epistolary novel based on the friendship between Robert Lowell and Flannery O'Connor. I picked it up and found it hard to put back down again. Polished it off in three short sittings. Excellent stuff. (****)
Jeremy Paxman: The Political Animal: An Anatomy
Genuinely enlightening study of politicians in the this country. Why they do it, what makes them tick, what their jobs entail and what happens when they are booted out. (****)
Richard Cowper: A Dream of Kinship
Second in an almost forgotten fantasy trilogy. Not quite as good as the first but still a cracking tale. Looking forward to the final part. (****)
Gilbert Adair: The Death of the Author
A murder mystery which doubles up as a satire on the world of literary criticism. A niche market, perhaps, but I really enjoyed this. (****)
Fiona Maddocks: Hildegard of Bingen
Fascinating biography of a 12th Century abbess who is recognised as one of the first composers as well as being a visionary, naturalist and feminist. (****)
Miss Read: Village Diary
Book two in my reading challenge and every bit as entertaining as the first. (****)
JMR Higgs: KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money
Witty, thought-provoking, jaw-dropping at times, this is one of the best books about the music industry you will ever read. (****)
Jennifer Egan: A Visit From the Goon Squad
I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this, I didn't even know what it was about, but was most pleasantly surprised. An original piece of storytelling which never forgets it is trying to tell a story. (****)
Miss Read: Village School
A year in the life of a fictional village school during the 1950s. A much misunderstood modern classic and a fascinating slice of social history. (****)
Stephan Mendel-Enk: Oh Sweden! Oh Israel!
One of the most accessible Jewish novels (for me as a non-Jewish reader) that I have come across. A quirky family story. Very short. Not amazing but some impressive stuff in there. Thought the £12.99 RRP for a book coming in at under 150 pages was a bit steep. (***)
Apostolos Doxiadis: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth
A graphic novel about Bertrand Russell. I shit you not. And it is proper fascinating and everything. (****)
Guy Delisle: Burma Chronicles
An account of a year the author spent living in Burma told in comic book form. Genuinely interesting and engaging if not particularly earth shattering but well worth a read if you want to find out a bit about the country and its people. (****)
Junichiro Tanizaki: Some Prefer Nettles
A somewhat restrained novel about the breakdown of a marriage in 1920s Japan. Offers considerable insight into Japanese society at the time. (***)
Kent Haruf: Benediction
A quiet masterpiece. (*****)
Alison Moore: The Lighthouse
Simple, unpretentious prose. Beautifully observed. Slightly off-kilter story. Really rather splendid. (****)
Brian Aldiss: Bury My Heart At W. H. Smith's
A memoir, of sorts. A glimpse at a writer's life. Full of great anecdotes and shameless namedropping. (****)
Brian Aldiss: The Brightfount Diaries
The diary of a fictional bookseller. Brian's first published book started out as a series of columns in The Bookseller magazine in the 1950s and is a delightfully amusing portrait of bookselling in the middle of the last century, much of which hasn't really changed a great deal. (****)
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’.
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
Also available as an ebook. How very modern.
It Is Just You, Everything's Not Shit
The ebook is currently only 99p, so what are you waiting for?
David Bellos: Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: The Amazing Adventure of Translation
He has translated most of Perec's work so I am intrigued by this book on the art of translation itself.
Kuhaku & Other Accounts from Japan
A beautiful collection of non-fiction pieces from and about Japan.
Julian Barnes: Through the Window: Seventeen Essays (and one short story)
So far, an entertaining collection.
Simon Gough: The White Goddess: An Encounter
Awful cover, especially for an ebook, but the contents are really rather interesting. The author grew up in the 40s and 50s, his parents were actors and his great-uncle was Robert Graves. In later years he became a book dealer and battled with serious illness. Like what I have read so far. (****)
David Harvey: Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution
An introduction which proves to be dense and impenetrable - unless you have an extensive knowledge of philosophy, town planning and the history of Paris - means I won't be reading this one any further. (**)
I know very little about baseball but found this fascinating. (****)
Crazy, Stupid, Love
A cut above your usual romantic comedy courtesy of some fine actors putting in good performances and a clever script with a couple of nice twists. (****)
The Place Beyond The Pines
From the director of Blue Valentine. It's a mighty fine piece of film-making. (****)
Land of Plenty
A Wim Wenders film that had passed me by. Two excellent central performances. A bit bleak but good. (****)
A Late Quartet
A beautifully crafted piece of work. Quiet, subtle, splendid. (****)
Confessions of a Pop Performer
This one actually has a lot less sex than the first, although it is still basically a 70s sit-com with added tits. (***)
Confessions of a Window Cleaner
Watched this on YouTube as I have republished the ebooks. Was not without some charm. (***)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Quietly bonkers art movie which fails to be anything more than an oddity really. Some bits were great though. (***)
Withnail and I
It is probably best to watch this with a room full of people who have seen it hundreds of times. But it is good to watch it in your front room at the weekend as well. (****)