What Library Staff are Reading . . .
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban – The most challenging book I have read for a long time, maybe ever. The book is told by a boy living about 2000 years after a nuclear war, his language is a mix of phonetic words of some area in the UK and old sayings that have new meanings. Some words are easy to work out while others are very hard. It was good for the challenge but I was left wanting more from a post apocalypse story. The themes explored were nothing new to me but perhaps they would be to someone that has not seen and read as much science fiction.
The Gruen Transfer – This book has been my coffee table book for about 18 months and I have just finished it. Great 3 page articles that you can pick up and read anytime. All of the information appears to come from the first few season of the show and some of the ideas are explained a little more. A great read for anyone who enjoys the show or thinks advertising is pollution.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – I read this because it is being made into a film by the Wachowski brothers who I am a fan of. I thought the book was fantastic. It is six books in one really, all different genres that are linked by a few small obvious things and a few more subtle ones. The film has had to alter from the way the book was written but the author of the book has read the script and said that it has the potential to be better than the book. I can’t wait.
No Logo by Naomi Klein
Closure, Limited by Max Brooks
Farenheit 451 by Ray BradburySupersized: Strange Tales from a Fast-Food Culture by Morgan Spurlock (Graphic Novel) Batman: The Black Glove by Grant Morrison Batman RIP by Grant Morrison Batman: Battle For The Cowl by Tony S Daniel Red Robin: Vol 1 The Grail Gotham City Sirens: Vol 1 Union All of the above are part of a Batman story arc from 2009/2010 that involves Bruce Wayne dying and the original Robin taking over as Batman and Bruce Wayne’s son becoming Robin. I have really been getting into it. Grant Morrison has written a lot of the main story and I like where he has taken it. I am not finished the whole arc yet so no one tell me if Bruce Wayne is going to come back. 1788 : comprising a narrative of the expedition to Botany Bay and a complete account of the settlement at Port Jackson – by Watkin Tench- I usually read about one nonfiction book a year, at the most, but this is my third. This is a fascinating and readable peek into early European life in Sydney. Not sure how far I will get, but so far so good! I’ve just finished The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald – read it for book group. Won’t read it again. Reay Tannahill The Seventh Son – well researched historical novel. Toby Forward Doubleborn – my dose of fantasy fiction. As I lay dying by William Faulkner – I think I am going to have to read it again, there were so many protagonists and I was not always sure who they were. So brilliantly clever : Parker, Hulme and the murder that shocked the world by Peter Graham – true crime. Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker murdered Pauline’s mother. In their mid teens at the time, they served about 5 years jail for their crime. One of them is now a highly successful crime writer. How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran – amusing musings on womanhood. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson – for book group. I can now hunt you down, you psychopaths, you! Not reading The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald – for book group again. I disliked it at school and disliked it again last year for my other book group. I am happy to go on disliking it. Brighton Rock by Grahame Greene - When I run out of reading material I hunt down an unread Graham Greene novel. This one is a great glimpse into a time and place that is quite alien to me. A very different pre- war Britain from my usual Cold Comfort Farm style niceness. More beer and razor blades than tea and scones. Marching Powder by Rusty Young – This is a story of the craziest penal system in the world. Many of the ‘inmates’ families live in the prison with them. Even stranger than the presence of women and children is the fact that Western tourists are admitted into the prison in order to do guided tours, which are conducted by one of the inmates. The most famous prison tour guide is Thomas McFadden, a British subject charged with trafficking 850grams of cocaine and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. For Thomas, having a paying job in prison was necessary. Inmates in San Pedro are forced to pay for everything. When they arrive, they are forced to buy their own prison cells. A price is negotiated with the previous owner and an official Sale/Purchase contract is signed. For more information and photos that need to be seen to be believed
A compelling read. 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith – I had never been able to get into the No1 Ladies Detective series and wondered why everyone raved about McCall Smith as an author. I was recommended to read this and I loved it! 44 Scotland Street is home to some of Edinburgh’s most interesting characters. Centred around Pat, a twenty-year-old who has recently moved into a flat with Bruce, an athletic young man with a keen awareness of his own appearance; their neighbour, Domenica, an eccentric and insightful widow; while in the flat below are Irene and her talented son Bertie, who is the victim of his mother’s desire for him to learn the saxophone and Italian–all at the tender age of five. There are love triangles, a lost painting, intriguing new friends, and an encounter with a famous Scottish crime writer which are just a few of the ingredients that add to this delightful portrait of Edinburgh, which was first published as a serial in The Scotsman newspaper. Australian Tragic: Gripping Tales from the dark side of our history by Jack Marx – ever since I read Underbelly Razor and found several little snippets of Australian history outlined in that book that had been buried by history (like the time the Light Horse Brigade, stationed out near Liverpool, had not been paid for months, went on a 3 day drunken bender where they drunk every pub dry in Central Sydney…), I knew there were more stories like this to be found. However, what I found in this book was not the typical Australian larrikin stories, but stories of personal tragedy, victims of circumstance and tragedies lost in time or glossed over. The story of the depressed mother whose husband brought her and the family to Sydney to cheer her up and bring the family closer – while she was getting ice creams, her husband and sons were on the doomed Ghost Train at Luna Park. Or the story of an up and coming boxer who one night, sucker punched the legendary cricketer, David Hookes and killed him, but then later he went on to box his way to victory in his weight division – no media coverage of that story… The very best story is not a tragedy as such, but a bizarre tale of renegade Newcastle surgeon, Henry Leighton Jones, who pioneered monkey-testicle transplants for men with waning virility, which by all accounts seemed to be successful, but again, was lost in time due to tragic circumstances. Buying a Piece of Parisby Ellie Nielsen – Paris has seduced many admirers, but for visiting Australian Ellie Nielsen it’s true love. So deep is her infatuation that, if she can’t have it all to herself, she’ll only be satisfied with buying her own little piece of Paris. The object of her desire seems so simple: the sort of apartment she’s seen a thousand times in magazines and books. Something effortlessly charming, and old, and quirky – and expertly decorated. Something quintessentially Parisian and oozing character. Ever wanted to know more than you needed to in how to negotiate a deal in Paris, in a foreign language without offending French real-estate etiquette? Buying a Piece of Paris is a charming ode to the most beautiful city in the world. Written with great verve and a superb ear for language, it is a joy to read and a pleasure to dream about. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson – Written in 1971, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is considered a classic. If you are easily offended by gratuitous drug usage and the craziness resulting from it, then put the book down and back away slowly. Through clouds of mescaline, acid, ether, amyl, tequila, rum, and pot, Las Vegas is described through the demented eyes of a person totally over the edge and bordering on drug induced psychosis. Thompson has captured the mind of the delusional manic brilliantly and while it is a journey not recommended for real life, I found the story endlessly fascinating. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas may be dated in its use of drugs and money, and the picture painted of a Las Vegas strip long gone to the commercialism of today’s Vegas, but the snapshot of 1970’s life in the USA is priceless. One Thing Led to Another by Mark ‘Chopper’ Read – Meet Mark ‘Chopper’ Read. His books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in Australia. He’s been the subject of an internationally successful film. His one-man shows have toured Australia to sell-out crowds. He’s the most recognisable criminal brand name in Australia. But the truth is, do you really know who Mark ‘Chopper’ Read is? The real Chopper has been an enigma – until now, that is. This is the definitive Chopper story. From his strange, tortured childhood to the formative years as a young gang member and developing criminal, to his decades in and out of prison in Victoria and Tasmania, to his friends and enemies, and his crimes and punishments, this book gives us the true stories that lie behind the Chopper myths, as well as the stories he’s never revealed before…I found this an interesting read and it was good to flesh out the personality behind the brand. The Secret Children by Alison McQueen – This one has all the ingredients of a good story. It opens in 1925. James MacDonald has been managing a tea plantation in Assam, northern India for quite a while. The notion of marriage to a nicely-bred English girl fills him with distaste, but when a marriage-broker brings him the beautiful Chinthimani, he can’t resist her. The fact that a concubine is not the same as a wife soon dawns on the young woman, and sets the tenor of her entire life. Meanwhile Shurika, another young Indian woman, is escaping desperate poverty and misfortune, and fetches up at the same plantation. Their lives knit. The story ranges across three generations, and is a fairly compulsive read. My only gripe is McQueen’s sometimes over-ripe prose, dripping with drama. But it’s a small gripe: she has given me a shocking picture, which feels most authentic, of the lives of Indian women.The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska - I never thought I’d hear myself say this of a piece by this writer: but it’s dull. It’s set in PNG in those few years before independence from Australia was granted, which interested me as I also lived in PNG at that time. But the characters don’t leap off the page, I was confused too often about what was happening, and I just didn’t care. I didn’t finish it. But may I say that Modjeska is responsible for a wonderful survey of Australian women writers called Exiles at Home; also Stravinsky’s Lunch, and The Orchard. She’s a terrific writer, and other readers may totally disagree with me about this one. I would love to hear other views.
The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman – Tom Sherbourne, back from the horrors of the First World War, gets a job keeping the lighthouse on Janus Rock, surrounded by wild ocean off the south coast of Western Australia. “Find the right sort of wife,” the old hands advise him. And so he does. By 1922 Tom and Isabel are together on the island, and Isabel is busy keeping house, looking after the gardens and animals, but longs for nothing more than to have their first child. Luck is not with them; miscarriages follow. And then one day a small boat comes in to shore carrying a dead man and a baby. This novel is written with restraint, compassion, quiet observation and deep respect for nature. I’m enjoying every word, and learning so much about lighthouse-keeping. Absolutely riveting.
Why be happy when you could be normal? By Jeanette Winterson – Lots of people have read and commented on this memoir, so I’ll just say that the two things that strike me about it are the compelling portrait of the very strange Mrs Winterson, and the observations scattered throughout the book by its author, wise and pithy reflections on the nature of life and relationships. Mrs Winterson, Jeanette’s adoptive mother, is a religious fanatic, obsessive and cruel, whose lynch-pin seems to be self-hatred and self-flagellation. A dangerous mix, and Jeanette must become a survivor. She clearly is, but the scars of her childhood continue to express themselves in odd ways. Apart from giving us disturbing scenes from her childhood JW talks about the inevitable longing to know her birth parents, and that search.