What have your favourite librarians had their noses buried in this month?
- Better than Fiction : True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers – by Don George – a fascinating anthology of travel writing.
- Eugenia by Mark Tedeschi – about a woman who masqueraded as a man for decades, including being happily married twice. It’s incredible stuff.
- I Hear the Sirens in the Street by Adrian McKinty – gripping crime fiction set in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s.
- The Lighthouse by Alison Moore – a book group read. We concluded that enjoyment of this book depends on whether you viewed the main character, Futh, as a bumbling fool or a pathetic non-entity. Those with the former view enjoyed the book as a farcical comedy, while the others thought of the book as ‘miserable’.
- Family Secrets by Deborah Cohen – a social history giving the background to why families have all those illegitamate/insane/intellectually disabled skeletons in their closets.
- The Last Tsar : Emperor Michael II by Donald Crawford – so did you, like me, think Nicholas was the last Tsar of Russia? Crawford argues that it was his brother, Michael, who was the last Tsar after Nicholas abdicated on behalf of himself and the Tsarevich, Alexis. Actually, I think Crawford draws a long bow as Michael was Tsar for a very short time but this book is well worth the read – Michael was an interesting man in his own right, and who knows what would have happened had he been Tsar instead of his weak-willed older brother?
- Dominion by CJ Sansom – thriller set in an alternative 1950s Britain where the Germany has won WWII. A page-turner.
- I’m currently quite enjoying (with some reservations) Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally – two sisters, nurses both, go off to WWI.
- The Lost Letters of Pergamum, A Story from the New Testament World by Bruce W. Longenecker – This is a fiction, written with a well-informed eye to the society and culture of the ancient Roman empire in the late first century as it existed in what is now known as Turkey. The plot is developed through letters, in a very understated way, with footnotes as to timing and location etc to give it that air of archaeological discovery. The book is striking for how it reveals the implications of the ‘honour – shame’ value system for behaviour that subverts it. I enjoyed how this book gave through the device of the letter exchange a portrayal of the dilemma faced by an upper status citizen of the Roman empire when he encounters a community of people below his status who he finds to his surprise he admires.
- All that I am by Anna Funder- Half way through and enjoying it, but I made the mistake of researching all of the characters in the book, so I think I may have spoiled the suspense. Admittedly I haven’t been back to it after putting it down for a while.
- The time keeper by Mitch Albom. A very simple story , quite unusual, but I really enjoyed it.
- Salmon fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday. I am glad that I read this a long time after seeing the movie as, if I had read it first and then seen the movie, I would have been really annoyed with the movie (again one of those movies that changes the ending). I loved the book. Well worth reading.
- Mennonite in a little black dress : a memoir of going home by Rhoda Janzen - I love this writer’s command of the English language and wonderful sense of humour. She talks about all sorts of things in life!
- I read The vintage pattern selector : the sewer’s guide to choosing and using retro styles by Jo Barnfield with great interest and actually printed one of the 15 patterns from the CD in the back cover. You need to have access to a colour printer for the patterns on the CD (or they could be very costly to print), and a BIG table or enough floor space to lay out a pattern as this is a matter of putting down A$ pages in sequence. The content of the book, women’s clothing from 1920s to 1970s, is very well laid out, on a system where the focus each chapter is on a feature, like dresses, or trousers and shorts, or lingerie and you see how these were worn in each era and might be reflected in today’s dress styles. The final two chapters are on dressmaking basics and construction. This book would be good value for a beginning sewer and personal style designer.
- Another book I loved reading this month, on a similar topic, is Minxy vintage : how to customise and wear vintage clothing by Kelly Doust. This book gives stories (and photos) of how the author adapted vintage finds and made them suit herself. It is very inspiring and encouraging if finding and wearing vintage and retro stuff is your passion.
- The Night Circus: A Novel by Erin Morgenstern. Magical, dark, lyrical, and best of all, set in my most favourite era – the 1880s.
- Linen, wool, cotton : 25 simple projects by Akiko Mano. A collection of elegant projects to look at and dream about making.
- Epic win for Anonymous : how 4chan’s army conquered the Web by Cole Stryker. All about online culture, the good and the bad and the fine LULZ.
- Fantasy Tattoo Sourcebook: Over 500 Images for Body Decoration, Published by Carlton Books – one day, maybe…?
- Moranthology by Caitlin Moran. Hilarious words from the silly (yet wise) duffer Moran.
- I loved Three Dog Night by Peter Goldsworthy and also In a Blind Man’s Garden by a Pakistani Author (can’t remember his name), this book is very different from the norm.
- Sensitive Creatures [Graphic novel] by Mandy Ord – I loved this book! I picked it up because I saw Shaun Tan’s name on the front cover (it was a quote from him about this book saying it was “Honest and Captivating”). I am a huge fan of Shaun Tan’s beautiful illustrations and thoughtful story-lines, so I picked this book up without any further thought, and I’m glad I did. Ord creates quirky-looking characters, and captures everyday situations brilliantly. There were several little stories that really resonated with me. I also loved the snappy pace – no dawdling over detail, Ord gets to the heart of the matter with few words. She also knows how to capture and express the humour of the moment, even when dealing with serious issues.
- French Milk [Graphic novel] by Lucy Knisley – I’m a bit obsessed with France at the moment, so this is one of a few books I’ve been reading with that in mind. Startlingly honest (I felt maybe she was trying too hard to be a bit shocking at times), this is basically a graphic journal of the author’s trip to France with her mother. I enjoyed her reading list while in France and wished I was there, but the book left me a bit flat. It felt like too much time spent on her personal experiences rather than more universal experiences we could all enjoy.
- French Cats by Rachael McKenna – Again with the French theme… this book is BEAUTIFUL! Gorgeous photography of French cats in rustic houses, gardens and inspiring-looking French alleyways. As a cat lover, I loved this book. As a armchair traveller, I loved this book. I think if I was any sort of photographer (which I’m not), I would love this book for that too. If any of those three appeal to you, borrow this book!
- Books Make a Home: Elegant ideas for storing and displaying books by Damian Thompson – This book also has gorgeous photos, this time of books! Some really lovely ideas (drool-worthy at times) on using, displaying and living with books.
- The End: the human experience of death by Bianca Nogrady – I haven’t finished this one yet, but so far it is a deep and thoughtful examination of death (and life), considered from a range of viewpoints: medical, religious, and personal. I was particularly interested in reading Bianca Nogrady’s ideas about a ‘good’ death. This is well worth reading, and certainly relevant to everyone! Bianca will be speaking about this book at Katoomba Library in July.
- The Library Book – This book is a shameless plug for the value of the public library. With contributions by Seth Grodin, China Mieville, Alan Bennett, Val McDermind and many more, there are a great variety of experiences and approaches represented. It was really interesting reading the various author’s experiences involving public libraries and how they have found libraries supportive and nurturing in different ways. I found it relevant reading in light of the recent Terry Deary attack on libraries, to hear so many authors voicing their support for the public library.
- In Praise of Love by Alain Badiou – I can be a hopeless romantic and the title (and cover) of this one was the main appeal for me. Also, I’m interested in philosophy, though most of the time I don’t think I really get it. I did find some real gems in this that resonated with me though – “We could say that love is a tenacious adventure. The adventurous side is necessary, but equally so is the need for tenacity. To give up at the first hurdle, the first serious disagreement, the first quarrel, is only to distort love. Real love is one that triumphs lastingly, sometimes painfully, over the hurdles erected by time, space and the world.” See, told you I was a hopeless romantic.
- Tête-à-tête: The lives and loves of Simone De Beauvoir & Jean-Paul Sartre by Hazel Rowley – I picked this one in part because they lived in France! I am fascinated by their lives – their extremely unusual relationship, their life of ideas and writing, and their really deep thinking. In some ways I found myself admiring them, but never (I think) envying their situation. I couldn’t say I agree with all that they thought and did, but I really enjoyed thinking about it and was challenged to think more deeply in my own life. I loved Hazel Rowley’s writing style, she clearly developed the ‘characters’, and was descriptive without slowing the pace. I felt like I knew them.
- I have been reading nothing but textbooks (!)
- The Forgotten World by Mark O’Flynn – Here’s a Katoomba story that locals will love, partly because Mark has closely researched his subject and partly because his language and story-spinning skills are so appealing. He’s a poet, after all, and poets understand the rhythm and music of words. I loved his earlier novel Grassdogs. Half-brothers Clancy and Byron grow up wild down in the Jamison Valley south of Katoomba. It’s late in the nineteenth century and coal-mining is a going concern in the valley. Tunnels are being gouged out of cliff faces, various mechanical devices carry the coal to the surface. Many of the miners, finding the walk back to Katoomba after work too arduous, have scavenged materials and built huts along what we know as Federal Pass, and around the Castle Head corner in Cedar Valley. The town-dwellers know them contemptuously as ‘the Shadies’. This is the brothers’ story, but also some of Katoomba’s story. Although Mark O’Flynn tackles the darkness in human character as well as the light, I find his combination of empathy and humour uplifting.
- False Start by Mark O’Flynn – Yes, it’s an O’Flynn-fest at the moment. From the back cover: It is the early 1980s. With an arts degree in one hand and no job prospects in the other, Mark O’Flynn’s working career is kick-started in a quarry in outback Australia. More self-deprecating humour and storytelling. A delightful memoir.
- Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel - I didn’t have time to finish this, but there was a darkness, a seediness here that I found difficult to digest, while acknowledging Mantel’s pre-eminence as a writer and her dark wit.
- Griffith Review 33: a quarterly of writing and ideas – This issue is called “Such is Life”, and its general theme is storytelling. Such fine writers as Marion Halligan, Lloyd Jones, Carrie Tiffany and Raymond Gaita have contributed pieces. I’m really enjoying this collection.
- The Book of Ice by Paul D. Miller “aka DJ Spooky that subliminal kid” – recommended by Adam for my March ecoread. Great for a snapshot history of the Antarctic. Learnt everything I needed to know. Check out the website – the short 5 minute video is worth the visit!
- A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin – continuing the Game of Thrones saga – and what a saga it is! http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62291.A_Storm_of_Swords
- 50 Shades Freed by EL James – yes, I know, but now that I have started, I have to finish the trilogy! Probably the most boring one of the three. http://www.eljamesauthor.com/books/fifty-shades-freed/
- Embassytown by China Miéville – The only non graphic novel I read this month. It was a good science fiction read, I will be reading some more by this author when I have the time.
- Bone Volumes 3 – 10 by Jeff Smith – At the beginning I couldn’t work out why this series is so critically acclaimed and has sold so many copies. Towards the end I was really enjoying the story a lot and began to understand. Such simple artwork but very iconic and a story that contains all those elements that make tales like Star Wars so popular.
- Death: The High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman
- Death: The Time of Your Life by Neil Gaiman
- Death: At Death’s Door by Thompson, Jill – A bunch of spin off stories about the character of Death from the Sandman series. I enjoyed these and realised that most of my favourite stories from Sandman contained Death.
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Dust To Dust by Philip K Dick – It has been so long since I have read PKD’s novel which was my first of his and still is my favourite. This graphic adaptation is excellent and probably better than many graphic adaptations because it contains all the text from the novel. The prequel story Dust to Dust was quite good also.
- Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 03 by John Wagner
- Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 02 by John Wagner
- Slaine: Demon Killer by Pat Mills
- Slaine: The Horned God by Pat Mills
- Slaine: The King by Pat Mills
- Slaine: Time Killer by Pat Mills
- The Collected Slaine by Pat Mills
- The Hive by Charles Burns
- X’ed Out by Charles Burns
I’ve just finally read The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal after many recommendations. I enjoyed the premise of following the owners of a collection of Japanese netsuke (small carvings) and therefore creating a family history of a large successful Jewish family in Europe through the world wars. I felt he was more attached to some of his forebears than others, or maybe he had more interesting information, so that I enjoyed some sections more than others. But altogether a book I would recommend, especially in regard to anti-Semitism and the growth of Nazism in Europe.
I am also enjoying the publication of many of Tove Jansson’s adult stories in English for the first time. I grew up with her Moomin books as a child and find a similar wild and fey way of looking at the world in her adult fiction. I have just read Travelling Light which has many stories of people displaced from their familiar worlds, and the interesting and different ways that they cope, or not. She has a detailed eye for social norms and how people play/work with them.
I recently read Louise Erdrich’s latest book The Round House which was, as always, a story that drew me right in. It is not a very cheerful read as it is about a rape that takes place on an American Indian reservation in the recent past and the extraordinary difficulties that the laws in that country create for prosecuting such cases. It is written from the eyes of a teenage boy and also details his struggles to come of age through this hellish time. Highly recommended.
I’ve also recently enjoyed Tamam Shud by Kerry Greenwood and the travel story collection Better than Fiction from Lonely Planet.
Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet by Julian Assange et al.
We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut
Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die - The premise is a machine is invented that tells people how they will die, the machine is not always clear but is always accurate. A fantastic collection of short stories of differing genres. There were some very humorous tales and some that made me think about big picture stuff, some romance some dystopian tales and everything in between. I liked this a lot, can’t wait for the next collection.
The Book of Ice by Paul D Miller – My eco read for the month. By DJ Spooky and discusses his trip to the Antarctic and his creating music and art based on these experiences. Also has brief history of the continent. Some interesting factoids such as the Nazi’s flying over and dropping flags to claim territory.
Graphic Novels :
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1910 by Alan Moore
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 2009 by Alan Moore
The Walking Dead Volumes 12, 13, 14 by Robert Kirkman
Drawn Together by Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb – this is a wonderfully endearing, sometimes vulgar, very funny and tender graphic novel which spans the 35-plus years of the author’s romantic and creative relationship together.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night : http://erinmorgenstern.com/the-night-circus/
The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey – what a lovely story – just about to buy the book for a friend of mine…too gorgeous not to share: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15774295-the-amber-amulet
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin – loving this Game of Thrones series . . . http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10572.A_Clash_of_Kings
The amber amulet – by Craig Silvey – a cute little read – really enjoyed it.
Seeing George – by Cassandra Austin – read it before, but I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.
Mrs Queen takes the train – by William Kuhn – enjoyed it, but a bit long winded, although I did learn lots of interesting things – not the light fluffy read I was expecting.
I’ve only finished 2 books completely: American Gods by Neil Gaiman and The Old School by P. M. Newton – I quite enjoyed both. The Old School was much more developed than I expected it to be, as I’m not normally a huge fan of crime fiction. I really enjoyed the character development, and the plot too.
American Gods was an interesting read, lots of weird things happening! Not my favourite fantasy but pretty good none-the-less.
Palestine by Joe Sacco (Comic) : This is pretty heavy but also really interesting. I’m new to comic reads and I think this probably wasn’t the best place to start, but it’s worthwhile anyway.
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson: Haven’t read enough of this to really get what’s going on yet. I’m hoping it will start getting into a bit more of a description of Kashgar, but so far the chapters alternate between a woman in London and a woman under house arrest in Kashgar, so there’s not much inspiring scenery thus far!
By the Book: a reader’s guide to life by Ramona Koval: This is a lovely memoir of Ramona’s life and the books that have shaped it.
Brisbane by Matthew Condon: I’m going to Brisbane soon and was inspired recently to get into some more travel reads, so thought I’d pick up this one (which is part of the UNSW series on Australian major capital cities). This is a really lovely, interesting read combining family history, Australian history and the author’s childhood memories of Brisbane.
Les Norton and the Case of the Talking Pie Crust by Robert G. Barrett: Again, not something I would normally read but I took some advice to try expanding my reading horizons via talking books, and I must say I’m quite enjoying it. Lots of funny moments and the narrator does a great job.
Altnachree: a man, a family and a passion by Joy Ware: This is a family history, so I was wondering how much interest it could have for the general public, but I have to admit I’m intrigued. Set in Ireland so far, it traces not only the history of the Ogilby family but also the history of Altnachree, the family castle in Ireland. It ties in general history of Ireland, a bit of science interest (set around the time Charles Darwin’s theories were just coming out), and who knows what else will come out. At some point the family end up in Australia, so I’m interested to see what areas of Australian history will be tied in to this book a bit further on.
Bags=Sacs=Tassen=Borse=Taschen – An utterly beautiful book…great photos of different purses through history.
The Naked Anabaptist: The bare Essentials of a Radical Faith by Stuart Murray – Very clearly written, sober assessment of the Anabaptist tradition and how it might offer something to people today.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? recommended to me by Adam – I am looking forward to reading it.
When it Rains by Maggie Mackellar – Her husband suicides, she is left with one child and one as yet unborn. Not long after, her mother also dies. Maggie tries to continue her academic career but it proves impossible. She decides to leave the city and go back to the Orange district of NSW where she grew up. This is the story of her finding her way back to sanity, and reconnecting with the landscapes and animals of her past – bringing her kids along with her. There’s a lot of joy in the recovery process for her, as well as anger and pain.
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad – I read this one for book group, and confess to not finishing it. Conrad’s style is wordy and demanding – but I acknowledge there is much to admire here. I’m also not very good at dealing with the pall of negative energy that this novel casts.
The Yalda Crossing by Noel Beddoe - “New South Wales, 1832. Captain James Beckett and his lover, Harriette, leave behind the proprieties of Sydney society and pioneer far west of the Blue Mountains to the Morrombidgee River, and deep into the lands of the Wiradjuri. Harriette’s daughter, Emily, and The Captain’s son, Young James, have no choice but to join their parents’ struggle to establish a life and holding in alien country. When new settlers destroy sacred sites and hunting grounds, the hard-won understanding between the Becketts and the Wiradjuri is shattered. The shocking events that follow will torment Young James for the rest of his life.” (quoting from official publicity). Being always interested in work that helps to explain black/white relationships in this country, I was curious about this one. Having read it I honour Beddoe’s humanity, and his desire for readers to understand what exactly was done when Europeans staked claims to country already inhabited.
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar – a book group read. Loving his prose and his depiction of 1970s Libya through the eyes of a young boy.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – for my other book group. Didn’t finish it.
A natural history of ghosts by Roger Clarke – the history of ghost-hunting in Britain, most of this was fairly dull. I did however, find out something pertinent to our book group discussion of Frankenstein – when Shelley wrote the first draft of the Frankenstein story as a competition amongst herself and friends, the weather was apocalyptic in the wake of a massive volcanic explosion – Mount Tambora in 1815, the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history – the effects of which were to last decades.
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel – a humorous story about Alison, a medium having trouble with her revolting spirit guide and her manager, Collette.
Are You My Mother? By Alison Bechdel – Alison obviously has a difficult relationship with her mother which I can relate to but there is a lot of psychotherapy in here too which I couldn’t relate to.
Orders from Berlin by Simon Tolkien – set in WWII London this was a real page-turner.
My Ideal Bookshelf – Art by Jane Mount, edited by Thessaly La Force – “more than 100 leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most”. Unfortunately I’d never heard of the majority of these American cultural leaders so it wasn’t as enticing a book as it might have been.
A Week in Winter - an easy read about personal tragedies by one of my favourite authors, Maeve Binchy. I did find the ending disappointing.
In My Father’s Den by Maurice Gee - a crime story set in Auckland and it had me intrigued.
And what about you?
I have been reading, for forever it seems, 600+ densely typed pages of Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman. I’m at around p450 and at this stage I’m not sure anymore if I’m enjoying it. I want to move on (Frankenstein for book group beckons) and I now know more about stock trading and points of law than I thought I’d ever need, but I’m far enough in that I need to know what happens so will battle on.
In the middle of that, back came Fishing Fleet : Husband-hunting in the Raj by Anne de Courcy. Several weeks ago I’d got to p208 before I’d had to hand it back because someone else wanted to borrow it. It’s a lively recounting of the typical and not-so-typical experiences of the thousands of women who travelled to India where they were a scarce commodity and could all but guarantee to find a husband.
I also read A Deadly Business by Lenny Bartulin. Lenny and PM Newton are scheduled to do an author talk at Springwood Library on 3 April so I wanted to read something by him (PMN was last month). This was a comic detective/mystery romp in contemporary Sydney. Very enjoyable.
And I enjoyed The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller. This is the story of the fall of Troy and the story of Achilles told from the point of view of Achilles’ friend/lover Patroclus. This book attracted much positive critique and I concur; it was a beautiful story.
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner – Sally and Larry meet Sid and Charity when just embarking on their married lives, and the friendship lasts right through to older age. This is a quiet, beautifully modulated novel of relationships set in Wisconsin and the New England area of USA. I’ll look for more by this American writer.
Epilogue: a memoir by Anne Roiphe – the writer’s much-loved husband died, so she kept a journal over the following 16 months. Honest, pulling no punches around the difficult subject of grief in all its manifestations.
Dear Life by Alice Munro - short stories by this master (mistress?) of the art. She’s so good.
Like a House on Fire by Cate Kennedy – and so is she – more short stories by this highly-regarded Tasmanian writer, whose work I will continue to read into the future. There’s a lot of quiet intensity here.
The Dinner by Herman Koch – a fantastic novel: tight plotting, memorable characterisation, a bit reminiscent for me of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. I found it compulsive.
Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James – I know, I know, I know – I said it with Fifty Shades of Grey too. But I have to say, this had a much better storyline than the first book and I did less flicking through. Still a pretty poor role model for young women.
Her Fathers Daughter by Alice Pung – It tells the story of Alice and her father, a survivor of Cambodia’s killing fields. Set in Melbourne, China and Cambodia, it is a memoir of memories, of leaving home, of love and worry, of history and how it echoes down the years no matter where you live. http://alicepung.com/blog/
One City – Short stories by Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Rankin, Irvine Welsh with an introduction by J.K. Rowling. Three stories with Edinburgh as the background. Really easy read and great snapshots of people. I love that writers have to establish rapport with the reader really quickly in short stories.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin – I loved the HBO television series – now tackling the book…..
A week in winter by Maeve Binchy – Lovely. Having enjoyed this one, I think I shall have to try some of her others.
Currently reading Anna Funda’s All that I am which is beautifully written so far.
Have just finished Year of wonders by Geraldine Brooks which I enjoyed. I found it well written and its historical context , the plague in England during the 17th Century, interesting and informative.
My heart wanders by Pia Jane Bijkerk – a beautiful book to browse or read. Lovely photography.
How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you by Matthew Inman – very amusing. And the verdict is - yes, he’s trying to kill me (but I didn’t need this book to tell me that).
The Twelve by Justin Cronin – I’ve been hanging out for this one, and it was well worth it. Just as good as The Passage.
Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears – I was put off reading this one earlier by someone who warned me it was very ‘horsey’. I shouldn’t have been – in a way, this book is not really about horses at all. So beautiful and very well done, it deserves the accolades it has received.
The Conversation by David Brooks – my favourite book in a long time. So interesting and thought provoking. I really savoured this one.
De Luxe by Lenny Bartulin – even though I’m not a huge fan of crime/mystery, I decided to give this one a go because Lenny Bartulin is coming to Springwood in April, and it was a fun, easy read.
Your Vigor for Life Appalls me: Robert Crumb Letters 1958 – 1977 - Robert Crumb is an American comic book writer and artist who is most famous for his prominence in the underground comics scene, especially in the 60s and 70s. What I liked best about this read (apart from the great title!) was how Crumb’s obsessive enthusiasm for comic book art and writing comes through his letters to friends. He is definitely one of those artists who lives and breathes art.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial by Simon Singh
Sorry Please Thank You: Stories by Charles Yu - When I saw on the back of this book the author was compared to Philip K Dick, Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, three authors whose near complete works I have read, I had to give it a go. Big mistake. Some interesting parts but mostly it just dragged on. Some of it was like experimental prose, I know nothing about poetry and prose but I know enough to know that it does not interest me. I ended up skipping at least 1 or two complete stories. The one memorable story that I did enjoy was about a band of characters on a quest in a WOW style video game, it was told from the perspective of the main hero who had very low self esteem.
Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson – This was a re-read and still as enjoyable as when I first read it. RAW has a great way of looking at things and I will try to re read more of his books this year. He died in 2007 and I am yet to find another author that can combine as many different influences.
Graphic Novels :
- Deadenders by Ed Brubaker
- Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman
- Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan
- Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes Vs Zombies by Ian Edginton
- Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness by John Layman
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. This is a very moving novel of a man’s journey across Britain. I enjoyed this although it took me a few chapters to get into it.
- Shannon Bennett : 28 days in Provence – A great walk down memory lane and an enjoyable read for me as it was based in the Luberon region where I have holidayed. Shannon’s recipes are not bad either.
- Olga Masters: The home girls, a short stories collection republished
- Ramona Koval : By the book: a reader’s guide to life – I enjoyed this walk through the author’s literary mind
- David Brooks : The conversation
- Nicky Pellegrino : When in Rome
- Chances by Freya North – Great chick-lit. Great characters and good storyline. One of those books that was a pleasure to read
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Beautifully written and nice perspective. Want to learn more about the German people – the average Joe – and what they endured in the war? A book I will re-read.
- Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald – An American’s idea of what it must be like to want to live in America if you are from Iran. I read the second book first and really enjoyed it so wanted to learn more about the characters. I shouldn’t have bothered. Clumsy writing, poor character development and very rah, rah America.
- Play to the End by Robert Goddard – A crime thriller set in Brighton. Wonderful intrigue and lots of twists and turns.
- The Perfect Lie by Emily Barr – What is Lucy running away from? Wonderful settings and great characters.
- Dick smith’s population crisis: the dangers of unsustainable growth for Australia by Dick Smith – Very concisely and logically written….it impressed others in my family too.
- Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History by Bain Attwood – This is a book I have been wanting to read, though I did not know it existed until my son gave it to me for Christmas. It critiques the work of historians and authors in history of race relations and Aboriginal history in Australia, dealing very thoroughly with the “history wars’ phase, and gives well argued background to understanding the nature of telling stories, histories and myth-making in Aboriginal history.
- Hard Times by Charles Dickens – I’m about three chapters in, and am going to sleep to it at night. I presume it will be as good as other Dickens’ novels.
- I am about to start Val Webb’s Stepping out with the Divine…
- The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.
- Another Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mystery, Where memories lie by Deborah Crombie
- Steal like an artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative by Austin Kleon
- Asterios polyp by David Mazzucchelli – I cannot praise this graphic novel highly enough. The images and story are brilliant, so soulfully and artfully executed.
- The Picture of Dorian Grey (Graphic Novel) by Oscar Wilde – a chilling, illustrated version of the original story.
- The Odyssey (Graphic Novel) by Homer – makes me want to revisit more Greek mythology, I forgot how fun they were to read!
- My Cool Shed: an Inspirational Guide to Stylish Hideaways and workspaces by Jane Field-Lewis – I noticed this on the recent returns shelf and was intrigued by the cover. It’s a beautiful book about personal hide-away spaces ranging from artist studios to workshop sheds. The photographs are inspiring, and there are also little stories on the owner of each ‘shed’ which are sometimes a fascinating insight. A lovely book to browse!
- The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton – This is the first Kate Morton I’ve read (!) and I really enjoyed it. It was an easy, engaging read. I love books set around that time period.
- The Cleansing of Mahommed by Chris McCourt – Set in Broken Hill, this is the story of Gool Mahommed and his struggle to fit in. This was an interesting topic (racial discrimination, and the conflict between social expectation and personal relationships), but I must say I didn’t love the way it was written. It felt like there was so much potential, but the story seemed to stay on a surface level rather than really digging deeper into these issues.
- Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden – A very heavy-going, but fascinating, examination of the life of a man who was born into a North Korean prison camp, and who eventually escaped. I’ve previously read Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, which also examines the lives of people who have escaped from North Korea, and I found both of these books so challenging because you realise how lucky you are to have been born into a safe, free country.
- The People Smuggler by Robin de Crespigny – I wanted to read this one before the author talk and I am so glad I did. What an amazing life! This is the true story of Ali Al Jenabi, a convicted people smuggler who escaped from Iraq. As with Escape from Camp 14 and Nothing to Envy, this book makes you realise how fortunate we are. Such a compassionate, eye-opening story.
- The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey – This was a lovely little read, with a feel-good message.
- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – Thoroughly enjoyed this book. No wonder Margaret Atwood is so reknowned. I loved the story-within-a-story, the suspense, the characters, the settings. I look forward to reading more of her books!
- My Family and other Animals by Gerald Durrell- Once again breaking my “I don’t read biographies” rule, but I was pressured into it! I have to admit it is pretty funny.
- The Old School by PM Newton – ex-Sydney policewoman Pam Newton has a great protagonist in Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly, female detective in 1980s Bankstown. Ned and her colleagues are called to a building site where the bodies of two women have been dug up. What have they to do with Ned and her parents who were killed in a shooting years before? Who can Ned trust? Great, gritty crime set in Sydney. Pam and her friend, Lenny Bartulin, will be doing an author talk at Springwood Library in April or May.
- The Redbreast, Nemesis and The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo – Also known as the Oslo Trilogy, I downloaded these books in one go for next to nothing off Amazon and tried to cool off in Oslo but these are too hot – more great, gritty, Norwegian crime.
- The Second Last Woman in England by Maggie Joel – I’ve wanted to read this since it came out a few years ago. Armed with a $25 book voucher I found it jumped out at me in the Turning Page and I wasn’t disappointed. Relates the year or so preceeding the murderg of wealthy shipping businessman, Cecil Wallis, by his wife.
- Now I’m reading The Girl from Snowy River by Jackie French – a recommendation by Annie at The Turning Page book shop as a Christmas gift for my 12 year old daughter. She’s in to horses. Intensely as they tend to be at that age. She’s not a big reader but it wasn’t long after Christmas that she slapped the book down on the kitchen bench and insisted I had to read it. I’m currently 83 pages in and enjoying it very much. Not just a horsey story.
- Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz – Why are we wrong, why can’t we stand to be wrong, why do we enjoy finding others wrong and what effects does all this wrongness have on our perception of everything are questions answered in this book. I found it fascinating and would recommend it to anyone that likes to read how and why the human brain does what it does.
- Spook Country (Blue Ant, #2) by William Gibson
- Zero History (Blue Ant, #3) by William Gibson
- The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey
- Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud – An excellent introduction into the world of graphic novels. A basic history of graphic communication and a more in depth history of how the graphic storytelling art form has progressed in the last 100 years, I found particularly interesting the differences between the eastern and western styles.
- The Fixer and Other Stories by Joe Sacco
- Marvel Zombies by Robert Kirkman
- Triumph: Unnecessarily Violent Tales of Science Adventure for the Simple and Unfortunate by Greg Broadmore
- American Vampire, Vol. 1 by Scott Snyder & Stephen King
- The Book of Mr. Natural by Robert Crumb
- Empire State: A Love Story (Or Not) by Jason Shiga
- Seven Bones: Two Wives, Two Violent Murders, a Fight for Justice by Peter Seymore and Jason Foster – I wanted to read this before the author talks at Blaxland Library this month. This is the true story of a fight for justice, written by the detective who had been on this Western Sydney murder case and local author Jason Foster.
- Dame Darcy’s Meat Cake by Dame Darcy – a compilation of noir, twisted, funny, stream-of-consciousness comics. I love the gothic graphics, inspired by decorative Victorian imagery.
- Tyranny by Lesley Fairfield – a semi-autobiographical exploration of overcoming an eating disorder, executed with insight and skill. A brave work.
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel – after enjoying Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, which was done so beautifully, I was very excited to read this graphic novel. And it didn’t disappoint; this cleverly layered autobiographic novel looks deeply and honestly at the author’s troubled relationship with her father, all with a sense of humour.
- Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss – How to heal your chakras – got to be a good thing.
- Mad men, bad girls and the guerilla knitters institute by Maggie Groff – Oh, I so wanted this to be funny – the title is great! For a storyline plot: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13408985-mad-men-bad-girls-and-the-guerilla-knitters-institute. It was a bit of a ho hum read but nice characters and easy on the eyes (and brain).
- Lola’s Secret by Monica McInerny – I love, love Love Monica McInerny and this one did not disappoint: http://www.monicamcinerney.com/novels/lolas-secret/
- A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale
- Two Brothers by Ben Elton
- The Seat in the Hall Stand by Pamela Horne – a ghost story for children by a local author
- Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
- Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. This is one I had to relinquish months ago to a hold, and am finally picking up again.
- Troubled Waters: the Changing Fortunes of Whales and Dolphins by Sarah Lazarus
- Whatever You Do, Don’t Run by Peter Allison
- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – I am a big fan of this author
- Frankie and Yen magazines
- The street sweeper by Elliott Perlman – I am thoroughly enjoying it and learning a lot along the way.
- Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton
- The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
- Watching the climbers on the mountain by Alex Miller
- Duchess of Aquitaine: a novel of Eleanor by Margaret Ball
- Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks – I found this more engrossing than A Year of Wonders, I think because she portrayed the inner conflicts of the main female character very effectively. Perhaps Geraldine Brooks had less of a story from history to be faithful to so she had more freedom and used her imagination more.
- Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerrilla Knitters Institute by Maggie Groff – Set in Byron Bay, loving it so far.
- Water like a Stone by Deborah Crombie - I’ve read a few of these Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mysteries and really enjoy them.
- Spook Country (Blue Ant, #2) by William Gibson
- The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard – A very slow read, I have enjoyed a few of his other books and since this is a classic i thought i would give it a go. A bit too experimental for my tastes. It was an annotated edition and the annotations is what I found to be the most interesting part of the book.
- Left Behind and Loving it: A Cheeky Look at the End Times by D. Mark Davis -A great book to recommend to someone who is confused or distressed about millennialism type Christian thinking. I read several others last month but can’t recall full titles! I’ll try to be more diligent keeping a record in 2013
- Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger – When I was growing up there were two kinds of people, those who liked Stallone films and those who liked Schwarzenegger films. I was the latter which made reading this book a neccessity. From his rise in the world of bodybuilding, to his film career and then into politics I found the whole book a great read. A shrewd business man who I never thought about as a young man. You can see why his career took off when those of other action heroes never did. Gave me a whole new perspective on him. It presents itself as a warts and all tale, something that could never have come out while he was a politician. And while it does have lots of warts I can’t help but think there may have been some left out.
- Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson – A collection of essays from the past 20 years. The longest being a piece on undersea cabling which I surprisingly found fascinating. Just like in his fiction Stephenson has the ability to make the most ordinary and everyday technology very interesting.
- The Mongoliad: Book Two (Foreworld, #2) by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear and friends – I gave the first book of this series a very bad review and after reading this second book I think I know why I didn’t enjoy it so much. It is the story of some crusaders that go on a mission to kill Genghis Khan’s son who is now the leader of the Mongolian empire. The first book I read a chapter a night before bed and it took me a few weeks, this one I read in a few days on the train and the fast-paced read definitely helped. I enjoyed it a lot more and look forward to the next volume.
- Life After God by Douglas Coupland
- You Said What?: Lies and Propaganda Throughout History by Bill Fawcett
- Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution by Doug Fine
- Pattern Recognition (Blue Ant, #1) by William Gibson
- Delete This at Your Peril: One Man’s Hilarious Exchanges with Internet Spammers by Bob Servant
- Crystal Express by Bruce Sterling
- Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Crosses the Line by Sudhir Venkatesh
- Snapshots in History’s Glare by Gore Vidal
- The Boys Volume 12: The Bloody Doors Off (The Boys, #12) – Garth Ennis
- The Boys, Vol. 11: Over the Hill with the Swords of a Thousand Men – Garth Ennis
- The Boys, Vol. 10: Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker (The Boys, #10) – Garth Ennis – The final three volumes of this series. There have been many films, TV and comics about what superheroes may be like in the real world recently and this is easily my favourite. The heroes are perfect in the public eye but behind the scenes they are depraved megalomaniacal nutcases. Can’t wait for the movie.
- The Sandman: Endless Nights – Neil Gaiman
- City of Glass – Paul Karasik
- I Kill Giants – Joe Kelly
- Explorer: The Mystery Boxes – Kazu Kibuishi
- Aliens vs. Predator: Three World War – Randy Stradley
- The House of Memories by Monica McInerney….moving and very easy to read about a family following a tragic accident.
- I have just finished reading A perfectly good man by Patrick Gale – really enjoyed it.
- I am currently reading The best exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach – enjoying it so far.
- I’m currently reading Letters from Hamnavoe by George Mackay Brown - Hamnavoe is the old name for the small town of Stromness in Orkney. In the early 1970s GMB wrote a weeklynewspaper column/ letter to Stromnessians living overseas (incl. mainland Scotland) and they are delightful.
- I’ve also read The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore – the first in a series of horror tales by prominent authors by Hammer, the company that brought us all those horror films years ago.
- Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James – a spin off of Pride and Prejudice with a murder. I only got half way – it was so bad I really couldn’t give a hoot whodunit. Unlikely to have been the butler this time. Will find out when book group meets.
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre – No idea what was going on until I read the synopsis and got my hands on the jargon codex from Wikipedia. Lovely writing though. I will finish it – one day.
- The Fishing Fleets : husband hunting in the Raj by Anne de Courcy – a wonderful account of lots of single ladies going to India to catch a hubby. Had to relinquish it very reluctantly for someone else’s Hold. Can’t wait to get it back.
- The Oldest Song in the World by Sue Woolfe. Set as it is in Central Australia in a remote Aboriginal community, this novel was guaranteed to grab me. Kate is an unsuccessful linguistics student at a big city university. For quixotic reasons her supervisor has chosen her to go to Gadaburumili, a community north-west of Alice Springs where mostly Djemiranga (an endangered indigenous language) is spoken. Her brief is to record the “poor thing” song in language, and the only person who can sing this song is a very old woman soon to die. The song is seen as a Rosetta Stone of Djemiranga, hopefully unlocking its secrets. The main reason Kate accepts the job is that she has reason to believe her childhood love is out there. Can he explain the mystery of their mothers’ deaths on the river during a dangerous running tide, and is he still the object of her consuming love? So the effort to solve these mysteries fuels the story, and keeps her there when she doesn’t want to be. In the end, of course, she discovers more than she bargained for. Woolfe uses language sensitively and I sense a deep respect for this oldest of cultures in her attitudes, as well as an understanding of the levels of race prejudice that tend to operate in such multi-racial communities. Some of the plot devices, dialogue and motivation seem a little clunky to me, I admit, but in the end I love her subject and the respect and curiosity she brings to it. This novel might help to bridge the gap between those who were here first, and us.
- Ancient Light by John Banville – “Billy Gray was my best friend and I fell in love with his mother.” So begins Alexander Cleave’s leisurely, lyrical reflection on his fifteenth year and the woman he first loved. These days he’s married to Lydia, has been for some decades now, and shares with her a deep grief: their daughter Cass died ten years ago. Both of them have nightmares, and neither has recovered from this death. Cleave has earned his living as an actor, but we meet him at a crossroads, with that and other elements of his life. It’s time, he feels, to stop hiding (“acting”) and uncover some truths about the past. Banville’s writing is spectacularly beautiful, incisive, exploratory. Dare I say, it’s perfect? Yes, I do.
- Stay Close by Harlan Coben – I read this one for Katoomba Library Book Group. We’ve chosen a reading list using lots of different categories to broaden our reading horizons, so it was fun to read a crime fiction novel for a change. Good yarn, I liked the vernacular and the quick portraits of people, but it hasn’t turned me into a crime-novel fanatic.
- The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling – I’d heard mixed comment about this, and having read it maybe I see why. There was a cast of thousands, set as it was in a provincial English town. Rowling really understands the mix of people you get in such places; and she has a sharp nose for the evil we can inflict on each other. This is a dark story. But she also has deep moral convictions, a good thing in my view. I’d like to see her next novel focus on a smaller cast, though.
- The Novels of Alex Miller edited by Robert Dixon. Alex Miller is pretty much my favourite writer, so a book of essays on his body of work was a nice find as I cruised the catalogue. There was even an essay by the actual people whose stories Miller used in the beautiful Journey to the Stone Country.
- All right ! I succumbed…..to reading Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, and because I needed to follow up also Fifty Shades Darker, and am now currently reading Fifty shades Freed. The fact that I was on holidays and Coles had them on special for $7 each was a big factor in my smutty choices.
- Also read Amalfi Coast Recipes by Amanda Tabberer and started the biography of Franklin and Eleanor by Hazel Rowland, but didn’t finish the read as I was totally over the detail, politics and name dropping of American society. This was a book group title chosen by others.
- Are you my mother? : a comic drama by Alison Bechdel. This is an autobiographical and intelligent graphic novel that explores a fraught mother-daughter relationship (from the daughter’s point of view), in a sensitive and insightful way. This work also touches on the ups and downs of the creative life, with humour and candidness. I highly recommend it, especially if you are new to reading graphic novels.
- Bright Lights Dark Shadows: the real story of Abba by Carl Magnus Palm – This book explores all aspects of the ABBA members lives and careers. Amazingly detailed, it examines the group members family backgrounds, the pre-ABBA days, the legendary Seventies, the marriages, the divorces, the business ups and downs and the post-ABBA solo careers.
- Busy month this month – if I had a spare moment, I read Marie Claire magazines