What Library Staff are Reading – March 2013

Books 07I’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

Bone, Vol. 2: The Great Cow Race

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?

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