What Library Staff are Reading – April 2013

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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’FlynnHere’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’FlynnYes, 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
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