What Library Staff are Reading – November 2013

How did you distract yourself from the heat and fire?

  • I carried a copy of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in my backpack while I was out on the big red truck with my bridgade but didn’t get many pages read. It was good to escape to minus 30C from time to time though!
  • I also read Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid – a body is cast up on a Yorkshire moor after a storm. He’s not recently dead. Is it the body of Fletcher Christian? Did Christian escape from Pitcairn and make it back to England to find succour with his old friend William Wordsworth? An intriguing blend of alternative history and modern detective work.
  • How Animals Grieve by Barbara J King – full of anecdotes that prove that animals, even humble ones, do have feelings.
  • The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – a book group read that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was an absurd escape from the bush fires which were going on as I read it and the meeting was a good debrief for my friends and I.
  • Crown of Thistles : the fatal inheritance of Mary Queen of Scots by Linda Porter – more than just Mary. This book traces the tensions that existed between the Scottish Stuart and EnglishTudor royal families from James IV and Henry VII to the disastrous end with Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.
  • Then I read, for the second time, Eliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper – a tangle of stories about the Holocaust and American Civil Rights. Another book group read. It was well recieved by the group, despite the comment you’ll find later in this post.
  • The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry – both funny and instructive, a pleasure to read.
  • Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant – great read, had me riveted.
  • Margaret River by Frances Andrijich- beautiful photography of the Margaret River area. Made me want to visit!
  • Destination Cambodia by Walter Mason- who is visiting Katoomba Library next Sat 16 November. Cheeky and enjoyable. Listen here to him being interviewed for Listeners in the Mist.
  • Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner – amazing! New favourite book. Superb characters.
  • Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner – great read, excellent characters.
  • Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale – interesting format, kept thinking about the story for days afterwards.
  • The Dark Man: Australia’s first serial killer by Jason K. Foster – great true crime read, set in the Blue Mountains. Jason will be speaking at Blaxland Library on Saturday 23 November.
  • The Ten, make that nine, habits of very organised people. Make that ten by Steve Martin – loved it. This is a book recording funny tweets by and to Steve Martin. Very good for a laugh.
  • Travels with My Hat by Christine Osborne – more armchair travel, this is the story of Christine’s travels as a photo-journalist in the Middle East.
  • And currently reading Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.
  • The Dunbar Case by Peter Corris – I was attracted to this title because while I was at Uni,  I did a Art History assignment on gravestone and funereal art in St Stephen’s Cemetery in Newtown.  As part of this, I became very familiar with the Dunbar memorial and surrounding burials from this momentous shipwreck in Sydney Harbour.  I was interested to see how this could be woven into a modern day fictional mystery….. Even though the main character in the story is part of a series, I managed to pick up the story with no previous knowledge.  Corris gave just enough background to the reader on the character and previous adventures to make the story readable and actually want me to explore the character futher.  For more information: http://www.petercorris.net/petercorris.net/Cliff_Hardy.html
  • Sylvia by Bryce Courtenay – http://www.theworldofbrycecourtenay.com/sylvia.html – Epic saga by the storyteller.  Spans medieval Germany and ventures a little bit into Italy.  Great characters and a good all round story.
  • I haven’t been able to read any novels (the ones above were talking books) – always happens when I am super-busy (stressed) at work.  So I have read the latest Marie-Claire magazines and know all about how to make my hair shinier for summer, why Pink is such an awesome Singer and Mom, Why Japan’s matchmakers swear by blood-type dating, why Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t care what people think of her, how Jill Meaghers murder changed the life of women in Australia, and what real life is like for families in Japan two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  I can recommend Marie-Claires them for a good mix of fluff and information.  I am looking forward to reading December’s issue to learn all about Katy Perry’s new love! (not really). http://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/marie-claire/
  • I finally gave in to the hype and joined the queue to read a couple of the high demand library titles – and it was worth it.
  • Burial Rites – Wow! What a tale! What a writer! She writes her characters so carefully and beautifully you feel you’ve really got to know them. But she also captures the harsh Icelandic landscape so well that it’s almost like being there. A fascinating tale of a time and place so different to our own – it is a journey well worth the taking.
  • The Rosie Project – also well worth the journey, but a totally different journey. Again this author has created fabulous characters that you really grow to care about, with beautiful and positive insights into the world of Asperger’s syndrome. It is a delightful, amusing and gentle tale that will make you smile all the way through.
  • Coal Creek, by Alex Miller. Miller returns to the country he loves in Central Queensland, for this one. Young Bobby Blue was raised there, near Mt Hay, working with his father and friend Ben as a stockman/rouseabout, and liking it well enough. But after his father’s death an opportunity comes up for him to work with the newly appointed constable at Mt Hay, and he takes it. It proves to be a fateful decision. The first-person storytelling here is superb, the characters and vernacular style convincing, authentic; the language intense and poetic. Miller, in my view, stands alongside Tim Winton as a preeminent Australian novelist.
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. I suppose the idea of a pilgrimage is that it takes us out of our present life towards a state of enlightenment. So it was with Harold Fry, whose life in the south of England with his wife Maureen was a fruit withering on the vine. A tragedy years ago had left them both bereft of the vitality that fuels a good life. One day Harold sets off down the street to post a letter – and keeps walking. He takes a journey. It’s a fine hook for a story, and being a walker myself I was riveted, and reminded of that very early novel, Pilgrim’s Progress. There’s hard, painful experience here – but also a sorting-through, a clearing of dross, and forgiveness. Courageous writing.
  • I wallowed in some escapist fiction.
  • The French promise by Fiona McIntosh which jumped from WW2 incarceration under the Germans  and then lavender farming in Tasmania. I was excited to read of a small provincial village called Saignon, in which I stayed for a lovely week’s rental amongst the vineyards, as part of the storyline. A good read.
  • Venetian song by Kay Nolte Smith, another travel destination wallow I’m afraid and this is often the theme in my reading choices. A historical novel set in 16th century Venice detailing the romance and drama of a travelling band of performers. Great to relive the Venetian destination and some of it’s interesting history.
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson- surprisingly readable.
  • Abide with me  by Elizabeth Strout as well as Aunts aren’t gentleman by P.G Wodehouse.
  • Eliot Perlman  The Street sweeper – I really don’t want to read anything more about the holocaust.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the rings trilogy – I needed my biannual fix.  The first volume of my set is now falling apart (I know what to ask for for Christmas).
  • My airport novel for the recent trip was Pompeii by Robert Harris, a kind of vulcanological, historical, thriller and good fun!  “All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.

    But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples.

    Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.…”

    It was interesting in that I recently photographed a grave relief belonging to one of the sailors who probably sailed with Pliny on the fateful voyage described in the book, in which Pliny utters the  immortal words, Fortes fortuna juvat – ‘(the goddess) Fortuna favours the brave’. It didn’t help. Overweight and in poor health, Pliny died on the beach, overcome by volcanic fumes – http://www.flickr.com/photos/merryjack/7689748674/in/set-72157630817659354

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4 Responses to What Library Staff are Reading – November 2013

  1. Ava Emdin says:

    I appreciate that reading about the holocaust can be harrowing. We tend to think that WWII and the nazis were the only perpetrators of a holocaust possibly because of the scale. What of Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Rawanda or were their atrocities “merely” acts of genocide? When one has a family tree that ‘died’ in 1941 but for three members of that family who left Europe, survived and allowed the tree to bear new branches I don’t think the librarian who cannot manage to read on the subject would feel this way. The book covered so much more than the Nazi Holocaust which the reader must have missed. Elliot Perlman has given us a fine book with fine writing.

    • Ava, I totally agree. There are things we should not let be forgotten. Elliot Perlman’s descriptions of the people in the gas chambers brought home to me more powerfully than any other book I have read with a holocaust theme that it was ordinary individuals like you and me that went to their deaths; that they had hopes and dreams and troubles and successes and regrets just like us. We often get overwhelmed by numbers and forget that numbers represent real people – Heidi

  2. Lauren Smith says:

    What a great list of books. I have added several to my own list of books to read soon. One book that may interest you is the book, “Rich in Years” by author Johann Christoph Arnold. http://www.richinyears.com What’s wrong with being old? Why should I have to try to appear young? People should respect and honor their seniors. (Gray pride.) It’s a lovely book!

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