What Library Staff are Reading – January 2014
I spent a couple of days cooling off in dreich Edinburgh with my auld pal, John Rebus in The Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin. Rebus is being investigated with colleagues from his first station as a Detective by new Rankin character, Malcolm Fox, of the Complaints. Is this Rebus’ downfall?
A couple of reads were a bit of a wade to get through, The Plantaganets by Dan Jones and The Water Doctors Daughters by Pauline Connolly.
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner was a book group read. It took me a while to get into this fictionalised account of the author’s experiences of the Cambodian civil war.
Back to Edinburgh again for some of Leaving Alexandria : a memoir of faith and doubt by Richard Holloway. Richard Holloway was the Bishop of Edinburgh in the Anglican church (called Episcopalian in Scotland and the US) having joined a celibate order at just 14. He’s the rare kind of churchman who lives what he preaches – love and compassion, which in his case comes from a place of doubt, not certainty. People who are sure in their faith, Holloway postulates, are unable to empathise with those in crisis. He was also an advocate for women priests and gay marriage which got him into big trouble. An odd choice of read for an atheist, but an absolutely un-put-down-able, honest read.
Am currently reading by Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, a sequel to the wonderful Code Name Verity. In this gripping YA novel American pilot Rose Justice finds herself in Ravensbruck concentration camp fighting for her life.
Next I have to gird my loins for Killing Khalid by Paul McGeogh for my other book group.
The Rosie project by Graeme Simsion – A good holiday read – light and amusing.
The storyteller and his three daughters by Lian Hearn – Enjoyed it.
The Orange Trees of Baghdad: In Search of My Lost Family by Leilah Nadir – The further I go into this book the more engrossing it becomes. I am getting the picture of how distressing the impacts of the Gulf War, the sanctions and the ‘liberation’/war (under George W Bush and his cohorts) have been for the people of Iraq, both resident and abroad. People separated from their families (like the author) cannot risk returning to Iraq, and those living in Iraq copping the onslaught of the wars and the violence reactionary movements suffer injury and death to themselves and family members daily.
I know I am, but What are You? By Samantha Bee- Bee is a “senior correspondent” with the Daily Show in U.S. This programme was my main source of American news when it was the ABC, despite being a comedy show, and it is the only reason I picked up this book. I am glad I did, because I found this autobiography to be side splittingly funny. If only a fraction of it is true it makes the average childhood seem pretty tame.
Eyrie by Tim Winton- I am not too far into this one yet, but I decided to jump on the bandwagon. It may be sacrilegious, but I am not a big fan of Winton, and I found Cloudstreet a bore, but a part of me feels I should be reading more Australian literature. In any case I have an open mind about it so far.
The Burgess Boys, by Elizabeth Strout. Having read her Abide With Me and Olive Kitteridge, I expected something fine from this novel, and was not disappointed. She looks at the dynamic between two brothers who grew up together, with their sister Susan, in Shirley Falls, Maine. Jim, rich and successful, constantly derides his less driven brother Bob; who, for reasons we later discover, allows this to happen. When Susan summons them both to help her with a family crisis, the nuts and bolts of this relationship begin to shift. What I love about this writer is that her characterisations are complex and surprising. There’s depth, subtlety and authenticity there.
The Best Australian Stories 2013, edited and collected by Kim Scott. These collections are published annually, a best-of through the eyes of a changing lineup of editors. There are arresting stories by writers I already know (Cate Kennedy, Favel Parrett, Marion Halligan, Tegan Bennett Daylight, Georgia Blain) and others by those I haven’t yet explored. It’s a great way to discover new Australian writers; and the introductory essay by the editor is always worth reading.
Watkin Tench’s 1788, edited and introduced by Tim Flannery. What was it really like to disembark at the new colony later known as Sydney, and build, from scratch, a community? How did the new settlers manage transactions with the people already living here? Enthusiastic young Watkin Tench writes well (if lugubriously, according to the fashion of his time) and brings a freshness and kindness to his observations of life here in the first year of settlement.
My Mother, My Father: on losing a parent, edited by Susan Whyndam. Having recently lost one myself I wanted to see how these Australian writers processed the event themselves. Fascinating, the different ways people react to this confronting experience.
All that I am by Anna Funder – really hard to get into but I persevered as so many people had raved about it. It got me by the start of Chapter 4. http://annafunder.com/all-that-i-am/
The London Train by Tessa Hadley – great little novel that captures complex relationships well. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/jan/01/tessa-hadley-london-train-review
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – I had never read this classic. I found it read a bit like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. A chaotic read with repetitive themes, but smart, witty dialogue and cultural references that I can now pick up on in mainstream media! A must read. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch-22
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes – mmmm reading out of my comfort zone sometimes does not work. I found this novel so boring and out of sequence that for the first time in a L O N G time, I did not finish a book. I did not even read the end! I tried to like it – I really did! It had all the elements that should have grabbed me…I am sure I will finally enjoy it, if it comes out as a movie. http://laurenbeukes.com/books/the-shining-girls/
The City and the Stars by Arthur C Clarke – I love a really good SF and this did not disappoint. I cant believe that Clarke wrote mostly in the 50s and 60s and the stories feel as fresh and contemporary and stand up today.
Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
In the midst of life by Jennifer Worth – The last book in the Call the Midwife trilogy. This one focuses on death, a topic that many of us do not wish to think about and push to the back of our minds. The reality is that it is a part of life and a fate that awaits us all. Worth looks at the hospital system and questions whether medical intervention is the right course of action in some cases. The stories she tells about different cases she has nursed are heart-wrenching. We all wish for a comfortable and painless death.
The Spiderwick Chronicles (Junior Fiction) – This is a fun series. I love the illustrations in these books. The faeries, goblins, hobgoblins and ogre all look scary and nasty, just as they should!
The middle sheep by Frances Watts (Junior Fiction)
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – a woman loses ten years of her memory in an accident, and has to come to terms with her how life has turned out. A page-turner!
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty – a family mystery slowly unravels. There are great characters and layering of plot, making this read an easy Summer escape.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – a wife finds a sealed letter from her husband, marked ‘For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick. To be opened only in the event of my death.’ He’s still alive and she grapples with what the letter could contain. The novel is character-driven and compelling.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (graphic novel e-book) – I love this autobiographical graphic novel. There’s the vulnerability of the author-artist, displaying her most uncomfortable moments for the world to read, plus the dark humour and the style of the drawings. And most of all, I adore the way she depicts her derpy dogs!
Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart (e-book, enhanced edition) – featuring the same surreal and silly humour as in the TV show Miranda, this e-book is a gentle and comforting read; with a funny video introduction at the start of each chapter.