jbeast 75 book challenge

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2009

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jbeast 75 book challenge

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Editado: Jan 3, 2009, 6:14 am

Hello All

Thought I would join this one this year. Managed 60 last year but think I can probably manage a few more in 2009.

Haven't finished anything yet but halfway through The Hound of the Baskervilles. Loving Sherlock Holmes.

HNY and good luck to all of us with the challenge!

Jan 1, 2009, 4:07 pm


Editado: Jan 3, 2009, 6:16 am

Thank you.

Have you just been having a think about what I may like to read this year.

Generally I prefer fiction, of all types. Favourite topics (for reading, not in reality) are war, apocalypse (eg The Road by Cormac McCarthy), mysteries and thrillers, but generally I will read anything that sounds interesting. Since joining LT last year I've vastly increased my knowledge of the books that are around.

Non-fiction is generally limited to travel and memoirs. Since university I've struggled with too much fact in any book - having said that I have quite a few non-fiction titles in my TBR pile (eg The Victorians by A N Wilson, Gulag by Anne Applebaum) that I would like to try and get through this year.

Would like to try David Sedaris too, since I've heard he is funny. Anyone agree, disagree?

Can't think of anything else at present. Really looking forward to reading other people's posts for inspiration.

Jan 2, 2009, 2:08 am

Welcome to the group!

Editado: Jan 3, 2009, 6:14 am

Thanks alcottacre.

1 The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. Really loved it, and desperate to get my hands on the rest of his work. True genius!

Jan 3, 2009, 7:51 am

>5 jbeast:

If you can find a copy of any of the various Annotated Sherlock Holmes, they are really quite enjoyable. Not only do you get all the stories, but a lot of context and period information is explained.

Jan 3, 2009, 8:11 am

I like the sound of that, will look out for them.

The ones I've got are penguin popular classics, attractively priced at £2.00! It might be worthwhile to look for some second hand - amazon uk seems mainly limited to penguin 'read red' editions which I hadn't heard of before.

Jan 3, 2009, 8:16 am

There is a very nice set of annotated Holmes in 2 volumes (at least mine is) done by William S. Baring-Gould that I can recommend.

Jan 3, 2009, 8:33 am

#8 Thanks for that - i just looked it up on amazon and not in stock but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be available elsewhere.

I must admit I have been relying on amazon too long, and need to widen my horizons. Like most people am a bit limited financially and like to take advantage of their super saver delivery. But there must be other options that people could recommend as uk suppliers??

Another option could be the library.

Editado: Jan 3, 2009, 8:39 am

jbeast, one of the best places I have found to shop online for used books is www.abebooks.com - this website has booksellers around the world posting books on it. You can get pretty much anything you want for any price you can pay. I have been buying books through them for over 5 years now and have had problems exactly once. The majority of the booksellers are independents (although not all) and have money back guarantees on their books.

ETA: If you are in the UK, you can specify searching only there for books. It would certainly help hold down shipping costs.

Editado: Jan 3, 2009, 8:43 am

>9 jbeast:: There are quite a number of copies on the US eBay...perhaps try the UK one.

You can also use www.usedbooksearch.co.uk to find it used. If it's only available in the US used stores, I'm sure someone here would send it to you (though postage might get more expensive than you wanted). Some of the second-hand places charge a fortune, but some are reasonable.

Checking that site, I see that Amazon.co.uk shows some cheap copies of the Baring-Gould from £4.95 and up. Look here.

ETA: AbeBooks doesn't have any in UK, Stasia.

Jan 3, 2009, 8:44 am

Thanks for checking, Tad. Guess I should have done that before posting. Oh, well, hindsight . . .

Jan 3, 2009, 8:59 am

Thanks very much, both of you.

I have heard of abebooks before, and was thinking of trying them. Also never thought of using ebay, pretty foolish, huh...

I'm really excited that they have got a hardbook copy for £4.95/£5.00 and only £2.75 shipping from the US. How did you find it Tad, I must have looked in the wrong place. Do you have to go to Marketplace or something, or did you just search for Baring-Gould? I'll try again.

This is what i love about LT - genuine book lovers with brilliant advice.

Jan 3, 2009, 9:02 am

OK, so I just searched again and found it immediately. I think it's cos I've always had a thing for new books so only generally look there. Sorry for wasting your time Tad!

It wasn't until recently, when I found some of my dad's original orange penguin Evelyn Waugh books that he bought in Hay-on-Wye, that I have started to appreciate second hand editions.

Jan 3, 2009, 9:31 am

It was no waste, glad to help. I find something enjoyable in both new and used books. A new book is all "mine, mine, mine!" A used book often shows years of enjoyment and use...something all books should have.

Jan 3, 2009, 9:48 am

Wonderfully put, I couldn't agree more.

Jan 3, 2009, 2:56 pm

jbeast, a v. useful site in the UK is www.bookbutler.co.uk. It price-compares the usual suspects, plus loads I'd never heard of before, plus Alibris, Abebooks and Amazon Marketplace to cover the used side. Often the Book Depository comes out very well for new purchases.

GreenMetropolis.com is also worth a look for used books, although they can sometimes come out pricier than Amazon Marketplace and it is totally hit and miss what they have listed.

Jan 4, 2009, 7:24 am

FlossieT - thank you.

Just checked them all out and it looks like I may be spending a lot more money. bookbutler especially - i knew they did this for insurance but no idea you could do it for books as well.

Jan 4, 2009, 2:46 pm

2 Triptych by Karin Slaughter. Just finished.
Really liked it, and read it quick. Find it hard to believe it's written by a woman - she doesn't hold back on descriptions of brutality. Excuse stereotypical attitude! (I'm female myself btw)

Jan 4, 2009, 6:27 pm

>18 jbeast:: jbeast, sadly a day rarely goes by without a lookup on BookButler for me... though most of the time I (just) manage to avoid the checkout.

If you use Firefox (may work for other browsers actually, I haven't checked), you can also add a bookmarklet - highlight a search term of ISBN, click the bookmark and it goes straight to the lookup. Fatal.

Sorry if I contribute to an increase in book purchasing!!

Editado: Jan 7, 2009, 3:41 am

Flossie, don't worry - I'm my own worst influence on increased book purchasing, and the tips are great because will keep me out of the dreaded (not-cheap) Waterstones!

3 Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell.

Captivated by this, to the extent that reading one more chapter was never enough. I love Orwell's writing style, it's really accessible and the subject matter was fascinating. It was like you experienced how it felt to be starving. Also I've worked in a hotel recently, in England, and didn't seem much different from Paris in the early 30s.

Couldn't recommend this book highly enough.

Jan 7, 2009, 4:21 am

#21: Wow! Sounds like another good one to go on the Continent. Thanks for the review and recommendation!

Jan 7, 2009, 4:27 am

#22 Glad it inspired you alcottacre - hope you enjoy it as much as I did. In fact I'm quite jealous because you haven't read it yet!

Jan 9, 2009, 4:15 am

4 Engleby by Sebastian Faulks. Hmm, difficult to review.

Very interesting - thought it was very clever, exceptionally well written..but...didn't really enjoy it that much, found it a bit too dark and the protagonist difficult to relate to or sympathise with.

Having said that, I was hooked, so I can't complain just because it wasn't an easy read (sorry if that appears to be a contradiction).

I was blown away by the ending, which left me with a smile and a feeling of "wow". There's no doubt that Faulks is an incredibly good writer who carries you along with him.

Nothing like Birdsong though.

Jan 9, 2009, 4:27 am

Have you tried Faulks' nonfiction? I heartily recommend The Fatal Englishman.

I read On Green Dolphin Street by Faulks last year, but have not had a chance to read any of his other fiction works. Is Birdsong his best?

Editado: Jan 9, 2009, 4:38 am

Just looked up The Fatal Englishman and I really like the look of it. So now it goes on my Amazon wishlist (don't necessarily buy them from there, just store the wishlist there).

It was a few years ago that I read Birdsong, so it's probably significant that I still remember it well and it's certainly one of my favourite ever books. I love first world war lit/non-fiction, so that could be a contributing factor. Still, it was up there with All Quiet on the Western Front, and would thoroughly recommend it.

Unfortunately I'm not the best person to ask for a comparison because I've only read these two by him, and I preferred Birdsong. Kicking myself because I saw a used copy of Charlotte Gray a few weeks ago and didn't buy it. Did you like On Green Dolphin Street? I've heard it's not one of his best, and the reviews here on LT aren't exactly glowing.

I really think you should add Birdsong to your rapidly growing continent.

Jan 9, 2009, 4:39 am

I read All Quiet on the Western Front last year, and if Birdsong is in that vein, I would probably enjoy it as well, so on to Continent TBR it goes!

On Green Dolphin Street was OK, not terrible, but not something I would go out of my way to read again.

Jan 9, 2009, 4:46 am

I trust your judgement then, and won't bother with On Green Dolphin Street.

As far as I recall Birdsong is similar to All Quiet on the Western Front, which was one of my last reads of 2008, but not from the German point of view (which was one of my favourite aspects of AQOTWF - the fact that the ordinary fighting Germans were no different to those on our side).

I also enjoyed Strange Meeting by Susan Hill last year, and if you haven't already read it I would recommend that too. Focuses more on the human relationships outside of the fighting.

Editado: Jan 9, 2009, 4:52 am

OK, I will add Strange Meeting to Continent TBR as well. Thanks!

I went back to check my comments about On Green Dolphin Street when I read it last year, and I appreciated Faulks' attention to detail, which I think is probably reflected in all his work, and thought the book very good, but as I said, I do not think I would re-read it.

Editado: Mar 24, 2009, 5:08 am

5 A Month in the Country by J L Carr. Bit of a strange one. Post-first world war story of a former soldier with shell shock who spends a month in a church in the country restoring a medieval picture on a church wall. Focuses on the people he meets and the relationships he forms.

I found it profound but a bit slow. Not really much happens, and I get the impression this is intentional and it's meant to be subtle but powerful. Which I guess it was.

Enjoyed and appreciated it but wasn't blown away.

Editado: Mar 24, 2009, 5:08 am

6 Another short one finished: Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky.

Strange and unnerving. The story is narrated by an unnamed man who, if not actually mad, is certainly unstable and consumed with self-loathing.
He describes his thoughts and goes on to describe an event in his life which is relevant to his deep and dark emotions.

Intelligent and complex and, to me at least, not all that enjoyable. Well written, but certainly not uplifting.

Need something a bit more cheerful now I think.

Jan 10, 2009, 1:31 pm

#27 alcottacre

I can't believe you've never read Birdsong. Its an amazing book, I read it at school but have read it at least 5 times since then and it never stops producing the same emotional reaction.......one of a lot of emotions!!! Definitely up there with my top books ever read.

Editado: Jan 10, 2009, 2:01 pm

hey lunacat
i was quite surprised by that too! I agree, it's an outstanding book. Quite tempted to reread it - though not right now, since I don't think it qualifies as the lighthearted read I'm looking for next

Jan 10, 2009, 3:21 pm

noooo........not exactly a 'fun' read!!

Jan 11, 2009, 1:34 am

#32 lunacat: Just another one on my Amazon wishlist at the moment, lol. My library does not have it or it would have been read already.

Editado: Jan 11, 2009, 1:51 am

>21 jbeast:

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, was my last read of 2008. I too found it an excellent book, and thought the first part, set in Paris, superior to the second part set in London. However, I could never shake the thought that Orwell was just 'playing' poor. He always had an out, unlike the people portrayed in the novel.

Noticing your interest in First World War lit / non-Fiction, may I recommend (if you haven't read it already) the superb, The Advance from Mons 1914 by Walter Bloem - this was my second to last read in 2008. Also read in 2008 and highly recommended is, Somme Mud by E.P.F. Lynch - the memoir of an Australian infantry man who served on the Western Front. This is one of the best WWI memoirs be published in recent years.

Jan 11, 2009, 6:23 am

#36 Hi petermc, glad to see I'm not the only one who enjoyed it. I agree that the French bit was better and perhaps more evocative.
Interesting that you mention that he was 'playing poor' - I didn't have any background info on that and was wondering how he got himself in such a state that he was that poor, since he was an old-Etonian. Nevertheless, I thought he was very thorough and I was totally convinced that he was a starving artist making ends meet before getting his break.
Very keen now to read The Road to Wigan Pier. Have you read this one?

Also thank you v much for your recommendations re first world war. I've been trawling amazon and other sites looking for others, and really like the sound of these so will add them. I've definitely seen Somme Mud in the bookshops, but not heard of the other. Personal recommendation is so often the best way to choose books, which is why I'm so keen on LT.

Jan 11, 2009, 6:28 am

#34. Definitely not.
I've decided to go for In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin, and really enjoying it so far.

Jan 11, 2009, 6:32 am

#38: In Patagonia sounds interesting. On to Continent TBR it goes!

Editado: Jan 11, 2009, 8:30 am

>37 jbeast:

jbeast -

The Advance from Mons 1914 was originally published in German in 1916, and the English version reprinted in this 2004 Helion & Company edition was originally published in 1930. It's a fascinating memoir, taking us from the days just prior to war, to his regiment's mobilisation, to his participation in the battles of Mons, Le Cateau, the Marne and the Aisne.

The soldiers know little of the bigger picture, and much of their time consists of weary foot-slogging; yet this narrative gives us an uncommon insight into their lives and times as they advance on Paris. The author, Walter Bloem, is a proud Captain in the German 12th Grenadier Regiment, or, to give it it's full title - the "Grenadier-Regiment Prinz Carl von Preussen, (2. Brandenburgisches), Nr. 12", and was a noted author at the time.

As for the fictionalised memoir, Somme Mud by Pte Edward Francis Lynch of the 45th Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) - a second book has recently been published, In The Footsteps Of Private Lynch by the editor of Somme Mud, Will Davies. This second book is an attempt "to join the dots and explain what was going on: the campaigns and offensives, the weapons and equipment, the food, the diseases and the minutiae of war." The voice in Somme Mud is uniquely Australian and is evocative of the period and country, and as such is far from politically correct!

I read Somme Mud shortly after The Great War by Les Carlyon. I've posted a review on this site, but to save you a bit of time I reproduce it below. Carlyon's book was without doubt one of my favourite non-fiction reads of 2008. It was originally published in 2006.

Review of "The Great War" by Les Carlyon
Given the title, you might be forgiven for thinking this to be a general history of the war to end all wars. However, you would be mistaken; instead, following his very successful book, "Gallipoli", the author, Les Carlyon, continues his examination of Australian forces in the First World War and presents what is ultimately a campaign history of the Infantry Brigades of the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as they tackle the "hun" on the western front from Fromelles in 1916 to Montbrehain in 1918. Those looking for accounts of the air war will be disappointed.

Carlyon also takes us back to Australia, divided socially and politically as the Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, leads his own fight to introduce conscription, as Australian casualties outstrip enlistments and divisions are reduced to the size of battalions, and battalions are threatened with disbandment leading to mutiny amongst the diggers. Hughes would be defeated - twice. Intrigues also ensue in British politicking; and relationships between the British, the dominion forces, and the Americans are within the scope of this book as they relate to the AIF.

Some may lament such general analyses as Carlyon's repeated characterization of Haig as a man dreaming of cavalry charges through breaks in the line, but these do serve to highlight how inexperienced many of the general officers were in a modern, mechanized form of warfare; resulting in so much tragic loss of life in the early years of the conflict. However, Carlyon is as generous in his praise, when warranted, as in his condemnations.

Despite the size of the book (at 800+ pages) the author writes so eloquently that this is an easy and highly readable account; moving and sentimental. Les Carlyon's passion for the Australian volunteers who fought, died and survived shines through on every page. Les Carlyon himself walks the fields of war, almost a century later, where 61,700 Australians died so far from home. His impressions of the ground, the relics that still litter the soil, and his descriptions of the cemeteries add a melancholy weight to the story and the book becomes less a history, than a memorial to their memories.

I highly recommend reading this book alongside the moving and vivid memoir "Somme Mud" by Australian infantryman E.P.F Lynch.

I'm afraid the last set of recommendations have a very Australian bent. But, as an Australian I suppose that's to be expected ;)

Happy Reading

Edited: Because I can never get anything right the first time!

Jan 12, 2009, 4:33 am

Wow, thanks petermc. They all sound great, and it's a subject I never seem to tire off.

Like the sound of an Australian voice telling the story. I've met quite a few Australians while travelling and love their (your) un-pc way of expressing things! And have been to Melbourne and Sydney, both of which I loved.

Jan 15, 2009, 5:13 am

7 In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin.

Ok, well in a way I had to force myself to finish this. Some bits I really enjoyed, but it was less a travelogue about Patagonia than a history lesson, relating to various people that had a (vague) association with Patagonia.

So although it was accomplished and well-written, it really wasn't what I was looking for.

Started Les Miserables this morning, and hooked already. Think it will be a quick read.

Jan 19, 2009, 4:25 am

8 Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I really really enjoyed this book. Great story, characters you really came to care about. Loved the atmosphere of it. Very highly recommended.

9 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Not at all sure about this one. No question that it's very well written but I have to confess to not really having a clue what was going on. Very confusing, for me at least. Think I didn't enjoy it that much and it was a bit of a slog.

Jan 19, 2009, 4:47 am

Enjoyed your thread thus far. I've just begun reading Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky online at WOWIO

Jan 19, 2009, 5:10 am

Thanks suslyn.
How are you liking Notes From the Underground?
I decided to read it as an appetiser before starting on Crime and Punishment, a slightly more ambitious undertaking. The only Dostoyevsky I've read before is The House of the Dead, which I remember I enjoyed, to the extent that you can enjoy a book about a subject like that.

Jan 19, 2009, 7:10 am

isn't Les Miserables just a wonder of a book? i couldn't put it down when i first read it ages ago. i too love everything about it -- and in any form too...the musical is great...it's the only musical whose songs i know from start to finish! the movie interpretations i've seen are also well done.

good luck on reading Crime and Punishment, it's complex and unforgettable.

Jan 19, 2009, 7:51 am

Just far enough to think he's a bit off :) early pages yet...

Jan 19, 2009, 7:53 am

Now here I must confess that I read the abridged version of Les Miserables - and I'm quite glad I did, having read the reviews about continual digressions. It was the story and the characters that I was hooked to, and the brevity of it that kept me going (I don't have a long concentration span).

Has definitely stayed with me, and now I'm really keen to watch a film of it and listen to the music. Is there any particular version of the film that you would recommend to buy on DVD

I'm looking forward to Crime and Punishment, and think I will enjoy the challenge. I hope!

Jan 19, 2009, 8:06 am

I thought the Liam Neeson version was good(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119683/), but will never forget the first one I saw with Charles Laughton (www.imdb.com/title/tt0026725/)

Jan 19, 2009, 8:33 am

Hey, thanks for the links.
Am really tempted - keep me away from the amazon chkout!

Jan 21, 2009, 3:54 am

10 Eve Green by Susan Fletcher. A good read, full of depth and very insightful about a child's way of seeing the terrible and strange events in her new world. I found it a bit melancholy though, and not necessarily fun to read. Still, I'm glad I did.

Editado: Jan 25, 2009, 4:58 am

11 Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.

Well I wasn't that keen on this, which is a shame cos I was hoping for some ROFL or LMAO, and all I got was a chuckle or two. Well written and interesting, but I really wanted excruciatingly funny.

Jan 25, 2009, 5:00 am

12 A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro.

This was good, though not outstanding. Felt uniquely japanese, but less upbeat than Murakami. Was not entirely sure what was going on since it seemed to twist at the end. Still, I'm glad I read it.

Jan 25, 2009, 3:31 pm

>52 jbeast:: I am SO with you on this, jbeast. I read Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim a couple of years ago and found it mildly amusing in places but really - nothing approaching the laughfest it was promised as. And something about his tone really grated with me too.

Jan 26, 2009, 4:05 am

#53 Glad I'm not alone in this. One of the best things about reading for me is when you find something so funny you laugh til you cry, and was hoping Sedaris may fit the bill. And I agree about a slightly grating style - to me it was like he was trying too hard, and I thought he made a big deal about his sexuality.

I can remember vividly how much I laughed when reading Gerald Durrell, especially the short stories eg The Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium. Would love to find something like that again.

Am now reading The Phantom of the Opera and am finding it a lot more entertaining and funny than the Sedaris book. Not sure if Leroux intended this but he has an enchanting writing style.

Editado: Jan 26, 2009, 5:38 am

>55 jbeast:: I haven't ever managed to get into Sedaris. There's something about his writing that I can't quite put my finger on—maybe too much cynicism or self-focus—that keeps it from being truly funny beyond a smirk or two.

I'm a big Gerald Durrell fan, though my favorite is probably My Family and Other Animals.

Maybe try some Calvin Trillin; his Travels with Alice, Too Soon to Tell and others had me laughing.

Jan 26, 2009, 5:46 am

Sedaris - so that makes three of us. I agree, I feel he seems quite pleased with himself, and tries hard to be funny. Nothing seems to come naturally with it, and he is vaguely irritating.

I love My Family and Other Animals too. A true classic, really uplifting. I don't necessary like TV adaptations, but the one the BBC did in 1987 is wonderful if you ever fancy it.

Never heard of Calvin Trillin but will definitely look him up now. Thanks for the recommendation.

Jan 26, 2009, 3:07 pm

It's so refreshing to find other people who don't just *love* Sedaris! I went to see him give a reading once (at the time I had read a couple of his books and thought, as you state above, that he was mildly amusing). He read from his newest manuscript (as yet at the time unpublished), and he made notes where the audience laughed. I felt like I was totally being used - here I had paid money to see him perform and ended up acting as his editor, for which I wanted to get paid! Oh well, I've said my piece now.

Jan 27, 2009, 4:07 am

scaifea - that sounds really annoying, I don't blame you. I'm not at all surprised either, I've heard him on a podcast and he came across as quite pleased with himself. Which could be forgiven to some extent if he were worth the hype.

Jan 28, 2009, 4:54 am

13 The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.

I started off loving this book, because of the plot, the characters, the humour and the language. Then in the middle it started to drag because I found the love story a bit implausible and tedious. At the end it picked up again, and I read the last 50 or so pages all in a rush on the bus this morning (and even hid in the toilets to finish the last few pages before starting work ha ha).

I would recommend it, and for me produced some LOL moments.

Don't have a clue what to read next. Some options are:
- A Fine Balance
- Crime and Punishment
- The Stand (though I want to save this for a possible group read in April)
- Anna Karenina (too heavy alongside W&P?)
- Civil Disobedience (H D Thoreau)

Quite a decision...

Jan 28, 2009, 5:51 am

+1 vote for A Fine Balance! Although it's not exactly a light read, to be honest. Brilliant book though.

There are vague plans for a group read of Anna Karenina around Easter too.

Jan 28, 2009, 5:54 am

Though I haven't read it, I second Rachael's vote for A Fine Balance. Rohinton Mistry's writing is fabulous!

Jan 28, 2009, 6:01 am

#61 & #62 Thanks, both. I had an idea this one would get an enthusiastic thumbs up. I bought it because of very enthusiastic reviews on LT, many with the caveat that it's not light reading. So think I will go for that. And I'm fascinated by and would love to go to India. So looks like A Fine Balance will be brought down from the shelf later.

A group read of Anna Karenina? Excellent. Am tentatively hoping to have finished W&P before then, so that would fit in really well.

Fev 1, 2009, 10:37 am

14 A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.
Just finished this. Was like a saga, and you couldn't help getting attached to the characters. The settings seemed real, like you as the reader were suffering the pain and difficulties of 70s India (and earlier). Not an easy read but well worth it. Recommended. Especially for someone like me who would love to go to India. And anyone who enjoys a character-rich story. Anyone who is interested in modern world history. Anyone who loves a good book, really...

Fev 1, 2009, 11:29 am

have you read Rushdie's Midnight's Children? if not, it's another great book on India you might want to try. a brilliant take on the Partition BUT only if you like magic-realism...

Fev 1, 2009, 11:33 am

No, I haven't. I've considered it many times but never bought it. I'm kind of ambivalent about magical realism. I guess for somewhere like India I prefer realism (you can't get much more real than A Fine Balance), though I do enjoy Murakami which seems to work in a Japanese setting. Do you think Midnight's Children is for me?

Fev 1, 2009, 1:19 pm

i don't know, j, i'm hesitant to recommend novels employing magic-realism to those whose reading taste i'm not familiar with. it's one of those things you either hate or love in extreme, nothing between. While Murakami is quirky, Rushdie is extravagant and exuberant, and if you're one who likes to explore a "different" way of reading, then i'd heartily recommend his books. MD is a metaphor for India and real historical events, so you get a more sweeping view of the context which is, even if it refers to another phase in India's history, somehow missing in A Fine Balance which focused on individual lives.

Fev 1, 2009, 3:13 pm

Also, as we were talking about on another thread, Paul Scott's The Raj Quartet explores the British Colonial period and the partition from a different perspective.

Fev 1, 2009, 3:43 pm

#67 After doing a bit of research I've added Midnight's Children to my wishlist. I'm really interested in finding out about India the country and I love the atmosphere of all books set there. So thanks for the recommendation, and expect to see my thoughts in the future.

#68 Which thread is that? I just followed your link and saw The Jewel in the Crown is the first one. Which I have definitely heard of, though never knew it was the first of a quartet. Straight on my wishlist, and thanks.

Fev 1, 2009, 5:29 pm

I'm sorry jbeast--I can't remember which thread because so far I'm reading them all and I've given half of my brain to each of my five kids.

The discussion was primarily those of us who had read The Raj Quartet raving about it. I've read the books 3 times and plan to read them again sometime before I die. There is also a very good BBC adaptation of the novels I highly recommend.

Editado: Fev 1, 2009, 7:38 pm

aruba, it was my thread :-). this was mentioned in the talk after I reviewed The Siege of Krishnapur, an interesting account of the Sepoy rebellion (also called the Indian Mutiny). jbeast, this is another title you might want to include in your India books list.

Fev 1, 2009, 10:58 pm

Thanks, deebee!

Editado: Fev 8, 2009, 5:13 am

Thanks for all your suggestions, all of which are on my wishlist (which is growing out of control...)

15 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. For the Reading Globally group feb theme read.

A really great book which took you to tribal Nigeria, and made you feel for the characters, and at the same time wonder how on earth people accepted such a way of life. Especially the women. Clearly the answer is that they didn't know any different. Fascinating book, easy to read, witty and enjoyable. Recommended.

Fev 7, 2009, 11:38 pm

message 69

If you are interested in learning more about India, I suggest an excellent book regarding the break up of India and Pakinstan. Freedom at Midnight was one of the best books I've read regarding India and I highly recommend it.

By the way, in checking your list of books read thus far in 2009, you certainly have added some very impressive (and heavy) books to your library.

Fev 8, 2009, 5:21 am

Thanks Whisper, I've added it to my wish list. I'm really keen to find out more about the British Empire's part in such things; being British I always feel (irrationally) slightly guilty about it, so it will be good to clear up some facts.

Also thanks for your comments about my reading list. Talking of heavy books, I'm now about halfway through The Stand, a giant monster of a book but clearly not heavy in the sense of, say, Crime and Punishment. I got stuck for a while, but now I'm racing along with it again.

It's only in the last few years I've started to read more thought-provoking books, and now I've got into the habit I just can't get enough of them.

Fev 8, 2009, 1:37 pm

following up on your comments re. feeling irrationally slightly guilty about England's history and the Britiish Empire...truly, if anyone should feel guilty, it is Americans (of which I am one.) What we did to the Native Indian culture is abhorrent. And, perhaps there is good reason why so much of the world does not look favorable upon the US. Though, in our defense, those same countries love the money and resources we throw at them..

Fev 8, 2009, 2:32 pm

Well I think all of the Western and/or powerful nations have been guilty of this kind of exploitation and cruelty towards those with less power, as groups and as individuals.

It's not a problem I know the answer to, but I definitely can see the benefit of reading about the past - to be educated and entertained (I don't mean that in a disrespectful way) by history is a way of remembering the suffering others had inflicted upon them. Unfortunately it still happens...

Fev 16, 2009, 5:17 am

Ok, third time lucky. Was having problems posting yesterday, I guess due to the maintenance.

16 The Stand by Stephen King. And aren't I glad this one is over!

I have to say it was a bit of a disappointment. The story was good but too long (would probably have been more palatable if I had read this original shorter version, but I liked the pages in this one, ha ha). And I just couldn't warm to the characters. I quite liked Tom Cullen and Kojak, but the rest were pretty much irritating. Fran and Stu particularly made me feel sick - they were just so perfect.

I'm also not keen on his writing style. For example, he used the term making love far too often, when half the time the characters in question were having casual sex! Then in other places, he was quite happy to use strong language, which is not an issue, but just seemed a bit incongruous and inconsistent.

I will say though that I managed to get through all 1324 pages in less than 2 weeks which is pretty good for me, so there must have been something going for it. 3/5 stars.

Fev 21, 2009, 3:15 pm

17 Tibet, Tibet by Patrick French.

Very interesting history/travelogue of Tibet, well-written, funny in places. Enjoyed it, though I always prefer fiction to non-fiction.

18 Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Bit too scary for children I would have thought. Quick read, good writing style. Not a favourite though.

Reading Pride and Prejudice - wonderful, don't want it to end. Now I have to read all of the rest of her books in one go.

Fev 25, 2009, 4:28 am

19 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Loved it. Completely lives up to the hype. Despite the writing style, it feels really modern and you find yourself empathising very easily with all the characters. Austen is definitely now a favourite of mine (yes, this is the first one of hers I've read). As soon as I finished P&P I went to amazon and bought all of her others in one go.

Started this on dailylit.com, which I really like and would definitely recommend to anyone on here who hasn't already heard of it. Then bought the book. Now started Emma on dailylit because not enough patience to wait for amazon package.

Editado: Fev 25, 2009, 4:30 am

20 Introducing Islam by Ziauddin Sardar

Very interesting, and well written in an accessible style (with pictures). Made me feel sympathetic towards people who suffer at the hands of Muslim fundamentalists (and I DON'T mean the vast majority of Muslim people, I mean the tiny minority).

21 Introducing Stephen Hawking by J P McEvoy

I don't profess to have any understanding of physics, but he interests me and I found the book quite easy to follow. Obviously, I didn't understand the detail (even though it's very basic), but reading it made me feel intelligent, ha ha. And now I have a basic knowledge of black holes and big bang theory, and Newton and Einstein and the second law of thermodynamics.

Glad I read both of these, and would recommend them and the series as a whole.

Fev 25, 2009, 6:03 pm

#81: It is unfortunate that in any religious group there seems to be a tiny minority that gives the rest of the members of the group a bad name and reputation, Muslims included.

Introducing Islam looks like a good, basic book and I am going to give it a try. Thanks for the recommendation.

Fev 25, 2009, 6:05 pm

I read Feynman's Six Easy Pieces earlier this year and it is also a very accessible introduction to physics, if you are interested.

Editado: Fev 26, 2009, 12:22 am

> 83

Richard Phillips Feynman makes physics accessible like no other writer. His books are fantastic. I've read them all, but even better are the audio versions as spoken by the great man himself.

The equally great Carl Sagan is another writer I wholly recommend if you are interested in astronomy and cosmology. His 1980 television series COSMOS made science accessible to thousands, and together with the book, is one of the most evocative and inspirational of the genre.

For something a little more serious, one of my favourite ever physics textbooks is An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics (2nd Edition) by Bradley W. Carroll and Dale A. Ostlie; often referred to as the BOB (Big Orange Book). I read this, all 1400-odd pages, from cover to cover - for fun (but I'm a bit strange like that!). It's not cheap, and the math can be quite heavy (knowledge of differential equations is a must), but in its field it's hard to beat.

Fev 26, 2009, 6:46 am

#82 I couldn't agree with you more. In fact I just had a meeting at work with a theatre company who said they did some work on a project about Islamophobia and they met a teenage boy who had serious emotional problems because he had been called a terrorist on a regular basis. Makes me sad/angry.

The book touches on how the Koran is taken very literally by some, but actually the message it puts across is one of love and kindness towards your fellow man. This seems to have been overlooked by many.

I thought it was an interesting read, and it talks a lot about the history of Muslim culture in lots of areas which we wouldn't necessarily associate it with.

Fev 26, 2009, 6:46 am

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Fev 26, 2009, 6:50 am

Oops, double post above.

#83, 84 Physics is a subject that interests me, though I've not studied it for many years. I've heard about Six Easy Pieces and will add it to my wishlist - I think I'd like to know more.

Will also look into Sagan. Though I confess to being clueless with regard to differential equations, so the Big Orange Book I suspect would beyond me!

Fev 26, 2009, 8:37 am

Feynman did several others that are pretty easily accessible to readers with a slight bit of math awareness. The Feynman Lectures are pretty much the standard for what I'd call "entry-level" physics. Very readable, but doesn't lose the depth needed to understand what's going on. Also, QED is a pretty good intro to some more advanced quantum mechanics without needing a bunch of specialized math.

Mar 9, 2009, 6:08 am

22 Emma by Jane Austen.

Started out loving it, and thought it every bit as good as Pride and Prejudice. But I must confess to getting bored before the end, and started to find it a bit repetitive. Also, I found it predictable, and you could tell what was going to happen from the beginning. Having had a moan, I still love her style and her perception of people. After a break I'll get started on the rest (I know have a full Austen collection).

Mar 9, 2009, 9:56 am

>89 jbeast: Shoot , don't say these things, I'm going to read it this month! :)
Hope I like it more than you did!

Mar 9, 2009, 11:45 am

No, it was a great book. I just gave myself too much Austen in one go, and I have the concentration span of a peanut, and was really anxious to move on with something else! You will love the book, trust me.

Mar 11, 2009, 6:46 am

23 The Tango Singer by Tomas Eloy Martinez.

This was for the Reading Globally group's theme read for March on Argentina. I'm not entirely sure I understood the book that well. I loved it at first, and found it very evocative about Buenos Aires, somewhere I'd love to go, and about the tango.

The story follows an american student in Buenos Aires to write his PhD. He's looking for a tango singer who is supposed to have a magical voice, but is very difficult to find since he is ill and sings in unusual places on a whim without his performances being advertised.

But then it drifted away from this theme, and became too overtly political for me, and I started to lost interest. Which is a shame because it had great potential. My view is that I wish it had stayed away from delving too deeply into Argentina's recent political history. Not because I'm particularly fond of tango, but because I thought that was what I was going to get and therefore was left disappointed.


Mar 16, 2009, 10:13 am

24 If This Is A Man by Primo Levi.

Can't praise this book enough. Wonderful, and I'm pretty sure the best I've read on the holocaust. He writes beautifully, and it feels like you're really there (not necessarily a good thing, but illustrates the superior quality of the writing, and the translation). Totally unsentimental, and presents the facts as they were.

Can't imagine why they changed the name for the American publication to Survival in Auschwitz - the poem 'If this is a man... ' at the beginning is wonderful and makes the original name of the book perfect.

Mar 16, 2009, 11:06 am

I love Levi's memoir as well - like you said, he is very factual, and distances himself from the subject, though flashes of emotion do come through in certain places. If you haven't read it, I recommend Elie Wiesel's Night as well.

Editado: Mar 18, 2009, 7:09 am

No, I haven't yet read Night, but very much want to, and it's on my wishlist. The holocaust is a subject which fascinates and disturbs me fairly equally.

In fact, I have no willpower, so have just ordered Night from the book depository. So thank you for that.

Mar 16, 2009, 11:04 pm

You're welcome!! :P

I also have no willpower, which is why I bought five new books last week.

Editado: Mar 17, 2009, 5:07 am

#96 Hey, cool, I like people who are addicted to books like me. The worst temptation is the internet since it's with me at work and at home, and the books are cheap(er), and only a couple of clicks away. It's too much!

Mar 17, 2009, 5:10 am

25 As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee.

Great book, really atmospheric and wonderfully evocative writing, about Spain in the period immediately preceding the Civil War. Village life seemed almost like the middle ages, not the 20th century. Recommended, especially for people who love Spain like me.

Mar 17, 2009, 6:13 pm

#98: Sounds like an enjoyable read - I will look for it. Thanks for the recommendation!

Mar 18, 2009, 7:13 am

#99 It is, it's lovely. He has written another book about Spain too, called A Rose for Winter, where he returns to Spain later in his life. Haven't read that one yet, but looking forward to it.

Also, for anyone interested in that part of the world, one of my favourite books ever is Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart. This is the first part of a trilogy, all of which are great.

Mar 18, 2009, 7:54 am

Liz, I've also thoroughly enjoyed Laurie Lee's writing.

I'm adding Driving Over Lemons to the tbr list. Thanks for the rec!

Mar 18, 2009, 8:04 am

#101 I'm glad you like Laurie Lee too - I've only read two of his books - this one and the inevitable Cider With Rosie, though am keen to read more. He reminds me a tiny bit of Eric Newby, whose Love and War in the Apennines is one of my other favourite books ever, as is his The Last Grain Race, which is hilarious.

Sorry to digress!

Definitely wholeheartedly recommend Driving Over Lemons - you're most welcome. The others are called A Parrot In The Pepper Tree and The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society, in case you're interested.

Mar 20, 2009, 4:39 am

26 This Charming Man by Marian Keyes.

Great book, as hers always are - to the extent that I read nearly 900 pages in 2 days (wish that would happen with War & Peace!).

I really have a soft spot for Marian Keyes. She has a way of tackling difficult and scary subjects (domestic abuse, alcoholism, depression, bereavement) with a light and humourous touch. She also writes with an Irish accent, which I love.

I would thoroughly recommend this, though at the risk of being sexist, I don't think men would go for it too much!

Editado: Mar 24, 2009, 5:15 am

27 Night by Elie Wiesel. Thanks Cait86.

What can I say about this? I can't say I enjoyed it, since it was harrowing and shocking, but I definitely admired the writing and the style of the book, and felt its essence seeping right under my skin. Incredible work, everyone should read it, etc, etc. A five-star read, no question.

Mar 24, 2009, 4:59 am

28 The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg.

A dark tale of childhood in Rhodesia, before it became Zimbabwe. Accomplished writing, interesting and well-portrayed characters. I enjoyed it but wasn't blown away.

Mar 24, 2009, 5:06 am

29 The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell.

Orwell being one of my favourite writers, I expected to love this and wasn't disappointed. Not as good as Down and Out in Paris and London, though still an important portrayal of English poverty in the 1930's, and diatribe against the class system (which seems almost identical to the social stratification that exists in England today).

Part II is an intellectual, theoretical and forthright account of Orwell's opinions regarding communism/socialism; very enlightening, despite being written in a simple style. I enjoyed this second part slightly less than Part I, a colourful and disturbing description of the conditions existing at that time for the poor among whom Orwell placed himself in order to write this book.

Extremely interesting, another work I would thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in British social history of the last century.

Mar 24, 2009, 2:30 pm

#104: Completely agree with you. Night is not an easy read in any sense of the word, but it is an excellent one.

#105: Sounds like a book in which I would be interested. Thanks for the mention.

Mar 25, 2009, 9:23 am

I'm so glad you read Night!

Editado: Mar 25, 2009, 10:01 am

Thanks Cait86, I'm really glad I did too, and now I'm keen to find out more about the subject - any other recommendations would be very welcome.

Also I would be really interested to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. On a trip to Berlin a few years ago I went to Sachsenhausen, which was a concentration camp mainly holding political prisoners I believe; certainly it wasn't a death camp on the scale of Auschwitz. Still, it was haunting and horrifying, and paying a visit to a site like this has quite an impact.

I'm also interesting in the genocide in Cambodia during Pol Pot's regime, and have been to the Killing Fields and S-21 prison. Also horrific, also I believe important for people to be aware of. There are some great books about this which are currently on my wish list (eg First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung), and Survival in the Killing Fields, by Haing Ngor, a wonderful book which I have read.

And as an aside, Cambodia is my favourite country in the world and everyone who gets the chance should go there!

Don't think I'm a morbid person, I just find it utterly fascinating that this can ever have happened, and am keen to read as much as possible to find out why; not a question I think can ever be answered.

Mar 28, 2009, 6:35 pm

>109 jbeast:: also went to Sachsenhausen many years ago now. It does bring you up with a bit of a jerk to visit somewhere like that.

Mar 30, 2009, 3:33 am

#110 Pretty grim place isn't it. Am now reading Forgotten Voices of the Holocaust and it mentions that Jews were sent there after Kristallnacht, almost as a practice for how the nazis were going to run their concentration camp system later.

Mar 30, 2009, 3:35 am

30 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

Very enjoyable, gripping and well-written thriller. The bits about financial journalism dragged a bit, and I perceived it to be slightly predictable. So a 4/5 rather than a 5. Still, would definitely recommend it.

Mar 30, 2009, 3:44 am

31 First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung.

So as I mentioned above I have an interest in the terrible events that happened in Cambodia under Pol Pot's regime, and therefore this book has been on my wishlist for a while.

The book was excellently written, and competently delivered the message of how terrible it was for Loung and her large family (7 children) to live under Khmer Rouge rule and the atrocities they suffered. Necessarily it was harrowing.

Still, for me it didn't quite have the impact of Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor. Or maybe it's nothing to do with the book but rather the fact that the story is all too familiar to me now and therefore doesn't have the shock value it once did.

For anyone who wants to know what happened in Cambodia in the period 1975-79, this book is thoroughly recommended for it's accessible style.

Editado: Mar 30, 2009, 5:23 am

A friend just returned from Cambodia, who also thinks it's the greatest place in the world, brought me back a book Cambodia: A Report From a Stricken Land by Henry Kamm. As a true souvenir of the region, it's one of those pirated books where sentences never quite read horizontally and page 97-98 might be found between pages 22 and 23!

Kamm has spent 30 years reporting from the region, and this book takes the reader from the "establishment of the Khmer Rouge" to the "1991 Paris peace settlement, and the demise of Pol Pot." Looks like a great read, and hope to get to it soon.

Edit: Touchstones - Agghhh!

Mar 30, 2009, 5:29 am

Mar 30, 2009, 5:43 am

Hi petermc
Thanks v much, I'd never heard of that book and just looked it up on Amazon. Sounds interesting and will go on my wishlist.

Your description of the pirated copy of your book made me chuckle. Kids selling blantantly photocopied books, inc Lonely Planet, were everywhere, and didn't hesitate to bang on the minibus windows even when the vehicle was moving! At the time I was there (early 2007) all books cost $2.

The degree of poverty and begging is crazy.Though we were told at the time that begging isn't permitted so they mostly have something to sell including, at Tonle Sap, bananas given to them (by the government I think) for the purpose.

At Angkor Wat, I was approached by a child of about 2 years old - I'm not exaggerating - who asked me for spare change in various currencies, starting with dollar, then moving on to riel, then baht, and finally euro. Got to admire their initiative. Still, you're told not to give in to them.

To me it's the friendliest and warmest and most interesting country I've been to.

Mar 30, 2009, 5:51 am

#115 Your continent must be turning into a world by now! They are all great books though, hope you like them.

Mar 30, 2009, 5:56 am

#117: I think by June it is going to be Universe TBR, lol. I have no idea what I am going to call it after that . . .

Mar 30, 2009, 10:55 am

jbeast, if you have the chance, do read Sideshow by William Shawcross, essential reading to understand US policy that set the stage for the Khmer Rouge's rule. a riveting, even shocking, read of how Cambodia was merely regarded as collateral damage.
and yes, my copy of this book as well as a few more about Cambodia, were pirated copies i easily obtained at the museum shop itself of The Killing Fields. US$ 2 each indeed.

the sight of those begging kids was one of the most heartbreaking things ever, especially seen against the grandeur of the monuments from their past. it simply bogs the mind...

Mar 30, 2009, 2:18 pm

Stasia, you could name it Planet TBR next and then move on to Universe TBR...like a month later!! :D


Mar 31, 2009, 2:01 am

#120: Angela, Roni came up with a solution to the problem and posted it on my thread. I am not allowed to just jump to Universe TBR as I had planned. Peter even came up with a solution to after I topped Universe.

I am sure using their suggestions, it is going to take longer than a month to get to Universe TBR. I just have to learn to pace myself.

Mar 31, 2009, 6:10 pm

#121 Ah, okay, glad you have it all figured out!
I must have missed that conversation on your thread...or should I say your threads!

Abr 1, 2009, 5:14 am

#122: Here is Roni's suggestion:

Stasia, I've been doing some deep thinking about that Continent TBR of yours, involving orders of magnitude and painting oneself into a corner. If you jump straight to Universe TBR, what do you do for the next order of magnitude? Because you KNOW it's going to get bigger.

My suggested scale:
pile, mountain, continent, planet, solar system, galaxy, universe

Abr 1, 2009, 5:02 pm

Sounds perfect - so far mine is only a pile or mountain, but I expect big things from my TBR!!

Abr 2, 2009, 4:19 am

LT has had the same effect on me - too many desired books - though this is all on my wish list. My physical TBR is prob about 30ish.

Abr 2, 2009, 4:39 am

32 Forgotten Voices of the Holocaust by Lyn Smith.

Wow! Just finished this walking down the road on the way to work.

I think it's the most complete work I've read on the subject. Includes sections on pre-war experience, ghettos, resistance, camps, death marches, liberation, aftermath.

Excellently compiled and gives views of those who were there: Jews and non-Jews, as well as civilians, liberators, soldiers, etc.

To me the case study-like approach paints a very thorough picture. At the beginning of each section is a brief historical introduction, though this doesn't labour the point.

The words of those involved seem to drip feed the historical context into you, so at the end you feel very well-informed about the events that occurred.

Personally I was particularly inspired by the small section right at the end entitled forgiving and forgetting. That so many thousands/millions could have endured this and emerge with their spirit intact, and go on to build normal and largely happy lives, is a great example of the strength of the human psyche.

Recommended to all.

Abr 2, 2009, 7:46 am

Sounds like an excellent read jbeast! I keep telling myself I'll read more non-fiction but never find anything that really grabs my attention...thanks for this one!

Abr 2, 2009, 8:13 am

#127 Hi Eliza, I know what you mean about non-fiction. I've always struggled with non-fiction too, but this really is an accessible read. Some parts are very unpleasant, but how could they not be.

Btw, in case you didn't know, it's part of a series of Forgotten Voices... books about war, published in association with the Imperial War Museum in the UK. I have another one: Forgotten Voices of the Second World War; which I've not yet read. Other subjects include The Blitz and the Battle of Britain, The First World War, The Somme, The Secret War. others I can't remember.

So if you decide to read and enjoy the holocaust one you may want to increase your non-fiction list with some of the others.

Next read for me, more fiction - Revolutionary Road.

Abr 2, 2009, 11:44 am

Re "Forgotten Voices"--They've also been released as audio books, with the original interview material letting you hear the voices of the people. I definitely recommend them, and I'm pretty sure they're all available from Audible.

Abr 2, 2009, 11:50 am

Abr 2, 2009, 11:51 am

Audible.com. It's a site where you can buy/download audio books.

Abr 2, 2009, 11:53 am

thanks :)
and no, jbeast I didn't know about the Forgotten Voices series, sounds like something that would interest me (finally! non-fiction!)

Abr 2, 2009, 3:22 pm

wunderkind - I bet it would be excellent with the voices aswell, and even more poignant.

Eliza - glad you've found some non-fiction you like the sound of. I am going to try and work my way through them too.

Editado: Abr 6, 2009, 3:54 am

33 Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence

My first impression of this YA novel about nuclear holocaust is that I'm not sure it's suitable for young adults, and definitely not for children. If I had read this before the age of about 16 I'd have been traumatised! Though I'm not sure it would have quite the impact today that it did back in the 80's when the Cold War made nuclear war a real threat.

The book, split into 3 sections, starts with all-out nuclear war, with blasts destroying most of the large settlements in SW England where the novel is set. This part describes the effects of fallout, radiation sickness, etc in the context of one family.

The following two sections follow this up by outlining how the survivors go on to start a 'brave new world', as it is described here.

Although I didn't love this book, I found it well written and powerful, esp the first section on the war itself. My main concern is who it is pitched at; aswell as the rather graphic detail, I found some of the language technically complicated.

Recommended, with some reservations.

Abr 6, 2009, 3:20 am

#134: I will take a look at it! Thanks for the mention.

Abr 6, 2009, 3:53 am

34 Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

I'd been planning to read this for some time, and I'm glad I've finally got round to it.

Brilliantly written portrayal of the dissatisfaction bred by suburban life in 50s America for Frank and April Wheeler, a young couple. This leads to vicious arguments, followed by sessions of making up:a rollercoaster of emotions with no evidence of genuine love for each other or, most disturbingly, for their young children.

They come up with a plan to get away from it all, and the events are described in the context of their and other people's reactions to and behaviour as a result of these plans. A natural event pulls contemporary moral ethics into the forefront of the story, and things go downhill slowly and decisively.

Sorry if this is a bit unclear and cryptic, but I don't want to introduce any spoilers for those who haven't read the novel or seen the film.

I found it cleverly written, and the intermingling of the Wheelers with their friends and acquaintances created a fascinating portrait of the time.

I don't agree with some of the back cover blurb that it's flawless, though I think it's possibly a great American novel of its time.

Editado: Abr 6, 2009, 4:59 am

Copied this from Cait86 (thank you). I've read 29 - the ones in bold - and put down a further 14.

The BBC claims that most Britons will only have read 6 of these. I would estimate that many people on LT will have read far more than that.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulkes
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth.
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt.
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Abr 6, 2009, 4:22 pm

Oh, I'm so glad someone else has read the Wasp Factory. No one I know has read this book.

Abr 7, 2009, 3:28 am

Hi VioletBramble. Yes, I read it. Was a while ago but as I recall I read it in one sitting and liked it, though undoubtedly it's a bit extreme. I remember it had a satisfying, though weird, ending. What did you think of it?

Abr 7, 2009, 3:52 am

35 Brothers in Law by Henry Cecil.

I really enjoyed this. A light, entertaining and funny small novel. An old copy I found in the house that my dad bought back in the 60s in the old orange Penguin format. Price - 3' 6 (3 shillings and sixpence in British old money).

It's about the first year of a 21 year old barrister who has just qualified, and the scrapes he gets into, in and out of work. You can't help smiling because it's innocent and charming and witty, as well as informative about London law practices of the 50s.

I would recommend it, though it's probably hard to get hold of.

Abr 7, 2009, 12:53 pm

Will actively look out for Children of the Dust and like the sound of Brothers in Law but again, don't fancy my chances of getting hold of a copy!

Editado: Abr 8, 2009, 12:39 pm

Possible SPOILERS ahead:

#139 I read The Wasp Factory years ago too. I remember being caught completely off guard by the ending. I really had no idea what was coming. At the time I read the book I was working with intersexed patients (CAH, ambiguous genitalia, pseudohermaphrodites) and I couldn't believe that so much went right over my head. Very cleverly written. I really liked the book. I could never convince anyone else to read it though.

Abr 7, 2009, 8:04 pm

I've read The Wasp Factory too. I don't remember many of the details now, but it was strange and original and stayed with me a long time. It caused me to read a fair number of Banks' other books.

Abr 8, 2009, 5:57 am

>142 VioletBramble: VioletBramble, you might want to put a SPOILER in there maybe...? I still haven't read The Wasp Factory (although I did know about some of the stuff you mention thanks to a 'book club' article on it I read accidentally...).

Abr 8, 2009, 12:33 pm

Flossie, I'm not sure that I spoiled anything there. None of those things I mentioned are what the book is about -- just sort of the same neighborhood. I'll edit to be safe though.

Abr 12, 2009, 7:03 am

#143 I read quite a few too after reading that one first. I can remember they included Complicity, The Crow Road and Espedair Street. Maybe more. They were all good.

Editado: Abr 12, 2009, 7:23 am

36 Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell.

What a truly masterful writer Orwell is. In fact this may make into my top 10 list on the other thread.

The novel follows Gordon Comstock, a thirty year old man from a middle class background who has thrust himself into voluntary poverty to escape capitalism. This poverty, however, makes a martyr of him and he clearly doesn't enjoy this life he has chosen for himself.

So, why do it? That is the skill of the book. Orwell manages to make it believable, while at the same time making a point of the frustration which those closest to him feel. You the reader can't help feeling some of this desire to make him sort his life out, and take advantage of his skills to bring him back into a middle-class existence.

His refusal to go back to a 'good job' is represented by hatred of the aspidistra, to him a plant which symbolises the banal and depressing middle class life which he doesn't want to be part of.

The characters are charmingly drawn. You can't help warming to them, particularly Rosemary who is clearly one of the world's genuinely lovely people. (See, it's like I believe this characters really exist!)

I would recommend this to anyone, not just Orwell fans. Even those who disliked Nineteen Eighty Four may find something to love here. It's really all about human relationships, set in a backdrop of 1930's London. It fair warms the heart...

Abr 12, 2009, 7:22 am

37 Sold by Patricia McCormick.

For the Reading Globally April theme read of slavery.

This is a haunting young adult novel, about a thirteen year old Nepali girl sold by her stepfather to become a prostitute in Calcutta. Not pleasant stuff. Very well written in an accessible style.

Very sad though, not easy reading.

Editado: Abr 12, 2009, 1:23 pm

What did you think of the ending to Keep the Aspidistra Flying? I thought it was a little abrupt and a friend of mine (who basically is Gordon Comstock) thought it was a complete cop-out, both on Gordon's part and Orwell's. It seems to contradict the rest of the book, but I can't tell if that was intentional/ironic or what.

Abr 12, 2009, 3:29 pm

Well, i really liked the ending. I was glad it had an ending like that (don't want to introduce any spoilers). So to me it wasn't a cop out, it was really satisfying.

Abr 12, 2009, 6:01 pm

>145 VioletBramble:, VB, as I say, never read the book, but had always got the impression that some of the things you mentioned were meant to be a big shock revelation at the climax! Hence the question mark. Tends to be better safe than sorry on here, I find (not wishing to revisit the Little Women-Beth conversations :-))

Abr 13, 2009, 12:23 am

#151 I have to agree with FlossieT

Abr 13, 2009, 8:05 am

Keep the Aspidistra Flying seems like another Orwell master piece, added to my TBR list, as I already mentioned, this year looks good for a few Orwells.

Editado: Abr 13, 2009, 2:53 pm

Thanks for this Cait86, and lycomayflower...

Copy the questions into your own post and answer the questions.

1) What author do you own the most books by?
I haven't counted but I think Murakami.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
Can't think of any I have more than one of. Oh, actually there is Beyond Black and Empire of the Sun but that's by accident, not because I love them.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
No, I didn't know it was wrong.
ETA: I just committed the same sin myself above, too!

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
None now, though I used to fall in love with all the male characters in Jilly Cooper's romances.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
Not sure. Maybe Harriet by Jilly Cooper. I adored her when I was about 18.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Probably a famous five.

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
I'm guessing at The Alchemist. Dreadful.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Hard question. Maybe If This Is A Man.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Forgotten Voices of the Holocaust

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
Not really sure of the kind of people who win this. Usually very literary people.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
On The Beach by Nevil Shute. Though it probably has been.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
I think The Alchemist would be terrible.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
Can't think of any.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
Lucky by Jackie Collins.

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
Bleak House

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
I've only seen one - Henry V. So that one.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
My immediate answer is Russians, though I did really enjoy Les Miserables.

18) Roth or Updike?
Have read neither.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Easy. I dislike Sedaris and think Eggers is great.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

21) Austen or Eliot?
Only read Austen so far, though Middlemarch is on my tbr.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Can't think of anything.

23) What is your favorite novel?
Impossible question. At the moment Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell.

24) Play?
Not ready many plays. Hamlet or the one with Mrs Malaprop. Can't remember the name. By Sheridan.

25) Poem?
The Robert Frost one where 2 paths diverge in a wood. And the one by Yeats about with the line: Tread softly because you tread on my dreams..

26) Essay?
Not sure.

27) Short story?
This is hard too. Maybe something by M R James or Murakami.

28) Work of nonfiction?
River Town by Peter Hessler. I'm fascinated by China.

29) Who is your favorite writer?
George Orwell, Eric Newby, Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, Haruki Murakami, Evelyn Waugh

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Sorry guys - I think for me it's J K Rowling. Also I can't understand the appeal of The Book Thief, though I haven't read anything else by Zusak.

31) What is your desert island book?
Something big, uplifting and comforting. No idea what though. Will think it over.

32) And... what are you reading right now?
The Master of Go by Yasunari Kawabata.

Abr 14, 2009, 2:52 am

#154: On the Beach has been made into a film a couple of times. I have never seen them, but I know they exist, if you are interested in looking for them.

Abr 14, 2009, 3:05 am

#155 - Personally, I love the 1959 version starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire.

Abr 14, 2009, 3:08 am

#156: I may just have to look for that one, Peter. I love both Gregory Peck (I just could not picture anyone else in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit or To Kill a Mockingbird) and Fred Astaire.

Abr 14, 2009, 4:07 am

#155,156 Thanks both, I had a feeling it had. Will look out for that one. Hope it doesn't depress me!

Abr 14, 2009, 4:14 am

38 The Master of Go by Yasunari Kawabata.

I enjoyed this book. It was very oriental and atmospheric in flavour, conjuring up images of koi ponds and japanese gardens and drinking tea out of a bowl. That's what I was after, and I found it had a relaxing effect.

I don't understand the rules of Go, though that doesn't matter since they are briefly outlined in the context of this retirement game of the Master of Go. The style is accessible; Kawabata managed to get across the skill of the players to the layperson like me. It looks like a fiendishly difficult game, though it would be for me as I don't do strategy/thinking ahead.

Recommended. I think possibly someone interested in the game may get more out of it, but it's by no means a prerequisite to appreciate the book.

Abr 20, 2009, 8:43 am

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Abr 20, 2009, 8:44 am

39 Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I started off loving this one, but I have to confess I got a bit bored. I don't think there was enough fresh material in the novel to sustain it for that many pages. And I didn't feel as passionate towards the characters as I did to those in Purple Hibiscus.

That said, it was a well-written book about an interesting, though very sad and shocking, event in African history.

Abr 20, 2009, 8:47 am

Double post above. Annoying.

40 The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene.

This was a bit blah to be honest. The plot and the characters were bland and implausible. Not impressed. The best part of it was the detail about London in the Blitz. Wouldn't particularly recommend it.

Abr 20, 2009, 8:53 am

#161: Half of a Yellow Sun, IMO, suffered too much from 'soap opera-ishness'. I think the book would have been better without all that.

Editado: Abr 20, 2009, 9:29 am

#163 I agree. It was as though it was attempting to be a bestseller, and was playing to the target audience a little bit. All that business about keeping you guessing about whether characters were alive or dead. In the end I didn't much care which it was.

Also, the scenes of violence were trying a bit hard to be shocking, and therefore had little impact. I refer mainly to the lady who was sitting next to Olanna on the bus, with the blood-stained wrapper. I don't want to be any more explicit in case I create a spoiler.

Abr 20, 2009, 9:48 am

#164: I had not thought of the book playing to a target audience, but I bet you are right!

Abr 20, 2009, 11:51 am

i agree with both of you. it was quite a disappointing read...

Abr 24, 2009, 3:55 am

#166 Disappointing is a great description - it wasn't bad, just wasn't as good as I may have expected.

Just finished another book:

41 A Rose for Winter by Laurie Lee.

What a wonderful, beautifully written, poetic book about Laurie Lee's return to southern Spain 15 years after he fought in the civil war.

To me it thoroughly communicates the atmospheric magic of Spain.

Wholeheartedly recommended. I'll miss it.

Abr 27, 2009, 4:16 am

42 Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book - a thriller that kept me gripped from start to finish.

I loved the characters, the plot, the atmosphere, the background info about Stalinist Russia/Ukraine (about which I knew nothing). It's been a long time since I've had this kind of an exciting read. I found it better and perhaps less predictable than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Would very much recommend it, and I'm looking forward to the next instalment: The Secret Speech.

Abr 27, 2009, 4:21 am

#168: Child 44 is on my list of memorable reads for the year. I am glad you enjoyed it, too!

Editado: Abr 27, 2009, 3:23 pm

I'm in the middle of Child 44 and can hardly put it down! I had no idea that Stalinist Russia was so extremely repressed. What an eye-opener.

ETA--and it's based on a true story, details on wikapedia.

Editado: Abr 30, 2009, 4:47 am

#169, 170

I was so impressed, I hadn't heard much about it so I assumed it was mediocre. Not a bit of it.

43 Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald.

Good book. Longer and less eventful than The Great Gatsby, but still worthy of being called a classic. Deals mainly with the the subtleties of a slow marriage breakdown. Not a lot really happens plotwise, it's all about character.


I'm now reading The Gargoyle, attracted by great reviews and black-edged pages. Loving it so far. Though the first few pages made me grit my teeth a bit...

Abr 30, 2009, 8:04 am

Good book. Longer and less eventful than The Great Gatsby, but still worthy of being called a classic. Deals mainly with the the subtleties of a slow marriage breakdown. Not a lot really happens plotwise, it's all about character.

ooooh that brief description has made me want to read the book more than good long, detailed reviews often do! It sounds like Salinger. In fact *can barely contain her excitement* I just saw that it is recommended on LT for those who liked...one of my favourite books - yes, there it is! -recommended reads for Nine Stories: Tender Is The Night, by F.Scott Fitzgerald!! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. And the best part, I've got TWO copies of it (one of which I'm offering on Bookmooch) so I can actually read it this month! This one is definitely going on my to-read list for May. I had it in mind for a while then forgot all about it and your description brought it back to mind. Thanks!

Abr 30, 2009, 10:14 am

#172 Am glad you like the sound of it. I'd had it lurking around the place for a while myself. I'd had a feeling it may be bit like Revolutionary Road. I'm not sure now - maybe it's similar in some ways.

I'm glad you feel inspired and will look out for your comments when you've read it to see if we felt the same about it.

Maio 4, 2009, 5:40 am

44 The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.

A magnificently crafted and original story with fascinating characters and a more or less flawless plot. As you may be able to tell I thought this was a great book. I don't generally enjoy fantasy, but can make exceptions for a story as well told as this one.

I have to study and can't be bothered to write any more!

Highly recommended.

Maio 4, 2009, 5:43 am

#174: I liked it when I read it, too. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it as well. Good luck with the studying!

Maio 4, 2009, 5:58 am

#175 Thanks - I still haven't really started yet today - I would rather read Middlemarch than a biology text book...

Maio 4, 2009, 6:10 am

BTW, I meant the above literally - Middlemarch is my current book - not as an metaphorical indicator of how much I dislike reading about biology!

Maio 4, 2009, 6:26 am

Middlemarch is excellent - probably much better than your biology text, so I cannot blame you for preferring it!

Maio 4, 2009, 6:31 am

I agree Middlemarch is excellent so far - I'm finding it slightly more challenging than Austen's books, but more rewarding too. I'm finding it portrays a much more detailed historical and social context of the time it was written.

Maio 4, 2009, 6:35 am

I hope you continue to enjoy it - although I suspect you may have to get some biology studying done some time :)

Maio 4, 2009, 6:39 am

I think I will.

And yes, you're right, the exam is in two weeks. Though it is only GCSE level (exams for 16 year olds here in the UK, and I am much older than that!), which I have to do to apply for a teacher training course. So It's not too difficult luckily.

Maio 4, 2009, 10:30 am

Whew! I've just read through your 181 messages and have starred your thread. We love many of the same books: Birdsong, A Fine Balance, Night, etc. I also found Middlemarch challenging but very worthwhile.

Btw, your comment on the "What Are You Reading Now?" about my current book, A Handful of Dust being excellent, is spot on and the reason I wanted to check out your reading list and comments for the year. I love how LT works in discovering people with similar tastes. Come see me at "DonnaReads" also on the 75 Book Challenge.

Maio 4, 2009, 1:56 pm

Hi Donna, great to hear from you - I love to meet people on LT who have similar tastes to mine. I've starred your thread too and will look forward to keeping an eye on what you're reading.

I read A Handful of Dust last year (it's on my 50 book challenge for 2008). I think Evelyn Waugh is an excellent writer, and this is one of the only books I can think of which gets better as it proceeds. I love the ending.

Middlemarch is quite tough going due to the sentence construction, though I intend to stay with it. I used to give up on books a lot when I was younger, and would generally avoid the classics altogether. Since I discovered LT, the support of others has really helped me keep going.

Maio 11, 2009, 10:35 am

45 Fractured by Karin Slaughter.

This was a good exciting thriller, with plenty of interesting background detail about the characters. Recommended.

Middlemarch is still sidelined at the moment. My excuse is that I'm studying for an exam next week and I only want things which are easy to read in my spare time. Not that I'm studying that hard...

Maio 21, 2009, 6:42 am

Have been a bit preoccupied studying IGCSE biology so I can go back to college to train to be a primary teacher. First exam yesterday.

In the meantime I have still been reading a bit. Latest book was:

46 Under A Blood Red Sky by Kate Furnivall.

This book was pretty good. I'd say it was a bit up-and-down - some of it magically written, while some of it dragged and fell a bit short of the mark. Still, for anyone interested in Stalinist Russian/labour camps in the time following the first world war I would definitely recommend it. Enjoyable, if a bit overlong.

Have read some more Middlemarch, which really is an excellent book. Have decided to tackle it in chunks, since it's not necessarily an easy read.

Now reading The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan. The Bonesetter's Daughter by the same author is one of my favourites ever, and this one is shaping up pretty well too.

Maio 21, 2009, 9:45 am

#185 I hope you enjoy The Bonesetter's Daughter. Amy Tan is one of my favorite authors and I don't think she can write anything that's not good!

Editado: Maio 23, 2009, 1:04 pm

Deleted due to double post - annoying!

Editado: Maio 23, 2009, 1:06 pm

#186 I agree, she's excellent and I plan to read more. I like the sound of The Hundred Secret Senses.

47 The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan

Told in the form of a story within a story, this was a very well written and interesting account of a young woman's life before, during and after the second world war in China.

Amy Tan is a masterful writer, and though this wasn't quite as good as The Bonesetter's Daughter, and dragged slightly in places, I would still definitely recommend it.

48 At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper

Excellent young adult book set during the Great Plague in London in 1665. Really enjoyed this and would heartily recommend.

Maio 25, 2009, 2:29 am

#188: I am going to have to add At the Sign of the Sugared Plum to the Continent. I already have another of Hooper's books, Newes of the Dead residing there, so it might as well have some company!

Maio 25, 2009, 5:07 am

#189 Definitely I think you should add it. Not that I was there, but I'd imagine it evokes the atmosphere and fear of the plague in London brilliantly. I will look out for more of hers.

And very best wishes to you and your family.

49 The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Very much an LT recommendation, and my first library loan for a long time (I really need to get a handle on my book-buying addiction).

I was gripped by this book, though I'm not 100% sure it lives up to the hype. The structure was very clever, in that there were many threads pulled together tightly; still I couldn't help feeling it was flawed in an undefinable way. And not that original.

Nevertheless, a recommended 4* read.

Maio 25, 2009, 5:09 am

Thanks, Liz! I appreciate the good wishes.

Editado: Maio 26, 2009, 6:55 am

50 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (Spanish translation)

I bought this in Spain a few years ago because my Spanish isn't fluent by any stretch, and I thought it would be easy to read. Well I was right. What a wonderful book. I know I've missed some nuance in the writing, so I'm going to read it in English too.

Would highly recommend.

Maio 26, 2009, 5:56 am

#192: One of my all-time favorites! Glad you liked it.

Maio 26, 2009, 6:54 am

Definitely I did. Glad you liked it too. I like books about books. Think I will try Ex-Libris soon.

Maio 26, 2009, 6:57 am

#194: Another of my all-time favorites! I also recommend Nicholas Basbanes books for people who like books about books, especially his A Gentle Madness.

Maio 26, 2009, 7:03 am

Great, thanks for the recommendation. Have put it on my amazon wishlist. Looking forward to Ex-Libris.

Maio 26, 2009, 7:04 am

A Gentle Madness is actually the first book in a trilogy by Basbanes, but I recommend you try it first before the other two just to get an idea of his writing style and then go from there!

Maio 28, 2009, 4:31 am

51 Life Class by Pat Barker

So last week I ordered the Regeneration Trilogy from thebookpeople.co.uk for only £4.99 - I was really pleased with that, because I'd been wanting to read them for a while. Earlier this week I was in Tesco and noticed Life Class for just £1.50 - how could I let that opportunity pass by.

Reviews for Life Class were pretty mediocre, unfavourably compared with Regeneration etc, so I thought the fairest way would be to read it first. I liked it, and particularly the slant towards the underlying theme of whether art is still relevant in wartime.

I found Life Class a subtle, undramatic novel, dealing with the human side of the first world war. Though the book isn't especially uneventful, I found it an intelligent portrayal of people, relationships, suffering, ways of dealing,, etc.


I couldn't resist continuing with Pat Barker and am now deep into Regeneration.

Maio 28, 2009, 4:41 am

Lots of good books there since the last month, will be borrowing a lot of them for my TBR list.

Maio 28, 2009, 5:20 am

Excellent, Piyush. I have been reading a fair bit. I think my favourite recent book may be The Gargoyle which is a bit of a rollercoaster ride - you should try that one if you like that kind of thing.

Editado: Maio 31, 2009, 3:49 pm

52 Regeneration and 53 The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker

OK, so I've just read 3 books in a row by Pat Barker, and am just about to start on the fourth (The Ghost Road). Addictive stuff. Brilliantly written, very profound (I confess some bits I didn't really get).

A fresh new take on the first world war - dealing mainly with the effects of war for those returning home to the UK, and on those that never went. Highly recommended.

I went back in and added a bit more, though still not enough since I've become very lazy with reviews. My excuse today is that it's been unseasonably hot - apparently we're going to have a barbecue summer here in the UK - but this is a poor excuse.

Though I may often be too lazy to write, it seems I'm never too lazy to read. Hmm, interesting!

Maio 31, 2009, 8:27 pm

#201 - Regeneration opens with Siegfried Sassoon's letter of protest, "A Soldier's Declaration", that he wrote in June 1917; copies of which were forwarded to the press and the government. It was read in the House of Commons and subsequently published in "The London Times".

Almost court-martialled, Robert Graves persuaded the powers-that-be, that he instead be treated for shell-shock; and thus he was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital where cases of 'shell shock', 'neurasthenia', and 'war neurosis' were treated. Here, one doctor, a Dr W.H.R. (William Halse Rivers) Rivers, along with Major Bryce, was doing pioneering work in treating these (still largely unrecognized) conditions, and his very important Lancet paper On the Repression of War Experience became the title of one of Sassoon's poems.

Sassoon, in fact, so admired Rivers that he is the only character to retain his real name in Sassoon's fictionalized autobiography, The Memoirs of George Sherston. If you are interested in Sassoon, then this is a great place to start, alongside Siegfried Sassoon: A Life by Max Egremont, and the Sassoon Diaries, of which there are three volumes covering the periods 1915-1918, 1920-1922, and 1923-1925.

Jun 2, 2009, 7:20 am

#202 Sassoon is clearly a fascinating character, and I struggle to work out how Pat Barker was permitted to put so much fact in this work of fiction. Would be interesting to find out more about him, thanks for the recommendations.

54 The Ghost Road by Pat Barker

This one may have won the Booker, but was my least favourite of the three. I don't think loose ends were tied together adequately - there was nothing much more about Sassoon for example - and the parts about the head hunters in Melanesia really grated on my nerves. I'm sure it was supposed to be a metaphor of some kind, but this wasn't made explicit enough, and I didn't care enough to delve deeper to find out why. Disappointing.

Editado: Jun 2, 2009, 7:25 am

Another accidental double post!

Jun 2, 2009, 9:19 pm


I thought the movie was great too.

Jun 8, 2009, 7:21 am

#205 Definitely plan to see the film with all these recs for it

55 The Declaration by Gemma Malley

I really didn't like this book. OK, so it's written for young adults, but I found the tone of the book was preachy and heavy on issues, and the style wooden. The plot was ok, the characterisation was ok-ish. But generally - yuk! Not recommended.

56 Through Time: Beijing by Richard Platt

A picture-heavy book for children but absolutely packed with information and presentated in a manner which is very easy to absorb. I loved this.

Jun 13, 2009, 12:53 pm

57 The Treatment by Mo Hayder

This was a really good thriller. Story kept me hooked. Interesting characters. Recommended.

58 World War II by Simon Adams (Eyewitness Guides)

This is one of a series of illustrated children's books. Totally brilliant. Although for kids I felt I learned more about second world war from reading this than I would have done reading a dry and boring non-fiction book without pictures. Thoroughly recommended, for all ages!

Jun 13, 2009, 2:25 pm

#207: I think I will try The Treatment. Have you read any of the other books by Hayder?

Jun 13, 2009, 2:44 pm

I haven't yet, though I definitely plan to after this one - it's really good. Was thinking of trying Pig Island or Tokyo next. Have you read any of hers?

Jun 13, 2009, 11:23 pm

#209: No, I have not, and I checked - my local library does not have any of her books, so I am going to have to look further afield. I will be interested in seeing your thoughts on the other 2 when you have a chance to read them.

Jun 23, 2009, 9:36 am

59 World War I by Simon Adams
60 Great Scientists by John Farndon
61 Ancient Greece by Anne Pearson
62 Weather by Brian Cosgrove
63 Climate Change by John Woodward

All the above are Eyewitness Guides. For kids. I'm ODing on them - they're so good. Can't recommend them enough.

64 Skin Privilege by Karin Slaughter.

This book annoyed me. The characters were soppy and sickly, and although the plot was ok it's been done before. Not impressed.

Jun 30, 2009, 6:29 am

65 Modern China - another Eyewitness Guide. Great as usual.

66 Lost Japan by Alex Kerr.
This was good. He is pretty cynical about modern Japan, but there is a lot of really interesting detail about the 'lost' arts of Japan, such as Kabuki, art, calligraphy. Very interesting. Recommended.

Editado: Jul 12, 2009, 5:17 am

Been v busy at work so neglecting LT... here is a bit of a catch up.

67 The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

Good Indian mystery book, along the lines of No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, but better. Recommended.

68 The Uninvited by Geling Yan

Very strange Chinese book, and translated in a way that appears to keep the Chinese writing style intact (if that makes any sense - it's not anglicised at all). Weird but interesting. Wasn't that keen, but didn't outright dislike it.

69 My Secret War Diary by Marcia Williams

Excellent book for children - a fictional diary of the experience of a girl living in the second world war in England. Beautifully produced, with letters from her family and friends appearing to have been stuck in. Lots of digestible historical background. Heartily recommended.

Jul 11, 2009, 11:47 pm

#213: I do not care for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Would that detract from my enjoyment of The Case of the Missing Servant?

Jul 12, 2009, 4:46 am

#214 I don't like the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series either, at all. In fact I gave up after the first one, and that was slow going. So based on that, no I don't think it would detract from your enjoyment, since it didn't from mine.

The similarity between the two is that both main characters are quirky and eccentric PIs.

Jul 12, 2009, 4:49 am

70 China Cuckoo by Mark Kitto

Very enjoyable and interesting autobiographical account of an Englishman's life in China, and the circumstances that lead up to his living in a mountain holiday resort called Moganshan - first as a holiday retreat and then permanently.

My only complaint would be poor editing, and for such a quality work this is disappointing.

Jul 12, 2009, 4:57 am

#215: OK, thanks, then I will give it a try.

#216: That one sounds interesting as well, so I will see if I can find it, too.

Editado: Jul 25, 2009, 9:11 am

71 Mortal Engines
72 Fever Crumb
73 Predator's Gold all by Philip Reeve

Excellent YA series (though Fever Crumb is a prequel rather than part of the quartet): pure escapism.

Mortal Engines and Predator's Gold belong to the Mortal Engines series (along with Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain). These are great books.

Fever Crumb is a prequel - and in my opinion not as fast-paced and exciting. I read it after Mortal Engines since I bought it from a supermarket and I couldn't wait for Predator's Gold to arrive. It has no spoilers so it's safe to do this, if anyone was wondering.

After a break for The Pillars of the Earth group read on the 50 book challenge - which I'm loving - I'll be back to read the other two.

Jul 25, 2009, 8:37 am

Isn't Mortal Engines fun! I haven't read the others but thoroughly enjoyed that one.

Jul 25, 2009, 9:12 am

#219 Hi lunacat! Yeah it is. If anything Predator's Gold was even better. If you get chance maybe you should read the rest...

Jul 26, 2009, 7:15 pm

I've read the whole series and loved it. Just got the prequel Fever Crumb the other day and can't wait to read it.

Ago 5, 2009, 4:48 am

I loved the Mortal Engines books too - keep trying to persuade eldest son to read them as I think they're the sort of thing he'd love, but he claims to have tried and been bored. Sigh.

Which supermarket did you get Fever Crumb from, then?

Editado: Ago 5, 2009, 5:49 am

#222 He was bored, really? I'm surprised, but maybe just not his thing. How old is he? It says 10+ and there is quite a lot of love stuff in it, so maybe he's not interested in that yet...

Supermarket - the inevitable Tesco! £6.50 I think it was, half price. Now they have Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo for £3.50, so going to get that one tomorrow.

Editado: Ago 5, 2009, 5:51 am

74 The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Well, this is definitely one of my books of the year, if not my favourite so far. I wouldn't have suspected I would be interested in medieval history and battles and religion, but after buying it following a review on LT, I was totally in awe. In fact, the book became my friend and now I miss it!

The writing is very smooth and gripping, you care about the characters, the plotting is excellent, and it's not over complicated. Wonderful stuff, and everyone remotely interested should read it.

Now reading The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (great so far), and then going to get into Bernard Cornwell I think. Starting with either Azincourt or The Last Kingdom.

Ago 5, 2009, 7:10 am

>223 jbeast: he's 10 - I was surprised because the love stuff doesn't kick in until later on; the opening is all swashbuckling adventure and bloodthirsty revenge, which I thought would be right up his street. We've been reading Larklight together though, which he's been enjoying, so I'm hoping I can persuade him to give Philip Reeve another chance.

I may wait for Fever Crumb in pb if it's not as good as the others.

Ago 5, 2009, 8:12 am

#225 True, it is mainly adventure and excitement at the beginning. I haven't read Larklight but have heard good things about it. So with any luck he will be hungry for more and move onto Mortal Engines again.

Personally I don't think Fever Crumb is worth buying in hardback, no. It's just not that exciting I thought, and the humour is quite forced.

Ago 11, 2009, 6:46 am

75 The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Hmm....I was underwhelmed. It all felt a bit pointless and uninspiring. Some good chilling bits, though. Though I'm not generally a Sarah Waters fan and find her overrated. True fans may well disagree!

Ago 13, 2009, 7:03 pm

#226 Philip Reeve has another book No Such thing as dragons due out soon.

Ago 14, 2009, 10:39 am

#228 Sounds interesting, is it a standalone book or part of a series?

Ago 14, 2009, 10:41 am

76 Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks

Well I've always thought scifi is not for me, and to be honest I'm still of the same opinion. Parts of this book I really enjoyed, and I think it's well written and exciting. Just too far-fetched.

Think I will try one of his others though - Excession, Look to Windward and Use of Weapons seem to be popular choices.

Ago 14, 2009, 11:23 pm

I have never read anything by Iain Banks. I will have to look for some of his books. I am on a quest to read more science fiction & fantasy books this year.

Ago 15, 2009, 3:50 pm

#231 Not science fiction, but The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks is a bit of a classic. It's weird and not to all tastes, but it's the one he is most well known for

Ago 15, 2009, 10:02 pm

#232: I have heard of that one, and pretty much decided it was not for me, but I may give it another look.

Ago 16, 2009, 3:26 am

#233 It may well be not for you, I'm not sure it was for me either!

I always feel I should read more sci-fi and fantasy - I'm attracted by the pure escapism factor - but even the most bizarre creatures from alien worlds seem to be anthropomorphised; I guess it's impossible for humans not to write with human feelings. Just an observation!

Ago 16, 2009, 10:30 pm

I read Iain Banks' The Player of Games last year and really liked it, he has created a scifi civilisation called Culture and a lot of his books are set in it. I want to read more of his work but have tried to steer clear of scifi and fantasy this year (apart from the odd Robert J Sawyer book). The Wasp Factory is a classic and I also recommend it - it is pretty squeamish icky and like Perfume requires a strong stomach as it does challenge your sensibilities.
I really liked Peter F Hamilton's Greg Mandal books, the first book is Mindstar Rising, set in a dystopian UK that's coming to terms with climate change.

Ago 17, 2009, 6:45 pm

The Wasp Factory and Perfume are both on the list of 1001 books you must read before you die, if you follow that sort of thing.

Ago 17, 2009, 8:26 pm

I thought Perfume was meh--good, but not a contemporary classic or anything.

Ago 18, 2009, 2:23 am

#236: I do not follow that sort of thing. Too restricting, lol.

Ago 18, 2009, 5:37 am

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Ago 18, 2009, 5:37 am

I don't know a whole lot about Perfume. The Wasp Factory is pretty unique stuff. No more violent than your average historical fiction: it's the themes that it explores that seem to provoke strong reactions in people.

Like alcottacre, I find lists a bit restricting too. Interesting to dip into, but if you followed one strictly you would miss out on a whole world of great books not deemed worthy for whatever reason.

Ago 18, 2009, 5:44 am

77 Up West by Pip Granger

I really enjoyed this social history about West London in the 50s - specifically featuring Soho and Covent Garden. Fascinating and highly recommended.

78 Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser

I'm going through a stage of exploring the first episodes of series, especially relating to historical fiction. I enjoyed Flashman as something slightly different - he's a bit naughty - some would say extremely bad - telling a story of war from a coward's point of view. Enjoyable and some bits were truly exciting. Recommended, and looking forward to some more.

Ago 18, 2009, 11:32 pm

#241: I will look for Up West. It looks like something I would enjoy - I just brought home a book from the library called Lower East Side Memories, which is New York, rather than London.

Touchstones are being completely wonky for me :(

Ago 23, 2009, 10:14 am

#242 I like the sound of Lower East Side Memories too - will look out for it on your thread to see what you thought. Fairly recent history - about how people lived - is my thing.

79 Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell

I liked this book, the characterisation was good, and the historical setting fascinating. A bit bloodthirsty, but that's ok in context. Didn't think it was quite as fast-paced as I would like, and also didn't think Cornwell's writing style was that great. He seemed to have an annoying habit of stringing together many short sentences starting with "And...". I'm not pedantic about this stuff, it just seemed clumsy. Still, recommended.

Ago 23, 2009, 10:16 am

About to start the highly acclaimed Columbine following a highly enthusiastic recommendation on the thread of alcottacre (amongst others).

Ago 24, 2009, 12:24 am

#244: I hope you like the book. It is one of the best I have read this year.

Ago 24, 2009, 1:44 am

#245 Well I'm about halfway through and am having serious difficulty putting it down. Def one of my best of this year too. So thanks!

Ago 24, 2009, 2:28 am


Ago 26, 2009, 4:40 am

80 Columbine by Dave Cullen

Wonderfully written and captivating book. And also horrifying. I didn't really know anything about this except that it happened, and this thorough depiction of the event, including detailed portrait of the killers and the aftermath, brought the reality home. Highly recommended and one of my best reads of the year

Slightly off topic: I was fascinated to read that students at Columbine could take bowling class - we don't do stuff like that in UK schools - but at 6am!! School doesn't generally start til 8.30 or 9 here.

Have been looking at US school websites and the education system seems really different over there.

Ago 27, 2009, 12:54 pm

#248: It is one of my best reads of the year as well. I am glad you found the book interesting.

Ago 31, 2009, 9:25 am


I have had a few experiences with the English school system to observe the differences. I taught a sixth-form course in physics in Nigeria, which followed the English system, for a few years, and it was more equivalent to university-level courses in the US.

During a 2-month stay in Bath, England, we had enrolled our two sons in school there. The younger son had a great time in the elementary school there, but the older one (about 15) did not (a bad age for such a change) adjust well. The secondary level, in this case, involved an all-boys school, and the courses were organized very differently. For example, in the US chemistry is taught for one year to be followed by another science the next year, where in England the sciences were each taught through out a week. Of course there was a different emphasis on the selection of sports.

Set 2, 2009, 11:24 am

Belated congratulations on your 75!

I like the sound of the new Philip Reeve too.

Set 6, 2009, 6:05 am

#251 Thanks very much FlossieT

Feeling v lazy about updating my thread at the moment. Here are my last 3:

81 City of Thieves by David Benioff

Brilliant. Echoes of The Siege by Helen Dunmore (possibly my favourite book ever) and Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, which I also loved. A must read.

82 Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo

I adored this. For children but I found it poetic, somehow. Absolutely beautiful writing.

83 The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

More of the same as its predecessor. Good stuff.

Set 6, 2009, 7:15 am

#252: Some nice reads there. I am adding City of Thieves and Kensuke's Kingdom to Planet TBR. I have already read The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Set 6, 2009, 10:36 am

#253 I hope you like them - both great reads that I didn't want to let go of.

I have seen your review of The Girl Who Played With Fire on your thread, and noticed that you weren't so keen on it as on the first one. I'm not sure which I thought was better - it was almost like reading one long book, not 2 separate ones. I didn't think either was brilliant, but I was gripped, and will be reading the next - but not until it's in paperback

Set 6, 2009, 12:47 pm

Michael Morpurgo is truly a fantastic writer of children's fiction. He writes with such emotion and power.

My two favourites of his are The Wreck of the Zanzibar which is utterly beautiful and War Horse which is stunning and heartrending. I cannot rave enough about him :)

Set 6, 2009, 2:18 pm

I agree with lunacat, Michael Morpurgo is really great and it's worth reading every book of his. War Horse and Private Peaceful are both very good. His Singing for Mrs Pettigrew is a collection of stories, partly autobiographical, and is a good read too.
Others I liked are Waiting for Anya, Out of the Ashes and The Mozart Question.

Set 6, 2009, 3:03 pm

Thanks very much lunacat - on my experience of one Morpurgo book I can't wait to read more. These two you've recommended have gone straight on my wishlist; in fact I'm tempted to go directly to the checkout and buy them.

Set 6, 2009, 3:40 pm

#256 Thanks aviatakh - more for the wishlist/checkout. Am planning to read them all. I found his writing effortless, and there seems no suggestion that he's deliberately writing for children, he's not at all patronising. Wonderful, and am delighted to have found a new author to devour and worship.

Set 6, 2009, 3:42 pm


I'd go to the checkout and buy them if I were you ;)

Set 6, 2009, 3:54 pm

#250 I just did...

Set 6, 2009, 4:27 pm

adding War Horse to my wishlist as well!

Set 8, 2009, 5:41 pm

I am adding everthing Morpurgo ever wrote to Planet TBR and save myself time in the end, lol.

Set 9, 2009, 12:41 pm


Wise action

Set 9, 2009, 9:03 pm

My kids don't seem to like Morpurgo :-( we have several of his books but they never stay the course. The middle boy just brought home one about Arthur the High King as his reading book from school, but I could only get him to read 2 pages as he said it was "boooooooo-ring".

Set 10, 2009, 1:52 am

That's a shame - maybe they appeal more to adults!

Set 10, 2009, 5:32 am

Middle boy's classmate loves Morpurgo - he went to see him at the Edinburgh Book Festival with his family - so I don't think it's an age thing. Both my boys have a tendency to prefer things with a lot of action though, and I get the impression that Morpurgo tends to start slow; they want to land right in there from the first page or they'll give up. Sigh.

Set 13, 2009, 8:04 am

#266 Ah right, seems that it's just a matter of taste then. I can see that Morpurgo's books are a bit on the slow side in terms of plot and pace.

84 The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo

Lovely book, a quick read. Manages to tackle "issues" (eg inequality of women) without you actually realising that they are issues, if that makes sense. Love the subtlety of his writing.

Thanks for the rec, lunacat.

Set 21, 2009, 9:50 am

85 Waiting for Anya by Michael Morpurgo

Must admit I wasn't so keen on this one. Seemed a bit slow and not too original. Shame.

86 We Are At War by Simon Garfield

Very interesting diary extracts from ordinary British citizens during the war. Took me a while to finish, and I found it dragged a bit but prob just I wasn't in the right frame of mind.

87 Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

This one I loved. It was a present from my dad - he brought a second hand orange Penguin copy for me from the 50s. Excellent story, reminded me of something else but not sure what. Highly recommended.

Set 22, 2009, 6:52 am

#268: I have added both We Are At War and Bonjour Tristesse to Planet TBR. Thanks for the recommendations.

Set 22, 2009, 7:23 am

No problem, you're welcome. Hope you like them. We Are At War is incredibly interesting - I'm amazed how politically aware the British were about what was going on at the time (or at least these particular 5 British people).

Set 23, 2009, 2:06 pm

Just finished two books I've really enjoyed:

88 The Go-Between by L P Hartley

Excellent atmosphere, read in about a day. Quite original story. Highly recommended.

89 The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff

Far from great literature, but atmospheric, scary, exciting. Pure escapism. Loved it. Highly recommended.

Set 24, 2009, 5:27 am

#271: Another couple for me to throw on the Planet!

Set 30, 2009, 4:38 am

90 Germinal by Emile Zola

I can see why this is a classic, though it's not as boring as some can be! A great read and an awful lot to think about (poverty, politics, relationships, social studies, industrial relations, French history - it's all there).

I read the Oxford World Classics edition, and really enjoyed the translation by Peter Collier, which was modern and accessible, while also getting across a feeling "Frenchness" (if that makes any sense).

Now going to read more Zola. Again, highly recommended.

Set 30, 2009, 12:39 pm

Zola is one of my favorite authors, and Germinal is one of my favorite books. I'm glad you enjoyed!

Set 30, 2009, 12:39 pm

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Out 1, 2009, 1:50 am

#274 I did, very much. Which others would you recommend?

Out 1, 2009, 10:55 pm

I'd recommend La Terre, L'Assomoir, Nana, and/or La Bete Humaine. These are some of the better known books from his 20 book Rougon-Macquart series.

Out 3, 2009, 5:03 am

I read Germinal earlier this year and loved it too! Glad to see you liked it as well.

Out 6, 2009, 7:47 am

91 Judaism: A Very Short Introduction by Norman Solomon

I read this mostly because I'm doing a course in Religious Studies - I'm not at all religious myself but am fascinated with how different religions work. Plus it's part of the primary school curriculum in the UK, and that I hope teaching is my future career.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the book. It was fascinating, easy to read (mostly) and written in a light and witty style. Recommended.

92 London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins

According to the scholarly Introduction, this book could be classed as a cult classic novel of London in the period 1938-40.

It read like a great big fat saga, of a group of people connected by the fact they all live, or are associated with people that live, in separate flats in a house in London. It's a book that you can really get your teeth into, and was very difficult to put down - I spent most of last weekend with it.

This is a period piece about the London of its time, with the second world war inevitably in the background, and at times in the foreground. I've read books with similar themes, but nothing with them all brought together like this.

Wonderful book and highly recommended.

Out 7, 2009, 8:35 am

93 In The Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde

I stayed up really late last night finishing this - it was an all-in-one-go sort of read. Something different, and very enjoyable. Highly recommended.

Out 8, 2009, 9:16 am

94 The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

Lives up to the hype, more or less. The holocaust stuff I mostly already knew from works I've read before (Night, If This Is A Man) which I've found more powerful.

Despite this, I very much enjoyed Maus, which I found almost as much about Art's difficult relationship with his father as about the Holocaust. It came across as a very honest and revealing memoir, and the comic book style definitely put a new slant on it.

Highly recommended in and of itself, but think other works tell us more about the Holocaust.

Out 10, 2009, 4:32 am

#280: Carmenere recently read that one, too, so I am going to have to take a closer look at it. It looks like something I would enjoy.

#281: I read Maus I & II both earlier this year and greatly enjoyed them. I am glad to see that Spiegelman has found another fan.

Out 10, 2009, 8:51 am

Hi alcottacre, I think it was from your thread that I read about Maus in the first place, so thank you very much for giving me the recommendation.

Yes, and also I think you should read In The Heart of the Canyon if it appeals. I thought it was excellent. And now I have an urge to go to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. You will probably tell me you've already been and I will be green with envy!

Out 10, 2009, 8:56 am

95 The Tent, The Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy

A bit far-fetched in my opinion - nobody has that many disasters in a row - and her humour grates after a while. Having said that, some bits are hilarious, and I enjoyed it.

96 Z for Zachariah by Robert C O'Brien

A thought-provoking and well-written story, and a quick read. Though I'm not sure there has ever been a main character in any book I've read that I have had such an urge to give a sharp slap and tell to "chill out"!

Out 10, 2009, 7:02 pm

>284 jbeast: Z for Zachariah is one I've ALWAYS meant to read, as in, since I was a child. Ian McEwan mentioned it in a big pieces on apocalyptic books he did for the Guardian Review (last year maybe? Or early this one) and it sounded so interesting.

Editado: Out 11, 2009, 3:46 am

#285 It's definitely interesting, and gripping too. It's certainly not as bleak as On The Beach which to me is the ultimate post-apocalyptic novel and which shocked me to the core. I also preferred The Road.

I found Z for Zachariah less about the effects of the apocalypse and more about the interaction between a young girl and an older man thrown together, and I found her reactions to the situation too immature for my liking. Though that is no doubt a matter of opinion.

I'm sorry to have missed the Ian McEwan feature in Guardian Review. Maybe it's on the website, will have a look.

Editado: Out 11, 2009, 5:25 am

I recently recommended Grand Ambition by Lisa Michaels to Carmenere. You might want to give it a try as well.

I have not rafted the Grand Canyon. I did fly over it in a helicopter, though, and that trip was worth every penny!

Out 11, 2009, 7:04 am

#287 Cool, another Colorado River book, that's gone straight on my wishlist. Thank you very much.

Well I'm jealous of the helicopter trip too!

Out 11, 2009, 7:06 am

97 The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Thanks to Banoo's thread, a scary ghost story. Very good, 4*.

Out 11, 2009, 7:21 am

#288: Grand Ambition is based on a true story. Be sure and let me know what you think of it once you have a chance to read it.

Out 18, 2009, 1:50 pm

98 Alicia: My Story by Alicia Appleman-Jurman

Not an easy read and took me a long time. Inspiring but harrowing.

99 Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells

More post-apocalyptic YA fiction. Better than Z for Zachariah but still not entirely satisfying, somehow.

Out 19, 2009, 2:37 am

I read Z for Zachariah earlier this year. I will give Brother in the Land a try, too. Thanks for the recommendation.

Out 19, 2009, 1:29 pm

Post-apocalyptic fiction is pretty much guaranteed to make it onto my wishlist. This one does as well :)

Out 20, 2009, 1:48 am

#292, 293 I too always look out for post-apocalyptic novels since reading On the Beach, which was pretty hardcore and horrific and has stayed with me. Nothing really matches up to it, but I keep trying.

That's what I meant by 'not entirely satisfying' - though in a way this is probably a good thing because I don't think I could face On the Beach again!

Hope you both enjoy the book.

Out 21, 2009, 2:11 am

#294: On the Beach is one of my favorite books ever. Nothing lives up to it, I agree.

Out 21, 2009, 3:01 am

Wow! Favorite books ever? With all the books you've read? I'll have to go wish list that one!

Out 21, 2009, 2:13 pm

#296: Bonnie, I have a marked preference for dystopian books, which makes me susceptible to those types of stories. Shute's book is not for everyone, but I love it, and IMHO, he is a vastly underread writer.

Out 21, 2009, 2:34 pm

Absolutely an underread AND underrated writer. Both the books I have read by him have really hit me, and left me thinking about them for a long time afterwards. A Town Like Alice is an absolute favourite of mine, and one I go back to as a comfort read.

I don't think On the Beach is going to be a comfort read, but it will definitely become a reread and a favourite.

Out 28, 2009, 4:30 pm

I too liked A Town Like Alice, but it hasn't stayed with me like On The Beach. It really feels like you're there, and the world is actually going to end. Really chillling.

Out 28, 2009, 4:36 pm

OK, I give in.... putting On the Beach on the wishlist. I've never read any Nevil Shute but with such widely- and strongly-felt enthusiasm it would be rude not to.

Editado: Out 28, 2009, 4:41 pm

100 Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux

I'm a great fan of Theroux's travel books, and this is just as good as the others I've read. I find him an excellent and honest writer, and love his descriptions of the places he goes and people he meets. Though in this one I didn't necessarily agree with his opinions of some of the countries I've been to - notably Cambodia. Still, highly recommended.

101 The Bells of Nagasaki by Takashi Nagai

I have Banoo to thank for this one - it was on his thread and sounded like something I would like. Post-apocalyptic again, non-fiction this time. The subject matter was not pleasant, how could it be. Very well written and fascinating. Recommended.

102 A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller

I very rarely read plays, but I saw this one in a shop and it called to me for some reason. Short read, and took me a while to get into a style I'm unused to. Still, I really enjoyed it, and it had an awful lot of depth. Recommended.

Out 28, 2009, 4:38 pm

Hey, congratulations on the 100!

Out 28, 2009, 4:39 pm

#300 Glad to hear you've given in and decided not to be rude. Hope you enjoy it (though that's not really the right word for this one).

Out 28, 2009, 4:40 pm

#302 Thank you very much! Has been a great reading year, thanks to LT.

Out 31, 2009, 12:33 am

Out 31, 2009, 3:22 pm

Thank you very much Stasia - that's very cool!

Nov 6, 2009, 3:04 pm

103 Dracula by Bram Stoker

I really liked this, found it atmospheric in an old-fashioned way. Not very scary - I find vampires too much of a stretch. Loved Stoker's prose, what a master storyteller. Highly recommended.

104 The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffery Deaver

Very average thriller. Got bored. Which is a shame because I've really enjoyed some of Deaver's books.

Nov 7, 2009, 1:54 pm

Hey Liz! Congratulations for reading 100 books this year, I haven't been able to manage even half of that number!

Glad to see you liked Dracula too and I agree about it not scary, though like you I became a fan of the Stoker's writing.

Nov 7, 2009, 4:12 pm

Hi Piyush great to hear from you. Thanks for your congrats, though sure you would have read far more if not so busy with exciting new job.

I thought Stoker is an absolutely wonderful writer. And also think that if the Dracula myth wasn't so well known, as are all the details, the original story would have had much more of an impact.

Nov 8, 2009, 11:42 pm

Very much so, and the fact that I have seen the movie (the Keanu Reeves one) too a couple of years back didn't help much. It still was a wonderful read and I enjoyed it very much.

Editado: Nov 14, 2009, 4:47 am

It exceeded my expectations too. Glad I hadn't seen the film, must have given away the story a bit.

Another 2 books, but I'm too tired to write much!

105 A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I really enjoyed this, though I can't say it made me too happy. It's kind of heart-warming in a depressing way, if that makes any sense at all! Haven't read The Kite Runner so can't compare, but this was extremely well written.

106 Persuasion by Jane Austen

My third Austen, and possibly my favourite. Excellent stuff.

Nov 13, 2009, 4:11 pm

Finally caught up on your thread. I read Z for Zachariah last year after finally hunting down a copy and now you've got my adding Brother in the Land to my wishlist.
I read Dracula earlier this year and then rewatched a whole series of Dracula movies, my favourite would be Shadow of a Vampire (with John Malkovich and William Defoe). I read a few vampire books this year as I had a Bloodfest category in my 999 challenge and Dracula was one of my favourites along with Lonely Werewolf Girl. It's interesting how modern writers interpret their vampires and their lore. I was particularly taken with Elizabeth Knox's vampires from Daylight.

Editado: Nov 15, 2009, 11:37 am

#312 Glad you've read my thread! I hope you like Brother in the Land - as I said before I preferred it to Z for Zachariah.

107 The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Good, though not sure as good as his short stories.

108 The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

I read this in about an hour - was amusing but not laugh out loud funny. I find the humour a bit forced though I'm probably in the minority there. I liked the plot though, and it was light and good fun.

Editado: Dez 1, 2009, 1:50 am

109 The Prophecy by Chris Kuzneski

I was delighted with this, which explains why I read it so quickly. A genuine thriller-not great literature but exciting and gripping. Definitely recommended.

Nov 28, 2009, 3:01 pm

110 The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

I don't want to be controversial but this book took me nearly 2 weeks to read and I didn't really like it. And I'm definitely not convinced it's great literature. Wasn't terrible, it just didn't do anything for me.

I thought A Thousand Splendid Suns was really good, though.

Nov 28, 2009, 8:01 pm

I really, really, really disliked The Kite Runner. And then I read an article about him getting up at 5am to write it before going off to the hospital to make people better with his doctoring, and I felt really guilty. But it's still a bad book. I finally managed to swap mine this week (for a copy of the first book in Nicola Upson's series of detective novels about Josephine Tey, which looked very entertaining).

If you want to read a "proper" novel about Afghanistan, The Wasted Vigil is the one. And it's even out in paperback now (and was in Waterstone's 3-for-2 offer a couple of weeks ago too).

Nov 30, 2009, 7:50 am

I really liked The Kite Runner, but I've had that experience with other books and I think it's so important to still tell people what you think and not be intimidated by all the raves.

Nov 30, 2009, 8:53 am

You're definitely right on The Importance of Being Earnest, as far as I'm concerned. A short read and some good lines but not LOL funny. I much prefer Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol or Dorian Gray to this one. Wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of Dracula, as well. Feels good to have caught up on your thread :)

Dez 5, 2009, 12:44 pm

#316 FlossieT - glad I'm not the only one! I've added The Wasted Vigil to my wishlist, I really like the sound of it. I wonder if you also didn't like The Book Thief, the other universally loved book that I was underwhelmed by...

#317 Bonnie - I agree, but sometimes I feel guilty in case I put people off books from my comments that they may have enjoyed.

#318 GUG - glad you've read my thread. I have yours starred and I enjoy reading it. I've read the Picture of Dorian Gray, but not Reading Gaol, may have to give that one a try.

Dez 5, 2009, 12:46 pm

111 The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo

Average thriller, enjoyable but not great. Set in Norway.

Am reading very slowly at the moment. Don't think I will read that many more this year. Never mind, I think I've done OK!

Dez 5, 2009, 7:49 pm

I'm also not a fan of The Kite Runner but I did like The Book Thief. It's been a while since I read Hosseini's book but I remember really disliking the later part of the book.

Dez 6, 2009, 5:31 am

Hi avatiakh - good, I'm glad there's another non-fan, and I agree that the end of the book was a lot worse than the beginning.

My main objection to The Book Thief was that it kept telling you what was going to happen (ie who was going to die) before it happened. Irritating!

Dez 6, 2009, 5:34 am

112 Dead Tomorrow by Peter James

Having written yesterday that I had been reading slowly, this one was finished in a day. Excellent book, a genuine page-turner, one that I couldn't bear to put down. Deals with organ-trafficking. Highly recommended.

Dez 6, 2009, 12:13 pm

113 Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction by Damien Keown

Although I read this because I'm studying Religious Studies in my bid to be a teacher, I found it extremely interesting. I find Buddhism a fascinating subject, and this was a really excellent introduction. Highly recommended for anyone interested.

Dez 6, 2009, 5:49 pm

>319 jbeast: I haven't actually read The Book Thief - opinion seemed strongly divided, and then my mother-in-law tried to read it and really disliked it; our tastes often accord quite closely so I've put it way down the list (although I do own a copy - bought for 30p from the library sale!!).

The Wasted Vigil is an amazing book - I feel angry every time I remember it didn't win ANYTHING in the way of prizes. Somehow manages to be both concise and lyrical all at the same time. A really powerful book, and just so beautifully and thoughtfully put together: nobody's point of view is privileged above anyone else's - possibly this is what made Western reviewers feel uncomfortable about it, but it is very thought-provoking.

Dez 6, 2009, 5:53 pm

The Wasted Vigil sounds like a good book to buy for my son for Christmas. I'll buy it early so I can read it too!

Dez 6, 2009, 6:01 pm

>326 bonniebooks: Bonnie, I heard him talk about it in Cambridge over the summer, and it was so clear the enormous amount of effort and thought that had gone into it: every word is weighed, considered, chosen. I put off reading it for the longest time as I felt daunted by the "seriousness" of the topic, but it is just so beautifully written - incredibly visual - that it was not 'difficult' to read. Although the politics are gut-wrenching.

Sorry, I could bore for England on the topic of The Wasted Vigil. At time of writing, it would definitely be my "just one book" pick.

Editado: Dez 12, 2009, 2:14 pm

double post - grrr!

Dez 12, 2009, 2:13 pm

FlossieT - I would give The Book Thief a miss if I were you. And I definitely must read The Wasted Vigil.

114 Blood Born by Kathryn Fox

Another crime/courtroom thriller - I've been reading a lot of these recently - dealing with some big subjects. A quick, exciting read and recommended.

115 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Finally read this after many enthusiastic reviews on LT (FlossieT I think you were one of the enthusers!). Very good, better than a lot of adult SF.

Dez 12, 2009, 6:07 pm

Yep, definitely a L'Engle enthuser. A Wrinkle in Time is one of those books, like the Prydain Chronicles, that was read to me at school when I was about 8 and became a firm favourite. A lot of the books I read over those years at the end of primary school have a really special place in my heart; also, I had an annoying little brother with red hair ;-) (though not one that was quite as well versed in quantum physics as Charles Wallace).

Dez 13, 2009, 1:20 am

A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all-time favorites, so I am glad to see if has found another fan!

Dez 14, 2009, 4:39 pm

#330/1: Definitely another fan, and I remember that I've seen your comments on how you loved the book too alcottacre.

I would love to be a primary teacher and read it to future generations in the hope that they are inspired too...

116 The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden

I seriously loved this, what a brilliant coming of age story (and it's semi-autobiographical too). Very highly recommended.

Dez 15, 2009, 1:38 am

#332: I have not heard of that one by Godden. I will look for it. Thanks for the recommendation!

Dez 15, 2009, 10:31 am

#333 I think you should, it's lovely. Set in France, quite unique, and it totally captured me. A comfort read.

Dez 16, 2009, 11:37 am

I read The Greengage Summer as a teenager and remember loving it. Since it's been more than 40 years, I think I'll pick it up for a reread.

Dez 31, 2009, 10:49 am

117 Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

My last book for the year. Not bad, not great. Pretty sad, but writing style a bit clunky and difficult to read fluently. Nothing like as good as Kensuke's Kingdom.

So that's it for 2009. Tomorrow I will start my new thread for 2010 and see what next year brings...

Jan 1, 2010, 2:19 am

Happy New Year, Liz!

Jan 2, 2010, 5:15 am

Happy new year to you too!