New books!

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I had an exciting package of books arrive from Amazon yesterday – half for Libro’s reference section and half for ME (spending some of my vouchers I’d been saving up).  Some people have expressed an interest in what’s arrived, so…

Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers: The Story of Success – this is about how genius is mainly hard work (I think). Belongs to M and I as we both plan to read it and we used some of his parents’ Christmas money on it.

Anne Tyler – Noah’s Compass – her newest one, in paperback at last.  I have all her previous books, a real favourite. This is a bout an older man who has something of an epiphany.

Chris Mullin – Decline and Fall: Diaries 2005-2010 – I loved his first volume, covering his time as a junior minister but with quite a lot of access to Blair, up to 2005. This takes us up to the last election.  I loved the first one because he’s a decent, family man who honestly seems to want to serve the people and democracy, and he also has a way of writing that’s both clear and acerbic at times.  When I found it in the sale for £5, I couldn’t resist

Simon Garfield – Just My Type: A Book About Fonts – the history and development of fonts, by the popular historian who wrote those great WWII books based on Mass Observation Diaries.

And the Libro ones? Well, I don’t like to waste the opportunity for a blog post

DIANA PULLEIN-THOMPSON – Three Ponies and Shannan

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Acquired via BookCrossing 28 Aug 2010 – passed to me by Sorcha

A bit of an odd pony book, in that the heroine is the one who’s spoilt, with expensive ponies; when she’s bought a dog, she has to insist on being allowed to groom and feed it, and she is always immaculately turned out. Normally this character is an associate of the grubby, pony-obsessed heroine with the milk cart pony lovingly restored to glossy health, so it was an interesting concept – and she doesn’t really change through the book, although learning a bit about herself and pony care as she goes along.  This makes for an interesting but not hugely engaing read.

CHAIM POTOK – The Chosen

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Acquired via BookCrossing 10 Aug 2010 – at a KGC mini-meet

So this came recommended by Bridget and previously owned by Ali’s Dad, which was a good set of recommendations to have! 

I loved it – really could not put it down.  As previously mentioned, the central theme of the book is the conflict between different forms of Jewish observance.  The two boys at the centre of the book, Reuven and Danny, both have fathers who are powerful and well known (in different ways) both within their communities and within the wider community.  Their paths take a different turn to how people expect, and their relationships with their fathers, and each other, are vitally important.  I learnt an awful lot about the attitudes of American Jews in the last days of WWII and about the background to the founding of the state of Israel; but while this book has a didactic purpose, it also works as a work of literature, both exploring large and complex themes and being eminently readable.  I can’t wait to go on to The Promise; in fact, I’m already reading it.

Note: I am trying to press this on Matthew, too (we’re trying to read some Great Unread (by us) works of 20th Century Fiction), so I’ll work out if he or Gill has it next.

MARK RADCLIFFE – Thank You For The Days: A Boy’s Own Adventure in Radio and Beyond

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31 Jul 2010

Gosh, the gap between acquisition and reading is a bit big at the moment! Mind you, I’ve only got a shelf of TBR at the moment, so not so many acquired in the second half of the year.

Anyway – this, the third part of a 2 for 3 purchase from Waterstones, was an excellent choice.  I’ve liked Radcliffe’s work in print and on the radio for years, and this did not disappoint.  Rather than a straight autobiography, he picks out days when something exciting or interesting happened, and writes a short piece, not as long as a whole chapter, about each of them.  This covers radio, at various stations, walking, bands he’s seen and bands he’s been in, heroes, entertainment and all sorts.  There is a very small overlap with his book about the bands he’s been in, and there’s very little about his family, except when they’re pursued by journalists in the very interesting section on Mark and Lard’s attempt to do the Radio 1 Breakfast Show.  The pieces are funny, touching and always well written, and this is a book that lends itself very well to being re-read.

M. C. BEATON – Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House

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From Ali

I really enjoyed this one – Agatha has yet another man in tow who’s moved into James’ cottage, but she’s not sure if she’s interested, or indeed if he is.  Some other old friends make an appearance and Agatha has made a big decision by the end of the book – it’s going to be interesting to see where that goes in the next one!  A good read with quite a complicated plot, but it was nice to see Beaton move away from the slightly repetitive Agatha In Danger plot device at the end, to make it a bit more varied.

ELIZABETH LONG – Book Clubs: Women and the Uses of Reading in Everyday Life

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From library (for Iris Murdoch research project)

I’m putting down any books I read all the way through for the research project, as that seems fair enough.  This is a study of women’s reading groups in Houston, Texas, with both a historical overview and then a detailed analysis of the way the groups worked.  Although it had the limitation of only being about women’s groups, there was some additional demographic information that was useful and could be generalised, and I pulled out quite a lot of useful information (both from Long’s own research and the authors she quoted) on what makes people choose a book for their group to read (it goes on price, availability and its place in an accepted canon) and what makes a good reading group book (a moral foundation and good characters), which will help to inform my own research. 

Top Ten Reads for 2010

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It’s done! As I’ve "only" (that’s only for me, not related to anyone else’s reading) read 158 this year, I found I could do a top 10 in total, rather than a fic and a non-fic… although I do have some honourable mentions in the fiction category…

Fiction:
FAIZA GUENE – Just Like Tomorrow (life in the French banlieus for a North African family)
RACHEL FERGUSON – The Brontes Went to Woolworths (wonderful quirky fun)
RAPHAEL SELBOURNE – Beauty (struggling to make a life in Wolverhampton for a wonderful range of characters)
EVA IBBOTSON – Journey to the River Sea (classic children’s fiction)
IRIS MURDOCH – The Book and the Brotherhood (the end of Marxism, a good cat and a great parrot)
Honourable mentions:
PAUL MAGRS – Aisles (because it’s lovely and because Iris Murdoch is a character)
IRIS MURDOCH – The Philosopher’s Pupil (because I thought it was my favourite IM novel)

Non-fiction:
STUART MACONIE – Adventures on the High Teas (funny and charming travelogue with the right amount of sentimentality)
DAVID CRYSTAL – Just A Phrase I’m Going Through (autobiography of the prolific writer on language)
A.J. JACOBS – The Year of Living Biblically (fascinating, funny, yet deeply respectful)
ANDREW MARR – The Making of Modern Britain (history at its nearly best)
DAVID KYNASTON – Family Britain 1951-57 (history at its VERY best)

Worst books of the year:
David Nicholls – One Day (protagonist of the same era as me, annoyed me intensely)
George Eliot – The Lifted Veil (weird, and then yucky as anything)
Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat, Pray, Love (and be self-indulgent, all the time sailing along on your publishing advance and money from relatives)

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