TBR September 2015That would make a great, intriguing book title if it was all one book, wouldn’t it! Anyway, it’s two books, both by marvellous women who have a spirit of honesty and humility while writing both beautifully and amusingly. There are also some terrible confessions to come, but don’t skip the reviews and jump to the bottom of the post for those shockers … (please). Oh, and some of you might have seen a glimpse of a post about books I don’t like to read which I quickly suppressed – it read a bit oddly for my liking and didn’t express things as I wanted them expressed, so I will rewrite that and publish that another time. Sorry to anyone who tried to comment or click through and got lost in error pages!

Tracey Thorn – “Naked at the Albert Hall”

(Borrowed from Sian)

Singer Tracey Thorn is appearing at the Birmingham Book Festival this autumn and I believe my friend Sian is covering her session in one of her volunteering gigs. She’d wanted to read both of Thorn’s books and recalled that I had the first one, so she borrowed that and loaned me this one to read while she was reading mine (we met up for a coffee and chat and to swap the books over today, which is always nice).

So this is the follow-on from her more conventional autobiography, “Bedsit Disco Queen“; it does have lots of autobiographical details, but takes a more serious, focused and evidence-driven look at, as the subtitle says, “the inside story of singing”. She talks about her own experiences, interviews other singers, especially those with issues close to hers around stage fright and having a ‘small voice’, and also brings in useful and interesting material from other writers on the subject.

Although she identifies particular areas that she’s talking about in each chapter, it does feel a little chaotic and disorganised at times, hopping around topics while sticking with one interviewee at a time, more or less, BUT, this allows her to be herself and makes the read more personalised and engaging. I also managed to pick up some juicy quotations about how the audience provides the emotion in the emotional response to a live gig (rather than the singer), which is handy for the reception theory sections of my research, so a good read and a double win there.

This book will suit … Everything But The Girl fans, anyone interested in music and singing.

Dervla Murphy – “Through Siberia by Accident”

(BookCrossing Secret Santa gift, 10 December 2014)

One of the veteran travel writer’s later books, this documents a journey that went a bit wrong when she had not one but two accidents that rendered her incapable of riding her bike and camping independently. Instead, she has to hole up in hotels and, later, a shack by Lake Baikal, and rely on the hospitality of strangers.

Siberian hospitality is apparently legendary, and she ends up making lots of friends, eating lots of large meals even when she tries to avoid taking too many resources from often poverty-stricken people, and feeling integrated into the community, even though she repeatedly fails to learn to speak anything but a few words of Russian.

As a ‘babushka’ laden with photo albums of her family and pets, she gets away with some aspects of behaviour that might otherwise be frowned upon, and makes friends almost wherever she goes. She’s fond of cats and encounters and describes many (they are all OK, there is one sad dog bit but not too, too awful or detailed), and she’s honest about her few fears and failings. She integrates history and politics seamlessly into the narrative and makes the occasional wry mention of other travel writers.

Excellent reading, although I could have done with some photographs (she describes herself being reticent to thrust these at people of her acquaintance, but also mentions taking them, so that’s frustrating).

I let this one go onto a bookshelf in the local cafe, because I felt greedy keeping hold of all of the BookCrossing books I was given by my secret santa!

I’ve just realised this was Book 17 in my #20BooksOfSummer challenge. At least I finished it in the month the challenge ended!

This book will suit … Anyone who likes a good, honest travel book, more about people than landscapes, but with those, too.


September 2015 3And now Oh Dear time. As well as adding to that tottering pile of Idriðasons bought the other day to complete the set, I accidentally wandered into the Oxfam bookshop while walking back from my volunteering session at parkrun on Saturday, and came across this pristine, never-read copy of Edith Wharton’s “The Reef” and a nice Penguin in a cover style I’ve not seen before of George Eliot’s “The Mill on the Floss”. After reading only “Middlemarch” a good few times and none of her others, I was given a copy of “Daniel Deronda”, loved it, then also loved “Adam Bede” but told myself I had to space out the others, buying and reading only when I came across them. My friend Ali recently read “Mill on the Floss” so I was pleased to see this copy.

September 2015 4Then I went to the BookCrossing meetup on Saturday afternoon at the soon-to-be-moving York’s Cafe. We’re not sure what’s happening to the BookCrossing (etc.) bookcase there, so took quite a few of the books away. One of them was this jolly-looking Indian detective book, so I nabbed that. THEN, when I met up with Sian to swap Tracey Thorn books, I was reminded that I’d asked to borrow her copy of the sequel to “Freakanomics” so I have that now, too (I can apparently wait a little while to read it before I have to return it for her husband to read). Oh dear, it’s like a terrible addiction, isn’t it. And meanwhile, what am I doing? Reading a book on my Kindle. Sigh.

Have you read any of these? Which will be the biggest treat when I reach them around August next year?