20 books of summer 2016

20 books of summer 2016

Two books ticked off my #20BooksofSummer list in this post – that’s numbers 14 and 15. I’m still reading 16 and 20 and the challenge runs until 5 September, so it looks like I have a chance of getting there. Of course, the Kynaston is the one I’ve been reading for aaaaages, and it’s actually two books in one, but as you can see from the picture, it is a massive tome – and it was very enjoyable. There’s no link between the books apart from them being in this slightly wonky pile you can see to the left, but maybe they show important aspects of my reading – novels / non-fiction, sociology, travel, Iceland … The novel also fits into Women in Translation Month or #WIT – I didn’t do that on purpose as had quite enough on the TBR, but was pleased to find one that fitted into the challenge.

David Kynaston – “Modernity Britain”

(6 August 2015 bought on a trip to London with birthday and Christmas book tokens)

This tome is made up of “Opening the Box” and “A Shake of the Dice”; it’s a custom now for me to wait for the two individual volumes to come out then pick up the lovely hardback omnibus that follows – this is the third such volume, with many more to come as he works his way all the way to 1979.

These fine volumes tackle British social, economic and political history through the years, using materials from Mass Observation diaries, biographies and memoirs, letters, newspapers and some official histories. As usual, there are long passages detailing the often weirdly clashing events and opinions, the mundane and world-important mixing in one paragraph, as well as context and longer pieces on topics such as how town planning is going in various cities (one of these surprised me by being in a different layout than usual and some of the lists seemed a little rushed; however, in the acknowledgements, the author makes it clear that he was suffering from a severe health issue while putting together these books, so this is very much forgiven).

People are disenchanted with politics, Labour has split almost irrevocably, there’s a rise in racism and a constant threat of violence and riot in the streets and politicians are starting to deal with having to be on the media more and handling that with the appropriate spin … so not that different from modern times in many ways. But also the nationalised industries are doing well (maybe peaking), the Empire is being dismantled and the rise of consumerism is evident.

I missed an introduction which explains the sources, as I’m sure I found in the first volume – the diarists are introduced as such with an assumption you know what he’s talking about which might seem odd for a reader new to the series and not familiar with MO etc. But I’ll forgive him anything for actually thanking his transcriber by name (and how I would love to be that transcriber!).

This book was Book 14 in my #20BooksofSummer project.

Auður Ava Olafsdottir – “Butterflies in November”

(25 December 2015 – Not So Secret Santa gift from Jane)

A mid-30s woman goes on a rather random road trip with a small Deaf child in a car which accumulates or kills various animals (the mention of killing animals got me nervous and I did a little skimming ahead – basically a goose at the beginning and some goldfish, although several other animals make an appearance), after seeing her marriage disintegrate, apparently because she’s not very organised or well-groomed.

Will our narrator be able to take charge of another human being when she can’t seem to look after herself or her marriage? Does speaking multiple languages really have any use when trying to communicate with someone with apparently little language? The darkest month of the year and the people of Iceland’s new and older cultures will test her to the limits in this whimsical and very Icelandic novel.

This book was Book 15 in my #20BooksofSummer project and was also read for #WIT month.

I’ve scheduled this post in to catch up with reviewing, so I’m not sure what I’m reading at the moment you read this – Edith Wharton’s “The Reef” is on the go as I write this, and I’ve just finished Jo Pavey’s excellent autobiography. How’s your August reading going?