Friday, January 07, 2011

winter books 2010-11

Another batch of books, I’m afraid (just so I can remember!):
The Dangling Man (Saul Bellow): A somewhat strange, but fascinating, book (set in 1942 and published in 1944) about a man awaiting induction into the army and, through a series of delays and mix-ups, finds himself facing a year of idleness. The book is his journal and records his reaction to inactivity and “his uneasy insights into the nature of freedom and choice”. With my impending retirement, it sounds as if my blog might become “Dangling Man 2”!
Fisher’s Face (Jan Morris): A fascinating insight into the Victorian Navy and, in particular, the life of Admiral of the Fleet Lord “Jacky” Fisher (1841-1920) – “one of the greatest naval reformers in history”. Jan Morris had been captivated by a photograph of Fisher for more than forty years and determined to write a book about him. In 1951, she started soliciting the help of relatives, colleagues, shipmates or acquaintances; in 1995, her book was finally published.
All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque): A truly stunning novel about WW1 from the perspective of a group of German schoolboys/young recruits: “war is not about heroism, but about terror, either waiting for death, or trying desperately to avoid it… about losing all human dignity and values…” (from Brian Murdoch’s “Afterword” note at the end of the book). Throughout much of the book, I found myself reflecting on the fact that my grandfather, who was in the Royal Artillery, had spent much of the war bombarding young men such as these (and, obviously, taking his “fair” share in return).
Eating for England (Nigel Slater): This is a “bathroom” book and, as such, I probably haven’t quite read all of it yet (I just dip into bits of it on a daily basis). It contains his thoughts on over 200 food-related topics. I like Slater, but I have to admit that I found myself frequently irritated by his rather precious take on things. On the subject of “the digestive”, for example (one of my favourite biscuits), he says this: “The smell alone, wheaty and sweet with a hint of the hamster’s cage about it, is instantly recognisable as a good place to be”. I actually found myself shouting “NOOO!” at the book!
A Week in December (Sebastian Faulks): I'm a great fan of Faulks. The novel follows the lives of seven main characters over a period of seven days. The story is very skillfully woven together (as you would expect if you’ve ever read any of the author’s books). Given the current financial restrictions we’re all experiencing, I found Faulks’s writing on greed, banking, hedge funds and the like particularly pertinent.
A clever, thought-provoking and very enjoyable book.
PS: “Dangling Man”, “Fisher’s Face” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” brought my total for 2010 to 34 (see, I told you the blog was useful for something!) - for me, this must be some new kind of record!
PPS: I see that I don’t really come close to matching up to Moira’s 2010 reading exploits (and my books are probably much shorter than hers too) - but she IS a retired lady these days!


Alice said...

I've really enjoyed reading your book lists and Ma's too. Inspired me to try to note down the books I read this year! I like your comments! Xxx

Anonymous said...

You inspire me into reading more and depress me at the thought of not seeing you at work, you are an inspiration. I love you dearly