Wednesday, August 07, 2013

july-august 2013 books

More book stuff:
The History of the World in Ten-and-a-Half Chapters (Julian Barnes): I’m a big fan of Julian Barnes, so it seems strange that it’s taken me such a long time to read this (it was first published in 1989). As you probably already know, the book consists of 10 short stories - widely disparate but with recurring points of contact. It’s a very intelligent, thoughtful book but, frankly, not one that I found particularly satisfying or engaging.
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure (Artemis Cooper): An excellent biography of this rather extraordinary man. I’d previously read, and enjoyed, Fermor’s book “A Time of Gifts” a couple of years ago (shortly after his death at the age of 96). Fermor was a travel writer/soldier who was blessed which the sort of memory that enabled him to quote huge chunks of classical literature plus an ability to learn languages virtually at will. He also had the ability to get on with people from all backgrounds (especially people of influence… and women!). A remarkable, enjoyable book.
Running Over Rocks (Ian Adams): This is a really excellent book by my great mate Ian. On one level, it’s a manual that explores and provides 52 spiritual practices for living/bringing goodness to the world in difficult times - but it’s much, much more than that. A manual perhaps suggests a set of strict instructions to be followed, but this book can be used in any number of ways – exploring themes, seasons of the year… asking questions, making suggestions, highlighting refreshing insights… daily disciplines, practical wisdom. I read it through, cover-to-cover but, over the coming months, I can also see myself focussing on particular themes and practices… and our weekly Ithaca group has also decided to use it as its latest “study book”.
It’s a beautiful book… beautifully written and I found its structure and layout both clear and appealing. I loved the small photographic images and adored his stunning poetry. In particular, I was able to identify with the writer himself… the book is highly accessible and shows great perceptiveness based on experience and knowledge.
Goodbye to Berlin (Christopher Isherwood): Set in the early 1930s and evoking the glamour+sleaze, excess+repression of Berlin society under threat from the rise of the Nazis. Isherwood lived in Berlin from 1929 until 1933 and the book is based on his diaries from this time. Poignant, charming and sad… and set against an undercurrent of growing fear.
The Great Galloon (Tom Banks): I wouldn’t normally include children books in my “reading diary”, but this one was written by our good friend Tom Banks… and is very good (“Being a mostly accurate tale of the voyages of Captain Meredith Anstruther, his crew and his celebrated Great Galloon”). Inventive, quirky and funny (with lots of laugh-out-loud moments!). I found it impossible not to read it (silently to myself, you understand) imagining the voices Tom would have used at one of his story-telling sessions!

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