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Posts tagged ‘literature’

13
Nov

Top Ten Good Books to Read Again, Again and Again

Favourite books from readers – all of them have been read more than once and they would never ever give them away. Eat your heart out Oxfam!

Heidia heartrending story by Johanna Spyri of such poignancy that it still makes me cry every time I read it even now at 70! J Jarvis

The Rough Guide to Classic Novels this is such a good crib book. It’s used it a lot just to keep me up with those references in the media that crop up from time to time – I’m always up to date! J Gorringe

The Man who Planted Trees a very short but hugely inspiring book – it renews hope and faith in the human psyche. L Alexander

RHS Pruning by Christopher Brickell – I’ve had this book for more than 30 years and it never lets me down. V McDonald

How to Grow Fresh Air  an astonishing book that came out of research for a breathable environment for a lunar habitat. K Colston

Travels with Watercolour – Lucy Willis inspires her readers to be courageous in their painting in new surroundings. S Walling

Mr Thrifty’s How to save money on absolutely everything – a hugely amusing and useful book written by Jane Furnival, now sadly no longer with us. A book to read and read – get a copy! K Gardner

Food in England Dorothy Hartley wrote a series of books based on her travels around the UK in the 1930’s to 1950’s. Her beautiful line drawings are humorous  as well as accurate and her description makes her books essential for anyone interested in social history.  J Marshall

Way of the Peaceful Warrior a lyrical, hauntingly beautiful book that might just change your life! I go back to it regularly. K Campbell

Bob Flowerdew’s Organic Bible, successful gardening the natural way The first book I go to when needing inspiration, reliable and understandable guidance for the garden. V Reynolds

All these books are of course available on Amazon, however rather than support a company that doesn’t want to pay tax on its UK profits perhaps you could find a bookseller who does. We are researching this – if you have any suggestions do get in touch.

If you have some favourites feel free to send an email to editorinbalance@me.com

Do you have any books you use to read in the gym when on the walking machine? Here’s a link to our feature.

14
May

Not as Lively as I would like, How it all Began

A traditional ‘who did what and what became of them’ story, How it All Began is an easy read that doesn’t really challenge the intellect. I found it only mildly amusing – a candidate for ‘pick up when bored’ book status. Definitely not on the compulsive can’t put it down list, I think it could be referred to as a pot boiler on a rating of 5 on the 1-10 scale. I have to say she is good at character studies, but I didn’t like any of the characters and found little pleasure in her artful descriptions.

Written much in the same style as Mary Wesley but not as memorable or engaging. My memory of Mary’s Jumping the Queue and subsequent books that continued the theme of an illicit love affair, still makes me smile, eighteen years later, and I know if I re-read it I would love it. So, would I be interested in reading more of Lively’s books, I’m afraid not, I’m seldom bored.
The Penelope Lively website gives details of her background and all her books.
How It All Began is published by Penguin
Val Reynolds, Editor
11
May

A Decent Read – suggestions for a quiet break

How often are you at a loss to know where to find a good book. What is a good book? To me it’s one I can lose myself in. All the angst of the day goes to the back of my mind. So a book at bedtime is a joy and pleasure. But I’m not prepared to read books that don’t satisfy my curiosity, don’t stimulate my interest, or from which I learn nothing new.

So we have decided to provide our assessment of books we have enjoyed, or not. Short, pithy asides and plaintive squeals of dismay are included, so you don’t have to waste time turning off at page ten. That’s the crunch time for us … unless page eleven beckons that tome is passed on to Oxfam, or some such charity shop where maybe someone will view our assessment with disdain and totally disagree with us!

Here are three books all read and finished and assessed by Les Tucker, our intrepid bookaholic.

A Small Circus  Hans Fallada* One of the Penguin Classics ISBN 978-0-141-19655-8 *Other books by Fallada

Do not read A Small Circus expecting a similar experience to the later Alone in Berlin.  Fallada’s portrait of life in wartime Berlin is a universal tragedy which is impossible to ignore.

A Small Circus, published in 1931, is just that: a much more parochial examination of politics in a small town.  It is a local eye’s view of the collapse of the Weimar Republic  (Germany’s first democracy) leaving a situation ripe for the rise of National Socialism, and subsequently, the promotion of Hitler.

The book is not a dry history.  It is full of sardonic humour, as pompous local officials tussle over bribes and ill-gotten gains.  Outside the little town, the country is spinning off its axis, but a greedy bunch of politicians and journalists seem not to care.

The greater proportion of the novel is written in dialogue, so there is no authorial voice.  In many ways, this worked to Fallada’s advantage, as his breakthrough novel received praise from both sides of the political spectrum. It appeared as if he was not taking sides, although a modern reader might beg to differ.

A Small Circus may not make you laugh very often, but it might have you nodding with agreement at the portrayal of human foibles and frailties.

  Noughties  Ben Masters  Published by Penguin ISBN  978-0-241-14526-5

Ben Masters’ novel is helpfully divided into three sections, entitled; “Bar”,  “Club” and “Pub”.   My advice to the reader would be to stay in the Bar !

Imagine a dodgy episode of Skins combined with a literary pub quiz and half an episode of Morse chucked in for good measure.

This is Oxford, but beyond the colleges, overheated young things are drinking themselves into oblivion, clumsily bonking each other, but then spoiling the whole experience by agonising about it!

Noughties is a Top Trumps pack of literary references and allusions.  Forget about the narrative, just play spot the disguised quotation.  The protagonist, Eliot Lamb (get it?) is trying to resolve the dilemma of his love life.  As his journey to the light includes such evocative meetings with the opposite sex as, “She places her warm breath inside mine..” one can only hope it is achieved speedily.

There are lots of topical music references and characters spend an inordinate amount of time texting.  You don’t need to join Eliot Lamb in his final days at Oxford to enjoy the richness of that experience !  Try the Open University.

  The Pale King  David Foster Wallace   Penguin   ISBN  978-0-141-04673

Did you ever read the one about the American Internal Revenue Regional Examinations Centre ?   No … and I wonder how many people will actually finish The Pale King.  The author didn’t, as he died in 2008 before it was completed.  This edition has been assembled and published by his editor, Michael Pietsch.

Try this chapter opening :

“Until mid-1987, the IRS’s attempts at achieving an integrated data system were plagued with systemic bugs and problems, many of these exacerbated by Technical Branch’s attempts to economise by updating older Fornix keypunch and card-sorter equipment to handle ninety-six column Powers cards instead of the original eighty-column Holleriths.”   Come on … keep up !

Wallace is feted as a truly great writer, especially in his love for precision and meaning.  This unfinished work is about boredom and sadness, but as it stands it is too great a challenge to the reader.  The tedium of the daily tasks of the IRS is plain enough.  It is detailed in well over 500 pages.  There are jokes, lots of jokes, strange observations, descriptions, and even characters, but this is still a novel about tediousness, and it is act of daring to leave the reader to extract from it the individual stories within.  For many, the doors of the tax return processing centre will remain closed. For the legions of Wallace’s admirers, this unfinished work may well achieve the status of an icon.  If you enjoy James Joyce, you’ll love this.  If not, then tax avoidance may be the answer.

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