What we are Reading - The 2019 Edition

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  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    I'm listening* to Richard Rohr's The Universal Christ and find it extremely nourishing.

    "Listening because I'm losing my eyesight, which is why I'm not on the Ship more often. Pulling back from Facebook and etc too.

    sabine
  • jedijudyjedijudy Heaven Host
    I'm so sorry about your eyesight, sabine. Hopefully it's a comfort to be able to listen to books.
  • Tree BeeTree Bee Shipmate
    Sorry to hear that Sabine. Audio books are a Godsend.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I'm enjoying a short story collection by scientist John Gribbin at the moment, published by Elsewhen Press, and The Story of the Moon by Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who I saw speak at the Hay Winter Festival last year. She is now one of the presenters of The Sky at Night, and recently had a dream come true when a model of her as an astronaut was included in the new Clangers series.
  • Lily PadLily Pad Shipmate
    Just finished the new Terry Fallis book, "Albatross". It was a delight, as usual. If you enjoy golf or creative writing, then you would enjoy this book. It's a quick read and light but enjoyable.
  • Chorister wrote: »
    'One Day' by David Nicholls. Not too sure about this one yet, reading the first chapter it sounds depressingly like several other books I've read recently, where people never quite get it together permanently with their most obviously suitable partner. A sign of the times, maybe, that people want to have it all and are not willing to settle? But you can't judge a book by its first few pages, so I shall persevere, and hope.

    I liked that book a lot, but I do wish I had read it before seeing the film - I would like to know what I would have thought of the ending if I had encountered it on the page first.
  • 'First Aid', by Janet Davey, seems an interesting book, a short read - seen through the eyes of mum and teenage daughter, as mum flees her violent lover. Mum takes younger brother and sister with her, but teenage daughter decides to return home (sort of). I imagine that the book would be a good read for adults and also teenagers, dealing with difficult issues such as domestic violence, negotiating relationships, and gaining of independence.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    Recently re-read Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. By far his most powerful book with its almost biblical cadences and story of "refugees" (in the 1930s from the dustbowl of Oklahoma) who find themselves very unwelcome in the "promised land" that they flee to (California in that case). Reminded me all too strongly of the treatment of today's refugees from wars and persecution and their shameful un-Christian reception at the borders of USA, Australia and Hungary (to name a few).

    Then a succession of "Italian" police procedurals (in translation), featuring Inspectors Brunetti (Venice, Donna Leon), Montalbano (Sicily, Andrea Camillieri), and Borelli (Florence, Marco Vici). They all share two features: (1) every meal is described in loving detail , (2) character and locational background count for more than Holmes-like genius at detection. In fact the Borelli turned into a detailed description of a flood in Florence, with all trace of the original crime/ mystery disappearing, at which point I stopped reading it!

    Of these my favourite is Brunetti, as he (and even more so his university lecturer wife) are the most likeable characters and show the most insight. That Donna Leon is in fact a long-term expat, who actually writes in English may influence my opinion, though that's no slur on the respective translators. .
  • I'm reading J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace at the moment, by far the best book I've read recently after a summer of otherwise slightly disappointing books. The writing is so good that you almost don't notice it, or how deeply disturbing the story is. It sort of builds on you while you're not paying attention.

    I also picked up two Michael Ondaatje novels over the summer - Divisadero and Anil's Ghost - and my reaction is mixed. Ondaatje can certainly write, but sometimes one gets the sense of too much "writing" sitting on top of a rather flimsy infrastructure plot-and-structure-wise. And I feel sometimes too much weirdness for weirdness sake.

    On a lighter note, I also read Nancy Mitford's Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate over the summer. Generally enjoyable, and interesting as depictions of a certain period, but somehow not quite what I hoped for. I also started reading Wigs on the Green, written in the early 1930s and intended as light-hearted satire aimed at Oswald Mosley and Mitford's Nazi sympathizer sisters, but I couldn't finish it. Mitford never tried to get it republished after it went out of print - apart from the ruckus it caused within her family, apparently after the war Mitford came to think that light-hearted satire of fascism was in poor taste.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    Marsupial wrote: »
    I also picked up two Michael Ondaatje novels over the summer - Divisadero and Anil's Ghost - and my reaction is mixed. Ondaatje can certainly write, but sometimes one gets the sense of too much "writing" sitting on top of a rather flimsy infrastructure plot-and-structure-wise. And I feel sometimes too much weirdness for weirdness sake.

    This is how I've always felt about Ondaatje, but it seems almost sacrilege to say it as he is so revered, and I've always assumed it reflects more on my skills as a reader than on his actual writing. It's comforting to know others feel the same way. I have had Warlight sitting on my e-reader for months now and keep finding excuses not to start it. (Well, the excuses are all other books, so ...)

    I'm currently reading Marina Endicott's new novel The Difference, which begins with a high-spirited 12-year-old girl on a voyage around the world in 1911, as passenger on a trading ship owned by her brother-in-law. I am loving every minute of it.
  • I actually enjoyed Warlight more than the other two - it’s what got me onto reading more Ondatjee lately. It’s not free of the features I found frustrating about the other two books but I enjoyed it enough to seek out more...

    I don’t know what I would have thought about it had I come to it after the two others, though.
  • TwilightTwilight Shipmate
    I read Warlight last month and agree with both of you about Ondaatjee. I actually loved Warlight and fell deeply into the lives of the two kids while they were being cared for by their questionable guardians. But it's that very dreamlike quality that Ondaatjee does so well and his fascination with shadowy memories that's made me decide not to read him anymore. As I get older I just don't want that gutted feeling as much as I once did. Seeking something a bit more shallow this year.

    Although Disgrace sounds mighty good...
  • Though be warned, definitely not light reading...
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    I agree with @marsupial that Coetzee's Disgrace is strong stuff and brilliantly written. Coetzee's choice of words is just right, and not a word wasted. I could see why he won a Nobel Prize.

    Intrigued by all the publicity in the past couple of years about Margaret Attwood, I twas inspired give one of her books a go. The only one on the shelf at our local library was Stone Mattress, so that's what I'm half-way though. It's a collection of short stories but several of them feature the same characters in different circumstances and different times. The first one nearly put me off, as it about an aged writer who gets lost in the fantasy world about which she writes. I am not a fan of fantasy novels (or fantasy films , come to that) but it was worth persisting for the rest. As with Jane Austen, in my male opinion, her style is far better than her stories, which verge on "chick lit", though some brought a wry smile to my face.

    And a recommendation fro another of my recent reads: : the Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard. it brings to life very well the repetive work and life of the women employed at Oak Ridge (Tennessee) as part of the wartime program to build an atomic bomb. Although billed as a novel, it includes many contempoary photographs (from the official collection) of the places talked about, but mostly with real people in them going about their tasks and recreation.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Just finished this book and found the writing more horrific than most hard science fiction books. I picked it up at a second handed sale and it had a sticker inside that showed it had been owned by a deceased 8 time city chess champion. His son, now almost 88 and a 7 time city chess champion, gave a series of lecture on Judaism at the Jewish Museum this summer. Always interesting to see what others have owned and read.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Cloud
  • I love reading novels about people with mental disturbances. Probably because it makes the characters so interesting. Novels about normal people, like TV programmes about normal people, I find incredibly boring. So you can imagine that I'm well hooked on 'The Shock of the Fall' by Nathan Filer - told in the first person by someone affected by Schizophrenia. I can't give you any spoilers because I haven't finished the book yet, but I'm sure there will be a surprising ending that I won't have guessed.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I found The Shock of the Fall interesting too - I found it quite a realistic depiction of psychiatric care homes, from at least when I worked in them, and it was interesting to read about the author and see he was a psychiatric nurse at around that time. And an interesting, sensitive story. Though hard to know if the actual depiction of what's going on in the main character's head is realistic, as the author isn't schizophrenic. This reminds me I'd like to read Elyn Saks' The Center Cannot Hold, which is a memoir of someone with paranoid schizophrenia, who is also a professor - I found her TED talk very interesting.
  • Currently thoroughly enjoying Glittering Images, by Susan Howatch. I am on holiday, and ill, and it is a book made for going to bed early with a cup of tea with.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    One of our local pubs has a bookshelf, and when I was in there the other afternoon, enjoying a half while my washing was in the launderette, I came across The Cogwheel Brain, by Doron Swade. It's the story of Charles Babbage and how he built the first computer, and I found it so fascinating I bought it and brought it home.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    I've just finished Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. It's our next book club book and I read it quickly and only because I had to.

    Nuff said.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I quite liked Bel Canto, but it was a long time ago that I read it.

    I recently read Normal People, by Sally Rooney, which I found myself unexpectedly liking - unexpectedly because to begin with it seems more like a teenage angst type novel. I'm not quite sure how I would describe it now, having read it, but found myself drawn to the characters. And then I wanted to read something similar, so I looked through my bookcase and found The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paulo Giordano, which looked like it might be similar. And it is actually more similar than I thought, though of course different too - I'm about a third through it. Both books are quite easy to read in small chunks, just picking them up when you have a spare moment, which is how I've been reading lately.
  • Penelope Fitzgerald's 'The Bookshop' has a cracking introduction (at least in the edition I'm reading) which is making me very much look forward to reading the whole novel. It shouldn't take long, being quite slim, but I am to understand that every phrase is packed full of characterful word painting, so I will probably wish to linger over it rather than speed read. The characters are treated affectionately and with great humour, and the whole notion of setting up a bookshop in a most unlikely rural area sounds like an accident waiting to happen.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    In reference to the last two posts: I enjoyed Normal People more than I expected, and The Bookshop less than I expected.

    I thought Normal People was going to be some horribly overrated postmodern thing because all the Young Hip People I knew were raving about it (the pretentiously literary ones), but I actually found the characters very engaging and was swept into it. Wasn't sure what to make of the ending thought.

    I assumed I'd love The Bookshop because I love books about bookshops, but it was a book that felt, somehow, "cold" to me -- I didn't warm to any of the characters and the tone felt oddly sterile. I have a hard time remembering much about it now though I'm sure it's less than a year since I read it.
  • Trudy wrote: »
    In reference to the last two posts: I enjoyed Normal People more than I expected, and The Bookshop less than I expected.


    I assumed I'd love The Bookshop because I love books about bookshops, but it was a book that felt, somehow, "cold" to me -- I didn't warm to any of the characters and the tone felt oddly sterile. I have a hard time remembering much about it now though I'm sure it's less than a year since I read it.

    Yes, after the hype of the introduction, I have now started reading the actual book - and, for such a slim volume, it is surprisingly slow going. I'm assuming that it is because there is so much scene setting and that things will get more interesting later, but we will have to see.
  • I'm reading Kate Atkinson's latest; Big Sky. As usual she keeps me turning pages, leading me to care about a wide variety of characters, and making me laugh out loud so much my husband has to leave the room.

    This one is her darkest, though, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who might be triggered by child abuse. I myself wish I hadn't read it right before bed last night.

    She refers from time to time to a deceased, once beloved, now disgraced member of British society whose last name ends in "vile." I would have no idea he was a real person if it wasn't for the ship!
  • As I have posted before, I have been going through Georges Simenon's Maigret novels. I have not posted about all of them (I am about a dozen novels in), but I have just finished "The Two-Penny Bar" (like, I finished it 5 minutes ago). It is high on my list of favorite Maigrets. I also think highly of "The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien" and "A Man's Head," but "The Two-Penny Bar" may be one of the more moving ones.

    A man headed for execution tells Maigret about a murder that he witnessed years ago (and used to blackmail the murderer). He does not give Maigret the name of the murderer, but states that he saw the man at the Two-Penny Bar. A story of love, mistresses and friendships unfolds from this.
  • Twilight wrote: »
    I'm reading Kate Atkinson's latest; Big Sky. As usual she keeps me turning pages, leading me to care about a wide variety of characters, and making me laugh out loud so much my husband has to leave the room.

    This one is her darkest, though, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who might be triggered by child abuse. I myself wish I hadn't read it right before bed last night.

    She refers from time to time to a deceased, once beloved, now disgraced member of British society whose last name ends in "vile." I would have no idea he was a real person if it wasn't for the ship!

    I’ve read most of Kate Atkinson’s earlier books and liked them. She really does write excellent page turners and they’re often very funny in places. I have a huge soft spot for Jackson Brodie, as I expect one is supposed to. One caveat though, there is a lot of seemingly random cruelty and a lot of child death. I found this difficult enough at the time of reading, and then I read (on a bulletin board somewhere on the internet, so probably untrue) that a lot of the crime she writes is based on true cases. So that’s rather put me off reading any more of her books...

  • I read (on a bulletin board somewhere on the internet, so probably untrue) that a lot of the crime she writes is based on true cases. So that’s rather put me off reading any more of her books...
    That does make it all the more depressing doesn't it? Jackson is being as lovable as ever in this one, plus there's an adorable sort of milk toast man who is innocently friends with the truly evil bad guys. He's running down the tracks and doesn't hear the train coming, so I'm worried to death for him ...I'm about three quarters through the book and honestly a little afraid to read on.
  • MarkDMarkD Shipmate
    edited November 18
    I'm having a great year reading. In the religion department I read Elaine Pagels Why Religion? and scanned the Rachel Evans Inspired: Slaying Giants.. . After months waiting for my turn I finally got to read Educated by Tera Westover. (Worth the wait and interesting from the religion angle too.) After waiting months I also have my turn right now with Origins: How Earth's History Shaped Human History, which while interesting seems a rung below Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel.

    But mostly it has been a great year for novels, or at least the ones I've lucked into. Early on I read The Cider House Rules and The World According to Garp by John Irving. Didn't expect those to be topped but then I read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. In a similar vein The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was pretty good too, but if you only have time for one Nazi Germany story through the eyes of a non-soldier go, for the Doerr book. Girls Burn Brighter was a compelling look at human trafficking. And I liked The Limits of the World by Jennifer Acker. Oh and A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles wasn't unpleasant, but seemed a little fluffy.

    Exploring fiction is one of my very favorite parts of being retired. While teaching it was almost always nonfiction that drew me. Now I want to read all the good novels.
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