Reading anything good?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnything you would recommend?

An author you have just discovered?

Talk about it here!


[Please avoid posting spoilers if possible – or label them as such]


Posted on January 10, 2013, in Authors, Books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 57 Comments.

  1. Really enjoying ‘The Dog Star’ by Peter Heller – it was on one of the Guardian Books of the Year lists. A gentle, almost poetic, post-apocalyptic novel set in USA where 95% of population have died from a virus and the earth is heating up. It is different to the also good but depressing ‘The Road’ by Comac Mccarthy with its violence and sordid squalor.

    • Have you read Russell Hoban’s ‘Riddley Walker’? If not, do so, as soon as possible.

      • Why, is that post-apocalyptic too?

      • [Sorry, can’t REPLY down there. REPLYing up here]
        It’s post-post-apocalyptic. It’s set in a sort of far-future Iron Age. The characters’ oral tradition suggests there was some terrible apocalyptic event in the distant past and mundane elements of our modern world have become key parts of the superstitions and belief systems and rudimentary degraded ‘English’ of the future. It’s fascinating and compelling and intriguing and sad. One of my favourite ever books.

  2. My first quarter book quest is Philip Pullman’s trilogy – His Dark Materials. Book 1 was made into a movie a couple of years ago, The Golden Compass. And I am a firm believer that the original novel is always better than the movie. I am half way into Book 1 and I am loving it.

    • I really enjoyed reading the Dark Materials. I think my favourite was Book 2 ‘the subtle Knife’ so will be interesting to see what you think!

  3. I’m reading The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng. it was one of the Booker short listed novels in 2012. I’m trying to read a wider range of books this year, as I got so caught up in children’s books and lightweight stuff last year – all good, but I fancied starting the year with a challenge!

  4. I’ve just started John Fante, who came recommended by a good friend. The Guardian article Discovering John Fante describes what seems to be a pattern of this little known but well liked author. Los Angeles in the 1930’s.

  5. I’ve just started reading the last book in the Wheel of Time series. Spanning more than 13 books, each roughly a 1000 pages long, I’ve been reading this series for nearly 20 years now. The original author died of cancer 3 books ago, but luckily, before he died, he was able to pass on his notes to another author who he trusted to do it justice. I’m really excited to see how the series will end as it has been a truly epic journey!

    • How amazing to have been reading a series for 20 years. You have grown up with it – that is one strong recommendation. I am going to read one.

      • I would definitely recommend the series to anyone with even the slightest interest in reading fantasy! The first book is called The Eye of the World. There’s a wealth of information about the series online, but a good place to get a feel for it is here. .

        If does feel a bit odd to have finally completed the series, almost feels like closing a chapter in my life.

  6. Oh yes and the book is called “A Memory of Light” and is by Robert Jordan (deceased) and Brandon Sanderson.

  7. ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ – SJ Watson.

    Christine can’t retain memories and has to record the day’s events in a book otherwise she forgets. Every day is a new day…

    What a completely amazing story! I quite literally couldn’t stop reading until i had finished it.
    Suspense and paranoia drip of every page and keeps you guessing until the fantastic ending.

    It’s going to make a brilliant film.

    Highly, higly recommended.

  8. “Go tell it on the mounting” by James Baldwin. (1953)

    His first novel and the one he said would be the one he would have written, if he had but one novel to write. Understandable, given the strong autobiographical references.
    There are four very strong voices in the novel, weaving together the history of a black American family from the second half of the 19th C. to the first decades of the 20th.
    More than anything else it is its language what draws you in. If you are acquanted with the language of the Bible you will hear its echoes in many passages (Baldwin himself was a preacher at some point and some passages read like powerful sermons). Sin, anguish, hatred, lust, rencour, longing, regret, sadism,…anything but coziness and warm feelings.

    • I haven’t read James Baldwin for years – another classic definitely worth rereading. Will put it on my list for 2013.

  9. THE FAIRY TALES OF HERMANN HESSE(1995) This is a collection of 22 dark tales, some of which have been translated into English for the first time. They were written between 1904 and 1918, and translated by Jack David Zipes, Professor of German studies at the University of Minnesota. Who lectures on the subject of fairy tales, how they have evolved, and both the social/political effect they have had on the civilization processes.
    The stories dealing with individuals and finding oneself/the truth,are just as full of feeling and as compelling as those about society and war, with Hesse’s personal philosophies concerning beauty, justice and death reappearing throughout, having said that, for the novice Hesse reader this is probably one of his most easily accessible works.

  10. Anyone out there like(s) Bukowski?

    I just love his writing and believe he should be considered one of the greats…maybe that’s just me.

    I know he (or his alter ego Chinaski) is not a likeable character: a chauvinistic drunk getting into fights and jumping from job to job and woman to woman…but there’s something profoundly human behind the character, and when I say human I don’t mean good (Hitler is as good an example of a human being as Martin Luther King or Gandhi if you think of it) I mean authentic.
    He writes from the guts, without hiding the bad in him and with a lack of judgement and pretension that is at leat refreshing.

    So my questions:
    Anyone else likes him? and do you know of anyone else that writes like him?

    p.s. also love his poetry, check this 2 about his attitude to writing and his hidden sensibility:

    So you want to be a writer


    • Anton, I agree with everything you say about Buke. An amazing honest voice.

      Have you read Donald Ray Pollock? Not ‘like’ Bukowski, but writes with a spare direct style and his stories are full of damaged and doomed characters. Well worth a go.

    • Hey Anton, yes I couldn’t help enjoying Factotum, despite the way Chinaski behaves, and despite the fact that I haven’t been able to drink a milkshake through a straw since! Have you ever read Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown? I think she writes in a similar way 😉

  11. I’m currently reading ‘The Coincidence Engine’ by Sam Leith. It’s about a reclusive mathematician who may or may not have created a machine that causes improbable things to happen. He’s being tracked down by a variety of people, including agents from a secret government cabal that may or may not exist, they’re trying to trace him by listening to their iPods on shuffle, to see if any patterns emerge as clues… Yeah. There’s some romance, intrigue and number theory in there, too.

    The plot lags and dips occasionally (nearly lost me a couple of times) but on the whole it’s a funny and entertaining book with a lot of interesting ideas.

    I’d say, ‘Give it a go’.

  12. Well, here goes for the first post from me here at Marylebone Library!!

    The Reader’s Group here have just read ‘The Siege of Krishnapur’ by J G Ballard. The general response to the book was an enjoyable read, which definitely needed a touch of humour within it, otherwise it might have dragged on too much. However some of the group felt guilty laughing at some of the desperate situations described by Farrell. (Our future reads are listed on the Westminster website)

    What am I reading at the moment? Well I have just received a proof of ‘The Bunker Boy’ by Kevin Brooks, due for release in March and aimed at Teenagers. So far it is a rather unusual story concerning imprisonment, but has a different twist! I am enjoying reading it though.
    I’m also reading ‘Various Pets Alive and Dead’ by Marina Lewyck, written in her usual style, but not as enjoyable for me as her previous book, ‘We are all Made of Glue’. I’ve just read ‘Capital’ by John Lanchester, a current tale of people living on the same street, with very different lives. One can relate to at least one character in the book that you probably know elsewhere already.
    The next ones lined up are ‘The Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared’ / Jonas Jonasson & ‘Caroline: a Mystery’ / Cornelius Medvei

    On a final note, as a Children’s Librarian I would recommend that you don’t miss out on ‘The Wonky Donkey’ by Craig Smith!

    • Wow, you are reading alot of books all at the same time! I am enjoying Capital too. It is nice to hear from a Reading Group.

  13. I’m currently reading “Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now – as Told by Those Who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Left it and Long for it ” by Craig Taylor, It’s a series of short pieces by dozens of Londoners – some natives, some recent arrivals. All sorts of different jobs and lifestyles are represented from the conventional (taxi-drivers, plumbers, students) to the decidedly different (the Wiccan princess and the dominatirx were both completely beguiling). There’s even an essay by the City of Westminster’s chief registrar. It’s a completely fascinating book and highly recommended whether you love, or hate, our city

    • We have been reading bits out of it for the Charing Cross Library and University of Notre Dame University book group – London in Fact and Fiction. The American students find it interesting and it leads to great discussions about London and Londoners.

  14. Speaking of London, I’ve just started reading Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, which begins with a ramble through Victoria, St James’s Park and Piccadilly. Favourite line so far: “She would not say of any one in the world that they were this or that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged.”

    • Have you read it before? I liked the snippet you pulled out and think perhaps I should re-read it but is life too short for that?

      • No, I’ve never read it before, I was just aware of it through The Hours etc. I’m such a slow reader, I rarely re-read a book! Unless it’s really short, like A Month in the Country by JL Carr.

  15. Some great suggestions on this thread, definitely going to add ‘The Dog Star’ to my to-read list. I generally stick to fiction but some non-fiction has caught my eye recently and Will Storr’s ‘The Heretics’ is well worth a look. It’s a fascinating, and very readable, exploration of how seemingly rational and intelligent people develop beliefs that go against the grain. People with mainstream beliefs don’t escape Storr’s beady eye either- he argues that even if our ideology seems totally scientific and well-thought out, it’s probably not.

  16. I have just read Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. It’s the fascinating story of two cowboys in 1876 travelling the country and meeting many different people. It’s a brilliant novel, extremely well written and funny. Don’t be afraid by the volume (2 books of 500 pages) as you can’t see the time going when you read it! The book won the Pulitzer western novel prize in 1985 and has been recognised as one of the best american western novel.

    • Not really a western but with the same feel is The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt, shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker. It is about two brothers in the Californian Gold Rush of the 1850s, both notorious assassins on a mission to kill a man but with one brother now reluctant to do the deed. It reveals the killers odd logic and I really didnt expect to enjoy it but strangely I did.

  17. Normally when I hear ‘Western’ I switch off but that sounds pretty good. Going back to an earlier recommendation, I’ve just finished reading Peter Heller’s ‘The Dog Star’. Top choice! Love the voice of the narrator, poignant but not sentimental- and one incident in particular was a real tear jerker.

    • So pleased you enjoyed Dog Stars, I am suggesting it to everyone – you are the third who said it was good!

  18. I am reading “The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson, quite a popular choice at the moment. I didn’t really know what to expect and chose it on impulse. The title was really intriguing and so couldn’t help but pick it up to see what happened next.

    • I am so struggling with this book. Dont you find it a bit repetitive? I have got 3/4 of the way through and can’t find the book now – think my subconscious lost it on purpose!

  19. Finally, I have just read “Austerlitz” and “the Emigrants” by W. G. Sebald, following a recommendation offered by a work colleague a long time ago. I have never read anything like these two before.

    The only thing I can add to published reviews is that there is a rich texture to his writing and he had a very cultured and dignified approach to writing about an incredibly gruesome and horrific aspect of human behaviour.

    There is now a commemorative footpath through the countryside of the Allgaeu that finishes in Wertach – Sebald’s birthplace. The footpath is marked with quotes from “Vertigo”, which I intend to read next.

  20. More to add to my ‘to read’ list there then. I read Anita Brookner’s ‘The Latecomers’ not long ago, which also looks at the Kindertransport and the long-term impact on children moved from their home countries; it was ok, but it seemed only to scratch the surface and I wasn’t convinced it deserves its status as a Penguin ‘Decade Defining’ book. I suppose Sebald wrote from a more personal perspective.

    On a totally different topic, just finished Lisa Ballantyne’s new book ‘The Guilty One’. I think it would make a great choice for a reading group, it’s the kind of book you finish and just want to talk about with someone. It’s absorbing (a bit harrowing at times) and has lots of fuel for discussion.

    • We need to start looking at what book might be the next read for this on-line reading group – perhaps Ballantyne might be a good choice – would it appeal to all?

  21. I’m reading a bizarre but comic romp at the moment called The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. It’s a comic gem about a vodka swilling eccentric pensioner and lots of inefficient criminals. This Swedish black comedy will have you in stitches!

  22. Also reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Not sure what to make of this at the moment. It’s been called the thriller of the year, but I beg to differ. Hopefully it will get better. I don’t like the two main characters Amy and Nick. He seems like a total jerk, but maybe that’s the key?!

    • So many people have been reading this book. I would like to know whether (if you manage it to the end!) you think it is worth reading because I think it will have to be the next book on my list to read!

      • Finally finished Gone Girl, I really didn’t like it. Hated the two main characters!

  23. Gonna tackle The Divine Comedy one day!! Want to find out about the life and times of Dante a bit more first. Have just discovered Steinbeck due to the fact I’m taking an Eng Lit course. Really enjoyed of mice and men, then read the pearl. I’m also renewing my love of Shakespeare by studying Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest.

  24. Well Bill, most impressed with the list of books you have on the go! A really wide cross section of literature.

  25. Shahid Hussain

    I’ve recently read RASL and I have all of Jeff Smith’s other comic books.

    Following on from the last topic of the Marylebone library’s comic book club, You might want to get the first 3 volumes of ECHO by Terry Moore (author of Strangers in Paradise) which is another one of his woman-centric tales although in a sci-fi setting this time.

    Check out Howard Chaykin writer, artist and visionary, famous for American Flagg (the GN’s were re-released recently) and the notorious Black Kiss (you have to read this story to believe it, also recently re-released. Warning: you may be offended). He’s a top notch creator and written/drawn many titles for DC and Marvel. A personal favourite. They’ve recently released one of those massive hardcovers featuring a retrospective of his art, which I’m going to have to buy.

    Another good writer is Erik Larsen who has been writing& drawing the excellent Savage Dragon for many years over at Image Comics, and also was responsible for introducing Robert Kirkman to the world (no – he wasn’t his dad). Speaking of Mr.K, just reading his Guarding the Globe which is quite good. Love the names he comes up with ie Kaboomerang, Multi-paul & Rexplode , which describe the individual powers perfectly.

    Also got the latest Birds of prey: the Death of Oracle which unfortunately, is at the bottom of my reading pile.

    • I have read Incognegro and found it quite interesting. I am not too keen on black and white GNs but you pretty much don’t see it after getting in to the story.

  26. I have started reading books by Anne Zouroudi because they are set in the beautiful Greek Islands and I wanted something to take me away from all the cold weather we had been experiencing. I kinda fell for the Greek detective Hermes Diaktorios who is referred to as the fat man. He is rather ingenious in his solving the murder mystries that occur on the islands

  27. I have just been reading The Prestige by Christopher Priest. It was published back in the 1990s but reissued in 2005. It is about the rivalry between two Victorian stage magicians that develops into a bitter feud that both regret at times but find that they cannot get out of. It affects their families into future generations. The story is told in alternating sections of the two magicians contemporary diaries and the encounter between their grandchildren.
    Their rivalry, in particular relating to a particular illusion they both try to outdo the other with is set against the development of electricity – one of the magicians, Rupert Angier travels to America to meet the pioneering electricity scientist Nikola Tesla in order to get him to build apparatus for his illusion.
    The book was made into a film in 2007 starring Hugh Jackman – I’m tracking down a library copy of the DVD!

  28. We have been reading in our book club “John the Revelator”, the first novel by Irish author Peter Murphy. The landscape of his childhood features heavily in the novel but the most remarcable feature for me is his language. Sometimes may seem a bit overcharged with metaphors, especially in the first chapters, but it cannot fail to draw you in and carry you along with its musicality, like an old, often heard tune.

  29. I am reading Complicity by Iain Banks due to the fact that I have to write an essay on it. It’s an amazing book, very violent and sexually explicit; not really my kind of book. Now however I can’t stop reading it and want to find out why all the murders have happened!! It draws in in!

  30. Fancy having a go at Inferno by Dan Brown, anybody read it yet?? Is it worth it??

  31. You will be lucky if you can find a copy to borrow. I think they are good stories, you dont worry about the poor writing cos you get carried away with the action.

  32. Right now I’m about three quarters of the way through A Street Cat Named Bob, a birthday present from my wife. It’s a touching tale written by a homeless, ex-heroin addict about how a ginger cat named Bob walked into his life and gave him direction, purpose, meaning and affection. From a writing point of view, it’s no literary masterpiece. But it has a great heart and gives a small insight into some of the reasons people end up on the streets and the self-defeating cycle that addiction oftens leads to.

  33. As an attendee of the Marylebone Graphic novel club, i thought this might be an interesting read..

  34. Consolations of the forest by Sylvain Tesson is a gem

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