Full Of Eastern Promise…

Good evening, Bookworms!

Much of today’s blog was actually mapped out on a piece of scrap paper while I was at work earlier today because I was waiting for the stupid computer application, which I require to do my job, to allow me to actually get on with my work! At the time of this epic computer fail, I was wondering why I had bothered returning to the office, particularly as I would much rather have continued chatting to the bloke at the K Shakes milkshake shop about the Harry Potter books and how one of my favourite bits comes towards the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This is the part when Harry is still concerned about what the Sorting Hat had said to him when he first started at Hogwarts about being sorted into Slytherin. Harry’s concern was that it was only his decision not to go in Slytherin that saw him put into Gryffindor, but Professor Dumbledore points out that it was exactly that choice to go in Gryffindor that set him apart from Tom Riddle, the future Lord Voldemort, and, if Harry hadn’t been a true Gryffindor, he would never have been able to pull Godric’s sword out of the Sorting Hat! I feel that bookworms, like ourselves, may have been sorted into Ravenclaw if we’d been pupils at Hogwarts!

Talking of choices to be made, reading choices can also be vitally important, even if only for determining which books you are going to take with you on your travels for your reading pleasure! More about this later…

You know how I had Pride And Prejudice and War And Peace? Well, I also now have Crime And Punishment! Thanks to Lizzie Harvey, I now have a paperback copy of the Dostoyevsky novel for my reading pleasure. All I need now is for the copy I thought I had to turn up and it will be Murphy’s Law in action!

Whilst I’m on the subject of Russian novelists, a book entitled Tolstoy And The Purple Chair grabbed my attention on Tuesday evening while I was at Waterstone’s on Deansgate after my book club meeting! This autobiographical book by Nina Sankovitch details her year of reading a book a day every day for a year, chiefly to help her overcome her grief following the death of her eldest sister from cancer. Readers of this blog will know that I am very much into books about books and this is one such book! The first book she reads in her epic year of reading is The Elegance Of The Hedgehog, a book that has been recommended to me by a few of my fellow bookworm friends on Facebook, Donna Hasinoff in particular, if I remember rightly. I still haven’t got round to reading this book yet, but I will do so eventually. Notably, Nina recalls having difficulty getting into this book at first as “the first forty or so pages of the novel have lots of obscure references thrown in here and there about philosophy and music, movies and art” and when I have had a look at the start of the book to see if I should read that or start some other book, the other book has always tended to win on account of me thinking philosophy was quite a tricky thing to get my head around!

Yes, I know… people think of me as brainy. I’ve always loved books and I have a history and literature degree. But there are certain subjects that, when mentioned, make me come to a juddering halt and lead me to wonder “How the hell does anyone understand that?” – I feel this way about Economics – I often wonder how anyone comes to know anything about certain matters, let alone know enough to do certain jobs for a living! And, for some reason, I find the mention of Philosophy to be fairly daunting too! It probably isn’t! Maybe I should see if there’s a Philosophy For Dummies book? There probably is! I bought Cricket For Dummies not so long ago at a charity shop and that has helped in my understanding! I admit now that it is only in recent years I have remotely started to understand cricket scores! Yes, I know, it’s one of our national sports, but for years, particularly as a kid, I found the whole scoring system incomprehensible and the game just seemed to go on for eternity and I just couldn’t understand, for the life of me, what the hell my Dad saw in this game that gave him enjoyment! He’d be watching a test match on tv and I couldn’t see why tv bothered with this “cure for insomnia” as I’d viewed it for years!

As I previously mentioned in this blog entry, I had been to my book club on Tuesday evening, the main point of which was to discuss Tamar and then to determine our next book, which is to be Truman Capote’s true crime account, In Cold Blood. Our next meeting is on 11th October, so as of Tuesday, that was 7 weeks away. I feel I can safely leave that book behind while I go on holiday and still have five weeks to tackle it once I return home!

Which brings me neatly onto holiday reading and the matter of deciding which books I shall be taking to Turkey with me! Which book will I read on the plane? Which book(s) will I read on the sun lounger by the hotel pool? Decisions, decisions! Obviously, my Sony Reader, which has just over 200 books on it now, most of which I haven’t read  yet, will be coming with me, as will my BlackBerry which has Kobo on it, so there are plenty of e-books there, but I still intend to take one or two actual physical books too! I’m thinking that The Flea Palace by Elif Shafak might be one book to take with me as it is set in Turkey, albeit in Istanbul whereas I’m off to Gumbet, and also, if I have not finished it by Wednesday, the Tolstoy And The Purple Chair book. Much as it is a hardback, it’s a fairly slim book. Then again, the way I’m reading it thus far, I probably WILL have read it by Wednesday, especially with a bank holiday weekend upon us! Crime And Punishment will also feature, particularly as I now have it in paperback. Might read that on the plane, actually, when I’m not eating my in-flight meal or solving sudoku puzzles! I am a sudoku fiend, especially when I’m on my holidays!

One book I started reading tonight on my Sony Reader is The Year That Changed The World by Michael Meyer which is about 1989, the beginning of the end of the Eastern Bloc and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ok, I am a history buff anyway, as half my degree proves, but I have  a particular fascination with certain parts of history and this is one of them, particularly because I was alive and old enough to remember these events and understand their huge significance! I admit this now… I’d had a curiosity about the Eastern Bloc since I was about seven or eight years old. It all started one Christmas, either 1980 or 1981, with an encyclopaedia which was one of my Christmas presents that year from my parents. One section of this reference book, over a two page spread, was Flags of the Nations and my dad went through this and put a “C” next to the names of all the Communist countries, which basically meant China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba and a significant chunk of Europe! I then asked my dad something along these lines….

“Dad, do you think East Germany and West Germany will ever be just Germany again? And, if so, do you think they’ll be Western like us or Eastern like the Russians?”

My dad responded that he thought, if it ever happened, they’d be Eastern like the USSR. Not that either of us saw it ever happening back then in the early 80s! I was in the juniors at primary school when Dad marked out the Communist countries in that encyclopaedia of mine. I was a teenager embarking on my A Levels at Eccles College when all hell broke loose on the other side of the “Iron Curtain” in 1989!

This Christmas will mark 20 years since the end of the Soviet Union! Can you believe it’s now two decades since the USSR last existed? Me neither! As a child, I thought the whole Soviet Bloc would be around forever, I thought we would never find out the answer to that question I put to my dad about Germany being reunified! Now, many people have been born since those days and never knew the USSR, Yugoslavia, or Czechoslovakia, let alone knew Germany as being divided in two! I imagine, in years to come, my niece Charlotte requesting my help for history homework and asking me, “Auntie Jo, what was the Berlin Wall?” and other such questions about the events of 1989-1991. Makes it all the more apt that I’ve seen an offer in the local paper for city breaks to Berlin, an offer which may well be taken up sometime early next year!

Better end this here as it’s already a pretty long blog entry tonight! Then again, it should help keep you all going in case you feel deprived of blogs while I’m in Turkey! If there’s anything book-related to report on from my holidays, you will be reading about it when I get back! Take care and Happy Reading!

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair – Nina Sankovitch
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
  • Philosophy For Dummies – Martin Cohen
  • Cricket For Dummies – Julian Knight
  • Tamar – Mal Peet
  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  • The Flea Palace – Elif Shafak
  • The Year That Changed The World – Michael Meyer
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