Monthly Archives: September 2011

Book Of Days: The Making Of A Bookworm, Part 1…

Good evening, Bookworms!

Ever wondered about this bookworm’s formative years? How did she fetch up to be this massive bibliophile? Well, wonder no longer as, inspired by one of my fellow bookworm’s blog entries, I have decided it’s about time you had the opportunity to enjoy a bit of reminiscing about my early years and the days when I was a mere baby bookworm, just getting started on the reading matter! Let’s begin at the beginning…

I entered this world at approximately 3am on Monday 23rd April 1973, St George’s Day and, in that particular year, also Easter Monday bank holiday. Next year’s World Book Night is on my birthday! Anyway, I was the eldest child of Jean and Kevin Dixon-Jackson and, as a baby, would have had board books and cloth books as my very first reads! Encouraged by both parents, and with Eccles Library not too far away, I must have started reading fairly young, possibly anything around 18 months to 2 years old. One book I remember fairly early in my life was one of those Ladybird “Read It Yourself” books, which I got as a birthday pressie at my playgroup if I’m not mistaken. I would have been either 3 or 4 then. It was some fairy tale or other, although I’m not sure if it was Red Riding Hood or Sleeping Beauty. Whichever it was, I probably could read it myself! I was also enjoying books like A Colour Of His Own by Leo Leoni and the timeless classic by Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar! (My niece Charlotte now loves that book!). Certainly, by the time I started in the reception class at Monton Green Primary School in September 1977, at the age of 4 and a half, I was already a bookworm and had started getting through reading books at a fairly speedy rate. Then came the big news, we were off abroad for half a year!

My dad worked for a Swiss chemical firm, then known as Ciba-Geigy, who had already had him over at their Basel HQ for 3 months the year before I was born. Anyway, in 1978, they asked him over again, this time for 6 months, and this time Mum and Dad had Ellie (who had just turned 2 before we went) and me, aged 5. School, not wanting me to fall behind, provided my parents with a good selection of workbooks for maths and for writing and, also, a whole stack of reading books! I expect they didn’t have any idea how many or how few would be read, but they provided Mum & Dad with plenty “just in case”, lol! Good job they did…

We went over on 30th June that year, so other than a week or so of July, it was soon school summer holidays anyway, but the next academic year would start while I was away as we didn’t come home until just before Christmas. Largely, my time over there was a long and wonderful holiday, but the schoolwork still got done. I was actually too young to go to school in Switzerland where the starting age is 6, but I did go to kindergarten once a week from that autumn until we went home. We didn’t have a tv over there, but we did have a “ghettoblaster” so we had radio and a large collection of audio tapes to listen to. While I was over there, I also saw sheet music for the very first time, an incident which would cause me to go on to learn musical instruments myself when I was older, and I also picked up a fair bit of (Swiss) German! I even had a few children’s books in German, some of them the equivalent of books I had in English, and thus my love of learning foreign languages was also instigated in Basel. There was plenty of time for reading and thus I was getting through those reading books which school had given my parents…

I have a good long-term memory, usually, but I wish I could remember what the reaction was at school, when I returned in the January of 1979, and was on for the last of the reading books they’d given me! I expect they were fairly aware that I was a fluent and speedy reader, but I still expect that they were gobsmacked at how many books I’d got through while over in Basel! Largely because of all this reading done in Switzerland, I was ahead for my age when it came to reading. By the time I was in the top infants, during the academic year 1979-80, I was on for the books meant for the junior classes. I was just into books, full stop, by then, supplementing my reading books at school with a considerable amount of other books which I was reading purely for my own enjoyment.

Also, I was hopeless at going to sleep! Always have been a night owl, so even at a young age, I would read in bed until I actually felt genuinely tired enough to nod off! I would often listen to music too – I loved both music and books from a very early age, and so the multitasking combo of listening to music and reading a good book started early and has continued to this very day! This music and books combo has served me well over the years for many reasons: relieving boredom, cheering myself up when feeling upset and passing time at night before I’m tired enough to go to sleep! I like late nights and lie-ins. I don’t do mornings! I get up VERY begrudgingly! The only time I have ever voluntarily been awake early in a morning is probably the day I was born! I’m listening to music as I type this out. I started very young with my love of rock and pop music too, probably even before the books, although that’s probably another story!

Well, I’d better give some thought to bedtime fairly soon, but I shall continue with my bookworm memoirs fairly soon! Nothing terribly eventful, book-wise, happened while I was still at primary school once I’d outgrown “infant books” in top infants, although I did start to learn to read a bit of music learning the recorder in the junior classes, so we will fast-forward to high school and college and the joys (or otherwise in certain rare cases) of set books for essays and exams…

Until then, I wish you all a good night! Take care and Happy Reading!

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • A Colour Of His Own – Leo Leoni
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
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The Truman Show: True Crime, Festive Fiction & Seriously Big Books!

Good Evening, Bookworms!

Not blogged for a week or so, but I’ve been busy reading my book club book and I have just finished it this evening. Thought I would wait until I had finished In Cold Blood before passing any comments on this work of true crime writing. I felt it a bit slow to get going at first, but then really found myself getting into the book and getting rather irritated when other things, like work, were getting in the way of having a good read! Hence the blog entry’s title, in honour of Mr Capote.

As for the crims themselves, I felt Dick was aptly named and felt he was a hardened criminal type who would always have ended up on the wrong side of the law. With Perry, however, I felt that a better start to his life may have prevented all this. As you may know, I hate people making excuses for criminals, like those looters I berated last month, and nothing can excuse what Perry and Dick got up to, but I did feel that of the two of them, Perry had more potential to have been a decent human being if life had dealt him a better hand. The fact that Perry practically prevented Dick from violating Nancy Clutter says it all for me. Also the part where Perry mentions the theory that all crimes are some form of theft, murder being theft of life. In that case, Dick was also intending theft of innocence. Perry may have had no truck with religion, having been beaten by nuns for bedwetting in his childhood, but I sensed some feelings of morality from him as he couldn’t stand any kind of sexual perversion and was frequently disgusted by Dick’s excesses even as the two of them were on the run from the law.

Hadn’t read any true crime before Capote’s book, the nearest I’d come was a while back in the Arndale branch of Waterstone’s when I put a couple of copies of A Journey by Tony Blair in the True Crime section to show what I thought of our former Prime Minister! Actually, that’s what I think of nearly all politicians the world over! I don’t have a particularly high opinion of any of them, and some I hate even more than others! They’re all a bunch of thieves, stealing off the rest of us, be that money, jobs, rights, livelihoods, etc… I have more Capote available for reading, although Breakfast At Tiffany’s is going to be wildly different from what I’ve just read, isn’t it?! Same author, completely different kind of book!

However, now In Cold Blood has been finished in plenty of time for my book club meeting on 11th October, I have time to get on with more books and, as a member of Spice, I have decided to give their book club a go and will be going to their HQ in Stretford on 3rd November to discuss The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald, a book that I’ve had in for a while and which I’ve previously mentioned on this very blog as something I was considering reading. This means I now have the perfect excuse to read this book. (No, I know, I don’t need any excuse to read books! People should have to have a bloody good excuse for NOT reading books, as far as I’m concerned!). The Bookshop was shortlisted for the Booker Prize of 1978, although Iris Murdoch won it that year for The Sea, The Sea.

Still awaiting the Kindle at the moment, hopefully it will arrive in the next day or so. However, one book-related matter will be brought to a conclusion shortly as the Duplicated Books will be going to a charity book sale at work! I trust you all recall the half dozen books of which I own two copies? Well, one copy of each of those six books will be taken in to my place of employment for the book sale on Tuesday, in aid of Macmillan cancer care. I did post, several times, on my Waterstone’s group on Facebook that these books were available, but I had no takers on there for any of the books. Maybe my fellow bookworms already had copies of those books? Anyway, they will be available to my colleagues in the next day or so! Just finding a big strong bag to put them in, plus a few books Mum’s letting them have.

It has not escaped my attention that we are, once again, heading towards that time of year when we are hanging up our stockings on the wall! Won’t be starting this just yet, still way too early and we have not even had Halloween or Guy Fawkes Night, but some time fairly soon, possibly late November, we shall start to look at some Festive Fiction! Let’s delve into the wonderful world of Christmas Books! Obviously, the all-time classic is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, but we shall have a shufty and see what other seasonal reads we can find! If you have any suggestions and recommendations regarding Festive Fiction, please feel free to comment and let me know!

Do I get books at Christmas? Usually, yes, although not usually the sort to be read from cover to cover. Mostly, what I am bought at that time of year as presents are what I would call either gift books or miscellanies. Books you can dip into at any page. Books of various weird and wonderful facts on such matters as either music, football, quotations, etc… I understand why I don’t really get bought any “serious” books, fact or fiction, at Christmas. I sense family and friends think I’ve probably got nearly every book going already! What CAN you buy the bookworm who already has everything?! I think the last book I got bought for Christmas which WASN’T some sort of miscellany, was absolutely ages ago now, when there was still a branch of Borders in the Trafford Centre, and it was a ginormous book about volcanoes! Mostly photographic, this book is so huge that it lies on the underneath bit of our coffee table downstairs! But then, as Sir Mix-A-Lot might have put it, I Like Big Books And I Cannot Lie!

I have, by my side here, The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC by David Miller. This is a large hardback book and fairly chunky. Well, it does have to list all Modern Olympics from Athens 1896 through to just before Beijing 2008 and appendices of IOC members and medal-winners… Big, chunky book, as I said. However, this book would still look small compared to my massive book on the coffee table! Volcanoes by Jean-Louis Cheminee, Jacques Durieux and Philippe Boursellier is a mountain of a book! Some books are seen as big because they are long and chunky novels. War And Peace is large in that sense. But this is nothing compared to the physical size of Volcanoes! In terms of its dimensions, it is by far the largest book I own and God knows I own a hell of a lot of books! Actually, the rest of my family and many of my friends also know this fact, lol, which may well explain why they mostly leave it up to me to acquire further books as they fear they might buy me a book I already own!

Well, that’s about all we have time for now as I really ought to be giving serious thought to a good night’s sleep, so I shall call it a night for now, until the next blog when I may, hopefully, have my Kindle and thus be able to tell you which books were pre-loaded onto it. Until next time, take care and Happy Reading!

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  • Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  • A Journey – Tony Blair
  • The Bookshop – Penelope Fitzgerald
  • The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch
  • A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  • The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC – David Miller
  • Volcanoes – J Cheminee, J Durieux & P Boursellier
  • War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

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There Is No Frigate Like A Book To Take Us Lands Away…

Good Evening, Bookworms!

Thought we’d start off with a suitable line from an Emily Dickinson poem! Not only because any book can transport us far away, but because of a sea-related book I shall be mentioning shortly. I hope you all like the new theme! Don’t worry – you are on the right website, this is Joanne’s Bookshelf, it’s just that it’s gone a bit autumnal! I was getting a tad bored with the background and had a shufty at the other Word Press themes available. When I saw this one, “Misty Look”, I thought it was perfect for this time of year, so I expect I’ll stick with this for a month or so, until the run-in to Christmas! I’ve seen a good one for the Festive Season, so keep your eyes open for that some time during Advent!

Made some progress with In Cold Blood last night and intend to get some more read shortly. I have until 11th October to get it read in time for my book club meeting, so there’s a few weeks to go before I meet up with the ususal bookworms on the top floor of Waterstone’s on Deansgate to discuss this book. Will probably put some music on shortly and have a reading session, along with a bit of chocolate and a drink. I’ve got some yummy stuff from Hotel Chocolat which I can enjoy with my books.  Not decided on the music, but I may well just stick either my BlackBerry or my iPod on shuffle mode and see what tunes it comes up with. I can always skip tunes if they prove to be too distracting from my reading matter! Sometimes I like music on when I’ve got a book on the go, but other times I just want it quiet, like “Oh shut that noise up, I’m trying to read here!”

Do you like music with your books or do you prefer to read in silence? Or, like me, do you feel it depends on both the music being played and the book being read?

I was typing onto a Word document last night the entire list, so far, of Booker Prize Winning novels and noticed that, back in the late 1970s, when I was but a wee bookworm of 5 or 6, there were two consecutive winners with a distinctly sea-based theme to them! For the record, these watery winners were The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch in 1978 followed by Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald in 1979. On this very theme, there is a sea-themed book in the shortlist of six for this year’s prize, and I feel there is a strong current which has pulled me into Jamrach’s Menagerie!

It is as though I have been enticed in by the curly waves on the cover of this book. It is a gorgeous burgundy, star-filled, night sky, with even a few shooting stars around, and a mass of curly blue waves invite me in… “Come on in, Joanne,” they say, “the water’s lovely!” So, like you would do on the beach, I dipped a cautious toe in and found it wasn’t freezing! In fact, it was most pleasant and quite fun, so I have since waded in a bit further to the point where I’ve reached Part Two already!

Strangely, I’ve not been much of a boat person, but I think that can be put down to some bad experiences crossing the Irish Sea on ferries! Rough as a badger’s arse at the best of times. Plus, when you get in and get out of the car to go up to the passenger areas, you get that strong whiff of diesel, which, for me, just added to the general sense of queasiness and upset tum… a prelude to feeding the fishes!  I was fine during the recent day trip Mum and I had while we were in Turkey, though, as we popped over to the Greek island of Kos for the day. Just an hour’s calm sailing on the Aegean Sea.

I’ve not got to the bit where Jaffy Brown sets sail yet, as far as Jamrach’s Menagerie is concerned, but I think it crops up pretty soon in the novel. Have to admit that one of my all-time favourite poems is a seafaring one – Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – actually, both my parents knew this poem pretty well and my dad, growing up in Ireland because of his dad’s job, had to study it at school for his Intermediate Certificate. I have that copy too (a book of Intermediate Cert set poems with some inked-in notes in margins from my dad and his siblings) but at the end, in my booklist, it will be listed under the Selected Poetry anthology from Penguin Classics in which this classic poem also appears. I’m just glad I’m not that mariner! Or any member of his crew, for that matter….

Apologies, fellow bookworms, as I’m being a tad distracted at the moment due to one of my friends and fellow Reds on Facebook who also has great taste in music, as well as football, as he is posting some top tunes onto FB from YouTube. Currently, as I type, it’s “Are Friends Electric?” by Tubeway Army. UK number one in 1979, fact fans! The sound of music to come in the 80s – classic synthesizer stuff!

I was thinking, the other day, while my computer at work was being a right royal pain in the arse, about having a series of blog entries on a certain theme, maybe resurrecting the idea of Around The World In Eighty Books, but including some I’d already read. There would be fiction and non-fiction, particularly a lot of travel writing. I do love a good bit of unusual travel writing. Maybe we could revisit The Dark Tourist in which Dom Joly goes to some of the dodgiest parts of the world so we don’t have to! The bit where he goes skiing in Iran is hilarious, as is the part where he has to explain to US Customs officials why on earth he’d been to Iran! They can’t understand why anyone would go there (unless they absolutely HAD to, like for their job) so they certainly can’t get their heads round our Dom venturing to the Islamic Republic of Iran for the purpose of winter sports! We would also get a perfect excuse to take another look at Penguins Stopped Play by Harry Thompson – a tale of village cricketers going round the world to play cricket on every continent, losing hopelessly nearly every time and getting into so many scrapes away from the crease that the cricket is often incidental to the off-field incidents!

Talking of cricket, by the way, this gives me the perfect opportunity to congratulate my county, Lancashire, on ending an exceptionally long wait (77 years) and being crowned County Cricket Champions for 2011! And you thought Manchester United had ended a long wait in 1993 when they won the Premier League Title and were crowned champions for the first time in 26 years?! Lancashire’s wait makes United’s look rather short! I hope Lancashire go on to win a few more titles in the coming years now that they have won this one! (United have certainly made up for lost time since 1993!) With my beloved MUFC having won their 19th league title in May this year, this means that 2011 sees Champions at BOTH Old Traffords! Excellent stuff!

Even if I were to do this Around The World In Eighty Books thing, I would still be posting other blogs, when necessary, between times, particularly if I have other book news to report. I’d have to work out how to do this thing and stay on course! In fact, I’d have to plot some sort of course around the world with these books, getting a balanced mix of fact and fiction in, “travelling” by books in some sort of sensible order and perhaps we could even include some sense of “time travel” by going back in time with some history stuff which is also travel or geography related! We could throw in some books about, or set in, parts of the old Soviet Bloc! Then we could “travel” to some countries that no-longer exist as those exact nations! Wouldn’t that be exciting?! Any comments and helpful suggestions as to how we could do this project would be most appreciated, especially as it would be such a massive undertaking and spread over several years of blogging, I would imagine!

I think that’s about all for now! And I thought this was going to be a short one, but it seems my blog entries have been getting very long of late! Hope you’ve not been too confused or confuddled (or even discombobulated) by the new-look blog theme and, until next time, take care and Happy Reading!

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  • The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch
  • Offshore – Penelope Fitzgerald
  • Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch
  • Selected Poetry – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • The Dark Tourist – Dom Joly
  • Penguins Stopped Play – Harry Thompson

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Read Anything, As Long As You Can’t Wait To Pick It Up Again.

Good Evening, Bookworms!

As I hinted in recent blog entries, and with literary awards in the news of late, I wish to have a look at the whole matter of what attracts us to certain books. If you were reviewing a book or judging it as part of an awards panel, what would cause you to give a certain book your wholehearted backing? There are many book awards, particularly these days, not just the Man Booker Prize, and if you were reading a selection of books and having to choose one to award a prize to, what would help a book’s cause in your eyes? Some things to consider…

Do you love a book so much that you just can’t put it down?

If anything, such as work, gets in the way of you sitting down for a good read of this book, does that frustrate and infuriate you?

Do you think all your friends, family members, neighbours, colleagues, etc, really ought to read this book?

Are you going to feel rather sad when you actually finish reading this book?

If this is a work of fiction, have you really come to love or hate the central character(s) and care what happens to them in the plot?

Does it have a good opening line which grabs your attention and holds it?

Does the book flow? Is it readable?

Now, it is sound advice not to judge books by their covers, and nor should you judge them by the blurb on the back. I learned that the hard way when reading The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt for our Waterstone’s Deansgate book club not too long ago. The blurb sounded really promising to me, giving me the feeling I’d really love this book. Getting around to reading it, though, was a different matter. I have only partially read this book. Debatable as to whether I even managed a quarter of the book. I just didn’t think it flowed at all. I felt I was having to wade very slowly through a thick substance with this novel which I felt was overstuffed with an excessive number of characters introduced to the plot at the same time. I was unsure of whether some or all of them were meant to be main characters integral to the whole book or whether they were just peripheral party guests. A real shame as the blurb had promised so much and the cover of this book, with its jewelled dragonfly, is gorgeous!

It’s not even as though the length of the book was a problem, either. Sure, it was a chunky one, but I’ve read equally chunky novels and got all the way through them without too much trouble and with plenty of enjoyment! I’ve also had occasional troubles getting into shorter books, just because I felt I was plodding through them. Sentence phrasing is key – there’s a lot to be said for saying what you have to say, as an author, in a way that is easy and pleasant on the reading eye! Let’s have a comparison of the two Jane Austen novels I’ve ever read, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Pride and Prejudice is a chunkier, longer book than Persuasion, but is far more readable! Write in an easy-to-read manner and, even if your novel is verging on War and Peace lengthwise, it will still be an enjoyable reading experience for most bookworms!

However, I do feel this disappointment with The Children’s Book is an exception and if I like the blurb, I also tend to like the book more often than not. Some books can be judged on their covers too, although that’s more the case with non-fiction, like the memoir of Nina Sankovitch, Tolstoy  and the Purple Chair, which features a large purple chair in front of bookshelves on its cover! A bit like they would say on the Ronseal commercials, it is the sort of book that “does exactly what it says on the tin”! This is a book about sitting down with a good book. With plenty of good books, in fact, as Nina gets through a book a day for a whole year!

Back to fiction now, and I am really hoping that the Booker Prize shortlisted Jamrach’s Menagerie lives up to my first impressions when I get around to reading it! After the lessons learned from my disappointment with The Children’s Book, I don’t want to be too hasty to judge a book on its blurb or its cover, but it DOES look promising on both accounts. And it’s shorter than the A S Byatt novel, so if I do end up plodding through it, at least there’s less to have to plod through! Plus, as I mentioned in my blog last night, the cover has these lovely shiny blue curly waves on it! Seriously – get thee to a bookshop and have a shufty! Most of the book’s cover is a kind of burgundy shade with silver stars on it and the title in embossed silver lettering, plus the silhouette of a many-masted tall ship, which is lifted up on the high seas by way of resting on top of some of these lovely shiny blue curly waves! Apparently, it was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Well, it’s now been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize! Whether it wins or not on 18th October, I think it should get a prize for its book cover! Is there an award in the offing for people who design book covers? If not, perhaps there ought to be one!

Now for the question of whether a book holds your attention or not. Does that book hook you in from the opening sentence? One of the books I really enjoyed reading for our book club was The Other Hand by Chris Cleave, which opens with Little Bee’s wish that she were a British pound coin rather than a Nigerian girl! A most unusual, quirky comment to start any book!

If we go back to the first two questions I asked, as both tend to go together, we have to look at books you just can’t put down! These are the occasions when you love a book so much you can’t stop reading it and, if you actually HAVE to stop reading it (for instance if you have to get on with your job), you find yourself feeling really frustrated, you can’t wait to be able to carry on reading and you resent anyone and anything that prevents you from doing so. I think the title of tonight’s blog entry sums this up perfectly. It’s thanks to Nick Hornby, via Nina Sankovitch and her purple chair! I had a couple of unputdownables on the book front earlier this year, not too many months ago in fact! Round about the same time, I enjoyed both The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor and The Radleys by Matt Haig and was getting a tad annoyed, to say the least, that my reading of these books was being interrupted by work! Grrr! Sometimes, as a bookworm, I think work should be defined as that annoying time when you’re awake but can’t read any good books!

Now I guess it’s time I got this finished off and published so you can read it! By the way, constructive comments are always welcome and if you have any ideas for future blog entries, such as books on a certain theme or subject, I’d be happy to read your suggestions! In the meantime, take care and Happy Reading!

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt
  • Pride and Prejudice  – Jane Austen
  • Persuasion – Jane Austen
  • War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair – Nina Sankovitch
  • Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch
  • The Other Hand – Chris Cleave
  • The Anatomy of Ghosts – Andrew Taylor
  • The Radleys – Matt Haig

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Shortlists, Longlists & Roald Dahl Day

Good evening, Bookworms!

As promised last night, or strictly speaking the early hours of this morning, I have returned as I have more to blog about on the book front. As today has progressed, I have even more book-related stuff to mention, but let us start with what I had promised to blog about just under 24 hours ago… the shortlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize!

Apologies that it has taken me a week since the announcement to blog on this matter, but I was still on holiday in Turkey when the shortlist was announced last Tuesday, cutting the number of nominated books from 13 to a mere 6. The half dozen books that made the cut, and are in with a shout of winning the prize on 18th October, are as follows…

  • The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes
  • Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch
  • The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt
  • Half Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan
  • Pigeon English – Stephen Kelman
  • Snowdrops – A. D. Miller

The announcement caused something of a stir as Alan Hollinghurst’s latest novel didn’t make it to the shortlist, but then Mr Hollinghurst is a former Booker Prize winner, having won the big prize in 2004 for The Line of Beauty, so it’s not as though someone who’s never won the prize has been denied yet again, is it? Plus, looking through the Man Booker Prize booklet I have here, it is pretty bloody rare for anyone to have won it more than once, so if he HAD made the cut with his current book and gone on to take the prize next month, that would’ve been very unusual! As well as Pigeon English, which I have mentioned on a few occasions before, I am now also taking a shine to Jamrach’s Menagerie. The blurb on the back of this paperback makes it sound like a good read, and I do rather like the cover, particularly the shiny curly waves! I know, it’s a saying as old as time, that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but some books do have very nice covers! These curly waves on the cover are very reminiscent of those in some Japanese prints, the sleeve of the Keane album “Under The Iron Sea” and another novel that I have in my wardrobe but haven’t read yet, We The Drowned by Carsten Jensen. I think Jamrach’s Menagerie has the nicest curly waves of the lot, though!

As I’ve got other stuff to get through before sending this to be published to the net and clocking up the Zs, I wish the remaining 6 shortlisted books all the best for 18th October and may well blog in the intervening days about such matters as wondering what attracts people to books, particularly people on prize-judging panels for literary awards!  If I were judging some books for a prize, what would help a book’s cause in my eyes? But, for now, onto a longlist…

We now return to the matter of World Book Night 2012 and the Top 100 has been listed. Although some books may change, the cut-off point has been reached for finding 100 books from which 25 hugely popular ones will be chosen as the books to be given out on or around 23rd April next year for the second-ever World Book Night. One of my absolute favourites, The Book Thief, was 3rd on the list, bettered only by To Kill A Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice! Not bad going, is it?! I will put a link to the WBN website’s Top 100 page at the end of this blog entry so you can have a look and see what made it onto the list. I do question the inclusion of a boxed set, though. Surely this is about individual books, not entire sets of them counting as one, particularly given that 25 of these books are going to be given out for free in huge numbers come April next year?! I have read and loved the Harry Potter series as a whole, but even out of seven books, surely there are some diverse views as to which of the Potter books readers like the most? Also, how can you then have one of the books as an individual entry when you’ve had the entire set listed earlier on in the longlist?

Having said all that, though, there is only this one instance, in this top 100, of having a boxed set classed as one item. Compare that to the list the BBC drew up some time ago now which classed The Lord of the Rings as one item when it is three books and, even more ridiculously, classed the C S Lewis Chronicles of Narnia series as one item! Correct me if I am wrong, but there are, to my knowledge, even more books in the Narnia series than there are in the Harry Potter series and J K Rowling wrote SEVEN books about our favourite student wizard! Is it asking too much to just have a top 100 of 100 individual books? Even if your favourite book is part of a series, vote for it as an individual book. If you like the whole series, vote for each book in it as individual books. But no boxed sets!

The other good thing about the WBN drawing up a Top 100 is that it means some newer books get included on the list which weren’t around when the BBC drew up their list. Although their list was a mix of old and fairly new, it is now some time since it came out, probably in 2000 as part of all that Millennium palaver, and there have been some great books in recent years which deserved inclusion in a newer list. Room by Emma Donoghue was only published last year and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel the year before, and those have made it onto the World Book Night list. Further WBN news will come when I have it.

Some news now on the Kindle, as I had an email from Guardian Books today apologising for the delay, but informing me that they had just received the Kindles from Amazon today and were now getting them despatched to the recipients. I should receive mine in the next week or two. Looking forward to receiving it and also looking forward to finding out which books have been preloaded onto it.

Before I call it a night and snuggle down for some late reading and snoozing, I thought I’d take this opportunity to wish everyone Happy Roald Dahl Day! Roald (1916-1990) was born on 13th September 1916 in Cardiff to Norwegian parents. He served in the RAF as a fighter pilot during the Second World War, but he is best known as an author, particularly an author of children’s books. He is certainly amongst my favourites. Both my sister and I enjoyed a fair few Dahl stories when we were kids and I am sure my niece Charlotte will also enjoy them when she’s older. Being a chocoholic as well as a bookworm, I’d have to plump for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory as my favourite Dahl story. My sister’s favourite, if I’m not mistaken, is The Twits, although George’s Marvellous Medicine is another classic!

Given that we’ve ended with legendary works of children’s literature, I hope you all live happily ever after! Take care and Happy Reading!

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • The Line of Beauty – Alan Hollinghurst
  • Pigeon English – Stephen Kelman
  • Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch
  • We The Drowned – Carsten Jensen
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • The Lord of the Rings (trilogy) – J.R.R. Tolkein
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (series) – C.S Lewis
  • Harry Potter (series) – J.K. Rowling
  • Room – Emma Donoghue
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  • The Twits – Roald Dahl
  • George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl

P.S. As promised, here is that World Book Night longlist… http://www.worldbooknight.org/your-books/the-wbn-top-100-books

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Return Of The Bookworm/Reading Recommendations…

The Incredible Waterproof Book!

Hello again, Bookworms!

It’s me again, back home from my holidays, back at work and also back on the blog for yet another entry, some of it about book recommendations from friends and some of it on book-related musings I had when I was sunning myself in Turkey! As you can see from the photo, my reading matter included the anthology of seaside-related short stories in The Beach Book, whose waterproof properties were put to the test by yours truly when she went and sat in the Aegean Sea for a read! Conclusion: the boast is not idle. It is, indeed, a waterproof book!  I also continued with Nina Sankovitch’s year of reading detailed in Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, about which more later, and I downloaded, and read in its entirity, Gary Neville’s autobiography, Red, which I really enjoyed. I am a very biased Stretford Ender, as you probably know by now, lol! Oh, and some pages of both Crime and Punishment and The Flea Palace were also read during the holiday. Now I’m back home and really need to get on with my book club book, which is the true crime account, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

Going back to Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, we have here a book full of books and very much a theme of books being recommended by friends and family to Nina, and she is passing those recommendations on to us through this autobiography. Sometimes there can be a kind of “chain of recommendation” where someone recommends a book to you, which you read and love so much that you then recommend it to at least one of your friends who also goes on to read and enjoy that book. That has certainly been the case, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to The Book Thief, which at least two of my Facebook friends (Lizzie Harvey and Andrew Bennett) raved about to me back in 2008 and said I really must read it. I did and loved it so much I’ve been trying to spread the word ever since! On a slightly smaller scale but still a chain of recommendation, this has happened again with another book, namely Under The Frog by Tibor Fischer. You will recall this is also in my Top 10 which I submitted to the World Book Night website for consideration for WBN2012, and had been recommended to me, also in 2008, by my Facebook friend, David Hunt. Anyway, I’d fallen about laughing while reading Fischer’s novel and mentioned it on my book group on Facebook (I’d spend all day in Waterstone’s if I could get away with it!) at least once or twice. Imagine my joy, last week, when another FB friend, Gitte Hannus, wrote on my Facebook wall to let me know she’d found and bought a copy of Under The Frog and had also enjoyed it!

What is it, though, with some books? Perhaps it’s the publishers who do this, but how can a book have two different titles in the same language? This question stems from the Sankovitch book and the fact that she read a novel called Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I have also read this book, a couple of years ago for my book club, but over here the book was known as The Other Hand! Seemingly, it’s Little Bee in the USA and New Zealand but The Other Hand in the UK and elsewhere where this book has been published in English. Most odd! I could understand this matter if it were a translation! For example, the original French version of Eric Cantona’s autobiography is entitled Un Rêve Modeste Et Fou, whereas, when the English translation came out, it was very plainly titled My Story. Personally, I think they should’ve made more effort to translate the original into English, giving us A Modest And Crazy Dream or something along those lines! Not that this really takes anything away from the fact that I have a copy of both books and both are signed by King Eric! Back in those days, you could still go to The Cliff and get autographs after watching the lads being put through their paces in training!

Seems there’s now a film been made of the John Le Carré novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I could’ve sworn this had already been a film, as the book has been around for donkey’s years (first published in 1974, when I was a mere 1 year old baby bookworm!) and I know my dad had a copy of this along with several other spy thrillers! Anyway, it seems that it has only just been made into a film, but the reason I thought it had already been done is because it was adapted for tv in the late 70s – it was made into a series and shown on the BBC in 1979, with Alec Guinness as George Smiley. My dad watched it, so that’s probably why it sprung to mind – that it was on in our house when I was a kid! Bit like The Day of the Triffids, actually! I’m sure that sci-fi novel adaptation was on telly at around the same time, give or take a year, so I was only about 6 or 7, and the little bit I saw scared the shit out of me and I didn’t watch the rest of it. My dad enjoyed it, though! I prefer comedy and humour when it comes to science fiction.

Well, I think I’d better give some thought to a few hours of serious snoozing shortly, so I’ll have to love you and leave you for now. I will be back with another blog entry fairly soon, though, as the Man Booker Prize Shortlist was announced last week and I wish to make some mention of this matter!

Take care and Happy Reading!

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • The Beach Book – Various Authors
  • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair – Nina Sankovitch
  • Red – Gary Neville
  • Crime and Punishment  – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Flea Palace – Elif Shafak
  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • Under The Frog – Tibor Fischer
  • The Other Hand (Little Bee) – Chris Cleave
  • Un Rêve Modeste Et Fou – Eric Cantona
  • My Story – Eric Cantona
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – John Le Carré
  • The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

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