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165. Books Bought & Read, January 2018…

165. Books Bought & Read, January 2018…

2018 began where 2017 left off: with me struggling to finish enough books at the end of the month to out-read my 20 purchases, and yet again I just about managed to keep my nose in front by single volume, (the wonderfully opaque, yet readable allegorical parable, or possibly parabolic allegory, The Schooldays Of Jesus by J.M.Coetzee).

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I also got in early for February’s  Black History Month with a ‘What If Only African Americans Had Super Powers’ Kickstarter funded graphic novel, and the excellent How To for blacks and friends of blacks in modern-day America.

It was a good reading month for me, and there are a LOT of recommendations this month, from Margaret Atwood’s recent collection of random (and surprisingly dark) short stories, to a return to form for Dave Eggers, (after the slow Hologram For The King and the dire, didactic The Circle), with the beautifully observed story of a single mother trailing across Alaska with her two young children in Heroes Of The Frontier.

Science featured heavily in January. I’m thoroughly enjoying  working my way back through journalist A.J.Jacobs‘ complete back catalogue. What’s not to like? He thinks of a ridiculous experiment and then dedicates himself to seeing it through and reporting on it, this time attempting to organise the world’s largest family reunion following the logic that we are all, essentially, part of the same (very extended) family. I now know how important Mormons are to the hereditary industry, and also wish I had A.J’s life.

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I followed this up with the wonderfully silly We Have No Idea, an illustrated manual to everything we don’t know about the universe, aimed at kids but wonderfully informative for scientifically-impaired grown-ups like me, too.

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You may have spotted a couple of geographically specific books, due to the fact that we ignored “President” Trump’s warnings and decided to fulfil a lifelong ambition to visit Cuba, thereby escaping a chunk of New York’s winter, (which seems to come around practically every year…)

Havana was old, crumbling, warm, friendly, cheap, fascinating, welcoming, just good old fashioned fun, (literally old fashioned, with the endless 1950’s classic cars on every street corner), and I could appreciate the images, symbolism and mentality a little better thanks to the excellent Cuba On The Verge, a dozen essays on everything from the history to the fashion to the feminism of this endlessly fascinating country.

Highly recommended, whether or not you’re planning on visiting.

Books Bought, January 2018

The Boiling River (Andrés Ruzo)

The Chibok Girls (Helen Habila)

Imagine (Erik Johansson)

Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen)

You May Also Like: taste in an age of endless choice (Tom Vanderbilt)

Solve For Happy: engineer your path to joy (Mo Gawdat)

Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: 100 men on the words that move them (ed.Anthony & Ben Holden)

Poems That Make Grown Women Cry: 100 women on the words that move them (ed.Anthony & Ben Holden)

Vacationland (John Hodgman)

Taste: surprising stories and science about why food tastes good (Barb Stuckey)

It’s All Relative: adventures up and down the world family tree (A.J.Jacobs)

Everybody Lies: big data, new data, and what the internet can tell us about who we really are (Seth Stephens Davidowitz)

Angels With Dirty Faces: the footballing history of argentina (Jonathan Wilson)

We Have No Idea: a guide to the unknown universe (Jorge Cham & Daniel Whiteson)

Black (Osajyefo, Smith III, Igle & Randolph)

Star Wars: les plus belles affiches/the most beautiful posters (Drew Struzan0

The Art Of Neil Gaiman (Hayley Campbell)

Heroes Of The Frontier (Dave Eggers)

Talking To My Daughter About The Economy: a brief history of Capitalism (Yanis Varoufakis)

How To Be Black (Baratunde Thurston)

 

Books Read, January 2018 (highly recommended books in bold)

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl (Carrie Brownstein)

Stone Mattress: nine tales (Margaret Atwood)

Stranger In A Strange Land (Robert A.Heinlein)

A Tree In The Sea (Holly & Blake Kern)

Paris, Trance (Geoff Dyer)

Imagine (Erik Johansson)

Havana: a subtropical delirium (Mark Kurlansky)

Cuba On The Verge: 12 writers on continuity and change in havana and across the country (ed.Leila Geurreiro)

It’s All Relative: adventures up and down the world family tree (A.J.Jacobs)

Solve For Happy: engineer your path to joy (Mo Gawdat)

Black (Osajyefo, Smith III, Igle & Randolph)

The Chibok Girls (Helen Habila)

We Have No Idea: a guide to the unknown universe (Jorge Cham & Daniel Whiteson)

Vacationland (John Hodgman)

Am I Alone Here? notes on living to read and reading to live (Peter Ormer)

Star Wars: les plus belles affiches/the most beautiful posters (Drew Struzan0

Talking To My Daughter About The Economy: a brief history of Capitalism (Yanis Varoufakis)

Heroes Of The Frontier (Dave Eggers)

Einstein’s Riddle: riddles, paradoxes, and conundrums to stretch your mind  (Jeremy Stangroom)

How To Be Black (Baratunde Thurston)

The Schooldays Of Jesus (J.M.Coetzee)

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Posted by on March 13, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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161. Books Bought & Read, October 2017…

161. Books Bought & Read, October 2017…

October was a month for moving apartment, reading comics, and rediscovering some old friends. Also, for turning forty, which was kind of unexpected as I still feel fourteen inside, but that averages out to twenty-seven, which may be accurate.

With all the excitement of a European adventure, a new living space to unpack and rearrange, and a new decade to celebrate, I slipped further behind in my Sisyphian quest to read more books than I acquired last month: 21 were purchased either in Heathrow Airport or at Brooklyn Library’s annual $1 Book Sale, (how am I supposed to resist?!), and 16 were ticked off the list.

Comics were the order of the month: thanks to the library sale, I reacquainted myself with the works of the wonderfully weird Daniel Clowes, whose ‘Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron‘ was one of the weirdest and wonderfullest things I have read in a very long time: a David Lynch nightmare of a Dada painting in comic book form. Highly enjoyable.

I also polished off the first three volumes of Vertigo’s ‘Fables’ series, a clever and fairly enjoyable romp through what fairytales would be doing if they lived in modern-day New York. From fables in the real world, to real people in a fabulous world, I also discovered Ta Nehisi-Coates‘ reworking of Marvel’s ‘Black Panther‘ character, which was a little overblown at times but an interesting blend of superhero life and contemporary African identity politics nonetheless.

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Talking of politics, my favourite book of October, (and possibly the year so far), was Tim Marshall’s ‘The Prisoners Of Geography.’ This eminently readable series of regional essays put the ‘geo-‘ very firmly into ‘geopolitics‘ with simple but wide-reaching explanations of how so much of contemporary politics can be explained through physical boundaries: from mountains allowing China and India to stay focused on other issues, to a lack of a port causing Russia to act as it has been doing in the past few decades, entirely logically based on its location and its fears. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the daily news a little better.

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A.J.Jacobs is one of my favourite non-fiction writers out there, and in ‘My Experimental Life‘ he continues his theme of writing personally and accessibly about everyday life with a twist. I loved his year of living biblically (when he attempted to follow the Old Testament literally for twelve months), and here are nine further examples of taking stupid ideas to their extremes, be it outsourcing your everyday life to India, or practicing radical honesty.

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Most exciting of all this month was my discovery, upon walking past Brooklyn’s gorgeous indie Greenlight Bookstore, that my beloved Lyra was back in her alternate Oxford with the release of the first of Philip Pullman’s new trilogy, ‘The Book of Dust.’ Anyone who knows me will understand the heart palpitations this caused: the movie aside, Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials‘ trilogy is in my Top 10 of alltimefavouritestbooksofalltimeEVER. And somehow I hadn’t even known that this new episode was already out.

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It proved to be a mixed bag: the opening scenes take place in The Trout, my favourite Oxford pub, around the corner (and across the meadow) from where I spent a year in post-educational bliss nearly twenty years ago. The thrill of seeing some of your favourite places represented in fiction got me through the first half of the novel, which then drifted somewhat into a series of almost fairytale tableaux, and much of the story felt too much like foreshadowing for the two volumes to come.

Nevertheless, I remain stupidly excited for those two volumes. And in the meantime, I think I may have to reread ‘Northern Lights‘ and friends…

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Books Bought, October 2017

Homo Deus (Yuval Noah Hariri)

Prisoners Of Geography: ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics (Tim Marshall)

My Experimental Life (A.J.Jacobs)

On Booze (F.Scott Fitzgerald)

Life: the leading edge of evolutionary biology, genetics, enthropology, and environmental science (ed.John Brockman)

Stardust (Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess)

Lincoln In The Bardo (George Saunders)

Fables, vol’s I-IV (Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham)

Caricature (Daniel Clowes)

Wilson (Daniel Clowes)

Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron (Daniel Clowes)

Tales Of Belkin (Alexander Pushkin)

The Castle (Franz Kafka)

H.P.Lovecraft: against the world, against life (Michel Houllebecq)

Black Panther, vol’s I-III (Ta Nehisi-Coates)

Book Of Dust Vol I: la belle sauvage (Philip Pullman)

 

Books Read, October 2017 (especially recommended books are in bold)

My Experimental Life (A.J.Jacobs)

Gulp (Mary Roach)

Histories Of Nations: how their identities were forged (ed.Peter Furtado)

Caricature (Daniel Clowes)

Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron (Daniel Clowes)

Wilson (Daniel Clowes)

Fables, vol’s I-IV (Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham)

Black Panther, vol’s I-III (Ta Nehisi-Coates)

Book Of Dust Vol I: la belle sauvage (Philip Pullman)

Prisoners Of Geography: ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics (Tim Marshall)

On Booze (F.Scott Fitzgerald)

 

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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