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158. Books Bought & Read, July 2017…

158. Books Bought & Read, July 2017…

My attempt to chisel away at the Mount Rushmore of Books To Be Read continued apace this month. Thanks to my bedside stack containing a number of plays and various other thin collections of interviews and whatnot, I managed to read better than a book a day, tossing off 33 books in July.

The bad news was that I also somehow managed to purchase 32 books. But every little helps.

I had picked up a stack of plays at the Book Expo I volunteered at the previous month, and they were interesting pre-sleep companions. Some were disappointing, (I’m looking at you, David Bowie’sLazarus‘), some were downright silly, (‘Ripcord‘), and some were time-bendingly fascinating, (notably the offering from Tracy Letts, who gave us the play which gave us the movie August: Osage County).

I was most exciting to finally read the original play of ‘Twelve Angry Men,’ which didn’t disappoint: I’ve always loved the movie, a throwback to the days when a lack of flashy FX meant a reliance on plot, dialogue and acting.

I ripped through three more of the ‘Last Interview‘ collection, (unearthed at the ever gloomy but often rewarding East Village Books), which led to me dabbling in my second ever Ray Bradbury, (I presume everyone in the world has read ‘Fahrenheit 451‘), and whilst ‘The Martian Chronicles‘ was an amusing series of vignettes and short stories, it didn’t quite live up to the expectations its influence on a past generation appears to have had.

The same cannot, by any means, be said of the influence of Senator John Lewis, the worst possible person President Trump could have chosen to accuse of being “all talk and no action” back when he was just President-elect, (remember those good old days?)

I may not have known much (read: anything) about Lewis’s career before the spat with Trump, but in ‘March,’ the trilogy of graphic novels recounting Lewis’s career in civil rights activism, I was left literally wide-eyed with wonder at the risks he and fellow protestors were willing to take simply to be considered human beings.

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The history culminates in the books with the march on Selma, Alabama, in 1963, (about which Malcolm Gladwell recently released a fascinating podcast), and I imagine anyone who has read it will feel, like me, that it deserves to be on every school syllabus across the country.

A special mention this month goes to A.N.Wilson’s ‘The Book Of The People: how to read the bible,’ not so much for its content, (interesting in parts, overly personal and sentimental on the whole), but for having the most stunning cover I have seen for a very long time. Sometimes I buy books just for their covers: if only there were some sort of catchy folk-wisdom to advise me against such practices…

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Probably my favourite novel of the month was Chris Bachelder’s excellent ‘The Throwback Special,’ an incredibly astute, simple masterpiece.

22 ‘friends’ (read: guys who meet once a year to fulfil some inexplicable rituals) meet in the same room, in the same hotel, at the same time every year to re-enact the (American) football play made (in)famous in Michael Lewis’s ‘Blind Side’: Lawrence Taylor dissintegrating Joe Thiesmann’s tibia and fibula.

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Bachelder’s cycles us through the minds and misgivings of each member in turn, sometimes slower, sometimes faster, with prose that pops each of them into 3D in an endless loop of pitch-perfect psychology and thought-provoking observation. I enjoyed his debut novel, ‘Bear vs Shark,’ for its dystopian ridiculousness; I loved ‘The Throwback Special’ even more.

Books Bought, July 2017

A Child In Time (Ian McEwan)

Twelve Angry Men (Reginald Rose)

The Great Questions Of Tomorrow (David Rothkopf)

The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)

The Terrorist’s Son: a story of choice (Zak Ebrahim & Jeff Giles)

Cosmopolis (Don Delillo)

Wild Things: the joy of reading children’s literature (Bruce Handy)

How To Travel Without Seeing: dispatches from the new latin america (Andres Newman)

Food Of The City: new york’s  professional chefs, restaurateurs, line cooks, street vendors, and purveyors talk about what they do and why they do it (Ina Yalof)

Storyteller: the life of roald dahl (Donald Sturrock)

Appointment In Samarra (John O’Hara)

Food Anatomy: the curious parts & pieces of our edible world (Julia Rothman)

Beast (Paul Kingsnorth)

The Once And Future King (T.H.White)

Stranger In A Strange Land (Robert A.Heinlein)

Dune (Frank Herbert)

The Left Hand Of Darkness (Ursula K.LeGuin)

Necromancer (William Gibson)

2001: a space odyssey (Arthur C.Clarke)

McSweeney’s no.1 (Various)

My Documents (Alejandro Zambra)

March: Book I (John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell)

March: Book II (John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell)

March: Book III (John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell)

Fragile Acts (Allen Peterson)

White Girls (Hilton Als)

Heroes Of The Frontier (Dave Eggers)

The Seven Good Years (Etgar Keret)

Alice, Let’s Eat: further adventures of a happy eater (Calvin Trillin)

The Beach Of Falesá (Robert Louis Stevenson)

We (Yevgeniy Zamyatin)

Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine (Diane Williams)

 

Books Read, July 2017 (recommended books in bold)

The Midnight Folk (John Masefield)

The Last Interview: Roberto Bolaño

The Last Interview: Ray Bradbury

The Last Interview: Jorge Luis Borges

The Book Of The People: how to read the bible (A.N.Wilson)

My Friend Dahmer (Derf Backderf)

The Last Temptation (Neil Gaiman)

The Complete Polly And The Wolf (Catherine Storr)

Warren The 13th And The All-Seeing Eye (Tania Del Rio & Will Staehle)

Twelve Angry Men (Reginald Rose)

The Great Questions Of Tomorrow (David Rothkopf)

The Terrorist’s Son: a story of choice (Zak Ebrahim & Jeff Giles)

How Google Works (Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg)

The Last Unicorn (Peter S.Beagle)

The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)

The Throwback Special (Chris Bachelder)

Oslo (J.T.Rogers)

Lazarus (David Bowie & Enda Walsh)

Mary Page Marlowe (Tracy Letts)

Eclipsed (Danai Gurira)

Ripcord (David Lindsay Abaire)

The Missing Of The Somme (Geoff Dyer)

Believe Me: a memoir of love, death and jazz chickens (Eddie Izzard)

Americanah (Chmamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Fragile Acts (Allen Peterson)

My Documents (Alejandro Zambra)

The Sense Of Style: the thinking person’s guide to writing in the 21st century (Steven Pinker)

Subliminal: how your unconscious mind rules your behaviour (Leonard Mlodinow)

How To Build A Girl (Caitlin Moran)

March: Book I (John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell)

March: Book II (John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell)

March: Book III (John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell)

Cosmopolis (Don Delillo)

 

 

 

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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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131. Books Bought & Read, October 2014…

131. Books Bought & Read, October 2014…

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Don’t forget to check out and order my first ever published book, available here!

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October’s reading, (and purchasing), was brought to you courtesy of a three-week holiday (vacation) to the city that only sleeps when it’s tired, or has a job interview early the next morning, or because the bars have all closed at 2am: New York.

A long flight and metro journeys between my base of Brooklyn and the island once known by the natives as Mana-hatta, (amazing what you can learn on a walking tour…), allowed me to get through seventeen wonderful, and not always short books: The Strand and various lovely, (and cheap), book sellers on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, allowed me to bring a further 26 home with me, (at least, the ones which weren’t left behind as presents).

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The Strand, the world’s largest bookshop…

One of them, Colson Whitehead’sThe Colossus Of New York‘ came to me in the opposite direction, a lovely and unexpected gift on my 17th 37th birthday, and the perfect jazz prose-poem for somebody wandering the streets of the city, for the first or fiftieth time. A new author for me to look out for, this slim and gorgeous time gets 9/10 on the Borges/Brown scale.

(I decided to abandon grading all of the books I read: my blog was almost impossible to even get to last month, so from this month I am just awarding the Borges mark of excellence to any book on the list which I highly recommend reading.)

Bill Bryson‘s story of a single topic (aviation) in a single year (1927) in American history is fascinating, thanks to not covering just one year or one topic but everything from Communism and Prohibition to baseball and murder cases, and I highly recommend it. Since I try to match my reading to my location, I also finally read Brooklyn-based Michael Chabon’s modern classic ‘The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay,’ a beautiful tale of World War II refugees, New York life, and comic books. Perfect.

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I was guilty of buying a book of which I already own two copies, but since my signed copies of Haruki Murakami’s latest offering is safe in The Cupboard in the UK, and the US version has a different, (and far more gorgeous) cover, I felt entirely justified. The book was everything I’ve come to expect from one of my favourite writers…although no more. Not underwhelming, just not as overwhelming as I’d hoped.

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After returning to Lisbon to continue life and work, I flew through a couple of comic books picked up at New York’s ComicCon, which were nowhere near as much fun as their animated originals, and got back to my latest love, Portuguese literature and especially a fascinating offering from Next Great Portuguese Thing, Gonçalo M.Tavares. If you can find him in translation, I recommend his experimental style highly.

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New York Comic Con…

If you like that sort of thing.

Which I do.

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Books Bought, October 2014

Burmese Days,’ George Orwell

Pastoralia,’ George Saunders

Civilwarland In Bad Decline,’ George Saunders

State By State: a panoramic portrait of america,’ ed. Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey

The Fiddler In The Subway,’ Gene Weingarten

Manual Of Painting And Calligaphy,’ José Saramago

Adventure Time: trade paperback vol.2.

Regular Show: trade paperback vol.1.

The Graveyard Book,’ Neil Gaiman

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage,‘ Haruki Murakami

Strong Opinions,’ Vladimir Nabakov

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,’ Gail Steketee & Randy Frost

On The Map: why the world looks the way it does,’ Simon Garfield

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men,’ David Foster Wallace

Northern Lights,’ Philip Pullman

Anansi Boys,’ Neil Gaiman

Freedom Evolves,’ Daniel.C.Dennett

From Hell,’ Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M. Tavares

Provavelmente Alegria,’ José Saramago

O Massacre Dos Judeus: lisboa, 19 de abril de 1506,’ Susana Mateus & Paulo Mendes Pinto

Antic Hay,’ Aldous Huxley

Chrome Yellow,’ Aldous Huxley

Mortal Coils,’ Aldous Huxley

Ballet,’ Arnold Haskell

Biografia De Lisboa,’ Magda Pinheiro

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Books Read, October 2014

One Summer: America, 1927: ,’ Bill Bryson borges

The Rachel Papers,’ Martin Amis

The Amazing Adventures Of  Kavalier And Clay,’ Michael Chabon borges

Salvador,’ Joan Didion

But Beautiful,’ Geoff Dyer

The Song Of Achilles,’ Madeline Miller

The Testament Of Mary,’ Colm Tóibín

Civilwarland In Bad Decline,’ George Saunders

The Colossus Of New York: a city in thirteen parts,’ Colson Whitehead borges

One More Thing: stories and other stories,’ B.J.Novak

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,’ Gail Steketee & Randy Frost

Regular Show: trade paperback vol.1.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,’ Karen Joy Fowler

Adventure Time: trade paperback vol.2.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage,‘ Haruki Murakami

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M. Tavares borges

Provavelmente Alegria,’ José Saramago

borges = recommended book

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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128. Books Bought & Read, September 2014…

128. Books Bought & Read, September 2014…

Books Bought, August 2014read-this-next-cover-us

The Wake,’ Paul Kingsnorth  

Jude: Level 1,’ Julian Gough

The Cobra’s Heart,’ Ryszard Kapuściński 

The Shipwrecked Men,’ Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

Seventeen Poisoned Englishmen,’ Gabriel García Márquez

Ender’s Game,’ Orson Scott Card

Read This Next,’ Howard Mittelmark & Sandra Newman 

1932416501Journey To The End Of The Night,’ Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Moominsummer Madness,’ Tove Jansson

Moominland Midwinter,’ Tove Jansson

Pop Charts,’ Paul Copperwaite

Vader’s Little Princess,’ Jeffrey Brown

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane,’ Neil Gaiman

Brooklyn,’ Colm Tóibín

We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves,’ Karen Joy Fowler

Le Petit Prince,’ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

God: a biography,‘ Jack Miles

Blindness,’ José Saramago

Here They Come,’ Yannick Murphyimgres

A Guided Tour Through The Museum Of Communism,’ Slovenka Drakulic

The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe,’ Jane Wagner

‘The Paris Review Interviews, Vols I-IV,’  ed. Philip Gourevitch

 

Books Read, August 2014

Scoop,’ Evelyn Waugh 

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Sous Le Soleil Jaguar,’ (‘Under The Jaguar Sky’), Italo Calvino

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Seventeen Poisoned Englishmen,’ Gabriel García Márquez

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Vader’s Little Princess,’ Jeffrey Brown

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Michael Rosen’s Sad Book,’ Michael Rosen & Quentin Blake

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Drown,’ Junot Díaz

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A Little Book Of Language,’ David Crystal

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The 2½ Pillars Of Wisdom,’ Alexander McCall Smith

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Moominsummer Madness,’ Tove Jansson

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Creating a World Without Poverty,’ Muhammad Yunus

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Moominland Midwinter,’ Tove Jansson

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Ender’s Game,’ Orson Scott Card

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The Fry Chronicles: an autobiography,’ Stephen Fry

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Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry,’ B.S.Johnson

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The Dog,’ Joseph O’Neil

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Jude: Level 1,’ Julian Gough

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The Doors Of Perception/Heaven And Hell,’ Aldous Huxley

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One Year: America, 2917,’ Bill Bryson

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A Movable Feast,’ Ernest Hemingway

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A Guided Tour Through The Museum Of Communism,’ Slovenka Drakulic

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25 bought, (mostly presents), 20 read: even for me, this was a busy month, fuelled by the time available on long-distance flights, some kids’ books (my first Moomins among them, which were simultaneously cute and unbelievably creepy), and a lot of time at my parents’ place working my way through my back-catalogue of signed books.

Some classics were finally ticked off, from Huxley’‘s The Doors-inspiring ‘The Doors Of Perception‘ to an Evelyn Waugh novel which wasn’t ‘Brideshead Revisited,’ but which was lots of fun. Most enjoyably, I finally got to read that staple of friends’ references, ‘A Moveable Feast‘ where Hemingway managed to make me dislike him less than I always have done – a memoir worthy of all the praise which is always being heaped on it.

A Moveable Feast from a Punchable Face. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

A Moveable Feast from a Punchable Face.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

 

I found Joseph O’Neill’s Booker Prize shortlisted ‘The Dog‘ to be underwhelming, but balanced it with Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus’s thought-provoking book on his (accidental) life’s work, creating micro-credit institutions, which was heart-warming stuff.

One ‘new’ author I read I enjoyed so much that I have already blogged on the work here, whilst in the other direction I finally got around to reading the first work by an author I thought I knew well, Junot Diaz.

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Most enjoyable of all, for someone who likes to read books about the places he is living in/visiting, was the ever-reliable Bill Bryson‘s giant work on a single, pivotal year in American history, (whilst also, of course, taking in decades before and after). Whilst ostensibly being about one man’s race to be the first to cross the Atlantic by sea, (although this isn’t even really factually correct, as Bryson explains in detail), we are treated to everything from Babe Ruth and the Yankees to Prohibition, anarchist executions to the history of sky-scrapers.

I loved it.

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1927: quite a year…

 

The eagle-eyed amongst you are probably wondering who operated on you in the middle of the night and replaced your regular eyeballs, which is a horrible feeling to wake up to. Everyone else with normal eyes has probably noticed a new feature this month: a few friends had requested that I include some sort of ‘marks out of ten’ system so that they know what they should read and what they shouldn’t waste their time on.

(These ‘friends’ were presumably too busy to actually read the blog to get this information).

Always happy to bow to peer group pressure, this month sees the first use of my patented* ‘Books Out Of 10’ scoring system: the more Borges the better, the more Dan Browns the worse.

*Not actually patented

 

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Let me know what you think…

 

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Posted by on October 27, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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