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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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139. Books Bought & Read, February 2015…

65 books bought.

That’s more than many people read in a year. More than some read in a lifetime.

Any other month, having read 23 books would have felt like quite an accomplishment, even for me.

Not this month.

I blame my brother and girlfriend, enablers of the worst possible kind. What kind of brother and girlfriend take me to an annual Brooklyn Park Slope book sale? With thousands of books on dozens of rickety tables just begging to be taken to a good home?! In my defence, I repaid their kindness in books, so not all of those 65 were for me…but most of them were.

And that was before I’d even set foot in my temple, The Strand

My favourite item of merchandise from The Strand...

My favourite item of merchandise from The Strand…

Series were this month’s obsession: a gift of the classic Ursula K Le Guin trilogy and the discovery of the wonderfully messed up Lemony Snicket tales by Daniel Handler were the cause of a few hours reading, and as ever when I’m in NY there were some great kids’ books which my niece introduced me to, (I finally got to read Oliver Jeffers‘ ‘The Day The Crayons Quit,’ which I’m not ashamed to say I became quite choked up over when she told me it was her ‘favourite ever,‘ since I bought it for her).

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Whilst buying books as presents I had time to indulge in some re-reading, (something I very rarely do), of favourites such as Neil Gaiman, but there were four books which stood out and which I highly recommend for completely differing reasons:

Firstly, if you love the lost art of letters, and history, and a gorgeously bound book, ‘Letters Of Note‘ was just made for you. Originally a popular website, this was the biggest success story of the book-only crowd-funding website I love so much, Unbound, and I read it on my iPhone before gifting it to my girlfriend’s parents. If you want to read about how Elvis became Nixon’s drugs sheriff, how JFK was rescued from a desert island by carving an SOS into a coconut, or how Adolf Hitler’s nephew requested the right to join the US army to find the Nazis, all of this and more come straight from the source in one of the most fascinating, touching, educational and downright gorgeous books I have ever read.

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Secondly, if you like to know how the world works, and have a thirst for topics as wide-ranging as baseball statistics, earthquakes, betting, voting, poker and the weather forecast, Nate Silver has the book for you. My brother had been recommending this meaty tome to me for a while, and the flight from Europe to the US was perfect for finally finding out what it means when a weather forecast says there is a 40% or a 60% chance of rain, (and why it is almost never 50%); how to predict elections; and how chess computers learned to beat Grand Masters. Among many, many other things. This was like a Gladwell book on super fast-forward, (and I’m sure you know by now how much I love a good Gladwell book!)

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Thirdmost, after being incredibly disappointed by his ‘A Hologram For The King,’ Dave Eggers returned to wonderful, weird, genre-busting, hilarious form with the fantastically titled ‘Your Fathers, Where Are They? And Your Prophets, Do They Live Forever?‘ I won’t tell you anything about it. Just go and read it. It’s lots of fun.

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Finally, a gorgeous edition of a book I had never heard of, and an author I really should have, proved that not only should you sometimes judge a book by its cover, but if you’re lucky that book will be wondrously weird and also contain an introduction by one of your all time favourite authors, as Neil Gaiman was there in the opening pages to tell me that when it comes to James Thurber’sThe 13 Clocks,‘ “…there has never been anything like this before, and there will never be anything like this again.”

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It is, indeed, a gem of a nonsense children’s book, by an author I hope to explore further, but don’t let children hog all the fun.

(You can even get a free Kindle download of it here.)

).

Books Bought, February 2015

National Geographic: 100 melhores imagens,’ (National Georgaphic: the 100 best photos)

Violeta e Indigo Descobrem Picasso,’ (‘Violet and Indigo discover Picasso’), Isabel Zambuiac & Júlio Vanzelar

Violeta e Indigo Descobrem Leonardo Da Vinci,’ (‘Violet and Indigo discover Leonardo Da Vince’)Isabel Zambuiac & Júlio Vanzelar x2

Estorvo,’ (‘Nuisance’), Chico Buarque

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M.Tavares

The Believer Magazine’ issues 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

A Man: Klaus Klump,’ Gonçalo M.Tavares

The Best Of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency’ ed. Chris Monk & John Warner

Sprezzatura,’ Peter D’Epiro & Mary Desmond Pinkowish

Barracuda,’ Christos Tsiolkas

Another Day Of Life,’ Ryszard Kapuściński

Founding Brothers,’ Joseph J.Ellis

13 Days,’ Robert Kennedy

Coach,’ Michael Lewis

Happiness: ten years of n+1′

The Little Endless Story Book,’ Jill Murphy

I Feel Bad About My Neck,’ Nora Ephron

Leaving Microsoft To Change The World,’ John Wood

The Genius Of Language,’ ed. Wendy Lesser

The Bedside Book Of Beasts,’ Graeme Gibson

I Explain A Few Things: selected poems,’ Pablo Neruda

A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius,’ Dave Eggers

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.3, the wide window, ,Lemony Snicket

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.4, the miserable hill, ,Lemony Snicket

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.5, the austere academy,Lemony Snicket

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.6, the ersatz elevator,Lemony Snicket

S,’ J.J.Abrams & Doug Dorst

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And Your Prophets, Do They Live Forever?‘ Dave Eggers

Zeitoun,’ Dave Eggers

The Convalescent,’ Jessica Anthony

The Path To The Spiders’ Nests,’ Italo Calvino

Far From The Tree,’ Andrew Solomon

The Noonday Demon,’ Andrew Solomon

Hergé: son of tintin,’ Benoît Peeters

The Time Traveler’s Wife,’ Audrey Niefenegger

The Cheese Monkeys: a novel in 2 semesters,’ Chip Kidd

Blindness,’ José Saramago

Number9Dream,’ David Mitchell

Haroun And The Sea Of Stars,’ Salman Rushdie

The Better Of McSweeney’s’

‘I Am A Cat,’ Natsume Soseki

For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges,’ Nathan Englander

Copenhagen,’ Michael Frayn

The Tipping Point,’ Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers,’ Malcolm Gladwell

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.11, the grim grotto,Lemony Snicket

Atonement,’ Ian McEwan

Boy Detective Fails,’ Joe Meno

Clockwork,’ Philip Pullman

Mating,’ Norman Rush

Written On the Body,’ Jeanette Winterson

First Love/The Diary Of A Superfluous Man,’ Ivan Turgenev

Poet In New York,’ Federico García Lorca

Holidays On Ice,’ David Sedaris

The 13 Clocks,’ James Thurber

The Further Adventures Of The Queen Mum,’ Harry Hill

Myth: a very short introduction,’ Robert A.Segal

Movie Charts: comedy graphs of the films you love,’ Paul Copperwaite

The Consolations Of Philosophy,’ Alain de Botton

The Last Wild,’ Piers Torday

Emil And The Detectives,’ Erich Kästner

Rembrandt,’ Michael Brockemühl

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory,’ Roald Dahl

The Hueys In:  the new jumper,’ Oliver Jeffers

Letters Of Note,’ ed.Shaun Usher

.

Books Read, February 2015

Grandes Entrevistas Da História, vol.6′ (‘Great Interviews Of History, Vol.1)

Grandes Entrevistas Da História, vol.7′ (‘Great Interviews Of History, Vol.1)

Coach: lessons on the game of life,’ Michael Lewis

Letters Of Note: an eclectic collection of correspondence deserving of a wider audience,’ ed.Shaun Usher borges

I Feel Bad About My Neck,’ Nora Ephron

The Little Endless Storybook,’ Jill Thompson
.
The Runaway Dinner,’ Allan Ahlberg & Bruce Ingman
.

Clockwork,’ Philip Pullman

The 13 Clocks,’ James Thurber borges

Fortunately, The Milk…,’ Neil Gaiman

The Signal And The Noise: the art and science of prediction,’  Nate Silver borges

Copenhagen,’ Michael Frayn

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And Your Prophets, Do They Live Forever?‘ Dave Eggers borges

The Best Of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency’ ed. Chris Monk & John Warner borges

The Hueys In:  the new jumper,’ Oliver Jeffers

The Further Adventures Of The Queen Mum,’ Harry Hill

Movie Charts: comedy graphs of the films you love,’ Paul Copperwaite

The Wizard Of Earthsea,’ Ursula K. Le Guin
.

The Tombs Of Atuan,’ Ursula K. Le Guin

The Farthest Shore,’ Ursula K. Le Guin

The Day The Crayons Quit,’ Oliver Jeffers & Drew Daywalt borges

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.1, the bad beginning, ,Lemony Snicket
.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.2, the reptile room,’ Lemony Snicket

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Posted by on July 15, 2015 in BOOKS

 

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107. ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You,’ Miranda July…

107. ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You,’ Miranda July…

Short

stories

are

BRILLIANT!

I have found myself reading a lot of them recently, and even discovering new favourite authors, from George Saunders to Etgar Keret.

They are an art form unto themselves, following different rules, logic and styles to other types of literature and, best of all, if you’re not enjoying one it’s all over soon enough and you can move onto another.

But even knowing all of this, and with glowing praise from newspapers, magazines and authors (including my beloved Dave Eggers) on the front and back covers, I was still blown away with how good Miranda July‘s 2005 debut ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You‘ was/is.

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As you can see from the website she set up to promote the book, she has a quirky, indie sense of humour which comes flooding out in the 16 tales told in this compilation, but it is a humour interwoven with an array of emotions and issues: ball-shrinking awkwardness, (‘Making Love In 2003‘ is the best excuse for paedophilia since ‘Lolita‘ only in a more sci-fi, hilarious way, if you can picture that); feminism; social awkwardness; sexual awkwardness; physical awkwardness, (it occurs to me, writing this, that there is a lot of awkwardness in there, which I probably should have guessed given the title…but awkwardness, as fans of ‘The Office‘ will know, is often amusing); and underlying it all, love.

Where we find love, how we find love, how it finds us, how it avoids finding us, what we put up with to convince ourselves we have it – these are all things you may learn reading this book. But most of all, you will have fun.

At the 2013 Hay Literature Festival I had the honour of attending a talk by the aforementioned George Saunders using a wonderful Donald Barthelme short story to deconstruct the art of the short story. (I am delighted to find that the piece itself is free to read online here). It was all about the journey and not the ending, the author leading the reader to new, unexpected places, and doing it in under incredibly restrictive parameters. (I think. I don’t remember it too well, and don’t have time to go back and listen to it, which you can do if you feel like, here).

If you haven’t read many short stories, you could do a lot worse than start here.

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Posted by on March 9, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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