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168. Books Bought & Read, April 2018…

168. Books Bought & Read, April 2018…

Four months into 2018 and my intake for the first time this year overtook my consumption: 17 bought and just over half of them read.

This was due to a combination of a 40th birthday party weekend in Vegas which took a few days out of my monthly reading schedule (and a few days out of my memory, too…), a hectic work schedule, and a particularly meaty book on the food industry which took longer than expected to get through.

Like someone on a diet who gives in to temptation once and then goes on a binge, as soon as I realised I wasn’t going to keep up with the Books Bought column, I went out and bought a bunch more, (at least one of them for its Penguin Classic Deluxe cover).


The more eagle-eyed readers out there will notice one Mystery Book included in both columns, but I can’t/won’t talk about that yet. It’s good to have a little suspense in life.

When I’m not reading or working, I’m generally addicted to podcasts these days, and it always makes me smile when life synchronously presents a book to me at the very moment I’m listening to an interview with its author on the excellent Fresh Air with Terry Gross. It happened again this month with Tim Kreider’s wonderful collection of personal essays, ‘I Wrote This Book Because I Love You.‘ A blend of David Sedaris-style memoir and David Foster Wallace’s observation, the collection shows an  all-encompassing interest in life which emerges as a thing all its own. It ranges seamlessly from the painfully personal to the panoramically universal in the most fluid way, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of his work.


Journalist Mark Kurlansky kept me entertained in my more sober Vegas moments with his tales of culture told through the eyes of various animals and the people around them, and Michael Eric Dyson taught me about the incredible cultural meeting between Bobby Kennedy and James Baldwin in 1963, which was part of the administration’s attempt to improve race relations. After reading his highly influential and persuasive ‘Tears We Cannot Stop‘ last year, Dyson has become one of my go-to guides on the issue of contemporary race relations in the US.


The aforementioned ‘Salt, Sugar, Fat’ had me both furious at the food industry and furiously scanning labels for ingredients at the supermarket. I don’t eat or drink much processed food (chocolate aside), but I am certainly making more of an effort to eat more fruit, vegetables, and natural ingredients after consuming this hard-to-swallow exposé. You really don’t want to know how much cheese there is in just about everything we eat these days, (thanks to people switching to skimmed milk from the 1960s, and the US government’s pledge to support the dairy industry, however much they produced).

To take away the bitter aftertaste of that work, I ironically turned to one of the bitterest drinks out there. ‘The Monk of Mokha’ tells the tale of the first Yemeni coffee expert in centuries, risking his life in a civil war zone to restore some pride to the middle eastern hotspot. It is a return to form for Dave Eggers, whose non-fiction I may enjoy even more than his fiction, (see: ‘Zeitoun’ on Hurrican Katrina, ‘What Is The What’ on the Somali refugee crisis, etc).


I don’t actually drink coffee, (with the amount of sugar and milk I’d have to add just to make it palatable, I may as well just have a milkshake. Which I usually do, despite Michael Moss’s warnings), but this tale made me want to head to Blue Bottle to give it a try.

Which I may do right now.


Books Bought, April 2018

****! ***’** ****** ** * ***! (**** ********) (Book redacted pending future update)

In Praise Of Wasting Time (Alan Lightman)

The Divine Comedy (Dante)

World Without Fish (Mark Kurlansky)

What Truth Sounds Like (Michael Eric Dyson)

The Monk Of Mokha (Dave Eggers)

F You Very Much: understanding the culture of rudeness and what we can do about it (Danny Wallace)

Berlin Alexanderplatz (Alfred Döblin)

How Not To Be A Boy (Robert Webb)

The Third Plate: field notes on the future of food (Dan Barber)

Fear Of Flying (Erica Jong)

Johnny Ive: the genius behind apple’s greatest products (Leander Kahney)

Napoleon: a life (Paul Johnson)

Winston Churchill: a life (John Keegan)

Dinner At The Center Of The Earth (Nathan Englander)

Pachinko (Min Jin Lee)

Gorgias (Plato)


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

****! ***’** ****** ** * ***! (**** ********) (Book redacted pending future update)

In Praise Of Wasting Time (Alan Lightman)

What Truth Sounds Like: rfk, james baldwin, and our unfinished conversation about race in america (Michael Eric Dyson)

F You Very Much: understanding the culture of rudeness and what we can do about it (Danny Wallace)

Salt, Sugar, Fat: how the food giants hooked us (Michael  Moss)

I Wrote This Because I Love You (Tim Kreider)

Double Indemnity (James M.Cain)

City Of Beasts: fourteen short stories of uninvited wildlife (Mark Kurlansky)

The Monk Of Mokha (Dave Eggers)


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Posted by on September 4, 2018 in BOOKS


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153. Books Bought & Read, February 2017…

153. Books Bought & Read, February 2017…

An increasingly ridiculous 72 books bought, and an impressive, round, if comparatively underwhelming 20 read, (and don’t forget, this was the shortest month of the year: I was almost on a book-a-day rate!)

This month, I devoured a couple of fun Ted Talk books and a couple of School of Life self-help books, (one of each on how/with whom to fall in love, which I seem to have done OK without but recommend for any single readers out there for hints on how to broaden your horizons).

Whilst celebrating Mardi Gras down in New Orleans, (or Norlins, as the locals have taught me to properly pronounce it, y’all), I found my Travel Pile accidentally consisting of several books on a fitting theme, given my vacation destination and the fact that it was Black History Month.

I felt, as just about everyone did, that Harper Lee’s long delayed ‘Mockingbird’ sequel was a delightful read until the bizarre conclusion, and the wonderfully named NoViolet Bulawayo’s modern take on the themes of immigration, race and roots in her debut novel ‘We Need New Names‘ was an amazing tapestry of snapshots from Zimbabwe to ‘Destroyed, Michigan,’ (as the title suggests, names play a fascinating role in her book).

After seeing the stunning documentary ‘I Am Not Your Negro‘ at the cinema, I took James Baldwin’s advice to read ‘A Raisin In The Sun.‘ I had never heard of it but, according to its cover, ‘Raising’ is up there with ‘Death Of A Salesman‘ in the pantheon of American theatre, and it was indeed a great read, joined on the shelf by a collection of Baldwin writings I went straight out to buy after the movie too.

Alongside the Last Interview series on Martin Luther King Jr. which I also read, I am feeling simultaneously marginally more informed and hugely more depressed, a state of affairs not aided by another Oscar-nominated documentary, ‘13th,’ which I watched to educate myself some more on race and the American prison system this month.

My plunge into US and NY history continued apace. I explored New York’s food history with Robert Sietsema, its architectural history with Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, and its immigration history with the wonderful ‘Let The Great World Spin,’ (yet another novel I had long avoided because everyone else was reading it), the tale of hookers and immigrants and judges and housewives woven around my current favourite NY legend, Philippe Petit, aka the Man on Wire.

Across the US I was accompanied by Stephen Fry, (in a rather silly road trip), which contrasted drastically with one of my favourite books this month, ‘State By State,’ in which 50 writers, artists and celebrities, (from Anthony Bourdain to Joe Sacco, Dave Eggers to Carrie Brownstein), were allocated a state each and allowed to represent it anyway they wanted/knew how, resulting in an unpredictable but incredibly informative and entertaining 500+ page guide to the USA.


I read a couple of bad books this month, (the Bayard, mainly), but the worst book was also one of the best: my friend Nick has been recommending immersive journalist Bill Buford to me for a while, and I finally took the plunge with his ‘Among The Thugs,’ the story of how he became accepted into various football hooligan organisations in the UK during the 1980’s.

This was the time when I was first attending matches in England, and later abroad, and I both recognised the atmosphere of hostility and sectarianism whilst being left open-mouthed at the toxic politics and sheer aggression which I luckily rarely saw first-hand, and which was reported graphically, horrifically and, somehow, poetically, by Buford. A literary ‘This Is England,’ for those who saw and loved/hated the movie/TV show.

Finally, I fell asleep several nights in a row reading the unclassifiable Thunder & Lightning by Lauren Redniss: part art statement, part green manifesto, part science textbook, part myth and legend, part story-telling, all beautiful.



Books Bought, February 2017

Lost For Words (Edward St.Aubyn)

Wimbledon Green (Seth)

The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer)

A Load Of Hooey (Bob Odendirk)

One Hundred Apocalypses (Lucy Corin)

Further Joy (John Brandon)

The Annotated Sandman: Vol.I (Neil Gaiman)

The Annotated Sandman: Vol.II (Neil Gaiman)

The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountain (Neil Gaiman & Eddie Campbell) x2

The Call Of Cthulhu And Other Weird Stories (H.P.Lovecraft)

McSweeney’s No.28

The Wisdom Of The Myths: how greek mythology can change your life (Luc Ferry)

The Familiar: Vol.4 (Mark Z.Danielewski)

A Literary Tour Of Italy (Tim Parks)

Coming In To Land: selected poems, 1975-2015 (Andrew Motion)

Number 11 (Jonathan Coe)

Beyond Measure: the big impact of small changes (Margaret Heffernan)

A Really Good Day: how microdosing made a mega difference in my mood, my marriage, and my life (Ayelet Waldman)

How To Be Bored (Eva Hoffman)

Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman) x2

Havana: a subtropical delirium (Mark Kurlansky)

How To Choose a Partner (Susan Quilliam)

American Gods (Neil Gaiman)

On The Origin Of Sports: the early history and original rules of everybody’s favorite games (Gary Belsky & Neil Fine)

Trivium: the classical liberal arts of grammar, logic, & rhetoric (various)

Quadrivium: the four classical liberal arts of number, geometry, music, & cosmology (various)

Sciencia: mathemetics, physics, chemistry, biology, & astronomy for all (various)

Martin Luther King, Jr: the last interview and other conversations

The Mathematics Of Love: patterns, proofs, and the search for the ultimate equation (Hannah Fry)

The Art Of Stillness: the art of going nowhere (Pico Iyer)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Cat (Joel Morris & Jason Hazeley)

The 13 Clocks (James Thurber)

The Liars’ Club (Mary Karr)

Lincoln In The Bardo (George Saunders)

Sag Harbour (Colson Whitehead)

SPQR: a history of ancient rome (Mary Beard)

Pour Que Tu Ne Te Perdes Pas Dans Le Quartier (Patrick Modiano)

Mortality (Christopher Hitchens)

Museum Legs: fatigue and hope in the face of art (Amy Whitaker)

The Member Of The Wedding (Carson McCullers)

An Anthropologist On Mars (Oliver Sacks)

After Dark (Haruki Murakami)

Kafka On The Shore (Haruki Murakami)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Haruki Murakami)

Memórias De Mis Putas Tristes (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Pnin (Vladimir Nabakov)

Bend Sinister (Vladimir Nabakov)

King, Queen, Knave (Vladimir Nabakov)

The Luzhin Defence (Vladimir Nabakov)

Glory (Vladimir Nabakov)

Travels With Epicurus: a journey to a greek island in search of a fulfilled life (David Klein)

Gratitude (Oliver Sacks)

The Intuitionist (Colson Whitehead)

Numbers In The Dark: and other stories (Italo Calvino)

Albion (Allan Moore)

Mannahatta: a natural history of new york city (Eric W.Sanderson)

A Raisin In The Sun (Lorraine Hansberry)

Lonely Planet: Portugal

Galápagos (Kurt Vonnegut)

The Enchanter (Vladimir Nabakov)

The Cross Of Redemption: uncollected writings (James Baldwin)

Bicycle Diaries (David Byrne)

Why We Work (Barry Schwartz)

The Future Of Architecture In 100 Buildings (Marc Kushner)

Mr.Bridge/Mrs.Bridge (Evan Connell)

McSweeney’s No.2

Patience (Daniel Clowes)

Pussey! (Daniel Clowes)

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, 1969 (Allan Moore)


Books Read, February 2017   (books in bold are highly recommended)

Thunder And Lightning: weather past, present, future (Laura Redniss)

Wrestling With Moses: how jane jacobs took on new york’s master builder and transformed the american city (Anthony Flint)

The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountain (Neil Gaiman & Eddie Campbell)

Among The Thugs (Bill Buford)

How To Talk About Places You’ve Never Been: on the importance of armchair travel (Pierre Bayard)

New York In A Dozen Dishes (Robert Sietsema)

How To Be Bored (Eva Hoffman)

How To Choose a Partner (Susan Quilliam)

State By State: a panoramic portrait of america (ed.Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey)

Martin Luther King, Jr: the last interview and other conversations

Beyond Measure: the big impact of small changes (Margaret Heffernan)

Stephen Fry In America (Stephen Fry)

Museum: behind the scenes at the metropolitan museum of art (Danny Danziger)

Let The Great World Spin (Colum McCann)

The Mathematics Of Love: patterns, proofs, and the search for the ultimate equation (Hannah Fry)

Albion (Allan Moore)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Cat (Joel Morris & Jason Hazeley)

We Need New Names (NoViolet Bulawayo)

A Raisin In The Sun (Lorraine Hansberry)

Go Set A Watchman (Harper Lee)

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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in BOOKS


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