Friday, 14 March 2014

My Week In Books....

So, here we are, it's Friday night!

The working week is over, well sort of.
There's bottle of Rioja lurking next to me, I've eaten a hearty toast and Vegemite supper, the cats have been fed and are leaving me alone momentarily and my wife is out for the evening. So what better time for me to ramble aimlessly through my 'Week In Books' and update the blog?!

The best place to start, I think, is with my reading habits this week. I tend to sneak in reading whenever I can, breaks at work, a stolen hour between my getting in from work and my long-suffering book-widow- wife getting home, a train journey, basically whenever I can squeeze it in.

Like most readers the modern world makes deep inroads into my reading time, TV, the old enemy of course, steals a little reading time every day, Facebook is another time-thief and the triumvirate enemies of work,sleep and human relationships of course do their best as they have since the beginning of time, to reduce the time I have for book-love. But I try to fight the good fight whenever I can.

Physical size in a book is a relevant consideration during some parts of my reading week. Work-break reading requires a small physical presence. Packed in among all the work related paraphernalia in my daily backpack, little Penguin editions, short novels that punch above their literary weight, writings from before the days of the super-1000-plus-page-masterpiece fill this segment of my book world.

This week I finished off George Orwell's  - Burmese Days a beautifully written piece of loosely-veiled semi-autobiographical fiction from my current favourite author. I read some Orwell at school, far too young to appreciate his importance, and have recently, thanks to an interest in Spanish Civil War stories, trekked through a few of his works anew.

You will come away from this book feeling the prickly heat, seeing the moisture drip from the steaming native flora, oozing the bitterness of colonial oppression mixed with acidic self-loathing that the characters ought to or actually feel.
Loved it. Of Course.
This was replaced by the equally physically diminutive Penguin 1971 print of Laurie Lee's -  As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. 

If Orwell gives me the bloated, bloodied reality of human inhumanity, Lee gives me the rose-tinted beauty of existence. Worlds apart yet equally stunning in their representations of the world around them, it makes me wonder if there was something in the water in the 1930s that forced people to be so incredibly enchanting in their writing.

On the down side, I've been reading Simon Scarrow's Young Bloods. When I can force myself, if I'm honest.

I have a great love of history books and an almost equal passion for well written historical fiction. I don't judge an historical fiction novel too much on it's historical inaccuracies, the clue is in the name after all, but I think this does not excuse lazy or -non-entertaining writing. Let's be honest here, readers read because they like it, for the most part. Writing is an entertainment industry, for the most part.

For me, the greatest failure in a book is to not be interesting. It's a simplistic definition admittedly, but it is my own personal yard-stick. My Blog, My Rules... 
I've been aware of Simon Scarrow's work for some time and thought it was worth a go, and I've been a student of Napoleonic era historically for much of my adult life, and I love it, generally. I've been reading this book for a couple of months and only got through 207 pages of 600 odd... this speaks volumes to me. I'm going to keep trying with this one, but watch this space....

I mentioned earlier TV's negative influence on my reading habits but, in fairness, it also sometimes directs my reading into new fields, or reminds me of what I should be reading.

This week, a case in point is Agatha Christie's Poirot. I've been  massive fan of this on TV for the full length of it's existence, but it took the airing of Poirot's final case, and the main character's death, to actually get me to start buying the books! I've got a couple of old Penguin green covers on the way...

Finally, my week in books can't go without a mention for Tadhg (a male, Irish name) and Rallou (a female name of which I have no knowledge whatever) husband and wife team who own and run Fully Booked in Thornbury. I met them both together for the first time this week, being lucky enough to be working reasonably close to their shop. Their's is an awesome bookshop, exactly what second-hand bookshops should be like. They are a lovely couple, incredibly well-read and knowledgeable of their own stock and of books in general. Look them up in our Listings section and pay them a visit.

Is there really anything else you need from a book shop?

The Rioja is running low, it's time to go. Keep reading, start commenting.

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