Archive for the 'Books' Category

reading for Q2, 2007

June 30, 2007
  1. Ghosts by John Banville
  2. The Sound of Butterflies by Rachael King
  3. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  4. A Case of Conscience by James Blish
  5. The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin
  6. The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin
  7. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin
  8. Tales From Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
  9. A Life for the Stars by James Blish
  10. They Shall Have Stars by James Blish
  11. The Honourable Company: History of the English East India Company by John Keay
  12. Where Three Roads Meet by John Barth
  13. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  14. The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield (short story)
  15. Losing Nelson by Barry Unsworth
  16. Cyteen by CJ Cherryh

desert island novels

April 12, 2007

Prompted by a conversation with MLW this evening about the death of Kurt Vonnegut (MLW: what’d he write, then? ME: omigod how can you not know??? Slaughterhouse-5? MLW: ? ME: if I had to name my ten favourite novels of all time, that would be one of them! MLW: what would the other nine be?) I have compiled a list of my ten favourite novels of all time (not ranked though – it was only one glass of red wine):

  • Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Tidewater Tales: A Novel by John Barth
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
  • Rabbit is Rich by John Updike
  • The Counterlife by Philip Roth

The first five flowed quite easily. I had to think harder about the next five, and choose some over others:

  • The Biographer’s Tale by AS Byatt
  • Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
  • Happenstance by Carol Shields
  • White Noise by Don DeLillo
  • The Master of St Petersburg by JM Coetzee

I’m aware that 5 of those 10 are books I studied at varsity, and so had a deeper engagement with. The others were just most thoroughly enjoyed. The novels I chose over were:

  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • The Day of Creation by JG Ballard
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein
  • Herzog by Saul Bellow

reading for Q1, 2007

March 29, 2007
  1. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
  3. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  4. Trevor Huddleston: A Life by Robin Denniston
  5. The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton by Kathryn Hughes
  6. Accounting and Finance for Non-Specialists by Peter Atrill and E.J. McLaney
  7. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  8. Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks
  9. Sweetness & Light: The Mysterious History of the Honey Bee by Hattie Ellis
  10. The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford
  11. Excession by Iain M Banks
  12. Managing International Business by Neil Coade
  13. The Complete Stories by Truman Capote
  14. The Burma Road by Donovan Webster
  15. Marketing Management and Strategy by Peter Doyle
  16. Portrait with Keys: The City of Johannesburg Unlocked by Ivan Vladisavic
  17. Spock Must Die! by James Blish

reading for Q4, 2006

December 29, 2006
  1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A A Milne
  2. Service of All the Dead by Colin Dexter
  3. Testimonies by Patrick O’Brian
  4. A Theft by Saul Bellow
  5. Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn
  6. The Dead of Jericho by Colin Dexter
  7. Star Trek 11 by James Blish
  8. King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild
  9. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  10. Star Trek 10 by James Blish
  11. Star Trek 9 by James Blish
  12. I Am a Cat: Volume 1 by Soseki Natsume
  13. Patrick O’Brian: The Making of the Novelist by Nikolai Tolstoy
  14. The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury
  15. Star Trek 8 by James Blish
  16. The Book of Evidence by John Banville
  17. The Art of Fiction by David Lodge
  18. The Poorhouse Fair by John Updike
  19. Star Trek 7 by James Blish
  20. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  21. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Significant SF at NTC

December 15, 2006

(From The Silver Eel)

Update: marked a few new titles as ‘read’ (03/09/08)

The Key:
Bold the ones you’ve read.
Italicize those you started but never finished.
Put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

1. *The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. *Dune, Frank Herbert

4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. *A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe

12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. *Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
23. *The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. **The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven

40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. *Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. *Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

I think Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness will always be my favourite SF novel. It is a brillant transposition of the gender puzzle into an SF context that reveals new ideas about gender that conventional fiction never could. It’s also an eloquent, Jungian study of nationalism. And a cracking good read.

Other favourites include Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-5, which is a stunning novel with funny and tragic moments, some great lines that have stuck with me, and a strange potion of unsettled temporality that, when taken, somehow imparts a bit of existential comfort.

I’m on a bit of a Blish binge at the moment – just finishing up the Star Trek books, and I’ll soon move on to Cities in Flight.

I think, as with all lists, this list is not definitive at all. Blish’s A Case of Conscience is not there. And what about E E Doc Smith’s Lensman series? Lem’s Solaris? And so on. But it’s fun to reflect a bit on things read years ago, and this list is a good stimulus for that.

reading for Q3, 2006

September 26, 2006
  1. Curry by Lizzie Collingham
  2. Shroud by John Banville
  3. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco
  4. Small Ceremonies by Carol Shields
  5. Mercator by Nicholas Crane
  6. Samuel Beckett by Anthony Cronin
  7. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
  8. Everyman by Philip Roth
  9. Star Trek 6 by James Blish
  10. Brilliance of the Moon by Lian Hearn
  11. Grass for His Pillow by Lian Hearn
  12. Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
  13. Gem Squash Tokoloshe by Rachel Zadok
  14. Medici Money by Tim Parks

One book that…

August 17, 2006

…changed your life.

James Joyce’s Ulysses. Reading this book, using Harry Blamires’s The Bloomsday Book to help me, opened my eyes to a new depth to writing and reading. Ulysses helped me to put my head into the pool of modernism, and to get my ears all clogged up with ideas about books and writing. It makes my heart beat faster to think about the experience again (really).

My wonderful postgrad tutor, Dr Smith, was an excellent guide for this particular odyssey.

…you have read more than once?

The Tidewater Tales: A Novel, by John Barth.

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula Le Guin

(I know that’s two – so what?)

…you would want on a desert island?

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1976 edition).

…made you cry?

None. I’m a boy.

…made you laugh?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.

…you wish had been written?

Another Book, by Douglas Adams.

…you wish had never had been written?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by JK Rowling. This was the beginning of the end of Harry Potter for me. I loved the first three books, with their twisty-turny plots, exciting adventures and fun characters. GOF was the first of the angsty, angry, Harry books, and I don’t enjoy them much.

…you are currently reading?

Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, a biography by Anthony Cronin.

…you have been meaning to read?

Letters, by John Barth. It took him seven years to write and did not sell well (although it’s still in print). I’ve started it but not got very far. Part of the task of reading it is to read all his core intertexts, and all his previous novels as well, as this is an epistolary novel conducted between the characters from his previous novels, and the author as well.

blurbing it up

August 11, 2006

(more everyman, more coincidence)

Anyone who has been reading my blog will know that I am innocently and childishly delighted when I encounter coincidences between my life and the world at large. Some of those coincidences are truly cosmic, and some are only really significant to me (more of the latter, usually based on what I’m reading).

So today I apprehended a coincidence between a post on The Penguin Blog and my current train book, The Adventures of Augie March, by Saul Bellow.

The coincidences are these:

  1. Penguin publish TAOAM. The copy I have is from the silver-backed (like a mighty and aged gorilla book) Penguin Classics series.
  2. This book has a blurb on the back. The post on the Penguin blog is about writing the blurbs on the back of (Penguin) books, classics in particular.
  3. The blurb on the back of TAOAM refers to capital-E Everyman: ‘A modern day Everyman on an odyssey in search of reality and identity…’ (which is slightly overstating things, I feel, but see that post on the Penguin blog! The phrase ‘blurbing it up’ springs to mind.)
  4. Finally, the coincidence clincher: not only did Philip Roth recently publish his own version of a modern day Everyman, entitled Everyman, but just yesterday I blogged about it.

(On a personal note, regarding the agony of getting this post finished, including starting again and re-doing most links about three times… WTF is up with WordPress today?!)


July 19, 2006

Equiano (MLW educated me as to the origin of this moniker) recently recommended a book to me by Dorothy Whipple called Someone at a Distance (her last, originally published in 1953).

I’ve not previously read any Dorothy Whipple. In fact, I’ve not previously heard of Dorothy Whipple.

Apparently, she was a popular author in her time, but our time has forgotten her. But her time was the 40s and 50s – not that long ago. So how is it that she’s not read anymore?

Equiano recommends the book as intelligent, subtle and involving.

more pepys

July 18, 2006

I recently finished reading Claire Tomalin’s excellent biography of Samuel Pepys.

I’ve subsequently stumbled on a quite brilliant site that enables you to read the Diary on a daily basis, via your browser or, if you’re really smart, via a feed.

The site is here: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

In yet another of those coincidences of art and life, I realised that the man who created the site, Phil Gyford, happened to be working in the same office as me (about 5 metres away) off and on over the last few months, and I had no idea he had done such a wondrous things as putting Pepys’s Diary online in such a clever way.