Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book project 2010: update #13

It's been six months since I decided to become a more conscious reader and keep a list of all the books I read in 2010 in the hope of gaining some insights into my reading habits. I'm not entirely sure what I've learnt so far except that I really will read anything that takes my fancy, and I could have told you that back in January.

Highlights so far? The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas; The Road by Cormac McCarthy; Parky: an autobiography by Michael Parkinson; Eats, shoots and leaves by Lynne Truss, and Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino. I'm not sure I've found my book of the year yet though. Oh well, there's still six months to go...

In the meantime, here's what I've been reading this fortnight:

Tell all by Chuck Palahnluk

I’d never read any Chuck Palahnluk before but I picked this book on the basis that he wrote the book Fight Club – a fantastic movie with a genuinely unexpected twist - is based on. And what a strange staccato tome it is. The subject matter is a little bit Sunset Boulevard and a little bit All about Eve, but the short, sharp, name-dropping style owes more to gossip column sleight-of-hand – a suggestion here, a little innuendo here, one plus one equals three.

Medusa by Michael Dibden

A 30-year-old body is found by cavers in a network of abandoned military tunnels dating back to WWII in the Italian alps. Immediately people start dying and the government goes into cover-up mode. Why? Incorruptible copper (can you call them that if they’re Italian?) Aurelio Zen is determined to uncover the answer. A gripping and well-written crime novel with plenty of Italian flare and passion.

Dead in the family by Charlaine Harris

Think your family is complicated? Spare a thought for Sookie Stackhouse, dealing with an insane fairy uncle, a telepathic cousin, Ancient Roman vampire in-laws and a brother who’s a were-panther... I am aware every time I write about these books (which the R-rated TV series True Blood is based on) how silly they sound, but they’re smart, witty, sexy, and best of all, extremely entertaining. What more could you ask for?

Medium Raw: a bloody valentine to the world of food and the people who cook by Anthony Bourdain

I loved this book. See my blog post Medium raw well done.

Air kisses by Zoe Foster

This book about a magazine beauty editor, written by a former magazine beauty editor, who I know from the time when I was a magazine beauty editor (the lifestyle part of my “features & lifestyle” role), depressed me a little. Whereas other readers might think, how glamorous; I thought, how vacuous and tedious. I guess I wasn’t cut out to write about beauty for a living. Good on Zoe for writing the book, though. I shall look out for her follow-up novel about footballer’s WAGs (wives and girlfriends) – something I am also not cut out to be.

The journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling

I’m not normally a fan of period novels however this intriguing piece of Victoriana captures the same sort of gloomy miasma of working class poverty, hard-won respectability and barely-concealed desperation that define Charles Dickens’ books. The main character Dora Damage is a plucky young woman struggling in a very real sense to feed her family and to keep the debt collectors at bay, but also against the constraints of the period which confine her. Days away from the poorhouse, she finds herself illegally binding expensive volumes of pornography and caught up in a world of sex, lies, slavery and aristocratic misbehaviour.

Silent Witness by Richard North Patterson

I almost didn’t pick this book up because the name seemed so familiar. I’m sure I’ve read several books called Silent Witness over the years. As it happens, I hadn’t read this one, although the plot was kind of familiar from a dozen other thrillers I have read: well-respected lawyer returns to the hometown he left almost 30 years before, swearing never to return, to defend his childhood friend, and in the process has to face the unfinished business of his own youth. Despite that this was a gripping and enjoyable example of the genre, with a satisfying ending I didn’t see coming.

Pride and prejudice and zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

This is the book that launched the whole literary-monster-mash up genre and I must admit I’ve been keen to read it since I read Grahame-Smith’s interpretation of Austen’s famous first line in a book shop late last year: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” Unfortunately now that I have, I can’t say that I like it. The joke gets tired pretty quickly and the book sticks so closely to Austen’s original text otherwise that I found it all rather tedious. At least in Murder at Mansfield Park (Book project 2010: update #10), the author reimagined both the characters and the plot, creating a book, which although a homage to the original, was a very different tale.

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