TBR Chronicles #02

The HakawatiThe Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine has been on my TBR for a while but I had forgotten about it.  It wasn’t until the NBCC Fiction Finalists were announced and Alameddine’s novel An Unnecessary Woman drew my attention that I remembered he had written another book that I’d intended on reading.  I was quite taken by An Unnecessary Woman so without doubt the Hakawati will be read fairly soon.  Euphoria

I added two more novels from the NBCC finalists.  The first being Euphoria by Lily King.  I was drawn to it initially because of its beautiful cover but the blurb was also captivating.  It was inspired by the life of “revolutionary” anthropologist Margaret Mead whom I have never heard of, however, the story is set in the 1930s and tells of a passionate yet destructive love triangle involving three anthropologists.  Ooh la la!

On Such a Full SeaThe second is On Such A Full Sea by Chang Rae Lee.  This novel is set in a future America after much decline.  I like these kinds of books very much so I’m naturally drawn to it but I’m even more inclined to read this one because it’s about a woman who leaves her labour settlement in search of her husband who has mysteriously disappeared and all that she encounters on her dangerous journey.  Sounds like it’ll be a great read.

The Western Canon by Harold Bloom is another new addition to my TBR.  I was inspired to read this as I came across a The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Agesfantastic reading list taken from the appendices of Bloom’s book which includes the most important works in the western canon from the days of Euripides and Plato to the 21st century.  Unfortunately the book itself doesn’t deal with all the works he lists in the appendices only a few he deemed especially important but I’m intrigued to read it since people seem so vehemently divided on Bloom himself.

BeowulfI added one book to my TBR while preparing a FBF on JRR Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings.  It is Beowulf translated by J RR Tolkein.  I have wanted to read Beowulf for myself ever since I saw the film.  I figured there can only be so much you can fit into a film so I’d like to read the epic in its entirety.  When I found out JRR Tolkein had done a translation I was sold.  The Bees

My final addition is The Bees by Laline Paull.  This one I came across on fellow blogger FictionFan’s TBR Thursday post and it sounded so different from anything I’ve come across that I couldn’t help myself.  It is described as The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games which sounded completely irresistable to me especially since I read The Handmaid’s Tale recently and really enjoyed it.

I’d love to hear what you think of any of these books that you may have read.  Maybe you could save me a bit of time or on the contrary push one of them up to the top of the pile!

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My Africa Reading Wishlist

My Africa reading wishlist is a personal reading list of African Literature I hope to get through in my lifetime.  I have been participating in KinnaReads’ Africa Reading Challenge for the last two years and originally created this reading list in response to her challenge.   If you’re looking for inspiration for your own foray into African Lit, I hope you find something you like here.  This reading list will evolve as I cross off my challenge books (check back for my reviews) and no doubt I’ll add a few more as I go.

 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)

No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)

Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)

Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)

Disgrace by J M Coetzee (South Africa)

Waiting for the Barbarians by J M Coetzee (South Africa)

Age of Iron by J M Coetzee (South Africa)

The Madonna of Excelsior by Zakes Mda (South Africa)  2015  #1 Review –
The Madonna of Excelsior by Zakes Mda

The Whale Caller by Zakes Mda (South Africa)

The Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda (South Africa)

The Imposter by Damon Galgut (South Africa)

In A Strange Room by Damon Galgut (South Africa)    2014  #1 Review –  In A Strange Room by Damon Galgut

Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya)

Petals of Blood by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya)

Islands by Dan Sleigh (South Africa)

A Dry White Season by André Brink (South Africa)

Philida by André Brink (South Africa)    2014  #2 ReviewPhilida by Andre Brink

An Instant in the Wind by André Brink (South Africa)

The Famished Road by Ben Okri (Nigeria)

July’s People by Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)   2014  #5 ReviewJuly’s People by Nadine Gordimer

Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)

When the Lion Feeds by Wilbur Smith (Zambia)

River God by Wilbur Smith (Zambia)

The Sleepwalking Land by Mia Couto (Mozambique)

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (South Africa)

Trackers by Deon Meyer (South Africa)

Dreamforest (Toorbos) by Dalene Matthee (South Africa)

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton (South Africa)

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)

We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo (Zimbabwe)

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (South Africa)

Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt)

Akhenaten by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt)

Graceland by Chris Abani (Nigeria)

The Stranger by Albert Camus (Algeria)

Finding Soutbek by K Jennings (South Africa)   2014  #3 Review  – Finding Soutbek by Karen Jennings

Foreign Gods, Inc by Okey Ndibe (Nigeria) 2014  #4 ReviewForeign Gods Inc by Okey Ndibe

Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya)

The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)

 

 

Some Books I’ve Read I Recommend from South Africa

Devil’s Peak by Deon Meyer (my review)

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer

7 Days by Deon Meyer

Circles in a Forest (Kringe in n Bos) by Dalene Matthee

Shades by Maguerite Poland

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (my review)

Biko: A Biography by Xolela Mangcu (my review)

 

TBR Chronicles #01

The CorrectionsThis month I added two books from my Friday Book Feature posts to my TBR.  The first one was The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.  I’ve been meaning to read something by Franzen for a really long time and after doing some reading about The Corrections I thought why not start with the novel that made the All TIME 100 Novels list.  It’s won some book awards and has enthusiastic reviews so I’m hoping not to be disappointed especially since it is very long.  (GoodReads)

The Crying of Lot 49

The second book from the FBF was The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon.  Pynchon has multiple novels on the All TIME 100 Novels list and is included in a few university literature reading lists.  This book sounded particularly interesting if not a bit wacky which intrigues the hell out of me.  The reviews are a bit polarised so all in all I’m not too sure whether I’ll fall in with those who loved it or not although I do expect it’ll be entertaining.  (GoodReads)

PenumbraThe 2015 Etisalat Prize Shortlist was released this month and from it I’ve added Penumbra by Songeziwe Mahlangu to my TBR list.  He’s a South African author and I’m hoping for a win for him.  The blurb of this novel sounds great and it falls within one of my favourite genres – crime fiction.  (GoodReads)

What Galileo Saw: Imagining the Scientific Revolution

A fellow blogger, FictionFan, really enjoyed the non fiction book What Galileo Saw: Imagining the Scientific Revolution by Lawrence Lipking.  It takes a look at the scientific revolution of the 17th century going beyond the science and showing the interconnections of science, literature, and philosophy.  I’m expecting this to be very thought provoking.  (GoodReads)

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with AutismAnother non fiction book that made it onto my TBR list this month I happened upon by chance.  I was looking at David Mitchell’s novels on GoodReads and noticed a book he’d done the translation of; The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen year old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida.  I am fascinated by the enigma that is Autism and what goes in the minds of these children.  This is a memoir which shows how the autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds.  I’m looking forward to this one.  (GoodReads)

Lila (Gilead, #3)

I first noticed Lila by Marilynne Robinson on the NYT best sellers list.  It’s been on there a few weeks and the novel has also made the NBCC finalists so I’m intrigued.  This novel is, however, the third in the Gilead series so I’ll probably have to start with the first two; Gilead, and then Home both of which are already on my TBR list.  (GoodReads)

A House for Mr BiswasAnd finally, my eye returns to a novel long since on my TBR list but which had sunk to the very bottom.  A House for Mr. Biswas by V S Naipaul.  101 Books did a post recently, A Fragrant of Forgotten Experience, in which he included an excerpt from the novel.  The passage was so beautiful I was newly inspired to read it. (GoodReads)

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The TBR Chronicles Begin…

I spend a fair amount of time reading about books to read and getting wonderful recommendations from friends and fellow bloggers.  My TBR list is an intricate mess, an ever increasing mammoth of what will probably be a lifetime of reading.  The list grows far more quickly than I can tick off books I’ve read but it is a reflection of all my reading goals.

I have always loved reading.  It has been a safe haven and an escape hatch.  Since I started this blog, though, I have defined some reading goals for myself; to read as much as I can from as many cultures as I can, to read for pleasure, and to read the books deemed important (or classics) in world Literature.

And so my TBR list was born.  I have toyed with the idea of sharing the full list but I don’t think that would make for good reading since each book has its reasons for getting on the TBR list.

I hope to share with you new books I’ve added to my TBR list recently and go over some that have lain in wait for some time.  I hope you find some new recommendations for yourself and if you’ve read any of the featured books I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And so The TBR Chronicles begin…

John Scalzi’s Favourite Books About Epidemics

I’m sure by now everyone is aware of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  Despite the incredible and due fear surrounding the Ebola virus it may be worth noting that while Ebola has killed a record amount of people, during the same time frame Malaria and TB have claimed hundreds of thousands more lives.

“Since the Ebola outbreak began in February, around 300,000 people have died from malaria, while tuberculosis has likely claimed over 600,000 lives. Ebola might have our attention, but it’s not even close to being the biggest problem in Africa right now.” (article)

That said, the Ebola outbreak has had me thinking about epidemics and how they truly are one of our greatest threats.  There are a number of great books that take on this terrifying subject and the first that comes to my mind is Justin Cronin’s The Passage Trilogy.  I love these books and am eagerly awaiting the final book.  John Scalzi’s new book Lock In is about a virus that results in 1% of the world’s population being left ‘locked in’.  Here is the blurb from GoodReads:Lock In

“Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselvs “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. One per cent doesn’t seem like a lot. But in the United States, that’s 1.7 million people “locked in”…including the President’s wife and daughter. Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own. This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse….”

I can’t wait to get my hands on this book!  So, with the release of Lock In, Scalzi has picked his favourite epidemic books which he has shared in a GoodReads’ Good Minds Suggest article.  Here are Scalzi’s 5 epidemic picks:

The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand

“This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.  And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides — or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail — and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.”  (GoodReads)

Emergence by David R Palmer

Emergence

“Candidia Maria Smith-Foster, an eleven-year-old girl, is unaware that she’s a Homo post hominem, mankind’s next evolutionary step. With international relations rapidly deteriorating, Candy’s father, publicly a small-town pathologist but secretly a government biowarfare expert, is called to Washington. Candy remains at home.  The following day a worldwide attack, featuring a bionuclear plague, wipes out virtually all of humanity (i.e., Homo sapiens). With her pet bird Terry, she survives the attack in the shelter beneath their house. Emerging three months later, she learns of her genetic heritage and sets off to search for others of her kind.”  (GoodReads)

Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was by Barry Hughart

Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was (The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, #1)

“When the children of his village were struck with a mysterious illness, Number Ten Ox sought a wiseman to save them. He found master Li Kao, a scholar with a slight flaw in his character. Together, they set out to find the Great Root of Power, the only possible cure. The quest led them to a host of truly memorable characters, multiple wonders, incredible adventures—and strange coincidences, which were really not coincidences at all. And it involved them in an ancient crime that still perturbed the serenity of Heaven. Simply and charmingly told, this is a wry tale, a sly tale, and a story of wisdom delightfully askew. Once read, its marvels and beauty will not easily fade from the mind.”  (GoodReads)

Grass by Sheri S Tepper

Grass (Arbai, #1)

“Generations ago, humans fled to the cosmic anomaly known as Grass. But before humanity arrived, another species had already claimed Grass for its own. It too had developed a culture…Now a deadly plague is spreading across the stars, leaving no planet untouched, save for Grass. But the secret of the planet’s immunity hides a truth so shattering it could mean the end of life itself.”  (GoodReads)

 World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

“The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. “World War Z” is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.  Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.” (GoodReads)

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Oprah’s Top 10 Books

I may not have the same reading preferences as Oprah all the time but I know that she often picks really great books for her readers.  This is a list I particularly like.  Oprah was asked to pick the top 10 books that have mattered to her during her magazine’s first decade (2000-2010) and this is what she chose…

 

A NEW EARTH By Eckhart Tolle

“There’s a reason Oprah picked this for her Book Club in 2008 – and that she gave audience members Post-It pens along with their copies. So much wisdom, so little time! A real-life guide to living your best life.”

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

“In “A New Earth,” Tolle expands on these powerful ideas to show how transcending our ego-based state of consciousness is not only essential to personal happiness, but also the key to ending conflict and suffering throughout the world. Tolle describes how our attachment to the ego creates the dysfunction that leads to anger, jealousy, and unhappiness, and shows readers how to awaken to a new state of consciousness and follow the path to a truly fulfilling existence. “The Power of Now” was a question-and-answer handbook. “A New Earth” has been written as a traditional narrative, offering anecdotes and philosophies in a way that is accessible to all. Illuminating, enlightening, and uplifting, “A New Earth” is a profoundly spiritual manifesto for a better way of life?and for building a better world.” (GoodReads)

 

NIGHT By Elie Wiesel

“A memoir of a childhood suffered in concentration camps during the Holocaust. It’s horrific but uplifting. “I gain courage from his courage,” says Oprah.”

Night (The Night Trilogy, #1)

“Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust and toward the end of the Second World War. In just over 100 pages of sparse and fragmented narrative, Wiesel writes about the death of God and his own increasing disgust with humanity, reflected in the inversion of the father–child relationship as his father declines to a helpless state and Wiesel becomes his resentful teenage caregiver.” (GoodReads)

 

DISCOVER THE POWER WITHIN YOU By Eric Butterworth

“Advice from the internationally known spiritual teacher.”

Discover the Power Within You

“One of the greatest challenges facing mankind today is the need to find a faith that will serve modern man and his problems. The lack of such a faith could explain why so many people are becoming drop-outs from Christianity. Eric Butterworth’s book is a result of the author’s personal search for a practical way-of-life Christianity. The greatest discovery of all time, he says in Discover The Power Within You, was that made by Jesus of the divine dimension in every human being. Christianity, says the author, has emphasized the divinity of Jesus, but Jesus Himself taught the divinity of man. His most vital mission on earth was to help man discover this. The entire Gospel message deals with techniques for unfolding this divine potential, and Eric Butterworth’s book, in its close relationship to the teachings of Jesus, is thus a valuable self-help book for modern men and women who are seeking a truly full way of life. Like Emmett Fox, the author asks, “What did Jesus really teach?”, and the direct and simple answers he presents should bring great comfort to many who have forgotten even to ask the question. This is a book in which the author tells us what Jesus Himself taught about such vital subjects as: How to succeed; How to pray; How to find confidence; How to overcome personal problems; How to find healing.” (GoodReads)

 

EAST OF EDEN By John Steinbeck

“This classic is about good and evil as played out in a late-19th-century California ranch family. If you didn’t read it in high school, read it now. If you did, reread it.”

East of Eden

“Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.” (GoodReads)

 

THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH By Ken Follett

“About the challenges of building cathedrals in 12th-century England, this novel couldn’t be more different in setting, time and plot from the author’s breakthrough success, Eye of the Needle. Oprah declares it simply “great.””

The Pillars of the Earth (The Pillars of the Earth, #1)

“The spellbinding epic set in twelfth-century England, The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of the lives entwined in the building of the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known—and a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.” (GoodReads)

 

THE KNOWN WORLD By Edward P. Jones

“When this book was published in 2003, it shocked everybody with its depiction of slave-owning blacks before the Civil War. A daring, unusual examination of race.”

The Known World

“The Known World tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can’t uphold the estate’s order, and chaos ensues. Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all its moral complexities.” (GoodReads)

 

THE BLUEST EYE By Toni Morrison

“How to choose among the great Morrison’s novels? Start with this one about a girl who thinks she has to have blue eyes to be beautiful. Oprah considers it one of the best in a crowded Morrison field.”

The Bluest Eye

“The Bluest Eye chronicles the tragic, torn lives of a poor black family in 1940s Ohio: Pauline, Cholly, Sam and Pecola. Pecola, unlovely and unloved, prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged blond white schoolfellows. She becomes the focus of the mingled love and hatred engendered by her family’s frailty and the world’s cruelty as the novel moves toward a savage but poignant resolution.” (GoodReads)

 

THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE By David Wroblewski

“A kind of Hamlet on the prairie, this is the wrenching story of a mute boy and his dog. Oprah compares it to East of Eden and To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

“Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose remarkable gift for companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar’s lifelong friend and ally. Edgar seems poised to carry on his family’s traditions, but when catastrophe strikes, he finds his once-peaceful home engulfed in turmoil.  Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the Sawtelle farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who accompany him, until the day he is forced to choose between leaving forever or returning home to confront the mysteries he has left unsolved.  Filled with breathtaking scenes—the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain—The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a meditation on the limits of language and what lies beyond, a brilliantly inventive retelling of an ancient story, and an epic tale of devotion, betrayal, and courage in the American heartland.” (GoodReads)

 

A FINE BALANCE By Rohinton Mistry

“A Dickensian novel about India during the Emergency. Like the aftermath of September 11, it teaches us about cultures we haven’t understood. “It takes us out of our own little shell and exposes us to a whole other world out there,” Oprah says.”

A Fine Balance

“With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers–a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village–will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future. As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.” (GoodReads)

 

THE POISONWOOD BIBLE By Barbara Kingsolver

“This novel is about a family embroiled in the political turmoil of postcolonial Africa. It established Kingsolver as one of our wisest observers of history, politics and human nature.”

The Poisonwood Bible

“The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.” (GoodReads)

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BookRiot’s 10 Books That Make You Feel Dumb

BookRiot conducted a survey with 463 of their readers to find out which books have left readers feeling dumb.  Their list includes 17 of the top novels to have dumbfounded readers but here I will share with you the top 10.  I’m particularly interested in the list entries as a number of them are on my TBR list so I’d love to hear if you all agree with BookRiot readers.  Some of these books have also been featured on my FBF posts as part of the All Time 100 list so I know some of you have already read some of these books.  So guys, without further ado here is the top 10 books that leave you feeling dumb…let me know what you think.

  1. Ulysses by James Joyce (71 votes)
  2. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (43)
  3. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (22)
  4. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (18)
  5. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (17)
  6. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (15)
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (15)
  8. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (14)
  9. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (14)
  10. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (14)

To see the rest of the list (which is surprising so go check it out) head over to BookRiot

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E.L. Doctorow’s Favorite Books About Memory

E L Doctorow is a super award winning novelist who released his latest novel, Andrew’s Brain, this year.  I am definitely going to get my hands on Andrew’s Brain which looks really good, and I thought I’d share Doctorow’s favourite books about memory as I’m quite intrigued by the topic.  First here’s a look at Doctorow’s new novel:

Andrew’s Brain by E L Doctorow

Andrew's Brain

This brilliant new novel by an American master, the author of Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, Billy Bathgate, and The March, takes us on a radical trip into the mind of a man who, more than once in his life, has been an inadvertent agent of disaster.  Speaking from an unknown place and to an unknown interlocutor, Andrew is thinking, Andrew is talking, Andrew is telling the story of his life, his loves, and the tragedies that have led him to this place and point in time. And as he confesses, peeling back the layers of his strange story, we are led to question what we know about truth and memory, brain and mind, personality and fate, about one another and ourselves. (read more on GoodReads)

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – ERNEST HEMINGWAY, to a friend, 1950.  Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway’s most beloved works. It is his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s, filled with irreverent portraits of other expatriate luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein; tender memories of his first wife, Hadley; and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft. It is a literary feast, brilliantly evoking the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized. (read more on GoodReads)

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

Speak, Memory (Everyman Library)

‘Speak, memory’ said Vladimir Nabokov. And immediately there came flooding back to him a host of enchanting recollections – of his comfortable childhood and adolescence, of his rich, liberal-minded father, his beautiful mother, an army of relations and family hangers-on and of grand old houses in St Petersburg and the surrounding countryside in pre-revolutionary Russia. Young love, butterflies, tutors and a multitude of other themes thread together to weave an autobiography which is itself a work of art. (read more on GoodReads)

The Emigrants by W G Sebald

The Emigrants

At first The Emigrants appears simply to document the lives of four Jewish émigrés in the twentieth century. But gradually, as Sebald’s precise, almost dreamlike prose begins to draw their stories, the four narrations merge into one overwhelming evocation of exile and loss.  Written with a bone-dry sense of humour and a fascination with the oddness of existence The Emigrants is highly original in its heady mix of fact, memory and fiction and photographs.  (read more on GoodReads)

Patrimony by Philip Roth

Patrimony

Patrimony, a true story, touches the emotions as strongly as anything Philip Roth has ever written. Roth watches as his eighty-six-year-old father, famous for his vigor, charm, and his repertoire of Newark recollections, battles with the brain tumor that will kill him. The son, full of love, anxiety, and dread, accompanies his father through each fearful stage of his final ordeal, and, as he does so, discloses the survivalist tenacity that has distinguished his father’s long, stubborn engagement with life. (read more on GoodReads)

The Mind of a Mnemonist by Alexander R. Luria

The Mind Of The Mnemonist: A Little Book About A Vast Memory

The Mind of a Mnemonist is a rare phenomenon – a scientific study that transcends its data and, in the manner of the best fictional literature, fashions a portrait of an unforgettable human being.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

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Michael Connelly’s Favourite Gifts for Mystery Lovers

Recently Michael Connelly’s next installment of the Bosch series, The Black Box, was released.  Connelly has a huge fan base and loads of us love mysteries so I thought some would be intrigued to know which mystery novels Mr Connelly believes would make good gifts to our mystery loving friends and family (or gifts for ourselves!).  Here are Connelly’s favourite gifts for mystery lovers:

 

Live by Night  by Dennis Lehane

Live by Night (Coughlin, #2)

Connelly: “Lehane defies expectations as usual. As a writer he really walks his own path. I admire that.”

Boston, 1926. The ’20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world. Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city’s most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw.  But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. In a time when ruthless men of ambition, armed with cash, illegal booze, and guns, battle for control, no one–neither family nor friend, enemy nor lover–can be trusted. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. But until that day, he and his friends are determined to live life to the hilt.  Joe embarks on a dizzying journey up the ladder of organized crime that takes him from the flash of Jazz Age Boston to the sensual shimmer of Tampa’s Latin Quarter to the sizzling streets of Cuba. Live by Night is a riveting epic layered with a diverse cast of loyal friends and callous enemies, tough rumrunners and sultry femmes fatales, Bible-quoting evangelists and cruel Klansmen, all battling for survival and their piece of the American dream. At once a sweeping love story and a compelling saga of revenge, it is a spellbinding tour de force of betrayal and redemption, music and murder, that brings fully to life a bygone era when sin was cause for celebration and vice was a national virtue.  (read more on GoodReads)

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

The Yellow Birds

Connelly: “I’m in the middle of this, but it is beautiful prose applied to an ugly war. A great book.”

“The war tried to kill us in the spring,” begins this breathtaking account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. In the endless days that follow, the two young soldiers do everything to protect each other from the forces that press in on every side: the insurgents, physical fatigue, and the mental stress that comes from constant danger. Bound together since basic training when their tough-as-nails Sergeant ordered Bartle to watch over Murphy, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for. As reality begins to blur into a hazy nightmare, Murphy becomes increasingly unmoored from the world around him and Bartle takes impossible actions. (read more on GoodReads)

The Prophet by Michael Koryta

The ProphetConnelly: “Koryta comes back to the crime novel but with the depth of a seasoned pro. His best book yet.”

“Adam Austin hasn’t spoken to his brother in years. When they were teenagers, their sister was abducted and murdered, and their devastated family never recovered. Now Adam keeps to himself, scraping by as a bail bondsman, working so close to the town’s criminal fringes that he sometimes seems a part of them. Kent Austin is the beloved coach of the local high school football team, a religious man and hero in the community. After years of near misses, Kent’s team has a shot at the state championship, a welcome point of pride in a town that has had its share of hardships. Just before playoffs begin, the town and the team are thrown into shock when horrifically, impossibly, another teenage girl is found murdered. As details emerge that connect the crime to the Austin brothers, the two must confront their buried rage and grief-and unite to stop a killer. Michael Koryta, widely hailed as one of the most exciting young thriller authors at work today, has written his greatest novel ever-an emotionally harrowing, unstoppably suspenseful novel that Donald Ray Pollock has called “one of the sharpest and superbly plotted crime novels I’ve read in my life.”  (read more on GoodReads)

 

Tribulations of the Shortcut Man by P.G. Sturges

Tribulations of the Shortcut Man

Connelly: “I love the uniqueness of these Shortcut Man books. Sturges has a great take on L.A., too.”

“From the writer described as “a worthy successor to Chandler” (Michael Connelly), the follow-up to Shortcut Man, featuring Dick Henry, is a rousing tale of sin and salvation in the City of Angels. Dick Henry is the Shortcut Man, assisting people with their sticky situations in the belief that the shortest answer to many problems may not always be legal. In Tribulations of the Shortcut Man, he reluctantly provides assistance to an old girlfriend, pole dancer Pussy Grace.  After Pussy’s boyfriend, rich and famous developer and septuagenarian Art Lewis, has inexplicably cut off communication with her, Dick and Puss enter Lewis’s mansion disguised as gas company employees to investigate. Everything quickly goes to hell. Dick and Puss flee, leaving the very dead Art Lewis behind. Dick anticipates arrest until news breaks the next morning: Art Lewis has just gotten married and is now enjoying his honeymoon. Realizing a conspiracy is afoot, Dick must navigate his way through the underbelly of Los Angeles and a motley crew of miscreants in pursuit of justice.” (read more on GoodReads)

 

Only One Life by Sara Blædel

Only One Life (Louise Rick / Camilla Lind #3)

Connelly: “I am a sucker for the Scandinavian thriller craze, and Blaedel is one of the best I’ve come across.”

“It was clearly no ordinary drowning. Inspector Louise Rick is immediately called out to Holbraek Fjord when a young immigrant girl is found in the watery depths, a piece of concrete tied around her waist and two mysterious circular patches on the back of her neck. Her name was Samra, and Louise soon learns that her short life was a sad story. Her father had already been charged once with assaulting her and her mother, Sada, who makes it clear that her husband would indeed be capable of killing Samra if she brought dishonor to the family. But she maintains that Samra hadn’t done anything dishonorable. Then why was she supposed to be sent back to Jordan? Samra’s best friend Dicte thinks it was an honor killing. A few days later Dicte is discovered, bludgeoned to death, and Samra’s younger sister has gone missing. Navigating the complex web of family and community ties in Copenhagen’s tightly knit ethnic communities, Louise must find this remorseless predator, or predators, before it is too late.”  (read more on GoodReads)

 

 

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Joe Hill’s Favourite Horror Villains

Joe Hill, author of NOS4A2, lists his favourite horror villains.  We love a good bad guy so I thought I’d share this list with you but first here’s a bit more about Hill’s novel:

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2

“Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.  Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”  Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.” (read more on GoodReads)

Mr. Dark

from Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes

“A masterpiece of modern Gothic literature, Something Wicked This Way Comes is the memorable story of two boys, James Nightshade and William Halloway, and the evil that grips their small Midwestern town with the arrival of a “dark carnival” one Autumn midnight. How these two innocents, both age 13, save the souls of the town (as well as their own), makes for compelling reading on timeless themes. What would you do if your secret wishes could be granted by the mysterious ringmaster Mr. Dark? Bradbury excels in revealing the dark side that exists in us all, teaching us ultimately to celebrate the shadows rather than fear them. In many ways, this is a companion piece to his joyful, nostalgia-drenched Dandelion Wine, in which Bradbury presented us with one perfect summer as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, he deftly explores the fearsome delights of one perfectly terrifying, unforgettable autumn.” (read more on GoodReads)

Anton Chigur

from No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men

“In his blistering new novel, Cormac McCarthy returns to the Texas-Mexico border, setting of his famed Border Trilogy. The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones.  One day, a good old boy named Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law–in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell–can contain. As Moss tries to evade his pursuers–in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives–McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.” (read more on GoodReads)

Abbot Enomoto

from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

“In 1799, Jacob de Zoet disembarks on the tiny island of Dejima, the Dutch East India Company’s remotest trading post in a Japan otherwise closed to the outside world. A junior clerk, his task is to uncover evidence of the previous Chief Resident’s corruption.  Cold-shouldered by his compatriots, Jacob earns the trust of a local interpreter and, more dangerously, becomes intrigued by a rare woman—a midwife permitted to study on Dejima under the company physician. He cannot foresee how disastrously each will be betrayed by someone they trust, nor how intertwined and far-reaching the consequences.  Duplicity and integrity, love and lust, guilt and faith, cold murder and strange immortality stalk the stage in this enthralling novel, which brings to vivid life the ordinary—and extraordinary—people caught up in a tectonic shift between East and West.” (read more on GoodReads)

Amy Dunne

from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

“On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?  As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?” (read more on GoodReads)

Ursula Monkton

from The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

“Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.” (read more on GoodReads)

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Mai Jia’s Favourite Modern Chinese Novels

I am very interested in the novel Decoded by Mai Jia and while reading about Jia on GoodReads I found this lovely list of his favourite modern Chinese novels which I thought I would share with you.  First though, here is a bit about what I hope to be a wonderful book:

Decoded by Mai Jia

Decoded

Decoded tells the story of Rong Jinzhwen, one of the great code-breakers in the world. A semi-autistic mathematical genius, Jinzhen is recruited to the cryptography department of China’s secret services, Unit 701, where he is assigned the task of breaking the elusive ‘Code Purple’. Jinzhen rises through the ranks to eventually become China’s greatest and most celebrated code-breaker; until he makes a mistake. Then begins his descent through the unfathomable darkness of the world of cryptology into madness.

Red Sorghum by Mo Yan

Red Sorghum

Jia: “Thanks to Mo Yan, thanks to this particular novel, contemporary Chinese literature has gone in a completely fresh direction with a renewed sense of purpose.

GoodReads Blurb: Spanning three generations, Red Sorghum, a novel of family and myth, is told through a series of flashbacks that depict events of staggering horror set against a landscape of gemlike beauty, as the Chinese battle both Japanese invaders and each other in the turbulent war years of the 1930s. (read more on GoodReads)

Red Poppies by Alai

Red Poppies

Jia: “…one of the best novels to have been published in China in recent years, where the suspense is brought to a devastating resolution. Only a novel could do justice to such an epic theme: the rise and fall of the last of the traditional Tibetan chieftains.

GoodReads Blurb: Red Poppies is the story of the Maichi family, its powerful chieftain, his Han Chinese wife, his first son and presumptive heir, and his second, “idiot,” son, the novel’s narrator and unlikely hero. The time is the 1930s, the setting a stone fortress overlooking all the family rules, the arid plains of eastern Tibet, and a thinly scattered populous of peasant farmers, merchants, and ineffectual, often comical local lamas. A feud breaks out with a neighboring chieftain; an emissary from the Chinese Nationalists comes to the Maichis’ aid with the tools of modern warfare. In exchange, fields of bright red poppies, valuable in the Nationalist-sponsored heroin trade, are to be planted instead of grain in a deal that makes the family even richer and earns them the enmity of nearly everyone. (read more on GoodReads)

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai by Wang Anyi

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai

Jia: “…this novel serves to shine a narrow beam of light upon another kind of truth about life in China.”

GoodReads Blurb: Set in post-World War II Shanghai, “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” follows the adventures of Wang Qiyao, a girl born of the “longtong,” the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai’s working-class neighborhoods.  Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant, and this fleeting moment of stardom becomes the pinnacle of her life. During the next four decades, Wang Qiyao indulges in the decadent pleasures of pre-liberation Shanghai, secretly playing mahjong during the antirightist Movement and exchanging lovers on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. Surviving the vicissitudes of modern Chinese history, Wang Qiyao emerges in the 1980s as a purveyor of “old Shanghai”–a living incarnation of a new, commodified nostalgia that prizes splendor and sophistication–only to become embroiled in a tragedy that echoes the pulpy Hollywood noirs of her youth. (read more on GoodReads)

The King of Trees by Ah Cheng

The King of Trees: Three Novellas: The King of Trees, The King of Chess, The King of Children

Jia: It is impossible to classify his ‘Three Kings,’ for these novels represent Ah Cheng’s unique creative vision. He is that rare creature among contemporary novelists in China: an intellectual with a profound understanding of the culture and way of life of Chinese people today.”

GoodReads Blurb: When the three novellas in The King of Trees were published separately in China in the 1980s, “Ah Cheng fever” spread across the country. Never before had a fiction writer dealt with the Cultural Revolution in such Daoist-Confucian terms, discarding Mao-speak, and mixing both traditional and vernacular elements with an aesthetic that emphasized not the hardships and miseries of those years, but the joys of close, meaningful friendships. In The King of Chess, a student’s obsession with finding worthy chess opponents symbolizes his pursuit of the dao; in The King of Children—made into an award-winning film by Chen Kaige, the director of Farewell My Concubine—an educated youth is sent to teach at an impoverished village school where one boy’s devotion to learning is so great he is ready to spend 500 days copying his teacher’s dictionary; and in the title novella a peasant’s innate connection to a giant primeval tree takes a tragic turn when a group of educated youth arrive to clear the mountain forest. As moving and enduring as the best of Jack London or Knut Hamsun, The King of Trees is as relevant today as it will be tomorrow.  (read more on GoodReads)

Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke

Dream of Ding Village

Jia: “If viewed from a strictly literary viewpoint, there are many things to criticize about Dream of Ding Village, but there are two things about this book that are worthy of admiration. First, it shows that a novelist can act as a social conscience, and secondly, that novelists should keep their eyes open to the realities of the world around them.”

GoodReads Blurb: Officially censored upon its Chinese publication, and the subject of a bitter lawsuit between author and publisher, Dream of Ding Village is Chinese novelist Yan Lianke’s most important novel to date. Set in a poor village in Henan province, it is a deeply moving and beautifully written account of a blood-selling ring in contemporary China. Based on a real-life blood-selling scandal in eastern China, Dream of Ding Village is the result of three years of undercover work by Yan Lianke, who worked as an assistant to a well-known Beijing anthropologist in an effort to study a small village decimated by HIV/AIDS as a result of unregulated blood selling. Whole villages were wiped out with no responsibility taken or reparations paid. Dream of Ding Village focuses on one family, destroyed when one son rises to the top of the Party pile as he exploits the situation, while another son is infected and dies. The result is a passionate and steely critique of the rate at which China is developing and what happens to those who get in the way. (read more on GoodReads)

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10 Self-Help Classics from Tom Butler-Bowden

50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life from Timeless Sages to Contemporary GurusI have been reading Tom Butler-Bowden’s 50 Self-Help Classics and I wanted to share with you a selection of 10 of these classics that you may or may not find interesting.  I have also really enjoyed his other books 50 Psychology Classics and 50 Spiritual Classics.  I love a good reading list and Bowden’s books are like deluxe reading lists – love them.  They are in no particular order and the quote which follows each title is but one of Bowden’s selections for his book.  If you have read any of these books please share your thoughts with me.  What are some of your favourite ‘self-help’ books not on this list?

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your DreamsThe Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra

“The best way to put the Law of Giving into operation … is to make a decision that at any time you come into contact with anyone, you will give them something. It doesn’t have to be in the form of material things; it could be a flower, a compliment, or a prayer … The gifts of caring, attention, affection, appreciation, and love are some of the most precious gifts you can give, and they don’t cost you anything.” read more on GoodReads

The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist

This book was recommended to me while I was on my Gap year and I finally got round to reading it when I got home. I enjoyed it very much.

“He had studied Latin, Spanish and theology. But ever since he had been a child, he had wanted to know the world, and this was much more important to him than knowing God and learning about man’s sins. One afternoon, on a visit to his family, he had summoned up the courage to tell his father that he didn’t want to become a priest. That he wanted to travel.” read more on GoodReads

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: AND How to Get What You Want in Your Relationships: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting ... Want in Your Relationships (French Edition)Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

“To feel better, women talk about past problems, future problems, potential problems, even problems that have no solutions. The more talk and exploration, the better they feel. This is the way women operate. To expect otherwise is to deny a woman her sense of self.” read more on GoodReads

The Road Less Travelled by M Scott PeckThe Road Less Travelled

“Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties in life as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.” read more on GoodReads

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for LivingThe Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama XIV and Howard C Cutler

“I believe that the proper utilization of time is this: if you can, serve other people, other sentient beings. If not, at least refrain from harming them. I think that is the whole basis of my philosophy.” read more on GoodReads

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin FranklinThe Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

“And I was not discourag’d by the seeming Magnitude of the Undertaking, as I have always thought that one Man of tolerable Abilities may work great Changes, & accomplish great Affairs among Mankind, if he first forms a good Plan, and, cutting off all Amusements or other Employments that would divert his Attention, makes the Execution of that same Plan his sole Study and Business.” read more on GoodReads

The DhammapadaThe Dhammapada by Eknat Easwaran

This is a short book well worth reading.  Read my review.

He who in early days was unwise but later found Wisdom, he sheds a light over the world like that of the moon when free from clouds.read more on GoodReads

As A Man Thinketh by James AllenAs a Man Thinketh (Tarcher Family Inspirational Library)

“Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results … We understand this law in the natural world, and work with it; but few understand it in the mental and moral world—although its operation there is just as simple and undeviating—and they, therefore, do not cooperate with it.” read more on GoodReads

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThe Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.” read more on GoodReads

Tao Te Ching by Lao TzuLao Tsu: Tao Te Ching

“Trying to understand is like straining to see through muddy water.  Be still, and allow the mud to settle.  Remain still, until it is the time to act.” read more on GoodReads

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Ann Cleeves’ Top 10 Crime Novels in Translation

The Guardian has a really cool book section called the Top 10 and they regularly publish great lists.  Here is one that caught my eye.  Crime fiction writer Ann Cleeves chooses her top 10 crime novels in translation.  I really liked the fact that one of my favourite crime novels Thirteen Hours by South African author Deon Meyer is included in this list.

“I love translated crime fiction.  It gives me the buzz of a good story but a delicious voyeurism too: the same sensation as when I’m walking down a street at dusk and people have forgotten to close their curtains.  Snapshots of different domestic lives, the food they eat, the pictures on the walls, the way they bring up their children.  We can learn about a country’s preoccupations by reading its popular fiction.  Scandinavian crime has become so successful that books from other territories can be overlooked. Here are some examples to show that it’s worth making wider reading investigations.”

1. The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien by Georges Simenon (translated by Linda Coverdales)

The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien

A new translation of a haunting tale about the lengths to which people will go to escape from guilt and book four of the Inspector Maigret series.  On a trip to Brussels, Maigret unwittingly causes a man’s suicide, but his own remorse is overshadowed by the discovery of the sordid events that drove the desperate man to shoot himself.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

2. Have Mercy on Us All by Fred Vargas (translated by Siân Reynolds)

Have Mercy on Us All (Commissaire Adamsberg, #4)

In a small Parisian square, the ancient tradition of the town crier continues into modern times. The self-appointed crier, Joss Le Guern, reads out the daily news, snippets of gossip, and lately, ominous messages — placed in his handmade wooden message box by an anonymous source — that warn of an imminent onset of the bubonic plague.  Concerned, Le Guern brings the puzzling notes to the bumbling but brilliant Chief Inspector Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his straight-edged, right-hand man, Adrien Danglard. When strange signs that were historically believed to ward off the black death start to appear on the doors of several buildings, Adamsberg takes notice and suspects a connection with Le Guern’s warnings. After a flea-bitten corpse with plague-like symptoms is found in one of the marked buildings, Fred Vargas’s inimitable genius chief inspector is under pressure to solve the mystery and restore calm to a panicked Paris. But is it a real case of the bubonic scourge, or just a sinister trick designed to frighten as the body count grows and the culprit continues to elude the police?  (read more on GoodReads)

 

3. Alex by Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne)

Alex (Verhœven, #1)

Alex Prévost—kidnapped, savagely beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a tiny wooden cage—is running out of time. Her abductor appears to want only to watch her die. Will hunger, thirst, or the rats get her first?  Apart from a shaky eyewitness report of the abduction, Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads, and no family or friends anxious to find a missing loved one. The diminutive and brilliant detective knows from bitter experience the urgency of finding the missing woman as quickly as possible—but first he must understand more about her.  As he uncovers the details of the young woman’s singular history, Camille is forced to acknowledge that the person he seeks is no ordinary victim. She is beautiful, yes, but also extremely tough and resourceful. Before long, saving Alex’s life will be the least of Commandant Verhoeven’s considerable challenges.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

4. Thirteen Hours by Deon Mayer (translated by KL Seegers)

Thirteen Hours (Benny Griessel, #2)

Some would call Detective Benny Griessel a legend. Others would call him a drunk. Either way, he has trodden on too many toes over the years ever to reach the top of the promotion ladder, and now he concentrates on staying sober and mentoring the new generation of crime fighters — mixed race, Xhosa and Zulu. But when an American backpacker disappears in Cape Town, panicked politicians know who to call: Benny has just thirteen hours to save the girl, save his career, and crack open a conspiracy, which threatens the whole country. (read more on GoodReads)

 

5. The Depths of the Forest by Eugenio Fuentes (translated by Paul Antil)

The Depths of the Forest

Gloria, a young and attractive painter, is brutally murdered in a nature reserve. Days later, a teenage hiker dies in exactly the same way. This is the story of a journey into the heart of an enigmatic and imposing landscape, but also into the heart of the secrets that live within each of the characters. Nature, magnificently described, stands out as an authentic protagonist to form a plot that exudes mystery from beginning to end.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

6. The Treasure Hunt by Andrea Camilleri (translated by Stephen Sartarelli)

Treasure Hunt (Inspector Montalbano, #16)

A hail of bullets interrupts a period of dead calm. An elderly brother and sister open fire on the piazza below their apartment, punishing the people of Vigàta for their sins. Montalbano is hailed as a hero when news cameras film him scaling a building — gun in hand — to capture the ancient pair of unlikely snipers.  Shortly after, the inspector begins to receive cryptic messages in verse from someone challenging him to go on a “treasure hunt.” Intrigued, he accepts, treating the messages as amusing riddles — until they take a dangerous turn. (read more on GoodReads)

 

7. River of Shadows by Valerio Varesi (translated by Josephh Farrell)

River of Shadows

In a bleak valley in Northern Italy, the River Po is swollen to its limits. The thick fog that usually clings to the town, blurring its surroundings and plunging its inhabitants into near-blindness, has been driven out by the raging storm. So when an empty barge drifts downriver, the fact the owner is missing does not go unnoticed. That same night Commissario Soneri is called in to investigate the murder of the boatman’s brother. The brothers served together in the fascist militia fifty years earlier – could this be a revenge killing after so long? Soneri’s investigation meets with a wall of silence from those who make their living along the banks of river. As the fog descends and the valley is hidden once more, Soneri must navigate fifty-year-old loyalties and deep-rooted rivalries before he can find out the truth. (read more on GoodReads)

 

8. Voices by Arnaldur Indridason (translated by Bernard Scudder)

Voices

The Christmas rush is at its peak in a grand Reykjavík hotel when Inspector Erlendur is called in to investigate a murder. The hotel Santa has been stabbed to death, and Erlendur and his fellow detectives find no shortage of suspects between the hotel staff and the international travelers staying for the holidays. As Christmas Day approaches, Erlendur must deal with his difficult daughter, pursue a possible romantic interest, and untangle a long-buried web of malice and greed to find the murderer.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

9. Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar (translated by Domingo Villar)

Death on a Galician Shore

One misty autumn dawn, in a quiet fishing port in northwest Spain, the body of a sailor washes up in the harbor. Detective Inspector Leo Caldas is called in from police headquarters in the nearby city of Vigo to sign off on what appears to be a suicide; but details soon come to light that turn this routine matter into a complex murder investigation. Finding out the truth is not easy when the villagers are so suspicious of outsiders. As Caldas delves into the maritime life of the village, he uncovers a disturbing decade-old case of a shipwreck and two mysterious disappearances. This chilling story of violence, blackmail, and revenge has enthralled readers across Europe. (read more on GoodReads)

 

10. Badfellas by Tonino Benacqista (translated by Emily Read)
Badfellas

The Blakes are newcomers to a small town in Normandy. Fred is a historian researching the Allied landings, Maggie enjoys charity work, and their kids are looking forward to meeting other teenagers at the local lycée. Or so it seems.  In fact, Fred is really Giovanni Manzoni, an ex-goodfella turned stool pigeon who’s been relocated from New Jersey to France by the FBI’s witness protection program. He’s got a two-million-dollar bounty on his head, but he and his family can’t help attracting attention (imagine the Sopranos in Normandy). And when imprisoned mobster Don Mimino gets wind of their location, it’s Mafia mayhem à la Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper, or like The Godfather as if written by Carl Hiaasen. Because while you can take the man out of the Mafia, you can’t take the Mafia out of the man. (read more on GoodReads)

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A Guide to Reading Wilbur Smith’s Series

Wilbur Smith is a best-selling author with four series of wonderful novels.  He was born in Kabwe, Zambia in 1933 and went to university in South Africa.  His novels span centuries and follow different people and families on the African continent.  He has also written a number of stand alone novels so don’t miss out on those.

The Courtney Series

The Courtney Novels are a series of fourteen novels published between 1964 and 2015. They chronicle the lives of the Courtney family from the 1860s to 1987. The novels can be split into three parts; the original trilogy of novels follow the twins Sean and Garrick Courtney from the 1860s until 1925; the second part is five books which follow Centaine de Thiry Courtney, her sons, and grandchildren between 1917 and 1987; and the third part, the most recently written, follows the Courtney family from the 1660s until 1918, focusing on successive generations of the family. This is the suggested reading order based on time period covered not publication date.

    1. Birds of Prey  – 1660s
    2. The Golden Lion – 1670s
    3. Monsoon – 1690s
    4. Blue Horizon  – 1730s
    5. When the Lion Feeds – 1860s-1890s
    6. Triumph of the Sun – 1880s
    7. The Sound of Thunder – 1899-1906
    8. Assegai – 1906-1918
    9. The Burning Shore – 1917-1920
    10. A Sparrow Falls – 1918-1925
    11. Power of the Sword – 1931-1948
    12. Rage – 1950s & 1960s
    13. Golden Fox – 1969-1979
    14. A Time To Die – 1987

For those of you reading the Courtney series here is a family tree diagram created by Dennis Wheeler for Wikipedia:

Courtney-tree

 The Ballantyne Series

The Ballantyne Novels are a series of five novels published between 1980 and 1992. They chronicle the lives of the Ballantyne family, from the 1860s through until 1980’s against a background of Rhodesian history (now Zimbabwe). A fifth novel published in 2005 seeks to combine the Ballantyne narrative with that of Smith’s other family saga, The Courtney novels.

  1. A Falcon Flies – 1860
  2. Men of Men – 1870s-1890s
  3. The Angels Weep – 1st part 1890s, 2nd part 1977
  4. The Leopard Hunts in Darkness – 1980s
  5. The Triumph of the Sun – 1884

The Egyptian Series

A historical fiction series of six novels published between 1993 and 2016 based in a large part on Pharaoh Memnon’s time along with his story and that of his mother Lostris through the eyes of his mother’s slave Taita mixing in elements of the Hyksos’ domination and eventual overthrow.

  1. River God (1993)
  2. The Seventh Scroll (1995)
  3. Warlock (1995)
  4. The Quest (2007)
  5. Desert God (2014)
  6. Pharaoh (2016)

The Hector Cross Series

A series following the adventures of Hector Cross of Cross Bow Security.

  1. Those in Peril (2011)
  2. Vicious Circle (2013)
  3. Predator (2016)

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Charles Graeber’s Top 10 True Crime Books

The crime fiction genre is extremely popular.  I, too, am a big fan of the genre.  I came across an article in the Gaurdian, Charles Graeber’s Top 10 True Crime Books, and having enjoyed In Cold Blood by Truman Capote I thought I’d share this list of 10 classic true crime books to sate any crime fiction lovers appetite…except these stories aren’t stories at all… Charles Graeber is the author of The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder published in 2013.

“The most prolific serial killer in American history refused to speak with anybody. Then he started talking to me. Eight years later, the result is The Good Nurse, a book which, as a work of non-fiction with murder involved, is shelved in the genre of true crime.”

To start off this list of classic true crime I will begin with Graeber’s own novel:

The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber

The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder

“After his December 2003 arrest, registered nurse Charlie Cullen was quickly dubbed “The Angel of Death” by the media. But Cullen was no mercy killer, nor was he a simple monster. He was a favorite son, husband, beloved father, best friend, and celebrated caregiver. Implicated in the deaths of as many as 300 patients, he was also perhaps the most prolific serial killer in American history.  Cullen’s murderous career in the world’s most trusted profession spanned sixteen years and nine hospitals across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When, in March of 2006, Charles Cullen was marched from his final sentencing in an Allentown, Pennsylvania, courthouse into a waiting police van, it seemed certain that the chilling secrets of his life, career, and capture would disappear with him. Now, in a riveting piece of investigative journalism nearly ten years in the making, journalist Charles Graeber presents the whole story for the first time. Based on hundreds of pages of previously unseen police records, interviews, wire-tap recordings and videotapes, as well as exclusive jailhouse conversations with Cullen himself and the confidential informant who helped bring him down, THE GOOD NURSE weaves an urgent, terrifying tale of murder, friendship, and betrayal.” (read more on GoodReads)

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

Brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty insist they were commanded to kill by God. Krakauer’s investigation is a meticulously researched, bone-chilling narrative of polygamy, savage violence and unyielding faith: an incisive, gripping work of non-fiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behaviour.  (read more on GoodReads)

All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

All the President's Men

In the most devastating political detective story of the century, two Washington Post reporters, whose brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation smashed the Watergate scandal wide open, tell the behind-the-scenes drama the way it really happened. Beginning with the story of a simple burglary at Democratic headquarters & then continuing with headline after headline, Bernstein & Woodward kept the tale of conspiracy & the trail of dirty tricks coming—delivering the stunning revelations and pieces in the Watergate puzzle that brought about Nixon’s scandalous downfall. Their explosive reports won a Pulitzer Prize for The Washington Post & toppled the President. This is a book that changed America. (read more on GoodReads)

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine

Ten years in the making and a masterpiece of reportage, “Columbine” is an award-winning journalist’s definitive account of one of the most shocking massacres in American history.  It is driven by two questions: what drove these killers, and what did they do to this town?  On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school, Oklahoma City-style, and to leave a lasting impression on the world. Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence–irrevocably branding every subsequent shooting ‘another Columbine.  (read more on GoodReads)

Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson

Blood and Money

Power, passion, oil money, murder—all the ingredients of a fast-paced, gripping mystery novel drive this true-crime story that on its original publication leapt onto best-seller lists nationwide. To that mix, add glamorous personalities, prominent Texas businessmen, gangland reprobates, and a whole parade of medical experts. At once a documentary account of events and a novelistic reconstruction of encounters among the cast of colorful characters, this anatomy of murder first chronicles the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death in 1969 of Joan Robinson—the pampered daughter of a Texas oil millionaire and the wife of plastic surgeon Dr. John Hill—then examines the bizarre consequences that followed it. For in 1972, having been charged by his father-in-law with Joan’s death and having survived a mistrial, John Hill himself was killed, supposedly by a robber. So was the robber, by a cop, supposedly for resisting arrest. From the exclusive haunts of Houston’s super-rich to the city’s seamy underworld of prostitutes, pimps, and punks, author and investigative journalist Thomas Thompson tracks down all the leads and clues. And in a brutal tale of blood and money he uncovers some shocking and bitter truths. (read more on GoodReads)

The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer

The Executioner's Song

In what is arguably his greatest book, America’s most heroically ambitious writer follows the short, blighted career of Gary Gilmore, an intractably violent product of America’s prisons who became notorious for two reasons: first, for robbing two men in 1976, then killing them in cold blood; and, second, after being tried and convicted, for insisting on dying for his crime. To do so, he had to fight a system that seemed paradoxically intent on keeping him alive long after it had sentenced him to death. Norman Mailer tells Gilmore’s story–and those of the men and women caught up in his procession toward the firing squad–with implacable authority, steely compassion, and a restraint that evokes the parched landscapes and stern theology of Gilmore’s Utah. The Executioner’s Song is a trip down the wrong side of the tracks to the deepest sources of American loneliness and violence. It is a towering achievement–impossible to put down, impossible to forget. (read more on GoodReads)

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy, the Shocking Inside Story by Anne Rule

The Stranger Beside Me (Revised and Updated): 20th Anniversary

Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that Ted Bundy, her close friend, was the savage slayer she was hunting. (read more on GoodReads)

Homicide: a year on the Killing Streets by David Simon

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

The scene is Baltimore. Twice every three days another citizen is shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned to death. At the center of this hurricane of crime is the city’s homicide unit, a small brotherhood of hard men who fight for whatever justice is possible in a deadly world.  David Simon was the first reporter ever to gain unlimited access to a homicide unit, and this electrifying book tells the true story of a year on the violent streets of an American city. The narrative follows Donald Worden, a veteran investigator; Harry Edgerton, a black detective in a mostly white unit; and Tom Pellegrini, an earnest rookie who takes on the year’s most difficult case, the brutal rape and murder of an eleven-year-old girl. (read more on GoodReads)

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders

Prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi held a unique insider’s position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the twentieth century: the cold-blooded Tate-LaBianca murders carried out by Charles Manson and four of his followers. What motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and what was his hold over the young women who obeyed his orders? Here is the gripping story of this famous and haunting crime. (read more on GoodReads)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.  As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence. (read more on GoodReads)

People Who Eat Darkness: the Fate of Lucie Blackman by Richard Lloyd Parry

People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman

Lucie Blackman – tall, blonde, and twenty-one years old – stepped out into the vastness of Tokyo in the summer of 2000, and disappeared forever. The following winter, her dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave.  The seven months in between had seen a massive search for the missing girl, involving Japanese policemen, British private detectives, Australian dowsers and Lucie’s desperate, but bitterly divided, parents. As the case unfolded, it drew the attention of prime ministers and sado-masochists, ambassadors and con-men, and reporters from across the world. Had Lucie been abducted by a religious cult, or snatched by human traffickers? Who was the mysterious man she had gone to meet? And what did her work, as a ‘hostess’ in the notorious Roppongi district of Tokyo, really involve? (read more on GoodReads)

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A Guide to Reading David Eddings’ Fantasy Series

David Eddings is a very famous American writer of high fantasy with a number of series under his belt.  Many of his books were written together with his wife, Leigh Eddings.  If you are planning to read Eddings for the first time here is the info to help you navigate reading the series in the best order accompanied by some nice maps.

A1 – Prequels to Belgariad & Malloreon:

  1. Belgarath the Sorcerer (1995)
  2. Polgara the Sorceress (1997)
  3. The Rivan Codex (1998)Belgariad & Malloreon Map david eddings

A2 – The Belgariad

  1. Pawn of Prophecy (1982)
  2. Queen of Sorcery (1982)
  3. Magician’s Gambit (1983)
  4. Castle of Wizardry (1984)
  5. Enchanters’ End Game (1984)

A3 – The Malloreon (sequel to the Belgariad)

  1. Guardians of the West (1987)
  2. King of the Murgos (1988)
  3. Demon Lord of Karanda (1988)Elenium Map david eddings
  4. Sorceress of Darshiva (1989)
  5. The Seeress of Kell (1991)

B1 – The Elenium 

  1. The Diamond Throne (1989)
  2. The Ruby Knight (1990)
  3. The Sapphire Rose (1991)Tamuli Map david eddings

B2 – The Tamuli (sequel to the Elenium)

  1. Domes of Fire (1992)
  2. The Shining Ones (1993)
  3. The Hidden City (1994)

C1 – The Dreamers

Dreamers Map david eddings

  1. The Elder Gods (2003)
  2. The Treasured One (2004)
  3. Crystal Gorge (2005)
  4. The Younger Gods (2006)

Eddings’ books were firm favourites in my house when I was growing up.  I haven’t read them yet myself but hopefully I’ll get to them in the near future.  Have you read any of these books?  Share your thoughts.

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A Writer’s Fiction Reading List – A Study in Elements of Fiction Writing

This list of novels comes from the Warwick University reading list for The Practice of Fiction and the following novels will be helpful for the study of the elements of fiction writing.

For a closer look at Entrances, Openings, and Beginnings:  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (2000)

A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius : A Memoir Based on a True Story“Dave Eggers is a terrifically talented writer; don’t hold his cleverness against him. What to make of a book called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: Based on a True Story? For starters, there’s a good bit of staggering genius before you even get to the true story, including a preface, a list of “Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book,” and a 20-page acknowledgements section complete with special mail-in offer, flow chart of the book’s themes, and a lovely pen-and-ink drawing of a stapler (helpfully labeled “Here is a drawing of a stapler”).  But on to the true story. At the age of 22, Eggers became both an orphan and a “single mother” when his parents died within five months of one another of unrelated cancers. In the ensuing sibling division of labor, Dave is appointed unofficial guardian of his 8-year-old brother, Christopher. The two live together in semi-squalor, decaying food and sports equipment scattered about, while Eggers worries obsessively about child-welfare authorities, molesting babysitters, and his own health. His child-rearing strategy swings between making his brother’s upbringing manically fun and performing bizarre developmental experiments on him. (Case in point: his idea of suitable bedtime reading is John Hersey’s Hiroshima.)”

For a closer look at Shapes and Structures: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004)

“Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story Gileadabout fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson’s beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows “even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order” (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.”

For a closer look at People and Things: Austerlitz by W G Sebald (2001)

Austerlitz“In 1967, the narrator bumps into a man in the salle de pas perdus of Antwerp’s Central Station. Thus begins a long if intermittent acquaintance, during which he learns the life story of this stranger, retired architectural historian Jacques Austerlitz. Raised as Dafydd Elias by a strict Welsh Calvinist ministry family, it is only at school that Austerlitz learns his true name–and only years later, by a series of chance encounters, that he allows himself to discover the truth of his origins, as a Czech child spirited away from his mother and out of Nazi territory on the Kindertransport. He returns to confront the childhood traumas that have made him feel that “I must have made a mistake, and now I am living the wrong life.”

For a closer look at Places and Domains: I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal (1983)

“Sparkling with comic genius and narrative exuberance, I Served the King of England is a story of how the unbelievable came true. Its remarkable hero, Ditie, is a hotel waiter who I Served the King of Englandrises to become a millionaire and then loses it all again against the backdrop of events in Prague from the German invasion to the victory of Communism. Ditie’s fantastic journey intertwines the political and the personal in a narrative that both enlightens and entertains.”

For a closer look at Voices: Drown by Junot Diaz (1996)

Drown“This stunning collection of stories offers an unsentimental glimpse of life among the immigrants from the Dominican Republic–and other front-line reports on the ambivalent promise of the American dream–by an eloquent and original writer who describes more than physical dislocation in conveying the price that is paid for leaving culture and homeland behind.”

And finally, for a closer look at Endings, Finales, and Conclusions: Short Stories by Anton Chekhov

The Best Stories of Anton Chekhov is an unforgettable journey through the complexities of the human heart. Celebrated as one of the greatest short story writers of all time, The Best Stories of Anton ChekhovChekhov’s masterpieces are given the difinitive treatment by editor John Kulka in this edition.  Among the twelve stories included here are some of Chekhov’s most famous and celebrated “The Lady with the Dog,” “The Darling,” and “Peasants” as well as a few less familiar though equally accomplished masterpieces. All of the stories in this round-up reveal Chekhov as a master of storytelling.”

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The Future through the Eyes of Famous Works of Fiction – A Visual Recounting & 10 Reading Picks

I came across the coolest visual representation of the works of fiction that portray a version of the future that I have ever seen.  This info packed graphic comes from BrainPickings and was originally created by Italian information visualization designer Giorgia Lupi.  For any readers out there who are lovers of any kind of future related genre you will love this graphic and may be great inspiration for bibliophiles.  It has organised the novels along an X and Y axis where the X axis is the year in the future the novel (or short story, comic, comic novel) deals with and the Y axis is the date that the novel was published.  You will notice that each novel is either red, black, or grey and these colours denote whether the story has a positive (red), negative (black), or neutral (grey) take on the future.  Another feature which I thought was very helpful was the symbols placed along the X axis which let you know what the novels are more or less about; environmental, sociological, travel-adventure, technological, scientific, or political.

Enjoy perusing this awesome table (click the image to see a larger version) and immediately after you’ll find my 10 reading picks from the novels on this table.

futureevents_giorgialupi_large

My 10 Reading Picks (in order of date in the future) from the Table

Set in 2020, Air by Geoff Ryman

AirChung Mae is the only connection her small farming village has to culture of a wider world beyond the fields and simple houses of her village. A new communications technology is sweeping the world and promises to connect everyone, everywhere without power lines, computers, or machines. This technology is Air. An initial testing of Air goes disastrously wrong and people are killed from the shock. Not to be stopped Air is arriving with or without the blessing of Mae’s village. Mae is the only one who knows how to harness Air and ready her people for it’s arrival, but will they listen before it’s too late?

Set in 2035, The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

The Speed of DarkIn the near future, disease will be a condition of the past. Most genetic defects will be removed at birth; the remaining during infancy. Unfortunately, there will be a generation left behind. For members of that missed generation, small advances will be made. Through various programs, they will be taught to get along in the world despite their differences. They will be made active and contributing members of society. But they will never be normal.  Lou Arrendale is a member of that lost generation, born at the wrong time to reap the awards of medical science. Part of a small group of high-functioning autistic adults, he has a steady job with a pharmaceutical company, a car, friends, and a passion for fencing. Aside from his annual visits to his counselor, he lives a low-key, independent life. He has learned to shake hands and make eye contact. He has taught himself to use “please” and “thank you” and other conventions of conversation because he knows it makes others comfortable. He does his best to be as normal as possible and not to draw attention to himself.   But then his quiet life comes under attack. It starts with an experimental treatment that will reverse the effects of autism in adults. With this treatment Lou would think and act and be just like everyone else. But if he was suddenly free of autism, would he still be himself? Would he still love the same classical music–with its complications and resolutions? Would he still see the same colors and patterns in the world–shades and hues that others cannot see? Most importantly, would he still love Marjory, a woman who may never be able to reciprocate his feelings? Would it be easier for her to return the love of a “normal”?

 Set in 2038, Everyone’s Just So So Special by Robert Shearman

Everyone's Just So So SpecialThe history of the world. All of it. Its wars, its empires. Each and every one of its decline-and-falls. It’s really terribly simple. It’s the story of a bunch of mediocrities who are trying to look special. And it is my duty, it is my pleasure, to expose the lot of them.  A little boy who betrays his father to the mercies of Santa Claus. An assassin whose personality is so insipid he erases people with his very presence. A kitty cat that likes to hunt only endangered species. Camel marriages, killer angels, and conjuring tricks that cause worldwide plague.  The history of mankind. As told through twenty-one tales of the comic and the macabre. Frightening and funny. Heartbreaking and wise.

Set in 2082, the Otherland series starting with The City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams

City of Golden Shadow (Otherland, #1)Renie Sulaweyo, a teacher in the South Africa of tomorrow, realizes something is wrong on the network. Kids, including her brother Stephen, have logged into the net, and cannot escape. Clues point to a mysterious golden city called Otherland, but investigators all end up dead.

Set in 2086, Blindsight by Peter Watts

BlindsightIt’s been two months since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since – until a derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there: but not to us. Who to send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn’t want to meet? Send a linguist with multiple-personality disorder, and a biologist so spliced to machinery he can’t feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior, and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they’ve been sent to find – but you’d give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them.

Set in 2107, Blind Faith by Ben Elton

Blind FaithAs Trafford Sewell struggles to work through the usual crowds of commuters, he is confronted by the intimidating figure of his priest, full of accusatory questions. Why has Trafford not been streaming his every moment of sexual intimacy onto the community website like everybody else? Does he think he’s different or special in some way? Does he have something to hide? Imagine a world where everyone knows everything about everybody. Where what a person “feels” and “truly believes” is protected under the law, while what is rational, even provable, is condemned as heresy. A world where to question ignorance and intolerance is to commit a crime against Faith. Ben Elton’s dark, savagely comic novel imagines a postapocalyptic society where religious intolerance combines with a confessional sex-obsessed, self-centric culture to create a world where nakedness is modesty, ignorance is wisdom, and privacy is a dangerous perversion. A chilling vision of what’s to come, or something rather close to what we call reality?

Set in 2108, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death. In a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.  When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

Set in 2240, Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler

Lilith's Brood: Dawn / Adulthood Rites / Imago (Xenogenesis, #1-3)Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected — by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story…

Set in 2312, is 2312 by Kim S Robinson

2312The year is 2312. Scientific and technological advances have opened gateways to an extraordinary future. Earth is no longer humanity’s only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system on moons, planets, and in between. But in this year, 2312, a sequence of events will force humanity to confront its past, its present, and its future.  The first event takes place on Mercury, on the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an unprecedented scale. It is an unexpected death, but one that might have been foreseen. For Swan Er Hong, it is an event that will change her life. Swan was once a woman who designed worlds. Now she will be led into a plot to destroy them.

Set in 2320, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup GirlAnderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko.  Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.   What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

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2013 Christmas Reading List

The Christmas holidays are fast approaching and it is a special time to be with family as well as the perfect time to settle into some good reading.  I’ve put together a reading list of 12 books which I think will be perfect for the festive season.  Most are from this year but there are one or two classics which you may or may not have read.  I’ve also tried to include books from multiple genres so there should be something for everyone or if you like all genres then you’ll get a bit of everything.  If you have an suggestions please feel free to share them with us.

The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice (Wolf Gift Chronicles #2)

The Wolves of Midwinter (The Wolf Gift Chronicles, #2)The novel opens on a cold, gray landscape. It is the beginning of December. Oak fires are burning in the stately flickering hearths of Nideck Point. It is Yuletide. For Reuben Golding, now infused with the wolf gift and under the loving tutelage of the Morphenkinder, this Christmas promises to be like no other . . . as he soon becomes aware that the Morphenkinder, steeped in their own rituals, are also celebrating the Midwinter Yuletide festival deep within Nideck forest.  From out of the shadows of the exquisite mansion comes a ghost—tormented, imploring, unable to speak yet able to embrace and desire with desperate affection . . . As Reuben finds himself caught up with the passions and yearnings of this spectral presence and the preparations for the Nideck town Christmas reach a fever pitch, astonishing secrets are revealed, secrets that tell of a strange netherworld, of spirits—centuries old—who possess their own fantastical ancient histories and taunt with their dark, magical powers… (read more on GoodReads)

Silent Night by Robert B Parker (Spenser Holiday #42.5)

Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday NovelIt’s December in Boston, and Spenser is busy planning the menu for Christmas dinner when he’s confronted in his office by a young boy named Slide.  Homeless and alone, Slide has found refuge with an organization named Street Business, which gives shelter and seeks job opportunities for the homeless and lost.  Slide’s mentor, Jackie Alvarez, is being threatened, and Street Business is in danger of losing its tenuous foothold in the community, turning Slide and many others like him back on the street.  But it’s not a simple case of intimidation.  Spenser, aided by Hawk, finds a trail that leads to a dangerous drug kingpin, whose hold on the at-risk community Street Business serves threatens not just the boys’ safety and security, but their lives as well. (read more on GoodReads)

Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones #3)

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones, #3)What do you do when your girlfriend’s sixtieth birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend’s thirtieth?  Is sleeping with someone after two dates and six weeks of texting the same as getting married after two meetings and six months of letter writing in Jane Austen’s day? Pondering these and other modern dilemmas, Bridget Jones stumbles through the challenges of loss, single motherhood, tweeting, texting, technology, and rediscovering her sexuality in—Warning! Bad, outdated phrase approaching!—middle age.  In a triumphant return after fourteen years of silence, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy is timely, tender, touching, page-turning, witty, wise, outrageous, and bloody hilarious. (read more on GoodReads)

Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

Starry Night: A Christmas NovelCarrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author.   Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a mega-bestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.  Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart. (read more on GoodReads)

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Tenth of DecemberInstantly astounding and enduringly haunting, one of America’s greatest writers gives us his most dazzling short story collection yet.  His most wryly hilarious work to date, Tenth of December illuminates human experience and explores figures lost in a labyrinth of troubling preoccupations. A family member recollects a backyard pole dressed for all occasions; Divisional Director Todd Birnie sends round a memo to employees he thinks need some inspiration; Jeff faces horrifying ultimatums and the prospect of Darkenfloxx’ in some unusual drug trials; and in an auction of local celebrities Al Roosten hides his own internal monologue behind a winning smile that he hopes will make him popular. Although, as a young boy discovers, sometimes the voices fade and all you are left with is a frozen hill on a cold day in December…With dark visions of the future riffing against ghosts of the past and the ever-settling present, Tenth of December sings with astonishing charm and intensity, and re-affirms Saunders as one of our greatest living storytellers. (read more on GoodReads)

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews

Christmas BlissChristmas is coming, but Savannah antique dealer Weezie Foley is doubly distractedboth by her upcoming wedding to her longtime love, chef Daniel Stipanek and also by the fact that her best friend and maid-of-honor BeBe Loudermilk is due to give birth any dayand is still adamantly refusing to marry her live-in-love Harry. Listeners have come to love these characters in Mary Kay Andrews three previous Savannah novels: Savannah Blues, Savannah Breeze, and Blue Christmas.Christmas Bliss offers Andrewss legions of fans the best of many things: familiar characters, a new novella for Christmas, and a celebration of Mary Key Andrewss own favorite pastime-antiquing. Blue Christmas was a fan favorite, and now Christmas Bliss is sure to fly off store shelves and into the hands of Andrewss fans in bestselling numbers. (read more on GoodReads)

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas CarolThe story of Ebenezer Scrooge opens on a Christmas Eve as cold as Scrooge’s own heart. That night, he receives three ghostly visitors: the terrifying spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Each takes him on a heart-stopping journey, yielding glimpses of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, the horrifying spectres of Want and Ignorance, even Scrooge’s painfully hopeful younger self. Will Scrooge’s heart be opened? Can he reverse the miserable future he is forced to see? Now in an unabridged edition gloriously illustrated by the award-winning P.J. Lynch, this story’s message of love and goodwill, mercy and self-redemption resonates as keenly as ever.  (read more on GoodReads)

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #20)

Hogfather (Discworld, #20)Its the night before hogswatch.  And its too quiet.  Where is the big jolly fat man? Why is Death creeping down chimneys and trying to say Ho Ho Ho? The darkest night of the year is getting a lot darker… Susan the gothic governess has got to sort it out by morning, otherwise there won’t be a morning. Ever again… The 20th Discworld novel is a festive feast of darkness and Death (but with jolly robins and tinsel too). As they say: You’d better watch out… (read more on GoodReads)

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson (Alex Cross #19)

Merry Christmas, Alex CrossIt’s Christmas Eve, and Detective Alex Cross has been called out to catch someone who’s robbing his church’s poor box. That mission behind him, Alex returns home to celebrate with Bree, Nana, and the children. The tree-decorating is barely under way before his phone rings again–a horrific hostage situation is quickly spiraling out of control. Away from his own family on the most precious of days, Alex calls upon every ounce of his training, creativity, and daring to save another family. He risks everything–and he may not make it back alive for Christmas dinner. (read more on GoodReads)

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot #20)

Hercule Poirot's Christmas (Hercule Poirot, #20)

On the night before Christmas, cruel, tyrannical, filthy rich Simeon Lee is found in his locked bedroom with his throat cut. Now Hercule Poirot must put his detective powers to the test to solve one of his most chilling cases – and to prevent a clever killer from spilling more blood. (read more on GoodReads)

Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914 by Stanley Weintraub

Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914

It was one of history’s most powerful,yet forgotten,Christmas stories. It took place in the improbable setting of the mud, cold rain and senseless killing of the trenches of World War I. It happened in spite of orders to the contrary by superiors; it happened in spite of language barriers. And it still stands as the only time in history that peace spontaneously arose from the lower ranks in a major conflict, bubbling up to the officers and temporarily turning sworn enemies into friends. (read more on GoodReads)

CLAUS, A Christmas Incarnation by C J Coombes (In 3 Volumes)

CLAUS: A Christmas Incarnation, Volume One, The Child1854. Elizabeth Dennison, a now elderly woman, awaits the arrival of a long lost acquaintance. The meeting, initially dreaded as much as desired, fortunately rekindles an old friendship. It is in this reunion, a passing of memories and knowledge, that the guest requests specific details of Elizabeth’s life. So begins a story during the early 1800’s, days after Elizabeth Dennison is removed from her home and sickly mother to be cared for by the wealthy Claussen Family. A favor for which, in return, she is to provide service as a maiden servant. At a young age, Elizabeth faces a wary relationship with the Claussens and her new surroundings. Most of all, she is both frightened and mesmerized by Christopher Claussen, a powerful man and husband to Lady Rebecca. It is this relationship that ends up sweeping Elizabeth away from her home in Scandinavia to battle the perils of a voyage across an ocean, and a life on the American frontier. Elizabeth comes to believe that Christopher holds sway not only over her life, but the world as a whole in something more than a natural way. He is god-like in her eyes and becomes very much the focus of her fragile childhood years. Volume one is a fulfilling read unto itself without the need for further reading. It is a saga rich with ambiance, details of the era, and characters that are as real as life. If you desire to be swept away with Elizabeth on a journey through time and emotion then you will not regret purchasing this story. (read more on GoodReads)

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A Guide to Reading Terry Brooks’ Shannara Series

Terry Brooks is most famous for his Shannara Series of fantasy fiction.  For those of you interested in embarking on the Shannara journey, here is a guide to reading the series in chronological order.

1. Word and Void Series
1 – Running with the Demon (1997)
2 – A Knight of the Word (1998)
3 – Angel Fire East (1999)

2. Genesis of Shannara Series
1 – Armageddon’s Children (2006)
2 – The Elves of Cintra (2007)
3 – The Gypsy Morph (2008)

3. Legends of Shannara Series
1 – Bearers of the Black Staff (2010)
2 – The Measure of the Magic (2011)

4. Paladins of Shannara Series
1 – Allanon’s Quest (2012)
2 – The Weapons Master’s Choice (2013)
3 – The Black Irix (2013)

5. Original Shannara Series
1 – The Sword of Shannara (1977)
2 – The Elfstones of Shannara (1982)
3 – The Wishsong of Shannara (1985)

6. Heritage of Shannara Series
1 – The Scions of Shannara (1990)
2 – The Druid of Shannara (1991)
3 – The Elf Queen of Shannara (1992)
4 – The Talismans of Shannara (1993)

7. Voyage of the Jerle Shannara Series
1 – Ilse Witch (2000)
2 – Antrax (2001)
3 – Morgawr (2002)

8. High Druid of Shannara Series
1 – Jarka Ruus (2003)
2 – Tanequil (2004)
3 – Straken (2005)

9. The Dark Legacy of Shannara Series
1 – Wards of Faerie (2012)
2 – Bloodfire Quest (2013)
3 – Witch Wraith (2013)

10. Defenders of Shannara Series
1 – The High Druid’s Blade (2014)
2 – The Darkling Child (2015)
3 – The Sorcerer’s Daughter (2016)

 

I’ve shared with you the chronological order of the Shannara books but if you are interested you can also follow Brooks’ suggested order for new readers to the series.

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