TBR Chronicles #04

The Complete Photographer

This month I have some books that are a little different from what I would normally select.  This is in part due to my recent refocus in my working world.  I’ve decided to take on new challenges professionally and so the first new addition to my TBR is Tom Ang’s beautiful book The Complete Photographer.  This book is not your average photography book and covers 10 different photography genres accompanied by tutorials and lots of other information.  It also has very cool interviews with acclaimed professional photographers which is a nice addition I think.  I can’t wait to get stuck in! (GoodReads)

Captured in Time: Five Centuries of South African Writing

The second new book on my TBR is a book I happened upon in the ‘on sale’ section of the bookshop.  I hadn’t heard of it before but as soon as I saw it I knew it would be interesting.  It is Captured in Time: Five Centuries of South African Writing by John Clare. This is a book about South African history but not from the perspective of historians.  Instead we glimpse the past through the words of those that not only lived in those times but wrote about them as well.

Here, then, are the words not so much of historians, biographers and journalists but of settlers, explorers, hunters, travellers, missionaries, soldiers and politicians as well as of novelists, playwrights and poets.”

I expect this to be a very insightful read. (GoodReads)

Dust

Next is a book that has been on my mind for a while.  I kept hearing about it and it has received good reviews so I hoping to get to it soon.  Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor is set in Kenya and tells the story not only of a family in the wake of the murder of their son and brother but also of the dark past that looms still.  (GoodReads)

The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy

The final addition to my TBR is a book that caught my eye because it appeals greatly to my OCD nature.  It is a book of the photography of Ursus Wehrli entitled The Art of Cleanup: Life Made Neat and Tidy and features photographs in sets of two.  The first shot is of a normal ‘messy’ scene like a bowl of cereal for example and the second shot is of the same bowl of cereal except the elements have been separated and organised so we get to see all the parts that made up the bowl of cereal in an organised and ‘clean’ way.  It is magnificent!  I’m sure I have not done the book justice in my description so please go over and have a look at the wonderful images. (GoodReads)

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TBR Chronicles #03

The Book of DisquietI recently read An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine and from it I added two books to my TBR list.  The first one is The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa.  I’ve always wanted to read something by Pessoa because he is such a literary legend but I’ll admit I felt a bit apprehensive as to where to start.  After reading a few quotes from this book however, I’ve decided to start with The Book of Disquiet. (GoodReads)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The second book I added is The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.  I was intrigued by this book because of the effect it has on a character in Alameddine’s book and Hamid has also been shortlisted for many top lit prizes so I’m fairly sure it’ll be a very good book.  (GoodReads)

The Colour of Magic (Discworld, #1)

Terry Pratchett passed away recently and I decided to do a post about his Discworld series and in so doing decided, I, too, needed to embark on the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.  The series is made up of around 40 books so there’ll be no shortage of reading material once I get going.  (GoodReads)

The Buried Giant

A new and highly anticipated novel came out this month and I had to add it to my TBR list.  The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro is quite a big deal at the moment since it is the author’s latest offering in a decade.  It is said to be a little of a departure from his previous novels since it is set in Arthurian Britain but that just makes me even more interested.  (GoodReads)

The Miniaturist

The last addition to the TBR this month is The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton which has caught my eye because firstly lots of people are talking about this book and secondly it won the Specsavers National Book Award so I reckon it’s got to be good!  (GoodReads)

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Feel free to share with us any of your March book finds.

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Terry Pratchett & the Discworld Series

150312152121-terry-pratchett-exlarge-169Yesterday we received the sad news of Terry Pratchett’s passing.  Pratchett is a beloved fantasy writer best known for his Discworld series.  He has been honoured with an OBE and many literary awards for his work.  His books have sold upward of 85 million copies and have been translated into 37 languages.  His popularity is rivalled only by that of J K Rowling in the fantasy world.  Pratchett has listed JRR Tolkein, Robert E Howard, H P Lovecraft, and William Shakespeare as inspiration as well as mythology, folklore, and fairytales.pratchett the end tweet

The Discworld series is 40 books strong with the very first one, The Colour of Magic, published in 1983.  Since then Pratchett has written about two Discworld books per year.  The 41st book was due out later this year.  Fans of Pratchett may be wondering if this is the end of the Discworld series and while it seems that may be true I have read in a New Statesman article from 2012 that Pratchett was happy to have his only daughter, Rihanna Pratchett, carry on the series.

“the Discworld is safe in my daughter’s hands”

Whether fans will be happy about this or not, I have no idea.  However, the end of the Discworld series remains to be seen.  Many, including myself, have not yet read the series.  Pratchett is known to have had a good sense of humour and his fantasy series reflects this.  It is a comical and satirical series often including parallels with current cultural, political, and scientific issues.

I have included the full book list of the Discworld series to guide you on your Discworld journey should you wish to embark upon it.  Many of the Discworld books are also part of sub series which I have included in brackets after the publication date.

The Discworld Series:

1          The Colour of Magic [1983]    (Rincewind #1)

2          The Light Fantastic [1986]    (Rincewind #2)

3          Equal Rites [1987]    (Witches #1)

From BuzzFeed’s 26 Discworld Quotes About Life, The Universe, And Everything

4          Mort [1987]    (Death #1)

5          Sourcery [1988]    (Rincewind #3)

6          Wyrd Sisters [1988]    (Witches #2)

7          Pyramids [1989]

8          Guards! Guards! [1989]    (Ankh-Morpork City Watch #1)

9          Eric [1990]    (Rincewind #4)

10        Moving Pictures [1990]

11        Reaper Man [1991]    (Death #2)

12        Witches Abroad [1991]    (Witches #3)

13        Small Gods [1992]

14        Lords and Ladies [1992]    (Witches #4)

15        Men at Arms [1993]    (Ankh-Morpork City Watch #2)

16        Soul Music [1994]    (Death #3)

17        Interesting Times [1994]    (Rincewind #5)

18        Maskerade [1995]    (Witches #5)

19        Feet of Clay [1996]    (Ankh-Morpork City Watch #3)

20        Hogfather [1996]    (Death #4)

From BuzzFeed’s 26 Discworld Quotes About Life, The Universe, And Everything

21        Jingo [1997]    (Ankh-Morpork City Watch #4)

22        The Last Continent [1998]    (Rincewind #6)

23        Carpe Jugulum [1998]    (Witches #6)

24        The Fifth Elephant [1999]    (Ankh-Morpork City Watch #5)

25        The Truth [2000]

26        Thief of Time [2001]    (Death #5)

27        The Last Hero [2001]    (Rincewind #7)

28        The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents [2001]

29        Night Watch [2002]    (Ankh-Morpork City Watch #6)

30        The Wee Free Men [2003]    (Tiffany Aching #1)

31        Monstrous Regiment [2003]

32        A Hat Full of Sky [2004]    (Tiffany Aching #2)

33        Going Postal [2004]

34        Thud! [2005]    (Ankh-Morpork City Watch #7)

35        Wintersmith [2006]    (Tiffany Aching #3)

36        Making Money [2007]

37        Unseen Academicals [2009]    (Rincewind #8)

38        I Shall Wear Midnight [2010]    (Tiffany Aching #4)

39        Snuff [2011]    (Ankh-Morpork City Watch #8)

40        Raising Steam [2013]

41        The Shepard’s Crown [2015?]    (Tiffany Aching #5)

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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The Guardian’s 7 Top Selling Autobiographies since 2001

Autobiographies are a popular genre these days and we’ve all enjoyed at least good book within this genre.  I came across an article on the Guardian blog about the data behind the top selling autobiographies since 2001 and decided to share with you 7 of the fastest selling autobiographies, that is, those books which sold the most copies per day.  American readers will notice that this data is from the UK, so sorry about that, but please feel free to share with us your favourite autobiographies.  First though, here is my all time favourite autobiography:

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s antiapartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality.  LONG WALK TO FREEDOM is his moving and exhilarating autobiography, destined to take its place among the finest memoirs of history’s greatest figures. Here for the first time, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela tells the extraordinary story of his life–an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph.  (read my review)

 

#1 Cheryl: My Story by Cheryl Cole

Cheryl: My Story

For the first time Cheryl tells her full story, her way. Revealing the truth behind the headlines, this is the only official autobiography, giving the fans the true story they’ve been waiting for. Includes exclusive, personal photos.  The nation’s sweetheart, Cheryl has achieved unrivalled success with Girls Aloud, as a solo artist, a judge on the X Factor, a fashion icon and as the face of L’Oreal. However, the path to fame is rarely easy and for Cheryl it has been a colourful journey. (read more on GoodReads)

#2 The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (The Midwife Trilogy 1) by Jennifer Worth

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times

An unforgettable story of the joy of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the hope of one extraordinary woman.  At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London’s East End slums. The colorful characters she meets while delivering babies all over London-from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives to the woman with twenty-four children who can’t speak English to the prostitutes and dockers of the city’s seedier side-illuminate a fascinating time in history. Beautifully written and utterly moving, The Midwife will touch the hearts of anyone who is, and everyone who has, a mother.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

#3 The Fry Chronicles (Memoir 2) by Stephen Fry

The Fry Chronicles

Stephen Fry is not just a multi-award-winning comedian and actor, but also an author, director and presenter. He is one of the most influential cultural forces in the country. This title details some of the most turbulent and least well known years of his life.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

#4 Life And Laughing: My Story by Michael McIntyre

Life And Laughing: My Story

Michael McIntyre has become Britain’s biggest comedy star. His debut stand-up DVD was the fastest selling of all time, only to be eclipsed by his second that sold over 1.4 million copies and was the 2009 Christmas number one. He hosts his own BAFTA nominated BBC1 series, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, and won the British Comedy Award for Best Live Stand-up in 2009 following his record breaking fifty-four date Arena tour.  But how did he get there?  Michael reveals all in his remarkably honest and hilarious autobiography Life and Laughing. His showbiz roots, his appalling attempts to attract the opposite sex, his fish-out-of-water move from public to state school and his astonishing journey from selling just one ticket at the Edinburgh Festival to selling half a million tickets on his last tour. Michael’s story is riveting, poignant, romantic and above all very, very funny.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

#5 At My Mother’s Knee…: and other low joints by Paul O’Grady

At My Mother's Knee...: and other low joints

In his own uniquely acid tongue, Paul O’Grady traces the hilarious tales of life in Irish Catholic Birkenhead that took him from a virtuous altar-boy (“my first drag”) to Britain’s best loved entertainer. It’s a life that includes, varyingly, stints in an abbatoir, as a social worker, in a high-class Mayfair brothel, and traipsing down to London to chase his dreams. By 23, Paul O’Grady had been a father, husband, drag queen, gay lover, divorcee, and degenerate. He did it all with a smile on his face, making a mental note to register the whip-smart one-liners that would later inform his star-studded path from the fringes of comedy to the heart of the British establishment, first as his own brilliant comic creation Lily Savage, then, triumphantly, as himself. Paul’s remarkable childhood and early life is littered with a dizzying cast-list of rogues, rascals, lovers, fighters, saints, and sinners. Oh, and one iconic bus conductress. Told with pathos, love, empathy, and naturally, biting humor, the story of Paul O’Grady is that of everyman, everywoman, and inevitably, every drag act ever. He has been rich and poor, posh and common, straight and gay. He has mixed with stars and whores and all that’s in between, slyly spotting the similarity between them all. His amazing and riveting life story reminds us that there is, when all is said and done, a bit of savage in all of us.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

#6 Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Nine years before the Senate campaign that made him one of the most influential and compelling voices in American politics, Barack Obama published this lyrical, unsentimental, and powerfully affecting memoir, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller when it was reissued in 2004. Dreams from My Father tells the story of Obama’s struggle to understand the forces that shaped him as the son of a black African father and white American mother—a struggle that takes him from the American heartland to the ancestral home of his great-aunt in the tiny African village of Alego.  Obama opens his story in New York, where he hears that his father—a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man—has died in a car accident. The news triggers a chain of memories as Barack retraces his family’s unusual history: the migration of his mother’s family from small-town Kansas to the Hawaiian islands; the love that develops between his mother and a promising young Kenyan student, a love nurtured by youthful innocence and the integrationist spirit of the early sixties; his father’s departure from Hawaii when Barack was two, as the realities of race and power reassert themselves; and Barack’s own awakening to the fears and doubts that exist not just between the larger black and white worlds but within himself.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

#7 Dear Fatty by Dawn French

Dear Fatty

Dawn French is one of the greatest comedy actresses of our time, with a career spanning nearly three decades and encompassing a vast and brilliant array of characters that would eventually establish her as a national treasure.  She first appeared on the British entertainment scene as part of the groundbreaking alternative comedy group, the Comic Strip, which marked a radical departure from the more traditional comedy acts of the time. Later came the all-female Girls on Top with Jennifer Saunders, Ruby Wax and Tracy Ullman. Then, as part of the wildly successful duo, French and Saunders, Dawn helped create a repertoire of brilliantly observed recurring characters parodying popular culture and impersonating everything from Madonna and Harry Potter to The Exorcist. Dawn’s more recent role in The Vicar of Dibley again has showcased not only her talent but also her ability to take a controversial issue and make it mainstream and funny. From her early years as an RAF child to her flat-sharing antics with Jennifer Saunders, from her outspoken views on sizeism to her marriage to Lenny Henry, Dear Fatty will chronicle the fascinating and hilarious rise of a complex, dynamic and unstoppable woman. (read more on GoodReads)

 

 

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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4 Authors Reveal The Book That Scared Them To Death

I came across an article on Oprah’s website:  Authors Reveal: “The Book That Totally Surprised Me”  10 Authors were asked to pick a book that thrilled them, surprised them, or scared them to death.  I’m going to share with you the books that 4 authors said scared them to death.  First though let me share with you the book that scared me out of my wits…

WatchersWatchers by Dean Koontz

When I was in middle school (grades 6-10 more or less) I was a huge fan of Dean Koontz.  His books often terrified me but the one that not only kept me awake long after lights out in boarding school but which I couldn’t even read at night was Watchers.

From a top secret government laboratory come two genetically altered life forms. One is a magnificent dog of astonishing intelligence. The other, a hybrid monster of a brutally violent nature. And both are on the loose…Bestselling author Dean Koontz presents his most terrifying, dramatic and moving novel: The explosive story of a man and a woman, caught in a relentless storm of mankind’s darkest creation… (GoodReads)

Junot Diaz terrified by Dawn by Octavia ButlerDawn (Xenogenesis, #1)

“This book still gives me nightmares and teaches you right quick that no trade is ever free.”

Lilith lyapo awoke from a centuries-long sleep to find herself aboard the vast spaceship of the Oankali. Creatures covered in writhing tentacles, the Oankali had saved every surviving human from a dying, ruined Earth. They healed the planet, cured cancer, increased strength, and were now ready to help Lilith lead her people back to Earth–but for a price. (GoodReads)

House of Leaves

Jenny Lawson terrified by House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski

“I still haven’t finished it because it scares the crap out of me. I put it in the freezer at night.”

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.  Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.  (GoodReads)

Elin Hilderbrand terrified by The Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Road

“I was terrified to turn each page, but I loved it so much, I couldn’t help myself.”

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.  (GoodReads)

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Gayle Forman terrified by We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

“Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin was both the most riveting and frightening book I’ve ever read. Spooky tales of anonymous serial killers or nuclear winters? Please. Those are nothing next to this intimate and chilling tale of a boy gone terribly wrong and the mother who witnesses it by degrees.”

Eva never really wanted to be a mother – and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails. (GoodReads)