Saturday, 10 June 2017

10 books

At the beginning of the month Simon at StuckinaBook suggested a meme where 10 books were randomly plucked off the shelf and used to say something about ourselves. I'm a little late, but thought I'd give it a go.

A Woman Surgeon. L Martindale. It’s not surprising this was to hand given that I fairly recently wrote on it here for the 1951 Club.
Martindale is not a great story teller, but she is a great imparter of facts. The other thing that's stuck with me from this book is how politics and old-fashioned sensibilities could get in the way of informing the public and helping them to protect themselves from disease.  Mostly though this is the story of improvements in education as well as medicine. 

Penguin 'Great Ideas'. I actually pulled out two of these at once so I’m counting them as one book. I have a number of these attractive, slim, blue-spined books, which I think I must have bought in a wodge (perhaps a 3 for 2 in Waterstones?) and most of which I haven’t yet read. These two are Baldesar Castiglione's How to Achieve True Greatness, and Where I Lived and What I Lived For by Thoreau. I think I've read the Castiglione, but it hasn't stuck.

History Today. History or ancient history was ‘my’ subject at A level and degree level. Apart from finding the subject really interesting I also felt a resistance to doing literature as I felt that what I thought of as ‘pulling books apart’ would affect my ability to read them for pleasure, and also that writers don’t write books in the way essay questions seem to imply.
However I've recently started an English Lit MA with the Open University and have changed my mind about both those things – although I do still feel that the way in which literature is taught implies more deliberation on the part of the writer than is really there. To put it another way, I think a lot of what we analyse as conscious intent on the part of the author is either unconscious, or perhaps not even there. That's part of the interest of the subject, of course.

Moon Over Soho. This is either the second or the middle book in the Rivers of London Series. I’ve read all these except the latest, which I recently borrowed in hardback from the library. I also follow Aaronovitch’s blog and liked his work on Dr Who back in the 80s (or possibly I mean the 90s).  There’s a mash up of crime procedural and fantasy with a dash of a very dry, slightly dark, Sweeney-ish humour in these books. The covers are great too.

Notebook – specifically this is a large moleskine notebook. These don’t get filled up very fast because they’re not as portable as the smaller books. I’ve a number of lined, and blank moleskines as well as reporters’ notebooks, exercise books (there are really nice exercise books available in Italy for some reason), sketchbooks and so on. I’ve supposedly banned myself from buying notebooks until I’ve filled a few more up, but I did pick up another Seawhite in Oxford just because. Moleskines, even the ones with thicker paper, don't take watercolour as well as the Seawhites do.

The Avignon Quintet - Lawrence Durrell. I haven't read this doorstop yet and to be honest I'd forgotten I had it. I did read the Alexandria Quartet about two years ago, and Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, Reflections of a Marine Venus and The Black Book, the last of which I reviewed for the 1938 club here.  I'm actually going to Avignon for the first time in September, so perhaps I'll take it along then.

Casting the Runes and Other Stories - M R James. I'm not sure why I've still got this. I usually read ghost stories at Christmas, if at all, and although these are nice and chilling I'm unlikely to want to to read them again. One for the bookswap.

Saint Overboard - I went through a whole slew of Saint books in my early 20s, mostly yellow covered paperbacks with blue edges which were on their last legs when I got them (purchased from a bookshop in Merton Abbey Mills, now sadly closed, which sold old postcards and punch magazines as well). Most have been weeded out or fell to bits over the years and I couldn't tell you one story from the next, but they're still fun in a daft lantern-jawed-hero sort of way.

Enquire Within - this is the old-fashioned book of general household knowledge, interesting to me from a historical perspective. This one is from 1894.

Buried for Pleasure - Edmund Crispin. I've read all of Crispin's detective stories I think. Gervase Fen stands for Parliament. It all goes wrong, and deservedly so. 

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