Something that occurred to me when I wrote my previous list of books I’d been reading is that I’d only got through 13 books in the whole year. I did a quick mental calculation on how many more years I might expect to live, and thus how many more books I might read EVER! It wasn’t many.
With that in mind the obvious course of action would be to select each and every precious book wisely. But no, because as before these are mostly books I found lying around the house rather than ones I chose. On the other hand, I did decide to write the list more frequently from now on, not least because I might drop dead at any moment and leave the world wondering what garbage I’d been filling my head with in my final days. So, without any further ado, on to the list:
Three Men In A Boat – Jerome K. Jerome: You’ve heard of this, because it’s one of those classic books everybody should have read. I found it in the cupboard, and have no idea how it got there. I’m glad I did, as it was one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. A strange combination of comedy and travel guide, I thought. (I found out later that it was in fact originally intended to be a travel guide.) On the other hand, I recommended it to my wife who read one chapter, declared it totally unfunny, and refused to read any more. Read it here!
The House of Doctor Dee – Peter Ackroyd: I’ve tried to read this before and failed. I didn’t get much further this time. Although it’s well written and seemed to be going somewhere interesting it kept turning into an A-Z of London. And I mean index of the street names, not the more interesting bit with actual maps. “I walked up Cocksparrow Street, down Jellied Eel Lane and then on into Kneesup Square.” Pages and pages of this at a time. Or so it seemed. I just couldn’t be arsed, quite frankly.
The Flood – Ian Rankin: I actually bought this one. It was cheap as chips in one of those bargain bookshops. Rankin’s first book, written as a young whippersnapper, and surprisingly insightful under the circumstances I thought. A worthwhile read.
The Hungry Tide – Valerie Wood: A historical romanctic melodrama kind of affair. Much as I feel I ought to, I can’t claim not to have enjoyed it. The main downside was the terrible attempt to write all the dialogue in some kind of strange historical Yorkshire accent/dialect form. You might think, what with that being somewhat close to my native tongue, that it wouldn’t have caused me any problems. In fact, I seem to recall having to read every line of dialogue several times, sometimes cursing out loud in annoyance. “Chuffin’ ‘eck, thou wouldst ‘ave ‘eard me sayin’, ‘appen as like”. Stein (yes, him out of Stein On Writing) is pretty clear about this kind of dialogue – don’t do it, he says, if my memory serves correctly. Now, I hate rules, and I remember when I read Stein On Writing thinking, after each and every “don’t do this”, that rules are made to be broken and there is a place for everything in the world. But she definitely should have listened to him on this one. Still, as I say, I have to admit to having enjoyed the book.
Gerald’s Game – Stephen King: Stephen King is the kind of author that has passionate fans, I believe, and if they’re obsessed with all this gore and horror stuff they must be quite scary types so I’ll try not to offend them, but really, I wonder why people enjoy reading this kind of miserable stuff so much, let alone writing it. Kind of like when I told my wife not to watch Hotel Rwanda, advice she promptly ignored and then afterwards was in tears, and depressed about it for the rest of the week. Why inflict that on yourself? But it was a good film, and likewise this was (of course) a good book, what with Mr King being the excellent writer that he is. I just prefer not to make a habit of reading this kind of thing. You are what you eat.
Fluke – James Herbert: 95% tired old “the world from a dog’s point of view” stuff, 1% insightful or amusing commentary on the same, and 4% tired old spiritual claptrap. You might get the impression I didn’t much like it, which is not entirely fair, it was okay enough. But I’ve read much better from James Herbert, so it’s probably the disappointment making me judge it with unfair harshness.
Beau Geste – P. C. Wren: Fantastic. I couldn’t write that in big enough letters. It would definitely feature in my list of the top ten books ever, if I were to write such a list, which is very unlikely.
The Cave – Kate Mosse: In the previous installment of my pointless list of books, I heaped praise on two of Kate Mosse’s books. I’m not heaping any praise on this. It was like the plot of the previous two simplified and melded together, then rewritten in a style appropriate for a semi-literate monkey to read. I think that was on purpose though – some kind of scheme to get bozos who don’t read to start reading, but frankly if they were coaxed into reading this they’d go straight back to trying to figure out which button to press to vote for their favourite Pop Idol, and I wouldn’t blame them.
Lottery (the fortunes and misfortunes of Perry L. Crandall) – Patricia Wood: I didn’t expect to like this because of the unimaginitive and tedious-sounding plot, i.e. someone unlikely wins the lottery and the obvious ensues. I had to eat my words though, because it was very good indeed.
Of Human Bondage – W Somerset Maugham: This seemed long – I remember turning a page and seeing the heading CXIX and briefly wondering what it meant. It had taken 119 chapters before I’d even noticed they were numbered. I guess, this being something of a classic, that I’m missing something and making myself look stupid, but I thought it basically meandered through the protagonist’s life with little or no point or purpose, and ended when the author ran out of paper, or lost the will to carry on. I did enjoy it, but if I had my time again I wouldn’t go out of my way to read it.
From Potter’s Field – Patricia Cornwell: Another bloody post-mortem conducting heroine – possibly the original one, since I’ve read several tales of this particular scalpel-wielding superwoman before. All books in this vein are the same to me – I picture them getting squeezed out of some murder-autoposy-thriller sausage machine, rather than being written. Perfectly readable though. No doubt I’ll read another one sooner or later.
Cold Shoulder – Lynda La Plante: A very popular author, so I’m led to believe. I thought the writing was completely uninspired and tedious, but the storytelling side of things was good. Reluctantly, I enjoyed it.
Lunar Park – Bret Easton Ellis: An actual new-ish book, from this century, not one of the previous two. Whatever next? Anyway, very good, I liked it. I guess they still do make books like they used to after all.
A Dark And Distant Shore – Reay Tannahill: I had my reservations about this, not least because the cover says “…a marvellous blend of Gone with the Wind and The Thorn Birds”, and even worse that quote, presumably the best they could get, was from the Daily Mirror. It was a good book though, despite suffering from the same spelling-out-of-accents problem as The Hungry Tide, which I complained about above. Scottish this time, which apparently is acheived by doubling up every ‘s’ and replacing ‘j’ with ‘ch’!? News to me. Also the castle around which the story revolves is called Kinveil and for some reason I misread this EVERY time and thought of Evil Knievel. That spoiled the atmosphere a lot, but I daresay it’s my fault somehow, and not the book’s. Definitely worth reading, and more so if you’ve never heard of Evil Knievel.
A House Divided – Catherine Cookson: No. Just no. I threw this aside after three mind-numbing chapters, which was more of a chance than it deserved. Sadly this and some other Catherine Cooksons (No!) were the last books I could find in the house that I haven’t read, so it’s a good place to end this installment. Next time, perhaps, some books I actually read on purpose.