What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered – July 2014
- The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco – really hard to get into but a good story once you do.
- The Wild One – the life and times of Johnny O’Keefe by Damian Johnstone. JOK was a favourite of my Dad’s. It was good to read about the man behind the songs. Another tragic rock n roll story.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I wanted to read this again before sitting down and watching Baz Luhrmann’s version of the film. I also wanted to see how the story had held up in my mind. I remember enjoying it as a teenager, and then again in my twenties. I had a more jaded view of the book this time around and certainly viewed it with less romantic eyes. However, it is still a great and tragic story that I again enjoyed. I did watch the Baz Luhrmann movie and enjoyed it as well – even more so for recognising the Mt Wilson landscape scattered throughout. I want to re-watch the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version now….For more information on the book and subsequent movies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby
- Eternity Gate by Traci Harding. I have enjoyed Traci’s books in the past but unless you have read her earlier books, this next series “The Timekeepers” wont make too much sense to the casual reader. A further chapter in the next reincarnation of the original characters.
- Upstairs, Downstairs by John Hawkesworth – a novelisation of the much loved original television series. I knew my mum loved this series and if the book is anything to go by…no wonder! Full of gossip and scandal. A fun snapshot of London at the turn of the 20th Century.
- Fragrant Harbour by John Lanchester – A lovely novel with the intersecting lives of four people in Hong Kong from the 1920s to the late 1990s when Hong Kong was handed back to China.
- Fludd by Hilary Mantel – an odd tale of a small community with a non-believing priest (the eponymous Fludd) and the spell cast by the new curate, Father Angwin. I’m still not sure whether I liked it or not.
- The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – now we all know that Robert Galbraith is a nom-de-plume of astoundingly successful children’s author, JK Rowling. This is a fun start to a new series with Private Investigater Cormoran Strike and his side-kick Robin Ellacott who comes to Strike as a temporary secretary and somehow makes herself indispensible. Strike and Ellacott are looking into the apparent suicide of a supermodel/actress, hired by her brother who doesn’t believe she killed herself. I can see this being televised – I can quite clearly see Robbie Coltrane as Strike. I’m not so good at imagining female side-kicks. Anyone got any ideas?
- A Country Too Far edited by Rosie Scott and Thomas Keneally – I had to leave this anthology of short stories, excerpts, essays and poems by leading Australian authors using the power of words to fight the weasel words of government against the way asylum seekers are treated at work for lunch time reading as some of the writing is very affecting.
- In Falling Snow by Mary Rose Maccoll – a novel set in WWI in the Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaumont Abbey in France where young nursing sister, Iris Crane ends up while trying to find her very under age soldier brother. Looking into the Scottish Women’s Hospitals after reading the book, I was surprised to find that Stella Miles Franklin had worked with them in Croatia at that time.
- So now I’m getting into this WWI theme and my next book was Toby’s Room by Pat Barker whose Regeneration Trilogy I have also enjoyed this year. The Toby of the title has joined the army and has gone Missing in Action, his sister Elinor, with whom he was disturbingly close is consumed by grief and is there some dark secret between them?
- From there I mooched on to Goodbye to All That : an Autobiography by Robert Graves which was surprisingly interesting, funny and dark by turns, as you might expect of men fighting in the trenches in WWI.One story was about the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, my grandfather’s regiment (he was WWII vintage though) which mentioned a battle they went into with, say, 905 men and came out of the battle with, say, 906 men – one of the bugle boys had turned 18 on the day of the battle! I’m hoping to balance all these books written from the Allies point of view with All Quiet on the Western Front this coming month.
- And I’ve been dipping in and out of The Wipers Times : the famous First World War trench newspaper – a facsimile of the newspaper amazingly put together by soldiers in the trenches at Ypres where my great-grandfather served.
- The News: a User’s Manual by Alain de Botton – interesting enough but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did A Week at the Airport.
- For book group I’m reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – I say I’m reading, actually I’m falling asleep over it a lot. 100 pages down, only another 450 or so to go! My boys rave about it though.
- Twelve years a slave : narrative of Solomon Northup a citizen of New York, kidnapped in Washington City 1841, and rescued 1853 by Solomon Northup – Don’t let the long-winded title put you off. It was a really powerful read. It is a biographical account of Mr Northup’s life as a free man, his kidnapping and his subsequent years in slavery. It is written in old style English so it reads easily like a novel, but it is none-the-less a very powerful account.
- I’m currently making my way through Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. We have the books in the library. It’s an Epic Fantasy series with the idea of “What if the bad guy won and ended up ruling the (fantasy) world?” It’s about a group of thieves attempting to overthrow the evil empire using special magical powers derived from various metals. Lots of action and adventure combined with magical abilities (my three favourite things), though the fight scenes are quite bloody. A good read for the avid Fantasy reader.Brandon also gives some excellent Fantasy Writing Lectures on Youtube
- I have been reading The Opal that turned into fire : and other stories from the Wangkumara edited by Janet Mathews. The stories draw on the knowledge and memories of Indigenous people alive during the 1970s, who are acknowledged. Authenticity seems to be a significant and valuable feature of this book.
- The Beloved, by Annah Faulkner – She was a guest at the recent Writers Festival sessions here in Katoomba, and liking the sound of her conversation I bought the book. It’s set in New Guinea, mostly in Moresby, and the story comes to us through the consciousness of Bertie, a young girl who is early struck down by polio. Bertie sees auras round people, sees colours where most of us see nothing – the condition known as synesthesia. Conflicts arise between mother and daughter when Bertie finds that art is what she is drawn to. I loved this book, the story, the prose style, that curiously indefinable something that a writer can give a reader: a window to look through, perhaps.
- Infidelity, by Hugh Mackay – Australian psychologist Tom Harper goes to London, anxious to kick over the traces of a professional indiscretion that has compromised his position. He meets and falls desperately in love with Sarah Delacour. Trouble is, she’s already married, to someone very rich. The prose sparkles, the conversations and characters are fascinating. Clever, and insightful. I liked this novel a lot.
- Balancing Act, by Joanna Trollope – I always read Trollope’s novels. They’re about family ructions and dysfunctions, working out how to live. This one centres on a family pottery business, and the matriarch who wants to retain control. Trollope is obviously fascinated by family dynamics, as who would not be? Enjoyable read.
- The Conversation, by David Brooks – Stephen Mitchell, an engineer, has been posted to a job in Monfalcone, a city in Italy’s north-east, just north of the Gulf of Venice. He’s wandering about this particular afternoon, missing his wife and daughter, when he decides to dine at the Caffe Cosini. He is seated outside and is writing some postcards when a sudden gust of wind changes the nature of the evening he thought he was going to have. The novel is as its title suggests – a conversation, about the complex life experiences we all try to make sense of. Its ending may surprise you though.
- The Idea of Perfection,by Kate Grenville – This was published (1999) about 6 years before Grenville’s The Secret River, and I’m re-reading it, for its humourous take on country Australia, its satirical portraits of the residents of Karakarook, its lampooning of pretension. Go, Kate.
- Verbal Judo: the gentle art of persuasion by George J. Thompson – Useful tips and techniques for managing difficult situations, and some amazing stories of how they have worked! It’s one of those books you’d have to read over and over as you learn to actually apply the ideas, because most of them go against your instinct in high conflict situations.
- The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – This YA read really got me in and I was desperate to know how it was going to end. Until it ended. That was very unsatisfying, but luckily the Library also has books 2 and 3 in the series, so it’s not really over yet. Loved the characters and the fast pace of action.
- Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut – This book is not your ordinary read. It goes back and forth in time, seems very auto-biographical and explores some interesting themes. Despite it’s unusual format I really enjoyed it.
- Rivers of London by Ben Aarondovitch – This was a quick read I picked up because I didn’t have any other books with me at the time. The storyline follows a new policeman in London who discovers he can speak with ghosts- and that the police have a department who deal with the more mystical residents of London. It’s a pretty straightforward read, just enough to keep you interested, but not too much thinking involved.
- At the moment I’m reading Stories II by T.C. Boyle which is a huge collection of short stories that are really well written. I’m only a tiny way through it proportionally, but the stories really suck you in to the emotional situations of the characters.
- The Suspicions of Mr Whicher; or the Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale – My first (and I think last) true crime read.
- Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi – I thought that this book had promise at the start, but it quickly became ridiculous, unbelievable and almost laughable at the end –seriously?!
- Gem of a Ghost by Sue Ann Jaffarian – I could only flick through this after the first chapter – not my cup of tea.
- On Death and Dying: What the dying have to teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and their own families by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross – This is the seminal book on death and dying (it was referenced in another book that I read). The author interviewed patients who were facing their own death to learn and understand how they felt about it and how the medical profession and families could better help them in the process. It also describes the different stages that a person may/will go through when they learn that they have a terminal illness.
- The smallest things: thoughts on making a happy family by Angela Mollard
- Osbert the Avenger by Christopher William Hill – The first in the Tales from Schwartzgarten series (illustrations by Chris Riddell). This was great, a well written and interesting story. I did feel a little irky at the age of the killer, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
- The Woebegone Twins by Christopher William Hill – Another book from the Tales from Schwartzgarten series. This one wasn’t as graphically murderous as the first in the series (thankfully) – it was an enjoyable little story.
- The Language Of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – set in San Francisco, this book focuses on a troubled young woman who has had a tough life. It is her obsession with the Victorian meanings of flowers that becomes the catalyst for a change in her fortunes. I really enjoyed this book and hope the author writes more in the future.
- All of It by Bev Aisbett – a colourful, creative and inspiring memoir by the author and illustrator of a number of popular books dealing with mental health, such as Taming the Black Dog: A Guide to Overcoming Depression and The Book of It: 10 Steps to Conquering Anxiety. There are illustrations and photos throughout, which I love, I just wish they’d been a bit larger.
- On Seeing and Noticing by Alain de Botton (Audiobook) -a collection of short philosophical essays on many facets of life, such as art, travel, work and romance.
- The News: a user’s manual by Alain de Botton (Audiobook) -the author investigates the daily news and our relationship to it. This book is needed in a world where we can be consistently connected to information, and not all of it helpful or healthy for us.
- Kiss and Tell by Alain de Botton (Audiobook) – this book is billed as fiction, but often feels more like de Botton’s philosophical non-fiction writing. Very enjoyable nonetheless.
- Disharmony #1 #2 & #3 – great concept, had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Felt like the ending was a bit rushed and flat but still a good series.