For those few who don’t already know, Jimmy Savile was a flamboyant, eccentric, and a (once) much-loved celebrity, with a successful career as a DJ and his own long-running TV show, Jim’ll Fix It. But he was mainly revered for his astonishing ability to raise millions of pounds for charity. Continue reading As it Happens, Jimmy Savile
is enticingly subtitled: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness and is an exploration of the in-between places on the edge of our towns.
The book is arranged into chapters, each with a punchy one-word title:
Cars, Dens, Containers, Retail, Pallets, Sewage, etc. Continue reading Edgelands, by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts
It’s full title, On Walking:…and Stalking Sebald implies you will be following Phil Smith as he follows in the footsteps of the German author, W.G. Sebald, on a walking tour in Suffolk.
But the book is much more than a travelogue of the author’s trip. It incorporates a mix of poetry, philosophy, and reflections on walking. It is an entertaining, frustrating and challenging read. And is illustrated with photographs that both illuminate and mirror the scatological (in the urban-dictionary sense) nature of the writing. Continue reading On Walking, by Phil Smith
In this book, Michael Shermer describes the way our brains function and how this leads us to construct beliefs.
Shermer starts by recounting the experiences of three people with strong beliefs. He then takes the reader through some neurological and psychological research findings.
The basic premise Shermer presents is that our brains are ‘programmed’ to find patterns and to make sense of our perceptions, Continue reading The Believing Brain, by Michael Shermer
Joshua Foer opens the book with a teaser. He is a young journalist attending the USA Memory Championship in 2006. But he is not there as a journalist, he is there as a contestant. Continue reading Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer
Diana Athill was an influential editor who worked for several publishing houses in London. This memoir covers the 50 years she spent in the industry.
The book is remarkably interesting for far more than its insights into the world of literary publishing. Diana Athill is honest in her descriptions of her relationships with colleagues, competitors and writers. She also drops tantalising hints about her colourful personal life, the details of which are covered, I assume, in some of her other autobiographical books. Continue reading Stet, by Diana Athill
The Chinese regard their country as the centre of the Universe and the only truly civilised place to live.
But to us in the West, China is a strange place. An alien world.
Recently I wrote a novel set in 7th Century China, during the Tang Dynasty. In preparation, I began reading every book I could find in my local library with ‘China’ in the title. Continue reading China since 1949, by Linda Benson
The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession
This book is based, loosely, around the Florida orchid thief, John Laroche. Susan Orlean is a journalist who hears about his story and attempts to discover why he has become so obsessed with these flowers, and one in particular, the Ghost Orchid. Laroche is a fascinating and complex character. Susan Orlean is both attracted and repelled by this man and her description of him is amazing in its detail and ruthless in its honesty. Continue reading The Orchid Thief, by Susan Orlean
The subject of the story is Buddy Bolden, a black American musician living in New Orleans at the beginning of the twentieth century. Buddy was famous for his cornet playing and for being one of the early pioneers of jazz music. Continue reading Coming Through Slaughter, by Michael Ondaatje
Last year I was given a list of four ‘must-read’ books by a friend, David Milnes, who is an English teacher and a novelist.
- In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
- Fiesta or The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway
- The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
- Middlemarch, by George Eliot
I ordered In Cold Blood from my local library. When it arrived, I was dismayed by the sheer size of the book. My dismay was quickly followed by relief – when I realised I had ordered the Large Print edition.
What I liked about the book: Continue reading In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote