Saturday, 31 January 2015

Some books I read in January

As part of my desperate attempt to fill space, I shall re-institute my 'books I read in month x' post atvthe end of each month. Unfortunately, I don't remember most of the books I read in January, but I have retrieved the ones that are on the shelf waiting to go back to the library, so that will do to bring my total number of posts to 1,720 to date, leaving me with a nice neat twenty per month to finish on schedule.

My strategy in the library is to wonder around moreor less aimlessly, grabbing something from non-fiction/biograpgy, a few from general fiction, and one or two from crime. The only shelves I really avoid are fantasy/sci-fi/supernatural. I like my stories credible. I'll have a glance to see if I think I could bear to read it, but I try not to reject anything too readily - so I do end up reading a fair bit of rubbish. I'll give up on something that's really badly written, but good writing can redeem a weak plot, and very occasionally, vice versa.

My local library is now one of those staffed entirely by volunteers. To be honest, I haven't noticed a big difference, as my interaction is entirely with a machine. Unlike the person-substitutes in the supermarket, this one does not attempt to speak to me, preferring to assume that I can read (it is in a library, after all) and consequently, I have no problem in dealing with it. I do draw the line at being shouted at by a machine though, and in front of people too.

Anyway, in January, inter alia, I read:

Jonathan Powell, The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World (sorry, on iPad/Blogpress tonight, hence no italics)

Now, I'm as keen as anyone to rehabilitate the reputation of Machiavelli - political philosophy's first realist - but Powell's book is an uneasy mix of political memoir and attempts to be the title character, which reads like a Private Eye parody in places. The most interesting parts were the - albeit very partisan - insights into the Blair/Brown relationship.

Martin Edwards, The Hanging Wood

One of a series set in the Lake District and centring on a cold cases team. Pretty good who (and why) dunnit, decently written, good characters, plot stretches credulity slightly butnlittle the worse for that.

Claire Tomalin, Charles Dickens:A Life

I've recently read Tomalin's Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft (the death bit in particular was horribly graphic) so knew she was a good biographer. What I learnt for this was that Dickens wasn't a very nice man, and - more importantly - I haven't been alone in thinking that his novels actually aren't that great.

Obviously, I've read a lot more than that since the new year, but since I read as other people veg out in front of the telly, it hasn't been particularly memorable. But next month I will keep a better record.




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