Summer reading recs for Remus please

(102 Posts)

Okay, so you all know how bloody fussy I am, but it is that time again.

I'm having a bit of a classic sci-fi moment, so anything in that line would be good.

Really well written classic fantasy might work too.

Quirky history books would be great, especially anything with a criminal or medical slant.

Anything to do with Victorian or Edwardian history is usually up my street, again especially if it's slightly off the wall - prisons, graveyards, medicine, crime etc.

Anything to do with historical exploration especially polar or mountains.

Anything random you think might be worth a punt might also just be the one too.

Tia. smile

CoteDAzur Sun 28-Jul-13 21:01:56

Is it that time again? grin

I have the perfect book for you: Operation Mincemeat - Ben Macintyre.

Non-fiction. History. Medical slant. It's perfect for you.

CoteDAzur Sun 28-Jul-13 21:04:07

Re classic sci-fi: Have you read Dune yet?

pointythings Sun 28-Jul-13 21:13:51

Have you read R.S. Downie's Ruso series? Historic crime, medical slant, also very funny.

Classic fantasy - Keith Roberts - Pavane (alternative reality fiction done really well)

And if you want really classic - Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (his short story 'The Foghorn' still makes me cry)

It is ALWAYS that time. smile

I've read, 'The Martian Chronicles.' Cote - I've just mentioned, 'Dune' on the other thread and promise to start it tomorrow. smile

Will google the others - thank you.

pointythings Sun 28-Jul-13 21:53:20

The problem with you, Remus is that you are so incredibly well read that it'd difficult to find you anything worthwhile that you haven't already read. smile. But most of us on here enjoy a challenge.

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 21:55:05

Oh yes yes Operation Mincemeat is AMAZING. DH is reading it aloud to me of an eveningblush grin

OP have you read Doris Lessing's The Fifth Child? Epically scary feminist literary scifi
Also Rebecca Stott Ghostwalk is supposed to be a very good Victorian detective book

Also the Anne Perry books...

HumphreyCobbler Sun 28-Jul-13 21:56:58

Just popped in to say that I am halfway through Song of Susannah. Wolves was GREAT. Already dreading it all coming to an end though, I am too hormonal to cope.

Have you read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin? I expect you have, but worth a mention.

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 21:57:58

Oh gosh, you utterly MUST read The Invention of Murder. Judith someone. Tracks the Victorian obsession with murder and fascinatingly how it actually made murder mystery a 'thing' in real life as in fiction...

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:04:04

Also (on a roll) did you read James Meek's The People's Act of Love a while back? Caused a justifiable stir. Think murder, lust, religious mania in revolutionary Siberia. Astonishing book.

If you really want to go off the wall literary the tiny imprint Galley Beggar Press has just punished a book by Eimear McBride (sp?!) Called A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing - think a lusty feminist teenaged.girl James Joyce. It's been wildly we'll received and it's going to be a cult classic or I'll eat my hat.

Wolves is excellent, isn't it? I liked Song of Susannah less but then it all gets wonderful - and horrible - and wonderful and.... smile

Pointy - I'm not sure I'm well read, but I'm certainly READ!

Read the Lessing - I don't dislike her but I do find her a bit wearing at times. Liked The Golden Notebook and some of her short stories best, but probably won't seek out any more of hers.

Haven't read the le Guin, so will check it out - but again, she's not somebody who's ever made me go rushing to read more of hers tbh. In fact (and I know how awful this sounds, sorry) I'm on a bit of a downer with female writers generally, lately.

Have read 'Ghostwalk' and her other one, 'The Coral Thief.' They are okay but not earth-shattering. I preferred, 'The Coral Thief' (and it has the most gorgeous cover!). smile

i don't like Anne Perry.

Operation Mincemeat looks just right.

Yes to the Invention of Murder btw. I LOVED her other two.

Sorry but I HATED, 'The People's Act Of Love.'

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:09:44

Aye, the Flanders.books are amaze. Especially the food one.

Where do you stand on Edna O'brien? Her memoir is wonderful but if you don't like her you'll proper loathe it.

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:10:29

grin grin grin grin

I'm barking up ALL of the wrong trees!

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:13:30

Rupert Tomson? Secrecy (latest) sounds good - it awaits on m'elecktrical reading device <not giving up>

Just seen Flanders has one called The Victorian City too - which is now v much at the top of my list. smile

Have never heard of Edna o Brien.

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:20:25

Necropolis? Nothing like digging up London's dead to make a summer evening pass.

I've just read John Lanchester's Mr Philips. Dull middle aged man leaves for work one morning but encounters born barons &c. Funny and mucky in an English sort of way.

I'm always trying to get people to read the OTHER Orwells - Burmese Days, Coming Up for Air, the Clergyman's Daughter, Aspidistra etc. but does anyone listen? No, they do not.

Also, I'm always, always trying to get people to read Melmoth the Wanderer - you are clearly v well read and might turn out to be the only other person I know that's read it? <hopeful>

You like classic scifi - have you read Tono Bungay or the other HG Wells books?

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:22:10

'Kay, best place to start with Edna (if you're interested: not sure it would be your bag judging on your wishlist, but it's worth a punt) would be Country Girls, her debut.

Banned in Ireland for filth. Lyrical and honest account of growing up in mid 20th century rural Ireland and wanting a bit of a shag (that's boiling it down to the barest of bones, obvs).

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:22:46

Porn barons, not born barons!

That'll be Dave's internet filter kicking in early, then.

Read Necropolis - that's exactly the sort of thing I'm after.

Have read most if not all of Orwell's and am now working through the essays. Particularly like Aspidistra.

I have neither read nor heard of Melmouth The Wanderer and will google immediately!

Melmouth is EXACTLY what I'm after.
Edna - not so sure. I have a bit of an aversion to Irish growing up stuff.

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:26:52

Take it you've read all the Patrick Hamiltons? He gets unjustifiably forgotten IMHO.

Melmoth is a mighty tome and utterly but UTTERLY terrifying. Parts of it are so appalling I had to actually cover portions of the page with my hand.

The Monk is ace and in a similar vein (if you fancy getting your Goth on) but heaps camper and so less likely to put you in therapy for the next ten years.

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:27:50

Oooo! Give it a go! I have promised a bottle of good red wine to anyone who can read it an talk to me about it - no-one's claimed it yet!

Disclaimer: as far as I'm concerned any wine costing more than a fiver is 'good'.

MelMouth? smile

Haven't read any Wells' except the obvious ones - loved War of the Worlds and enjoyed The Time Machine. Hated The Invisible Man. And have forgotten the name of the 4th one I read. Hang on...

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:29:33

Fun fact, by the way: Oscar Wilde called himself Sebastian Melmoth after the Wanderer when exiled after his prison sentence

I'm sorry I've hijacked your thread. I get a bit overexcited by book talk blush

I will deffo give Melmoth a go, if the library can get hold of it. I don't like red wine, good or bad! grin

Love The Monk.

Haven't read any Patrick H, and indeed had never heard of him until this thread.

Don't apologise for hijacking. I also get a bit hyper re books. smile

Oscar Wilde is one of my fantasy men - love him.

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:33:17

Ah that lets me off the hook then grin

If you love the Monk you should get on great with dear Melmoth. I'm in love with him: it's all terribly tiresome.

Patrick Hamilton: DO read Hangover Square. The plot shamelessly lifted and, indeed, ruined, by that Sebastian Faulks cad.

Re. sci fi - what about Nevil Shute (though I daresay you've read them)? I know he's fallen vastly from favour but On The Beach is wonderful (if sad and scary).

Have read pretty much all of Shute's - but don't get Cote started on, 'On The Beach.' 'A Town Called Alice' is my favourite.

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:38:56

Oh dear, does she not approve?!

I'm a huge fan of Iris Murdoch (or was until I had to read ALL of them for my PhD <wan>) - but I expect you've been there and have a Firm Opinion.

Have you read Fludd, by Hilary Mantel? I'm one of those people mildly annoyed by her stratospheric rise since I was a diehard fan loooooooooooooooooooooooooooong before the proles had heard of her <sniff>

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:39:46

Incidentally since I suspect you're more well-read than all of us me you might have to start a 'Remus Recommends' thread grin

HumphreyCobbler Sun 28-Jul-13 22:41:07

I love 'A Town like Alice'. But I think my favourite is 'Round the Bend'. I remember the thread about 'On the Beach' grin

HumphreyCobbler Sun 28-Jul-13 22:42:27

What about some Robertson Davies? The Cornish Trilogy, The Deptford Trilogy and The Salterton Trilogy would keep you going for a while.

Loathed Fludd - and loathed Beyond Black even more. Wolf Hall annoyed me, but had the advantage of half decent characters.

I didn't get on terribly well with iris, but dp likes her.

Remus recommends -
This Thing of Darkness
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
The Worst Journey In The World
A Handful of Dust
The Stand
The Dark Tower series
The Knife Man
A few of my favourites.

PatriciaHolm Sun 28-Jul-13 22:48:17

Philip K Dick? he wrote far more short stories than the obviously well known Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

I'm a huge fan of Kate Griffin and Ben Aaronovitch, both of whom write London-based urban fantasy.

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 22:50:41

Loathed Fludd?! <clutches pearls>

You like Lolita - have you read Ada or Ardor? Nothing like as good, mind.

Blee, Dave Fucking Eggars grin

The Worst Journey in the World sound ACE. I am hopeless at reading non-fiction: that might seduce me.

Is the Dark Tower series worth the investment (both time and money)? I'm a huge King fan and The Stand is one of my favourite books, but I am slightly intimidated by the demands of reading an entire series - mostly, will they get worse in quality as they go along, like the Howatch churchy novels, which broke my heart.

Ben A is The Rivers of London guy, yep? I read the first 2 but am bored of them now.

Have read all of Nabokov's, I think.

I know, I know re. dave E - but the book is really good, honest.

The Worst Journey is amazing - but it is huge and you need to work at it.

I love the King series, but am a massive King fan generally. I think it's better than The Stand tbh - but it has high and low points and again is a huge time commitment.

They don't get worse in quality - in fact, the final one is sublime imho.

NotAroundTheEyes Sun 28-Jul-13 23:01:38

OK, the phrase 'better than The Stand' has me reaching for my Amazon account: I'm going for it (I loyally read his recent output but more out of a sense that 'I owe him' than because I'm enjoying them, which I'm sure he's really grateful for hmm

Excellent! I'll report back! thanks


The first one may well feel v odd - just go with it.

HarderToKidnap Mon 29-Jul-13 16:26:05

Have you read the Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey? Amazing descriptions of Alaska.

I enjoyed Zadie Smiths NW, bit up its own bum but I'm in to London books at the mo, in the same vein I liked The Innocents by Francesca Segal.

Hyperion? If you're reading sci if classics then it must be on your list.

Have read The Snow Child.
Zadie Smith - gone off her. I quite liked her first one but the others haven't done much for me.
Will google the others, thank you.

Am about 90 pages into Dune btw.

pointythings Mon 29-Jul-13 18:28:51

Remus have you read any Sheri S Tepper? SHe's a female and feminist writer so I guess that's two strikes against, but she's written some really good stuff - specifically the 'Grass' trilogy (Grass, Raising the Stones, Sideshow).

Thanks, Pointy. I'll look her up.

Takver Wed 31-Jul-13 10:00:06

What Le Guin books have you read? They vary a lot, so eg not liking the Earthsea books wouldn't mean you wouldn't like some of her harder sci-fi. Having said that she is unquestionably a woman and a feminist writer.

CoteDAzur Wed 31-Jul-13 10:09:50

I second Harder on Hyperion. Written loosely in a Canterbury Tales format, it is the 1st person stories of 6 pilgrims grouped together in their journey. Quite a bit of poetry, references to Keats (incl. book title), and an ambitious story. It's very good.

Will try more le Guin. I think it was an Earthsea one I read. Will try Hyperion too.

Sorry Cote but I am failing horribly with Dune right now. I'm bored...bored, I tell you.

Takver Wed 31-Jul-13 13:49:01

The ones I would try in particular would be The Dispossessed, and the novella Paradises Lost (in the collection The Birthday of the World).

I do like The Left Hand of Darkness, but it feels very much of its time to me, in the same way that Woman on the Edge of Time does.

I like this review in the NY Review of Books, esp this quote "The Ekumen series may be said—very broadly—to concern itself with the nature of human nature: How far can we stretch and still remain human? What is essential to our being, what is contingent? " I guess that's what I look for in SF - something that will make me think - and Le Guin definitely fits that box. (If I want light amusement, I tend to read fantasy.)

CoteDAzur Fri 02-Aug-13 23:04:00

Boredom is your enemy, Remus. That's how you threw Cloud Atlas away without reading a page of its brilliant dystopian & post-apocalyptic stories smile


I'm 150 pages into, 'Dune' but I Don't Like It At All. All that has happened is they've unpacked a few portraits and survived one murder attempt by catching a little flying thingie.

CoteDAzur Fri 02-Aug-13 23:09:33

Stay with it, Remus. If only to find out why it's the best sci-fi ever written smile

I've vowed to finish the damn thing, so you won't spend the next five years nagging me on here to do so! But is is soooooo bloody boring. Jessica with her strong jawline and internal dialogues and strange crones with blue eyes. Yawn.

MegBusset Fri 02-Aug-13 23:19:40

In a classic SF vein, would recommend Alfred Bester - especially The Stars My Destination but also The Demolished Man.

Have you tried Kurt Vonnegut's SF stuff - Sirens Of Titan and Cat's Cradle both utterly magnificent.

MegBusset Fri 02-Aug-13 23:20:22

I thought Dune was dull too. sorry Cote!

Thanks Meg and thanks, Takver too.

I've been meaning to read more KV. Slaughterhouse 5 was pretty good.

Thanks for that too, Meg. smile

MegBusset Fri 02-Aug-13 23:23:52

Also have you read any Iain Sinclair?

Sconset Fri 02-Aug-13 23:30:26

No! Dune is awful! The one book I've never been able to finish.

Oh, and Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

I also recommend Hyperion, Endymion etc.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

Have you read any Dianna Wynne Jones? (I expect you have btw)

Sconset Fri 02-Aug-13 23:31:11

Oh, and a Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge

CoteDAzur Sat 03-Aug-13 10:00:51

To each their own and all that, but it's a bit cocky to call "awful" a book that has consistently been #1 or #2 in every "Best sci-fi" list ever compiled.

Remus - A book written in 1965 will not have the same literary standards as one written in 2013, so yes, you will get some descriptions to roll your eyes at like strong jaws etc. You will see the same if you read Asimov's Foundation series, for example.

If it is the musings and deliberations that you find "dull" in Dune, then maybe it is just not for you, because this book is about the "inner space", in the words of J G Ballard, as much as the events and characters that make up a book.

In classical sci-fi, there are several books & authors you must read, and Dune is at the top of that list. There is also Arthur C Clarke (must read at least his 2001: A Space Odyssey), Asimov (Foundation and I, Robot, at least. I would also recommend Nightfall), and Heinlein (despite his now-ridiculous views on gender roles). Try not to judge these by current literary standards and just enjoy the ride & take in the grand ideas.

When you are ready for some modern sci-fi, I'll be happy to recommend some books that are probably more to your taste intellectually smile

I actually think that standards of literature were generally higher then than they are now tbh. Now, so much gets published that a vast proportion of it is inevitably going to be crap, and publishers want to dash sequels out and jump on bandwagons etc so that the editing process is weakened too.

It's not cocky to call something awful. That is an opinion - but we've been down that conversation many times before. Just because something has been voted something or other, doesn't mean that everybody must therefore adhere to that opinion.

You've made me nervous now - what do you think IS to my taste, intellectually? grin

Btw - I'm not finding, 'Dune' intellectually challenging at all: just boring. I'm at 200 pages now. They've seen a worm and had a dinner party.

LadyMilfordHaven Sat 03-Aug-13 11:45:11

remus. did you get my amazon list?



LadyMilfordHaven Sat 03-Aug-13 11:50:53

i will dm it to you.
I have a listmania thing. I update from the bottom, mind you


LadyMilfordHaven Sat 03-Aug-13 11:52:33

handsome Brute is a good read, everyone I know who read it liked it.

Red Joan too, although got a bit stupid towards the end.

I just finished Rachel Joyce's Perfect which i liked too

Yes, you mentioned, 'Handsome Brute' before. Will deffo read that.

HarderToKidnap Sat 03-Aug-13 11:57:12

Cote, didn't you dismiss Stephen King's DT series as silly? The magnum opus of the worlds best selling and most decorated and celebrated author ever? Bit cocky? wink

Hated dune too, didn't finish it which is rare for me. Just bought some Neal Stephenson which I'm looking forward to.

Oh gods - don't get her started on did a chee / did a chum again.


noddyholder Sat 03-Aug-13 15:43:28

Visitation st Ivy Pochoda really good.

LadyMilfordHaven Sat 03-Aug-13 17:09:37

got that sample noddo

noddyholder Sat 03-Aug-13 17:18:58

I really enjoyed. Just got the Professor of Poetry not sure about it yet

Thanks both.

Sconset Sat 03-Aug-13 20:42:20

Now, I do love Neal Stephenson!

Arf! at 'cocky'... I'm anything but grin

Just find 'Dune' interminable and boring- not a good combination!

But yes, of course, each to his own. smile

I'm on page 257. I am still bored.

And I want to strangle that smug bitch Jessica with her own hair.

CoteDAzur Tue 06-Aug-13 15:00:41

Harder - I said DT wasn't for me as I can't stand (1) fantasy and (2) cowboy crap stories. If you like those, you would probably like DT. Lord Of The Rings isn't for me, either.

What I called "silly" was the moronic giant lobster that moves at a snail's pace and says "lub-a-dub", "chick-a-dick" etc. Do please try to aim your criticism correctly wink

I've read most SK and DT is not his best work by any stretch if the imagination. If there was a "cowboy fantasy" genre, I guess it could be one of the best there because SK is such a great writer but as it stands now, it's just about an ill guy shooting some people and avoiding giant seafood. Yawn.

SK is a great writer but Neal Stephenson is God smile Read Snow Crash, Diamond Age, Anathem, Cryptonomicon and then let's talk about how brilliant DT is in comparison (not very).

CoteDAzur Tue 06-Aug-13 15:06:38

Sconset - If you find Dune interminable, I guess you shouldn't try it's 5 sequels. I think they are all great, some more so than others. I wish FH had written more smile

CoteDAzur Tue 06-Aug-13 15:16:25

ITS sequels, even.

Sconset Tue 06-Aug-13 23:13:33

Hahaha- I would never go near any other Frank Herbert book, sorry!

I agree re Neal Stephenson's god-like status though smile

I love Snow Crash so much <sigh>

pointythings Thu 08-Aug-13 21:36:21

Remus, have you read any Tim Powers? (sorry, was just posting on another thread about non-Twilighty vampires and thought of you)

Thanks Pointy. I haven't. The page on Wiki about him isn't selling it to me much,but I'll keep an eye out in the library for him.

pointythings Thu 08-Aug-13 21:53:25

The Wiki page is crap. The thing about Tim Powers is that he isn't tied to a particular genre. I can't unreservedly recommend everything he did - some of it is so off the wall I can't engage with it at all (think 'Earthquake Weather'). However, his 'classics' are very very good. I'd recommend the following:

The Stress of her Regard (non twlighty vampires, Byron and Shelley)
The Anubis Gates (fascinating take on time travel and lots of mythology)
The Drawing of the Dark (you may have to look for an e-reader edition, it's definitely out of print - this one is a rip-roaring adventure and very funny)
Dinner at Deviant's Palace (classic dystopian fiction) (also likely to be out of print)
On Stranger Tides - forget the film, Disney only wanted the title. The book is fascinating.

I have to confess one of the reasons why I like Tim Powers is that he is clearly a fencer - his sword fight scenes just reek authenticity.

Thank you. smile

KurriKurri Thu 08-Aug-13 22:15:17

A friend of mine just recommended Peter Godwin to me (haven't read any yet, but thought I'd pass on the rec. - looks quite interesting) the two she has read and liked are Mukiwa and When a Crocodile eats the Sun.

About growing up in what used to be Rhodesia, and also dealing with life under Mugabe's regime.

Thanks Kurri. That sounds like the sort of thing that my dd1 would like too.

Brillig Thu 08-Aug-13 23:23:17

If you like Victorian medical non-fiction, OP, I'd recommend Druin Birch's 'Digging up the Dead.' It's a biog of Astley Cooper, surgeon to various royals and a notorious anatomist. He lived locally to me so I found it fascinating, but it's a rattling good read anyway.

Thanks, Brillig. I've read it and it's EXACTLY the sort of thing I love, so if you can think of any in a similar ilk that would be fantastic. smile

Brillig Fri 09-Aug-13 14:52:37

Right, so I'm assuming you've also read 'The Italian Boy' by Sarah Wise....slightly off the topic but still medical-ish is Gail Bell's 'The Poison Principle'. It's half-memoir, half-history of poisons and poisoners, with a bit of family scandal thrown in. Quite an unusual book, and fascinating.
Will try and come up with more!

I've read,'The Italian Boy' but not the Bell. Thank you. smile

Mumbledore Fri 09-Aug-13 15:26:05

I was going to say that I'm enjoying Sepulchre by Kate Mosse but I'm not sure that's quite what you're after. Instead I wanted to say thank you for bringing Melmoth to my attention - I've never heard of it but just looked at it on amazon and it sounds fantastic! Think I'll order it for when the nights start drawing in...

I read the Kate Mosse in desperation on holiday once, but really didn't like it.

Hope you enjoy Melmoth. I haven't plucked up the courage yet!

CoteDAzur Fri 09-Aug-13 20:41:58

I read Peter Godwin's When A Crocodile Eats The Sun. It was OK.

I read Kate Mosse's Labyrinth, which was very mediocre and made me want to just stick to male authors in the future. Some good descriptions of daily life of the times and that was it, really. The plot was ludicrous.

Melmoth looks very interesting. Thanks for the recommendation smile

pointythings Fri 09-Aug-13 20:45:36

I didn't like Kate Mosse either, though I'm a bit hmm about condemning all female authors based on one bad one. I mean, Mary Gentle, Sheri Tepper, Elizabeth Chadwick, Sharon Penman, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Susan Cooper, Daphne du Maurier... Do I need to go on?

CoteDAzur Fri 09-Aug-13 21:18:27

I didn't condemn all female authors. "Made me want to stick to male authors" doesn't mean that.

Thankfully, as I read Susanna Clarke's brilliant Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell afterwards.

Must admit that the last few novels by females that I've read have been shockingly bad, so I'm reluctant to try any at the moment.

CoteDAzur Fri 09-Aug-13 21:37:18

I read two very good books written by female authors in the past two years:

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
The Lotus Eaters - Tatjana Soli

There is no escaping the fact that men write much better books in the genres that I read.

I really like Liz Jensen's, 'The Ninth Life Of Louis Drax' and I've read quite a few good non-fiction books by females, but generally I agree that men are better novelists, for the kinds of books I want anyway.

pollywollydoodle Wed 11-Sep-13 15:51:52

read a book and thought of this thread .
It:s not beautifully written but it is interesting. The Stolen Village...about pirates who came to a Cork village and abducted the, mainly Quaker, residents taking them to Algiers into slavery. slave's story and political intrigue behind the whole business

teatimesthree Sat 14-Sep-13 00:04:42

One non-fic suggestion: The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh

Fiction: Red Plenty. Really think you might like this one. Very meaty.

Have you read The Birthday Boys? (Antarctica...)

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