50 Book Challenge 2018 Part Six
southeastdweller · 05/06/2018 08:12
Welcome to the sixth thread of the 50 Book Challenge for this year.
The challenge is to read fifty books (or more!) in 2018, though reading fifty isn't mandatory. Any type of book can count, it’s not too late to join, and please try to let us all know your thoughts on what you've read.
The first thread of the year is here, the second one here, the third one here, the fourth one here, and the fifth one here.
How're you getting on so far?
CoteDAzur · 04/08/2018 01:12
I loved it in my early-20s and remember it as a good 'first contact' story. There are many philosophical and scientific discussions in the book that didn't make it to the film. Id say it's definitely worth a try at that price.
Tanaqui · 04/08/2018 07:10
I read the Sagan in my teens and remember it as good too- but possibly my tastes have changed!
My idea of holiday reading was 60) Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sim. Rather like reading a group of mumsnet threads! Clearly influenced by Bridget Jones, I thought this had a weak start- aspirational lists (done years ago- I remember tearing one out of Easy Living magazine- a quote about the fantasy beach stroll with Boden wearing children and intellectual conversation vs the reality at least 10 years ago!); and also v BJ- sequels; and I couldn’t see why we should warm to the character- she didn’t seem to be trying very hard and I wasn’t very sympathetic to her. However it greatly improved once it got going and was quite amusing, occasionally a touch Jilly Cooperish, and kept me going while I had no WiFi for Mumsnetting.
Terpsichore · 04/08/2018 09:26
Almost time for another thread!
52: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman
I've finally been able to retrieve the copy I started and then, annoyingly, left at a friend's house. I was interested to see what all the fuss was about this much-lauded book. Having finished it, I can completely see how satisfying it is to be swept forwards, cheering a protagonist along their arc of redemption. This I think Gail H did well. But (perhaps unfairly) I often found myself nit-picking along the way and, for example, wondering why Eleanor often seemed to have been dropped from an alien planet - she was 30 and had been working for something like 8 years, but had seemingly never encountered or noticed common everyday tropes. I get that there were good reasons for her self-imposed isolation but I'm not sure I quite believed it.
The editing was oddly sloppy too...she made much of having a travel-pass but then at one point commented that her first contact with someone after a lonely weekend was putting her money in the bus-driver's coin-machine. She boasted of her classical education but kept using the tautological expression 'the hoi polloi'. And why were her therapist, and all the people in the report she kept from her file, named after characters in 'Jane Eyre'? An inside joke by Gail H, maybe. But all these things annoyed me irrationally (can you tell? ) - so, although it made me laugh more than once, and I enjoyed it on a surface level, I didn't feel convinced by it.
(Oh, and for the first time this year I've given up on a book - The Secret Barrister has gone back to the library unfinished. Dull, dull, dull)
CoteDAzur · 04/08/2018 13:07
Pale Rider - The Spanish Flu Of 1918 and How It Changed The World by Laura Spinney
Wow, this was fantastic! I picked it up recently as a Kindle Daily Deal and frankly did t expect to read it so soon, but I have been staying up nights to read just a few more pages of it.
I had heard of Spanish Flu of course but didn't know that it killed nearly 100 million people which is more than WWI and WWII combined, and had far reaching consequences in every aspect of the 100 years that came to pass.
The book is very well-researched and informative of a bit confusing due to its thematic (non-linear) exploration of the Spanish Flu. It was fascinating to learn that it didn't actually originate in Spain but the world didn't hear about its beginnings in the US & France because these countries were in WWI effort so bad news like disease was censored from their press, and the frustrating efforts to discover the cause at a time when viruses are too small to see or filter with current technology. How so many artists, politicians, scientists contracted it and the ways the disease affected their work thereafter as well as the world they shaped.
Brilliant book. I recommend it to everyone here.
BestIsWest · 04/08/2018 15:17
I really like the sound of that Cote
Dottierichardson · 04/08/2018 18:40
Thanks will add the Sagan to the list, looking forward to the Angela Carter doc on BBC2 later and the Winterson doc tomorrow BBC1. Also Alan Garner is going to be on Front Row Radio 4 on Tuesday.
Cote the Spanish flu book sounds fascinating thanks for the heads-up.
Dottierichardson · 04/08/2018 19:00
Sadik Good luck with your werewolves. I went through a massive urban fantasy phase, work was particularly stressful at the time, and found them relaxing. I really liked the Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson ones, the early Laurel K. Hamilton before they turned into soft-core erotica, I quite liked some of Holly Black's stuff too. The style reminded me very much of the hard-bitten feminist detective novels that were popular for a while. But I think I over-dosed now can't face them at all.
ChillieJeanie · 05/08/2018 11:38
Cote I found a copy of Iron Gold in the library - worth a look to see if your library has it.
66. Evelyn Waugh - Scoop
In a case of mistaken identity William Boot, writer of nature notes for The Daily Beast, finds himself sent to report on a promising war in the African Republic of Ishmaelia on the orders of newspaper magnate Lord Copper. It's a great satire on Fleet Street, although the racial language and attitudes are rather problematic for a modern reader.
virginqueen · 05/08/2018 11:45
I saw the Angela Carter programme, and loved it. She was really ahead of her time, and died way too early. It's made me want to re-read her books, and the recently published biography. My recent books are The Dark Angel, the latest in the Ruth Galloway series, by Elly Griffiths, and well up to her excellent standard. Next, I read Midnight Blue by SimoneVan Der Vlught, which was ok, but nothing special. Back to great stuff, with The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements - beautifully gothic. Finally The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse, first of a trilogy, I think, great historical theme set in Carcassonne.
CoteDAzur · 05/08/2018 12:23
Chillie - "Cote I found a copy of Iron Gold in the library - worth a look to see if your library has it."
Unfortunately I'm not in the UK and there's no English library anywhere near me.
CoteDAzur · 05/08/2018 12:24
Best & Dottie - Definitely read the Spanish Flu book. I look forward to reading your thoughts
Terpsichore · 05/08/2018 13:43
Cote, I'd really like to read Pale Rider too. I'm annoyed I missed it as a Kindle deal but let's hope it reappears (its on my wish-list now).
Moving on swiftly from 'Eleanor Oliphant', I've finished a 1958 book that could hardly be more different - 53: Daddy's Gone A-Hunting - Penelope Mortimer
Ruth is unhappily married to pompous, bullying Rex, who spends his weeks working and living 'up in Town', leaving her alone in their house in the comfortable stockbroker belt. With her two boys away at boarding school and her oldest daughter Angela (whose advent meant Ruth and Rex 'had to get married') at Oxford, Ruth slips into a mental breakdown, terrified by the utter futility of her life and her inability to connect with her own children. She's pulled out of it when Angela confides that she's pregnant, and Ruth sets out to save Angela from her own fate - a loveless marriage to an overbearing boor - by organising an abortion for her.
This must have been a startling book in many ways for 1958, when abortion was still illegal. It was also heavily based on events in Penelope Mortimer's own life - she'd helped her own daughter in similar circumstances (and had an abortion herself, after 6 children); she'd suffered mental health problems, and was famously married to the philandering John Mortimer. The big difference was that Penelope Mortimer always worked, as a novelist and journalist, but she clearly knew the territory here. It's certainly not a comforting book but I'd highly recommend it. Great writing, emotionally acute and unsparing. I really want to read more of her novels now.
ChillieJeanie · 05/08/2018 14:14
Sorry, Cote, didn't realise. It's due out in paperback in late September. Hopefully the kindle price will drop then too.
MegBusset · 05/08/2018 15:11
Another holiday read:
32. Hitler -My Part In His Downfall - Spike Milligan
First part of Milligan's war memoirs, this is predictably very funny but also, in places, quite beautifully written and poignant.
Dottierichardson · 05/08/2018 15:38
Virginqueen I enjoyed the Carter doc too, loved the mix of materials. I read the biography, I thought in terms of style and analysis a bit lacking, but relished finding out more about Carter and her work. I judge biographies by Hermione Lee's Virginia Woolf which is a brilliant book I think, so a bit fussy. I think I may re-read Wise Children haven't read it since it came out and Maureen Lipman whetted my appetite. I think some of Carter's work is a bit heavy-going, but love the fairy tales, The Magic Toyshop and the later novels. I'm going to watch the Winterson doc later, I only really like Oranges but enjoyed her memoir. Also did you notice that there's a Plath doc next Saturday in the same slot as the Carter? Hoping that means there's a series of docs on women writers.
Terpischore Have Mortimer's The Pumpkin Eater on my pile, have you seen the film with Anne Bancroft? It's brilliant and looks amazing. It's a favourite of mine despite the down-beat themes.
StitchesInTime · 05/08/2018 16:18
53. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick
Alternate history novel, set in an occupied USA in a world where the Nazis and Japanese won World War 2.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this. Perhaps this book would have benefited from me not putting it down so often to deal with DC etc.
The bits showing the characters living in the occupied USA (the book just shows the part of the USA under Japanese control) and the bits involving talk of power struggles between the Japanese and the Nazis were interesting.
But there’s an awful lot about a book that depicts a world where the Nazis and Japanese lost the war, which is where this book lost me a bit. I was struggling to see the point of this fictional alternate history novel set within the actual alternate history novel TBH. I’ve no idea what’s supposed to be going on with the final chapter either.
54. The Five Greatest Warriors by Matthew Reilly
This was a much more straightforward read than the previous book.
Action and Indiana Jones style adventure as Jack West Jr and company races to save the world from destruction, narrowly escaping death on almost every other chapter. An entertaining and undemanding read.
Terpsichore · 05/08/2018 16:19
I'm pretty sure I've got an old Penguin of The Pumpkin Eater lurking somewhere, Dottie, so I'm on a quest to find it amongst the double-stacked teetering piles. I knew about the film but I haven't seen it.....I want to now, though!
Does anyone else have an urge, when they discover an author they really like, to read all their books immediately?
Tanaqui · 05/08/2018 19:43
Yes- sometimes I try and spin them out, but usually I binge! When I decided I liked Jack Reacher I challenged myself not to pay full price for any (charity shops, library, kindle deals) which was quite helpful for slowing down a bit.
61) An engineered Injustice by William Myers, jr. This may have been a rec from here- it was an amazon freebie somehow that was sitting on my kindle for a while. It’s a decent enough legal thriller- it’s not The Firm but it’s quite clever. However, it is super annoyingly writtten in the present tense which I found really irritating (I’m not going mad am I- it’s an unusual choice?). Once I got used to it(blotted it out!), it was a good page turner and I will look out for his previous book.
southeastdweller · 05/08/2018 20:14
The film of The Pumpkin Eater is great and I must get round to reading the book.
35. The Blue Touch Paper - David Hare. I loved this memoir from my favourite playwright. This is intelligent and thought-provoking writing, and a must-read for anyone interested in 1970's British theatre.
MegBusset · 05/08/2018 22:20
Oh I loved The Man In The High Castle, but it often comes in for a slating on these threads. Must give it a reread soon.
In fact I am considering a whole year of rereads - rereading my favourite 50 books would be a lovely thing.
Dottierichardson · 05/08/2018 22:47
Stiches I wasn't keen on The Man in the High Castle but loved The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.
Dottierichardson · 05/08/2018 22:48
Stitches I didn't enjoy The Man in the High Castle either but really liked The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.
Dottierichardson · 05/08/2018 22:49
Sorry weird posting glitch! Not trying to be emphatic!
Dottierichardson · 06/08/2018 06:06
- Everywoman by Jess Phillips – Published 2017. In this quirky book Jess Phillips writes from her position as Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley producing something that lies between a memoir and a rallying cry for women. Phillips writes in a direct, conversational style, which is often refreshing, but the episodic structure means the finished work is frustratingly fragmentary. I found the most rewarding sections those where she comments on her time in Westminster, attitudes to women’s issues in her party and her work in Women’s Aid. Some of her comments about the culture of the contemporary Labour Party reminded me of the old SWP position that women’s issues were a bourgeois distraction, a stance which seems to be gaining currency yet again, or perhaps never fully went away. I did find myself puzzling over the identity of her intended reader: the tone and content’s too general for women who follow politics yet a little specialised for those who normally wouldn’t. I should probably confess that I bought this more as a show of solidarity than anything else; I know Phillips isn’t perfect but she’s been consistent in her lobbying for women and taken a principled stance over anti-Semitism in Labour; in return for which she’s been receiving some seriously abusive threats and misogynist messages. However, I found Phillips’s brand of practical feminist advice appealing: it represents the resurgence of an everyday, activist feminism. The kind that’s been overshadowed by the rise of gender studies with its increasingly inaccessible, abstract theoretical forms– Deleuzian feminism for example. Phillips’s discussion of the scale of domestic violence, alone, should be enough to demonstrate that many, many women still need a lot more than abstract theorizing will ever deliver. So, overall a fairly decent, if uneven, fast read and one I’d probably think of passing on to younger women who are just starting to take an interest in feminism, politics and their own futures.
bibliomania · 06/08/2018 09:34
The Pumpkin Eater is excellent. I've ordered Pale Rider from the library.
Read the first third of I Contain Multitudes and skimmed the rest. I liked it, but felt I'd got the idea and wasn't quite in the mood.
About to embark on Fools and Mortals and looking forward to it. I was a groundling at a production of Macbeth at the week, up at the front by the stage, and got liberally spattered with fake blood, so I'm a Shakespearean kind of mood.
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