I chose two “How to” books from the Fiction section, having a bit more time to spare than usual when I went to the library. Did the fashion for fiction with titles sounding like non-fiction begin with A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian?
The first book I chose was How to Measure a Cow by Margaret Forster, whose writing I have been enjoying recently. It is set mainly in Cumbria, but partly in the south of England. The characters are well-drawn and the mystery behind the main character is revealed slowly. I found it to be a page-turner.
The second book was How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. It is a fascinating book, well researched and well-written. Although this is definitely a book for adults, it had some similarities in content with a children’s book I read and reviewed – King of Shadows by Susan Cooper. Coincidentally I reviewed that book in the same post as A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (linked above).
Apart from the “How to” in the titles, these two books have a few other similarities. Both explore assumed identities and differences in culture between places in the same country among other things. I recommend them both wholeheartedly.
Perhaps the title of this post should be “What I read from cover to cover in March and April 2018”. I have been struggling with a couple of biographical/autobiographical books. One was tedious, because of the number of direct quotes from the writings of the people in the book, each with a superscript to send the diligent reader to the notes. I found it broke up the text, making it difficult to read. The other had so many references to film and television personalities that I was somewhat lost. I have lived most of my life without watching much television and would far sooner read than watch a film.
As I don’t like making unfavourable remarks about books, I shall not be telling you which books they were.
By contrast I have read three books (coincidentally all in American English) which I enjoyed so much that I have returned to part or all of them.
The first was The Daniel Prayer: The Prayer That Moves Heaven And Changes Nations by Anne Graham Lotz (daughter of the late Billy Graham).
The reasons that I read it were that the Ladies’ Bible Study Group I attend is studying the Book of Daniel and the first email I received from Bible Gateway (after this blog was listed on Bible Gateway’s Blogger Grid) advertised The Daniel Prayer. I could not resist the synchronicity and bought it from my local Christian bookshop. Anne Graham Lotz is a first-rate communicator. The paperback book is light and was my book of choice for long-distance train travel.
The second book I finished was And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Housseini. I found it in the library and read it from cover to cover in two days. The story is woven very skilfully and requires the reader to pay close attention. Although I felt as if I had followed all the threads, I waited a day or two and read it again more slowly, savouring the descriptions and picking up more of the nuances. It is the best novel I have read in a long time. (I have previously read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by the same author.) The differences between UK and US English are perhaps most marked for everyday items. For example, rocks in the UK are large. We call small ones (and pebbles) stones. Skipping rocks must mean skimming stones, but I only realised this on the second reading.
The third book I read was lent to me by a friend after I enthused about the first book. It is Why? Trusting God when we don’t understand by Anne Graham Lotz. It is a little book, which may be read at a single sitting, or kept to hand to read a section at a time and really digest the contents. It is based on a chapter from John’s gospel, but also refers more than once to the Book of Daniel.
In my earlier post I mentioned that I had two library books. I managed to finish reading both of them before the end of the month. I did not find another book to borrow from the library. Instead I decided to reread some books I have at home. I read An Alien at St Wilfred’s by Adrian Plass from cover to cover on the last day of October.
The two library books I borrowed are A Walk along the Wall by Hunter Davies and The Making of Swallows and Amazons by Sophie Neville. Both are non-fiction and relate to the 1970s.
Hunter Davies’ book has been republished several times. The issue I read had a new introduction and the appendix listing publications about Hadrian’s Wall had been brought up-to-date (about 10 years ago). I chose the book because I have visited a few locations along the wall and Lanercost Priory, which was built from stones originally used for the wall. Reading it gave me lots of background information. I hope to be able to explore more of the wall in future. The book is written in a conversational style by an author with an enquiring mind. While it deals with history, archaeology and geography, it is a story of a series of meetings with people who live(d) or worked along the wall. There is information about the landowning families of the counties of Northumberland and Cumbria. I found it fascinating.
Sophie Neville played the part of Titty Walker in the film of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons in the early 1970s. The Making of Swallows and Amazons is a very readable book compiled from her diary, that of the actress, who played Susan Walker, photos from the time and the memories of others involved. An appendix includes information about what those involved in the film did subsequently. There are many black and white photos and some in colour. I am not sure whether I have watched the film of Swallows and Amazons on TV, but (as a child) I enjoyed the book and others by Arthur Ransome. I also enjoyed The Painted Garden most of Noel Streatfield’s books. It is the one about children making a film in Hollywood. Technology has advanced, so that all sorts of special effects can be achieved nowadays. In the 1970s there were many practical problems to be solved to achieve the desired effects. I could go on, but I recommend that you read this book for yourself!
An Alien at St Wilfred’s is fiction. I have read it before, probably more than once. I think it is my favourite of those books by Adrian Plass, which I have read. Superficially it is about a vicar and organist, who do not get on well together. But it is much more than that. It is very funny in a gentle way. Above all it is a hopeful book.