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What I read in April 2017

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Apart from reading extra blog posts during the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I also finished reading five books. Regular readers of this blog may be glad to see that normal service has now resumed with hopefully one post a week.

Dethroning Mammon: Making Money Serve Grace by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury is particularly suitable for reading during Lent. I began reading it in March and finished it before Easter. I found it interesting, but not altogether what I expected. I have recently heard of a similar book by John Ortberg, which perhaps concentrates more on things than money. It would be interesting to compare the two books. It would also be interesting to look at Dethroning Mammon with a group of people. Reading it while resting after lunch did not help my concentration!

 

 

I bought The Old Ways a journey on foot by Robert Macfarlane at Wordsworth House. It is part of a trilogy, but can be read on its own. I had not read the earlier books, but thoroughly enjoyed this one. I had walked part of some of the long distance footpaths mentioned at various times, which added to my interest.

 

 

 

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is a novel set during the Great War of 1914 to 1918, but with some detective work done by a more recent character in the story. It is a very gory book. The plot has variations in pace and all the loose ends are satisfactorily tied up. I enjoyed reading a second-hand paperback copy.

 

 

 

 

 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is an unusual novel having Death as the narrator. It is set in Germany during the time of the Nazis. There are two short books within the book. I had been warned about the language (profanity) in the book, but did not find it was a problem. There are many more important ideas expressed through the telling of this story. Another second-hand paperback I bought.

Waterlog by Roger Deakin is a book which I discovered in hubby’s ‘to read’ pile. It is one of the books featured in Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane. Roger Deakin recorded his experiences during a year or so, when he went “wild swimming” all over the British Isles. He made many literary references.  This book prompted me to try again to read Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson, which I struggled to read it in my teens and gave up. That may require a post to itself. In any case I read it in May!  Waterlog had a great deal about East Anglia, a part of the UK I have hardly visited. However there were other places with which I am more familiar, not least Tooting Bec lido, where I swam a few times in my childhood. It is a well-written book, showing keen observational skills.

So in April I read five books, all of which I recommend.

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What I read in March 2017

I decided to reread some books from my bookshelf. Most people are familiar with CS Lewis’ imaginary land of Narnia since The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was made into a film. Lewis’ science fiction trilogy is less well-known.

Science fiction trilogy

Science fiction trilogy

I decided to read it having read The Shadow Doctor in which the hero, Ransom is mentioned. Ransom is a philologist, a student of words and languages. This is necessary for the plot (unless a device such as Douglas Adams’ babel fish is used).

Although I have long been a fan of Lewis’ writing, I felt that one of the reasons his science fiction books did not gain the same popularity as, for example, the works of his friend JRR Tolkien was the language used. There were words, which I should have looked up in a dictionary.

The books are imaginative and the struggle between good and evil is a constant theme in these stories. The evil at times begins in subtle ways and draws people in to a point where it is extremely hard to escape.

I have read this series before, but the details of the stories had not remained with me. Out of the Silent Planet begins in an ordinary way and suddenly has echoes of HG Wells. Perelandra is a satisfactory sequel and has some of the best descriptive passages. That Hideous Strength is in some ways a grown-up parallel to The Last Battle in the Narnia series.

My copies were printed before the revolution in the printing industry. I had forgotten the typos. I am sure a professor of English would not have used metal for mettle – perhaps he dictated to a secretary and the editor missed it. There were a couple of other errors, where spaces in the wrong place left real words, but no sense. The number of errors was about usual for books of that time (and better than many newer books I have read recently).

It would be interesting to learn what was going on in Lewis’ life as he wrote this series. The human interest increased in the final book. Perhaps he had met the lady he married late in life by this time.

Another book I read in March was by an author, who also wrote children’s books. Tove Jansson was well-known for The Moomins. I found a copy of a novel she wrote in a second-hand book sale. It is called “fair play” and was translated from Swedish in a delightful style by Thomas Teal and published by Sort of Books. Although it was published in Swedish in 1989, it was not until 2007 that it appeared in English.

It is a gentle novel about two unconventional women, who are a writer and an artist. Their conversations are totally convincing. A book to enjoy.

I recently read Holloway by Robert Macfarlane and others. It may need a post to itself as it is part of an interesting story about how blogging and social media are enriching my life.

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What I read in January 2017

I finished reading three books in January. I recommend them all.

The first book was a Christmas present. Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane is a fascinating book. It was conceived as a response to words about the countryside being omitted from a children’s dictionary to make space for technological vocabulary. As well as being a book about words, this is a book about books, about authors and about the countryside. The paperback edition I read included additional glossaries of words, which had been sent to the author following the publication of the first edition. I was interested to spot the name of an acquaintance, who had presumably added to the list of words, in the acknowledgements. I hadn’t heard about this book before I received it, but in one of those strange twists in life known as synchrony, just after I had read it I learned that there is to be an exhibition at Wordsworth House, Cockermouth from March to September this year, called Wild Words. It takes its inspiration from this book and has been guest-curated by the author.Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane

 

The second book I read was The Kill Fee by Fiona Veitch Smith. Having enjoyed the first of the Poppy Denby books, I was keen to read the second one. It is a good read. The author has added a disclaimer about some historical inaccuracies. I suspect there may be others, but the story hangs together well and is a page-turner. I read it in a day, while suffering from a sore throat. The title is rather unusual, but its significance is revealed in the story.

The third book was one, which I have read many times. Winnie-the-Pooh is a classic children’s story. I read it aloud from a compendium of A.A. Milne’s writing for his son Christopher Robin (Winnie-the-pooh the complete collection of stories and poems). The book has coloured illustrations by E.H. Shepard. Those, who are only familiar with the Disney cartoon versions of these stories, are missing out on subtleties of language and the coloured sketches.