Tag Archives: Colm Toibin

Now We Are Six!!!!!!

“Happy Birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy blogging birthday dear Savidge Reads, happy birthday to me…” Imagine that sung in my most beautiful of singing voices! Yes, today Savidge Reads is officially six years old though weirdly it feels older than that. It was six years to this very day that I first put my tentative toes (or tapping fingers) into the blogosphere and wrote a review, of sorts though I am quite embarrassed by it now, of Susan Hill’s ‘The Various Haunts of Men’. More dreadful reviews/bookish thoughts followed, most of which I have since deleted because they were mortifying, and no one read it for ages and ages. And now here were are…

Now We Are Six

To actually celebrate a blog birthday seemed rather a bonkers idea in years past, however this year with all that has gone on (and, without blowing my own trumpet, the fact that the blog went to number one here) The Beard decided we should celebrate it and has only gone and made me the blog-birthday cake above – any excuse for us to eat cake – and also bought me two new books. This was made all the more special as they came with the Books Are My Bag bag after a little jaunt out yesterday to Linghams. Anyway the books are ‘Coco Chanel; The Life and the Legend’ by Justine Picardie (which I was so sure I had in hardback but couldn’t find the other day) and ‘New Ways To Kill Your Mother’ by Colm Toibin (the title of which I love) which is some literary history and criticism all rolled into one I believe. Both non-fiction too as now I am six I really feel I should be challenging myself more.

I am also going to have a little mini bookish party of my own later today as I finally settle down to read (in big fat gulps) my current bookish obsession ‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton. But before that we are off on a Famous Five like adventure to a lighthouse. I am hoping for a picnic with some of that cake with lashings of ginger beer or pink lemonade once we get there.

Anyway, a big thanks to those of you who have joined in the fun here at Savidge Reads over the last few years and all the lovely bookish banter and the like, it has been bloody lovely. Here’s to the next six…

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Other People’s Bookshelves #9; David Dean

As Thursday rolls round again it’s time to take a nosey look through someone else’s shelves and this week we are joined by book cover illustrator, and commenter extraordinaire on this blog, David Dean. David is an illustrator, mainly of children’s books (you can see some of his work here, my sister Mim loved ‘Dead Man’s Cove’) which means he can combine his two passions – books and painting – and get paid for it, which, he says “seems to me to be pretty ideal. Getting to go off and play in authors’ worlds all day is just the best job”. He lives with his two cats, Button and Ptolemy, to the east of Manchester, in the foothills of the Pennines where he loves to go walking. Book-wise he reads mainly contemporary fiction, though lately he is trying to read older books. He has a particular fondness for Canadian literature and is slowly starting to explore Australian fiction too. So let’s have a look through his shelves and find out more…

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I used to keep everything on my shelves, read and unread, but I ran out of shelf space a few years ago and now all my shelves are double-stacked. So behind what you can see in the photos there is essentially the same number of books again. The books hidden behind are ones I haven’t read and don’t immediately plan to read (though I have recently been having fun by rooting around in there amongst books I’d half forgotten to select my next read), but there are also quite a few back there which I have read but which I maybe didn’t like all that much but don’t want to get rid of. Typically this will be because they’re by an author I otherwise like – as an example ‘The Testament of Mary’ by Colm Toibin went straight to the back, whilst ‘Brooklyn’ is still on display. As for ‘one in, one out’ – ha! I wish I could be that tough, but I really struggle to part with books. The number of times I’ve put books in a charity bag only to wish I still had them years later.

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Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

Alphabetically (for fiction anyway) – I can never understand people who don’t alphabetise books and CDs. And then each author’s books are organised by publication date. I have all my fiction books in one room, though my Folio Society editions are in boxes rather than out on the shelves – cloth bindings (especially if they’re faux Victorian looking) seem wrong to my eye when put next to modern dust jackets. And then in what I laughingly refer to as my ‘studio’ (in reality the box room) I have all my art and design and travel books. These are not filed in any particular order, just by the most efficient way to get as many on to the shelves as possible, a system that drives me mad, but needs must I’m afraid.

What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

Goodness, I don’t know. I’ve always read but I wouldn’t say I was an avid reader as a child (I read comics more than books) and I spent my pocket money on toys rather than books. Books we got from the mobile library. I remember having and reading copies of Roald Dahl and Alan Garner, but I think my Mum probably bought those for me. I didn’t become a big buyer of books until I was about 13 and I started reading Star Trek novels, of which I must have had well over a hundred. But I suppose with my own money it might have been this from 1985. It doesn’t reside on my shelves but I think it might be in my Mum & Dad’s loft somewhere.

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Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

Guilty pleasures? Not really. Most of the books on my shelves are contemporary literary fiction and boringly respectable. I do have a full set of Dan Dare books (reprinting the original stories from the Eagle of the 50s and 60s), some collected editions of the Transformers comics I loved as a kid, a few graphic novels, but nothing I’d be embarrassed by.

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

I think most would be replaceable, and there are other things I’d save first in the event of a fire. I’d perhaps save my copy of ‘King of the World: The Padshahnama’, a very nice art book on the paintings produced for the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. The pictures have been a huge influence on my own painting so it has been an important books to me.

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

I don’t think I ever borrowed anything from my parents’ shelves. Their tastes didn’t really appeal to me at that age, though me and my Mum now regularly lend each other books. I do remember looking through a couple of my Mum’s for the rude bits!

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If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I pretty much just buy what I want to read, and far more than I ever actually COULD read!

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

A handful bought this week: Olivia Manning’s ‘The Rain Forest’ (I want to read her two trilogies, but thought a single novel might give me an idea if I like her writing before embarking on a huge tome); Alyson Hagy’s ‘Ghosts of Wyoming’, Dylan Nice’s ‘Other Kinds’ and David McGlynn’s ‘The End of the Straight and Narrow’ (I’ve grown to love short stories over the past year and a lot of my favourites have been by American authors) and Lucy Wood’s ‘Diving Belles’ because Simon has raved about it so often on his blog!

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Yes, lots! My wish list on Amazon currently contains 327 books and my wish list on Book Depository runs to 15 pages.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

That I read too much?

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A big thank you to David for letting me grill him. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of David’s responses and/or any of the books he mentioned?

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Books By The Bedside #4

It’s time for me to do a little sharing of what I am reading, and of course ask you all to do the same, with my latest ‘Books by the Bedside’ post. I have to admit after my break away and the utter lack of reading while I was there I did come back and have a small period of readers block. That seems to have cleared now thankfully and I am back on reading form. Phew!

One of the books that got me out of a funk, and I am still dipping in and out of, was ‘Adrian Mole From Minor to Major’ which is a collection of the first three volumes of his diaries (‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾’, ‘The Growing Pains of Adrian Albert Mole’ and ‘True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole’) written by Susan Townsend. I was look at books that would get younger people reading, to deliver a presentation for that job I didn’t get sadly, and so dug these out for a re-read. Well, I have been in hysterics! I forgot how funny, and how rude, they are and it is amazing that they haven’t aged, despite the fact they were 30 years old this year they read quite currently.

The second book was also one that I picked up to dip into while I had the small reading block. Nancy Mitford’s essays ‘A Talent to Annoy’ was a book I spotted last week in the library, the perfect place to wander when you have no idea what to read, and almost whooped with joy when I spotted as it is really hard to get hold of. They are perfect quick sharp reads for when you only have five minutes spare and her dry and wry humour just gets me every time.

I am also currently reading two other books. This is very unlike me but let me explain. I have been reading a very advance copy of Colm Toibin’s ‘The Testament of Mary’ which, as I am not religious, is taking me a lot longer than I expected as I keep having to go and Google all the references, like the story of Lazarus, that I know little of. Now when I was getting my head around all this I had a book sort, not ridding myself of any just manoeuvring them around, and I picked up ‘The Age of Miracles’ by Karen Thompson Walker and read the first page… two hours later I was still reading, utterly hooked, and have now almost finished it but as I don’t want it to end I am back to Colm. Do any of you do that?

I then have two books that I am really keen to get to once these lovely reads are all over. I have not read one of Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler novels in quite a while, the sixth comes out soon and I suddenly realised I was only on the third. ‘The Shadows in the Street’ was a purchase at an independent bookshop I will be writing about very soon. I weirdly had the fifth in this series but not the fourth and though they stand alone I am a stickler for reading in order.

Last, but certainly not least, is ‘Bringing Up The Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel. Now I admit I did say I was going to resist reading this until at least Christmas because I was so sick of hearing about it, then it was long listed for this year’s Man Booker, the hype went up and suddenly I was desperate to read it. I think it the fault of Anne Boleyn, I am fascinated by her and so that is the major pull. Oh and the fact that I loved ‘Wolf Hall’ of course.

So that is what is on my reading horizon, what is on yours?

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Do We Ever Know The Reader We Are aka The Mad Ramblings of a Book Lover

I can almost hear one or two of you saying ‘but does it matter?’ simply from reading the title of today’s post, and the answer is that maybe it doesn’t, but bear with me. One of the things that I most love about books is also one of the things that freaks me out the most. I will never in my life time be able to read all the books that I really want to read. I have been tinkering with some pages behind the scenes that will be appearing on the site in the next week or so and they have led me to pondering this matter, along with the fact that in just seven days I will be turning thirty which is giving me food for thought in all aspects of my life. In terms of books though, will I ever know what sort of reader I am?

One of the new pages I have been tinkering with is a page which will feature all my favourite authors with their entire bibliographies (I think I have possibly pilfered this idea from Kim at Reading Matters, best form of flattery and all that). This is so that I can see which ones I have read since I have been blogging and which I have missed, so slowly but surely I can make my way through all of them, I might even revisit the ones I have already read pre-blog. Doing this I was surprised at how many of my favourite authors I have not read in ages. Apart from Margaret Atwood, Daphne Du Maurier, Nancy Mitford, Wilkie Collins and Susan Hill I have actually been a little bit rubbish. What happened to wanting to read everything by Anne Tyler, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Muriel Spark, Colm Toibin, Kazuo Ishiguro, Haruki Murakami etc when I know I love their writing so much?

In part I know it is because loving books as I do, and knowing so many people who feel the same way, lots of lovely new shiny books or authors are put in my path. I am not just talking about latest releases and books that are receiving lots of exciting and tempting buzz here either, though I am grateful to everyone who recommended I read ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller which I have just finished and adored. I am also talking about authors who have been going for years, some still producing works and some who have sadly passed away, and have a huge back catalogue, that invariably if I have loved my first reading experience I want to go and read the whole lot of. Just this week I had the absolute joy of reading Beryl Bainbridge  for the first time and adoring ‘The Bottle Factory Outing’ (thanks to Gaskella), her narrative voice chimed in with my sense of humour and her writing style was on the money to the style I like to read. So I have now opened ‘Every Man for Himself’ after spotting it in the hospital charity shop yesterday. The rest of the TBR can wait.

I sometimes wonder if having an extensive (you could read that as excessive if you wished) TBR can be a hindrance rather than a joyful personal library, which is what I tell myself it is – you could also call it hoarding. I also wonder if blogging is a help or a hindrance too, but that’s another subject for another time, back to my TBR thoughts.

Since I have moved house I purposefully hid my boxes of unread books to see how long it would be before I routed one out. It has happened all of three times in a month, I seem to be reading new books in from publishers a bit (though my incoming has lessened considerably as I have come to a lovely new agreement with publishers), buying books on occasion in the charity shop down the road which I seem unable to walk past without falling into (how does this happen) or in the main getting books from the library (my new favourite book haunt). I have no idea quite what this is telling me but I do wonder if my tastes are changing again, I think they always evolve, and hence why all those lovely books I have got along the way are left lingering in air tight boxes down the side of my wardrobe that I can’t see.

This may change with my plan of having the ‘Forty for Forty’ page on the blog. All those books you have suggested, and keep them coming here, along with those I have been browsing library and bookshop shelves for which I/you/we ‘should have read’ by the time I/you/we are forty (or ninety or anything in between, under or over come to that). A lot of them are in those air tight boxes behind that wardrobe and have been waiting to be read for some time, years and years in some cases, since I bought them based on the fact that I felt if I was a real reader I would have to jave read that some day.

This could, of course, be lethal. I could end up with a list of forty more authors who have been thrown in my reading path and I want to read everything by (though some of them might have only written one book in which case I will sulk that there are no more for me to find – poor books, they can’t win) taking random detours with. But then is that a bad thing? I guess if it means I am missing out on my favourite authors other works then it is? Hmmm, tricky!

I like to think I have a pretty eclectic taste and therefore as I wander randomly down the yellow brick road that is my reading path in life, reading all sorts of lovely (and occasionally not so lovely) books, do I lose a sense of who I am as a reader? Should I not know by now, as my third decade spreads in front of me all sparkly and new, know what books I do and don’t like? Should I give up on experimenting, which can go wonderfully right as well as horribly wrong, with new books and authors be they new-new or new to me and stick to what I know? I don’t think I should, yet how do you get the balance just right?

Maybe what I need to do is accept that we never really know the readers we are and that actually that is the whole fun of it? Over time, maybe, in some point in my life reading the authors that I know and love as well as experimenting with the ones I don’t know but might love will reach a natural equilibrium? Maybe I just need to face the dreaded fact I mentioned earlier that I will never read all the books I want to in life… and get over it, move on, pick up a book and just get on with it?

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The Book Cull: A Report

I mentioned the other day that it was time for a big book cull. I was pleased to hear in the comments that my ridiculous amount of books (I said 500 or so, it was actually 673 to be precise – see spreadsheets can be your friends) made some of you feel much better about your own  TBR’s and I was also pleased that people commented and said they had many more books than me. A fair few of you also wanted me to report back on how I got on, well here it is. Maybe, should you ever need a book cull, this might provide some tips.

People who don’t love books, or even people who do love them but somehow don’t binge or hoard them, will have no idea how hard it is to cull your TBR. In fairness I had actually forgotten or I might have had second thoughts about doing this weekend, not only did it take hours and hours and hours, it was also quite stressful. You see I always think that every book is a future adventure or journey (though not in the saccharine ‘journey’ sense) that is lying in wait for me amongst all those pages bound in gorgeous covers. However even I had to admit that the amount of books I owned was going a bit far, especially when they are in front of you.

From this vantage point they strangely manage to look both deceptively few and yet also like a big gang of books set to intimidate the sorter/culler. It felt like they knew what was coming and were either threatening me or pleading with me in order to stay. (I might have spent too much time with books in the last 48 hours or so, I could be slightly deranged.) I knew I was going to have to be tough, possibly tougher than I have ever been with a cull, and believe me I have done a few. I decided it was time to change tactics, this was going to involve several mini culls. The first step was the easiest, divide the books into ‘must reads’, ‘might reads’ and ‘probably bought on whim or sent unsolicited and I am just hoarding them just in case’. As you can imagine I ended up with a fairly big pile of ‘must reads’ a fairly big pile of ‘probably bought on whim or sent unsolicited and I am just hoarding them just in case’ books and a stupidly huge amount of ‘might reads’. Being tough simply wasn’t enough, I needed to be brutal, so I created some criteria for culling books further based on the books I had in the ‘maybe read’ piles…

  • Can I remember why I got this book, or how? No, cull.
  • Do I have more than one copy? Yes, cull. (Thank goodness for spreadsheets, I discovered I had seven, yes seven, different books in duplicate editions, see hoarding has its pitfalls.)
  • Is this book part of a series for which I don’t have the prior novels? Yes, cull.
  • If from a publisher (this was the case with about a third of the books, most were whim purchases from varying sources) have I kept this book because it was sent unsolicited but I like the publisher and don’t want to upset them? Yes, cull.
  • Is this a fairly modern title I do rather quite like the sound of but I have seen in the library recently where I could get it out if I do miss it? Yes, cull.
  • Is this a classic everyone says you should read, so you own, but actually you don’t really think you will read it any time soon and could always borrow it from the library as above? Yes, cull.

This was helpful and by this point I would say I could have got away with it.

However after a nights sleep, and waking up to the above sight, I decided I needed to be even harder. It was time to cull even more and so I asked myself the following as I went through them all again..

  • Is this the first in a series I haven’t started yet which I might or might not like but will feel compelled to read the rest of? Yes, cull.
  • Has the author heard I have got their book and not sent just one nice email but harranged me with ‘when are you reading my book?’ This has indeed happened. Yes, cull. (I don’t mind a nice friendly nudge now and again, I understand they want their books read by anyone and everyone, but sometimes it gets a bit much.)
  • Is this one of several books where I have bought the entire back catalogue of an author simply based on enjoying one of their novels? If so do I have more than three or four of this author’s works? Yes, cull- but only the ones that sound the least ‘my sort of read’.
  • Is this a book by one of my favourite authors that I have hoarded and yet actually don’t imagine reading in the next few years as have plenty of others of theirs? Yes, cull.

This pretty much did the trick and by now my room had gone from looking like the stock room of a book shop, to the delivery room of a charity shop…

Which was interesting as within another twenty minutes, and with the help of a trusty relative and their car, I was ready to deliver this loot to the nearby charity bookshop…

The looks on the women’s faces when we first arrived laden with the first of the bags was joyful, the second time we walked in they looked a little perplexed. When I came back in for the third time one of ladies, who did in fairness give me a huge hug afterwards, said ‘how many bags do you have in total?’ I though t she might faint when I said ‘Erm, 24-ish’. It was noted by my accompanying relative that I didn’t mention how many books these bags contained altogether.

Now as I look at the pile of books you can see in the picture here —– > (and they are only the books in the clear boxes,  the fancy boxes are empty) I am feeling rather pleased with myself. Not only did I get my TBR pile (which I will give it its own page later as for some reason word tables and wordpress don’t mix) down to a much more manageable 275 books exactly. It is also a TBR of books I ‘really want to read’ rather than a vast pile of books I want to read with lots that I feel I should, it hinders choosing the next book to read really. Well for me it does. Anyway, most importantly I stopped selfishly hoarding these excess books (about 350 once family had taken the first pickings) that will not only make money for a charity but will also, through the charity shop being one just for books and hopefully therefore book lovers, find new homes with people who love reading. It feels good in lots of ways.

Now, as I have just finished a book, which one shall I pull from my new refined TBR! In fact that is an additional joy, its reminded me which authors older books I haven’t let myself indulge in for a while. Ian McEwan, Anne Tyler, Colm Toibin, Angela Carter and more Daphne Du Maurier and Margaret Atwood for a start. I love this pre-decision feeling, it’s s exciting not knowing what lies in store next. Right, I am off to have a mooch.

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The Readers; Double the Delight & We Want To Hear From You…

I am dubious about writing too much about all the other book based projects that I do on the side of Savidge Reads. For example if I go on about the Bookmarked Literary Salon that I was doing (its taking a sabbatical for a while) in Manchester I worry it comes across like self promotion rather than me telling you about a bookish project that I love . The Green Carnation Prize is another project I have been quieter about on here this year for the same reason. Plus with Bookmarked there is the fact that as Savidge Reads is read all over the world, which thrills me but I find very odd (hello to you all), not many of you can physically come so is it really of any interest? I had the same worry with The Readers, the podcast I have started with the lovely Gavin of Gav Reads, though with the joys of it being on the internet (and iTunes) the likelihood of you being able to listen in and join in is much greater, and that is what we want.

We have popped up two episodes this week; one is a Manchester Literature Festival Special and includes some behind the scenes nattering as well as interviews after I was whizzing round the festival to report back on events starring (and where possible interviewing them afterwards) the likes of Colm Toibin, Alan Hollinghurst, Sarah Dunant, Patricia Duncker, Catherine O’Flynn, Kishwar Desai , KO Dahl and many more. The second is a ‘Sherlock Holmes Special’ and sees Gavin and I nattering away about Holmes, interviewing Anthony Horowitz on his novel ‘The House of Silk’ which sees Sherlock return.

Holmes and Watson... Or is it Gav & I planning Episode 8 of The Readers?

So what for the episodes going forward? Well we will still be covering book news, doing an author interview here and there; reading a book together and discussing all thing books based which we can banter about. We really want you involved though, and not just to listen to us nattering on, we want you to help us shape and be part of the podcast. How? Well…

We really want to hear from all of you who either read this blog, and Gavin’s of course, or who listen in. We would like to know what we are doing right, what we could do better and more importantly we would like you to join in with all the fun. We have already got a few bloggers in on the act, some who have sent us recordings of their top five books which we will be including in the future and one who is joining us as a special co-host for an episode, and we would love more of you to do the same whether you have a blog or not – yes publishers you too. The show is called ‘The Readers’ after all and that is what we want it to be all about, all readers! Do you fancy it?

If you want to record a voice memo with any suggestions for topics of discussion, or you top five books, then do feel free to email it (because it costs nothing ha)  to bookbasedbanter@gmail.com or if you simply want to leave us some thoughts and/or tips do so on the website or in the comments below.   

P.S Do you want to hear about these bookish projects that I do on the side of the blog? I don’t want Savidge Reads to become a place of promoting anything other than my love of books, and I don’t want you thinking I am some shameless self promoter either. Just so you know! Thoughts welcomed…

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The Green Carnation Prize Shortlist 2011

After several hours of interesting and passionate discussion and debate we have the SIX titles which make the Green Carnation Prize Shortlist 2011 and they are…

  • The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge – Patricia Duncker (Bloomsbury)
  • The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall (Portobello)
  • Red Dust Road – Jackie Kay (Picador)
  • Remembrance of Things I Forgot – Bob Smith (Terrace Books)
  • Ever Fallen in Love – Zoe Strachan (Sandstone Press)
  • The Empty Family – Colm Toibin (Penguin Books)

These are six brilliant reads that I cannot recommend highly enough. But who will win? Have you read any of them and what did you think? Will you be picking any up?

You can find out more about The Green Carnation Prize here

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Manchester Literary Festival 2011

Today is the opening of Manchester Literary Festival and I am rather excited about it. When I was in London I did the Jewish Book Festival as well as Wimbledon Book Festival, but that was it. Weirdly the bigger festivals (no offence to the above two) seem to happen outside of London. I’ve always found that odd, and odd they always happen at the same time of year! How can readers get to all of them?

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Anyway I am going to be reporting on the Manchester Book Festival for the blog and also for ‘The Readers’ (a podcast me and Gav Reads launched today) so I am very excited. Tonight’s opening event looks to be a real treat as Colm Toibin and Alan Hollinghurst are in conversation with each other, I can’t wait to see how that plays out. I will be reporting back in due course, I have my trusty notepad at the ready…

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I’m planning on seeing as much of the event as possible including Michael Frayn, Emma Jane Unsworth, John Niven, Tahmima Anam, Dipika Rai, Kishwar Desai, Thomas Enger, K O Dahl, Yrsa Siguardottir, MJ Hyland, Patricia Duncker, David Lodge, Catherine O’Flynn, Anthony Horrowitz and Jeffrey Eugenides. Oh, and have a team at the Literary Quiz. Phew. The next few weeks are going to be great.

Let me know if you have any insights on the authors above, or would like any questions put to them, or if indeed you will be there. Would love to say hello to you all!

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The Green Carnation Prize Longlist 2011

Sorry I have been off blog for a few days. Brussels completely relaxed me, though I didnt get as much reading done as I would have liked, and then I have come back to the whirl of books and been in the final discussions (through email, skype, phone, face to face meetings – you name it) and deliberating over the mass of submissions we had to make the Green Carnation Longlist 2011. So a drumroll please as here we have the thirteen books that have made this years rather diverse longlist…

  • By Nightfall – Michael Cunningham (Fourth Estate)
  • The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge – Patricia Duncker (Bloomsbury)
  • The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall (Portobello)
  • Red Dust Road – Jackie Kay (Picador)
  • The Retribution – Val McDermid (Little Brown)
  • Purge – Sofi Oksanen (Atlantic Books)
  • There But for The… – Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Remembrance of Things I Forgot – Bob Smith (Terrace Books)
  • Ever Fallen in Love – Zoe Strachan (Sandstone Press)
  • The Empty Family – Colm Toibin (Penguin Books)
  • Role Models – John Waters (Beautiful Books)
  • Before I Go To Sleep – S.J Watson (Doubleday)
  • Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? – Jeanette Winterson (Jonathan Cape)

I am very pleased with the list indeed, despite a few of my favourites not quite making it through and I am looking forward to getting back to all the titles as the re-reading starts before the shortlist on November 2nd 2011. You can find out more on the website here.

So what do you think of the longlist? Any questions (I will try and answer any I can without breaking the submission clause) you have? Which books are you suprised to see on there, which are you surprised aren’t on there? Which have you read and what did you think? Any that you particularily fancy giving a whirl? As ever I would love your thoughts.

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June’s Incomings…

Yes yet another month has flown by and it’s that time when I ask for you thoughts on the books that have come through the letterbox, or snuck in hidden in my bag etc. I was thinking that it wasn’t such a bumper month and then remembered that I had been sent the TV book club titles (I’ve had to give up on ‘Moonlight Mile’ it’s just not me) then there are the Penguins I rescued and the Daphne Du Maurier discovery, oops.

So what paperbacks have come through the door?

  • My Michael by Amos Oz – unsolicited copy, but one that I am glad has arrived as I haven’t read any Amos Oz and would like to (I seem to have lots of his books) has anyone any recommendations on Oz?
  • The Elephant’s Journey by Jose Saramago – another unsolicited copy of an author I really should read, any tips with Saramago?
  • Charles Jessold Considered a Murderer by Wesley Stace – an unsolicited copy of a book that looks right up my street with its gothic murderous tones. I once started Stace’s ‘Misfortune’ and really liked it but left it on a train, got another copy but haven’t picked it up again, I must.
  • Butterfly’s Shadow by Lee Langley – unsolicited copy
  • Nimrod’s Shadow by Chris Paling – after reading ‘The Proof of Love’ by Catherine Hall and loving it so much I have been hankering after more of the ‘Fiction Uncovered’ titles. This is one.
  • Conditions of Faith by Alex Miller – this will learn me the publishers emailed me very nicely about this book, I said yes… thinking it was another book. I thought it was ‘Pure’ by Andrew Miller, oops. Never mind though, I will enjoy it none the less, well I hope I will.
  • The Reckoning by Jane Casey – unsolicited copy, and the second in the series, how annoying as it looks really good, but I like to start at the beginning.
  • The Empty Family by Colm Toibin – I am in the mood for short stories and I love Toibin so this will be read soon, also a GCP submission.
  • Days of Grace by Catherine Hall – Thrilled this has come, it seems Catherine’s publisher, editor and Catherine herself really liked how much I loved ‘The Proof of Love’ (am I stuck record about this book yet) and so her now debut novel has arrived.
  • The Skating Rink by Robert Bolano – another unsolicited copy of an author I really should read, any tips with Bolano?
  • Some Hope/Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn – I asked you all if I should read him, and his publishers spotted this and so sent me all of the books you can see ‘At Last’ below. Very excited about this series, have been dipping into ‘Some Hope’ and its proving emotional and incredible.
  • Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay – I haven’t read any Jackie Kay but have always wanted to, also a GCP submission.
  • The Sacrificial Man by Ruth Dugall – This arrived and with it came guilt because I know so many people who have told me to read ‘The Woman Before Me’ and I have it and still haven’t… I will though.

Next up is those hardback and trade paperbacks lots of which I am very, very excited about…

  • The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – I liked his last young adult book ‘The Shadow in the Mist’ for its creepiness, I am hoping this one has the same feel to it. Ooh, I still havent read ‘The Angels Game’, what am I playing at?
  • The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb – interesting title and stunning cover, I think this is one of the books I am going to be reading next as it seems to have been ‘under the radar’ and I am after more books like that. Plus it’s another GCP submission.
  • Night Waking by Sarah Moss – I have already read this one; it’s another ‘Fiction Uncovered’ title and its one that will be getting lots of praise in due course. Its still got me thinking hence no sooner review.
  • The London Satyr by Robert Edric – I didn’t get on with ‘Salvage’ but this novel based in the Victorian underbelly, well that’s the gist I have got, sounds right up my street and is again part of ‘Fiction Uncovered’.
  • Rory’s Boys by Alan Clark – this comes almost screaming its praise from Sue Townsend, a GCP submission.
  • At Last by Edward St Aubyn – the whole series arrived, see above
  • Five Bells by Gail Jones – I saw Kimbofo’s review of this and so had to get my mitts on a copy. It sounds very much like my sort of book.
  • By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham – this will be my first Cunningham read and I am very much looking forward to it.
  • History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason – another book I know little about, though I think the authors debut was one everyone was talking about, a GCP submission.
  • Gypsy Boy on the Run by Mikey Walsh – unsolicited copy which I don’t know why the publishers sent me, as Hodder generally don’t, maybe it’s because it’s a novel about a gay man? Who knows.
  • Remembrance of Things I Forgot by Bob Smith – I read Bob Smith’s column/essay collection years ago so am thrilled this arrived, it’s a GCP submission.
  • Fold by Tom Campbell – unsolicited proof, I am going to look into this one a little more as initially its not sounding like my sort of thing.
  • All The Time in the World by E. L. Doctorow – I loved ‘Homer and Langley’ so much when I read it that I am really looking forward to this novel about a stranger coming into someone’s family and relationships and changing everything.
  • The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block – I still haven’t read his debut novel, I saw how much Rachel Booksnob loved this book and so was thrilled when it arrived.
  • The Watchers by Jon Steele – I asked for this one as I am was in the mood for trying something different, I am looking forward to this one a lot as it sounds a bit apocalyptic and supernatural and rather page turning, perfect summer read.
  • The Somnambulist by Essie Fox – set in the Victorian era and rather spooky sounding, how could I not want to read this?
  • Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante – I am wondering if Alice is any relation of Linda? This sounds like it’s a gripping and rather emotionally packed crime, I am loving crime fiction this year so this is an unsolicited copy I am looking forward to.
  • The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan – Thanks to @Foyles who mentioned to S&S the publishers that I really liked Hogan’s debut ‘Blackmoor’ (reading that review shows how much my attitude to blogging has changed, ha) and Hogan is a fellow lad from Derbyshire so that adds to it.
  • Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman – This has caused some controversy I believe as a book a s a tribute to the authors dead wife, can’t seem to find much more out about it than that, has anyone else heard the furore about this?
  • Ashes by Sergios Gakas – now this will be a first, a crime/thriller by a Greek author. A book I will therefore have to give to my Greece-obsessed mother once I have finished it, not sure how she will react to all the cocaine binges that it has in store though.
  • King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher – I have read no Hensher and have heard he is brilliant, his newest will be my first, a GCP submission.

Blimey typing all those books up actually makes me realise that there were a lot more than I realised, if that wasn’t enough I also received some gifts from friends and then went and bought myself some treats.

  • Read This Next… And Discover 500 New Favourite Books by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark – I saw this on Chasing Bawa, she has now reviewed it, and thought it sounded right up my street, so what a surprise when it arrived in the post as a gift from the lovely Sakura herself.
  • The Newspaper of Claremont Street by Elizabeth Jolley/BUtterfield 8 by John O’Hara – Kimbofo sent me both of these as she knows I live on a Claremont related road and also I work in the publishing industry, plus I loved the sound of it from her review. She also sent me the Riverside Readers last read, it sounded amazing and I was gutted that I missed out on it (I miss that book group so much – I am wondering if they would let me join in virtually?) and now I can give it a whirl.
  • The Rector’s Daughter by F.M. Mayor – I have wanted this forever and found it for a whopping 50p in Cambridge, Susan Hill raves about this book which makes me want to read it even more, I think it might be out of print now.
  • Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen – Kimbofo has a lot to answer for actually, her review of this crime thriller made me subconsciously pop it in my trolley at the supermarket. It wasn’t my fault honest… and I know, I know supermarket book buying is sent from the devil.
  • Fidelity by Susan Glaspell – I found this Persephone classic in a new very well hidden local charity shop for a whopping 30p, I know a Persephone for 30p. No idea if it’s good or not, but that didn’t matter at the time… it was 30p!

There that’s my loot this month, what lovely stuff have you had of late? Which of the above have you read and loved? Which would you like to see me reading next?

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New Library, New Loot

I mentioned yesterday that I was on the hunt for a new library where I could actually take books out and I think a few of you (or maybe this was on twitter too) said Manchester Central Library would be best. Sadly, as I discovered yesterday, that library of such legend is closed for refurbishment until 2013 (selfish) but I did find one closer to my new abode and joined without needing any ID at all, how mad is that? What was even madder was that I was very restrained with what I took out.

Normally I would go mad and get anything and everything that takes my fancy in a slight ‘I have a library card and I am not afraid to use it’ kind of way, however I only came away with three – yes that is right, just three – books on my first visit. I am not sure what has caused such restraint in me but restrained I was and came away with my new library card (as shown below) and…

  • A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche – some of the lovely ladies at my new book group were saying this is one of the saddest but most moving and important books they had read on Monday and so I thought with that many people saying the same thing I should give it a whirl.
  • Truth or Fiction by Jennifer Johnston – ever since the lovely Kimbofo chose ‘The Illusionist’ by Jennifer Johnston for Not The TV Book Group earlier this year, which I really liked, I have been meaning to read another. They had loads of her books but this was the most recent and the shortest which with my current book attention span is ideal.
  • The Empty Family by Colm Toibin – you will quite possibly know that I loved ‘Brooklyn’ when I read it last year and though I have most of his books on Mount TBR, Mount TBR is currently in a lock up in slight disarray (don’t fear I did bring a few boxes and bags of books into my new abode too) and this was a collection I have begged Penguin for but never heard back about. So you can imagine that I almost let out a little squeal of joy when I saw this, a previously unborrowed copy, on the shelves. I think this might be my next read actually.

It’s a small haul but one filled with quality I think, which might be my new library loan mantra. Its not about getting loads, it’s about picking a few gems. Mind you I am saying that, the nearby library is quite small and perfectly formed, I have learnt there is a huge one a mere bus ride away! I am hoping these three are gems though, have any of you read them, any thoughts? What did you last get from the library?

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Would Love To Read…

I thought I would introduce a new little feature on Savidge Reads which is along the lines of ‘Would Like To Meet’ only a bit of a bookish version. I have said I want to get to some older books in my new guidelines for the blog, however no matter how many books we have… we always want more. Or is that just me? These aren’t books I am unsure about, like my ‘Do I Want To Read’ series these are books I would be devouring the moment I got to them. So I thought I would let my friends (hint), family (hint, hint) and all of you know of some titles that have appeared on my bookish radar every now and again which have not popped through the Savidge Reads letter box and which if I wasn’t on a self imposed book buying ban I would be running off to the shops to get my mitts on.

Interestingly I thought that my first ‘Would Like To Read’ would be filled with fiction as it’s what I assume I read the most yet its non fiction that has been grabbing my attention in the main over the last few weeks. The first of which is the highly timely, with Halloween just around the corner, is ‘The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time’ by Peter Ackroyd which sounds like a wonderful collection of true tales of the supernatural as the blurb describes much better than I could;

“The English, Peter Ackroyd tells us in this fascinating collection, see more ghosts than any other nation. Each region has its own particular spirits, from the Celtic ghosts of Cornwall to the dobies and boggarts of the north. Some speak and some are silent, some smell of old leather, others of fragrant thyme. From medieval times to today, stories have been told and apparitions seen – ghosts who avenge injustice, souls who long for peace, spooks who just want to have fun. “The English Ghost” is a treasury of such sightings – which we can believe or not, as we will. The accounts, packed with eerie detail, range from the door-slamming, shrieking ghost of Hinton Manor in the 1760s and the moaning child that terrified Wordsworth’s nephew at Cambridge, to the headless bear of Kidderminster, the violent demon of Devon who tried to strangle a man with his cravat and the modern-day hitchhikers on Blue Bell Hill. Comical and scary, like all good ghost stories, these curious incidents also plumb the depths of the English psyche in its yearnings for justice, freedom and love.”

The first of the fiction is actually short stories, again not my normal regular reading material, but the collection ‘The Empty Family’ not only has a wonderful intriguing title its also by Colm Toibin and after reading ‘Brooklyn’ I simply want to get to every single one of his books at some point and its always the ones that you don’t have that you want the most.

“’I imagined lamplight, shadows, soft voices, clothes put away, the low sound of late news on the radio. And I thought as I crossed the bridge at Baggot Street to face the last stretch of my own journey home that no matter what I had done, I had not done that.’ In the captivating stories that make up “The Empty Family”, Colm Toibin delineates with a tender and unique sensibility lives of unspoken or unconscious longing, of individuals, often willingly, cast adrift from their history. From the young Pakistani immigrant who seeks some kind of permanence in a strange town to the Irish woman reluctantly returning to Dublin and discovering a city that refuses to acknowledge her long absence each of Tobin’s stories manage to contain whole worlds: stories of fleeing the past and returning home, of family threads lost and ultimately regained.”

Could  my second non fiction title today ‘Chocolate Wars’ by Deborah Cadbury be this years most perfect Christmas read (its only just over two months away)? I think it could! I heard about this on a podcast last week and it was all I could do not to run out and buy it and break my ban. Fortunately it’s not out yet so I simply can’t. It will be as tempting as a box of Cadbury’s when it is out in the shops.  

The delicious true story of the world’s most famous chocolate firms by award-winning writer and a descendant of the Cadbury chocolate dynasty, Deborah Cadbury In ‘Chocolate Wars’ bestselling historian and award-winning documentary maker Deborah Cadbury takes a journey into her own family history to uncover the rivalries that have driven 250 years of chocolate empire-building. In the early nineteenth century Richard Tapper Cadbury sent his son, John, to London to study a new and exotic commodity: cocoa. Within a generation, John’s sons, Richard and George, had created a chocolate company to rival the great English firms of Fry and Rowntree, and their European competitors Lindt and Nestle. The major English firms were all Quaker family enterprises, and their business aims were infused with religious idealism. In America, Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars proved that they had the appetite for business on a huge scale, and successfully resisted the English companies’ attempts to master the American market. As chocolate companies raced to compete around the globe, Quaker capitalism met a challenge that would eventually defeat it. At the turn of the millennium Cadbury, the sole independent survivor of England’s chocolate dynasties, became the world’s largest confectionary company. But before long it too faced a threat to its very survival, and the chocolate wars culminated in a multi-billion pound showdown pitting independence and Quaker tradition against the cut-throat tactics of a corporate leviathan. Featuring a colourful cast of savvy entrepreneurs, brilliant eccentrics and resourceful visionaries; ‘Chocolate Wars’ is the story of a uniquely alluring product and of the evolution, for better and worse, of modern business.

I adore Dawn French as she really, really makes me laugh and ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ is her debut novel. I have to admit I have high expectations of this for being laugh out loud funny or a piece of bittersweet genius. I am not sure if the fact the family’s dog is called Poo is really funny in a childish way or really not… hmmm, I would like to find out. I enjoyed her autobiography ‘Dear Fatty’ though I know autobiographies and fiction are very different, well with some people they are.

“Everyone hates the perfect family. So you’ll love the Battles. Mo is about to hit the big 50, and some uncomfortable truths are becoming quite apparent: She doesn’t understand either of her teenage kids, which as a child psychologist, is fairly embarrassing. She has become entirely grey. Inside, and out. Her face has surrendered and is frightening children. Dora is about to hit the big 18 . . . and about to hit anyone who annoys her, especially her precocious younger brother Peter who has a chronic Oscar Wilde fixation. Then there’s Dad . . . who’s just, well, dad.”

Finally there was another book which I have forgotten so will have a dig through my memories or maybe note books would be better to find out what it was. I was inspired by a review I read yesterday on lovely Kimbofo’s blog regarding ‘Nothing To Envy; Real Lives in North Korea’ by Barbara Demick which sounds incredible. I am intrigued and mystified by North Korea and this sounds like a really insightful look into the world that we know so little about other than what we are shown, which isn’t often. You can read Kim’s marvellous review on Reading Matters it sounds fantastic and one I would love to read too.

North Korea is Orwell’s 1984 made reality: it is the only country in the world not connected to the internet; Gone with the Wind is a dangerous, banned book; during political rallies, spies study your expression to check your sincerity. After the death of the country’s great leader Kim Il Sung in 1994, famine descended: people stumbled over dead bodies in the street and ate tree bark to survive. Nothing to Envy weaves together the stories of adversity and resilience of six residents of Chongin, North Korea’s third largest city. From extensive interviews and with tenacious investigative work, Barbara Demick has recreated the concerns, culture and lifestyles of North Korean citizens in a gripping narrative, and vividly reconstructed the inner workings of this extraordinary and secretive country.

So those are the books I most fancy, that I don’t own, right now and am eager to get my mitts on. What books have you added onto your ‘wish list’ of late? Any other books you have read of later that I simply must add to mine that I have missed this time round?

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Granny Savidge Reads (The First Column)

Oh dear! As my late, lamented mother-in-law would say. As in ‘We are going to France for two weeks Mother’- oh dear… or ‘we are buying a new  washing machine, Mother’, Oh dear! What has this to do with a book blog you may ask, well my reaction when Simon asked me to  write a Granny Savidge Reads piece was exactly that, oh dear!

Anyway, here goes. I belong to three book groups which may seem a bit excessive but as a retired person I do quite a bit of gadding about and by belonging to three I usually get to at least one each month. But sometimes life catches up with me as it did last month when I was able to go to all three in the space of 5 days, whoops! Two of the three books were whoppers, ‘Wolf Hall’ being 600 + pages, ‘They Were Sisters’ 400+pages and then the more modest ‘Border Crossing’ by Pat Barker.

What about Wolf Hall? I’m sure not everyone has enjoyed this magnificent tour de force but everyone in our group did. Sometimes we had difficulty in knowing who was speaking but usually the ‘he’ in the text referred to Cromwell. We found it tantalising not knowing where fact ended and fiction began and we would love to have known more about his early life. I suppose not much is known about that and I think Mantel did rely on contemporary evidence where possible. The dialogue though must have come from the author’s imagination. Cromwell is a real living person in this novel, there before us on every page, it’s almost as if we are living his life with him. I already knew something about Wolsey, from school, about Thomas More from the film ‘A Man for all Seasons’, which, my recollection tells me, made him out to be a just and upright man, I may be wrong here, but anyway Hilary Mantel paints a different picture. Cranmer I remember from a wonderful series on Henry the Eighth that the B.B.C. made way back in the mists of time. I knew nothing about Cromwell before reading this book, though I had seen the Holbein portrait on a recent visit to New York. Now I can’t wait to read more about him in the sequel. I’m not sure I want them to make a film based on the book but it is intriguing to guess who might play Cromwell.

Now for the Dorothy Whipple. This book is published by the wonderful Persephone Books, visit their shop/office in Lambs Conduit Street if you get the chance and haven’t already. They seem to publish forgotten authors from the past whose books have long ago gone out of print. The book covers are a classy grey and the paper the novels are printed on is lovely and soft. The feel of the paper the novel is printed on is quite important to me, does anyone out there feel like that?

In Much Wenlock in Shropshire there is a reading group that only reads Persephone books! Anyway, Dorothy Whipple was a famous author in her day and ‘They Were Sisters’ was a best seller, one of our members who is over 90 can remember how well known she was at one time. Anyway this story is about three sisters and their lives. One of the sisters is married to an absolutely awful man, utterly selfish and boorish, an out an out emotional bully. My blood pressure soared at some of the things he did.   He ruined so many lives by his awful behaviour and nobody would stand up to him. But aside from this the book demonstrates how powerless women were in general in what, to me, is the fairly recent past. It’s certainly a book that would make any self respecting woman’s blood boil.

‘Border Crossing’ was a disappointment for all of us… I think. It tells the story of a child killer who, years later when he is released from custody, meets up, in a melodramatic way, with the psychologist whose expert evidence probably convinced the jury,up until then appearing sympathetic to the boy, of his guilt. I found parts of the book unbelievable such as the many meetings the two had subsequently, especially the one at the psychologists house. I don’t know that any clinical psychologists (and one of my daughtes is one) would act as this one did. Woven into the story is the secondary theme of the psychologists disintegrating marriage, this part of the book felt like a cliché to me and unnecessary padding. So there you have it.

Whats next? Well, in the next couple of weeks we are due to read ‘When Will There Be Good News’ by Kate Atkinson. This is the third in the Jackson Brodie, fallible man, series. I really enjoyed the first two, generally speaking I like Kate Atkinson’s books, she writes intelligently and amusingly and her books are often ‘page turners’. The second book is ‘A Mad World My Masters’ by John Simpson, the B.B.C. correspondent. I will miss this meeting so probably won’t read the book (sshhh don’t tell anyone) though I may peep inside it to see how well he writes, or not as the case may be. The third book is ‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Toibin. I’m really looking forward to this one (Simon has raved about it). I’ve read ‘The Master’ and his collection of short stories ‘Mothers and Sons’ and am hoping this one will be as good as these two. Have you read any of these? Any thoughts?

That’s me signing off as I’m off to ‘Brooklyn’ now with Colm. Happy reading everyone,

Granny Savidge

P.S If anyone could think of a name for my new column Simon and I would be most pleased.

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Books of 2009… A Teaser

I have to say I don’t normally do something like this during a blogging year. Instead I normally do a Savidge Reads Dozen (thirteen though like the Man Booker) Top Reads at the end of the year here is last years. However as its thanksgiving for some today- Happy Thanksgiving to you - Booking Through Thursday was asking about books and authors we are thankful for. Recently I also saw Jackie of Farmlanebooks do her best books of 2009 so far so I thought for a change I would merge the two in a way. My end of year one won’t be books that have necessarily come out in 2009 just ones I have loved in 2009. I thought for now I would give you my top five (in no particular order) as a bit of a teaser, it was tough I can tell you… there is still five weeks to go till 2009 ends so it could all change.

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie – The story follows possibly my favourite character of the year so far (and there have been a few contenders) Hiroko Tanaka on August the 9th 1945 in Nagasaki just before they dropped the bomb and ‘the world turns white’. Though Hiroko survives her German lover Konrad is killed. Two years later as India declares its independence she turns up on his half-sisters door step in Delhi with nowhere to stay and becomes attracted to their servant Sajjad and all this is in the first 60 pages. The book then follows Hiroko’s story and the story of people around her (that’s all I am saying trying not to plot spoil) through more pivotal times in history such as the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and America post 9/11… Read more here.

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Shuttle is one of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s adult fiction books. I should admit here I haven’t read any of her children’s titles either. I had picked it up purely as it was a Persephone novel and I have wanted to read as many as I can get my hands on frankly. Reading the synopsis in the book cover I wasn’t sure this was going to fare very well with me as it seemed to be about the ships that took American’s to England and vice versa in the late 1800’s. I don’t really do books with ships and so with trepidation I opened the book and then simply couldn’t put it down… Read more here.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin - ‘Brooklyn’ is a tale of Eilie, a young girl in Ireland after the Second World War where the economy is a disaster and jobs are scarce. Overjoyed simply to find a Sunday and occasional evening job when you can expect little more Eilie is suddenly offered a job and life in Brooklyn where work is easier to find and so is money and more importantly prospects. Eilie soon realises that this isn’t a sudden offer and in fact her mother, sister and brothers (in England) have been well meaningly plotting this for quite some time and really she has no choice.  After following her nightmare journey across the ocean we watch as Eilie settles into a new life with new people and new cultures in an unknown environment. We also watch as she grows from girl to woman and falls in love. It is eventually though a trip home that leads to the climax and a huge decision for Eilie… Read more here.

Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys – Henrietta’s War actually started out as columns in Sketch. Dennys was an artist who has many successful collections though once married and a mother in the late 1920’s her life became a domestic one in the English countryside and so needed something to take her frustrations out on. Out came Henrietta’s wartime letters to her ‘childhood friend’ Robert who is ‘out on the front’ and eventually became published as a collection and a novel in the form of this wonderful book. I think that any book that has the line “Dear Robert, I have a great urge to knit something for you” with in the first chapter (or letter in this case) is going to be a hit with me… Read more here.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – Child 44 is set in the 1950’s Soviet Union. A child is found dead with what appears to be soil in his mouth and his family are sure that this is murder despite the boy’s body being found on the train tracks. Leo Demidov of the MGB is sent to cool things over and persuade the family that this is nothing more than a tragic accident, a job he does begrudgingly as he feels it is taking his time away from his more important work. However when Leo himself goes through some very changing circumstances and another body of a child with soil in its mouth is found he begins to realise that there may be a serial killer out there… Read more here.

Now I mentioned that we have five weeks left (how is it going so quickly) and so it could all very easily change. In fact I know there are two books I have read but haven’t written about yet that would probably wing it in the top five at the moment. You could also make it change, I would love you to tell me what the top five books are that you have read this year and if I own them I will try and read some of them and if I don’t own them I will look out for them when I have a small binge next week once we are in December! So its over to you…

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