When I was last at the hospital (and I could be back in there again as these posts are scheduled hence why I haven’t been as good at commenting back of late but I will catch up on them I promise) I picked up a rather blooming big book alongside a book that I simply couldn’t resist because of the cover, the fact it was rather old, the fact it seemed like it could be just up my street and that it could be a book I could dip in and out of…
You see dipping in and out of books seems to be becoming a hobby of mine at the moment. I am reading books, though they are tending to be short. However on top of that somehow I have ended up with this pile of five books on my bedside table which are being dipped into and out of at random moments which Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Stories Not For The Nervous’ has now joined…
I think this picture illustrates how dipping in and out works for me from the varying titles on there. You see in my head, though I know it’s not the case, its not multiple reading as when I am reading a novel I leave the rest of them alone, hence why the pile keeps growing. As you can see, well I hope you can, there is a double whammy of Mitford going on as not only do I have Deborah Devonshire’s ‘Wait For Me!’ memoir which I am still reading a chapter of every now and again because its so delightful I am dragging it out not wanting it to end. The same thing is already happening with ‘The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh’ which I picked up from the library recently. I already know this book is one I am going to be asking for a copy all of my own for my birthday (only 22 days to go) as it’s just brilliant.
The Alfred Hitchcock short story collection, the stories aren’t by him by the way – just some of his favourites, is providing the sensationally spooky and letting me try new authors between books. Speaking of sensational writing though… You know how I love my Victorian sensationalism and the whole atmosphere of the time too; well what could be better than some real life mysterious cases and murder mysteries from the time? Nothing actually, and that is why ‘The Devil & Sherlock Holmes’ is being read a case at a time every so often (and getting a lot of library renewals) and proving to be the perfect non fiction read for me.
Finally, though it’s not the novel I am reading in one go, is ‘Cedilla’ by Adam Mars-Jones. This breaks my tradition with reading fiction books as a singular read which I only concentrate on and nothing else. Why? Well two reasons. The first is that it’s bloody massive and not that easy to carry around on any commutes that I might have. The second is that it’s the first ‘Green Carnation Prize 2011’ submission that I am reading and I am making notes (I haven’t put my specially bought Batman notepad in the picture, maybe I should have) originally it was because it was so big and then because I felt as Chair of the judges I should but now, having given it some thought, as we are reading them over a six month period this might be the best way to remember them. Or maybe the ones that stick with me should be the ones I push as my contenders for the longlist?
So that’s my ‘dipping in and out of’ selection for you all to see. Do you do this with books? Are there five or six titles bubbling between your fiction novels or do you always juggle a few books at once? Are you a one book and one book only person? Which books can you simply not dip in and out of and have to become a devotee to?
I don’t know if I mentioned it but I am off to Brazil for a few months at the end of this year? Ha, that’s said tongue firmly in cheek and I do hope if I mention it now and again that it won’t get too annoying, I just keep getting waves of excitement. You know the waves I mean? Plus in the lead up I will be doing my ‘Reading for Brazil’ which today’s title is part of. I personally would have thought that a book that discussed a group of explorers going missing in the Amazon jungle of Mato Grosso (the very state I will be spending lots of time and actually camping in) including all the insects, reptiles, cannibal tribes and other horror stories would put me off. Bizarrely ‘The Lost City of Z’ by David Grann has made me more desperate than ever to go of on an exploring trek in the rainforest.
I doubt that I would have picked up ‘The Lost City of Z’ if it wasn’t for the fact that I am actually going off to spend time in the Amazon, and I would have been missing out on an absolute treat. If you are planning on heading out into the vast jungle then you really couldn’t ask for a better book for warning s of just what awful things can be lurking in the trees, rivers and even the air. It also makes the book rather grisly from time to time, mind you this book is really in the main a jungle from 1911 – 1950 so I am hoping in the now if you had a ‘vampire fish’ making your nether regions a home or were slowly ingested by nesting maggots a nearby hospital might do the trick. Mind you I don’t think anyone could stop the venom of a Jararaca snake killing you very painfully rather quickly. Sorry let me expand on this a little better; I think my excitement and enthusiasm for this book might mean I come across a little disjointed in my thoughts, bear with me.
In part really David Grann’s book, for it isn’t a novel, is a biography of the life and quests of Percy Harrison Fawcett and what became his obsession of finding the Lost City of El Dorado, a man who I had never heard of and yet a man whose quests and eventual disappearance had the world gripped for years back in the 1920’s. Fawcett had a lust for adventure from an early age and in his life time as well as being an adventurer he was also a spy and fought in WWI, the latter is hinted as the cause of his obsession with the lost city, a kind of coping mechanism for all he saw during the conflict on the battlefield. He became so well known along with his adventures many believe he was the inspiration for his friend Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’ which I am now going to have to read very soon.
It was however his disappearance that made him infamous and became the obsession of not only the press and headlines in the years that followed but of the public. Many people volunteered in the years after and actually went on quests themselves, not to find ‘El Dorado’ – or ‘Z’ as Fawcett called it, but to find the very man who quite literally vanished and either vanished themselves, went mad, died or came back very sick. This happened as recently as 1996 when a Brazilian accountant and his son decided to try. In fact the book then sees David Grann himself going off in search of Fawcett himself and following in his footsteps which itself adds another dimension to the book. I might ask The Converted One if we can go on a little hunt ourselves… maybe?
Grann manages to discuss all of these different threads as well as look at some of the other competing explorer’s expeditions of the same era and never once do you get confused. All the information is digestible and at the same time reads as an adventure in a way. Grann also manages to look at what is happening to the rainforest at the moment which makes the reader pause for thought too. I was really impressed with this book. Non fiction doesn’t normally do anything for me and I actually couldn’t put this book down, in the end finishing it in two sittings. 9/10 (I was going to give this ten out of ten but I have a post coming up on my review ratings this week that will explain why I didn’t!)
Who else has read this marvellous book and can help in my mission to make everyone else give this a whirl? Have any of you read The Lost World, as I love Sherlock Holmes but I am not sure how I will fair with ‘adventure’ stories – mind you I have done well with this one, what did you think of it? Has anyone read ‘Exploration Fawcett’ as I now really want to read that too? Which was the last and/or best non fiction book you have read that totally hooked you from start to finish?
You may have been wondering why I have been getting rather focused on Brazilian literature in some posts of late even leading me off to Daunt Books to do some research (yes winners of those bags and some surprise books are at the bottom of today’s post). Well as I am off there for a while in November I decided to set up a little sort of ‘reading expedition/challenge’ in the lead up to that date that I hope you will all join in with in some form or other into the foreign lands of Brazil (unless you already live there of course).
It was a conversation about Brazil that originally sparked all this off in my head when one of The Converted One’s best friends said to me ‘you know you should immerse yourself in the Brazilian culture and history before you go, and you are a bit of a book geek to why not read yourself silly about it’ and so I thought ‘well why not?’ It was then another conversation where The Converted One said ‘when you get back from Brazil you will be buying and reading books for England’. And I thought ‘well why not twist that phrase and before I go read for Brazil!’ So now I am planning on doing just that. (Thanks to Kim of Reading Matters who has done my lovely logo’s!)
I am aware that I did say back at the beginning of the year that I would avoid all reading challenges; however that hasn’t stopped me from doing the NTTVBG and Persephone Reading Week etc, etc. So I am breaking my own rules again and have been off through the TBR looking for books that fit the criteria and I am most surprised by how many I already had at home…
The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts – Louis De Bernieres
The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman – Louis De Bernieres
Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord – Louis De Bernieres
The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa
Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes – Daniel Everett
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado
The Lost City of Z – David Grann
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
The Seamstress – Frances De Pontes Peebles
Viva South America – Oliver Balch
Equator – Miguel Sousa Tavares
Orphans of Eldorado – Milton Hatoum
Ashes of the Amazon – Milton Hatoum
Barbequed Husbands – Betty Mindlin & Indigenous Storytellers
I am already thinking that ‘The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts’ by Louis de Bernieres, ‘A Handful of Dust’ by Evelyn Waugh and ‘The Seamstress’ by Frances de Pontes Peebles (which sounds like a Brazilian Sensation novel set in the 1920’s and 30’s and really rather brilliant) would make two great choices for a read-a-thon if anyone is up for it?
I have also been researching what books I don’t have, which of course is most vexing because a) I am on a book buying ban and b) most of the books I would love to read aren’t available in the UK – so if any of my US readers spot anything by Clarice Lispector or a wonderful sounding crime series by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza which starts with ‘The Silence of Rain’ then do let me know as I am most open to Brazilian Relief Parcels hee, hee. There are lots of authors though who I have heard of and don’t own whose titles I will be hunting down in the library such as John Updike, Sylvia Townsend Warner, John Grisham etc. I have in fact added an all new page ‘Reading for Brazil’ which has more details of these authors and more plus more information on the lack of rules around this ‘challenge’. So do have a gander.
So will you be joining in with some of the titles? I would soooooooo love it if you did (and so would The Converted One) if you are let me know, if enough of you like the sound of certain titles maybe we could do some reading along together before November which might be nice? Oh and feel free to let other people know about it too! Hopefully you will all catch the Brazil bug (if only in terms of fiction)!
Oh and the winners of the two Daunt Bags with some surprise books thrown in are… Suejustbooks and Jodie (in true Brazil colours), well done Jodie thats two wins in a few weeks!