Tag Archives: Lionel Shriver

Other People’s Bookshelves #76 – Christoph Fischer

Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week we are in Wales to join Christoph Fischer wonderful shelves. Christoph, whose blog you can head to here, has put quite the spread on for us with something for everyone, so let’s all grab a cuppa/glass of something and a nibble of something and join him in his wonderful lounge meets library before we have a nose through those tempting bookshelves and learn more about him.

I’m a German expat living in West Wales with my partner and three Labradoodles. I was born by the German/ Austrian border, studied in Hamburg and then came to the UK 23 years ago where I lived in London, Brighton and Bath. I’m a trained librarian and worked for the British Film Institute, local Libraries, Museums and for an airline. Three years ago I’ve taken voluntary redundancy and started writing and publishing my own books. I still spend far too much time reading. (Simon says this is not possible!)

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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?

If I have a hard copy I always want to keep it – unless it was REALLY bad (and even then throwing or giving it away feels wrong. The librarian in me cannot let go of them). I have lost a lot of literary treasures because of my move from Germany to the UK and I deeply regret that. Now I’m over-compensating, I guess. Sadly, a lot of my books are e-books now, and I don’t develop the same kind of bond with those. I never get to see the cover or hold it, and once I’ve read it, the file sinks to the bottom of the electronic ocean, never to be seen again.

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?

Yes. Once a German librarian, always a German librarian… (My partner likes me to Monica from Friends). I’ve organised them into General Fiction (alphabetical), Crime Fiction, Scandinavian Fiction, Travel Literature and Non-Fiction. I also have a corner for my own books.

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

I think my first book was “Five Go to Mystery Moor” by Enid Blyton. As I said earlier, I don’t have any of my childhood books. Briefly after I moved to the UK my father passed away and I didn’t have the means to ship everything over, so they went to a charity shop.

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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?

I have a stack of ‘adult’ themed gay comics from Germany. They are humorous, not ‘erotic’ but I wouldn’t want my father-in-law to find them. I’ve positioned them on a shelf that he can’t reach.

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 have a small selection of signed books from author events at Toppings Booksellers in Bath; most notably from Lionel Shriver, Simon Mawer, Armistead Maupin and Christos Tsiolkas. Your question is a good reminder for me to put them all together in a place so I can save them in case of a fire.

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?

“The Good Soldier Švejk” by Jaroslav Hašek. I had seen a fringe play that my father directed when I was ten, but I was told that I wasn’t old enough to fully understand it. I loved the funny illustration by a Czech artist on the cover and read it anyway, but did find the book too difficult at the time. I’ve rediscovered it a few years back during research for one of my own novels and loved it. My father was born in Czechoslovakia and the book reminded me much of him and his sense of humour.

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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 probably would have to buy it if I borrowed a good book, but I usually buy all of my books in the first place. In the indie author community and the blogo-sphere I come across so many interesting books, and then there are the book fairs and trips to book shops. I’m also reviewing books for the Historical Novel Society, so really, I’m drowning in books….

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

I’ve organised the Llandeilo Book Fair and came back with 15 books from it: Most looking forward to “Motherlove” by Thorne Moore, “The Beaufort Bride” by Judith Arnopp and “The Man Who Never Was” by Olga Ninez Miret. More traditional late additions are: Haruki Murakami’s “Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki”, Simon Mawer’s “Tightrope” and my fourth copy of “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts (I keep giving it away to friends).

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

“The Slap” by Christos Tsiolkas – I keep giving copies of that away, too, to visitors and friends. I really would like to read it again…

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

I’d like them to think that I’m open minded to all types of books and am neither a snob nor fixated on one genre.

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Huge thanks to Christoph for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) in the 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 Christoph’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #25 – Mike Ward

Hello and welcome to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves where we are all probably feeling a little full after the festive food and so thankfully we can have a wander along the seafront and down the pier as we are in Brighton! This week we join Mike, and his cat LouLou – who came with the name, as he makes some room for us in his study (with alcoves for books and everything like a gentleman’s club) which of course I am rather jealous of. Anyway, before I get myself arrested for stalking, I will hand over to Mike to tell us more about himself before we go routing through his shelves…

I grew up in a house full of books, so was always a keen reader as child when I used to devour books, mainly Enid Blyton, and I used to dream of being orphaned or packed off to boarding school and thereby being exposed to smugglers and wicked relatives – sadly (or perhaps thankfully) this never happened. As I got older I sort of fell out with reading, only picking up books when on holiday, then three years ago I moved from London to Brighton and found myself with a hour long commute each way and started reading again.  I also joined the local book group – an enormous but friendly group where often 25 or more people will turn up on the allotted first Wednesday of the month for lively debate and a few pints.  I had always viewed reading as a solitary activity and the book group really opened my eyes to the pleasure of talking about books.  Last autumn (at Simon’s suggestion) I set up my own book review blog 0651frombrighton.blogspot.co.uk, which has become a bit of an obsession. I started off trying to blog a book a day, drawing on a back catalogue of books that I had read previously, this has now settled down to three a week – Wednesday (non-fiction), Saturday (fiction) and Sunday (glossy coffee table books) – which I can comfortably keep supplied by reading 2-3 fiction and 2-3 others a week.  I decided to take a concise approach to my reviews, so some of my reviews are little more than a few lines, though recently I have allowed myself to write some slightly longer reviews. Recently I have started to read more non-fiction including autobiographies, which regular readers of my blog will know are a source of constant frustration for me on account of the dreadful writing style of the ghost writers.

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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?

Occasionally I have a purge of books, relegating ones that I didn’t enjoy to the charity shop, but generally I keep most of them on the shelves.  Recently I have started to buy more e-books to feed the dreaded Kindle, but as a Times subscriber I also picked up their paperback of the week most weeks over the last year so the shelves are still receiving regular new additions. If I don’t manage to finish a book (100 page rule) then it generally gets sent to the charity shop.

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?

My shelves are in two alcoves – one for fiction and one for non fiction.  The fiction shelves are alphabetical by author and my Agatha Christie’s are further split into detective series in order of publication.  I also make sure that any unread books protrude about an inch in a futile attempt to shame me into not buying new books until I have read all the ones I own. My mission this year has been to read all of the unread ones, so that in future whenever I but a book I will read it straightaway – I’m almost there with the fiction shelves with only about 10 books left to read.

The non-fiction shelves were loosely themed into biography, history, philosophy and by country – though it got a bit random – for example all of my George Orwell’s sat on the Spain shelf because of Homage to Catalonia.  More recently I’ve moved all the really big books to the top shelf to free up space lower down, so the theming has got even more random – every now and then I have an enjoyable Sunday morning re-organising the shelves with the Archers omnibus on in the background.  I’m a sucker for glossy coffee table books so the TBRs in non-fiction number over 100, so still some way to go with my target.

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

I have no idea, but I would guess that it was an Enid Blyton as I was an avid fan – I always secretly wanted to be orphaned as it seemed to open up a world of adventures!  I did randomly buy a load of Enid Blytons on ebay recently, so whilst I don’t have my original copies I may have a replacement….

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?

Everything is on show – I trust that any embarrassing ones will simply merge into the background…

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’m not terribly sentimental so this is a difficult question, I do have quite a few signed copies though they are all merged into the shelves so in a fire I would probably struggle to grab them all.  My favourite book ever is Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale and I do have a signed copy so I would probably grab that. I met Patrick at the event Simon hosted last year (or was it the year before?) in Manchester – I’m looking forward to his next book which is partly set in Canada I believe and must be due out soon.

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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 remember being introduced to Agatha Christie by my Gran when I was about 11 years old, it was quite exciting to realise that I wasn’t just restricted to children’s book anymore.  I have the whole collection now – as a result of another slightly obsessive ebay binge. My favourites are the standalone stories and the Miss Marples, I’m not so keen on the Poirots, which is a shame because they are by far the largest group. I think that I’ve read  all of the Christies at some point over the years, but occasionally I will pick one up and find that I either haven’t read it or don’t remember it.

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?

No – I hardly ever borrow books, so generally I always buy my own copy. I also rarely buy secondhand, not for any reason other than I tend to buy based on review, recommendation or previous work by the author, so charity shops are a bit too hit and miss for me to bother with; I will buy second hand from online sites though.

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

I attended a brilliant and intimate Times+ event a couple of weeks ago and left with a goodie bag containing Hugo Rifkind’s My Week*, Sathnam Sangara’s Marriage Material and Kevin Maher’s The Fields. I love an author event and book signing so always look out for them.  I did go through a phase of always getting a cheesy photo with the authors but then I met Lionel Shriver and was too scared to ask her – she is one intimidating lady!  I also can get a bit starstruck – when I met David Sedaris, I was so conscious that his anecdotes include people he has met at book signings that I clammed up a bit.

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

I would love to have my Agatha Christie’s in the re-released facsimile copies of the first editions – the cover artwork is awesome, obviously owning the originals would be even better!

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

I think at first glance they would probably think I was well read – simply based on quantity.  If they looked deeper they would probably notice that I am very light on the classics and may change their view! What would I like them to think? I don’t know… hopefully that I have interesting taste?

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A huge thanks to Mike for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, and almost making me sick with jealousy his study, the levels of jealousy that these posts evoke in me is unhealthy! Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) in the 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 Mike’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Thanks, Treats, Loans, TBR’s & Wishlists

A little bit of a mixed bag and sort of catch up post today. I don’t feel like I have communicated with you all properly for a while. In part because I was really sick over the end of last week and weekend which has thrown me out of kilter a little bit. Then there was the blooming marvellous post by The Bookboy which has left me worrying about my own blog posts, ha, for an eleven year old he’s very good and has made this twenty eight year old slightly concerned. I have also been having a major clear out of Savidge Reads HQ, and The Converted One has been on a DIY binge, as we have Mummy Savidge coming down with my siblings and step dad this weekend. I have also been doing some blog housekeeping whilst clearing up the TBR which I showed you over the weekend.

I have several thanks to give out but have been waiting to amalgamate them all. Now seems a good time as some very kind readers out there (some don’t want to be mentioned so I will simply say you know who you are and a big thanks to you) have sent me some absolutely delightful treats. In fact two of them called them ‘book buying ban survival supplies’ which is a tag that I love and might need to trademark. The books that have arrived are;

  • The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle – which was sent by a kind reader after we announced the NTTVBG Summer Selection and is one of the novels Kim of Reading Matters put forward as a summer treat.
  • Pele: The Autobiography by, well, Pele – a reader sent this as they thought it might be a reading twist for my Reading for Brazil plans, they are right… am looking forward to it though.
  • Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel – I am quite shocked that someone offered me this as I have been wanting to read it ever since reading Kim of Reading Matters (goodness she features a lot in today’s post lol) review here. So I was very chuffed when without having discussed this here a reader wung a copy my way.
  • This Time of Dying by Reina James – This made me laugh as after getting sent another book by a reader a while back that I had said I wanted on another blog, this came through in a comment on here about that comment (make sense?) and I cheekily said oh if anyone wants to send me ‘This Time of Dying’ and an email arrived and someone did!
  • Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami – I love Murakami and have been told that this is one of his strongest so am ever so grateful for this lovely edition that came all the way from America!
  • A Samba for Sherlock by Jo Soares – I mentioned this before on the blog but thought I should mention it again as it teamed with the theme.

I am thinking I might be really cheeky and pop a ‘wishlist page’ on the blog so if you want to know what books I am hankering after you might have going spare, ha! Back to the books though…

I also got myself a ridiculous two books from the library this week. I was going to go mad but I still have five at home I haven’t read and my reason for going to the library was to pay a rather large fine for having forgotten to renew any… grrr! Anyways the library loot was;

  • Heartburn by Norah Ephron – because I have been wanting to read this book FOR AGES!
  • The Great Western Beach by Emma Smith – I saw this out the corner of my eye when I was on the way out so had to queue again. Lynne of Dovegreyreader suggested this as one of her summer suggestions for the NTTVBG.

There were more treats from a dear friend, Kim who I have mentioned already, and TCO who kindly offered to get me the next Riverside Readers book group choice and then got me some treats too. So here are those special arrivals;

  • So Much for That by Lionel Shriver – I wanted to borrow this after hearing great things and also seeing Lionel Shriver talk at Foyle’s a while back. Kim kindly gave me her old copy, she also gave me…
  • Mr Scobie’s Riddle by Elizabeth Jolley – which she reviewed here and I thought, sounded a treat. I am loving the retro fabulous cover too.
  • Couples by John Updike – the next book group read which TCO got me along with…
  • Brazil by John Updike – I have been hankering after this for sometime. I did ask a publisher but shall not say what the response was as they may feel shamed, ha. This has been on a mental wishlist of mine for a while but not as much as…
  • 253 by Geoff Ryman – which I will probably be reading next as I simply cannot wait! I heard Michael Kindness discussing this on Books on the Nightstand and it sounds amazing. 253 people can sit in a London underground train and this is a book about one such set of 253 people, that’s all I will say for now. It sounds awesome though and is a London book for a Londoner. I am most impress TCO knew I wanted this… maybe I have been mentioning it a lot more than I thought!?!

So these have all now been placed nicely into the recently culled TBR pile – do note none of the culled books have left the building in case they are on the Man Booker Longlist, it would be sods law wouldn’t it?  But more on my Man Booker thoughts for this year soon! I have decided to go crazy and share the TBR with you once again (I had it up a while back but took it down after the revamp) and now it is up and running, though will be changing as am still culling, and you can find it here!

So what new incoming books have arrived with you lately? Have you read any of the above, let me know if you have I always like to hear your opinions on books that come into Savidge Reads HQ! What else has been going on for you all of late?

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My Worst Best Books

“What’s the worst ‘best’ book you’ve ever read — the one everyone says is so great, but you can’t figure out why?” That is the question from today’s Booking Through Thursday and I could instantly think of one and that would have to be Twilight which though no one I knew was loving most of the UK population seemed to be joining in with that whole bandwagon and that included me. I thought it was overly long repetitive and didn’t really have any likeable characters. I also got very bored with the whole ‘I love him but he’s dangerous’ that seemed to be repeated twice every page.

However if I am talking about books I have been recommended by lots and lots of people I know and would generally say I trust in terms of great reading guidance I think I have four main contenders, actually no, I have five books I could put forward for you. All of them have been described as being ‘very me’ and though bar one I have finished them all they have left me completely cold. The one I didn’t finish and therefore have promised several people I will re-read this year is We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Hated the writing style, was bored and then someone told me the ending which I am hoping I have forgotten! I was also just generally a bit bored with it.

Second on my hit list would have to be The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Even I thought I would love this book as I am a big fan of dark gothic spooky tales but this left me cold, one part made me jump admittedly but the rest I thought was a bit dull, Novel Insights read this with me at the time and agreed. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger was another book loads of people told me I should read. I have never disliked a lead character more and I know you shouldn’t like all characters but when all they do is moan, lie and fantasise you come away bored. Fourth would be The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, found it very confusing and then the ending just completely let me down!

Now for the fifth and final book which I am sure will cause uproar for some people when I say this but it has to be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The leads are two of the most selfish vile characters written and in an overlong and quite dull narrative, totally boring. I couldn’t wait for the end of both of them and the end of the book. There I have said it. Sorry if that shocks you but seriously I was so disappointed. Having been to Haworth and walking to the farm that caused the inspiration for the book and walking the moors I thought I would love it… no!

I do love being recommended books though. I would never have read The Book Thief so early on if it hadn’t been raved about by my friend Danielle. I would never have dipped into Daphne Du Maurier if three people hadn’t told me Rebecca was one of the best books ever written, in fact I would have missed a fair few of my favourites (The Woman in White, Brideshead Revisited, Lady Audley’s Secret, To Kill A Mockingbird) if they hadn’t been recommended to me so fervently.

I am trying to think of books I have recently been recommended. Simon at Stuck in a Book has told me I must read Alice in Wonderland so will be giving that a go soon and reporting back and indeed I have promised Dovegreyreader I shall try We Need To Talk About Kevin once more. I will report back on those! What books would you recommend I read? What are the worst best books you’ve read?

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New Book Resolutions

First of all Happy New Year!

It’s that time where we both look forward and look back and stock take isn’t it? At the beginning of last year when I start the blog properly one of the internal resolutions that I made in myself was to keep the blog up and not let it run dry. I didn’t do as well at that as I thought I would, I mean I reviewed every book I read but the blogs I had intended to write like ‘why I am obsessed with what everyone else reads on the tube’ and many more never got written but hopefully they will in 2009, I definitely improved toward the end of the year though! I also made some other resolutions on here…

The ones that sadly I failed at were;
– Read a Jodi Piccoult, I have always had something against her books and have absolutely no rational for this, 2008 wasn’t the year that I broke that habit
– The Odyssey, my mum would have been so proud if I had… but nope
– Read harder fiction, well am gunning through Anna Karenina at the moment and Will Self’s ‘The Book of Dave’ wasn’t easy but was extremely rewarding
– Hardy and Trollope, double no
– Revisit old favourites; nope sadly I was focused on getting through my huge TBR
– Give some books a second chance, no I wanted to have a second slog at Lionel Shriver’s ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ but I simply didn’t.

The ones I managed were;
– Read more short stories, I read two collections, maybe three but would have liked to read more
– Read a James Bond
– Read Tess Gerritsen, well I definitely did that actually becoming a big fan, managed to save some for this year though
– Read more non fiction, well with the Mitford Letters, a book on ghost hunting and the fabulous Kate Summerscale I did just that

So what about for 2009? What book resolutions have I got this year? Do I want to take any over that I didn’t manage this year? Well the ones I am setting myself this year are;
– Find a new favourite author I haven’t read before but can’t get enough of
– Classics, I want to read a lot more classics both classic classics and modern classics if that makes sense
– Try stuff I wouldn’t normally, this means joining some more book groups me thinks
– The Man Booker-a-thon, I would really like to give this a go this year especially now I know more publishers
– Possibly re-try a few books like ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ and ‘Company of Liars’ the latter I really wanted to read but it didn’t grab the mood I was in, oh and Kate Atkinson’s ‘Behind The Museum
– Not buy as many books; I think this one is unlikely.

I think that’s enough? Is anyone else making any book resolutions this year?

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Second Chances

I don’t know if anyone has seen the piece in The Independent today about James Frey, or seen the American book charts and that his new novel ‘Bright Shiny Morning’ is doing really well. So far… so what? Well some people will know the uproar that James Frey’s first book caused and that he messed with one of the book world giants ‘Oprah’. I’ll explain…

Obviously here we have ‘Richard & Judy’, in America ‘Oprah’ is the book group queen and one of the books she chose back in 2005 was James Frey’s ‘memoirs’ called ‘A Million Little Pieces’. With the help of Oprah’s book club and her whole hearted embrace of the book ‘the man who keeps Oprah awake at night’ it soon became a best seller charts selling over 5,000,000 copies. Now had this ‘memoir’ not been such a saddening and shocking tale (I have still not read it yet) of his addiction to drugs, time in prison, rehab and the suicide of several of his friends. It was a harrowing tale, and an extreme one. The extreme nature of the novel left some to wonder and some to research on in particular (thesmokinggun.com) found that he had not been in prison for the years he stated but actually a few days. It soon became apparent that Frey’s ‘memoir’ was in fact pretty much pure fiction. Within a few months he was invited back on Oprah where she questioned him and said he had ‘duped’ her and all the readers.

Now some people would think this would be a publishers dream, endless publicity equals high sales? Not in this instance. The public followed and naturally so did the press. Random House issued a statement saying that anyone wanting a refund could have one. They subsequently dropped James Frey. James himself was berated in the press and became some kind of hate figure. He was reduced to going into hiding.

Why bring the subject up now years after the events. He has been signed to Harper Collins and his new novel ‘Bright Shiny Morning’ is selling nicely and is going to be a forthcoming Waterstones Book Group Book. Readers are giving him a second chance, is this something that I could do?

I don’t mean with James Frey. I have however now put A Million Little Pieces on my ‘to read’ pile. What I mean is could I give a second chance to a book or author I have tried before and either hated or never finished? For example could I read another Martin Amis after the diabolical ‘London Fields’, or finish Lionel Shriver’s ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’? Well I have now put the latter and ‘Success’ by Martin Amis on my ‘to read’ pile along with A Million Little pieces, so I guess time will tell. Could you give an author or a book a second chance?

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