A January for Travelling : 104 books in 2014


Generic image of booksHello all, and for the latecomers, a reminder of the rules of the challenge.

Books finished:

1 and 2: Dodger and Raising Steam in Terry Pratchett. Reviewed earlier, check the links for more details.

3: The Fault in Our Stars. Also reviewed earlier. I tend to go on binges when I get bad medical news, and these make for boring book coasters posts. Like that time I read the whole Nero Wolfe series, or the Lake Wobegon novels of Garrison Keillor? No-one read those posts… This time instead of binging on books, I watched all of vlogbrothers and Crash Course (world history, literature and American history). Much of the time, I was on a treadmill, streaming this through my television. (Yes, highly numerate people, that’s about 1 500 videos. My media binging fu is strong.)

This meant I saw John Green read the first chapter of Paper Towns, which was intriguing, and then the first chapter of TFIOS. I was turned off by the prominent part cancer plays in the story, since I was a bit down over my own health, but couldn’t skip it because I didn’t want to get off my treadmill. Then he read the second chapter and changed my mind. When I borrowed the audiobook, I simply couldn’t turn it off.  (Added later: I’m fine.  Well, I’m nowhere near as badly off as Hazel and Augutus. I’m fine for most reasonable values of fine.)

4: An Island Parish by Nigel Farrell. An interesting study of the lives of the people of a tiny island community off the edge of Cornwall. Recommended for people who like travel writing. The Library Service has copies in large print and CD.

5: Nonsense Novels by Stephen Leacock:  A Librivox recording that’s funny in parts and dated in others. In each section the author writes a short story which parodies the tropes of one of the genres popular in his time. Some of the jokes still find the mark. If you are using an e-reader, the LV page also has a link to electronic versions of the text.

6: Diary from Dixie by Mary Chesnut: This is a memoir, written by the wife of a senior military officer fighting for the South in the American Civil War. As the South’s fortunes collapse, she retreats toward the centre of Confederate power, and sees the trappings of her affluent lifestyle stripped away. She is, to a modern reader, clearly on the wrong side of history, but her justifications for slavery and the attack on Fort Sumter are made all the more interesting by her alieness. The Librivox reader is tremendously successful, absolutely convincing as Chesnut’s voice. Again, the Librivox page contains links to ebook sources. (Side note: isn’t the cursive D in this font ugly?)

7: Travels with an organ to the Grand Signieur by Thomas Dallam: More travel, this time by a courtier of Elizabeth I, sent to deliver an organ to the Grand Turk. For Dallam, getting there’s not the problem. His problem is that he’s the only person in the court of the Great Turk who can play an organ, so the Grand Turk’s courtiers are quite determined he should never leave. Again, Librivox.

8: The Wit and Wisdom of Chesterton by G. K. Chesterton. This is a collection of essays by a Victorian humourist. I found they didn’t quite hit the mark for me, and would be difficult to recommend.

Books I cast aside, unfinished:

9: The Salisbury Manuscript by Peter Constable: According to some other reviews, the book does speed up after its slow start. I was, however, listening to it on audio, and didn’t have the patience to sit through the hour and a bit required for it to shift tone. Apparently there are a couple of witty detectives romping through some Victorian tropes, but I didn’t see anything like that in the first half hour, and I have too many other excellent things waiting to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Books from my own library I finally read:

10: Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury.  This is an industrial history of English chocolate making. It’s the family story of the Cadburys, and examines the contrast between their values, as Quaker businessmen, and the modern corporate values espoused by Kraft, which took over Cadbury using modern, highly-leveraged financing. Really interesting to chocolate fiends, and fans of industrial history, and I’m both.