Reading list

by little red pen

Well, that was an idea that didn’t work. I have so many of those. I decided last year to write a short post about everything I read, sort of as a record to myself and sort of as a way of being part of the big book-lovin’ world. Yep, totally failed. Can’t even remember what I’ve read this year, and certainly can’t say anything very coherent about it.

Brief, partial notes, then, and maybe I’ll talk about last year’s books some other time.

Hilary Mantel
I was late to the Wolf HallBring Up the Bodies party, but boy was I ready for it when I got there. If history was always told like this — with characters and plot and excellent dialogue — I would be all in. I would also possibly know much more than I do, which would be useful because I read half of Wolf Hall wondering why Thomas Cromwell was being so chummy with the king when he was about to start a revolution and bring down the monarchy.

I also watched the TV series, which was dark and full of fabulous faces. I could look at Mark Rylance ALL DAY, but was damn near ready to chop Anne Boleyn’s head off myself by the end.

While I was at it, I read some of Mantel’s earlier work, some of which I liked very much and some of which I didn’t so much.

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton*
I’m halfway, folks. This book is hefty. I’ve just got past the point where the narrator helpfully summarises and explains how all the characters and plot points relate to each other, so I’m feeling on firmer ground and keen to push on. I do have problems with books that are too heavy and awkward to read lying down or while eating breakfast though, so I’m interspersing it with lighter fare.

Six Square Metres: Reflections from a Small Garden, Margaret Simons
This is lovely, and very encouraging if your garden is in as dreadful a state as mine is but you still like gardening and dream of being a better and more productive person.

Noon Tide Toll, Romesh Gunesekera
One of those books that you pick up without much thought or anticipation simply because it’s the next thing in your pile, then can’t put down and can’t forget and foist upon anyone who gives you even the slightest opening. The narrator is a van driver for hire in post-civil war Sri Lanka. He takes his passengers north and south, and I liked everything about this book.

Bad Feminist: Essays, Roxane Gay
Feminism AND Scrabble. Loved it.

Old favourites
I’m having a Gavin Maxwell and Louisa May Alcott reunion. I’m quite shocked about Maxwell. The version I have of Ring of Bright Water is from my childhood and it is both abridged and adapted. I always knew that was a problem, but had no idea how much so until I got a pile of his stuff from the library. I dipped in last night and let’s just say, he has a COMPLETELY different prose style to what I thought and I suspect the otter situations are going to be quite a lot more complicated than I was aware of.

And LMA wrote all these sensational thriller romance-type books, which I’m not sure I can even go there. I started one last night which featured a very dodgy man called Tempest and an ACTUAL tempest, with lightening and wind and rain and raging seas and whatnot.

I love rediscovering books from my childhood, but sometimes it’s TOO MUCH. I did reread Charlie and the Chocolate Factory though, which is a very sensible thing to do when you’re 40 and in danger of getting a bit serious sometimes.

  • Bloody hell, with immense thanks to my sister who pointed out that I had the wrong author for this one. No biggie, I mean, she only won the Booker. I want to note though that Anna Smaill was long-listed for the Booker for her wonderful The Chimes. New Zealand: land of writers, rain and small brown birds.