AlisonY - Grabbing Half a Century by the Horns

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KeskusteluClub Read 2023

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AlisonY - Grabbing Half a Century by the Horns

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 1, 1:48 pm

Welcome one and all to another year of heart-led reading which is likely to meander in all sorts of directions as the winds take me. Last year I read 42 books which I was happy enough with - I'd a busy year.

This year I'm marking a big milestone birthday, and my attitude is to embrace it, be grateful for what I have in the here and now, to stay curious and to be a little more focused with making plans for fun times. I suspect some of this 'taking stock' will spill over into my reading, as it started to in the latter half of 2022. No doubt around half of my reading will be non-fiction of all shapes and sizes mixed with literary fiction. I've no plans beyond continuing to enjoy reading every day.

This is a photo of the Mourne Mountains, which are around 20 miles from my house, and a reminder that I didn't go anywhere near the mountains last year, despite them being my happy places, so a focus for this year.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 29, 12:38 pm

2023 Reading Track

1. Standing on the Shoulders by Dan Walker - read (4 stars)

2. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka - read (3.5 stars)
3. A Few Wise Words by Peter Mukherjee - read (3.5 stars)
4. Please Don't Come Back From the Moon by Dean Bakopoulos - read (4 stars)

5. Germinal by Emile Zola - read (5 stars)
6. The Dry Heart by Natalia Ginzburg - read (4 stars)
7. Carol by Patricia Highsmith - read (4.5 stars)
8. The Smell of Hay by Giorgio Bassani - read (4 stars)

9. A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf - read (3.5 stars)
10. The Beckoning Silence by Joe Simpson - read (4 stars)

11. The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin - read (4 stars)
12. Trespasses by Louise Kennedy - read (unmarked)


13. Big Brother by Lionel Shriver - read (3 stars)
14. Stressilient: How to Beat Stress and Build Resilience by Dr Sam Akbar - read (3.5 stars)
15. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway - read (4.5 stars)

16. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - read (4 stars)
17. When the Body Says No: The Hidden Cost of Stress by Gabor Mate - read (4 stars)

NF = 8
F = 9

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 1, 1:51 pm

Next Up:

joulukuu 29, 2022, 12:49 pm

Just jumping in to say I'm glad you will be back in 2023, Alison. I enjoy following your reading and have stocked up on compression bandages in anticipation of numerous book bullets!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 2:56 pm

>4 labfs39: Thanks, Lisa. Looking forward to where this year's reading takes me.

tammikuu 1, 7:55 am

Dear Alison, I know I haven’t been interacting much, but I do enjoy your posts and reviews. I gladly will follow them again this year. Make it a happy one ❤️

tammikuu 1, 11:17 am

Happy new year, Alison. I hope 2023 is a great year for you. I look forward to following your reading again.

tammikuu 1, 12:28 pm

Wishing you a Happy New Year, and some good reading in 2023 Alison.

tammikuu 1, 1:52 pm

>6 Simone2:, >7 BLBera:, >8 Caroline_McElwee: Welcome all! Thanks for stopping by. Looking forward to catching some book bullets from you all as usual.

tammikuu 2, 1:21 am

Beautiful photo at the top, Alison. I'll be here following along through the year.

tammikuu 2, 4:35 am

Happy New Year, Alison. And also looking forward to follow your thread this year.

tammikuu 2, 6:20 am

Happy New Year, Alison, and good luck with your reading! The half-century is one of those milestones that looks far scarier when you’re approaching it than when you actually get there, I’m sure you will enjoy it…

tammikuu 2, 6:46 am

>10 ursula:, >11 Trifolia: Good to see you here!

>12 thorold: Thanks Mark. I'm determined to grab it by both hands and turn it into something positive.

tammikuu 2, 6:59 am

I'm a dummy, I didn't even realize the half-century in question was age related! (You'd think I'd have better reading comprehension, but you'd be wrong.)

I'm leaving that milestone in about a week and a half myself and it's kind of crazy to think about looking at it in the rear-view, but what can you do? :)

tammikuu 2, 7:09 am

Stunning photo Alison, i think added after I originally peaked through the door.

Enjoy your new decade. I loved mine, though am into the next now.

tammikuu 2, 9:50 am

>1 AlisonY: What a beautiful photo! Happy New Year, and best wishes for your reading and for spending more time in the mountains!

tammikuu 2, 11:36 am

Happy New Year! And happy reading. Gorgeous photo you picked to start your thread.

tammikuu 2, 12:02 pm

Happy reading! I’m looking forward to tagging along. I just turned 50 myself and whilst I haven’t consciously changed anything, I find myself suddenly not caring AT ALL what anyone else thinks. It’s very liberating. This is me - take it or leave it.

tammikuu 2, 1:24 pm

>14 ursula: The alternative is worse!
>15 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks Caroline. Will do my best to make it a good one.
>16 MissBrangwen:, >17 Nickelini: Thanks for stopping by!
>18 rachbxl: I still care too much what others think - working on it...!

tammikuu 2, 2:30 pm

Hi Alison. Hope this year will be a good one, reading wise and otherwise And good for you for taking up a celebration for your 50th spin around the sun.

tammikuu 2, 4:13 pm

>19 AlisonY: Btw you have to celebrate decade birthdays all year....

tammikuu 2, 5:04 pm

>20 markon: Thank you! Look forward to following your reading too.

>21 Caroline_McElwee: Don't worry, Caroline - that's the plan!

tammikuu 2, 5:30 pm

Hunh. Six months in Ulster and I had no idea N. Ireland has snow-capped mountains. I like the way you have a Next Up post in your thread.

Have a happy 50th and a wonderful year!

tammikuu 2, 7:49 pm

Beautiful topper photo. I downloaded the AllTrails app earlier today and vowed to get into the woods more myself this year.

tammikuu 3, 12:57 pm

>23 ELiz_M: How come you were in Ulster for so long, Liz? Thanks for the good wishes for my milestone.

>24 labfs39: Definitely good for soul, getting out out in nature.

tammikuu 3, 1:01 pm

Are we all the same age? 🙂 I’ll see 50 in April. Happy New Year Alison. Those are lovely mountains. How nice to have them close by.

tammikuu 3, 1:37 pm

>26 dchaikin: Excellent! Any half century goals /plans, Dan?

tammikuu 3, 3:46 pm

>25 AlisonY: Spring semester study abroad at Ulster University - Coleraine campus.

tammikuu 3, 10:09 pm

>27 AlisonY: huh. Actually no. I'm still in denial. I have a few months left with a "4" in front. (Feels like a Logan's Run mindset, although they only got to 21 there)

tammikuu 3, 10:26 pm

>29 dchaikin: LOL - I'm staring down the big 6-0 this year. I'm telling everyone I'm still in my mid-50s until a few months before 60, then I'm in my late 50s. I can't even fathom 60. It really feels like yesterday that I turned 50

tammikuu 3, 10:37 pm

Come on, guys, those are all just random numbers. You all know that we are all still around 26 in our hearts (if perhaps not in our knees).

tammikuu 3, 11:58 pm

Like Joyce, looking at 6-0. I always say I have age dysmorphia—deep in my heart of hearts I just don’t believe it at all.

tammikuu 4, 4:10 am

Happy New Year, Alison!
I'll be following your book journey and will be interested to see in how far the big 5-0 will influence your reading.
Nice photo of the mountain! Maybe you can post more photos throughout the year. This would also make you achieve your goal to go there more often. :)

tammikuu 4, 4:46 am

>29 dchaikin: Still time to organise something, Dan!

>30 Nickelini:, >31 RidgewayGirl:, >32 lisapeet: My husband's 60 next year and feels pretty much the same way. Any celebrations planned, Joyce and Lisa?

>33 OscarWilde87: Oh, good idea on the mountain! I'll do that. But maybe not for a while - I've strained my hip flexor and can hardly lift my foot off the floor this morning. Sigh - that never happened at 40....

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 5:37 am

Good to see you. When I was 50 I spent a month in Ireland. I thought it was a good time to go. Haven’t been back but it was a lovely trip.

Everyone talking about age. Here’s a funny story. When i was 35 I moved to NYC. A close friend of mine had moved there about a year before me. He asked me how old I was telling people I was. I said 35. He said no, you have to tell people you are 3 years younger than you are. Everyone subtracts 3 years from their age so if you say you are 35 they will assume you are 38. You have to say you’re 32 and they will think you are 35 which you are!

tammikuu 4, 6:29 am

I turned 50 in 2020. By the time of my birthday I could've had a party but by then I couldn't be bothered organising anything. My partner turned 60 last year and we rented a house by the beach and invited eight of his closest friends. It was everything he had hoped for (it really was fabulous) and now he's suggesting we do the same thing for a retro 50th for me and "my gang".

tammikuu 4, 6:49 am

>28 ELiz_M: Excellent! You were in a nice part of NI in the summer then, up near the north coast.

>35 dianeham: Sounds great, Diane. I'd love to be able to take a month off somewhere. Maybe for my 60th! Funny, I used to stick my age at 38 for a long time as I crept into my 40s, but there came a point where it just wasn't believable any more!

>36 rhian_of_oz: Oh that sounds great. I'm thinking of not doing a party and bringing my husband and 2 kids to NYC a couple of months after my birthday when they'll be on half term.

tammikuu 4, 7:28 am

>37 AlisonY: Birthday trip sounds like a great way to go!

Morgan and I had had the rumblings of a plan to walk the Camino de Santiago by the time I was 50, but first there was a pandemic and then we moved to Turkey. So now I'll have to see if I can convince him he wants to do it by the time he's 50, which gives us 8 years to make it happen.

tammikuu 4, 8:54 am

>38 ursula: I really fancy doing that walk too or similar. Will have to wait until the kids stop coming on holiday as it woukd be their idea of torture. Hope you manage to plan it in.

tammikuu 4, 9:25 am

Happy new year, Alison. Thanks so much for stopping by at my thread.
What a fantastic topper. I love this picture. I'm looking forward to following your reading.

tammikuu 4, 3:27 pm

50 was a real turning point point for me, and it has only gotten better and better. Happy reading!

tammikuu 4, 9:07 pm

I keep forgetting how old I am (selective amnesia or dementia, I'm not sure) and have to quickly do the math in my head. Once, for almost a whole year, I thought I was a year younger than I was. Guess my math was off that year...

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 9:08 pm

>34 AlisonY: Last year about this time I had said I was going to throw myself a 60th party. Right now it just sounds like... a lot of work. But maybe by May I'll be feeling more energetic. It would be fun.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 11:32 pm

glad to find your thread Alison, looking forward to seeing what you are reading and doing this year

Now for all you young'uns afraid of the big "-0" Lemme tell you something. When I was little,all I wanted to do was to get older.Had lots of issues growing up and even into my 30s was shaky.But after about 35, I suddenly felt good in my body, more confident in my skills and had stronger relationships with people. 50 was a milestome year in many way. And theres not been a year that I havent gotten better, learned more,understood more. I loved turning 65(hey retirement, medicare and social security whats not to love?) Granted my bones are creaky, hearing and vision shaky, memory not what it was. But I have no interest in being younger. Now, ask me in about five years when I turn 70 and my attitude might be very different! (a very happy birthday to all of you, no matter what your age)

tammikuu 4, 11:30 pm

>38 ursula: I have a good friend who went there, used to posts pics of their journey. They had a great time and felt really changed by it. Im not up to that kind of thing anymore, but it sure sounds fun!

tammikuu 4, 11:30 pm

tammikuu 5, 1:17 am

Hi Alison - I am finally visiting you and looking forward to seeing what you read.

Those mountains are beautiful. My paternal grandmother's family emigrated to New Zealand in the 1800s from Donegal on the other coast - one day I will visit.

>38 ursula: I would absolutely love to do that walk. I started reading a good book about it - Ich bin dann mal weg by Hape Kerkeling - back when we were living in Switzerland 12 years ago. I hope you get there soon!

tammikuu 5, 8:10 am

>47 cushlareads: Oh, Ich bin dann mal weg is so wonderful, almost a classic! I listened to the audiobook a few years ago. I loved it, Kerkeling's voice is so calming.

tammikuu 5, 3:06 pm

Dropping my star, Alison. I’ll be popping in once in a while. I hope you get to read lots of books that make you happy.

tammikuu 5, 5:01 pm

The Proof is in the Plants landed and I've dived into it today.

tammikuu 6, 1:25 am

>42 labfs39: I have been forgetting my age for at least 12 years. I remember a census worker in Denver at the door asking me how old I was in 2010 and I said "um well ... let's see. I guess I'm 39? Or no, hang on ... 1972 so that would be 38 right?" For whatever reason I frequently think I'm a year older than I am.

>39 AlisonY:, >45 cindydavid4:, >47 cushlareads: Inspired by all of you, I brought it up to Morgan and he said he's definitely okay making it his dream too, it was a shared goal after all. He wants to try to make it by maybe 45 or 46, but we'll see.

tammikuu 6, 9:39 am

I never thought too much about age until a few years ago when I was turning 70 and I thought to myself, "Hmm- I can't really refer to myself as middle-aged anymore."

tammikuu 6, 5:03 pm

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 6, 7:02 pm

>51 ursula: For whatever reason I frequently think I'm a year older than I am.

I do that too! Not sure why either, but I think when my birthday hits I think "Oh wow, I'm XX-old, and that means next year I'm going to be XX+one" Which really makes no sense, but there you go.

As to the question up thread about plans for the big 6-0, so far a big nope to any plans. I've had some spectacular birthdays in the past, but I don't think we'll do much this year. I loathe big parties. My birthday is August 1st, which is good timing for summer holidays. For my 50th we went to London for two weeks, and a week or so before we left Kidsdoc, who was in London at the time, said he'd just seen Daniel Radcliffe on stage in The Cripple of Inishman and I hopped online and the only night I could get tickets was my birthday. My kids were massive Harry Potter fans so of course we had to go, and I'm always happy to say that's how I spent my 50th. But this year we are thinking of a big trip in November and I want to go see my daughter in Switzerland in spring, which means I won't have any vacation days left for summer. I'm not happy about that number anyway ;-)

tammikuu 8, 3:46 pm

>40 Ameise1:, >41 WelshBookworm: Thank you! I figure if I can't hold back the tide of this birthday I may as well embrace it.

>42 labfs39:, >51 ursula:,>54 Nickelini: I regularly forget how old I am, and also seem to confused my current age with the age I'll be on my next birthday. Glad it's not just me.

>44 cindydavid4: Loving the age positivity, Cindy! I may need to pin that post somewhere where I can read it again when I'm not feeling so buoyant about leaving my forties...

>47 cushlareads:,>49 NanaCC: Thanks for stopping by! Here's to a great year of reading for all.

>50 Caroline_McElwee: I look forward to your thoughts on The Proof is in the Plants, Caroline. As a seasoned vegetarian you may not get as much out of it as I did, but it was such a useful guide for me. I've done very poorly at dinner time the last 3 nights and eaten white meat at each. I don't mind eating one or two dinners a week with meat so long as I'm eating vegetarian the rest of the time, but 3 nights in a row wasn't great. I'm finding it quite stressful as no one else in the house is switching diet along with me, and I'm not a huge lover of cooking at the best of times, so trying to make two different dinners each night became a bit trying when I'd run out of the meals I'd batch cooked for me. Batch cooked tonight so I've a few veggie lunches at least to bring to work this week.

>54 Nickelini: I agree with someone's earlier comment that an '0' birthday can be a year long celebration, so Switzerland and a big trip in November sounds fantastic.

tammikuu 10, 4:51 pm

1. Standing on the Shoulders by Dan Walker

This book was a Christmas gift, and if I'm honest isn't something I'd have bought myself, but I actually really enjoyed it (to the extent that I veered away from the other book I started in the New Year).

Dan Walker is apparently known for having been on BBC Breakfast for a long time and Strictly Come Dancing. I don't watch either of those TV programmesso he's not at all familiar to me, but I gather that this is a follow up to another book he wrote a few years back on a similar theme, i.e. exploring the stories of some amazing everyday people he's come across in life (mostly through his breakfast TV job).

In Standing on the Shoulders, Walker tells the story of people who have gone above and beyond in life despite facing huge adversity. There are a lot of incredibly sad true stories within the pages, and I shed a few tears whilst reading it, but in the midst of the sadness there is a recurring theme of inspiration, admiration and hope. The stories are wide ranging, and I'll be thinking about many of them for some time to come.

Martin Hibbert, along with his then 14 year old daughter, was left with life-changing injuries after the Manchester bomb at the Ariana Grande concert. Now paraplegic, he tirelessly raises money for charity, including undertaking a climb of Kilimanjaro in his wheelchair.

Then there was the story of Jimi, a young man who died diving into the River Thames trying to save a woman who had jumped from London Bridge, who had a massive impact on many in his community in his short life through his perpetual kindness, positivity and big heart.

'The 3 Dads' chapter was particularly sad, in which Walker speaks with three fathers who became well known for undertaking long distance walks together to raise awareness on suicide after each had lost a young, beautiful daughter.

Dan Walker does a good job with the writing in this book. He treats his subjects' stories with respect and sensitivity, giving them a voice and platform they may otherwise not have had.

4 stars for sheer reading pleasure, despite the sad background to many of the tales of courage.

tammikuu 10, 6:10 pm

>56 AlisonY: Like you, probably not a book I will pick up, but reading your review gave me gooseflesh. Sad and yet affirming that there are good people in the world doing their best with a lousy hand.

tammikuu 11, 6:32 am

>57 labfs39: Absolutely, Lisa. I'd nothing but admiration for how these people chose to live their lives in the face of huge adversity.

tammikuu 11, 6:38 am

>55 AlisonY: I think, certainly initially, it is more of a challenge when you have got to cook for two lots of expectations Alison. Batch cooking for one or other or both will help. Summer is probably easier when salads are more on the menu and buffets make that easier.

Could you suggest vegetarian night once a week and find dishes that the meat eaters will enjoy. Both Indian and Persian have tasty vege meals that most meaters would love.

tammikuu 11, 7:11 am

>55 AlisonY: We are not a vegetarian family, but we have cut back significantly on the amount of meat we eat. For dinners, we've added in the following dinners that nobody even notices are meat-free.

Bean and cheese quesadillas or enchiladas
cheese tortellini pasta with marinara
spinach lasagna
stir frys with tofu
vegetarian chili (sweet potato and black bean based)
simple tomato soup and grilled cheese
veggie quiche or
LOTS of Indian food:
lentil dishes
chickpeas, potatoes, cauliflower
saag paneer (spinach and cheese)

But, a lot of these are really cheese and carb heavy, and we've found that a balance between these types of dishes and simple grilled salmon or chicken and grilled/roasted veggies is what works best for us.

Overall, I can understand that cooking two different dinners would be extremely stressful and possibly not sustainable! Hopefully together you can find a way to make this work for everyone.

tammikuu 11, 7:48 am

>59 Caroline_McElwee: >61 AlisonY: The problem with my kids is that whilst they eat just about enough vegetables, it's more carrots /peas / broccoli /sweetcorn /spinach. My son will tolerate curries but they're not a favourite, whilst my daughter won't go near them at all (think curries at primary school dinners put both of them off). So that reduces options considerably. They just don't enjoy the spice taste yet.

Mexican they're better at, but after years of eating chilli my son decided a few years ago that he hates beans, which is impossible for veggie chilli! I did manage enchiladas the other week with me on a veggie version, my son on meat minus the beans and my daughter on all of it minus the peppers, but it was a faff. I really look forward to the day when their taste buds grow up a bit!

Nice ideas there, Jennifer. I track my calories for the gym, and that's another big learning area with all this. For instance, I made a lentil and sweet potato Dahl at the weekend which I thought was pretty healthy, and had it with wholegrain rice for lunch at work as I was training that night. When I tracked my calories after (need to do it before!) the carbs were massive - way over my daily target. Like you mention, if you're not careful some veggie dinners can be carb heavy.

Ah well. Telling myself that any steps forward is still positive. I've had 2 meat free days in a row now.

tammikuu 11, 8:29 am

Oh that's hard with curries and beans both presenting issues! Well, if you figure out a good plan, let us know. A lot of families deal with the issue of having to feed people with different tastes!

My husband and I often talk about how differently we'll eat when our boys are out of the house . . . not that I'm in a rush for that!

tammikuu 14, 9:51 am

I thought of you today when I read this line in So Vast the Prison:

"One day an amply endowed lady in the splendor of her fifties...

tammikuu 14, 10:24 am

>63 labfs39: Love it. Sadly I won't be amply endowed, but I will certainly try to live 'in the splendour' of my fifties. Now there's a phrase to make one feel surely middle aged!

tammikuu 14, 11:42 am

See I think its very complimentary, at least to this 66 year old! great phrase

tammikuu 22, 5:26 am

Ugh, I'm so behind in both reading and keeping on top of LT. Life is busy at the moment and I'm getting very little reading time.

tammikuu 22, 10:41 am

>66 AlisonY: oh that isn't fun Alison. I hate days with little reading, and days with none are really cruel!

tammikuu 22, 4:54 pm

>66 AlisonY: wish you a deserved rest break sometime soon

tammikuu 25, 4:54 am

>67 Caroline_McElwee:, >68 dchaikin: All is fine - just little reading time. I've increased my gym training so that's eating into my week nights.

helmikuu 5, 3:45 am

>69 AlisonY: I can relate. It seems like I never get the reading time I'd like. Gym training isn't too bad either, though. Wouldn't it be great to do both at the same time? Some kind of book workout?

helmikuu 5, 4:24 am

>69 AlisonY: I'm listening always to an audiobook when I'm doing my workout at the gym.

helmikuu 10, 7:12 am

>70 OscarWilde87: If only reading was a workout!

>71 Ameise1: Our gym is class based, so it wouldn't work having headphones on as we need to be interacting with the coach and our colleagues on the gym floor. That's great to be able to do that, though. I listened to my first audio book on a walk this week as a trial.

helmikuu 10, 7:40 am

I can't believe I only finished 1 book in January - that's got to be a low for the past few years. On the positive I have been reading every day; I've been jumping a bit between books which hasn't helped my stats.

2. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

This book was an experiment on two fronts. Firstly, it was my first foray into an audiobook. I don't have an Audible subscription, so this was a short novella to test out whether this could work for me during my car commute and during the walks I take most days. The choice of novel itself was an experiment too, as I've not read any Kafka before and this wouldn't normally be my kind of book.

If you've not come across it before, the gist of the story is that a travelling salesman (who's fed up with his job and lot as the breadwinner of the family) wakes up one morning to find he has transformed into some kind of large beetle-like insect. As the family discover his metamorphosis it turns the whole family's world upside down. Unsure how to deal with him, they keep him mostly confined to his bedroom, with his main interaction being with his sister who throws him scraps of food a few times per day. As time goes on, each family member has to become independent and take on employment, and the stress of dealing with their new insect family member starts to take its toll.

It's a totally off the wall concept, but an interesting one and a book which would make a good book club read.

Did I enjoy it? I'm glad I read it, but despite the dark humour it overall felt quite bleak.

3.5 stars for the imagination and execution, but it's not going to go onto my 'loved' pile.

(As for the audio book, I'd say it was a partial success. I think it's a great idea, but my attention did wander, both on my walk and in the car, so I'd say I missed perhaps 20% of what I was listening to).

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 10, 8:06 am

3. A Few Wise Words by Peter Mukherjee

I bought this book for my gym coach for Christmas and couldn't resist putting it on my own Christmas wish list. Peter Mukherjee has interviewed 22 inspiring individuals from all walks of life who have been hugely successful in their careers (from sports people to actors to business people) with the goal of tapping into their secrets of success and getting their advice for parents on how to best support your children in being the best that they can be.

A high proportion of the people interviewed were British, but it was an interesting mix including Stephen Fry, Anya Hindmarch, Baroness Martha Lane-Fox and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

I loved the premise of this book, but did find its execution quite repetitive, to the extent that it's taken me quite a long time to read it. Whether this is the author's fault or not I'm unsure - perhaps the secret of success really does boil down to some common factors, hence the repetition in the story.

In summary, for parents the resounding message was that if your child has a passion, support them in following that passion and don't force your own unfulfilled ambitions onto their shoulders. It was quite apt timing for me to read that, as my eldest is very bright and strong in science but is adamant that he wants to follow a career in the music industry. What I found is that a number of the business people interviewed pointed out that today's youth will have a lot more jobs in their lifetime than our generation, and there are many more opportunities to change paths.

The rest of the common tips were fairly obvious but it was useful to have them reinforced - take all opportunities presented to you to give Lady Luck a helping hand. Parents - don't do all the door opening for your kids; employers like to see kids showing their own initiative. Get a mentor.

3.5 stars - an interesting read, but overall it disappointed me a little. Perhaps I was expecting some more groundbreaking knowledge behind the secret sauce of success. Really it's have some talent to begin with, keep opening doors and work hard.

helmikuu 10, 8:51 am

>73 AlisonY: I read this as a high school student and it was one of the works that made me love literature, and learning about it, so much that I decided to become a teacher! I'm not sure if it would work for me as an audiobook, but it was interesting to read your take on it.

helmikuu 10, 10:32 am

>75 MissBrangwen: It was a free audiobook, so I doubt much money was spent on the person they selected to record it. He had quite a monotone voice, which somehow made the book feel more bleak.

I think I would have got more out of reading it myself. This is my fear of audiobooks.

helmikuu 10, 11:44 am

>76 AlisonY: I've figured out that for an audiobook to work for me it has to be a straightforward, plot-forward story. Any digressions, a complicated time line or the kind of playing around with form that I love in books, doesn't work in audio - I lose too much. But an exciting plot works well, and I have more patience with a simpler structure in audio than I do on paper. I share your fear of losing something by listening rather than reading.

helmikuu 10, 12:04 pm

Alison I read that in HS, and while it was upsetting and dark,I caught the theme: what happens to a family when one is different. This happens if there is a child with a disability, someone has a stroke, someone is addicted to drugs etc. How does the family react? As a soon to be teacher this struck volumnes to me.

helmikuu 11, 5:01 am

>77 RidgewayGirl: Yeah, I'm wondering if non-fiction needs to be my thing for audio books. My mind strays too much I fear for fiction.

>78 cindydavid4: I think this would be a wonderful book for discussion in a school or book group - there are so many themes at play.

helmikuu 12, 3:15 am

>73 AlisonY: Oh, I like Kafka's works. The Metamorphosis was the first Kafka I read and you are very right in saying that it is quite bleak.

helmikuu 15, 10:32 am

>76 AlisonY: I understand all too well. I listened to Hamnet, but I'm afraid the narrator ruined it for me. Don't give up on the audiobooks just yet though. I also thought it wouldn't be for me, but I've listened to a few classics, non-fiction, and some lighter fiction and it mostly worked well for me. I find it easier to concentrate when I'm actually doing something else (cooking, ironing, cleaning,...) because my mind also wanders otherwise. And unfortunately I found out too late that a good narrator is crucial.

helmikuu 19, 4:55 am

>80 OscarWilde87: I'll definitely read more by Kafka - I'm glad I listened to it.

>81 Trifolia: Good tips - thanks. I need to reinvestigate how to listen to audiobooks from my library.

helmikuu 19, 5:26 am

4. Please Don't Come Back From the Moon by Dean Bakopoulos

This was a surprisingly strong debut novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. Set in a working class suburb of Detroit predominantly occupied by Ukranians and Polish, in this coming of age story we follow the narrator and his circle of friends as they try to find their way following a mass desertion by the men folk in the area, who one by one disappeared into the night as prospects in the area dwindle away following mass factory closings.

As the friends grow up in a town with few employment prospects beyond the new shopping mall, Bakopoulos writes with absorbing prose as the youngsters try to make their way in life against the limiting odds of the realities of their environment.

4 stars - a beautifully written novel with writing that punches above its weight. I'll be looking out for more from this writer.

helmikuu 20, 10:50 am

I do quite a few audiobooks, Alison. The reader and the style of book make a big difference to my enjoyment. I tend to stay away from non-fiction because I always want to stop and look something up. There are exceptions. Ben Macintyre’s books are great on audio. Also some of the autobiographical books work well on audio. If you are able to do a sample before you commit to a book you can usually weed out the readers whose voices are not to your liking. There are a lot of those for me.

I’m listening to The Lincoln Highway right now. It’s a multi reader book, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been getting a lot of knitting done with this one. It’s very long.

helmikuu 22, 9:47 am

>84 NanaCC: Good advice, Colleen. I was on a work trip yesterday and a colleague happened to mention that there's a way you can sync up Kindles to an app on your phone to listen to audio books, so if I can figure out the technology on that I'll give it another go, as I can listen to some free books via the library and dip my toe in rather than committing to Audible.

maaliskuu 5, 10:30 am

5. Germinal by Emile Zola

What took me so long to get to this? Wow - what a novel.

This was my first Zola novel (definitely won't be my last), and it was as if someone had interwoven the grittiness of Dickens industrial settings with Hardy's expansive sense of place and character into something close to literary perfection.

Set in a mining town in rural France, Germinal evolves around the plight of the miners who take desperate measures when their working pay reduces to a level that no longer sustains keeping families fed in the village. With its vivid descriptions of the horrendous conditions in the mines and superbly developed characters who snowball ever closer to doom, this novel was engaging, shocking and quite simply tremendous from beginning to end.

5 stars - deserving of a much better review than I have time to give it, but a hugely enjoyable read.

maaliskuu 5, 11:54 am

>86 AlisonY: I'm glad you liked it so much as Zola is one of my favourite authors.
Strangely enough, I've never read Germinal (only some extracts), but I will get there as I have decided to reading through the Rougon-Macquart series.
Do you know which one you will be reading next?

maaliskuu 5, 2:00 pm

>87 raton-liseur: No idea. Which of Zola's other novels would you recommend?

maaliskuu 5, 2:22 pm

Next Up

maaliskuu 5, 2:38 pm

>86 AlisonY: I have several Zola's in the tbr mountain, including this one. Will nudge up a bit Alison.

maaliskuu 5, 4:23 pm

>86 AlisonY: Excellent novel!

>88 AlisonY: The whole series is worth while, but if you're only contemplating one or two more, I would suggest The Beast Within, The Masterpiece, and Nana. Others would likely suggest other books depending on their preferences. I also really liked Earth, but it is very raw.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 5, 4:39 pm

>88 AlisonY: If you don't want to tackle the entire Rougon-Macquart series, this subset of books contain some of his best known works, all featuring Gervaise Macquart or her children:

(ETA: Picture borrowed from sisilia on Litsy)

ETA2: or what >91 SassyLassy: said :)

maaliskuu 5, 5:05 pm

>90 Caroline_McElwee: I think you would enjoy this one, Caroline.

>91 SassyLassy:, >92 ELiz_M: I had no idea Germinal was part of a huge series. I take it any of them stand independently without having to be read in a particular order? This subset seems like something much more achievable than approaching the entire series. Good shout - thank you both.

maaliskuu 5, 5:34 pm

I loved Germinal as well. I've also read Nana, L'assomoir, La Bete Humaine, and Therese Raquin. They are all excellent, though I think Germinal is the best. I haven't been reading them in order, but I've contemplated it.

maaliskuu 5, 6:25 pm

Another Germinal fan here as well. The only other one I've read is Nana.

maaliskuu 5, 8:27 pm

I'm long overdue to getting to Germinal, especially since I have a copy of it on my Kindle. I'll add it to my list of books to read this year.

maaliskuu 5, 8:45 pm

Wow never heard of this before, should look inot it

maaliskuu 6, 7:02 am

If I may give a bit of background... The Rougon-Macquart is a series of 20 books that explored all parts of the French society during the reign of Napoleon III (1851-1871, from the top of my head). Each book follows a member of the Rougon-Macquart family (roughly, the Rougon are the legitimate and more well-off members of the society ; the Macquart are from an illegimitate branch of the family and are usually part of the working class). It is a great way to learn about how the society and the economy changed during this crucial period of time.
Each book is independant and follows a different character, except Octave Mouret who is the main character in Pot Bouille/Pot Luck and Au Bonheur des Dames/The Ladies' Paradise (but I read Au Bonheur des Dames fist, and I did not mind at all) and Arisitde Saccard who is in La Curée/The Kill and L'Argent/Money. People who plan to read them in order usually follow the publication order, but it is not a chronological order and I learned fairly recently that Zola has recommended a more chronological order, so it's really up to each reader to decide how to read them.

If I try to suggest books that are more famous or representative, I think I would suggest L'Assomoir/The Drinking Den (my first Zola, a very famous one as well).
Most of the recommandations abover are for the working class books in the series. I think it is interesting to explore wealthier aspects. The most famous in this regard might be Au Bonheur des Dames/The Ladies' Paradise, that explores the blooming of large scale shops (it happens to be my second Zola...).

There are many others that I loved, famous or not. The only one I never managed to read despite two attempts is La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret/The Sin of Father Mouret.

It's interesting to see The Masterpiece/L'oeuvre mentionned so often. I think that in France it is not considered as one of the prominent books in the series.

maaliskuu 6, 9:42 am

>98 raton-liseur: I read the series following Zola's recommended reading order, not the chronological order, and comparing the two, the recommended order made more sense. The family seemed to progress through time in a more cohesive fashion.

I actually really liked La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret. What was the block? Not everyone would enjoy those descriptions of the lush garden as I did, and I wonder if that stops people.

Another one no one has mentioned is The Bright Side of Life, so far from Paris, yet with many of the same problems.

It's interesting to see The Masterpiece/L'oeuvre mentionned so often. I think that in France it is not considered as one of the prominent books in the series.
I wonder if that is because of the portrayal of the French art world of the time, something not necessarily known to those outside France.

maaliskuu 7, 1:17 pm

>94 japaul22:, >95 labfs39:, >96 kidzdoc:, >97 cindydavid4: Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Looks like Germinal / Zola has struck a chord of appreciation!

>98 raton-liseur: That's so useful - thanks for taking the time to explain how all the books fit together. Much more understandable than my scan through Wikipedia! I agree that it would be interesting to explore both his depictions of working class and the wealthy.

>99 SassyLassy: Sounds like recommended order is the way to go with the next Zola I pick up.

maaliskuu 8, 1:49 pm

>99 SassyLassy:, >100 AlisonY: and others It's interesting for me to see how Zola is approached outside of France. I had never heard about Zola recommending a specific order before talking about the Rougon-Macquart series with Anglophones (ok, I do not have a litterary background, so I am nothing close to a specialist of Zola, and I might be misled, and to be fair Zola's recommended order in on the wikipedia page).
I have never heard anybody in France reading the series other than following the publication order (or randomly, of course). So it's great to see some people doing this, and wondering how it might influence the reading experience.

>99 SassyLassy: You're right about La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret/The Sin of Father Mouret, the descriptions were too extravagant for my taste. But I'll try again within the next couple of years (I've just finished reading book 2 in the series, and that one is book 5 in publication order).
And I'll keep in mind your remark on L'Oeuvre/The Masterpiece (book 14, so I won't be able to comment on your remark before long!).
And I agree about La Joie de vivre/The Bright side of life. I loved it when I read it as a teen, but it is considered as an outsider in the ROugon-Macquart series and is very different from the others, less political (hence, again, your perspective is interesting).

>100 AlisonY: Glad it might help! (And wikipedia is my main source here, plus my enthousiasm!)

If you decide to read the whole series, then whatever order you decide to follow, be sure to start with La Fortune des Rougon/The Fortune of the Rougons as it shows the origin of the family. It is not considered the best, although I liked it, but it does help to understand better Zola's project, and the whole "naturalism" thing he is so famous for.

Whatever you decide on the Zola's front, I hope you'll enjoy your reading!

maaliskuu 9, 9:22 am

>101 raton-liseur: I've noted your tip on the next Zola to commence with. I've a feeling, like with Hardy, this is an undertaking that could take many years as I like variation in my reading, but certainly excited to read more.

maaliskuu 9, 10:09 am

6. The Dry Heart by Natalia Ginzburg

This short novella, first published in 1947, packs a psychological punch despite its size. In the fourth sentence the protagonist shoots her husband between the eyes, but what follows is as much a detached retrospective on the feelings that had led up to the murder as it is an explanation of the circumstances.

The narrator, whose name we never learn, feels unreliable from the beginning, prone to a riotous imagination and self-delusion that leads to marriage to Alberto for all the wrong reasons. Whilst at the beginning she is an unlikeable character, through Ginzburg's direct style of writing we begin to develop a frustrated sympathy over her desperation to please and be wanted by a husband who isn't in love with her.

There's no sentimentality to Ginzburg's writing, and with cool matter-of-factness she exposes the weakness in the narrator's character as she passively watches her marriage quickly derail. It's an interesting approach which enables the reader to get a 360 degree view of the marriage without deliberately leading us down a path of certain conclusion in the process. Sometimes marriage just don't work out, Ginzburg's detached writing suggests, and she seeks to bring the reader on an unbiased journey that exposes human flaws in relationships without creating a villain out of either party.

Recommended for those who enjoy authors such as Anita Brookner, this fell into my hands via a staff recommendation in my local bookshop (and reminded me of the joy and importance of supporting our physical bookshops, even if they are often more expensive than Amazon).

4 stars - very cleverly and subtly done.

maaliskuu 9, 10:13 am

I'll also be seeking out more books from Daunt Publishing. The Dry Heart was a lovely edition, and it seems they specialise in publishing books by interesting new authors or forgotten classics.

maaliskuu 10, 7:53 am

>103 AlisonY: I started but got distracted from a volume of Ginzburg's essays last year. Must backtrack Alison.

maaliskuu 10, 8:51 am

>105 Caroline_McElwee: Will be interested in your thoughts, Caroline. I fancy reading some more by her.

maaliskuu 11, 9:26 am

>102 AlisonY: I added The Fortune of the Rougons to my wishlist. Which English editions of Zola do people favor?

>103 AlisonY: The only Ginsburg that I've attempted was The Things We Used to Say, and it was a DNF that I gave away. Not sure I'm the right reader for her.

maaliskuu 11, 3:17 pm

>107 labfs39: I completely get that her writing wouldn't appeal to everyone.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 11, 5:18 pm

I finally settled on that US trip for the family I was getting help from everyone on last year. We're going to NYC for 5 nights at the end of October. Any insider tips on great things to do there with teens would be fantastic.

They're less about ticking the must-do tourist boxes (although we'll do some of the classics) and more about enjoyable, quirky experiences. I've been looking at the Museum of Color and Vessel in Hudson Yards. Doing a view will be a must, but I'm not sure the Empire State Building needs to be the one. Perhaps some of the other 'view' buildings would be as good or better?

All ideas welcome :) Hubby and I have been before, so happy for this trip to be more about what works for the kids.

maaliskuu 11, 5:45 pm

cant think of the name,its the ancient medival buildings that hold many of the MET exhibitilns as well as a wonderful park to wander

St John the Devine Catherdral is interesting because it continues to be under construction and IIRC is using medieval tools and methods in its building.Not sure if its still that way but its a cool looking building

Near Times square there is a street with very old houses that contain wonderful stained glass. Can rememver where we saw these, someone might know

Radio city music hall

maaliskuu 11, 5:49 pm

>110 cindydavid4: Excellent! Thanks Cindy.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 12, 11:45 am

I want to say I read Germinal in high school, but should probably amend that to "was assigned," since I don't remember a word of it. Sounds like a book that's worth revisiting (or, I suspect, probably visiting for the first time... I was not the most assiduous student in my teens).

Lots to do in NYC—I'd suggest looking for an art exhibit on Hyperallergic's fall "What to see in New York" page when it goes up.
If the weather is in any way cooperative, take a walk on the High Line—great people watching as well as views and changing art exhibits, and it's free.
The Tenement Museum is a great spot, with an excellent gift shop.
Likewise the Rubin Museum, which is Himalayan/Eastern-themed.
I think the medieval museum Cindy is talking about is the Cloisters, which is a fantastic museum and—unlike the Met itself—doable in one day. And Ft. Tryon Park nearby is just gorgeous, with wonderful Hudson River views.
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is also a fantastic place, if you like churches or classical architecture in general—it's massive and beautiful. There's construction underway but that doesn't detract from its beauty or impressiveness (I was there with a friend two days ago, so I can vouch for that). I don't think they use medieval tools, though... NYC building code would have a thing or two to say about that.

I'll probably think of more between now and then.

maaliskuu 12, 11:52 am

>109 AlisonY: I think the Vessel has been closed? I mean, I know it was closed after some suicides but I don't think they've reopened it.

maaliskuu 12, 2:58 pm

>112 lisapeet: Brilliant - thanks Lisa. I'm pinning all these ideas on Pinterest as I'll have forgotten them tomorrow, never mind by October.

>113 ursula: Agh, you're right, Ursula. I saw that it was temporarily closed but had no idea - I thought that was maybe a seasonal closure. That's incredibly sad.

maaliskuu 12, 4:29 pm

>107 labfs39: Which English editions of Zola do people favor?

I would definitely recommend the Oxford translations. They have the entire series, all with reasonably recent translations starting in 2008 (some within the last five years). There is a small number of translators used, so there is a certain cohesion in the flow of the language in English. Oxford also has wonderful notes and introductions and there is a single editor for the series, Brian Nelson.

Not only all that, but if it's important to you, they actually look like a set when shelved!

maaliskuu 19, 8:51 pm

Great review of The Dry Heart, Alison. The Free Library of Philadelphia has the electronic version of it, so I'll probably read it soon.

maaliskuu 19, 9:11 pm

>103 AlisonY: I really enjoyed The Dry Heart. It was so much packed into a very small novel.

>109 AlisonY: The tenement Museum in the lower east side gives fantastic tours showing how new immigrants to New York lived at different points in time. It was really interesting and older kids would probably really like it.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 21, 10:48 am

>117 RidgewayGirl: Thanks Kay. Will float all ideas with the terrible teens.

maaliskuu 21, 11:04 am

>117 RidgewayGirl: second that. excellent tour. and if doable, visit ellis island for a very eye opening experience

maaliskuu 21, 1:50 pm

>118 AlisonY: If it helps, Katz's Deli is just down the street and you can get the best sandwich you will ever experience there.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 21, 8:21 pm

Add my vote for the Tenement Museum. In addition to Katz's Deli, several other fabulous and unique foodie attractions are nearby: Kossar's Bialys, which was my go to place for bialys when I worked in NYC; Russ and Daughters, the legendary century old Jewish appetizing shop that specializes in smoked fish, spreads, and Jewish pastries; the Lower East Side branch of Creperie NYC, which makes fabulous specialty crêpes that will undoubtedly appeal to hungry teens; and Cheeky Sandwiches, which our Louisiana friend Jane (janemarieprice) took me to several years ago, as it was, at least at that time, the only place in NYC to get legitimate New Orleans po' boys (sandwiches) and beignets.

If you go to the Cathedral of St John the Divine two places on W 112th St between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue are worth checking out: Book Culture, one of my two favorite NYC bookshops (along with Strand Book Store on Broadway & 12th St, close to Union Square), and Tom's Restaurant, which was made famous by Seinfeld.

Another favorite place of mine is the Nuyorican Poets Café on the Lower East Side, which features poetry slams, jazz and other performances. A puertorriqueña friend of mine who also worked at NYU Medical Center in the early 1990s wrote poetry and read it there during poetry slams. Four to six poets would read their work, the audience would choose a winner, and between competitions the house would play Nuyorican salsa, while audience members gleefully danced to it.

maaliskuu 21, 8:10 pm

>121 kidzdoc: oh completely forgot about the Strand!! a must do!

maaliskuu 23, 12:36 pm

>119 cindydavid4:, >120 RidgewayGirl:, >121 kidzdoc: Thanks - you're all marvels!

maaliskuu 26, 12:30 pm

7. Carol by Patricia Highsmith

Carol (or The Price of Salt) is the first novel I've read by Highsmith, and hopefully it won't be the last.

Released in 1952, it was originally published under an alias. Highsmith's usual publishers (Harper) refused to publish it at all as they felt its lesbian theme would be suicide for her career.

This novel had some terrific characters and a thriller aspect to it which came as a surprise. As a reader we're never sure of Carol; she's the controlling force in the relationship, determining how it evolves and if it even evolves at all. For much of the novel we're suspicious of whether the younger and more inexperienced Theresa is anything more than a toy to her, and whilst we know that Theresa is clearly infatuated and in love, Highsmith keeps Carol's feelings veiled behind a cool, changeable demeanour and natural dominance born out of her wealth and the fact she is the older of the two.

Given the period in which the novel is set and attitudes towards homosexuality at that time, Highsmith is able to weave in some of her usual trademark thriller theme to the story which works really well. What will or won't transpire is out of the control of Theresa, the protagonist, which equally unnerves us as a reader.

4.5 stars - an enjoyable page-turner. Now to watch the movie.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 26, 12:39 pm

I'm reading lots of books at once this year which I'm not sure is overly working for me. I'm struggling to finish much.

These 4 are currently on the go:

, , ,

Otherlands I'm really not doing justice too as I'm dipping in and out of it so infrequently I keep forgetting what I read previously.

Immerse, the New Living translation of the New Testament I'm reading every morning as part of one of Lenten commitments, but I've only time to read it whilst I'm eating my breakfast so am hitting 3 pages a day at the most.

On This Day in History thankfully is a book you can dip in and out of; I started this a few years ago but didn't get far with it, so I began at the beginning again and am chipping away at it when I've got no more than a few minutes free to fill.

The Smell of Hay is a short Italian novella which I'm currently concentrating on and hope to finish soon.

maaliskuu 29, 4:21 pm

8. The Smell of Hay by Giorgio Bassani

This book was a random find in a London secondhand book market last summer. I didn't realised that I'd picked up the sixth and last book in the series 'The Novel of Ferrara', but I don't think it mattered; the four novels in the middle are bookended by 2 books of short stories, and this concluded collection of stories worked independently, although I believe some of the characters were from earlier books.

The Novel of Ferrara was the great work of Bassani's life. An Italian Jew, this set of work is set in the Jewish-Italian community of Ferrara during the late 1930s, the very town Bassani himself grew up in. A frustrated perfectionist, Bassani spent 20 years from the 1950s to the 1970s reworking and reediting the six books over and over. Even up to his death in 2000, he continued to publish different editions of the work.

The Smell of Hay is a very slim volume of stories which received much criticism initially. The earlier works are apparently much darker in form; these stories were generally quite light-hearted, despite skimming around dark themes such as the introduction of the Racial Laws in Italy, and were considered by many to be lacking in comparison to his earlier work.

True, there's little in this collection that I'll remember for too long, but Bassani's writing quality was really evident as I was reading each story. Many parts of his prose demanded to be read again and rolled around the tongue - he really had a quite beautiful turn of phrase, and often with short stories it's difficult to be as impactful as you can in a novel.

The pre-war period in Italy was very interesting to me; I've not read many novels set around this period in Italy, and from a social history perspective it was fascinating. I also thought the lightness of touch was clever. Bassani could have disappeared down the rabbit hole of the racial discrimination happening, but instead he often takes the perspective of a young person at that time, where the distractions of regular life are still prevalent, like trying to get back with an old girlfriend who's no longer interested.

4 stars - an interesting taster of Bassani's writing. I think The Novel of Ferrara will have to be a future reading project. I really enjoyed Ali Smith's introduction to the book too; usually I skip these, but the backstory of Bassani and this series of books is hugely interesting.

maaliskuu 31, 12:55 pm

Hi Alison - I've added some books to my WL after reading your great comments (The Dry Heart, The Smell of Hay). I've had Germinal on my radar for a while. One of these days...

I find it difficult to read more than one fiction book at a time.

Regarding your NYC trip. From a tourist perspective, I have enjoyed seeing the UN and walking around, Central Park and across the Brooklyn Bridge. There's so much to do!

maaliskuu 31, 7:11 pm

>127 BLBera: I find it difficult to read more than one fiction book at a time.

Agreed. I'm glad that I'm not the only one!

huhtikuu 1, 3:55 pm

> Within the Walls is the first of the six books in Bassani's Ferrara series, so that would be the better one to start with, Beth. I just randomly happened on the last book.

I'm also not good at reading more than one fiction book at a time, but clearly I'm not good at juggling several non-fiction books with my current fiction read either.

huhtikuu 2, 11:19 am

I used to be able to handle three; I can still do two

huhtikuu 2, 11:25 am

I can't really do more than one book at a time. Probably why I read so slowly, but that's OK.

huhtikuu 3, 6:51 am

>128 kidzdoc: I'm in the gang. Several books on the go at a time, but only one novel.

huhtikuu 3, 12:39 pm

>132 Caroline_McElwee: Yes. I can read several nonfiction books at once, but even though I may indicate that I'm currently reading more than one work of fiction in reality I'm only reading one of them at a time.

huhtikuu 3, 1:25 pm

I can actually overlap reading fiction (usually on multiple devices and/or in paper), but my non-fiction tends to be denser and I don't do well reading more than one at once. I frequently read that at the table - read a chapter a meal and digest it before reading the next.

Fiction, as long as they're dissimilar (one fantasy, one SF, one romance, say) I can drop in and out of the worlds without (much of) a problem. Though one time the hero of one story and a minor villain of another shared a name and I had some serious cognitive dissonance - had to stop reading one until I finished the other.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 3, 2:31 pm

>109 AlisonY: Just chiming in in agreement with the NYC suggestions already provided. I can't recall if you're interested in jazz or not, but my favorite spot is called Smoke, uptown at Broadway & 106th. That's in addition to famous spots like the Village Vanguard. My wife and I spent November 2021 in Jersey City (just across the Hudson from NYC) and I got out to the Statue of Liberty for the first time since grade school. I was actually surprised by how moving it was. Also, I love the Old Town Bar and Restaurant, a funky old ex-speakeasy with a great (not fancy) menu at 48 East 18th Street.

ETA: By October my wife and I will be in NYC, so maybe we can meet up!

I only read one book at a time, though I have my "between books" that I dip into in between the books I read straight through.

huhtikuu 3, 3:21 pm

>135 rocketjk: Thanks Jerry. Good to get a restaurant recommendation too. Ultimately the kids will be in charge (you know how it goes) but I'm pinning all of the suggestions here for them to contemplate.

If we've time a meet up to say hi would be lovely!

huhtikuu 3, 3:30 pm

>124 AlisonY: Carol sounds terrific. Interesting find (is it a find?)

>126 AlisonY: great review. I hadn’t headed of Bassani. Now I’m curious.

huhtikuu 3, 3:51 pm

>137 dchaikin: I think I became aware of Carol when the movie came out. I've not watched it yet, but it's got good reviews.

Although 1 slim novella is perhaps early to recommend Bassani on, I think he could be a really interesting writer.

huhtikuu 3, 4:04 pm

Count me in if you meet up in NYC! I mean, if you want to...

huhtikuu 3, 4:16 pm

>139 lisapeet: Ditto! I can get to NYC by train in a little over an hour.

One other place to consider dining is Junior's, another classic NYC deli that makes the world's best cheesecake. The original deli is on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, but there are two branches in Midtown Manhattan as well. There used to be a branch in the food court in Grand Central Terminal and another in Times Square, but I don't think they're there anymore.

huhtikuu 3, 4:43 pm

>140 kidzdoc: There's one on 44th Street, I think—Jeff and I went there on a cold night after seeing Hamilton when there wasn't a cab to be found, and had disco fries. A very convivial place!

huhtikuu 3, 5:03 pm

>141 lisapeet: Nice. Believe it or not I've never had disco fries!

huhtikuu 3, 5:22 pm

>143 lisapeet: I hadn't either! Cheese and gravy... maybe not exactly heart healthy, but just what we needed on a late cold NYC night.

huhtikuu 3, 10:28 pm

Disco fries = poutine?

huhtikuu 4, 4:34 am

>139 lisapeet:, >140 kidzdoc: Well that would be fun! Let's try and organise something with Jerry nearer the time. We're there Sat 28th Oct (well, Saturday will be mostly spent getting there) and leave on Thursday 2nd Nov.

Noting Juniors... Disco fries sound like the sort of thing we used to eat at 2 in the morning after a night of clubbing.

huhtikuu 4, 8:22 am

>144 jjmcgaffey: I looked it up because I thought the same thing! But poutine is made with cheese curds and disco fries with shredded cheese.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 29, 4:39 pm

9. A Room of One's Own And Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf

This edition contained two linked feminist essays, the most famous of which is A Room of One's Own and definitely my favourite of the two. Displaying more dry humour than I remember in some of her fictional books, A Room of One's Own almost feels like the warm up act for The Three Guineas. Woolf is wry and clever with how she subtly builds her case around the shackles and constraints put on women over time, and I found it eye-opening. Why had I never considered before how difficult it must have been for the likes of Austen and the Brontes to forge a path in fictional writing, and how constrained they were by the narrowness of the experiences and opportunities open to them in life? How different would their writing have been had they been allowed to have an education and careers like their brothers, to earn their own salaries, to travel, study and follow whatever pursuits and interests they wished?

It's a while since I've read any Woolf, and A Room of One's Own reminded me just how delicious her turn of phrase was, and what an incredible mind she possessed.

Three Guineas had a different feel to it. While Woolf almost pretends to naively dance around the subject of feminism, casually throwing in on-point observations which are purposely yet quietly building up to support her argument, in Three Guineas the gloves are decidedly off and there's a much spikier feel to her writing. The essay is structured as Woolf's response to a letter from an unknown gentleman asking for her opinion in how to prevent war (which was looming in 1936/1937). Woolf, in musing about why she hasn't responded to the letter, wastes no time in arguing her case around how difficult it is for a woman, who has no access to education or the world of professions, to respond to such a question, given the limitations social structures puts on women. She also responds to two other letters requesting financial support for a women's college and an organisation to help women enter professions, making clear her feelings on she doesn't subscribe to the patriarchal vision for the focus of both.

Although both essays are centred around a similar topic, Three Guineas is much more of a polemic than A Room of One's Own, and I enjoyed much more the humour and writing style of Woolf in the latter.

3.5 stars - Three Guineas went on for much longer than I needed it too, but A Room of One's Own was very enjoyable.

huhtikuu 29, 5:24 pm

I'm planning another reread of A Room of Ones Own myself soon Alison. I agree it is the better book.

huhtikuu 29, 10:45 pm

Great comments, Alison. I agree A Room of One's Own is better. I need to reread soon.

huhtikuu 30, 3:28 am

>148 Caroline_McElwee:, >149 BLBera: I almost wish I'd read them separately, as I really enjoyed A Room of One's Own but feel my reading experience of it was overshadowed by my labouring through Three Guineas, which I enjoyed to begin with but just found long and repetitive after a while.

huhtikuu 30, 7:26 am

>150 AlisonY: I was wondering that Alison. As ARoOO is definitely a 5* for me. The writing is so perfect.

huhtikuu 30, 1:38 pm

>151 Caroline_McElwee: I agree - the writing is sublime in ARoOO. But I felt I had to mark it based on my opinion of both essays in the book.

huhtikuu 30, 2:07 pm

10. The Beckoning Silence by Joe Simpson

Wow - only my 10th book and it's almost May. I'm in such reading slo mo this year - I don't seem to have a minute.

This is my third Joe Simpson book, and probably my last; no reflection on the quality of his writing (which is once again superb), but I feel I've probably read the best of him now, and there are only so many more mountains left to climb with him.

As touched on to an extent in This Game of Ghosts, Simpson is now seriously considering giving up climbing. The tally of friends lost to the mountains grows every year, and despite his climbing ability improving year-on-year, the danger and fragility of climbing expeditions is more and more at the forefront of his mind. In the first half of the book, he jumps between a number of climbs which seem there to serve one main purpose - a back-story so yet another friend's death could be written about. Perhaps because he'd already covered some of this ground in This Game of Ghosts it rubbed me up the wrong way a little in The Beckoning Silence, feeling included for the sake of sensationalism and selling books.

In the second half of the book, Simpson is talked into tackling the north face of the Eiger by a climbing friend, and at this point I really settled into the book, absorbed as always by his ability to make the mountains come alive. I've skied in Grindelwald, the closest town to the Eiger, so for that reason this account particularly hooked me in as I could visualise the areas he was talking about. Simpson also delves into some of the history of the doomed Eiger climbers of the 1930s who paved the way for other climbers, and I really enjoyed his retelling of their stories (which were new to me) and the fantastic photos included. Sadly, there's yet more tragedy on the mountain at the same time that Simpson and his friend are climbing, yet somehow his writing is so immersive that I found myself torn between wondering why anyone ever climbs mountains this difficult and desperately wanting to experience it for myself. It's not too hard to guess which sentiment will ultimately win me over, but it's testament to Simpson's writing skill that he does leave you with a great pull for the mountains.

4 stars - an incredibly skilled writer, but probably with little more to say that's new and shocking by the time you've read a few of his titles.

huhtikuu 30, 10:31 pm

>153 AlisonY: I love that area of Switzerland and have stayed in Lauterbrunnen and Wengen. The first time I hiked up to the first glacier on the Eiger, the second time, twenty years later, I took the train and couldn't believe how much it had receded. I think I read Touching the Void a million years ago. I should give Simpson another try.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 5:07 am

>154 labfs39: He's an excellent writer, Lisa. If you've already read Touching the Void, I'd probably recommend This Game of Ghosts above The Beckoning Silence, but both were very enjoyable.

It's such a pretty spot, that area in Switzerland. I'd love to return in summer.

toukokuu 6, 10:43 am

>153 AlisonY: This does sound interesting, Alison. Great comments. I think I will take your advice and read the earlier one. You sound very busy.

toukokuu 7, 1:04 pm

>156 BLBera: I'm just a sucker for his writing, Beth. I watched the documentary of Touching the Void on Netflix the other night and it was fantastic. Both Simpson and Simon, who cut the rope on him, are interviewed throughout the film and it worked really well.

Yes, busy times at the moment. Working full time again plus going to the gym a lot is eating up most of my time. It's also gardening season again, so I'm busy potting up on the greenhouse.

toukokuu 8, 12:35 pm

11. The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin

This was a random purchase from my local charity bookshop a few weeks ago, and was just the kind of fiction I was in the mood.

The Heather Blazing is one of those books were the chapters alternate between the past and the present. In the present day, the protagonist is a senior judge in the Dublin courts enjoying the escapism of weekends at his old family home at the coast with his wife. For a while, the jumps back to his boyhood frustrated me a little, as they seemed to be going nowhere and I tire easily of Ireland-of-yore fiction, but as the novel progressed the point of these chapters became clearer and they provided the back story of why Eamon Redmond had become the man he was, for good and for bad, politically and socially.

It took me a while to warm to this novel, but in the end I really enjoyed it. Toibin writes with warmth and compassion towards his characters, and although Redmond had his flaws by the end of the book I loved him because of his flaws, not despite them, understanding how his earlier years had shaped him.

With the historical backdrop of Enniscorthy in Wexford, a key location in the 1916 Easter Rising, Irish republican politics are woven into the story, past and present. I often struggle with the romanticising of terrorism in Ireland, but Toibin handles it delicately enough.

4 stars - probably not a book I'll remember too much about in the near future, but recommended when you're just in the mood for a decent page-turner.

toukokuu 9, 5:37 am

>158 AlisonY: Wonderful review. I like Toibin's books. Unfortunately my local library hasn't got a copy of this one.

toukokuu 9, 2:40 pm

>159 Ameise1: That's a shame, Barbara. What other Toibin's have you read? This was just my second after Brooklyn (which I loved).

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 29, 12:39 pm

12. Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

I'm not quite sure where to start with my review of this book, as it pulled me in complete polar directions. I loved it and yet it made me positively boil over with anger.

Let's start with what worked. Set in Belfast in the 1970s in the height of the Troubles, the novel tells the story of a Catholic primary school teacher who's having an affair with a Protestant barrister. On a simple level, it ticks the box of being an enjoyable page-turner with plenty of tension. Were I not from Northern Ireland - no, were I not a Protestant from Northern Ireland - I would no doubt be recommending this book to my friends in book clubs as a fantastic conversation provoking book. It's not perfect - Kennedy's greenness shows in places with some sadly stereotypical pantomime-esque Irish characters - yet the storyline is good enough for me to have overlooked that. I only realised after I'd bought it that I've already read a book of short stories by Kennedy (The End of the World is a Cul de Sac), which I didn't think was overly great. In this novel, Kennedy's writing form has improved considerably.

But. BUT, BUT, BUT BUT. This book is HORRENDOUSLY inappropriate in these times of fragile peace in Northern Ireland. Kennedy could have easily told the story with even handedness, using the Protestant Michael to give the alternative perspective on the Troubles, but the entire way through she seems hell bent on settling a score, positioning Protestants, the police and the army as unpleasant oppressors, whilst every Catholic character is an underprivileged victim of circumstances to be desperately pitied, even if 'caught up' in terrorism. I absolutely acknowledge that Catholics were disadvantaged in Northern Ireland after partition, and had things been handled in a different way perhaps the Troubles may never have happened. However, the reality of the violence of the Troubles is that Republican paramilitaries were responsible for 59% of the murders. And this is what's so dangerous about books of fiction like this. If you were not overly familiar with the detail of the Troubles, you would come away from Ms Kennedy's novel 'informed' that the Troubles were almost exclusively about Protestants violently oppressing Catholics. In Kennedy's hands, the Catholic characters have the monopoly on morals and compassion, whilst the Protestant characters, with the exception of Michael, are painted entirely as bigoted, fractured and unpleasant. The IRA are barely mentioned, whereas Kennedy is happy to use plenty of ink on portrayals of unjust police and barely falls short of describing horns and tails on the British soldiers.

Of course there were good and bad people on both sides, as well as good and bad in the security forces. However, if Kennedy's book was your sole source of knowledge on the Troubles, you'd be left thinking that there wasn't a straight one amongst the police or army and that they oppressed Catholics for the hell of it. 1,012 members of the security forces were killed during the Troubles. My parents had many friends in the Royal Ulster Constabulary who were shot dead. These were good, decent people. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers. One family of 4 brothers and sisters in the security forces were killed one by one at their family farm by the IRA after one of them chose to testify about guns they saw when they stopped a car at a checkpoint. But these are not the people Kennedy wants to portray in her novel. No, the police of Kennedy's imagination are all monsters united in motiveless opposition to every Catholic in the province.

I've taken a few days to think about this book before I wrote this review, wrestling with it in my head, mulling over the counter-arguments. The Troubles came directly to Kennedy's family's door via Unionist terrorism, so of course she has strong emotions that are very different in perspective to my own. So does she have a right to tell the story of the Troubles from that viewpoint? Of course, everyone has a right to write from the perspective of their own experiences, but given that peace in Northern Ireland always hangs precariously by a thread, I don't think it was in good taste for her to publish a novel that is so biased in its delivery. I love the premise of the tangled web at the heart of her story - the morality of the affair with the married man made ever so much more complex by them both being from either side of the religious divide - but she could have used that story as a force for good, telling the conflict from both viewpoints. I have no issue with the viewpoint of her Catholic characters - my issue is that despite this being the story of a doomed love affair between a Catholic and Protestant, there is only one political viewpoint that is far from balanced. The only Protestant character she allows her readers to develop any warmth towards is one who entirely shares her narrative on the only story in town being that of Catholic oppression, whilst the murder of innocent civilians and members of the security forces at the hands of Republican paramilitaries speaks volumes in its absence.

This novel is read by people outside of Northern Ireland as a story of love in the Troubles, but it is a biased half-told story of our history. Given the work we are all putting into moving on from our difficult past, I find that hard to accept.

For the first time ever in my years of reviewing in LibraryThing, I will not be leaving a star rating for this book.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 13, 10:20 pm

>161 AlisonY: if it helps, when I am reading a book that includes real life conflict (middle east, balkans, turkey/greece) I always assume there are at least three sides to the story, and because the characters are human assume that they all have tendency of hatred and love in various forms. Most readers I know recognize the problems with historic fiction and understand the dif between fact and fiction and read accordingly

That being said believe me I completely get where you are coming from. We have a similar problem with Holocaust HF; where books are written by people who do little research and write about the doings of characters that are completely false. night angels is a perfect example (see article below)The Holocaust deniers will use whatever they can to dirty the history, and people who know little about the Holocast will make assumptions that are not true. Not sure what the solution is, except to do what you are doing and point out when this happens.

toukokuu 14, 10:53 am

Thanks, Cindy. The review I ended up writing wasn't the review I expected to write, but the more I thought about it the crosser I got!

Maybe if I'd completely hated the book it would have been easier, but it is a good read. I just wish it hadn't been so biased.

toukokuu 14, 5:26 pm

>161 AlisonY: interested to read you review from someone who has first hand knowledge.

toukokuu 14, 7:05 pm

>161 AlisonY: Thanks for this review, Alison. I really loved Trespasses and it's very worthwhile for me to hear from someone who lived through this about the biases present. I also had not thought about it being polarizing in today's Northern Ireland, so that was interesting to think about. Is there much fiction yet that is set in the Troubles and published in Northern Ireland, or is it still too close for comfort to write about? Do you have any recommendations for books that approach this era in a more balanced way?

I saw a lot of the biases that you did, but I didn't think the Catholics got a full pass from Kennedy. For instance, how they treated Davy's family was pretty reprehensible. And I thought the snippets from the news were pretty balanced in showing the violence from both sides. But, certainly, the book is from Catholic Cushla's perspective.

I hope you can shake this book off and find a great next read! Again, thank you for your insight!

toukokuu 15, 11:18 am

>161 AlisonY: Thanks for writing this. I haven't read it, but have seen many positive reviews. I will have some good questions to keep in mind if I do read it.

toukokuu 16, 4:17 pm

>165 japaul22: If I ignore the stuff that riled me, at a simple novel level I enjoyed it too - which I think annoyed me more! There is Troubles fiction popping up elsewhere, but I've not read any of them so I don't know what perspective they took (sorry - therefore can't make any recommendations).

I agree that the priest and headmaster didn't treat Davy's family well (although the priest character felt a bit of a caricature), and there was mention of both sides in the snippets, although not entirely balanced.

It's just such eggshell ground to tread on still, and I expect still will be for a long time. I think because it was such an awful time, it just rubbed me up the wrong way someone using fiction to open up those divisions again.

Thinking about the book the other day got me thinking about my cousin's relationship. He's Protestant, with an ex-serviceman brother and ex-RUC (late) father, and a family background of Unionism and Orange Order participation. He's married to a Catholic girl whose father was a taxi driver shot dead by the UVF. Would their relationship have survived (or even existed) if they'd got together in the 1970s rather than the start of the millennium?

>166 markon: It's a good page-turner - I'm just sensitive and grumpy about it!

toukokuu 16, 4:29 pm

>167 AlisonY: well, I'm glad you made me think more deeply about the book. Thanks for sharing your insight!

toukokuu 27, 9:27 am

>161 AlisonY: This is why I love LT -- your comments made me think more about Trespasses, which I loved. I am going to discuss it with a couple of friends this weekend, and it will be interesting to see what they make of it. I imagine it was difficult to write your comments, so thanks for them.

toukokuu 27, 10:12 am

>161 AlisonY: Thanks for the thoughtful and heartfelt review, Alison. That one's on my wishlist, and actually your comments made me want to read it more, just to get a better understanding of how a fictionalized handling of a conflict can be skewed, appropriated, etc. I've been interested in that for a while, especially around the controversy around American Dirt. Your comments really add weight to the idea that while yeah, anyone can write about anything they want to if they're not outright dismissive or inappropriate, there are some nuances that a writer needs to get—either via experience, immersion, or really good source research—that shouldn't be glossed over.

toukokuu 27, 4:13 pm

>169 BLBera: >170 lisapeet: Thank you both for stopping by! Will be interested in how your chat on Trespasses goes, Beth.

Lisa - absolutely you should read it. I'll be interested in your thoughts on it. Just bear in mind us Prods aren't complete monsters!

toukokuu 27, 4:25 pm

>171 AlisonY: Alison, do you know of any novels about the Troubles told from the POV of a Protestant?

toukokuu 27, 6:23 pm

>172 RidgewayGirl: I'm afraid not, Kay. I usually veer away from Troubles fiction or non-fiction as I'm all for looking forwards rather than backwards.

kesäkuu 3, 4:34 pm

13. Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

This is the 8th Shriver book I've read, and similar to my feelings on Ian McEwan I'm wondering if I've now peaked with her best. Like with McEwan, when she's at her best I love that her writing can shock and surprise me, so when that falls flat it's disappointing.

It's not that long since I read her novel The Motion of the Body Through Space, yet now that I've read Big Brother I can't help but feel she just reworked Big Brother with a bit of a different slant for The Motion of the Body Through Space. In this novel, the protagonist Pandora is happily married and step mum to two teenage children when her jazz pianist brother, who's down on his luck, comes to stay for two months. Since the last time she's seen him, he's gone from svelte to morbidly obese, and when Pandora decides to bite the bullet and dedicate a year to helping him lose the weight, her marriage begins to buckle.

This novel was OK, but it was missing the best of the gloss Shriver's capable of. The story never fully grabbed me - I didn't warm to the characters, and think perhaps it needed another sub-plot weaved in as the main plot wasn't interesting enough to sustain the attention.

3 stars - good enough to finish, but not good enough to particularly recommend.

kesäkuu 3, 10:01 pm

Read her post birthday world but was disappointed wit her others not sure why.

kesäkuu 4, 3:52 am

>175 cindydavid4: Yeah, she can definitely be an uneven writer. I thought We Need to Talk About Kevin was excellent - very dark but hugely original - and So Much For That was also enjoyable (but not as good as Post Birthday World. The others have felt very formulaic in her characters.

kesäkuu 4, 5:24 am

Apologies for my poor interaction on LT this year. I'm now training 4 times a week in the evenings, which with work doesn't leave much time for reading, never mind being active on LT.

kesäkuu 4, 9:42 am

>177 AlisonY: I think real life is getting in the way of virtual connections for a lot of us this year—it is for me, anyway. I really value my online relationships, but that's the thing that has to go when there's no room to pass by anything else. The good thing being it's kind of asynchronous by nature, so it's easier to duck out of a conversation and come back a few weeks later. That's how I hope it is, anyway.

kesäkuu 4, 9:55 am

>177 AlisonY: no apologies nec, pop in when you can! Hope thinge ease up for you soon (what is the training for?)

kesäkuu 4, 11:33 am

>178 lisapeet: Agreed - I'm keeping up with my own thread and reading for the most part, but connecting less on other people's. My life is much busier now that covid restrictions have lifted. It's kind of a shock.

kesäkuu 4, 1:37 pm

>178 lisapeet:, >180 japaul22: Comforting to know its not just me!

>179 cindydavid4: I'm not training for anything in particular, just for good health as I get older. I really enjoy how positive it is mentally as well as physically.

kesäkuu 4, 2:30 pm

>177 AlisonY: doesn't leave much time for reading, never mind being active on LT

I'm finding the same thing now that spring is here. More to do outside and less time for reading.

kesäkuu 4, 3:42 pm

>182 labfs39: 100%. So much work to do in the garden at the weekends.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 4, 9:36 pm

>181 AlisonY: good for you! Over the last couple of years Ive had two surgerys and long recovery times, but I made sure I moved as much a i could I now walk 3 miles a day, and feel the best i hve ever been! Keep moving :)

kesäkuu 5, 3:25 pm

>184 cindydavid4: It's so important, isn't it? Getting out in the fresh air for a walk is so good for your head too.

kesäkuu 5, 5:37 pm

I know a few of you are interested in the Troubles through books you've read over the years. For info, we've just finished watching an excellent documentary from the BBC called Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland which is very even handed in chronicling the Troubles from beginning to end (are we truly at the end?) with really hard hitting interviews with people affected. It interviews paramilitaries, victims and victims' families from both sides mixed with key film footage from the time, and really puts a human front to all the loss.

I believe it's been released on PBS in the States. Well worth a watch if it's a topic of interest. It made me incredibly sad watching it.

kesäkuu 6, 6:50 am

>186 AlisonY: I was wondering about that docu Alison, so thanks for the rec.

kesäkuu 6, 3:13 pm

>187 Caroline_McElwee: It's excellent, Caroline. Hard to watch at times.

kesäkuu 20, 4:06 pm

14. Stressilient: How to Beat Stress and Build Resilience by Dr Sam Akbar

I started reading this book back in October after hearing Dr. Sam Akbar speak at the Cheltenham Festival, yet somehow forgot about it when I was three-quarters of the way through. I enjoyed finishing it this week, and in a stress work period it was just the calmness I needed.

It's a little book to dip in and out of multiple times with some excellent exercises (which I'll probably never get around to doing again, but they are good if you're better than I am at keeping up with such things). My favourite section was on values. When life is stressful, particularly if it's work-driven stress, reminding yourself about your values and checking in with yourself on whether your role / employer / boss / business is still is in line with those values is really important.

3.5 stars - it's never going to be the kind of book that blows me away, but I like that it's designed to be picked up at any section, and I think I will dip in and out of it in the future.

kesäkuu 20, 4:10 pm

I'm jumping between The Gulag Archipelago and A Moveable Feast. The Solzhenistyn book is enjoyable, but a heavy topic when I need some light relief from my reading, so I'm reading it in small chunks and enjoying 1920s Paris in between times.

kesäkuu 21, 10:10 am

>190 AlisonY: I love A Moveable Feast Alison. Still to get to GA.

heinäkuu 3, 1:47 am

>177 AlisonY: No apologies necessary. I think that is happening to a lot of us this year.

>186 AlisonY: Thanks for the recommendation.

heinäkuu 13, 7:21 am

Catch up time...

15. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

This is only my second Hemingway novel, but his writing definitely strikes a chord with me. He has a wonderful sense of place (which I loved as well in A Farewell to Arms). This time the place is Paris, and an autobiographical look back at his time there as a struggling author just starting to get noticed.

Hemingway wonderfully transports you back to the cafes of 1920s Paris, with walk-on parts from literary legends such as Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's the kind of era that this modern technological age of rush, rush, rush will never see the like of again, and I savoured hopping into Hemingway's time machine to enjoy some respite there.

4.5 stars - nothing momentous happens in this brief book, but it's just perfect all the same.

heinäkuu 13, 12:55 pm

>193 AlisonY: If I were forced to choose just one favorite book, this one would be it. I fully understand how very badly Hemingway treated women and anyone else, really, and this would still be my favorite book.

heinäkuu 13, 1:53 pm

>194 RidgewayGirl: Ha - agree! You don't want to like his writing, and yet....

heinäkuu 13, 3:09 pm

>193 AlisonY: Nodding. I've read it at least half a dozen times. Glad it hit the mark Alison.

heinäkuu 13, 3:13 pm

>196 Caroline_McElwee: What can be better than writing that truly transports you to a bygone era, Caroline.

heinäkuu 13, 4:09 pm

16. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Hard to know where to start with this one - there's a lot going on in my brain thinking about it.

I'll admit it's taken me a while to get through this. Probably six or seven weeks of inconsistent reading. It's not a difficult read, but it's a dense and demanding book that needs full attention and the right reading mood. Somehow it felt like there was a lot crammed on each page - my reading time felt noticeably slow.

Solzhenitsyn is famous for winning not just the Nobel Prize for Literature for this book, but also for supposedly being a catalyst contributing to the downfall of the Soviet Union as he exposed atrocities of the most horrendous scale which had been kept silent for decades. The original is a vast book (some 1,800 pages), and I must admit I was glad I was reading the abridged version (still chunky enough at close to 500 pages), but still - it's a terrifically enlightening, engaging and horrifying read. I appreciated that in this abridged version at least, each chapter was relatively short so I could attack it in small chunks.

Despite it's sombre subject matter of the Russian gulags, where millions of Russians were sent for 'political crimes' (no one can quite authenticate the numbers on how many people died - somewhere between 1.6 million and 60 million depending on where you take your facts from; Solzhenitsyn believed in the region of 20 million), I was surprised that Solzhenitsyn keeps his tone light and almost playful throughout. He served 8 years in the gulags himself, and it's as if it was all so utterly insane that he could only write of it with almost fun-poking incredulity at the sheer audacity of the Soviet regime barbarism.

There's a nice logic to how he sets out the book, from arrests to interrogation to prison transits to life in the camps, followed by exile. Occasionally Solzhenistyn writes of his own memories, but in most of the book he is giving his voice to the stories of others. Much of it is almost too cruel and insane to take in. He tells of a man arrested whilst having his stomach operated on, lifted out of the operating theatre with his innards hanging out. Of people tortured with no sleep for days on end, or with bright lights shone unceasingly in their eyes. Of ten and twenty-five year sentences handed out for absurd 'political' reasons to keep the jails full and work gangs on the railroads and canals supplied with free labour. Of men sent out to work in the depths of winter in thin, tattered clothes and shoes in snowfall up to their waist for 12 hours before a walk of several miles back to huts which may not have even had a roof on, never mind heating. Of women paraded naked upon arrest so the prison officers could choose who they fancied to 'have'. And if you survived the near starvation, hard labour and horrendous conditions to get to the end of your sentence (which could randomly have more time added on to it at will), then the enforced exile to Kazakhstan or Siberia (if you were lucky, as there at least you might have a chance of picking up some work, whereas if you were released into 'regular' society without banishment you had little hope of being accepted back into society).

It's a book that feels as important now as when first released back in 1985. My knowledge on Russian history is potted, and I felt that reading about where the country has come from during this era of the gulags helped me to understand better current behaviours that we now see taking place on the world stage in the 21st century. Can we verify all of Solzhenitsyn's facts? Of course not, but the passage of time has gradually laid bare the atrocities of the gulags from enough sources for us to take what he tells us as a reasonable truth.

4 stars - a really engaging and eye-opening historical read.

heinäkuu 13, 4:37 pm

Hmm, I've read two of Hemingway's books, For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms and I hated them both. But so many people love A Moveable Feast that maybe I'll have to give him one more try.

heinäkuu 14, 4:08 am

>199 japaul22: He's maybe just not for you, Jennifer.

heinäkuu 14, 7:01 pm

>193 AlisonY: It's the kind of era that this modern technological age of rush, rush, rush will never see the like of again...

I immediately thought of people sitting around cafés with their cellphones, and wondered how these three would behave now.

heinäkuu 14, 8:32 pm

Alison, when are you coming to the USA?

heinäkuu 15, 5:29 am

>201 SassyLassy: I just think it wouldn't and couldn't happen now.

>202 dianeham: Around Halloween, Diane.

heinäkuu 15, 10:34 am

I love A Moveable Feast and For Whom the Bell Tolls is wonderful. I am glad Hemingway wrote when he did. He wouldn't fare well these days...

I loved A Gulag Archipelago; in fact we mentioned it yesterday at my book club gathering. A few of us who taught in college mentioned that today we would think hard about assigning our students A Poisonwood Bible, which is about 550 pages long. Times have changed; when I took a class on Solzhenitsyn in college (eons ago), I was assigned one of this books each week! So, in nine weeks, we read most of his work. Only the first Gulag was published at that time. I like your cover.

heinäkuu 16, 3:45 pm

>204 BLBera: I've still got For Whom the Bell Tolls to look forward to. What did you think of The Old Man and the Sea? I'm curious as the premise of it doesn't appeal, but never say never.

Wow - reading a Solzhenistyn per week was a tall order. I thought of The Gulag Archipelago mostly in terms of its historical content when I was reading it, but certainly his skill with the pen made it very readable. I must read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich sometime soon so I concentrate more on the writing than the gulags.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 28, 10:17 am

17. When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress by Gabor Maté

Dr. Gabor Maté is an interesting, albeit controversial, character, who has found popular fame in later years as a self-declared trauma specialist (prior to he was a GP before working in the area of addiction for many years). I've listened to one of his podcasts, and was interested in reading this book as I deal with stress pretty poorly and firmly believe it's at the root cause of the IBS I suffer with.

This is a hugely interesting book, which I would caveat with the point that I have no way of fact checking the science he claims supports his theories. In each chapter he covers a wide myriad of diseases and conditions, including MND (or ALS, if you're North American), digestive diseases such as Chrohn's and ulcerative colitis (plus IBS), cancer (in particular bowel and melanoma), MS and arthritis. Whilst Maté believes there are particular nuances with each, a common theme is that he believes people's emotions (or rather their handling of them) have a part to play in how likely you are to get certain diseases and your prognosis once you have them.

It certainly doesn't seem beyond the realms of possibility to me that stress (or lack of effective stress management or outlet) could play a key role in the development of disease. Maté goes a step or two further, suggesting that certain personality types are more likely to develop specific diseases. For example, MND / ALS patients he suggests have been widely reported by specialists in this area to commonly have a very nice / amenable persona, always putting on a bright face and not wanting to be any bother. For melanoma patients (which was of personal interest to me), Maté talks of how it was in relationship to melanoma that led to the development of the notion of a "Type C" personality, a combination of character traits more likely to be found in those who develop cancer than in people who remain free of it.

Type C personalities have been described as "extremely cooperative, patient, passive, lacking assertiveness and accepting... the Type C individual, in our view, suppresses or represses 'negative' emotions, particularly anger, while struggling to maintain a strong and happy facade".

All very interesting, and I can certainly personally tick a number of those boxes off quite easily, but is that the power of suggestion? If other adjectives had been used would I have automatically been drawn to identify with those?

It's up to the individual reader to determine how much they do or don't agree with what Maté has to say in this book. Whilst I can't vouch for how well it scientifically stands up, I do believe that stress is behind many diseases, so whilst I still question some of Maté's statements, I'm interested in what he has to say.

At the end he covers 7 A's of healing: acceptance, awareness, anger, autonomy, attachment, assertion, affirmation. I didn't find any silver bullets to becoming better at handling stress from this chapter, but there's certainly enough of interest in the rest of the book to lead me to do my own further research in how to get better at this.

There will be many who strongly oppose the sweeping generic statements relating to the diseases and conditions covered, but in all I found this to be a really interesting book. Maté may not be 100% correct in his assertions, but I do believe there is more than a grain of substance to his arguments.

4 stars - a popular science book well worth a read (and I'd be really interested in the perspective of people who have had personal or family experience of the other diseases covered, and how accurate or otherwise they feel those chapters are).

heinäkuu 29, 7:50 am

>206 AlisonY:

I would treat this kind of assertion with extreme caution. It is indeed easy to believe that stress is responsible for many health problems, and it is indeed a factor in some. But it's also easy to forget that if you and I can intuit that there is a connection, then scientists have probably already tested that hypothesis. As I understand it, in the case of cancer at least, the hypothesis has been thoroughly tested, and no connection has been found. This is what has made me a little bit more modest and cautious toward my own intuitions.

Also, I'm not sure science is still behind that whole Type A/C thing. See for instance The Myth of the "Type A" Personality | Psychology Today Canada

So to keep maintaining that kind of assertion in the face of contradicting science is a little dishonest, and it can be dangerous as it can lead us away from science-based preventive and curative interventions.

heinäkuu 29, 11:37 am

>207 FlorenceArt: Yeah, I completely get where you're coming from, hence my comments that I question a number of his assertions. However, I do believe that stress is a factor (albeit not a sole factor) in the origin of a number conditions - I think there are plenty of proven theories out there about the role stress (& hence increased cortisol) has on inflammation in the body and weakening the immune system.

I'm not entirely convinced about his views on specific diseases having shared personality types, though.

heinäkuu 29, 12:07 pm

>208 AlisonY: Absolutely, there is plenty of evidence that stress is a factor for some diseases, but there is nothing new about that. There is also enough non-evidence of links that have been thoroughly researched already to eliminate them. So why use the evidence that backs his hypothesis and ignore the other, if it’s not just a convenient way to generate buzz?

heinäkuu 29, 12:32 pm

>209 FlorenceArt: Certainly he's made this area his popular niche.

elokuu 19, 4:43 pm

If nothing else, stress lowers your body's immune response—I don't think anyone's going to argue with that.

>193 AlisonY: The thing I find accessible about A Moveable Fest that I don't necessarily get from Hemingway's other work, is how young they all are. Yeah, he was definitely a beast in a lot of ways, but that portrait of a bunch of—practically—boys so excited about the world, literature, relationships and novelty... that exuberance is sweet, even if you don't really want to cut them much slack.
Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: AlisonY - Grabbing Half a Century by the Horns: Part II.