Archive - 2016

The Books I Read in 2016
The Books of 2016
7 Books for 7 Moods (Part 3)
Bizarre Books VI
My 5 Favourite Satires
Bizarre Books V
Famous Authors’ Bizarre Writing Habits
Bizarre Books IV
20 More Quotes about Books, Reading and Writing
7 Books for 7 Moods (Part 2)

The Books I Read in 2016

As is my custom at year end, I am dedicating this post to the books I read this year. In 2016 I read 19 books. One reason for my less than prodigious reading output is that I was busy with my own writing efforts (3 novels to date). I will be revealing more about my works in progress in due course.

Here are the 19 books that I read in 2016. They are presented in the order in which I read them. Click on the links to read my reviews.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877) — Though slow moving and ponderous, this evocative text rarely feels turgid.

Danger by Association by Heather Burnside (2016) —  A fast-paced and compelling crime fiction novel (3rd in trilogy).

Personal by Lee Child (2014) — An engrossing first person thriller, complete with a complex conspiracy and colourful cast of characters.

The Rebel’s Sketchbook by Rupert Dreyfus (2015) — A mostly entertaining collection of 13 first person satirical short stories.

Concrete Island by J. G. Ballard (2001) — Rife with similes, this is an allegorical story about isolation. This reader struggled on occasion with the analytical, awkward prose.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932) — A cautionary and contemplative tale that utilises erudite social commentary to explore mankind’s inherent nature.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962) — A convoluted and rather confusing alternative history dystopia.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) — There is much to ponder in this Sci Fi classic, which employs an efficient prose style.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927) — For this reader the reading experience was akin to travailing through sinking mud.

Make Me by Lee Child (2015) — A stimulating thriller whose themes include the Deep Web.

Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard (2001) — This authentic and atmospheric American-based collection of short stories boasts a strong array of characters, lean prose and abrupt finales.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980) — An iconic humour book this may be, but in this reader’s opinion it is onerous and repetitive.

August 1914 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1971) — This is a presumptuous history novel with a didactic tone that leaves its ever-controversial creator open to accusations of hubris.

The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese (2016) — The confessions of motel owner and voyeur Gerald Foos make for compelling reading.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726) — This humorous and vulgar satirical work becomes increasingly tedious and turgid.

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842) — A dense and rather monotonous satirical work.

Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick (2009) — This reader has read numerous books about North Korea — the good, the bad and the ugly. This is the best.

Not Just a Boy by Jonathan Hill (2016) — An authentic and atmospheric coming-of-age novella.

The Visitor by Lee Child (2000) — A third person thriller novel boasting a sinister subject matter, an ever-intriguing protagonist and a far-fetched finale.

Happy New Year




The Books of 2016

As another year draws to a close let us look back at the books that made waves in 2016, and at those predicted to be popular this festive period.

Amazon’s Best-Selling Book of 2016 — Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Special Rehearsal Edition Script by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany

This, the eighth story in the Harry Potter series, is the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play premiered in London’s West End in July.


Best-Selling Memoir of 2016 — When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This No.1 New York Times Bestseller is the memoir of a 36-year-old neurosurgeon, who was poised to complete his decade’s worth of training when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.


Best-Selling Children’s Book of 2016 – Diary of a Wimpy Kid # 11: Double Down by Jeff Kinney

Kinney keeps churning out bestsellers. He was also the author of 2015’s bestselling children’s book. 2016’s effort sees protagonist Greg Heffley’s mom stopping him playing video games because she thinks they are turning his brain to mush. Sound familiar?


History Book of 2016 — Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

This is the latest book in the multimillion-selling Killing series. In the Autumn of 1944, World War II was nearly over in Europe but escalating in the Pacific. Across the globe in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer was preparing to test an atomic bomb…


Best Debut Goodreads Author 2016 – Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton

The winner of 2016’s prestigious Best Debut Goodreads Author award was Rebel of the Sands. It is set in an imaginary desert nation where mythical beasts still roam in remote areas.

And now for the Christmas books.

Christmas-Themed Release of 2016 — Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson

For years bestselling author Jeanette Winterson has written a new tale every Christmas time. This compilation consists of 12 of her best.


Please note that the following titles are UK specific, and probably won’t prove to be that popular in other areas of the World. Here are 3 books that are predicted to be bestsellers this Christmas period:


Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook by Jamie Oliver

It claims to be brimming with recipes for all the classics you need for the big day and beyond. What makes this book so tempting is not only the delicious food ideas it no doubt contains, but that Jamie Oliver’s beaming countenance is not on the front cover.


Five on Brexit Island (Enid Blyton for Grown Ups) by Bruno Vincent

It is the night of the referendum and the Five have retired to Kirrin Island to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, fed up with the rancour of public debate. Warning: To be avoided by those stilling feeling sore about the UK’s exit.


Hello, Is This Planet Earth?: My View from the International Space Station by Tim Peake

As kids love space there seems little doubt that this will prove to be a popular stocking filler. As for me, if I wake up on Christmas Day to be greeted by Peake’s annoying face, peeking out at me from my stocking, I will not be held responsible for any violent outburst.


Happy Christmas






7 Books for 7 Moods (Part 3)

This week sees the third instalment in my series of posts devoted to books for different moods. Here are more 7 books for 7 more moods/states of mind. Click on the links to read my reviews.

Feel like a break from the traditional novel format?

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk 

Rant is the oral history of Buster ‘Rant’ Casey, recounted by an array of people, including his relations, friends, enemies and lovers. It adroitly challenges our own traditions by demonstrating how we contort our recollection of events in accordance with our desires and beliefs. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Thought-provoking but convoluted.


If you are in the mood to read something with a psychological theme and haven’t read it already you might like:

Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar is about protagonist Esther’s year in the ‘bell jar’, a period in which the boundaries between the real and the imagined become blurred. This humorous and disturbing semi-autobiographical novel provides an insight into an emotionally disturbed mind. Click here to read my review.

 My Opinion: Very good


Are you in the mood to be challenged? Then look no further than:

August 1914 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Set in the years leading up to The Russian Revolution, August 1914 is an eight hundred plus page history novel that blends fact and fiction. Its dense prose, excruciating detail and challenging vicarious approach will deter many. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: A challenging and presumptuous text with a didactic tone.


Want to read a classic by an author you have not read before? Well perhaps you have read it already, but if not might I suggest:

The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth

The story follows three generations of the Trottas, a Slovenian family living on the periphery of the empire. Widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth-century, this wistful and enchanting book is in essence a meditation on the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: The best ‘classic’ I have read.


In the mood to read something poignant, but haven’t got much time then look no further than:

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s novella is about a destitute Mexican pearl diver who finds an incredibly rare and valuable pearl. The author employs a simple yet captivating prose to explore the darker side of human nature, and to illustrate how riches can be illusory. Click here to read my review.
My Opinion:  Poignant

Feel like swapping reality for a dystopia? If so how about:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Books are banned in this dystopian world, where firemen are employed to burn them. Fahrenheit 451 is a satirical work whose motif is a warning about the threat posed by state censorship. It could be argued to be prescient in its prediction of our increasing obsession with mass media. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Good


If you are in the mood for something semi-autobiographical. Then why not try:

Junky by William S. Burroughs

Semi-autobiographical in nature, Junky is a record of drug abuse that in addition to heroin includes a plethora of other substances. The book’s detached journalistic approach is in stark contrast to the rambling, stream of consciousness style found in some of Burroughs’s later works. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Excellent

Bizarre Books VI

This week sees the sixth and final instalment of my bizarre books series. As with previous instalments I have added pithy/fictitious comments below each.

And now for the 10 bizarre books:

Dancing with Cats


A sure way to attract the attention of the men in white coats.


Hog Manure Management


If you like hogs and manure this is the book for you. If not you might want to consider a different title.


What About Christian Rock?


What about it? No, do not press play.


25 Placenta Recipes

Finally! I have been growing so tired of plain boiled placentas.


People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead


Otherwise known as ghosts.


Cards As Weapons


Using cards as throwing stars can be very useful when you are poised to lose money on a card game.


Semenology: The Semen Bartender’s Handbook


Let this book be a warning to all those who treat bartenders badly.


Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House?server

Mommy: ‘Since daddy left I have been feeling very lonely, and…’


Is It a Sin to Eat a Chocolate Bar? 

No, not if it is an organic, gluten-free, fair trade, sustainable farming WholeFoods chocolate bar.


Round Ireland with a fridge


Author: ‘If I knew it was going to be this difficult, I would have brought a suitcase instead.’

My 5 Favourite Satires

As followers of this blog know I am an avid fan of satire. This post is dedicated to my 5 favourites to date. Some of these books also fit into other genres.

Satire definition: the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly…

Here are 5 satirical novels. They are presented in the order in which they were published:


Candide by Voltaire (1759)


Candide is an eighteenth-century satirical classic that derides optimism, the prevailing philosophical ideology during The Enlightenment. Voltaire adroitly sought to dispel the belief that all is for the best when it is not.

My Review: Brought up in the household of a German baron, cheerful protagonist Candide has been instilled with the philosophy of Leibniz, notably – That all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds…(more)


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Brave New World

Brave New World utilises erudite social commentary to explore mankind’s inherent nature. Huxley’s portentous vision has proven to be prescient in its prediction of a science-controlled, consumer culture.

My Review: Brave New World is set in a society where everything is controlled. The parentless, manufactured, free-loving population are dependent on a state-endorsed hallucinogenic, happiness drug called Soma…(more)


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

Fahrenheit 451

There is much to ponder in this satirical book whose motif is a warning about the threat posed by state censorship. Bradbury’s seminal work predicts our increasing obsession with mass media.

My Review: Books are banned in this dystopian world, where firemen are employed to burn them. Guy Montag is a fireman, who lives an unfulfilling existence with Mildred, his sedentary, parlour-consuming wife: parlours being an…(more)


American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

American Psycho

American Psycho is a satire of the yuppies culture of the 1980s that caused outrage when it was published due to its explicit violent and sexual content. It went on to become a cult classic.

My Review: American Psycho is a highly controversial novel that brought its young author Bret Easton Ellis instant fame.  The book is written from the perspective of a young Wall Street financier, Patrick Bateman…(more)


Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (1996)


Chuck Palahniuk’s seminal work is a multifaceted satire that parodies the notion of masculinity, consumer culture, films, television, self-help philosophies, men’s movements and more besides.

My Review: The protagonist, who remains nameless, is an insomniac leading a bland corporate existence, investigating accidents for a car company, whose only concern is profit. Unable to find meaning in a faceless consumerist…(more)


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Click here to see the reviews & ratings for Necropolis on Goodreads.

Bizarre Books V

Here are 10 more bizarre books. As with previous instalments, I have added pithy/fictitious comments below each.


It’s Not Going To Get Any Better When You Grow Up


Truer words were never spoken.


Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House?server

Mommy: ‘Since daddy left I have been feeling very lonely, and…’

 Reusing Old Graves


Step One: Turf out the occupier…


Mommy, Is It A Sin To Be Fat?


Kid:  ‘Mommy, is it a sin to be fat?’

Mommy: ‘It depends how fat.’


Outwitting Squirrels


Strategy One: Cover your bird feeder’s pole with glue.


How to Talk to Your Cat About Evolution


Talking to your cat about evolution is no different from talking to some Americans in the Midwest about evolution, i.e. futile.


Natural Harvest: A collection of semen-based recipes


That caramel pudding on the front cover is enough to put one off semen-based recipes for life.


How to Hold a Crocodile


First clasp the crocodile firmly with both hands. No, not by the jaws! … Snap … OW! HELP!


Castration Celebration


Wow, yeah! Castration celebrations are the best fun ever, but the blood loss is quite off-putting. And I am starting to feel rather faint.


Why Cats Paint


Why cats paint? Boredom mostly. Playing with balls of string and toying with mice can only keep them entertained so long.

Famous Authors’ Bizarre Writing Habits

Many authors have writing habits/routines that could be described as bizarre. Back in 2014 I dedicated a blog post to the subject. This is the second instalment. Here are 8 authors who have/had bizarre writing habits.

Alexandre Dumas — This French writer used different coloured paper for different types of writing. Blue was his colour of choice for fiction, pink for articles, and yellow for poetry.

Ernest Hemingway — Hemingway is one of a number of famous authors who liked/like to write standing up. His preference was to have a typewriter and reading board at chest-height opposite him.

Joan Didion — Literary journalist and novelist Joan Didion spends an hour alone before dinner with a drink, going through what she has written that day. When nearing the end of a book she sleeps in the same room as it.

James Joyce — This eccentric writer wrote in a white coat whilst lying on his stomach in bed. For writing materials he used cardboard and various coloured crayons. Joyce did this because he had poor eyesight. His white coat reflected the light.


Friedrich Schiller — German poet Schiller always kept a pile of rotten apples in the drawer of his writing desk. He believed that the aroma inspired him, and that he could not write without it.

Franz Kafka — Kafka’s career left him with little time to write. After work he would rest and eat before commencing writing at 11 p.m. This taxing regime was said to have left him permanently exhausted.

W.H. Auden — This obsessive poet used drugs to balance his routine. He swallowed the amphetamine Benzedrine every morning for 20 years. At night he took the barbiturate Seconal in order to get to sleep.

John Steinbeck — Steinbeck was obsessed with pencils, particularly Blackwing 602’s. Drafts of his books were crafted in pencil, and he always kept 12 perfectly sharpened pencils aligned on his desk. He claimed pencils charged him with invention and energy.

As for me I am prone to wearing ear defenders when writing, to eliminate distracting sounds.

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Bizarre Books IV

I previously stated that part 3 was to be the final instalment in my bizarre books series. I have since changed my mind. Here is part 4. There may well be further additions in the not too distant future. As with the previous instalments, I have added pithy/fictitious comments below each.


Jogging With Jesus


There is a peculiar man on the front cover, but no sign of Jesus.


Microwave Cooking for One


Read the instructions on the back of the packet, place food item in microwave, set time and press start. When microwave makes a beeping noise remove food.


Be Bold With Bananas


If the vile looking concoction on the front cover is anything to go by, it is probably best not to be bold with bananas, and to stick to the tried and trusted peeling followed by eating method.


Circumcisions By Appointment


Client: I want to book a circumcision for next Tuesday at 2:30.

Receptionist: Sorry, no can do. How about 3?


Images You Should Not Masturbate To


If the image on the front cover is anything to go by…


Twelve Reasons you should Speak in Tongues


Reason One: Speaking in tongues is perfect for when you want to appear insane.

Reason Two: Um … let me think … wait … err…


Born-Again Virgin


To be a born-again virgin follow these simple steps.

Step one: Get a needle and thread.


A Lust For Window Sills


Be wary of splinters.


Help! A Bear is Eating Me 


If the bear is already eating you then is too late. You should have asked for help earlier.


How To Talk To Your Cat About Gun Safety


Owner: Yes Tiddles, approach the gun like that.

Tiddles: Meow, meow, purr.

Owner: That is the safety switch. Do not turn it off. No!

Tiddles: Meow, hiss!

Owner: Not the trigger. NOOO!




20 More Quotes about Books, Reading and Writing

Back in July I devoted a post to 26 quotes about books, reading and writing. Here are 20 more:

Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.Stephen Fry

Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.Francis Bacon

The covers of this book are too far apart.Ambrose Bierce

Think before you speak. Read before you think.Fran Lebowitz, The Fran Lebowitz Reader


There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.Bertrand Russell

Thank you for sending me a copy of your book – I’ll waste no time reading it.Moses Hadas

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.Oscar Wilde

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.Groucho Marx

Books are the mirrors of the soul.Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

I cannot live without books.Thomas Jefferson

I often carry things to read so that I will not have to look at people.Charles Bukowski

Book Stack

Everything comes to him who waits, except a loaned book. Kin Hubbard

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.Marcus Tulles Cicero

He has only half learned the art of reading who has not added to it the more refined art of skipping and skimming.Arthur James Balfour

To buy books would be a good thing if we also could buy the time to read them.Arthur Schopenhauer

Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.Harry S Truman

I’ve often thought of writing my autobiography and selling it as a cure for insomnia.Melanie White

A person who reads 50 Shades of Grey has no advantage over one who can’t read. Guy Portman

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7 Books for 7 Moods (Part 2)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post with the title, 7 Books for 7 Moods. This is part two. Here are more 7 books for 7 more moods/states of mind. Click on the links to read my reviews.

In a nostalgic mood? Then why not read a story that you are no doubt familiar with, but may not have read:

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift


Intrepid English adventurer Lemuel Gulliver’s fictional memoirs were first published in 1726. Gulliver’s Travels is a satirical work that mocks politics, non-conformist churches, science, the social order and the accepted role of the family. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Okay


Feeling discontented at work? You are not alone:

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Post Office

The story follows hard-drinking, low-life Chinaski’s menial existence toiling at the post office. Bukowski’s trademark visceral literary style is in evidence throughout this story about the banality and dehumanisation of unskilled drudgery. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Excellent


If you are in a pretentious mood then look no further:

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov


The story consists of various episodes in the academic protagonist’s solitary, cocoon-dwelling life being recounted by an unreliable narrator. Its pretentious author never tires of showing off his knowledge of literature, entomology and linguistics. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Wryly amusing and pompous.


In a nihilistic mood? Then you might appreciate:

The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis

This bleak, existentialist and nihilist compilation of short stories comment on the human condition and the futility of life. The most famous is about a man who wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed into a beetle. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Bleak but good.


Feel like reading something darkly comical? Then why not try:

Necropolis by Guy Portman


This black comedy’s sociopathic protagonist works in the burials and cemeteries department in his local council. Necropolis is a savage indictment of the politically correct, health and safety-obsessed world in which we live. Click here to view its Amazon page.

 My Opinion:  I am biased so I won’t comment.


If you are in the mood to read a ‘classic’ and haven’t read it already, you might be interested in:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


Published in 1818, Frankenstein is lauded by many as being the first science fiction story ever written. Replete with detailed descriptions and ornate prose, this is a cautionary tale about how nature, though essentially good, can be corrupted.  Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Quite good


If you are in a voyeuristic mood then I recommend:

The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese


The Voyeur’s Motel consists of the confessions of Gerald Foos, a motel owner and voyeur. For three decades Foos spied on his motel’s guests. This curious and compelling work boasts a perceptive protagonist and an effective journalistic approach. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Interesting


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