Archive - December 2016

1
The Books I Read in 2016
2
The Books of 2016
3
7 Books for 7 Moods (Part 3)
4
Bizarre Books VI
5
My 5 Favourite Satires

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

dancing-with-cats

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

 

Hog Manure Management

hog-manure

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?

christian-rock

What about it? No, do not press play.

 

25 Placenta Recipes

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

 

People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead

dead

Otherwise known as ghosts.

 

Cards As Weapons

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

semenology

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? 

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

 

Round Ireland with a fridge

round-ireland

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

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)

FightClub

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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