Recent reading: cancer, climbs, catacombs and more…

The Emperor of All Maladies I approached this lauded (indeed, Pulitzer Prize- and Guardian First Book Award-winning) ‘biography’ of cancer with some trepidation: cancer scares me and 500-odd pages of reminders of its insidious march through human bodies and lives didn’t fill me with much relish. And in a way my fears were justified – …

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What I’ve been reading

OK, it’s been a little while since I posted here. Reading highlights in that shameful interregnum have included: The Thirties by Juliet Gardiner. I started this on a beach in the first flushes of our cock-eyed summer and finished some weeks later (it’s a big ‘un) on our balcony, designed appropriately enough just before the …

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Rip it Up and Start Again / When the Lights Went Out

I’ve just recently finished Stalin’s Nemesis, of which more later, but before that I read two books which overlapped in chronology and indeed their theses but used very different methods. Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up and Start Again is an engaged, fan’s-eye-history of postpunk, from 1978 to the mid eighties. It’s most lasting legacy on …

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Pure Poetry

Having just seen that a collection of poetry has won this year’s overall Costa Prize (and promptly ordered a copy of the winning collection, The Scattering by Christopher Reid) I’m minded to reinvigorate my fleeting interest in poetry, which, like my love of Iron Maiden, comes in fits and spurts and has done for a long time. …

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The Little Stranger (cont.)

Finished off Sarah Waters’ novel this morning and, while I relished the detail and the, as I’ve said, virtuoso storytelling I felt the book lacked the pace of her previous work and – although this impression was changed toward the end – the vivid sense of history which are luminescent in Fingersmith and The Night Watch in …

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The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

I’m about halfway through this expertly paced, compelling grown-up haunted house story set in the late 1940s. I can’t fault the telling – as any fan of Waters knows her plotting, characterisation and misc-en-scene are awe-inspiring – but despite all that I’m eager to get to the end and steer my reading barque (credit: W.Self) …

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Xmas and NY holiday reading

I read quite a bit – even more than usual – over the past couple of weeks, mostly thanks to being in the frozen Scottish Highlands where it got dark at half 3 and the fire was warm, no bad thing for the dedicated follower of facts and fiction – so here’s what: The Strangest …

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My books of 2009

I’ve read a lot of books this year – here’s some of them, in no particular order (but I think the best one is first): Leviathan – Philip Hoare. Can you have magical realist non-fiction? No, I shouldn’t think so but this would be it if you could. An intoxicating, entrancing treatise on the majesty …

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Sputnik Caledonia by Andrew Crumey

I had high hopes for this novel of a seventies Scottish childhood, dreaming of a spaceflight, which leads onto exactly that but in a dystopian proto-socialist future. The opening section was touching, sweet and regularly amusing – right on the money. But I’m afraid the descent into fantasy – of the sort I never got …

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Fingersmith, as reviewed by my wife

Damn good review of Sarah Waters’ brilliant novel here, even if I am biased…

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