It is raining for the millionth consecutive day today which funnily enough is making reading, talking and writing books all the easier. Today’s theme could be, I suppose, as hard or as easy as you want it to be. Do I plump for the UK in general? – With a nighmarishly huge selection of books to choose from and a place in which most of my readers live? Nah. Instead I choose the place where I work, and vaguely live nearby. The fair city of Manchester.
20. Set where I live
When I took the book group on the Manchester literary coach tour last year, our impossibly huge coach was driven down the winding backstreets of the most obscure housing estates of North Manchester only to arrive at a random cul-de-sac and be told that ‘this’ jumble of 1960s concrete was the setting for Magnolia Street; Louis Golding’s classic tale of neighbourly strife between the ‘Gentiles’ and ‘Jewish’ in Hightown before and after the Great War. Sounds ace.
Oh dear. I was doing so very well on my Seasons Readings and yet again this week life interrupted, mainly in the form of drunken Christmas parties. Since I haven’t yet finished my year at the grindstone and won’t be travelling home until Christmas itself, I will talk about my current MASSIVE tome, on which I have finally made some headway.
19. Massive tome
It’s certainly that time of year as I’m on to the Dickens yet again. I generally read about a book or week more or less, which keeps things interesting and also helps me keep track with reviews and whatnot. Since I treated myself to the whole Dickens caboodle a couple of years ago it’s been huge pressure to pick one of his classics to tuck into each year. Although the smaller volumes are attractive for obvious reasons, I was persuaded by a good bookish friend of mine into this bad boy. I’m so grateful. Although I started to flag last week as I got myself into a bit of a Victorian rut (this is NOT a skim read people!) after a few wonderful twists and turns I am back on track and care not one jot that it is taking me forever. Long may this tale continue.
I wouldn’t say I’m a stone cold statue or anything but it takes a lot to make me crack up – in any fashion. In the same way that I have never cried at a book (much to the chagrin of a few select members of my book group), it takes something truly hilarious to make me snort with laughter. As I’ve mentioned here a couple of times, the latest author to achieve that has been Caitlin Moran. However, since I’ve gone about her so much recently I’m going to something a little different this time…
17. Funny read
Bill Bryson really does take me back to my teenage reading. Although I never seemed to branch beyond his ‘Notes’ series, both the Notes from a Big Country and Notes from a Small Island were intensely heart-warming and hilarious. Unexpectedly I actually found his astute U.S musings even funnier than his adventures around the U.K, resulting in much snorting and chortling on a plane home from my hols one year. How embarrassing!
Bill Bryson is so cuddly…
The easiest presents for me to buy for my loved ones at Christmas are, of course, books books books! So much so that I worry that I’ve become really rather predictable with my gift-giving over the past few years but… I still simply can’t resist! Along with the niece, who already at the age of 4 is the proud owner of countless Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter and Roger Hargreaves collections…..my own future children will have a library to rival Belle!
The man I love always has books from me in his stocking at Christmas but I won’t put them here just in case he sees and it spoils the surprise. Instead, here is something I was thinking of but didn’t get…
16. For someone I love
Walter Mitty’s secret life came on my better half’s radar when a number of completely unconnected people (work colleagues, some random woman in the bank, etc) described him as a right ‘Walter Mitty’. Sounds fab, he thought. But what does that actually mean? The answer is fairly awesome and perfectly encompasses his adventurous, daydreamy approach to life. Climbing mountains and making plans.
In the fight NOT to buy a copy with Ben Stiller on the front, this little book isn’t in the stocking this year. Sorry my sweet.
Today’s topic for our #SeasonsReadings I felt was really rather naff (sorry Penguin!) I am therefore adapting the much more thoughtful topic #1, which I missed and would like to discuss…
15. Iconic first line
‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’
Specific translations aside, this is, more or less, the famous first line of Leo Tolstoy’s mammoth classic novel Anna Karenina. Despite the fact that I haven’t yet read it, the power of this famous line excites me all the same and acts as the hook in the relationship between book-loving concierge Renée Michel and resident Kakuro Ozu in Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog; a heart-warming novel that is the ultimate celebration of bookish introverts everywhere (the wonderful French film is also worth a watch).
It won’t surprise any of you to hear that English Literature was one of my favourite subjects at school (not, despite what any of you might say, because I got to sit next to a certain fancy of mine!) Distractions aside, we really did read a few decent classics and, although I objected to the constant analysis and laboured picking apart, it is these formative years within which my book obsession started to form. So, which of these ‘key texts’ has stayed with me since?
14. Read at school
I find it baffling that this classic only gets a distinctly average 3.6 on Goodreads as this is, surely, the classic, terrifying coming-of-age tale. Although I haven’t read it since I was sixteen, I remember feeling completely gripped and disturbed by the marooned boys’ slow descent into complete anarchy. The rule of Jack reveals the savagery that lurks within us all, making the vicious scenes within the book all the uglier.
I love a big Christmas stocking, even if they are more of a fancy homeware item to hang up on the mantelpiece these days. My perfect stocking filler? It’s slim, it’s beautiful and it’s Christmassy:
13. Stocking filler
Written by the king of the feel-good novella, this allegorical reflection on the meaning of love and life is definitely one to buy a loved one this Christmas. A beautiful fable to lull your children to sleep to, we follow Snowflake on her hazardous journey from the icy clouds above, frozen hillside villages, through towns and rivers, through love and loss until her cycle of life is complete. Enchanting (and the perfect size for your stocking!)