Blinding us with science, and China in our hands: Marcus Chown and Jung Chang in Christchurch next week

There are some tasty literary events coming soon to Christchurch – two next week!

Marcus Chown – Astrophysicist (Wednesday 12 March)

Photo of Marcus ChownMarcus Chown is talking in Christchurch next week at the Aurora Centre. Marcus is a celebrated astrophysicist and writer who communicates pretty mind-blowing science in a witty and informative way. He is brought to Christchurch by the Royal Society of New Zealand, in association with New Zealand Festival.

Marcus is sort of our homeboy too – Moata did a great interview with him back in 2009, and in 2010 he visited our blog and you can read his guest post.

Cover of What a wonderful worldCover of Solar SystemCover of Tweeting the universe

An evening with Jung Chang  (Tuesday 11 March)

The Press Christchurch Writers’ Festival brings you An Evening with Jung Chang.The best-selling author will deliver a stunning multi-media talk about her new biography Empress Dowager Cixi, the Concubine Who Launched Modern China. With a healthy 61 holds on this book, we know a lot of you are keen to read this.

Her book Wild Swans is an all-time classic (64th in the latest Whitcoulls Top 100) in which Jung Change chronicles the struggles of her grandmother, her mother, and herself to survive in a China torn apart by wars, and more. Her biography of Chairman Mao was an utterly compelling read too.

Cover of Empress Dowager CixiCover of Chairman Mao

Bibliographically Challenged

Because I haven’t got enough reading to be going on with this year, what with a For Later list of only 410 titles Cover: Franny and Zooeyand a New Year’s Resolution to read a mere seven books off The Guardian Best Books of 2013 list, I eagerly agreed to a colleague’s challenge to play Reading Bingo with her.

When I counter-challenged her to #readwomen2014 she raised me A Year in Reading and we were off. So far I have managed four things off Reading Bingo, but my sheet doesn’t have the tidy lines that were so exciting on Housie cards in 1970s booze barns, more a scattered set of crosses. I’m too busy trying to make one book do for two challenges to be systematic.

So far I’ve only managed it with Franny and Zooey. It met both the Reading Bingo challenge of reading “A book that is more than 10 years old” and the Year in Reading challenge “In January read a book published the same year you were born”.

The trouble with reading a lot is that it just makes you want to read more. Franny and Zooey reminded me of how much I loved the Glass family and how I should go back and read all the Glass stories. At least they’re short.

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (Guardian Best Books of 2013) made me think I should read about her family and more of her fiction before I embarked on her biography. Happily I could use The Knox Brothers for “A book of non-fiction” in Reading Bingo.  And perhaps the The Golden Child could do for “The first book by a favourite author”(it’s her first fiction book).

Then I foolishly left myself short of books when on holiday and had to buy a second-hand copy of Middlemarch. Cover: My life in MiddlemarchI’d  always planned to read it after listening to it on talking book, but it’s languished on my For Later list for years. The task became more urgent when it had to be read before My Life in Middlemarch, a book about how important books can be in our lives. As if I need to read about reading. But it has had great reviews and Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker pieces are always good.

Unfortunately I’m so deep in my reading challenge addiction I chose an edition of Middlemarch with a blue cover  just so I could cross off the “A book with a blue cover” Reading Bingo  square . It’s so musty it nearly asphyxiates me every time I open it  and as I finish each page it detaches itself from the ancient glue that has held the book together for the last 40 years.

And now Book Club has decided to read the 2013 Man Booker short list so we can judge whether The Luminaries deserved to win.  And I’ve already read the shortest book on the list. Sigh.

It’s a bit tragic, but the challenges have actually given me a new enthusiasm for reading. Now to manipulate the Man Booker short list titles into meeting at least two criteria of my reading challenges each…