Bibliobishi’s Optimistic Reading and Viewing for January and Beyond

Working as I do at Christchurch City Libraries, I hear of (and read) so many great books, and watch so many excellent movies and tv, that my For Later Shelf remains stationary, no that’s not quite true, it continues to grow. Shrinkage would mean less getting distracted by the ideal cover bringing such promise of a great read. Or a certain actor being in something I have not seen, mean’t to see but didn’t get there, fancy it because they’re in it etc.

This is the time of the year when gardening is what should be happening of course. Fruit and Vegetables are my thing so once the first mad rush of getting everything into the ground  is over I hope to be found with my feet up, glass of beer and a good book and here’s a taste of what might happen for Ms Bishi this month.

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My Grandmother sends Her Love not too heavy but hopefully equally as enjoyable as Man Called Ove, also by Fredrik Backman, who comes highly recommended.

A touch of nostalgia here, re-visiting Soap. This could be great and the laughs as good as 30? years ago – or the remembered satirical humour will fail to ignite. Give it a go anyway.

How to Avoid Huge Ships and other implausibly Titled Books. Again not too demanding but I’m hoping for some good laughs and “You won’t believe this title” moments when Mr Bishi will give up trying to read his book and enjoy the humour.

The Reader on the 6.27 is an odd concept. This poor sod, Guylain, works in a book pulping plant, hates it, not fussed about his life either but stays sane by reading aloud on the train, pages he has saved from the pulper. One day he finds himself reading the diary of a lonely woman…. she sounds a lot like him….  This has huge promise and what a neat idea for a book!

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I’ve been with great restraint making my way through the Shardlake series. History is fascinating and Henry VIII’s reign has to be one of the most interesting politically and religiously speaking. Add to that a good old fashioned murder or two and you have Matthew Shardlake, hunchback lawyer, brilliant brain, honest and used by Cromwell (and then Cranmer) to shine a light on murders and other nefarious goings on. C.J. Sansom writes so well its easy to forget which century one is living in.

These Dividing Walls promises a great story to disappear into if the cover is anything to go by.

The Lubetkin Legacy – Berthold Lubetkin considered himself an architect of the people, his belief ” nothing is too good for ordinary people”.  The ordinary people in this novel live in a Lubetkin building in London.  Peopled with a cross section of the UN and full of characters.  Sounds like good holiday reading.

Old Filth comes highly recommended and reading the synopsis is sufficient to warrant its place:”A touch of magic combines with compassion, humour and delicacy to make OLD FILTH a genuine masterpiece”.

CoverA touch of reality here: Whipping Boy, “The 40 year search for my 12 year old Bully” is the subtitle. Billed as part childhood memoir and part literary thriller, Alan Kurzweil obsessively tracks down Cesar Augustus, his bully over 40 years ago. Having written this I think this might be my next read.

How are your For Later shelves going? Or is it a notebook that you carry round with you, filled with suggestions from friends and staff?  Do share how you keep track of future reading.

Serial killers

Face facts, life has bad patches. I’m in one right now: post Italy holiday blues; Skype meltdowns in the middle of calls to the grandies; and Pneumonia.

GormenghastTime was I would have bounced back from all of this, but now it feels more like I am seeping. Seep-back requires that you do nothing. This is so much harder to do than one might have thought.

What I really needed was a good book. And the best books for holidays and dark times are serials. The first serial I ever read was way back in my twenties – The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake – a cultish read at that time. I loved these books and I remember, in particular, that my understanding of the importance of setting and naming in a novel stems largely from these reads. Ah Steerpike, Titus Groan and Fuschia!

DissolutionForty years passed before I read another serial: The Dissolution series by C.J. Sansom. Far surpassing anything else written about the time of King Henry VIII, these books get down and dirty with England at the time of Henry’s reign and they do this through a hunchback lawyer – Shardlake – as the main protagonist. If you’ve read Hilary Mantel and have tired of Philippa Gregory, do yourself a favour and try Sansom’s clever murder mysteries set in Cromwell’s time.

My Brilliant FriendAnd that was it for me and serials. Until we went on holiday to Italy, and right at the last minute I remembered that I’d been given the first book of The Neopolitan Series by Elena Ferrante: My Brilliant Friend. I popped it into my hand luggage, and what a wise move that turned out to be.

Written in Italian and translated into many other languages, I have become a Ferrante groupie. I now know that this is the pseudonym of an author who wanted her real identity kept secret (but who has just been outed by a nosy journalist). I’m also now aware that there are actual Ferrante tours of Naples  which visit all the main locations mentioned in the books. And I’ve learnt that a TV series on the Neopolitan Novels is currently being filmed in Italy.

But mainly I fell onto the couch, and into another world of family and friendships and fall-outs. A world that does not stop after one book. A world peopled by characters so real you want to slap them, or as said by reviewer John Freeman writing for The Australian:

Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you’ll have some idea of how explosive these works are.

I’m saving the fourth and last book for my Christmas read, my not-so-Secret-Santa gift to myself!

Any suggestions for other very readable series?