BOOKS

A low-fi list of books I've read over the last 20 years or so. These entries in bold are the books I particularly liked.

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BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2010


New Zealand Forest-Inhabiting Birds by Forest & Bird Protection Soc of NZ
Wonderful old portfolio MS dating from the 1950s and picked up in a wee treasure of a 2nd-hand bookshop in Picton. Great watercolour plates, and occasionally poignant descriptions of birds that are exceedingly rare, or possibly even extinct, eg the South Island kokako and the huia, both now sadly gone altogether.

The Destruction of Atlantis by Frank Joseph
Another self-published Atlantis book, with a couple of variations on a favourite theme: first, he's quite dismissive of crazy Atlantic theories counter to his own, and second, on the theory that you can't appreciate Atlantis on the basis of cold facts alone, he paints a fictional tale of the Emperor's last hours. I loved it!

The Power & the Glory by Graham Greene
Almost a Philip K Dick scifi alt-reality novel. Stark. The two cocks' crow was when I knew I was hooked.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Arabian Nights-flavoured kidlit. Wonderful language and ideas!

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Lost me occasionally, but the triumphant return of the prodigal son (in his floral nighty) won me back.

Encyclopaedia of the Strange Mystical & Unexplained by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
Excellent encyclopaedia of Strange and Wonderful myth/religion/folklore/new-age flakery. Sometimes presented (by the author) rationally/sceptically, sometimes with a degree of gee-whiz and total buy-in, seemingly randomly dependent on whether the author buys a particular bit of flakery or doesn't. Lemuria makes frequent appearances (hooray!), as does occulty fun such as Templars, Masons, Rosecrucians... SO MUCH FUN!. Excellent companion to Brewers .

Hornblower & the Atropos by CS Forester
A Hornblower novel - my first. Rollicking chappish fun, probably with more nautical expertise than literary ability, altho the action scenes are as good as anything Tarzan, Conan or Quartermaine might describe. One of the occasional clunky exceptions: "Atropos rode easily, just meeting the waves with her bow, as the sharp struggle with the wind changed to yielding acquiescence, like a girl's resistance giving way in her lover's arms.
But this was no time for that sort of sentimental simile here was another long signal from the flagship."

home button bone people by Keri Hulme
Second or third time thru. Loved it, much much more than last time, especially the mashedup words and random mythologies. This has definitely joined the vague cloud of novels that form my 'Best Novels Ever', with Messers Rushdie, Peake and Chabon. Kiaora Keri!

Recollections of a Rogue by Samuel E Chamberlain
Fascinating stories by a 19th-century mercenary and rootbag. Kinda like Flashman, but real. Amongst the tally-ho and the chip-chip-cherrio, there's some really sobering stuff. Wartime atrocities are no recent development.

Fellowship of the Ring by JRR
Aloud with Maxine. Had some fun replacing Boromir with "Poppy", to compensate for JRR's lack of female characters.

Temptresses by Shahrukh Husain
The Virago book of evil women. I bought it for the retelling of Lilith, of course, but Sheba and Morgan le Fay close behind. A few of them slightly too breathless for my liking.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Graphic novel about growing up in Iran around the time of the Revolution.

Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins
Midnight's Children put me in the mood for some more Robbins. I've forgiven Tom now for how annoyed I once got with his novels (clearly, never Tom's fault; probably just a self-inflicted Tom overdose). Anyway now I'm really enjoying his gear again.

Surface Detail by Iain M Banks
I never tire of Banks' Culture novels. The writing is fine but the ideas and characters are fantastic. He is the ultimate scifi author. (Sorry Philip K.)

home button Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
I'm trying to decide if I loved this even more than Satanic Verses, which would make it the new number-one best-loved novel. Regardless, it's beautiful. Complex to frustration but worth the effort.

Montmorency by Eleanor Updale
Kid lit novel at Maxine's recommendation. Fun.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick
Wonderful novel - devoured it in a day.

The Skinny Louie Book by Fiona Farrell
NZ novel. A bit magic realism; a bit 50s (and onwards) Kiwiana. Loved it thru to the end, where it went WEIRD. Still loved it.

Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel by Michael Chabon
I had no intention of reading two Chabon novels in a row, but read one chapter of this and was hooked.

History's Worst Inventions: And the People Who Made Them by Eric Chaline
A few quirky inventions such as flying cars, but mostly what the author reckons have really buggered us up - either via war (landmines) or environmental damage (petroleum, internal combustion engines!).

Werewolves in their Youth by Michael Chabon
Lovely short stories - each one with the depth of character that could fuel an entire novel. (Kinda frustrating that way - how does little Paul deal with his guilt over his act of cowardice landing his only friend in Retard School?). If there's a theme, it's failed or failing relationships, so hardly a pick-me-up read. Final story tho is 100% Lovecraft, which was nice timing having just finished a collection of Lovecraft angst. Nice too 'cos I'd actually found my way to Lovecraft via circuitous (Gaiman) routes over a few years' reading, from Chabon himself! (That's something of a Lovecraft "reveal".)

Tales of HP Lovecraft by the angsty man himself
Terribly over-dramatic, gothic short stories. Even Maxine finds this fun (it panders to her sense of the dramatic). I'm loving Cthuhlu: "my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human charicature. ..A pulpy tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings"

Angelology: A Novel by Danielle Trussoni
Breathless, so breathless, vampire-lit style novel albeit about a topic I've always been fascinated by: Those glimpses of the angels and their progeny (the nephilim) early on in Genesis always intrigued me, and I was fustrated beyond belief that the story didn't find time to tell us more. (Enoch did try.)
Anyway, the breathlessness got too much for me in the end and when I mislaid the novel in the closing stages, I couldn't even be bothered looking very hard to find it.

The Planets by Dava Sobel
Wonderfully random descriptions of the planets. author website

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Great story,Pinkie and Ida wonderful characters; the rest of them almost deliberately a bit 2D. Wonderful closing lines.

The Necromancer by Michael Scott
Fourth in the series aloud with Maxine.

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.
Someone with a quite furious chip on his shoulder about alternative medicine. Fun, tho often enough laced with quite bad science itself. Ah well...

It's Superman by Tom DeHaven
Quite a fun novel set in the grimy farms and cities of 20s and 30s America (tastes of On the Road, plus some bits of Mice & Men/Grapes of Wrath), with the occasional character some bloke called 'Clark Kent'.

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky
"Overcoming the obstacles between vision and reality". Yeah, it's a 'management' book. I know, I know. It won't happen again I promise. I enjoyed this one tho, and actually got a bit out of it. Still, reading time's too precious to spend it on management lit.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Magnificent fantasy/steampunky novel set in an underworld beneath London. Writing tends to just slightly too campy (Douglas Adamsy) a very few times, which jars, but overall swept me right along. I want this to be a movie, NOW!

Superpowers by David J Schwartz
Okay story.

Smoke & Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
A collection of short stories. Story #2, 'Nicholas Was...' made me put the book straight back down (I'd picked it up at fellow Gaiman fans Tony and Kath's) and jump on amazon to get my own copy. A bit of Lovecraft, a bit of Lucifer, even some Elric. I loved it all !

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
One of my favourite novels. Nth time thru. Still magic.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Second time thru - this time aloud with Maxine.

Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock
At Waikato Uni in the 80s I distracted myself from studying physics texts with seemingly endless numbers of Moorcock's novels, gifted to the uni's library by some past student equally disinterested in nuclear physics. They're pretty damn hilarious...
It is the colour of a bleached skull, his flesh; and the long hair that flows below his shoulders is milk-white. From the tapering, beautiful head stare two slanting eyes, crimson and moody...

Last Chance to See by Mark Carwardine
Sequel to the book I loved back in the 80s, with the benefit (and sometimes slight impediment) of Stephen Fry's humour.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Steampunky magic novel, at Kath and Tony's suggestion.

The Happy Prince & Other Stories by Oscar Wilde
Reading aloud with Maxine.

My Secret History by Paul Theroux
A book I was surprised to love, kind of a pretend autobiography, zwooshed up a bit to make it more interesting I guess. Starts off quite the little Holden Caulfield, and gets steadily less likeable as he goes on. Loved it !

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Dead Sea Scrolls by Leonie Star
Surprisingly interesting study of a furore that blew up in the 1980s when scholar Barbara Thiering put forward some slightly wacky theories about an alternative reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Very enjoyable. Babs might even have been right, tho some of the reasoning feels stretched.

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Pretty cool, kinda steampunkish kid lit, reading aloud with Maxie. Slightly brutal ending for a nine-year old.

The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson
Collected works. Long and FUN. Some of the stories behind his coverage of Nixon ("how low do you have to sink to be President in this country?", Hells Angels, Fear & Loathing. profile

The Sorceress by Michael Scott
Number three in the series, aloud with Maxine. We're up to day five. Mike, have you ever heard of e.d.i.t.o.r.s?

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
A truly lovely, surprising, story, tho yes it tend to be a little melodramatic occasionally. review ... interview