A Reading List for August

June 21, 2011 § 11 Comments

Hello, blog friends.

Today – in fact, all week – I am spending my time alternately filling in paperwork and discarding large quantities of stuff. I’m pausing in the midst of these noble and exhilarating endeavours to have a chat about books.

“Books” is a magic word, usually quite enough to Make Everything Better, but sadly the biggest thing going on in my book world right now is the ruthless reduction of my personal library. It is a painful process. I’ve spent years building it up, but I can’t reasonably drag that many books overseas with me. It would cost a fortune; I don’t think there’s space enough in our new house to store them all; and besides, once I made myself have a proper look at them, I realised I have a lot of books lying about that I not only don’t need but probably don’t want, either.

Probably. I have a covetousness about books that makes it hard to say “I don’t want this one.” I want them all, just because they’re books. But if I’ve had a book for two years and I either haven’t read it or haven’t re-read it, it’s surplus.

So far I have placed somewhere between half and two-thirds of my library on the discard pile. Or er, discard mountain.

I feel proud. And broken. After I stopped crying, though, I decided to console myself by acquiring a handful of new recruits to add back into my reduced book stash. Some special ones that I really want. Through July I expect to be very busy and  happy playing in the new house and spending time with the Significant Other. Real Life begins on the first of August, and it’s after that that I may begin to feel slightly homesick. So, this is my special August reading list. As soon as the lower lip starts to wobble, I’m in the reading chair with one of these.

I got three books that I’ve previously borrowed from somewhere and loved enough to want my own copy.

Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees. This little fantasy novel was written in the mid twenties, and it seems like nobody has everheard of it. It’s about the spread of the forbidden and feared “fairy fruit” through the town of Lud and the efforts of the Mayor, Nathaniel Chanticleer, to resolve the “problem”. It’s beautiful, quirky and eccentric. As such I’d place it into a category with Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I read this a couple of years ago and I’m looking forward to reading it again.

Wish Upon a Star, by Olivia Goldsmith. Yes, this author wrote The First Wives’ Club. I’m a fan of her fiction because it’s some of angriest literature I’ve ever read, and sometimes that works nicely for me. This book is very different. It’s about an American woman in her twenties with a drab office job and no prospects. She’s taken to London for a weekend by a handsome (but essentially villainous) office colleague, and suddenly she decides to stay – even though she doesn’t know anybody and barely has the money to support herself. She builds a completely new life for herself one step at a time, which is a tremendously courageous thing to do. Uplifting stuff.

The Cybergypsies by Indra Sinha. I mentioned in a recent post that I’m a fan of some mildly obscure and thoroughly geeky online games, the type that are played entirely in text. I’ve a feeling writers won’t find this concept as weird as some. Anyway, one of the earliest of these was a game called “Shades”, which my father used to play. So did Indra Sinha. This book is a memoir that covers (among other things) his experiences playing this game back in the 80s, and some of the (eccentric if not outright weird) people he met by it. I loved it when I first read it, so I’m looking forward to the re-read.

The others are books I haven’t read yet. Most of them were recommended by friends, some I heard about from books blogs.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. When I said to my friend Ellie that I wanted some pleasant reading, this one was top of her list. Italy in April? A mediaeval castle, four intriguing women and a touch of romance? Perfect.

The Morville Hours: The Story of a Garden, by Katherine Swift.  I’m not much of a gardener, but I’m not immune to the allure of a beautifully tended garden. Styled after a mediaeval book of hours, this book apparently includes a lot of history and a host of other information.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. Anything set in the world of Alice in Wonderland is fine by me.

The Bird of the River by Kage Baker.  Kage mostly wrote science fiction (which is great, by the way). This book is the third in her fantasy fiction series, the one which begins with “The Anvil of the World”. That’s one of my favourite fantasy books, but to my sorrow it’s proved hard (and therefore expensive) to get the other two in the UK. I’m finally treating myself to this one.

The Native Star by M. K. Hobson. I’ve been getting interested in books that mix fantasy and real-world history in interesting ways. This one I heard about via some book blog (I forget which). This one is set in nineteenth century America. It was compared to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which immediately got my attention.

Have you read any of these, got something to say about them? Or can you recommend me any more save-Charlotte’s-sanity reading material to pack along with my teddy bears and toothbrush? The comment box awaits.

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§ 11 Responses to A Reading List for August

  • lyonesse2710 says:

    The Morville hours sounds wonderful – I must have a closer look at that one myself! I still think you’d enjoy ‘a discovery of witches’ by deborah harkness, and freda warrington’s two latest books – maybe keep your eyes skinned for those as well? Glad you liked Lud-in-the-Mist 😀 Its one of my favourites as well. If you loved that, you might enjoy Patricia Mckillip’s books as well – any of her stuff is strange and enchanting in equal measure. I’ve just finished reading the bell at sealey head, which was delightful and already begging for a re read… 😀

    • Charlotte says:

      Ah, the Discovery of Witches thing is on my wishlist, can’t remember why I didn’t get it this time. Maybe because they want my left arm in exchange for a mere paperback copy. I’ll pick it up at some point though.

      McKillip – haven’t tried her, but will keep an eye out for something of hers. Thanks!

  • Hey, can I throw in a couple recent reads that I’d suggest for summer?

    And now, without waiting for a reply, I will obnoxiously go ahead and do so:

    A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes – Set around the turn of the 20th century, several British children on a ship from Jamaica to England are abducted by pirates. Gradually we begin to see that the children are more villainous than the pirates. A kind of more subtle, intricate Lord of the Flies.

    Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby – I know people get pretty split on Hornby, but if you’re at all a fan, this is easily his best since High Fidelity and About a Boy, and much more maturely executed.

    • Charlotte says:

      Hey, I did ask for recommendations! Thank you for those. The synopsis for the Hughes sounds interesting – I do have a vague theory that children are the most brutal and violent species on the planet, so that will probably intrigue.

      As for Hornby, I haven’t read anything by him. The film of High Fidelity is fabulous though, so I’m open to giving it a try. Thanks!

  • Katy says:

    Oh Charlotte! I feel your pain! I truly do! What an awful task to have to do…but alas! Have you seen the movie Enchanted April? I haven’t read the book but mum and I love the movie 🙂

    • Charlotte says:

      Thanks Katy. I think I’ve finished weeping now. Ha.

      I haven’t seen the film – actually I hadn’t heard of either the book or the film until very recently. Having glanced at the film info, though, I’ll probably want to see it. Looks like perfection too.

  • Discard Mountain is the new name of your band!

  • I recently reread Great Expectations and wept at the ending. Also, if you haven’t explored any Jodi Picoult novels, try Change of Heart. Very thought provoking and a quick read.

    Thanks for sharing your list! And good luck with the sanity over the next few weeks.

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Steph… you know, I’m a bit wary of Jodi Picoult because her covers always feature depressed-looking children and have that air of ‘crisis lit’ about them. Which is really not my scene. However, I am aware that one should not judge by the cover, etc, etc. Perhaps I’ve got the wrong impression? I’ll bear your recommendation in mind and give it a go if I can get hold of a copy. Thank you!

      Also I read Great Expectations years ago, great story (totally eccentric). I probably ought to give it a re-read sometime indeed.

      Thanks for the luck wishes!

  • I have to add these books to my list. It’s nice that you sum up each book for a clear picture. Thanks.

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