Thursday, July 15, 2010

Light reading

Like our resident Librarian gnome, Mitchell, I like to read. Too much probably (just like Mitch - every time I look at him he always has his head buried in a book). And to make things worse, I also like to read online as well. But worst of all, definitely the worstest of the worstest, I also like bookshops. They're a major danger zone for me. It's rare that I don't leave a bookshop without some kind of book under my arm. Bookaholism, I think it's called. (Fellow Sydney garden blogger Chookie sometimes struggles with it, too). I'm a sufferer but I don't want to be helped (see, I haven't hit rock bottom yet). As a consequence, my 'to read' pile continues to grow. I might have to retire, just to catch up on reading. Let me explain in a few photos, plus a couple more words and links (which might seem like an ad for Amazon, except they're not).

This is Mitchell, doing all day what I would like to do all day – reading (well, that's when I'm not gardening, cooking, going to movies, eating, socialising, riding motorcycles, blogging and reading online, that is).

And this, approximately, is my 'to read' pile. You see the problem? Exactly. It's not too many books, it's not enough time. Work will just have to step aside for a year or two and make room for the finer things in life.

It's an eclectic collection of fiction and non-fiction.

In the fiction section there's always some kind of detective uncovering the unpleasant details of life. Over the last few years Italian skulduggery has roped me in. Next on the list it's Andrea Camilleri, someone I haven't read yet but who has been recommended to me. As I have read all of Donna Leon's books about Venice-based Commissario Guido Brunetti and most of Michael Dibdin's books about Aurelio Zen, who uncovers evil all over Italy, I am looking forward to making the acquaintance of Inspector Montalbano, who no doubt has his hands full in Sicily.

But not all the fiction there is disreputably criminal: Margaret Attwood, Carol Shields and Tim Winton are waiting patiently for me to get back to them once more. And one of these days I am going to enjoy "The Bridge on the Drina" by Ivo Andric, a novel loaned to me by my workmate and good friend Zora. Andric is a Nobel Prize winner, and this novel is a voyage into the heart and soul of the Balkans.

In the non-fiction section it gets weird. Right now I'm two-thirds the way through a wonderful book by Fred Kaplan called "1959" and you guessed it, it's all about 1959. So much happened back then, including the invention of the microchip which makes blogging and everything else computery happen. And the founding of Motown (the record label), the launch of the contraceptive pill, Sputnik, the first US soldiers killed in Vietnam, and lots more (eg, the treatment of African-Americans back then was just appalling - and they didn't call them African-Americans, either).

There are no less than three books there by the wonderful Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf ('Origins', a Maalouf family history that spends a lot of time in Cuba, 'The Crusades Through Arab Eyes', and 'Leo the African', about a 16th-century traveller). I first came across Amin Maalouf via his poetic, imagined life of Omar Kayyam, called 'Samarkand'. I can't recommend that book highly enough (of course I don't have a copy, having repeatedly given it to friends to read). It is a beautiful piece of writing.

But there are also books to read on Aborigines living on riverbanks while Sydney grew around them, Russian home life during Stalin's rule (no fun, apparently), the Arab contribution to the Western intellectual tradition (much bigger than you might think), what happened during and after Cyclone Katrina (yikes), Christopher Hitchens trying to explain himself (oh, yes?), and a couple more.

And then, not in the pile, there are motorcycle magazines, daily newspapers and, of course, gardening magazines (not to mention websites as well). My poor eyes. I really need to win Lotto straight away, so I can retire and just devote myself to hanging out with Mitchell in the backyard, gardening and reading.


patientgardener said...

I love detective books as well though tend towards more historical, particularly medieval. Have read an Inspector Montalbano which I really enjoyed. I hadnt heard of the other two authors who set theirs in Italy so off to check them out - thanks for the tip.

I also have a huge pile of gardening mags to read - end up reading January in July and vice versa!

Jamie said...

Helen, try the Donna Leon books first. He's a gorgeous character, unusual for a detective in that he is happily married to an interesting woman, and has two completely normal teenage kids.
He doesn't get into fights, he doesn't do heroics and defies many of the conventions of the typical detective, other than solving cases cleverly, through sharp observation.

Melinda said...

I utterly sympathise. Right now I have a stack of British detective novels to read as well - PD James, Ngiao Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, Cyril Hare... Too little time!!!

Lanie said...

Great collection of 'books to read'. I know the problem with reading too - which is strangely why I kind of enjoy the PhD process...where there is plenty of reading to do. I'm a member of a bookclub and I think that all that I can manage at the moment is to simply read the book of the month for bookclub (last month was Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - just wonderful - sorry I to add more to your list!). Cheers. Lanie

life in a pink fibro said...

I would like to be right there beside you and Mitchell in the garden with my pile of books - which is actually a teetering, tottering tower. One day...

I love Donna Leon and have not read the other Italian detective series, so I am thrilled!

Sue O said...

I will take up your suggestion of Italian books. I have grown tired of the ilk of James Patterson, who has gotten to be too gruesome for words (nasty mind pictures that I can't get rid of) and whose chapters now average 2 1/2 pages. Have you read "In Defense of Food," by Michael Pollan. I just finished it and it has reinforced some of my inklings and changed my attitude at the supermarket.

Jamie said...

I haven't read 'In Defence of Food' but I have read (and loved) 'The Botany of Desire', Michael Pollan's book about apples, tulips, marijuana and potatoes.

As for the Italian detectives, it definitely sounds like Donna Leon is the place to start.

Chookie said...

I embrace rather than struggle, I fear!