This year's holiday reading list, all enjoyed, with brief notes:
Fleshmarket Alley, Ian Rankin
An Inspector Rebus story. Good page turner to get back into the reading habit. Well written.
American Pastoral, Philip Roth
Fantastic story of what happens to the American dream when a daughter goes off the rails. The history of three generations of a Swedish immigrant family making themselves good. But what profitest them?
The Wasp Factory, Ian Banks
This was Banks' first novel, written mid 1980s. It was felt, at the time, to be too unpleasant to enjoy. In fact it describes a warped character with horrible habits but the explanation as to why he is like that is totally convincing and goes some way towards redeeming him. The nastiest book I have ever read (still haunts me) remains 'The Boy Who Kicked Pigs' by Tom Baker.
Double Vision, Pat Barker
Nicely studied tale of two people coming to terms with loss - one post bereavement and accident, one post divorce. Character driven not plot driven. Liz and I both read this one.
So Many Ways to Begin, Jon McGregor
This is the second book by McGregor. The use of language is remarkable. Readable, yet different. The tale of a man who finds out, late in life, that he is adopted. Thoroughly recommended. Again, Liz and I both read it and agreed it was brilliant.
The Closed Circle, Jonathan Coe
Coe went to my school and writes of Brum. He wrote of it first in 'The Rotters Club.' Here he catches up with the gang 20 years on. Didn't really pull it together as well as usual and relied on a few too many coincidences in the plot for my like, but an enjoyable romp nevertheless with some wonderful asides about New Labour. One passage had me laughing out loud uncontrollably and Liz had to calm me down in case I fell from my sunlounger into the pool (it's a hard life). If you want to read Coe start with 'What a Carve Up.'
Welcome to Everytown, Julian Baggini
Baggini, a philosopher, found out which postcode in England most reflects the views of the UK as a whole and then went and lived there for six months. Essays on the English and food, entertainment, holidays, newspapers and much more. The front cover says 'A frank and engaging attempt to ... discover what the nation really thinks.' I agree. He did and it is fascinating. Compulsory reading for all my colleagues.
Theft, Peter Carey
My favourite author, double Booker winner, and a man who writes like no other human alive. Every piece of dialogue crackles. His alternate narrators are totally convincing. He dreams up at least one brilliant metaphor per page just for fun and sticks the knife well and truly into the art world. Terrific fun.