It’s that time of the year again. Click Clack Gorilla has published the epic list of books she’s read this year and invited other bloggers to link up. My list looks positively puny next to hers. :( I didn’t even read as many books as last year! But in fairness last year I wasn’t a full-time carer, did a lot of reading whilst at work ;), and just all around had more time on my hands for reading. Still, I could have done better.
Anyway, here’s my puny list with a little mini-review of each book I’ve read (like last year):
This was my first ever e-book. I downloaded it to my laptop because it cost almost nothing compared to the paper copy, and it wasn’t very long. As I’d anticipated, I didn’t get along with the e-bookness of it. I just can’t read for prolonged periods off a screen, and the luddite in me simply prefers the feel of a paper book in my hands. Not to mention that finding time to plonk a lap-top on my knee with a toddler running around was virtually impossible!
Anyway, onto the book. I guess I read this just for my own interest and to see if I could get any new ideas. It was around the time I was seriously considering leaving my job, and unjobbing was an interesting concept. As it was I didn’t learn anything from the book I didn’t already know, but it’s always nice to hear someone else saying the same things you think and feel. Maybe it made me more confident that I wasn’t utterly crazy! Overall I’d say this is a great book to read if you’re considering leaving a conventional working life as part of a wider reading-list, but don’t expect anything revolutionary from it.
Right. This book is the reason I only managed to read four books this year. It took me eight whole months to plough through! And I mean plough through. Christopher Hitchens is a huge hero of mine and I really wanted to read this book, to understand what makes a person like that tick and just get a greater appreciation of the person he was and the life he led. But bugger me was it hard going!
Hitch-22 isn’t really an autobiography in the traditional sense. It’s more of a diary of one man’s experiences of history and politics. There’s almost no mention of his family or day-to-day memories, but whole chapters about historical events, which is why I found it so difficult to read. Prior to about 1998 (when I was 14) my knowledge of historical events is almost non-existent. So here I was faced with a book describing in detail things that have happened that I’ve never heard about, with historical figures that I’ve never heard of. I had to constantly consult the internet or Hedgehog just to get some idea of what he was talking about half the time! It was only in the last few chapters (documenting events around the war in Iraq and suchlike) that I finally understood the issues he was discussing.
And I haven’t even gotten onto the language. One of the things I loved about Christopher Hitchens was his amazing grasp of language: like poetry flowing from his lips. But when you’re reading pages and pages of prose full of words you can’t even pronounce, let alone understand, it makes it very hard going! I needed a dictionary to hand constantly.
Nevertheless I kept going, reading a few pages a day, and finally got to the end (with considerable relief). I’m glad I did. I learned about things I’d never known of. Things like the horrific events in Argentina leading up to the Falklands War and more information about the conflicts in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s. And I got a much greater appreciation of the politics around the war in Iraq. It was truly interesting reading. I’d definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in politics and recent history, but it’s not an autobiography. Not really.
After all this non-fiction I ached to read a good story book, and this one came highly recommended by Nicolette, the blogger at Click Clack Gorilla. And oooh I liked it! I liked it a lot. So much in fact that I read it in a month (the quickest I’ve read a book since I was a teenager) and went on to get the next two books in the series (the second of which I’m halfway through).
Dies the Fire is an apocolypse novel. The whole world changes in a few moments when a huge, blinding flash engulfs the planet rendering all forms of technology inert and changes the laws of physics so that materials no longer combust as they should (guns don’t work, etc). A bit far-fetched I know, but if you can suspend disbelief for a moment you find a fantastic story about survival. The story follows two main groups of people who have survived ‘the change': Juniper Mackensie, the Wiccan folk-singer and her deaf daughter, who realise early on what has happened and escape with a small group to her cabin deep in the forest, and Mike Havel, the ex-Marine who happens to be flying a small aircraft at the moment of the change. He crash-lands relatively safely and he and his passengers escape the first few horrific weeks of the change by being stranded in the wilderness. The groups survive bands of cannibals and bandits, the last echelons of civilisation trying to cling to life and hoard precious resources, and eventually end up flourishing, re-building their lives to resemble life at around the turn of the 12th century. But all the while the evil Protector, the leader of an increasingly powerful group of survivors in Portland, threatens to destroy everything they’ve built and rule the land. He’s building an army, and it’s only a matter of time until he attacks.
I love apocolypse novels anyway, but this one is just great because it not only covers the survival of the characters, but also how they re-build civilisation and learn all the skills that have been lost over the centuries. Things like how to plough a field with horses and oxen, how to keep bees, how to make bows and arrows. There are also small details that just add so much to the story, like how the zoo-keepers released the wild animals after the change, so creatures like tigers are competing for the food. I just loved it. It was so rich in thought and detail. I’d highly recommend it.
This is the next book in the series that began with Dies the Fire. It’s not quite as good as Dies the Fire, but it’s still a great read. A few years have passed and the survivors have built forts and armies; have cultivated crops and raised children. And all the while the Protector has grown stronger and built castles and cities. He has a huge army and has enslaved thousands of people to work on his lands. New characters from England are introduced in this story: a group of ex-SAS soldiers who have left the service of the new King of what is left of England – Prince Charles of all people! They’ve sailed around the world, so in this book we get a picture of the state of the whole planet post-change, and it’s not pretty.
As I say I did enjoy this book, but I felt that it was a little too slow and drawn-out. The descriptions of the daily realities of farming get a bit tedious and you just wish they’d get on with it. I also felt the name of the book was a bit misleading. But overall I still enjoyed it.
So there you go. My New Years resolution this year is to read more books!!! For the Year in Books 2013 I will have a bigger list, I promise myself.